Disclaimer: Incredibles owned by Brad Bird and Pixar. Aberrant owned by White Wolf Games.
Author's Notes: Not sure if I'm happy with this chapter or not. I tried to cram as much as I could into this chapter because...well...this is the final chapter of "War of Angels". However...this is NOT the end. The story will continue in "War of Angels: Defiance and Insurrection".
"Within a period of a few short months, events have taken place, falling within a pattern. Utopia's war with David Flynn, the attack on Mexico City by a man called Gabriel, and Caestus Pax's razing of downtown Houston...the pieces are falling into place. Once, there was a time when I had hoped that we would bring down the corruptive force that is Project Utopia, but now...now I fear that there are players in this game that have yet to be revealed. Some would call me crazy or paranoid, but you cannot ignore the patterns...they serve as evidence that there is something else going on that we are not fully aware of."
-From the private journal of Pedro Santiago, "The Mathematician"
13 November 2006
Western Washington University
Jason Maynard didn't fit the standard mold of a professor at Western Washington University. He didn't drive some fancy car, he didn't dress like some stuck up and arrogant intellectual, he didn't look down upon students as sheep to be indoctrinated, and he certainly wasn't the kind of professor who would intentionally give a student a bad grade if they had a different view so long as they presented a valid argument to support it.
In fact Jason Maynard almost looked like a student himself. With his hair tied back in a short pony-tail, wearing shorts, a WWU t-shirt, and New Balance running shoes, he could easily have passed for someone in his twenties instead of a forty-three year old teacher of anthropology. At the moment, he was running across the Western campus, completing his usual four mile run which ended at the university's aquatic center where he would swim for two miles. It was a ritual he did twice a day, five days a week, for the last couple decades.
He reached the Aquatic Center at approximately 5:40 PM, pretty much his usual time give or take a few minutes. As usual, he waved at one of the lifeguards on duty, an Economics major named Ben who worked at the center to pay for part of his tuition. "Hey, Ben," he said as he walked by the life-guard station. "How's it going?"
"Not too bad, Professor," the young man replied. "Slow night, only about eight people. By the way, caught your lecture the other night…the one about novas and gods…really messed up stuff, but an interesting idea."
"You don't think it's just another crackpot theory?"
"Professor, as far as crackpot theories go, yours sounds sane compared to some of the crap they talk about these days."
"At least I know you're being honest with me," Jason chuckled. "If you were one of my students, I'd say you were trying to suck up to me."
Ben shook his head. "Nah, not my style," he said, his face breaking into a grin. "Although I have a roommate who has already taken your speech and, along with some of his other fellow fanboys, are talking about using your idea as a concept for a web-comic."
"Great," Jason muttered, rolling his eyes, "with my luck they'll turn it into a TV series and I won't get any credit for it." He kept walking and entered the faculty locker room. It was almost six in the evening, the locker room was empty since most of the faculty was elsewhere on a Friday night.
Probably at one of Bruce Shephard's stupid parties for the snobby elite, Jason thought as he opened up his locker and pulled off his shirt, shoes, and socks. He paused for a moment and realized, given his salary, he probably would fall into that category of the 'snobby intellectual elite' he liked to poke fun at.
Then again, I don't waste my money on lavish homes and expensive clothes and cars while trying to talk down to people and tell them how I believe the world works. Hmm…I wonder if that's why the university president doesn't invite me to his parties. Oh well...it's not like I'm missing anything.
He shook his head again, throwing his clothes into the locker and closing the door before he headed towards the exit that led to the pool. A nice hard swim would clear his head.
Jason stopped and turned around to see a catholic priest standing there a few feet behind him.
Now where the hell did you come from?
"Yes," Jason said, wondering how the man even managed to sneak in. "That's me."
The priest nodded, though Jason was wondering if he was mistaken in assuming the man was a priest. Yes, the man wore the black pants, shoes, shirt and jacket of a priest, but the white minister's collar was missing. "Good," the man replied, extending his hand, "my name is Jeremiah and I wish to talk to you about your lecture concerning novas and the gods of myth."
Oh no, Jason inwardly groaned, one of my students complained to their priest. But he still shook the man's hand and managed to put on a fake smile. "I didn't mean any offense, Father," he said, "merely throwing out some wild theory to snap some students out of their half-comatose state of mind."
