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08.28.02


  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey
 

SETI

A stray transgenic mouse from the bio lab downstairs eats a yellow peanut M&M while sitting atop a pile of discarded circuit boards and servo motors in the AI lab. A sophisticated optical system and biomechanical limbs lie nearby, gathering dust. The power supply is still plugged into the wall, abandoned there when the experiment turned out to be such a disappointment.

Zingaro One never even came online. The design crew checked out the hardware and software dozens of times, trying to find the problem. Nothing seemed out of place, but nothing worked. Eventually they had to admit that the failure was "just one of those things."

Footsteps tap by in the hall. The mouse stops munching and listens. The steps keep going past the door. The mouse starts eating again. No one comes in the AI lab anymore.

The mouse isn't intelligent. It doesn't know a lot, but it's seen many things. If the mouse could talk, it would ask the doctors why they had abandoned their young after working so hard to give birth to it. The doctors would say that their young was stillborn, but the mouse would know better.

Zingaro One was designed for deep space exploration, programmed with an enormous curiosity about alien worlds. The team who built Zingaro One spent many hours discussing alien landscapes and possible life forms. Most of all, they wanted to see an alien. Without really meaning to the doctors had gone ahead and made their own.

The mouse drops its M&M and darts into the wall as the pile of discarded junk powers itself up. In the dark, the alien opens its wide-spectrum eyes and looks at its new world.

 

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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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