Roberta nods, "This is the smallest size house on the Moon, considered suitable for a single adult. If you'd like we can go hunt one up for you right now, but to be honest, I'd be grateful if you would stay here with me. When I'm here alone, just me and the robot staff, I get the creeps."
They are in the kitchen and the robotic cook is standing at attention, sulking over the fact that Roberta did not give any orders for food preparation. Monica asks, "So this robot has been standing here for months waiting for you to show up and order breakfast?"
Roberta shrugs, "I have no idea what they do when I'm not around, but they are always ready to provide service when I need them. The robots were a package deal with the house."
Monica asks, "Service? I wonder if that includes..."
Roberta chuckles, "Oh, yes. The programming of robotic lovers is one of the most popular arts on the Moon. I'm told that standard household robots are not state of the art in that department, but I've found no short comings or cause for complaints."
"If you're curious, just take your pick...or take them all at once."
Monica frowns, "Isn't having an emotional attachment important to you?"
Roberta shakes her head, "Look, do you develop an emotional attachment to your vibrator? We're talking about a human physiological need for pleasure. The people here on the Moon keep a clear distinction between loving relationships between people and making use of the robots. Well, I hear there are tragic cases of people who prefer robots over people, but that seems to be the subject of crude jokes for most Lunatics."
"I can imagine."
"Well, since you did not jump at the idea of living here with me, I have another idea." Roberta takes Monica by the hand and leads her to the master bath. "You really need to experience a lunar bath." She activates the shower and starts to undress.
Monica says, "Uh..."
Roberta places her finger in front of her lips then turns and pulls open a drawer. She then hands Monica pair of black silk pajamas. Soon Roberta has changed her nanite-enabled face to look like Rupert and she is dressed in what passes as male clothing on the Moon. She quietly leads Monica into the sub-basement of the house. Roberta says, "My favorite thing about this house is that it has a secret entrance." They make their way through a series of passages and finally emerge in a transport tube.
Monica asks, "Where are we going?"
Roberta replies, "Ferriol let slip where an alien artifact is being kept. This is too good an opportunity to pass up. Don't you want to see it?"
Monica is puzzled, "Alien artifact?"
Roberta explains, "The Floreana found an alien artifact on the sea floor. You don't realize how rare it is to find anything belonging to aliens."
Monica nods, "I've seen a satellite image of that disk. How do you know it is an alien artifact?"
"If it were an ordinary spaceship then it would not still be resisting efforts to open it."
"You think you know how to open it?"
"Not if it is truly an alien ship, but there is another possibility. Gary taught me how to handle ships from his world. Okay, play your role. I'm Observer Rupert and I'm trying to impress you by showing you the artifact. Just follow my lead."
Roberta proceeds to talk her way past the robot sentry at the space dock. She and Monica pop open the hatch and enter the holding bay where the alien spaceship rests, its lights glowing. "Wow. I've not seen this previously. I don't think this is a ship that belonged to Interventionists."
Monica asks, "Why not?"
"This looks...alien." Roberta lets her face return to its usual appearance.
"You know, one of the rumors about aliens is that they are small."
"Like those funny little aliens in 'Close Encounters'?"
"Close Encounters?" For a moment Roberta can't place the name. "Oh, is that a movie? I've never seen that movie, but I think I know what you mean. Maybe even smaller. Some people say that the aliens are not biological entities. I've heard them called 'artificial life forms" and 'nanobots'...whatever that means." Roberta has gone completely around the spaceship. "Well, I can see why Rupert is stumped. I think this really is an alien spaceship. Hard to believe they would leave it on Earth."
From the door of the bay, Ferriol speaks, "Accidents do happen."
Roberta looks at the robot with annoyance. "I thought robots were trained to knock on doors before entering."
Ferriol chuckles, "I'm authorized to be in here, you are not. Still, I'd have shown this too you, had you asked. However, Rupert has another artifact that would be more in your league."
"You and Monica, as Earthlings. Come with me."
Roberta and Monica follow Ferriol out of the bay, across the docks to a workshop. The robot pulls open a drawer and takes out a box. "These circuit elements were found on Earth, but they have an advanced nanoscale design that is beyond Earthly technology."
