“Easy,” Cassie said, “Bug him.”
I shook my head. “I was trying to avoid that. My tech is pretty low compared to what I’ve seen in the files in my implant. The Xiniti could detect my bots easily and while they’re ahead of the curve in terms of technology out here, they’re not that far ahead. So, bugging Maru with my stuff might accomplish nothing more than warning him that we’re watching and giving him ammunition to argue we should leave or never leave our ship.”
Tikki sat up, pulling away from Marcus. “I might be able to help. If you show me your design, I’ll be able to tell you if it’s so bad that there’s no chance it’ll work. I’m not an expert in spying technology, so I don’t know what will work, but I can tell you if it’s laughably bad.”
Katuk added. “I have some background in our technology. I may be able to assist as well.”
It was hard to gauge Katuk’s enthusiasm from his voice, but the help the implant gave me in judging Xiniti body language didn’t hint that anything was wrong.
I thought about it a little more but decided that we had very little to lose. “Okay, then, I guess we spy on Maru. There’s something that’s bugging me though. If Maru’s behind it all, he knows that we’re aware that Dalat and Geman have been influenced, so he’s not going to use them. If he guesses that we’ll be watching what he does, he might not do anything but use the ansible as an admin—which means we couldn’t watch him there since I’m thinking he’s got an implant. If he does then we might not see him do anything at all.”
Jaclyn looked over at Katuk and then at me. “Go for it. The worst that can happen if you don’t is that he’ll tell the Human Ascendancy where the colony is and you won’t know it. The worst that can happen if you do it is also that he’ll tell the Human Ascendancy, but this way we’ll have a chance of knowing beforehand.”
I glanced over at her. She was right. I shouldn’t overthink this. “Okay. I’ll tell you all how my spybots work. Tell me what you think.”
With that, Tikki and Katuk came forward to the table while Cassie, Jaclyn, Marcus, and Kals stepped back to talk to each other while we discussed how my bots worked. I got out a few of them, opening them up on the table and explaining how they were constructed and exactly what they did as well as my system for communications and major algorithms that determined their behavior.
Katuk sat still and listened quietly, occasionally asking a question for clarification. Tikki leaned over the table, sometimes interrupting to tell me, “Oh, that’s very clever,” and a couple times to say, “Did you consider…“
The crazy thing was that times that she complimented me were times that I had been clever and times when she asked, “Did you consider?” I hadn’t. They were good ideas. One was a tweak to my search algorithm that I was pretty sure would improve the area by at least five percent. The other idea was a change in the communication protocol that would allow me to decrease the number of signals involved in any given communication. As I said, it was a good idea. I didn’t have time to implement it then, but when I did, the overall effect ought to be making the protocol more secure because there simply wasn’t as much communication to observe.
A life support engineer in the Human Ascendancy got some decent training—that or Tikki was unusually gifted. Alternately, Tikki’s technology was so far ahead that commonplace suggestions made a huge difference.
By the time I finished Katuk did weigh in. “I used the techniques I was taught to detect nearby listening devices. Your devices are unusual enough that they might not register as bugs. If they knew to look for them, however, they might be able to be found by standard debugging techniques.”
Tikki nodded, “Their casing is a type of ceramic shell that isn’t unusual. I think I have an idea for a coating that would lower its chances of being detected. Even better, I think we can find the materials locally. I’ve made an outline of the process. I’ll send it to your implant!”
She all but bounced as she talked about it. On the couch, Marcus not only beamed but did a series quick sketches as she talked. They managed to capture the way she moved her arms, grinning, as we discussed the process.
As we finished, I looked around the room. “Anyone want to help gather materials?”
Before anyone could reply, the plant’s pot began to hum and Crawls-Through-Desert spoke, “As a special agent for the Alliance’s Consolidated Defense Force, I think we need to talk before you blow this open.”