Note: Hey everyone. Pennies and Paperclips is going through a second revision, in which a chicken is replaced by an alien dog, and a few other details are rewritten. This is in preparation for the upcoming sequel to this fic, known as Marbles and Screws. I'll be writing it with the help of CJBTDI. He's given me a lot of great ideas to go off of, so keep an eye out for the sequel.
98 percent of Irk is barren, paved over and built up in metals and glass to form enormous cities and smeet production plants. For the general public, breeding for smeets is considered illegal. However, for the few Invaders who earn honorable discharge, the option is given to them. They are settled in the 2 percent of land that still flourishes naturally and loosely monitored. Unfortunately, decades spend breathing heavily polluted air and handling radioactive weapons often leaves the natural-born smeets with defects of some sort. They are given a set amount of time to recover or heal from these defects, but if they fail to do so, they are terminated by order of the Control Brains.
"Maneem! Maneem! Look, I gots a doggy!" Grup beamed as he waddled over to the garden.
A slender figure straightened from her hunched position and shielded her eyes with a three-clawed hand. "Oh Grup, where did you get that thing?" She sighed.
'That thing' wagged a whip-like black tail as its tongue lolled out of its mouth. Velvety green fur coated its body, leaving the black legs and tail bare.
"Found it. There was a basket, an' the letters were reeeeeal big an' said my name." The smeet beamed with pleasure. "I can read my name. I'm gonna call it Krull! You like it, Maneem?" He laughed as the dog turned and swiped his face with its tongue.
"Yes, very nice dear." She waved a trowel at him. "Now go in the house and find somewhere to put… Krull."
"Okee-dokee!" Grup stumped into the house, whistling the tune to his favorite song, followed by Krull. His mother's eyes followed him until he disappeared through the door.
She sighed and ran her hand over her antennae. How much longer until they snatched him from her? She shuddered, digging viciously at a weed. They won't. They have other things to do, other Irkens to look after. They won't bother with one smeet.
Singing at the top of his voice, Grup picked up the squirming puppy and dumped it on his bed. Pulling off his shirt, he proceeded to back into the wall. Wires snaked out and attached to his PAK, shooting battalions of nanobots into his system. For an hour, Grup stood there, patiently waiting until the house computer retracted the wires and heaved a sigh.
"Any luck today, Compy?" He asked.
Negative. Subject Grup retains original damage to growth hormones and brain cells. Body resistance to nanobots continues.
"Talk small words, Compy, I can't know what you mean."
You have a stubborn shell, Grup.
The smeet's face fell. "Awww, I's still dumb. Why'm I so dumb? I tries so hard to get smart with all the tests and nan-bots, but my body kills all the bots an' my brain can't hold smartness without them. Wha's wrong with my shell, Compy?" Tears streamed down his cheeks.
Subject Grup, you have asked this multiple times.
He hung his head. "Me no remember."
Your brain stopped growing at a very early stage and so did your shell. Neither your shell nor your brain will get any bigger, no matter how old you become.
"Oh yeah," he mused. "Well, I gotta go, Compy. Krull wants ta play with me!"
I pity the creature.
Grup snuggled under downy blankets while his mother tenderly tucked him in. She glanced inquisitively at the extra bulge at his side, but decided not to ask.
"Loves you, Maneem."
"I love you too, Grup."
"Think I'll get smart tomorrow?"
She smiled tiredly. "There's always the chance."
She closed the door to his room behind her gently and padded down the hall, purposefully ignoring the high-pitched yap that rang from his room. Pausing, she flipped a switch on the wall. A colorful hologram materialized, displaying a family picnic. There she was, holding Grup who was shrieking with delight. And there, there was her forevermate, Hinch, before they found out about Grup…
Angrily, she slammed the switch, dispersing the picture. She was just about to go to her room when she heard the Irkomm beep. Hurrying to answer, she pressed another button on the wall and it split to show the viewer.
Her heart stopped.
"My Tallest! To what do I owe this… unexpected honor?" She stammered nervously.
"Oh, I think you know," intoned Red as he sipped a slushee. "The control brains have been monitoring your smeet, Grup I believe? Anyway, his treatments have gone on for a full year and he has not recovered."
"My Tallest, give him more time!" She pleaded. "Any day now, he might recover!"
Tallest Purple appeared onscreen, crunching on nachos. "I don't think so. According to our records his shell was corrupted from the womb and his condition is impossible to reverse. I'm afraid he'll have to be terminated."
Her hands flew to her mouth. "Terminated? But, my Tallest! He's my smeet!"
Red waved his hand distractedly. "Oh, they're plentiful enough, don't worry. You'll have another one. Bring him to the control brains in two days for termination. Tallest out."
And with that, the viewscreen went blank, leaving ex-Invader Vork staring blankly in the dark.