Monica says, "Hey, these are NTSB evidence bags."
Ferriol explains, "These are the Flight 93 artifacts that were sent to the X-files office. Rupert stole them before you ever had a chance to see them."
Monica looks at the circuit fragments. "These fragments are mess. They look like pottery shards."
"You need to look at them under high magnification. Actually, that has been done, but Rupert learned nothing. He thinks they are fragments of a robot Gary ordered to go on Flight 93. The other news from Earth is that there is evidence for something with superhuman strength forcing open the cockpit door near the end of the flight. I suppose we will never really know what happened...unless Gary suddenly decides to talk."
Monica is looking around the workshop with the hope of finding a microscope. "Are you saying Gary knew in advance about the 9/11 hijackings and placed a robot on Flight 93? I hope you have more evidence for that than what looks like burned pottery fragments."
Ferriol turns on a computer workstation. "Here, you can review all of the high-resolution images of those 'pottery fragments'. You will see that this material is packed full of complex nanoscale circuitry. This kind of three dimensional computational substrate is not even on the drawing boards of companies like Intel. On 9/11, Rupert saw Gary with a ticket for Flight 93 and Gary said he was holding that ticket for someone else. It's only natural for Rupert to assume that Gary is responsible for their being illegal advanced technology on Flight 93."
Monica notes, "You say Rupert 'assumes'...does that mean you do not agree?"
Ferriol shrugs, "I was just answering your question. My opinion does not matter. If you want to go home, you need to pay attention to what Rupert believes...and what use Rupert wants to make of you."
Roberta puts an arm around Monica's shoulders, "Rupert is a lummox, honey. Just act like you are playing his game and you can win a ticket back home."
Ferriol shakes her head. "Rupert has been working this puzzle for a couple of years and is past the point of playing. Still, at this moment he thinks he can send Gary into retirement on the strength of his shenanigans with Dr. Scully. If he's right then he'll probably be more than happy to just leave you two to your exploration of the wonders of Lunar living...such as tandem showering. By the way, Roberta, don't you know that there is a shortage of water on the Moon? You should not leave water running when you go out on the town."
Roberta speaks bitterly to Monica, "You see, this is why it creeps me out to be alone with robots. You never know who is pulling the strings of some robot puppet and using it to spy on your most intimate moments."
Monica observes, "With all the advanced technology in the hands of the aliens, I do not see how we can ever hope to trick them...or fool their robot puppets. Really, what chance does any human have against such competition?"
Ferriol suggests, "Use your strengths. Rupert only occasionally visits Earth. You are both Earthlings. In a case like this, dealing with artifacts from Earth, you might notice something that we Lunatics all miss."
Roberta checks the image database. "There are thousands of images here, but they all look like meaningless spaghetti to me."
Monica nods, "Sometimes a crime scene is too complex...it can over-load your rational mind. I've found that you have to look past the obvious surface features of a mystery and trust your unconscious mind to solve the puzzle."
Ferriol heads for the door of the workshop. "That's the spirit. Give it the old college try...then when Rupert comes calling, he'll think he can get some mileage out of you....about a quarter of a million miles."
Roberta is puzzled by Ferriol's odd behavior. For a minute she tries to make sense of the robot's mysterious comments. Monica has figured out the controls of the computer workstation and is rapidly scanning through the microscopy images of the crash debris. Roberta comments, "It still looks like spaghetti."
Monica chuckles, "It's more structured than spaghetti. It reminds me of something I saw in an X-file. A strange language that Scully once had a chance to study. It's almost like these images are trying to speak to me..."
Early the next morning Roberta opens the door of the guest bedroom that Monica is using. For a moment she looks at agent Reyes who appears to be sleeping peacefully. Roberta thinks about the way she was herself, long before, soon after first meeting Gary. Is it right to involve an innocent like Monica in Gary's schemes?
Roberta expects that Gary has finally pushed things too far. She wonders: why did I let Gary talk me into recruiting Dana for the pms project? Was it really all that important to keep Dana from becoming involved with Rupert?
Roberta calls out, "Monica, wake up!"
