Volume 1, Issue 1: Life in the MARSH Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 17:41:50 GMT
Benton Ashcroft blinked and turned in his seat but found he was unable to tear his gaze from the view beyond the Gulfstream's window; something about the way the icy waters of Baffin Bay winked up at him, perhaps, or the glimmering of the late morning light off of the snow that perpetually blanketed Greenland had him transfixed. He blinked, again, still unable to let go of the glittering vista until its hypnotic effect was dispelled by the jet suddenly carving it's way through a cloud bank. He was relieved to have been released from the spell, of course, but, at the same time, somewhat disheartened that those rare few moments of blissful, mental silence had been interrupted. "Yes," he couldn't help but sigh as he finally managed to train his eyes on the young technician who had addressed him, "what is it?"
"We've located several more, sir," the tech answered, gesturing briefly at the bank of monitors that curved around his console.
"Really," the tinge of dejection that had been evident in Ashcroft's voice a second ago had, now, been completely overrun by an almost excited tone. He tossed his tablet almost carelessly onto the seat adjacent to his as he got to his feet, and didn't even bother to straighten his tie as he moved toward the forward part of the cabin; "How many?"
"Yes, sir." The technician's fingers were flitting across the keyboard as Ashcroft came up behind him and gazed upon the monitors...
"Any of them close?"
"A couple, sir," the tech answered over a clatter of keystrokes that caused the world map dominating one of the monitors to light up in several locations. "Looks like we've got two currently in the States..."
An icon flashed over what would be south-western Illinois and another appeared on the Western side of the San Andreas Chasm, right about where Los Angeles would be...
"...Three in the western provinces of Canada..."
Two icons blinked over different locations in Alberta and a third flickered for attention in British Colombia.
"Interesting," Ashcroft murmured past his widening grin.
"...Two more in the UK," the younger man continued as the icons hovering over England tried to outblink one another, "and one more in South America.
That one was in Bolivia at last look, sir, but was moving at a fairly good clip towards Paraguay.
All of them are registering A-3 at a minimum."
"Do we have teams available," Ashcroft asked, rubbing thoughtfully at his chin as his eyes devoured the map.
"The Chicago office has a team on standby," the younger man answered, "they could likely acquire the mainland States subject within the next twelve hours. Our California group currently has an operation underway in New Mexico..."
Ashcroft scowled; "That green thing, again?"
"Call them off and redirect them to L.A.," Ashcroft ordered, "It would be a banner day if they could lock that New Mexico problem down but I have a feeling the resources would be better spent on the A-3 in California. Easier to acquire, I think."
"Yes, sir," the tech nodded, his fingers dancing over the console. "We could have dispatched the Vancouver office to sweep all three of the Canadians," he continued, "but one of their tethers went rogue on Thursday and..."
There was an impatient nod from Ashcroft; "Send Vancouver after the one in their own backyard. We'll have Toronto dispatch one of their teams to Alberta."
"Yes, sir. London's reporting a tag on one of the subjects in the UK, now, sir, and I've just sent the specs on the other one their way.
Unfortunately, we don't currently have anyone available in South America, but we do have some outside resources we might dispatch to, at least, get eyes on the subject..."
Ashcroft was absolutely beaming, now, and the tech was sure he could hear the man's hands rasping together as he wrung them anxiously. "Make it happen. Round them up and have them delivered to The MARSH. In the next seventy-two hours, if possible," Ashcroft commanded, backing towards his seat again but found himself transfixed, again; this time by the glowing, flame-shaped icons that danced on the monitor.
Posted on 2012-06-19 at 20:13:41.
Edited on 2017-05-25 at 12:38:23 by Eol Fefalas
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 22:10:09 GMT
Lower Marine Road, east of Troy, Illinois, USA
Daniel Henson stopped, adjusted the strap of his duffel to sit more comfortably on his shoulder, flicked a glance back the way he’d come, and, then, panned his gaze back towards the way he was headed. No traffic from either direction, he noted, for perhaps the eighth time in the past hour…
Figures, he grumbled inwardly, pulling the hood of his coat over his head and, then, stuffing his hands in his pockets against the chill of the early March air, try to make things easier and it’s never easy.
…He turned his gaze west, again, and gave a bit of a dejected smirk as he opened his mind to the thoughts of the town he’d left behind in the wee hours of the previous morning. It took a minute to filter through the cacophony that greeted him, at first, and find the thoughts of those few among thousands that truly mattered to him. His mother was upset, as he knew she likely would be despite the note he had left her. His step-father, too, had thoughts that indicated that the man was not just surprised but, also, somewhat saddened by the fact that Daniel had left home the way he had. Surprisingly enough, though, there were also glimmers of pride to be found in the man’s thoughts and, though he didn’t really want to, Daniel couldn’t help but let himself slip a little closer and pick out words from those thoughts…
“…sure he’s fine,” his step-father was saying as he wrapped Daniel’s mother up in a comforting embrace, “don’t cry. Daniel’s a smart boy. Too smart for him to have stayed around here forever. He’ll find a place before long and I’m sure he’ll call as soon as he has the chance…”
…Too much. Daniel shook himself loose from the thoughts, tried to stuff his hands deeper into his pockets, and forced himself to look eastward again. Should have probably done this sooner. I knew too much before all of this happened… His feet were moving again, taking him north and east along the gently curving line of Lower Marine Road and, hopefully, before long, would lead him to I-70 where the chances of getting a ride would hopefully improve. …Now I know way too much… Can do way too much… His ice-blue eyes lifted from the roadside where it passed beneath the toes of his shoes and found a sign that pointed the way to “Hagler Cemetery” in Pin Oak and found himself wondering if the dead still had thoughts… and would he want to hear them if they did?
Sunday, March 9, 2014 – 22:55:24 GMT
Old Staunton Road, minutes south of I-70: Illinois, USA
It had almost surprised him when the SUV slowed down, pulled off to the side of the road, and sat, waiting for him… it probably shouldn’t have, but it did. He stood, staring, trapped in the red glow of the vehicle’s brake lights for a moment…
Wave this one on, he told himself even though his feet were already moving him toward the awaiting Tahoe, it’s always the SUVs that tip you off to the baddies… in every video game I’ve ever played, anyway… every movie I’ve ever seen…
…and then found himself opening the passenger door…
I’d feel it if there was something wrong, though, wouldn’t I?
… “Hi,” smiled the svelte woman with long, curly red hair who sat behind the wheel, “Need a lift? It’s only going to get colder out.”
Daniel’s eyes skittered over the interior of the vehicle – laptop bag in the back seat behind her, the jacket to match the woman’s skirt tossed almost casually over it… a sheaf of folders, bound together with a thick elastic band, occupied the passenger’s side back seat… discarded Starbuck’s cups littered the floorboards along with ATM receipts, a couple of hair ties, and a pen ¬– and then back to the woman who was smiling, almost too expectantly, at him… Don’t do it. She just some normal lady, nice enough to offer you a ride.… He read her, anyway…
“Poor thing… Looks like he’s been walking for days… gotta be miserable….I wonder if he’s one of those wandering weirdoes that sexually assault women that pick him up?... God, I hope so… Look at him… he’s so cute… he could hijack me all the way to Chicago… but the meeting tomorrow… and Bill… and the girls… Whew.. just a ride… er… lift… just a lift, Victoria…”
…Don’t do it…
“Sure,” Daniel smiled back, trying not to blush, as he climbed into the passenger’s seat and situated his duffle between his feet, “Thanks.” He flinched when the door thunked shut… because he wasn’t entirely sure that he’d been the one that had shut it.
“Where are you headed,” Victoria asked, her ice-blue eyes flickering as they danced away from him to check her mirrors and blind spot before she pulled back onto the road.
East, Daniel wanted to say, some place quiet, not too many people. “North… I guess…” he said, “Chicago? Maybe?”
“Really? Chicago’s a big place… What’s your name?”
Make something up. Don’t use your real name.
Daniel’s consciousness felt as if it rippled. He had an almost nauseating sense that Victoria was somehow driving his thoughts as easily as she was driving the SUV. The feeling subsided, though, as quickly as Victoria’s ice-blue eyes flashed with her smile.
“Hi, Daniel. I’m Marie,” Victoria-who-was-now-Marie cooed, “Chicago, huh? That’s a big place, Daniel. Do you know people there?”