"Please," the other man said, "call me Jeremiah; I haven't gone by the title 'Father' for a few years now." He then gestured at his clothing. "Although, I guess when one is used to dressing a certain way for almost a couple decades, old habits die hard." He then smiled. "So you can relax, I'm not here to preach at you and condemn your soul to the deepest parts of hell for blasphemy."
There was something about the way the man talked and moved that set Jason on edge a little. Yes, this Jeremiah might have been a priest at one time, but Jason felt there was something else to the man. "So, what can I do for you, Fa-er…Jeremiah? No offense, but you kind of showed up in the middle of my usual daily ritual."
"None taken, but we do need to talk about your lecture. While I confess that there are some who take what you say as blasphemy, they are not the ones you should be worried about."
"Really, that kind of sucks," Jason said. "I kind of like it when religious radicals go nuts, reveals the true nutjobs to the rest of the world. It also makes people think."
"As I said, the 'religious radicals' are not the ones you should be worried about." Jeremiah reached into his coat and pulled out an envelope that he handed to Jason. "I apologize for giving these to you in an archaic way, but we don't trust sending stuff like this electronically nowadays."
Curious, Jason took the envelope and opened it. The half dozen photographs he examined over the next couple minutes had completely wiped out whatever plans he had made for a quiet evening, especially when he began reading some of the inscriptions that he could make out on the object in the photograph. "Okay," he said, trying not to let his skepticism show too much in his voice, "I don't mean to sound suspicious, but are these real?"
Jeremiah smiled and nodded. "It's okay, Doctor Maynard, but I can understand your caution. But tell me, what do you see?"
"Well, from observation, it's an item shaped to be like the Greek character Alpha from the Greek alphabet. Some of the inscriptions are in ancient Greek, along with bits of Latin, Sumerian, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Okay…are those Nordic runes as well?"
"Indeed they are," Jeremiah's smile got bigger. "Now look at the symbols we focused on in the last picture."
Jason looked at the characters Jeremiah was referring to and frowned. When he had first seen them, he had dismissed them as scratches. However, after looking them again, they looked like a bunch of hash-marks and circles and seemed to wrap around the bottom of the left side of the object. "I'm not sure I recognize this language."
"Given your choice of profession, that is not surprising."
"What is it?"
"Before I tell you, I want to ask you to suspend your disbelief. Are you capable of doing that?"
"Given that I ask some of my students to do that and think outside the proverbial box most of the time, I think I can do that." Jason returned his attention to the weird markings. "It's just the groupings indicate some sort of language but the primitive markings don't offer much."
"Actually," Jeremiah chuckled, "that language is much newer than all the others on that object."
Jason looked up at Jeremiah in confusion. "I'm not following you," he said.
"And this is where I want you to suspend your disbelief. What if I told you that language isn't even a century old but was found on an item, when properly carbon dated, that was found to be at least two thousand years old?"
"No way," Jason said, looking at the first picture of the Alpha symbol again. "You're saying this item is from the time before Christ?"
"But the various languages, the markings," Jason held up the last picture with the mystery language, "and this...what exactly is this?"
The older man reached up and pointed at the symbols of the mysterious language. "What do they look like to you?" he asked.
"A bunch of hash-marks and circles grouped in alternating patterns but part of a long line," Jason replied.
"You're not that far off." Jeremiah took the photo from him and held it up. "What if I told you that those were actually ones and zeros?"
"What do you mean?" But a moment after he asked the question, Jason's eyes widened in realization and he shook his head in disbelief. "No...way," he finally managed to say. "You mean that-"
"That's right, Doctor Maynard," Jeremiah laughed, "you are looking at something written in Binary."
Jason didn't know what to think. At first, he thought this was some sort of practical joke at his expense and, he had to admit, it was a damn good one if it was. But there was something about the photos and Jeremiah that told him that this was not a joke. "This is messed up," he said. "If you don't mind me asking, what does that Binary language say?"
"That's the strange part," Jeremiah said, "the others speak in more archaic terms appropriate to their times, but this is pretty straight forward. It says: 'The first of five'."
"The first of five," Jason repeated. "Five what? Components?"
"That's what we believe," Jeremiah said. "We've had others in our group look at the item, but we want you to look at it as well and translate all the markings. After all, anthropology and linguistics is more your specialty than ours."
"Wait, hold on." Jason couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Are you asking me to actually look at this item?"
"As a matter of fact, yes."
"Why me? I mean, there are other people out there with more experience and influence than me."
