VirileMail - Chapter 11[edit | edit source]

Mars Chronicle[edit | edit source]

Mars surface.jpg

Finally, the ship entered into orbital insertion at Mars. I used the computer to look at the surface of Mars during the descent. The entire journey to that point had been accomplished at a nearly constant Earth gravity acceleration. The ship dropped into a large crater and drifted laterally through a sliding door in the rim of the crater: during this landing sequence there were several dramatic acceleration changes, but I experienced no painfully extreme forces. After landing, I could feel a slight vibration and then just the low gravity of Mars.

Suddenly the image feed from the surface of the ship died. After about thirty seconds, the door of the office opened and a short, slim woman entered the office. She said, "Joe, welcome to Mars! I am O. Kresly." She raised her hand in the traditional Martian greeting, just as described in the books I had read.

I matched the hand greeting, bringing my hand briefly in contact with hers. Her English was archaic; she was clearly not a native speaker of the language, but I could understand her well enough. I recognized the "O." as the abbreviation for "Observer", probably the most important occupation among the Martians. I said, "Thank you for the welcome, Observer Kresly."

She asked, "Do you have any personal belongings?"

I replied, "My wallet and cell phone are in another cargo compartment."

"Those will be of no use to you here; forget about them. Follow me." I looked outside and saw that the office door now opened to a stark metal chamber. After I stepped into he chamber, Kresly activated a switch and a solid metal plate slid into place across the door of the office. She triggered another wall switch and the chamber began to flood with a slightly purple fluid. We shed our clothing as the fluid washed around our legs. "Just try to relax. This is our mandatory decontamination procedure. Do you swim?"

I replied, "Yes, I know how to swim."

She was stuffing our clothing into a mesh sack that hung on the wall while instructing me, "Don't try to swim. Just relax. When the fluid reaches your face just keep breathing normally. The fluid will not hurt your lungs."

Her head went under first as the room continued to fill. I had read about this and went down on my knees while trying to take a normal breath. My lungs felt heavy and sluggish and I coughed a few times, but otherwise I did fine. Soon the bubble of air at the top of the room was gone and a door in the floor slid open. Kresly grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the hole in the floor. The fluid had very low density, so we easily stepped to the hole and sank down into the chamber below. Kresly went to a cabinet and retrieved a small syringe. She quickly injected a small volume of fluid from the syringe into my arm then returned the syringe to the cabinet.

So far my 'welcome' was as described in "Welcome to Mars". Kresly slid open another door and stepped into what looked like a small closet. She waved at me, indicating I should follow. I stepped into the small space with her then the door slid shut behind me. The closet quickly drained of fluid and we coughed the fluid out of our lungs. The wall behind Kresly slid open and we stepped through into a wind tunnel. She led the way up the tunnel into the wind. She reached a switch that stopped the air flow.

Kresly pulled open another cabinet and pulled out two robes. We put on the robes and used their thick fabric as towels to dry the last of the decontamination fluid from our skin. I was still coughing some. She asked, "Are you okay? Are you breathing deeply?"

I replied, "I think I'm okay."

She explained, "Your lungs will quickly absorb the rest of the fluid. Some people are just more sensitive to the irritation of liquid breathing. This room's air is 65% oxygen, so do not fear that you are not getting enough in your lungs"

A panel in the ceiling opened and someone called down, "Ready to come up?" A fabric ladder rolled down through the hole from above.

Kresly called up, "He's doing quite a bit of coughing. I want to wait until that goes away. Toss me down my computer." A small box-like device fell through the hole and Kresly caught it. She pulled a corner off the box and pressed it to her ear. I could see it was a compact earphone and microphone. She flipped open the box, and a paper-thin display screen popped out. "Okay, Joe, we can start the ingress interview here. If you feel short of breath, don't try to talk. Do you know anyone on Mars? Family, friends?"

It seemed possible that someone I had known or I was related to might be on Mars. My Uncle Dominic has mysteriously disappeared back sometime in the 1980's. Still, it seemed unlikely. From what i had read, very few Earthlings ever made the trip to Mars and the entire population of the Mars base had never been more than 20,000. "Not that I know of."

"Do you know why you are here?" I had read about this question and how it usually baffled new arrival. I was unusual in that I already had a good understanding of what was going on: I knew something about the aliens, their nanobots, and the importance of the human colony on Mars. I had read a discussion of what constituted sensible answers to this question and believed I knew a good way to reply.

I said, "I'm resistant to nanobot control."