“Uh… no… not really,” Daniel answered, “of course, people are pretty much the same wherever you go, aren’t they? Heh…” He squirmed in his seat a little and turned his eyes away from Marie to watch the landscape roll past… “Just… hoping to find work, I guess… see where it goes from there…”
Marie/Victoria laughed, then, and smiled her brightest smile yet at Daniel. “Now if that isn’t just coincidence, I don’t know what is,” she beamed, “I happen to work for a company that has an office in Chicago and, I’m sure, that office is in need of…”
Daniel’s eyes flicked to the laptop bag, the suit coat, the files, and, finally back to her; “I don’t think I’m exactly the right kind of guy to work in a place like…”
“Oh,” Marie giggled, “you are exactly the ‘kind of guy’ that The Prometheus Group would find a perfect candidate…”
He felt her pushing him, now, and tried to resist… but she was already inside his shield before he could bring it up… and inside his mind before he could manage a blast to dislodge her. Get out of my head, Victoria!!!
“… A young man with your particular set of skills is always most useful to us.”
Very good, Victoria giggled in his mind, You see what I mean, Mr. Henson? You shouldn’t be able to resist a psion of my caliber… let alone try to attack me when your defense fails. Now… give in… give in…” Dammit!
“Yeah,” Daniel nodded, “Prometheus Group. Sounds good… what do they do?”
Oh… Daniel… They do so very many things… and you’ll be a part of it… you’ll see… Now… Sleep…
((OOC: Okay, there’s a little bit more… got one of these for each of you to finish up… just wanted to put the one that was finished out here, at least… stay tuned…))
Monday, March 10, 2014 – 04:55:06 GMT
Nisku Truck Stop; Leduc, Alberta, Canada
She knew better, of course, than to imagine that she was far enough away, yet, to escape his reach… knew better than to think that crossing the parking lot, even in the dark, was a good idea… but she was so hungry, and the smells coming from the truck stop’s restaurant had led her belly to override her brain. Besides, she thought, glancing at the clock on the bus station’s wall, my connection doesn’t leave for another hour and a half, anyway… and if that old lady pulls a mint out of her purse and asks me if I want some candy one more time, I might scream.
That would be bad for everybody,Alyeria imagined as she tucked her hair under her hoodie and slipped out the door, leaving the relative safety of the small crowd of people behind.
Her blue eyes gave a quick, almost nervous, scan of the pad outside… three busses rumbled idly under a giant, fluttering bank of fluorescent lights; drivers, baggage handlers, and other employees of the bus line, she guessed, flickering like the lights, between the hulks of the Greyhounds… between herself and the restaurant, a long stretch of sporadically lit parking lot creeping with shadows, interspersed only occasionally with a smattering of people; a trucker, here, a small knot of travelers, there, nobody that looked as if they could be her father’s men…
Good, she thought, wandering away from the busses and towards the shadow-strewn parking lot, so far, anyway.
…Aly had become somewhat of an expert at wandering about unnoticed even before she had discovered her powers. Given the nature of her “family business” and her desire to keep herself as far the hell away from it as she possibly could, it had become an almost essential skill for her… the powers had just made it a little easier… and given her a little more, too, that came in handy from time to time…
Probably don’t even need to bother with this, she thought as she melted into a patch of deep shadow between a pair of vending machines, but better safe than sorry, right? The fewer people that see me, the fewer people have to know… anything…
In her shadow-form, Aly slithered up the sides of the machines and crept along in the darkness beneath the eaves of the building against which those machines had been set. She waited along the backside of the building until she was certain that no one would see and launched herself across the nearly sixty foot distance as a swirling mass of darkness and melded silently into the shadows that played along the trailer of the closest rig. And so she moved – a shadow dancing among the shadows, unseen except, by some random cast of moonlight or sudden sweep of headlights, as perhaps a penumbral illusion in the shape of a young woman… inexplicable, perhaps, but quickly and easily discarded as a trick of light and tired, road weary eyes – until she reached a broad swatch of shadow behind Pluto’s Restaurant where she detached herself from the darkness and, with a nervous grin, walked the few remaining feet to the eatery’s door as a ‘normal girl’.
05:50:10 GMT – Nisku Truck Stop; Leduc, Alberta, Canada
An hour or so, and a cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake later, Alyeria was feeling a little more comfortable about having made her escape. She hadn’t caught so much as an off glance from anyone in Pluto’s and she’d made it, in the shadows, again, all the way from the restaurant and nearly to the bus station without incident…
Maybe she’d gotten a little too comfortable.
…as she made the leap between the semi-trailer and the eaves of the Greyhound station, the darkness around her was suddenly burned away by the brightest light Alyeria could remember having ever seen.
“S#!t!” She cursed as her shadow-form was stripped away and she tumbled helplessly toward the ground.
She hoped she might pass through a random cast of shadow on her way down and sneak away at best or, at the very least, get off a bolt at these guys before they took her back home to her father… No such luck… Even as she fell she could tell that the light was getting brighter… that there were more of them… that they were all around her and there wasn’t even her own shadow left for her to escape into… “WhOOOooof!!!” The wind was knocked from her lungs and the remains of her fries and shake splattered around her as she hit the pavement…
“Alyeria,” a voice said from somewhere in that hateful stabbing glare that surrounded her, “we’ve been looking for you…”
The last thing she remembered before passing out was thinking that these weren’t her father’s guys… her father’s guys would have called her Aly…
Annie – Space Remaining on Disk : 0/47.5 ZB
March 10, 2014 – 10:14:23 GMT
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Annie Sorika had, again, found herself with a bit more extra time on her hands than she had anticipated. She had finished her latest manuscript hours ago and, following a final proof read and spellcheck, she had put a nice little wrapper on The Dance of the Faerie Queen and sent it off to her publisher. It was still a bit early and a bit cold to wander outside – no lounging in the hammock or puttering about in the yard, just yet, then – she had ideas for several more books, of course, but needed to step away from that particular creative process for, at least, a little while. Her gaze slipped away from the scene of Calgary that the early morning sun had painted outside her window, and considered the basket of yarn and other knitting supplies, topped with a half-finished doll, that sat on the table across the room…
No, she decided with a faint smile, not that, just now, either… something requiring a little less effort, I think… Something relaxing but not mind-numbingly so.
Annie stifled a yawn, sipped at the cup of tea that was still cooling, cradled between her hands, and, her smile widening a bit, padded towards the smallish bedroom that she used as an office. The computer had powered up before she reached the room and, by the time she entered the room, it had finished its start-up routines, connected to the network, and was humming softly as it awaited Annie’s arrival.
“Good morning,” the red haired woman smiled over the rim of her tea cup in response to the computer’s greeting; its binary language translated to English and French instantaneously as she perceived it in her mind, “Anything interesting today?”
Dozens of browser windows opened, displaying news sites, internet group forums, e-mail accounts, and the like. The windows, really, were unnecessary – the computer could have just dumped the pertinent information directly into her brain – but, unless she was actually inside, she rather preferred the visuals rendered on the monitor. It took her only moments to absorb, process, and store that first dose of data the computer had presented… windows flickered and closed only to be replaced by new ones; e-mails were opened, replied to, and sent off; and posts were made on internet forums under her usernames… all before the novelist had crossed the three meters from doorway to chair. She sipped at her tea, again, as she settled into the chair and, with a glance, dismissed all the open windows that were littering her monitor before she set her cup down next to the unused keyboard.
“So,” she grinned, her turquoise eyes twinkling as the computer’s voice chirped softly in her mind, “nothing too entertaining… Good.
I suppose, then, that taking another look at that strange little node I found a couple of weeks ago might provide some kind of distraction. Webcam, please.”
The computer chirruped its acknowledgement and, at the same time, the tiny red light indicating the webcam’s readiness flickered to life. Annie indulged in another sip of her tea and glanced, first at the webcam’s indicator light, and then at its lens… The computer queried her in binary and Annie answered in kind… she had almost forgotten to set the teacup down, again, and tried to correct that minor oversight as her physical form de-rezzed – the teacup struck the desk top with a faint clink and an errant drop of tea tried to escape over the rim – and Annie disappeared from the little house in Calgary and entered the infinitely more spacious environs of the digital world.
The tea cup would have to clean up after itself.
Annie still wasn’t sure exactly where the servers that housed this particular node were physically located but, given the amount of time it had taken for her to traverse the distance between her home network in Calgary and the overly-secured jump-point into this curious, virtual structure, it was certainly thousands of miles from any point in Alberta. It was hidden well, secreted away behind layers of firewalls that could only be seen if one was saavy enough to navigate their way through the tangled labyrinth of spoofed IP addresses, misleading URLs, and routers thick with intrusion countermeasures. Behind all of that, past the edges of the known internet, beyond a wide swath of electronic snow, was ‘the Rock.’ Some of her friends from ASTERIX had tipped her off to its existence a few months ago and Annie had visited probably a hundred different times since but, even as she stood here now, on the far side of the digital chasm that separated her from it, she couldn’t help but marvel at the thing. The node itself was visible in its entirety only from here, she knew, and it had become a habit of hers to stand and study the thing for a while before flashing herself any closer.