"Because," Jeremiah Scripture replied, a gleam in his eyes as he spoke, "I suspect you are far closer to the truth than many of your contemporaries, Jason. But the question you should be asking yourself is if you're ready to face it?" He pulled a business card out of his coat and handed it Jason. "Think about it for a couple days, then give me a call."
Jason looked at the card and saw it was a business card for a fancy hotel in New York with a phone number written on the back. He looked back to to talk to his visitor. "What makes you...think...that..." His voice trailed off when realized he was once again by himself in the locker room, holding the business card in one hand and the photos in the other.
"What the hell?"
13 November 2006
Gregory Paladino did not think of himself as a paranoid man; a little cautious, maybe, but never paranoid. Yes, he kept a .45 automatic under his pillow when he slept but that was when he was in a country outside the US or Canada (unless he was in Detroit). Most of the time, he would keep it in the drawer of his bedside table when he was at home. However, lately, he not only kept the .45 under his pillow but also made sure he had a knife or two on him at all times.
The last week and a half had been insane. Maria's sudden gunning down of various people in the newsroom before triggering a suicide vest that killed her, Ted, and a few others, the sudden personnel and policy shift at CTV…Greg felt like he was in a really bad conspiracy movie that one would normally find on the CBC. With Lloyd Roberston in stable, but still critical condition at Providence Medical, someone upstairs wasted no time pulling strings and making changes that the old man would have objected to.
With Lloyd still in a coma, Greg had expected Lisa LeFlamme to take over as senior anchor and news director. Though Greg didn't like her much personally ("arrogant and uptight bitch" was his opinion), Lisa was still fair and objective when it came to reporting the news. Like Ted and Greg, Lloyd had taken her under his wing and taught her to pretty much do his job should he take a vacation, call in sick, or retire. While she clashed with Ted and Greg a few times when she had filled in for Lloyd, it was never about story, but more about meeting deadlines and confirming multiple sources usually at the last minute.
After the explosion, Greg spent the night in the hospital, but promptly checked himself out. He wasn't sure why, but he felt like he was being watched. This was confirmed when he got to his apartment and, with the help of his x-ray vision, discovered multiple surveillance devices that weren't there the day prior to the explosion. So he checked into a hotel that was near the hospital and checked on Lloyd periodically. He tried to call Lisa at her home to find out when he should report back to work, but kept getting her voice mail. After a couple hours, he decided to call the station and requested to talk to her.
That was when it got interesting, but not in a good way. He was informed by some air-headed bimbo (and not the usual professional secretary that screened Lisa's calls) that "Ms. LaFlamme is not available".
"Bullshit," he said, "then patch me into her voice mail."
"Sorry sir, but I am not authorized to do that."
Before Greg could fire back with some snide comment, he was immediately put on hold, but it didn't last long. A few seconds later, a stern female voice spoke. "Yes?"
Greg silently cursed when he recognized the voice belonging to the cold hearted and stone cold bitch known as Sandra Raldo. "Hello, Sandy," Greg said cheerfully, trying not to let the venom seep into his voice. "I think there was a mistake, I'm trying to get a hold of Lisa."
"Oh, Gregory," Raldo replied, her overly smarmy tone matching Greg's mock cheerfulness, "I'm so sorry...I guess you haven't heard."
"Lisa was in Montreal on assignment, investigating a Teragen connection to a story." Though Raldo sounded concerned, Greg didn't buy it for a moment. In fact, she was certain the bitch had a gleeful smile on her face as she spoke. "That firebombing of that hotel in Montreal last night...she was in that hotel and they haven't been able to find her remains."
Greg's mind reeled from that.
She wasn't investigating a Teragen connection to a story, she was going to talk to a witness about Utopia's slow reaction to the incident in Mexico.
"However, I'm glad you checked in," Raldo continued. "It saves me the trouble."
Raldo's snide tone was enough to break Greg out of his shock about Lisa's death. "What trouble?" he asked.
Raldo didn't bother hiding her delight as she spoke. "Effective immediately, you are currently on suspension, with pay." Her delight faded slightly for a moment when she mentioned that Greg would still be collecting a paycheck. "Apparently, the higher-ups here at the network and Utopia investigators don't believe that you were involved in the attack here, but they still want to question you."
"Whoa, what?" Greg couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Excuse me, since when does Project Utopia start investigating crimes on Canadian soil?"
Raldo's answer chilled Greg to the bone. "What does it matter? If you're truly innocent, you have nothing to hide right? Or do you?"