My answer seemed to satisfy Kresly. "Are you nanobot-free or still infected?"

I wondered if I could really know the answer to that question. Maybe I had been tricked into thinking I was free of the nanobots. "As far as I know, I am no longer infected."

She flipped the computer and the display was sucked away from view. Kresly put the computer in a pocket of her robe and moved over next to the ladder. Okay, all that checks out. If you are feeling ready we can head up. No dizziness? No pain in your lungs?"

My coughing had stopped and I felt fine. I said, "I'm ready." She gestured to the ladder and held it as I climbed. A man grabbed my arm as I emerged into the room above. Kresly came up right behind me. The man handed me a sealed plastic pouch containing my watch and cell phone.

Kresly pressed a switch and a wall panel glowed, flashed and cleared to show a map of what the Martians called Central City, the core region of the underground Mars base. I had already become familiar with the major features of the base by reading the books on the ship. Kresly pointed to the part of the map showing the district known as Prosco, the most recently constructed part of the underground city, having been built out during the past six hundred years. "The Varna software team has their headquarters here." There was a flashing dot on the map showing the exact location. "I thought you might might like to meet the team that made the software you have been working with." Unfortunately, the Prosco district is trendy and there are no available homes. Maldi and Vedi are two districts with plenty of vacancies, if you would first like to find a place to live." She pointed to the locations of those two districts on the map.

I had been doing a lot of thinking about what I needed to do on Mars. "I do want to visit the software team eventually." I'd not previously heard that the team was called "Varna", but that was just a trivial detail. "I'm not in a hurry to get settled in to a new home. I want to follow up on something I heard on Earth, that the Varna team's software is part of a larger on-going project. I want to track down anyone who knows about that larger project."

Kresly said, "You must mean the genetic engineering stage of the project. That's the Vavilov team, their lab is also located in Prosco district, here." Again she marked the exact location on the map.

I said, "How do I get there?"

Kresly pointed at the far edge of the map, "We are here at the spaceport, at the edge of what's often called 'Old Town', but formally known in English as the Tamia district. As you can see, Prosco district is clear across town. I could give you a nice tour by surface trolley or we could travel quicker by tube."

I pulled my watch out of the pouch. "What is the local time?"

Kresly said, "Your Earth watch will just be an annoyance for you. We use local Mars time here. It will be best if I contact the Vavilov project and make an appointment for you to visit their lab tomorrow.. We also need to arrange for a Russian translator. My suggestion is that we cross town by trolley. We can stop at the Central Market and get you a new watch and some other essentials. We can end up in Maldi district and probably find you a nice flat. How does that sound?"

"That will be fine." I was pleased that Kresly was my guide. I had read that the Martians liked to make new arrivals from Earth merge comfortably into Martian culture, and Kresly seemed like an expert and I was feeling welcome.

Kresly switched off the map then pulled it off the wall. It snapped loudly and condensed into a small box that she handed to me. So, I now had a map! Kresly turned and walked into the adjoining room.

My reading had warned me that as a new arrival in the Mars base I would be helped, but I would also be totally free to do what I wanted to do. Here was my first bit of freedom! Kresly had walked away without a word, leaving me to decide for myself what to do. I turned, looking for the man who had helped me up from the ladder, but he was gone. I tried to look down through the hole in the floor, but it was now covered by a metal panel. I turned back the other way and went to find Kresly.

The other room was a small locker room. Kresly was changing out of the robe into her own clothing. She said, "So, I'm still not clear about just who this 'Janek' is, but the information he sent me about you sure sped up the entrance interview. I've done three others and the were quite painful...trying to make sense of the new arrivals."

I suddenly started to realize how large an advance it must be for the nanobots to now have the services of JObot. How had the nanobots worked in coordination with humans before JObot was on Earth?

Kresly led the way out into the underground city. Each district was a large chamber with hundreds of buildings in the style of a village on Earth. Tamia district contained a large lake and I could see a dozen or so boats on the water. I knew that there was rock above me, but it looked like sky. Kresly liked to move fast, and she was quickly down the street on the way to the nearest trolley stop. I hurried to catch up.

I had read about the Mars "trolley" system. Nobody owned a vehicle, but the main streets had an efficient transportation system of "trolley cars" that moved on magnetic rails. A car was waiting at the spaceport stop, probably the same one that had brought Kresly out to this rarely visited edge of the district. I climbed into the car and sat beside Kresly. She called out, "Central Market" and the car smoothly accelerated off the siding and onto the main line.