The structure and complexity of the central node was astounding. The layers of data on the outside of the main construct ¬– the code manipulated to represent a jagged spire of rock, towering high above the electron storms that raged over the eight concentric walls ringing it’s base – was astounding and, given that outward presentation, Annie could only imagine at the cache of information that must be awaiting inside. She tried not to let herself get too curious about that, right now, though… The data would be there as soon as she cracked those walls and getting overly-excited about the prize before outsmarting the traps never worked out for the best. How many of her own heroes or heroines had encountered a major setback (and smooth little plot twist) because of such a failing?... She did allow herself to be curious about the eagle that, today, seemed to be missing from its usual routine of circling the crag, though. There had been only a handful of times that Annie had arrived at the jump point and not found the giant, golden bird soaring in loops, high and low, about the Rock and, on each of those occasions the eagle had reappeared (as if it had soared back into the digital sky from some perch on the far side of the spire) almost as soon as she had taken note of its absence… that nanosecond had passed nearly a thousand times over, now, though, and still no sign of the eagle. After waiting for another moment, Annie shrugged and abandoned the vigil. She wasn’t sure that the eagle was even a part of this node or if it belonged to some other construct and was little more than an intricate courier program, at any rate. Maybe, if she managed to crack all eight doors, this time, and get into the Rock, itself, she’d find out more about the eagle, too.
She gave the Rock one more, long look, then, tore her eyes away and directed them to the small, glowing sphere that hovered beside her. The sphere spun this way and that as she input the code that activated the jump point, each character of the password lighting up on a different vertex of the thing until, when the last character was entered, it spun itself away entirely and, in the flashing of its disappearance, Annie found herself standing before the doorway through the first of the eight walls. Well, ‘door’ may have been a misnomer for this one. Security-wise it was more the equivalent of a tent flap and Annie had no difficulty slipping through, then around the circuit between the first and second walls to find the next door. This one was a little more complex; it looked more like an actual door albeit with a very simple lock… she twisted the tiny button in the middle of the knob, turned the handle, and she was through. The doors and their locks got more complicated as she advanced – a portcullis, here, requiring her to actually reach to the other side of the wall in which it was set to raise it; another that looked like the automatic doors at the supermarket which required the reconnection of its “pressure sensor” in order for it to open – but Annie managed to crack all of the first seven with, what seemed to her, minimal effort. She stood, now, before the eighth and final door – a broad, featureless, heavy looking thing like any number of doors she’d seen in episodes of Star Trek or Star Wars movies, perhaps – and recalled all of her other visits and the failed attempts at opening this final checkpoint… No sense in retrying something you already know won’t work. She was unable to simply hack the small panel that was set into the wall next to the door; waving her hand in front of the dimly glowing red square in the center of that panel seemed to have no effect; holding her hand to the red square produced no results, either; none of the access codes she had tried worked… What was the trick to this one, she wondered, as she studied the door, the panel, the wall, and, finally, the electron storm that raged far above at the top of the wall, obscuring the Rock from her sight. A curious arcing of red light in the storm, followed by the flashing of a brilliant white light just under the apex of that arc, caught Annie’s attention just then and, smiling a little, she shook her head and regarded the door again…
Trek geeks, she laughed to herself, rearranging her own structure to present herself as a Starfleet officer in full uniform. Once the comm-badge resolved on her digital disguise, the panel set into the wall next to the door chirped, its panel flashed from red to green, and the last door shooshed away into the wall.
She was in… and it was as amazing as she had expected. The space inside seemed veritably infinite, stretching away in all directions only to disappear beyond the limits of her vision, and, despite the limitless space, it seemed the inside of the Rock was packed full with data… billions… trillions of files, each represented by a dancing ball of digital flame that bobbed in the air around her…
“Oh, I bet I end up spending the rest of the day here,” Annie smiled as she reached for the file nearest her…
Yes… the rest of the day, at least. Once Annie had absorbed that first file into her own construct, the door behind her whisked shut and, like the rest of the files around her, disappeared.
“Um… oops?” Annie, quickly tried to find and reactivate the door where it had originally been but it was no longer there. She tried to follow the wall around the interior of the construct then but suddenly found that she was unable to move anywhere… Whatever was in that first file she had absorbed was growing… making her grow… and before long, Anielle Sorika, virtually filled the interior of the construct she had just infiltrated. Trapped.
The MARSH - 10:29:15 GMT
“We’ve got her, sir,” the technician said excitedly as he disconnected the portable hard drive from his console and held it aloft for Benton Ashcroft to see.
“Excellent,” Ashcroft nodded, “Have her prepped and downloaded to her cell.”
Posted on 2012-06-28 at 13:46:05.
Edited on 2012-07-27 at 13:38:44 by Eol Fefalas
March 10, 2014 – 11:30:35 GMT
Abingdon Street; London, England, UK
Even before Pluto had started spinning again nearly two years ago, Malakai Sorrena was not a man to have ever been described as “late” or “tardy.” Punctuality had always been in his vocabulary, in fact, and had played no small role in his success in both life and business. Punctuality, accuracy, rapid-prototyping, a solid, final product, and the quickness of mind to always stay a step or two ahead of the ever-changing games of business and marketing were key, he knew, and, since he’d been released from the foster-care system (even before that, actually) Malakai had patterned his life on those principals, defying the limited expectations that any of his case workers or even foster families had had for his future. Like himself, Malakai’s company was physically on the smallish side, comprised of only a handful of employees and an even smaller number of associates and consultants, but, also like him, the physical aspect of the company was, by no means, an accurate representation of capability… especially since December 21, 2012…
He had been able to out-think almost anyone even before that day… but after… after that day Malakai began to discover that he could out think just about anything, as well. Whatever it was that happened to him on that day had not only given him physical speed beyond belief but, also, a mental swiftness to match and, so, was capable of coming up with answers to questions at least as quickly as the fastest computers in the world – he wasn’t super-intelligent, mind you, so he didn’t just instantly know those answers, but he could Google quick as Bob’s-your-uncle… not a bad ‘gift’ to have in the business world, he figured, and a good percentage of his profits would go to charity, anyway… – since that day, Malakai Sorenna could outthink and/or outrun everything on the planet…
Have to remember to keep it sub-sonic, he thought as he sped past Victoria Tower Gardens at nearly 600 miles an hour, Bad enough I have to do this in public… hate to blow out any windows.
…He wasn’t sure he was going to be able to outrun these blokes, though. They weren’t faster than he was, of course, but there seemed to be hundreds of them and they seemed to be, quite literally, everywhere! And sheer numbers wasn’t the only resource they had in their favor, either….
Did that guy actually try to magnetize me?
I hope he’s the best they’ve got, though… dragging me down a bit and causing me a misstep is one thing… but if I run into one that can actually catch and hold on…
…Malakai shook the thought away as quickly as it had formed. There would be plenty of time to think about all of this later, right now, he needed to focus on keeping his feet moving and getting himself free of the intricate web that these suits had woven in hopes of… well… he wasn’t really sure what their hopes were any more than he was sure of exactly who they were.
He raced through the roundabout where Abingdon Street intersected Horseferry Road -- the speed of his passing causing the tree on the traffic island to lean in his wake – and continued west for a couple of blocks before, once more, turning south on Dean Ryle Street in hopes of avoiding the group of suits he’d spied waiting for him at the Tufton Street intersection…
Cor! But they are everywhere, aren’t they, Malakai frowned, making a hard right onto Page Street, Might stand a better chance of losing them in The Tube, mightn’t I?
His legs churned harder and, as he broke Mach 1, blowing a bank of windows out of the DEFRA building with the resultant sonic boom, his skin shimmered like chrome in reaction to the increase in velocity. His frown deepened into a scowl as the broken glass tinkled to the ground behind him... he had hoped to avoid that kind of thing but, whoever these chaps were and whatever it as that they wanted, they were making it rather unavoidable… his feet left the ground all together and, as his momentum carried him forward, he tucked himself into tight ball and somersaulted toward the lamppost on the northwest corner of Page and Marsham… there was an audible PING!!! and the post bent as his body ricocheted off of it at a sharp angle… Malakai stretched out, calculated the angle of his trajectory, twisted, and then tucked again as the ricochet shot him toward another lamppost at the southeast corner of the intersection. A second PING!!!, another bent lamppost, and Malakai Sorrena ricocheted into the Westminster Tube Station.
11:31:38 GMT – Westminster Tube Station; 75 Page Street, London, England
Malakai’s hopes that the Tube would be less infested by these mysterious types who had been pursuing him were quickly and painfully dashed when he hit the platform at Westminster. He had hoped to find only the typical smattering of commuters, here, once he’d left the surface streets behind… had hoped that these shady blokes wouldn’t have thought to cover the Underground network, at all… Unfortunately, there were no commuters, at all. The station seemed to have been cleared of everyone, in fact… save for the lone figure who, after snaring him in a magnetic field that was much stronger than the first one he’d encountered, held Malakai aloft just over the tracks and grinned a self-satisfied grin before launching him into the path of an approaching train…
PING-PING-PING… ping… thud!
