Episode 303: Pericles Station

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Air date: 19 Jan 2010
Present: Maer, Terri, Andy, Bobby

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We finalize the ownership of the newly christened MeiMei and leave Rockhaven Waypoint on the 28th of September. It will take us three weeks to reach Pericles Station.

Sunday, 06 Oct 2520
Kuiper II Class,Summer’s Gift
En route to Pericles Station
09:35hrs, ship’s time

We’re a week into the trip when we look around and realize we hadn’t seen Orbit, the ship’s cat, lately. Did Orbit walk off the Gift when we had the airlock door open? Is she now looking for us at Rockhaven? Or has she gotten stuck somewhere on our ship and can’t get out? We split up and start searching the Gift, stem to stern.

Rina crawls under the deck plates in the engine room. She finds little cat footprints all around the section containing the biological waste processing units. Eyeballing the marks, it’s possible that the cat has been deriving sustenance from the units—gruesome thought—and there are enough openings and nooks and crannies in and around the units to admit a cat. If Rina is going to find Orbit, she’s going to have to take a few panels off and move stuff around. She’s small, but not cat-sized small. She hauls out her tools and gets to work.

Rina: (via her comm) Okay….I think I found something here.
Arden: Is that a good thing or a bad thing you found?
Rina: I’ll have to take it apart before I could tell’ya.
Arden: I’m the medical one. I do the autopsies, not you.
Rina: (eyeroll) I’m talking about the machinery, you goon.
Arden: You didn’t find a body, is what I’m saying.
Rina: Not yet.
Arden: You didn’t say that.
Rina: You didn’t give me a chance.
Arden: Do you need help?
Rina: Lemme look at it first.

Some determined dismantling later, she feels a burst of cold air hit her face and she surmises that a section might have descended into a deep freeze state during our recent stay at Rockhaven. Squirming further inside and looking around, she finds the cat wedged in a corner of the machinery, curled tightly into a ball to conserve heat. With her tail wrapped around her face and a paw over her eyes, Orbit looks like she’s only sleeping. But parts of her are visibly frozen and when Rina touches her, the little cat doesn’t wake.

Rina: (heavily) Arden, I think I’ve found the body.

Rina pulls on her work gloves, gets her hands under Orbit and gently lifts the stiff little body out. Squirming out backwards on her elbows and knees, Rina emerges from under the deck to find Arden there waiting. Rina passes Orbit to Arden and he takes the cat back to medbay to examine her.

The little cat is intact, though the extremities have frozen, and Arden checks for any sign of heartbeat or respiration. None immediately show. Arden thinks that depending on the speed with which Orbit was frozen, there may be a chance that the cat is not dead but rather in a state of cryo-suspension. It may be possible to resuscitate her. He calls Joshua in to help him. It takes a minute or two to explain. Joshua’s surprised that we even have a cat, as he’d seen nothing of her the entire time he’s been on board. Even so, he helps Arden set Orbit in a warm bath and massages the cat’s muscles while Arden injects the adrenaline to jumpstart her heart.

Meanwhile, Nika has boarded herself up on the bridge. The idea of resuscitating a frozen pet is so sad it’s funny and she doesn’t want to hurt Arden’s feelings by letting him hear her laugh. Rina likewise takes off for the engine room, not out of any need to laugh in private but rather to have something engrossing to do while she waits for news of the outcome.

It’s a painstaking process taking several hours of meticulous work, but in the end Orbit does indeed revive. Arden can detect a faint kitty heartbeat. She’s alive, but she’s going to need care to get her back on her feet. She’s wrapped up in heated towels to keep her warm and she’s going to need to be on fluids for the next foreseeable…but she’s alive.

Arden announces the good news on all-ship. From the engine room you can hear ‘No way!’ in Russian and Nika wonders aloud if we’ve got a zombie kitty on our hands.

Bozhe moi.

Arden settles Orbit in a kitty-sized isolation tent and exits the medlab. He’s got blood on him, as does Joshua, and as luck would have it, they encounter Shepherd Faria sitting in the passenger lounge just outside. The Shepherd looks up and sees the both of them.

