October 2, 2010
4Sworn, Session Eight
Deconstructing the Nightmare
“So when Psion reached out psychically, I think the Algolians sucked you into their little virtual puppet show almost immediately, but the Mystical Ring of Xian kept me from being drawn in as well,” explained Perdition as the conference room table and walls displayed in numerous panels the collected video and data streams from the PsiPlane’s excursion. “Unfortunately, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. Apparently you were experiencing time a lot faster than I was.”
“As in dreams, the speed of thought physically unencumbered is naturally more rapid,” noted Psion.
“I think they intentionally were running the clock out to convince us to deactivate the bomb, or at least mentally show them how to deactivate it,” argued Starfire
“Possible,” acknowledged Psion.
“With all of us who could operate in space under their control, the threat of the bomb was the only thing keeping them from just going ahead and… having their way with us.” Starfire cringed at his own words.
“But when I started to get up to try to shake Psion, or get anybody to acknowledge me, they apparently put the idea in your heads that I was having a heart attack, and started the whole reenactment of ‘John Carpenter’s The Thing’ you described,” continued Perdition.
“Which they probably pulled out of our own heads – particularly mine,” added Starfire, “since that scene does tend to bubble up in my memory whenever I think of CPR.”
“All of which means they pose whole different dimensions of threat from what we’d previously considered,” interjected Mindy, who had previously seemed oblivious to the conversation, and merely engrossed in analyzing the technical data on the various finds from Delta Pavonis III.
“It’s going to be a real problem if they can just get into our heads and make us see whatever they want,” noted Shockwave. “I’ve been kind of paranoid ever since we got back about whether we actually got back. Do we know of any possible way to block telepathic contact?”
Psion cleared his throat, preparing to counsel against expending research effort on digressions from the major threat at hand, but was beaten to the punch by Mindy:
“Gold can act as a screen. AGAPE did some research on it back in the mid-‘90s?” She looked around expectantly, as if the group should obviously be familiar with such things. “It’s psychically reflective? Possibly the reason humans have a natural affinity for it… the psychic equivalent of looking in a mirror as you pass?” Still only blank looks.
“Anyway, I can probably embellish that effect with a coil to amplify your own scrambled psi-wave emanations to act as a jamming signal -- kind of the equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and yelling “La La La!” to keep from hearing what someone’s saying. You’d be the exact opposite of psi-stealthy, but you’d be hard to read or control telepathically.”
“Excellent!” agreed all but one at the table.
The Late White Rabbit
Horton Brock, Director of Security of the Federal “Hypermax” prison facility on Rikers Island, led Perdition, Shockwave, and Zap through the massive blast doors to the receiving dock where the attack had begun. “We’ve left as much of the debris as possible in place until it can be thoroughly inspected by the forensic guys… and yourselves, of course. Including this truck here.” The delivery vehicle appeared unremarkable, but was assumed to have been the attacker’s means of entry.
“I think I’d be more useful scanning the video,” commented Zap, and with Brock’s approval shot off to the facility’s command center.
“The intruder’s only goal seems to have been to break out one Erik Wolf, better known to you as the supervillain “Stormfront”, continued Brock as he led the group down a corridor to the main elevator bank. “After driving off the duty guards, he or she entered Shaft ‘A’ and descended to the first sub-level – that’s our lowest security level, occupied mostly by convicts whose superpowers were based on devices or who can otherwise be easily deprived of them, and who therefore have no special confinement needs on their own.”
Shockwave regarded the vault-like doors, windowless walls, and low ceilings of the place with some apprehension – Many of those confined here had yet to be tried or convicted, and might make only video appearances at such proceedings in any event. While the powers of some supervillains justified extreme security measures, others, like Wolf, were no more threatening than any other felon once you took their super phallic-devices away from them. The classification of some criminals as “super” was pretty subjective – rationalized by their “unknown capabilities” or the possibility that superpowered colleagues on the outside might attempt a breakout. The latter was apparently the case here, but Shockwave wondered how easily the spirit of post-5/25 paranoia might lead to pretty much anyone finding themselves entombed in this place… Particularly anyone with paranormal abilities.
The intruder apparently tore through the bottom of the elevator car, forced the doors on the sub-level, and ripped open Wolf’s cell door, leading Wolf halfway back to the elevators before a pursuing security robot fired a 5.56mm minigun at them. His would-be rescuer supposedly kept Wolf from being hit more than a few times, but it was clear from the size of the bloodstain around the tape outline on the corridor floor that they were more than enough.