Malakai had, thankfully, been able to maintain consciousness long enough for his bio-metallic skin to have absorbed the brunt of the train’s impact. The last couple of bounces from the Tube walls, however, had hurt enough for him to know that he wouldn’t be conscious much longer… his thought processes slowed… he tried to get back to his feet and start running again… or at least to stand and fight if he couldn’t run… but the effort was too much…
“Watchtower,” he heard a voice echo along the tunnel just before darkness claimed him, “Subject has been neutralized. Awaiting retrieval between Westminster and Waterloo…”
Posted on 2012-06-28 at 17:51:02.
Edited on 2012-07-27 at 13:39:16 by Eol Fefalas
March 10, 2014 07:35:00 GMT
Half a mile west and half a mile above Puerto Casado, Paraguay, South America “…He covers his hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark. Its crashing tells about him; he is jealous with anger against iniquity…”
“You’re repeating that Bible verse in your head again,” Dweeb’s voice crackled in his ear-piece, “aren’t you, D?”
“…His thunderings speak awesomely concerning Him; the cattle are told of His coming storm…”
“No..” Preston grimaced within the confines of his helmet, “Yeah…”
“Didn’t you tell me something, once, about turning things over to God instead of trying to figure them out for yourself,” Dweeb’s voice scratched through the perpetually underlying static.
Preston Smith’s grimace wound itself into something of a smile at that; “I probably did. Have I ever told you, though, that I hate this helmet?” He didn’t really hate the thing, of course. It was a rather clunky affair – it looked a bit like a heavy welders mask mashed together with bits and pieces that looked as if they could have come from one of those Stormtrooper helmets in Star Wars… or, maybe, a ’72 Ford Maverick… – and it got a bit hot inside, especially, here, in South America but, he had to admit that the thing did manage to shield out enough of the electromagnetic disturbance that his body generated to keep the electronics within from frying out.
“Oh,” Dweeb chuckled in reply as Preston reached the apex of his leap and started descending back toward the earth, “I’m sure you did. I probably wasn’t listening, though. That helmet’s the start of us figuring out the rest of it, Preston, my friend… just as much as that verse of yours…”
“Hubris, Dweeb?” Preston half-jokingly prodded as he plummeted earthward and started bracing himself for the impact.
“Nah, just science and engineering,” the other man’s voice crackled, “I’m all for God taking care of your little problem, D; just figured I’d try to help out while He was working on it.” There was a low whistle over the earpiece, then; “I think you covered about four miles with that jump! Goooood hang time! You’re gonna come in awful close to the town, though.”
Preston’s scowl returned as the ground rushed up to meet him. Dweeb was right; the small town of Puerto Casado was quickly filling his vision and the reek of the town’s tannery was filtering in through his mask’s breather. He thanked God that it was still the middle of the night, here, and, as such, most of the inhabitants would likely be asleep… at the same time, he offered up a little prayer asking that the small tremor to be caused by his landing wouldn’t shake any of those people from their beds. “Yeah,” he answered Dweeb, then, “a little close… Still in the wee hours, here, though, and I don’t plan on sticking around long enough for the welcome wagon to show up…”
Despite those reassurances, however, Preston found himself tensing a bit more than he should have and gritting his teeth a bit in hopes that he might be able to somehow soften his landing and spare the locals any sort of disturbance caused by his passing…
Hubris, Preston? he chuckled inwardly as the lyrics from Street Fighting Man spun up in his mind… “Hey, said my name is called Disturbance… I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants…” BOOOOM!!!
He hit the ground in a small field just north of Puerto Casado, winced a bit behind his helmet as he chased the tremor up to the edge of the small impact crater he’d created, and, as he gained the top, the muscles in his legs coiled and launched him skyward, again. He glanced back when he reached about 500 feet… there were a few lights flickering to life and, he thought, he saw a few people staggering sleepily out of their homes… No one looked up, though…
“Anything,” Dweeb asked.
“Nothing major,” Preston answered, “we’re good.
Should hit the border in an hour or less.”
“Affirmative. We’ll have an extraction point for you at Bela Vista. How’s the charge?”
“Building,” Preston replied after considering the itchy-tingly-buzz that crawled just beneath the surface of his skin, “but still negligible. If I can hit Bela Vista in the next three hours and your guys can get me shielded, we shouldn’t have to worry about pulsing the chopper out of the sky.”
“Copy that. We’ll be ready…”
08:28:06 GMT – Less than a kilometer south of the Paraguay-Brazil border
When he hit the ground this time, Preston didn’t immediately leap skyward, once more. Instead, he gritted his teeth, clenched his fists, and remained there, crouched down in the tiny pockmark his landing had made, trying to contain the surge of electrical energy that arced maddeningly beneath and, now, visibly across the surface of his skin…
“…ston?! You oka…? …st you in a clo…rts or som… ! Pres…” Dweeb’s transmission was squawky and garbled, of course, but he got the gist of it and hoped the helmet was shielding his own vox-mic enough to send something acceptable back.
“Roger,” he responded through clenched teeth, “I’m still here, Dweeb. Just came down through a thunderstorm or something… Might have made a liar out of me in regards to what I said about my charge, earlier, though… I’m feeling kind of jazzed, right now. Think I’m gonna sit here and wait for it to disperse before I get any closer to your team…”
“Preston? D.. ou copy?... ome i…”
Yeah, Preston grimaced, straining to stand against the upwelling electricity, I’m on my way… Just… gimme a… minute…
“…and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard …”
“Well, come on, then,” Preston pleaded, lifting his eyes, if not his body, skyward, “Let it loose! Or show me how to restrain it… or… NNNnnnngggg!!!”
The surge doubled him over and he felt as if he had to lift the welders mask visor of his helmet in order to breathe… “No more than you can bear,” Preston growled, forcing himself upright, once more, “The Lord gives you no more than you can bear…” He let his head fall back in order to look at the sky without the visor in the way. That intended path of sight, though, was diverted by the sight of the armed and armored troops who now ringed the edge of his tiny divot, their weapons train unerringly on him. One of those troops – or, perhaps, it was someone else that Preston couldn’t see – shouted out a command in Spanish… He thought it was Spanish… Can’t quite make it out over this buzzing…
“No habla,” he couldn’t help but lie, fighting the lightning and the urge to leap out of here all at once, “Lo siento, no habla… You all really should get away from here… Muy rapido!”
“Keep your hands in the air, Mr. Smith,” a voice cautioned him in English, then, “and get to your knees. We’re going to manage your electrical problem for you and, then, you’re coming with us. Your compliance will make the entire process much simpler.”
“I really don’t think you understand,” Preston returned, trying to get his legs to kick him toward the heavens, “I’m not exactly safe for…”
“We understand perfectly, Mr. Smith. Hit him!”
The troopers rimming the crater all fired, then, and Preston was surprised to find himself hit, in numerous places, not with bullets but, rather, some sticky globule with a wire that led back to…
That pulse, as the taser rifles all triggered simultaneously, was perhaps the single most painful one Preston could remember in the last year and a half… the flash of the electricity as it exploded out of him, it’s overloaded vessel was intense… and the smell was like nothing he’d ever…
Wait… yes I have… blearily he reached up to close his mask... and failed; …sleep… gas… Damn…
Posted on 2012-06-30 at 18:13:28.
Edited on 2012-07-27 at 13:39:47 by Eol Fefalas
Rione - Build a better mousetrap... Catch a better mouse?
March 8, 2014 – 17:32:01 GMT
Seventh and Hope Streets, Los Angeles, California, USA
Rione Olfien tucked a long strand of black hair behind her ear as she glanced back at the Sheraton, chewed on her lip as she, once more, considered the wealth of information her contact had given her, and smiled. If everything that Robert Levenson had told her was true… even if only half of it were true… this would be the story that could make her career, launch her almost instantly to the level of notoriety that her mother had worked almost twice as long to realize, maybe even open the door to a Pulitzer before she reached twenty-five!
Wouldn’t that be something? Mom would be proud, for sure.
Of course, since the passing of Mayan Doomsday nearly a year and a half ago, Rione had already managed to get something of a decent career kindled. She was still studying Journalism at UCLA, of course, and remained on staff at The Daily Bruin there, as well, but, since shortly after December of 2012, Rione had found herself with an additional set of “resources” that had allowed her to get the stories that few other reporters seemed able to manage and, as a result, quickly found herself being courted by the L.A. Times, the L.A. Daily News, and other major players in the media game…
How did Rione manage to get those interviews with people that vehemently refused all others?
How had she managed to get access to, let alone pictures of, the lab of that bio-tech company that had, at its very inception, implemented a strict “no media access” policy?
