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Chapter 0019 Chapter 0019 001 Initially, to recount the events of the game sessions. Earth This is an incomplete first draft of the first chapter, starting with the spawning. ==Spawning – Wednesday March 1st, 2034== The complex time codes are for keeping track of events while writing and will not be part of the final copy. ===Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia – T+00:00 – Solar Noon (1337h UTC+12) 0137UTC=== The aliens first appeared at solar noon in a small town in remote Eastern Russia. Streaming camera footage from dash-cams, body-cams, and security-cams showed the strange creatures popping into existance all over the town in less than a second. Dmitry’s car slammed on the brakes when five of the bizarre creatures appeare Eld in front of it. He was thrown against the front seats, putting a sudden end to his extended effort to collect all the salt off the hooker’s breast. The bottle of tequila smacked his face a moment after he hit the floor. He picked it up, took a swig, and said, “What the fuck?” The hooker was paying more attention to the world outside the car than what was being done to her had enough time to brace herself and avoid being thrown around. She screamed in terror, grabbed her purse, and scrambled for the door. It remained locked until the car stopped a moment later. Still half naked, she bolted down the street, screaming something about monsters. A bit stunned, Dmitry crawled up onto the seat. “That was not how this was supposed to go down,” he muttered. He was used to narrating his experiences in real time – extreme travel vlogging involved a lot of turning to the camera to make a quip or give an opinion – so talking about what he was seeing was automatic. His camera drones had already righted themselves to return to tracking his progress, so he looked around to see what the hooker had been screaming about. “Is this for real?” The garishly coloured creatures crawling around the roadway were too bizarre to be believed. He pulled aside one of his AR contact lenses to look at unaugmented reality. “Shit. They’re still there.” He waved two drones out of the car and pointed them at the aliens. Then he dragged himself out to look at them with his own eyes. “I thought they were VR creatures from some local game, but they’re really here.” He paused for a moment. They looked to be roughly human-sized, but their strange anatomy made it hard to judge. “Where are their heads?” He was unable to comprehend the whole creature so he found himself looking at one piece by piece. “The arms make sense,” he said, “but there are four attached to both ends of the body.” Their arms looked a lot like human arms, and they were attached to human-like torsos. Unlike a human, where the torso connects to hips and legs, these aliens had another torso, like a mirror image, with two more arms. “Which way is up with these things?” Where their heads should be, between the shoulders at each end, was a long elephantine trunk. Dmitry watched them move around, exploring the roadway. “Shit! Their elbows bend both ways!” The nearest creature was a patchwork of colours and patterns. It climbed over the car in front of him, exposing it’s back to the blogger. “The back is the same as the front, and the top is the same as the bottom!” It crawled over the car, running it’s trunks over the vehicle, coming closer to Dmitry. “Their bodies are covered in quills like a hedgehog,” he said. “I count eight separate colour patterns – four on each side. Each arm is two colours, one on each side.” He shuddered watching it’s shoulders extend into ranges impossible for a human to achieve. The alien reached down to the door handle with one of it’s trunks. “The trunk – each trunk – is four patterns, matching the arms on either side. The trunks are covered in something like hair. There are four wiggly fingers at the end of the trunk, one of each pattern.” It pulled on the handle, causing the door to pop open. It leapt up and away from the door, easily reaching the roof of another stopped car three metres away. “That was fast.” Dmitry realized he was whispering. Unconsciously, he took a long pull on the bottle. “Wait, are they saying something?” For the first time he became aware that the aliens were saying something in English, over and over again. “Phone, what is that?” His phone immediately superimposed a video clip of William Shatner in a golden suit. The audio played in his earplugs, translated to Russian: “We come in peace!” “I am not going to look at the bottle and shake my head,” Dmitry said, staring at the nearest drone. “I want to, though.” The machine intelligences that monitored the internet for newsworthy events picked up on the invasion, not only from Dmitry’s channel, but from thousands of other cameras and phones. The situation was so odd that it was generally flagged it as a hoax or hacking. The few newsrooms that noticed what was going on went into a spin while trying to figure out what was really going on. ===Gold Coast, Australia – T+00:21 – Solar Noon (1158h UTC+10) 0158UTC=== When the aliens spawned in Australia twenty minutes later the world finally started to pay attention. The Gold Coast was the first population centre to be inundated. Brisbane was overwhelmed two minutes later. There was some panic as tens of thousands of creatures spawned in the busy cities, but very few injuries or deaths. “I didn’t have time to panic,” Jonah Karasmanis said to his phone, streaming to Facebook.Live. “By the time I knew the weird buggers were coming they were already here.” The AR feed showed the young man standing in the middle of a team of five of the aliens. Two of the creatures used their strange hands and trunks to wave various blobs of metal around his body. “They seem curious and harmless, as far as I can see,” he said. The phone had the standard 360° cameras and environmental scanning needed to generate a solid augmented reality experience. His glasses added several more cameras and microphones, as well as serving as the main display for the device. The people watching – already in the thousands, and increasing exponentially – could choose their point of view, seeing what Jonah saw, or surveying the area as they wished. One of the aliens reached out a trunk toward his phone, held in an outstretched hand. Jonah withdrew slightly, then shrugged and extended his arm toward the sinuous limb. The four fingers on the end of the trunk were about the size of a human thumb, but moved more like a tongue, without joints. They extended outward like petals of a flower, flattening out as they did so. The phone noted that there was a small opening in the middle of the lobes, and that it extended deep into the trunk. There was a constant, quiet rushing sound coming from the hole. “They breathe through the trunks,” Jonah said, excitedly. “I can hear the air rushing in. Woah!” When the lobes were about 15cm from the phone it flew out of his hand toward the trunk. The fingers caught it gently. “Hey, that’s my phone!” The trunk moved away from Jonah, down and to one side. The creature reached up and handed the phone to one of its hands. Millions of people were treated to their first close up view of a structure that looked familiar and bizarre at the same time. The hand had a human looking thumb on each side of a broad flat palm. The thumbs didn’t have nails, and could bend across the palm on the front and back of the hand. The aliens had index and ring fingers too. They could curl down to either palm as well, and had nails growing out of the end of the digit, like a tiny hoof. They looked like jade. The middle finger was the strangest. Twice as big as a human finger, it ended in a broad fleshy pad. Jonah’s phone stuck to one side of the pad as if glued there. The other two segments of big digit had another hoof on each side. These were scratched and scuffed. "They make fists with the big finger," Jonah said, "and walk on the hoof-nail things." The alien used the far trunk to pull a metallic blob off of a sort of x-shaped bandoleer it wore across its torso. It spent several seconds moving the blob around the phone in a careful pattern. "Look's to me like they're scanning it," Jonah said. The wireless connection between his AR glasses and the phone started to degrade. “Shit. I hope my insurance covers ‘broken by aliens’ when they’re done,” he said. The signal went dark. ===Sydney, Australia – T+00:30 – Solar Noon (1307h UTC+11) 0207UTC=== Now that the aliens had the world’s attention, humans worked with machine intelligences to pour over the video and sensor information collected about the aliens. The discussion quickly settled on the term “spawning” for the way the aliens were appearing. The rushing sound and flash of purple light reminded many of the special effects used to introduce new characters to the popular VR game, ShadowRun. As the aliens were appearing across Sydney, daytime News Producer Jennifer Smith found herself unexpectedly on camera for the first time. "It looks like they are appearing at local solar noon, Mohammed.” Her fat, pale face was blotchy with excitement – no time for makeup! – but her sharp voice was calm and strong. "It's like the Earth is turning under them and they teleport in when that part of the planet is closest to the sun." Mohammed Al Hussein , the daytime anchor for Australia Broadcast Corporation News (ABCN) was a bit flustered himself. “Solar noon? So not twelve on the clock, but when the sun is highest in the sky?” “Exactly,” Jennifer said. “This means the aliens will be appearing across Australia over the next three hours. People have time to prepare." "That means that UCANZ will be the first and last place they arrive, right?" "I hadn't thought of that, Mo," Jennifer said. "The noon line was between Australia and New Zealand when this all started." “Thank you, Jennifer Smith.” The focus switched back to Mohammed and the studio. He turned to address the main camera. “To date the aliens have not harmed anyone directly, but have also made no attempt to communicate with individuals or governments. They tend to operate in teams of three to six, and use tools to examine their surroundings. Stay away from them and you should be safe. Download our countdown timer to find out how long you have to prepare.” On augmented reality interfaces and screens around the world, people selected the widget. Papua New Guinea was about to be invaded. London, England – T+00:35 – The New Commonwealth Prepares (0212h UTC+0) 0212UTC “We have ten hours to prepare this country,” King Henry IX said. “India will begin to see the aliens in a out three hours, at 11:48AM local time.” He had been roused a few minutes before, and was still in his bedclothes, his iconic ginger hair a mad tangle of spikes. Queen Meghan stood silently behind her husband in a royal blue kimono, as regal and striking as ever. “We have samples on the way to the Boeing Ultraviolet Researh Facility in Sudbury by suborbital transport,” Canadian PM Pierce Lapham said. “We will have top researchers working on the aliens in about an hour.” The recently elected PM of the UK, Natalie Ferguson , asked, “Do we know how they are teleporting in? They seem to be able to get into locked facilities as well as on the surface.” “Yes, can we stop them?” Yogi Adityanath leaned forward. The PM of India was eager for an answer. “Not yet.” The voice came from a small man, seated to the right of the King. The virtual space was as secure as possible, yet the figure remained cloaked in shadows. They all knew who he was though – at least, they knew his codename: Parsifal, Head of the Integrated New Commonwealth Intelligence Services (INCIS). King Henry slammed his fist into his thigh, displaying his infamous temper. “Not good enough, Parsifal.” The Queen laid a hand on his shoulder, calming him. “You may be correct, Majesty,” Parsifal said. “Yet it is all we can do.” He waited a moment for the King to nod, then continued. “We should prepare for the chaos this invasion will trigger among world powers. First, the multinational corporations…” ===Sudbury, Canada – T+00:40 – Naming The Aliens (2034-02-28 2117h UTC-5) 0217UTC=== The Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility – BURF – was in chaos. The Director had sounded the alarm and mustered all hands. “We are tasked with figuring out how to stop the aliens’ spawning, how to defend against them, and how do communicate with them. Two dead bodies are incoming for the biosciences teams. Ms. Bishop will lead that effort.” “On it,” Miranda said. She immediately ... ===Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea – T+00:46 – Solar Noon (1223h UTC+10) 0223UTC=== Learn about what it looks like there and how the aliens will welcomed. ===Tokyo, Japan – T+01:16 – Solar Noon (1153h UTC+9) 0253UTC=== With less than an hour to prepare, the citizens of Japan flailed about, trying to figure out what to do. In Tokyo, a million people poured into the streets in preparation for the ===Kolkata, India – T+04:41 – Solar Noon (1148h UTC+5:30) 0618UTC=== Stuff.
Chapter 0020 0020 2034-03-01 0300 UTC;2034-03-01 0400 UTC;2034-03-01 0500 UTC Get everyone to [[BURF]]. Characters are either in the air to BURF to complete some task, driven there by curiousity (and manipulation), working there, or being quarantined there. 2017-03-08 Basic updates from game session noted here, for conversation to narrative when appropriate. ==[[2034-03-01 0300 UTC]]== '''PCs''' * Deke and company are transferred to a biohazard-grade ambulance for transportation to Jenkin's work. He passes out on the way. * Droo is getting in the air. * Jade and Miranda compare notes. They share a deep interest in biomimetics, but take that work in very different directions. * Kaleb is in the air. * Miranda is working with Jade to figure out how the Tetras work. * Ralston is in the air, attempting to manage the resources of the entire New Commonwealth through the crisis. '''NPCs''' * Grace and Red are unconscious in the ambulance with Jenkins and Deke. Jenkins goes next, just before Deke. Jenkins has had some VERY interesting phone calls in the last hour or so. * Val arranges for Daniel and Miranda to have a little chat. He tells them they are both working on things that the other needs to know about. ==[[2034-03-01 0400 UTC]]== '''PCs''' * There is a pause in the action as the players continue what they were doing the last hour. '''NPCs''' * Val lands in Ottawa. The black tie affair has been cancelled, of course, but he makes himself available to provide consulting services to the government. ==[[2034-03-01 0500 UTC]]== '''PCs''' * [[Deke]] wakes up in a quarantine room at [[BURF]]. He has a very ugly headache. * [[Droo]] lands in [[Sudbury]] Airport on a suborbital flight from [[Halifax]]. He meets his unknown helper - [[Ralston]] and agrees to follow him to 'the place with the answers.' When [[Ralston]] confronts [[Kaleb]] because stupid, [[Droo]] somehow overhears their phone calls without being in range to hear them. He makes a fuss about it, short circuiting the brewing confrontation. * [[Jade]] continues to work on the biomemetic possibilities raised by the [[Tetras]]. * [[Kaleb]] lands in [[Sudbury]] Airport on a private jet from [[New Orleans]]. On his way to his ride, some Brit went off on him. He called in a safe word code for assistance, only to find someone who couldn't possibly have heard what he was doing knew exactly what he'd said on an encrypted line. [[Kaleb]] really wants to know who this [[Droo]] character is. * [[Miranda]] realizes that the [[Tetras]] are not naturally evolved organisms. "It's all too neat and tidy," she thinks. "Evolutionary pressures are messier than this." She sits back for a moment, involuntarily showing her surprise in her body language. She doesn't notice the lab fall silent around her as she moves. "They've been ''edited''!" she whispers. "Designed!" * [[Ralston]] lands in [[Sudbury]] Airport on a commercial flight from [[London]], [[England]]. Shortly after landing he collects [[Droo]], but then gets into a confrontation with [[Kaleb]], who's AR systems are somehow shielded from him. On the way to [[BURF]] Ralston is called into a full-immersion top-level meeting by [[the King]]. '''NPCs''' * [[Grace]], [[Jenkins]], and [[Red]] wake up in quarantine rooms at [[BURF]]. * [[The King]] invites [[Val]] to a meeting with the heads of state for the [[New Commonwealth]] as a military science advisor. He is in [[Ottawa]] already, so joins the [[Prime Minister]] at [[24 Sussex]], along with key cabinet members and leaders of the Bureaucracy. '''[[2017-03-08]] Game Session''' * [[Kaleb]] and [[Droo]] get dumped into one of the limos by [[Ralston]], who is called away by [[The King]]. ** They are stuck together for almost an hour. It is uncomfortable. **During the ride, [[Kaleb]] tries to chat up [[Droo]] and believes him to be a PMC contractor. Asking several probing questions, [[Kaleb]] makes [[Droo]] uncomfortable. [[Kaleb]] attempts to covertly hack [[Droo]]'s game feed to see what he's doing, and fails spectacularly. ==Plot points== The [[Homo Celestes]] infections were part of a complex industrial espionage operation undertaken by [[Boeing]]. The Director of BURF was informed that there was a narrow window where a small quantity of version 4 of the [[Homo Celestes]] installer could be pilfered from a rival MNC ([[Genetek]]). It was his job to find at least two test subjects to use the stolen technology on, and to have them ready for infection during a very narrow window of time. [[Deke]] and [[Jenkins]] were perfect candidates, except for [[Deke]] being in Montana. They don't know that they were part of an experiment when they were in the [[Marines]], and were found to be excellent candidates for potential genetic modifications. This gave BURF two subjects of different ages, with detailed medical records and a history of successful experimentation. The trick was to get them both to BURF. [[Jenkins]] was transferred to the facility well in advance of the operation. A few days before the heist, his contacts with local authorities slipped him a picture of [[Grace]] - his best friend [[Deke]]'s runaway daughter. As expected, Deke dropped everything and illegally crossed the border into Canada, not having time to get a visa. Unfortunately, he was late, and there was no flex in the timeframe for the heist. The Homo Celestes installer technology was living cells. They could be sustained in a [[womba]] for up to eight days, but after that they had to be installed in a living human. For the first four hours in a human subject the HC4 cells could safely be extracted and injected into another person. The risk of explosive cancerous growth increased dramatically over the next two hours. After six hours the cells were too specialized to be viable for transfer or transplant. Boeing agents tried to drop hints for Deke, to guide him to his daughter, but his general refusal to use AR gear meant they had few options to guide him. When he finally got to Sudbury at [[2034-02-28_1800_UTC]] / 1PM EST the agents were forced to infect [[Red]] to preserve the installer. He was their least valuable host. After about four hours with Homo Celestes cells in his system, a drone was used to collect a tissue sample from [[Red]]'s bicep while he slept. They needed the sample before the Homo Celestes installer switched over from replication moe to integration mode. [[Grace]] was injected with the sample a few minutes later - the second backup incubator. [[Red]] and [[Grace]] were kept under close observation to ensure that they didn't accidentally spread the [[HC]]v4 to anyone else through transfer of bodily fluids (blood or lymph being most likely to infect). Unfortunately, [[Red]]'s behaviour deteriorated rapidly as the HC conversion tech began to integrate into his cells. By the time [[Deke]] arrived around 7PM, [[Red]] was fairly unhinged, screaming and raving and shooting at [[Grace]], who was holed up with the owner of [[Trevella Stables]]. [[Deke]] talked [[Red]] down, collected him and [[Grace]] - who was now acting quite impaired too - and drove like a bat outta hell to the hospital. [[Jenkins]] met them there. The four of them were almost immediately quarrantined at the hospital. During 'routine tests' the Homo Celestes installation cells were finally transferred to [[Jenkins]] and [[Deke]] - the original targets. It affected them much more quickly than the unprepared hosts - a positive sign from the [[Director]]'s point of view. All four were transferred to a [[Virtual Augmented Isolation Laboratory]] ([[VAIL]])) at [[BURF]]. This facility used augmented reality and robotics put the researchers inside the quarrantine facility without exposing them to any physical danger. They worked from the [[PAIL]] (Physical Augmented Isolation Laboratory) separated from [[VAIL]] by hundreds of metres of solid rock.
