It took two days for the team to recover from its stay in the time bubble. Once awake, Paschal, Enron, and Colibri made a dash for the bathroom and then to the nearest dining hall, where they ate their way through a humongous combination breakfast – lunch. A quick hop to the Bridge had them pick up Harp and Sitar for their visit to the hospital wing.
"What has happened since we were out like burned-up lights?" asked Paschal, as they took a quick jog to the nearest portal.
"Not much. Thebes has been hopping left and right to keep the stalkers guessing as to its true position in space. Not much else. We are following a random pattern, or so say the AIC."
"I do hope they know that 'random' is a relative thing, Harp!"
"What do you mean, Prince Paschal?" asked a worried AI-6.
"That, however 'random' something may appear, if if it is computed, and anything you do is, by definition, computed, then it can not be random. Yes, the seed may be, but after that, a pattern will invariably develop. And we are faced with another computer array that will eventually calculate the sequence."
"What could be random?"
"The closest is the Brownian movements of particles in an atmosphere, but even then, given enough computing power and time, a map of the pattern could be built. I was working on such a model before we got into that recovery cycle. interferometry clearly showed some prospects for resolving the propagation of Brownian motion in a stable atmosphere."
"What is Brownian motion?" asked a baffled Colibri. "Some Mister Brown that had Fleas and danced randomly around the room in the hopes of leaving them behind?"
After a good laugh at the image, Paschal explained: "No, Imagine that each molecule of the atmosphere is like a tiny billiard ball. Now, give each ball energy, a perfectly uniform energy, E. Each ball is in motion relative to each other, and as long as they do not collide, they conserve their energy at E. Eventually, there will be collisions. Since each collision is elastic (meaning that energy is transferred, but that the balls stay intact), some balls will accrue energy, while others will lose energy. So far, so good?"
"Each collision will impart a change of direction in the movement of the balls involved, will change their speed, and so forth... like balls on on a billiard table. Some balls will stall from head-on collisions, others will get a kick in the butt and speed up; others will get glancing blows and gain speed while changing direction, or slow down while also changing direction. You follow?"
"If, at the beginning, the distribution of movement and energy was uniform, a wind, if you want a picture, eventually, the energy will distribute itself in such a way that each particle will have its own motion, and its own level of energy. Now, put in that turbulent atmosphere a big particle, say a particle of dust. It will be pushed around by the collisions of millions of atmospheric molecules, and its movement will be erratic, the Brownian motion. Naturally, if we could see the molecules of the atmosphere, we could see the army of molecules pushing one way, and another army of the same molecules pushing another way; by doing the count of how many push one way or another, we could calculate the direction, the speed, and the acceleration of the dust particle. Brownian movements look random because we lack the resources to view the atmospheric particles, to estimate the numbers influencing the dust particle's motion, to calculate the vector sum of all forces implied in displacing the dust particle."
"So, if we observed the motion of a dust particle and used its changes of speed and directions, we would get a random number?"
"Close to it, AI-6. But, again, it would depend on how many observations of said dust particle you did. If, for instance, you observe a particle and measure its direction and speed every 0,00000001 second, you would get long strings of serial numbers interspersed with sudden changes in speed and directions. If, on the other hand, you measure every 0,1 seconds, you would get a more random pair of numbers. After all, the particle has inertia, and tends to keep following the same direction and speed after it has gained them. It takes a considerable time, relatively speaking, for atmospheric pressure to change its motion. Everything is relative, depending on perspective."
"When will things become simple?"
"Never, Colibri. Even death is a complex matter, as you should know by now."
"Let's focus on our tasks, guys. Get out of the depression you are building around yourself, Colibri. I can see the black clouds and thunderbolts around your head. It's a nice show, but then again, it's also useless," commented Harp.
The five Atlanteans entered the stasis pods chamber and looked at the three reptiles curiously.
"They look like miniature T-Rex, do they not?" said Sitar.
"Yes, they do. I just hope looks are deceiving. We worked hard to release them from their slavery and binding to that collective conscience that seemed to treat them like Ants in the Ant colony, keeping them tied by an electronic scent much like the Queen does her Workers in the colony," Colibri giving word to an image that had been trotting in his head.
"Okay, we have work to do. Ready?" asked Harp.
"Yes!" replied the other four.
"Hospital Artificial Intelligence! Recognise."
