Friday, April 26, 2013

The Vault Incident-04

Robert held his face stoic, but he knew that things had suddenly become far more dangerous. The legends of the Old World talked of many mighty monsters, supernatural slingers of sorcery and users of unnatural utilities long ago lost to myth and time. Since the Old World’s destruction, and then the Wars of the Damned, many of them returned and made the truth of their existence known too well. Robert knew this, as did all Engineers, and he knew that he—like many before him—were now facing a threat whose true capabilities were likely beyond what the legends reported. So, Robert responded as best he could.

“Really?” Robert said, “You’re late. The end of the world, and your revenge upon all and sundry, came and went centuries ago!”

The demon looked puzzled. “What nonsense is this?”

“You missed your opportunity for revenge.” Robert said, “A few centuries ago, the entire globe burned to ash in a world-wide wave of azure flames. You overslept your own appointment for the cataclysm! Have you somehow failed to take notice of all the ruins, the stark lack of population, the twin evidences of both a civilization whose wonders approached those of the very god you despise as well as the obvious utter extermination of said civilization? You must have, because you somehow think that it’s still at all relevant to the world as it is now.”

The demon stared at Robert, disbelieving.

“Go on,” Robert said, “you know I’m not lying. Suck it up, you overgrown undead godspawn. You messed it all up, and now you’re stuck in a world where you don’t belong at all anymore. This is our world now, free and clear. You and your kind have no claim to it any longer.”

The Nephalim roared, voicing its frustration.

“Impudence!” it said, “How dare you claim sovereignty over what is rightfully mine?!”

“Hardly.” Robert said, “What makes you think that you own where you are now? This place is entirely the creation of Man, exercising powers granted lawfully to us. You have no place here, so you shall be either expelled once we are prepared to do so.”

“FOOL!” the Nephalim said, “I can breach the barriers into this place whenever I choose! The power of my blood ties me to the secrets of all things, and so I can—and will—defeat all of your pathetic portal-protections at every turn.”

“Indeed.” Robert said, “I thought as much.”

Robert turned to Alex. “Remove this intruder.”

The Nephalim laughed, and then it took a closer look at Alex. It stopped laughing. Alex energized her chakram and moved on the Nephalim. It attempted to swat her, and she dodged it with ease. As Alex rushed it, Robert drew forth a rod from a sheath in a booth and activated a rifle from it; Robert fired upon the monster as Alex moved into position, and when at the right place she threw her chakram and slew the Nephalim.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Vault Incident-03

Alan 1 brought up the video of the quarantine cell holding the prisoner. Robert stood there, stunned, as he beheld the image before him: a demon, a classic bat-winged giant-sized humanoid figure straight out of Old World mythology, with a hideous visage and a palpable sense of power emanating off of it.

“The entity is in our largest cell, formerly used for virulent hive-mind infectors prior to the most recent cycle of sanitization.” Alan 1 said, “You two and myself are the only authorized individuals here; not even the security constructs are allowed. This entity’s capacities are unknown, and I advised the Council that its capture seemed too easy.”

“I concurred.” Alex said, “I examined the records after the fact, and even that process seemed far more dangerous than ordinarily the case. I requested sealing them for the time being, and the Council agreed.”

“Do you claim that this entity is so dangerous that even knowledge of it, below a given threshold, is actively dangerous to the integrity of the system’s constructs and operations?” Robert said.

“Correct.” Alan and Alex said, in a creepy unison voice.

“Then I must interrogate immediately. I know where the cell is, so all I need is for everyone not vital to operations in that sector to be cleared out immediately.”

“Acknowledged.” Alan 1 said.

* * * * *

Robert and Alex transferred directly to the cellblock containing the prisoner.

“That’s your plan?” Alex said.

“The plan is deliberately kept simple.” Robert said, “It will not survive contact with the enemy, so it is not wise to spend more than a minimal amount of time or resources on it. Instead, it is wise to put down a large and diverse reserve and be prepared to improvise contingencies as needed. Problems are dynamic environments, and as conditions shift so do the best actions to deal with them, so that is why Engineers spend time mastering the skills necessary to do so effectively and efficiently. Once the matter is resolved, and the situation stabilized, that is the time to introduce conventional approaches.”
Robert and Alex arrived at the cell.

“Let me do the talking.” Robert said, “I need you to be the credible threat of immediate violence, and that’s best done when the threat is a silent one.”

“Acknowledged.” Alex said, “I concur with your general assessment.”

The door opened, and the demon’s aura of power washed over them immediately.

“Come in.” it said, “It’s lonely in here, and the master of the house isn’t a talkative one.”

Robert and Alex stepped inside. Alex put her chakram in hand and stood by the door while Robert approached, and saw that this demon was indeed a massive giant of a thing. Its wings had been shredded into useless appendages, and the ram-like horns about its skull likewise had been damaged into useless protrusions, but he felt its malice fill the room- this demon was by no means helpless.

“Identify.” Robert said.

“Nephalim, usurper.”

