Thursday, May 26, 2011


Dinner had been a little awkward after Carbon bailed, but just for Alex. He assured Ed that she had good reasons, even though he was unsure exactly what they were. Ed didn’t press the issue, dismissing it out of hand as good work ethic. Ed insisted on paying and they went their separate ways, Alex toting a plastic to go container back to his quarters.

He was unprepared for how alone a cheeseburger could make him feel. Eating it didn’t seem to improve anything, either.

The next few days were odd, finishing up the last of his reports and tossing emails back and forth with Carbon. Even though she was on the Tslao carrier, she was still using a email address. He was a litle surprised, but it made sense they would have provided her one when the engines were being fit. She didn’t have much to say, which he expected. Mostly taking care of all the stuff he had been doing, debriefs and the like.

It left him plenty of time to get his mods installed. In a matter of hours after stepping into the surgery suite, Alex had gained two and a half kilos. Barely even noticed it, aside from the shortness of breath and a small, dish-shaped medi-board attached to the back of his head. It was overseeing the final repairs from the surgery that had replaced his Amp - he got the upgraded Mk. IV, with more flex processors - and inserted the experimental Whisper.

Most of the weight came from the Immersion Translator. Nearly two kilos of specialized processor clusters and their controller were slipped into his rib cage by a robotic arm remotely controlled by a surgeon. The packages were slim, conforming to the ribs along the spine in an area that effectively had no spare room. Fortunately, they were very dense.

His head and upper body had been injected with an array of subdermal sensors that were wired into the controller. They allowed the translator to pick up sounds and information about these sounds. How loud, how far away, where they were coming from in a three dimensional space. The data shoots down into the IT, gets separated, translated and adjusted to retain vocal cues and then recompiled into a full, three dimensional soundscape.

All of that is then piped directly into Alex’s brain via his Amp, minimizing lag.

“So does this... Ever go away?” Alex wheezed as he sat on the exam table in a pale green gown, waiting for the medi-board to release the back of his freshly shaven head.

Doctor Hernandez had only performed the implantation of the translator, but she was overseeing his recovery. She only had about fifteen minutes to go. “Yes. It will take a few days to adjust to, most people are almost back to normal in a week.”

His eyebrows went up, skeptical of her answer. “Whatta you mean... almost back to nor... normal?”

“It is as it sounds. Almost back to normal.” She looked at him like he should have known this was going to happen. “Most of the problem you are having right now is related to temporary swelling after the surgery. There was a lot of cutting and drilling involved. Weren’t you told that during the consultation?”

“Got it for work.” He shook his head but smiled at the complete sentence, short as it was.

“Uh huh. You were given a dose of an anti-inflammatory, it should be working shortly. It’s important to remember that an implant that size is always going to make it’s presence felt. It’s going to slow you down as long as it’s in there. Maybe just a little bit, but you’ll notice it. Don’t expect to improve your hundred meter dash any time soon.”


“It’s a well known complication. People just don’t want to have organs removed so we shoehorn the implants in around them.”

Alex nodded. “Like ‘em where they... are.”

The doctor made a noncommittal sound as she reviewed his chart, again. “We put a lot of mods in you today. Why in the world do you have an Amp and Whisper?”

He wheezed a laugh, breathing starting to get easier. “Can’t say, it’s for work. Classified or something.”

She nodded and looked, if anything, more serious. “Have you ever used a translator before?”

“Yeah, external over comms.”

“Normally, they’d cover this in the consultation, but since you skipped that... An IT is very different. Over a comm, people know you’re getting translated information. It’s a given these days.”

“Yeah.” He focused on slowing his breathing down, trying to be less distracted by the burning urge to breathe deeper coming from his lungs.

“With an Immersive, things are very different. Unless you’re wearing a translator yoke or some other visual cue, people will not know that you have translation capability unless you tell them.”

Alex nodded along, not entirely sure where she was going, a hint of confusion on his face. “That makes sense.”

“Good. When you turn the translator on, there will be no obvious way to be able to determine if a voice is being translated unless you are watching at the speaker. Their lips will move differently.”

Alex honestly doubted he’d be having a hard time telling who wasn’t speaking English around the Tslao, but he kept that to himself. “Still following you.”

“Many people assume a level of safety around foreigners when they’re using their native tongue. Without any cues to let them know you can understand them, the sudden revelation that you’re surreptitiously listening to everything they’re saying can damage relations, even if you have no ill intentions.”

That tidbit was actually useful and made everything click into place. He’d be careful about that when he got around Tslao, might see about getting a yoke to wear just to be safe. “I can see how that could be bad.”

“Yes. That’s the main thing I wanted to warn you about. It’s a pretty common novice mistake to reply to someone who doesn’t know you’re translating. Most people just won’t like it, but some cultures are more accepting of violence towards spies.”

Alex nodded. ONI was all over his paperwork and he was getting a high-end translator implant. Not a stretch of the imagination, by any means. “Yeah, I was starting to think that’s where you were going.”

“Good. Are you familiar with any of the anti-augmentation organizations?”

“No. Should I be?” He’d heard of them, of course. Some people just didn’t like the idea of human augmentation, no matter how slight or beneficial.

“Let’s just say you might want to keep your prodigious number of implants to yourself. I’d have to check the numbers, but I’m reasonably sure you’re in the top ten percent of augmented humans now. At least, I’ve never worked on anyone with more extensive modding who still had their original limbs and organs.”

Alex took a moment to process that, a little surprised and disturbed. “Huh, well... Good for me.”

“Just be careful about who you discuss it with. Some of the more extreme groups are very extreme in their reactions.”

“Yeah. Not going to be an issue. Not in the habit of talking about work.”

“Good. That about covers the big items from-”

The medi-board attached to the back of Alex’s head started beeping, insistent about how finished it was. Hernandez took a hold of it and it popped off the back of his head, the experience remarkably pain free. Just a cool breeze on the newly healed skin. He sighed, relaxing with a smile. “That’s a lot better than last time.”

She stepped back and set the medi-board down, retrieving a medical scanner and holding over his chest. “Alright. Take a deep breath for me.”

He did, drawing in most of what he’d normally be able to before he winced and coughed.

“That’s right where it should be. You’re ready to go, Mr. Sorenson. The nurse will have all the documents at the front desk.”

“Excellent. Have a good day.” Alex smiled and gave a little wave as she left the room. All in all, a fairly productive morning.

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