"Verbal recognition: Prince of Magic Harp Ambrosius Myrrdin, Alpha tier 1."
"Hospital Artificial Intelligence! Recognise."
"Verbal recognition: God of War Sitar Montue Myrrdin, Alpha tier 2."
"Hospital Artificial Intelligence! Recognise."
"Verbal recognition: Grand Architect Paschal Imhophet Myrrdin, Alpha tier 3. Thrice recognised, thrice unlocked. Stasis pods unlocked."
The five Atlanteans made their way to the controls and studied the reports and records.
"What do you make of these graphics?" asked Sitar.
"All seems okay. They have stabilised nicely. I think we can bring them out of stasis," said Enron.
"I agree," commented Colibri. "However, I suggest we do the process by stages, and one by one rather than in block."
"Good idea, Colibri," replied Enron. "Ready?"
After a nod from everyone, Enron began the wake-up sequence on one of the pods.
"Why this one?" Sitar asked.
"That was the last one we took out. I can not tell whom was in command of the Scout Ship from their disposition in space so it is as good a choice as another."
"If they have a command structure that is. Their intense integration into a network probably inhibited any independent thinking."
"Right. Focus, guys. Colibri?" asked Enron as he watched the level of brain activity slowly rise.
"It follows planned sequence. Tactile is now online. Proprio-receptors coming on-line. "
"Those sensors that report the position of members, muscular tension, and supply a myriad of other internal feedback loops their data," replied Enron.
"So, my intestinal cramps are due to proprio-receptors?"
"Yes, and you eating crap, Sitar! Talking about internals, intestinal motility is restarting."
"And so is taste and smell... the first reflexive response should be the tongue sticking out to taste the environment just about... now." As Colibri said 'now' the black tongue took a peek out of the reptile's mouth.
"It must be difficult to taste something that is simply not there," noted Harp.
"Given the sensory map, it probably has a residual of its last peek to analyse. That sensory surface is trillions of times more sensitive than our own. Go telepathic. Hearing is next on-line. Their hearing must be quite sensitive, given it has had an extensive resting period. Smell is on-line. Look at it sniff, trying to figure out what's changed."
«Hearing on-line, Enron. It hears heart-beats. Its own for now, but it is gradually able to create differentials... It has isolated its own from ours. Now it is separating ours in our distinct rhythms. Enron, you are closest to the head and it has yours. Now, mine. Sitar's is found... Harp's and finally Paschal's... Anxiety spike!»
«What for?» Sitar asked.
«Our heart-beats are four times faster than its own. Any heart-beat that fast would be associated with fight-or-flight response in a standard response pattern. Its brain is trying to figure out where the danger is. It is a reflex response.»
«Good explanation, Colibri... higher functions coming on-line. Eye-sight... Dream cycle initiated; rapid eye movement noted. Emotional response; anxiety response. I would say it's having a nightmare. Blood pressure rising rapidly... that matches Colibri's analysis. Body temperature slowly rising. That species seems to be endothermic. That is encouraging. It is asleep, normal dream sleep, as much as I can tell.»
«Any idea of how long before wake-up?» Sitar wondered.
«Nope. If the dream cycle has a similar function as ours to allow us to process information and partition it into manageable chunks, it may be a while. Let's rest for a bit. I'm putting the brain activity on monitoring so we get alarms if things change.»
«Should we begin the other two?»
«No, Harp. We need to handle that one first. If it turns aggressive, we do not need three times the trouble.»
Hours passed as the five Atlanteans kept watch on the Reptiles. Exchanges were made with the Bridge, that kept the five up to date on the military situation, both in and out of Thebes. The outer threat was still acting baffled by the sudden moves the Atlantean space-ship made, and was beginning to act rather randomly itself.
"We need to be careful. Until now, we could predict their global movements. If they become unpredictable because they behave like head-less Chickens, it makes our being at the wrong place at the wrong time more probable..." commented Thorsten, in charge of the Strategic Desk for that cycle.
"What do you suggest?" Annabelle said, looking at the Dwarf King with interest.
"We become predictable for a while, then suddenly change; If we do this right, the other side will a- detect the predictability rather quickly; b- establish the pattern; c- plan according to that pattern; d- implement a plan taking that pattern into account. We need to detect when it has decided to act on our pattern and change it once it has moved into place, thus defeating their projections of our behaviour."
