(6) Homo Pattius

The Regency Campaign (208-1123 to 209-1123)

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208-1123 : Victoria / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    On Nightshade, Pat is in medical low berth while Edward "Shark" Teeth investigates her new organ.  He also plans to run a genetic test and anything else he thinks might help.
    Mich Saginaw has run a full diagnostic on the ship, and everything is showing red.
    Robert Morris thinks he has a little of the pattern of the Sphere Room.  The computer did find parts of what might be a pattern, so he's attacking the problem with renewed interest.
    Marquis Marcus Crestworthy has been working on the lesson plan for Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege.

    After breakfast, Shark -- with his new medical assistant, Kalida -- goes to Sick Bay to work on Pat.  First he works on the theory that the organ is adding something to the blood, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  He not only doesn't know what it does, but every reasonable thing he can think of is not it either.  It has no discernable medical function.
    The organ is, however, entirely biological.  It is connected to the nervous system, but only in a minor way.  It also looks like a natural growth, not as Shark suspected a reflection of something in another reality.  It does seem to be the same person as the original Pat, not an alternate reality Pat, as far as he can tell anyway.
    The organ is brand new.  It is wired into the nervous system, a little more than most other secretory glands, and has a blood supply and connection to the lymphatic system.  Obviously it doesn't do something that needs a fast response.  What would the body need on a low level continuing basis?  A drug, a cell, something perhaps it's to help the body cope with something, but not bacterial or viral.  Shark knew that Pat was a minor latent telepath but he can't relate this kind of organ to psionics.
    There is nothing in her blood work that is not there normally, or in higher or lower quantities than normal.  At least, there's nothing inconsistent with her stress levels or injuries.  Perhaps she needs this to spy on people?  Shark checks, but there is nothing unusual about the football readings before and after the event either.
    Shark checks her personal data.  She attends the University of Mora, but her homeworld is Moughas / Regina.
    Kalida plans a trance to look at the connections, but she isn't confident it will show anything useful.  Shark will take substantial precautions, including his tranq loaded gauss pistol.

    Shark briefs Nightshade's Captain, Sir Misha Ravanos.  He can't say what it is, but he can say what it isn't.  It doesn't seem to be adding antibodies or protective systems that he can figure out.  It is slightly more wired into the nervous system than, say, the pancreas, but less than the adrenal gland.  It is in the lymphatic system, so if it is giving her something, it's slow over time and not a burst.  Currently there are no identifiable chemicals in the blood that are not consistent with what's happened to her.
    He adds that were he a real doctor in a real medical facility, he would contact Pat's next of kin and ask what to do.  Of course they aren't, and he adds that they are going to take a trancient look and see if they can figure out what's going on.

    Shark says they should put the ship on alert for Kalida's trance.  Someone should be in the pilot seat, or at least on the jump button.  Last time they did a trance near a non-black tech ancient technology, it tried to kill them.
    Out of concern for the safety of the crew of Witchhunter in case the worst happens, they invite all of them over for brunch and a later medical update on Pat's condition.

    Once the other crew are over, Mich prepares brunch for them.  The food it good, the company excellent, and everyone relaxes in the lounge on this purely social occasion.

    Once everyone has eaten, Shark and Kalida say they're just going to check on Pat.  Instead of Sick Bay, however, they head straight to the Gym where Kalida goes into her trance.
    The web looks refreshingly normal.  Kalida tries to focus on the small, the part of the web that is Pat, but can't find her directly.  Instead she looks for Marquis Marc, and having picked up him she follows the connection to Pat.  She looks different.
    Kalida tries to zoom in on her, looking for all the internal connections that make her Pat.  She can pick up the fuzz that constitutes Pat, but she really can't resolve anything in her.  So then she assumes there's a connection between Pat and this strange internal organ, and looks for that.  Her trance can't resolve anything inside the thing that is Pat, however.  She can see external connections, but not anything inside the Pat concept.
    Nevertheless, there is a concrete difference about her, part of her concept and what she is.  It's as if the scryptese symbol that represents humans is different from the one that represents what Pat is.
    Kalida backs out to more familiar ground and looks at the external connections.  There is a distinct connection that stands out as being to something different, but it is phasing in and out and it's hard to pick out.  Not phasing in and out because the connection is doing that, but because she can only see it when she isn't looking directly at it.  The more she focusses on it, the harder it is to get hold of it.

