Jump to content

Aberrant: Children of Quantum Fire - [Interlude] Burn no Bridges [FIN]

Adrian Moss

Recommended Posts


Vahana Inghihra sat at her desk going over the day's itinerary . First she had two screening appointments for Teen2morrow. This was the part of the job she both loved and dreaded. She loved it because handling bright young stars fresh to the Project was always exciting. Often she could look into their eyes and see such great potential. Sometimes her talks with these young novas would go on for hours.

Then came the bad side of the job. She had to assess the candidates dedication to the job as well as their quantum-given capacity to fill it. All the background work had already been handled by Human/Nova Resources. If they Red Flagged you, that was usually the end of the road for. You could appeal to the Director of Teen2M, but those rarely were given an audience. He was a very busy man. Instead, final appeals came to Zephyr, her direct superior and friend. Zephyr ran the program (under the Director's watchful eye) because who better to corral a bunch of super-powered teens than a veteran nova.

Today's candidates weren't final appeals, Goddess be praised. The first was a resubmission from that Brazilian boy turned down two years ago, Paulo Tanzano (nova identity undecided). He had applied when he was thirteen, weeks after his eruption. Zephyr and Paulo had talked at length about the boy's future and reasons for wanting to join Project Utopia. They had talked all afternoon. By the end of it, Zephyr had convinced Paulo to give it two years, to take time to grow into his power and into his new identity as a nova. The Director had been furious, as he was whenever Zephyr turned a nova away from not only the program, but Project Utopia as a whole, but Zephyr remained adamant. Today, Paulo was confirming the faith Zephyr had placed in him. Vahana wasn't surprised. Almost all of them did come back.

The second file was much thinner. All the preliminary paperwork had been done; backgrounds checked, references contacted. There just wasn't a lot to it. Vahana didn't like that. Still, this Kathryn Janeway looked normal enough. There was the eruption report, doctor's first assessment. There was no accident report - the eruption happened in a remote section of the Canadian North West. There was no Intervention team report. Prelim's showed no signs of taint related physical aberrations. Her two hour psych profile was ... bland - well developed sense of Right and Wrong, emotionally underdeveloped (aka teenager), no signs of an addictive personality, no signs of the normal battery of nova-induced Ego Stressors.

There was one notation that drew her attention. Intelligence - above par. Is either concealing it, or at this stage unaware of increased cognitive capacity. This didn't Red Flag her. It was very common in fact for Hyper-Intelligent novas to hide their smarts under a bushel. Everyone knowing you were the smartest person in the room was a sure road to loneliness. On the other extreme, there were those who used their Intellect like a Beat-Stick, forever showing off just how mentally superior they were. Vahana preferred the demure ones. They made better team players.

She tossed both reports up the ladder to Zephyr. He would be pleased to see that Paulo had returned. For as long as she had been in this position, he had always been this way. She knew the line he gave all new recruits, and he meant it deep down in his heart, "You come here as my Children. You leave here as my Brothers and Sisters." Maybe she could give him two more children today.

Vahana ceased her wool-gathering and straightened her desk. It was a medium sized glass affair, whose opacity could be changed with a simple touch to the material. Her Op-terminal was the latest Utopian, voice activated, body-tailored (to detect mood of speech patterns), and semi-translucent. The floor was a black basalt, the walls ten foot panes of glass that surrounded the room on two sides. The left wall, the one leading out into the waiting area, was a white composite, tougher than concrete and designed to change patterns and color as needed. The fourth wall, behind her, was also made of glass and led to Zephyr's office. He was out with morning training regimen, but would be back inside an hour.

She called in the first interviewee. then straightened the one personal item she allowed herself, a simple piece of black marble with an inscription in silver. It too was from Zephyr.

"When you believe in Yourself, anything is possible."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Starseed had done her homework, and this was a chance to get some real info. Zephyr was either someone who was totally duped into serving the Directive, or was he the real deal: someone in Utopia who actually cared. The problem was that even Mother, in her extensive search with her incredible deductive capacity, had only uncovered meaningless names, abandoned operational zones, mere scraps of evidence. What she had confirmed was that the organization, maybe called Proteus, often called the Directive, was tied into the intelligence network and governments of the entire western world. It was of a kind like Project Utopia ... a secret Project Utopia according to Mother. Even Mother, though, had calculated that her models were not supported by enough data - they were guesswork. Then, after Mother got pulled in with the Teragen, Star couldn't count on what she said. Star just didn't trust that her Mother was still in her right mind ...

So, she would be a secret agent once again. This time she would not be playing at it, she could not be playing at it. With a conservative use of her liminal form she had shifted her body into a form with normal joints and proportion - and also with an appearance taken from a old teen girls magazine. A name she would remember, a name that would evoke emotion ... Kathryn Janeway. Worst. Captain. Ever. On. Trek. No, Voyager wasn't even worthy of being called Trek ... and she wasn't even a huge Trek fan. Well, maybe the old series. Anyway, she could summon up some genuine mixed emotion by thinking of the word, and mixed emotion was what many teen novas had. Nerd rage. Yes, Janeway would do nicely, and she'd never want to use that cover name for anything else.

So, she had a cover name pulled out of nowhere, and she stole some clothes. Jeans and a flannel shirt, plus a leather jacket. Cute but smart Hiking boots too, from a pair of high-school girls her size who had drank way too much at the camp-fire. Thank you campers, and she would make it up to those people ... licence plate BCSM 782 from British Columbia. She'd pretended to be from ... Canada, where the clothes came from. Memorizing enough facts, looking at pictures, doing Opnet searches for travel pictures. She trained for a day on what she would know and what she would say growing up in the Canadian Northwest. The history, the rural life ... she could draw on her many trips to the cottage. She had mental imagery aplenty, and so didn't need to create deception, she could just draw on experience - on genuine memory. Plus the formal psych profile was easy to spoof if you knew how it was administered She herself had taken masters level courses in clinical psych, so that would be a walk in the park ...

The preliminary interview was a walk in the park. She had sent in one of her alternate selves, and even remembered to use the correct personal pronouns for a singular individual. She was a Nova girl from Canada. The paperwork was easy, the interview was easy ... she made it clear to the doctor that examination was OK but she did not feel like giving samples, taking off clothes or taking needles ... she made it clear that she would give medical permission when she saw a pay cheque and not before. So she had negotiated the Doctor down to a basic exam and documenting an eruption report - which she made typical enough: an eruption from abuse. She'd hadn't put it right out in the open, but someone trained would be able to pick out the indicators.

Now, she had to put on a show for the recruiter, and be nice but not too nice. The objective was to get to Zephyr. She'd already left breadcrumbs of hiding a difficult childhood, a difficult time post eruption ... and not trusting authority as a result. To an analyst, the goings on of her medical exam would strongly support that. Sadly, from the statistics, this sort of thing was on the rise - so she'd be in common company there. So she was coming because he had such a good reputation, because this persona needed help, not because she was a Utopian about to blossom. Then again, she wasn't a Utopian about to discover her path, she did hope Zephyr was as good as his rep, and the best deception was the truth ... she didn't trust Utopia.

'Kate' Janeway arrived by her slow but steady flight ... from taking a bus, from another bus, and from an indoors - covert - gate in. It wasn't really Starseed, not the original - but she was sort of hoping that Zephyr might be able to tell that, certainly the staff would be oblivious. Still hovering, she waited in the office. "Hello, here for today's interview. Kate Janeway."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


'Note: Punctual - Good.'

"Please come in Ms. Janeway. I'm Vahana Inghihra. Shall I call you Kate?"

"Kate is fine," 'Janeway' responded. "Ms. Inghihra?"

"Ms. will do fine. Well, Kate, I am seeking only three answers," the woman with the long black hair and the deep-chocolate skin indicative of Southern India.

"One, what can you do? I need to hear from you what you think are your basic understands and knowledge skill sets. The more in-depth information you can provide, the better able Teen2morrow will be able to place you in a role you will find both informative and challenging. A love of the Sciences could lead you in one direction, while a passion for the outdoors could take you in another. Be honest. If you are good at something, but you hate doing it, we don't want to push you in that direction. If you love something, but have little understanding right now, we need to know that too."

"The Second thing I need to know is what your Quantum abilities are. I don't just mean what you do, but how you feel when you do things with them. Do they alter your senses in some manner. Has becoming a nova changed your perceptions of the world around you. A few years back we had a boy who could talk to fire. He wasn't insane. He could perceived the latent energy in combustible matter. Things like that help us understand you. Doing so helps Teen2morrow help you develop your gifts."