"Do it!" said Annabelle, thus showing why she had been one of the most successful Centurion in the Army by being decisive and willing to listen to others. "Timor, you take orders from Thorsten for movements!"
"Acknowledged. Manual override engaged."
"Move to co-ordinates 1,1,2 relative to current!"
Once the jump was done, Thorsten ordered a 3 second wait. Followed were the following sequences: "Position 5,8,13, relative and wait 21 seconds..."
"Position 34,55,55, wait 144... Ah, it's moving its vessels to the next point... at the end of the 144, move to 1,4,1 relative, wait 5, move to 9,2,6, wait 5. That will leave it at a loss."
"What are those numbers?"
"The first are Fibonacci series numbers; the second is the value of each successive digit of pi. These being smaller in value leave us exposed... for a short while. But I plan to implement another series similar to Fibonacci shortly. It will be working to find the series..."
"Which one is next?"
"The sine convergence series. Then I'll use the prime numbers, and then the product series... 1,1,1,1, 2,4,8,16,3,9,27,81,4,16,64,256 Each time it moves in response to a solution, I'll change the series. There are an infinite number of those around. And the duration of in-station will not always be the last number!"
"Am I not fun? Devious is my middle name!"
As Sitar watched the three Reptiles, he kept scratching his chin. Finally, Colibri had enough and asked him what was bothering the God of War.
«I am wondering if we are not seeing one of the intermediate stages that led to the Borgs.»
«Interesting idea there, Sitar. Care to expand the idea?»
«Well, remember the Borgs, Colibri: they had the habit of assimilating resources to reproduce themselves. Borg is a short for Cyborg, or cybernetic organism. What we learned from our confrontation is clear: they evolved from a living organism, or more to the point, from a living species, and their evolution clearly traces their progress from that species over time to become machines, not robots, but intelligent machines. From there, they merged into an integrated... macro-organism, that has sublimated individualism to create a collective conscience. That evolution was not a switch, of that I am sure. They probably began by adding small interfaces between their neural motor plates and simple circuitry, allowing the brain to control the environment by sending motor commands. It progressed slowly and they probably passed by a stage similar to what we observe in the Reptiles. They probably progressed on a similar path, integrating first two, then three members to a ship, as we see now with these guys, and progressed further to the point their ships grew to a few cubic miles. Remember their equivalent of our prime directive: Assimilate! That was all we heard, and for them it meant exactly that: make all life forms part of their collective. In fact, we have a similar objective, but on a longer view: We too want to guide life to become similar to us, but we use selective genetics to do it rather than 'plug' them into a circuit, and we try to maintain independence of thinking because we value creativity, which the Cyborgs, and, apparently, the Reptiles, do not. After all, at the end of all things, we hope that those that have accompanied us will be equal to us, that is, able to live as pure, cohesive, energy. The Borgs, and those guys, want them to become some cybernetic prolongation of their respective colony. I suspect we will meet quite a few species that have taken that path.»
«And let us not forget the AIC. It too represents an attempt at the creation of a Cyborg. Luckily, we are partially integrated into it so it can not drift.»
«Harp is right, you know. The AIC is a form of aborted Cyborg. It is only the presence of the Royals and our total control over its functions that keep it from drifting toward Borg or 'Reptilian Cyborg' metamorphism.»
«That is unnerving, Sitar. Are we in danger?»
«We always are, Paschal. That is why I am glad you have all those safeguards and security protocols surrounding the AIC. I know you have triggers all over the place to turn one or all off-line should they become an issue. And I am sure you keep updating them as much as you can, for which I am very thankful.»
«When we complete our mission, if ever we do, will the AIC be included as a 'life-form'?»
«We should decide when the time comes, Enron. But what we must decide is what constitute a conscience. I, for one, have yet to decide for myself what constitutes this.»
«Is being alive part of the criterion?»
«Colibri, as a biologist, what defines being alive?» replied Sitar.
«The capacity to reproduce.»
«Then, with this criterion, the AIC is not alive. It can not reproduce. But does that mean it has no value? The next question, and that too is a difficult one, is what defines consciousness? There, the debate risks being rather stormy...»
