Ironic hugbox is the only way I’d be able to complete a hugbox story. Believe me, I know this from experience. If this rubs you the wrong way, reader, please stop reading now.
A voice crackled over the intercom speaker mounted in the corner of the room with the multicolored felt cushion walls.
“Is Jeremiah ready for today’s exercise?” The voice is male and dripping with false positivity and motivation. Like someone on a children’s television show who is bound to be replaced by the next season.
The fluffy in the highly technical safe room does not realize this, of course.
“Jew-maya awways weady, cept when ma’e gud sweepies, tee hee!”
Jeremiah is an unassuming, pudgy fluffy. Dime-a-dozen, perhaps worth even less. But he stands to be something big one day. The price for his role included his mane and tail. Both of these features are cropped extremely short on the stallion, to the point of being negligible. But every other fluffy involved had this done to them, so it’s fine.
“Fantastic!” said the man, deadpan, yet managing to phone in the excitement so that the fluffy’s brain activity could hit the prerequisite threshold for the training to stick.
The one speaking still could not rationalize how this program was thought up. How could anyone in good conscience impart such responsibility on these simpleton creatures? But he wasn’t paid to ponder morals. There was a committee for that, and for reasons of pragmatism, they… committed. Which is commendable for any body of bureaucracy, but the contention remained.
“Alright, Jeremiah. Conduct the block of training. As we’ve already covered in the last few tests, my intervention and interactions will be limited! I believe in you little buddy! You can do it, if you believe in yourself!”
“Yay! Tawkie-fwend ma’e Jew-maya so happies!” Jeremiah exclaimed with his forelegs upraised. He flailed and waved them excitedly. The man observing this spoke,
“Jeremiah. The test, please.”
Jeremiah gasped. “Ooh. Otay, tawkie-fwend!”
The man stuck in the office shut off the microphone and sighed deeply. He reached out and slid the lectern dedicated to recording Jeremiah’s progress and readiness for graduation into place, so as to write new notes.
Still too easily distracted. Unreliable. Recycling of program, week 3 onwards, likely. Official recommendation pending.
Unaware of the detrimental review already counting against him before he began the routine, Jeremiah set off to do his best! The fluffy waddled over to the pretty suit-bay. It was an area in the corner of the safe room designated by yellow and black hazard tape. The prettiest orange warning lights flicked on as the fluffy approached the perimeter, some flashing, some rotating in their glass housing.
Jeremiah liked those the best! He liked watching the lights move across the walls, but he also knew that the “talkie-friend” wanted him inside the “huggy-friend”, like they had been practicing for many forevers!
So, Jeremiah ascended the little set of silvery scaffolding stairs. They were just under three feet in total elevation but in the beginning, the fluffy was so scared to climb them! “Jew-maya so bwavies nao! Nu scawed of fawwin’ owies nu noa!”
At the top of the scaffolding, the Advanced Fluffy EVA Suit Simulator was secured by its holding clamps. The back of the suit was folded outwards to await its vaguely equine operator donning it. Jeremiah crawled into the puffy pink interior that felt so nice on his pelt. It was like he was being brushed every time he moved, so long as he was inside the huggy-friend!
The interior sensors registered Jeremiah’s body and limbs as being in their preordained locations within the sim-suit. The rear paneling flexed into many hinges, which folded down over the fluffy’s back before reaffirming shape. The variable geometric plating, layered with the same interior padding as the rest of the suit, formed an airtight seal.
It was somewhat dark inside the confines of the suit. The lenses of the viewing ports diminished the intensity of ambient light, since the actual service-suits did so to cope with the unattenuated intensity of space and its cosmic rays. But this was fine by Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s huggy-friend made this part so much less scary!
“Wub 'ou huggy-fwend! Pwease tuwn onsies pwetty nighty-wighty?”
The observer was able to hear the insipid babbling while verifying that the simulator-suit’s autonomous life support systems were optimal. The man in the executive suit sighed and tapped the command into his terminal to activate the operator lights for the fluffy: a simple ring of LEDs around the eye-fixtures. They filled Jeremiah’s helmet with a soft blue glow and the fluffy candidate started to giggle.
“Fank 'ou huggy fwend! Nicest nighty-wighties eba!”
The suit’s uplink systems were now directly transmitting to the mock control center manned by the observer. Although Jeremiah was none the wiser, the test was a mission scenario in which the fluffy would have to exercise initiative and wit. The qualities most fluffies struggled with the most.
Unfortunately, despite all the training, Jeremiah seemed to function at the same baseline as most fluffies, with a few notable exceptions in repeating key tasks. One such task involved receptivity of the suit entry procedure, which the fluffy appeared to have mastered, despite the inelegance of his mannerisms.
“Jeremiah,” the operator said coaxingly.
“Oh-- das wite! Testies! Testies, testies, wa wa wa!”
The man in the control room stared hard at his video feed and said nothing. He had to reassert in his mind that the fluffy did not decide to belt off the word “testes” off the cuff. This was fine by Jeremiah; he was told that the nice man would not be involved much in his “testies”. The fluffy obediently waited for the arresting clamps to give way.