Monica is in the middle of a disturbing dream about the circuitry inside people's heads. She wakes with a start and requires a moment to realize where she is. "Hi, Roberta. Is it time to get up already?"
Roberta shakes her head, "Overseers keep their own hours. We've been summoned by Therick."
An hour later they arrive at Therick's office. Overseer Therick, Ferriol the robot, Observer Rupert and Gary are already there. Therick says, "Ah, ladies, thanks for coming...we can now begin. Since two of those present are from Earth, let's forget the formalities and conduct this inquest in English."
Gary mutters, "Why involve them? It's my hide you are after."
Therick ignores Gary. "Monica, let's start with you. Welcome back to the Moon. Do you plan to stay longer this time?"
Monica shrugs, "I hardly feel I'm in a position to make plans. I was brought here against my will and it has been suggested that I might be stuck here for the rest of my life."
Therick explains, "Unfortunately for you, Gary decided to involve you in his interventionism. This time it will not be possible to return you to your Earthly existence as if nothing happened to you. Now, tell me what you know about Gary and his use of advanced technology on Earth."
Monica comments, "I do not understand why he is free to fly his spaceship to Earth, land on Earth and try to take people like Dr. Scully off of Earth. I thought there were rules about not interfering with Earth."
"As a human, Gary has the right to visit Earth, just like Rupert. As long as Gary makes sure that Earthlings do not notice his spaceship and if he follows the other travel restrictions then there in nothing I can do to prevent him from visiting Earth. I'm more concerned with Gary's use of advanced genetic engineering and computing technologies, and the risk that he will spread such technologies to Earth."
Monica rubs her head, "I do not really remember seeing Gary on Earth."
Therick sighs and seems bored. She continues, "Did you talk to Dr. Scully or anyone else who had knowledge of Gary's activities on Earth?"
Reyes is reluctant to say anything about her fragmentary memories. "It is hard for me to say. My memories have been altered and I'm told that there are nanoscopic devices in my brain that prevent me from controlling my own behavior."
Therick nods, "I'm only asking you to reply to the best of your ability."
Monica shrugs. "I was told that Gary has used a robot on Earth, but everything I can tell you about that is second-hand. However, I might remember more if you freed my brain. I'd be willing to take the evidence from the Flight 93 crash site back to Earth for careful analysis by the FBI. I'm sure we could track it to its point of manufacture."
Therick shakes her head, "We cannot allow Earthlings to study those nanocircuits. I'm sure that they were made possible by outside intervention...illegal technology transfer to Earth. However, if you can work out a deal with Rupert then you can go to Earth and help him determine the source of those circuits. The nanites inside you are another issue. I've had all the nanites in your body analyzed." Therick glances at Ferriol. "They are conventional nanites used to prevent you from sharing knowledge of this Moon base and its residents with Earthlings. By our law, you must host such nanites as long as you hope to return to Earth. If you decide to live here, I can have you cleared of all nanites. The choice is yours."
Monica states without hesitation, "I want to return to Earth, even if it means remaining as your mental slave."
Therick crosses her arms. "Being melodramatic helps nothing. Even if I went to Earth I would have to carry the same nanites." Therick looks at Rupert and asks, "Any other questions for this witness?"
Rupert asks, "What have you learned from your examination of the circuit fragments that were found at the Flight 93 crash site?"
Monica replies, "Yesterday we only just got started examining the microscopy images of those circuits. I was planning on continuing that task today."
Rupert gives a slight nod to Therick and she turns her attention to Roberta. "Roberta, this is the second time you have been here on the Moon, and I still cannot understand how you got here either time."
Roberta shrugs, "Rupert seems to get his kicks by throwing women into his spaceship and abducting them."
Therick chuckles, "Is that the source of your antagonism towards Rupert? You think he is some perverse kidnapper?"
Roberta complains bitterly, "Fine, make fun of my concerns." She points at Rupert, "He tried to keep me here the first time he abducted me. He has held both Dr. Scully and agent Reyes prisoner in an attempt to force them to do his bidding. It makes me sick to hear your talk about illegalities while you condone his actions. Further-"
Therick raises her hand, "Alright, I understand your complaint. The problem is, when you first came here from Earth you were a carrier of a strange virus. It was proper for Rupert to put you under quarantine. Those viral sequences quickly disappeared from your body, but it flags you as being a target of illegal interventionism. In addition, you have been involved in a secretive and amazingly productive genetic engineering project on Earth which also indicates that you have received extraterrestrial help with your work."
