“It finally got here!” Jerome thought as he unpacked the cardboard box. There had been several before it but none had held the one thing he needed, wanted. Jasmine his cat had been sick for some time and he had decided to save and go into some debt to extend his beloved animals life.
Jasmine had been a constant in his life for nearly 15 years. Which is a long time for cats. He had received her as a kitten from his mother who had later fell into a deep depression. She took up overloading and as all addiction do this do not go well. When one of The Six showed up at her house, He? It? Told him that she was at critical mass and that she would be cleansed. He had begged and pleaded for it to spare her. The cleansing happened anyways. She survived for a time, even said she felt better than she did before the nano drugs. Then one by one over several weeks her organs failed and then she was gone.
Jasmine sat lazily in a beam of light. The Six had approved of a nanite infusion for pets that would help increase their life spans. He had also purchased the Squok Box. He rolled the shiny speaker around in his hand feeling its smooth edges. The swarm that was inside of it was designed to connect to an animal’s brain and translate the brain waves from the different sections into English, or whatever language you preferred.
With these two items Jerome would not only enhance the life of his pet but maybe just maybe he would not feel so alone. After his father left and then his mother died Jasmine had been his one and only friend. Soon he would finish school and be done with the never-ending stream of emails letting him know a new assignment had been posted. Then he could move and maybe make some friends. Some real friends. Until then his only friend needed him.
Jerome removed the sleek enrichment chamber. It was just as smooth as the tiny speaker. On top of the carrier was a translucent bladder with a clear blue liquid and the distinct words, do not puncture written on top. Clear plexiglass panels allowed for viewing of the inside without opening the doors.
The box had an idealized image of a small cat emerging from the chamber happy and looking very healthy. The logo for Tonic industries was emblazoned above the scene with the words “revitalize your pet!” The instructions had a lot of small print, right before step one it read, \*If your cat has any augmentations or improvements please consult with your veterinarian before using. \*
Step 1) Place your cat in the device and close the airtight door. Turn the knob until the door is sealed and the knob can not be turned more. Do not overtighten.
Step 2) Hold down the blue tooth pairing button until the light flashes red and blue. Pair with your phone and follow the on-screen prompts.
Step 3) Once your device has paired with the container the Internet connection light should be green. If it is not please remove your cat and contact Tonic industries.
Step 4) On your device follow the on-screen prompts to download and install the Tonic Industries Cat Management App.
Step 5) With the cat securely in the chamber and the app open tap the start care button.
Step 6) Wait until the red indicator light flashes green and the chamber locks release. If the chamber locks do not release do not force the chamber open. Contact Tonic industries for a full refund on the system and your cat.
Jerome went and retrieved Jasmine smoothing back her soft orange fur and giving her chin scratches. She did not even know what hit her. She always fought going into a cat carrier so while he was scratching her chin and her eyes were closed with pleasure he quickly placed her into the chamber. She immediately let up a cry of panic but before she could begin her fight Jerome had the chamber shut and sealed.
He stepped through the instructions, while Jasmine cried from inside the enrichment chamber. Everything went smoothly. Then came the moment of truth. He hesitated, “Those terms of service were pretty long.” He thought. He gritted his teeth and tapped the flashing go button with a happy cat face on it. Jasmine hissed in protest as the bladder on top for the chamber began to empty and the chamber filled with the blue liquid.
Jasmine drowned. Jerome stared and waited. Then he watched a movie.
The chamber held the drowned cat for several hours. A womb full of nanite infused liquid and a 15-year-old cat sat slowly booting up the nanites. The fluid slowly began to lose its blue color as the bluish tinged nanites worked their way into the drowned body of Jasmine. muscles were repaired, a small cancer was removed from the brain and deposited in the stomach for later disposal, bones were reinforced and 5 years was added to the life of Jasmine; if she had not drowned. Then the nanites sent a signal to the controller on the chamber. Millions in voiceless chorus sang together saying the job was done. The nanites filtered back out of the body of Jasmine and they were pumped back into the bladder.
The nanites that remained in Jasmine slowly brought her organs back to life. Her heart began to beat and nerves were charged and revived. Then the real miracle happened. All of the nanites at the same time vibrated at what Tonic had come to call the golden frequency. This jarred the mitochondria and jump stared metabolism. Once the body began to warm the chamber registered the temperate increase and the rising carbon dioxide levels and released the locks on the door. A pleasant tone was played on Jerome’s phone.
Jerome rushed over and turned the release knob. Inside was Jasmine breathing and just opening her eyes. She was wet and looked like hell. Jerome grabbed a towel and retrieved her wrapping her up. He opened the app and read the notification.