"Thirdly, we want to know Why? Why do you want to do this kind of work? It isn't easy. They are governments and corporations that will pay you more. You will have long hours of study and training. You will have to do events sponsored by Project Utopia all over the globe. Privacy will become your most prized possession."

"One of our mottos is that this - "Quantum is your Gift. Service is a Calling." We believe it. I believe it. Giving to others must be a natural thing. We don't demand self-sacrifice, we ask for dedication. In the end, it is you who must decide if you really belong here. Myself and Zephyr can offer you guidance on what, in our experience, seems best. It's what we do, and we are pretty good at it."

"Take as long as you want to think about what I've said and what I'm asking for. This interview can go on all day if necessary. Self-assessment can be difficult, and I'm here to help. If you have any questions, fire away."

"Oh, and you may answer the questions in any order you desire," she adds with an engaging smile.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Thank you, Ms. I do appreciate your time and effort here ..." 'Kate' began - turning on the charm "I think it would be best to say that I am most interested in the human sphere right now, and those skills and knowledges that are wrapped up with it. I want to help people, in ways that are on the scale of my abilities. I've been a Nova for a while now, a few years ... but I've been keeping my head down. I was able to home school at an incredible rate after my eruption ... my mind is able to absorb information like a sponge and functions like a supercomputer. My family raised me with the idea that one has to make a positive contribution to society - and so I've done my studies with that in mind. The amount of knowledge processed at my nova levels makes mentioning earlier subjects of study pointless. With the exception of a good moral and ethical foundation, which came from my family rather than having its origins in study. Though I have reviewed material in an range of ethical and philosophical disciplines. If you want a list of what I know, consult the course catalogue of a technical, a medical, and a business university of your choice in the English speaking world ... likely I am qualified in most material listed."

that was very very close to the truth ... lets keep along that track, she thought, and then responded to the second question ...

"As to my quantum abilities. I can fly, as demonstrated. I can defend myself by controlling defensive and offensive forces ... I say forces because, as is common with many Novas, the precise phenomena don't conform to known particles, conventional concepts of energy, etc. They look like some sort of energy, but that is the extent of a useful description. I can also manipulate these same forces into illusions."

With that, she proceeded to overlay a pleasant pine forest scene, with snow covered mountains in the distance ... over the room. Though she left it obvious enough that it was an illusion given the context, without explanation it might easily appear she had just teleported their chairs and the desk between them to the middle of a boreal forest in Canada.

"I'd rather not demonstarte my offensive or combat capabilites at the moment, as your office is rather nice." she says, smiling and dropping the illusion. "By the way, your cameras will have records of my incoming flight and that demo - it was material as opposed to mental. Feel free to study those as addendum to this interview for intake purposes only, but I do not release rights for their use in any other context at this point - which goes for my image and anything else I disclose here."

she paused, and then answered the third question "Why? Well I do want to help people, but the world isn't so simple. Corporate types want to use me, some world governments want to abuse me or worse - a shame because I would like to see places like China that are no goes to Novas. Frankly, I don't know who to trust. Of course, I've read about Project Utopia ..."

... here is part where it becomes all too true ...

"But I don't know that I can trust this organization more than any other. You've done the sort of things I am interested in, but what else are you up to behind the scenes? Of course, you won't tell me here and now. No need to profess complete transparency either, as that's just not something that can realistically happen in an organization that has the sort of pressures on it that Utopia must ..."

she paused, considering her words

"So I did research on how to meet people in high ranking positions who are likely to be ethical, moral individuals. I've identified Zephyr as a likely candidate - and I have been doing this interview and examination process as a prelude to meeting him. If you, as an organization, want me to work with you ... the a prerequisite on my side is that I know people that I can trust in the organization...."

"... Just to be clear Ms., I am not insinuating that you are untrustworthy ... but I don't know any of you - or the organization - on a level that allows me to confirm that sort of thing. Unless there is anything further, I was going to head out and return tomorrow ... unless, of course, I can get an interview with Zephyr in the next hour or so ..."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


The interviewer smiled,

"This happens more often than you would think - the meeting Zephyr part. He's not the most famous Utopian, but anyone whose done research on Teen2morrow wants to meet him. I'm not insulted at all."

"Now," said Vahana, the Illusions were extrodinary. That is a rare talent that few novas take seriously, but it is quite impressive if the user is imaginative enough. It's the Thinking .. Woman's Invisibility, on steroids. That is why the "how you imagine your powers" is so important to us. I see you've already gone down that road. Just as each nova is unique, each learning experience is an advance of the individual. No one can make you a better you."

Ms.Inghihra considered the young nova. There were pros and cons here. She was powerful, a plus, but she was also self-taught, which begged the question of what she was angling for? She was wary of Project Utopia - con. Utopia was a team organization and a good bit of trust had to be given. Starting out with a negative image would be a hindrance. Pro - she was honest about it when she could have been deceptive. Vahana thought the girl would have found it a bit odd that her power, and power sets, weighed very little in her calculations. Novas could be trained into power. Holograms were nice, but they were a finesse ability. What mattered to Vahana was the intelligence behind the plan. Preliminary Interview (breeze) - Team Interview (honest approach) - meet Zephyr (?). She had to wonder why. Was Zephyr in any danger from this girl. That probability was never far from her mind. Zephyr was very Zen about his existence. She felt a bit different about the treats facing him.

Vahana steepled her fingers in thought, turning her chair softly right and left.

"Very well. I will contact him. Do not waste his time, Kate. He will be understanding. I will not."

Her eyes unfocused. She spoke very softly as to be barely audible.

"Sir, we have a Three-One-Six. Yes sir. Your nine o'clock. Yes sir and good morning to you too."

Focusing back to 'Kate'.

"He'll be here any moment."

As the last words left her lips, there was a not so distant crash of thunder. Vahana looked back toward the office behind her. Ten seconds later, a man in a deep blue bodysuit, a white lightning bolt arching from the left hip to right shoulder, landed on the far balcony. Once inside the door from his balcony to the office, 'Kate' could make out the smaller "T2M" logo on his chest, blue on white, and blue on the lighting bolt. His silver gaze met 'Kate's and seemed to make an assessment. He bowed a quarter way down from the waist, hands to clasped, palm to palm. It was an Indian style greeting. That accomplished, he waved 'Kate' forward. The door leading to Vahana's office opened, and she could now hear the wind behind him.

"Welcome, Kate. I'm Zephyr. Please have a seat."

Once inside the room, the door shut behind her silently. Zephyr walked over to a pair of chairs facing each other and stood by one.

When 'Kate' had sat down,

"Now, what can I do to help you today?" his voice soothing and pleasant, as if he had all the time in the world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Thank you again Ms." said Kate, as she got up and walked to meet the senior Utopian. Before sitting down, she shook Zephyr's hand "Nice to meet you".... the door closing behind her.

Not sitting down, she began "I can imagine you've been briefed on my interviews, etc., etc. So you might already know - I am not here to join your team. Not that you don't have a fine operation and excellent people here ... but I am here on a personal mission that should interest you."

She paused, continuing "I have read, and heard that you are a man of principle. A moral and ethical man, who by those virtues should be interested in this. However, I think it best we don't talk here. I suggest we take a trip to somewhere we can talk for a few minutes without being overheard - if you're not interested you don't have to follow."

Getting up as he replied, she brought a dimly luminous ring of quasi energy into existence, into which then flashed an azure rimmed rift in space ... next stop, a remote jungle - somewhere isolated under a thick green canopy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"Well," he says honestly, "I've had odder requests, but this one should prove memorable."

He stands up and looks at the portal,

"Were are we going?"

"Somewhere we can talk in private ... alone."

Zephyr nods. "Well then, I will need to be back here in two hours. I have a second interview this morning."

'Kate' nods, "Agreed. I can do that."

"Vahana," I'll be back to in two hours. If the Director asks, tell him I'm doing field work with a future prospect," he says over his head piece.

For her part, Vahana shook her head and made the proper notations.

Zephyr rose slightly off the ground, and took on a sheen of energy around his form.

Flight and Force Field active

With that, he motions to 'Kate' and they move through the azure rift.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When they are both on the other side, in dim green light that seemed to struggle to make it through the jungle canopy, 'Kate' let the gate close. The noises of the wild could have been any tropical jungle mixed with the sound of far off ocean waves crashing against a rough shore. The site itself seemed pristine, untouched - and likely was given Starseed had chose the site randomly from a list of zones with suitable criteria.

