SUNSWEPT CH5

Network Relay, 1059 hours:

::User UNKNOWN connects::

::Hello?:: Ardellia Blumenthal

::User UNKOWN disconnects::

::Um, what was that?:: Saede Riordan

::Initiating trace...:: Sentient Equilibirum

::Well that is certainly unsettling:: Ardellia Blumenthal

::Agreed, I think I'll have a talk with Xeph about this, didn't he say he was investigating something regarding a possible security breach?:: Saede Riordan

::Hacking the network? I'd say that is a little more than a security breach:: Streya Jormagdanir

::SE's begun a trace, either way Xeph should be active in a few hours. Oh, and Naraish is already working with OSS about the bio attack at Icarus:: Saede Riordan

::Good. Either way, I'll be dormant for a while. Good luck:: Ardellia Blumenthal

::You too!:: Streya Jormagdanir

::User ARDELLIA BLUMENTHAL disconnects::

::I'd better follow-up with Shar about extra diagnostics on the network fluid-routers, I'll be available on the coordinator network if something further comes up:: Saede Riordan

::Understood:: Streya Jormagdanir

::User SAEDE RIORDAN is away::

*******


Jallif slumped against the bulkhead and as he had been doing for the past hour gently banged his head against the hard metal of the corridor wall. His new masters had been rather surprised to see him return from his piddly assignment; clearly they had expected him to have died within the sudden melee. So, with no real place among the so-called brains of the operation he had been once more relegated to scout duty in the hall. So easy, a drone could do it. Great, I'm a drone.

He was still processing the the previous day's events aboard Icarus. Everything had been running just fine in the dockside market until he'd seen a pair of uniformed officials eyeing him suspiciously. His orders had been to report any response by officials but as skittish as he was, dirty looks didn't quite cut it. Rather than initiate his communicator, he'd decided to recon the next few corridors. Passing unsuspiciously from the docking sector into one of the major corridors he'd traveled a full 20 meters before seeing something that caused him to take a second look. The room's door had been closed but the small window running the length of that door had been all he needed to see the small army of officials, in full riot armor, prepped and waiting inside. He keyed up the portable com unit they had given him and initiated the call. The contact pinged only three times before cutting off but by the end of the second he could already hear the screams from behind him. Suddenly he was being tossed aside as that small army virtually burst from their room.

Everything in there had played out as a sort of slow motion farce as every ventilation shaft went into emergency shutdown and the section bulkhead he had just passed through slammed down before the first official even got to it causing an almost comical pileup. The doors in front of him had closed as well but he wasn't as stupid as he looked. The timing was way too perfect for it. They made my idiot ass the trigger huh? Make me take the fall for it too I bet. He looked down to the sealed air shaft grate but he wouldn't be able to get into it without being noticed. His face would be captured by station surveillance, that was certain. As soon as they triangulated the call they'd realize it came from a device in this hall so he had to move. Already the pile of officials were starting to sort themselves out but their attention was, for now at least, directed toward the ever increasing chaos of screams emanating from within the market. He saw his chance and took it. He stepped quickly into the same room from which the officials had just come and pulled out his handy maintenance tool. Four practiced motions later and he had the ventilation grate off and himself hoisted into the un-monitored labyrinth. He wasn't sure why the fans had been turned off but he was pretty thankful. Whatever was causing all those screams probably didn't smell too good and he wasn't really interested in smelling what they had made him do. The thought alone almost made him vomit.

His stomach roiled at the memory alone, bringing him back to his present drone-like duties. What the hole are they so damn upset about anyway? He decided to take up a 'watchful' position a little closer to the door. The voices started to spill through and he listened in.

"...the fedobrain didn't even get the target!"

"The market was the target numbbolts."

"Hey, I don't be calling you names, right? But yeah what kinda statement did it make anyway?"

