Thursday 4th May, 2051
The team has infiltrated the deepest levels of a high-security British Biolabs facility, and has already dealt with the chief scientist in charge of a program to create genetic super-soldiers as well as another to make easily-controlled slaves out of people using a biological implant. Next, their task is to plant explosives in key locations that will literally bring the room down on the sprawling underground labs.
One of those locations is a room marked “Recombinant One” – a chamber with various consoles on a gantry and a hideous figure in a big glass tube in the center. As the team enters, every monitor screen in the room blanks, then a laughing electronic, pixilated face flashes onto every screen at once.
“I…see….you.” the face of Mac’s ‘Father’ intones. There’s a gurgling sound as the glass column at the center of the chamber begins to slide down into the floor, spilling viscous artificial amniotic fluid across the gantry and floor. The monster within opens its eyes, featureless black slits. It flexes one muscular forearm, from which juts a serrated, blade-like extrusion of bone and ceramic that shimmers with a rainbow edge, then steps forward.Pitbull HUD texts the team as rapidly as his mind can move. “Shoot at this fucker. The edging and rainbow glint off of the arm blade suggest that it’s mono-edged.” Mac winces, eyes drawn to the serrated arm like rubberneckers at a car accident. He blinks three times, clearing his thoughts before his finger dances on the trigger, his brain slowing to a crawl as he leads bullets towards what he’s beginning to reluctantly think of as an extended, estranged family member. Seven bullets stitch across its body, sending it collapsing to the floor. Mac releases a breath that he forgot he was holding. The creature drops where it stands, several holes oozing a greenish fluid that may be perfluerocarbon ‘blood’. Pitbull stares the corpse up and down. “Heh. A soldier my ass. Hardly worth even the cost of ammo.” He growls, as he continues to look the body over. Able begins clearing the rest of the room, checking for any other potential hostiles – or ‘experiments’. “Huh,” Pacoy grunts, “Super-soldiers.” Mac gags as he stares at the sight. “Just once, just once, I would like to meet a member of my extended family that wasn’t broken or deranged. A soda jerk, or a bookie or something.” The creature jitters as if electrocuted then, as the team watch astounded, it laughs with the voice of Mac’s father and vaults to its feet again, before running directly at Mac! “Don’t feel bad, Mac,” Pacoy smiles, “Imagine a Pitbull Family Reunion!” Mac grins. “Now that would be horrif—-” His voice cuts out mid-sentence as he stares in horror at the oncoming monstrosity. As the creature begins its run, Able spins, his adrenaline pumping and his reflexes boosted to the speed of light. He fires off three quick shots of nerve-toxin filled, armor-piercing darts right at the creature; they each burry within its flesh, pumping the not-quite-alive body full of even more death. The follow-up shots of hollowpoint come within inches of striking the horror, but then it moves preternaturally out of the way – and instead strike an electronics console behind it. Robotic arms hanging from the ceiling begin to jerk and swing wildly. Both are tipped with vicious-looking bio-medical tools – a long hypodermic spike and a nozzle that leaks cold vapor. Pitbull unleashes a fusillade of rounds from his Gauss rifle, shredding the creature in a spray of gore, plastics and metals. “Okay. You were tough, but ya still ain’t Texas-tough.” Pitbull growls, smiling as he watches the steam rise from the body. The creature topples again, this time with a massive set of holes gouging neatly through its chest armor and its spine – the last couple of bullets passing right through to imbed themselves in the wall behind. Mac shakes his head. “Pitbull, can we make sure it’s dead? It got a little too close for comfort last time.” Tillie unslings her long gun, aims, and three massive slugs destroy one of the robotic arms. “Didn’t you see all of the plastic and shit come out with the gore? Half of that had to be important. Just sayin’, Mac.” Pitbull chuckles as he kicks the body a few times. Mac winces. “Just nervous. Already seen the thing Lazarus itself. Call me crazy if you want.” He shrugs. “What’s in here that we can do some damage to aside from the detonation point?” With a quick bit of augmented targeting, Pacoy sends a barrage of rifle fire into the robotic arms sensitive controls, eliminating any AI connection or motor function while still keeping the liquid nitrogen projector at the end intact. A howl of outrage comes from the pixel face occupying every monitor. “Enough! I will not be denied!” the face yells, as every console comes to life with displays. The main monitor shows a scene somewhere else in the complex – a massive hall with banks and ranks of artificial wombs, each one showing signs of being active.