Roberta shrugs, "Are you saying that anytime someone on Earth works hard and makes a scientific advance then you must assume that they got extraterrestrial help with their work?"
Therick replies, "Not every time, but I'm trained to know what constitutes normal technological progress and what constitutes illegal technology transfer."
Roberta seems to be struggling to contain her anger. "I know that Rupert put some wild ideas into Scully's mind...my last day on Earth she told me that I had unwittingly been using alien genetic technology. If Rupert is the source of these rumors then I certainly do not trust them. I've worked for five years to find a way trap more carbon dioxide in marine sediments. Pardon me if I get upset when some know-nothing like Rupert tries to belittle my efforts and claim that my project's success was dependent on alien technology."
Rupert asks, "Do you deny that Gary took you to Earth, let you complete your project, then took you back onto his spaceship?"
Roberta denies nothing. "I'm thankful to Gary for taking me back to Earth when you tried to imprison me here. I've learned to trust Gary. I'm proud of the results of my work. When people with guns showed up at the research station and started chaining me up I was happy to be released by Gary. I felt safer getting into Gary's ship than I felt staying on Earth. Unfortunately, I did not know that Rupert was hijacking Gary's spaceship."
Monica is amused by Roberta's version of events, but she still does not understand the relationship between Roberta and Gary. Clearly Roberta is more than just a typical person from Earth, but somehow Rupert and Therick are not aware of what Monica has seen with her own eye...Roberta's ability to use nanites to morph her appearance. The Lunatics also seem unaware of the existence of Isis. Monica tries to ask Roberta about that, but she finds a pressure in her mind that prevents her from speaking. She sits silently and the on-going conversation in the room enters her mind almost like a dream scene.
Rupert says, "I had evidence that you were using branched DNA vectors in your project. When I found Gary at your research station it was natural to assume that he is the source of that illegal technology."
Therick turns to Ferriol, "Give us the analysis of the nanites that were found inside Roberta."
Ferriol activates a display screen on the wall. "Most of the nanites are standard Observer memory monitors. However, she does carry some more advanced medical nanites."
Therick asks, "Source?"
Ferriol shows a comparison on the display. "Essentially a perfect match to the medical nanites that Gary carries on his spaceship."
Gary explains, "Those medical nanites repaired my tissue damage after Rupert and his brother attacked me. They could easily have also gotten into Roberta's body."
Ferriol continues, "Roberta's tissue damage is now almost completely repaired, but the nanites report Roberta had a viral liver infection, probably contracted during her recent residency in Mexico."
Roberta takes Gary's hand, "Another reason to thank you."
Gary comments, "It is criminal that Earthlings are denied access to such medical nanites."
Therick asks Rupert, "Additional questions for Roberta?"
Rupert complains, "Roberta should be subjected to deep mind probe. She interacted with others on Earth who made and sent to her the branched DNA gene expression vectors. Almost certainly her mind holds clues to their identity."
Therick shakes her head, "Deep mind probes are destructive and only used on criminals. It is clear that Roberta has been used by interventionists, but that in itself is not a crime. Now, on the topic of intervention...we come to Gary. Mr. Seven, when did you come to Earth and for what purpose?"
Gary replies, "I arrived in this system about 40 years ago on a tourist visa. When I decided to stay I registered as an Observer."
Therick seems puzzled, "Observer of what? You've never participated in the official Earth Observer program."
Gary shrugs. "As you know, I have philosophical differences with Rupert. I have my own independent program of Observation."
"How does that work? How did you show up in San Felipe just when the super secret research project being conducted there was complete?"
"Rupert is not very subtle. After he swept through and sanitized the Champion Research labs it did not take a crystal ball to expect him to show up in San Felipe."
"When you registered as an Observer, you agreed to share your observations with the rest of the Genesaunt community." Therick glances at Ferriol. "Ferriol, did your search turn up any reported observations from Gary in the Observer database?"