Chapter 0020 0020 2034-03-01 0300 UTC;2034-03-01 0400 UTC;2034-03-01 0500 UTC Get everyone to [[BURF]]. Characters are either in the air to BURF to complete some task, driven there by curiousity (and manipulation), working there, or being quarantined there. 2017-03-08 Basic updates from game session noted here, for conversation to narrative when appropriate. ==[[2034-03-01 0300 UTC]]== '''PCs''' * Deke and company are transferred to a biohazard-grade ambulance for transportation to Jenkin's work. He passes out on the way. * Droo is getting in the air. * Jade and Miranda compare notes. They share a deep interest in biomimetics, but take that work in very different directions. * Kaleb is in the air. * Miranda is working with Jade to figure out how the Tetras work. * Ralston is in the air, attempting to manage the resources of the entire New Commonwealth through the crisis. '''NPCs''' * Grace and Red are unconscious in the ambulance with Jenkins and Deke. Jenkins goes next, just before Deke. Jenkins has had some VERY interesting phone calls in the last hour or so. * Val arranges for Daniel and Miranda to have a little chat. He tells them they are both working on things that the other needs to know about. ==[[2034-03-01 0400 UTC]]== '''PCs''' * There is a pause in the action as the players continue what they were doing the last hour. '''NPCs''' * Val lands in Ottawa. The black tie affair has been cancelled, of course, but he makes himself available to provide consulting services to the government. ==[[2034-03-01 0500 UTC]]== '''PCs''' * [[Deke]] wakes up in a quarantine room at [[BURF]]. He has a very ugly headache. * [[Droo]] lands in [[Sudbury]] Airport on a suborbital flight from [[Halifax]]. He meets his unknown helper - [[Ralston]] and agrees to follow him to 'the place with the answers.' When [[Ralston]] confronts [[Kaleb]] because stupid, [[Droo]] somehow overhears their phone calls without being in range to hear them. He makes a fuss about it, short circuiting the brewing confrontation. * [[Jade]] continues to work on the biomemetic possibilities raised by the [[Tetras]]. * [[Kaleb]] lands in [[Sudbury]] Airport on a private jet from [[New Orleans]]. On his way to his ride, some Brit went off on him. He called in a safe word code for assistance, only to find someone who couldn't possibly have heard what he was doing knew exactly what he'd said on an encrypted line. [[Kaleb]] really wants to know who this [[Droo]] character is. * [[Miranda]] realizes that the [[Tetras]] are not naturally evolved organisms. "It's all too neat and tidy," she thinks. "Evolutionary pressures are messier than this." She sits back for a moment, involuntarily showing her surprise in her body language. She doesn't notice the lab fall silent around her as she moves. "They've been ''edited''!" she whispers. "Designed!" * [[Ralston]] lands in [[Sudbury]] Airport on a commercial flight from [[London]], [[England]]. Shortly after landing he collects [[Droo]], but then gets into a confrontation with [[Kaleb]], who's AR systems are somehow shielded from him. On the way to [[BURF]] Ralston is called into a full-immersion top-level meeting by [[the King]]. '''NPCs''' * [[Grace]], [[Jenkins]], and [[Red]] wake up in quarantine rooms at [[BURF]]. * [[The King]] invites [[Val]] to a meeting with the heads of state for the [[New Commonwealth]] as a military science advisor. He is in [[Ottawa]] already, so joins the [[Prime Minister]] at [[24 Sussex]], along with key cabinet members and leaders of the Bureaucracy. '''[[2017-03-08]] Game Session''' * [[Kaleb]] and [[Droo]] get dumped into one of the limos by [[Ralston]], who is called away by [[The King]]. ** They are stuck together for almost an hour. It is uncomfortable. **During the ride, [[Kaleb]] tries to chat up [[Droo]] and believes him to be a PMC contractor. Asking several probing questions, [[Kaleb]] makes [[Droo]] uncomfortable. [[Kaleb]] attempts to covertly hack [[Droo]]'s game feed to see what he's doing, and fails spectacularly. ==Plot points== The [[Homo Celestes]] infections were part of a complex industrial espionage operation undertaken by [[Boeing]]. The Director of BURF was informed that there was a narrow window where a small quantity of version 4 of the [[Homo Celestes]] installer could be pilfered from a rival MNC ([[Genetek]]). It was his job to find at least two test subjects to use the stolen technology on, and to have them ready for infection during a very narrow window of time. [[Deke]] and [[Jenkins]] were perfect candidates, except for [[Deke]] being in Montana. They don't know that they were part of an experiment when they were in the [[Marines]], and were found to be excellent candidates for potential genetic modifications. This gave BURF two subjects of different ages, with detailed medical records and a history of successful experimentation. The trick was to get them both to BURF. [[Jenkins]] was transferred to the facility well in advance of the operation. A few days before the heist, his contacts with local authorities slipped him a picture of [[Grace]] - his best friend [[Deke]]'s runaway daughter. As expected, Deke dropped everything and illegally crossed the border into Canada, not having time to get a visa. Unfortunately, he was late, and there was no flex in the timeframe for the heist. The Homo Celestes installer technology was living cells. They could be sustained in a [[womba]] for up to eight days, but after that they had to be installed in a living human. For the first four hours in a human subject the HC4 cells could safely be extracted and injected into another person. The risk of explosive cancerous growth increased dramatically over the next two hours. After six hours the cells were too specialized to be viable for transfer or transplant. Boeing agents tried to drop hints for Deke, to guide him to his daughter, but his general refusal to use AR gear meant they had few options to guide him. When he finally got to Sudbury at [[2034-02-28_1800_UTC]] / 1PM EST the agents were forced to infect [[Red]] to preserve the installer. He was their least valuable host. After about four hours with Homo Celestes cells in his system, a drone was used to collect a tissue sample from [[Red]]'s bicep while he slept. They needed the sample before the Homo Celestes installer switched over from replication moe to integration mode. [[Grace]] was injected with the sample a few minutes later - the second backup incubator. [[Red]] and [[Grace]] were kept under close observation to ensure that they didn't accidentally spread the [[HC]]v4 to anyone else through transfer of bodily fluids (blood or lymph being most likely to infect). Unfortunately, [[Red]]'s behaviour deteriorated rapidly as the HC conversion tech began to integrate into his cells. By the time [[Deke]] arrived around 7PM, [[Red]] was fairly unhinged, screaming and raving and shooting at [[Grace]], who was holed up with the owner of [[Trevella Stables]]. [[Deke]] talked [[Red]] down, collected him and [[Grace]] - who was now acting quite impaired too - and drove like a bat outta hell to the hospital. [[Jenkins]] met them there. The four of them were almost immediately quarrantined at the hospital. During 'routine tests' the Homo Celestes installation cells were finally transferred to [[Jenkins]] and [[Deke]] - the original targets. It affected them much more quickly than the unprepared hosts - a positive sign from the [[Director]]'s point of view. All four were transferred to a [[Virtual Augmented Isolation Laboratory]] ([[VAIL]])) at [[BURF]]. This facility used augmented reality and robotics put the researchers inside the quarrantine facility without exposing them to any physical danger. They worked from the [[PAIL]] (Physical Augmented Isolation Laboratory) separated from [[VAIL]] by hundreds of metres of solid rock.
Chapter 0030 0030 2034-03-01 0700 UTC Describe the events of the game session Deke, Jenkins, Red , and Grace have a transformative experience. Deke BURF · PAIL-VAIL 2017-03-15 Wherein it hits the fan for [[Deke]], [[Jenkins]], [[Grace]], and [[Red]] while everyone is distracted by [[Droo]], [[Ralston]], and [[Miranda]]. These events happen on the VAIL side of the [[PAIL-VAIL]]. === 0630 UTC / 0130 EST=== [[Deke]] woke up in a cage. An immaculate cage, gleaming white and steel, but still, a cage. Like any old soldier he took stock. ''White hospital scrubs with -'' he reached around to his back ''- velcro. Fancy.'' He sat up on the bunk, testing his body. He felt strong and vital – maybe too strong. He hadn't felt this fit in decades. He took care of himself, practically living off the land he was responsible for – but this was something different. He flexed his muscles carefully and slowly, doing isometric exercises. ''I don't just feel stronger,'' he thought. ''I really am stronger.'' The ceiling in his cell looked to be about twelve feet high. He was sure he could jump up and touch it. ''Free Viagra in Canada, they said.'' His lips pursed and curled up on the left just a hint, thinking about the old joke. He turned to the glass wall that made up the front of the cell. ''A foot thick?'' he guessed, considering the way it distorted the view at even a slight angle. His cell looked out into an octagonal room. The other cells were separated by about three feet of concrete and stone. To his left he could see Jenkins stirring. Red was to his right, sitting on his bunk with his elbows on knees, forehead on fists. It was Grace who held his attention though. She lay still on her bunk. He could make out her slow, deep breathing, which surprised him. His eyes were still sharp, but even back in the day he wasn't sure he'd have been able to pick up that much detail through two feet of distorting glass and ten yards of open space. It was only then that he realized the large central space was filled with androids and other robots, all working at speed. He had been so focused on his daughter that he had blocked everything else out. Deke caught movement in Jenkins' cell, and saw he was now up and exploring. He was obviously gesturing and talking to someone Deke couldn't see. A Waldo extruded from the ceiling and opened a drawer beside the sink. It reached in and pulled out an AR set, handing it to Jenkins. ''Damn AR,'' he thought, turning back to his cell. A set of AR glasses now sat on the counter beside the sink. Looking up quickly, he saw the robot arm retract into the ceiling. With a sigh he slipped the glasses on. In the mirror he noticed his weatherbeaten face didn't look any more energetic than it did before, no matter how he felt now. With the AR on, the cell and the room beyond transformed. Robots were replaced with lab-coat-clad people working furiously on various tasks. "They'll let us chat for a moment, Deke," Jenkins said. "I hate this thing," Deke muttered. "Alright, Jenny, what's the sitrep?" Jenkins narrowed his eyes and nodded slightly. On missions his call sign was Jenny. He answered, "I don't know, Padre. They're trying to figure out what we were all infected with and why. They took samples when we were out." ''Red then Grace, then the two of us together…'' "Is it spreading?" Deke asked. "It doesn't look like it," Jenkins said. "The rest of these rooms would be full." He paused for a moment. "How are you feeling?" Deke flexed his arms and shrugged. "Better than someone infected with a mystery bug should feel." His eyes got wide for a moment, and Deke saw him flexing too. One of the white clad virtual lab workers walked straight through the foot thick glass. It caught Deke off guard until he remembered he was wearing the AR glasses. The young man said, "Mr. Heppener, I'm sorry we had to meet like this. Mr. Jenkins has mentioned you on occasion." He reached out a hand to shake and Deke response automatically. He was surprised when his hand met flesh. AR handshakes didn't usually have any physical sensation. Pulling down his glasses, Deke saw he was shaking a robot arm attached to the wall of his room. ''Damn thing feels real.'' "Gord is part of the weekend poker game, Padre," Jenkins said. "Good to know, Jenny." Jenkins was very selective about those games. He only invited people he trusted. Deke turned to Gord. "Now you get out of here and go help my daughter. "My colleagues are with her right now, Mr. Heppener. The best way to help her is to figure out what is in your system, how it got there, and how it was transmitted. To do that I'm going to need some more samples to test. "Fine," Deke said. "Whatever you need." "Well, a biopsy of a few muscles would help." Deke raised his eyebrows. "Biopsy? You mean you want to cut out a bit of a few muscles?" "Yes sir. I just need you to lie down on the bunk on your stomach so I can get a sample from your tricep, lumbar, and calf. I can numb the incisions, but the muscles will be sore afterward." Deke shrugged off his shirt and trousers and lay down on the bunk with his head toward the glass door, his chin on his hands. "I don't want painkillers, though," Deke said. "Uh…" Gord hesitated. "This will be quite painful." "Look at the scars, kid. I can take it. I want a clear head for when Grace wakes up." "All right, then," Gord said slowly. "I'll get started." It was more painful than Deke expected, but he handled it fine. Gord provided a color commentary of every cut and stitch but Deke didn't really listen until he said, "All done." He watched Gord put the samples into a small cabinet built into the wall beside the door when the ceiling of the central room irised open. Two large canisters covered in biohazard warnings were lowered into the room on cables while the glass doors on either side of Grace slid up into the ceiling. The cannisters were pushed into the rooms by researchers. The glass slid down in the blink of an eye. The door panel showed a good seal a moment later, so the researchers started unsealing the cylinders. Deke's amazement at seeing the aliens – he's been out of touch or isolated for the last six hours and has no idea what they are. Describe their physiology a bit while Miranda and Jade (among others) examine the corpses. ===0700 UTC / 0200EST=== Deke woke up when the feeling in the room changed. He saw Jenkins come alert at the same time. ''Habits of old soldiers,'' he thought. Three new people were in the room now. With a start, Deke saw that they were all slightly translucent, and realized that they were just images in his glasses. They didn't appear to be controlling any of the robotics in the lab like the other images, but they had everyone's attention. Describe Ralston and Droo, with an aside about Kaleb. Deke found the interactions interesting, especially seeing the relationship between Ralston and Miranda. Droo had him confused until Gareth spills the beans. While everyone was distracted, Deke caught Jenkins eye and signaled for a sitrep. Jenkins pointed to Ralston, indicating he was a VIP. Droo was an unknown. He also pointed out Kaleb as a potential ally. Grace and Red were both standing at the doors of their rooms, watching the commotion and gesturing to each other. Deke recognized a few of the signs and signals. He felt a swelling pride at how calm and collected Grace appeared. Grudgingly, he admitted to that Red looked like a good partner for her. ''They look like Jenkins and me when we were locked up outside Kandahar. They've been in situations like this before,'' he realized. ''I missed a lot.'' Gareth lead the strange Vögell/Droo person out of the room, an everyone relaxed into a sudden babble of releasing tension. "Discuss it on break," Miranda said, her voice cutting through the noise. "We still have two aliens and four patients to –" Her words stopped abruptly when Jenkins threw up violently on the glass door and collapsed to the floor. "What the hell?" Deke said. Pounding the glass hard enough to make it vibrate, he yelled, "Jenkins! Jenkins!" Across the room Grace collapsed too, convulsing so hard that she was flopping around the room, smashing the furniture and robotics with each spasm. She looked like a fish in the bottom of a boat. Deke's throat felt raw from screaming, "Help her!" Then he coughed violently, spitting up hair. Shocked, he reached up to find his hair falling out in clumps. The researchers were frozen in shock for a moment, then burst into a mad scramble of activity. Deke stood in shock, staring at the hair in his hands. When he looked up he saw Jenkins had been moved onto his bunk, and Grace was lying on the floor amidst the rubble of her room. Red was still up, but his face was blank and he was punching the wall in a methodical way, like he was chopping wood. Deke's eyes widened when he noticed that Red was not coming away with broken hands: the wall was cracking under the force of his blows. Then the air lit up with an eerie blue glow and all the electronics sparked and fried. Deke snatched the smoking glasses from his face. The temperature in the room seemed to jump and he began to sweat, hard. There was a rushing sound, like an explosion, but it faded quickly. The blue glow dwindled just as quickly, but now the walls were brightly lit with a fluorescent green glow. He cooled off very quickly in the silent darkness. His heart was pounding, and he couldn't catch his breath. He tried to yell for his daughter, but couldn't make a sound. With a shock he recognized the rushing sound: the lunar dome failure sounded like that in the news videos of the event. ''How am I not dead?'' And the blue glow – he remembered that too. One of his missions in Afghanistan was a raid to recover a dirty bomb. During mission preparations he'd seen videos with that blue light. It was caused by a blast of hard radiation. ''We're cooked,'' he thought numbly. ''It might take a few days, but we're all dead.'' Slowly, Grace pulled herself up from the floor, using the glass wall for support. At first Deke thought the weird lighting was making her look different, but as she stood he could see that her skin was turning darker and darker as he watched. ''That's not how radiation works,'' he thought, ''but I'm breathing vacuum just fine.'' He gestured to Grace. "Are you ok?" Rather than responding with another hand signal, she looked at him with wide eyes, shrugged, and mouthed "What the fuck?" Deke nodded agreement. Despite their bizarre situation, he felt a thrill at even this short interaction with Grace. ''We're not dead yet. Make the most of it.'' Looking to the right, Deke saw Red had crumpled up some equipment into a big metal fist, and was using it like a boxing glove, continuing to pound the stone beside the door. He was making progress, but the stone was still quite thick. To the left, he saw Jenkins pull the metal toilet off the wall with little effort. His room immediately filled with snowy mist as water boiled away into the room. ''Jesus. Just how strong are we?'' With a shrug, he braced himself and pushed on his door. The door didn't move, but he slid back a meter. ''A lot stronger.'' The glow from the walls had faded quickly, and stabilized at a dim and murky light, too dark to see what the others were doing. Remembering where Gord had put the samples into the wall, Deke figured that was as good a place to start as any. His first punch buckled the steel plate enough for him to get his fingers around it and tear it out of the wall. Exerting that much force hurt, but he found it hard to see any damage on his dark skin in the dim light. All four of them were very dark now. Bracing himself, he put his fist into the next layer of steel. This one was stronger, but after a few good hits he was able to tear it out as well. Deke had just punched out the third steel door when the lights snapped back on and air rushed back into the room. He found himself suddenly desperate to breathe. Gasping and heaving, he braced himself against the wall and sucked in air. Red and Grace had made some progress breaking their door frames, but it looked like they had some distance to go. Jenkins had bent parts of the metal toilet into a primitive saw, and had been scratching the glass in a cross-hatch pattern. Deke stuck his arm out through the hole and into the room, waving. The others stopped what they were doing. Deke stepped in front of his door and mimed picking up a phone while pointing to the hole. The others immediately pounded their way through their air locks. As soon as he saw her fist, Deke yelled, "Grace, are you ok?" He found it surprisingly difficult to read her expression now that her eyes and skin were inky black, but the tone of her voice was very clear. "Seriously, Dad? That's your first question?" She turned toward Jenkins and called out, "What are you doing? We're not having a lot of luck." Jenkins answered by stepping to the back of his cell. He centred himself, took two steps forward, and levelled a devistating side-kick to the glass. The inner surface exploded. "There are five layers to this stuff. If you can score the materials along and across the grain you can cause a layer to shatter." He picked up his makeshift scratching tool and began working the next layer in a diagonal pattern. "Fold over the toilet steel or bed frame to make a scratching tool," he said. "The first layer is vertical and horizontal lines, two centimetres apart. The next is a diagonal grid, same spacing." Red immediately started to tear out the toilet in his room, but Grace just stood there, staring at her hands. Deke had seen that look before. Carefully, she put her fingernail against the glass and dragged it downward. A deep scratch appeared. "Don't use the metal, boys," she said. "Our nails are stronger, I think."
Chapter 0040 0040 2034-03-01 0701 UTC to 0707 UTC Engage characters in securing the base. [[Kaleb]] works with [[Jade]] and [[Ranjna]] to secure [[BURF]]. Kaleb Gomez Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility · PAIL-VAIL 2017-03-15 Wherein [[Kaleb]] works with [[Jade]] and [[Ranjna]] to begin developing countermeasures to the [[Spawning]]. ===0701 UTC / 0201 EST=== "Are they constructing replicant machines inside the eggs?" [[Jade]] muttered, pouring over the scans and data [[Miranda]]'s people were collecting from the [[Tetras]] in the VAIL. [[Miranda]] made it clear that the [[Tetras]] were engineered organisms – but not machines in the way [[Jade]] knew machines. The idea of self-replicating robotics stuck in his head though. ''I wonder if I can make this happen,'' he thought. He noticed that there was some emotional outburst underway elsewhere in the lab, but ignored it. Taking over one of the suddenly abandoned AR Telepresence Androids (ARTA), he carefully examined the information gleaned so far on how the [[Tetras]] reproduce. Now that he could see that [[Jenkins]] was being well treated, [[Kaleb]] found himself a meat shield or two and kept out of any likely line of fire. He found the interplay fascinating. He had a tendency to uncover secrets when his curiosity got away from him, and since his job usually granted him top level access to fix critical problems, he had uncovered a lot of dirt over the years. There were several times he wanted to interject a snarky quip into the confrontation, but – for once – he realized that it would get in the way of the job at hand. Settling his mind back on task, [[Kaleb]] tried to figure out who he could pull to help him secure the facility without destroying the facility. "Time to work," he said. On a private channel, he said, "Hey, [[Miranda]] can you give me what you have on how the [[Tetras]] are spawning? I need to—" She cut him off without turning her attention from whatever she was doing. "This is what being busy doing my job looks like," she said. "Do yours. Talk to my team." ''She ain't pretty,'' Kaleb thought. ''She just looks that way.'' Not taking her brusk manner to heart, he turned his attention to the team roster and pulled up people with physics backgrounds. [[Jade]] was the top of the list, followed by [[Ranjna Samlalsingh]]. ===0702 UTC / 0202 EST=== "Hey, where's my data!" Jade said when the VAIL/PAIL connection terminated abruptly. "Good question," [[Kaleb]] said through a private channel. "Everyone else is too caught up in Professor X's little games to even notice the system went down. Did you notice the blue flash just before it died?" "Blue flash?" Jade replayed the footage from the last moments before the cameras shut off. His face paled. "Uh… That's what it looks like when a fission pile goes critical," he said. "Those cameras didn't shut off. They were fried by hard radiation. ''Well shit.'' "How far are we from the VAIL lab? Are we in danger?" ''[[Jenkins]] you poor sonofabitch. What the hell happened to you?'' Jade had already calmed down. "No we're safe. The failsafes are quite robust in there, but they they shouldn't really do a lot of harm to the samples. They'll be sterilized and/or dead, but they won't decay or go anywhere – especially not with the lab being a vacuum chamber now." "Did you say 'vacuum chamber'?" Kaleb asked, incredulous. "Why else would they call it the Moonscape Protocol?" ===0703 UTC / 0203 EST=== "Okaaaay," Kaleb said, recalling the CEO's threats and promises from just a few hours ago. "Is this whole place rigged to self destruct?" "That's how I'd do it," Jade said casually. "But now I won't have my models to work with. It takes a few minutes for the secondary systems to kick in after the radiation burst." "How'd you like to help me secure the facility from Tetras? I'm supposed to make sure they don't get in, but if they do, neutralize them before they can mess with Project Electrolux, whatever that is. Oh, and to do it in a way that doesn't disrupt Electrolux either." "That's an interesting problem," Jade said. "But this place is vast. We aren't going to be able to post guards or even do traditional automation to stop them if they spawn here." Kaleb wasn't sure if he liked or feared the grin that stole across Jade's face a moment later. "I have an idea for neutralizing them once they're in," he said. "What should I call them? Daddy's Little Helpers? No, I know: Clanks!" ===0704 UTC / 0204 EST=== Kaleb left Jade amidst a swirling gestalt of robot design work, and hit up the next person on his list: [[Ranjna]]. Her credentials as a theoretical physicist were impressive, but physically at least, she was anything but. Barely five feet tall and very slender, Kaleb would have thought this dark South Indian woman was not yet a teenager at a glance. "You just never know," he said, as he approached her. This startled her out of her fascinated attention on Gareth and Droo, and brought her suddenly sharp gaze around to him. Around them the other scientists and engineers started to realize that the AR connection to VAIL had been broken. "Know exactly what, buy?" Kaleb was taken completely off guard by her accent. His AR identified it as Newfoundlander. "Well, I was going to say something witty about appearances being deceiving, what with your mad science skills, but I think we have some other things to deal with first." He dropped a virtual file on her workbench and pointed to his orders. "So I have three questions. How do the Tetras spawn? Can we put up an energy barrier to stop them spawning here? And when we get a break can I buy you a beverage and hear your story?" She looked at him for a long moment, her face blank. Finally she rolled her eyes, sighed, and said, "The answers to your questions are, 'no one has a clue' 'that is not a real thing' and 'you might want to reconsider asking a newf to drink free drinks and tell tales. You might not survive it." Kaleb started to speak, but stopped when she raised one eyebrow. Instead of his original comment, he summoned up a GIF3D meme of a tiny badger quivering in apparent rage while staring down a mastiff. A quiet lady's voice whispered, "Intensity intensifies" as the hologram looped. ===0705 UTC / 0205 EST=== She didn't laugh, but the other eyebrow went up, so he flicked the meme away and said, "I'm calling that a win." Ranjna started to speak, but he leaned back, and said, "I do need your help and you do have mad science skills. Even if you don't have facts, do you have any speculation? I'd like to secure this place without having to blow it up." "I doubt the Director would leave that decision to you," she said, "but mad scientists such as myself do like to speculate." She ran a hand into her mass of thick black curls and seemed somewhat surprised to find a pencil in there. Her head gave a classic Indian bobble as she began to sketch in the air in front of her. Kaleb circled her desk to stand beside her. The diagrams didn't make any sense to him, but it looked like she was just warming up. "Compile and run," she said, tucking her pencil back in her hair. ===0706 UTC / 0206EST=== Kaleb watched fascinated as the strange squiggles and equations glowed reddish gold, and then swirled into a slowly rotating hologram of the Earth. "The Tetras are appearing roughly on the line of longitude that is closest to the sun at any given moment. From the data so far we think they'd be right on the north/south axis if this were the equinox, but right now we're still a bit tilted from perpendicular, so to speak." A few of her colleagues noticed her work and joined them. "If you look at the spawning-band you can see redder and bluer points to either side of the line. These represent Tetras that appear early or late compared to the closest-to-sun line. "[[Craig Somner|Craig]], can you drop in the magnetospheres?" "Sure, Ranjna." Kaleb didn't catch who responded, keeping his eyes on the model. A moment later it exploded with bands of magnetic force, pulsating sheets of plasma, and jets of charged particles smashing inward from the sun. "Great. Ok, now see if there are any correlations to the mapped fields and the early-late distortion we've picked up." "Working…" Craig said. Over the next thirty seconds, all the extra electromagnetic information flickered out bit by bit. Sporadically, some element of the model would light up for a moment, but it appeared to Kaleb that it was at random. Ranjna sighed. "We know something is affecting the timing their appearance, but we don't know what." She yawned hugely, rubbing her eyes. "We just can't see what it is." ===0707 UTC / 0207EST=== The AR announcement system gave a gentle ping, and the Director's voice was in everyone's head. "We have several critical situations underway, people, and not a lot of time to deal with them. The Tetras have inundated half of Asia at this point. China and India are both handling things with relatively little bloodshed as far as we can tell. Central Asia is being hit now. Europe and Africa are next. Newfoundland has about nine hours until the Spawning starts there, and this facility is scheduled to be hit about an hour later – nearly exactly noon, local time. "Some of you have serious work to do right this minute. Some of you also need to sleep for a few hours to be of any use to anybody. If your AR is telling you it's time to sleep report to the pharmacy on your way to your bunk. You'll be up in five hours. No, I don't care if you like working late. Yes, this is the Chief Medical Officer's orders and I support her fully. Security will assist you to your bunk if required. "That is all." Ranjna slumped, along with most of her team. "Save the work, take the shot, and have brilliant dreams," she said. Kaleb realized that three quarters of the lab was filing out the door, walking like zombies. They were exhausted. Miranda, Jade, and Kaleb found themselves almost alone in the huge room.
