Brave New WorldEdit
May 10, 2005
Scully looks at herself in the mirror and thinks, "My butt has not looked this good for twenty years." With the low gravity of the Moon, her body has been reshaping itself for the past month, under the guidance of the amazing nutraceuticals available on the Moon. Scully had been worried about bone and muscle atrophy that should occur in people living under the low gravity conditions of the Moon. She has learned that those problems were routinely averted by a cocktail of drugs that stimulate bone and muscle strength. After a month of taking these drugs, Dana has never felt more fit. She looks at her rippling muscles in the mirror.
Dana chuckles to herself. Month. She realizes that she has orbited the Earth once now and wonders where the time has gone. She leaps high in the air, almost hits her head on the high ceiling, and completes a half dozen axial rotations before landing on the floor. She has been like a kid in a toy store, learning about all of the high tech gizmos known to the Lunatics and adapting well to life on the Moon.
Scully now has her own research lab and her own house and she has been learning about the people who populate this underground Lunar city. Most of them do not concern themselves at all with Earth. Many are artists and Scully is still trying to understand the many novel art forms that are popular on the Moon but unknown to Earth. Some of these involve the sophisticated and ubiquitous computers that are natural components of everything in this world. Dana says, "Mirror, mirror, who's the fairest?"
The computer-generated personality that is an integral part of her dressing room replies, "Current dating service polls rank Jenni Detrin of South Park as the fairest of them all."
Scully titters and can't resist a peek. Show me a picture of her." A holographic projection of Jenni Detrin appears beside Scully. Jenni looks to be in her late teens and is shown wearing what looks like some kind of uniform; by Earth standards maybe a stewardess uniform for a 1950's airline. Scully knows that this is a popular current fashion for the Lunar city's young ladies. The holographic image says, "Hello, Dana."
Dana is still a bit nervous talking to such simulations. "You are cute. Do you have a boy friend?"
Another projected simulation appears beside Jenni: a young man with cheerful good looks. The simulated Jenni says, "This is Rani Umahrto, my current partner." Then unexpectedly, "Hey, I saw you on the Earth Report. You're a new immigrant!"
Scully has learned that not many people come up from Earth and get to integrate into Lunar society and that as one of these select few, she is a minor celebrity. The Rani simulation asks, "How are you adapting to life on the Moon?"
Scully realizes that she is a little irked with herself for being so happy on the Moon. Whole days now go by with hardly a thought of Earth; she has been too busy learning about the amazing advanced medical knowledge available on the Moon. Dana has been trying to formulate a plan that would eventually get her back to Earth so she could share some of what she has learned.
The Jenni simulation asks, "Did you leave someone special behind on Earth?"
Scully shouts at the dressing room computer, "Shut them off!"
The simulation images evaporate. The dressing room computer says, "They're just simulations. No point in getting mad at them."
Scully finishes getting dressed. "What about you? Are you just one of these simulated personalities?"
The voice of the dressing room computer sounds hurt. "I'm an autonomous mind. I'm pleased to be your dressing room expert."
Scully leaves the dressing room, walks through her luxurious bedroom, down a hall, down a flight of stairs, down another hall and into the living room of her house. What looks like Mulder is sitting in a chair watching a holographic simulation of a baseball game and drinking a beer. Scully thinks to herself- this has got to be the biggest mistake of my life.
The Mulder robot springs to his feet, turns his baseball cap around to point backwards and sweeps Scully up in his arms. She thinks- well, he is a great kisser. She pushes her way free from the robot's grasp and says, "I'm going out," and turns to leave.
The Mulder robot says, "Why don't you ever take me out?"
Scully stops in her tracks and slowly turns around. "I can't believe you said that."
The robot shrugs. "I could make you very happy, Dana."
Dana looks at the ring on her right index finger and twists a small lever protruding from it. The Mulder robot shuts off. She says to the room computer, "I want this thing gone when I get back. And if I ever start talking about making another, remind me how much I came to hate this one." She turns and strides out the front door of her house.
Dana lives in a part of the underground city known as Aventine. The individual dwellings are mostly under the ground level. The ground level resembles a garden with paths for walking. Dana looks up at the simulated sky; today it is pink. Every day the residents can vote for the sky color of the day.
