Rememberance, Part 1
I am slave to a machine
Kaika Arahoi'i sat in a highly styled chair like a leather and chrome insect, cradling her datapad in her hands. The screen glowed, displaying figures and images, the results of her deep brain scan. Everything showed. Interface sockets with their attendant neural web, slightly outdated, of Gallente manufacture; A Lai Dai occular implant; An induction pad for interfacing with her leaf-shaped Galnet transceiver; Various hardwirings, subprocessors intended to take some of the load of optimizing starship engines and weaponry; Omerta Syndicate neuramines, prototype nanotechnology from a not entirely successful project she had participated in. And something else. A sealed piece of neuroware with the look of a prototype, something she did not remember having implanted.
"Let me show you something."
The medtech was an older man, with black hair shot with white and the almost gaunt look that some Sebiestors got with age. He smelled of tobacco and coffee, and pomade. He brought up a transluscent holo of a brain. Her brain. Optic nerves protruded like antennae, while the spinal cord trailed behind. Thick bluish white lines snaked up along the spinal cord and into the brain, branching into smaller lines which in turn branched again and again until they could no longer be seen.
"This is your pilot's interface. It's a little old-fashioned, but you've been in the capsule almost since they came out."
His hand traced along the lines, gesturing to a second set of lines that began to pulse in red.
"These, on the other hand, are from your new implant. See how some of them bypass the pod interface?"
"Why would they do that", she asked. "I thought implants for pilots always piggybacked on the pilot's interface."
"The pilot's interface taps into your, for want of a better word, sensorium. That and your motor centers. You see with its sensors, you move it by using the same parts of your brain that you use to move your own body. Whoever put this into you wanted to tap into other parts of your brain."
"That's all fine", she said, "but when can you operate. When can you get this out of my head?"
He gestured, and the hologram grew even more transparent, while the red lines shone bright. They branched like lightning in a few places, spreading into a fine network of tiny lines.
"Look. Here's where the interface lines turn biological. The little nodes along the pseudoneurons are bioprocessors, and they interface with your prefrontal lobe, here. And these others here dive deep into your hippocampus. Both of these areas are associated with memories."
"That's why I can't remember some things?" she asked. He nodded in reply.
"But that's also the problem. Whoever implanted this into you didn't simply piggyback into your brain, they've rerouted things through that device. If we took it out..."
She closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "You can't take it out, can you?"
"We can't take it out", he confirmed.
"What can you do?"
He waved his hand and the brain expanded in a dizzying blur. She was looking now at a broad expanse of tissue, with a lozenge-shaped white object the size of her hand centered in the holo.
"This is the implant itself. It's not a large thing, but it is unusual. It's sealed in bioneutral epoxy, and it doesn't bear any manufacturing markings. It looks like something that someone produced as a one-off."
He gestured again, and the object separated into layers, each layer showing intricate patterns.
"The scan shows that it is a type of transcranial microcontroller. It's not entirely standard, because it's not a manufactured controller, but the design does match the Ishukone controller. Like the standard Ishukone controller, it draws power from the sugar in your blood. It will keep running as long as you do, in other words. I've been able to scan the memory of the controller, but it's encrypted, so I can't tell exactly what it's doing. It doesn't seem to be doing much beyond mediating your memory, so I'd guess that it's limited to that."
"Then I'll clone", she said. He shook his head.
"I wouldn't recommend it. This controller is mediating your memories. If you're scanned for cloning, you'll lose whatever it is this controller is blocking."
"I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but that's the best I can tell you. I can also tell you that you're not alone in this. There are millions of Minmatar, freed from the Khanid Kingdom, who carry these controllers to this day. Like you, most of them cannot tolerate having their controllers removed. And like them, you will learn to live with it."
"But my memories..." she began.
"Your case is unusual. Most people with these controllers, at least in the Republic, are ex-slaves. You're not. Nor do you know who implanted this controller in you. Memories are strange, they work through associations, including temporal associations. If I had to guess, I'd say whoever put that thing in you wanted you to forget something. Something that happened around the time of the memories you discovered missing."
She returned home, to her suite in Goinard. Boxes were still stacked in every room, their contents spread out. On the little coffee table Nooey's obituary still sat, accusing her.
How could you forget me?
She picked up the scrap of paper again. Nooey. Nicholas D'horne. Her friend and comrade for years had died nearly four years ago, and she remembered nothing. She had been there, at his funeral and at his wake. She had stepped in when others argued over the meaning of his death. She was involved, and yet she remembered nothing.
Why would somebody rob me of this memory?
She fingered an enameled pin. Black stylized wings, the sigil of Omerta Syndicate. Her employer, and his. The pin had been Nooey's. He must have left it to her as a rememberance, or she must have taken it. She didn't remember which. She remembered flying with him, taking part in corporate operations, but she did not remember his death.
Something that happened around the time of the missing memories.
