On the bright side, I was an intern. Interns are inexperienced and haven’t absorbed how things are done in the workplace. That meant that as long as I wasn’t too obnoxious about it, I could ask anything.
Provided I wasn’t too obvious about my prying, the worst that people would think was that I was naive.
“I’m not sure I heard this right,” I began, “but I thought you were coming next week.”
She gave a quick smile. “You’re right. I was, but they called to ask if I could come early and it turned out that I could move my schedule around. Now what I’ve heard is that you’re not just majoring in engineering and materials science, but you’re also a programmer.
“Our lab modified a psi helmet to contact the birthing chamber platform but your people couldn’t get theirs to work. I checked over the circuitry. From what I can tell, it’s a match to ours. I’m hoping that you can modify the software until it works.”
I looked over at Victor. He seemed to be smiling.
“Sure,” I said, “but I’ve got another question. What happened to your helmet? I mean, I’m all for having a backup, but if you’ve got a working one, couldn’t we use that? It might even help troubleshoot what’s wrong with the new one.”
Her mouth twisted. “I wish we could use our old one. When the government took the artifact, their people didn’t secure the helmet well enough and it dropped when they were moving it all into storage. Higher Ground has ours. It’s shattered beyond repair.”
“Oh.” I thought about that. “Do you have your original code for the helmet’s software?”
She paused, frowning. “I didn’t write it. Before now, I didn’t have much to do with the new investigation into the artifact, but what I understand is that the government gave them our finished code.”
“Right,” Victor walked up and stood next to Dr. Griffin as did Stephanie. At the same time, I noticed that the rest of the group was beginning to wander off to their own work areas.
Victor looked between the four of us. “I think we’re going to have to do a little bit of knowledge transfer before Nick can get started. Dr. Griffin, if you could answer any questions he has about how the helmet design and what your additions allowed it to do.”
“I…” She looked over at Victor. “I’ll try to do anything I can to help him. Do you have anywhere private that we can talk?”
Victor nodded. “We’ve got offices on the far wall. Stephanie can show them to you. She’ll need to go with you anyway. She’s one of the people who wrote code for the new version of the helmet. She understands the new code and hardware better than anyone else that’s still here.”
With that, Stephanie led the two of us across the lab, passing teams, file cabinets, enclosed areas, some of which I still couldn’t identify.
Less than a minute later, we sat in a small conference room on the same wall as Ryan McCall’s office. I wondered if he was in it or if I’d have any chance to bug it.
In any case, saying that the conference room was small didn’t quite do justice to it. It had four chairs, but only enough space to fit three at the table with pulling the table away from the wall. Even then, it would only have been comfortable if only two people at most attempted to put stuff on the table.
Stephanie’s laptop seemed to take up most of it.
Dr. Griffin sat down at the table and Stephanie and I joined her. Stephanie had plans for the helmet on her laptop—both Dr. Griffin’s original plans and Higher Ground’s modifications.
The next two hours involved learning that telepathy was complicated and machines that enabled it were also complicated. That wasn’t a surprise, but sheer amount of detail meant that I had to take notes. To hear Dr. Griffin explain it, telepathy was a case of applied quantum mechanics. They still weren’t sure how information transferred, but they could set up the conditions for it to take place and had a system to interpret what arrived.
Near the end, it all began to make sense—enough sense that the implant began giving me access to similar designs and documents describing the general flow of telepathic connections. Dr. Griffin’s device and Stephanie’s version of the software imitated how telepaths connected without fully understanding it. The implant had a big picture version of a civilization’s successful understanding and implementation of the technology.
I might not know every detail of how I’d put it together, but I suspected I might be the only person on the planet who understood how this worked.
Then it struck me—I could stall progress on it for a long time, maybe permanently. All I had to do was get it almost, but not quite right. We might be able to avoid the True if no one could get access to the telepathic controls. If they had to work with the physical controls, they might be limited to what’s in the birthing chamber’s library.
The more I thought about it, the more I suspected I couldn’t make that decision alone.
“Nick?” Stephanie tapped the table. “Are you listening?”
“Yes. I mean, I missed what you just said, but I’ve been listening to everything else.”