Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Implants

Shayla's plot against the Emperor involves passing herself off as a high-ranking member of the Imperial palace staff. Yes, it's someone newly-appointed, fresh from the Provinces, that nobody in the capital city is likely to have met, but it's still not something you can hope to get away with through ordinary impersonation.

Luckily, Shayla has some nifty technology that takes impersonation to a whole new level. Subcutaneous implants that allow her to morph her appearance...but let Shayla tell you about them in her own words. Here is an interview with Shayla, many years after the events of Ghosts of Innocence.

[Shayla Carver] ...So you see, combat skills are only part of the story. In fact, my best trick turned out to be disguise. Not fighting, but blending in. I had this talent for it. And some hi-tech help in the last few years of course.

[Interviewer] Your implants?

You bet! Something the Firenzi want to keep secret as long as possible. No surprise there. If you don't know about them they are such an effective disguise. But once people know what to look out for they'll be too easy to spot. They'll become obsolete. Well, the secret's safe, for now. And I'd never have gotten through any close scrutiny without them. But man! Those things were a pain in the butt.

How so?

Think about what the implants do. They give you conscious control over your appearance. Facial features, skin tone, hair colour. Can't do much about height, but the implants can absorb water and plump you out some.

Sounds marvellous!

It is. But remember what I just said back there. Conscious control. It's like flexing a muscle. It takes effort to morph, and effort to sustain. Slacken off and your features will revert.

So you woke up each morning as Shayla Carver instead of Brynwyn?

[She snorts and shakes her head] Not quite. It takes time. Nobody would notice much difference after only a few hours, and it takes several days to become recognisably yourself again if you simply relax. Quicker if you make a conscious effort.

But morphing your appearance in the first place is slow work and both physically and mentally draining. I normally take about four days to put on a disguise. On Magentis I did it in less than two. That was tiring.

And as for keeping the disguise up, just try walking around all day with your stomach muscles permanently tensed and your arms held high over your head and you'll start to get the idea. I spent most of my time on Magentis half dead from exhaustion. That led to a few lapses of judgement, which could have been serious.

[She leans back, gazing up at the ceiling] So, you see, the implants have their drawbacks. And I try to forget what I went through getting them in the first place.

[She looks at me again, with a sly grin] You know they were engineered from some strain of fungus? The implant process is ... painful. And creepy. You have these filaments growing under your skin from the implant sites. It's like an infection. It is an infection really. And it totally knocks you out for weeks. You're under constant medical supervision, feeling sick as a dog, but they're not trying to cure you. They're encouraging the infection, guiding it to all the right spots until it's taken over every inch of your skin.

Sounds gruesome.

It is! And then they give you a killer drug to stop it metastasising further. It knocks you sideways, but you don't mind that because you're just hoping like crap that it works!

What if it doesn't?

[She shudders] Then you really do have an infection. A nasty and terminal one.

So obviously it worked for you.

Yes. But that's not all. Once you've recovered, the real training starts. By now the filaments have made a whole network and tapped into your somatic nervous system. But it's like a phantom limb that you never knew you had. You have to learn to control it. It took me nearly two months before I started to make a conscious connection, and a full year before I had enough control to put on a decent disguise.

[She smiles] Boy was that a frustrating time for me. You know me. I'm all about action. I can be patient when I'm stalking prey, but I need to see progress. I was ready to bite heads off after the first few weeks. [She giggles. I find the incongruity unsettling] I don't know how many trainers I went through! I think the Special Service ended up offering danger money just to get them in the same room as me.

10 comments:

  1. That's an interesting idea. Little details like absorbing water to add weight is a nice touch.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino
    The Funnily Enough

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  2. That's where those lumps on my hips have come from. Who knew??

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  3. Fascinating. This is really cool stuff. One of my pet peeves in reading / TV / movies is inconsistencies that break my suspension of disbelief. Especially where the author contradicts themselves. I guess I always have an eye out for those types of things.

    I am impressed when someone can pull off something this far out and still make me think, "Hmm. Yeah, I could see that."

    Congratz on some very cool world building.

    --j--

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  4. Did you change your header? Looks nice.

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  5. Creepy and fascinating! I love your imagination.

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  6. It sounds like a horrible process, but certainly believable that someone would go through with it. Interesting character voice as well!


    The Golden Eagle
    The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

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  7. Thanks for your kind comments, everyone.

    Delores: Well, now you know :D

    Kimberlee: I did change the header art. I like to swap it around every few months.

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  8. I liked the mention that morphing isn't an instantaneous thing. Also the fact that doing so comes with a cost. Sometimes, that last bit is missing which makes things too easy. But having this cost of energy, time, conscious effort needed, all these things increase the tension opportunity for the story.

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