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Aberrant: 200X - INTCELL AOR: OpNet, DIR F: HK047, "Baleful Eye"


Odysseus

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Assignment

“Do you hate them, Gerad?”

Hate them? All of them? I mean, “hate” is the right word for a lot of what I feel. Hate’s a good thing, a positive thing, sometimes. Hate can make a guy do some great things. Hate's fuel for the right kind of engine. Don’t underestimate the healing power of hatred. The same hate that makes one man kill innocent people can also make that man take on a corrupt system, just like the same love could lead a man to spend his life in service to some gal or to cut her up into meaty little chunks and stuff her into his trunk. Hate ain’t always negative: love ain’t always positive.

But hating all of “them”, that’s a cheeky fuckin’ question. Most of ‘em didn’t choose to be the way they are, and them that did, well, no accounting for taste. This ain’t like religion or politics, where you can hate a fella based on his backing the wrong horse. Race – which is to say, heritage, because slant, nip, wop, kike, mick, mac, or nig, we’re all homo sapiens – well, race comes closer, but still misses the mark. What they want to know is whether or not I hate novas. And that’s a sticky one. After all, they don’t all make up one centralized group and all answer to the same bosses (no matter how the Project would like it). Divis Mal ain’t Caestus Pax ain’t Totentanz ain’t Alejandra ain’t Slider ain’t Corbin, and some of ‘em are bigger assholes or contribute more to the problem than others. That should go without saying, especially if you cop to the Teragen line of bull about how each one is a nation-state unto themselves, fit for governance only by their own kind. So there’s a lot of variance, too. Enough that most people who haven’t got their dicks in their hands about how gee-golly fucking wonderful anything that channels quanta is wouldn’t bother to make too many generalizations about all novas one way or the other. I can see how a guy - a normal guy, with normal wants and a normal life - might hate novas, sure. You spend a lifetime believing the world was one thing, that things were going a certain way, that, for all your personal insignificance, you were a man like any other. Then you wake up one morning and that ain't so, anymore. Gods walk the Earth. Last year's average Joe is this year's "baseline", a word that, right there, says it all: "starting point". The notion that the nodeless have been left to eat evolutionary dust is coded even into the rhetoric they apply to themselves. And then you have novas. Gods incarnate. Like people, some are good, some are bad, some don’t give a squirt of piss. But by their very existence, they fuck up the curve for the other seven or eight billion inhabitants of their shared home. Novas have the power to back up their bullshit in ways that the average Joe don’t. That makes them dangerous, is what. The ability to assert their version of reality over that of others, the power to say “I want it this way, this is how it’s going to be, and you little people are free to dance to my tune or get out of the fucking way”. That’s the only thing I’d really say about “them”, is that they are motherfucking dangerous to anyone whose vision of reality doesn’t fit the caprice of some chimp with a fucking grenade who may say otherwise.

I take a drag from an unfiltered Lucky Strike and exhale in a long, pale jet that fills the room. It’s tastefully appointed; bless Dr. Breen for letting me smoke in his office. Normally, Breen’s the one takes care of my debriefing. I say “normally”, but nothing runs “normally” in the company. Everything is piecemeal, constantly shifting, evolving, like a sentient virus that lives in the Mitochondria. We do this to avoid detection, for starters, but also because the other option – to neglect this almost obsessive ritualization of security upon security – would endanger not just you, not just the would-be saboteur’s hapless mark, but our entire organization. So when I say “normally”, what I mean is, in an organization whose employees number in the mid hundreds, scattered across a half dozen departments in everything from Admin to Intel to Ops and in between, you’re bound to run in to some of the same characters from time to time, provided you live long enough. And me, I’ve been with the company for two years, seven months, fourteen days, and eight hours, if you don’t count the four months I was on probationary surveillance. I’ve stuck to Operations the whole time, save for a couple of months spent off and on with the boys in R&D, and that’s enough to have seen Doc Breen seven times, counting today. But today’s different: I didn’t just return from an Op, so I really don’t know why I’m here. I get the call, I show up. Instead of meeting up with Buddy, the most recent of what I call my “Talent Agents”, the guys who hand me my assignments, I’m sent to Doc Breen, who’s all warm smiles and Hey-there-Gerad-why-don’t-you-take-a-seat-nevermind-the-obvious-Admin-

flunkie-at-the-table-and-hey-how’d-you-like-a-cup-of-Gevalia-French-pressed? shtick. I take the coffee from his assistant, Maybel – goddamn good coffee, mind you, Gevalia’s grounds are so moist and fluffy you could eat them like fucking cake – and light up a smoke, and after a few minutes of cursory chit-chat they always appease apes like me with, I get that.