«And, given Colibri's definition of life, are we alive? We see no need to reproduce, but none of us even feels the drive to do so. None of us has tried to reproduce, and we have no proof we can. I think we could by scission, but what would be the result? Would we become less? Or become twins? Could we merge and produce an offspring presenting a selection of our potentials, or a merging of these potentials? Shocking, I know, but we have not aged in ages. I know I can 'look' any age, and that I have selected the 'young pre-teen' look so as not to deal with the hormonal imbalance of teens.»
«Are we lucky! Given your temper, Harp!»
«Colibri, you are no better.»
«He's waking up!» exclaimed Enron, whom had been silent until now, keeping an eye on the Reptile.
«His caudal appendage twitched!» Colibri added.
«Okay, Sitar, Paschal, Harp, please back away from the stasis pod. I do not want it to see anything outside the pod,» ordered Enron.
Gradually, the internal eyelids slit open vertically, revealing a rather impressive cornea that was greenish. The eyes moved independently from the head, but not as much as some reptiles found on the old Earth. Its slit gradually adjusted to the lighting of the stasis pod and stopped contracting.
«How do we communicate?» Sitar asked.
«I could try what Ovid did with Zen?» said Harp. «Ovid showed me how to speak 'Snake', and Zen taught me the subtleties of the language. I learned to hiss, but that did not work initially, so I used vibrations of the ground...»
«That will be difficult, Harp. Pods are insulated against vibrations,» commented Paschal. «We could transmit frequencies within their auditory range? Those guys do have auditory capabilities, in the infra-sound range.»
«That is an option. Let me check with the Bridge. I am sure they have found some way to listen in on communications..» suggested Sitar.
After talking to the communications desk, he came back rather depressed to the others.
«There are no records of verbal exchanges. Everything is numerically encoded and they were more interested in decoding strategy than any stream that might have been a verbal exchange... Sucks!»
«Oh, come on! We are the epitome of Atlantis! Let us try telepathy!» exploded Harp.
The other three looked at each other than exploded into hysterical laughter.
«Out of the mouth of Children!» commented Sitar.
«Children my ass!» replied Harp, flustered.
«Better known as the 'keep it simple, stupid!' principle», added Enron.
«Get to work, Harp. You are the best of us at finding telepathic frequencies.» noted Sitar.
«And he better! That cute puppy dinosaur is getting nervous!» added Colibri.
Just as Colibri stated the obvious, the stasis pod vibrated violently as the 'cute puppy' lashed out with his caudal appendage at the transparent cover of the pod.
«Holly shit! I hope the design will sustain repeated strikes!» said Enron, looking at Sitar with a little worry.
«I trust Paschal. He seems to have a flair to build the indestructible.»
«Too bad he was not in charge of the Titanic!»
«Right you are Colibri, right you are! If he had been, he would have forced them to build bulwarks right to the the top of the last deck, and made sure the steel was not contaminated with sulphur to create bubbles that made the steel hull as fragile as glass in icy waters.»
«Damn these pricks are hard go focus on. They have two brains! One for the tail section and the lower body, and one for the upper body! The spinal cord is a bridge!»
Harp was swearing like a sailor out on permission after one too many bottles of scotch, committing the dinosaur's ancestors to the deepest levels of Hell (as if he believed in that place!) and promising to terminate the line as soon as he found their balls. The others watched his forehead sweat and listened to Harp's very explicit inferences on the subject's defective family line without saying a word. The others had decided to retire as far away from the First Mage of Atlantis as the room allowed and tried to keep an eye on the trashing dinosaur, hoping the trust in Paschal's design was founded in fact as the stasis pod shook violently from the beating it was getting from its occupant.
Gradually, the tail stopped whipping against the side and upper cover of the stasis pod, while the upper torso and forelimbs continued to claw willy-nilly at the insides, and the jaw tried to bite at the transparent cover. Harp took a few seconds to create water in a canister and to drink it.
«Damn lower brain is divided in four major regions... Cannot call them hemispheres proper. That was what took me some time to adjust to as each has its own control region and frequency... Colibri, Enron, I think that this state of affairs is artificial in origin rather than biological. I am currently monitoring the Pons, and controlling the exchanges.»
