Wandering Engineer 6: Pirates Bane
thing with the cats. “Who
said I had to be nice?” he retorted, jerking the string up out of the cat's
reach. The little brat leapt for it, but missed.
    “True,” Sprite chortled. Clearly amused by his activity and how
closely resembled their conversation. “And I think you'll find...” she paused,
noting the other cat slowly creeping up on the Admiral's string. The cub
dropped, clearly ready to pounce but waiting for the right opening.
    “That we women tend to get what we want anyway,” Sprite said
triumphantly just as the cub wiggled and leapt. Irons was just looking up,
distracted when the lean spotted monster got the string and yanked it out of
his hands. She proudly made off with her prize, flirting her tail while her sibling
chased the dangling end that dragged behind her. She growled when the string
was jerked, and then turned to tussle with the interloper.
    The Admiral smiled ever so slightly as the two rolled, the string
forgotten. “You were saying?”
    “She did get it though,” the AI, said, “You have to admit that.”
    “A distraction,” the Admiral said, looking at the AI with a slight
twinkle. “Which you helped her with.”
    “Moi?” Sprite asked, hand to her chest. The Admiral exhaled
noisily in response to her air of innocence. “Okay, maybe a little,” she said,
measuring a centimeter between her fingers. The Admiral smiled once more.
    AI tended to ignore lower life forms because of their lack of
sapience. But confined to the ship for months Sprite wasn't being so uppity.
She was built for regular interaction, and took what she could. Besides, she
had found that their youth and curiosity was fascinating as it was amusing to
behold. A flicker of light attracted the cub's attention. Both stopped what
they were doing to look. One licked the other, but their ears were perked.
After a moment they couldn't resist the urge and padded off to investigate.
    The Admiral shook his head; glad they were entertained, but
somehow resigned to whatever mischief they were about to get into. “Now that we
have some free time...” he pulled out a tablet and scrolled through the
cloaking tech files.
    Looking into the problem, the Admiral did a little research on
cloaking technology. “It's not like we, we meaning the Navy, hadn't been
researching it for oh, the past two thousand years and all,” he murmured.
    “True,” Sprite replied. One thing practically jumped out at her.
“What about that? Smart skin?”
    “What?” the Admiral asked, pausing.
    “Yes! Couple that with your camera work, and it is possible. And
this we already know how to do!” Sprite said growing excited once more. “It's
been done for over a thousand years Admiral, nearly two thousand years!”
    “True,” the Admiral mused.
    “Let me see,” Sprite said. She opened up his file directory and
rapidly scrolled through the list. She found what she was looking for,
highlighted it too briefly for him to read, and then opened the file manager.
    His body was seeded with what he called Royal jelly; artificial
DNA packets that was loaded with petabytes of data on every conceivable object
of engineering. It was this that Sprite used to program replicators when he
created one.
    The Admiral watched as she pulled up a file and it unfolded.
Nanites scanned the relevant DNA strands and the information was then
decrypted. He read the header, smart skin and then whistled as Sprite rapidly
started scanning. He noticed additional activity; Proteus and Defender had both
become involved in the project. The three of them exchanged information so
rapidly he couldn't keep up.
    “Let me know if you get anywhere,” he said.
    “Oh, we will,” Sprite, said. He looked at his hand as he felt an
itching sensation. Slowly it faded out.
    “Yeah, I'd say you are getting somewhere indeed,” the Admiral
murmured. He held up his disembodied hand and could just pick out the outline
of it. He flexed his fingers and barely saw the movement.

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