The man in the monitoring station typed in the command.
The pneumatic hiss went off, and the simulator-suit landed softly on the cushioned floor. “Wee! Jew-maya gon’ splow!” The fluffy in the metallic suit bounded off to complete his mission. The way he waddled on the spongy floor of the safe room was oddly reminiscent of vintage moonwalk recordings, albeit faster by a small degree. Only a small degree.
Because at the end of the day, Jeremiah was still just an ungainly fluffy, despite the incredible technology that encased him for training. And he would still be an ungainly fluffy if he ever graduated to intra-spacial operations, but as the observer already conceded, there was an ethics committee. They made a commitment to minimize human risk. This was their solution.
A veritable goddamn fluffy academy, pumping out cadets by the bushel to suit up and perform dangerous logistics functions. A good sum came back to their praises and retirement at the training site, for public relations and funding incentives. Success stories kept the program’s doors open! Most tried to ignore the ones lost, but that was difficult to do when the bill for lost goods and equipment made touchdown on the bank account.
The latest potential financial liability exited the vestibule of his safe room and entered a hallway where other fluffies were eagerly making their way to the their respective test environments. Indicators lit up and danced across Jeremiah’s field of view, directing him where to go. Jeremiah obeyed the flashing lights and symbols. They were pretty!
Jeremiah’s test location was the Micro-Gravity SimCenter. The MGSC was a dome-shaped aquarium made of metal, essentially. The dedicated fluffy personnel tunnel had the precaution of two airlocks to mitigate accidents that could come about as a result of fluffy stupidity. Jeremiah went through the screening process and waited in the second chamber. All the air was vacuumed through the vents in the ceiling. The vault-style door spun its industrial tumble-lock and then sank into the steely floor with a hollow thunk. As soon as the seal was broken, water spilled into the chamber.
The fluffy candidates did not notice this for the most part, as the water was dyed an inky black that they could not see in the overall vastness of the steel dome. Their only clue that something had changed was the sudden force that pushed on them as the water rushed in, but that force dissipated in fractions of a second when the exchange chamber was filled, allowing the fluffy to float with neutral buoyancy. This was how the fluffies came to understand microgravity.
Well, perhaps not understand it, but the repeated experience conditioned them to be familiar with the sensation instead of crying and pumping their feces into the on-board receptacle of the sim-suits; a diaper-like compartment that specifically enclosed the lower extremities of a candidate’s body.
Fluffy manes and tails were all but removed to accommodate the space suit design, but the stubs that were allowed to remain aided a fluffy’s sense of identity.
This was also how they came to understand their reaction control packs, which were fitted onto the candidates in the first chamber by dedicated handlers. Again, another precaution against fluffy stupidity. They did no one any good if they died in training.
Jeremiah was familiar with the complexities of moving with six axes of control in three-dimensional space. The flight control user interface that flashed across the eye-screens of the suit’s helmet simplified the basic piloting inputs to a level a fluffy could understand. “Am wingy fwuffy nao! Jew-maya do wha’ wingy fwuffies do!” the fluffy cadet exclaimed compulsively when these controls were enabled by the observer. Every. single. time.
The fluffies never noticed that their “thruster” packs functioned off of tiny, mounted ducted propellers to create the facade of maneuvering with high-impulse ion nozzles. They just liked flying so much! Most cadet-hopefuls had been envious of their pegasi cousins at some point in their lives, so the opportunity to experience that they supposedly did was gladly enjoyed.
The irony was that only standard “earthie” type fluffies were adopted into the candidate cycle, due to the costs saved in uniformly manufactured gear. When various wing and horn sizes were except from the requisition costs, the profitability of a fluffy workforce for space logistics bloomed. But these fluffies did not care about irony, or big words like those; they just relished the chance to fly and earn the adoration of their handlers!
Jeremiah zipped about faux-space. The indicators on his screens directed him to his targets, parcels that moved on their own accord within the fluid, and the fluffy candidate honed in on them. Once close enough, the fluffy began the instinctive process of matching translational planes with the object and then accelerating to its speed so that relative to each other, they were stationary.
All this was accomplished by treating the entire procedure as a fluffy-oriented pegasus flight simulator, with the thruster pack software handling the actual mathematics involved in the necessary maneuvers to spare the simple fluffy mind the overwhelming computations. Granted, most people would struggle with this undertaking, so perhaps the simplicity of a fluffy could be forgiven in this instance.
At any rate, the task of retrieving items of interest in space was framed as collecting food and toys to ensure fluffy attention retention. Magnetic hoof-pads made grabbing onto objects in the water-- and in space-- as intuitive as just pressing a limb against them.
