Amy and I ended up finishing the trauma spray dispenser as well as a powerful tranquilizer cocktail. The problem with the tranquilizer was that neither of us knew of a safe enough way to administer the correct dosage, and getting the dosage wrong could prove fatal. I decided to do the tinker tech approval write up for both on Sunday anyway. I had a while before patrol still, so I was filling out the paperwork in the common room.
Chris was in the lab, tinkering happily away. I expected him to be there all day every weekend for the foreseeable future. Using his recommendations, I was trying to get the trauma spray authorized for 'general public use' but I knew that would never fly with the tranquilizer, so that one I was only aiming for 'authorized targets only'.
The spray applicator looked like normal, if opaque, spray bottle. I even took apart our Windex bottle to see how it worked to get some of the parts a little more reliable. The only difference was that the bottom half was a little bio-factory that secreted the spray in to a small incubator reservoir that kept the solution stable and ready for use. You only needed to shove in the occasional food product and water, and it could keep the spray stable and ready to use for years.
One thing going for me was that getting both approved would go faster than usual since Amy could sign off as one of the two required subject matter experts for passing any bio-tech. If Armsmaster also signed off, I just had to get the final stamp of approval from the offices in New York. I expected to get approval back for both before the taser ball approval came back honestly.
My first base in Canberra would be done growing soon, so I was already in the process of gathering bio-matter to feed it as soon as possible. It was grisly, but I would have infiltrators ready by tomorrow morning. It would be nice to finally have a chance to go out and start helping people, as well as talking to people in the area to start taking stock.
My planter had already finished all the bases I would be making in the area around my commando. Fortunately, my injuries should be healed in time to move out with that as well by tomorrow. First priority would be planting a beacon as close to the middle of the quarantine zone as possible, to have something to center on. Then I would be moving out in a large spiral, spacing bases out so that they were more accessible to more of the city.
The first batch of infiltrators would be almost entirely focused on gathering more bio-matter. Eventually, I would be able to dedicate more to keeping the peace, but at the beginning I would be mostly focused on expanding.
I was busy making a machine that would spit out trauma spray bottles when Dennis showed up for patrol with me. I paused my work to suit up and go meet him in the common room.
"Hey Hive!" He was as enthusiastic as ever. Already suited up in his all-white costume, he looked ready to go.
"Hello Dennis. Who's on console today?" I couldn't see anyone else in right now.
"Good thing you're in power armour, 'cause you get to be the one to drag Chris out here. He's on console today. He's been burning his tinker-time hours like mad this week, so it finally fell to him." I could hear his grin, despite the featureless white helmet he wore.
"Alright, but you owe me." I retorted, even as I walked over to Kid Win's lab.
Knocking on the open door frame, he looked up from where he was fitting a new barrel attachment to his power supply. "Hey Chris. Dennis said you're on Console today? We're gonna get going soon, just so you know."
He looked at what he was working on for a second, before setting it down. "Alright. I suppose I'm at a good stopping point now. It's just so exciting to finally have a plan to work by, y'know?"
I just nodded in sympathy. "Yeah, I get it. My life only started making sense again when I could finally get some of my ideas built."
He just trailed along, pulling up the console chair when we got there.
Looking over at Dennis, I gestured to the door. "After you."
We got a ride to the south of the city in companionable silence. Once we got out, we started patrolling the streets. As per usual, I had some critters following us.
The merchants had been acting agitated ever since Monday, but we were currently in Empire 88 territory, so I didn't expect too much trouble. About five minutes of walking later, I turned to Dennis and asked him something I hadn't thought of for over a week.
"Hey Clockblocker, what ever happened to Shadow Stalker? I saw her that first day, but I haven't even seen a glimpse of her since then." Almost, I had said Sophia, before remembering that we were in public, so I should use code names.
Dennis thought about how to answer me for a minute before responding. "She was already on her last strike before being thrown in juvie. Before she attacked you she was basically on a suspended sentence until she hit eighteen, when her case would have been reevaluated. Since she snapped, they threw the book at her. I think the last charge of attempted murder still has to go through the courts, but she's not going to see the light of day for a while. Good riddance."
"I know she was bad at school, but she actually acted like that to you guys too? I'm amazed she got away with it as long as she did." I didn't think that it said very good things about the PRT. We were watched with such a careful eye when 'on the clock' and yet someone who had every reason to be watched for poor behavior was essentially ignored as soon as she was someone else's problem. In this case that was the school, but it really extended beyond that. Although I suppose I should be thankful that they were lax. It basically meant that I could get away with whatever I did as well.
"Yes. It wasn't so bad for me, 'cause I could give as good as I got, but Shadow Stalker ragged on Vista and Kid Win pretty hard. Aegis was technically her superior, so she generally left him well enough alone."
"Hmm." I just made an agreeable sound, then walked in silence for a while, contemplating the situation.
If it was just the local branch that was incompetent or corrupt, that would be far preferable to the whole system being rotten, but I didn't have any evidence one way or another. I could make use of an incompetent PRT locally, but even then, I would prefer that they were reasonable and transparent.
I'm not sure what I would do if it turns out that the corruption is more wide spread. I guess it would depend on how things went in Canberra. If it turns out that I really could bring order to a problem on that scale, I would need to see what I could do to replace the current system.
For that matter, it would be important to come up with my own checks and balances. I could operate with impunity in Canberra because there was literally nothing I could do to make it worse, even if there was a Master that could effect my entire network at once. The worlds worst Master had already done her worst there. But if I was going to work on spreading further than Canberra and Brockton Bay, I would need to come up with my own counters.