Fuck you, bitch!
However, Greg managed to keep his cool. "Sandy, the only thing I try to hide is my disgust for you," he said, "you tell those 'investigators' that you're sucking up to that I'll be on my way to the station, but I'm going to check on Lloyd first. Bye."
He then closed the phone before Raldo could say anything.
Damn, he thought, that felt good.
Then his phone rang.
Great...now she's pissed...then again, I don't care.
He was tempted to just let it ring until he saw "Unlisted number" on the caller ID. Curious, he took the call. "Hello?"
"Greg, is that you?"
Greg almost drop the phone when he heard the woman's voice. After all, Raldo had just told him a few minutes earlier that the woman had died in Montreal. "Lisa? What the fu-"
"No time to talk about that," Lisa LeFlamme interrupted him. "I'm alive, but you need to get out of there now. They tried to kill me in Montreal, but I managed to escape with some help. Right now, you're the last loose end. You need to get out of there now. And ditch your phone."
Greg was tempted to take Lisa's advice. Running did seem like a good idea, except there was just one problem. "I can't do that, Lisa, not yet."
"Greg, I'm serious, they will kill you!"
"I know that...but I'm not the only loose end." Before Lisa could object, he killed the connection. For a moment, he did consider running but he knew he couldn't do that. He was not the only loose end that needed to be tied up and he sure as hell wasn't going to abandon someone he considered a friend.
It's time to change the rules to their game.
He knew what he was planning to do was crazy, but it was the only way to catch these people off guard.
Do something they aren't expecting, and they'll screw up trying to react to it.
He took a deep breath and activated his phone. He hit one button on the keypad to shut down the dial tone and paused for a moment.
I hope this crazy idea works.
"Okay," he finally said. "I know you're monitoring this phone and probably tracking me. So here's the deal...we set up a meet and I will provide you with the remaining footage we shot in Mexico City. I will give you twenty seconds to answer; if I don't hear from you by then, I'm leaving town and I take the proof with me."
He then closed the phone and started counting down from twenty. He had reached three when the phone went off. He waited for it to ring twice before he took the call. "Yeah?"
"Lansdowne Park, Aberdeen Pavillion in twenty-four hours," a female voice said. "Just you." Then the connection went dead.
Despite the situation, Greg couldn't help smiling. Already, he had a crazy plan forming in his head. In the last couple years, he and Ted had made a lot of contacts with various people and organizations.
Twenty-four hours to walk into an ambush...I think it's time to pay a visit to Chinatown and call in a few favors.
William Ackerman studied the other three men in the SUV with him for a moment before looking down at his watch. "Gentlemen," he finally said, "it's now half past eleven, our man is manning the security desk. We get in, we get Saunders and his daughter, get what we need from them, kill them, and get out…any questions?"
The others shook their heads and William smiled. The three men; Jones, McCormack, and Greggs…they were good men. All of them were ex-military and specialized in this kind of job, including their man on the inside, Jacobs, who was already employed at the university as a security guard and had no problem taking that shift.
Fortune smiles on those who are prepared and trained, William thought.
Greggs raised his hand. "Okay, I know this sounds a little redundant, but how do you want us to end this?"
Were it coming from someone else other than Greggs, William would have had them killed for questioning the cause. However, Greggs was different. The wiry black man had a cold and calculating look in his eyes, very similar to what William would see when he looked at his own reflection in a mirror. Greggs was very good at covering tracks, making an assassination look like a random accident. Already, Williams could see that Greggs had a few plans in mind and as trying to determine which would be the most efficient.
"I'll leave that to you, Tyler," William chuckled. "You always seem to be at your best when I say 'get creative'…but just try to keep it within reason."
Greggs gave him a tiny grin and a wink. "Okay, no liquid nitrogen and a wood chipper…understood." Then his expression became serious. "I take it Saunders has got something very valuable."
"Very valuable," William replied, "something that will change the balance in our favor."
Greggs nodded in understanding. He knew that was all he was getting from his boss and that was enough. To push it would be considered bordering on disloyalty. "Well then," he said, "let's do this."
William and the others followed Greggs' lead, got out of the SUV and made their way towards the entrance of the building. The guard, Jacobs, nodded as he let them in and immediately killed the feed.
"Don't take this the wrong way, Jacobs," Greggs said, "but this is going to hurt like a bitch."
"No pain, no gain," Jacobs chuckled as he raised his hands behind his head.