To Jallif the last speaker had a point. Most of the em would just be re-cloned anyway. Enhanced cloning technology was all great and everything but these wormholers were taking it a little far in his opinion. Immortality? Where was the point to it? No consequences, no finality. It was bad enough having capsuleers prancing across the fetid stars but resurrecting each and every person in the system just seemed... unnatural. He tried to envision life trapped in a computer while waiting for a new body and shivered. A voice from the other room distracted him from his drifting thoughts.

"It made a statement alright. Where did you get that nano-shit anyway... someone is gonna be looking into-"

"Am I the only one who noticed that we killed kids in that!? We were supposed to be getting information, not slaughtering the very children we came here to save!"

"The children you came here to save Ghera, you better check that bleeding heart of yours or it's gonna' get you killed out here."

"You watch your own ass ya? Just because I got more than a nano-speck of a moral compass. You can't even show your face in known space th-"

A closing door silenced the conversation followed shortly by a voice Jallif recognized as the short businessman who'd once offered him a ticket home but had yet to deliver. "Ghera is not wrong; we came here for information, and information we will have." Nobody replied. "The diversion worked perfectly. During the initial attempts to assess the damage, secure subroutines were used and thanks to some of my other associates those are secure subroutines that I now have access to. Ladies and gentlemen," He is using those terms rather loosely. "I think it's times for phase three."

Jallif had no idea what phase three was, but he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with getting him off the station. He was starting to sweat again and cursed the nervous tendency that did nothing but make his life harder. He'd have to find some other way out of this place but so long as the businessman knew who he was and what he'd done he had little choice but to keep in orbit of this pile of idiots.

"So, the fedoshit actually did the trick and we're in?"

"That he did, I think he may not be entirely useless after all."

The voice of Ghera had regained some sense of nefarious purpose; "Well then, what's next, Coordinator?" The title was spoken with a sort of cruel humor that sent extra chills though Jallif. He knew with striking awareness that he couldn't afford to still be around by the end of phase three; whatever that was going to be. It was time to start looking for the exit on his own, he'd just have to do it very, very quietly.

*******


Meyan stepped slowly through the parting glass doors into a small reception area that bore an unmistakable medical feel to it. She was still exhausted from the past few nights following the launch party and barely noticed the telltale signs of an office suite that had been built yesterday, literally. There was no one behind the desk to direct her so she instinctively moved for a set of push-doors in front of her. She hadn't been given any sort of security card and there didn't seem to be any sort of optical scanner that she could see so she reached out to the door handle and her touch was greeted with a slight tingle as her DNA was scanned and accepted. Stepping through the door she found a much larger room, well lit with various fabricators and instruments central to the room. Slight alcoves sat inset around the outside of the room; clearly meant as workstations. A few other lab personnel were milling about discovering their desks or workbenches with only a fa├žade of the normal first-day-of-work excitement.

A computer station and workbench situated just to the left and facing away from the door bore a temporary nameplate showing her name and she moved on autopilot towards it. The terminal was booted and ready; prompting her to initiate the security setup that was standard practice for just about any access point in Origin. She stepped up to it and, after setting her usual few datapads on the desk to the right, initiated the process. She noted that the workstation was apparently meant for a standing occupant and looked around to see if everyone had been denied a chair. Before she could locate any such accommodation her eyes caught the face of Solu walking purposely along the central aisle of the lab. For one fleeting moment she thought to wave to her but then thought better of it; she wasn't about to look like a complete newbie on her first day right? Solu was making for the same door Meyan had entered through when it suddenly opened directly through her leaving a very startled young technician standing nose to nose with his new employer. His outstretched arm, still grasping the door handle, was passing directly through Solu's abdomen. Meyan's brain tried to acknowledge the metallic click of the doors edge barely nicking what was now apparently a sophisticated drone embedded within the Solu hologram. Straining further, her brain tried to match it with enough information to understand this to be an extension of the capsuleer rather than the person who she had seen only a few days ago; the young technician was clearly too stunned to catch on. With a rather amused look, Solu (or the extension of her?) seemed to step aside to allow the very confused but now recovering young man to pass. He looked quickly around until his eyes settled on the station beside Meyan's, then started over towards her without looking back to see a slightly grinning Solu step through the door and out into the reception area.