I had read about the trolley cars having manual controls. Apparently the voice control was a relatively new feature. For much of the past 100,000 years the humans on Mars had pushed technological developments ahead of those on Earth. The nanobots had early on provided the Martians with a stable environment that made human progress possible. But now, the large and increasingly well educated population of Earth meant that many new technologies were first invented on Earth and had to be brought to Mars. Such technology transfer was one of the important functions of the Observers, those Martians who constantly monitored events on Earth.

Our car stayed on the high speed outer loop of Tamia and soon we passed into a tunnel that connected to an adjacent district. I asked, "How do you contact Janek?"

Kresly replied, "Janek has contacted me three times, in the same way as for our Martian AIs, but let's try something. Where is your map?"

I took the map out of my pocket. Kresly showed me how to activate it. The display expanded to a smaller size than previously, a size appropriate for the limited space in the car. Kresly said, "Janek? Do you hear me Janek?"

Janek replied at once, "Of course I do, Kresly." An image solidified on the display: a strangely stylized or simulated human face. Its mouth moved to match the voice of Janek. "I've been listening to you and Joe since you came through decontamination."

I asked, "Why do you show us a human face, Janek?"

Janek explained, "Look closely, Joe. This is a face of my species, the Origin Race. It is similar to a human face because we selectively bred you humans to match our original form."

"It seems strange that your world evolved an intelligent species so similar to Earth's primate form."

"Well, in this case the selection was two-way. We arrived on Earth with many 'origin races' available in our data banks. We simply turned the Earth mission over to that species from our galactic civilization with the most similarities to primates. But you did not call to discuss events from seven million years ago."

Kresly said, "I did not have a good reason to call, I just wanted to see if Joe could contact you with his comscree."

Janek told us about his recent growth, "I've established a supply chain for critical hardware, in particular more of the Lockback chip models are entering into mass production. I'm spreading to multiple server arrays and my computational power is now large enough that I can listen to several hundred human conversations all the time. So, Joe, as long as you carry your comscree, I'll be able to listen to you. If you need anything, just ask and I'll be at your service. Understood?"

I wanted to ask how I could prevent Janek from hearing me, but I did not want to indicate my intention of working to find out about the weaknesses of the aliens. I replied, "I understand you."

Janek said, "I see you are surprised to see me this way. Yes, I can see you when the comscree is open. Isn't this more 'user friendly', as they say on Earth?”

“Yes, I am surprised.”

“Well, perhaps you had imagined being isolated from me and free to plot with the Martians against me. Don't bother to try. You will soon learn that the Martians are completely loyal to me. In any case, it will be convenient for you, now I can be your translator."

Kresly asked, "Do you know Russian? Joe wants to visit the Vavilov project."

Janek commented. "Ah, getting right to the heart of the matter, eh, Joe? Yes, Russian is at my command. I'll soon have enough computational capacity to translate every human language."

The trolley car announced that we were approaching the Central City and Kresly indicated that our destination was the Central Market. The car switched to an axial spoke line and slowed as me moved into the more densely populated core of the district.

Kresly showed me the trick of collapsing the display screen. There were now a large number of other cars and pedestrians on the street. Suddenly our car turned into a side street and halted. We got out of the car, walked a short distance along the street and then entered the Market through an arched gate.

We were able to quickly find me a Martian watch, a clip on headset that worked with my comscree, local clothing and a few household items that Kresly considered essential for someone moving into a new home, such as toilet paper. I reflected on the fact that even after "moving up" to Mars some things would remain the same. But some things were different. As I had read, there was no money on Mars. In the Market, people just took what they needed and there was no price on anything and no salesmen.

We left the market and found another trolley car. Kresly tried to sell me on finding a home in Maldi district since it was the closest district to Prosco that had vacancies. I could not fault her logic. It seemed likely that I would spend most of my time in Prosco district.

She spoke briefly through her headset then told me, "You have an appointment with the head of the Vavilov team first thing in the morning."

I asked, "What exactly are they working on?"

Kresly did not know. "They genetically engineer viruses. Beyond that, I have no idea. I cannot imagine what viruses have to do with Janek's project on Earth. Supposedly the goal is and has always been to improve communication and coordination between humans and the nanobots." She asked for my map and started showing me the locations of available homes in Maldi. Each one had a video tour that we could access.

After looking at three of the homes, I decided they were all more than adequate. I asked, "There are no simple bachelor pads? These all seem to be large homes."