    Shark sees a small football blip.

    Kalida looks for a connection between Pat and the alien stuff.  She can't find any alien stuff.  It might be there, but she can't see any connections.  She zooms out again and looks at the system as a whole, looking for odd connections, especially those that might go out into Regina subsector.
    There is some kind of weird connection out of this system, which as she looks at it, it disappears.  Out of the corner of her eye she can catch it, like the one from Pat.  She really can't pick out at all where it's headed, and can't be sure if it's the same connection.  It's a very passive connection, just sitting quietly, like it could be tugged but isn't.
    Kalida can't think of any other way to get to Pat, so she looks at the system in a more general way.  It looks fairly simple, as the webs go, with nothing that looks too odd.  It looks refreshingly normal, in fact.  Reflecting that "normal" is boring, she drops out of the trance.

    Kalida is awake.  Shark says she should immediately record her thoughts from the trance.  She reports that she didn't find out much, but there is some tenuous connection between her and elsewhere, and in fact between the system and elsewhere.  She adds that Pat does look significantly different from the rest of them.
    That isn't good enough for Shark.  He wants to know if she's more different than they are from Helia, or less.  Kalida says Pat is less different than they are from Helia.  She'd call Pat "...human", with a slight pause.
    Shark again muses that it's a shame that he can't do a deep scan on people who are unconscious or in stasis.  The more information he can get on Pat before making any decisions, the better.
    Well, at least nothing jumped out of space after them, and no alarms went off.  Shark still is glad he took those precautions.

    Shark and Kalida return to the lounge.  The social event is conveniently winding down, and the crew of Witchhunter prepare to leave for their own ship.  Shark catches Marquis Marc's eye, and motions to him to stay behind when the others leave.
    With only official Nightshade "crew" on board now, Shark gets to the point.  What are they going to do about Pat and her new internal appendage of questionable source and purpose?
    The logical and normal course, Shark says, would be to remove it.  That's what every Imperial doctor would do outside a research facility.  The most radical solution is to leave it in and watch.  The middle of the road is to do nothing, leave her in low berth, and take her to her homeworld -- which happens to be in Regina where they are going for many other reasons.
    Sir Misha asks if he can remove it safely.
    Shark believes he can remove enough of it that would be effectively gone.  He can't remove it completely that way, but he wouldn't expect it to grow back.
    The consensus is clear: leave her alone and watch her.  Most important, of course, is that Marquis Marc supports that route.
    The next question is whether she should be told.  Mich speaks up at this, and says that they should not tell her because it would change the parameters of the experiment.
    Her first thorough check-up in Imperium space would have course reveal it.
    Sir Misha again asks if Shark can remove it without harming her.
    Shark is not sure.  He doesn't think it would cause her any pain other from the operation.  It has a blood supply, it has a nerve connection.  There's no reason for it to be in the lymphatic system unless it's putting something in or taking it out, and he's pretty sure that it's not putting something in.
    Suddenly it occurs to Shark to run a DNA comparison between the organ and Pat herself.  They are identical.  Next will be to collect a DNA sample from her stateroom on Witchhunter and compare that.

    So it is time for Marquis Marc to leave and continue work on Kalida's lesson plan.  He asks, "Does anyone on this ship think they might be psionic?  Would you like to be tested?"
    Mich leaps on that, "We have psionic people on board this ship?"
    "The ship!" says Marc quickly.
    "Well, OK, but there are people with latent abilities?  Are they registered with the Imperium?"
    "Do you want them to register with the Imperium?"
    "You don't suffer a witch to live.  They need to be... terminated."
    Sir Misha says, "Doesn't that reduce the number that register?"
    Marc says, "I have no proof that anyone on this ship is psionic.  I am asking if anyone wants to be tested.  I take it that you don't want to, in case you are."
    Mich says, "We need those abilities detected so we can get rid of those people.  Put them all off on their own little world so they don't hurt anybody."
    "That's what the Zhodani did.  That worked very well."
    "Well, then we could nuke the planet from orbit, but..."
    Sir Misha says, "Well, we're not having a witch hunt on this ship."
    Mich says, "The other ship is the Witchhunter, right?"
    Marc says, "We're looking for magic.  Like doorways that take you to other places.  Magic.  Things that you can't explain.  This world looks like technology to me, not magic.  I'm doing my proper archaeological research before turn to my next research site."
    Mich seems satisfied enough.  He reaches up and checks his psi helmet just in case.