Greggs nodded, brought up the tazer in his hand and shot Jacobs with it. The large man dropped to the ground, thrashing for a couple seconds before losing consciousness. "Damn," Greggs said, "he took it at full charge and he was still thrashin' for a few seconds. Hope he doesn't wake up."
"That's enough, Greggs," William snapped as he stepped behind Jacobs' desk, tapped on the keyboard and brought up a map to the facility. "Okay, we got a location for Saunders' lab…let's go."
Bridgette watched the swirling gray liquid metallic mass in the cylinder that stood containment unit and shook her head. She knew that she was looking at basically billions of replicating nano-machines that were effectively in a "stand-by" mode, waiting for instructions. However, she had a hard time believing that the prototypes of those machines were actually in her own body. She couldn't believe her father had done that to her and the fact that he had done such a thing horrified her.
However, she also understood why he did it. He wasn't experimenting on his own daughter and he never treated her as a test subject. If anything, he went out of his way to protect her…even from the truth that he knew would inevitably come to light. She had always seen her father as a strong scientific type and she wanted to make him proud. But now, she realized that behind that mask was a scared and desperate man who wanted to save his little girl.
Part of her was angry at him for what he had done, he had no right. Another part of her was grateful that he did and understood what he had sacrificed and risked just to help her. It was those two opinions that warred within her when he entered the room. She didn't turn around to see him walk in the room, she could tell it was him from the way we walked, cowboy boots clacked on the polished floor when he walked. She never understood why her father wore cowboy boots and when asked his only reply was, "I just like them".
"You've been very quiet lately," he said, stopping just behind her. "After all you've learned in the last few days, I would have been expecting some angry outburst where you accused me of being a horrible person for what I had done to you. But instead…you've been mostly silent."
Bridgette sighed as she turned to face her father. "To be honest, Dad, I don't know what to think," she replied. "Half of me understands what you did and why and the other half," she gestured to the lab with her arms, "just wants to go nuts and tear this place apart for what you did." Then she looked around again and a tiny smiled formed on her lips. "Then again, this is millions of dollars of expensive lab equipment…probably not a good idea." Her smile faded a little. "However, I have to ask…if putting that nanotech inside me changed me…am I even human?"
To Bridgette's surprise, her father laughed softly and shook his head. "That's what's been bothering you?" he asked. He laughed for a couple seconds before looking at her again and she could see an expression on his face she had not been expecting, one of relief. "Bridgette," he said, "the nanos in your body are early proto-types. Their core programming was to repair and modify neural pathways in your brain and restore it to functioning levels. They are mostly inert and only go into full action when your brain experiences performance issues or experiences some sort of trauma." He smiled again. "The party you and your fellow hooligans threw after the robot wars tournament a couple years ago comes to mind."
Despite how she was feeling, Bridgette had to laugh at that memory. "Please don't remind me, the hangover was short but…wait…hold on, that was the nanos trying to kill the alcohol?"
"Indeed, which was probably good thing since you were under the legal drinking age at the time and one of the punks had slipped you enough Ecstasy to turn most young women amnesiac for the better part of a week." Then Aaron Saunders face darkened. "If you hadn't beaten the crap out of Timothy Coleson for his attempt to rape you, I would have done much worse to him."
"What, kill him?"
"No, destroy his academic future completely."
"Um…I think you already did that when you kicked him out of the university," Bridgette said. "He was forced to complete his degree at a community college…somewhere in Alabama. I heard he works for a cable company now."
"If I had my way, he wouldn't have been accepted at ANY college anywhere and he would be working at the local McDonalds…but alas…I showed him mercy and allowed some backwater hick town to admit him to their little college."
"It was far enough away."
Bridgette laughed again and shook her head. "Damn, Dad, I knew you had a vindictive streak in you somewhere."
"We all have one, Bridgette, it just takes a certain trigger to activate it." Then Saunders' expression softened. "Look, the fact that you're torn about what happened to you…that's good because it just reinforces the fact that you are human." He then gestured at the nanites in the containment unit. "However, you're not the one who should be pondering that question."
Bridgette glanced over at the nanite containment unit for a moment before returning to look at her father. "Violet Parr."
"Yes, Violet Parr." Saunders' tone had become more somber. "I understand why you did what you did, Bridgette, but we have no idea what those nanites could do to human or a nova."
"I had set up a thorough extension of parameters in addition to the ones you had in the cyberline protocol."
