Saturday, October 22, 2005

Scale 7 Artifact, part 14

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Journey (part 4)

Captain Chalabi was a small man who stood large. Raised in Iraq, he had gone to space cademy at the age of eighteen and had hardly been back on earth since. A veteran of two great expeditions to the outer planets, one of which he had commanded, Chalabi was the only member of the team who was an experienced explorer. His command style was more managerial than totalitarian, making him a good choice to lead a team of civilians.

The captain started the meeting with a soft voice, "Attention, people, let's get started." The various conversations quickly died out while Chalabi waited patiently. "OK, it is time to tell you a few things about the mission that you were not told before..."

"I knew something strange was up!" Peter said.

"You knew?" Harold laughed. "You made fun of Daniel when he got suspicious."

"People!" Chalabi interrupted before an argument could break out. "I'm afraid that I have nothing to say that would confirm the respected Dr. Greaves's paranoid delusions." There were chuckles all around, including from Daniel. "What I'm about to tell you was kept confidential for reasons of personal privacy. Now that we are in an isolated community, there are things you need to know about each other. Things that you are not to share with anyone outside this group."

Sarah interrupted, "We don't need to know anything about each other."

That got her some confused looks. "I mean, ..." she hesitated, "if people have secrets, we should let them keep their secrets unless they give specific permission to reveal them."

"I understand your concern, Miss Osmena, but I'm afraid that certain things, such as your own legacy, need to be known to everyone."

"No it doesn't!" Sarah was nearly shouting now. "I don't give you permission to tell anyone about my sealed personnel records!"

Sarah got up from the couch where she was sitting next to Daniel and crossed to the other side of the room to lean against the wall, her arms crossed defensively over her chest. She was clearly upset.

"If she doesn't want something revealed, then don't reveal it." Daniel suggested.

"I'm sorry," said the captain, "I regret this, but Miss Osmena has certain special talents that you all need to know about, so that you know where to go in certain types of situations. We all have special skills and we all need to be aware of what everyone else can do."

The captain paused, and Sarah stared resentfully at the floor. The captain continued, "OK, I suppose I may as well do Miss Osmena first, so that we can more quickly get past her obvious discomfort. Miss Osmena is genetically enhanced." There was an audible gasp from someone. "Miss Osmena has the sharpest natural eyesight and hearing of anyone on this team. She is also the quickest, toughest, and strongest." The captain paused again. "Now I know that there is a lot of prejudice against genhances, but I want to see none of it on this mission. Is that clear?"

There were murmurs of assent, but Sarah did not look up. Daniel kept his eyes on her because he knew that sooner or later she would look at him. He knew how insecure she was and knew that she would need some reassurance that she wouldn't be rejected for being a genhance.

The captain continued, "Now along those lines, we also have Peter Li who is biologically enhanced. He was the subject in some extensive practical and experimental work by the Chinese military. He is the second quickest, toughest, and strongest person on the expedition."

"I don't think so." Peter interrupted. He put his elbow on the table in front of him, "Come on, Sarah, I'll arm-wrestle you for the title."

The others laughed, glad that Peter was trying to break the tension, but Peter wasn't joking. "I'm serious. Come on, Sarah, no one your size could be stronger than me..."

"Another time, Dr. Li," the captain interrupted him. He continued his speech to the group, "Mr. Li is not only bioenhanced, he is also a trained soldier, with years of experience in hostile situations. He will be one of the three armed members of the team, along with Dr. Greaves and Mr. True."

Sarah glanced up at the mention of Daniel's name, He caught her eye and smiled. She quickly looked down again.

"You mean the rest of us can't be armed?" Harold interrupted. "I know my way around a rifle."

"You can carry any equipment you think you need," the captain answered, "But those three will be responsible for security."

Sarah glanced up again. This time Daniel caught her eye and patted the couch where she had been sitting before. Sarah shrugged and looked away as if she were not concerned.

The captain continued answering questions about security and Peter answered some questions about his enhancements. There was far less resistance to bioenhancement than to genetic enhancement because bioenhancement was not passed on to children. It didn't seem to create a new, superior race like genetic enhancement did. Genetic enhancement was outlawed almost everywhere, which meant that Sarah's parents had most likely been criminals.

Sarah glanced back at Daniel who patted the couch again. This time more insistently. The corner's of Sarah's mouth turned up as she tried to suppress a smile and she moved back over to sit beside Daniel. Daniel put his arm around her without saying anything. Better to act like her background wasn't even worth commenting on than trying to reassure her. After a moment of reserved stiffness, Sarah gave in and snuggled against him. I win, Daniel thought to himself.

The captain went on with the revelations. They learned that Zareda had artificial eyes and that his visual sensations other sensory inputs were mediated through a cranial computer. Zareda explained that he could see far into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums, and that with various sorts of optical filters, spectrum analysis, and electronic enhancement, he could see far more than anyone would expect. He could see mis-arranged dust particles or do a chemical analysis of a fire. He could even detect objects by inductance or by sound reflection.

They learned that the Walenskis had actually been agents for the OEI and that Harold had a photographic memory and the ability to do amazingly difficult arithmetic in his head.

They learned that Primetech Flareout had biological enhancements to allow him to survive and work in space. He could even survive in a vacuum for short periods without a spacesuit.

They learned that the captain had an extremely powerful computer buried in his skull with the military's most advance tactical and strategic artificial intelligence. They also learned that the captain, like the rest of them, had multiple specialties. He had a degree in computer engineering and another in psychology. And he specialized in a new field called strategy analysis, constructed of games theory, military science and psychology.

Everyone also learned about Daniel's nano surgery which made his joints, bones, and skin all much tougher than merely human. Daniel didn't mind that they knew about his nano surgery, but he wished they hadn't been told about his military career. He flinched when the captain said that Daniel was one of the four or five most deadly snipers of the Second Mexican-American War. And that didn't even consider everyone that he had killed by calling in air and artillery fire.

Daniel didn't like the way they looked at him when the captain pointed out that he was the most experienced killer on the team.
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