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Vault Incident-02

“Approaching drop zone. Prepare for drop.”

Alex handed Robert a drop pack, and both of them quickly put it on.

“Robert Prime, ready to drop.” Robert said, and he moved into the rear compartment.

“Alex Prime, ready to drop.” Alex said, and she moved to join Robert.

Both of them grabbed handholds in the jet’s frame. The aide, seeing the Vault coming up, circled around and rolled over half a turn. With the frame now upside-down, the opened the rear hatch.

“Drop zone below. You are cleared for drop.”

“Acknowledged.” Alex said, and she threw herself out.

“Acknowledged.” Robert said, and he followed.

As the lightjet closed up and headed back to the Inner City, Robert and Alex engaged the packs’ wings, which winked into existence as gleaming gossamer wings out of the packs. Robert took the time while in transit to scan the scene below—literal and otherwise—and it did not seem like a worst-case scenario, yet. No breakouts, no breeches, and certainly no security forces struggling to put down such. Yet there Alan 1 stood, next to a foursome of more common security constructs, on the landing pad. As he and Alex glided in and touched down, Robert wondered just how bad things are- and worried that this was actually worse than it seemed.

“Identify.” Alan 1 said, with his infamous chakrams in hand.

“Alex Prime, Independent Security Monitor, Council Liaison.”

“Robert Prime, Engineer.”

The old security construct looked them over and them put its weapons away.

“Acknowledged, Alex and Robert Prime. Follow me.”

Robert didn’t try to engage the old construct. Alan 1’s reputation for being tightly-focused on the job, such that it did not tolerate idleness, well preceded it and Robert felt no desire to test if those reports were accurate. Alex made no such moves either, though Robert could not tell if it was due to a general lack of concern or if it was due to a specific protocol forbidding it.

As Robert followed his host, he now made a more specific inspection of the situation. Nothing at all was out of place; there were no signs of a breach, or of any damage, or anything at all out of the ordinary- and that got Robert very worried indeed. Once the three of them arrived at the Vault’s central command chamber, leaving them alone—the common constructs lacked the clearance to be there—he turned to Alan 1: “Alan 1, request situation update.”

“An unknown entity penetrated the outer barrier and entered the realm. It immediately engaged security and got overwhelmed, whereupon it went into quarantine here. The breach is sealed and all involved rectified.”

“The Council is concerned that the entity possesses dangerous qualities that our existing measures are unable to address.” Alex said.

“That explains why I am here. You need a man.”

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Vault Incident-01

Robert answered a summons to the Inner City. No sooner had he passed through the portal and emerged on the grid than an aide appeared beside him.

“Robert Prime!” it said, “You are cleared for expedited transfer. Follow me, sir.”

Robert sighed. Whatever it was, it bothered the Council enough to clear the way for him to get to it—or them—without delay, and he knew better than to think it better to see the Council first. He did as asked, followed the aide out of the portal security chamber, and saw that the aide led him to a waiting lightjet- and inside sat another individual, definitely female in appearance.

“Aide.” Robert said, “Identify the other passenger.”

Without pause, the aide answered: “The passenger’s designation is ‘Alex’, and is classified as a feminine identity of unknown origin. She is attached to the Council—capacity unknown—and shares your security clearance.”

The aide took the pilot’s seat, and Robert sat in the adjacent seat, with Alex in the gunner seat behind them. Robert saw that Alex was much like female personae were in the Inner City: fit of figure, appealing in seaming, and apparently confident in posture. That didn’t mean much.

“Engineer Robert Prime,” Alex said, “I assume that the aide told you who I am.”

“Just your name and affiliation,” Robert said, “so I would like to know why the Council recalled me from another task that they claimed was of vital importance.”

Alex nodded to the aide, and the aide lifted the lightjet off the ground. As they ascended, Alex continued: “Something unusual occurred at the Vault within the last hour, and your expertise is required to resolve the issue.”

Robert rolled his eyes. “Be specific.”

“Not until we arrive. The aide is not cleared for access to that data.”

Robert did not like that answer. First, it implied that Alex was a construct and not a man. Second, it implied that the information is sufficiently corrosive that most constructs will become corrupt if exposed to it. Third, the Vault is the top-level quarantine facility for the Inner City where entities of all sorts that the Council deems too dangerous to permit within the Inner City itself, yet somehow gains access to the Inner City’s realm, end up once captured and confined. This made the job a potential or actual containment breech, and even Engineers are considered expendable in such scenarios so far as the Council is concerned.

“When do we land?” Robert said, turning to the aide.

“Ingress is by air drop over the landing platform. We will arrive at the drop zone in 10 minutes.”

That is how Robert deduced that this was a very bad containment issue. If the Council won’t even permit a landing, and thus risk the aide’s corruption, then it had to be very bad indeed. It also put to Robert that Alex was one of the top-tier security monitors, the ones that the Council does not talk about.

“Who’s meeting us?” Robert said.

Alex answered, “Alan 1”.

Robert’s blood turned cold. The Council’s prime enforcer itself was in charge. This was bad.