Dana starts to skip down a path and soon each leap sends her flying high into the air. The sensation of near-flight that is possible on the Moon is possibly her favorite part of living here. As her spirits lift with each leap she tells herself that she was correct, as a scientist, to experiment with the available robots. But she has learned that it is a mistake to try to simulate a real person. Rather than satisfy a longing, it just magnifies the absence.
She reaches the entrance to the local Lezaro and enters by going down the stairs. Scully has learned that most of the many habitation domes of the city have a Lezaro, a sort of combination art gallery and bar. She goes to the section of the Lezaro that resembles a sidewalk cafe, or maybe what a sidewalk cafe might be like on Titan. A robot worker shows her to her favorite table and takes her order.
Scully looks around and recognizes many of the patrons. Her eyes keep drifting back to a new woman who seems to be watching Dana. Dana judges the woman to be approximately 30 years old, but she has learned that many anti-aging technologies are used on the Moon and residents are often much older than they look. The robot brings Dana her meal and inclines its head towards the woman who has been glancing at Dana. The robot says, "Her name is Roberta Lincoln, and she would like to join you for dinner."
Rather than just glancing, Dana now stares at the woman. They exchange small nods of their heads. Dana decides that the woman chooses to show the world a rather conventional good looks, somewhat out of fashion for this Lunar city where all manner of exotic personal looks are crafted and displayed by the residents. Dana tells the robot, "Very well, invite her over."
Roberta comes over to Scully's table and introduces herself to Dana. The robot brings Roberta's dinner over and the two women settle down to eating. The first thing Roberta does is drop her spoon on the floor. The robot server is there instantly with a new spoon. Dana asks, "You do not seem to be from around here, are you from Earth?"
Roberta dribbles some soup down her chin and nods, "Yes, that's why I want to talk to you. I was told that you are also a recent immigrant." Dana is intrigued by the sound of Roberta's voice- it could be that of a teenager.
Scully says, "I prefer the term 'visitor', I never agreed to stay here forever." Dana plops another shrimp in her mouth. She has learned that most of the food is some sort of synthetic combination of bacteria and insect ingredients, but she does not care, it smells, tastes, and crunches wonderfully. Dana has to admit that she will miss the food when she returns to Earth.
Roberta picks up the huge crystal cylinder holding her blueberry milk shake, puts it to her lips, guzzles some down, and looks at Scully without removing the pale blue milk mustache from her upper lip. "The longer you stay the harder it will be to ever go back. Do you ever think about going back? I do all the time. Sure, it is fun here, and these robots are wild! I mean, I wonder if I'll ever find a real man who can do it half as good. But still, I just have to get back to Earth." After that machine gun-speed prattle Roberta falls silent and rests her chin in the palm of one hand and looks at Dana with what strikes Scully as contrived gravity. Roberta's thin pink tongue makes half a dozen sorties out to clear the cream off of her lip, seemingly without Roberta being consciously aware of it. Dana can't keep from laughing. Roberta asks, "What's so funny?"
Dana tries to explain, "You are looking at me like I'm a laboratory specimen."
Roberta grins and now tries to treat Scully like an old friend. "Yes, I'm a scientist like you. We have much in common. I feel like I can read your mind, like I know you very well, Dana." She extends her index finger along side her delicate nose and tilts her head to one side, "But I need to know if I can really trust you."
Scully sits back and sips her wine. She is vastly amused by Roberta. Scully can't remember ever having met a scientist who seemed so- ditsy. Scully tries to rewind and start the conversation over. "How did you come to be here on the Moon?"
Roberta proceeds to tell Dana her life story. Half an hour later Dana needs to pee and Roberta is just getting into telling the story of her college years. Roberta pauses to take a huge bite of chocolate cream pie, giving Dana a chance to ask, "But Roberta, what brought you to the Moon?"
Roberta takes a sip of coffee and seems to realize how far she has wandered from where even she wanted the conversation to go. Dana wonders- is she blushing? Roberta collects her wits, such as they are, and asks, "Do you follow the Earth News?"
This is an around the clock news service that never really mentions Earth. It covers what might be called Earth-related gossip and works of art that purport to depict the culture of Earth- almost entirely fantasy concoctions by Lunar residents. The Earth News also tries to intrude in the personal lives of new immigrants from Earth and report on how they adapt to life on the Moon; thus the 'Earth Report', mentioned earlier by Jenni. "I've seen it and find it shallow and offensive."