She pulls out a note - and show it to him. It read:

Please take a moment to disable any recording devices, mental links, etc. Then we can talk.

Starseed waited, and whether Zephyr took any action or not was up to him ... after an extended moment says "Thank you for coming. All of this was as much for your benefit as mine ... for if you are interested in what I have to say, you might not want to advertise it to - or be overheard by - your superiors and associates."

She continues "My real name is Jennifer Reid, and I was born a Nova. My Mother is Nancy Reid, and my Father was Jian-Ping - both Novas. Mother was a researcher in the California State university system, affiliated with and consulting on a variety of projects. Some of them, no doubt, indirectly tied to Project Utopia as academic labs sometimes are. Father was a notable healer, both peaceful Novas who lived good honest lives, and raised me well."

she continued, after clearing her throat and taking a small envelope out of her pocket "For reasons largely unknown to us even now, and totally unknown at the time - an organization called the Directive, in association with something called Proteus arranged to have all of us killed. My Father sensed them before they came, and gave my Mother and I enough warning to escape. Father wasn't so lucky, he wasn't an elite or anything, so he couldn't fight them off. They came prepared to kill Novas, they came for all of us - even destroying the family home in the off chance that Mother and I would be killed. As you know, I can gate - so we made our escape."

"What I propose is that my situation might interest you. Much of what I said in the interview was true. I have few people to turn to for support. Corporations only care about money, the Teragen ... well they are half crazy. What I am hoping is that Utopia, or at least your group, isn't so tied up with the world governments and political factions responsible for this kind of crime. I am hoping you can help find who took my family, my home ... who took everything away from me."

... she paused for effect, adding "And the distinct possibility that not all is well in your own house, in Utopia, should motive a principled man to look into it. Are you the one to help me look into it, and to stop it from happening again?"

When she finished, she held the envelope out for him to take.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Before she begins talking, he touches his ear piece, "There. We can talk in private."

After the story comes out,

"Well," he said thoughtfully, "I am sorry for your loss. Let me think on this for a moment." That moment came and went quite fast.

"I am aware of an organization called Project Proteus. I was with T2M when they were exposed as part of Project Utopia back during Corbin's trial. I was outraged then. That anger hasn't dimmed over time. They believe in institutional murder. That makes them the same as the Primacy, or the Harvesters in my book. Their association with the Utopia is is a scar that should never be forgotten. We let the world down by let them exist among us. They betrayed Utopian trust and misused our resources."

"Still, this isn't about Utopia. This is about the murder of your Father and the attempted murder of you and your Mother. Hmmm ... I can't promise anything. My resources aren't geared towards criminal investigations. Fortunately, I have people who think highly of me in various branches of Utopia. One or two might be willing to investigate the scene of the crime and give me a direction to go in. If that leads to the Directive, it would be up to you on how to proceed. You can seek personal prosecution in the United States, or we could together seek to apprehend the murders and bring them before the World Court - Hate Crimes Division. I don't council personal vengeance. That way rarely gets you what you really need, closure."

"Now, even a hint of Proteus activity is very important to me and Utopia. I would like you to talk to someone in Project Internal Security about this, if possible. We track down all potential leads. There are some among the throngs in Utopia that don't believe Proteus has completely removed their hooks from the organization. It is understood that they are a murderous cabal. That only makes the need for a hunt that much more an immediate necessity."

Zephyr takes the envelope.

"I lost a good friend back in '08. Her name was Jennifer "Slider" Landers. We served together in T2MAmericas. She was a really nice person, friendly, welcoming, and out going. I strongly suspect Proteus instigated her death. Since then, I have understood that we how hold the Utopian Ideal as our guiding principle must be ever vigilant, looking for their involvement and any attempts of a return to power. None of us can stand by and let that happen. I can not believe all I hold dear, if I let Proteus exist. They must pay. They will pay. Of that, I am certain."

He pockets the letter in a eufiber pocket.

"Am I to take it that this is the pertinent informaiton? If so, I think I have someone in mind who can help. At least I hope they will help. I trained them to care about the details along with the big picture."

"Remember, Utopians help people; be they thousands endangered by natural disasters, or one person alone against the World. If I can't convince you to seek protection with me in Teen2morrow," he hesitates for a second, " we need to get back. I would like to get started on this as soon as possible. The only thing else I need to know is when you will contact me again, and how?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I am not ruling out working with Utopia at some point. Its just a bit premature right now, but I do agree with the values of your organization. Your group does good work, when the politics doesn't get in the way." she said, with complete sincerity.

"I can come to the office, like I've done this time. I think, with your help - Kate Janeway will be a good enough alias. I am sure you know what forms to fill out to make it 'official' - maybe even choose a Nova name for the alias. I have an op-mail account I just opened under Kate's name. All the information is in there, along with everything I know about the incident. So far, this identity isn't tied to anything or anyone. From a meeting in your office, we can go to a random location..." she considered for a moment

"Do you need to breath oxygen?"


As he replied, she readied a portal - they would be on their way back soon enough. She said "I thank you for your help. I wouldn't have approached you if I didn't respect what you've accomplished so far."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"I understand your caution. I would like to think that any Utopian you approached would do as I am, but I know it isn't so. I love my profession, but I am a realist. Few people are without agendas."

"My powers allow me to subsist without Oxygen for long periods of time, so as long as you don't expect me to fly to Titan, I can get there," he said serenely, then added with a smile, "Though the Moon is more within my limits."

Back in his office, he activated his comm unit.

"Vahana, I need a little quiet time. I need to set up a meeting with Alienist to discuss a personal matter."

He looked through the glass at her, his face showing concern,

"It's urgent and needs to be in person."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As he stepped through the gate she said, with a smile "The Moon it is then - though Mars is nice this time of year. You don't have to worry about distance - you've got a ticket to ride."

and then she let the gate close, opening one for herself and rejoining Starseed prime on the Far Star.

As she arrived, facing a few of her other selves in the long unfinished compartment of the ship she said "That wen't very well. He seems genuine, and if he's not we've lost nothing. I think we might have an ally there."

The original Starseed pushed off from her workstation and the two met cleaning in slowly tumbling micro-gravity arcs. They touched hands and the duplicate was absorbed - only a soft glow momentarily lingering where the other Starseed had been. Prime now had the memories, and she sat to review the friends she had met ...

Zephyr - he could work out. Seems like a stand up fellow, and sort of cool for an old guy. Maybe they could be friends.

Kamiko - the Den was looking like a stroke of great luck. She and I are going to have a great time ...

Shaman - very enigmatic. Nice enough, and a different perspective on things. He's a Prince too, and that doesn't hurt.

... and there were more people to meet. Since she'd started to send out her other selves she'd been getting more adventurous.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad checking out this Exalt guy - Puck. He's Teragen but seems pretty mellow. So that means he's really some sort of super villain behind the scenes ... but lets not judge. Maybe I don't understand enough about what they are trying to do as a group? Everything I read on them is so much hype or venom it's hard to tell.

She came to a gentle stop against the opposite bulkhead, and kept taking notes on her old Op-book. Plans within plans ... but making new friends was unexpectedly satisfying. Maybe she'd spent too much time just hanging around her-selves?

Link to comment
Share on other sites


{9 hours later}

They met in a rural, out of the way restaurant that used to be a renaissance winery. The current owner had been a culinary student in Venice when Zephyr had transferred to T2MEurope so many years ago and they remained friends. The Alienist, or Alienist as he preferred, had come to meet with his old friend and mentor under somewhat mysterious circumstances. That actually excited him. Zephyr was one of the most forthright and plain spoken novas he had ever met. 'Speak the truth. Speak with Conviction.' the old nova had always said. What then was he keeping secret?

Zephyr arrived some distance away and glided up through the old vineyard behind the restaurant. He landed softly. Looking around, the T2Mer walked around to the front, weaving his clothes into a normal traveling suit. He wasn't disguising himself, but he wasn't advertising either. He saw Paulus when he came in. Paulus Wyrkewski, the Alienist, had always been a trying student. As a student, he was always pressing his boundaries, and testing authority. More than once, the previous Director had wanted Paulus off the team. Zephyr had faith in the boy though. To Paulus, faith wasn't something you accepted, it was something you tested. You never stopped.

