Title: Camien Polymath
Location: Nova Cronum - The Institute
Date: 19 October 2014
Summary: Nautica convinces Pharma to allow her into the more secure parts of the Institute...but Pharma has plans of his own.
++ Nova Cronum ++
The cradle of Cybertronian philosophy, education and research, Nova Cronum boasts the largest population of the Intellectual Class of any polity on the planet. Dome shaped buildings are networked together by a webbing of roadways and bridges. Bronzes, coppers, purples and blue-violet are the major color scheme of the area, with the architectural structures rising up in corkscrews and clusters of bubble-shapes stuck to spires. Parks, theaters, universities and oratoriums fill the main blocks of the city.
Nova Cronum is host to the impressive Helix gardens, a popular spot for friends to meet and enjoy the scenery. The Stellar Galleries are a central feature, heavily guarded so that its thinkers and philosophers can contemplate in peace. Museums such as the Code Archives and Hall of Ancients can be found here, as well as the best educational facility on the planet: Ultirexx Technoversity.
Though it's late and many researchers have gone home, one Camien femme has stayed late. With Brainstorm gone for the day, Nautica is freed from assisting on his projects and has turned to a pet theory of her own; to anyone capable of understanding advanced physics, it appears she's looking through a number of faster-than-light transport methods -- quantum engines, cheat drive, Mobius ships -- and determining which could be most readily downsized in a dramatic fashion, almost to the point it could be implanted in a bot with a space-capable altmode. To judge from the quantity of notes scattered around her, either it's something she's been working on for a long time, or she works very quickly.
Nautica isn't the only one here late. She might remember Pharma, the doctor who had been observing Shrapnel when Brainstorm had brought her in to see him. The winged doctor is headed past her workstation, towards his own office, talking on his comms to someone. "Yes, this...ability of theirs to turn practically -any- material into some form of useable fuel is amazing. It could change everything...energon shortages? History!" he sounds pretty excited. "I'm so close, we just have to find a way to extract and isolate the system so we can discern its finer mechanisms. I was concerned about doing too much to the first one before, since that was the only one we had, but now that we have a couple more intact specimens..." his voice sort of fades as he continues down the corridor.
Some things you overhear, you can ignore; the fact that one of your friends might be vivisected -- again, possibly more permanently than before -- is not generally one of them. With a glance at her notes, Nautica closes her own work and pokes her head out of the lab. "Sir? Sorry, there's not many other people here tonight, so I couldn't help but overhear... you're talking about the insecticons in the lower lab?"
Pharma stops in his tracks, and turns around. Oh, she was here? Hm. He closes the comm. "Oh, Nautica." he smiles amiably. "What are you doing here on this particular chord, not part of the regular work cycle. But to answer your question, yes I am talking about the Insecticons. It's amazing how much we've been able to learn from them ever since we've gotten the opportunity to study them up close."
"I was working on a personal project, though probably not quite as groundbreaking," Nautica explains, gesturing back into the room she's just emerged from. "I was wondering if I could assist with the insecticon studies? I've been reading everything I can on them, and aside from my interest in their EMF language, I actually have a working theory on how the matter-to-energy feeding system you just mentioned works. One that touches on certain aspects of quantum physics."
A brow ridge is arched at Nautica. Pharma looks partway intrigued, and partway suspicious. "You...want to help with the anatomy studies? But you're a quantum drive mechanic," he laughs. "That's hardly your area of expertise. Far from it, in fact. What exactly are you hoping to bring to the table that the -biological- experts haven't already thought of?" Yup, he definitely sounds condenscending. "Besides, you -just- signed on. It's good that you're ambitious, but the lower labs are off-limits to those without proper clearance unless someone -with- said clearance authorizes you to go down there." He smirks and pats her on the shoulder. "Don't worry, it takes time to climb the ladder. Even for people like me." he turns around and starts to walk away.
"Their apparent mass changes slightly during the feeding process, doesn't it? I'm assuming you've checked, just as part of the general process of investigation. And if you have, my theory is that they actually seem to briefly /lose/ a very slight bit of their mass while feeding." Nautica doesn't pursue Pharma, but clearly she's not going to let him walk away without hearing her out, either. She simply stands at the door to her workspace, waiting. Maybe she's gained a bit of confidence already in her time here.
Pharma appears to be ignoring her at first, but then...well, okay. He sighs and turns around. "Okay, okay." he chuckles. "Well now you've got my curiosity piqued. So tell me, what does the decrease in apparent mass have to do with with the feeding process?"