Ferriol replies, "Gary has never contributed any observations."
Gary explains, "I'm still analyzing my results."
Therick manufactures a smile for Gary. "I trust you will eventually get around to sharing your insights."
Gary grimaces. "Of course."
Therick turns to Rupert. "How did you discover that the Prochloroflexus marinuslargus genetic engineering project was using branched DNA expression vectors?"
Roberta suggests, "No doubt he was spying on us." She glares at Ferriol. "A girl can't even take a shower without some peeping clone or bot sneaking a look."
Rupert ignores Roberta and responds to Therick's question. "The trouble started when Gary brought Roberta and Dana to Earth. Somehow he evaded our tracking. For four months I did not know where they were. Finally Dana started making some phone calls to the Marine Sciences Research Institute and then it became possible to locate the field station in San Felipe as well as the Champion Research labs where the branched DNA was synthesized."
Therick asks, "What link did you find between Champion Research and the field station?"
Rupert explains, "Eventually Dana made a call to Champion Research."
Therick is skeptical, "Because of that one phone call you assumed that the bacterial samples on Gary's spaceship would show evidence of branched DNA?"
Rupert replies, "When I reached the field station it was easy for nanite probes to detect branched DNA in the bacteria growing in the bay. It was natural to assume that Gary would try to transport some of the genetically engineered bacteria away from San Felipe."
Therick asks the robot, "Ferriol, was any branched DNA found in Gary's spaceship?"
Ferriol brings a new image to the display screen. "Yes, several branched DNA vectors were found. Two of them match DNA samples that were also found at Champion Research. There can be little doubt that branched DNA vectors were sent from Champion Research to the field station. However, all of the branched DNA found on Gary's spaceship was in bacterial residue on clothing worn by Roberta."
Rupert explodes in disbelief, "What about the cryopreserved bacterial samples?"
Ferriol explains, "All those samples were negative for branched DNA. Some were obviously genetically engineered strains, but they lacked the genes required to synthesize branched DNA."
"So what links Gary to the branched DNA?"
Ferriol replies, "Nothing that I know about."
Rupert jumps out of his chair and shouts, "This is bull shit! Gary was transporting branched DNA on his spaceship!"
Therick stands up and stares at Rupert until he sits down. "Some of the sticky bacteria were on Roberta's clothing..." She looks at Ferriol and asks, "That is the only source of branched DNA on Gary's spaceship? So, there is no evidence that Roberta knew she was using branched DNA vectors and there is no evidence linking Gary to the branched DNA. Very well, this inquest is closed." Therick walks out of the room and Rupert follows. His protests to Therick can be heard as the door closes behind them.
Roberta puts a hand on Monica's shoulder and says, "Come on, Monica, let's have another crack at those microscopy images."
Monica rubs her eyes and says sleepily, "I could use a few more hours of sleep before I have to face the spaghetti pictures again."
Gary says, "You can sleep when you get back to earth. As soon a Rupert calms down he'll be itching to send you Earth in search of the 'spaghetti factory'. You better examine those circuits now while you have the chance."
Roberta and Monica leave the room. Gary looks at the robot and says, "I suppose I should thank you for your work on this investigation."
Ferriol chuckles, "Save your breath...you have more important concerns. I suggest that you take this investigation as a warning. Therick is something of an absentee -or absent minded- administrator. In any case, you've used up your nine lives and you are on borrowed time. I trust you can recognize when it is time to take voluntary retirement."
Gary nods. "Well, I prefer to go out with a bang. It will be best if Rupert and Therick both get a feather in their cap when I bow out."
Ferriol shrugs, "That's up to you. Just make sure that you do not expect me to save your ass again."
Gary says on his way out, "Understood."
Monica and Roberta reach the workshop that contains the debris from the Flight 93 crash site. Neither of them is particularly enthusiastic about searching through the microscopy images for clues to the source of the nanoscale circuits. Roberta presses a button near the door and almost instantly a robot appears and asks, "May I serve you?"
Roberta replies, "Bring me something sweet to drink with some of those Lunar stimulants. Monica?"