Arden: (to Joshua) This is going to be a fun conversation
Joshua: Shepherd.
Faria: Were you able to bring the cat back to life?
Arden: It never lost life. It’s still alive.
Faria: Was it breathing?
Arden: No, it was not breathing. Because it was frozen.
Faria: When would it have been dead, in your mind?
Arden: Doesn’t really matter
Faria: So there’s no Death.
Arden: Don’t even start. If it had been room temperature and not breathing, then it would be dead.
Faria: Why then?
Arden: Because there’s no suspension of life activity at room temperature.
Faria: But perhaps there is an injection from Blue Sun you can inject into dead tissue and reanimate it.
Arden: I wouldn’t know.
Faria: If there were, then it would be dead? Or would it be dead and then brought back to life? Don’t knock your accomplishment. You brought back a cat from the dead.
Arden: It wasn’t dead.
Faria: A veritable Lazarus.
Arden: I would say we accomplished an interesting medical anomaly.
Faria: You don’t think that’s an impressive feat? Bringing something back from the dead?
Joshua: I think it was pretty impressive, actually. Not to argue against you, but I thought it was pretty impressive.
Faria: And if you could do that with a person?
Arden: I would not want to, but I suppose I could do the same thing to a person. I don’t know if I’d be successful or not….

Nika hears the voices of debate from the bridge and leaves it to investigate.

Nika: Do the same thing what with a person?
Arden: Bringing them back.
Nika: Bringing them…?
Arden: From a half frozen dead person.
Nika: (trying for humor) Umm….does emotionally dead pilot count?
Arden: Stop. I’ll bring those back tonight.
Joshua: Where are you going with this, Shepherd?
Faria: I’m just interested in the ….well, it’s just an interesting notion, the idea of mortality being something we left back on Old Earth That Was.
Nika: What?!

Rina walks in from the engine room and takes up a position nearby to listen.

Nika: Somewhere I think I missed something again.
Arden: Mortality is nothing but the end of bodily function.
Faria: So if life is merely bodily function…
Joshua: (murmuring) I’m not stepping into that one.
Faria: …then there really is no life or death.
Arden: No, because without bodily function you don’t have that connection between the mind and the body.
Faria: I’ve heard stories about the Exodus--the recent' Exodus—
Arden: ‘Recent’?
Joshua: Versus the Biblical one.
Arden: I don’t know either of them. What are you talking about?

The Exodus that moved us off Old Earth and brought us all to the ‘Verse. That Exodus.

Faria: There are rumors that travelers made it, the entire journey, in cold sleep.
Arden: Yeah.
Faria: Well, most believe that most of us are descended from people who didn’t survive because this was a long journey.

The Exodus took several generations to complete. But couldn’t cold sleep keep you alive and safe for all of it?

Faria: It’s true that it’s pretty safe. In fact most of the genetic material for animals and such was transported in cold sleep. They didn’t bring animals so much as genetic material.
Joshua: I’m still failing to see where you’re going with this as far as mortality goes. It looks like people die an awful lot out here in the Verse.
Faria: It seems that way. But perhaps we shouldn’t think of it as death if it’s merely just a temporary ceasing of their bodily function.
Arden: But it isn’t the temporary ceasing. If you shoot somebody in the head, their brain stops working. Period.
Faria: Permanent ceasing of their bodily functions?
Arden: Permanently, yeah.
Faria: Is that true?
Arden: Unless it’s a very very lucky bullet shot, then yeah. It’s true.
Faria: (to Joshua) Is that true? (back to Arden) Does a bullet in the head always kill people for forever?
Arden: Not always. I didn’t say that. I said unless it’s very very lucky bullet shot, the chances are they’re dead.
Joshua: Why am I here? I’m sorry but I could be walking around with—why am I here? Are we back to the soul, again? Does everything revolve back to the soul again?
Nika: He’s a Shepherd.
Joshua: I know he is, but—
Faria: Suppose, for example, that someone could be a modern Frankenstein and resuscitate the body.
Joshua: Okay. I accept the premise.
Faria: Perhaps they had the technology to implant a mind inside this body.

Dead silence from the table. Then Rina sighs, not liking where this is going in relation to Joshua.

Joshua: Wait. Why would—?
Arden: I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Nika: So the argument there is that the…
Faria:Is that the same person?
Nika: The argument is that…He’s making the argument that the brain is nothing more than a biological computer, that if you downloaded a soul into it, than what does that person become?
Arden: It is a biological computer. You can’t download a soul. There’s no such thing as a soul.

Come again?

