"The nodes are ready," Friday announced as Jack tapped away on the view screen in front of him, familiarizing himself with some of its functions.
"Really?" he asked, jumping to his feet excitedly.
"Yes, all of them have passed through testing and are showing no signs of deviation from the projected results," the smartship replied, opening a door in the rear of the room and providing a glowing line on the floor to guide Jack to the medbay.
Jack followed the line through featureless halls to an egg shaped room with a silver table floating in the center of it. He wasn't sure why the room was egg shaped, but was sure Friday would explain if asked. He decided not to ask just in case it was something that was completely obvious that he just wasn't getting. Hopefully the brain upgrade would explain things or at least keep him from asking stupid questions.
"Just lay down on the table and I'll start the procedure," Friday said.
"How exactly is this going to work?" Jack asked as he laid down, the indirect lighting in the featureless room dimmed as he sank halfway into the surface of the silver table as if it were made of jello.
"I will be implanting the seeds of the neural enhancement nodes throughout your brain, cultivated from your own cells, using needles less than a tenth the size of a human hair," Friday explained. "The process is completely painless and you shouldn't even be able to even notice it occurring."
The table's surface pushed him out as it tilted to set him on his feet.
"Problem?" Jack asked, trying to hide his nervousness.
"No, the procedure was successfully completed," Friday replied.
"Oh," Jack said with a smile before frowning. "I don't feel any different."
"The changes should be gradual enough that you won't notice them as they occur," the smartship explained. "As the nodes integrate themselves you'll find your ability to store and recall information will increase, which will allow you to understand things that you would have found challenging before enhancement. "
"Huh," Jack said thoughtfully, "I thought it would be like a computer attached to my brain."
"That would be rather crude and not nearly as effective," Friday said. "No, what the neural implants do is allow your brain to act like a computer itself. Your brain permanently stores everything that you experience, every thought, every sight, every sound just like a computer would, however the chemical tags that label each memory for ease of access fade if not regularly accessed making it difficult to remember things that you don't think of frequently and lack chemical tags that you assign to memories you consider important. The nodes will tag every memory and keep those tags organized and fresh so you have no problem accessing them at will and at a faster rate than the near random memory storage system you have right now."
"I'm not sure this will help with my impulse control problem. Sounds more like I'll simply make stupid decisions at a faster rate," Jack joked.
"Being able to think things through faster and reason out the correct action in a fraction of the time you normally require will certainly help you make wiser choices," Friday assured him.
"And how does the whole brain download thing work?" the teen asked. "Am I going to be able to hack computers with my mind?" He grinned widely at the thought.
"Everything you do, you do with your mind," the smartship pointed out, "but if you are referring to mentally interfacing with technology without any external equipment I am afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you. While it is possible to implant technology that would allow you to 'hack' systems with a thought, it would also open up your brain to being hacked in return, so no such implants have been designed by the Kymellians."
"Oh," Jack said thoughtfully. "Yeah, I can see where that would be a problem; the last thing I want is to have five hundred tabs open up with three of them playing the Hamster Dance inside my own skull because I don't have an advanced enough antivirus program running while checking my email. But speaking of getting my mind hacked, we have anything to prevent telepaths from doing that?"
"There are multiple techniques available for you to learn to counter telepathy, all of which I can download into your nodes when they have finished integrating themselves," Friday assured him.
Jack nodded. "We should build a Moonbase," he said.
The AI actually paused for a second before saying, "That… was fairly random."
"Well, I know you like to take trips back home, so I was thinking with all this material we're collecting from the asteroid belt we could make a moonbase for me to stay at when you aren't around. Not sure how long it would take me to fly there and back or maybe teleport, once I get the hang of it. Can we put in a dedicated teleporter? Can you make a teleporter?" Jack asked.
"Yes, however we would need parts and materials I can not manufacture myself at least not easily or in any reasonable time frame," Friday replied. "Might I suggest an underwater base would be more feasible?"
"Too close to Xavier's school," the teen replied. "I mean, an underwater base would be cool, though not nearly as cool as a moonbase, but Xavier and Frost are powerful telepaths and I'm not sure if I can trust them not to interfere for 'my own good."
Friday considered that for a moment and conceded that it was a reasonable concern. "The parts we need to make a teleporter could be purchased from Nova Corps territory or the Shi'ar Empire. Travel to the Shi'ar Empire will take nearly three times as long but is slightly safer, though the costs may also be half again as much for what we need."
"Slightly isn't enough of a difference to cover the costs from the sound of it," Jack said. "Why would it be unsafe?" He sat on the floating table and swung his legs.
"Kymellians are known to be pacifistic for the most part," Friday explained, "preferring to use logic and reason rather than violence if at all possible. Combine that with a tech level that is fairly higher than most races and you'll find that a number of races find Kymellian ships to be a preferable target for piracy."
"We could disguise you as a different type of ship, one with weapons," Jack suggested.