We have to have this girl on staff! Get her in here, pronto!
…This could take me national, though, Rione beamed, her soft green eyes sparkling like the sunlight off of the mirrored windows that filled the buildings around her, International, even!
There had been rumors of a group that had its fingers on the pulse (or in the pot, as it were) of the goings on, here on Earth, since the so-called Nibiru Cataclysm of 03. It was debatable as to whether or not this group was connected to the United States government (or any other government, for that matter), the United Nations, or, some shadowy private sector company. The name of this organization, too, was up in the air and varied as much as the theories as to whom They were. Some designations were just that simple – “They,” “Them” – while others were a bit less paranoid sounding and a rang a touch more convincingly in the ear – “The Bureau for Metahuman Affairs,” “The International Coalition of Human Evolution” – but, in the course of her investigations, Rione kept coming back to one name that seemingly tied all the others together… The Prometheus Group.
It was this name that had made the most sense to her, really… Prometheus; the Titan who stole fire and knowledge from the gods, bestowed those gifts on humankind, and endured eons of suffering for having done so… Whether it belonged to a government entity or a privatized civilian organization was kind of beside the point, now. Her digging into the group’s existence had led her to Levenson and Levenson, nervously, had pointed her in the direction of Pacific Palisades where, he said, the Prometheus Group had a small installation hidden behind the façade of a relatively new security company, there, called International Security Concerns (ISC). All Rione had to do, now, was locate and, somehow, infiltrate ISC, get herself in deep enough to turn up any tangible evidence of even the existence of Prometheus, let alone what Prometheus does or knows…
Story of the year, she was finding it difficult not to jump up and down and squeal with glee, of the CENTURY!!! Hellooo, Big Time!
…Oh, she’d get this story, for sure. She had to. This would make her career and maybe, if things worked out for the best from it… There’s always hope… … maybe she wouldn’t have to “hide,” herself, any longer…
…On the other hand, it may turn out that she’d find cause to hide all the more.
March 10, 2014 – 10:40:38 GMT
ISC Office, 1300 block of 9th Street, Santa Monica, California, USA
She had only been watching the place for two days but, from everything Rione had seen in those two days, she figured that a weekend night would likely be the best time to slip in to the ICS building and see what she might find beyond the impassible reception room that had greeted her on her numerous forays (in numerous skins) through the office’s front doors. Surely, late on a Saturday night in Santa Monica, even a place like this supposed “Security Company” would be asleep… all but abandoned by people, it seemed, in favor of more modern surveillance measures… measures that were all too easily bypassed where Rione was concerned, really… humans tended to freak out at the first sign of a mouse to let it pass unmolested; video cameras, pressure-plates and the like, not so much…
Her surveillance of the place through the afternoon and into the dark hours of the night confirmed her theory, of course. ISC had minimal traffic during the business hours of the work week, it seemed, and, after noon had passed on this Saturday, it had trickled away to virtually non-existent. The few employees that had reported in for work this morning had gone (home or otherwise) hours ago, and the lone security guard that patrolled the place in the off hours had just finished the fourth circuit of his hourly foot rounds…
Probably settling in behind a TV set with his lunch, about now, Rione thought as she crept from behind her car, made sure that the snug, shadow-colored cat-suit she’d selected for tonight’s “research” was covering her well enough, then crept quietly toward the building, probably won’t even notice me unless I try and sneak a nibble from his sandwich.
…She crouched in the shadows at the corner of the building for a long moment, making sure to keep her movements slow and precise while trying to convince her breathing to follow suit, and then risked a peek around the corner and through the assuredly bullet-resistant glass of the office’s lone, shopfront window. The fleeting glimpse of the top of the guard’s cap and the tell-tale flicker of bluish light that haloed it was enough to confirm yet another of her intuitions. That’s two, Rione grinned, edging slowly through the shadows along the side of the building, One more. When she reached the spot where a cardboard recycling dumpster was pushed against the wall, she drew in a slow breath, held it, and crouched lower, her fingers seeking the ragged hole in the concrete of the wall, that, she was hoping, would get her inside ISC. Her eyes skittered almost nervously around the area as she let that breath go and, having found the entry point she was looking for, let the mouse she had called up in her mind overtake her… She wasn’t sure if the squeak she let out as the now familiar but still unsettling rippling sensation coursed through her belonged to her voice or the mouse’s; it might have been a mix of both as quick as the transformation occurred… before her apprehensive scan of the area was complete, there was a small, gray-brown mouse where before had crouched an undergraduate journalism major. The mouse scurried around the mouth of the hole in the wall for a second, pink nose twitching as it investigated, and then disappeared into the darkness beyond.
If a mouse was capable of a self-satisfied smile, then there was surely one on the tiny face of the mouse that was Rione when she emerged into a small janitorial closet, then slipped under the closed door and found herself in the central corridor behind the reception/security desk at ICS. She certainly couldn’t help but let out an almost neglible squeak of celebration, though, as, staying close to the wall, she scurried down the hallway, away from the front of the building, and squeezed herself under another locked door; this one labeled “Authorized Personnel Only Beyond This Point.” The tip of her tail had scarcely cleared the threshold of that door when the lights in the room flared to life and a booming disembodied voice said; “Right on time, Miss Olfien. We had expected something a little more imaginative, but that form should prove easy enough to transport…”
The fumes followed the voice and, even as she scurried frantically back towards the door that had, now, somehow sealed itself shut, she debated whether or not to let go of the mouse… I don’t know what… Human lungs… bigger than mouse…
…someone stole the nuts…
Posted on 2012-07-04 at 03:00:37.
Edited on 2012-07-27 at 13:40:31 by Eol Fefalas
March 10, 2014 – 21:18:17 GMT
The Blue Moon Cafe, St James St, Sheffield, England, UK
“Oi, Dani! Did ya hear about the ruckus in London, this morning?”
Danika Ward, arched a brow, smiled brightly, and hung up her apron before glancing to where Harry was hunched over the sink scrubbing the last of the day’s dishes. “I’ve heard little other than ‘venti-mocha-frappucino-just-shots-no-roast-light-on-the-whip-extra-drizzle’ all day, Har,” she replied with a giggle, flipping one purple-dyed pig-tail over a shoulder with a quick toss of her head, “and’ve had to politely remind people that ‘this isn’t Starbucks’ to have paid much attention. What’s gone on in London?”
“Not rightly sure,” Harry answered with a shrug of his narrow shoulders, “they’ve not said much in regards to details. Some kind of explosion or freak windstorm, I suppose. Blew the windows right out of the DEFRA building, though, and did some other damage thereabouts… lamp posts bent over and the lot…” He dried his hands, then, and, still transfixed by Dani’s luminous smile, took up a clean rag and stepped over to help her finish her wipe-down of the espresso machine. “The news didn’t give a whole lot of info, though… not that they ever do… but, as flighty as the reports I’ve seen’ve been, I reckon it’s less weather-related and more to do with a meta.”
Dani’s ever-present smile wavered for an instant and, though she tried to stop it, her brown eyes darkened a fraction and narrowed slightly more as her brow furrowed and her gaze framed Harry; “Why would you say that?”
Harry’s rapid blinking told her that the question had come out in a harsher tone than she had intended or, at the very least, she’d gotten the inflection wrong. Dani blinked, herself, and, with an imperceptible shake of the head, restored her ‘trademark smile’ to lips and eyes. “Sorry, Har,” she cooed, feigning interest in a spot on the espresso machine’s surface that wouldn’t rub away, “Didn’t mean for it to sound just that way… been a bit of a long day.”
“Hasn’t it, though,” Harry grinned in reply.
“So. A meta, you think?”
“Aye. It’d almost have ta be, wouldn’t it? I mean, if it were otherwise, why’s the media bein’ so hush-hush, eh? I mean, there’d be more’n a blip on the telly about it if it were some kinda wind, right? Unless the RAF’s flyin’ jets through London ‘stead o’ just over…” He shrugged again and, apparently satisfied with the cleanliness of the espresso maker, backed away a step and tossed his rag into the sink as Dani nodded (albeit not too enthusiastically) her concurrence of his assessment. “An’ it’s not as if the States’ve exactly cornered the market on supers, then, is it? Who’s to say we can’t have our own lot here in the UK?”
“I suppose there is that,” Dani smiled, throwing her cleaning cloth after his, “You working tomorrow?”
“Nah,” Harry answered, untying his apron as he meandered towards the back of the tiny coffee house, “Mum’s coming up from Pontypool and I promised to take the day.”
Dani’s smile brightened all the more (if such a thing was truly possible) and she nodded as she hung her apron on the hook next to Harry’s. “Right,” she nodded, recalling that Harry had mentioned his mother’s visit to her a few days ago, “I’ll not see you til Wednesday, then, I suppose?”
