Thinking back to how I’d pulled on Lee’s power in some way to summon a sword, I knew I wasn’t completely without powers, but I knew Amy’s magic had bridged some gap to allow me to do it.
Eyeing Iolan, I said, “So, if I have ancient, mysterious DNA, but can’t do anything with it, why is that?”
Iolan frowned. “Well, it’s simpler than you might expect. You might have abilities, but you lack the necessary power to make them work. Many people who have Abominator derived or created genomes have the same issue and ironically, the Abominators fixed it by adding in DNA that they’d reverse engineered to copy the ancient DNA that had caused them problems. I imagine that if someone lacked enough power to fully use abilities they might have, they’d use them at a much lower level, possibly undetectably.”
“Right,” I said. “I get it. That’s about as simple as you get.”
Remembering back to when I’d been tested by Keith with the Cabal’s powers test, I knew I’d gotten a hint of “energy” and “mind”—both of which were somehow oriented toward self-use as opposed to something I could aim at people. Even though the test might not cover Lee’s people as well as Abominator genetic manipulation, it wasn’t a big jump to imagine that “mind” might suggest an unusual ability with technology. A connection to the Cosmic Ghosts might explain the “energy” indicator. The fact that they were both barely blue might explain the subtle effect of whatever I had.
It wouldn’t surprise me if I got more out of it than that, but I’d have to watch for it. Also, I’d have to ask Lee a few questions the next time I saw him. It seemed like the kind of thing he’d be aware of.
More than that, it might explain his interest in my family going back a few generations. Grandpa had told me that Lee had mentioned knowing an ancestor of his once. He’d told me that he watched families with potential once. A connection to his own species might have been one of the reasons. Even if Lee hadn’t been the person who’d been caught, he might have known or even cared about them. Alternately, the person might have had abilities Lee found useful and wanted to cultivate in humans.
It was something I couldn’t put past him. Being immortal had to encourage thinking long term.
“Well…” Jaclyn glanced over all of us. “I think we’ve asked all we can about that. We should start talking about the reason we’re officially here. Jadzen Akri wanted us to help you find out if there’s a spy here. So, why do you think there is?”
Iolan nodded and then spoke slowly. “I told you at the meeting. I don’t have evidence of it. I wish I did, but I do know that there’s increased ansible activity before and after Jadzen goes on one of her rescue trips. And even though Alanna disagrees, it’s not just because they’re planning the trips. There are too many resources involved.”
Iolan had started talking more quickly as he went on, stepping forward and moving his hands to illustrate.
“Whoa,” I held up my hands. “How do you know there are too many resources involved?”
Iolan gave a short laugh. “I’m a little bit of a hobbyist when it comes to comms and the deep space relay system. If you’ll allow an old man his eccentricities, I’ll explain. It’s normal for children to get interested in the ansible system at some point. There’s so much to be fascinated by. There’s the history—it was created by the Abominators and is now used by everyone in charted space. There are the vids about the installation and repair teams that go practically anywhere, exploring worlds and getting caught up in adventures. You know how that goes I’m sure the real teams are bored in the middle of nowhere.”
He picked up a bottle from his desk and took a drink.
“Anyhow,” he said, “I never could pursue it as a profession since I’d been training to be a doctor, genetic counselor, and a motivator since childhood. No one, my parents included was going to let me train to run one of the signal generator stations, much less learn how to repair a station. I did manage to get involved at a volunteer level when I was younger, and when I got here, they made me one of the admins of our deep space relay. It’s so clever of them to spoof the system the way they do.”
At this point Iolan had gotten back into talking loudly and gesturing as he talked. He’d even pulled up a floating picture of the surrounding sectors ansible network from a machine on his desk.
Stopping, he said, “I’m almost certain that there’s an encrypted stream of data that’s activated whenever other data is going out. You would think that would be easy to prove, but I think they’re using admin channels so that that the data doesn’t appear in the official logs and statistics.”