Chapter 0070 0070 2034-03-01 0700 UTC To 0705 UTC [[Vögell]] is discovered. The tension between [[Ralston]] and [[Droo]] forces [[Vögell]] to the surface, where he is captured by [[Gareth]]. Kendall Andrew Duclos · Ralston St. John Hereford Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility · PAIL-VAIL 2017-03-15 Wherein Droo and Vögell are confronted by Ralston and Gareth. ===[[2034-03-01 0700 UTC|0700 UTC]] / 0200 EST=== [[Ralston]] saw his words land on [[Droo]] with unexpected force. For a moment he thought the meek man was going to cry. Then a switch flipped inside [[Droo]]'s head. "It's time to stop playing games, little man." [[Droo]]'s voice was cold and calm, showing none of the agitation and fear that had been there just a moment before. In a swift and graceful movement, [[Droo]] lifted [[Ralston]] by the neck and slammed him into the cold concrete wall of the lab. "You promised me information and you'll keep that promise," he said. From his tone, he might have said, "Nice weather" to a stranger on the street. [[Ralston]]'s mind went blank – a rare and noteworthy experience. He felt no fear for his life: it was a moment of utter confusion at how badly he had misjudged [[Droo]]. He idly assessed the pandemonium in the lab as scientists scrambled to get away from the madman assaulting him, and used his AR cortical reader to order the guards outside to stay there for now. Not for the first time, [[Ralston]] thought, ''Why are governments so much easier to deal with than people?'' While [[Ralston]] tried to come up with a useful lie to get [[Droo]] under control a quiet voice eased into the lab through everyone's AR. "[[Ralston]], the Treadstone Program we could not find has surfaced in Subject 3." The deep, smooth voice felt like a susurration, but compelled attention and cut through the shock and surprise. Most of the people in the room recognized [[Gareth]]'s strangely compelling tone, but it was rare to hear him so intensely interested in anything. "I believe it was hidden in an ego-crèche and mostly limited to VR game-worlds." [[Ralston]] was momentarily irritated at Gareth disregarding his recent order to keep [[Droo]] in the dark about his previous time at [[BURF]]. He filed that slight away for future reckoning. He considered attempting to cut [[Gareth]] off but was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything except getting air into his lungs. [[Gareth]] continued. "S3 is simultaneously a highly skilled deep cover assassin and a paranoid ufologist crank. There is a good chance he is seeking his origins, and nothing else." Wearing his [[Droo]]-suit, [[Vögell]] unconsciously loosened his grip on [[Ralston]], though he did not let go. He remained keenly aware of the security personnel on the other side of the door, while trying to understand what he had just heard. He was deeply confused: ''I was on a 'Run to get information about [[Droo]]'s history…'' he thought - but that made no sense. [[Droo]] wasn't real. He was just a character [[Vögell]] played to let off steam between missions. ''Wait, I'm dressed like [[Droo]]. Where is my armour? My weapons?'' Slowly, [[Vögell]] released [[Ralston]] and stepped back. It occurred to him that he might have been drugged or trapped my a corporation while on a 'Run. ''I need more information.'' There were no really defensible positions in the lab, so he put his back to the wall a few metres from [[Ralston]], and crouched slightly, at the ready. There was a long pause while everyone flipped their eyes from [[Ralston]] to the madman beside him. ===0701 UTC / 0201 EST=== [[Ralston]] cleared his throat while rubbing his neck, somehow imbuing these simple motions with aristocratic snobbery. "You're not going to hurt me or anyone else here, Ess Three," he said, dragged out "S3" with several extra syllables. "No?" Eyes remaining on the door, Vögell casually stepped to his right to backhand [[Ralston]] across the face. The blow was hard enough to bounce his head off the wall again, but not hard enough to do any real damage. "I bet that hurts." For the first time there was a sense of pleasure in his tone. [[Ralston]] was rocked by the blow. Careful to remain composed and not rub his cheek or the back of his head, he was surprised to realize he was starting to feel actual anger. ''This day is positively crammed full of surprises, isn't it?'' he thought. He turned to [[Droo]], his crisp diction clipped. "Each act of aggression reduces what I tell you, and slows the process. Go too far and I'll tell it all to your corpse. Now control your self or be controlled!" In the moment before Vögell could escalate the conflict further, a short, pudgy, and balding AR avatar stepped through the closed doors of the lab. Gareth's name floated in virtual space in front of his face, which was a melange of features from the entire Pacific Rim. The distant voice in Vögell's head whispered, ''I know you.'' ===0702 UTC / 0202 EST=== "Hello, Vögell," Gareth said. His deep, rich voice easily held the attention of everyone in the room. Looking upward for a moment, he said, "[[Director]], if you'd be so kind?" A moment later a spiderweb of glowing black tendrils began to grow around [[Droo]] and Gareth. While the privacy net was closing, Gareth said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, but right now I need to talk to [[Droo]]." The net closed, obscuring their bodies and voices. Within the privacy shield, Gareth immediately spouted off five syllables of gibberish. [[Droo]] didn't understand the sound at all, but Vögell shuddered, overwhelmed by an unrelenting host of voices demanding his attention. A moment later he passed out, collapsing to an sleeping darkness inside [[Droo]]'s mind. For the first time in a decade [[Droo]] was completely clear that he was in the Real World, and that [[Vögell]] was not him. "Well that's a delightful surprise," Gareth said, gesturing the privacy field away. It began to fade immediately. "The kill switch safe-word was buried in the implanted psyche." ===0703 UTC / 0203 EST=== The door to the lab opened then, causing several people to jump. Droo recoiled, terror pulling his face into a pale grimace. Dumbly, he watched Gareth's physical body walk into the room and merge with his avatar. [[Ralston]] began to say something, but [[Gareth]] turned on him, his face flushed. "Your reflexive obfuscation is not appropriate to this schoolyard," he hissed. The words shook [[Ralston]], drawing out the helpless feeling of the little boy who had been bullied so ruthlessly. [[Droo]] was completely lost. He'd come here to learn about his abduction by aliens, to learn that he had not been crazy, to prove the psychiatrists and doctors wrong. Instead he found himself in the middle of a madhouse, surrounded by familiar strangers. Ever so slowly, he began to slide down the wall, collapsing into as small a space as he could make. Using a quiet but intense voice [[Gareth]] said, "I know you're confused and frightened, [[Kendall Andrew Duclos|Mr. Duclos]]." He stepped forward, offering a hand. "We have a lot to talk about. I'm [[Gareth Chow|Dr. Chow]], and I'll be your analyst this evening." The dam burst: [[Droo]] lost what little composure he had. "Why... why do I know you? I mean I don't know you, but I do!" Confusion made way for anger. "I know you!" he screamed, his voice fraying. The anger burnt out again, leaving [[Droo]] babbling to himself. "Were you there? Did they take you too? How did you get away? Ten years of telling me I don't know what I know, but its true, its all true, isn't it? There really are aliens." [[Gareth]] knelt down near [[Droo]], though just out of reach. "Let's take this over to my office, Mr. Duclos. I'm not sure how many of your secrets you want to share with everyone here." "I'm so tired of hiding," [[Droo]] whispered, "I can't go back." "To therapy?" Gareth guffawed. Onlookers familiar with him were not not surprised when he answered a statement [[Droo]] hadn't said. There were times it seemed he could read your soul. "No no no. I don't do ''therapy.''" He said it like it was a gruesome stench. "I figure out what makes you tick or not. In fact, I'm the one who certified you as unfit for duty." He paused for a moment. "In retrospect I think you might actually have been too fit for duty." ===0704 UTC / 0204 EST=== [[Droo]] tried to reach out to [[Vögell]] inside his head – an unpleasant sensation, especially since it didn't work. He was still terrified, but also found curiosity building. ''Does he really know what happened to me?'' "Come with me," [[Gareth]] said again. "I'll show you your file and then you can introduce me to the other half of your self." Gareth frowned slightly when he saw the paranoia and curiosity at war within [[Droo]]. "I can give you answers because I was the one who chose you for abduction, and I'm the one who let you roam free when you escaped." Droo's mouth gaped open and he gasped. "I didn't ''do'' this to you, however, Mr. Duclos. I made it possible for ''you'' to ''have this done.''" Droo found himself moving. His paranoia was still in full bloom, but with a firm focus now. The shadowy forces that took him were right in front of him. His desperate curiosity drove him, forcing him to his feet, urging him forward. "Follow me, Mr. Duclos," Gareth said, turning toward the door. For a fleeting moment Droo expected to feel the urge to strike, and stumbled slightly when it did not well up. ===0705 UTC / 0205 EST=== Using his AR and subvocalizing, Gareth sent a private message to the Director, who passed it back to Miranda and Ralston: "I can put V to sleep at a moment's notice. He is trying to connect to [[Droo]] enough to re-establish a coherent dominant universe for his personalities to reside in. I'm going to help him do that. We might just salvage an effective agent out of this."
Chapter 0100 0100 About 0206 EST / 0706 UTC through 0300 EST / 0800 UTC. Learn more about Deke and Miranda's character.Exposition about the physical changes from Homo Celestes. Recovery from Moonscape Protocol, testing, theories, and gastronomic consequences. Deke Heppener Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility 2017-03-22 [[Deke]] watched [[Grace Heppener|his daughter]] drag her fingernails through the glassteel door material in amazement. ''This day just gets weirder and weirder,'' he thought, looking at his own nails. Idly he scratched the wall. He knew it was concrete. It felt like chalk. While the others broke out of their cells, [[Deke]] considered their situation. He was familiar with basic quarantine processes, but this had been many levels above and beyond. If he knew [[Jenkins]] at all, the cells were only the first layer of physical security. ''And they must have backup systems to use after the radiation blast.'' He shivered involuntarily at the thought. With a loud crash, the last layer of [[Red]]'s door shattered under under his knuckles. He stepped out, bare feet crunching over the shards. [[Jenkins]] broke out while [[Red]] was walking over to [[Grace]], who still had a few layers to go. They men said something to each other, but Deke couldn't make it out. Jenkins headed over to Deke. "I assume you have a reason for staying caged, Padre?" "Patience is not one of your virtues, is it Jenny?" Deke gestured at the destruction on the other side of the glass. "What's the person doing your job right now going to think when they see all this?" Jenkins grinned. "[[Anderson]]'s gonna shit herself." The smile faded. "Yeah. I see your point. The backups will be coming online in another minute or two and they'll see that we're strong enough to destroy glassteel with our bare hands, and tough enough to survive Raiders-level radiation and near total vacuum." The gruesome finale to ''Raiders of the Lost Arc'' played out in Deke's mind. "I'm assuming that turning black is a result of the radiation? Aside from the hair loss I'm not feeling any other symptoms." "Me either. I don't know how I feel about the colour change," he said, looking himself over. "I mean we're not brown-black. We're goddamn ''midnight''-black. Nobody is going to mistake us for anything like normal people looking like this." Deke only saw Jenkins' eyes widen because he was looking carefully. He'd never realized how important the whites of your eyes were to reading people. "Shit. We look like freaks and we busted out of our quarantine facility like crazed animals." He winced slightly as he said it, then shrugged with the place his eyebrows used to be. "I didn't think that far ahead." With an absolutely straight face, Deke said, "You may not have noticed, but for the rest of us the last couple minutes were very distracting. I was just being lazy." Jenkins laughed at Deke's wry words. "If I'm calm and collected and in here when Dr. Bishop shows up we're going to have an easier time convincing them that we're not rampaging monsters." "Always thinking, aren't you, Padre?" "I--" They both looked over at Grace's cell when they heard cracking bang of the door shattering. A moment later she was in Red's arms. They had a quiet conversation with each other, and then kissed. Deke wanted to be pissed off about it, but it was so obviously a display of tenderness and support that he just couldn't work up any ire. He saw Jenkins' body shift and in a flash ''knew'' what he was going to say. Affecting an accent like a southern belle, Jenkins said, "You never kiss me like that anymore, Padre. Where did we go wrong?" He looked over his shoulder at Deke, and batted his eyelids. "Jenny was my problem daughter, Officer," Deke said. "I did what I could with her but she turned out like this." They were both laughing when fresh cameras and functioning robotic arms descended from the ceiling. ''At least their first view is happy and loving," Deke thought. "In the middle of a 'Hulk smash' situation, but still. Here we go." A robot arm approached Jenkins with new AR glasses. His head bobbed right, and despite his back being turned Deke was sure he knew every expression that flickered across the younger man's face. NOTE: describe robot arms earlier. The primary stalk has many joints, making it very flexible. It ends with a set of human sized arms and very realistic hands extending from a shoulder-width bar. Cameras and microphones are mounted on a mannequin head with a speaker grill where a human mouth would be. As soon as he had them on, Jenkins came to attention. "Ma'am," he said, and then paused for her response. "Yes, Ma'am." Another pause. "No, ma'am. As best as I can tell I'm the same asshole I was before. Stronger, tougher, blacker and apparently able to survive vacuum and melty radiation, but still me." There was another pause before Jenny nodded. "Grace, Red, Padre: AR units are ready for all of you. Be gentle. You're strong, and additional backups will take some time to get here. Also, there's another layer of backups for the radiation and vacuum we don't want to trigger." "Copy." Deke was surprised that Grace and Red said it at the same time he did, and was then surprised by his surprise. The arms in front of Jenkins produced another AR headset and fed it though the hole Deke had punched through the wall. ''Fool things.'' He put them on. The lab was once again populated by virtual people. Dr. Bishop was standing in front of Jenkins with a worried look on her face. "We need to run more tests on you before we can let you out of there," she said, "but I suspect your new super-soldier enhancements might come in very handy at noon local." "We broke out of our containment after surviving the Moonscape Protocol, ma'am," he said. "Considering the 30% failure rate of the secondary systems I didn't want us to starve to death in here before you could get a camera in." "Understandable, I suppose," Miranda said. "You likely won't be working security after this, but I'm sure you have improvements in mind already." "No ma'am. Aside from venting the reactor into this room I'm not at all clear on what we can do to put down something like us." "That is... disturbing and interesting, Mr. Jenkins," Miranda said. "Yes, ma'am. Sorry for the damage. Padre figured we could talk through the sample-transfer airlocks. The rest of us aren't so clever." He turned to Deke, though still talking to Miranda. "My old Louie thought tearing up the place was a bit rash and gave me what he'd call a Socratic Dressing Down for it." Deke couldn't help but smile at that old reference. His soldiers had always loved and hated him for the way he made them face their failings without calling them on anything. Deke watched Dr. Bishop take him in, reappraising him. She was beautiful, but he worried at the coldness of her frank appraisal. He'd seen that look before, but not in people who should be allowed to run free in society. ''She's holed up in a secure facility a mile under butthurt Canada, so I guess the harm she can cause is contained enough,'' he thought. Deke recalled Jenny saying 'treat us like your dogs, ma'am' and a profile clicked into place in his head. ''I might have your number, lady,'' he thought, carefully playing poker with his face. "We're us, ma'am," Jenkins said. Miranda turned back to him, clearly still appraising them. "Whatever was done to us changed our bodies, not our minds." Deke saw that Red and Grace had put on their AR glasses. The walls near enough to hear what was being said, but not far enough to join the other three. ''Hell, he was a big boy to start with,'' Deke thought, "and now he's bigger than he was a few hours ago." Ignoring the younger people, Miranda said, "Gareth is busy right now with another situation. As soon as he's free to assess you we can get you out of there." She paused for a moment, looking around at her empty lab. "Well, pending some analysis of what I'm told is 'Homo Celestes' that has modified you." She gestured at Deke as she spoke. "Alien supersoldier here," Deke responded, standing up. "How's it going?" "It's been an..." she paused, searching for the right word. "An ''odd'' day. More so for you." "No kidding, lady," Deke said. Miranda turned to the others as several lab technicians and researchers approached. "Would the three of you please accompany our scientists to some testing stations? We would like to get a sense of your physiological changes, especially the enhanced strength and how you survived a vacuum." She turned to look at Jenkins, who was staring at her. "Something to add, Mr. Jenkins?" "No, ma'am!" He said it reflexively and immediately followed up with, "Actually, yes, ma'am. If the doors are working can we let Deke out here with us?" "I don't imagine we could stop you, now could we?" she said. Before Jenkins could respond, she continued, "Open Mr. Heppener's door, please. And the doors to the other cells," she added. The BURF AI made a pleasant sound - the standard "yes" chime used almost universally - and the door started to rise. It was about 20cm up when the mechanism made a grinding sound and it jerked to a stop. Jenkins stepped forward, putting his hands under the bottom of the glassteel. Deke joined him from inside. Together they counted down, "Three, two, one," and heaved. The door was heavy enough that Deke didn't think he could lift it on his own, but the two of them had no problem forcing it upward. When it was up to shoulder height, Jenkins said, "By the way, this door weighs about 3500Kg." "It's always nice to be able to calibrate just how augmented the your patients are," Miranda said. She was smiling, but a touch of exasperation coloured her voice. The feats of strength were over, so the others filed away in various directions. Deke wanted to keep an eye on Grace, but this Dr. Bishop demanded full attention. "How are you feeling?" she asked, studying him. "Feeling? Well, other than being pissed off and physically altered, I feel fine. I feel young... Strong. Mind seems the same though." The last phrase came out with a hint of regret and self deprecation. "Based on what Jenkins and you were talking about... this is an ''alien'' thing and not a man-made thing?" Miranda shook her head. "The aliens are real, but so far, other than the extreme unlikelihood of this being a coincidence, I cannot find a correlation between your condition and the aliens. Until we learn more about the Tetras we won't be able to conclusively rule them out as the source, but I doubt they are." "I bet you're good with computers, aren't you?" Deke asked, trying to get a sense of her. "It may appear that I am simply a researcher, but I am also a medical doctor. I am not unfamiliar with your state, and I do have compassion for people in my care." She fanned her hand as if waving away a bad smell. "And computers? I would rate my proficiency as average at best. Honestly, Mr. Heppener, I am concerned. And I appreciate that you are worried about your daughter. I did not know anything about the group of you until a few hours ago." The mention of Grace made Deke's voice rough when he spoke again. "So the plan from here is what? Several years of medical tests for myself, my daughter, her fella, and my friend?" "Well - I'm not the Director of this place so I can't say for sure. Regardless, I hardly think we can contain you here." She noted Deke's slow nod at this admission. "Please, I will answer any question you have if you work with me and try to figure this out together." "Based on a few things Jenkins said this is some sort of bio lab? Is it military?" "I believe that it transcends a specific branch of government, and it is not limited to biological R&D," Miranda said. "Yes, there are military projects underway here, but my involvement is in genetic and medical research. I believe that we are doing the best we can for all of humanity." She glanced around, thinking about the last decade of her life spent largely underground. "This is the very best place in the world to do our work." "And when these aliens start showing up? Will this be the best place then?" "We are very well equipped," she said. "Aliens are appearing all over the planet in a very specific pattern, and will be here in a matter of hours. They are 'spawning' much like in video games...out of nowhere. And we are just trying to get caught up." "Well, it sounds like you love your work, so there's that. Look, I don't mean to be gruff, but this is some serious shit for me to deal with. I'll help if I can. Ask what you will," he said, but before Miranda could do so he asked, "These aliens, are they like War of the Worlds "pew pew" things? Are we at war?" She shook her head. "Not yet - at least not here. But as a solider I'm sure you can appreciate that any appearance of millions without conversation or diplomacy could be considered an act of war." Deke nodded. "So far they have not tried to hurt anyone and have usually run away before defending themselves. But they certainly continue to get into everything on Earth. Everywhere. "Right now we have no way to communicate. This lab has some of mankind's greatest secrets, technologies, and perhaps weapons. We are trying to understand them and contain that information." "That's a big 10-4 on a threat sense. Not good at all," he said. "Sounds like how a virus behaves. From my simple grunt's perspective." Miranda smiled thinly. "I suspect your experience is going to be more valuable in the next few hours than all of my education." "So what happened to myself and my friends is man-made? I haven't, as far as I know, even encountered one of these aliens, so that makes sense. But why am I affected? Why us four? Are there more of us?" She sighed, appearing tired and collecting her thoughts. "I don't have an answer to any of those questions. I do know that another lab, one NOT related to this one, has introduced a highly efficient, self replicating 'mitochondrial enhancement' into the [[Homo Celestes]] installer - the one that was put in your group. We call it [[MRO]] - a [[mitochondrial replacement organelle]]." "I'm... Wait. Some unrelated lab just decided to use us in an experiment? Do you folks not have laws up here in Canada? What the eff!" "As far as I have been informed, it was a lab in India that somehow infected you here. I don't know any details on how or why you were targeted. It may not appear as such, but we are trying to help you. And by 'help', I mean get it out of you." Miranda smiled sweetly. "It is possible that there are others that we are not aware of. That enhancement has nothing to do with the aliens appearing to my knowledge, but we still had to contain you in case you were infecting the population as a whole with something more sinister." A subtle, wry smile shifted her lips for a moment. "To be honest, while we have nothing to do with your current state, I am actually somewhat relieved that a group of supersoldiers just happened into my laboratory." "Wow," was all Deke could muster. "Yes." She saw Deke's gaze focus inward, so Miranda busied herself with various pressing tasks. While staying nearby. "I'm going to have to take your word for it for now," he said, as if there hadn't been a pause. "I don't rightly know what you could say to put me in a calm frame of mind right now, so this isn't personal. I appreciate the communication - I do." "I rarely say personal things to anyone I work with, Mr. Heppener, but I will tell you that I know that I don't react outwardly the same as others in extreme situations. Please believe me when I say I have been through more than is apparent. I am not calm either." For a moment Miranda allowed the mask to slip, showing Deke a woman holding fear and excitement in check with sheer will. " This is not normal for me or anyone here. You don't have a reason to believe me, but I will tell you this: you have perhaps found yourself in the absolute best place you could for figuring these kinds of problems out, and that I work exceptionally well under pressure." Deke found himself softening. "I know how important coolness under fire is. Thank