Roberta giggles like a school girl. After thirty seconds she has regained enough control to talk again. "I'd love to hear them report that comment on the Earth News. Dana, you simply must give them an interview and slip that in." Roberta laughs again, dabs a small tear from her eye and asks, "What was I saying?"
Dana pleads, "Can you tell me how you came to be here on the Moon?"
Roberta replies, "Surely you know. It has dominated the news for the past week. I've seen myself on Earth News half a dozen times. The Floreana?" Dana looks at Roberta blankly. Roberta repeats herself with a jiggly shaking of her head, "The Floreaaaaanaaaaa?"
Scully is clueless. "Is that some sort of flower?"
Roberta throws her hands up in the air. "Really, Dana, you must have heard. The marine research ship Floreana? We were all brought up here together, the crew, all of the research staff."
Dana says, "Oooooh. Ya." Dana vaguely remembers having heard that a large group of people had been briefly brought up from Earth for memory restructuring. "I think I did hear something about that. I thought the crew was sent back to Earth?"
Roberta reaches across the table and puts a hand on top of Dana's. "They were. Everybody went back, except me."
Dana had long felt Roberta's story was heading towards this. Scully says, "Then we really do have something in common. But tell me, why you? Why did everyone go back except you?"
Roberta squeezes Dana's hand and says, "Maybe you can help explain it. I'm a marine biologist, so I do not understand what they told me, but they said that I'm a carrier of some virus, an alien virus, and they do not want me to go back to Earth."
Dana's head swirls with possibilities. Immediately she wants to bring Roberta into her laboratory for some tests, but Dana tells herself to slow down and be sure of the facts. "What sort of work were you doing on that research ship?"
Roberta winks at Dana. "If you want to call it work. Dr. Pernell just took the opportunity to have me to himself for a few weeks. His wife can be really nosy and it does get tiresome sneaking around behind her back all the time."
Dana's jaw nearly hits the table. She takes a sip of her tea and collects her thoughts. "You went along on the voyage so you could carry on an affair with a married man?"
Roberta nods. "Ya, that's the idea." Roberta notices the disapproval on Dana's face. "Hey, don't look at me like that. It was a vacation for me, alright. Anyhow, Dan, Dr. Pernell, he's been separated from his wife for five years."
Dana sighs. "So if you are a marine biologist but you were not working on that voyage, what sort of work do you do?"
Roberta explains, "I'm a taxonomist. I specialize in marine microorganism identification. I work at the same research institute with Dr. Pernell, but we're in different departments. He works on nudibranchs."
Scully asks, "Nude what?"
Roberta explains, "Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic sea slugs."
Scully now recognizes the term. Dana is surprised that Roberta can actually sound like a scientists when discussing biology. She asks, "Why did you say you have to get back to Earth? Do you have a family?"
Roberta replies, "No, I have nobody special to go back to. Dan is a fun guy, but it is clear I'll never be anything permanent for him. I think he's on a mission to sleep with every single woman at the Institute. Everyone jokes that....well, I don't want to repeat that sort of thing. It's just negative energy. Anyhow, I want to get back to my work. It's important, and nobody else can do it."
Scully is mystified by Roberta. One second she's a New Age twit and the next she's rattling off the scientific name of hermaphroditic sea slugs. Scully notices that even Roberta's tone of voice changes as she shifts between her two personalities. Scully can't imagine how Roberta could be so indispensable. Scully watches Roberta eating her way through a seemingly bottomless bowl of after dinner mints. Dana realizes that the foods are all very low calorie, but the smell of mint and the little 'sniks' of Roberta's teeth cutting through the mints is starting to make Dana feel ill. She excuses herself and empties her bladder.
Returning from the restroom, Dana finds that Roberta has finally stopped eating and is over looking at one of the props of the Lezaro, one of the robot artists that has set up a canvas and is painting Saturn as seen from a cloud-top city of Titan. Dana hears the robot say, "I lived there for a long time until the human space exploration program forced the closure of the cloud cities."
Roberta sees Scully and takes her arm. "There you are. You know, it is a bit tempting to forget about Earth. I would love to travel to another star. What a trip that would be!"
