In moments like that, you can play it cool, or drop all pretenses, and say exactly what you’re thinking. Professional spies could likely have managed the former without effort.
I stopped, staring at the artificial wombs. Dr Griffin couldn’t have noticed the staring through the Rocket suit’s helmet, but she noticed that I stopped.
“I know,” she said. “It’s amazing. We don’t know where it came from. We got it along with a grant from the government, but they wouldn’t tell us where they got it. We’ve dated some residue within the tanks to roughly seven thousand years ago.”
“No kidding,” I said. Weren’t the Sumerians getting big around then?
I looked around the room, recording as I did it. I didn’t see any other alien artifacts lying around. Probably the rest of them were in the safes near groups of workstations.
Wait, there was one exception. A green object lay on the floor in the middle of the room. Basically rectangular, but with rounded edges, it lay on its side. According to the HUD, it was eight feet long, and two feet tall. Thick cables ran from it to a literal black box that sat next to a computer. I guessed that it had to be the entropy shield.
The biggest hint in that direction had to be a crack that ran up its side, and the black soot marks near it.
“Do you know what it is?” I’d stopped recording the room by then, and decided I should probably record her.
Dr. Griffin paused for a second, and then said, “Not completely, but we have suspicions.”
Izzy’s voice came over the speaker in my helmet. “She’s lying. She knows exactly what it is.”
I hadn’t realized Izzy was listening, but I supposed I should assume that she was listening to everything within a mile. I knew for a fact that she could use sonar to create pictures of even greater distances.
Vaughn glanced down at the screen of his communicator, and stifled a laugh. Izzy had sent it over the general channel and he must have been using the speech to text option.
Cassie didn’t show any physical sign of it, but over the general channel she said, “Hell yeah, she’s lying. I’ll tell you about it outside. We’d never get through it all here.”
Dr. Griffin may not have been able to listen to our comms, but she wouldn’t have to be that perceptive to notice that we were being quiet.
She was at least that perceptive. When she glanced over at the three of us, she pursed her lips.
As she started talking again, her talk sounded rehearsed. She’d probably repeated the same statistics about the lab’s computing power (they had a Beowulf cluster), and the same jokes about forgetting the safes’ combinations to potential funders. Despite that, I thought I heard a slightly worried edge.
None of the artifacts she pulled out of the safes were as easy to recognize. If Cassie did, she didn’t say anything.
In a few minutes, she’d taken us through the room. When she stopped she finished with, “Do you have any questions?”
Her eyes widened as my sister faded in, Rachel’s white costume giving the impression of a ghost. For her own reasons, Rachel didn’t ever phase fully in, remaining slightly transparent. “My question is, ‘How hard was it to deny you’re working for the Nine?’”
Dr. Griffin gave a small gasp. “I didn’t know. We’re not working for them.”
Her eyes darted toward the door, but she didn’t try to run. I wondered if that would last.
Rachel took a step forward. “You guessed. After the ships went down, I floated inside, and I happened to hear a conversation between you and your husband. I don’t have the exact words, but when he began to say their name you told him not to. They’d never said it directly, and you didn’t want to know. And besides, you told him, they were probably watching.”
Dr. Griffin kept her voice low. “They’ve got someone in the lab, and who am I going to report them to? The government? They’ve got people in the government. We’d never survive telling anyone anything.”
“Well,” Rachel said, “I think we’re just about to give you your best chance. The government’s going to take over. Maybe they’ll find out if there’s a traitor in your staff, and maybe they won’t, but it’s not your fault. It’s ours. We’ll be turning you in.”
Dr. Griffin let out a breath, and didn’t say anything at first. Then she looked Rachel in the eyes, and said, “Okay. Just… I don’t know about it.”
Rachel smiled, and said,“Fair enough. That’s a secret I’m willing to keep.”
Not long after that, Dr. Griffin led us out of the lab. If anyone noticed anything different about Dr. Griffin, they didn’t say so.
As we walked out, passing through the doorway, and walking past the shattered doors, I opened a comm channel to Cassie. “What were you going to say in there?”
Cassie walked onto the lawn, stopping on the grass. “I wasn’t going to tell you much, just a bit of the usual. You know the Abominator birthing platform back there? It’s alive, and it’s repairing itself.”
Doing my best to keep my voice low enough that it didn’t carry past the helmet, I said, “It’s got the materials?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Cassie replied. “It’s got alternates that are good enough. It leeches metals out of the computers and the building. It told me it will be fully operational within a year or two.”
There wasn’t a good reason to be afraid, but that chilled me. “Fully operational? What does that mean? Can it do more than clone?”
In a matter of fact voice, she said, “A lot more. It can modify people long after they’re born.”
I started thinking through the implications of that. Grandpa had destroyed the last set of these that he’d seen. It made a lot of sense. Sure we’d lose something of incalculable value, but if the Nine had it, they’d use it in ways I didn’t want to think about.
I would have thought about it more, but Lim’s symbol started blinking in my helmet. I answered his call.
“Bad news. You’ve got to get out of there. From what we can tell, the main ship is heading toward your location.”