Previous: A disintegrating ship arrives from the quarantined Aldebaran system. Moast and crew recognize it as a message from the sentient world Aldebaran C.
The assembled space station clung beneath Orchidia's broad launch bay. Commander Moast climbed down and sealed the hatch behind him. "Ready for launch, Kyra," he said to the science officer on the distant bridge. Entirely automated, the station fired thrusters to insert itself into high orbit. This far from the planet, the entity would give up considerable power.
"Hoy, Commander! Jolly good digs, wot?"
The android guide for the world spirit appeared at Moast's side. The AI had taken Moast's instructions literally: since the android was custodian of a vast TV library, she had fashioned him after British actor Bernard Fox, who played the butler Malcolm on the Andy Griffith show.
"Of course," Malcolm added, "you may not recognize me the next time around. This goddess of yours may turn me into a tea cozy! Ha ha! Ho ha!"
"Right." Moast was about to page the library listing when he faced off with a frightening harridan. As his pulse settled, he said, "Orchidia, I liked the punkette you were modeling before. This one I wouldn't turn my back on."
"A forbidding appearance is necessary to convey ours as the position of strength."
Malcolm chuckled. "Avatars, ey? Gotta love 'em!"
The two artificials eyed each other.
"Right." Most scanned the mile-long list of reject titles, not having seen any of the vintage stuff. "Hmm. Dances With Wolves, Avatar, All In The Family."
"Anti Caucasian stereotypes," said the AI
"Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement."
"Denigration of the father figure."
"She's very thorough," Malcolm said solemnly.
Moast hit the panel com link. "Kyra, status of defense measures."
Her voice was tinny through all the shielding. "Shields are on millisecond rotating frequency. The planet-buster bomb is on standby. Hyper jump actuators are powered up." A pause. "I don't like the idea of leaving you behind."
"We'll play it by ear," Moast said. To the AI: send the RSVP." Beneath the station, colored lights rolled and flashed a complex message for an entity with no understanding of a spoken tongue.
"Here now," Malcolm said. "How shall we address the lady? Your Majesty? Your Grace?"
Moast crossed arms in the pose he'd greet her in, showing confidence he didn't feel. "This is Aldebaran C. We'll call her Cee." Seconds later, a figure materialized, leaving him speechless.