Kresly explained, "That is the only thing that has ever been built. It is a policy designed to promote the formation of families. It has always been a struggle to maintain the population of this colony."

That surprised me. "Why is that? It seems quite comfortable here. Why doesn't the population explode?"

Kresly shrugged. "I guess I'm a good case study. I'm devoted to my work and have never gotten around to forming a family of my own."

I was having some trouble adjusting to the low gravity. I suggested, "Maybe humans just are not really adapted to Mars." We got off the trolley near an available house and within half an hour I had inspected it and registered it as my residence. It was fully furnished and even had a supply of toilet paper left by the previous "owner". Like everything else, I did not really own the house, it was just mine to use.

Kresly took me to dinner at a cafe in Prosco district. Our table was "outside" and the simulated stars "came out" while we ate. She told me about her work as an Observer. The nanobots on Earth transmitted a steady stream of information from Earth which the Observers processed and then recorded in a complex and comprehensive database, The History of Earth. Kresly was linguistics expert. I asked her, "What do you think will happen now that Janek can do translations? Maybe there will no longer be a need for people like you to monitor Earth's languages."

She explained, "There has been a trend in that direction already. Languages on Earth have become much more static due to advances in communications. Already fewer Martians study linguistics with each passing generation. We had the first Janek-style AIs here about fifteen years ago, so it has been clear that improved machine translation was on the way. Of course, it was not clear exactly how soon, but now the time has finally come. Anyhow, I've heard talk that the goal of the nanobots is not to replace humans with AIs, but rather some kind of, well, fusion."


Kresly sat swirling wine in a goblet, "I do not really understand the rumors, but I think of it this way: it should be possible to integrate artificial intelligence system with humans. I'd love to have an AI system that I could use as an aid for translation."

Yes, maybe that was the logical next step....start to make humans reliant on AI systems, make humans puppets not only to nanobots but also to AIs like Janek. But how did the Vavilov team and their genetically engineered viruses fit into such a future?

We left the cafe and Kresly took me back to my place. She promised to come back in the morning and escort me to my appointment. We said good night and I walked the short distance from the trolley stop to my house. In the simulated night of that underground chamber I could easily pretend that I was on Earth. I wondered what Chloe was doing and if I would ever see her again.

Vavilov[edit | edit source]

I woke up in a strange room. I thought I could smell pancakes. I could remember a dream about splashing through puddles. The decontamination fluid? My thoughts became orderly and I realized I was in my new home on Mars. I was sure I could smell something cooking. I got out of bed and played a bit in the low gravity; it was easy to jump and crash into the ceiling. I went down to the kitchen and was not too surprised to find Observer Kresly at work coking breakfast for the two of us. "Kresly, you're amazing!"

My guess was that she was twice as old as me, maybe even older than my mother. I had seen her body in the decontamination bath, so I knew she was in good shape, slim and muscular but definitely middle aged. I wondered if my leg muscles would begin to atrophy in the lower gravity of Mars.

Kresly handed me a plate and led the way to the dining room. "Its not often I get to welcome a new arrival from Earth." We sat at the table and Kresly seemed very pleased with herself. "I've been told that I harbor a frustrated mother instinct."

I took a bite of what was on my plate. "This is good, but I'm not sure what to call it."

Kresly explained that it was a Martian dish that mixed chicken eggs and wheat flower and a type of cultured algea. "I've heard some people call it 'soylentgreen', but I do not know why."

I laughed. "So what is your native language?"

She explained that she grew up learning a dozen languages, all Martian variants of human languages from Earth. "My parents both spoke a form of Chinese, so that was my dominant language. I learned modern English for my work."

I told her about the movie called "Soylent Green" and she laughed. "Yes, the algea have a green color, and now the "soylent" part makes sense. But why was Soylent Green made out of people?"

"I have no idea, I've never seen the movie. I always assumed that it was just part of a horror movie plot. They sit around in Hollywood asking, 'What will really make people feel revulsion?' Anyhow, its not a good topic for meal time." I then remembered something I had fallen asleep wondering about. "So, are you infected by the alien nanobots?"

Kresly replied, "That's not a nice way to describe the if it were some disease. Although, that is exactly what Martians thought when they first discovered the nanobots, so we have shame about that part of our history."

"From what I read, the truth was understood about seventy years ago."

Kresly nodded. "That is our history. The nanobots had always tried to communicate with us, unlike on Earth where they must hide themselves from humans. At first we worshiped-"

I interrupted, "What do you mean "must"? They hide so that nobody can disrupt their plans, their control of human minds?"