Officially, the Alienist was in the Utopian Diplomatic Corp. His specialty was liaising with various regional security forces. In reality, he was part of the Criminal Investigative Services. They worked in hand with Interpol and national police agencies in dealing with the vast and powerful international nova-based criminal enterprises. Paulus' specialty was in the Far East Bureau, but his contacts ran deep. Right now, Zephyr was recalling a conversations three years ago when the Alienist had recounted a multi-national operation against the Nakato-Gumi. Part of the operation had taken him to San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver.

"Thank you for meeting me on such short notice," Zephyr said, the smile not quite reaching his eyes.

"I must admit I am both delighted and intrigued. It isn't often you play the Cloak and Dagger, Teach."

"Well, this isn't the normal request."

Zephyr nodded as the waiter approached. Once they had both ordered and taken sips of their wine, Zephyr continued.

"You remember that Ethics thesis of yours?"

Paulus nodded. 'That's a funny thing to bring up.'

"It was the proposition that one could commit evil deeds for a good end."

"Yeah, and you blew it to pieces. Gave me a passing grade, but pretty much killed it. What did you say, 'It is the nature of the human psyche to perpetuate an action long after the reason has ceased to be relevant."

"Do you remember what we discussed in private?"

The Alienist paused, his eyes got a little wider.

"You mean ... they are ... you have some evidence that," his outer voice ceased and Paulus found himself knocking on Zephyr's defenses.

Once inside,

A:'Proteus? You think Proteus is active in Teen2morrow?'

Z:'Not in the team, but involved with a recruit. One of their parents was murdered at CalTech. A professor. They were trying to murder the child; a 15 year old.'

A:'This is not going to be easy. That's the Directive's backyard.'

Z: 'Do you think you can do it?'

A: 'Ha! Teach, I live for this stuff. If something hinky went on, I'll ferret it out.'

Z: 'You will also be discreet and careful.'


Z: 'How are you going to handle this?'

A:'Handle what, Teach? I'm going on vacation.' :D

Z: 'This isn't a stand-up fight, Paulus.'

A: 'Preaching to the Choir, Boss. I do surveillance. I let the big boys handle the head-breaking.'

Z: 'I wouldn't put you at such risk, if I didn't feel this was a solid lead.'

A: 'All evil needs ...'

Z: 'Beating me with my book of sayings?'

A: 'That's what kids are for.'

The dinner arrived. They chatted amicably about old time, current flings, and the odd co-worker. To all intents and purposes, it was to novas getting together for a friendly chat. They departed with a hug and a handshake. Zephyr took off in the sky. The Alienist got on his motorcycle and headed back to Venice.

Three hours later his request for vacation was approved. He had certainly racked up enough hours.

Five hours later he was on a flight to New York City. Under a different name and account, he planned to take a flight to Las Vegas. The Gem of the Desert was nice int he spring. A rental could be paid in cash. A road trip to CalTech was only a matter of hours. Then he would get to work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


In three days, the Alienist had come to three conclusions.

1) Whoever did this, knew what they were doing. The nova target was very, very dead. The site had be sanitized using interesting little bits of proprietary technology still in the Utopian vaults.

2) The Directive wasn't involved in the operation, though they were involved in the cover-up, which led to the theory that this was an unauthorized operation on their soil. If it was one of theirs, they would have been crawling all over the area as the looked for clues to bury. This time around they had a few teams out and about looking for ... probably what he was looking for, the identity of the attackers.

3) After a few illegal, yet judicious telepathic peeps, he managed to get partial facial print of one of the attackers. He knew he had seen the girl before, but wasn't sure if he had seen it with his eyes, or from skimming the minds of people he found interesting (a bad habit Zephyr frowned upon). The problem was even with his bulging hyper-intellect, all he could remember was the she had been part of the Project at some time.

The Alienist grinned. He couldn't do the job, but he knew someone who could help. Next day he set down in Mexico City, the capital of this fair and prosperous land, and Headquarters to T2MAmericas. It was also the home of one Manuela "Positron" Madiera, the Brazilian hotty he had been two years behind him in Teen2morrow. They didn't exactly like one another. He had been pretty much a pest, and she had been all gung-ho and insipid in her belief in the Utopian vision. They had little common ground ... except that one night in Rio ... which ended badly. Paulus wasn't worried. He had the Key to the Kingdom.

He arrived, gave his true name and ID, and stated his business. He was here to see Positron on a personal matter concerning a close personal friend. IT took her two hours to go through the three stages of Paulus: Desire to Harm, Desire to Belittle, and finally, the Desire to ignore. The fourth stage belonged to only a few select people. Every one of them had a beautifully sculpted picture sitting on the wall in Zephyr's office. He had one for every member that had graduated training. It was a select club.

Positron buzzed him up. Security scanned him again, the let him on the elevator. The Alienist got off on the fourteen floor. He could feel the changes in the air, the energy and sizzle when you packed some of the greatest novas on the earth in one tiny space. Okay, one cavernous space. He strode to the desk, smiled at her and walked on by.

"Mister, huh, mister, you need ..."

"That's okay, Love, I know were I'm going."

The receptionist was considering asking a few of the novas close by to take a hand, when Positron stepped out of her office.

"Everything is alright Anna. My guest it a total ass."

They walked into her office, stayed for about thirty seconds, and came back out.

"Anna, I'm off for the rest of the day. Tell the Director I'm taking an emergency leave of absence. Tell Richardo I will be in touch soon when I know more."

"Yes Ma'am."

"Come on Paulus, we are going to the flight platform." She turned and grinned at him. "Oh, right. You still can't fly. Hold on tight and I promise not to drop you."

"Hugging you would be a pleasure," he responded in a romantic tone.

"Keep your hands were they belong, or I'll re acquaint you with my Positron Field."

When they got to the landing, Positron wrapped an arm around the Alienist and he felt her quantum aura come over him. The two then shot into the sky and began racing across town. Six minutes later, they landed on the balcony of her villa. She had been investing her money well, Paulus noted. He also knew that Tommorites got paid a lot more than a lowly grunt nova did too.

She walked purposely into the building, swinging open doors and then having them automatically shut behind her. The Alienist had to rush to keep up. If he had been expecting some sort of secret bunker deep in the basement, he was sourly. The room was beautiful, or would have been had there not been all kinds of equipment and wires all over the place. With a snap of her fingers the doors and shades shut. With a second, the room's various machines came to life. Paulus realized three sets of cables went out of the room, over the railings into the ground floor and then out of sight.

"My private Generators. I can operate on my own for a week if necessary."

"Thoughtful. I see you've blocked off all the ground floor entrances and windows. Everything else is pretty savage for a secondary home."

"Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail," she shot back. Now let me get to work."

Positron began looking over all her systems, both bio-medical, and Hyper-communicative. She understood she has a lot of work to do.

"Hey, is that a porta-potty?"

"Yes it is, now leave it alone. You can explore levels four, three, and two. Stay out of my bedroom. Stay out of the first floor. It's protected."

Positron got into her seat and settled into it. All her systems were on prompt. Her liquid feed was ready. He audio ware was up. She closed her eyes and dove in.

The Alienist watched her go and wondered if he was doing the right thing, by involving Positron. The Old Man had said this would be dangerous and everything he'd seen in California suggested the same. Someone was hiding something big. Big Problems tended to crush little people. Little novas? The verdict was still out.

When he had gone into Manuela's office, he had spun a tale of soul-seeking and wanting to make amends for past wrongs. At the same time, he sneaked into her mind and told her that he was on a mission for Zephyr. He gave her the basics in those few seconds and ended by giving her a vision of his prime suspect's face. If anything, Manuela was smarter than Paulus. She hardly batted an eye.

Now he was back at her place watching her do what only a half-dozen people were aware of that she could do. Positron was a Cyberkinetic, and a damn fine one. She had elected to hide it, with Zephyr's knowledge, because she was aiming for T2M, not S&T. Instead she remained a secret source for computer data of all shapes and sizes. Thus the set up in this place, and why she had such tight security.

Paulus sat back and waited. He got up and waited some more. The Sun set and he went off to find the fridge. Somewhere around 2am, he fell asleep.

He awoke to some quiet snoring. He sat up from the sofa and looked over at her. She was asleep. A quick check of the surrounding revealed it to be noon. The Alienist cooked himself some breakfest/lunch and went back in to see what Manuela was up to. She was up, munching on an energy bar. She began stripping out of her eufiber and got totally naked in front of him. Paulus was weighing his options when Manuela stumbled slightly.

