Insomnia is keeping me from sleeping, so I will transcribe my most recent dream until the need to sleep passes me again. What you read might not make sense, but hey.
I'm a freelance operative on the winning side of a decade-long war in some far future, far enough that my body is packed with bioware that gives me fine-tuned control over my autonomic functions. I can drop my pulse to a minimum crawl and enter hibernation mode to conserve energy, or dial up my adrenal glands to redline and be combat-ready in the space of six heartbeats. Pain-management nanowires alert me to any damage I may sustain, without crippling my reflexes - but fighting is a tertiary function of this body.
I have a vague idea the dollar cost of all the machinery that hums beneath my skin, but the figure is an abstraction, a sum orders of magnitude more than I can ever expect to earn in this lifetime. But then, nobody buys their own milspec bioware. Anyone who can afford the astronomical costs isn't going to be interested in putting himself in situations where such abilities are needed. But if you've got the bucks and an itch to wage your own war - no government can stand in your way. Outfit the right volunteers with state-of-the-art bioware and you can bankroll your own special forces team. Those born with ability but no advantage find employ as their centurions, offering their bodies in exchange for hard coin.
Combat-spec bioware optimizes you to be an effective killing machine - soft targets like eyeballs are replaced with shatterproof monochrome lenses that can take a 12-gauge shotgun blast from five feet away. Dense fiberweb armoring replaces skin over elbows and other weak surfaces. They barely look human ... and thanks to synaptic surgery designed to burn out counterproductive traits like empathy, they really aren't. Imagine a jackal with a 140 IQ. Add the ability to shoot a one-inch group with a sidearm at 50 yards while tending to a gaping wound in your gut.
My Psyops-spec bodyware runs in the opposite direction. Intelligence-gathering means blending in, so everything above dermal level must be organic. Evaluation and analysis bioware pipe into my optic and aural nerves to extract data; in a crowded room, it can monitor heart rates, skin temperatures, iris dilations and other variables of over 100 individuals within line of sight. With training, I can actually track about two dozen sets of vital signs before losing my place.
I'm in a bar for a meeting. There's just enough money to buy a veneer of class, but the decor is a hodge-podge clash of different design styles. I've arrived ahead of schedule so I can watch my quarry make his appearance, and in the meantime, I amuse myself scanning the crowd. The din of dozens of dialogues, between friends, business partners, lovers ... or those angling to become one of the above.
- That guy in the corner has no idea he's wasting his time buying drinks for the pretty Eurasian girl in the blue dress. He's so intent on impressing her, he doesn't notice the older gay man sneaking quick peeks at his face when he's looking the other away. I snicker inwardly.
- Blue Suit at the booth is selling something to the silver-haired couple seated opposite of him. I can't hear what he's saying, but the stress-levels in his voice means he's lying about something important. The couple doesn't notice. He hands them some documents and a pen, looking noticably relieved that he got away with whatever sleight-of-tongue he was attempting. Score one for bad salesmanship.
- There's an argument brewing between the well-dressed man and woman on the opposite side of the room. The natural flow of conversation is truncated in their exchange, a series of stacatto interruptions and counter-interruptions. The pitch of their voices grew about a half-octave in just the ten minutes I've been observing, and I expect a full-scale fight in -
There he is. Taller than I expected, with a goatee and shock of dark-blonde hair. We're negotiating for his organization's cooperation in a major campaign, but he is a wily opportunist who knows he can be a formidable enemy or a valuable ally.
With the gear I'm packing, reading surface thoughts of unmodified humans is absurdly easy, but the arms race in the world of Psyops bioware means that for every detection program out there, there exists a half-dozen countermeasures. Controlled breathing, controlled iris dilation - my counterpart offers a smooth, bland stream of biodata that my pattern-recognition wetware can't pick apart. He can be completely sincere, or signalling a distant gunman whose crosshairs are trained on my skull to end me, and I have no idea.
The topic of our conversation drifts to other fields as our silent duel continue.
Feint and parry.
Hours pass. He expresses knowledge in an obscure field I should know nothing about; as luck would have it, I happen to have substantial expertise. I suppress my excitement and hard-lock my pulse steady at 60BPM and let him talk. Without even realizing it, he's squadered his advantage; he's nowhere nearly as strong as he appeared in our initial assessment. We don't need him, but he wants us to believe we do.
In the rush of discovery, the strongest temptation is to call him out; I had to forcefully suppress my desire to do so. As a matter of strategy, it's better to let somebody who is trying to snow you think he's getting away with it. Your knowledge of his bluff is your edge, to be saved up and used at an opportune moment of your choosing.
My Psyops instructor drilled the virtue of appearing dumber than we actually were, to " 當傻瓜" [dang1 sha3 gua1] (literally translated, 'playing the idiot'). Better to allow your opponent underestimate your ability than the other way around.
I tap the table with my index finger, signaling my sniper to lower his weapon. He's more valuable to us alive, especially now that I know his weakness.
And with that, I woke up.
But now, the sleepiness is creeping back in the the edges of my conciousness.
Off to bed.
Perchance to dream.