you." "Whatever is going, it's quite clear that we are in this together. I want us to live," she said earnestly. "All of us. That really is the reason this facility exists: to ensure the long term survival of humans and humanity. It's even our mission statement." Grinning, Deke said, "Hoo-ah!" Miranda turned away, a small smile on her lips. "Gordon, can you take some more samples from Mr. Heppener please?" Looking over her shoulder at him, she said, "We'll talk again soon. Breakfast is only a few hours away. Perhaps we can eat together?" "Sure," Deke said as she walked away. Gord slipped into Deke's room, arms full of equipment. "More biopsies?" Deke asked. "That might be more difficult than before." "Judging by the damage your family and friends have done, it's fair to say I really want to get under your skin," Gord said. "I'll work on you in here if that's ok?" "Same drill?" Deke asked, pulling off his hospital shirt. "Please," Gord said. Deke couldn't see Red and Grace from where he was at the moment, so he paid more attention to what Gord was doing. "Ok, I'm going to make a new incision now, on the other calf," he said. A moment later Deke felt the pressure of the scalpel on his leg, but didn't feel any pain. "Oh dear," Gord said. "I was afraid of this. Hey guys, any luck getting through their skin?" Deke heard the distinctive ring of a scalpel snapping under pressure. He didn't hear any answers to Gord's question, but Gord must have. "Ok, I'll try the previous site with the tungsten blade. Oh, and Bertha, please show Mr. Heppener what I'm doing." Deke's vision of the room was replaced by a Gord's-eye view of the task at hand as the base AI handled the request. He started to object, but Gord was already digging around in the previous biopsy site with a new knife. Deke decided to just breathe with the pain for a little while instead of complaining about the video feed. "You'll be pleased to know that you four appear to be immune to lasers," Gord said. "Mr. Cooper's skin did yield to the water saw, and Jenkins skin was cut - with some effort - by a ceramic blade with a diamond crystal cutting edge." "And Grace?" Deke asked, wincing at the painful tugging happening to his calf. "Her skin and muscle have yielded to the tungsten blade, much as yours has. Tungsten is almost as hard as diamond, by the way, and not usually used to make surgical instruments." "You're a regular Boy Scout," Deke said. Gord laughed. "Actually, our friend next door helped design this facility. I believe it was described as 'wildly over engineered and profoundly paranoid' by the Director." "Yeah, that's my Jenny," Deke said. "I'm moving to your right buttock now, Mr. Heppener." "Dammit son, I think I'm on a first name basis with anyone who has had a piece of my ass even once." Gord laughed hard enough to snort. "Deke, then," he said when he regained his voice. Deke watched through Gord's eyes as he worked his way through the inky black skin, and into the inky black flesh beneath it. "I've seen the insides of a lot of people of all colours, and I don't recall ever seeing muscles that look like that." "Ah, no," Gord said. He peered careful at the latest sample. Deke had a moment of vertigo as his vision zoomed in and in and in. Gord murmured to himself for a moment, then asked some questions of his colleagues. "We're not certain, Deke, but our first theory is that your cells are all producing huge amounts of melanin - the pigment that turns skin brown. If we're right this process must have been underway before the gamma burst irradiated the VAIL." He paused for a moment. "Sorry about that." "From what Jenny tells me this place is meant to contain the zombie apocalypse," Deke said. "I can respect that." "You ''are'' too kind," Gord said. The way he said it, Deke realized that Gord was gay. ''I am never going to hear the end of the 'piece of my ass' at poker night.'' He smiled to himself and filed it away for later. He was starting to get dizzy from all of Gord's zooming in an out, so he closed his eyes and focused on breathing. After a few breaths it occurred to him that he had recently survived several minutes of vacuum. "Gord, how did we breathe vacuum for two minutes and not die?" "Your blood looks essentially normal," he said, now cutting into Deke's tricep. "It appears your mitochondria have been almost completely replaced by a new organelle that produces chemical power for the cell with a great deal more efficiency." Deke turned, pulling down his glasses to look at Gord's robotic mannequin in real life. "Can I have that in terms a Park Ranger can understand?" It was fascinating to see the robotic shoulders shrug. Gord's voice came out of the speaker grill on the faceless head. "Basically, cells come in two forms. Our kind has a bunch of tiny organs - organelles - that do specific tasks. Billions of years ago, some ancient bacteria ate another bacteria, but instead of digesting it, they merged into a chimera - a creature with wildly different genomes and features mashed together. The one that was eaten was good at turning oxygen and food into energy for the cell to use. Over time, they went from being symbiotic to becoming a single hybrid organism." "Wait, you're saying that all humans are hybrids?" Deke said. "Oh, no. I'm saying almost all life is a hideous genetic monstrosity, with parts pulled from vastly different types of creatures mashed together into something that works well enough." Deke tensed at a particularly painful jab. "Sorry. I can still hit you up with some Novocain." "I'm good, son." "Well, whatever this Homo Celestes is, it's replaced your mitochondria with something that is a lot better at producing energy to run your cellular metabolism. Based on what the others have said about the experience CO<sub>2</sub> was still building up in your system and would have poisoned you eventually, but --" Gord's happy litany was cut off abruptly. "What's wrong," Deke asked. He flipped over and sat up. "Get on the toilet right now," Gord said. "Pardon?" "Shitter, now!" It was the first time Gord had used anything like a commanding tone. Deke moved. Once he was situated, he said, "Is this because of the piece of ass... Shit." With no warning, Deke's entire digestive tract tried to leave his body. It was foul visually, audibly, and nasally. A few minutes in, when he could speak again, he said, "Does that AR thing do smells?" Deke had removed his AR set soon after the convulsive cramps began. Gord's robotic mannequin said, "Sweet Jesus, no. But the mass-spec in there tells us your entire microbiome is dead." Deke found himself unable to respond, caught in another vicious and explosive cycle of cramping and evacuation. It took almost half an hour to finally pass. Gord's robot fed him bottle after bottle of electrolyte replacement drinks as Deke's body emptied. "I think it's over," Deke said finally. He was sweaty and weak. "That was not fun." "Uh." "Gord, I do not like that sound." "So what you just went through is over, but this isn't over." Deke sighed. "Tell me." "Humans - all animals - are symbiotes. We host trillions of bacteria on our skin and in our guts. We need those bacteria to live. Without them, bad bacteria cause nasty infections, and we can't digest a lot of our food. Basically, you're a colony ship for bacteria, and if they go away you die." "That does not sound good." "There's a cure. Simple, fast, effective, and you don't want to know why or how until after you've taken it." "Son, that's ominous. I don't like ominous." "Padre, just drink this shake. I'll explain after." Deke closed his eyes, shook his head, and took the bottle from the Gord-bot. "Fine." He unscrewed it, chugged the contents - which tasted a lot like a frothy chocolate milkshake - and handed the bottle back. "Now spill." "Can you wait until morning?" Gord asked. "It's almost 3AM and I've been ordered to bed by the Director along with most of the rest of the people here. I promise, I'll tell you everything over breakfast." Even without the AR glasses on the movements of the Gord-bot made it obvious to Deke that Gord was exhausted. He'd been too caught up in his own situation to notice. "I can wait. I'll check in with the others then..." "Sorry, Deke, they're all sleeping. It hit Red first, just before it hit you, but it went faster for the others. They showered and hit the sack." Gord gestured to the corner. Half a dozen shower heads extruded from the walls. "When's breakfast?" "0700. Your AR will bring you to us." "See you then, son." Deke dumped his hospital gown on the floor near the door, and then spent a few glorious minutes rotating under the jets of water. While newfangled tech was not his favourite thing, having shower heads that followed your movements to keep you constantly bathed in damn hot water was something he was willing to accept as an improvement over the traditional technology. It did take some time before he felt clean. After he towelled off, he pulled on the fresh white track suit sitting on his bunk, and did the rounds. A few scientists were still working on the bodies of the Tetras, but that was the only movement. Jenkins was splayed out on his bunk as he always was: one arm hanging in the air, one leg on the floor. Deke grinned. Jenny had always had shitty bediquette. He stepped silently over to the the next cell. Grace and Red were spooned together in a bunk, his huge arms holding her petite body close. They looked peaceful. Deke sighed and leaned against the doorframe to their room. Red didn't move, but Deke could see that he was now awake and alert. Very quietly, Deke said, "You're doing right by my little girl, Red. Thank you for that." Red nodded ever so slightly, and hugged Grace a little closer. Deke found his bunk. ---- The following material was redacted from this scene, and replaced with the actual conversation between Miranda and Deke. It is preserved for posterity and possible poaching for later interactions. Deke stiffened slightly at the subtly flirty overtones in the doctor's words, and was surprised to see her note his awareness and modify her approach. "Let's get on the same page." She was all business now. "The alien invaders or colonists or whatever will be materializing here in about ten hours. This facility is just about as high security as can be imagined to deal with biological threats that can end humanity, and to develop new technologies to keep our species alive and advancing. The man who actually runs the New Commonwealth just got put into a wall by someone who was a volunteer experimental subject here ten years ago. The four of you might still be human, but you're sure not baseline, and you could be under the control of someone hostile to Boeing, the New Commonwealth, or with some other motive. Even more worrying is the surprising fact that I don't have any idea what has been done to you, and when it comes to things like this I know ''everything''." Deke was impressed. He was sure she was being absolutely straight with him, and equally sure that she would have lied to him with utter conviction if it suited her purposes. "I can't trust you at all, can I, Dr. Bishop?" Grace and Red had been observing the conversation in silence, but this provoked Grace to jump in. "Dad!" she said in a scolding tone. "She's not lying to us!" "I know," Deke said. "But she also didn't answer to my question." "He's always been like this, ma'am," Jenkins said, shifting a little uncomfortably. Grace threw her arms in the air dramatically, then turned and stomped away. Red followed her. Miranda observed all this, and took a long moment to collect her thoughts. "You can trust me to do everything in my power to achieve my goals, Mr. Heppener." His eyes narrowed slightly. "Right now my primary goal is to ensure that humanity remains extant, not extinct." Deke rolled that around in his head for a moment. "I appreciate your honesty, ma'am," he said. "I don't know if we'll be friends, but I think we'll be allies."
Chapter 0100 0100 About 0206 EST / 0706 UTC through 0300 EST / 0800 UTC. Learn more about Deke and Miranda's character.Exposition about the physical changes from Homo Celestes. Recovery from Moonscape Protocol, testing, theories, and gastronomic consequences. Deke Heppener Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility 2017-03-22 [[Deke]] watched [[Grace Heppener|his daughter]] drag her fingernails through the glassteel door material in amazement. ''This day just gets weirder and weirder,'' he thought, looking at his own nails. Idly he scratched the wall. He knew it was concrete. It felt like chalk. While the others broke out of their cells, [[Deke]] considered their situation. He was familiar with basic quarantine processes, but this had been many levels above and beyond. If he knew [[Jenkins]] at all, the cells were only the first layer of physical security. ''And they must have backup systems to use after the radiation blast.'' He shivered involuntarily at the thought. With a loud crash, the last layer of [[Red]]'s door shattered under under his knuckles. He stepped out, bare feet crunching over the shards. [[Jenkins]] broke out while [[Red]] was walking over to [[Grace]], who still had a few layers to go. They men said something to each other, but Deke couldn't make it out. Jenkins headed over to Deke. "I assume you have a reason for staying caged, Padre?" "Patience is not one of your virtues, is it Jenny?" Deke gestured at the destruction on the other side of the glass. "What's the person doing your job right now going to think when they see all this?" Jenkins grinned. "[[Anderson]]'s gonna shit herself." The smile faded. "Yeah. I see your point. The backups will be coming online in another minute or two and they'll see that we're strong enough to destroy glassteel with our bare hands, and tough enough to survive Raiders-level radiation and near total vacuum." The gruesome finale to ''Raiders of the Lost Arc'' played out in Deke's mind. "I'm assuming that turning black is a result of the radiation? Aside from the hair loss I'm not feeling any other symptoms." "Me either. I don't know how I feel about the colour change," he said, looking himself over. "I mean we're not brown-black. We're goddamn ''midnight''-black. Nobody is going to mistake us for anything like normal people looking like this." Deke only saw Jenkins' eyes widen because he was looking carefully. He'd never realized how important the whites of your eyes were to reading people. "Shit. We look like freaks and we busted out of our quarantine facility like crazed animals." He winced slightly as he said it, then shrugged with the place his eyebrows used to be. "I didn't think that far ahead." With an absolutely straight face, Deke said, "You may not have noticed, but for the rest of us the last couple minutes were very distracting. I was just being lazy." Jenkins laughed at Deke's wry words. "If I'm calm and collected and in here when Dr. Bishop shows up we're going to have an easier time convincing them that we're not rampaging monsters." "Always thinking, aren't you, Padre?" "I--" They both looked over at Grace's cell when they heard cracking bang of the door shattering. A moment later she was in Red's arms. They had a quiet conversation with each other, and then kissed. Deke wanted to be pissed off about it, but it was so obviously a display of tenderness and support that he just couldn't work up any ire. He saw Jenkins' body shift and in a flash ''knew'' what he was going to say. Affecting an accent like a southern belle, Jenkins said, "You never kiss me like that anymore, Padre. Where did we go wrong?" He looked over his shoulder at Deke, and batted his eyelids. "Jenny was my problem daughter, Officer," Deke said. "I did what I could with her but she turned out like this." They were both laughing when fresh cameras and functioning robotic arms descended from the ceiling. ''At least their first view is happy and loving," Deke thought. "In the middle of a 'Hulk smash' situation, but still. Here we go." A robot arm approached Jenkins with new AR glasses. His head bobbed right, and despite his back being turned Deke was sure he knew every expression that flickered across the younger man's face. NOTE: describe robot arms earlier. The primary stalk has many joints, making it very flexible. It ends with a set of human sized arms and very realistic hands extending from a shoulder-width bar. Cameras and microphones are mounted on a mannequin head with a speaker grill where a human mouth would be. As soon as he had them on, Jenkins came to attention. "Ma'am," he said, and then paused for her response. "Yes, Ma'am." Another pause. "No, ma'am. As best as I can tell I'm the same asshole I was before. Stronger, tougher, blacker and apparently able to survive vacuum and melty radiation, but still me." There was another pause before Jenny nodded. "Grace, Red, Padre: AR units are ready for all of you. Be gentle. You're strong, and additional backups will take some time to get here. Also, there's another layer of backups for the radiation and vacuum we don't want to trigger." "Copy." Deke was surprised that Grace and Red said it at the same time he did, and was then surprised by his surprise. The arms in front of Jenkins produced another AR headset and fed it though the hole Deke had punched through the wall. ''Fool things.'' He put them on. The lab was once again populated by virtual people. Dr. Bishop was standing in front of Jenkins with a worried look on her face. "We need to run more tests on you before we can let you out of there," she said, "but I suspect your new super-soldier enhancements might come in very handy at noon local." "We broke out of our containment after surviving the Moonscape Protocol, ma'am," he said. "Considering the 30% failure rate of the secondary systems I didn't want us to starve to death in here before you could get a camera in." "Understandable, I suppose," Miranda said. "You likely won't be working security after this, but I'm sure you have improvements in mind already." "No ma'am. Aside from venting the reactor into this room I'm not at all clear on what we can do to put down something like us." "That is... disturbing and interesting, Mr. Jenkins," Miranda said. "Yes, ma'am. Sorry for the damage. Padre figured we could talk through the sample-transfer airlocks. The rest of us aren't so clever." He turned to Deke, though still talking to Miranda. "My old Louie thought tearing up the place was a bit rash and gave me what he'd call a Socratic Dressing Down for it." Deke couldn't help but smile at that old reference. His soldiers had always loved and hated him for the way he made them face their failings without calling them on anything. Deke watched Dr. Bishop take him in, reappraising him. She was beautiful, but he worried at the coldness of her frank appraisal. He'd seen that look before, but not in people who should be allowed to run free in society. ''She's holed up in a secure facility a mile under butthurt Canada, so I guess the harm she can cause is contained enough,'' he thought. Deke recalled Jenny saying 'treat us like your dogs, ma'am' and a profile clicked into place in his head. ''I might have your number, lady,'' he thought, carefully playing poker with his face. "We're us, ma'am," Jenkins said. Miranda turned back to him, clearly still appraising them. "Whatever was done to us changed our bodies, not our minds." Deke saw that Red and Grace had put on their AR glasses. The walls near enough to hear what was being said, but not far enough to join the other three. ''Hell, he was a big boy to start with,'' Deke thought, "and now he's bigger than he was a few hours ago." Ignoring the younger people, Miranda said, "Gareth is busy right now with another situation. As soon as he's free to assess you we can get you out of there." She paused for a moment, looking around at her empty lab. "Well, pending some analysis of what I'm told is 'Homo Celestes' that has modified you." She gestured at Deke as she spoke. "Alien supersoldier here," Deke responded, standing up. "How's it going?" "It's been an..." she paused, searching for the right word. "An ''odd'' day. More so for you." "No kidding, lady," Deke said. Miranda turned to the others as several lab technicians and researchers approached. "Would the three of you please accompany our scientists to some testing stations? We would like to get a sense of your physiological changes, especially the enhanced strength and how you survived a vacuum." She turned to look at Jenkins, who was staring at her. "Something to add, Mr. Jenkins?" "No, ma'am!" He said it reflexively and immediately followed up with, "Actually, yes, ma'am. If the doors are working can we let Deke out here with us?" "I don't imagine we could stop you, now could we?" she said. Before Jenkins could respond, she continued, "Open Mr. Heppener's door, please. And the doors to the other cells," she added. The BURF AI made a pleasant sound - the standard "yes" chime used almost universally - and the door started to rise. It was about 20cm up when the mechanism made a grinding sound and it jerked to a stop. Jenkins stepped forward, putting his hands under the bottom of the glassteel. Deke joined him from inside. Together they counted down, "Three, two, one," and heaved. The door was heavy enough that Deke didn't think he could lift it on his own, but the two of them had no problem forcing it upward. When it was up to shoulder height, Jenkins said, "By the way, this door weighs about 3500Kg." "It's always nice to be able to calibrate just how augmented the your patients are," Miranda said. She was smiling, but a touch of exasperation coloured her voice. The feats of strength were over, so the others filed away in various directions. Deke wanted to keep an eye on Grace, but this Dr. Bishop demanded full attention. "How are you feeling?" she asked, studying him. "Feeling? Well, other than being pissed off and physically altered, I feel fine. I feel young... Strong. Mind seems the same though." The last phrase came out with a hint of regret and self deprecation. "Based on what Jenkins and you were talking about... this is an ''alien'' thing and not a man-made thing?" Miranda shook her head. "The aliens are real, but so far, other than the extreme unlikelihood of this being a coincidence, I cannot find a correlation between your condition and the aliens. Until we learn more about the Tetras we won't be able to conclusively rule them out as the source, but I doubt they are." "I bet you're good with computers, aren't you?" Deke asked, trying to get a sense of her. "It may appear that I am simply a researcher, but I am also a medical doctor. I am not unfamiliar with your state, and I do have compassion for people in my care." She fanned her hand as if waving away a bad smell. "And computers? I would rate my proficiency as average at best. Honestly, Mr. Heppener, I am concerned. And I appreciate that you are worried about your daughter. I did not know anything about the group of you until a few hours ago." The mention of Grace made Deke's voice rough when he spoke again. "So the plan from here is what? Several years of medical tests for myself, my daughter, her fella, and my friend?" "Well - I'm not the Director of this place so I can't say for sure. Regardless, I hardly think we can contain you here." She noted Deke's slow nod at this admission. "Please, I will answer any question you have if you work with me and try to figure this out together." "Based on a few things Jenkins said this is some sort of bio lab? Is it military?" "I believe that it transcends a specific branch of government, and it is not limited to biological R&D," Miranda said. "Yes, there are military projects underway here, but my involvement is in genetic and medical research. I believe that we are doing the best we can for all of humanity." She glanced around, thinking about the last decade of her life spent largely underground. "This is the very best place in the world to do our work." "And when these aliens start showing up? Will this be the best place then?" "We are very well equipped," she said. "Aliens are appearing all over the planet in a very specific pattern, and will be here in a matter of hours. They are 'spawning' much like in video games...out of nowhere. And we are just trying to get caught up." "Well, it sounds like you love your work, so there's that. Look, I don't mean to be gruff, but this is some serious shit for me to deal with. I'll help if I can. Ask what you will," he said, but before Miranda could do so he asked, "These aliens, are they like War of the Worlds "pew pew" things? Are we at war?" She shook her head. "Not yet - at least not here. But as a solider I'm sure you can appreciate that any appearance of millions without conversation or diplomacy could be considered an act of war." Deke nodded. "So far they have not tried to hurt anyone and have usually run away before defending themselves. But they certainly continue to get into everything on Earth. Everywhere. "Right now we have no way to communicate. This lab has some of mankind's greatest secrets, technologies, and perhaps weapons. We are trying to understand them and contain that information." "That's a big 10-4 on a threat sense. Not good at all," he said. "Sounds like how a virus behaves. From my simple grunt's perspective." Miranda smiled thinly. "I suspect your experience is going to be more valuable in the next few hours than all of my education." "So what happened to myself and my friends is man-made? I haven't, as far as I know, even encountered one of these aliens, so that makes sense. But why am I affected? Why us four? Are there more of us?" She sighed, appearing tired and collecting her thoughts. "I don't have an answer to any of those questions. I do know that another lab, one NOT related to this one, has introduced a highly efficient, self replicating 'mitochondrial enhancement' into the [[Homo