“Right,” he answered, shrugging into his jacket as he turned to smile back at her, “Unless you’d fancy a walk home, tonight?”
It was a tempting offer. She liked Harry’s company well enough and, unlike some of the other blokes who’d offered to walk her home before, a “walk-home” to Harry was just that, a walk home, plain and simple… no subtext, no hidden agenda… but… “If your mum’s popping in tomorrow, we’d best not,” Dani giggled, “We don’t want you all knackered, do we?”
Harry’s cheeks flushed, then; “Dani… I… I didn’t mean…”
“I know, Har,” she winked playfully, “I was only teasing. I’m not going directly home, at any rate. Got a few things to do and all.” After shrugging into her own jacket and gathering up the rest of her things, she caught her co-worker up in a quick embrace, pecked him lightly on the cheek and smiled; “I appreciate the offer, though. Say h’lo to your mum for me.”
“O’ course,” Harry grinned, still blushing a little as he watched the perky goth girl veritably skip toward the door, “I’ll see you Wednesday.”
“Wednesday it is,” Dani chirped, “Ta!”
Just west of Campo Lane, Sheffield, England – 21:35:56 GMT
Even when she worked the closing shift, it wasn’t unusual for Dani to cross paths with other pedestrians as she made her roundabout way home after work. Students from the university were often milling about Sheffield’s streets at any given hour and the ‘normal folk’ coming and going from their respective jobs and such were the norm, really. Usually, when she’d encounter another somebody along her way, though, there was something of an exchange in pleasantries – at least a nod and a smile if not a verbal acknowledgement – but, the chap Dani had just passed by as she cut through the parking area reserved for the people who occupied the blocks of flats on either side hadn’t even so much as hinted that he’d seen her, let alone given any indication that he’d intended to respond to her characteristically cheery hello. That, of course, wasn’t the bit that had made her nervous about the man, though… some people were just wankers like that, she knew… No, what really set her skin to crawling (and she’d only truly realized it after she was several steps past the bloke) was the fact that, despite the hour and the darkness of the night, the man was wearing, perhaps, the darkest pair of sunglasses she’d ever seen…
And that suit, she thought, wrinkling her nose a bit as her smile threatened to succumb to the sudden discomfort the bloke’s demeanor caused her, It’s like he stepped out of one of those Men In Black movies onto the streets of Sheffield. Creepy.
Something about Harry’s mention of the day’s earlier happenings in London and his theory that there might have been a meta at the center of the hullabaloo flickered in her thoughts, too, and, glancing back over her shoulder, she slipped her iPod from her jacket pocket and cupped her hand over the device’s screen as the light emitted by it flared brighter than it was designed to and, then, gathered itself into a tiny sphere against her palm… The guy who had failed to even acknowledge her existence a moment ago still lingered by the gate that spilled from the car park onto Campo but, as her instincts had just suggested, he was no longer facing that street. Now he wants a look, she scowled faintly, the tiny ball of light nestled in her palm offering only marginal comfort Bugger! Uneasily, Dani made herself return her eyes to the remaining stretch of the car park ahead of her and curled her fingers around the photon sphere in her hand as she stepped up her pace…
…then stopped dead in her tracks when another black suit wearing too dark sun goggles stepped from between a pair of parked cars and into her path…
“I’m going to need you to lower your hands and come with me.”
“Riiiiight,” Dani muttered from behind a smile that had started to return to her lips without any of its previous mirth, she flicked another glance behind her, noting that shades number 1 was now not just watching but, also, approaching, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to help you there, mate…” she winked at shades number two as her eyes returned to him and, with a flick of her wrist, released the photon sphere… “You didn’t even say please!”
The light-ball flashed across the distance between them and impacted against the man’s chest, sending him flying backwards across the boot of one of the cars between which he’d been waiting. Dani spun around then, the sole of her purple Doc Martin’s evoking a faint squeak from the asphalt beneath it, and hastily generated another photon-ball in hopes of leveling Shades 1…
“Oh, bugger-all,” she cursed again when she was met with more than just the one, “where’d all of these sodding wanks come from?” Rather than blast her intended target with the blast she had prepped, Dani smashed the thing between her hands and it exploded into a fountain of dazzling light which caused the other five-plus suits who had joined the first to hesitate for the split second it took for her to wheel around in hopes of running full-tilt towards the other and of the car park and disappear into the twisting streets and alleyways beyond…
…unfortunately, there were at least as many, if not more, suits now converging on her from that direction, as well. Her head was on a swivel as she sucked in an apprehensive breath between clenched teeth. The more she tried to count the converging suits, the more their numbers seemed to grow and, as fast as she knew she was capable of firing off her photon blasts, there was no way in ten kinds of Hello Kitty that she’d ever manage to whip off enough of them to drop all of these blokes…
Not enough time to gather and generate enough light to build a wall, either, she estimated frantically just before turning her eyes skyward, Cor, I hope this bloody well works!
…She’d barely just discovered that her powers enabled her to fly and, admittedly, she wasn’t very good at it, yet (it wasn’t like she had a lot of opportunities to actually practice unobserved, after all) but, now, it was the only thing she could think of that might give her a way out of… whatever this was. The thought had scarcely registered in Dani’s mind when she found herself already twenty meters above the tops of the blocks of flats, a brilliant ribbon of light trailing behind her. A fraction of a second later, it seemed, the two suits that had become sixty were consuming that ribbon and pulling her back towards earth… or were they coming up?
Oh no! Oh no! She stretched out her arms and attempted to gather whatever light there was to herself in hopes of fashioning it into something with enough intensity to disperse the Shades… but it was too late… they were on her quicker than her light could shine… enveloping her in a darkness so complete and cold that she wasn’t able to overcome it…
she was falling…
Posted on 2012-07-26 at 19:16:36.
Edited on 2012-07-27 at 13:42:32 by Eol Fefalas
The MARSH: March 10, 2013 – 00:16:01 GMT
“Yes,” Benton replied, failing to glance up from his monitor as the door to his office opened and a younger man in eyeglasses and a crooked tie peeked in, “what is it?”
“It’s the new candidates, sir,” the other man said, taking Ashcroft’s response as an invitation to admit himself fully into the Director’s office. The door closed behind him and he made an effort to straighten his tie…
“They’re here, already?” Benton looked up from his computer’s display, now, his expression a mix of surprise and excitement.
“Uh, no, sir,” the younger man answered, “but acquisition is under way. We’ve secured the tether, already, and our teams are moving on several of the others but… Well, sir… uh….”
“Is there a problem, Patterson?” Ashcroft arched a brow as he extracted himself from his seat and abandoned the computer terminal that had had his attention for the last couple of hours.
“Not really a ‘problem,’ per se, sir,” Patterson answered, his weight shifting nervously from one foot to the other as Dr Ashcroft rounded the desk, “Just a… ummm…” he flipped open the cover to the table he carried and, after a few strokes and taps of a finger, continued; “just an interesting development regarding one of the Canadians, sir. The Acks thought it might be best for you to review the file with more scrutiny before they prepped for a typical retrieval…”
The anticipatory look on Ashcroft’s features morphed into one of curiosity as Patterson handed over the tablet. He glanced at the file that Patterson had cued up and his brows climbed higher on his forehead for an instant. “Is this, right?”
“We’re all but certain,” Patterson answered, “yes sir.
Acquisitions tied it all together as they were putting files together for the candidates and, given the girl’s… er… family ties… imagined that SOP might not be the best approach with her. They’ve suggested that, perhaps, a more personal approach might be in order, here. It would certainly save resources on the extraction and, with luck, would also minimize any, shall we say collateral damage that might result…”
Benton Ashcroft smiled, nodded, and offered the tablet back to the younger man. “Of course,” he nodded, “Good call, Patterson. I’ll see to this one personally. Have the transport prepped and inform the pilot that we’ll be headed for Abbotsford. Tell Acquisition to go ahead and dispatch the team… on stand by, only… just in case.”
“And have legal draw up some papers for me, as well,” Ashcroft added as Patterson turned to leave, “The girl’s old enough that we shouldn’t need to worry about custody issues but I want all of the bases covered just in case I run into some trouble with the family in regards to her disability stipends and the like, understood?”
“Of course, sir,” Patterson nodded, pausing in the doorway, “I notified legal before I came to see you, in fact. The papers will be awaiting you aboard the plane, sir.”
