Venus Spy Catcher: Part 6

Geman’s voice carried through a storm of technical details about the ansible network. “Are you okay?”

Dalat looked up at me. “You’re looking kind of white, kid? Did you just get an implant?”

“About a week and a half, maybe two weeks ago…” My voice trailed off as my implant gave me the exact number of seconds. I took a breath, concentrating on the process of breathing as I’d learned to do when meditating.

It was better. The roar of detail became background noise.

Nodding, Geman stepped closer to me, looking me over. “Yeah. That fits. People take time to adjust to new implants. It gets better. When you start out, the implant’s got so much information you don’t know. As you use it, some of that becomes part of your regular memory. So instead of opening up ten or twenty streams of inquiry with one question, maybe you only open up five or one or two? Anyway, you learn how to filter it  better and only follow up on questions a little at a time.

“You can tell it to slow down. Don’t forget that. I don’t know what speed the Xiniti set their implants at, but it’s probably faster than the human norm. What’s your C-sets rate?”

I queried the implant. “It normally has me at 400 something, but based on my reaction to the most recent data push, it’s throttling me down to 360 or so.”

Dalat stared at me. “Three hundred and sixty? That’s got to be wrong. What geneline are you from? That’s some serious mental mods.”

I tried to keep my tone even. It wasn’t hard. I wasn’t even lying except that I wasn’t mentioning the world. “None in particular. I’m from a fallow world that got a bunch of genes added to the mix. What modifications we’ve got are completely random.”

Dalat’s eyes flicked between Cassie and me without saying anything.

Geman glanced over at Dalat and then back to us. “That’s pretty impressive. The normal human rate is closer to 120 and unmodified humans are closer to 60.”

My implant confirmed his figures, adding that my C-set rate wasn’t unusual for Xiniti, but that they’d been modified to take cybernetic enhancement better.

I chose not to follow that line of inquiry to its end, but it opened a lot of interesting questions. For example, was my capacity random Abominator modification or random stuff from Lee’s people?

Whatever it was didn’t matter now, though. We were here to find a mole and I had a direction to go.

I looked between Geman and Dalat. “Cassie asked if you knew if anyone else could get access to admin on the ansible. What do you think?”

Geman’s brows furrowed and he frowned. “Can’t say. We haven’t given anyone local admin access who isn’t supposed to have it. Registered ansible techs can still get in. Plus, we basically turned off logging of admin actions in case the ansible gets audited. Right now it only logs the actions of the default admin account and no one’s using that one.”

Dalat nodded. “I know you’re not supposed to do that, but we had to. No other choice if we wanted to keep it secret.”

Geman nodded. “That’s right. If they ever figure out it’s anything more than a deep space relay, the colony’s screwed. We’ve had to set things up so that all the admin accounts are hidden, filter out our actions from the logs, and give our special local accounts total power over the thing.”

So basically, if someone created an account for anyone outside the admin group, you’d never know.

Off in the distance, a large animal roared and something else screeched. I couldn’t tell whether it was defiance or a death cry. I glanced over at the force field poles that surrounded the grassy field of the starport.

“Who set up the ansible to work that way?” From what I now knew about ansibles, they weren’t easy to modify.

Geman sighed. “Rinson. He was one of the earliest colonists. He used to be an ansible tech and he came from a geneline optimized for tech work—long, thin fingers and toes and mental mods. He might have had a prehensile tail too. I can’t remember now. It’s been a while.”

Cassie had been watching them without talking, but then she said, “What happened to him?”

Geman paused, but after a moment said. “He’s dead. One of those dog-things got him years ago.”

Dalat turned his head to gaze at the line of shield poles, but turned back to us. “We weren’t even involved then. The guy died and Iolan was the only admin for a while, but then he brought us in because he didn’t have enough time to handle it alone.”

He frowned as he ended. “Sorry, but Geman and I were about to have a meeting when you showed up. It’s good to be neighborly and all and chat, but we still have to talk.”

Geman glanced down toward him. “It’s no big thing, but you probably shouldn’t be here. It’s colony security stuff.”

“Sure,” Cassie said. “We get it.”

She stepped away from the building and I walked away with her. I considered opening an implant communication channel to her at about the time she opened one to me.

Her words tumbled out as we connected. “Were you watching them with sonics or anything? The gun gives me a few different ways to see in the dark, but I can use them for more than that… Did you see that their heart rates spiked when you started asking about the ansible?”

18 thoughts on “Venus Spy Catcher: Part 6”

    1. I’m sure you’re joking, but for what it’s worth, here’s what’s behind it:

      I needed a measurement for ideas and concepts that someone could absorb through an implant. I wasn’t comfortable with going with bits per second because that makes it sound like a computer and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be tied to down to such a specific measure.

      I ultimately decided to go with C-set as a shortened form of “conceptual set” based on the idea that the implant allows the communication of whole sets of meanings instead of simply words.

  1. I like the slow reveal of Nick’s power in this arc. It’s implied much earlier, with the original Rocket handing over his suit to the government who aren’t able to modify it with all their resources and decades of time, yet Nick is able to make major improvements. I like that we are getting an explanation rather than his technical skills being hand-waved as is usually the case in comics.

    I would guess his technical ability is tied to Lee’s race. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

    1. I’ve generally thought of Nick’s abilities with technology as a kind of power even if it’s a fairly subtle one. He’s got the ability to create and implement ideas that would take teams of scientists and engineers so I’ve got to make that plausible to myself if no one else.

      1. I’ve always felt, from chapter one, that you were making it fairly clear that powers had to do with his ability to conceptualize, research, develop, engineer, and build his tech, as well as likely some powers used in the actual flying of the thing and not being turned into jelly inside. I mean, yes, they are subtle hints you’ve put in, but quite a lot of them!

        In my head canon (pun intended) I think that’s also the reason for the difference between Rocket and Man Machine, as well as the difference in how Nick thinks and builds and pilots, and how Chris thinks and builds and pilots. They have the “same” power, in much the same way as two people might have superspeed, but where one speedster alters the flow of time around them, the other may have a field that gives them the strength to push against things, and harden what they push against temporarily to allow them to do so. same power, different flavors.

  2. The first thing I would like to say is I completely enjoy your writing style it is literally a joy to come back twice a week for this story. I do have a question about Nick abilities because there is a possibility that it could help him in combat if he can think faster than average people that could translate into faster motion hand to hand, reflexes speed augmentation when he links his implant to the suit thinking and moving at the speed of thought

      1. If you are a trained fighter in a fight with another trained fighter in a contest with mostly-predefined rules and movements that allow you to predict your opponent’s actions, then reaction time is not quite as important as simple training and an understanding of what your opponent might be planning based on their stance.

        Professional boxers in a refereed match can attack and defend more rapidly than untrained fighters because they know what to expect. In a match, prediction is just as important as reaction time. Truly top-notch fighters can see just a shoulder twitch or weight shift and predict what attack is incoming. That breaks down as they become tired, or suffer injury, leading to long fights getting less crisp, and more deliberate.

        But in real-world fighting where people don’t have to follow rules, reaction time is far more important. It takes nearly a second for most humans to even recognize a threat, though we do have some natural reactions that are hardwired into our brain that can move us faster.
        (For example: Unless you are trained to control it, you will jerk your head aside when something comes at your eyes before you realize you are moving.)

        If the C rating is linear, Nick is probably capable of effectively processing data at roughly six times human normal. That means his reaction time delay when a new threat is detected would be roughly one sixth of a typical human’s. In a real fight with unexpected things happening, that’s huge.

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