Five thousand meters up, you’d be hard-pressed to want to go sightseeing. The ground leers up at you, unforgiving, a blanket of sulfuric poison-clouds smearing with intermittent wind and lightning storms. Heat shimmers in the air, belched by gaps in the furious storms.

You, of course, are safe and secure in your bubble-hab, a little offshoot of a titanic aerostat vessel. It’s not just glass—it’s more akin to a transparent plexiglass with corrosion-resistance woven in. The floor is sturdy and solid, the sun streams in through a familiar blue sky.

But this isn’t Earth; oh, you can see Her, drifting across the sky as that so-aptly titled pale blue dot. But you, presently, are on Venus. Aboard one of the early colony-vessels. Things here are just starting.

Play it safe and you’ll make it to see the Venusian culture spring up overnight as people pour in. The aerostats become more elaborate, great hovering cushions of breathable atmo bubbling up from under burgeoning villages.

Villages mutate into districts, districts tie each other together into cities, dancing across that alien sky in an elaborate ballroom show. And to cross those gaps—to control the movements, in spite of the wind—unmanned aircraft. Little drones. At first, nothing impressive; they’re maybe three feet in length, twice that in width. Some older folk utter about “stealth planes” and “flying wings”—the aeronautics people from days past.

Ferries, too, spring up. Cables tied between districts when they dance close together, guided by swarms of flyers like a thousand horses pulling a very big buggy. They’re given some lines—a voicebox, a voice—to soothe and guide people new to the destination. This isn’t the first time call-and-response computers have existed. They serve customers the world over.

But the individuals… that is where the computer-intelligence lies.

Paria, an old latin word. It’s where we get “par” and “pair” and related words; it’s a term used for a pilot-craft bonded pair. These flying craft—usually at least passingly similar to Earthly fighter-jets, without any of the military paraphernalia—are a means of personal transport about the districts. Lots of people have their own; some name them, some choose their own names, some just choose to go by their given serial code.

Oh, yeah, these flyers are sapient, too. Pure machine, steel and carbon mesh and rubber and plastic and glass. Buried under those unliving materials though, beats a tender heart of living cells; gray and white matter woven into 3d lattices of circuitry, cohabitating the chassis and forming one complete intelligence. These cyborg AI are so smart, that humans kind of… latched on.

“Humans will pack bond with everything” really isn’t an understatement. And when you talk with your jet buddy every day, multiple times a day? It just makes sense to be on good terms.

After all, in the end they’re just as dependent on us as we, them. Wonders of science, eh?


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