Hours went by. I lost track of time as I worked. I’d redesigned the remote control for my bots. Though I’d recreated it as software in the Rocket suit, my new version acted as an interface between my implant and the bots, allowing me to control them directly with my brain.
I probably could have figured out a way for the implant to connect to the bots directly either by imitating their control signals or creating a system for the bots that connected to the implant, but this was easier.
It meant I didn’t have to redesign the bots and that my first attempt at connecting to alien technology didn’t have to fit inside a bot. Instead, I’d designed it to look like a portable phone charger.
I tested a spybot, sending it in a circle around the room. The connection stayed strong and it responded to my directions as well as it did from the suit—better maybe.
I did feel a little weird to have a little window showing the bot’s camera feed in my head, but the Xiniti had systems for controlling devices remotely built into the implant. Figuring out how to make the video and sound convert over had the side effect of answering if it were possible to translate my conversation with Ryan (Higher Ground’s head scientist) into Earth audio-visual formats.
As I began to bring the spybot in for a landing, Haley stepped through the door. She wore her costume which was grey with an abstract head of a cat on her chest.
“I can’t believe you’re still here.” She stepped to the side as I lost control of the bot and it skidded across the table and hit the wall next to the door.
I felt my eyes widen. “Sorry.”
Haley glanced down at the spybot where it lay on the floor. “It’s my fault. I should have given you more warning.”
“I’m not sure that would have helped.”
She laughed. “I doubt it. You weren’t paying attention to anything, but if I had made a noise maybe you wouldn’t have broken your bot this badly.”
Bending over, she picked it up and put it on the counter I sat next to. Its nose had been smashed in. A quick look at the bot’s vitals showed that it was still connected to the remote and that the main rocket would still respond.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s an old bot I only keep around for testing anyway.”
“Good.” Then she frowned. “Do you know what time it is? It’s after midnight.”
The implant gave me the exact time—12:14 am. “I kind of knew that. Why are you here?”
“I went out on patrol with Tara. Chris and Camille were out too, but they were flying so mostly it was Tara and me.”
“How’s that going?” I’d heard Tara’s perspective. Haley’s might be different.
Haley cocked her head. “It’s good. It’s a little strange to have Chris in the suit instead of you, but I think Tara makes us coordinate better and she notices so much about how we fight. I think she’s good for the team. If she wants to stay after she’s done with her government service, I think we should take her.”
“I’d be for it. Ignoring powers, I think she’s the best hand to hand fighter I’ve seen in the program.”
Waving her hand at the tables in the lab, she asked, “So what have you been working on?”
“Stuff for bugging the lab. I’ve got an interface for the bots and my implant and a couple of new types of bots.”
Haley looked over at the tables full of parts and a few finished bots. “I only see one kind.”
“One of them doesn’t look like a bot. The box full of little black dots about the size of ant heads? I’m calling them ‘dotbots.’ They can only move a little bit, but once they get into the right spot, they can burrow into concrete if they have to and at worst they’ll look like a speck on the wall. They’re the bugs. They’ve got a decent range for both audio and visual and as usual, they’ll self-destruct.
“The bigger bot—the wasp-sized one—I’m calling a ‘spitbot.’ It contains several dotbots which it’ll spit out wherever I want.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Dotbots? Spitbots? Not all of your names have to end in bot, do they?”
I shrugged. “It’s easy and I’m not telling everybody their names—just the team.”
Haley shook her head. “That might change. Chris has been talking about how the two of you should set up some kind of business. You need some kind of normal way to support yourselves after college. He’s been thinking you should invent something.”
I thought about it. “Maybe. We’ll have to have some kind of civilian job.”
Haley reached out and put her arm on my shoulder and leaned into me. It felt good and I reached out, wrapping my arm around her.
Her head neared my shirt and she took a sniff. “What did Tara want?”
I wasn’t surprised that she’d noticed. “To talk about Emmy and the True mostly, I think. She hugged me when I said that I’d see if I could convince Lim to let her meet Emmy when this is all over.”
She looked up at me. “Sometimes I wish Tara weren’t quite so touchy-feely with you, but I know she doesn’t mean anything by it. It would smell different. And anyway, she’s like that with all of her friends.”
“I know.” My sister Rachel didn’t always feel comfortable with it either.
Haley frowned. “I think we might be the closest thing to family she has.”
She shook her head. “I didn’t mean to get into all of this. I was really stopping by because I’m hungry. Do you want to go to the Chinese buffet on State? They’re open all night. If you’re not in the mood for Chinese food, I guess there’s Denny’s.”
“You know, I don’t think I had supper.” My stomach growled, underscoring the point.
We left for the restaurant and I left the details of how I’d bug Higher Ground for the next day.