The intruder had lingered to exact vengeance. The wreckage of the ‘bot attested to that, but there was another blood-filled tape outline on the floor, this one a bit larger than a normal human and strewn in disrespectfully absurd fashion with tufts of white fur marking the site of White Rabbit’s demise. Perdition lingered there as Shockwave and Brock moved on to the cell. Perdition had never socialized much with any of the members of the American Patrol, and he had found White Rabbit in particular to be a bit “wifty” and difficult to read, and frustrating in his lack of strategic sense or discipline. But he was cheerful, and kids liked him, and it was always jarring to think about someone you’d fought alongside and realize that you wouldn’t be seeing them again.
Zap’s review of the security tape filled in some details – The intruder wore a bulky, armored gray suit of a style somewhere between high-tech and ornate gothic, with glowing green eyes. And during the initial attack on the guards, an electronically distorted voice announced that “You cannot hope to stop Desecrator!” Yet the video raised further questions – Desecrator suddenly appeared behind the truck at the receiving dock, and disappeared from the elevator shaft after Wolf’s death, giving no indication of how he might have arrived or departed from those locations. Was he invisible? Did he teleport?
In several clips, Desecrator appeared hazy – as if surrounded by some sort of wispy cloud. This was most notable in the footage of White Rabbit’s attack on him. The lapine avenger, enlarged to about 9’ tall at the time, bounded down the corridor to throw a running punch at the intruder, only to be deflected in a spray of blood at the last moment. In fact, the cloud surrounding Desecrator seemed to manifest in the last second before impact, and digital enhancement made it clear that the cloud was the source of the damage to White Rabbit. As Desecrator turned and pummeled the hero, continuing even after his opponent had stopped moving, the cloud effect remained in force and seemed to deal damage over a broader area than the blows of his armored fists alone.
“Nanites?” proposed Zap. Neither Shockwave nor Perdition had a more reasonable idea, and corrosion-like “pitting” damage found on the security ‘bot, cell door, and various other objects seemed to support the theory.
“You don’t suppose he might be able to use them on himself too?” proposed Perdition.
“I don’t really think…” Zap countered, wanting to reject the idea as too disturbing, but unable to form a good case for rejecting it. It would explain the villain’s appearance and disappearance without a trace, but it made their foe seem that much more creepily inhuman, and potentially capable of making all manner of other people or things disappear without a trace.
"When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it..."
Late at night, much of the Firehawk was quiet, but one of the quietest cabins was perhaps its most active, as Psion used his preferred psychic computer interfaces to follow up on the team’s brainstorming session earlier that day regarding the spacial anomaly. The proposal to “disguise the Earth as having been destroyed” had appealed to him, but in the end seemed to require more knowledge about what they were facing – its technology and motivations – than was at hand. His own ongoing research of the alien shipwreck off the South African coast, particularly its warp-based drive systems, had returned him again to the idea of somehow using the warp drive systems of the old Adventurer shuttle to somehow reverse, or even “tow away” the anomaly, but the power requirements to influence the mass apparently associated with the anomaly dwarfed what the Adventurer’s warp core could produce even if restored to full output.
Mindy had suggested that he might be overthinking the problem. While reversing the anomaly would require massive, sustained power, perhaps merely disrupting it would suffice. “Popping” the wormhole, so as to cause it to collapse or let out somewhere else, might require only massive, highly focused, momentary power, such as might be produced by a “warp bomb”. Mindy had apparently conceived of such a thing independently, long ago, but it was well beyond her available resources and had remained a multi-megaton thought experiment, with no reason to be implemented – until now.
One of the photon torpedoes that Psion had placed in solar orbit back in 1989 would be recovered, and mated with warp coils from the Adventurer shuttle. The blast from the torpedo would power a warp coil, focusing its blast into a second warp coil, and so on. The successive blasts, in the milliseconds before the assembly vaporized, would drill down into subspace to create a momentary wormhole. While that wormhole couldn’t be directed meaningfully, generating it over the anomaly would be likely to disrupt the anomaly. If the anomaly truly was a wormhole in the process of being created to bring an invading ship into the solar system, the “warp bomb” would have a good chance of collapsing it or sending it wildly off course.
Despite more than a little professional jealousy, Psion was, if anything, even more intrigued by the project than Mindy. On top of everything else, a “temporal seismic event” such as this would likely provide a wealth of data for future research projects. It was in the sincere spirit of science then, as well as a desire to keep himself at the center of a project of such scope and importance, that Psion threw himself into the design process. Mindy could handle the engineering of the actual device, but its importance to the Earth and its people, as the last best hope for averting an unprecedented assault that he was anything but confident that System 4ce could face, meant that Psion had to be sure it was conceptually sound.