"I can mimic the appearance, but the way my personality matrix was formed… I would rather not create weapons," Friday admitted.
"Hmmm," Jack said thoughtfully. "Would you use weapons someone else built? I mean, would you have any problem mounting some cannons from a downed Snark fighter and firing warning shots with them? Or shooting a ship that had shields so it wouldn't actually hurt anyone?"
"As long as I am not actively causing harm to anyone, I do not believe I would have a problem using weapons," the smartship agreed thoughtfully.
Jack nodded. "You may want to consider if creating… devices that can slow down or temporarily disable ships without causing harm to the crew can be considered weapons or tools."
"Defensive weapons are much more acceptable to me," Friday said, letting him know the smartship had easily seen through Jack's amateur attempts at psychology, "provided I can develop something that is not excessively harmful to intelligent beings."
"Good," Jack said with a grin, "cause I know where a downed Snark ship or two is, but I'd also prefer to have something other than guns to solve problems."
"A good attitude to have," Friday complimented him.
The smartship circled the downed aircraft, spotlights illuminating the seabed. "Minimal power, two cryogenic pods are active," Friday reported as it shifted to engulf the bus-sized golden fighter craft that Jack described as a cross between a crab and a fly.
"Cryogenic pods? You mean the snarks are still onboard?" Jack asked in disbelief.
"Queen Maraud only cared for power, her soldiers were a means to an end and not particularly important to her, especially ones who had been defeated in battle," Friday replied, "I'm not surprised to find she left them behind when she fled."
"Well, she was a complete asshole," Jack agreed with a sigh. "We should leave them in their pods until we can arrange to drop them off with Emperor Bhadsha. He won't have a problem with them having followed Maraud, right?"
"No, I don't believe that will be a problem, they were members of her hive and while she was banished her soldiers were not," the smartship replied as it surfaced, following the trail of the battle that had occurred nearly a decade ago between the Snarks and Power Pack.
"I can't believe there were Snarks on Earth this entire time and we didn't know about them," the teen said, leaning forward in his seat as he manipulated the screen to scan the area for anything that might have fallen off the ship when it had crashed. "I mean, yeah they are on ice, but it's still upsetting."
"The soldiers are unable to breed without a queen, so their numbers would never become a threat to the human population," the smartship tried to comfort him. "Humanity would find them to be little trouble to handle should they have tried to take control over an area in any but the most remote regions."
Jack nodded thoughtfully. "A few might have managed to survive in the Outback for a little while before the wildlife ate them." His eye roamed up and down the screen, noting the chemical trails the scanner was reading from the surrounding waters and directing it against the current to locate anything of interest.
"I've got a lock on the next ship," Friday said. "Fortunately the energy signature of their equipment is quite distinctive."
"That's handy, though I'm sure most species have their own energy signatures depending on what kind of technology they developed," he said thoughtfully. "Unless they have someone else building their ships of course."
"The Snarks build their own ships, although their hand weapons are purchased from others," Friday replied. "The ones you fought against were using energy blasters from the Skrull Empire. I believe they use Kree weapons at present."
"Weird," Jack said, watching as the cloaked smartship passed over a number of small islands and headed further inland, heading North. "Did it crash in Canada?"
"No we are at least a quarter of a mile from the border between the two countries," Friday reported as they hovered over a section of forest covered in snow, the large golden ship, much larger than the small fighter they had found, covered in camouflage netting.
"Looks like someone found it," Jack said with a frown as he read through Friday's scan on the ship, seeing where someone had forced entry into the ship and sighing as he saw there were six occupied cryogenic pods onboard.
"Connecting to ship's systems," Friday reported as firewalls were bypassed almost negligently, the downed ship's computer security no match for the AI.
The pair watched as a video played from multiple angles, showing a number of men in camouflage and ski masks using power tools to widen a hole in the side of the ship and extracting weapons and armor before finally carrying out a pair of cryogenic pods, which set off the ship's internal defensive systems and drove them off. Several clips were shown of later attempts to re-enter the ship that had failed.
"I'd really love to not rescue the Snarks that were kidnapped," Jack said with a groan, "but I can't let them get dissected. Can you trace where they were taken and how old was that video? Is it too late to rescue them?"
"The footage is nearly three months old, with subsequent attempts to gain entry every six weeks on average, but I can still trace the power source the pods use," Friday replied, as it settled over the larger craft and started to disassemble and absorb it.
"Looks like we are saving some Snarks then," Jack said. "What direction are they in?"
"North East of our location, approximately thirty miles, plus or minus five as it is a rather rough approximation based on field strength and lacking any data about where the pods are being held."
Jack winced. "Canadians," he said with a shudder.
Beta by: Abyssal Angel & Mist of Shadows
AN: I don't know why they decided the Canadians in Marvel were the new Nazi, but they do a lot of mutant experimentation there.