Meyan returned to the process of setting up her security passwords but was interrupted by the very same new coworker as he leaned slightly around the partition dividing their stations. "You saw that , didn't you!?" She only nodded, unsure how to respond to such sudden enthusiasm. "That was a fully integrated holo-clone. Can you believe we get to work with that stuff every day?"

She couldn't deny that his excitement was genuine but the way he seemed to be referring to Solu as an 'it' was setting her on edge. "And the fact that you just invaded your boss doesn't bother you?"

"Just invaded my wh-" A sort of dread resettled on him and Meyan suddenly realized that he'd had no idea who he had run into. She relented and offered her hand.

"I'm Meyan."

"Petrian" His responding handshake was brief.

"Our boss, or at least part of her I think?" Meyan completed her explanation with a bit of a question to the end.

Petrian's earlier excitement seemed to be at war with embarrassment over his social gaff. "It, I mean she is part of her... part of Solu that is." Bolstered by his expertise in the area and Meyan's clear interest he continued. "See Solu, the Primary, must carry a fluid router with her at all times and through that device her mind is split, for lack of a cleaner way of saying it, between all of her other selves."

Meyan recalled Solu's rather noisy mechanical arm from the interview but in doing so hadn't fully listened to the last part of her new coworker's description. "So, that wasn't the real Solu you just ran into?"

"Oh, well it was, in a way." Meyan's confused expression remained. "Basically, they are all her but can move and act independently."

"Oh, ok" She still didn't fully understand but she was getting the distinct impression that she wasn't going to just yet.

"Actually, that kinda tech is why I applied for this lab in the first place!" Meyan decided that Petrian must exist almost perpetually in a state of tech fan-boy as he was positively vibrating with a sort of dancing look in his eyes while he talked. "Multipling technology is pretty out there stuff really, I'm not surprised CONCORD banned its more advanced use in known space."

"They did?" Meyan suddenly wondered if that meant Solu was trapped inside Origin.

"Oh, they ban anything they can't control or understand, but yeah. Solu's holo-clones would be ok, but Coordinator Riordan uses the most advanced form of multipling technology, she has fully integrated clones." Petrian was still hovering at the edge of their collective divider and Meyan, conscious of the time allotted before the lab-wide orientation meeting, was trying to think of a polite way to return to setting up her station. "Hey, do you think they would let us have access to the design on them?"

"If we are supposed to install that sort of stuff, I suppose, but I don't recall any of that from the introduction materials." Meyan nodded toward her datapads and terminal in an attempt to hint at getting back to them.

"What? Oh, was that covered in those files we got?"

Meyan nearly did a double-take. "You didn't read them!?"

"Why? I'm sure they'll just cover it all again for us at the first meeting, at least that's how it was at my last job." Petrian didn't even seem phased by her surprise as he continued to perch at the edge of her station. "Hey, you worry like this all the time?"

She didn't really know how to respond and luckily she didn't have to as a rustle of activity around the room signaled it was time to migrate into the conference room next-door. Meyan gave one last frustrated look at the half-completed setup process on her terminal before canceling the job and dutifully locking the access.

"Why did you cancel it?" Petrian hadn't even touched his terminal but instead looked as though he was ready to accompany her into the orientation despite how she might feel about it. "You could have just finished it from your impla-" He stopped as he noticed her picking up a datapad.

She leveled the best no-nonsense stare at him that she could muster as she held the datapad and her gloved hands to her chest. "The appointment is tomorrow, thank you very much. Now, can we please go get this supposedly superfluous meeting over with?" She hadn't meant to sound quite so venomous but the idea of sitting through a rerun of everything she spent so much time reading into the wee hours because she was the newbie to some unhappy office hazing was starting to irritate her.