Arden: Show me the—
Nika: I’m not getting into this, I’m just telling you what he said. (points to Faria)
Joshua: Actually, I wanna roll back a minute. So you’re saying what would happen if somebody put a …put a …another person’s brain into a resuscitated body, like a…is that what the question is? I’m just curious. Is that the question?
Faria:Well, these are just sort of…thought experiments…
Joshua: Yes, I understand that. I just wanted to be sure I understand the thought experiment correctly. Is that what you’re asking?
Faria: Yes. Could you…If you could do it for a person whose body had died, could you do it for a person whose body hadn’t died. Would that be killing them or would that just be changing them?
Arden: Changing him.
Faria: But the ‘him’…what is the ‘him’ part, or the ‘her’?
Arden: It’s the indefinite pronoun of the English language.

Another dead silence. Then:

Joshua: I’m surprised you haven’t gotten sick of this in two weeks, Shepherd, but—
Arden: It is the indefinite pronoun!
Joshua: (to Arden)Yes, I’m well aware. (to Faria) So… what you’re saying is…?
Faria: What is the reference for the pronoun?
Arden: What is the reference? The person.
Nika: The physical body.
Faria: Then what is the person?
Arden: And the combination of the mind and the body.
Joshua: Okay, it seems to me you’re asking where’s the seat, where’s the person? Where is the person seated—it is the body? is it the brain?
Arden: It’s the brain.
Joshua: Is it the soul? Is that where you’re headed with the thought?
Faria: Isn’t it what you are asking? And it’s a good thing that you’re asking. Because if I were a person who maybe didn’t know where I came from….
Joshua: Yes?
Faria: It would be something I would be interested in.
Joshua: You think I’m not interested?
Faria: Was somebody killed to make you?

Silence, and we dare not call it ‘dead’.

Arden: ‘Was somebody kil—’ What?!
Joshua: He’s suggesting that my body doesn’t actually belong to…Like, isn’t….wasn’t…That the brain I have now wasn’t actually attached to the body I’m currently living in.
Faria: I’m not actually suggesting that.
Arden: (to Joshua) I’ve examined you. You don’t have any scars that—

Not entirely true. Joshua has quite a few.

Joshua: (to Arden) Do you know how much plastic surgery I’ve been through?

Apparently more than quite a few.

Faria: I’m not suggesting anything of the sort. I think that’s preposterous. Brain transplants are…(waves hand)
Arden: Yeeahh, they’re the stuff of science fiction.
Faria: (holding up a finger) But—
Rina: (To Faria) Are you sure you’re not a Jesuit?
Joshua: He could be.
Faria: Well…after the Exodus, those distinctions faded a bit. But….here’s the thing. If there was a person who, through whatever means, be it behavioral engineering, chemical engineering, genetic modification…

He’s hitting all the targets: Mike. Arden. Joshua.


Joshua: (grimly) Uh, huh.
Faria: (continuing) ….were to be made significantly different from what they would be without that…
Joshua: (still with it) Uh, huh.
Faria: (still continuing) …they would be….
Arden: A different person.
Faria: … a different person living in the body of another person.
Arden: No-no-no, they’d be a completely different person. A person is a combination of the body and the mind. In my opinion.
Faria: I agree.


Nika: (to Faria) Why are you picking fights?
Faria: I’m not. Are you feeling like I’m picking a fight?
Arden: He’s not picking fights, he’s just discussing if you alter the genetics of a body, you’re changing that body to another body so that person is a different combination.
Faria: Let’s suppose because of what you’ve done this afternoon…That this cat that was once—what was it like before?
Arden: It was a calico cat that liked to play with string.
Faria: Suppose it no longer likes to play with string. Is it the same cat? Or have you created life?
Nika: Brain damage is not—
Faria: See, this is one of the issues. It might seem like merely damage.
Nika: It’s not an issue as far as I’m concerned.

Not when Brian Connelly might be suffering brain damage as a result of his injuries from Miranda.

Arden: It’s not an issue.
Nika: (had enough now, thanks) I’m going back to the bridge. See you guys later.
Arden: (to Faria) If I took a class in nuclear physics, am I the same person when the class is over?
Faria: Do you have memories before then?
Arden: Yeah.
Faria: And there’s enough of you there?
Arden: Yeah.
Faria: Okay. But suppose you took a class and you didn’t remember who you were.
Arden: I’d be a different person. So?
Faria: And what happened to the other person?

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