*so much running around today, OMG. Sorry for the delay in posting*
Title: Redstone Chapter 12, Part 2.
“We have to go bigger.”
Stephen resisted the impulse to rub his fingers in the aching space between his eyes. It was a common urge when he dealt with Garrett. “Define ‘bigger.’”
“We won’t be able to use Kyle as a prybar to open up Redstone. It’s going to have to be the other way around if we’re going to get any sort of buy-in from the rest of the senate.”
“And why is that?”
“Because there’s absolutely no way in hell that Raymond Alexander is going to let anyone have any sort of access to Kyle before it’s too late. The charges he’s facing are too harsh.”
“He was always going to face charges of mental and emotional manipulation—”
“This is worse than that.” Garrett’s tone was iced over with bitterness. “This is genetic manipulation on a fundamental level. This is the sort of thing that hardline humanists might turn into a stick to beat not just the president, but Kyle with. Five hundred years ago people like him were burned alive on some planets when the revelation of their modifications came out, and we can’t afford to stick that kind of stigma on Kyle. He’s already being portrayed as other, and we need him to be seen as us.”
It was a bad day when Stephen couldn’t immediately think of a way to improve upon Garrett’s plans. He was, unfortunately, completely correct. There was a simmering undercurrent of xenophobia within the Federation that was being stoked by President Alexander and his cronies, and the revelation that some of Kyle’s most fundamental genetic code had been swapped out as a child could get him dubbed a revenant.
It was an ancient term for someone who had returned from death. Early in the search for gene therapies’ frontiers, large scale gene swapping had been an imprecise science that resulted in many people losing their personalities, their mental capacity and even their ability to move without prompting.
“What do you propose?” Stephen asked at last.
“A good, old fashioned exposé. My people can arrange for recordings to be made and Hummingbird can get them to you.”
“How would you publicize it? No one in the Senate cares if prisoners are being mistreated.”
Garrett smiled grimly. “We’re going to show them a lot more than that. In fact, I need to talk to Hummingbird personally about her ability with a lock pick.”
Oh, wonderful. It wasn’t that Stephen didn’t have faith in his peoples’ abilities, but he worried. So many centuries of life, so much loss and death and privation, and he still had the capacity for something as simple as worry. Perhaps there was something to be said for losing all his memories every time he went into the Regen tank; it kept him from becoming irretrievably jaded. “I see.” He steepled his fingers underneath his chin and thought for a moment. “We’re going to have to adhere to the original timeline, though. We can’t afford to leave Kyle and Magpie in there any longer than we absolutely must.”
“I know. Not to mention the shit that’s going down with Robbie and Wyl.”
Stephen frowned. “What are you referring to?”
Garrett shrugged. “Oh, just your average, everyday sexual harassment with a side of death threats. They’ll probably be all right, but it’s not safe for them either.”
Stephen sighed. “It’s not safe for anyone, it seems.”
Garrett nodded grimly. “You have no idea how right you are.”
“What does that mean?”
“Let’s just say…that Berengaria has a good reason to isolate herself, and suggested that similar measures might be a good idea for my family.”
“Your father is used to being in the line of fire. He’s taken appropriate precautions for himself and his family.”
“I’m not sure what appropriate consists of anymore,” Garrett mused. “I think even my own Death Star might not be enough at this point.” He shook his head and moved on before Stephen could ask him what a Death Star was. “Anyway, I’ll get the changes underway on my end if you do the same on yours. I think we’ll have to make sure our people are talking, so that’ll be on Hummingbird to initiate. You’ve got the security upgrades for Cody ready to go?”
“Good.” That was enough to ease some of the tension from Garrett’s face. “He and his friends are looking forward to coming back.”
“I’ll meet them and Grennson’s parents at the port myself.”
“Thank you.” He closed the comm feed and Stephen took a moment to sit back and let the new information find its way into the tapestry of his mind, new threads brightening here and there as others dimmed. The overall picture was changing shape, more of a chimera now than ever before. Positively controlling for all the variables was going to be next to impossible.
He would work on rethreading some of the bigger issues later. Right now, he needed to talk to Hummingbird.