And now Nautica knows she has him hooked. "A number of FTL drive variants produce, as a side effect when you jump, a downward shift in mass. It's a side effect of /some/ of the matter in the engine array temporarily shifting into a quantum indeterminate state, where they're both matter /and/ energy. The thing is..." And now she waves a hand into her workroom. "You lose energy with a drive large enough for a ship, but my math suggests there's a loophole where you might /gain/ it with something far smaller. I don't think they have a drive in them, but I think they have something that works on similar principles."
Pharma listens to the explanation, but still isn't quite connecting the dots. "So...you're saying that Insecticons miniature quantum jump whenever they eat. And that's how they gain energy." Yeah, it kinda sounds stupid. To him, anyway. "How exactly does this connect with consuming, say, organic material, even?"
"No. They don't jump; that would be ridiculous," Nautica replies, shaking her head. "But I suspect it uses similar principles, albeit far more specialized and efficient than anything we construct." She steps forward now, getting caught up in her explanation. "See, even with the drives we construct, you need /fuel/ -- matter -- to /start/ the process that lets you exit normal space with a cheat drive. I think they're using the raw matter they eat to fuel that portion of the process, but rather than slipping themselves from /here/ to /there/ as we do with ships, they're pulling energy from /there/ back /here/. Think of the explosion you get if a cheat drive overloads; math notwithstanding, that alone suggests there's a great deal of potential energy in that exchange." She considers this for a moment, and then adds, "The problem I still haven't figured out is, that energy wouldn't be /usable/ in its native form, not the way energon is."
"Hn." Pharma nods. "I suppose that makes sense. Very well, I'll make note of it. We'd have to run more tests to see if there's any real evidence to back up that hypothesis. Maybe keep an optic out for a subspace energy reading or other small time-space anomaly during the feeding process. Which I was planning on running broad-spectrum scans, anyway. At any rate the system has to be extracted and isolated before we can see about creating new applications. Can't very well make use of it if it doesn't work outside of in vivo conditions, after all." He pauses, looking pensive and then slightly amused. "Heh, you really want to cut those bugs open, don't you?" The doctor asks with a chuckle.
There might be a very /slight/ moment of tension to Nautica's posture -- perhaps she was offended -- but then she shakes her head. "That would be more Brainstorm's style; I'd rather do further tests with the system still /in/ the subjects, first; get more control readings before risking destroying one of the units," she points out. She might work with Brainstorm, but they have vastly different approaches to how to manage an experiment. Because, you know, scientific process and safety protocols. "It wouldn't be terribly hard to build a small version of a drive diagnostic package, one they could be fed which would take readings right up until it was destroyed by the process."
"I don't see why that's necessary." Pharma shrugs. "Why feed them some quantification device that's just going to get destroyed at some point in the process? I'd rather insert a recording device somewhere that -doesn't- get destroyed so we could watch the entire process. Just have to make the right size incisions in the right places, and if anyone can make that happen, -I- can..." He kind of trails off at that though, frowning at that somewhat repulsed look on her face. "What's the matter, Nautica? Something bothering you?"
"A destructible device gives the information needed for the next step. The way you can know /what/ to look for with a more permanent package," Nautica points out, as if this is the answer to what's bothering her. On the other hand, she has probably helped keep Brainstorm from blowing up the building at least twice in the past megacycle, so maybe she's biased in favor of a more precise method at the moment. Either way, she glances back into her workshop, focusing on her scattered notes for a moment. She really will need to organize those better before leaving tonight. "Your own skill aside, isn't it better not to have to make more than one attempt at putting a permanent device in?"
Pharma frowns. No direct answer to the last question, eh? What was this about? "But why take things one step at a time when you can reasonably take three in leaps and bounds? I mean, come on. You know who I am, do I -look- like someone who would need to make more than one -attempt- at an implant? Slag, we could feed them your little tracker -and- monitor its progress via an implanted neural interface. That way, we see -everything-, not just a few readings from a -part- of the process."
He folds his arms, peering at the fembot. "You're an odd one, you know that? Not every cycle I get ship mechanics inquiring on physiological mechanisms, not around here. I mean yeah, most of us are intellectuals and therefore alt-mode exempt by default but you know, Functionism, and all that. So if you're so fascinated with studying living things, why'd you decide to go work on ships instead?"