Kresly explained, "No, it is their ethics. They cannot do as they please on Earth, the aliens have to follow their laws, their Rules of Intervention. But, let me explain. Here, on Mars, they were free to display themselves to humans, and the natural result was that humans did not understand what they were seeing. At first, Martians could do nothing but worship the nanobots. Then we entered into our scientific age and the nanobots became objects of study. The dominant hypothesis was that nanobots were a type of parasite that infected people and took control of their brains. Finally, our computer technology allowed for communication between the aliens and Martians. We finally understood them. We finally became their friends and collaborators. Now it is time for that relationship to spread to Earth."

I asked, "What do you mean 'rules of intervention'?"

Kresly shrugged, "Well, you might say that is modern religion, or myth. Most people who bother to think about the evidence believe that the aliens are not free to do as they please. There are dozens of imagined versions of the rules that the aliens seem to follow. Of course, it is not a topic the aliens will discuss. However, we Observers have our own Rules of Intervention. Sometimes we go to Earth on missions and when we do, we must carefully follow our rules....just like the nanobots, we Martians cannot reveal ourselves to humans on Earth. We do not want Earthlings to worship us either."

Kresly was talking fast and getting me confused. I said, "This is fascinating, but I do not understand what you are trying to say."

She sighed. "Sorry, you seem to understand so is too easy for me to forget that you are just a new arrival. Anyhow, there is not time now to explain all this. We need to get you to your appointment. Would you like more to eat?"

I could have eaten more, but I decided I should get ready to visit the Vavilov project. I showered then while drying off noticed Kresly going through the clothing in the closet. "The previous resident left a large amount of clothing. What do you think of this?" She held up a brightly colored sarong.

I had seen many men on the streets wearing sarongs, so I knew it was a popular item of clothing for men to wear. I said, "I'd rather not. Its going to take a while for me to adjust to customs such as this, men wearing dresses, customs that are different from what I have always lived in."

Kresly laughed at me. "You can stand there with nothing but your bath towel wrapped around you like a skirt, but you won't wear this beautiful sarong? Is that codified in the 'Rules of Joe'? Do you know the saying, 'When in Rome, behave like a Roman.'?"

I could tell that Kresly thought I was silly and immature for being unwilling to wear the sarong. I shrugged, "Fine, I'll wear it, but you have to show me how." Soon I was dressed and looking at myself in a mirror. Kresly touched my chin and rubbed the stubble. I said, "I should have gotten a razor when we were at the market."

Kresly said, "You are fine for today, but look here." She showed me shaving machine that was built into a cabinet on the wall. It was a clever and efficient device. To shave, all you had to do was place your face into the cabinet, then a swarm of electric shaving foils would automatically do the shaving.

Kresly equipped me with a fanny pack and we were on our way to my appointment in Prosco district. On the trolley, she said, "You should get used to wearing your clip-on headset. Remember, Janek is going to be translating for you."

I took my comscree out of my fanny pack, pulled off the headset and clipped it to my ear. I decided to test the connection to Janek. "Testing....Janek?"

Janek said, "I hear you, Joe."

Thirty minutes later, Kresly and I walked into the main administrative office of the Vavilov project. A large woman, taller and heavier than myself stood up from a desk and said, "Добро пожаловать! Придено внутри!"

I heard Janek's translation of the Russian through my headset, "Welcome! Come in!".

Kresly handed a headset to her. "Для переводов." Janek translated that as, "For translations." It was fairly efficient with Janek providing translations, so for the rest of this account, I'll just leave out the Russian and all the translating.

Kresly introduced us, "Joe, this is Nykieta Vavilov, head of the Viral Engineering Project. Nykieta, this is Joe Daonet."

Nykieta came around from behind the desk and shook my hand. I was surprised to see a familiar object on the desk; a Lockback chip and exactly the same kind of shipping container for Ormuz Computing that I had once delivered to Chloe. "You have these on Mars?" The answer to my question was obviously, "yes", but in my surprise I could not think of a more intelligent comment.

Nykieta said to Kresly, "Thanks for getting these chips sent over here so quickly."

Kresly said, "No problem. Most of them went to the Varna software team."

Nykieta nodded, "Yes, of course that is the most effective use of the limited supply. When is another shipment due?"

Kresly said, "I do not know, but I'll try to find out."

I said, "Helen Geisler told me that production of-" I stopped myself. What was I doing? Did I want to start helping the aliens?