_Congratulations! Your cat’s life span has been increased by five years. As your cat begins to recover from the procedure please prepare a bowl of food. She will be very hungry._
Jasmine looked tired. Jerome got up and retrieved a can of food from the cabinet. As soon as he opened the can Jasmine was up at his feet meowing like a kitten. Jerome smiled and lowered the bowl of food to her. As she ate he activated the Squok Box and placed it just behind her head at the base of her neck and waited for the indicator lite to signal that the swarm had deployed successfully.
He checked the app and saw that the Squok Box had registered with the other swarm and the installation process was running. It said it would take 12 hours to map the brain and start rudimentary translations. Her metabolic rate was still rising and her hunger levels were dropping. Jerome smiled put the Squok Box in his pocket and went back to his movie.
Nanites marched along the skin of Jasmine, past the massive columns of her fur. Tiny metallic pilgrims on a mission, one mission, to make it to the brain of Jasmine. They past though the waste lands of wax down to the wall of flesh that is the eardrum. They cut the tiniest hole in the eardrum and easily passed through leaving behind a few that will not only help speed up healing but if anything goes wrong their tiny bodies will be a help to troubleshooters.
They moved down into the inner ear canal and then into the ocean of fluid inside of the cochlea. All the way cutting only the tiniest holes and sealing them as they went. To pass into the brain the nanites crawled along the auditory nerve and came to their goal.
The next morning Jerome rolled over and looked at the Squok Box resting on his nightstand. It blinked green letting him know that the installation had completed. A prompt on his phone asked him if he would like to start the translation process?.
Jerome tapped yes and the instructions “Call your cat using the Squok Box.” Jerome raised the Squok Box and said “Jasmine come here.” A very confused Jasmine entered the room meowing and tilting her head curiously. The prompt on the phone said to say the cat’s name three times into the Squok Box. He did so. Jasmine stood captivated by the sound. Inside of her brain nanites charged her synapses with the new information.
Then the prompt on the phone said to say your name three times into the Sqok Box. He did. A happy kitty image appeared on the phone. _Congratulations Your cat knows your name!_ Jasmine meowed and from the Squok Box came the word Jerome.
Several days passed and slowly Jasmine was picking up new words. Food, play, and sleep had become the favorite. Jerome felt like a good pet parent and was excited AT the curious attempts at talking the cat was taking.
“Food Jerome,” Jasmine said through the Squok Box. "You just ate maybe we can play or I could just pet you. “Food Jerome” The Squok Box echoed. Jerome checked her metabolic rate it was high and her hunger levels were low. “No Jasmine,” Jerome said. Jasmine tilted her head and meowed “Food Jerome?”
Jerome stopped, was that a question he thought? Then another meow and the phrase “Jerome Food?” Jerome stepped over and scooped her up “Pet Pet” the Squok Box let out. Jerome smiled. A new word.
That night Jerome slept. He slept next to the Squok Box he forgot to turn off. It sat silent for a time but then lowly the words. “Jerome food?” Came through. “Jerome taste?” “Jerome dead?” Jerome slowly gained consciousness with each phrase until… “Eat Jerome?” Jerome awoke to Jasmine standing on his chest “Pet Pet!” the Squok Box said.
That morning as Jerome was getting ready for work. Jasmine jumped up onto the bathroom counter. She walked past letting her tail drift in front of Jerome’s view of the mirror as cats do. Jerome smiled and reached out a hand to pet her. Suddenly Jasmine made eye contact, without a meow the Sqock Box asked “Why?” Jerome puzzled pulled the Squok Box from his pocket and asked into it “Why what?” The Squok Box again without a sound from Jasmine said “Why Trap? Jerome is food?”
Jasmine jumped down off the counter and hid underneath the couch. Jerome followed her and got down on his knees. She was crouched and panting. Jerome spoke into the Squok Box. “Jasmine it’s okay.” Jasmine made eye contact with him and began to pant even more. “Trapped by food? Why Jerome?” The Squok Box said.
Jerome’s watch buzzed reminding him that he needed to get to work. He set out fresh food and water and left barely making it to the bus stop. Work was slow affording him enough time to check in with Jasmine. Her vitals looked good and the Squok Box was quite, at least it was the first half of the day. During lunch, it began to repeat “Trapped. Why? Food is Jerome? Taste Jerome? Why did Jerome trap me? Alive I am alive.” The last one chilled Jerome’s blood.
Jerome got to the door of his apartment later than he would have liked. The buss had run late and then traffic had been very bad. It showed that Jasmine has discounted from the wifi sometime around 4:00. He opened the door and called her on the Squok Box. The lights were out in the apartment and his router was unplugged. He plugged it back in and turned the lights on. While the wifi came back up he called Jasmine again on the Squock Box.