Spotting the lost look of Sitar, Enron explained: «The Pons, from the French word meaning bridge, is what allows hemispheres in our brain to synchronise themselves and exchange information. What Harp is saying is that the caudal brain got artificially modified to section what I would think are two hemispheres to create four regions connected by an artificial bridge rather than the natural one. I would not put it beyond the creators of these aberrations to have done so to be able to control them more easily. Intercept the Pons, and they would lose not only the use of their hind limbs, but of their caudal appendage, and probably of their reproduction or even their evacuation. »
«That is sick! It is the ultimate slavery, It is despicable!» exclaimed Sitar.
«Can Harp fix it?» Paschal asked, as disgusted as his friend Sitar about this treatment of a sentient life-form.
«We'll know when Harp has taken control of the upper cephalic brain.»
«That is going to take some work too!» exclaimed Harp. «The upper brain got separated into distinct senses that are not integrated. I wonder what kind of 'universe' that kind of neural structure builds for them. It is like, well... Imagine fish-eye vision: two eyes, working independently, creating two distinct images of reality, but not building a three-dimensional image from the combined images. Their vision, hearing, and senses at large are divided in two hemisphere, but then each sense is also isolated.... It's incredible! And it must have been done artificially because natural evolution tends to get things integrated to ease the co-ordination of movement. They would be unable to survive in nature!»
The others listened to Harp's report of the neural activity and felt sicker and sicker.
«Enron, Colibri, I need your help.»
«How can we help you, Harp?»
«I will begin micro-surgery to re-establish first, sensory integration and lateral integration. I figure you have done a neural map?»
«Yes. What first?»
«Taste and smell. That is the most primivite sensory system after proprioception. Ready?»
«Sitar, I will need a lot of energy. Create energy drinks with a straw as fast as I consume them. When I start on one sense I will not be able to stop and that means several hours of intense magical work at a very fine level. I can not, under any circumstances, lose consciousness or concentration due to lack of energy!»
«Paschal, monitor the stasis pod's feedback. If the level of life-force drops below 80%, feed it magical energy, raw. It should boost it. Please, not too much! We do not want its magical core to burst, killing it! As we do not know what it eats, or what it is allergic to, that means direct magical feed into its core!»
«Where's its core?»
«At the base of the brain, between the cerebellum and the medulla oblongata. It is rather small, hence this species is not magical, but like anything alive, it has one without which it would be dead. Look at the structure using Gamma-M and you will see it as a tiny reddish dot... Do not look at us with that, or you will be blinded for several hours. Ours is like a supernova compared to this one's core. That is why I never told you guys how to find cores visually but rather by use of magical flows within your own body!»
«Safety in ignorance? Reeks of religion, Harp!»
«In this case, Paschal, I think it is justified. It is too easy to use this method and get blinded by an unexpectedly strong source. Remember, even a retro-virus, which is a crystalline life-form, has a core, in the form of a crystalline structure visible in the Gamma-M sub-range, as a flickering beacon that is almost black-red. I had to be careful when I had to check fro Wraiths, some had rather powerful magical flickers, and they are considered as walking dead!»
Harp kept silent, refocussing on the micro-surgery he had to undertake. Harp bridged the taste and smell connectors by re-growing the nervous pathways that had been sectioned off, using the genetic map model and forcing the re-activation of codon clusters that had been inactive since the embryo had first grown the pathways before they had been cut off by whatever had decided to enslave these reptiles. It took a couple of hours as each connection reset itself. Harp was sweating profusely, drinking huge amounts of an extra-rich milk-shake perfused with magical and physical energy, supplied by Paschal on an almost constant basis. Finally, he let out a breath.
«Well that is done. Next step is the re-integration of loco-motor, balance, and peripheral vision into a cohesive system so they can stand, and move their heads without getting sick. The bastards that did this job on them really did not want them to have a drop of autonomy! I've spotted the chromosomic clusters that produce these connections. The only issue I have is that these clusters are also implicated in lateralisation, and their activation is probably sequential. Let us hope I understand the process properly.»
Colibri and Enron nodded, as Sitar and Paschal looked on, dumbfounded by the complexity of the task Harp had undertaken. Paschal had a inkling of the nature of the problem, as Thebes was, in effect, an active body whose construct, albeit different, closely borrowed from what nature had developed over the aeons.
It took six hours to complete the task to Harp's satisfaction. Finally whipping his face and refreshing himself with a conjured bucket of iced water, shocking the others for his radical means of stimulation, he opened his eyes, which were glowing an intense blue-green.
