This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.
Comstock Uri EBABA8 Age 60 (Academician) 7 terms
Handgun-0, Grav Vehicle-1, Brawling-0, Vacc Suit-2, Computer-1, Teaching-3, Small Craft-1, JOT-1, Foil-2, Carousing-1, Gambling-1, Medical-1, Archaeology-2, Anthropology-4, Sociology-3, Sensor Ops-2, Imaging-3, Linguistics-2 (Belter Patios) (Chinese), Bludgeon-2, Chef-5 (Latin Foods, especially Nisperos de Batata and Churros), Zero-G Environ-1
Alpha Centauri University at Foothold (or ACUF) draws thousands of students each year—including, one year, a geneered gorilla named Comstock Uri.
Comstock was a serious young student, very focused, and quickly completed the requirements for his doctoral dissertation in only 4 years. After receiving his Ph.D., he stayed at ACUF, accepting a position as an assistant Professor in the School of Cultural Sciences.
After more than twenty years of teaching, you meet some interesting people. Some of them become life-long friends. In Comstock’s case, three had become ex-wives, if not friends. Another had become his fourth wife on Olde Earth, waiting on retirement for his return to her.
One year, looking over his students for the new semester, Comstock noticed his paperwork identified a pair of sisters’ point of origin as being Tethys. He was intrigued, as Tethysians are generally tall and pale, with light eyes, prominent cheek-bones and dark hair. When he actually saw these sisters in class, on the other hand, they were unusually short and wiry, though just as pale, with multiple tattoos and piercings. And they didn’t look like they were following the lecture at all.
With a bit of pantomime, Dr Uri invited the girls for coffee in the Union after class. The Nanda sisters’ native language was a difficult patois that left the old silverback clueless.
Between their laughable ability at Anglic and Dr Uri’s Chinese, they were able to establish that the sisters’ people were asteroid miners and scavengers—Belters.
Further intrigued, Comstock decided to tutor the sisters during the evenings. “The Doc” had always been good with languages, and began to pick up the Belter patois.
At the end of the semester, Doctor Uri decided to go on sabbatical, and travel to Tethys with the girls. While the sisters soon went back to ACUF, the giant ape spent the following 10 years living with the short, wiry nomadic miners, documenting and recording their way of life, legends, beliefs and aspirations—and producing quite the documentary along the way.
Word of Dr Uri’s activities eventually reached the mining concern that owned the Tethys Asteroid Field. Fearful that this rumored documentary might portray them in a negative light (as the cheating scoundrels they were rumored to be) it was decided something had to be done.
A few days later, as if on cue, the miner clanship Rosen Ascending, on which Uri was living, was struck amidships by an anti-ship torpedo that had apparently been floating in the asteroid field since some long-forgotten anti-piracy action. Only four survived the destruction—one of those the maimed Doctor Uri whose leg was shattered, and who was bleeding into his vacc suit at the time of rescue by a frigate from the Revenue Cutter Service.
While recovering, Uri made a statement to the TNS bemoaning the loss of his comrades and all of the data he had collected in connection with his research (this, however, was a lie, and all materials were safely hidden away. Comstock simply wanted to avoid having a megacorp’s gaze focused on him ever again).
Comstock resigned his position with the University and retired. The big ape never did go back to his wife on Olde Earth.
While Dr. Uri is happy to tutor privately or offer insight into his varied fields of expertise should someone put up the money (his pension is collectable only annually, after all), retired academics are generally not in high demand unless working as a commentator or “expert” for some media franchise—an idea that Comstock finds rather distasteful, as it’s neither teaching nor field work.
Comstock is an excellent teacher, but would rather be out in the field. His space-related skills, learned while living among the Belters, are a much more marketable skill set when travelling, and he has no hesitation at travelling on Working Passage.
At one point, Comstock’s skill with a camera landed him a gig as a wedding photographer—not something he likes to admit to.
Comstock is huge—2.1m tall, and more than half that wide. His once-black fur has turned silver across his back and shoulders, down both arms, and across his face. His eyes are blue, and his lower right canine tooth is missing. He wears high-end outdoor clothing, and carries a large, sturdy cane (a crystaliron sword within), both to help him maneuver with his severe limp, and to use in self defense should the need arise. Like most academicians, the good Doctor lives up to the stereotype in that he wears a portable computer on his left forearm. Unknown to everyone but Comstock, the computer has a body pistol built-in.
Comstock loves talking, especially about different cultures, and before you know it he’s slipped into lecture mode. Once he’s caught himself, he’ll implore someone to hit him in the head with something next time he starts up. If faced by some subject he’d rather avoid, the silverback merely says he’s writing a book and that usually kills the conversation dead.
Comstock is an absolutely amazing chef, having been taught by his first wife’s mother, and will usually have a couple dozen Churros stuffed into his shoulder bag.
When rattled, he will sometimes gripe “I could be retired and running a Churro stand on Aretius right now!”
Uri does not drink, curse, or smoke, but does enjoy Bridge. He also likes to unwind at the batting cages. If on a ship, he’ll bring along a sports bag with a couple of bats, gloves, and about a dozen baseballs, hoping to hit a few in the cargo hold.
Dr Uri may be encountered anywhere, most often where he can find interesting cultures to study.