Quill nods his head at Rodger, “Sure. Can’t count on AI all the time. Human enhancement, intuition sharpened by data. I’m not a doctor, but all that information is out there. And someone with the training who uses the data, the technology, will be lightyears beyond. Look at the work of Dr. Kumari in New Delhi, 98.667% survival rate for severe trauma while the rest of the world hovers at 93.500.” He shrugs, “Not everyone is cut out for immersion.” He takes another sip of his gin and tonic. “Vanguard you say? Know anything about the team working on that message?” His demeanor changes again, displaying curiosity, what appears to be genuine interest.

“Rehabilitative medicine is not, ah, emergency work, Mister Quill-sir,” Kinako says, in tones of patient repetition. “We still use… ah, I suppose you would call it low technology; acupressure, acupuncture, kinesiotaping, therapeutic massage, hydrotherapy, meditation, and such. It is the restoration of the body, and there is nothing, ah, ‘fast’ about it. You can not quantify the spirit. The ancients studied the natural bioelectrics of the body and mind thousands of years before the technology existed to measure it.” They are all seated at the same table, towards the back of the lounge. While there is a nigh-empty plate in front of her, and Quill has a drink, it seems that Rodger’s order has not yet arrived.

“Ex-Vanguard. Work on the private side now,” Rodger says with a shrug, grinning as his order arrives. “All about the human factor on the private side, although we’ll see. They do love playing with tech when they have the budget.” He adds the cream and sugar to his coffee, taking a tentative sip before seeming content with the flavoring. “Thing ’bout trauma is it depends on the type. Not sure that Delhi has some of the newer toys still, but I reserve the right to be wrong.” And he nods to Kinako. “Rehab is a whole different barrel of fish.”

Busby walks into the lounge, speaking to the air again while a light blue holomist swirls before his right eye. “Yes, well, whatever, man, if I wanted to, I could task the computer banks downstairs to tell the Oraculars all about a wild theory that the message actually contains the ingredients for ancient Martian canal surfer angel food cake and they’d be reporting it all over the Infomatrix tomorrow night. I’m done worrying about what people *think*, man. It’s pointless. Half the time they’re crazy. Half the time they’re stupid. And half the time they don’t know math, man. Get what I’m saying? The message is what the message is. We’ll figure the rest out when we can, man. Best we can do, right?” He reaches the bar, peruses the holographic menu, and then says, “Damn. Now I want cake.” He turns and starts walking toward the exit again.

Quill smirks slightly as Kinako talks about spirits, but holds his tongue. Instead he says to Rodger, “It’s not about tech. It’s about data. Gathering, processing, patterns. Your telling me having contact lenses that immediately pick out concealed weapons giving off radiation in the IR range, automatically processing body language, and so on. Not to mention target assist?” He glances up at the man talking to air, “That guy gets it. Data is king. I need to get my hands on that message.”

Kinako falls somewhat quiet as Busby arrives, comes halfway in, and then starts heading halfway out. After turning back to the table with an apologetic smile, she murmurs, “I am very sorry… I need to pay ah, considerable attention to what Mister Busby-sir says, to ah… well. Be able to figure out what he is -saying-. His speech patterns are… they are a very challenging study of the English language? Most of his turns of phrase are not available in any collection of translated colloquialisms.” She turns the tea mug around in her hands, watching the liquid swirl within briefly. “Do you work in a technology or data-intensive field, Mister Quill-sir?”

“Autotarget is for conscripts,” Rodger grumbles. “And data is an ocean. Easier to get lost than anything else.” He grins at Kinako. “There’s an ancient movie. Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Classic. Might help you follow him.”

Busby stops near the archway leading out and fumbles in his pocket for his lanyard and identification, which he waves blithely at Rodger. “Still me, man. Doing my thing.” The glowing mist before his right eye ripples green and then he says, “Busby.” The mist goes blue. “Yeah, man. So, the lawyers. The families, man. Yeah. Well, hey, sure, we dropped a half dozen engine casings the size of holotrucks on their neighborhoods, man. Can’t blame ’em for being pissed, right? But that shouldn’t put a stop to working on Gasbag II, that’s my point, man.”

Quill grins at Rodger, “You’re right, data is an ocean. Can’t escape it so you’d better learn to swim. Better yet, turn yourself into a mermaid.” He smiles to Kinako, “I’m head programmer slash cyber-security for the Northrup-Quill Lunar Catapult. Nepotism at it’s finest, yeah?” He flashes his charming grin. The Northrup-Quill Lunar Catapult being a fairly well-used electromagnetic launcher to send supplies to and from Luna, as long as it’s nothing too fragile.

Kinako makes a small note in the margin of her datapad, sketching out a row of tiny kanji using her pinky fingernail. “I thank you for the er, reference note, Mister Harrison-sir. I will see if it is available for viewing.” She continues to watch the babbling Busby with a mix of curiosity, concern, and puzzlement. “I could, honestly, speak to the dangers of informational overload, the earliest recorded, ah, instances of such can be traced back as far as the third or fourth century BC. I could speak of the processing limitations of the human brain, of the signal to noise ratio, of Continuous Partial Attention Syndrome, or cognitive dissonance… or, well… any number of examples on the subject could simply be made by objective study of, well. Mister Busby-sir.” She does her best -not- to point, and also does her best to try returning Quill’s smile, although hers is several shades more shy and perhaps only charming to certain demographics. “So, ah, yes. Data would be an integral part of your career, and by extension your identity. Believe me, I do not begrudge you your, ah, enthusiasm for it? Merely that… perhaps I wish to inspire a mindfulness? As in all things, moderation. You are not obligated to follow or agree with my advisement, of course.”

Rodger waves to his boss. “I see you, Mister Busby. Everything okay?” From the casual tone, he suspects it is. And he’s technically off-duty at the moment, anyway. Still, appearances. He liberally slathers butter on his cornbread muffin and takes a big bite as he gives Quill a new, appraising look.

“For Christ’s sake, ‘elohel’ *is* a word, man,” the Spark CEO complains as the mist glows a yellowish orange before his eyes. “I need those points, man.” He sighs, then nods to Rodger and says, “I’ll live if I don’t die, man. Same as usual.” A wink, then he’s out the door.

By Brody

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