Celestes]] installer - the one that was put in your group. We call it [[MRO]] - a [[mitochondrial replacement organelle]]." "I'm... Wait. Some unrelated lab just decided to use us in an experiment? Do you folks not have laws up here in Canada? What the eff!" "As far as I have been informed, it was a lab in India that somehow infected you here. I don't know any details on how or why you were targeted. It may not appear as such, but we are trying to help you. And by 'help', I mean get it out of you." Miranda smiled sweetly. "It is possible that there are others that we are not aware of. That enhancement has nothing to do with the aliens appearing to my knowledge, but we still had to contain you in case you were infecting the population as a whole with something more sinister." A subtle, wry smile shifted her lips for a moment. "To be honest, while we have nothing to do with your current state, I am actually somewhat relieved that a group of supersoldiers just happened into my laboratory." "Wow," was all Deke could muster. "Yes." She saw Deke's gaze focus inward, so Miranda busied herself with various pressing tasks. While staying nearby. "I'm going to have to take your word for it for now," he said, as if there hadn't been a pause. "I don't rightly know what you could say to put me in a calm frame of mind right now, so this isn't personal. I appreciate the communication - I do." "I rarely say personal things to anyone I work with, Mr. Heppener, but I will tell you that I know that I don't react outwardly the same as others in extreme situations. Please believe me when I say I have been through more than is apparent. I am not calm either." For a moment Miranda allowed the mask to slip, showing Deke a woman holding fear and excitement in check with sheer will. " This is not normal for me or anyone here. You don't have a reason to believe me, but I will tell you this: you have perhaps found yourself in the absolute best place you could for figuring these kinds of problems out, and that I work exceptionally well under pressure." Deke found himself softening. "I know how important coolness under fire is. Thank you." "Whatever is going, it's quite clear that we are in this together. I want us to live," she said earnestly. "All of us. That really is the reason this facility exists: to ensure the long term survival of humans and humanity. It's even our mission statement." Grinning, Deke said, "Hoo-ah!" Miranda turned away, a small smile on her lips. "Gordon, can you take some more samples from Mr. Heppener please?" Looking over her shoulder at him, she said, "We'll talk again soon. Breakfast is only a few hours away. Perhaps we can eat together?" "Sure," Deke said as she walked away. Gord slipped into Deke's room, arms full of equipment. "More biopsies?" Deke asked. "That might be more difficult than before." "Judging by the damage your family and friends have done, it's fair to say I really want to get under your skin," Gord said. "I'll work on you in here if that's ok?" "Same drill?" Deke asked, pulling off his hospital shirt. "Please," Gord said. Deke couldn't see Red and Grace from where he was at the moment, so he paid more attention to what Gord was doing. "Ok, I'm going to make a new incision now, on the other calf," he said. A moment later Deke felt the pressure of the scalpel on his leg, but didn't feel any pain. "Oh dear," Gord said. "I was afraid of this. Hey guys, any luck getting through their skin?" Deke heard the distinctive ring of a scalpel snapping under pressure. He didn't hear any answers to Gord's question, but Gord must have. "Ok, I'll try the previous site with the tungsten blade. Oh, and Bertha, please show Mr. Heppener what I'm doing." Deke's vision of the room was replaced by a Gord's-eye view of the task at hand as the base AI handled the request. He started to object, but Gord was already digging around in the previous biopsy site with a new knife. Deke decided to just breathe with the pain for a little while instead of complaining about the video feed. "You'll be pleased to know that you four appear to be immune to lasers," Gord said. "Mr. Cooper's skin did yield to the water saw, and Jenkins skin was cut - with some effort - by a ceramic blade with a diamond crystal cutting edge." "And Grace?" Deke asked, wincing at the painful tugging happening to his calf. "Her skin and muscle have yielded to the tungsten blade, much as yours has. Tungsten is almost as hard as diamond, by the way, and not usually used to make surgical instruments." "You're a regular Boy Scout," Deke said. Gord laughed. "Actually, our friend next door helped design this facility. I believe it was described as 'wildly over engineered and profoundly paranoid' by the Director." "Yeah, that's my Jenny," Deke said. "I'm moving to your right buttock now, Mr. Heppener." "Dammit son, I think I'm on a first name basis with anyone who has had a piece of my ass even once." Gord laughed hard enough to snort. "Deke, then," he said when he regained his voice. Deke watched through Gord's eyes as he worked his way through the inky black skin, and into the inky black flesh beneath it. "I've seen the insides of a lot of people of all colours, and I don't recall ever seeing muscles that look like that." "Ah, no," Gord said. He peered careful at the latest sample. Deke had a moment of vertigo as his vision zoomed in and in and in. Gord murmured to himself for a moment, then asked some questions of his colleagues. "We're not certain, Deke, but our first theory is that your cells are all producing huge amounts of melanin - the pigment that turns skin brown. If we're right this process must have been underway before the gamma burst irradiated the VAIL." He paused for a moment. "Sorry about that." "From what Jenny tells me this place is meant to contain the zombie apocalypse," Deke said. "I can respect that." "You ''are'' too kind," Gord said. The way he said it, Deke realized that Gord was gay. ''I am never going to hear the end of the 'piece of my ass' at poker night.'' He smiled to himself and filed it away for later. He was starting to get dizzy from all of Gord's zooming in an out, so he closed his eyes and focused on breathing. After a few breaths it occurred to him that he had recently survived several minutes of vacuum. "Gord, how did we breathe vacuum for two minutes and not die?" "Your blood looks essentially normal," he said, now cutting into Deke's tricep. "It appears your mitochondria have been almost completely replaced by a new organelle that produces chemical power for the cell with a great deal more efficiency." Deke turned, pulling down his glasses to look at Gord's robotic mannequin in real life. "Can I have that in terms a Park Ranger can understand?" It was fascinating to see the robotic shoulders shrug. Gord's voice came out of the speaker grill on the faceless head. "Basically, cells come in two forms. Our kind has a bunch of tiny organs - organelles - that do specific tasks. Billions of years ago, some ancient bacteria ate another bacteria, but instead of digesting it, they merged into a chimera - a creature with wildly different genomes and features mashed together. The one that was eaten was good at turning oxygen and food into energy for the cell to use. Over time, they went from being symbiotic to becoming a single hybrid organism." "Wait, you're saying that all humans are hybrids?" Deke said. "Oh, no. I'm saying almost all life is a hideous genetic monstrosity, with parts pulled from vastly different types of creatures mashed together into something that works well enough." Deke tensed at a particularly painful jab. "Sorry. I can still hit you up with some Novocain." "I'm good, son." "Well, whatever this Homo Celestes is, it's replaced your mitochondria with something that is a lot better at producing energy to run your cellular metabolism. Based on what the others have said about the experience CO<sub>2</sub> was still building up in your system and would have poisoned you eventually, but --" Gord's happy litany was cut off abruptly. "What's wrong," Deke asked. He flipped over and sat up. "Get on the toilet right now," Gord said. "Pardon?" "Shitter, now!" It was the first time Gord had used anything like a commanding tone. Deke moved. Once he was situated, he said, "Is this because of the piece of ass... Shit." With no warning, Deke's entire digestive tract tried to leave his body. It was foul visually, audibly, and nasally. A few minutes in, when he could speak again, he said, "Does that AR thing do smells?" Deke had removed his AR set soon after the convulsive cramps began. Gord's robotic mannequin said, "Sweet Jesus, no. But the mass-spec in there tells us your entire microbiome is dead." Deke found himself unable to respond, caught in another vicious and explosive cycle of cramping and evacuation. It took almost half an hour to finally pass. Gord's robot fed him bottle after bottle of electrolyte replacement drinks as Deke's body emptied. "I think it's over," Deke said finally. He was sweaty and weak. "That was not fun." "Uh." "Gord, I do not like that sound." "So what you just went through is over, but this isn't over." Deke sighed. "Tell me." "Humans - all animals - are symbiotes. We host trillions of bacteria on our skin and in our guts. We need those bacteria to live. Without them, bad bacteria cause nasty infections, and we can't digest a lot of our food. Basically, you're a colony ship for bacteria, and if they go away you die." "That does not sound good." "There's a cure. Simple, fast, effective, and you don't want to know why or how until after you've taken it." "Son, that's ominous. I don't like ominous." "Padre, just drink this shake. I'll explain after." Deke closed his eyes, shook his head, and took the bottle from the Gord-bot. "Fine." He unscrewed it, chugged the contents - which tasted a lot like a frothy chocolate milkshake - and handed the bottle back. "Now spill." "Can you wait until morning?" Gord asked. "It's almost 3AM and I've been ordered to bed by the Director along with most of the rest of the people here. I promise, I'll tell you everything over breakfast." Even without the AR glasses on the movements of the Gord-bot made it obvious to Deke that Gord was exhausted. He'd been too caught up in his own situation to notice. "I can wait. I'll check in with the others then..." "Sorry, Deke, they're all sleeping. It hit Red first, just before it hit you, but it went faster for the others. They showered and hit the sack." Gord gestured to the corner. Half a dozen shower heads extruded from the walls. "When's breakfast?" "0700. Your AR will bring you to us." "See you then, son." Deke dumped his hospital gown on the floor near the door, and then spent a few glorious minutes rotating under the jets of water. While newfangled tech was not his favourite thing, having shower heads that followed your movements to keep you constantly bathed in damn hot water was something he was willing to accept as an improvement over the traditional technology. It did take some time before he felt clean. After he towelled off, he pulled on the fresh white track suit sitting on his bunk, and did the rounds. A few scientists were still working on the bodies of the Tetras, but that was the only movement. Jenkins was splayed out on his bunk as he always was: one arm hanging in the air, one leg on the floor. Deke grinned. Jenny had always had shitty bediquette. He stepped silently over to the the next cell. Grace and Red were spooned together in a bunk, his huge arms holding her petite body close. They looked peaceful. Deke sighed and leaned against the doorframe to their room. Red didn't move, but Deke could see that he was now awake and alert. Very quietly, Deke said, "You're doing right by my little girl, Red. Thank you for that." Red nodded ever so slightly, and hugged Grace a little closer. Deke found his bunk. ---- The following material was redacted from this scene, and replaced with the actual conversation between Miranda and Deke. It is preserved for posterity and possible poaching for later interactions. Deke stiffened slightly at the subtly flirty overtones in the doctor's words, and was surprised to see her note his awareness and modify her approach. "Let's get on the same page." She was all business now. "The alien invaders or colonists or whatever will be materializing here in about ten hours. This facility is just about as high security as can be imagined to deal with biological threats that can end humanity, and to develop new technologies to keep our species alive and advancing. The man who actually runs the New Commonwealth just got put into a wall by someone who was a volunteer experimental subject here ten years ago. The four of you might still be human, but you're sure not baseline, and you could be under the control of someone hostile to Boeing, the New Commonwealth, or with some other motive. Even more worrying is the surprising fact that I don't have any idea what has been done to you, and when it comes to things like this I know ''everything''." Deke was impressed. He was sure she was being absolutely straight with him, and equally sure that she would have lied to him with utter conviction if it suited her purposes. "I can't trust you at all, can I, Dr. Bishop?" Grace and Red had been observing the conversation in silence, but this provoked Grace to jump in. "Dad!" she said in a scolding tone. "She's not lying to us!" "I know," Deke said. "But she also didn't answer to my question." "He's always been like this, ma'am," Jenkins said, shifting a little uncomfortably. Grace threw her arms in the air dramatically, then turned and stomped away. Red followed her. Miranda observed all this, and took a long moment to collect her thoughts. "You can trust me to do everything in my power to achieve my goals, Mr. Heppener." His eyes narrowed slightly. "Right now my primary goal is to ensure that humanity remains extant, not extinct." Deke rolled that around in his head for a moment. "I appreciate your honesty, ma'am," he said. "I don't know if we'll be friends, but I think we'll be allies."
Chapter 0200 0200 2034-03-01 1300 UTC Initially, to recount the events of the game sessions. Breakfast in the Biodome Jade Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility 2017-03-22
Chapter 0600 0600 2034-03-01 1300 UTC Reveal [[Boeing]] involvement in the theft of [[MITOtech]] from [[Genetek]]. Plan for [[Tetras]] arrival. Miranda reveals that Boeing infected Deke and co. She did not know. Also, they're going blind because of the radiation, and need immediate surgery to slow the damage and prepare to reinstall new eyes. Kaleb and Jade prepare defenses against the Spawning. Deke Heppener · Jade · Kaleb · Miranda Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility · Biodome 2017-03-29 ''Notes:'' Add the actual consumption of breakfast things to this scene. Reconcile with Chapter 0100 events. "I did some digging last night, [[Deke]], and found out some things you're not going to like." [[Miranda]] was unsettled. "I make it my business to know what's going on in this organization and in others like it, both the research side and the politics. The --" [[Deke]] cut her off with a sharp gesture. "Quit stalling," he said. He mimed tearing off a bandage. "Quick is better." [[Miranda]] revised her assessment of Deke once again. She liked finding depths and complexities in people. "Last night I told you [[Boeing]] had nothing to do with your situation. I was wrong." Deke's expression was very difficult to read, especially without being able to use her own eye to see him. Her customized AR system was engineered to take advantage of her enhancements, displaying light from the low infrared to high ultraviolet as well as polarization and colours that required an extra colour receptor to see. It had burnt out in the radiation when she triggered the [[Moonscape Protocol]]. Still, she did catch his jaw clench for a moment, and heard his heart speed up. It slowed down again after just three beats. ''Nearly unshakable,'' she thought. "You want to tell all of us together or should I let them know after?" His voice was tightly controlled. Miranda sighed, then gestured "come over" to the table where [[Jenkins]] sat with [[Grace]] and [[Red]]. Their AR avatars teleported through virtual space, to take up positions around the table. Miranda extended the privacy bubble to include them. Taking Deke's advice, she jumped right in. "Last night I told you I would find out who did this to you. I found out that it was Boeing." She paused to let this sink in. [[Jenkins]] jaw dropped far enough for Miranda to see that his tongue was also jet black. [[Grace]] swelled up in her chair, ready to explode, when [[Red]] put his hand on hers. She didn't calm down, but she stopped short of losing her temper. "Why?" Deke asked. "The short answer is 'state-sponsored corporate espionage'," Miranda said. "The New Commonwealth found out about an opportunity to steal some potentially world-changing technology from a corporation called [[Genetek]]. They hired Boeing to get the MITOtech while it was in transit yesterday." Grace couldn't hold her tongue any longer. "What the hell does that have to do with any of us?" "Your father and Jenkins were part of field trial when they served together in the Marines. They were genetically modified to make it easier to do organ transplants in emergency situations." "You wanted to be able to swap out parts from dead soldiers to injured ones, didn't you?" [[Red]]'s deep voice surprised Miranda. She hadn't heard him say much of anything since he was under her care. "Clever, Mr. Cooper. It was not my project, but essentially, yes. Everyone with this modification is cross-comparable for tissue donations. They also have some modifications that prevent most organs from decaying quite so fast, and that promote regowth of nerves that have been severed." "So if Deke lost a leg and Jenkins lost his head, you could make Deke into a Frankenstein." Red was making a statement, not asking a question. ''Very clever.'' Miranda thought. "Yes. The technology went through clinical trials soon after, and was brought to market a few years ago. Donors and recipients are both treated with a modified version of the gene therapy. A few days later a transplant can be done without needing anti-rejection drugs are It goes beyond that. "You're still not telling us why we were 'chosen' for this." Grace said, her high voice flat and hard. "The alterations are heritable, and dominant." She turned to Grace to watch realization grow on her face. "You have it too. The version taken to market does not have this effect since it would gradually eliminate the need for the treatment." "Gee, not because of '''ethics''' or anything," Jenkins said. He slapped his open palm down on the table, which shattered. The four MITOs were on their feet shockingly fast - so quickly that they almost completely avoided their breakfasts, which had been launched in all directions by Jenkins' blow. Jenkins looked at the other three. "Well, shit," he said, and started to laugh. A moment later all four were laughing uncontrollably. Seated at a wooden table in the Biodome, Miranda didn't move. ''That was very fast,'' she thought. "[[Bertha]] please compare the physical tests last night to this event. Is there an apparent trend in strength and reaction time?" Bertha, the intelligent agent that coordinated all the systems within the biodome, responded immediately. "Of course, Miranda." A chart appeared in the air in front of Miranda, showing a 5% decrease in reaction time. "With only two data points I can not determine if this is a linear increase or following some other curve." "Thank you, Bertha." She dismissed the graph and scheduled additional testing following breakfast. The AR overlay lost coherence as the four settled down and walked over to another table in the VAIL. "Please put us all in their local environment and move me to their table when they choose one." Bertha played a pleasant bell tone to indicate accepting the request. In the lab an array of robots were hard at work cleaning up the mess and bringing fresh food to the MITOs. When they sat down, Miranda was treated to the sound of a gathering wind as the Biodome faded toward darkness. The VAIL environment faded into existence around her, until she was sitting with the others again. "Sorry for the dramatics, Ma'am," Jenkins said as she was appearing. He gestured to himself. "This takes some getting used to." "For all of us," Miranda said. "We'll want to reassess you after breakfast. You appear to be getting faster and stronger." She assumed that their eyebrows were raised, but without hair it was very difficult to make out their expressions. After a thoughtful pause, Red said, "That explains why they were chosen. What about me?" "It seems you were used as an incubator, Mr. Cooper. It appears that the sample that was acquired was only viable for a few hours outside a human. The plan was to infect Deke, Jenkins, and Grace at the same time. Boeing has been planning this for months." Nodding to Jenkins, she said, "You were assigned here to put you in a position where you could 'find' Grace at the appropriate time, which would bring Deke to the area when he was needed." "I was assigned here a year ago!" Jenkins sounded incredulous. "It appears this operation has been in the works for several years." "That still doesn't explain why Red was infected," Deke said. Miranda shrugged. "You were late." He stared at her. "Beg pardon?" "The MITOtech was viable in transit for six hours. You were supposed to arrive in Sudbury around this time yesterday, and find Grace at the Dreampark with Jenkin's help. But instead of following the meticulous plan by applying for a visa and buying a plane ticket you decided to ''drive'' here and cross the border illegally." Deke looked chagrined. "I was in a rush," he said, looking at Grace. Grace's head bobbed. Miranda couldn't see her eyes looking heavenward, but that was clearly what she was doing. "It looked like you would still make it in time, especially with Jenkins to back you up. Of course you didn't call him for help, and your reluctance to use modern communication technology meant that the agents keeping track of you couldn't even give you hints." "Daddy, you ''are'' going to be carrying a phone and AR gear from now on, you hear me?" Deke slouched down in his chair. "Copy that." "So Red got the first dose in the 'Park," Grace said. "Why not me?" "They had enough to infect all three of you," Miranda said, "but they wanted to observe your transformations simultaneously. By noon they thought their only option was to infect Mr. Cooper and let the MITOtech incubate in him." She turned to Red. "That gave them another six hours to work with while the MITOtech developed in your system." "Huh. Padre didn't find them until around 8PM," Jenkins said, "so you had to transfer it to Grace before hitting us with it. At the hospital, I assume?" Miranda nodded. "And you had nothing to do with this?" Jenkins leaned in toward Miranda. Even through the AR interface his physical presence was intimidating, but Miranda had a lifetime of practice dealing with physical threats and abuse. "I make it my business to know what's going on here. This was kept secret from me, which is both surprising and worrying." Simultaneously, Grace and Deke said, "I believe her." Startled, their eyes snapped to each other, and a bright slash of white teeth showed their matching grins. "I promise you, I will find out what is going, but right now we have several more pressing matters to deal with. "First, [[Gareth]] is going to assess your mental health and whether you're still in control of yourselves after all this, so we can be in the same room together. Second, we need to give you each a quick injection in each eye to slow the retinal degeneration. Third, we --" Grace blurted out "Slow the what now?" before the others could react. "Oh dear," Miranda said. "I thought you had been briefed. The radiation dose you took was enough to kill almost anything. That's why your microbiome died. Almost all the cells in your bodies were already producing very high quantities of melanin before that blast. You have noticed that all your tissues are black now, not just your skin?" They all nodded. "The radiation did significant harm to your skin and to your retinas. Your skin because the melanin production hadn't kicked in to high gear there yet, and your retinas because melanin would interfere with your vision. The hair loss appears to be a combination of radiation damage and rapid repair by the MITOtech enhancements to your DNA." "And our eyes?" Deke asked. "Can you stop the damage?" "Oh no, not at all. You're going to all go blind over the next day without treatment, and in two or three days with treatment. By then I'll have replacement eyes ready for all of you. Cloned organic eyes are the best option, especially if you opt for some enhancements. Bionic eyes are available too. They work well enough, but need to be replaced every few years." Deke shook his head. It was his turn to sigh. "It doesn't sound like we have a lot of options." Miranda's lips pushed together while she shook her head. "Great," Grace said. "Psych test and eye needles. What else do we have lined up for this fine morning?" "Third, we need to get you over here to the Biodome. The Director believes that you would be ideally suited to help protect the biodome AI from Tetras when they show up in a few hours. The trip will take nearly an hour - nearly up to the surface, then back down here. We can do strength and reaction time tests on the way." "Jesus," Deke said. "You know I completely forgot we're in the middle of an alien invasion?" "You have been busy Deke," Miranda said, opening an incoming call from Gareth. "Dr. Chow, you're right on time." [[Chapter 0610]] continues with the interviews of Jenkins, Deke, Grace, and Red.
