Bounty Hunter

She slipped her p@d into the rifle controller, tapped her virtual visor to bring up the network overlay, and scanned for targets. Walking down the street, the ArtIs she encountered all presented as benign, normal, licensed, certificates up to date, legitimate. Then she spotted the small yellow node, the color indicating the ArtI was not broadcasting, a warning sign of nefarious intent. As she drew closer, a warning displayed on her visor: Wanted – node 647b21, an escaped artificial intelligence from the Central Data Corrections Center. Taking aim, she zoomed the display on the center of the node and pulled the trigger. Encapsulated code, in the form of coconut shell, her own modification, struck the rogue node and swallowed the ArtI. She tapped the screen of her p@d requesting verification of the capture and a new warning popped up: Terminate node. What the? Since when do we terminate nodes? I’m a bounty hunter, not an executioner. She gloved the coconut and pocketed the node.

Mother Familiar

The mother dragged her familiar with one hand, and her son with the other. The familiar was rather hairy, dark spiky ball of fur with no discernible head or tail. The other, the son, was similarly spiked on his head which we all assumed was the end at the top, and the rest of the anatomy was more or less regulation in appearance for a seven year old. They were all off to the Centro del Familiar to pick out a familiar for Harry. That’s the boy’s name, not the familiar’s. Now you may be telling yourself that seven is a bit old to be picking out a familiar, but this wasn’t the first time around for Harry. He’d actually had two other familiars that both met untimely demises. It isn’t quite accurate to describe a familiar as dying, since the things are more or less manifestations of the owner’s energy, which, barring some catastrophic event to the owner, should continue as long as the owner does. Hence the lifetime guarantee. Hence the consternation on the face of the mother at having to pick out another one. Hence the raised eyebrows of the clerk at the Centro del Familiar.

Narrator POV

The reason she ran away from home is this: she’d killed her sister. That’s a little imprecise. She’d actually felt responsible for her sister’s death. Yes, that’s more to the point. Blame is always easy to cast about, like spaghetti sauce flinging from the end of a gob of pasta noodles spinning on the end of a fork, and about as difficult to clean up after.

The truth is all nuanced and perspective dependent. One perspective, that of Ferocity, goes something like this.

Competitive Spirit

It all started innocently enough with the elevator races. They would start on the ground floor, wait for the starter’s ready-set-go to push the button for the top floor. Once at the top each contestant races to the rail overlooking the atrium. It was the responsibility of the starter to declare a winner based on whomever poked their head over the rail first.

The races worked best when there weren’t many people in the building so there was less chance of an interloper actually using the elevator and interrupting the race. It all sounds innocent and fun, and became quite competitive over time with the establishment of leagues, tournaments, and even a rules committee. But rules are never enough to cover every contingency, nor can they keep people completely free from getting hurt.

Drum Ceremony

The drumming starts again, at sunset, just like clockwork. This time there is a new drum, a smaller drum, tones in the higher register. A new member of the clan has reached the age of five, full maturity. That’s one of the reasons I have a difficult time thinking of them as being like us. They grow up so fast, like animals do. The continue to get larger and stronger until about the age of 10, but they are more dangerous at the age of five, more reckless, aggressive, prone to stupid displays of bravado. I avoid the younger adults whenever I can. This smaller drum means they’ve been breeding again. Mothers and their children are sequestered. I never see them until after they are announced to the clan in a drum ceremony where a small drum is awarded to the new member until he or she can make their own, usually from the skin of their first kill. Another good reason to avoid them when they are this young.