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“This is my place. I have lived here, these last years, as a true cat. People accept me. The mice fear me. I disdain the dogs.”
   — Shi-mi



Shi-mi, Tibetan for "cat", was an artifical cat developped by the Black Corporation.[1] She could track mice and rats with infra red, stun her prey with a low current and keep it in a designated stomach, with food and water supply, and would transfer it in a vivarium until it can be relocated somewhere safe.

Appearance

Shi-mi looks like a normal white cat except from a LED spark in her green eyes.[1]

The Long Earth

Shi-mi, a prototype for a line of artificial pets, was introduced by Lobsang during the journey aboard the Mark Twain.[1]

After Lobsang decided to merge with First Person Singular, Joshua and Sally discovered to their great surprise that Shi-mi could talk but didn't have to before since she used to make her reports to Lobsang through a direct interface.[2]

The Long War

Stowaway

Around June 2040, Shi-mi travelled with Lobsang and Sister Agnes, both under their "public" appearances of Georges and Agnes Abrahams, on a commercial twain to a world seven hundred thousand steps of the Datum to meet up with the crew of the USS Benjamin Franklin, on shore leave after having rescued a wannabe silver miner that got himself trapped underground.[3]

The crew of the Franklin was having the lunch on the ground at the time, under the shadow of the ship, when the twain landed not far away. While Lobsang and Agnes were telling Maggie Kauffman, the Captain of the Franklin, that they were here to deliver more troll-calls, Shi-mi sneaked aboard the military vessel.

A faulty turbine

The Franklin's next assigment brought them to a stepwise Nebraska. As Maggie was reading a systems check report in her sea cabin, she felt watched and discovered Shi-mi sitting on the carpet and looking at her. Shi-mi talked to Maggie but realized her setting was in still Swahili since Lobsang and Agnes used to practice his language with her. After changing her setting back to English, she told Maggie that turbine number two was developing a fault. The Captain then called Harry Ryan, the ship's chief engineer, to tell him to check again the turbine. Meanwhile Shi-mi declared she was another gift from Dr Georges Abrahams and was fully equipped to support the twain's mission.

Harry Ryan then called back Maggie to confirm that turbine number two had a fault, apologized for not seeing it earlier and said the risk of failure was increasing with time. Maggie then asked to set a course to the Datum to repair the faulty turbine. Thanks to that, Shi-mi was then allowed to stay aboard the ship but was warned to stay out of Joe Mackenzie's way.

Datum Detroit

A week after the meeting with the Abrahamses, the Franklin reached Datum Detroit where the ship and his faulty turbine was about to be repaired.[4] During their stay, Shi-mi, now having her own basket in Maggie's sea cabin, took to stroll around the ship with an air of ownership and inspection.

A long-term investment

After being summoned to the town of Cracked Rock to deal with an incident with trolls, Maggie realized that a lot of people had informations about her, her ship and her mission, even in remote worlds.[5][6] After consulting with Ensign Toby Fox from engineering about the possible presence of bugs aboard the ship, she asked Shi-mi to arrange a meeting with Georges Abrahams.

A few days after the talk with Shi-mi, Maggie had a rendez-vous with Georges Abrahams at the town of Redemption, on the way to Valhalla where all the Navy twains were now heading.[7] Abrahams had a limousine come pick Maggie up and they had dinner in an elegantly appointed restaurant where he admitted that he influenced the panel that gave the command of the Franklin to Maggie, that she was being watched and was considered a long-term investment by him and others like Douglas Black.

Maggie was angry when she discovered that her life and her career were manipulated all along but quickly realized that there was little for her to do since they didn't expect anything from her, except that she did her job the same way she did before.

She came back on the ship and went to bed, while Shi-mi was sleeping in her basket, pondering how she could use her situation to her advantage.

The USS Neil A. Armstrong II

Around the end of June, all the Navy twains were hovering in a world located a hundred worlds East of Valhalla.[8] Admiral Davidson, head of the USLONGCOM, travelling aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, requested a meeting with Maggie.

After a short incident by the access ramp where Captain Ed Cutler, Davidson's aide, pull a gun to Carl's head, the young troll made part of the crew, Davidson and Kauffman went to her sea cabin. The old officer praised Maggie for her behaviour and offered her the command of the USS Neil A. Armstrong II after the Valhalla situation was dealt with.

In the night, was Maggie was laying half-asleep in bed, Shi-mi came to visit her and congratulated her about the Armstrong II. The Captain replied that she hadn't made a decision yet but Shi-mi insisted that she'll need a cat and was willing to travel aboard the new ship. The discussion ended as Maggie said she would think about it.

The Long Mars

Around November 2040, after the Yellowstone eruption, we find Shi-mi still aboard the USS Benjamin Franklin in Captain Maggie Kauffman's cabin during the meetup with the Zheng He.[9]

Five years later, she is finally part of the USS Neil A. Armstrong II's crew on its journey towards Earth West 250,000,000.[10] She is not seen much outside Kauffman's cabin because of Snowy's presence onboard.[11]

She still came out on Earth West 182,674,101, despite Snowy's presence, to warn Kauffman of immediate danger when they found the survivors of the crash of USS Neil A. Armstrong I.[12]

The Long Utopia

Lobsang's death

In fall 2045, when Lobsang faked his death in front of his friends, Shi-mi was present as life seemingly went away from his ambulant unit.[13]

The Abrahamses

In summer 2054, nine years after Lobsang's fake death, Shi-mi found herself in the town of New Springfield on Earth West 1,217,756 where Lobsang and Agnes wanted to live a new life under their identities of George and Agnes Abrahams.[14] And with them were Sally Linsay, who knew about the fake death, and Ben, their newly adopted three years old son.