"Uh, sure..." Slightly diminished, Petrian fell in quietly as they made their way into the conference room which was apparently just too small to fit them all comfortably. Being the last ones in, only two seats in the very front remained. Fantastic. Unwilling to let anymore of her annoyance show she gracefully took her seat and ignored Petrian as he slumped into his.

The room settled as Solu stepped in and started the holo display. A shiny new logo set to the top and left of the agenda set a pleasantly business tone and as she read the topics Meyan was at once both entirely justified and then slightly guilty; not a one of the topics had been covered in last night's materials.


The holo displays of her workstation dimmed then evaporated leaving a sudden reverse imprint on her vision as she lifted both hands to meet her very tired head. She looked around at the last few of her coworkers stepped into the reception area as the burgeoning gaggle of new friendship that these few had become. To her surprise they'd been kind enough to invite her along to their intended watering hole but the sudden excitement from her new partner, (yes; it turned out that Petrian's proximity also meant he was to be her counterpart for almost every project), was enough to give her pause at accepting. Now, at the end of a very long and exhausting day, she appreciated her earlier intuition. It hurt her a bit to realize that she had almost taken pleasure in Petrian's sudden crestfallen appearance when she rejected the invite that he hadn't. She didn't exactly like how she had acted toward him as the day went on but his particular brand of enthusiasm just seemed to drain her in a way she'd never really encountered before. Sure, he'd been kind, and even genuinely interested in helping her prepare for her new implant on the morrow; giving her pointers, anecdotes, and even some links to good reading material on the best models and what other adaptations she could select. But it was something in the way he just so desperately wanted to be her friend that had her hiding, buried in her terminal by the end of the day.

She stepped quietly through the door and looked back to notice the lights dim behind her. Last one out. Well, it was only the first day. One day of going home late didn't make her a workaholic right? The door clicked and she recalled other parts of the day while maneuvering through the foyer and out into the corridor. The tiredness hadn't been entirely Petrian's fault; many of their other co-workers had commented on the incident at the launch two days ago and seemed to be suffering from the same sense of inevitability one feels after having witnessed something so horrible without the power to fix it that she was. One of the other biologists had only just transferred from what was left of Indigo Station and by his accounts there had been a small explosion there as well just after the Tearnix had entered warp back to Eidolon. That no one else had heard of it was played off as a cover-up by Alexylva Paradox who were preventing anyone from going anywhere near the demolition site. Even Caera Clarke, the special new Transhumanity Today reporter who seemed to have connections to everyone, couldn't even get even a glimpse.

Not more than a few steps from leaving the lab and she found herself looking up at a familiar holo-banner and the cheerful sounds of comradery spilling out from the Sunny-side Up. Looking into her still gloved hands she decided that now more than ever she could use some time to just be herself without the looks and questions. She made up her mind and stepped into the bar, her gloves and lab coat were off before she even reached the bar, and the simple thought that most of the patrons in this bar were more heavily modified than she was settled on her like a sort of emotional armor.

She wasn't there to meet anyone and as much as she could tell most of the patrons were, as usual, capsuleers. She didn't see many pilots from Alexylva Paradox and said so to Derek as he took her drink order.

"Oh, there's some sort of brawl happening down-chain of Origin which has most of the active members involved and those who aren't are taking up defensive alert positions within Origin."

The term was strange to her. A chain of what? It was something else about the comment that caught her attention more though. "More combat? Wasn't there just an intruder destroyed yesterday?"

"Life of a capsuleer hun." Derek's smile was kindly and the glass he offered her was even better salve.

"By the way, you said down-chain. What do you mean?" She sipped a staggeringly refreshing bit of the rather strong fruity drink.

"Huh? Oh, um..." He clearly didn't get that sort of question often in a capsuleer bar. Yet more things that living in high-sec and planetside hadn't prepared her for. "Look so, you see how I've got this glass here?" He set the glass he had been drying down onto the bar then picked up a straw and started bending and creasing it.

"Yeah?"