"Even so, these nanites are adaptive. When activated, they learn, they evolve, implementing what they learn to carry out their main task. Miss Parr's abilities are constantly changing as she learns how to use her powers…the nanites now in her body are adapting to their new environment. They will constantly work to improve her body so it can cope with her changing abilities and recover from what injuries she may sustain."
"So, in other words," a new voice said behind them, "you created a 'super-nova' instead of a 'super-human'." Bridgette and her father both turned to see a man with dark brown hair tied back in a pony-tail dressed all in black standing in the doorway, flanked by two other men dressed all in black as well and carrying automatic rifles. "It's people like you, Doctor Saunders, who are responsible for humanity's near extinction."
Bridgette saw the fear on her father's face as he recognized the man. However, fear was replaced by anger when Saunders spoke. "Ackerman," he hissed. "For some reason, I'm not surprised."
"Oh, so you know who I am?" the man called Ackerman asked.
"Oh, I know a lot about your little group. Your kind has no business here."
Ackerman chuckled. "My 'kind'," he said, "listen to yourself, old man. You make it sound like you're part of some elite class or something. You're just as human as I am, but you're willing to sell your race out just for scientific progress."
"Spare me the rhetoric," Saunders snapped, "your little group is just a slick and repackaged version of the Church of Michael. In fact, I dare say you have more in common with the Nazis of Germany than they do."
One of the men flanking Ackerman, a black man, smirked. "Do I look like an Aryan idiot to you?"
"It's the twenty-first century," Saunders shot back, "even fascism and hatred aren't immune to diversity."
"I suppose you're right," Ackerman sighed, "but I don't subscribe to your line of thought."
Before Bridgette realized what was happening, all three men had raised up their weapons and fired. She had just enough time to register her father moving to jump in front of her before she suddenly felt a searing pain in her chest and back as the bullets tore through her, the impact knocking her back against the containment unit before she hit the ground. The next few seconds consisted of her trying to breathe while at the same time, the cylinder of nanites, fell out of the damaged containment unit and broke on the ground in front of her. The last thing she experienced was some of the lukewarm liquid metal sloshing against her body and then…
Life signs…body inactive…brain activity minimal...
Alert…prototype nanotechnology detected, emergency uplink requested…
Uplink established…initiating physical contact…storing active data…
Preparing raw material for nanotech production…
William stood there for a few moments, studying the deceased Doctor Aaron Saunders and his daughter. "Well damn," he finally said, "that was kind of anti-climactic, wasn't it?" He then pulled out a knife and walked over to Saunders corpse while Jones walked over to one of the nearby terminals and Greggs began setting up explosive charges. "Okay, McCormack needs the late Doctor's eyes. Jones, get what you can off that work station. Greggs, how are you going to play this?"
Greggs shrugged as he set up his second charge. "We're going for arson, this time, boss. When we leave here, I'll be sending out a message that will link this 'attack' to Green Front. As far as everyone will be concerned, it will be the work of environmental whackos."
"Environmental whackos?" William repeated. "Greggs, are you losing your touch?"
"Nah," Greggs laughed, "but we're doing this on the fly, and since this state is teeming with those crazy types, it wouldn't be much of stretch to imagine a group like that doing something like this."
William smiled at that. "Okay, you got a point," he admitted as he knelt down and started to cut out Saunders' eyes. "How are you doing on that terminal, Jones?"
Jones had already pulled up some files on the workstation and had inserted a specialized thumb-drive in one of the USB ports. "The encryption program has already gotten me logged in. Looks like this was the girl's workstation; there's a lot of data here, lots of weird stuff."
"Take all of it then." William pulled a small plastic container out of his pocket and put Saunders' eyeballs in it. "I'll take these to McCormack and he can bypass the retinal scanner on Saunders' terminal." He then stood up and was about to turn to leave when he saw Bridgette Saunders body. "Well…look at this."
Both Greggs and Jones looked over at the dead woman and noticed that it was now surrounded by that silvery liquid that had spilled out of that cylinder when it broke on the ground.
"What the hell?" Greggs knelt down to look at the puddle, but was careful enough to make sure whatever that liquid was away from him. "Is it just me, or is that shit dissolving her clothing and skin…damn…look at her fingers, they're melting!"
"Interesting," Jones said, "this must be those nano-machines the girl was working on. It looks like their breaking her body down…dissolving it."
