I woke up to find Marcus knocking on my door. “Rise and shine. It’s time to save the world.”
He sounded as tired as I felt. I got up, finding that the space next to my bed was only barely wider than my body, making me wonder how people who were overweight were handling this. The best thing I could say about the room was that it was larger than a Japanese capsule hotel room, but those might have been better designed. From what I’d heard, in capsule hotels, the bed was the floor. My room had space under the bed for storage. It contained the Rocket suit and my clothes, but no one could get stuck between the bed and the wall in their rooms.
“I’ll be out in a second,” I said and started pulling the stealth suit on. I left it in stealth suit form. The time for fake clothes had passed.
“Do you mind if I come in? I’ve got a question I don’t want to talk about in the hall.”
“I… Okay. Go ahead.” I unlocked the door with my implant and pulled on my shirt. Marcus stepped in and sat on my bed as I pulled on my pants. Whatever. We’d been dressing in the same room for more than two weeks now.
The pseudo-Xiniti silver color made me think of the space suits you’d see in movies from the 1950s. At least he wasn’t wearing a fishbowl style helmet. That would have been embarrassing for both of us.
My pants and shirt sealed together into a seamless bottom layer for the Rocket suit. Marcus leaned back against the wall. “After this is over, I’m thinking of asking Tikki to come home with us.”
I turned to look at him. It was the first time I’d seen him completely serious in a long time. “Do you think she’d want to?”
He shrugged. “No way to tell without asking, but she doesn’t have parents. She knows us better than she knows anyone here. It’s a new world either way, but this way she’d be with me.”
Sitting down on the bed next to him, I thought about it. “I can see that, but she’d have a whole new planet and a totally different culture to get used to.”
Marcus nodded. “A free culture, though. Here, her only choice is to live in hiding or in a dictatorship. That’s barely a choice. We can show her the basics and our implants can set up a package for cultural expectations and rules—not to mention English. I checked. She could access all of it through her bracelet.”
I checked. He was right. The implant could set up a basic “cultural orientation” package for other people to download. We could direct its attention to specific cultural practices, but it could use its default guidelines and handle it automatically too.
“Wow,” I shook my head. “I had no idea that was possible. It’s too bad we can’t hand this all over to people at home. I’m sure there are a bunch of cultural anthropologists that would kill to find out what the default guidelines for a ‘cultural orientation package’ include.”
Marcus grinned. “Yeah, I bet,” but then he took a breath. “The only thing that worries me is race. She’s not going to get it. They handle what we’d call race totally different here.”
“Really?” As I said it, the implant explained what he meant. Race wasn’t a thing here. The Abominators used skin, eye, and hair color to indicate which version of a project they were on, starting either from dark or pale skin. Most of the human genelines that the Abominators created could pass for Asian, Middle-eastern, Latin American, or Central American, depending on the geneline. Genelines that passed for European or African were genelines that the Abominator creator didn’t change after the first version and then kept them isolated.
Before Marcus could explain it, I said, “My implant just gave me an infodump. How did I miss that and why didn’t you?”
“Easy,” Marcus stopped leaning against the wall. “You didn’t talk with many people outside our group, right?”
Marcus grinned. “Exactly. You, Jaclyn, and Cassie all look like the powered zealots that the Human Ascendancy would pull out when things get tough. So most people were too nervous to talk to you, but they did talk to me. I wondered why but its because I pass for normal here. So that’s why the council was so nuts every time we met with them and why they wouldn’t listen to us. I don’t think they believe you’re a nutjob but they think you look like one.”
“Wow.” I thought about all the cues I must have missed. It made me feel like I needed to rethink every reaction I’d received since arriving. “I wish you’d said something earlier.”
He nodded. “Yeah, that’s fair but I didn’t get it either until right around when we caught Maru. I just knew something felt different. That’s when I looked it all up.”
I thought a little more. “So maybe she won’t understand it, but it seems like the kind of thing the basic cultural package should include. She’d probably be fine.”
Marcus closed his eyes for a moment. As he opened them, he continued, “Yeah. She probably would be okay. Good point. Now I have to get up the nerve to ask her about it.”
He blinked. “Oh, crud. Jaclyn just messaged me to ask if I got you yet.”
I opened the door. “I guess we’d better go.”