"Oh, no, you misunderstand; I'm fascinated by /everything/," Nautica replies, offering Pharma a faint smile in answer. "And I like to think I'm very good at picking new fields up quickly. Just because I worked as a quantum mechanic before I came here doesn't mean I didn't also study weapons theory, security systems, spark interaction theory, field medicine, nanotechnology, a number of different languages -- that's why the EMF language the insecticons have fascinates me, too -- and literature, philosophy..."
The Camien trails off, and then adds, "For instance, before I took the job here, I was conducting my own research on the ecosystem of the lower levels of the Mithril Sea. Did you know there are organisms of /living liquid metal/ down there? There aren't many; you have to be very patient to catch a glimpse of them. And catching them is difficult, because they can split into multiple smaller organisms when cornered."
Pharma listens to Nautica's...many talents. His optic ridges go up. He has to admit, he's impressed. And that's saying something, it's not every cycle you impress someone like Pharma. Perhaps she's even more unique than he thought...in fact, he's never seen anyone with quite that diverse of a talent pool. It just isn't feasible for the typical Cybertronian brain module to excel at so many different fields that require such drastically different technical approaches. Normal brains need respite from that sort of thinking--it doesn't energize them, it -drains- them. He's one of the best doctors on the planet, he would know. Unless--
She isn't an Outlier, is she? No...Outliers -never- come here on their own like that.
Slowly, a slight smile creeps onto the doctor's face. "You know, maybe I -will- take you down into the lower labs. I'd like to see some of your research in those other fields, it all sounds so -very- fascinating. Plus, I think you'll enjoy learning about some of the other projects going on down there, it's not just the Insecticons. Especially since your interests are so incredibly diverse."
Sadly for poor Nautica, though she knows there is a chance she might be an outlier, she clearly doesn't realize just how odd her mental talents are. This comes across clearly in her reply: "Oh, I'm sure my interests aren't any more diverse than half of the other researchers," Nautica replies, with a dismissive shake of her head. "Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is hardly an uncommon motive, I'm certain! After all, Brainstorm's certainly interested in every field out there." She pauses, and then allows (almost fondly), "As long as it might explode, or have some other sort of destructive potential. Primus forbid anyone introduce him to energon distillation."
Pharma's acceptance -- the implied clearance to access the lower labs -- earns a smile. "Thank you; I'm sure we can help each other out. For instance, I /am/ still quite interested in that dictionary you put together of the insecticons' EMF language, too."
Pharma grins. Oh, how naive she is. She thinks this multi-talented polymath thing is normal? Ha, and -no- her interests are -vastly- more diverse than the typical scientist or doctor. Is Pharma himself not a clear example of this? Or maybe she thinks he's like her, too.
Well anyway he knew she'd take the bait. It would be easy enough: he'd take her down there, then hit her with low-energy techvolt. And then, she'd be -staying- there. For a while. Perhaps a -long- while. "No problem. In fact--get yourself to my office a few breems before the next work cycle and I'll take you on a little tour first. Then we'll see about getting you a personal access code."
"I look forward to it," Nautica replies. It's not even that hard to make it sound genuine; with an access code to the lower levels, it should be far easier to keep an eye on the captive insecticons. Things are, perhaps, looking up, so far as her investigation goes! "Though I imagine I'll need to do double-duty for a while, until Brainstorm has a new assistant."
"Oh," Pharma smirks at her last comment about Brainstorm. "Don't you worry...we'll find him a replacement. I'm sure that after you get a glimpse of what's down there, you'll have far more interesting things to concern yourself with than being an engineering assistant, don't you think?" If Nautica is the sort to trust her intuitions, she might be getting a bad feeling in her struts right about now. There's just something about the way he is talking that doesn't sound quite genuine...
"Well." The doctor says cheerfully, and the ominous air drops. "I'd best get some recharge. You probably should too. You've got an exciting day ahead of you!" He claps a hand on her shoulder, then turns to transform and fly off and out of the facility.
It's the smirk, really, that does it; it's far too predatory on some level, too smug and pleased with itself. Nautica feels a sudden unease -- a dread -- deep inside her spark, and makes a mental note: it is vital to let the others know her work shift has changed. And that even without the dictionary to bootstrap her understanding of the language, she'd best finish up her wavespeech module; she has a feeling it would be far better to be able to talk to the insecticons without being overheard quite so easily. But she silently watches Pharma fly off, and then turns back to tidy up and lock her workroom before leaving.