They stroll through some of the art galleries. Dana is aware that it is possible to travel to other space bases in the Solar System and even to other star systems. Dana changes the topic back to Earthly affairs. "What is it that you do that makes you indispensable?"
Roberta replies, "I'm the only living contract taxonomist for cyanobacteria in the world."
Scully is still mystified. "But what exactly do you do? I mean, why were you hired by....what Institute did you say you work for?"
"I was hired by Dr. Bernak, head of the Photobiology Department at the Chula Vista Marine Science Institute. His team is solving the global warming problem."
Dana is astounded and cannot make a connection between marine biology and global warming. She repeats, "Global warming problem."
Roberta says, "Dr. Bernak just gave me a huge raise to keep me from jumping ship and going to work for Monsanto. I'm the only reason that our team knew to test the Prochloroflexus genus for carbon fixing efficiency. All of our success has grown out of that, and it was my idea."
Dana is starting to understand. She had heard the argument before. A large fraction of the global warming problem was due to rising levels of greenhouse gases like atmospheric carbon dioxide. If a way could be found to increase the rate at which photosynthetic plants and microorganisms converted atmospheric carbon dioxide to sugar, it might be possible to start lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Dana asks, "What is Prochloroflexus?"
They are in another room of the Lezaro watching another robot artist paint a landscape. A whole side of the room is a simulated view of a Mons Olympus on Mars. The robot has just started marking in a few wisps of high clouds to accentuate its depiction of the mountain. Scully has been absently puzzling over the absurd hat that the robot is wearing; it looks like a collection of rat tails dangling from a birds nest.
Roberta walks over to the robot and yanks one of the "rat tails" off of the hat and uses it to start spraying dye onto the robot’s canvas. The robot objects, speaking in the dominant language of the Lunar city, "Ye, misralo! Plekdy mas wholly!"
Roberta has made a small green blob in the sky next to Olympus Mons. She says to the robot, "You can do another one! I want to show my friend something."
The robot looks at Scully then turns back to Roberta with a low bow, and speaks in fluent English, "Go right ahead, madam! I now recognize you both as distinguished guests. Dr. Lincoln and Dr. Scully. Please, "He gestures to the canvas, "I might learn something!"
Roberta gives the robot a peck on the cheek. "You're a doll." She points to the green blob and says to Scully, "This is a typical photosynthetic bacterial cell. Very small, the whole ocean food chain is designed to make use of the energy it captures from the sun. But that energy capture depends on carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolved in the ocean."
Roberta hands the green dye dispenser back to the robot and she says, "Blue." The robot takes the green dispenser and hands Roberta one loaded with blue dye which he pulls from his hat. Roberta paints a slightly elongated blotch next to the round green one. "Some photosynthetic bacteria are bigger and live deeper in the ocean and make use of wavelengths of light that pass right through the common bacteria. When he hired me, Dr. Bernak was trying to genetically engineer such bacteria so as to make new types that would allow the capture of all the light that is normally wasted in the ocean."
Scull asks, "How much could you increase world carbon dioxide capture with such modified light-capturing bacteria?"
Roberta shrugs and hands the green dispenser back to the robot. The robot takes it and waits expectantly for her next request. The robot says, "Not much I'll bet. Most of that captured carbon dioxide will go right into the food chain as sugar and right back to carbon dioxide when the sugar is burned for fuel."
Roberta nods. "There's a robot that did not sleep through high school biology. The real trick is to sink the fixed carbon dioxide to the ocean floor as quickly as possible, before the sugar can enter the food chain."
The robot asks, "Aren't there organisms on the sea floor that would utilize the carbon, releasing it as carbon dioxide?"
Roberta smiles at the robot and turns her hand from palm up, ready for the next dye dispenser, to facing the robot. She says, "Good question! High five!"
The robot looks at her, looks at Scully, and shrugs. Having heard the robot speak she decides that despite the ambiguous visual clues, the robot is trying to simulate a male human. Scully realizes that the high five has not penetrated Lunar culture, and the robot is clueless. She steps between Roberta and the robot and gives Roberta a high five. Dana wiggles her fingers in front of the robot's face, "Five fingers. High five."
