First Things First

Templeton sank into the chair, holding his head between his hands. The neo-pig had removed the jacket to his security uniform, leaving slate gray pants, combat boots, and a white sleeveless undershirt to contrast with his pink flesh and black tattoos. The tall man continued to type at the terminal in the stark white room filled with lab equipment and server racks. The man brushed aside his black hair and turned around to face the Neo-pig.

“It’s done.”

“Yeah… That was hard.” Templeton tossed the VR specs onto the floor. “‘Enhanced’ interrogation my ass. I’m not the best with AGIs, and it was… angry.”

“Well, it understood we were going to delete it. But we had to know.”

“Still, Conrad…”

Templeton stared at Conrad as he removed the server blade and began methodically taking it apart. He was still in his black vacsuit, the seams still visible as the self-healing material continued to reform, as his hands swiftly worked the screwdriver to disassemble the blade as quickly and methodically as always.

“... does it get easier?”

Conrad walked over and put his hand on Templeton’s shoulder, touching the bare skin of his wide back. His fingers started to trace Templeton’s tattoos, tribal style concentric circles, stylized as spiderwebs.

“It never does. But you know what helps with the pressure?”

Conrad bent down and grabbed Templeton’s plasma rifle from where it rested on the floor. He lifted the massive rifle and set it as gently as he could in Templeton’s hands.


Conrad patted Templeton’s shoulder one last time and exited the lab. Templeton stared at the rifle. He then stood up, walked over to the workstation, and aimed.


Last Things Last

Four years earlier…

Templeton exited the showers into the locker room. Finished drying himself as best he could, he balled up the towel and threw it into the hamper. He turned towards his locker and found Doctor Marita Valencia waiting for him, smiling. Dr. Valencia was dressed in her white and red Argonaut jumpsuit and covered in her white lab coat; her brown curls tied into a ponytail. Templeton recoiled and started to dart his hands down towards his crotch to cover himself. He then paused, looked at his hands, and took a seat at the bench across from Dr. Valencia.

“What was that?” Dr. Valencia said, tilting her head and adjusting her augmented reality specs.

“I felt shame briefly. I went to cover myself, then thought more about why I felt shame. Before… before I was uplifted there was no shame.” Templeton looked at his hands, then looked at Dr. Valencia. “The thought was… so alien.”

“True. Shame is human concept. It’s been imprinted on you through our interactions.”

“Yeah. Clothing’s nice though. Speaking of which…”

“How’d the experiment go?”

Templeton shrugged. “‘Experiment.’ I wallowed in the spa’s mud bath for 20 minutes.”


Templeton rubbed his thigh. Lifting his hand showed that it was now a dull brown. “Still haven’t got all this damn mud off. I showered for 20 minutes.”

“But how did you feel?”

“I saw it’s value. I felt much cooler as soon as I dove in. Since I don’t really sweat, it made me feel much cooler. As a social construct, though… Maybe it’s because I was alone? I didn’t really feel anything. It was just an act.”

“An act?”

“Well, experiment. It wasn’t done to socialize, or to become one with nature, or because I wanted to. We did this to see if I could find any connection with my former life. I don’t have to wallow in mud anymore. I use jumpsuits that help me respire.” Templeton leaned back and started chuckling. “I also don’t have to be cleaning mud off my ass for the next three days.”

Dr. Valencia rose and smiled. “That is a benefit. Well, it was worth it to see if you felt anything. I appreciate your effort, Templeton.”

Templeton smiled. “So… can I get dressed? I’m not well read on the hab’s indecent exposure punishments.”

Dr. Valencia chuckled. “Of course. Just please get me the report by the end of the day?”


“Thank you, Templeton. I’ll see you in the cafeteria! I hear they have organic green tea the techs got off some Triad traders.” Dr. Valencia left the locker room.

Templeton smiled and started to get dressed. He hoped that this adventure would help map pig uplift thought. He was so lost in thought he didn’t immediately notice the alarm going off in the hallway. Or the screams.