“What the hell is that?”
Johnny took a quick glance up and down his person. There wasn’t anything out of place or crazy that he could see, so he turned in his chair to glance back at D’avin, who was coming onto the bridge with his eyebrows wrinkled together and his lower lip pushed out slightly. Classic D’av: confused and annoyed that he was confused in the first place. “What the hell is what?” Johnny asked.
D’avin frowned, only managing to push his lip out further and into a proper pout. Johnny refrained from laughing. “That,” D’avin said, pointing at the screen in front of Johnny.
A glance at the screen showed nothing unusual, so Johnny grinned and shrugged. “I’m pretty sure it’s a viewscreen, D’av.”
“No, not--” D’avin threw his eyes the ceiling like dealing with Johnny was something that might earn him some sort of celestial honor. “The letters, John. What the hell does it say, and why is doing the weird mirroring thing?”
Johnny turned back around so that he was facing the screen and looked over the readout. “Lucy did that,” Johnny said. “It’s just a radiation reading for the space just outside the ship.” Johnny looked over it again. “External levels are fine.”
D’avin had approached the back of Johnny’s chair and planted his hands there. He was leaning over Johnny’s shoulder and squinting at the screen. “How can you tell? Is it a code?”
“No,” Johnny said. He tilted his head back to look up at his brother, upside down from the closeness of the angle. “It’s a filter.” Johnny knocked a shoulder into D’avin’s wrist. “You know, for dyslexia?”
“Is that the eye thing that drove dad nuts?” D’avin’s eyebrows had pulled even closer together, and from Johnny’s angle, looked like a very fat caterpillar.
“Not really an eye thing, but yeah.” Johnny gestured at the screen. “Dutch and I picked up the filter software for Lucy a few months after we met. We thought it might come in handy.”
D’avin hummed. His eyebrows relaxed after another moment and he looked down at Johnny. “You read fine without it though, don’t you? That’s what that eye therapy was for.”
Johnny shrugged. “Vision therapy, not eye therapy. Even with it, I still have to concentrate a lot harder. The filter just makes it a lot less likely that I’m going to give myself a headache.”
After making a considering face, D’avin looked back up at the screen. “Huh.” He stared for a little longer before he asked, “So is this what words look like to you, then? The way I’m seeing it?”
“No idea,” Johnny said. “Are the letters kind of upside down on top of themselves?”
“And shifted to the right, yeah,” D’avin agreed.
“Then it’s pretty close.”
“I’m pretty sure it’d take me at least a week to figure out what the hell this says,” D’avin said, moving his hands off the back of Johnny’s chair and folding his arms. He stayed just behind the chair, so Johnny didn’t try to turn.
Johnny crossed his own arms and shrugged. “You get used to it.” He paused. “Maybe not so much used to it as quicker to rearrange it in your head. Most vision therapy teaches you how to put the letters into the proper order and sequence, which takes a while. When you stop trying so hard to do that and start learning the shifts as a whole, it gets easier, but that’s probably a lot like code-breaking.”
“So what does the filter do?”
“It assesses your perception based on eye movement, then projects the words and numbers in a way that makes them seem lined up and easier to read.” Johnny looked at the words for a second before he said, “Lucy, remove the filter.”
“Of course, John,” Lucy’s voice replied, polite and professional over the speakers. She’d warm up to D’avin eventually. Probably.
Johnny watched as the screen flickered to the unfiltered view and the letters twisted in front of him. It took a shift in his thinking, but after a moment he was able to make out the words again. The adjustment was so much faster now than it had been then, during the therapy neither his father nor D’avin had seemed to understand.
“Huh,” D’avin said. He shifted his weight to the left before reaching out to ruffle Johnny’s hair.
Johnny jumped forward in his seat, childhood instinct taking over. “Jackass,” he said, swiping a hand back that D’avin neatly side-stepped.
D’avin took a small step back to center, then shrugged. “I’m glad you’ve got an easier way to read it,” he said. “Is it on all your devices?”
“Lucy transmits it,” Johnny said. He stood and stretched, reaching out above his head.
“Good.” D’avin offered Johnny a sideways smile. “I came to get you for lunch. Dutch did something and wants to feed us.”
“Yeah, all right,” Johnny said. He moved out from the space between the console and the chair and waited for D’avin to turn and start walking.
“What are the chances she’s poisoned it?” D’avin asked.
Johnny raised his hands and shrugged. “It’s probably not lethal.”
It was some time later -- some blood, and fights, and dead friends later -- that Johnny caught D’avin sitting on their new sofa cursing, a leg tucked up underneath him and his head propped in his palm.
Johnny dropped himself down on the cushion next to his brother. “What’s up?” he asked, leaning back far enough that he could easily see D’avin in profile.
D’avin cursed again before dropping the tablet and pinching the bridge of his nose. “I have no idea how you do this,” D’avin said.
Johnny picked up the tablet and shifted it to view the text straight-on. It took him a moment to recognize the text as one of D’avin’s favorite books from childhood and another moment to realize that D’avin was reading it with Johnny’s filter on.
“Seriously,” D’avin continued. “I’ve been on chapter seven for a month.”
“You could always turn the filter off,” Johnny said. His lips slipped into a smile as the protagonist threw down his sword. He looked up in time to see D’avin looking at him like Johnny was an idiot.
“What would be the point of that?” D’avin asked.
D’avin snatched the tablet back out of Johnny’s hands and groaned. “Shut up.”