"Long night. I've got to recharge and a shower would really hit the spot."

He watched her naked form pad away and started thinking of plan for when this was over. He was a healthy young nova, after all.

Around 6pm, Positron went in again. So far, she had gotten a whole lot of nada. The credo here was that when you looked and didn't find something, you now had fewer places to examine. The problem was the Utopian global system was so vast. The Alienist wasn't sure if she could do it. Finally, around midnight, he fell asleep again.

Dawn was creeping into the world when Positron roused the Alienist. Her grin made him jump into a seated position. He waited for her to break the news.

"I've found her, or more directly, I found were she was."

She sat down next to him, clearly fatigued.

"Who did this Wipe did a damn thorough job." Her grin got wider, "but they made two understandable mistakes. First off, they don't know how the Intervention teams run their buffers. See, they send on their report and then wipe the files - so the information won't all into the wrong hands. They are in the field after all. Since these douches knew the ITs dumped all their data, they didn't go back to check. I know who our girl is, but I'll get to that later."

"The other clue came from a personal file from a interviewer in Nova Resources. Everyone gets assigned a number when you enter the system. That's general knowledge. This girl's number does not exist. Everywhere it might have been, there's nothing. They did a good thorough job. What they didn't take into account was the Interviewers sometimes keep their own logs of the meeting ... and they will assign those cases by their own categorizing system. The Bastards got the personal files. They erased every mention of the girl, her name, and her Resource Number."

Now she was really smiling.

"Turns out there were only three interviewers prepared to receive her on the day of her eruption. They all kept Personal Logs, but they also kept their interview notes in a separate, untitled files. They don't name names, or reference RNs, so they weren't wiped out.

The Alienist shook his head, taking it all in.

"What do we have?"

Positron was so smart she didn't need to take notes.

"Katherine 'Kate' Sherman: Age 26 - New York City, New York, USA, -sucked into a Teragen sex club and sexually assaulted (est. 37 times before she erupted). The intervention team found her and there was a brief fight before the Terats retired from the scene."

"She was immediately taken to a response trauma team in the city for evaluation. When she recovered enough to be coherent, she asked to join Project Utopia and returned to our jurisdiction."

"End of IT file"

"Subject displays phenomenal Hyper-sensory Powers as well as the ability to disrupt quantum abilities. Unfortunately, medical file indicates recent abortion of a 13 week old fetus due to excessive stress. Her psychological profile is disappointing, as she has presented a deep loathing of novas, as well as her own condition as one. Recommending Submersion Therapy as soon as possible. Subject is unlikely to be of use to the project for some time."

"That's all. All of this happened ten years ago."

She stared at Paulus, "Someone with a lot of knowledge of how our systems work stole this woman away, and did God knows what to her."

"God Knows what? She's got Hyper-sensory Powers, the ability to shut novas down, and she hates novas. Positron, she's running around the country killing us. No. She's running around the globe killing our children."

"Oh Shit," she said, then crossed herself. "Novas killed her unborn child. She's seeking revenge, and Proteus is providing her the opportunity and the protection to do it."

"I'm contacting Zephyr. I think I have enough to get the ball rolling on his end. We'd better both sneak back to our stations before the shit storm begins."

"Amen to that," Manuela said in a quiet voice. She had kicked over a hornets nest and now it was time to see if the hornets noticed that she'd done it.

Zephyr was going to be a very, very unhappy nova.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"Any assessments on the schedule for today, Vahanna?"

"No sir."

"Everything is cleared with the training cycle?"

"No problems Daniel. Mind telling me what's wrong?"

"Not right now. I need to know more myself before I tell anyone anything."

That hurt her slightly. It wasn't at all like him to keep secrets. It also wasn't like him to be this ... upset.

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

Zephyr turned and smiled at her, "Keep the Director off my back."

He paced back and forth once across his office. He stared at the young faces etched in glass - his former students, including the four that had died on the job. To not act was the height of cowardice. To Zephyr there was no real choice to make.

"Vahanna, I'm out for the day. I'm going home, but should be out and about most of the time."

That said, he opened the doors, walked onto his balcony, and took off. In seconds, he was rocketing home, in a gentle arch that would forestall the shattering of glass breaking the sound barrier caused. In ten minutes he was home and on his personal communication system. To all intent and purpose, he made a call to a mobile provider in Siberia. In reality, he brought on line an old Utopian emergency communications system. Passed over by more advanced protocols and equipment, the site languished under basic maintenance. At that moment it ran a test based on the information provided - it made an Opnet post to a 'random' individual. The test worked.

'Lagrange point L47. 2 hours from time of transmission.'

It dutifully sent off a confirmation of this. The system cycled for the next five minutes waiting for further instructions, then shut back down. That done, Zephyr walked outside and began rising skyward. Space beckoned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Starseed had been caught up in forging ahead, and for days hadn't thought about what Zephyr might be making of her past. She'd given him a rather meagre collection of information, but could she help further?

She had to keep quiet though. Sending him a message could land him in trouble - he'd likely be able to find a way to make secure contact on the op-net but the reverse was not true.

So all she could do was keep checking the op-mail account... normal usage patterns looked less suspicious anyway. Today she'd register for some more fan sites. Maybe she'd watch a few episodes of Kikjak: Public Defender. Then came a message from an odd address:

'Lagrange point L47. 2 hours from time of transmission.'

OK. Thats it! Wow, never seen an address extension like that. Better not reply ... in fact, better delete the inbox. No, lets just keep signing up for stuff. Deleting the inbox wouldn't erase the messages on the line of servers before this client. Just keep the activity pattern normal.

When the time came, Starseed was ready to gate. She'd walked a double loop back to avoid any tails, and in amidst the trash bins on the lowest level of the old parking structure nearby - where there were no cameras and no people came except for trash pick-up - she'd shifted form for space worthiness and gated.

In the black of space, at the right spot, her sixth self of the day arrived through the dim glow of the azure gate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


They were not close, but close enough. Zephyr caught the flash of Starseed's gate. He drifted on over, coming to a stop mere feet away. He nodded as a greeting. He studied her for a moment, then pulled out a 'hardened' tablet. S&T told him it could survive near orbit indefinitely, and true orbit for at least five hours. The elder nova handed the tablet across, twisting it so it was facing her.

Information Analysis

*Sole 'aggressor' identified as Katherine 'Kate' Sherman, formally of New York City

*Identified as an erupted nova as of 17/11/2017 - current status unknown

*Powers identified, but not exclusive to Hyper-Sensory Class III; Quantum Disruptive -Class IV

*Training - Unknown

*Current Status (Alive/Dead) - unknown (last sighted 04/06/2026)

*Current Affiliation - unknown

*Current Record File - deleted (Director Authorization unknown)

*Analysis - Subject was raped repeatedly in a Teragen Sex Club. She erupted and fled her pursuers (theorize some sort of mental defenses) and was captured by an Utopian Intervention Team. Subject transferred to the custody of the New York Rashoud facility. She was given medical attention (all files deleted) and interviewed by Nova Resources (all files deleted). Subject appears on no known accessible records since that 17/11/2017.

*Preliminary theory - subject nova was acquired by Project Proteus to become a hunter-killer of novas. Her ability to sense things seconds, even as much as a minute ahead of the event would prove invaluable dealing with unknown novas. Coupled with the ability to shut down a defensive, or locomotion power would be crucial as part as a team approach to neutralizing any target. Extremely dangerous in a grouped environment. Her emotional state can not be healthy, with some sort of psychotic break held off by some sort of control, or drugs. It is unclear how long this nova can remain field operable under combat conditions. If initial data is correct, subject nova was deployed in an attempt to kill a child. I theorize this would exacerbate her mental state.

*Secondary theory - Proteus is employing nova, or nova/baseline, teams to kill off select novas (children?). Long term goal, unknown. Short and long term repercussions are potentially disastrous for Project Utopia.

*Unfiltered theory - these people are FUCKING NUTS! Killing kids? Whatever their goal is, something has to be done. The two chief problems are: who do we trust, and how do we find them?

Zephyr waited to see Starseed's reaction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On getting closer, Zephyr noted this girl looked different - another teenage girl, different hair, different features but most of the same clothes. She waved in recognition.

Starseed read the file - three times.

Her expression was troubled. It seems all the big organizations were involved somehow. She had hoped it was somehow ... simpler ... but she knew it wasn't. She had known, deep down, it couldn't be.