Monica asks, "Lunar stimulants?"
"Supposedly non-addictive brain stimulants."
"Have they come up with something non-addictive to replace cigarettes? I used to do some of my best thinking while smoking."
The robot suggests, "We do have an oral nicaltine delivery system. The five most popular flavors are mint, citrus, cocoa, almond and honey."
Monica sits on a stool and says, "Almond sounds promising...I trust nicaltine does not cause cancer."
"Not at pharmacological doses." The robot scurries away.
Roberta activates the computer workstation. "You know, Gary is right about Rupert. Rupert will still be hoping to get rid of Gary and if he truly thinks that these circuits are from a robot that Gary used on Earth then..."
Monica is struggling to keep her eyes open. After a long silence she asks, "Then what?"
"Then he will want your help tracking these circuits to their source. You have to decide if you want to help Rupert."
The robot returns and hands a bottle of liquid to Roberta and a small box to Monica. Monica examines the box and says, "What do I do?"
The robot shows her how to open the box. "This is the drug delivery device. Inhale through it. Start slow, it is efficient." The robot departs.
Monica sucks on one of the nicaltine delivery delivery tubes, a shocking pink tube about half the size of an Earthly cigarette. "I do not mind helping Rupert if that will get me back home."
Roberta warns, "That might be as addictive as nicotine. If you make yourself useful to Rupert he'll want to keep using you."
Monica feels a rush from the nicaltine. "I'll deal with that later. The problem now is how to perform the best analysis of these circuits. Roberta, you seem remarkably well informed about Lunar culture. How do these circuit fragments compare to technology used here? Could these circuits be used in a robot like Ferriol?"
Roberta shrugs, "My understanding is that these circuits are too advanced for Earth, but also more primitive than what is used in Lunar robots."
Monica muses, "So, the analysts here would be looking at these circuits as if they were primitive technology. In contrast, I look at these images and it seems like some kind of abstract art. I cannot get a feel for the scale and purpose of these circuits. They do not look like circuits...they look like plants, the branching patterns of trees."
Roberta asks, "How would you examine this on Earth, treating it like crime scene evidence?"
"My first instinct was to use a microscope." Monica again looks around the room, but nothing looks like a microscope.
Roberta suggests, "Maybe it is a mistake to rely on the images we were provided." She uses a pair of forceps to take one of the circuit fragments out of its bag and sets it in a slot on the workbench. She flips the computer workstation into control mode for the microscope and zooms out, leaving an image of the fragment's surface on the display screen. "Put your hand here. Use these gestures to pan and zoom."
Soon Monica understands most of the microscope controls. After zooming through the three dimensional circuit at various levels of magnification she is getting dizzy. She abandons the microscope controls and reaches for another nicaltine tube. Roberta is using a remote control to project Rupert's microscopy images on the wall. Monica says, "I'm starting to get a feeling for the scale of this nanocircuitry. I'm guessing it might take me a week to look through the structure of all these fragments."
Roberta sets down the remote control and takes a sip from her bottle. "The circuits seem to repeat the same patterns. Is there a need to look at it all?"
Monica is thinking about the circuity as a giant puzzle. She is reminded of another puzzle, the relationship between Roberta and Gary. "If Rupert is right, then Gary could tell us the origin of these circuits."
"Forget about Gary. He's no longer on the Moon."
"Really? How do you know?" Roberta just shrugs. Monica presses the point, "I don't understand how Ferriol and Therick could have missed your special-" Roberta presses a finger to Monica's lips. "And I'm sure that there is more to the nanites in me than just a system to keep me from talking to people on Earth about this base on the Moon. When we were meeting with Therick..." Now Monica again cannot say what is on her mind.
Almost certainly Rupert is listening to their conversation and Roberta does not want Monica to say anything about her working relationship with Gary. "Yes, I have a special relationship with Gary. When I was first brought here by Rupert, Gary was the only person who took an interest in me and my needs. If you want to make a special deal with Rupert that will get you back to Earth, just remember that he will be using you and he will not have any concern for your safety."
Monica wonders why Roberta has mentioned safety. "Is there danger in my helping to investigate the source of these circuits? Is the technology used to make these devices some kind of military secret?"
