First Technician (Neuroengineering) Lieutenant Kentanen Tashotsu spun on his stool idly. “Don’t you think it’s weird?”
“I’m not paid to think,” Lab Four Lead (Neuroengineering) Padrah Erbamait said. “And neither are you.”
“That’s exactly what we’re both paid to do, Pad,” Kentanen said. “Think.”
Padrah flicked the viewer to another experimental study, this one from a private Federation research institution she remembered from the minor scandal surrounding its sudden closure and the arrest of most of its staff for ‘ethical violations’. “Not about weird,” she said. “We’re paid to think about how to give Captain Night what he wants.”
“Which is weird.”
“Void’s sake, Ken. He’s a pod pilot. You were expecting normal when you signed on?”
“Have you ever even heard of anything like this, though?”
Sighing, Padrah pushed the viewer away and turned. “Sure. There’s plenty of VR games and infotainment about the capsule. Even TCMC enhanced for a fully immersive experience.”
Kentanen shook his head. “Games. Recordings.”
“Recordings, transmissions, what’s the difference?”
“Input only, Pad. Those are all input only.”
“So is this,” she said. “Mostly. It’s not like Captain Night wants Dr Toin plugged into the ship’s systems. Not that it would be possible if he did. Just a buffered re-transmit of the signals coming into the pod and what’s basically a comm link.”
“A very sophisticated comm link, yes.” Padrah shrugged. “Not much more sophisticated than a really good neocom implant with VR capability. There’s a bit of difference, yes, with the type of output, given her existing … wiring. But that’s all.”
Kentanen spun on his stool again. “We hook those receivers she’s got to translate the feedback from her assistance device up to a transmission from the pod systems, she’ll be able to feel the ship.”
“In an attenuated and limited way.”
“And we link the output that usually goes to her holoprojectors to the capsule, he’ll be able to see
“A projection of signals from her visual cortex.” Padrah stuck out a foot and stopped the stool spinning. “Which it’s our job to make happen, so let’s do it, huh?”
Kentanen leaned closer and lowered his voice. “You know, I heard Captain Night uses antimicrobe nanites every time he shakes someone’s hand.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Nothing.” Kentanen shrugged. “I just think it makes all this weird.”
“Because I never thought I’d see the day that Captain Night asked us to find a way to let someone else plug into his brain.”
"If only you’d never thought, full stop, we might actually get this done." Padrah pointed at his work station, "Those studies aren't reviewing themselves."
"Yeah, yeah. Back to it." Kentanen spun reluctantly back to his viewer, "Hey Pad..."
"I heard that Dr. Toin is some kind of Sansha experiment. That's why Captain Night stole her from Ishukone."
"How would that even-" Padrah shook her head, "That doesn't make any sense Ken. If she was a Sansha experiment, why would Ishukone have had her. Unlike whatever brain-dead security grunt you heard that from, you know what's in her head. It's a little unusual but it isn't Sansha."
"What if what we're doing will be the set up for it, though, Pad?" he pressed. “You know, you’veheard the stories. Sansha turning people into Titan pilots overnight. They haveto have some way to link ordinary people into pod systems.”
“So what if this is it?Or a testfor it, a trial, maybe.” He leaned towards her again. “You knowCaptain Night used to be – ”
Padrah slapped her hand flat on her desk. “Usedto be, yeah, I know, I workedhere back when he was, unlike you, Ken. And none of us ended up with chips in our heads or wires sprouting out of our nostrils thenso I don’t see it suddenly happening now.” She pushed the key for the next article with enough energy to wring a strangled bleepfrom the viewer. “So stop listening to stupid Sansha ghost stories down at the guard post. You knowWemer only tells them to creep people out.”
“Yeah, I guess. Captain doesn’t seemlike the type to go chipping people.” He paused, then added slyly, “Especially not Dr Toin.”
“Why especially notDr Toin?” Padrah asked in spite of herself.
“Oh, come on. They spend hours together in his office, I heard from Gia down on F-Deck, she’s right down the hall from there. With the door closed. Talking about shield efficiency, I’m sure. And mathematics.” Kentanen’s tone made it clear how implausible he found the idea.
“You think …?”
“Well, he’s still human, isn’t he?”
“It’s kind of hard to imagine …” Padrah said doubtfully. “Captain Night.”
“Maybe they’re not. Maybe they do talk about algebra and he’s like those pilots you hear about, you know, the ones with the special ordersat the Pleasure Hubs. The low-secPleasure Hubs. Maybe that’sthe reason we’re based here, so the Captain can go out at night and – “
Kentanen’s expression froze at the same moment Padrah felt something touch her calf, a soft inquisitive snuffling.
That, she realised, is Colonel Teirild’s creepy little pet.
Which means Colonel Teirild …
“I take it your report for the Captain is ready,” Colonel Teirild said from directly behind Padrah. “And you’re fully prepared to begin work on the interface adjustments he requires.”
Kentanen, the bastard, looked at Padrah.
“Not, ah … as such, Colonel,” Padrah said.
“Then perhaps,” Colonel Tierild said, “ You should concentrate your attention on that?”
“Yes, sir!” Padrah and Kentanen chorused.
"Good." The security CO turned on her heel and walked away, her weird little big-eared creature trotting along after her.
Padrah bent back to her viewer.
"You hear what they say about Colonel Teirild?"