The robot produces a perfectly human chortle of mirth and gives first Scully and then Roberta a high five. Roberta looks around and realizes that a small crowd of bystanders has gathered and is watching. Scully has learned that this is the art form that residents of the Lunar city love best. Spontaneous public gatherings where artists argue and banter. She can't imagine that they are going to want to hear Roberta discussing global warming and photosynthesis. Roberta seems to appreciate the audience and speaks a little louder. "What does happen to carbon that reaches the bottom of the ocean?" She looks around at the onlookers and a few give her a smile and a shrug.
One man replies, "Sedimentation?"
Roberta gives a whoop of delight and goes over to give the man a high five, which he executes a bit awkwardly but with good spirit.
Roberta is clearly playing to the whole crowd now and loving it. She explains, "Turns out that it is a bit tricky. Some parts of the sea floor have excellent conditions for forming rich sediment that efficiently traps carbon. Other parts of the sea floor efficiently release the carbon back into the water as carbon dioxide before it gets trapped in sediment." Roberta turns to Dana, "That's why Dr. Bernak was on the Floreana, one of his projects is to model sea floor carbon dynamics." She turns back to face the bulk of the onlookers, "But the good news is, the data seem to suggest that if you get the carbon of photosynthetic bacteria to the sea floor, most of that carbon will be trapped in sediment."
Roberta snaps her fingers at the robot artist, "So how do you get more bacteria to sink?"
The robot squints at the two bacterial cells Roberta had drawn on the canvas, takes a dye dispenser from its hat and quickly sketches in an excellent Paramecium, fuzzy with cilia, depicted as eating the bacteria. He says, "Maybe if you made the bacteria taste bad, they would not get eaten and they would be more likely to escape the food chain and fall to the sea floor." With great skill, the robot puts a 'yuck" face on the paramecium and gives it a lolling 'yuck' tongue. The crowd laughs and the robot gives a little bow.
Roberta applauds the robot along with the crowd. "Not a bad idea, but paramecia do not have taste buds. When I joined his research project, Dr. Bernak was trying to genetically engineer photosynthetic bacteria that would kill anything that ate them."
The crowd responds with gasps and groans. Roberta holds up a hand to quiet them, "I know, I know, that's just sooooo totally a male domination and over-kill plan, and worse, it does not work. It would kill the whole aquatic ecosystem and actually result in a catastrophic loss of carbon dioxide fixing capacity, not to mention destroying the major fisheries that a huge fraction of the world population depends on for food. So this is where Dr. Lincoln comes to the rescue!"
Most of the onlookers do not know that they are being addressed by Dr. Lincoln. The Robot artist steps up on the rim of a nearby foot tall decorative flower pot and announces in a dramatic voice, "Ladies and Gentlemen, three cheers for Dr. Lincoln for coming to the rescue!"
The onlookers dutifully give a rousing, "Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!"
Roberta has a smile from ear to ear and bows repeatedly until the tittering crowd quiets again. "When I started working with Dr. Bernak's research group, I was one of the few people in the world aware of the fact that half of the carbon reaching the sea floor is in the form of one genus of photosynthetic bacteria, the little known Prochloroflexus genus. With my help, the lab soon zeroed in on Prochloroflexus marinuslargus as the best choice for solving the global warming problem. We have spent the past three years sequencing its genome and modifying its genome to make a super carbon fixing bacterium."
Roberta holds out her hand to the robot artist and says, "Red!" She makes red streaks raining down from the Martian sky onto the flank of Olympus Mons. "Prochloroflexus marinuslargus is a giant filamentous photosynthetic bacterium with a thick cell wall. Such filamentous bacteria normally do poorly in the deep ocean, and tend to represent only a tiny percentage of fixed carbon in the ocean, still, because they sink so fast, they represent about half of the carbon reaching the sea floor. We are close to having a genetically modified form of Prochloroflexus marinuslargus that we think will vastly increase carbon transport to the sea floor, allowing a net reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide. By scavenging genes from other species, we have given Prochloroflexus marinuslargus a one week life cycle phase in which it forms loose mats right on the ocean surface where it can efficiently trap atmospheric carbon dioxide. After that one week period, the mats disintegrate and the dying filaments sink."
Roberta holds out her hands to her sides like she is waiting for applause.
