After looking around for a moment to find the source of my voice amid the chatter mechanical hums of the lab, Victor stood up in his cube and faced me. “Breakthroughs with the user interface? No. And believe me, I’d know. That would bring everything in the lab to a stop. Why do you ask?”
Now that was something I hadn’t thought through. Why would I be asking about the user interface, something I wouldn’t be working with at all? “Well, you’d said that that you were having people from that other lab come here. I didn’t phrase it well, but where do we need the help? Is it the user interface? Does it need power? Something else?”
He shook his head. “We think it’s all a user interface issue. There are physical controls. We don’t understand them, but we’re working on it. There are also telepathic controls. We don’t understand them either, but the Medford, New York lab was close to it. They’d worked up a variation on a psi helmet—you might have seen one on TV—and we followed their plans, but it doesn’t seem to have worked right. That’s why we’re bringing them in. That and they know more, but I bet they know more because their helmet worked.”
I thought back to the Medford lab. I couldn’t remember them saying anything like that when we saved them from an alien attack, but, on the other hand, they’d defended themselves from that attack using working alien technology. It didn’t take much to guess that they were doing something right.
I wondered who they’d send. I didn’t meet many people there, but I met a few and I might recognize the person. You never know. “Yeah, I bet those helmets would help. I’m sorry if I interrupted you, by the way. I got curious and I wasn’t thinking about much other than that.”
Victor grinned. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell you if you’re bothering me.”
A passing scientist (or so I assumed from his lab coat) said, “He will,” but didn’t stop to join in the conversation.
Victor told him, “No one likes a smartass,” as the man passed and they both laughed. When he’d finished, he said, “Like I said, don’t worry about it. I was meaning to talk to you anyway. Do you code? We’ve got people who do, but everyone wears different hats and we’ve all got too many projects. You’re an intern though, so, we can make sure you’ve got the time.”
I laughed. “A little. I’m in electrical engineering in addition to materials science, so my programming is kind of low level. I know assembly, C, Verilog and some Java, but I’ve never needed to use Java except for class. I’ve been learning Python and thinking about learning C++. Except for a little bit of experimentation with phone apps, I only program when I need to. It’s not my main interest.”
I skipped describing that most of my programming experience came from my various bots and the League’s communicators.
Nodding, Victor said, “That’s good enough. I don’t know what our people are using for the helmet, but I might bring you in if we need to make changes and none of the original programmers can.”
“Ok. Just as long as it’s a language I know. I’m willing to pickup a language, but I don’t think you want to me to make my mistakes on something that big.”
Victor waved his hand across his chest, waving my objections away. “You won’t be the the first person to make mistakes on this project. Sometimes I feel like that’s all we do. Don’t worry about it. You’re smart. It’ll work out or it won’t.”
He sat back down—which meant the conversation was over, I guess.
With that, I finished the rest of my summary for Dr. Strazinsky and emailed it to him and since it was five o’clock, I got up and left the lab.
I wasn’t the only one. I left in a crowd of lab workers, most of them talking with each other. I didn’t see anyone I knew so it surprised me when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I glanced back to see Stephanie. “Let’s talk for a second before you leave.”
By that time we were outside the lab and standing on the grass. “Sure.”
She still hadn’t taken her hand off my shoulder and as we walked away she leaned into me. I frowned. “What are you doing?”
“Selling it. Look happy or nervous. It doesn’t matter which. Just keep on moving until we’re around the corner.”
I turned around toward the line of people crossing back to the main office. Ryan McCall happened to be watching us as I did. He grinned and gave me a thumbs up.
I made a half-smile and turned back to Stephanie, stepping forward until we made it around the corner. Standing next to a windowless white wall, she let go of me.
“How did it go with McCall?” Stephanie met my eyes, watching me for signs of… something?
“Okay, I think. He gave me a test and seemed to like what I did.”
“The box of scraps?”
I raised an eyebrow.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “He doesn’t do that every time, but he does it a lot.”
I did a quick check around us, seeing only the white building, the grass lawn and the forest. No one had followed us.
“He said he’d done it before. There was one other thing. He took a call and it sounded like he was pushing the guy on the other end to steal something. I assumed it was an Abominator artifact, but it wasn’t clear. I don’t think he ever told the guy to steal directly, but it was obvious in context.”
She stared at me. “Do you have a recording?”
I thought at the implant and it replayed the scene in my head. “Yes, but it might be hard to move it from the system I used to a normal video format.”
“I’m not going to ask, but try. I’d like to see it. I might know who he was talking to.”
“One more thing. I’ve got some access to the birthing chambers and someone’s been looking at animal assassins. Do you know anything about that?”
She shook her head, eyes widening. “No, but I think we need to tell Red Bolt and Future Knight now.”