Wyl sat back with a satisfied sigh and inspected the glory that was his robot. In less than two days he had taken ZeeBee from an underperforming guard ‘bot to the complex protective machine that it was right now. It had been two days of mostly not sleeping and very little eating, but given that Robbie had been going non-stop since he got here thanks to “shift enhancement” by management, which was another way of saying hazing, Wyl hadn’t been neglecting him.
The best thing about ZeeBee’s modifications was that they were completely inert unless it was Wyl or Robbie giving the commands. And the commands themselves were non-standard, so no one would be the wiser if Wyl had anything to say about it.
Wyl took a sip of espresso and cleared his throat. “ZeeBee, show me your pretty eyes.” The green glowstrip brightened for a moment, indicating that the mini recording device Wyl had installed there was active. “Five second recap, project.”
“Command accepted.” A hologram of the previous five seconds of recording appeared two feet in front of Wyl, showing himself lounging back in his chair and swiveling side to side a bit.
“Well done, delete and reset.”
Now to test his more exciting new functionalities. Wyl grinned and put his cup down. “ZeeBee, show me your pretty hands!”
ZeeBee’s arms lifted into the air, and a slot hidden in the side of each of them popped open. The right one extended a micro-laser, a spare battery and a knife that looked like an old-school scalpel. The left one had a single-use Regen injector, a tourniquet and a painkiller.
“Well done, reset.”
“Command accepted.” The tools secreted themselves away again, and the robot lowered its arms.
“ZeeBee, show me your dance moves!”
The robot’s head began to spin in a circle. “Alert, alert! Sound the alarm!” A piercing yowl began to radiate from the robot’s speaker.
“Well done, reset!” The sound stopped abruptly.
“Good.” Now for a more nuanced directive. “ZeeBee, show me your baby.”
The robot rolled forward to Wyl’s chair, lowered its arms and gently lifted Wyl out of his seat. It cradled him close to his chest and said, “There there. There there. There there. There the—”
“Well done, reset.”
“Command accepted.” ZeeBee promptly dropped Wyl to the ground.
“Ow.” Okay, so that one would take a little fine-tuning. Wyl picked himself up and brushed off the seat of his pants. “ZeeBee, listen to the birds.” Not that Wyl expected this one to amount to anything, but just in case Isidore developed a way to get a Morse signal through the prison walls to him.
Surprisingly, ZeeBee started to click in a recognizable pattern. “Oh, shit,” Wyl muttered. That couldn’t be good. He wondered how long Isidore had been trying to get in touch. “ZeeBee, translate.”
“Check your messages, damn it. Hummingbird. Check your messages, damn it. Hummingbird. Check your messages, damn it. Hummingbird. Check—”
“Well done, stop.”
Hummingbird? They weren’t supposed to be talking to her yet. Wyl opened his tab and checked his encrypted feed, tapping in passwords he barely remembered setting up. There wasn’t just a message, there was a vid link. An active one. He opened the channel. “Hummingbird?”
“There you are! Where have you been, I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for hours?”
“I put my room on a communication lockdown while I was…tinkering.” Only Robbie’s comm would get through the shield Wyl had put up to minimize distractions. “What’s going on?”
“You haven’t spoken to Garrett yet?” Wyl shook his head. Hummingbird—and damn it, pseudonyms were all well and good but that just sounded too weird in his head, Tamara—irritably blew a lock of blonde hair off of her forehead. “Great, then I get to be the one to pass things along. I’m going to need to do some breaking and entering, and I haven’t brought along everything I need for that.”
“Breaking and entering? Here?” Wyl knew he was gaping but it was hard to stop. “How the hell are you supposed to manage that? Who’s important enough to—oh, shit, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
“You can’t get into the Warden’s office without setting off a ton of alarms, if it’s anything like Caravan was.”
“Well, I need to figure it out, and fast. We need information in his private computer.”
Of course they did. Because nothing could ever go as planned. “Soon?”
“The sooner the better. I don’t suppose there’s any way you can get out of the spouses’ quarters and lend a hand?”
With so many eyes on him every time he stepped out of his and Robbie’s door? “I doubt it.”
“Then you’ll have to help me figure out how to do it myself.”
Oh, boy. “That’s going to be difficult.”
Tamara laughed. “You’re telling me. It’s got to be done, though.”
“Well, then.” Wyl sat back. “Tell me what you’ve figured out so far.”