Cylee and Agent

Sitting back against the wall in her latest hotel room (never stay still for more than eight hours in a strange place, one of her rules) and looked at the ceiling.

Cassandra’s offer was tempting. Cylee’s Pacifica Expeditionary Force Spine was an obvious reminder that she was from Pacifica, which made it harder to get treated normally. Also it was getting old and slow. But there was one other consideration.

Cylee: Agent, are you part of my Spine? Agent: We are not in your spine, or your Spine, by which you seem to mean the External Augmentation Controll and Co-ordination Device Mark 2.5 Cylee: Yeah, that’s what I mean. So…where are you? Agent: We don’t understand the question. Cylee: If you’re not part of my capital-S-Spine and you’re not in my actual spinal column…where are you? Are you just…in my blood? How do you talk to me through the HUD my Augments provide? Agent Ah. We are not entirely sure. We know that we can tap into your senses, and to some degree we can tap into the External Augmentation Controll and Co-ordination Device Mark 2.5 and modify its output to your nervous system. Cylee: Please just call it a “Spine”. The full name just takes up all of my vision. Agent: It is impossible for messages in the HUD to cross over your foveal cone, so they also cannot obscure your sense of sight. Cylee: Anyway you’re not always bad at nicknames. You always just call me “Cylee” instead of “Karen Ligaya Bodfish”. Agent: We have never referred to you by name. We haven’t ever seen a need.

Cylee did a quick search of her chat logs with the Agent….nope, no names.

Cylee: Huh. Listen, the point is… if I let Cassandra install a new Spine, will you be gone? Will you be unable to contact me any more, or will you be…dead… can you die? Also what are you???? Agent: We sense your unease through your ungrammatical use of punctuation. Also your heart rate and respiration are up 15% from resting, even though you are on a bed doing nothing other than this conversation. We do not believe we will be harmed or removed in the event of an upgrade to your…Spine. Cylee: Awwww, you abbreviated, just for me! So… If there were something…bad, in the new Spine, like, a tracker, would you be able to find it? Agent: We are unsure. We have not experienced any hardware besides the Spine you are currently using. But we believe we would be able to comprehend and correct the software in any device that is attached in this way. We have access to all systems and storage in your current Spine, and we see no reason why a new Spine would be any different. Cylee: So you think I should take the job and get the new Spine. Agent: We are unsure what we said that made you think we made a recommendation. Cylee: You always say that.

The Agent. When Cylee had been drafted into the Pacifica Expeditionary Force they installed a Spine and then told her to learn how to use it. Over the next few months they had installed other Augments, like the “Third Eye” sensor array on her forehead, just below her hairline, and the “Trigger finger” connections that let her tie smart weapons into her Augment array. Somewhere in the middle of all of this she found that her Augment system was giving her more information than she was asking for, responding more naturally to her surroundings. She had assumed that was simply the machine learning in the Spine getting better at its job. It wasn’t until a few years after the War had ended that she realized the level of assistance she got from her Spine was above and beyond what anyone else got, even though the hardware was ancient.

Cylee shifted a little and, for the first time in years paid attention to the feeling. The Spine was ten interlocking sections—which her instructors had called “cells” for some reason—running down her actual spinal column, but external to her skin. She still shuddered a little when she remembered the surgery where they installed the contact points…

The Spine was always slightly warm against her back, and sitting in chairs had been painful for a while, then just slightly awkward, and then just part of life. It bent and moved with her, but not perfectly. She had gotten used to it, of course, and part of her training in the PEF had been focused on maintaining full combat mobility with a Spine. She wonders what a new Spine would feel like. Would it be hotter, if it had better processing power? She could tell when the Spine was working hard because the cell nearest her neck would get warmer. When she charged it the cell nearest her tailbone warmed up, so she guessed the batteries were in that cell. Would a new Spine require new contact points? She wasn’t sure going through that again would be worth it.

Cylee sighed. The only way to get an answer to these questions is to contact that doctor. She pulled up the contact info. Tamara Patel.

Cylee: Dr. Patel? This is Cylee; I had a “meeting” with Cassandra earlier and she told me to contact you about a new Spine. Dr. Patel: Oh yes! Ms. Vance told me you might be reaching out, and yes, we do have a new Spine if you’re interested in taking the job. And…it’s not my place, really, but allow me to apologize for Ms. Vance’s choice in recruitment methods. I was against it from the beginning. Too stressful, too illegal…but nobody ever listens to the doctor. Cylee: I guess I should just be glad that the team medic wasn’t the one who planned that whole thing. Dr. Patel: Can you imagine? Well, you probably can, at that. Anyway, how can I help? Cylee: I guess. Listen, I have some questions I’d like to ask, but it’ll take too long this way. Can I come talk to you in person? Dr. Patel: Of course! I’m currently setting up my office, but I have more than enough time to talk to my first patient in this location. Well, second…but Howard wasn’t actually all that injured. Cylee: Sorry about that, I guess. Dr. Patel: Sorry for protecting yourself and trying to disable a captor without killing him? Next time go for the throat, Cylee. At any rate, don’t apologize. Also, yes, you can come by any time, same building as…before. Cylee: Thank you, Doctor Patel. Dr. Patel: Of course!