    Marquis Marc returns to Witchhunter, accompanied by Shark to find a DNA sample of Pat.
    As Shark is bagging his sample, Wulf arrives at the door and tells the Marquis he has something he should see.  The student leads the two of them to a lab in the module, where he indicates a screen with the feed from the Statue Room.
    There is a new statue of naked Pat.  Everything else is normal, including the earlier human statue.  The statue of Pat has not replaced one, it is definitely new.
    Shark smiles and says he'll let them decide whether to tell her or not.  He does note that the statue is exactly correct in all dimensions, which holds true to their model theory.  He returns to Nightshade.

    Back on his own ship, Shark asks if they saw the picture of Pat's statue.  Robert of course has picked it up from Witchhunter's computers.
    Kalida says that she's now an instance of intelligent species, soon to become extinct because there's only one of her.
    Shark points out that if she breeds, that may not be the case.  It'll be a human hybrid, but they won't know which is the dominant.  This seems a good time to check her DNA sample, so he goes off to check it.

    The results are interesting.  Her DNA has changed and is different, in interesting and strange ways.  It is outside the category that would be classed as "human" by the accepted Imperial standards.  She should, however, be able to interbreed.  She was definitely human before.
    An offhand remark by Robert prompts Shark to check if klatrin changes DNA -- he quickly determines that it does not.
    Shark speculates that this change might have adapted her to work in that environment better.  The rest of them don't handle multi-dimensional situations well, and Pat has presumably been altered so she can at least handle it.
    While he's thinking about it, he runs a brain scan of himself and confirms that the experience didn't change him too.
    Shark says that if she's going to breed, she'll produce a hybrid of herself and human.  Taking the organ out will just delay its appearance.  There will be a chance that the organ shows up in the next generation, although he can't tell with what probability.
    Now of course he could take a viable tissue sample and keep it for further research.  He is however concerned about taking it out.  Is this organ now a requirement for her survival, given her DNA has changed?
    Sir Misha agrees.  He does not believe they could safely remove it, unless they could change her DNA back, which Shark assures him they cannot do.
    On reflection, Shark too votes for leaving it in.  Wake her, monitor her, and tell her that the Strange Room is what changed her.  The crew agrees.
    Apparently that room has now been dubbed the Strange Room.

    It's late evening when Shark wakes up Pat.  He asks her if she remembers the last room she went into.
    "The strange one," she says.
    "Well, once Mich finally got us all out, you had severe internal injuries.  Using the medical supplies we had, I kept you sedated and we got you back to the ship, which is an adventure I will tell you about, completely different from getting there.  Anyway, you are on my ship, the Nightshade, we have better medical facilities here.  We have fixed you up, you were in a recuperative low berth, but you are basically well enough now to leave Sick Bay.  There are a few more surprises.  Why don't we get back to the Witchhunter, and we'll tell you about the rest of those there.  Your clothes are here, and I'll see you outside."
    When she comes out, Shark welcomes her to Nightshade, the Marchioness's yacht.  He walks her out of the ship down the cargo lifts and across to Witchhunter.
    On the way over he says that one piece of news is a change to her medical condition, and she asks whether she wants to keep it private or not.  She does want it kept private, but of course Marquis Marc knows already, which Shark tells her.  The other one is a little more interesting, he says, and they'll show her on the monitor when she gets aboard.
    The first thing he shows her is her statue.  "You are now immortalized," he says.  "I'm not sure how you wish to report that or not.  Wulf said it just appeared.  It could have been hidden behind something else, of course, but it just appeared suddenly."
    Next Shark escorts her to the galley for a small meal, and then they visit the Marquis in his stateroom.
    Shark pulls up her medical files.  Then he points out her new organ.  He says, "You went into the Strange Room, came out, Mich went in to get the rest of us.  You followed him in.  He came out with everyone but you.  He went back and found you, apparently with some difficulty.  He brought you back, you were damaged -- I told you about that -- but I've been able to fix all of that.  And something was added, sometime between when the last scan was taken and when you came out of the Strange Room, this appeared and your DNA changed."
    "So," says Pat slowly, "You're saying I'm something else?"
    "I would say you're stronger, better, but I have no idea what that does.  Anyway, our theory about the statues is they're all the intelligent races encountered by the people that built this.  There's a new statue."
    "Oh."  Pat looks at Shark.  "Oh."
    "Yeah.  Well, um, you're the scientist, I'm merely a doctor, but usually the discoverer of things.. but I'll leave that to you guys to have the fun.  Homo pattius perhaps?"
    Pat says, "I'd like to keep this quiet for a while.  I don't mind the statue so much..."
    "Your colleagues are probably more intelligent than I am, so you might have to ask them for the favor.  I'm sorry I couldn't think of any better way of breaking it to you.  I'll check on you in the morning."
    With that, Shark returns to his ship.  He had expected her to freak or fall over and faint, but she took it much better than that.