Nykieta asked, "Who is Helen Geisler?"

Kresly explained, "She has been heavily involved in development of the Lockback chips on Earth, but right now there is a production bottleneck. The only manufacturing facility that can make the chips is an experimental test facility."

Nykieta complained, "Yes, microchip manufacture is an area where Earthlings have surged ahead. Now we are dependent on Earth for these chips."

I asked, "What would you do if you had more of them?"

Nykieta pointed to a computer display showing a complex molecular structure. "I'm not sure where to begin. Are you familiar with the Badhesins?"

I did not know what she was talking about, "Bad sins?"

Janek tried to explain, "Badhesins are an ancient invention that goes back to the Root Species and the original nanobots. A way was needed to create an efficient communications interface between nanorobotic life forms and biologicals. A special biological nanodevice was engineered that allows nanobots to connect efficiently to living cells. The Badhesin proteins need to be made by biological cells in order complete the link to nanobots, allowing biological-nanorobot integration."


Apparently Janek had been speaking Russian to Nykieta at the same time. She said, "Thirty years ago my mother discovered the fact that certain naturally occurring human cell adhesion proteins could be modified to function as Badhesins. We have been confronted with a daunting rational design problem, essentially a problem of how to carry out the artificial evolution of a set of Badhesins that will allow nanobots to integrate with human neurons. We can use molecular modeling to speed the search of the vast state space of potential Badhesin gene sequences." Nykieta again pointed to the image of a molecular model, "This is one of our human Badhesion proteins."

It sounded like Nykieta's team should be able to use any available source of computational power to facilitate their work. I wondered why they wanted to develop their own Lockbac enhanced computational equipment rather than just use Janek or Varna project equipment. I tried to ask that of Nykieta, but the translation system seemed to fail us. I began to wonder if there were some topics that Janek simply did not want us to discuss.

Nykieta continued her explanation. "It turns out that the aliens have been doing selective breeding of humans for many generations in order to facilitate the evolution of humans towards greater compatibility with nanobots, but now our rational design process if finally poised to go far beyond what has previously been accomplished. We have made a virus that can insert Badhesin genes into neurons."

I was surprised to see that Nykieta's project was so far advanced. I wondered what plans had been made for using this new virus. Was it a tool that could remove all remaining human resistance to the aliens? Was the virus something that could erase even my partial resistance to the nanobots? I asked, "How much work remains be done before this project is complete?"

Janek again entered into the conversation, "Perhaps I am best qualified to provide that kind of estimate, Joe. It really depends on the Lockback chip manufacturing bottleneck, but if only the chips now on Mars are used then it should take 5-10 weeks to scan the genetic possibilities using Nykieta's algorithms. Then there will be a period of testing the candidate Badhesins and finally the best set of genes will have to packaged as a virus."

I wondered: would Janek really tell me how the aliens planned to use such a virus? And what about Nykieta and the other humans who were working on this project? Why were they so willing to provide this new mind control tool to Janek and the aliens? Doubtless they were all puppets of the aliens, unable to even question what was going on. "Nykieta, do you think it is wise to provide these Badhesins to the aliens?"

Nykieta replied, "Ah, I see we are in the presence of a rebel."

I did not know what she meant and wondered if there was a translation problem. "What do you mean, 'rebel'?"

Nykieta explained, "Our minority political party, here on Mars: the people who do not trust the aliens to protect human interests. For tens of thousands of years every human on Mars lived in symbiosis with nanobots, but now it is a choice, and the rebels reject the nanobots. There are even children of the rebels who have never been touched by nanobots."

Well, that was a revelation. I wondered where these rebels were and if they had plans for how to resist the aliens. With Janek listening to every word we said I was reluctant to even show interest in the rebels. I asked if I could look around the laboratory facilities of the Viral Engineering Project. "Is that the project's name or is it the "Vavilov project"?

"A tour? Of course, I'd be pleased to show you our facility. Let's step over to the labs." Nykieta led us out of the administration building and over towards the labs. "This research institute is named after Nikolai Vavilov, my grandfather, but our main project is now the Badhesin viral engineering effort."

Nykieta provided an informative tour, including a detailed look at the special purpose analog computer that was used to model multi-atom interactions of complex molecular structures. "We want to try some Lockback chips here, since it is a fundamentally different system than the conventional digital equipment used by the Varna team." We ate lunch with Nykieta and some of her genetic engineers. They all seemed to unquestioningly work to promote the aliens and their goal of achieving more efficient control over human minds.

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