He took his c-com out of his pocket, trying to remember where he’d stashed Cyraria’s databases. He’d secured them where no one else could find them, perhaps even himself, judging by his luck so far. He queried via psi with no results. He switched to manual mode, hoping for some visual reminder. An unfamiliar screen came up, vivid and somehow cryptic, asking again for his validation code.
He psied the code and waited.
The results were entirely unexpected and he consciously veiled what he was sure was a puzzled expression, knowing Sa’ata was watching from across the craft. Since acquiring the device on Esheron he’d used it primarily to record his thoughts and communicate, first with Dirck to convey instructions on constructing the heat exchanger and more recently with Rhodus. Its capabilities were remarkable to say the least, the technology a few steps beyond anything he’d seen before. C-com was short for cerebral companion, implying it augmented its user’s brain, but exactly what that constituted other than the obvious function of recording thoughts and intuitive data searches he didn’t know. He’d never taken time to explore what was there because he’d been too busy and had other more familiar technologies available. That certainly wasn’t the case now, giving him nothing to lose besides time.
So where was he in this thing, anyway? He thought he understood its workings, all its various complexities, but clearly he’d somehow entered a different space. And that was essentially all he saw, quite literally, a tiny, slowly rotating spiral galaxy hovering just above the device in the usual holographic format. There was something beckoning about it so he projected his thoughts into its depths, having no idea what, if anything, to expect.
Much to his surprise he slipped through a portal and found himself in virtual reality, a room of sorts. So it was reciprocating, i.e., connecting back to him somehow, not just accepting input. In the past he’d always extracted data via video or audio, not a direct brain dump. Such capability made him a little nervous, especially after all those mind games they used on him in prison. He looked around, seeing avatars for two familiar figures, his brother, Jen, and Bryl. Why them? The device sensed his query and responded. They were the only ones he had connections with who were part of his network.
Of course! Jen had gotten one the same time he had, and Bryl would have one since she was from Esheron, owned a business there and thus had access to their technology. Esheron was not involved in intragalactic trading, which had interesting implications. In other words, except for those who’d been onworld or hailed from there, c-coms were unheard of and inaccessible. Even if they’d checked to see what he had on him when he was arrested it was doubtful they would have taken it away. They probably would have thought it was a simple communications device that wouldn’t operate beyond Cyraria.
Were they right?
He focused his attention across the virtual room to the image of his brother, wondering if Jen knew everything the device could do. He’d certainly had more opportunity to become familiar with it than he had. A voice came into his head.
Do you wish to contact Jen Brightstar?
The words “Time Synching” flashed in his mind. Of course; he was traveling at warp five and Jen was stationary by comparison.
Jen? Are you there?
A sudden emotional blast of uncontained surprise washed over him along with the vision of his brother consulting with a patient in the office of his Physical Assistance and Remediation Center or PAR. His brother was, as could be expected, entirely flabbergasted, blue eyes wide as if he’d experienced an unexpected electrical shock. He ran both hands through grey-spreckled hair, mouth agape, as he stared dumbly at his patient.
It’s okay, Jen. Tell him you just got an urgent call. It’s me, on the c-com.
Laren? Is that you? Are you back?
No, but I’m working on it and need some help.
Jen got up from behind his desk and offered what had to be a rather flimsy excuse but the patient left, looking back over his shoulder as if his physician had clearly lost his mind. Laren laughed, the vision fading enough for him to see Sa’ata giving him a suspicious look and reminding him where he was, at least physically.
“Gaming again, Brightstar?” the Pyxisite asked coldly.
“Yeah, Sa’ata. Gaming,” he replied. He focused back on the device, finding his brother back at his desk talking to himself; he couldn’t hear a word.
Psi, Jen, he prompted. It’s a clever little feature of the c-coms we got on Esheron.
Sweet Benefics, Laren, what’s going on?
Right now I need information. I thought I’d downloaded everything but can’t find it. Maybe I’m out of range or the link requires tachyonic data receivers, which I would think this ship would have, but I don’t know. It’s possible if they’re monitoring us. Anyway, I did find you. I need background information on two others on this trip. A Pyxisite named Sa’ata, the other a human named Merik. I need to know if the charges against them are legit or if they’re spies.
Once again Jen looked astonished and he felt his doubts. Can I get to that data? his brother asked.
If you can’t through the medical portal then try your c-com.
A sudden commotion snapped Laren’s attention back to his current location just in time to see Merik dive into the airlock.
Never mind Merik, he psaid. But send everything they’ve got on Sa’ata. I’ll check back later. Gotta situation to tend to.
He exited to the main menu just in time to record the sensor data for the jettison then dropped the c-com in his pocket. He folded his arms and gave Sa’ata a wry smile. Their eyes connected but no humor softened their darkened depths.
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