    Back in Sick Bay, Shark examines the new DNA.  It's not on one of the sex chromomes, but she carries the new genes on both copies of the chromosomes, so she will pass it on.  He wonders idly about keeping her on Nightshade, but it's not like she's a pilot -- she's purely research staff.

209-1123 : Victoria / Lanth / Spinward Marches

    Over breakfast, Kalida asks when the statue first appeared.  The data from the cameras indicate it appeared no later than nine hours after they left the Strange Room.
    Shark is not sure that scans will get them anything.  This technology clearly could put a room in the center of a moon.  He adds that Marquis Marc's theory that Albert is hollow is certainly possible -- either that, or it's just not in this dimension.  Active scans are definitely worth a try, as they should show useful information.
    He looks up and says that as soon as they have done the scans, they can leave for Regina.  They can pick up their cook, and then they have six systems to explore.
    After a short discussion, everyone is agreed that there is little more they need to learn here from expeditions into the base.  Marquis Marc has all the information he needs, except for what they can obtain from scans with Nightshade.
    Sir Misha suggests asking Marquis Marc if there's anything more he needs from them.
    Shark says they should tell him about the people on Goose who teleported.  He answers Sir Misha's next question by agreeing that he doesn't have any particular rights to Nightshade's logs.  On the other hand, he was there the first time they went to Goose, so he should have that.  Also the information on Lap'da and distance warping, he would have been there for that.
    Sir Misha proposes they should make logs containing things the Marquis might be interesting to him, available to him.  All are agreed.  Robert will pull that information out and they will present it to the Marquis.
    As for their next destination, Shark points out that a jump-6 straight coreward will take them to Dinom.  That is as good a system on the way to Regina as any.

    Marquis Marc delivers Kalida's lesson plan, quietly and privately, making sure Mich is nowhere around.  He wishes her luck, and asks her to send him her progress reports.  Based on those reports, he'll tweak the program and help her along.

    They run active scans all morning, but they are not helpful.  Nothing shows up on them -- or, rather, they show normal rock there.  That includes Room Zero, which is just through a plain door  This prompts questions about how things would look if they were in an alternate dimension -- are those rooms in their dimensional space, or good cloaking?  And if they aren't in the same dimensional space, how could they be triangulating the draw from the flashlights?  Even the camera in Room Zero, transmitting out, isn't on the scan.
    Well, if it was a different dimension, that would explain the explosion -- a power draw across dimensions interfering with the dimensions in the room.
    "We knew that," says Mich, like it was obvious.  To him, perhaps, but it had clearly not occured to the rest of the crew.
    Shark would love to have some way to see if the new organ has an extra-dimensional component, but Mich can't help him there.

    As they prepare to leave, Kalida points out that Dinom is an interesting place.  There are some very large moons there, like Albert here.  It also has the only blue-white giant star in the Spinward Marches.
    Shark says it's probably an Amber Zone because there was a revolution 13 years ago.  The three main cities on the mainworld aren't getting on with each other, but it implies they're not actually fighting.

    The crew take a relaxed lunch, then head out to jump.  At 14:00 they enter jump to Dinom / Lanth.  They plan to arrive in stealth, so this will be a normal five and a half day jump.  They will be due to arrive at 02:00 on 215-1123.