“Uh huh.” Cassie gave Jadzen a small bow as the council members left the room, walking toward the exit via a different wing of the building.
I felt a stab of worry as they passed the doorway that led down to the dog, but they didn’t stop. Soon they were gone and we all went back to our suite. I sat down at the table along with Cassie and Kals. Marcus and Tikki sat next to each other on the couch while Jaclyn and Katuk each took one of the chairs across from the couch. Jaclyn found herself sitting next to Crawls-Through-Desert who had positioned himself in front of one of the windows, his leaves angled toward the sun. He still appeared to be dormant though. He hadn’t moved or said anything.
Marcus looked around the room. “I don’t want to start any trouble, but we’re not going to stop investigating, are we?”
Leaning into him, Tikki shook her head. “Of course not. You know what I think? It’s got to be someone on the Council. I don’t know who, but isn’t it funny how they did exactly what you’d want them to do if you were the person behind it all? They told the people who were getting somewhere to stop.”
Kals frowned. “I don’t know. We’ve got motivators who are capable of doing that to Geman, but except for my mom, they’re not on Council. Maru’s not that good. Iolan’s barely trained at all. Alanna’s all techie. She’s got her hands in everything, but before that, she worked on implants. The rest of them don’t have active powers.”
Cassie spoke the second Kals finished. “Is there anybody who might be hiding motivator powers? Or hey, could Alanna have done that with an implant tweak? I mean, those things go straight into everyone’s brains.”
I found myself nodding as she spoke. “I’ve been wondering about that. They’re basically just computers and computers get hacked all the time. With an implant, it seems like you could hack somebody’s brain.”
Katuk and Tikki both started talking at once, both of them starting with, “No—“ I didn’t hear the rest. Even as I tried, I experienced a massive data dump in my head. By the time it was over, I knew the architecture of the standard implant as well as the protections installed to prevent it from being used to take over a sentient being. From what I understood, it would need a sustained effort by a government or corporation to hack one. A single person on a backwater world wouldn’t be able to.
When the rush of information ended, I became aware that everyone was looking at me. “Didn’t any of you get all the technical details on implants? I just got a crash course in the theory and practice of implant design.”
Marcus shook his head, “No—not in much detail. I got a general sense of how they work and that it would be hard to hack them.”
Glancing around the room, Jaclyn said, “I got some technical detail, but not like you did. Maybe they put more technical info into yours or give people more technical information if they can understand it.”
In his almost expressionless voice, Katuk added, “Both choices are common practice.”
To my eye, he seemed to be in a better mood than the night before. It might be that looking for him hard enough that we got in trouble had touched him somehow. That or he regarded participating in this conversation as part of his duty to the group.
In any case, it was better than last night.
Sitting straighter in her chair and speaking a little louder, Jaclyn said, “Hey everybody, we’re going to have to reel it in and get focused. I think we have to ask ourselves two questions, ‘Who are we going to investigate,’ and, ‘Are we okay with what happens if the Council finds out what we’re doing’?”
Kals shrugged. “They can’t do much. My mom won’t be happy with me. Maybe she’ll move me to a less responsible position in the colony for while, but if it saves the colony, I’m fine with it. She can’t do much of anything to you guys. The only person who stands to be hurt is Tikki. She’ll probably be handed over to Alanna to do menial tech jobs for a few years, but it could be worse. Mom’s exiled a few people from the colony. I don’t think she’d do it to Tikki, but it’s a death sentence. I don’t think anyone’s survived more than a few months.”
Tikki had been leaning against Marcus, each of them with an arm around the either. She smiled. “It doesn’t matter. If she comes down hard on me, I’ll leave with Marcus and the rest of you. I’m grateful that the colony took me in, but right now I feel like I want to see the universe. I trained for years to work on starships because I feel like the stars are calling me. I don’t want to be stuck here.”
Kals’ mouth twisted. “I want to go too, but I can’t go if we don’t fix this first.”
As they’d spoken, I’d come to a decision. “I think we should focus on Maru. He’s got Jadzen’s confidence and if he’s been working with Jadzen for years, he’s had every opportunity to learn from her. The reason we’re assuming he’s not as good is because he didn’t go to as good a school. After years of using a skill, it doesn’t matter as much where you went to school as what you learned in the next twenty years. I still don’t have a motive for why he’d do it, but that’s what we need to find out.”