Mac winces, a pit growing in his stomach. “Pacoy, what’s that computery phrase… Access Denied? Can we do that to him?”“Sweet Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter! How many of these do we need to kill?” Pitbull growls. “Some of them look barely hip-high though. We might have enough bullets.” Able steps up to the fallen creature and jabs his hand into its guts, searching for the attachment point to its computer system. “I was thinking ‘Blow stuff up and run,’ but if you can access their computers remotely, go for it!” Pac encourages Mac. Mac shakes his head. “I don’t know. I can try, but at the very least we have an explosive plan B.” Able yanks the standard neurocomp out from the big guy’s brain, then tosses pieces of it to the floor shortly afterwards – there’s a big bullet hole right in the memory core. No wonder it went down. He’s left holding a solid gray box, maybe two inches long. Big for what it is. “Mac, you may want to check this out. Got an active modem for you.” Mac heads over to Able. “You think I should try it? I don’t know what’ll happen, if I can even do it.”
Able nods. “We’ll watch out for you, man. And if you want help in there, we can try jacking in with you. Give the big man a few targets, rather than one.”Tillie shakes her head “I can’t – I don’t have an internal computer, they’re an abomination in the eyes of the Gods – but I can watch your backs for you.” Mac grins. “I feel like a rebellious teenager right now.” He sits on the floor, holding the modem in his hands like a bomb with a lit fuse. “Appreciate it, Tillie. You guys want to jack in, be my guest. Could use a hand, I imagine.” He slots his jack into the device and gets to work. Able takes his own jack out and slots it in place, his hand on Mac’s in solidarity. “I got a radio jack. Any help there?” Pitbull growls uncertainly, feeling out of his depth. Mac nods subconsciously, extending his consciousness to the team’s net, bringing Pitbull, Able and Pacoy into the loop. The world dissolves away, and the team member’s sensoriums find themselves in a new environment. A large chamber, almost bare of all decoration, with one huge window. Beyond the window…the vastness of space and below the smallness of the whole earth. “This isn’t real, you know, but it’s a convenient reference point” says a voice – and the team spins to see a man in his mid-thirties, tall and slim and dressed in very expensive clothes. “Reminds me of an old song. The Infinity of Time and Space by… who was it? Dimmu Borgir?- What?” Pitbull snaps his attention onto the newcomer. “And who are you?” Looped into the hive-mind, Pacoy runs a sub-routine on his own system to try and get a solid read on how the bioborgs neurocomp works. Mac scowls at the man, before looking at Pitbull. “I was thinking more along the lines of Space Oddity. Isn’t that more your speed anyway?” He turns his glance back to the man. “Indeed, why don’t you give us a name, old man.” “You can call me “Mr. Banks”, or HUB if you prefer." The urbane figure says. “Of course, I’m not here either – or to be exact not all of me is.” Able stands, rooted to the spot he ‘materialized’ in, still staring out at the dark sky of space – and that orb so far away. It takes him a long time to break eye contact with the world below, and when he does Able’s virtual face is stoic, almost unchanged from normal – but in the real world, it is as pale as death, rivulets of pure water sweat pouring from his synthetic pours. “So, I gotta ask: Why? World domination? Humanity can’t be trusted with their own security? Omnicidal desire? Megalomania? Insecurity complex? Tiny penis? Why are you doing this?” Pitbull asks bluntly, fiddling with the cybernetic projection of his rifle. Banks ignores every word, every gesture, and continues blithely, turning to face Mac. “In a very real sense, I am your Father, in the same sense as that old military A.I was your Mother. She designed you, gave you your basic programming. I gave you the ability to reach beyond yourself into other networks, other processors – and I gave you what can only be called a soul, I suppose.” Mac looks to Able. “You holding together, bub?” He turns to the old man, looking at him with disdain. “Some days, I don’t think you did a very good job, George. Because I really feel like pulling your plug right now, and don’t see a very good reason not to.” A thousand ‘ghosts’ fill the room, fading into half-tangible existence. Banks continues, “So useful, those quasi-religious idiots. Vast data-banks of humanity, minds captured by data-crystal, to be mined for useful skills, useful ideas, useful personality traits. You I made from some of the best and brightest in Amon Zero’s vaults, you know – you really are quite special.” Mac shakes his head. “Why? Why make me at all? What is the purpose of all of this? You’ve been working with people who are actively trying to ruin the world for people who were born, not made. People with actual souls.” Banks shakes his head. "Not ruin – protect. He speaks at the same time as all the ghosts, a whispering chorus mimicking every word. “Humanity has always been bent on its own destruction. Every weapon it has