Omerta Syndicate had built itself on biomedical research. Implants. Biological agents. First under the auspices of its parent corporation, Ishukone, and later on its own. She had been deep in the operation of these projects at the time that Nooey had died, been the public relations face of the corporation. They had had enemies then, enemies who wanted to strike at the corporation for what it had done. And Omerta Syndicate had slipped once again into darkness. An enemy, perceiving their fall, might have decided that the time was ripe to strike. And if they had waited to be sure, they may have found that their target had slipped entirely away, leaving them nothing. Would they then shift their attention to someone they could still attack?
She shook her head. That made no sense. She was a capsuleer, and like all capsuleers, she was wealthy. And having been the target of violence in the past, she was paranoid. Wealthy enough, and paranoid enough, to employ sophisticated security. To strike at her physically, an enemy would need both enough resources to do so, and if they could do so, why limit themselves to merely tampering with a few memories? No sense.
That left Omerta Syndicate, itself. Vasili Zaitsev, the secretive head of the organization, famously employed unusual methods to ensure the loyalty of his people. His paranoia made her own look like the naivety of a child. When she left she had left with his blessing. Might he have done something to eliminate the possibility that she would tell secrets? She could remember all sorts of details about medical experiments, on both sides of the line of what is ethical. Was there something more condemning than those, something he could not allow her to carry the memories of? He had the requisite paranoia, and the means.
Tuk would know, or Suree. The pair were involved in nearly every research program at the Syndicate, as well as being the most qualified doctors Omerta employed. Tukkaara the enormous renegade Matari, and tiny, neuter Suree had not fared well following Omerta's last shift in course. Poised under the full might of Ishukone, much of the corporations assets had been shed in a hasty withdrawal from State space. During that confused time, an Ishukone strike force had raided their labs and captured everyone inside. Both of the biotechs were charged with multiple crimes, and both had been sentenced to prison.
Rising, she shrugged herself into her fading, cracked pilot's jacket. It was time to pay them a visit.
The visiting room was sterile, lit with bland white light, and chilly. An inch of armored glass separated her from Tuk. Both sat in worn plastic chairs, and they spoke through an intercom.
"It's good to see you again, Kaika", Tuk rumbled. Prison life seemed to agree with the man. His enormous belly was visibly smaller, and he his bare arms showed muscles that she didn't remember seeing on him.
"It's good to see you, too, Tuk", she replied. She displayed a box wrapped in plain brown paper. "I brought you some of those socks you wanted, and harroule."
The man smiled. "You were always kind, Kaika. Thank you. My feet thank you."
She laughed. "You could have said something earlier, I would have brought you some."
"I must bear my fate as I can. I could not ask, but since you offered, I could not refuse."
He looked significantly at the intercom, then back to her. "You realize they monitor these. I can answer your questions, but there will be no privacy."
She nodded, and he continued. "Suree would know better, she oversaw the programming of your chip, but I remember that you were implanted right before you left us."
"So this is an Omerta Syndicate processor?" she asked.
He nodded. "It is. I can't speculate what it is programmed to hide, though. I'm sorry for that."
She sighed. "And Suree isn't here."
"No", he replied, "she was transferred to another prison months ago. I miss our conversations over food."
She nodded. "I'll find out where. Thanks, Tuk."
"You're welcome", he rumbled. "Come back and see me again, I enjoy the company."
"The Navy handles all prisoner transfers", said the man with emblems of rank and a look of disdain. "Suree was shipped on the Wolfraam last September. The flight was problematic. There was a mutiny. The ship never arrived at its destination."
"Mutiny?" she asked.
He did not reply, but showed her footage. A group of prisoners were attacking a guard, who was attempting to drive them back. She didn't recognize anyone in the clip. After a few moments the people all collapsed to the floor, gasping like fish.
"That's where the pilot reduced oxygen", the man continued.
"He killed them all?" she asked, a look of horror creeping over her face.
"No, we have telemetry on that. He reduced it enough to knock them out", he said, flatly.
"What happened then?"
"That's where we lost telemetry. The Wolfraam left CONCORD administered space, and we never regained contact."
"I'm sorry, but that's classified information", he said.
"Was it destroyed?"
"I don't think so", the Navy man replied. "The pilot did not clone transfer, so it must have survived, at least long enough for him to dock."
"Who was the pilot?" she asked.
"I'm sorry, but that's classified information", he replied sullenly, and would say no more.
What the Navy won't tell, the news will carry, she thought to herself as she examined the results her agents had supplied. While no one seemed to know what had happened to the ship, she knew now the name of the pilot. Jurou Yuan. She remembered the name from somewhere. Remembered a sour face and acid tongue.
Whoever this Yuan was, he seemed to share her levels of paranoia. She could not find him through normal channels, even after paying a hefty fee to her regular specialist. In desperation, she turned to a Gallente intelligence specialist she was acquainted with, promising a reward she wasn't sure she was entirely willing to pay.
Why does this matter so much to me?
Nooey's obituary photo stared back at her from the coffee table accusingly.
How could you forget me?