Chapter 0700 0700 2034-03-01 2300UTC to 2034-03-02 0300UTC (1700-2200EST) Bring the heroes together on a mission outside the Biodome.Start the Corporate War. Well, shit. Biodome · Boeing Ultraviolet Research Facility · Sudbury 2017-05-03 Considerable party conflict and suspicion arise from the discovery of the saboteurs. === Murder and Mayhem === [[Droo]] has been ordered by [[Ellen]] to kill [[Kaleb]]. [[Ellen]] and [[Storm Anderson]] are the saboteurs, working with [[Genetek]] to recover or destroy the stolen [[MITOtech]]. [[Miranda]]'s loyalties and mental stability are in question (by [[Droo]], especially). [[Jade]] seems to be a bit unstable (reported to [[Jenny]] by [[Kaleb]]). [[Miranda]] was off to meet [[Storm]] in an off-the-grid area of the Biodome to talk, and perhaps kill her. When [[Deke]] met personally with [[Miranda]] she thought he was going to punch through a wall and her face in one fluid motion. Since she's been near Deke and he didn't do that - e just gave her a note about Ellen and Storm being saboteurs - she is less convinced of that. But not utterly convinced. [[Kaleb]] is on the run from [[Droo]]. [[Droo]]'s meat is currently being piloted by the [[Vögell]] persona. Both personas are quite upset, and unclear on whether they are IRL or in an IVR Shadowrun. [[Jenkins]] called [[Ellen]] for a pow-wow in the command centre, so she's on her way to where [[Deke]], [[Jenkins]], [[Red]], and [[Grace]] are. It is quite possible that she will be killed when she arrives. === Alliances === [[Jade]] is still in the VR rig in ring 2. He is getting along with the AIs, and has accepted their offer of membership in the ranks - with the failsafes that oath requires. [[Ouroboros]] - a.k.a. [[Ouri]] - is really interested in Jade's upcoming integration with the [[Clanks]], as is [[IOTAI]]. [[Jade]] is aghast at the murderous political machinations underway - the scheming and maneuvering - and would much prefer the company of AIs right now. [[Storm]] has emailed all of you except [[Miranda]] and [[Kaleb]], offering sanctuary in the [[Post Darwinist]] sect of the [[Transhumanist]] movement. [[Miranda]] will be asked in person when they meet in a minute. [[Kaleb]] is baseline human, so he would have to be sponsored in and then prove his worthiness for augmentation. === World Notes === The [[Post Darwinists]] are running [[Genetek]] in secret. [[PD]]s are generally considered mad radicals like an Islamic terror sect. The [[Cyborg Collective]] is too, though coming at it from different directions (Jade would be their messiah). The '[[Borg]]', [[PD]], and [[DQE]] ([[Directed Quantum Evolutionists]]) are formally denounced by the [[Church of the Transhuman]] - the best organized sect of the movement. The Transhumanist movement is roughly similar in structure to world religions - and indeed, is influenced by local religious and cultural norms. The CotTH has modelled membership to align with Catholic business models, with a clearly structured bureaucracy reporting to one person. It is favoured in places where Catholicism and Christianity are prevalent. The [[Directed Quantum Evolutionists]] ([[DQE]]) are radical in that they have caused non-consensual repairs to humans (cured diseases using a white-hat virus). The public has mixed feelings about this genetic vigilantism.
Chapter 0800 Chapter 0800 2034-03-01 2100UTC Initially, to recount the events of the game sessions. Exposition of the chaos on the surface and the solar system. Party conflict slithers into alliances of convenience. Biodome · Earth · Luna Colony 2017-05-10 Nations, corporations, cultures, and other geopolitical forces have begun to fight for the sould of the species. One way or another, everyone sets out to ensure that [[Ellen]] leaves the [[Biodome]] in an urn or not at all.
Chapter 0900 Chapter 0900 2034-05-02 0200UTC Initially, to recount the events of the game sessions. Biodome · Sudbury · GG1 2017-05-24 We left the 2017-05-24 session with everyone on the plane with an escape plan and a lot of loot. Jenkins had to burn a lot of $cash to get the plane and some other equipment shipped. That cash was tainted, though, so spending it now is a sound move. When the dust settles you each have B10, and the "company" has B230 + B74 = $304 (after selling $ for Q). The exchange rate has settled in at $10M to B1 by the time you land. Since a coffee is still going for uB1 (a micro-bitcoin) inflation has pushed a coffee up to $10. Droo carefully walking into a trap and escaping with his armour in tatters and his mission aborted. He spent two fate points in about 30 seconds to survive it, too. The events that followed with the MITOs are unchanged. On the plane the events of the previous session play out, including the scene with Red testing Droo's weapons. Additionally, Kaleb super fixed Droo's armour up to a stress pool of 7, and Miranda fixed his VBSS into an actually alive creature. 15 minutes before wheels down two of the best soldiers – Red and Grace - took all the gear they need to survive out there for a few weeks, and jumped. Contact protocols - yes, with a daily connect to a Clank, perhaps? Otherwise they'll be off line. They're going to go blind, yes. Whoops, seems people forgot about that in the rush to action. On the other hand, their sight will return over the course of a week as the stem cells you implanted continue to propagate. You guys didn't want to have that much down-time for the MITOs, so more radical approaches were planned. As for the spectabulous roll our Miranda made... Yes, it totalled out to +10 - before the difficulty modifier of +4. Beating in mind that a +6 is still "Fantastic" on the Ladder of difficulty, the healing was beyond successful, what with the upgrade and all. I'll be adding in some details over the next week or two as the healing happens and the consequences are ...experienced. '''''Author’s Note''': This planning should be restructured into the action, with flashbacks to the discussions and asides.''' == Part 1: Planning the Great Escape == Around 2100EST nine figures made their way to a dark zone – an area of the Biodome rimwall with no active sensors, and in many cases no power. Jenkins stood behind the bar, pulling pints for the people making their way into the pub. "What's your drink, Red? Grace?" He put a steaming cup of coffee in front of Deke as he sat on a barstool. Deke nodded thanks. "A bitter beer for me," Grace said. "Coming up." Red walked around to join Jenkins behind the bar. "I feel like a Caesar tonight, but they're a pain to make. Besides, you need to figure out what Clanks drink." He picked a glass from the rack above the bar and rimmed it with salt, as a scuttling hoard of robots seethed into the bar. The Clanks looked like Tetras, but shrunk down in scale to about 30cm long, tip to tip. Jade, his head encased in a powerful AR rig, followed them in. He gestured and spoke to them, causing the little machines to scatter into the hallways leading to the pub. A little unsteadily, he made his way to the bar. "Keeping an eye on the entrances?" Grace asked, sipping her pint. She looked at it appreciatively, and noted the name of the beer. "I'm a little nervous being out here like this," Jade said, taking a seat beside her. "And controlling them like this?" He gestured to the helmet on his head. "This is like playing telephone with cans and string. I really need an upgrade." "What's your poison?" Jenkins asked. He very carefully did not offer Jade a shot of Jack Daniels, recalling the nearly disastrous run-in between Jade and Kaleb over his full name. "I really don't drink," Jade shook his head. Noticing Red's tall drink under construction, he asked, "What is that? It looks interesting." "You really don't drink," Red said. He slid the drink toward Jade. "Try it. I haven't added much tabasco yet, so we can always heat it up if you prefer." Jade lifted the glass gingerly, and took a careful sip. Even with most of his face obscured by the AR helm his happy surprise was easy to read in his body language. "Wow! That's really good. Can you show me how to make it?" "Sure thing, Mr. Jade," Red said. "You keep that one." Jade moved over to where Red was working. A few dozen Clanks shifted along the floor, walls, and ceiling to keep a perimeter around him as he moved. While Red was demonstrating, Grace said, "He's great with horses and children too." Deke looked at his daughter in the mirror behind the bar. She was looking past her father, taking in the way her man meticulously showed Jade each step in the process. "Do you see that? He's making sure the Clanks have a clear view too." Deke nodded. "I'd like to get to know him better soon," he said. After a long pause, he opened his mouth to say, "you too," but Grace beat him to it. "It looks like we've both done some growing up since mom died." She took a long pull. "Let's not rush things, though, Dad. I'm not just your daughter any more, and you're not just my dad." Before he could answer, Miranda and Storm walked in, talking quietly. From the door Miranda scanned the bar and called out, "Talisker 16 please Mr. Jenkins. Neat." "Me too," Storm said. Not looking around, she said, "Droo, do you want anything?" A disembodied voice emerged from the shadows near one exit. "Amateurs." "Suit yourself. Jade does have our perimeter however, and I'd like your input. We might be strange bedfellows, but we do have at least one common enemy." Kaleb appeared in the doorway holding two cans of spraypaint. "Is he here?" "The clock is ticking, people," Jenkins said, coming around the bar. "We have some trust issues to deal with ''after'' we're in a safe place." He nodded pointedly at Kaleb. "For now Storm's right. We're allies or we're dead." Red joined Jenkins around a large table in the middle of the pub, followed by the others. As they sat, Jenkins tossed each of them a Bitcoin wallet, then put the remaining 23 sticks in a bowl in front of him. "Well, we're going to be rich if we live," Red said. "These sticks have Ƀ10 each them. Before we got blacked out the exchange rate was nearly $10M per 'coin." "I don't need a million cups of coffee, and that's only $320 million. We've already got a billion Jenkins embezzled," Droo said dismissively, tossing his stick back in the bowl. "Chump change." "Uh, that's…" Kaleb trails off, turning the little bitcoin stick over in his fingers. "Sorry, that's a lot of money. What do we do when Ellen comes for it?" Red sat up straighter, startled. "Oh." Grace turned to glare at him. "Spit it out, you beast. Don't leave us hanging." "Sorry. I didn't look at the exchange rate when Deke and I were crossing the surface, but I did download the updates automatically. Bitcoins have soared - or the dollar and other currencies are collapsing or something." He tossed the chart into the air in front of everyone. "Six hours ago our Ƀ320 were worth about a billion dollars." Jenkins cloned the charts and looked them over. "Bitcoins aren't going up. Almost everything else is going down. Looks like serious inflation happening already." "All the more reason to worry that Ellen is going to want her bag'o'money back," Kaleb said. "Come on." Droo's voice came from empty space. "She shows up? We do a little 'work.' That's what we do." "We need to be ready for her," Kaleb said. "Priorities, people," Storm said. "Right now Ellen is secondary. Staying alive long enough for her to be a problem is the first problem." Droo faded into visibility, looming over the far end of the table. "Problem one: Jenkins and I have both been exposed to reprogramming. He successfully resisted that last command, and I have some… other advantages. But we both could still have internal programming. We need to deal with this." Storm looked at him. "If this is a Dollhouse scenario there is no exit strategy for us. I don't think it is." She turned to address the others. "Ellen was not the only Bene Gesserit wannabe in the world. Genetek has resources that can do that kind of thing, or the Post Darwinist can find them." "I can't agree that she's secondary when we don't know where she is," Droo said. "If we leave this dark spot and she gets a successful command to Jenkins or me, odds are good we all die." Kaleb smirked. "Yo, Gene Witch: can the Dairy Queen Express protect us?" "Absolutely," Miranda said, ignoring the name-calling. "But not here in the Biodome." "So we need out," Droo said, "and we need to be 'Ellen-proofed' on the way out. You do realize she's modified her voice to force people to obey even without preprogrammed suggestions, right? That seems to be easier to resist but it is still a huge problem! Storm, I think you're wrong. We have to assume Ellen is going to try to pen us in and eliminate us on the way." "Do we have a sample of her voice," Kaleb asked. "I might be able to work with Genie and come up with a way to screen or scramble her command voice." "You're making this too complicated," Grace said, sounding exasperated. "Just fab us noise cancelling headphones with a secure channel between ourselves." "Wait," Kaleb said. "You want me to be on purpose deaf when she might shoot a missile at me? Noise cancelling headphones will work if we know she's coming, but we can't isolate ourselves complete from environmental threats." "Yeah," Droo said. Kaleb looked startled at the agreement. "Grace, I need to hear to..." He trailed off for a moment. "Well. Maybe I don't so much with the wifi/sonar combo we've been scanning with. Hmmm. I can paint wifi/sonar mapping into your AR. It isn't hearing a door open, but it can work. We found the bad guys that way." Kaleb looked thoughtful. "So I don't get to hear the floorboard behind me, but I do get a proximity alert from my AR?" "It depends on the mapping," Droo said. "And we'll have Jade's clanks listen and map it out too." "We can do that," Jade said. "We might be able to listen too. Do you think an audio feed with a compressed frequency would keep us safe? My guys could do that." Kaleb nodded, caught up in the idea of building a new machine. "Noise cancelling headsets are a decent short-term solution, especially with some AR action and Clank-phones. Heck, I can fab that up for us right now." He lifted his left arm, encased in the OmniTool. "I think we can back-burner worries about Ellen for now?" He sounded confused as he said it. "Wait, did I just agree with Mr. How Not To Be Seen?" "I don't like it either," Droo said, fading out of sight again. Kaleb shook his head and set about designing and fabbing some specialized headphones for everyone. "What's our exit strategy here?" Storm said in an attempt to regain control of the discussion. "Can we use that magic cloth to get up the pipe undetected?" Droo's voice comes from an empty space near one of the exits. "Well, we can use it to make ourselves mostly undetectable, assuming someone can make reasonable suits out of it. We could still be found – but only by looking for holes in the world. That isn't usually part of standard sensor suites, and it is not natural for people. We have 100 yards… nine people and equipment…" He trailed off. "I don't think it's practical. I mean, even if I don't use it there's not enough material to hide all of you and our equipment. And there's no way we're hiding the Clanks with this stuff." "I don't thing hiding us one by each is the way to go here," Jenkins said. "We're stealing way too much stuff. I'm shipping seven standard cargo containers up the pipe and mislabelling their contents and their destinations. We can just ride out in the containers. No one would be the wiser." "And then what," Kaleb said. "They shoot our plane out of the sky when they figure out we stole it?" "Let's start at the beginning and work from there," Jenkins said. "We can load our haul and ourselves into standard shipping containers. Storm can falsify the manifests, and we just ride out as cargo." "Now that's more to my liking," Kaleb said. His AR presence morphs into Jim Carrey's idiotic face with the word's "I LIKE IT ALOT" leaving his mouth in a word bubble. Storm ignored the meme interjection. "As soon as we're on the surface we charter a plane and route ourselves to the airport." "I can do that now," Miranda said quietly. "I can spend our money like water to get the plane in our possession by the time we land at Genetek's facility," Jenkins said, not taking in Miranda's statement for a moment. When he realized what she said he shook his head in surprise. "Wait, Miranda - you do that? You have internet access form inside a dark zone?" "No – not from in here right now. Once we’re on the intranet again I do have a way to get a line out though. Just for us." "Daym," Kaleb said. "Not just a gene witch, are you?" Before she responded, he said, "So fake an outgoing shipment? I like it." "How many shipments are coming and going from the BURF these days?" Jade wore a small grin under his AR. "Just seems like tumultuous times at the old BURF for FedEx to be making regular runs." Jenkins pulled up a logistics report. "Since the 'we're all gonna die' alarm we've slowed personnel transport to the surface and started shipping a lot more personal effects and equipment. We've even started bringing key people back to help coordinate the IAs." "So out the tunnel under cover of fake manifests seems like a good option then," Jade said. "That way we don't need individual suits of portable hole. My Clanks have no problem being our eyes and ears when we're in shipping containers. I think we can feed that to everyone's AR. I'm not at all worried about getting the clanks out, they fit in small spaces and it should be easy for them to sneak out in the undercarriage of trucks, in crates and however else. Not to mention they have skillz. We'll find a way. I can send a group of Clanks to recon ahead, too. We can follow under cover with the blocking earphones and the AR feed so we're not blind." "I'm sure we can find a way out to the surface," Miranda said. "But what about after? Perhaps faking our deaths would take some heat off our asses. At this point I think 'Dr. Miranda Bishop' isn't making it out of this place alive, even if I survive." There was a long pause while they considered the idea of starting new identities. Grace broke the silence. "If Red and Dad are with me, I don't need to be Grace Heppener. I just need to be able to ride." Deke and Red nodded. "And to be honest, while I'm not a fan of the jet-black look, I'm not hating the rest of this new body." "I'm getting used to it too," Red said. "We won't be able to compete in the regular DreamPark games anymore, but the VRX Games are an option. And I'm sure we can start a stable once we find a place where we're not hunted." Droo's laugh was harsh. "Not hunted? Big ''and'' dumb? Grace, you sure can pick 'em." He ignored her withering look. "You all need to shift your thinking. If you were not a mercenary yesterday you are today. You have a price on your head - or your body. Everybody out there wants to ''eat'' you." "We get it, assassin." Deke's voice was a low rumble. "Some of us might like to find a new life that is less violent than what you're proposing. Maybe we can. Maybe we can't. We’re still gonna try." Before Droo could jump in again, Jenkins said, "I don't think any of us has a lot of family ties topside, so new identities won't wreck our lives. Getting them is a bit outside my wheelhouse, though." Simultaneously, Droo and Miranda said, "I can do that." They looked at each other in surprise. "OK," Droo said. "To be fair sure I can do that to the extent I'm sure we're on a shadow run right now. So YMMV." Miranda shook her head and raised her eyebrows. "Riiight." She sighed tiredly. "What about the nuke?" Jade asked. "Use it as a distraction? A way to seal up Bertha while she heals…" His voice faded as he turned his attention inward. "Fusion reactor is running fine. Lots of techs working on her now." He gestured with his left hand, turning his palm up and lifting slightly. "Not hard too believe that an additional nuke was on site and detonated after the fact." A subtle sound was heard as all the Clanks in the room mirrored Jade's movement. Kaleb looked around. He mimed weighing two options with his hands. "I'm'a go with creepy as fuck on that one." Two AR jars appeared on the table. One was labelled "CREEPER" in a drippy font. He tossed a marble into it. The jar labelled "COOL" was still slightly ahead. Miranda shook her head. "Focus, please! I'd like to avoid setting off that nuke if we can. It's plausible, but if we can get out of here with everyone thinking we're dead it could be a big asset." "As long as we can figure out how to hide that we've stolen it," Storm said. "That's going to be tricky." "Yeah, it's in serious lockdown," Jenkins said. "I'm sure Droo could get to it, but the rest of us will leave a trail of eyeball-witnesses or bodies." Droo started to perk up until he saw that Jenkins was already staring at him disapprovingly. "Fine," Droo said. "I just wanted to have fun." He faded out. "Okay." Jade missed or ignored the tension the others felt about the nuke and new identities. "That part of the plan seems to be coming along. Now where are we going? I think the woodland life doesn't suit any of us well." "Hey, the woodland life suits me just fine," Droo said. "But yes, it's impractical for the group." "We need somewhere secure and not controlled by an MNC," Jade said. "Once we work that out, we can fill in the part of how to get from the tunnel to that place. Does anyone have a place we can go?" "I can get you to a safe Genetek facility in Saskatoon," Storm said. "I know that's not taking us out of a Corporation's shadow, but I have a lot of pull there. We'll all be safe." "OK, let's see," Droo said sarcastically. "If I was a religious fanatic organization with strong views on exterminating humanity, fronting as a Corp, and taking advantage of a corporate war to take it to 'the enemy'? How safe would people like us be inside their facility?" "Seems we get the ef out of here to any place reasonably less deadly," Jade said. "Worry about the next step after. "To flee, or not to flee--that is the question Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the stings and flechettes of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of MITOs and by opposing, end them To die, to sleep, no more and by a sleep to we end this actual reality and dream forever in the VR of the ever after." The room was silent for a long moment after Jade's poetic contribution. "Um. Thank you, Jade," Storm said. "Listen, if you guys have a line to the outside that means my cover doesn't have to be burned. I can contact the Post Darwinist board of