«The lateralisation is apparently a late stage. I should have thought of it as we too have late lateralisation. I figure it is proximo-distal, cephalo-caudal, and global to fine motor control, much like we develop. I've fixed the bridge of the basal brain stem, insuring the base on which lateralisation is built. Next step, visual and auditory bridge. I will delay proprioception a bit as it is based on the body map, which I must first rebuild. The assholes destroyed the entire structure to gain absolute control on motor co-ordination! Sick bastards!»
Harp returned to his delicate work, magic glowing at his fingertips, eyes so bright the entire room was flooded by a greenish-blue glow. This time, the process took sixteen hours before Harp found a point where he could take a breather. As Harp took a breath, Enron asked him what was next.
«Proprioceptors, Enron. But first, I have to rebuild the entire neural field on which the body map is imprinted. Then, if we do not want to have issues with grown-ups that have no idea of how their body is and that they are separate from the outside world, I will map it. The only issue I have is the caudal brain. Does it, or does it not have a body map? And if so, how are the two maps interacting, and creating a cohesive 'body image'?»
«Will this be the last step?» enquired Paschal.
«Unfortunately, no. I still have to reintegrate the caudal brain, reconnect it properly with the cephalic brain, make sure their connection is harmonised, and then see to proper lateralisation of both brains. And then comes the hard part.»
«The hard part?» exclaimed Sitar, baffled by all he was seeing.
«Well, yes, the separation of the brains into these segments has created multiple 'persons'. That poor dinosaur suffers from surgery-induced multiple personality disorder. It has to be consolidated into a single 'person', by merging their separate memories into a cohesive, integrated memory map. Believe me, it's like having to solder together something like 20 or 30 persons in a single body!»
A collective «Wow!» was broadcast over the telepathic range.
«When I think the only segments of the brain that could express anything are the Broca and Wernicke regions and they have been severely tempered with: most of the brain is in effect 'mute' due to the amount of surgery undergone. To be honest, I am not even sure if each segment of the brain is aware of the others! They might not even have a common language, if they do!»
«You are scaring me, Harp!» expressed Sitar.
«And it takes a lot to scare the God of War!» added a shaky Paschal.
«Anyway, back to work. We have been at it for how long?»
«Twenty-four hours of surgery, and an hour of breaks,» replied Colibri.
«Not too bad...»
«Says the god of Magic!» replied Paschal.
Harp spent an hour regenerating the neural field on which to imprint the body map. He then imprinted the higher section of the body map and then moved to the spinal cord. His first task was the reconstruction of the cerebellum's connection to the cord,then the bridge of the lower 'reptilian' brain, Six hours later, he moved to the caudal brain proper. There, the process was somewhat simpler. Caudal motor co-ordination was restored by bridging the massive hemispheres. Finally, proprioception integration was set in place and the lower body map field was rebuilt. Eight hours later, Harp let out a breath of relief.
«My assumption of body mapping was correct. There is a bridge that allows the two maps to merge their respective maps by over-mapping the midsection of the body. Thanks Nature for its logic! That section of the spinal cord is the bridge I was looking for! The nerves are thickly insulated, not branching anywhere, and in effect mapping the same region closely! They share the same triggering signals coming from exactly the same area! A marvel of biological evolution, if I can say so! Now a pee break, before I do on the floor!»
«Why not use magic to empty the bladder?»
«Ever heard of the pleasure of a good, long piss, Enron? I need the pee break, my legs are killing me, and the next part is going to be a pain in the butt one!»
«You said it, Sitar.»
After Harp left to reach the nearest restroom, Enron looked at Colibri.
«There is one thing I do not understand...»
«If the brain got segmented as deeply as Harp says, how come we observed the behaviour we did?»
«What do you mean?»
«We all saw the tail slap the cover of the stasis pod; the nose and eyes and ears all seemed to be working in proper tandem; the cephalic brain and caudal brain seemed to exchange information since the body gave all signs of an acute aggressive response. How was that possible?»
«Enron, remember these strange wires we did not understand the use of?» said Paschal. «Things calmed down when Harp dissolved them by magic at the brain stem. I think they were carrying signals to order a set of preordained responses. Now, with the reconstruction of the natural bridges, the reconnection of the brain parts into an integrated system, we are likely to observe the natural, real response, rather than the 'fight to death' response hard-wired by the bastards that are responsible for their enslavement.»