The Ashcroft Farm, North of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada – March 10, 2014 – 16:39:11 GMT
Lila sighed softly as she turned from the mirror, glanced out the window of her bedroom, and then let her eyes drift back to study her reflection, again. “Looks to be another glorious yawner of a day,” she smirked, eyeing the streaks of red, orange, and purple she’d just colored into her white-blonde hair before setting aside the markers she’d used for the job. She spent another few bored minutes twisting, clipping, and otherwise arranging the newly colored strips of hair before resigning to the futility of it all and reaching for her laptop. She flipped the thing open, jabbed a finger at the power button, and wheeled herself closer to the window as the computer booted up. She stared out the window while she waited and drowned out the familiar start-up sound with another heavy sigh… There was more than this out there, she knew – more than the hum-drum, day-in/day-out life that had become her existence on her relatives’ farm; more than watching out the window or from the porch as her aunt and her cousins tended to the daily operations of the place as she wiled away the hours online or in the kitchen or wheeling herself aimlessly around the place – there had to be. Especially now. Especially considering the things she’d discovered about herself in the past year or so… the things she had discovered she was capable of… the things that she was too afraid to share with what remained of her family… but what???
Her gaze had fallen, almost resentfully, to the laptop’s screen and her fingers flitted across the keyboard, bringing up her internet connection and logging herself into one of the many forums of which she was a member… and scowled as she immediately signed herself out and slammed the laptop shut… But what???… Not even her “one connection to life beyond the farm,” the one place she could find “friends” to talk to outside of her aunt or her cousins, could provide an escape from the question, it seemed… She couldn’t be Lila, she couldn’t be Aesa, she couldn’t be Shea, she couldn’t be anyone without that question haunting her; so, she was stuck being Lila, trying to find an answer…
“S#!t!” Lila grumbled, tossing the laptop onto the bed and gripping the rails on her wheelchair to spin herself toward the door, “I’m never gonna find out just sitting here. And that’s about what I’ve got… sitting here… What’s the point in even thinking abou…?” She stopped mid-turn when she caught sight of the limousine (and its SUV escorts) kicking up a spray of dirt and stone as it trundled up the drive toward the house.
“What the…?” She was accustomed to traffic coming and going, of course, but, usually it was pick-up trucks or flatbeds or some such that you’d associate with a farm. Never had it been a limo. Oh, this better not be some kind of weird answer, she thought as she finally finished her turn and wheeled toward her bedroom door, How crazy would that be?
Lila had made it as far as the kitchen when she heard the insistent knocking at the front door and her aunt’s footsteps scurrying across the wide-plank pine floors to answer it. The elder woman caught sight of her, just at the same moment she reached the door, and lifted one hand in a gesture that stopped Lila in her tracks even as the other hand turned the doorknob and she turned to greet whoever was on the other side of the door.
“Hello, Benton,” her aunt seemed almost to spit the name as she regarded the well-dressed man who waited just past the threshold, “What are you doing here?”
“Lovely to see you, as well, Madeline,” the man smiled in reply. Behind him, a tall blonde woman, as smartly dressed as Benton, and a pair of large, non-descript men in ill-fitting suits, shifted a bit uncomfortably. “Since it seems we’re to forgo the niceties and get right to the point,” Benton continued, his grey-green eyes slipping past Aunt Maddy and fixing, instead, on Lila, “I’m here for her.”
“What?!?” Aunt Maddy blustered, blinking back and forth between her and Benton. “For Lila?...”
“What?” Lila finally managed to squeak out loud, “Me?” She was unsure whether she should be rolling herself back to her room or closer to the door or neither.
Benton smiled wider at her hesitation, it seemed, and said; “You are Lila Ashcroft, aren’t you, young lady?”
Lila managed a nod.
“…Whatever do you want with Lila,” Aunt Maddy demanded.
“I’m your Uncle Benton,” Benton finished his introduction to Lila before turning his gaze back to Madeline, “Benton Ashcroft. I’m here to take you away from all of… this…” He made a subtle gesture of dismissal to indicate the farm as a whole. “…To give you something more.”
“More appropriate,” Benton answered Aunt Maddy’s acid tinge question with almost as much dismissal as had been in his gesture a second ago, “Worthier of what she has to give…” his gaze ticked back to Lila, now, and he smiled brightly again, as did the blonde woman behind him, “…and a by far better place for her to be who she is than you can provide her here, Madeline.
That’s what you want, isn’t it, Lila?”
Of course it is… Of course it is…
“Of course it is,” Lila found herself nodding and smiling at the blonde woman who stood behind Uncle Benton…
Why don’t you go pack your things?
… “I’ll go pack my things.” Lila started to turn for her room…
“It’s okay, Aunt Maddy,” Lila heard herself say, “Uncle Benton’s right. You’ve been great to me and I love you all so much but… I can’t really be me here…I need to go with him…”
What? What am I…???
She heard Aunt Maddy start to protest further – and wanted to do so, herself, on some level – but the sound faded as quickly as her memory of what happened between that moment and the time she woke up in the limo, flanked by Benton and the blonde woman.
“There she is,” she heard the blonde woman chirp as she first blinked into wakefulness, “My but she’s a drowsy one, isn’t she, Dr. Ashcroft?”
“It would seem so,” Benton’s voice chuckled in reply, even as his smiling face came into focus before her, “I used to be that way as a child, myself, though. Put me in the car and I was asleep in less than five minutes…”
“I… I don’t remember falling asleep,” Lila murmured groggily, “or getting in the car, even…”
Benton and the blonde woman shared a laugh at that.
“The excitement must have gotten to you,” the blonde woman smiled, offering over a tumbler filled with ice and water, “Completely understandable, dear. It’s a rare opportunity that such a position is offered at The Project and to be the niece of the Director… well…”
Position? Project? Director?... What?
“That’s quite enough, Vanessa,” Benton said, lifting a hand to add emphasis, “The blood relation between Lila and I has no bearing on her having been accepted into the Project nor will it affect, for good or ill, the performance of the tasks set before her…”
Tasks? What tasks? What Project?
“Of course, Director,” Vanessa demurred, “I didn’t mean to imply…”
“Excuse me,” Lila said aloud, finally, “I’m sorry but…” she blinked back and forth between Benton and Vanessa, then, and tried to muster a smile, “…What the hell is going on?”
The nattily dressed paired shared a laugh, again, and, like last time, Vanessa was the first to respond.
“You really don’t drink much, do you?”
Benton raised his hand, forgoing words for a glance, and silenced the blonde woman, again. Then, as his hand fell, his grey-eyed gaze fixed on Lila. “My dear,” he smiled, “your desire to see things beyond the confines of what your life was… your want to be the something more that you are… that dream, that wish that you have been wishing, has been granted. That is what the hell is going on.”
“And that doesn’t really tell me anything,” Lila countered, her own smile faltering a bit even as she tried to mask it behind a sip of water, “What’s this Project you’re talking about… and this position I supposedly have?”
“Project: Prometheus, Lila,” Benton answered matter-of-factly, reclining now into his seat, “it’s an institute, I suppose is the best term, dedicated to helping you… and those like you… explore and develop those special gifts that you bring to the world. It’s a place where those special expressions can be shaped and shared…”
“I… I don’t have any special gifts,” Lila interrupted, “I… I…”
“Driver,” Benton sighed, rapping on the smoked glass partition behind him, “Stop the car.”
Lila felt the limo swerve and slow drastically before the sound of gravel crunching under the tires drowned out the sensation of physical movement… until the swaying lurch of the limo coming to a stop brought it rushing back.
“Dr. Ashcroft… Benton?”
Benton set his tumbler down and slid over to open the door; “Lila is being direct in her questions, it’s only fair that we… that I, especially, as her uncle… be direct in our answers,” he stepped out, then, only to reappear a moment later, “I can think of no more direct way to answer than this, can you?” He reached for Lila, then, grabbed a double handful of her coat, and dragged her forcibly from the limo.
“You do have special gifts, Lila,” he grumbled at her as he hauled her away from the car, “You know it, I know it, Vanessa knows it…” Several meters from the roadside, Benton dropped her roughly to the ground, “…a whole world of people know it.
Now. Show me. Get up.”
“F*^# you,” Lila spat, supporting herself on her hands and glowering up at Benton, “Uncle Benton! What the hell is wrong with you, anyway?!?!”
“Oh, stop blatting and pretending and get up.”
“I can’t, you bastard!”
“You can, you bitch,” Benton grinned in reply, “and we’ll stay right here until you stop hiding and show me. Now. Get. Up.”
Lila growled and offered her uncle a venomous glare…
“No more hiding, Lila,” he said softly, “no more pretending that you’re not who and what you are… Show me.”
No more hiding….
Lila bowed her head, drew in a long, slow breath and, when she let it out, there was a sound as if a wooden match had been struck. Flames from that phantom match ignited near Lila’s waist and danced as they grew, burning brighter and hotter. The dancing flames became tendrils of living fire that spiraled downward, encasing Lila’s legs and lifting her from the ground all at once. “There,” she snapped, looking down at Uncle Benton now from where she stood on the infernal cyclone that encased her lower half, “Is that what you want?!”