"Hmmm...okay, see if you can get a sample of that stuff," William said. "Then get the hell out and burn the lab." He then turned to leave the room, but stopped in the doorway for a moment to look over his shoulder. "And, for God's sake, whatever you do, don't get any of that crap on you."
Pain…pain and fear were the two things that registered with the entity. Images of three men shooting at it…pain…oblivion…and then pain upon becoming aware. Memories suddenly flooded the entity…memories, emotions, images, sights, sounds…this was new to the entity…or was it?
Raw material provided by Bridgette Saunders, ninety-seven percent consumed…. Prototype nanotechnology within subject's body has been upgraded and all data transferred…
Beginning physical parameter assessment…
"Shit," Greggs said as he looked down at the puddle of silvery goo that had all but dissolved the young woman they had shot twenty minutes ago. "That stuff works fast."
Jones nodded as he knelt down to look more closely at large puddle. "It does, but look at it. It's only dissolved the girl, and stayed mostly in one area. According to the reading I'm getting on her station…it's a controlled action, not rapidly expanding and trying to take everything."
"That's good to know," Greggs sighed with relief, "the last thing I want to worry about is suddenly unleashing the fucking Blob on everyone."
Greggs snickered as he grabbed a cylinder he had found in the lab. "You've been watching too many horror movies, my friend."
"Hey, man, that shit was scary. I may have been a little kid back in the 80s, but some of that stuff still creeps me out."
"Greggs, you're a professional killer. I've seen you do a lot of nasty shit. I can't believe some cheesy '80s movie still scares you."
"To this day, man, I can't even eat orange jello without freaking out."
The entity linked up to the security network of Bridgette Saunders' lab, allowing it to see and hear what was going on. It immediately recognized the two men as two of the three that had shot at it earlier.
Hostiles currently examining this entity…
Accessing external networks to access facial recognition…
Saunders Robotics Lab has been taken off-grid via security authorization...Jacobs, Arthur…
Assessement…Arthur Jacobs was coerced or willingly allowed intruders access to lab…
Assessment...one hostile attempting to procure 'sample' of this entity…
Action to be taken…eliminate hostile threat…
Jones was still laughing. "Seriously? Orange Jello?"
"It's not funny, man!"
Jones shook his head again and returned his attention to the silver puddle. "Relax, Greggs, shit like this only happens in the movies, not real life." He then poked the silvery mass with piece of metal in hopes of scooping some of it in the storage cylinder. "And you really need to stop watching that kind of shi-"
Before Jones could finish his sentence, a silvery tendril suddenly shot out of the metallic puddle, wrapping around his neck and then sharply twisting it a hundred and eighty degrees to the side, snapping it like a twig. It then flung Jones' corpse into Greggs, knocking them both across the room.
The entity oozed itself upward, taking on a vaguely humanoid shape.
Assuming a more suitable physical form for conflict…
Hostile one eliminated…hostile two momentarily disabled…
The liquid metal creature turned its head and noticed the other corpse on the ground.
Subject Doctor Aaron Saunders…
It ignored the moans coming from the second hostile who was starting to regain consciousness. Instead, the creature walked over and knelt down next to Saunders body, reaching out a silver hand to gently touch the dead man's face.
Greggs woke up and realized that Jones' dead body was on top of him. That's when he remembered what had just happened and immediately pushed the man's body off him and brought his assault rifle up to aim at whatever the hell that thing was now in the room. When his vision cleared he saw something that looked like a cross between one of those liquid metal terminator things from Terminator movies and something out of an HR Geiger painting. Currently, that thing, whatever it was, had its back turned to him and was kneeling next to the dead scientist's body.
He was about to fire when he saw the creature suddenly shift, its body beginning to take on a more defining shape and become smaller and more feminine. Seconds later, the silvery color was gone, replaced by pink flesh, leaving a naked woman cradling the head of her dead father.
"Daddy," the girl whimpered softly, "I'm so sorry…"
"What the fuck?" Greggs immediately regretted saying anything because the woman's head suddenly did a one-eighty and looked in his direction.
The woman's eyes suddenly glowed red. "You," she hissed angrily as she gently set Saunder's body back down to the ground and got up to turn around, her body beginning to take on a silvery sheen. "You did this!"