«It makes sense. I wonder if Harp has considered checking the trachea for vocal cords? I would not put it beyond them to have been artificially muted!»
«What made you think of that, Colibri?»
«Enron, have you heard anything, a whimper, a yell, anything, coming from the stasis pods? Even a snore?»
«Come to think of it, no, I have not... Let me check something...» After a minute, Enron began swearing. «They have had the entire area butchered. Swallowing water must be a pain. And... their teeth are fake! Before we release them, I will ask Harp to reconstruct their entire mouth! It is a death trap! Their teeth are hallow and very fragile, filled with what I suspect are poisons, but they have no poison bags linked to the root canals! I suspect they are designed to bite on anything that attacks them, and to die in the process! Suicide mouths instead of suicide bombers!»
«How did they eat?»
«Easy Sitar: liquid diet... Their trachea was kept open with a feeding tube when we got them, so their food always was pushed in by that means. The amount of effort to reduce their autonomy is staggering!»
The others kept silent, musing on Enron's latest discovery. Half an hour later Harp made his way to the stasis pods and looked at his brothers' frowning faces and silent demeanour.
«Don't tell me it died while I relieved myself!»
«No, nothing like that,» replied a troubled Enron. «Have a look at its mouth... and you will see why we have these burial day faces.»
«I was worried there, for a bit... I almost flooded the throne when I peed. I wonder who put a roll of toilet paper with concrete in the drain. If I ever find the bastard, he'll have an experience to flush all his experiences!»
«I would not put it beyond saboteurs, Harp. We still have teams cleaning up and repairing after our last bout with internal strife,» replied Sitar. «Give me a minute to signal the incident to the Bridge, and they will send teams to inspect public toilets for that kind of plugging. How did you stop it?»
«Magic, what else? Can't reasonably use muriatic acid to dissolve the concrete and paper without damaging the piping. Ask them to team a soldier with a Mage... and to check the usage log.»
«That goes without saying, Harp.» A minute later, report done, Sitar resumed his station. «Ready when you are, Harp.»
«Okay. I took the time to look at the mouth... I'll treat it right away. We are beginning the personality reintegration cycle, and I want all biological issues resolved before we do. Ten minutes to completion!»
«The dream of any dentist! A complete teeth set in ten minutes!» said Colibri.
«They would overcharge and bill you an hour for a ten minute job!» replied Enron.
«Done, now the fine work...» said Harp, as he conjured a tall stool and sat above the stasis pod, overlooking at the dinosaur inside from where he was seated. «It seems I did the biological part properly. The facial muscles are co-operating and move properly.»
Harp began the merge and reported his progress to the others.
«Visuo-motor co-ordination functioning properly... the visual cortex has successfully merged with the auditory cortex. Olfactive tract integrated to the other two senses... Adding proprioception... balance restored... bilateral reflexes active... higher cognitive functions merging: memory fields merged... higher symbolic function sets merged... language sets merged... personalities merging... Beginning with prime personalities... adding first layer: sexual identity... adding second layer: sexual preferences as hard-wired by genome... adding third layer... Merging cephalic and caudal personalities... Verifying harmonics of integration... Personality count: One: Task complete. Verifying pain levels... No pain spikes; physical integration process complete; verifying stress levels... No stress spikes: mental integration process complete. Task complete. Disengaging!»
«Add another six hours to the intervention... we now stand at...45 hours direct intervention and an hour and a half of breaks... not too bad given how complex that task was. Enron keep it asleep for another eight hours. I need to recover.»
«Do you think it will get faster? If we are to try and take an entire race out of their slavery, it needs to be way quicker!»
«Not really, Colibri. I can trim maybe an hour since I will have done it once, but that is about it. Well, I'm off to bed. The first one that wakes me up will be taking a swim with a shark school... without a bathing suit!»
Harp walked out while Enron set the stasis pod to a deep, restful sleep for the Dinosaur.
A week later, the five involved in the Dinosaur wake-up, plus Ovid and Mark, returned to the stasis pod.
«Okay, I updated Ovid and Mark on the situation. Enron, wake up our client!» declared Harp.
Gradually, the reptile was brought out of induced sleep. Contrary to the previous wake-up attempt, there was no trashing in the stasis pod.
«He's awake.» said Enron as he monitored the pod's controls.
«Establishing contact!» said Harp as he entered a telepathic trace.