I knew one thing for certain, I wouldn't be relying on institutions to stay vigil and do the difficult job. I had seen personally and all too clearly how institutions could fall if even one layer of the bureaucratic engine was misfiring. Which meant I was left with trusting individuals. Finding the right ones would be a challenge, and making sure they could survive as long as I could would be another. I knew that if it turned into a job of looking for a good adviser every twenty or forty years, I would eventually pick a bad one that wormed their way through all of my checks.
It felt slightly arrogant to be planning for the next few hundred or thousand years, but I knew that in my current state, I was already almost unkillable. Even if someone found a power nullifier that would work on my biology, which I already knew was unlikely, the worst they could do to me was kill a local node of my network. They could kill a Taylor Hebert, but they could not kill all of Taylor Hebert. Not anymore. It would take a planet killer to destroy all of me, and I didn't plan on letting that be the case forever. Already I knew I would be traveling to space eventually.
How to provide my own counter though? It would need to be someone with an unbendable moral fiber. And even then, they would need to possess immense personal power. I wouldn't, couldn't provide a self destruct button for my own mind, so I would need someone that could match, or nearly match my own capabilities.
I would keep an eye out. I could afford to take my time to find the right person. After all, mental and moral drift wouldn't be relevant on the span of a few years. The person who I was right now had a very firm sense of self and changing that identity far enough that my current self would agree that I should be killed or neutralized would take a long time. Not forever. Nothing in the universe unchangeable. Stars died, planets crumbled, even black holes evaporated eventually. But if you could find a pair who agreed to keep each other in check... You could last a lot longer. Perhaps I could even outlive the stars. I would certainly try.
All this thinking of time got me wondering about my patrol partner's power. He froze things solid in time, making them unaffectable by any known force, natural or artificial. How would that apply to me though? Certainly it could affect my human body, but would it affect my mind? Inquiring minds want to know.
"Hey Clockblocker, You want to check if your power works on me? I don't think we've ever actually tested that before. It should work fine, but I'm curious how it affects the creatures I'm controlling. Want to test it? Totally off the books though, I don't want to deal with Piggot over this crap."
He started at me for a minute before responding. "You know, I think that's the first time that someone has actually asked to be frozen. Sure, I don't mind testing it. You might want to unseal your armour though. Mine has holes along the helmet so I can still breath when I freeze it, but yours is sealed right?"
In lieu of answering him, I unsealed the lower half of my face mask, exposing from my chin to my nose. Looking around to make sure I wouldn't be in the way when frozen, I held my hand out to him.
He extended a finger to touch the back of my hand, and of course he decided to add sound effects.
My armour locked perfectly rigid. I couldn't even fall over anymore. I grinned. This was pretty cool.
To pass the time until my armour randomly unfroze, I decided to ask him about his power.
"So I know you just froze my armour, but does that mean you would be unable to freeze me when I'm inside it?"
He was shaking his head. "Nah, I get to choose what to freeze. Right now I just froze your armour."
Hmm. Interesting. "So you can freeze things that are touching the things that you touch?"
"Yeah, otherwise I wouldn't be able to freeze you while wearing gloves, see?" He held a white gloved hand up. I suppose that he did have a point.
"So if you don't freeze your gloves every time, does that mean you could freeze me but not my armour?"
"Nope, I thought of that. If you want to be specific, I can avoid freezing things that I think of as me, and I can freeze anything that I think of as one object all at once. So while I can avoid freezing my gloves if I think of them as part of 'me'; I can't freeze someone but not their clothes if I'm touching their clothes, because I don't think of their clothes as part of me."
That made a twisted sort of sense. "Ah, so you wouldn't be able to, say, freeze someone by freezing the air touching them, because they and their clothes are one thing, but they and the air are not."
"Yeah, that's it exactly. Otherwise I could just freeze people at a distance through the ground."
That raises another question. "So can you freeze the air?"
He shuddered. "I don't know, and I've never tried. What if I succeed? I could suffocate everyone in the area."
"What about just the air touching your glove? That could be one thing right? Do you have to have a mental picture in your head ahead of time or something?"
Just as suddenly as it had started, my armour unfroze, enabling me to move again.
"When I'm freezing something, I get an instant mental picture of what I'm trying to define as the target, so that should be safe enough to test."
He held his left and up and then held it still. Perfectly still in fact.
"Uh oh." He started tugging on his hand, but he had inadvertently constructed the worlds best fitting manacles for his own hand.
"Shit, now what." He said plaintively.
I just bent over in laughter, that was just too funny.
"Hey, it's not that funny!" I just laughed harder.
He reached over to me. "That's it, you're getting froze-"
"-en" I heard the last part of his word only through my runner and swooper. Fascinating, getting frozen in time dropped my body out of my network entirely. It was as if that body had just suddenly ceased to exist. I was paying careful attention. It would be useful data to know what happened when my human body reconnected to the network when there was a time and information disparity between my two mental states at the time of reconnection.
Dennis was still tugging on his hand when my connection snapped back in to place. There was a moment of disorientation as my body absorbed the information from when it had been missing from the network, but it wasn't painful, merely unexpected from the perspective of my body.
Useful data to have.
Dennis finally came free, almost managing to smack himself in the face with the force he was applying to his hand at the time. I valiantly resisted the urge to laugh again.
"Man I hope no one managed to film that..." Muttered Dennis.
"Hey, I've got another one for you: can you freeze something through something that's already frozen? Like, say you freeze my costume, then try to freeze me as well as my costume, even though the costume is already frozen, would that work?"
He scratched his head as we started walking again. "You know I've never tried that before. I wonder what would happen..."