"So, this is Origin, in all its glory." He seemed to chuckle at comparing his home to a bar-glass. "And this straw here, this is one of our current wormholes out of Origin." He slipped the straw into the 'Origin' glass then draped the other half of it over another glass. "Now this here is another wormhole system, or as they would call it," he motioned to the capsuleers in the bar, "Echo 1."

"They name every system that pops up?" Her voice was part amused and part condescending as she envisioned a child making up imaginary friends.

"Well, yeah. How else would you keep track of up to six separate wormholes every day?" To make his point he suddenly dropped several additional straws into the 'Origin' glass and smiled. Her suddenly inflamed cheeks answered her embarrassment for her. "So yeah, Echo 1 of course is going to have its own native wormholes and now we need to name them somehow right?" He took a few straws from 'Origin', folded them, then added an additional two glasses next to 'Echo 1' and once more used straws to connect them. She was following so far so he continued. "And these are going to get an alphanumeric name that corresponds to being attached to Echo 1 as well as the type of system they represent. Then those systems will have their own wormholes with their own names and so on." He quickly put in a few more glasses and straws until suddenly there was a line of glasses and straws stretching clear into one of the other patron's drinks about two seats away. Meyan blushed further to have intruded but the capsuleer simply rolled his eyes and decided to join in.

"Yeah, but what about the other wormholes in Origin mate?" His teasing questions was directed at Derek but he was clearly playing for her benefit.

Derek didn't seem phased. "Yeah, I was getting to that Vik." Back to Meyan; "So yeah... but what does that look like to you?" He stepped back and indicated the entire line of glasses and straws.

"A chain." She smiled at the realization of how much easier it may have been to just talk through all of this instead of rearranging the bar and infiltrating someone else's drink.

"Exactly, but!" and here Derek nodded to the capsuleer, apparently named Vik. "Like the man said, let's add a few other wormholes out of 'Origin' and for argument let's call them 'Echo 2' and 'Echo 3'." He slipped a few more glasses into a few empty straws still set into the 'Origin' glass. "Now, what would you call this set of glasses here?" He indicated a line of glasses coming out of 'Origin' that was different from the line that had invaded Vik's glass.

She smiled with a bit of sarcasm at the amused barkeep. "I don't know but I'm guessing you're about to tell me."

"You take all the fun out of the guessing!" Derek threw his hands up in mock submission. "This, would be the Echo 2 chain."

The final connection given, her tired mind made the last jump. "And that would make Vik's glass 'down-chain' of the 'Echo 1 chain' right?"

"By Bob I think she's got it!" Again, Derek's teasing humor was playful and without teeth.

"So, what you said earlier; the Paradox is currently invading Vik's glass." She couldn't help but smirk at the play.

"Yes! Er, well, not Vik's glass, but someone else's glass... hole... you know what I mean." With his student now teasing him back Derek decided the lesson was well and done so he started gathering the glasses again to be washed and moved to replace Vik's sullied beer.

"Oy! I'ma finish that too." Derek left the original beer at Vik's protestations to which Vik simply started sipping the beer through the straw just to show his sportsmanship.

Meyan took another pull on her own drink and felt herself amazingly more relaxed and refiled than even this drink's alcohol would warrant. Perhaps it was just the pleasant company. She looked up to the swirling electro-chemical patterns on the ceiling and wondered if it was in fact this bar in particular. An interesting hypothesis. Perhaps she should test it. The night was getting on a bit for any bar-hopping and she was loath to give up more than half of what remained of her drink so the bar-hopping-turned-scientific-experiment would just have to wait for another night. Derek had moved out into the booths to attend to the patrons who had been neglected during the bar-glass chain explanation.The slight interaction with Vik didn't really give her the courage to open up a sudden conversation with him so she continued to sip her drink and wonder if anyone she knew might come in before she finished and had to make her way home.

Nobody did, and later as she settled in to sleep she wasn't too bothered by it. Sometimes a good drink and time to sort out a long day was better than company. She'd have to try a different bar tomorrow. Sleep came as she pondered the best way to add a control and other variables to her new bar-experiment.

*******