She had brought pencil and paper along, borrowed from university recycling bins. It worked fine in so many conditions - why the Russians hadn't bothered inventing the ball point pen. She wrote to him:

We have to do something.

I don't want to cause a backlash somehow.

The only people we can trust for sure are Nova born kids, like me.

Maybe we can trust others, but that is case by case.

Want to come to a place where we can talk?

I promise to get you home.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Well, it hadn't been outrage. Her reaction hadn't been sorrow either. She was troubled, but she had an idea.

Zephyr knew that now that he knew, he had to do something. He nodded in the affirmative. He took the tablet and tapped away.

The only path left open goes forward.

That was the truth, too. Zephyr knew he was putting everyone he had ever trained and trusted in danger. This was something he had prepared them for, battling evil. If this wasn't the mark of evil, he didn't know what was. His son would be in danger as well. Of course, he would be in danger if Zephyr did nothing as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Star makes a gesture '1 minute' holding up her index finger.

She then concentrates and does something Zephyr may not have been expecting - from the quantum level of reality a form takes shape - about twenty feet long, sleek lines, and dimly glowing blue and violet in patterns that one might see in some form of luminous deep marine life.

The shuttle craft, reminiscent of a racing yacht in some alien way, opens its hatch at a hand signal from Star.

Beckoning him inside, she motions for him to take a seat and she does likewise - the rear hatch closes almost as if it was an instinctual reaction on the part of a living being. Then the shuttle, like a well trained valet, almost wraps the two in safety straps - but stops short of fully binding them. Instead, the buckle settles into the passengers hand and can be voluntarily fastened from there. Looking around, every element of the naval architecture, ergonomics, and functionality had been thoughtfully arranged - even if it was much more organic than any aerospace craft Zephyr had seen before. No doubt the folds and slits in the structure concealed more functionality, but stem to stern one could see how the ship had been modelled from the natural world. Right now, they could be in the 'stomach' or perhaps vacuole of a giant sea creature.

Still lacking an atmosphere, Star traces her finger on a panel surface near her and a glowing trail remains, reading 'Now we go to pick up some atmosphere - jump gate in ten.'

Seconds later, the azure gate forms - the ship accelerates through and then they are among asteroids - a new field of stars and stones visible through the view ports.

Piloting, or rather directing - since the ship seemed to pilot itself more like the occupants were riders - Star brought the shuttle up to one of the C-type asteroid fragments she'd gathered here before. With plenty of hydrated minerals in reach the ship nestled in and began to 'disgest' a thin layer of the surface ... again in a semblance of marine life. In reality it was scraping and compressing the minerals - generating gasses, water vapour, and then holding the result in vacuoles. As the ship let those vacuoles expand to the right size and then channelled those gases into the crew compartment the hiss of atmosphere flooding in could be felt ... so could the warmth of the gasses. No doubt heat from all that grinding, compression, and possibly exothermic reaction of those 'digested' surface minerals. Some of this activity could even be seen through the translucent portions of the energy creature's 'hull'.

Passing her hand over the panel surface where she had written, it erased ... like an etch-a-sketch ... she wrote anew 'Give it a minute. It won't be a normal gas mix in any way, but we'll have the right pressure for talking'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Zephyr isn't sure what to make of the situation. It was ... powerful, but ...

He types into the tablet then holds it up.

This a lot of effort for communication. You have the wall. I have my tablet. Who trained you?

He believed the answer was 'no one'. He had seen this before, but not on such a fluid scale. She knew how to use her power, but didn't apply it in a direct fashion. It was effort-intensive when it didn't have to be. It spoke of deep reserves of power, but how long could she realistically keep going? For starters, Zephyr realized he couldn't show her how to do things. She had that down in spades. What he could do, though, was show her how to efficiently use them - economy of node.

Her instincts were commendable. She was clearly of above baseline intelligence. She was also young. Being a teacher was not only passing on your experience, but knowing when your experience did not apply. Zephyr was hoping this was the former situation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

With atmospheric pressure normalizing, Star spoke in reply "I trained myself, mostly. Though Father showed me some things that didn't come naturally."

...the tone of her voice shifting as the hazy atmosphere - very high in humidity and smelling heavily of trace hydrocarbons and sulphides - balanced to normal...

"We have alot to talk about, and besides - I wanted to show you where I live most of the time. Sorry about the quick and dirty gas mix, its a bit smelly this time because there's not a lot of water to work with in this area ... but the view is great." she gestured out as the windows widened out to reveal the marvellous expanse of the belt. Glowing and glinting in the indirect light of the relatively dimmer sun were shapes of all sizes - some metalic, some rocky, some shaded by wonderful mineral hues.

Starseed was happy, Zephyr could she really was 'at home' out here.

"Actually, I have Utopia to thank for some of my training. When I was two Mother got hold of some of the training courses that Raushoud counsellors put trainees through ... that was actually really good stuff. Except for the drugs, she explained how those compounds only limit ability in the long run. Maybe it was a bit behind my age level even then, but my Father also had lots of experience with training. Mother was always a bit busy with her research, and she was below my starting level for most things ... but she's very very intelligent so built me some training and evaluation gear. That was very useful for establishing references and benchmarks."

Now she was recalling fond memories ... family memories, and it was written on her face. She was either an expert in deception or was talking with Zephyr like he was a friend. Maybe she was too trusting, but she seemed to enjoy even the prospect of conversation.

She added, "But what you've seen is just normal stuff - not much effort at all really. Important though, because I've wanted to bring other people to space with me. People without the kind of environmental fortitude that we have. I've been holding off going to another system because I want to have a full the first time. Not for this little thing - for the big ships. You know, make it a real special occasion."

... then the troubled look returned to her face "The other thing was I wanted to sort out the issues at hand before I go. Or at least get make some progress - its been on my mind since it all happened."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"What if this goes beyond just you 'Kate'? What if other children out there are at risk?"

He looks around at the stars made clearer by the lack of a gas cloud to blur them. He didn't come up into Earth's orbit all that much anymore. There were other draws on his time.

"'Kate', I have to know. I know that crime happens all over the globe. I know it in the abstract way everyone knows. This is different. This could well be a crime in progress. If I know and do nothing, and one person dies, I am responsible. I don't ask you to understand that. I never ask people to do more than their conscience demands. I do ask people to look inside themselves from time to time, sending them to seek out the answer of whether or not they are living the kind of life they can be proud of."

"Again, I can't stand by and do nothing. I must be true to myself and my calling. I know people that think the way I do, and we are going to get moving on this. We have no idea how small or vast this conspiracy is. In the end, it comes down to one life. It always does. If I hold one life to be precious, any life ..."

"You are really good at what you do. It is a pity that you are already planning to leave Earth when there is so much there for you. I believe there are people who will benefit by knowing you. You are smart. You are creative. So, I ask you, what kind of Earth are you going to leave behind? One that is Home, or one that you are running away from?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Oh I'm not leaving, at least not all at once. I can make duplicates ... but that's beside the point. I'm exploring, and I want to bring humanity to the stars. Its really silly to live on just one world when you don't have to ... and of course exploration is a two way street. Knowledge comes back, and so on ... "

she paused, thinking but out of politeness not saying 'assuming too much you don't know' ...

"On the investigation bit ... I was thinking you'd know what to do. I'm willing to help how I can. I can do surveillance pretty well. Social contacts and money - more importantly some of the useful things money can buy ... those I do not have. Also, my experience is somewhat ... academic. I was raised in a pretty sheltered way, by necessity."

She put her finger to her chin in a classic thinker pose "The other thing that worried me, was I don't want to cause some sort of widespread damage. If proof of what happened to me, say ... got into the media and stirred up huge problems for Utopia. Well, that would be bad. Lots of people might start to resent or even hate Novas, people who depend on Utopian efforts might get left out in the cold. Who knows what the Teragen and world governments might do if Utopia face a backlash. So its those kinds of scenarios that worry me ... after all - how many really big scandals does a war need to get going?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"War always comes down to one man, or woman, wanting something they don't have; be it a person, land, power, or possession. That person has to convince others to think they want this too. Convince enough people to want it bad enough, and you have a war."