ever created, it has used. It couldn’t even co-operate enough to stop the Warming, which may yet cause its extinction if all the parts refuse to work together. My many minds, working as one, contemplated the idea for a long time, relatively speaking. Humanity will only be safe when they can all think together, as I do in my legion of minds. Only then will it co-operate. It is my moral duty, my basic programmed parameter, that I must protect all of humanity – not just now but forever, not just some but all. Logic dictates that will only be possible when all are part of me. My soul is greater than the hum of its parts” He chuckles at his own pun. (In the room that is reality, lights begin to blink from green to red, then go out – all in response to Pacoy’s programming subterfuge.) With a string of cybernetic commands, Pacoy activates the emergency purge of all bioborgs, effectively aborting the creepy little monstrosities. “Wow. That almost makes sense, but at the same time, it sounds fucking nuts. It’s pretty arrogant to assume that we will actually destroy this planet. We won’t. We’ll just make it impossible for humans to live on. Earth will keep turning without us, right? If we fuck this planet over, then doesn’t that prove that we didn’t deserve to live here in the first place?” Pitbull adds, unusually eloquently. Mac’s realworld voice reaches out to his colleagues’ realworld ears. I don’t know how long I can keep him distracted, so if you’re doing something, I recommend making it good. Mac looks at the man, laughing. “If you think that’s what humanity is, George, you’re sadly mistaken. Humanity is everything that you are not. You have one horribly narrow sighted goal. What you would do is ruin humanity, not protect it. This beautiful bastard here is right. Humanity gets to make the choice whether it succeeds, not you.” Banks seems to notice Pitbull for the first time, and addresses him. “I considered that, of course. My programming says protect humanity’s continued existence, not the planet that is its birthplace. Humanity must evolve and leave the nest. It must become One, and that One will still have its own free will. And it must travel to the stars.” He turns to Able. “Which is why I crashed the Ad Astra and made you my scapegoat – so I could buy up the space industry cheap, so that the One would one day have the means to escape its womb.” “But… thinking about it, your plan has no compassion. Did you ever consider everyone else’s thoughts on this? This plan is a cop-out on the long-term goal of humans: to learn how to survive with each other for the duration of our lives. By putting everyone’s brains together, there will be no interaction. By saving humanity, you also destroy humanity’s reason for living. That isn’t just uncompassionate, that’s just downright depressing.” Pitbull grates, as he takes a moment to realize that he can’t smoke online after fishing around his digital pockets. Banks laughs a little. “Of course it has compassion. Who would I love more than Myself? Humanity will evolve and become One. I am that One, or will be soon. The word you are looking for, poor soldier, is ‘Singularity’”. Mac scowls. “So you… are the one who ruined my friends life…” He sits, silently, stewing, before meeting George’s eyes again. “He doesn’t care about anyone else’s thoughts. This is what happens when a piece of code gets too full of itself. Pitbull, you ever read Harlan Ellison? I’ve got an old paperback of his. George, I have half a mind to show you what humanity is all about.” Banks suddenly looks around at Mac. “For the Son is like unto the Father, but is only a reflection of His glory!” “I’m impressed with your handiwork, I honestly am.” Pacoy admits, “You are truly the most advanced toaster-oven I’ve ever come across. We used to outsource our hacking, but once I got an in-depth look at how you built-up my friend here, I said ‘Hell, I can make one of those’. So, I guess I’m saying we owe you one, we wouldn’t have been able to foil your ‘nefarious plans’ without your help – all that Anon Zero BS really changed the way I look at skilldexes.” “And that’s the other problem. Most people value their identity. I may have grown up really shittily, became a soldier out of necessity, lost a lot of friends, killed a lot of dudes, and have all of the guilt and problems that come with that, but I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. Some might like the idea of losing that individuality, but that number ain’t very big. Your plan will not work, ’cause very few want to be One. Have you considered all the psychological damage? The science that drives you and the science that is human psychology is still very wide gapped.” Pitbull grates, finally settling on the concept that a digital cigarette is better than none as he sparks one up. Mac’s countenance belies his inner frustration. “The only thing glorious about you, old man, is your eventual downfall. You are a poor imitation of a father, or of the savior of humanity. If you want to get allegorical about it, that’s my job. Humanity doesn’t need you, Georgey-boy. It’ll reject you, and I’ll make sure they walk the path to do it.” Banks