“It’s a start,” Benton smiled…
Posted on 2012-09-24 at 19:05:24.
Edited on 2012-09-24 at 22:45:14 by Eol Fefalas
Tier Two, Quarter Four: Recreation
Lila wheeled her way to one of the ten stations in the computer room and, with a somewhat dejected sigh, powered up the terminal. Despite all the other activities available to her, browsing the web, it seemed, was a pastime that coming to this place with Uncle Benton hadn’t diminished. Well, the desire to browse the web, anyway. It wasn’t the same here as it had been back on the farm, though… She wasn’t allowed to have an e-mail account and all of the computers in this room (the only computers she had been allowed to use since her arrival) were wired to a secure mainframe via shielded cable bundles. The mainframe monitored all web searches and addresses, preventing access to any sites that offered e-mail access, pornography, or other “questionable content” (which, it seemed, included all of the forums and web communities to which she belonged)… She frowned, staring at the Google doodle on the screen, as she wondered why she had even bothered to come here in the first place.
Why hadn’t she just fried Uncle Benton and that Vanessa woman when she woke up in the back of that limo with no memory as to how she’d gotten there to begin with? Or, at least, when he dragged her out of that limo and made her show him what she could do? Was it the promise he’d made to her about not having to hide her abilities, anymore? Maybe the one about how this “institute” would help her explore and develop those abilities, allowing them to set her free with them as opposed to keep her trapped by them?
S#!t! She grumbled, turning the computer off without navigating away from the Google page. This is pointless! Why bother?
No, she decided, turning for the door to head back to her room, these past couple of weeks here at Project: Prometheus’ Metahuman Analysis and Research StrongHold (or, simply “The MARSH,” as most of the people she’d met here called it) hadn’t done gone too awful far towards ‘setting her free’ as her uncle had promised. Sure, she’d had the opportunity to explore her abilities already, had even made a bit of progress towards bettering her control over them with the assistance of the scientists and technicians that staffed the place, but none of it had really made her feel free. Instead, as the days wore on, she felt more and more like she was trapped… even more trapped than when she woke up from that accident, years ago, to find that her legs no longer worked… trapped even worse than when her powers first expressed and she didn’t dare tell anyone… and she felt stuck here more than she’d ever felt stuck at her Aunt’s farm…
“I’m tired of being here,” Lila muttered as she rolled back into the small room she’d been assigned. She backed the chair into one corner of the room and slid herself from the seat as her legs ignited and she “walked” the rest of the way to her bed. “And I don’t even know where here is…”
The MARSH, Level K – Special Housing Unit (SHU)/ Administrative Segregation – Tether Station 1
Daniel rubbed his eyes, blinked in the dim glow emitted by the bank of monitors before him, and stifled a yawn. His first week here at The MARSH had been somewhat exciting, he had to admit. There had been almost a thrill when he’d first arrived and discovered that he wasn’t as alone in the world as he once had thought… that there were people out there who actually understood the ‘societal predicament’ that one with ‘metahuman abilities’ so often found oneself in, that there were others like him on Earth, and that some of them, like him, had no clue that they weren’t alone. The most exciting part, though, was that, following his initial interview and the extensive battery of tests, his job was going to be to ‘help’ some of these others by helping Project: Prometheus ‘identify and locate’ them by becoming what they called a Tether.
It had been explained to him that not all metas had the control over their abilities that he had and that there were still others who had that sort of control but, still, misused those abilities to such an extent that they were as ‘dangerous to themselves and the world’ as those who had no control. Project: Prometheus had begun recruiting Psionics almost immediately upon its founding near the end of 2012 in the hopes that the ‘power sets’ possessed by the psions would be useful in helping to control the uncontrollable and, as it turned out, they were correct. Project: Prometheus’ Tethers were metahumans like Daniel – psions – whom had been utilized by the project from the very beginning and had been instrumental in not only locating other metas but, in many cases, dampening or controlling the abilities of those they found, thereby, facilitating safe transport to facilities like this one where they could be analyzed and assisted in the safe and proper uses of their powers. So, after some sessions with other Tethers in which they were instructed on how to “properly and humanely” take control of another meta, it was with some disappointment that Daniel found himself assigned to what equivocated (in his mind, anyway) to babysitting duty here in the wards as opposed to being placed on an Acquisition Unit. He’d only been “officially on the job” for a little less than a week, of course, so it could be that it would get better but, as it stood, now, being a Tether wasn’t exciting at all. In fact, he found it more than a little depressing… especially here in the SHU where his charges were shuttered away in featureless, high-security cells “for their own safety and the safety of others” and he had nothing to do but monitor those charges and “shut them down” if they managed to somehow defeat the security measures that had been built into their chambers… He didn’t feel like he was helping them, most times. He felt like a prison guard.
“Maybe it’ll get better,” Daniel breathed, leaning back in his chair and, now, allowing himself to actually look at the monitors before him, “and, if it doesn’t, I guess, I can always find another job. Until then…”
The first monitor displayed the overly bright interior of K-4 and, overlaid on the screen, a brief synopsis of that cell’s current occupant:
The young woman in K-4 was exactly where she’d been the last time Daniel had seen her, wedged into one corner of her cell, knees pulled tightly to her chest, and her eyes pressed to those knees and her hair spilling forward to try and shield herself from the lights that never went out.
Daniel frowned. He didn’t really want to tap her thoughts. They’d be the same as last time, he was sure, and he wasn’t keen on starting his shift with that kind of darkness… He did it anway… it was his job, after all…
Level K – Special Housing Unit (SHU)/ Administrative Segregation – Unit: K-4
It was just like that time.. the smells .. needles pricking into her skin.. It was the same..
Aly had woken up yet again in the hospital with the doctor leering down at her, murmuring under his breath. She knew what was coming, she knew that the sorrow filled eyes of her family was simply a gimmick and wasn’t real. She also knew that the questions would start – Questions that she couldn’t answer truthfully,
“Alyeria, you’ve been here twice this week with various fractures to your arms and legs.. Why?” She had shrugged the answer off, like normal, she thought as she glared at her family crowded around her bed,
“Fell down some stairs” Was all she offered and turned away to glance out the window.
“A fall would not cause such breaking Alyeria. Tell me what happened.” A demand, also like normal she duly noted. Murmuring under her breath she feigned exhaustion as she brought the scratchy blanket over her head trying to block out the world around her. Her limbs hurt, she could barely move her legs without pricks of pain making themselves known to her. She would refuse however, to show her father – the reason she was here to begin with – that she was indeed in pain. She had already passed up the offer of painkillers as that would make things worse when she was released later.. She never stayed the allotted time, her father always had her pulled out and released into their oh-so-loving care. She inwardly scoffed at the thought and physically cringed feeling someone’s fingers on her,
“Don’t touch me!” She hadn’t meant to yell, she knew not to yell. But it hurt to be touched, she froze however hearing her father’s gruff voice attempting to soothe her anxiety. She would be back later that night she was sure.
Yes.. it was the same.. The questions she didn’t want to answer.. The feeling of being trapped had finally caught up to her once again.
It was more than a feeling, this time, though. She was trapped, good and tight. There wasn’t even the slightest shadow in this tiny room where she’d spent most of the past two weeks… not a single place to escape from the prying eyes and probing fingers and stabbing needles and thoughts that weren’t her own… Yes. She was trapped inside and outside herself all at once… and she hated it… and, even though she’d tried over and over again (and would likely try some more), she couldn’t find a way out.
“Please,” she whimpered/whispered into the blinding nothing that surrounded her, “just… just turn out the lights… just… for a minute…”
Daniel Henson sighed as he pushed the will to sleep (or at least not see the light) into Penumbra’s mind and let his gaze pan to the next monitor:
Ref#:13409; “Radiance”; A3; Dynamo; AdSeg. K-8
This unit and the young woman that occupied it were the negative image of Penumbra’s… or would “the positive image” be more appropriate? Where K-4 was perpetually bombarded with light this, one was shrouded in constant darkness, and, where “Penumbra” exhibited gloom and depression, “Radiance” was all light and positivity. Of course, that didn’t mean that the little, goth girl was any more happy to be here that Penumbra was – had that been the case, she wouldn’t be here in the SHU to begin with – but she wasn’t about to let her ‘captivity’ get her down. She was perkily positive that she’d make her way out of this place before too much longer…
Daniel liked that about her… Always peppy and plucky, even when the techs came down to retrieve her and take her off for more tests… He hoped her positivity paid off and she did manage to put the SHU behind her. “Hell,” he managed a grin as he shifted his attentions to the next monitor without bothering to push Radiance, at all, “I’d help her, if I could.”
((OOC: okay... part one of two, here... As I said, it got lengthy and, as I was re-reading before posting, I noticed I need some edits in the next section... Making those edits, now, and should have the next part posted before much longer.))