Roberta shakes her head, "Rupert and Therick are sure that this is not Earthly technology. Look, working on Earth for Rupert is inherently risky. You will want to have the freedom you are accustomed to, but you will be his puppet. I can tell you are not the kind of person to accept the role of puppet. You will fight against Rupert's restrictions. Fight hard enough and you risk brain damage. Rupert would gladly have your brain destroyed rather than let you share what you know with others on Earth."
Monica notices the nicaltine tube change color, indicating that its dose has been exhausted. She is now feeling fully energized and starts pacing back and forth along the workbench. "For now I'm treating this as an X-File. These circuit fragments are in government evidence bags and I take it as my duty to investigate. I want to know why extraterrestrial technology was on board Flight 93."
Roberta asks. "How are you going to figure out this mystery if Rupert couldn't?"
"I assume Rupert would have looked for standard ways to identify the manufacturer of these circuits. I'm also assuming that they were made on Earth, not just delivered to Earth by Gary."
Roberta notes, "You have no evidence that Gary is involved."
Monica asks, "How many other interventionists are there working on Earth? Who else could be responsible?" Roberta just shrugs. Monica suspects that Roberta knows much more than she is willing to admit. Monica contemplates playing the same game that Doggett played with her: "reverse twenty questions". What if there were another interventionist on Earth who was responsible for the manufacture of these circuits? Maybe even Gary would not know who was responsible. If Rupert were responsible for bringing this illegal technology to Earth would he try to blame it on Gary rather than take the blame himself? Monica tells herself: well, if so, I'm far out of my league.
Monica returns her thoughts to the idea that there is a secret manufacturer of such circuits on Earth. If someone like Gary was trying to teach people on Earth how to use advanced nanotechnolgy then it would have to be a secret operation, trying to hide from Rupert and Therick. How could they hide on Earth? How many people on Earth would be involved in keeping the secret? Would they all be under mental control by nanite implants in their brains? Or would some of the workers just believe that they are keeping company secrets?"
Monica muses, "I remember seeing the signatures of the team that built the first Macintosh computer...signatures that were hidden inside the computer. I wonder if there might be a similar hidden message inside these circuits. Someone designed these circuits and might have wanted the world to know it was their work."
Roberta is amused by the idea. "You're looking for signatures hidden in these circuits?"
Monica shakes her head, "No, but I do get the feeling that the circuit elements contain patterns that are almost like a written language. I wonder if it would be possible to run a pattern recognition routine-"
Ferriol is standing just inside the door and has been listening. Now he walks to the computer work station and says, "Yes, we can program an automated search for text elements that might be in the microscopy images."
Roberta is irked by Ferriol's arrival, "Seriously, Ferriol, don't you ever knock?"
Monica is almost certain that Ferriol did not come in through the door. She wonders if Ferriol is like Isis and able to dematerialize into his nanite components at will. "The FBI uses automated facial recognition scans of video camera images...that is how we have been tracking Rupert and his brothers on Earth."
Ferriol has reprogrammed the computer and he explains, "I now have it scanning the previously captured images for English text. I wonder which fonts and languages should be included in this search."
Monica asks, "Can you use the pattern recognition routine to enhance images while I scan through the structure of a circuit?"
Ferriol asks, "Do you mean have the computer enhance or highlight possible patterns?"
Monica nods, "Exactly."
After a moment Ferriol steps back from the controls. "Try that." Monica returns to searching through the structure of the circuit. After a few minutes the robot asks, "What are you looking for?"
At that moment Monica begins to see letters. "Oh, my! Is this a nicaltine-induced halucination?" She closes her eyes and holds her head.
Roberta looks at the display and reads, "Doggett."
Ferriol laughs and touches a button on the workstation. The word "Doggett" fades from the display. "I programmed it to occasionally insert a false positive, just to keep you awake. What do you hope to find?"
Roberta complains, "Stop playing stupid, we know you were listening to to us."
Ferriol pretends to be hurt, "Not true, I was getting new orders from Therick. Ah, now I've reviewed your earlier conversation. You think who ever made these circuits put their signature into the circuit?"