And so, a week later, it was with both pride and anticipation that Psion watched as the device was rolled onto the deck of the Firehawk, and loaded on the Psiplane. Only the uncharacteristic expression of apprehension on Anastasia's face drew his attention from the device, and her words were far more disturbing...
“It was an alien doomsday weapon… The Great Mother, in her insanity, wanted to detonate it. It was some fantastically powerful antimatter bomb that focused its energy on a point in space. Had it been set off, it would supposedly have shattered the fabric of spacetime within a radius of hundreds of light years, instantly converting all matter in that volume to energy, which would then have radiated out to essentially sterilize the rest of the known galaxy.”
The group stood silently for a moment.
“I’m no physicist,” Anastasia continued, turning her attention to Psion, “but I’d like to have a better idea how this bomb is different from that one.”
The group stood silently for another moment, before Mindy responded with a smile.
“I don’t know anything about the weapon you’re talking about besides what you’ve just described, but I did take similar scenarios into account when I was designing this. Psion’s calculations independently confirm my own. I estimate the chances of an “unraveling” event similar to what you’re describing to be extremely remote.”
“Uh, how remote?” asked Starfire.
“Well, first off it requires you to buy into supersymmetric string theory, which I don’t, of course." She smirked at the very idea. "Worst case, if you accept the theory as it’s generally advanced… about 1:400.”
All eyes returned to Psion.
A few hours later, most of System 4ce sat in CBGB drinking heavily and trying not to glance at the clock. Psion and Starfire sat in the PsiPlane, gazing out at the starfield in the direction of the anomaly and the device they had deployed at its center.
“If the worst happens…” said Starfire, “Before we’re annihilated, rest assured, I will hit you.”
Psion released the final safety. The device would fire automatically when it confirmed its position precisely.
The blast, when it came, was quite beautiful, and all the more to Psion, observing it through an array of sensors as well as his own eyes. Around the star-like epicenter of the photon torpedo blast, space itself seemed to glow in rainbow patterns, shot through with ghostly lightning arcs like a planet-sized plasma sculpture.
But more beautiful still, as the radiance ebbed, were the sensor readings indicating no trace of the anomaly.
Alarm of bombings in London July 21st, 2005 Three trains and a bus. Detonators went off, but the flour-peroxide explosive did not detonate.
Shockwave's suit creates a unique buzzing and successfully disrupts her connection to the mental switchboard.
Starfire shadowed Psion discretely in disguise while Zap surveyed local security cameras.
The group seeks any Algolians that might have come to "feed" on the emotions generated by the disaster -- finds what appears to be a little boy with a concerned older couple looking for his parents. System 4ce takes responsibility for him, and finds him apprehensive, but non-hostile. Encounters others like himself occasionally, but is unaware of any organized presence. They feel no loyalty to Algol, would not benefit from an invasion, and see no good coming from "rocking the boat". He agrees to notify System 4ce if he hears of any trouble.
The Auteur returns --
Sitting in another sidewalk camera-blind spot. He taunts/tempts Psion regarding recent global events, and how the heroes, and Psion in particular, could intervene in them, but for their insistence on self-restraint.
Shockwave has had enough: "You know what's going to happen and yet you do nothing about it. You sit there in your stupid white suit, and your stupid accent, and yet you don't do anything."
The Auteur: "If only you could employ that enthusiasm..."
Shockwave: "Stand still for a second!"
The Auteur, still seeking to push the heroes' buttons, accuses Shockwave of allowing the group to lead her by the nose.
Shockwave: "First of all, they don't lead me by the nose unless there's good food to be found."
She asks The Auteur for some guidance regarding events, to inspire them to the action he's encouraging. He offers Psion & Shockwave a look through the viewfinder:
Shockwave sees --
- Desert flames and soldiers.
- A helicopter flying over the White House
- A prisoner, in a contemporary-looking jumpsuit, in a drab, aged, brick cell
Psion sees --
- A bug, he incidentally experiences an inspiration on the bug computer network.
- A man wearing a curly, powdered wig writing with a quill pen.
- A tall Asian man in robes with green gloves.
Object of Frame's Desire?
Returning to the Firehawk, Shockwave reviews the file she received from David Lynch. A piece of correspondence is referenced as being the last letter received from Arthur Frame, back in 1984, in which he said that he was trying to arrange a visit to Leipzig (in East Germany), where he believed he could locate a "Pandochal Lens". Subsequent research by Psion found only oblique reference to such a lens, in correspondence between Gottfried Leibniz and Benedict Spinoza in the early 1670s. The correspondence implies that the "lens" was merely a metaphor, but might Frame have determined that it was more than that?