A man in the crowd asks, "Won't the presence of these genetically modified bacteria alter the aquatic ecosystem, maybe catastrophically disrupting the ocean food chain?"
Roberta shrugs. "That's what we do not know yet and why I must go back to Earth. We were about to start some field tests. I expect there will need to be some modifications to our laboratory strains to make them fit into the ocean ecosystem."
The crowd applauds politely and then disperses. A few men linger to flirt with Roberta and the robot artist starts preparing a new canvas. Scully is thinking furiously about what Roberta has described and the plans that the clone brothers have for her. It occurs to Dana that she has never heard of any research on Earth aimed at doing what Roberta has described. This might be just what the clones are on the lookout for, an interventionist plot to use advanced genetic methods to solve human problems on Earth. No sooner does Scully think of the clones, when she notices one of them nearby.
He nods and smiles at her and walks over. "Hello, Dana."
Scully has learned to distinguish the clones. This one is Rupert, the one with natural leadership qualities. Scully has learned that while all of the clone brothers are unique personalities, Rupert tends to dominate policy decisions. "What are you doing here, Rupert?"
Before he can answer, Roberta is at his side and then literally in his face, "Are you following me? Can't you give me one evening of peace?"
Rupert tries to be civil, "Good evening, Roberta. I understand you had a nice dinner with Dr. Scully."
Roberta is not going to give him any slack. "You worm. I'll bet you listened to every word we said."
Rupert blushes a very pretty pink. Scully asks him, "Were you listening to us, is that how you knew where to find us?"
Rupert replies, "I've never lied to you Dana, I want you to remember that."
Roberta says to Dana, "He cannot keep us here Dana." She says to Rupert, "I'm going back to Earth and I want Dana to come with me."
Rupert steps around Roberta and takes Dana's arm, "Can I talk to you, alone?"
Roberta says, "Don't do it, Dana. Don't trust him."
Dana is amazed by the change that has come over Roberta during the course of the night. Gone are any signs of bumbling and childishness. Dana is impressed that Rupert seems physically intimidated by Roberta. Dana says, "Roberta, how are you going to get to Earth? Rupert has told me that he will take me to Earth when the time is right." She pulls Rupert's hands off of her arm and asks him, "Are you really keeping Roberta here against her will?"
Rupert seems reluctant to say anything to Dana in front of Roberta, but he finally comes to a decision. "If Roberta really wants to go back, there is little I can do to stop her. I thought it was not wise for her to go back to Earth because her body shows signs of having been the subject of interventionist genetic testing."
Dana asks, "Do you really intend to let me go back to Earth?"
Rupert nods. "Of course I do, Dana. But it is my hope that you will just go on special missions and then come back here, the way my brothers and I do."
Roberta says to Dana, "Don't trust him. He can't let you go back. You have been here too long. His mind manipulation technique can't erase a month of your life."
Dana waits for Rupert to deny it. He says nothing. "Well? Is that true?"
Rupert looks at Roberta like he cannot figure out how she knows so much. "Roberta, how do you know that?"
She shrugs and Dana is amazed to see the ditzy Roberta return, "Why shouldn't I know? It's common knowledge around town."
Rupert shakes his head and stares speculatively at Roberta. He turns back to Scully, "It is true that it would be very hard to erase your memory of the Moon at this point. You have been here too long and you really seem to like it here. This city is a part of you now. But we have other methods that will allow you to go to Earth."
And just as fast the hard-as-nails bitch Roberta re-emerges, "He always tells you the truth, Dana, when he bothers to tell you. Ask him what he's hiding from you now. Ask him how he would control your mind if he did let you go to Earth."
This time Rupert does not wait for Dana to ask. "Look, Dana, you know the restrictions we Observers work under. When we go to Earth we cannot risk interfering with the development of human culture. Each of us that goes down has a neural nanodevice implant that keeps us from telling anyone on Earth what they should not hear."
Dana feels a wave of heat rising up her neck and the back of her scalp. She tries to control her fury and spits her words out through stiff lips, "Were you ever going to tell me about this or were you just going to implant this mind control device, turn me into your puppet and make me do whatever you want?"
Roberta says, "He is lying to you Dana. He didn't tell you the truth. The device is already in your brain!"