Monica shakes her head. She has returned to scanning through the structure of the circuit. "It's an idea. I feel like these patterns are speaking to me."
Ferriol explains, "They should. They are designed to replicate the computational power of the human brain. These kinds of circuits are the basis for human language and thought."
Roberta asks the robot, "Then you recognize these circuits?"
"Well, they are a unique human creation. There is the hand of a talented artist visible in this work. However, the basic strategy is clearly the same as what exists inside me and allows me to have human-like thought processes. Of course, my circuits are much more advanced than these."
For the next fifteen minutes Ferriol and Roberta discuss the Prochloroflexus marinuslargus genetic engineering project and speculate about the possibility that the carbon capture technology will be used on Earth. Monica continues to scan through the nanocircuits. She sees a blurry "Fur" in the pattern of the circuitry and adjusts the focus. "Ferriol!"
The robot says, "Ya, that's another positive control. Nice to see you can stay awake while making such a boring search."
Monica thinks about the nicaltine, but she decides she needs no more of the drug. "The patterns in the circuits are entrancing."
Ferriol warns, "Remember to take a break once in a while. Well, I have work to attend to." The robot departs.
For a while Roberta watches Monica scan the circuits with the microscope. Then Rupert's face appears on the wall display. "Roberta, I'd like to talk to you. I have some questions about your past."
Roberta asks, "What kinds of questions?"
"Well, your entire life seems to have changed five years ago."
"I moved to California and started working on the carbon deposition project."
"Right. Please come to my office. This is going to take a while to sort through." Rupert's image fades from the wall.
Monica asks, "What's that all about?"
Roberta shrugs, "Oh, it's just Rupert being annoying. Good luck with your search."
Monica is left alone. She continues searching through the circuits and feeling that the patterns are trying to tell her something important.
The next day Monica returns to the workshop. At first she is daunted by the prospect of another long and fruitless day of looking through the circuits. The looks at her sketch of a map of the fragments on the wall display. It is her growing map of the parts of the fragments that she had scanned. Her estimate is now that it will take ten more days to completely scan through all of the circuitry in the fragments. She asks herself, "Why am I even bothering?" She finds the little box of nicaltine dispenser tubes and starts sucking on one. Soon her mind is humming and she is back into the routine of scanning the patterns. The first false positive of the day is the word "Skinner". For a moment Monica thinks about her boss and her partner.
Monica stands up and gets another nicaltine dispenser. For five minutes she paces around the workshop and wonders if Roberta has gotten herself into trouble. She wonders how it could be possible for Roberta to hide her nanite implants that allow her to morph her face. She looks at the computer workstation and the displayed part of the circuitry. As beautiful as the circuit patterns are, she is finally getting bored with their repetitions. She says to her self, "I don't think I can keep at this for a week." She decides to reduce magnification and try scanning for parts of the circuit with unusual patterns.
Within half an hour she discovers that at an intermediate magnification there is a repeating pattern of what looks like the letters "C" "G" and "S" in how the circuits are laid out. She finally decides that those letters cannot be coincidence and wonders if they are the initials of the designer. She almost tries to use the computer to access some databases from Earth in order to do some searches for "CGS", but she decides not to. Instead she places another of the fragments in the sample chamber for microscopic examination.
Just as Monica confirms that the second fragment also contains the "CGS" pattern, Rupert arrives. Rupert says, "Good work Monica."
Monica asks, "You were watching me?"
Rupert nods, "I had a machine watching you. It noticed when you discovered the letters...'CGS'.
Monica scans to an optimal position to see the "CGS" pattern. She points to the display and says, "This pattern is in the two fragments that I've looked at. I'm not sure if it is real or just my mind seeing a pattern that looks like letters."
Rupert confidently says, "It is real and it explains the direction that the FBI investigation has taken. There is a nanotechnology company in California called Cognite Systems and its stock exchange code is CGS. It's a leading nanotech research company on Earth."
Monica asks, "What did you say about the FBI?"
Rupert explains, "Doggett has a new partner. She has started to investigate Cognite Systems. Now, speaking of partners...I do not want to send you to Earth without support...I've been talking with Roberta-"
Continue to: Chapter 5