As the ship that brought them to this world touched the ground, Shi-mi stepped out of the gondola and said she was happy to have nothing to do now that she retired from the Navy. Agnes quickly reminded her that for Ben and the other inhabitants, Shi-mi was just an ordinary cat so wasn't supposed to talk.

Shi-mi said she would behave and headed off towards the forest.

Easter egg hunt

A couple of days later, with Sally and the airship gone, the Abrahamses were invited to an early hunting session by the Irwins.[15]

That day, George and Agnes followed Oliver, Marina and their son Nikos to Earth West 1,217,755 where they caught some furballs.

Shi-mi joined Agnes as the group was stalking a big bird's nest. Shi-mi argued that, except for the chicken that the pioneers imported, the big birds were the only birds on this world.

As they caught a glimpse of a big bird, Shi-mi began to describe it but got interrupted by Lobsang who wanted to live a real pioneer life. The cat replied that by doing that they were denying the reality : the days were getting shorter.

Building a pendulum

In spring 2057, three years after their arrival at New Springfield, Shi-mi found Agnes sitting on the ground, measuring her pulse in front of a bucket where sand was pouring from a funnel placed on top of it.

Shi-mi approached her and asked what she was doing. Agnes replied that she was making an hourglass. Licking her paws, Shi-mi told her there were several ways to measure time like with a sundial but that would take some time to calibrate.

Agnes replied she thought about that too but wanted a way to measure the time independantly from the sun. She added that she had trouble sleeping and she felt that the days were shorter. Having no clocks and their internal clocks inaccessible, she had to improvize.

Shi-mi told her that she could build a pendulum, supposing the gravity here was the same as on the Datum. Agnes thanked the cat and kissed it on the head.

At this, Shi-mi shrunk back. Agnes, worried since the feline never acted like that, inspected her body and found lumps on her belly.

The cat informed Agnes that she had been programmed to get old and as a result was ill and had arthritis.

Agnes proposed to fake Shi-mi's death or bring a twain and said they brought a younger cat but Shi-mi refused, arguing that she didn't want to discard all her memories and still be herself and play kitten at the same time.

Their talk was interrupted by Ben who came to show Agnes the basket of grapes he was carrying. Agnes noticed a piece of jewelry gleaming on Ben's right arm and asked him to show it.

The six years old boy instinctively hid his arm behind his back but Agnes's experience at the Home prevailed. She took the silver bracelet and examined it.

The piece was well made and very heavy. Shi-mi murmured, Ben still didn't know that the cat was artificial, that she had seen other kids wear that kind of jewelry around town.

Agnes asked Shi-mi's opinion so the cat licked the bracelet and confirmed it was top-quality, pure silver and that it was machine-made. Agnes asked Ben where he got it but he wouldn't say at first then lied to her by saying he had it from the old Poulson place.

Agnes told him that the swap house had only old, used things and that the bracelet couldn't even come from there and insisted.

Giving up, Ben told her it was 'Beetle man' who gave it to him. Surprised, Agnes sent Ben away and told Shi-mi she wanted to inspect the place when Lobsang will be there.

After she had made her decision, the pair resumed their pendulum construction.

Twenty-three hours

The next day, as Agnes and Lobsang were inspecting the cellar behind the Poulson house with Nikos Irwin, Shi-mi observed the various experiments that Agnes built.[16]

When the Abrahamses came back, Shi-mi was waiting for them by their cabin and told them than the days were now reduced to twenty-three hours.

Agnes, not believing that the presence of the silver beetles and the shortening of the day were a coincidence, asked Lobsang's opinion.

Lobsang replied that he didn't understand what was happening yet but needed a twain to see the world and also Joshua.

Joshua

Joshua, riding aboard the Shillelagh, arrived a few months after Agnes and Lobsang's discovery.[17] Shi-mi came out hesitantly to meet him at first but quickly the old travelling companions got reacquainted.

In the week after his arrival, Joshua made sure to have time for Ben, the town's kids, to whom he gave ride aboard the twain, and Shi-mi. After that Joshua and Lobsang set out to work and embarked on the ship to tour the world and see the extent of the silver beetles's actions.

I am Ben's cat now

One day, while Lobsang was away with Joshua, Agnes decided to go pick up mushrooms.[18] She asked Marina Irwin to look after Ben while she was away.

Unfortunately, this morning, Shi-mi was trying to reach her litter but suffered an abrupt shut-down, making a mess everywhere. Marina went out of the house to meet Agnes, on her way back, and brought her home to find Shi-mi lying by the hearth.

Shi-mi tried to move her head to look at Agnes but it dropped to the floor again. Agnes told her they could still bring her to the workshop in the gondola but she refused.

She then asked Agnes to say goodbye to Joshua, Lobsang and Maggie Kauffman. She also expected Mac to open a bottle of single malt in her honour.

Agnes stroked her as the light in Shi-mi's LED green eyes faded to dark.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Long Earth - Chapter 17
  2. The Long Earth - Chapter 49
  3. The Long War - Chapter 42
  4. The Long War - Chapter 52
  5. The Long War - Chapter 55
  6. The Long War - Chapter 56
  7. The Long War - Chapter 58
  8. The Long War - Chapter 62
  9. The Long Mars - Chapter 1
  10. The Long Mars - Chapter 5
  11. The Long Mars - Chapter 22
  12. The Long Mars - Chapter 31
  13. The Long Utopia - Chapter 1
  14. The Long Utopia - Chapter 9
  15. The Long Utopia - Chapter 10
  16. The Long Utopia - Chapter 22
  17. The Long Utopia - Chapter 26
  18. The Long Utopia - Chapter 29

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