directors to clear the way for your arrival once we have the logistics lined up. And maybe Genetek can run some interference for you. The gloves are off anyways, after all." "I'm going to start working on scripts to get us possession of a military transport in for upgrades at the Sudbury airport. If I can update the final round of QA to show all green we can have it fly itself out to Saskatoon - with some diversions hiding it's real location. I can make it misreport what kind of vehicle it is and what they're carrying - us and our equipment." "You lost me," Deke said. "Logistics were never my thing." "Yeah, I remember," Jenkins said, dragging blocks of functionality into his AR and placing them inside something that looked like a large black worm. "You don't try to hide that something or someone is moving from A to B to C... you alter the records and recordings to misidentify the things moving from A to B, and then re-ID them for B to C." He waved a globe into existence. "Our plane will be scheduled to go over the pole on it's way to India." The flight path appeared as a green line. "Once we're far enough North we swap out the transponder with this ID." He rolled up a piece of virtual paper and slipped it into the worm. "Then we erase the existence of the flight from the system." A red pill slipped into the slimy creature's guts. "And the final piece is a new flight plan associated with a new transponder code, heading in to Saskatoon from..." He paused as a wedge shaped haze of gold appeared on the globe, spreading Eastward from the point where the green line ended. "From Glasgow to Vancouver." The new line solidified. "I'll do the same thing again when we're in the air, so a real plane with that ID will be found on the ground in Vancouver by the time we get to Saskatoon." "You can do all that?" Deke asked. "You've learned some things in the last twenty years, haven't you, Jenny." "A bit," he said, grinning. "We're not all afraid of computers, you know." The grin faded. "Now I'm worried about us getting fingered by FaceRec as soon as we step outside." "There are a lot of workarounds," Droo said, sitting up. "We can use a bit of makeup to alter facial contours. It’s long-distance retinal scans that are the big problem. If you wear coloured contacts with a really strong prescription and glasses with the opposite prescription you’ll defeat almost any scan. Beards and haircuts used to work, but their not so reliable now." Droo rummaged around in a virtual folder for a moment, then tossed a file out to the room. "Instructions for n00bs and fab instructions for makeup and facial appliances to shift things enough." He sat up straighter, for the first time looking engaged in the discussion. "But if you’re serious about this you’re going to have to surgically or genetically alter your appearance. It’s doable – I’m evidence – but there will be some downtime while you recover." Miranda said, "I can definitely –" but Droo cut her off. "The MITOs are probably find to pass the body language and gait analysis AIs, but the rest of you will need to adjust your height and weight distribution enough to alter your gate. Oh, and your vocal cords so you don’t sound like you anymore." Jade responded first, with some heat. "I am not becoming an entirely new person!" "Sure you are, Sheppernmeister. The only question is if you’re willing to change in ways that keep you alive." "Let’s table that for the moment," Storm said. "Yes, lets." Jade was clearly more emotionally engaged than anyone had seen him before. "Because you all seem to be forgetting that there is a variable yield nuclear weapon not far from where we are and I think we need to deal with it. We could use it as a distraction to cover our escape, but I think the better ideas is to collapse the tunnel behind us near the surface. That is a distraction and it seals the base for Bertha's protection." Jenkins stood up from the long table. "I’m getting another drink. Let’s take a break. We’re all getting a bit hot under the collar." Without waiting for agreement, he walked to the bar. Nine people scattered for a moment before starting to come together in small groups. Deke walked over to Red, which drew in Grace. Storm and Miranda had a short chat. Droo and Kaleb traded a few good-natured memes. While pouring his pint, Jenkins caught Droo’s eye. With an eyebrow and cocked head he invited Droo to join him at the bar. === >>> ASIDE: JENKINS AND DROO === When Droo approached, Jenkins said, "I have something you want. It isn't money, and I'll only give it to Droo." "Well, what is it?" Droo said impatiently. "Your complete medical records." There was a short pause. "You are right, I do want those." Jenkins lip curled in a momentary smile. "I don't understand anything beyond the summary, but I can tell you this: you can likely do things that you are not yet aware of. Your upgrade teams were compartmentalized. I doubt Dr. Bishop knows about all of your alterations." "Ok." Droo looked a Jenkins with wide eyes and raised brows. ''Get on with it,'' was clearly the message. Slowly, as if to a child, Droo said, "Obviously I need to read the summary." "You’ve been real clear that you work for pay or not at all," Jenkins said. He took a long pull on his pint. "The information I have is the pay package. But for Droo, not your Vögell personality." Droo looked at him for a long moment, then pointed to the bar. "Scotch." When Jenkins moved to collect a bottle and glass, Droo continued. "What's your bargain, then? Since I know you were exposed to Ellen's programming, same as me, trust had better be on a short leash both ways here. We need better reasons to like each other before I’m gonna trust you – and before you should trust me." Droo sniffed the scotch, then took a good sip, and nodded. "I was starting - barely - to trust Gareth. He's ash. I like Kaleb. Don't know that is gonna extend to trust yet." Another sip, longer, and he put the glass down. "Find me another person who I don't have reason to look at with suspicion." Jenkins uncorked the bottle and poured another generous dram. Droo held it up to the light, looking at it critically. "That's not to say I'm not willing to play ball. If we strike a deal it's sacrosanct as long as its on the level between us. But you damn well know I'm coming from a bad place." "I want to let Miranda know I have these records," Jenkins said. "I don’t want to give them to her yet – she scares me too much." He poured the end of the bottle into a fresh glass for himself, and raised it to Droo. "You scare me less than her but more than Jade. So here’s to building some trust?" After a long moment, Droo raised his glass. After a gentle clink, they both drank and but down their drinks. "Sharing what you know with Dr. Bishop is probably a stupid idea," Droo said. "But I need to know why you want to before I can be sure of that." Jenkins mouth made a momentary pout indicating, ‘not a stupid comment.’ "She has successfully hidden a whole lot of shadowy connections, wealth and power," he said. "She made a virus that could destroy all mammals in a week, and on a ''whim.''" He reached under the bar and pulled out another bottle of scotch. This one was much better than the top row bottles. After pouring both of them another dram, he said, "I want three things: I want leverage on you. I want leverage on her. And I want you to have leverage on her." "Ah. You want me to have it, but her to know. I can work with that. And what do you want from me?" "If you can wait until we are out of here, I think I'll have a mission for you. For now you'll have to make do with ten Bitcoin." Jenkins slid a moneystick across the bar to Droo. "Keep the stick." Droo sipped the scotch and nodded appreciatively. "You can buy my services with that information." Jenkins shook his head. "No, you're getting one just like the rest of us. We need the Independent wealth if we going to trust each other. Could I trust you if Miranda could drop more coin? At least if you have enough to say no to any job I can have a little confidence that you’re not going to be seduced by a bigger paycheck." Droo picked up the stick, rolling it between his fingers. "You’re an amateur here, aren’t you?" When Jenkins didn’t respond he said, "Men in our position… You might be for sale, but once sold you simply MUST stay sold." Another sip. "The alternative isn’t just not getting hired again. It’s being hunted down and exterminated." He finished the scotch and sighed appreciatively. "If you weren't a merc yesterday, with the code that being a mercenary requires – well, you sure are now." Jenkins spent a long moment sipping scotch and staring into the distance. Droo was patient. Sometimes the best move was to wait. Finally, Jenkins said, "You’re not wrong. Doesn’t mean I like it though. I’ve fought for causes and ideals. Fighting for money?" He actually shuddered. "Look," Droo said, pushing the money back to Jenkins. "I have enough money on my own to not take an overbid. And I wouldn’t do that anyways. When I’m bought I’m ''bought.'' That’s the point. If you have more jobs later I’ll happily take your coin." Jenkins shook his head again. "It might be weird for you, but I need you to take that money as a gift so I know you won’t be bought. The money isn't a payment for anything. It is independence money. This is to make sure none of the team is in a position to be forced to take a job for money. We’re all taking a stick." Droo shrugged with lips and shoulders and pocketed the money. "And if shit goes sideways we all have operating finds to work with." Jenkins laughed – a short sharp bark. " ‘If’?" "Yeah, it may be a bit late for ‘if’." Jenkins shook his head. "I don’t know what the job or jobs will be, but top options are assassinations of the leadership of Boeing and Genetek. Life is a bit chaotic right now though, so there may be other more pressing matters to address." "That is true," Droo said. "But your plan to get one up on Dr. Bishop is dumb. You wanna share my records with me now? I’ll consider it a massive retainer, and I stay bought and work for you. Then you tell her. That way if she questions me about the contents of the record I won’t be caught out in a lie. Otherwise, don’t share it with her or with me. You don't share, she can't be told. Never count on some else’s acting skills to hold up your leverage." "That’s… that makes sense," Jenkins said. "I’m better with logistics and physical security than this kind of thing." He paused to take another long pull on his draught." "Good merc I assume. Lousy spy. No offence. Different skill sets." "I hate these games," Jenkins muttered. "Until today I was a good soldier. Now? I don't know if I'm a mercenary or not yet." His expression shifted from uncertain to confident as he put down his glass. "The record I have contains everything Boeing knew was done to you. If her team hid something they did then you would not know about it from this record." He pulled a data crystal out of his pocket and dropped it on the table. "This is the list of sub-projects – we call them "slash projects" – that were part of Electrolux. It is a list of everything they did to you, pulled out of the billing and accounting system. It doesn’t have the details of the changes – just the high level descriptions." Droo accessed the crystal, pulling up a spreadsheet. Jenkins pointed to the summary. ==== Electrolux Project and /Project List ==== Prerequisites: 2009-PLS (Lego Soldier) 2010-PRUK (AppStore) 2002-PTS (Treadstone) /Focus 2024-PEX: Espionage Team /Acid /Antenna /Crypto /Eyes /Ears /Failsafe /Frog /Hornet /Hub /Hivemind /Mantis /Memorex /Mimic /Spider /Stealth /StrDexCon /Thunder /Transmitter "You can see why we call them ‘Slash-projects’ in house," Jenkins said. "I'm not going to tell her you know about this, but I will tell her that I have the list of all her sub-projects. Is that a good enough retainer until we get ourselves to a new slightly less immediately deadly situation?" "Completely. Let me know when and what you need. But, uh, can we talk about this list? I mean what the hell is all this?" "The only one I recognize is 2009-PLS. I didn’t know it was called ‘Lego Soldier’ when Deke and I were part of the first field trials." "Shit. That’s the organ transplant treatment!" Jenkins smiled slightly. "I'll welcome any suggestions and advice you can offer. I'm more comfortable as a member of a team. If you can do that, we can go places." "I’ll do what I can. Hell, I want us to live long enough to figure this shit out. Oh, and if I find you feeding me tasks via Ellen programming, you go on the target list B. Just so we are all clear." Jenkins shuddered. "That is something you won't find me doing willingly. Ellen was a real monster." Droo nodded. "I guess this is your first shadowed run? Welcome to the trade." "Honestly? I don't know what that means. I've been on black ops." "That's different. These are . . grey. It’s always tough to tell who's right and who's not. Often no one is. Trust is the hardest currency to find. You’re a threat to most, a pawn to some, and obsession to others. Everything is shadowed. Blurry. Diffuse. Black Ops? They’re usually just ''secret''. Shadow runs… have you been on a mission where you knew you were the bad guy from everyone’s point of view? This kind of thing, in the shadows - mostly you can't tell who the good guys and bad guys are. If that's gonna bother you... ordinarily I'd say get and get safe and I'd help you get disentangled. But, well, look at you. You, my midnight friend, are gonna have to learn to play Shadowrun from the wrong side of the rules." Jenkins sat for a long moment with pursed lips, staring into space. He shook his head slightly. Standing up, he said, "That was a good chat. I think you'll find my word is my bond. Deke and I are old fashioned that way. But you'll be the judge of that." Jenkins walked back toward the bar. Droo muttered, "Well. Damn my eyes, now I ''gotta'' know." He reopened the file to root around some more. There were additional details like project manager names, budgets and expenditures, but beyond the billion dollar bottom line, nothing of particular interest to Droo. Then he noticed a ‘comment’ tag on the 2024-PEX cell. He activated it. ''2024-PEX has several compartmentalized units working independently on modular components of Electrolux Enhanced Humans. Parallel operations in Luna Colony, Wales, and Chennai are isolated and have no interactions. In each facility discrete teams work on modular upgrades based on the Lego Soldier upgrade (Project 2009-PLS: Modular Soldier Upgrade) and AppStore upgrade (Project 2010-PRUK: Proteome Virtualization Upgrade).'' ==== SIDE NOTE ==== PLS and Appstore basically provide a plugin framework for the other modules to 'snap into' and function, similar to what we do technologically with 'compute/storage/network' today. We do in fact, call it 'building blocks' and 'hyperconvergence' and 'virtualized function call'. So 'mimic' requires non-human proteins, which requires appstore, and poof: i'm camouflaged. Although i wonder about the line between 'mimic' and 'stealth' since that would seem to be stealth, as mimic (implies?) specificity? i'm suspecting mantis and spider, you are ripping from superheroes. because that's what ANYONE in this kind of tech field would use. Looks in mirror, attempts to mimic Jenkins except without the black pigment  Your skin shifts a bit and you definitely don't look like you, but you definitely don't look like Jenkins either. The more Droo looked at the list the more exited and nervous he became. Eventually, he looked around for Jenkins, who was talking with Miranda. Rather than interrupt, Droo sent him a quick note. "And.. you have the project details for these - and they were - according to records.. ALL APPLIED?" === <<< Timeline: Recombine! === After Jenkins left, Droo sat quietly for a few minutes, fiddling with some invisible data file. Kaleb sat at the far end of the bar near an exit, watching carefully. He made sure that the MITOs were between Droo and himself, and had the Omnitool ready to produce a plasma sword. He rolled four marble-sized spheres in his left hand. ‘’°But will he expect a paint grenade?°’’ he thought. They had been hard to fab, requiring several stages of machining, but he figured they were worth it. "Did you see that?" Kaleb called out to Deke. "Droo’s whole face just warped!" "It did what now, son?" Deke said, glancing toward Droo, who was now giggling to himself. "Did he mess with your AR?" Grace asked, looking at Kaleb. Kaleb did a quick review of his lifelog. "How the hell should I know? I don’t think so." Red turned to Droo, and said, "Hey, assassin? What did you do to your face?" Droo spontaneously faded out for a moment. "That’s a great question, Conan. You tell me." He mimed pulling down AR glasses. When Red had done so, Droo warped his face again. It looked… wrong. "Nope," Red said. "I don’t think I can." Droo’s grin was awful on that distorted face. "You know what? I’m going to try something. Be ready to stop me if you have to." Droo stood and dropped his cloak and weapons on the table. He took several steps away from the pile, closed his eyes, and shuddered. His features flowed again, rippling into the familiar face of Droo – except different. His features were a little softer, his skin a little paler. Even his hair colour got a little lighter. He opened his eyes and checked himself out for a moment. "Well fuck," he said. "Looks like a big case of ‘nevermind’ folks." Over his shoulder he called, "Kaleb, you owe me a beer!" as he collected his equipment and started to put on his cloak. Talking to himself, Droo snarled, "Fucking fuck Gareth for getting himself killed." Louder, he called, "Hey, where’s that beer?" He turned to see four MITOs standing in a line, weapons drawn but pointed at the ground. "This might be a good time to explain yourself," Deke said. Droo stared at them for a moment before bursting out laughing. "You can stand down. I just tested myself for the compulsion that Ellen dumped in Droo a few hours ago. It’s completely gone." He started toward the bar. "We’d like a drink now." Very softly, he sang, ''I go to the show and I hold my hand, I hug myself and I think I'm grand. And if I get fresh I slap my face, to put myself back in my place.'' "Who knew gramma was a prophet?" he asked. He had a relaxed smile on his face for the first time in a long time. "I don’t know understand what is going down in my brain so I don’t expect anyone else to." Very slowly, Kaleb stepped out from the wall of MITO. "I am… I am ''very'' confused. "Why do I owe you a beer? Because you say so?" "Dude, I altered my personality and consciousness and sense of self to throw myself off your trail. I literally messed with my mind to avoid coming after you. Successfully, too. Hell, I might actually like you. Now beer me." Kaleb blinked rapidly for a few seconds, then closed his eyes for a breath. "Ah, fuck it. This day hasn’t killed me yet." He walked behind the bar and over to Droo. Red and Jenkins sat at the bar on either side of Droo. "What’s up, brotato? What’s your pois—no wait, assassin, lemme start over." Droo laughed again. "Whatever you're having works." Kaleb picked up a glass and put it to the tap, then started a pint of Budweiser. While it poured, he said. "So you gonna ‘splain t’me what just happened?" "I don’t know if I can. We got around Ellen’s compulsion of Droo when Vögell took over piloting the meat." Kaleb slipped a coaster down and placed the beer in front of Droo. "You’re looking at a guy who once blew up a cruise ship to get a mark. And I let you live. Be happy she didn't offer to pay me." Kaleb finished his own pour and held the glass up to toast. "I’d just like to acknowledge that you might somehow ''not'' be the most fucked up person here." When they finished toasting and drinking, Jenkins said, "For what it's worth, I think Droo is our ally at least until we get out of here. Trust is a rare commodity around these parts, but we have a starting point." "I've seen him ghost right in front of me," Kaleb said to Jenkins. Turning to Droo, he said, "And that face-wiggle thing? How many more tricks r'you hiding? I need more answers." "What can I tell ya?" Droo said. "Both me have been me while you're standing there and I have no urge to kill anything, including you." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well. Except for Ellen. She definitely needs killing." He looked at Red and said, "I am, however, shamelessly going to rip off that MITO look as often as possible." Over the course of a second his skin darkened into inky blackness. After the colour chance, he said, "Look, since this bunch appears to be what I'm going to be stuck with for friends for the foreseeable future, you should know Jenkins has me on retainer." Kaleb smirked. " Friends might be a bit stron…" He paused. "Yeah, no, friends works for me." "As long as I don't get orders from him that are pass-through from Ellen, I'm on contract and working for him. And I didn't say 'we are friends'. I said 'What I am going to be stuck with for friends." Kaleb shrugged. "It's a start." "At some point I'm going to need some additional sensory gear, boss," Deke said. "Infrared goggles or something. Unless there are more things I don't know I can do yet I can't see in the dark, which is a bit of a problem." He took a sip of his beer, then mused, "I can see WiFi, but it's not the same." === >>> MOVE INTERACTION TO CARGO PLANE === Droo: Hauls out short sword, billy club, places very carefully in front of kaleb. 1. Please don't test the edge. 2. Can you make more like this? 3. How do you defend against these? kaleb: that was mostly Val's thing...but I have some ideas we'll need to have the fabbers online and I'll need to do a lot of reading probably need you to do some corporate espionage. You're cool with that, right? droo71 [12:23 PM] so.. the red line on the billyclub is solid material - a round billyclub the black line on the outside is nanofilament about 7mm in between. think deadly egg slicer. the short sword has a similar edge, strung taut in a small natch you can see on the blade here oh, and this. ** extracts two handles from cloak ** ... 