Jeremiah was dedicated to the retrieval task;
“Am geddin’ nummies! Geddin’ gud nummies, and toysies, an’- an’-”
… As the observer was subjected to the fluffy’s ravings while he performed the Thrust Vector Aptitude Test. It would have been well enough for the man to mute the feed, but there had to be an auditory library of the fluffies undergoing training to maintain their fragile mental states. Sometimes simple failures were enough to break a candidate’s spirit completely and warrant a “washout” from the course. The fates of washout fluffies were also ignored for public relations purposes.
Thus, to prevent this from being an issue, the man had to listen to Jeremiah despite his desires otherwise. He took a hesitant solace in the fact that the fluffy was happy, if nothing else. Regardless of his scatterbrained tendencies, even as far as fluffies were concerned, Jeremiah’s technical performance was excellent. Few fluffies truly adapted to the suit apparatus like this one.
Jeremiah eyed the symbols flashing on his view-screens-- instructions broken down into simple pictographs. True logistics operations did not have a live overseer observing the progress of a project; training a fluffy in the pictographic system meant it was possible to load a set of repeatable commands into a fluffy’s user interface and leave it to work without direct input from a controller.
This is where the initiative and wit part of the test came into play.
Jeremiah was incredulous. “Huh? Dat nu am wite!”
The pretty pictures told him that there wouldn’t be any nice people rendezvousing to collect the containers he’d gathered! And that meant Jeremiah couldn’t get the “nummies” and “toysies” inside of them! And because no nice people were on their way, he had to somehow watch over everything by himself, forever!
“Buh Jew-maya nee’ nummies and toysies fo’ happies! Huu huu huu! Nu faiw! Nu faiw! Nu wan’ dis!”
Jeremiah started thrashing his limbs. The collection of metallic boxes he’d wrangled up from around the dome started to drift away from him as his disturbance drew up a current. A few of them he ended up kicking away in his tantrum!
Oh dear. The observer at mission control flew his fingers across the keys, tapping in the following log: Prone to outbursts. Quick to forget mission for personal motivators. High risk candidate for operations. Lack of problem-solving skills.
“Nu faaaaiiiiiwwww! Huggy-fwend, huu huu huu, Jew-maya so saddies! Wha’ am supposies to do!?”
The observer pinched the bridge of his nose. Jeremiah was already out of tolerance to get a pass on the test, so he broke the caveat of the exercise to give the candidate a fighting chance for next time. If there would even be a next time.
“How about you try doing good block stacking?” he suggested in a way that he hoped did not sound too patronizing with the flimsy cheer he had to pour over his words.
“Huu huu huu, nu cawe 'boud dummeh bwockies-stackies!” Jeremy sulked. “Wan sketties! An’ vwoomies toysies!”
The man momentarily cut his microphone to mutter, “How can you be such a good flyer, and still be this dumb?” He shook his head, huffed, and turned his input on again to say,
“Maybe if you stack the blocks and keep accountability of them, a team will get your extra-vehicular beacon after enough time has passed, and they will retrieve you and the cargo that you’ve already organized–”
“Nuuu! Jew-maya am gon’ be stuckies foweba! Huu huu huu! So meanies! Nu faiw!”
“Ugh.” The man at mission control buried his face in his palm before typing in the command to end the exercise. The observer then issued the command which disconnected Jeremiah’s maneuver pack from his control.
“Huuuuh!? Huu huuu! Huggy-fwend, wai nu can do gud fwyies? Am bad fwuffy? No wub no moa!?” Jeremiah flailed his legs to no avail, while the assembly of propellers ushered him back to the airlocks on automatic pilot. The door rose up from the floor, the water was pumped out from the vents integrated into the paneling, and testing staff removed Jeremiah from the rig. He did not go gently into that good facility, though.
“SCREEEE! SCREEEE! NU WAN’!” As he kicked his legs out at the people that grasped at him to remove the expensive piece of kit, Jeremiah’s bowels were loosed into the on-board receptacle of the sim-suit.
After this episode, the fluffy candidate followed the pictrographic instructions to bid him to return to the safe room and remain in-suit until a caretaker squad could deal with his “bad poopies”. Jeremiah cried all through the walk back, ashamed.
Meanwhile the man at mission control had a choice to make.
Official recommendation pending
Washout of program. Subject euthanasia and replacement, protocol 00-FPC_HB-21
Submit? The man stopped himself from issuing this command. Then, he hammered the backspace key until it was erased from the digital prompt.
“That would be a waste of such raw potential… but he’s clearly not cut out for any actual responsibilities in this job…”
He sighed. After a few minutes more of deliberation,
Still too easily distracted. Unreliable. Official recommendation: Recycling of program, week 3 onwards.
“This whole business model is a house of cards, depending on these things with the minds of children to go get killed in place of humanity so that we can turn a profit,” the observer observed as he submitted his ruling to the board of directors. “If that’s how cheap life is nowadays, we can afford to give you another shot, fluffy. All you have to do is get your head out of your ass, and you’ll be flying with the best of them, some day.”
“You’ve got the makings to reach the moon, don’t die here on Earth just because there’s too many of you, and you couldn’t convince a bunch of suits that you’re special and worth keeping around.”