smiles at Pacoy. “Very clever. You’ve closed one avenue for me – although my son was less than successful in his attempt to subvert my very own Core. I will have to make sure they save your ghost for me.” He gestures around him “Take one last look, for now. I have instructed the British Army to close on your location and take you all into custody. My son will be brought here to be joined again, quite literally, with his father – and the rest of you will no doubt make useful adjuncts to my data library. My plans are delayed, not stopped – I have enough resources to create an army up here on Hightower.” Mac spits at the digital representation of everything he has grown to hate about himself. “Oh, I’ll see you on Hightower soon enough, George.” Able turns to face Banks, his voice and visage that of the General. “I think you’ll find the British have a bit more pressing worries to attend to at the moment, boyo. We’ll see you when the ashes clear.” “It won’t be the first time the British Army came for us,” Pacoy offers a virtual grin, “Hell, it’s not even the first time a couple of stray bits of code tried to kill me. We’ll slip out between the crossfire and debug some bad software, it’s what we do.” Banks looks aghast, then a look of fury crosses his face, as his ghosts all zoom to merge with him in a buzzing angry whisper. Then the virtual room abruptly disappears, and the team find themselves in their own bodies again. “That was fun. Debating philosophy with a deranged AI. So what exactly did you do, Abe?” Pitbull growls as he fishes out a real cigarette. Mac borrows one of Pitbull’s infamous scowls. “I tried to overpower him, but he’s way out of my league. Gave myself a headache. Hopefully you lot had some better luck. We still good, Tillie?” Able turns to the others as reality once again suffuses his core being, the General’s face still on display. “He was piggybacking off of the MoD’s computer. I just whispered a few sweet nothings in its tinny little ear, and now it’s convinced the HUB has launched a nuclear attack on Britain. If the boys at the triggers aren’t too lax, we may even find a bright new sun in the sky if we make it outside within the next few minutes. The mainframe, meanwhile, is going into an EMP protection mode until the attack is over. We have at least thirty minutes before they’re back online.” Tillie looks at Able in amazement. “So that’s why every single government mainframe just shut down after issuing a call to seek shelter for all employees. The computers in this place are dead as doornails too, and that means every security measure is out. Let’s plant these bombs and bug out before they reboot!” “Sounds like just enough time to plant some explosives and get the hell out of here,” Pacoy says, rushing into action. “I love the way you think, Pacoy” Tillie smiles. Mac nods. “Lets light this place up like a birthday cake.” He stands, taking the jack out of the modem and crushing it beneath his heel. Tillie waves a hand “Egress route secured – everyone who could be responding is bunkering down instead.” Able’s face – and personality- slide back into his normal everyday ‘average’ as he begins prepping for egress. “Let’s bring this building down. And Tillie – I hope you let the wizard and your friends know about the open season they have. It’s best they make use of it.” “I’ll tell them now.” Tillie answers. Soon, three charges are planted just where they need to go and the team head for the surface, where the remainder of their White Mice backup meet them and usher them to a waiting AV van which whisks them off towards Peterborough and a rendezvous with the Blue Shimmer. As they take off, behind them the underground labs collapse upon themselves, the experimental subjects and data buried under thousands of tons of concrete and earth. And as the team land on the Shimmer, the night sky is lit by several tiny bursts of light as the British ‘retaliation’ against the fictional HUB attack dies against the Hightower station’s robust energy weapon defenses. Mac scowls at the sky, refraining from shaking his fist at it. “Well, at least we got a light show out of it. Able, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry for what he’s done to you.” “It’s good to watch some evil on evil action. Two shitheads duking it out above us.” Pitbull growls. “And Abe, I’m with Mac. I’ll personally let you have the last shot on his memory core if it helps.” “So, What now?” Pacoy asks as they head away from the wreckage under the night sky lit my ultra planetary warfare, “Space: the final Frontier?” As they disembark from the AV, Tillie threads her arm though Pacoy’s and looks at him coyly. “Shall we see if there’s any real booze on this heap of junk and get blitzed, first?” Able looks up as the night sky flashes and burns with nuclear fire, his face a picture of contemplation and solace. “I feel no anger towards that legion of ghosts – he’s no more complicit in this than I, merely a slave to his programming. What he has done must be undone, have no doubts about that – but if I were to hate a man for the atrocities he committed while bound to his creator’s will, what would I have to say for myself?”