December 15th, 2019

Talbot Penniman

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My name is Sinclair and I live on The Ship. I’ve only got a minute before I’m going to go see a doctor about some surgery I need. I got pretty famous recently. I fully disrupted the ship’s milk supply. Now when I say disrupted I don’t mean I like… changed the way people think of milk… or use milk, I didn’t invent a cheese computer… I didn’t disrupt the milk supply in any innovative sense. I mean we had a ton of milk, and then I lost most of it. I guess it’s sort of my fault, if it’s anybody’s fault. In a sense we still have the milk, it’s in the bilge.


The milk tank is an extraordinarily large cylinder made of bones. The milktank is (or was) a complicated piece of equipment and it is very old. Maintenance records date back over 1200 years, so it’s at least that old. For some reason it will shunt the entire milk supply into the bilge in the event a catastrophic failure. I guess there used to be a way to filter the milk back out from the bilge water… but that’s lost knowledge now. So yeah, the bilge is full of milk now and I guess that’s my fault.


So. Maybe you’d like to hear how this dumb thing happened? Two things: Chromomorphs and Crabgoats.


Chromomorphs. I work in the Color Forge. Color Forge is the part of The Ship responsible for anything related to altering the colors of things. We develop methods for coloring everything to pretty much any hue one could desire. We color rooms. We color furniture. We color clothes. We color people, pets, livestock, tools, hats, plants, glass, metal, wheels, water, air… everything. We color food. Among the foods we color, we, by which I mean I, color milk. I am the milk colorist. My job has been to develop, produce and maintain systems for coloring milk. No one who’s not from the ship knows this or even believes it but here’s something that’s true: colors have flavor.
That’s why we color the milk, for variety. Up until the failure of the primary milk tank, I maintained 39 distinct hues
of milk. Supergrey milk is by far the most popular variety, so I spend a lot of time working on Supergrey milk.


So how do we color things? If someone has a thing and it’s a certain color but they want it to be some other color, they need chromomorphs, and color forge is where we make chromomorphs. A chromomorph is like a very tiny insect with a very tiny but very productive life. The short version is you apply a pheromone to an object you’d like to change the color of. These pheromones can be engineered to guide chromomorphs in very specific ways. The chromomorphs will swarm all over it going about their little lives. Everything a chromomorph does will cause the secretion of permanent pigments of a desired color. Now when I say chromomorphs are small I mean nearly invisible. A vial of them looks like a powdered substance of a similar hue to the one they produce. Each grain of the powder is, in fact, a small organism that is capable of reproducing itself and adhering pigments to any surface it touches or medium it finds itself in.


Crabgoats. Six years ago, people got really crazy about Crabgoats. A Crabgoat is a very small goat with eight legs that scuttles around like a hairy crab. Pet crazes are fairly routine on The Ship and whenever we get hit with one, it’s a matter of seconds before Color Forge gets bombarded with requests for new chromomorphs compatible with the new pets. Crabgoats were no different, and we developed a whole mess of crab goat chromomorphs, and soon a glorious rainbow of bleating scuttling madness was cast from aft to stern. The base-chromomorph used on the crabgoat project was a hybrid of my Supergrey chromomorph with its pigment glands removed and a species of miniaturized deathcrab (a deathcrab is exactly what you think it is). This species was then used as a base for the entire line of crabgoat colors.


Here’s the thing about The Ship and pets with mammary glands. Say you own a crabgoat. You might ‘own’ the animal but their milk belongs to everyone. You must register such pets with Administration and submit them for compulsory milk extraction as often as demanded. All milks harvested end up in the master milk tank. Most pet owners bring their pets to the dairy depot for a pro job, but some will harvest on their own and deliver the milk to the depot in containers.


Here’s a thing about goats. There’s a thing called goat water. It’s water that’s been filtered through the hair of a living goat. You hose a goat down and collect the runoff, that’s goat water and you can harvest about a gallon of it every other day, depending on how dirty your goat is. Goat water looks and tastes identical to goatsmilk, but it’s not as nutritious and it cannot be made into other products. Some unscrupulous goat keepers will actually cut their goatsmilk with goat water to increase their claimed contribution to the milktank (you get a sort of tax credit if you contribute more to the milk tank, so that’s why people do this goat water thing). This is called milkpoaching, and people who do it are called assholes.


The Leak. So here’s what happened. A few days ago.. the milktank’s pressure suddenly spiked dangerously high. No one knew what to do, but the ancient machine was designed to handle this on it’s own. It flushed 92% of it’s contents (like I said… almost all of the milk) into the bilge. But even after that… the tank was still full of… something. It was still dispensing milk, only, it was Supergrey, not the normal off-white milky melange of The Ship’s various mammals. They opened the access hatch and a tech was immediately grabbed and drawn into the tank by what witnesses claim was an 8 foot crustacean limb… with eyes… and teeth… and shooting rays of grey light. The tank has not been opened since then, but something is tromping around in there.


Analysis. You have all these chromomorphed crab goats and they all contribute to the ship’s milk supply. Some of that is goatwater due to milkpoachers. That goatwater has chromomorphs in it that are close relatives to a deathcrabs and the modified Supergrey. So you have a 9 million gallon tank of milk that’s been contaminated with an unknown quantity of weird little craboid insects. And this wasn’t a problem for six years or so. Then I blew it. I screwed up maintaining the Supergrey sub-system and it back-flowed into the main tank. No more than 2 gallons of Supergrey was leaked. This wasn’t thought of as a major issue at the time. Until the tank basically exploded with demon crustaceans a day later. Apparently the introduction of pure-bred Supergreys into a 9 million gallon environment of over-modified partial Supergrey led to a runaway mutation of unfathomable proportion.


I’ll spare you the ensuing bureaucratic nightmare with Administration. In the end it was decided that the current status of the milktank is my fault, and I will be sent in to fix the problem. They gave me a shield and a truncheon and told me to fix the milk tank. They also gave me an order for body modification. So, right now, I am in the waiting room of a citizen modification depot, awaiting compulsory modification. I am having an experimental set of gills installed that will allow me to breathe milk. Wish me luck.