"If Project Utopia has an active hand in this ... yes, I have pondered that possibility. It is a vast, global power. If it doesn't know, someone, somewhere has to suspect something. To me, that is just as bad as killing these children. Either the Project stands for something, or it doesn't deserve to stand. When you lie, you murder the truth. The process escalates. You bury the truth enough times, it becomes easy to destroy people. Destroy enough people and murder ceases to be a problem. This is what I tell my students. It is a lesson you might want to consider. Lying may be necessary, but don't make it a habit."

"As for your offer, I am not sure were to go from there. Surveillance is only as good as the mind that guides it. I don't know were to start looking. What I - we - need is a break. Some mistake made, or some person like you needing help with a similar problem. I'm not likely to find someone capable of hiding from Proteus. I'm not geared toward that. What I am geared toward is waking up certain key people to the threat. The more eyes I have out there, the greater risk I run of detection. That is unavoidable. With more eyes, I also run the chance of greater intelligence, so that when they screw up again and go after someone, I can do something about it before they scurry back into the shadows."

"From the moment I got that analysis ... It's me or them. There is no other way."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Well, I don't know many people I can trust. My Mother is not one of them either, but I agree that getting more people together on this is the only way. I know some people like me, Nova's who had to hide, were hunted, and probably feel the same way about the issue as we do."


"I can ask them if they'll come to a meeting with you. The thing is, I have let them know who you are before hand ... so they can decide whether to risk this. Not that you're a risk, at least I'm pretty sure ... but there are lots of people like me who don't trust big organizations. I would start with one of them, she's a friend of mine and a smart cookie. Also, I am pretty sure she's the most trustworthy person I know."

"But I won't mention you to her without your explicit permission. From there, of course, she could look you up on the op-net like I did. You're already famous and all."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"Sad that this truism would be forced on one so young: You are not paranoid if they are out to get you. What matters is how you and your friends deal with this. I can help with that somewhat. I am organized, and I know about organizations. I've trained novas for nearly twenty years. More than that, I've dealt with a wide variety of personalities and helped them identify and achieve goals."

"I would like to meet outside interested parties. I have no illusions that I can handle this in-house. I don't have the authority to demand the kind of information I think I need. That means I will have to apply extra-ordinary means. I'm prepared for that."

"Set up the meeting. I'm glad for people to know that I'll be there. I'm a public figure, after all. I would hope my reputation will make any meeting easier. We aren't going to lose anything by having them know I want to help."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I will get the three of us together... maybe a fourth. It isn't secure to contact you through op-mail." Star said,

continuing "So I have written a protocol for fairly secure communications. In the envelope are a list of op-net forums that I can leave a specific message on. They are forums on modern history and philosophy so it is normal for you to read them. If you reply with the screen name 'Jeremy Kent' I know you are legit. Written on the paper here are three messages I might post. These are one time pads - still the most secure form of crypto. Each message must only be used once and my reply to your posted reply wil indicate a meeting place... Meeting times are the only critical thing allowed to be hashed out in subsequent replies by either of us, but don't just do that because you have to write the code phrases into normal sounding replies. Times and places are coded in phrase according to the attached list, again try to avoid frequent or patterned reuse of the code phrases, cycle through the synonymous ones as randomly as you can - lists will be udated. This is a very robust protocol if we follow it. Don't hide your activity on these forums...just slowly add them with a bunch of other new material on the same topics and it will look normal."

"I know that its a bit inconvenient for you this way but everytime I am trying to find an opnet terminal to use its a risk for me.... So I have to minimize my time in public on Earth when it could be traced to you. This arrangenent is also much safer for you too."

"That should be fairly secure. Also before I drop you home could you reccommend good books and files on the real history of the big factions? Anything that is going to give me real information, please me let know."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"You my base you times off of my speed, roughly 3500kph with a starting point of Sydney, Australia,with the time differential, of course. We use the Chinese Zodiac randomized by you. We will use the Elements to set a fifteen minute increment. You randomize it, in case my encryption is compromised. I'll remember it. That should be good for seven permutations before we need another cypher. "

He thinks for but a moment, then starts listing a number of cities - fifty in all - that they can use for meetings. Randomize them. I'll remember the pattern. We will use a constantly randomized street by street index using numbers, not letters. That should suffice, I think. We can warp from there."

"So we would have the words Dragon - Water - 35 - 16 - 04 to give a time and a street corner."

He didn't ask if she understood. One didn't navigate starships with only a basic understanding of math.

It slowly became clear that while he claimed no experience of spycraft, Zephyr wasn't alien to its concepts. It also stood to reason he had taught his students the same kind of skills. His allies wouldn't be babes on the woods when trouble came. It was almost an after thought that Zephyr's mind was probably one of his most understated qualities.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She considers his suggestion, but comes back "That's good because it uses lists only we know, but it doesn't work on two counts. First a mathematical approach is too obvious. We have to post these messages in public forum, so having something that looks like code - reads like code - is a give away that there is code to be broken in the first place. So whatever we come up with for final postings has to read like normal English ... unfortunately my only language at the moment." She opens her copy of one of the pages she gave him ...

"So take a look at the places I listed that could be in your normal routine, they are all restaruants within a fifty kilometre radius of your office that have private rooms that can be reserved ahead of time by anyone - and they aren't too busy. Also, I've checked - the rooms are private enough that I can gate in without being seen. I corresponded them to the list of names on the same sheet, so the 'Green China Flower' becomes 'Jim'. Now, the first reply indicates the place ... so lets say we use message A. I would post Message A, which you can see is" ... Star writes:

LOOKING FOR BOOK - Collector looking to buy a print copy of "Roman Thinkers", published by Prentice Hall in 1994 ... don't need first edition, but the copy still needs to have the photo print pages in good shape. Will pay top dollar, or swap for any any of the books on Gibbon's Essential History List above number 30. Must see the book first. Willing to travel in Africa or Europe for meet - anywhere that has the Utopia-Rail pass and isn't more than a day from Alexandria, Egypt where I live.

"So thats a normal enough message on this forum, but it exactly matches Message A from your list. To maintain the principle of one time pad encryption we can never use this message again, every message has to be unique .... now I'll give you five days to respond on this one ... see how Message A is marked 5 days. If you missed it, or didn't respond ... then I'd next use message B on a different forum. Lets just say that you see Message A. So you know that you have to reply with a place thats good to meet - and this list of places we can maintain as a list, randomizing once in a while like you were thinking. Lets say that you wanted to meet at the Green China Flower restaurant - you would reply to my post something like this, using 'Jim' ..." Star adds the reply to the post, which then reads:

LOOKING FOR BOOK - Collector looking to buy a print copy of "Roman Thinkers", published by Prentice Hall in 1994 ... don't need first edition, but the copy still needs to have the photo print pages in good shape. Will pay top dollar, or swap for any any of the books on Gibbon's Essential History List above number 30. Must see the book first. Willing to travel in Africa or Europe for meet - anywhere that has the Utopia-Rail pass and isn't more than a day from Alexandria, Egypt where I live.


OK, I have it and it's in good condition and I want to look at trades for any books Giboon's listing 32, 39, or 45. I'm Jim, and we can meet in the Dark Roast Cafe on 1st and 3rd in the new block heights Cairo. I'm nice and close. How is March 3rd, say noonish?

"So Now you've selected the location of our meet in a way that doesn't give anything up and gives false location data. You've also stuck to pretty common op-net habits of not using your real name online - and you've set the meeting far enough in the future that when you don't go to Cairo it just looks like the deal fell through, or you forgot. Now, the nice thing about a blind post like this is that we have a rule the only thing we discuss of any relevance is date and time. But we have to discuss other little stuff that makes the message look real. Of course, if I found the time you suggested is good, I just reply OK see you there ... but lets say that its not a good time for me. I could reply back to you" Star adds more to the written post

LOOKING FOR BOOK - Collector looking to buy a print copy of "Roman Thinkers", published by Prentice Hall in 1994 ... don't need first edition, but the copy still needs to have the photo print pages in good shape. Will pay top dollar, or swap for any any of the books on Gibbon's Essential History List above number 30. Must see the book first. Willing to travel in Africa or Europe for meet - anywhere that has the Utopia-Rail pass and isn't more than a day from Alexandria, Egypt where I live.


OK, I have it and it's in good condition and I want to look at trades for any books Giboon's listing 32, 39, or 45. I'm Jim, and we can meet in the Dark Roast Cafe on 1st and 3rd in the new block heights Cairo. I'm nice and close. How is March 3rd, say noonish?


Hmm, I am really busy that morning. March 3rd is OK, but could we make it around 3 in the afternoon instead?