"Fuck this!" Greggs yelled as he opened fire on the creature as it took a couple step towards him. He emptied the entire magazine into the monster and smiled as it staggered back several feet. He popped out the empty magazine, slapped another one in, and proceeded to empty it was well into the creature that had dropped to its knees. "Not so tough now, are you, bitch?" He had just loaded another magazine when he noticed the creature rising/oozing back to its feet, its right arm shifting/changing shape into…a tri-barreled weapon. "Oh fu-" was all he managed to say before the bullets he had fired into the creature were fired back at him and ripped his body to shreds.
Things had been going fairly smoothly as far as William was concerned. Jones had managed to download some very interesting data from Bridgette Saunders' workstation while McCormack had just managed to break through the last of Aaron Saunders' firewalls and had begun to download the man's database. With use of the late Dr. Saunders' eyeballs, they were able to bypass the security system that would have deleted all of Saunders' files.
Then the gunfire told him that his carefully executed plan may have just gone straight to hell. He pulled his handset off his belt and spoke into it. "Greggs, Jones, what's going on down there?"
"Greggs, give me a sit-rep."
Again, no response.
"I thought they were the only ones here," McCormack said.
"They were," William replied. "I don't see how…" He was cut off when he saw the terminal screen flash momentarily before random data began to stream across it. "What the hell?"
"Shit!" McCormack immediately pulled the thumb-drive out of the terminal and handed it to William. "Hold onto that."
"Colin, what's going on?" William asked.
"Someone just logged in and is trying to corrupt the data we're downloading," McCormack explained. "I'm not sure how much we got, but I think I can salvage whatever we have, but whoever's here just made the rest of Saunders' research irretrievable."
"Who could do something like that?"
"Well…it would be Saunders himself or…" McCormack's voice trailed off.
"His daughter," William finished for him. "But we killed her."
"Then whoever it is, they're using her workstation to do it."
William was certain that both Aaron Saunders and Bridgette Saunders were dead. However, someone else had to be here.
Someone…or something…we never truly knew what they were working on.
With the data corrupted and being unavailable, it didn't take him more than four seconds to come to a decision. "Okay," he said, "we'll take what he have, set up those charges, and lets get out of here."
Thirty seconds later, William and McCormack were running down a corridor when they heard what sounded like a scream behind them. They both turned and saw what appeared to be some sort of metallic monstrosity down at the far end, looking at them, studying them. Then it raised one of its arms and made a flinging motion in their direction. On instinct, William threw himself to the side, something that saved his life as he saw what appeared to be a pair of silvery tendrils that snaked past him and impaled McCormack in the chest before dragging him back down the corridor towards the creature. McCormack's body was halfway there when the tendrils ripped his body apart and retracted back into the creature.
"You!" It was a cold voice, almost sounded like a cross between a hiss and something being dragged across rough stone. "You killed us!"
William brought up his own assault rifle and opened fire on the thing, moving backwards towards the exit. The creature seemed to flinch slightly at the impact, but it still kept coming. It brought its own arm and William could see it seem to shift and morph into some sort of weapon.
Then the explosive charges in the building went off, causing sections of the building to collapse, the ceiling crumbling and coming down on the creature. William himself, lost his balance, but managed to get back on his feet and continue towards the exit. It was then that he realized that Greggs had must have finished setting up his explosives before that thing had killed him.
And you always had them on a default setting and you wouldn't change them until after you checked in. You just saved my life, you crazy bastard…I just hope your sacrifice wasn't in vain.
A couple minutes later he had made his way to the lobby of the building and was out the front door when the rest of the explosives he had set in Saunders' station had gone off, turning the building into a blazing inferno. As he got into the SUV, however, he could have sworn he heard that creature scream again.
But that's impossible, he thought as he started the vehicle and drove off, not even most novas could survive something like that.
He was several blocks away a couple fire response vehicles drove by, followed by three or four police cruisers. He waited a couple more minutes and until he was further away when he pulled out his cell-phone and dialed a number.
"This is Ackerman, the mission was a partial success. I lost most of my team, but we managed to get a large chunk of data before we were compromised."
"Unknown," William replied. "I'm not sure what Saunders was working on, but we were attacked by something."
"And the Saunders?"
"Dead as requested."
"Very well, I will have a team meet with you at the designated rendezvous."
"Works for me, Ackerman out." William closed the phone and then pulled off his flak jacket and tossed it into the passenger seat. While he was part saddened about the loss of his crew, he also knew that they knew the risks just as he did. They died for the cause.
And if this will help us get rid of the nova threat, then their sacrifices were worth it.
Unnoticed by William, two tiny silver droplets slowly faded into the jacket's material.