The Pembers and their friends, Morde, Tetcha, and the Flits, live on a generational interstellar spacecraft called the Sunspot. As adolescents in the process of gaining their independence, they are working with their individually assigned AI tutors to navigate the Sunspot’s culture and learn how to exercise their human rights, Autonomy and Consent, to choose which community to be a part of, or to build their own. As all Passengers aboard the Sunspot do. And one of the big next steps in their lives is to be fitted with a neural terminal, so that they can access the Network through their minds alone.
But the Pembers and the Flits are plural, a neurotype that is rare, that has accommodations built into the culture and the laws of the Sunspot, but that is still a disability in many ways. And Morde and a number of the Pembers and Flits experience physical dysphoria, a neurological disability in which a person’s body feels incorrect for what their brain or mind expects. For some, it’s mild, treatable with minor medical treatments. But for a few, like Morde, it can be a deadly agony.
Metabang, the Pembers’ tutor, had lost a student to untreatable dysphoria a few generations ago. In reaction to that, it had researched and proposed a radical new treatment to the god-like Crew of the Sunspot. Crew that no one has ever seen in person. A treatment that might also fully accommodate the needs of plural systems like the Pembers as well.
The plan is to use the mostly dormant construction nanites found in the soil of the Sunspot’s Garden to create adaptable, agile neural terminals that do not need surgery to be implanted. Earlier access to the Network could offer students with severe dysphoria a much needed respite from their disability. And it might even be possible to use the nanites to slowly and gently guide their physical development to soothe their dysphoria in ways that hormone therapy and surgery could not achieve.
To Metabang’s surprise, the Crew approved it. And now the Pembers, Morde, Tetcha, and the Flits are about to be offered the chance to try it. A trial run before it is offered to the rest of the populace.
And the Pembers and their friends must start to ask, “Why us? Why now? What’s the catch?”
And as the consequences of its experiment unfold, Metabang must ask itself, “What is this going to mean for the future of the Pembers, and the Sunspot itself? What were the Crew thinking?”