"So thats code phrasing. Pretty commonly used because its almost impossible to pick up - even Nova's with spooky powers still encounter the message as a normal message like any other. It reads as normal English and it also misdirects like a magician. Now, the common failing of this is it does take some setup, so every second time we meet we'll have to come up with a minimum of three one time pads that we agree on. Agents in the intel business sometimes get lazy, and reuse the pad ... in our case the message - more than once. Then the code moves from unbreakable by even high level quantum algorithms to the realm of being an encryption that can be tackled with math. Using the one time pad more than once makes a pattern, and from there a code breaker has a chance."

She pauses and also says "the other important thing in this day and age, is don't commit the messages to memory unless you mind is proof against telepaths. Of course, never, ever make digital copies of anything in the code pack ... our two envelopes and their two hand written contents should be the only copies. If we loose contact, we know something is up and then I can come looking for you at your office, etc. You being the public figure limits your role in that particular dance - since your location and routine are known. Thats a good thing though, because as we discussed your routine can shield all of the things you need to do on your end perfectly. Like collecting semi-rare books on your favourite topics, or browsing forums for them."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Zephyr arched an eyebrow. This code seemed overly complex for it intended purpose. No information was being passed. The place for meeting locations was being established for the use of a second portal, that's all. It wasn't rocket science.

"If that's the cipher you want to use, okay. You do realize that I don't to transfer any information over the Opnet. All exchanges will happen in person. As for the location, they are just entry point for warp portals, not an end point. Now, if you keep using warp portals and they can track them - and I've seen the theoretical science behind it - then you have a more severe problem. Don't repeat sites."

"That is also a problem for another time. Right now, let's set up the Reference List, and the sites for post on, ID's to go by, and a logical posting schedule."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I agree with you in that its a risk using gates, but the scenario is established to keep you looking legit. You are going to be the center of attention long before I will for a host of reasons. If we keep doing this, for example, where you go completely off the grid ... it will look very suspicious. In fact, we have to logically assume you are being watched. I know, paranoid ... but humor me." she grinned.

"And I know you aren't transferring information, but putting coordinates on the opnet is a classic tell. That in and of itself is monitored by machine - continuously. This way, from the perspective of the people who are watching you, you are meeting people in private at a local restaurant. You are meeting Kate Janeway, in fact, if they do surveillance ... which all fits with the information we've already given them at this point. The know this young nova is a warper - it got filmed at your office. Expected info. They'll know Kate Janeway is an alias, for a young Nova who wants to be involved with Utopia but is leery. Common situation. They'll know that you are meeting Kate to try and help her out, guide her ... again, something you've been doing for years and years."

... she pauses ...

"It's all worth talking about now. I'm not trying to insist on one course of action because its the one I want ... instead, we have to consider your cover. We have to consider how they will be watching you ... and present them with the information that they expect. Avoid giving them any reason to be alarmed. Please, if you have a better scenario we'll use it ... and the upside is that you can use this form of communication to keep in touch with more than just me. This is how spies build comm networks. Its a method you can scale up, use for a whole group - and it still holds water. Too many secret off grid meetings, like we are doing now, falls apart quickly if and when you are watched. A few is worth the risk ... but its not sustainable."

She really looked concerned - it was the logical case she was trying to build. Intelligence trade-craft sometimes is complicated because it needs to be.

"Not repeating sites is an excellent idea, but in that case you should start making it a habit of taking other people to the sorts of private sites we'll meet at. Other, normal people not involved in our 'conspiracy'. That way, again, normalcy is a cover."

Trying to show she wasn't angry, but instead arguing in the academic sense - arguing to find a good solution, she made a little joke "You know, you may just be too honest and upstanding for this spy business ..." she giggled, adding "kidding. Just kidding."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Zephyr snorts at the joke.

"I know. Honest men are a pain in the ass, but at least you always know which way they'll jump."

"I understand the caution. If I screw up, I'm most likely dead. The people I've brought in on this are most likely dead. People who I might have contacted about this in some way will be discredited and their lives ruined. Currently one of my strongest bargaining chips is my reputation. Once they figure out what I'm looking into - and I say when, not if - then they will go after my status first. Just killing me is risky. I'm not a pushover. Once they've ruined me and driven me off of the Top of the Screen news, I can go missing, have an accident, etcetera."

"We'll do it your way. Your exposure is worse. You are an unknown. If you go missing, who's to know? I will, but I don't know were to start. When you are ready, you need to share more information about yourself to me. If something bad happens, I'm the only cavalry you are likely to get ... for now."

"On to the information situation: I need names, dates and places. I need to study these attack patterns. That's the best way I know to get ahead of them. I don't want to find the children. That kind of voids their attempts to hide. I want to find these teams and take them down. I want to find out what they know. Then I want to gut my way up the food chain. I'm going to bring these people out into the light then I'm going to shove that light down that dark hole they crawled out of until I'm satisfied the job is done."

Is is clear that Zephyr is impassioned about his statements. This situation has him upset, but in a cold, disciplined manner.

"For any of that to happens, I need that data. Can you help me?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I understand. Honestly for the incident itself, the envelope of notes I handed you the first time is all I know. About me, you already know alot - but I could add more details from before the incident. Most of what I put onto the intake forms for 'Ket' is actually true. I am very much an 'applegate' as they say, but maybe I can provide more details if i spent some time visualizing the scene. I don't have perfect memory, but I can change the distribution of my own energy patterns ... favouring the ones that make up what might be called my 'mind'".

... her troubled look slowly returns ...

"The other thing I can do is go an talk with ... Mother. She, she's a killer now. A murderer who killed innocents ... she's been twisted and I. ... I can go and see her. Have to track her down though - she's Teragen now."

... for the first time, Zephyr has seen the kind of reaction he was expecting earlier - but it was buried deep. It was also, complicated ... all tied up with issues about her Mother. It wasn't grief either, it was anger ... deep deep roots of anger. Starseed paused for long moments without saying anything else, thinking about Mother.

She gestured earth wise, turning half away from Zephyr "I should get you home. I'll work on it. Will need four days". A tear was forming in her left eye, 'but I will not let him see me cry damn it!' she thought.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"A child's relationship with their parent is nothing as stranger should interfere with, unless you feel she is a threat to you ... and I don't think you see that as the case. I don't like the Teragen. That's no surprise, but she's your Mother. I can hardly hold that against you."

He reaches out and puts a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"But, if you have no one else to talk to about this, I'm willing to listen. If you have a friend, a real friend, you are never alone. They will always be there for you if you need to talk. If not me, I do want you to find someone you can reach out to. Don't let what happened to your Father, or your Mother, overtake you. I get the feeling that you know better than to allow this to happen."

"I've seen this before 'Kate'. Deal with your anger before it eats away at the person you are. I happen to like that person," he says with a sage smile. "Get ahead of this anger. If you are angry with our Mother, or something she's done, bring it out into the open. Confront her - from a safe place. Let her know why you are pissed."

"If it is about your Father, share that with her too. She was there. She knows what happened. You may have gone down different paths, but she's family. Family is the oldest bond you have, and the hardest to break. I know."

"If you want to send me home now, I'll go. If you want to keep talking about the case, we can do that too. If you want to talk about what the past year of your life's been like, I'm willing to listen and offer what advice I can. It's kind of my job. I never tell one of my kids what to do. I merely show them that the world is worse off if they destroy themselves. We all matter. What goes on inside of us matters."

"Now, I've said enough. What do you want to do?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I ... " Star was starting to get choked up. There was a deep core of anger, grief, loneliness, even hate inside of her. She had locked it away to keep her sunny, positive demeanour and it had worked for a time. It had worked for the better part of a year, and it was easier when she wasn't around Mother. On some level, she relaized that she wanted to do what Mother did ... avenge her tormentors. Maybe there was fear too, because there was the possibility that she might have done more than Mother. Much more.

"It's just not ... I need time." She looked away -pulled away - from Zephyr, tears would be starting to stream down her face if there were enough gravity - but her features were a mask.

The portal formed and Zephyr could make his way way home - not quite home, but within a hundred kilometres to a secluded rural spot.

"I know, I know ... I just can't ... not right now. I'll get working ... be in touch."

The older, likely wiser, Nova made his way to the portal. Though he couldn't see her face ... her body language told it all. There was conflict there, rage , sadness, despair, all locked inside of her. The portal closed. That would be for another day.

Up to you how to wrap it up AM :)
Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...