Dana's knees start to shake uncontrollably. She tries to take stock of her own mind. She asks herself- am I already a puppet?
Rupert glares at Roberta then shouts at her, "Who's been telling you these things?"
Roberta says, "I'm determined to go home. It was not that hard to find someone who is going to help me go home. He told me all about you."
Rupert demands, "Who are you talking about? What is his name?"
Roberta mocks him, "What's the matter Rupert, did your listening devices fail to hear every word I said to every person I have spoken to?"
A tall, middle aged man with bushy eyebrows steps between Roberta and Rupert. "Leave her alone, Rupert, it was me."
Rupert's shoulders slump and he shakes his head. Rupert mutters, "I should have known." The tall man clears his throat and elbows Rupert. Rupert says to Dana, "Dana, this is Gary Seven. Gary, I assume you already know Dana."
Gary extends his hand to Dana and she shakes it. He says, "That's not a proper introduction, Rupert, I know of Dana but have not has the pleasure of meeting her. I am very pleased to meet you finally Dr. Scully."
Dana asks Gary, "You can take Roberta to Earth?"
Gary replies, "I have promised her that I will get her home."
"Why haven't you done so then?"
"Roberta learned about you Dana when she was looking for someone, anyone, that might help her get home. I noticed the computer search she did and got to her before she had a chance to contact you. She insisted that she have a chance to talk to you before going home."
Scully asks Roberta, "Why me?"
Roberta is back to her little teenaged girl act, "Dana, at first I just wanted help to get home. I figured there must be others like me who were being held here, and had been held here longer than I. I assume that you would want to go home just like I do. Gary told me that I was wrong about you, but I wanted to see for myself. I still do not think that this deal you have with Rupert is in your best interest. After Gary was ready to take me home I still thought I should see you, to find out if you do want to go home. It's up to you, Dana. Gary will take you, too."
Dana looks at Gary and he gives her a confirmatory nod. Rupert surprises Dana by saying, "Dana, I think you should go with Roberta."
Since Rupert is suddenly being agreeable, she asks, "Will you take this mind control device out of my head before I go?"
Rupert pleads his case, "Dana, this is a rule that has to be followed. I have no control over the matter. Everyone, every human who goes down planet must carry one of these nanodevice implants."
Dana asks, "Even you Mr. Seven? What kind of name is Seven?"
Gary laughs rather mechanically. "Where I come from it is traditional to split early embryos at the eight cell stage of embryogenesis. Just like Rupert, I was born with seven clones as siblings."
"But you are not from the Moon?"
"I'm from a nearby star system, but I'm just as human as you."
Dana asks, "Where are your seven brothers? Do you work as a team like Rupert and his brothers?"
It is getting late, approaching closing time for the Aventine Lezaro, a rather early closing time since it is in a residential dome. Gary suggests, "Let's go back to your house, Dana, so that we can finish this discussion."
Rupert says, "Dana, don't go with him, you don't know what he is."
Dana looks to Roberta, who for once is keeping quiet. Scully looks around and sees the robot artist packing up his canvases as closing time approaches. Scully steps over to the robot and asks, "Do you know who these people are?"
The robot nods. "You know that I know Dr. Lincoln. She arrived with the crew of the Floreana. Rupert is a well known Observer. I know he often has dealings with people like you and Roberta.....new arrivals from Earth. And this distinguished gentleman is Gary Seven, an interloper from outsystem."
Gary says, "Visitor." He gives a mocking little bow. "I'll show you my tourist visa if you insist."
The robot says, "Perfectly in order, I'm sure."
Gary agrees. "Perfectly."
Dana is puzzled by this little verbal dance and the thinly veiled antagonism between the robot and Gary. She has never previously seen a robot challenge a human like this. Dana asks Rupert, "Is there anything you would like to add?"
Rupert tries to sound innocent when asking, "Add to what?"
That answer of a question with a question seals it for Scully. Rupert might not lie but neither does he try to keep Scully informed. But neither can Scully trust either the mysterious interstellar traveler Mr. Gary Seven, or the changeable Roberta. Scully knows that she is going to decide for herself and for her own reasons when she is ready to go back to Earth. However, for now she wants to keep her cards close to her chest and learn as much as she can. She quietly says, "Let's go back to my place, I have something I want to check on."