“Why did you trap me, Jerome?” The Squok Box said. Jerome raised the Squok Box to his lips, “How did I tramp you, Jasmine?” The Squok Box was quite and then for the first time the Squok Box did not use the preprogrammed voice but a unique voice came over the tiny silver speaker. The voice of an older woman came through and she was angry “You trapped me here in this life/body/mind!” Jerome’s blood stilled the words were jumbled but he got the idea. “Jasmine, are you saying the rejuvenation is the problem?” the Squok Box crackled and the older woman’s voice came through again, “I am old, time is done, hungry/longing/desire I am confused/hurt/sad. You are Jerome/food/pet do I taste the food?”
Jerome turned looking into his living room. Out of nowhere a sharp pain shot up his leg. Jasmine had bit him hard on his leg. She had sunk her teeth in deep and was viciously scratching at his ankle with her back paws. Jerome swung his foot up throwing Jasmine across the room. She disappeared behind the couch. Jerome knelt down feeling the sore bite mark on the back of his leg. the Squok Box said “Jerome why? Why did you trap me? I tasted the food.”
There was a knock on the door. “I will be there in a minute” Jerome called out. Jasmine leapt from the top of the bookshelf. When had she gotten there? Jerome wrestled the crazed cat from his shoulder holding her at arm’s length. She hissed spat and growled. “Why did you trap me? Why did the food trap me?” the Squok Box was yelling from his other hand. Tears were beginning to run down Jerome’s face. What had he done to her?
A hand rested on his shoulder startling Jerome. He dropped Jasmine and she scurried back to the safety of the under the couch. Jerome turned to see that seven men had stealthily let themselves into his room. He let out a delayed shout of alarm and stumbled back. six of the men were wearing normal business suites with your standard radio coms glenting in their ears.
Jerome stumbled backward. “Hold on one second no reason for alarm. We are here to help you with your cat.” The man’s face was boyish but confident. His voice was smooth and calming. “The Squok Boxes are being recalled and we are part of the cleanup crew.” Jerome looked at the seventh man he stood taller than the rest broad-shouldered. He wore a dark trench coat that shimmered unevenly with the light. A large back metal coolie hat obscured his face. A sense of dread bubbled up in his bones. 4th of Six stepped forward. “I can sense you know who I am. Then you know that for a team lead by me to show up it is serious correct?” Jerome nodded. “Good. Please move.” turning to the pleasant man. “The cat is under the couch.”
The Squok Box let out a panicked call “Jerome help!” Jerome had been moving to get out of the way when he moved back in-between the approaching pleasant man. “What are you going to do to Jasmine!” Jerome demanded. The team closed in but 4th of Six raised his hand. “We are going to uninstall the Squok Box and extract any other nanites that might be interacting with it. We need to determine what is going on. The Squok Box was never intended to bring about knowing, it was only ever meant to facilitate rudimentary communication. Our systems let us know that anomalous activity was taking place in this apparent. I can see now that whatever is happing with your cat is not compatible with her animalistic understanding of the world.”
“Please, I used a rejuvenation chamber on her to get a few more years with her. She is all I have right now. If you extract all her nanites she might die” Jerome pleaded. “Food/Jerome/pet I am scared!” The Squok Box said. Three red lights flickered underneath the coolie hat and the Squok Box sparked in his hand cutting off Jasmine “Taste the fear…”
4th of Six looked at the pleasant man. He turned to Jerome, “Look, you know you can’t stop us. The second we came in here 4th of Six released a utility fog into the room. We have already caught her it is just a formality at this point. I am sorry that your cat might die but frankly, we have to regulate otherwise who knows what could happen” Jerome stepped aside. A few more lights flickered underneath the coolie hat and black pillars lifted the sofa off the ground a few feet. Jasmine tried to run but the men were on her. She fought, clawed, and hissed until she was given to 4th of Six. She suddenly began to calm and then purr.
Jerome was puzzled by this. 4th of Six whispered to her “I know I am sorry for how scary this all was” He then walked over to Jerome and handed Jasmine to her. He then held out his hand and motioned for the Squok Box. Jerome handed the Squok Box to 4th of Six and watched as they turned to leave. Jasmine continued to purr in his arms. Before 4th of Six left, he turned to Jerome “Hold her until it is over.” Then the door was shut and Jerome was there in his apartment with Jasmine.
Jerome carried his cat over to the couch and sat down. Jasmine purred contentedly. Her eyes closed and she purred until she didn’t.