I'd just got into the feed ... a head of state ineptly shafting someone, just for a change ... when the alert tone sounded ... we had a visitor in-coming, apparently, and there sure as hell wasn't anyone due. Oh fucking brilliant, I thought, why me? Worse, when I'd taken a few deep breaths and calmed myself down enough to get a data feed, our new arrival was one of Xav's Protected ones. Crissakes, then why isn't he dealing with this ... oh, right ... he's in Deep Immersion ... saving the planet, cannot be disturbed. Bastard.
So, OK, its up to me, again, I thought, as I pulled up a vid feed of Arrivals, the nondescript, mainly — actually, totally — black room we used for ... well, arrivals. Or where the poor sods we'd dragged over here got their first sight of their new home, in other words. This one looked interesting ... not throwing up, for a nice change, but then ... not actually breathing, either, from the look of it. An urgent flip through the vital signs told me the conjecture wasn't far off the mark ... dangerously low blood oxygen ... dangerously high levels of opiates and their metabolites ... minimal higher brain activity. Jesus ... there was actual necrosis starting in her left leg and right forearm ... and ... oh, great ... a range of micro aneurysms in the brain stem ... tubercular nodes in both lungs ... Xav sure had some interesting friends, I thought, simultaneously wondering why this Protected one had been allowed to get into this state in the first place ... weren't they supposed to be continuously monitored?
Ah well ... ponder that another time, I thought ... we'd never had an incomer die on us before and I didn't want to have to explain to Xav why I'd lost this one ... so I shoved in a stasis field — wondering why the AI, which had exactly the same data as me hadn't already done so ... but then maybe he/she/it wanted to give us humans choices or something. Or maybe the illusion of choices ... but lets not go there.
Anyway, the AI confirmed stasis — basically a suspension of time around the body, giving the technology time to work out what to do about this one. If it — she — was savable, I knew, they'd save it. And in the meantime, we could all wait for Xav to stop being a boy scout and pick up the bloody pieces...
OK, so Stasis() was invoked, eventually ... and I could file the calculated 34% probability that Zara would simply have forgotten the instructions, accidentally failed to react in time to the situation ... away for future reflection. Clearly, my human cargo were getting on better than they had been ... or perhaps their species solidarity outweighed their mutual antipathy ... and Zara's reluctance to have a potential ally of Xavier's around.
Which caused me to ponder, for a microsecond or two. Given that They — the AI network of which I was a contributing part — considered that we should respect Xav, trust his biological impetuses, I was now stuck with a very damaged human being ... if she'd been relying on the medical services on her home planet — even if anyone had thought to alert them — she'd be dead.
But she wasn't, and the initial projections showed a greater than 97% probability that we could repair — or, more accurately, rebuild — her to at least physical health. So now she was part of the family.
I love working with lesser species. No, really ... I do...
I came out of Immersion feeling like my brain had been rewired, which I guess to some extent it had been. I'd been plugged into the internet — and a variety of less public networks — for more than thirty hours, using what the Wisdom actually described as 'human intuition' to sift the packet streams — decoded and 'humanised' by my hosts — to guide the AIs to their goals ... which currently involved tracking the world's financial networks, finding out where the money was actually going, the reality behind the capitalist, free market bullshit. Yeah, I thought it was a ludicrous idea, too, when it was first put to me: There was simply too much data, I thought, too many codes, too many variables. But I'd underestimated the Wisdom, not for the first time, the sheer power of the filtering and analysis technologies ... and the usefulness of being able to observe the human side of things, undetectably, in real time. However secure those individuals believed their environments — or their meetings — to be.
So it was all interesting stuff ... but not exactly relaxing ... nor, I suspected, something my brain had actually evolved to do. Perhaps the Wisdom had made more changes than it had told me about? Well, maybe ... but then Zara appeared to be incapable of this stuff ... didn't seem to even understand its significance ... so maybe it was just me ... some quirk of nature. Put it to one side, for the moment, what I mainly needed was something to eat, something to drink — not necessarily for rehydration purposes — and then sleep. A lot of sleep...
I had the Wisdom tell me as soon as Xav emerged, so I got down to his Immersion suite — basically a couch surrounded by a mass of life support and monitoring equipment, housed in a completely shielded room — while he was still extracting himself from the umbilicals, drinking the nanobot recovery liquid the AI provided ... and before he'd got round to dressing. Which was a small perk, I felt ... he did still have a very nice body, even if he was a complete shit in a lot of ways.
Anyway, he was still pretty spaced out, like he always was after emerging, but that would carry on for a while and I had a problem I needed to pass on, to make his ... and I didn't see why that should wait. So I told him.
OK, I thought, so Yvonne was here and here was I, looking down at her, surrounded by machinery and intubated in every available orifice ... and then some. I realised that this was the first time I'd seen her in about ten years, probably the first time I'd thought about her in five. It was all very weird ... I remembered being told about Protecteds — people who the Wisdom thought were special to its guests, who would thus be observed — looked after — while they were here, possibly plucked out of life threatening situations if they happened to get into them. I hadn't really been all that interested, to be honest — I was married to my work, as they say, never really had time for close personal relationships, so I didn't even ask who was on the list. And I'd never have guessed that Yvonne would even have been a contender.
In fact, observing her now as the machines crawled all over — and, I knew, through — her, I did have a brief pang of nostalgia. We had been close once; me a permanently broke post doc, her a picturesque barmaid in my local, albeit a barmaid with a surprising facility for biophysics, or at least for listening to me talking about it. No, that was unfair ... she'd made some interesting observations, even contributed to solving some of the problems I was working on. Hell, I'd once tried to credit her on a paper I published, a gesture which had not gone down well with the Prof.
But then ... I'd moved to Germany, she'd stayed in the UK, and by the time I got back she was no longer working in bars, she was a full time junky doing whatever it took to get the next bag. I'd tried to help, for a while, but it was pointless ... she was too far gone, I thought, or maybe I was just too preoccupied with my work to care enough. But, whatever. Scanning the data the AI was providing it was clear that time — and life — had not been kind to her ... even without the overdose that had nearly killed her she was basically, well, fucked. And even with the sort of technology being applied to her now, it was still far from clear that she'd be physically completely OK — and real doubts whether the brain damage she'd accumulated over the years would contribute to an even greater mental instability. We — or rather I — would have to take some tough decisions as the 'repair' process went on.
Not for the first time, I wished that Zara wasn't quite such a selfish, self-obsessed bitch ... or that I trusted the AI more. I really felt I could do with someone to talk to.
The male's response was not what I expected and, again, I filed the anomalous response for future consideration. We had anticipated pleasure, perhaps relief, but what I had observed had been nearer to apathy ... perhaps even annoyance. Even now, my scans showed considerable activity in his cortex, indicating not a nostalgic review of memories ... as might have been expected ... but an active attempt to excise — or redefine — same. It was unexpected and that in itself was unexpected. Were there really things about these humans that could surprise us? This would prove most interesting to the Group, I was sure.
But that was for the future. My own review of Xav's history did not, of course, provide any new insight ... and neither did a similar scan through the vast quantity of data we had on our latest arrival. She was a woman of exceptional intelligence, whose potential had been crippled, in the context of her society and her time, by her low class status and a fatal self destructiveness ... inculcated by early trauma, sexual abuse by her father and others.
Well, no matter. She was here, and she had the potential to fulfil the role that Zara had never quite proved herself in. She was, in fact, potentially perfect for the job, life having left her with few scruples and no illusions, while her existential rage was definitely useful ... for the more 'hands on' side of the project.
.... There is more of this story ...