3 guesses. kaleb [12:25 PM] nanofilament of what?" i don't know. i'm no physicist just.. you don't want to test the edge Red: You mean don't test it on anything you care about. kaleb [12:25 PM] we'll need to do some testing droo71 [12:26 PM] don't break my weapons. and you can only take one at a time. kaleb [12:26 PM] a carbon-tube netting like my shield might slow it down, and a plasma blade might be able to clip the nanofilament have to find out what the filament is forst, which means we need a lab I'll add it to the gorwing lsit of future projects droo71 [12:27 PM] this is it. i don't have guns. i don't know how to use them - unless its buried in here somewhere. I don't remember knowing how to fly, but I have a strong affinity for motorbikes and hovercraft that I don't understand. since I don't remember being a particularly excellent driver either kaleb [12:28 PM] we can get you a sidecar, NBD droo71 [12:28 PM] net encryption is laughable, mostly. i wander around the internet at will. although i didn't know until yesterday that i didn't need equipment. I do hear voices. often. turns out lots of them are cell phone calls. haven't figured out the rest. oh, and the disappearing act works on electronics and sensors too. kaleb [12:29 PM] that's clever droo71 [12:29 PM] Hm... parallel encryption processing. i wonder if i can make bitcoins kaleb [12:30 PM] please don't crash the economy looting an exchange would be cheaper droo71 [12:30 PM] hah. holds out palm, scrolls latest market numbers in big enough print for kaleb to see "what economy?" fuck. i'm a human stock ticker now Red: "Human." laughs softly. droo71 [12:36 PM] Ok, bossman. How are we getting out of here so i can see what we don't have that we should? I'll go scavenging. Quietly. very. very. quietly. .. hmm. jackets. helmets. motorbikes? small knives? network access? caltrops? i need to invent a network vresion of caltrops sure. trace my ip. throws caltrops 'OH MY GOD IT BURNS* wanders away from bar RED: Before you go, can I take a look at your nightstick? droo71 [2:36 PM] yep please, for the love of god, don't test the edge brilligtove [2:47 PM] He picks it up and shaves the top off his glass. Then he sets it down on the edge of the table and carefully runs a standard-issue pub knife down the invisible wire four times. The result is a double-edged shiv that also cuts the glass. Then he gently runs the shiv across the skin of his forearm. It leaves a scratch on his skin, but doesn't cut him. He presses harder, sawing the blade back and forth. (The shiv, not the baton.) More scratches, but no blood. He tries to cut the glass again. This time the blade does not glide through. "I studied designer materials before I got into gaming," he says. The wire is likely a three shelled carbon nanotube that's been doped with something and irradiated to cross-link the tube layers." He gestures to Kaleb's Omnitool. "You can fab it with that thing, though it's a lot slower to do it that way than to use an industrial spinnarette. You could even build a spinner into this, to automatically replace broken threads." He picks up the police stick again and stands. When he moves with the weapon it is poetry in motion. He is very large, absurdly muscular, and incredibly fast. His movements are difficult to follow given his speed, skill, and colouration. He moves toward a rectangular pillar, and attacks it, carefully whittling off bits as he circles. At some point the baton moved to his other hand, but you missed the transition. After about 30 seconds the central section of the pillar is pretty much rounded off. "I like it." Grace: When it comes to combat... well, Red is a natural. I've never seen someone take to weapons with such ease." droo71 [3:01 PM] "we need practice wands. I'm just saying" brilligtove [3:01 PM] He hefts the baton again, then twirls it idly. "Here's the thing, Droo. You're so focused on what your body was remade for I don't think you realize what mine was remade for." He puts the wire against his forearm and presses down. A thin white line appears where the wire should be, but no blood. "I'm pretty sure we can take micro-meteor impacts without breaking our skin." droo71 [3:03 PM] "yeah. Yours was made to make my life difficult when I have to go up against more like you. i get it. You're a survival mod beyond belief" brilligtove [3:03 PM] He puts it back on the table. "I'm sure that a solid hit would cut us - but it's not going to be effortless." droo71 [3:04 PM] I heft out the sword.. "I think that's why this is in my main hand"... "I'm not designed to go toe-to-toe in a straight up fight though. At least... I don't think so. There are some bits and pieces I know that don't make sense with what i do know - but.. so far, I'm the unseen man. if I have to fight, it should be quiet, surprising to the enemy, quick and deadly" brilligtove [3:05 PM] Red picks up the shiv again, and very gently runs the sharp side down the back of the police stick. It doesn't give. "Yeah," he mutters. "I'd build a multilayer nanowire and graphene mesh into the skin of this thing too." "I think your stick can probably block your blade and garrotte, by the way." "That makes sense," he says to Droo. "A party should have a range of skills." droo71 [3:06 PM] "could i spar, would it probably be fun? yes. how skilled am i in comparison? I don't know. V was.. the very best, but I don't know how that translates" I've not tried it IRL, but that's how i'm trained === <<< RESUME BAR=== Grace joined the men. "We have some more logistics to take care of, and I don't want to waste time.” She turned away, heading for the table. When everyone had gathered, she said, “If I understand our plan so far, it goes like this.” She called up a sparse swimlane diagram. “Is that feasible?” “It’s a start,” Storm said. “Droo's idea for a sensor fake out on the reactor would work too. Kaleb, if you call in fluctuations you don't like, you and Jade would be the techs asked to go in. We send in sensor ghosts instead. I can trick the IA into thinking there are Tetras with you - a simple scale estimation error and a Clank could trigger a defensive plasma and radiation leak.” “Killed by a bug in the code?” Jade mused. “I like it.” "Val could have died under the rubble..." Grace sounded uncertain. "...and if Ellen kills Droo?" Storm added. "What if Jenkins and I agree the secret weapons store needs another going over.” “Send in the All-Blacks,” Droo said, “with a shit load of C4 and WiFi repeaters to keep in contact. Leave a small charge on one of them to break contact when you're in the cave. Set charges and GTFO while it is dark. My problem with this is that Ellen will know she didn't kill Droo or anyone else.” “But Boeing won't know,” Jenkins said. “Boeing is not our only enemy here. Let's not give someone who is going to be paying attention evidence that we are alive and laying a trail of false info. Boeing is going to be leaking like a sieve for a while so we can’t expect secrets to stay secret.” Jenkins pulled a clone of the swimlane and started fiddling with it. Jade watched for a moment before speaking up. “Ok, I'm good with fake signals if you all have a way to manage that. I don't want us all in the same place on the way out. If some of you want to go with the ground transports, that's fine. I'd like to take my chances in one of the air transports. I know we have planes and choppers around.” Jenkins shifted some boxes around to reflect his words. “Honestly, if the transport plane is still here, I like that as my option. I'll send some clanks with you on the transport to help add more sensors and maybe some options if you need them. I'll take some with me in the air.” The Clanks were still mimicking his movements. It created a strangely beautiful movement, almost a ballet. “Who's taking the nuke? Doesn't seem like something we want to leave lying around.” “Good question,” Jenkins said. “I can get it and get out. I've done it before. I can also fake the signals in real time without requiring gear input, as long as I'm online. As long as there is something stashed topside where I can find it to get out.” “I think I need to send some Clank scouts topside to see what assets are still available and see if there's anything going on we need to know. Anyone have a problem with that?” The table indicated general agreement. “Ca marche,” Jade said. “Let's do that. I'll look for aircraft, transport, status of the evacuation, barriers to egress, and any signs of "enemies" in the area.” “Ok, so our exit looks like this now,” Jenkins said, expanding the chart for everyone to see. There were a lot more boxes and lines. “First Jade and Kaleb head to the reactor to deal with some new instabilities. We slip them into a container before they get to the access tunnel and ship them out. The reactor security system sees a Clank and thinks it is a Tetra. A few moments of plasma later and no one will be looking for them.” Jade and all his Clanks shrugged and nodded. Kaleb nodded too, but was clearly holding in a snarky comment. “Good,” Jenkins said. Storm took the next step. “Droo, that’s when you go after the nuke.” She tossed a virtual file to him. “Schematics, defensive measures, and so on,” she said. “You can exit in a container or on your own. A container will isolate any radiation signature though.” “In that case a container sounds reasonable, for the bomb at least.” “Finally, I lead the ‘All Blacks’ in to clear out Ellen’s armoury. We get cut off from the network and blown up. A shipping container will be waiting for us too.” === >>> Killing Miranda === “All that sounds great,” Miranda said, her voice flat and tight. “What about me?” “Good question,” Jenkins said. “Let's take a few minutes in small groups to come up with exit options for Dr. Bishop.” He stood and gestured to a booth. “Doctor, join me?” The group split up, chattering through options and ideas. Miranda stepped over to the bar to pick up a bottle of vodka before joining Jenkins. She left an empty bottle at the bar. vampyr [10:59 AM] Out of the corner of your eye, you catch Miranda over with Jenkins. She guzzles down the better part of the bottle she's drinking, gets up quickly, falls, gets up again. Loudly she looks around pointing randomly at people and says - "DON"T you say a word." Then all of a sudden, she starts laughing - a sound no-one in the room has heard before - and in a slightly unearthly tone. (edited) droo71 [11:01 AM] "Anyone know what she's drinking? Bring me a few - still in the bottle. I'm gonna want them later" vampyr [11:39 AM] Miranda can't decide whether to glare or laugh...so she takes another swig and starts giggling. Maybe a hiccup or two droo71 [2:24 PM] Well, except Miranda. You haven't figured out how to fake her death yet. can she mimic a few kilos of tissue with her own DNA signature in it - something that would be around somewhere? I'd like to grow/fab most of a miranda - a few organs, generic torso. she can be 'killed by droo'. hand me the protoplasm, remove it across the shoulders, at least one limb plasma torch the rest of it, leave the 'corpse' 'slaughtered by nanowire and the corpse caught in some kind of backblast'. i'll leave an engineer to arrange the 'explosion' part. heck, that one might even fool Ellen. Droo isn't the most stable. hmm. if we were REALLY sneaky, we'd make it look like a failed attempt by Droo to hide the fact that he was the one who offed her. Ellen's going to know Droo is alive anyhow - that would end up making it pretty plausible for the rest of the world. thoughts? Droo: Storm thinks it's feasible, but the simpler and more obvious the scenario the easier it will be to cover tracks. droo71 [2:42 PM] Corpse. Garotted.. By an invisible man. [2:43] Torched to hide who did it - not carefully enough. [2:43] Fine , Ellen knows she didn't kill me. This gives her a totally believable "Miranda is dead" that requires no other suspension of disbelief [2:44] Boeing will buy it easy enough. DNA matches. [2:44] Need someone to fab a corpse for me. I know how suspicious I would be, so I'll be careful. [2:44] Both of me. brilligtove [2:48 PM] Storm: I'm not disagreeing. Just cautioning against complications. I'm already going to be hacking the fuck outta this place to redirect the embezzlement, fake MITO deaths, and so on. What's the timeline on that kind of medical fabbing? [2:49] GR NOTE: Normally medical fabbers can't really do what you're asking for. IIRC you do have a few techies who can make machines do things they don't normally do... adrian [2:49 PM] Player note: Jade happens to be one of them.... vampyr [2:52 PM] Miranda has been hanging a lot in an EVA suit. So we rig one for automatic pilot, have it go into a zone where she's "Live streaming" and obliterate it. DNA tissue or not, I don't think they're going all CSI on it. It will be enough to convince them she's dead. There's a lot of MIA people around here right now brilligtove [2:58 PM] Very few MIA in the biodome. Lots in the BURF - but you were well documented going in to Ring 2. [2:58] You need a plausible source for the killing as well. vampyr [3:01 PM] Melted inside a biohazard suit? Lucky she was sealed in first. Then burned to prevent outbreak? [3:02] Storm can alter some records. [3:02] Jenkins can order the clean up [3:04] It's technically a "medical conundrum". Can I roll vs my stunt? brilligtove [3:10 PM] Don't roll yet. Let's get the narrative organized first. [3:11] Storm needs to be able to explain where you were going, why, and how you got caught. [3:12] If you're pinning it on Droo, fine. That means you need to ensure his "death by Ellen" is timed correctly. [3:12] Gotta run - back in a bit. vampyr [3:19 PM] OK I think it makes sense that during the chaos there was a potential leak of Mito-rabies. Miranda suited up just a little bit late and tried to contain it. We had determined that it "melted" the victims from the out of control mitochondria destruction that was triggered in the victims body - and rather quickly. That should take care of a lot of evidence. Miranda was dealing with a broken flechette, So Miranda got into a EVA suit to protect herself and contain the contagion, but she had not realised that the flechette had nicked her. They already know this weaponized virus existed (Gentek was actually using its existence to justify the nuking) so it's not implausible. Jenkins could order a fast response cleanup involving a great deal of fire. He could also order the destruction of all the flechettes for the safety of humankind. The records were destroyed, the creator was destroyed, and the virus was destroyed. Two birds / one stone. [3:20] Plus Miranda dies a hero. Perhaps a monument is in order? A school for mad scientists named after her? droo71 [3:21 PM] You're exposed if they have someone analyze the results and discovers that there's no mitochondrial level evidence of infection. And this is going to be big shit and someone IS going to do that [3:21] and there's a LOT more fucking with the records there vampyr [3:21 PM] Storm handles records. droo71 [3:22 PM] and doesn't want complications. scroll up. [3:22] find something simpler. vampyr [3:22 PM] And I'm getting OBLITERATED to the atomic level. No evidence droo71 [3:22 PM] too pat. [3:22] not buying it if i'm the other guy [3:23] part of the deal with real life is that its almost never exactly that tidy [3:23] when it is, someone's playing silly buggers [3:23] handles the rabies, handles miranda, dies a hero, nice neat package. Obviously staged. [3:23] just saying. vampyr [3:23 PM] Sometimes things do happen like that. Just because you are one suspicious mofo brilligtove [3:24 PM] I think it is going on the right direction. Maybe within a Lab invest of out in the open? vampyr [3:24 PM] Not out in the open [3:24] I never said out in the open droo71 [3:24 PM] lifetime of beer on Miranda, I"m predicting. brilligtove [3:25 PM] To be fair there is aLOT of jiggery buggery going on here vampyr [3:25 PM] You really think we're going to stage all these deaths that will be believed for all time, by everyone? [3:25] We just want to get the eff out of here droo71 [3:25 PM] I think we're going to stage enough of them that off the bat, I'm the only one people will go 'we need to find this bastard'. brilligtove [3:25 PM] If your cover is good you might but a lot more time, though. droo71 [3:26 PM] simple murder with 3 kilos of unburnt DNA match, if we can fab it - will get you off the hook for a long time [3:26] paints droo as an unstable murderer. NOt really far wrong. vampyr [3:26 PM] Not by the really powerful, suspicious people droo71 [3:26 PM] complicated and too tidy? that will ring all the bells for the really powerful suspicious people vampyr [3:26 PM] Besides, the higher ups also want to sell a story brilligtove [3:27 PM] We're inventing the world here. The is no right answer. Not yet at least. vampyr [3:27 PM] They would rather murder us quietly, but have a nice political story to tell. This gives them the second party [3:27] Part droo71 [3:28 PM] who cares - won't soften their opinion of us at all brilligtove [3:28 PM] How much can we pin on Ellen? droo71 [3:28 PM] fine, you want a statue, do it your way. [3:28] not like i've done this for a decade. [3:28] walks off . stops listening brilligtove [3:28 PM] Are their opinione relevant vampyr [3:28 PM] Great! Have Ellen rig the Mito death trap for me [3:28] I don't care about a statue droo71 [3:28 PM] la la la vampyr [3:28 PM] That was a joke droo71 [3:28 PM] not listening brilligtove [3:28 PM] Sigh vampyr [3:29 PM] Hmm... Considers kill switch droo71 [3:29 PM] (ok. you KNOW that's completely in character) vampyr [3:29 PM] I know droo71 [3:30 PM] all I"m saying is - the most likely bloodhound they're going to sic on this is some variant of me. so - i'm telling you what would make me more suspicious and likely to chase down quickly. [3:30] but i can't make any of it - so i'm going to have a beer with my boss and let you hash out what you want. brilligtove [3:34 PM] OK, so let's clear this up: Miranda, Droo, and Storm just had a chat about how to stage Miranda's death, with a little player tabletalk. vampyr [3:34 PM] (still muttering something about a kill switch) [3:34] also, she's occassionally drunk brilligtove [3:35 PM] The stealth assassin and an extraordinary hacker are both looking to minimize the complexity of the op while making it plausible. [3:36] The sniper gene witch is looking for something neater than that. [3:36] The GR is curious about how this will play out. [3:37] Storm calls Jenkins over. "How much of this can we plausibly pin on Ellen? We're painting her as a Bond-level uber-villain." vampyr [3:37 PM] OH gawd...ok. Do I have access to a lab? I can CRSPR someone ELSE'S DNA to look like mine - then burn them in a fire. Would that make you happy? (DRINKS HEAVILLY) droo71 [3:38 PM] kill switch.. what makes you think Ellen didn't change it? or remove it? She programmed me to be her fucking pet bodyguard, betting she didn't want you or anyone else 'Boeing' to know how to turn me off. [3:38] medical fabber? you're the med genius. we don't even need a whole body brilligtove [3:39 PM] Jenkins shrugs. "Well, she did mind control half the command staff and arm an unstable rogue invisible assassin. And if our idea works, she killed four MITOs in an ambush." droo71 [3:39 PM] she's fucking unreal. i'm not worried about 'pinned on ellen' being unbelievable. [3:39] just with what's documented here, if we find a way for it to work, we pin it ALL on her [3:40] but she's not god - none of it can be quite perfect. vampyr [3:40 PM] Mine was an ACCIDENT. Ellen doesn't have to do EVERYTHING. People are dying in here right now.... brilligtove [3:40 PM] "I'm worried about the hacking, though," Storm says. "Not that my rep is going to take a hit - just that the hacking might be a bridge too far. Someone had to plant the virus in the AI." [3:41] GR: Wait what? Who is dying? vampyr [3:41 PM] (Miranda's death scenario with the rabies flechette) droo71 [3:41 PM] what hacking? 'paints a bazillion spiders in storms AR , and changes the light level' vampyr [3:41 PM] ...and I assume there are still accidents happening in the biodome [3:41] or elsewhere droo71 [3:42 PM] sensors and records are a breeze. brilligtove [3:42 PM] SITREP: Biodome is pretty quiet. There are no people in the wilderness - just Tetras. The humans are in the Rimwall, mostly near the exit. Critical operations staff are being returned to the biodome. [3:43] SITREP: As much as possible civilians are on their way to the surface, or already out. vampyr [3:44 PM] We handed out Mito-rabies flechettes to the soldiers. It's that implausible that, during an attack where a bunch got killed rather hatefully that a flechette wasn't ruptured? brilligtove [3:44 PM] The automation that keeps the biodome alive is ok for a short time without coordination from Bertha, but with her offline for a while a lot of human intervention is going to be needed. [3:44] GR: That's plausible to me. None of the soldiers actually died, but they did have injuries. vampyr [3:45 PM] apparently, stealth boy with all his experience IN A VR GAME says it's not droo71 [3:45 PM] i"m not sure its plausible that Jenkins would be stood down having beer until hazmat processes were in place though. brilligtove [3:45 PM] GR: The ammo would have been checked back in after combat, with all rabies flechettes accounted for. [3:46] Storm looks at Miranda. "Do you want to be right, or alive?" (edited) vampyr [3:46 PM] Ok - any other weaponized virus? It really doesn't matter which one...it's still likely to get the 'obliterate by fire' procedure [3:46] Miranda has a bunch I suspect droo71 [3:46 PM] in your vaporized lab? brilligtove [3:46 PM] Right. droo71 [3:47 PM] Droo looks at Storm 'She's fucking scary brilliant at what she does, she's used to being right. Like Jenkins, not her fault she's playing a game with different rules now' brilligtove [3:47 PM] Jenkins: So if Miranda went to collect the rabies flechettes for biohazard containment... droo71 [3:49 PM] what flechettes. Boss, are you telling me.. NO ONE CALLED A HAZMAT ALREADY FOR CONTAINMENT? vampyr [3:49 PM] (GLARING AT BOTH STORM AND DROO) - and who exactly would be checking the containment on the death virus flechettes? They'd be checked in to make sure no one stole them....but the chick who understands them might be the one that checks if they're safe..... brilligtove [3:49 PM] Storm: Could they be a credible target for Ellen or someone else to want to acquire? droo71 [3:49 PM] Genetic engineer doesn't mean you're qualified for flechette integrity vampyr [3:49 PM] sure could brilligtove [3:49 PM] The others have gathered around. droo71 [3:49 PM] now that they could. brilligtove [3:49 PM] Grace: There has been a lot going on. droo71 [3:49 PM] assuming someone knows about them. vampyr [3:50 PM] NO - but I know what to look for so some idiot doesn't mistake staph for rabies [3:50] How about a manufactured hit on the containment area because Ellen wanted to steal them? brilligtove [3:50 PM]