Do I hate them? Shit. I am one.

Ain’t that about a bitch?

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So I tell Breen and G-Man the truth. No, I don’t hate all novas. I don’t hate all felons, either, but that doesn’t mean I’d trust them with my kids, my wallet, my secrets, or, in this case, my planet, my economy, or my international diplomatic relations. The well isn’t poisoned: we’ll say maybe the water’s got a funky, metallic taste to it. I don’t hate all novas, but I’m sure as hell wary of them. I trust them less and am concerned by them more. We all walk around with dynamite in our mouths and hands that can kill: “Put all the money in this bag.” “Move, and I’ll shoot.” “I love you.” Bang. Pow. Pull a trigger, steal a kiss. And novas, they’re a hundred times worse. Wave an arm and gain the love of millions. Open your palm and set the world on fire. In the arms race of daily life, we law-abiding citizens from the cops down to the kids have been usurped overnight by a murder of lone nuts armed with automatic weapons.

Novas are a lot like felons, come to think of it. Only more employable.

The Admin goon consults Breen’s cue for a second, and his mouth curves at one corner into a sort of satisfied smirk. The answer was something like what they wanted to hear, I know, but it was also lended gravity by being true. Maybe my prejudices are a little more transparent than I would lead others to believe: most novas are guilty until proven innocent when it comes to who makes my Love List, and no, most of them don’t get the benefit of the doubt. When you can put the lives of most of the world in the shade with a simple ejaculatory spasm of your brain, don’t expect a lot of fucking leeway from those of us who have to clean up the mess.

Breen invites me to join himself and the G-Man at his teak and mahogany coffee table. I carry the little glass ashtray from the lampstand over and light up another smoke, and the suit introduces himself as Vice Chair of OpNet Intelligence Operations with an accent thick like borscht. Then he starts telling me about ‘Intelligence Cell Special Task Initiative HK047’, called project ‘Baleful Eye’, and utters to me the two most foul, bane, hateful, despicable, shit-in-your-cereal words any company operative can hear: “temporary reassignment”.

I won't bore you with a blow-for-blow of the litany of obscenities and threats that followed. I knew it wasn't any good fighting, but I'd be damned if I was going to let Admin run me over without at least a little showing of sack. In the end, I bowed to inevitability: a remote Intel assignment for an unspecified timeframe. Still, it wasn't all outside Operations: I was going in as a mole, operating under a false persona. That's why the need an operative, they assure me. The Intel squad doesn't do undercover. It's also why they need a nova: apparently, the subject of infiltration is a novas-only web forum. I ask why, even though I know the answer. The only places novas tend to meet and exchange ideas are places like Ibiza, the Blackburn, Shibuya, and even those places are prone to the faction-siding, posturing, and dick-measuring that makes them very dangerous places for even our handful of novas in the company, only a small handful of whom are operatives to begin with. A forum for novas, by novas, with only novas, speaking openly on their lives, personal issues, and thoughts? It's a fucking intel honeypot. Fuck.

"Allow me to introduce you to William Reed, Gerad." The suit hands me a manila envelope as he laconically puffs a cigar. I open it up and find something like my usual talent folders, only this time I've got all the trimmings: a whole life, fabricated for my use. William Reed, the world's most boring nova. A guy living in the biggest city with one of the most common names doing a job done by thousands.

"When do I start?", I grunt.

The suit smiles, shark-like, and lifts his glass. "You've already been registered, William. Go see Lovitz and pick up the laptop we've prepped for you. We'll expect status updates once a week. Don't leave the city. We'll contact you if we need you."

"Understood."

"Dismissed", he cracks, and like a good dog, I salute and leave. Goddamn, could I use a cigarette.

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Report

DIRECTIVE FILE: GD013

REL: Core Intel Heads, Project Heads

IPSP: None

Encryption: Alpha

RE: Project HK047, ‘Baleful Eye’

Summary: I’ve spent the last week on the site making a name for myself under my persona. Chat logs and saved ‘net files you’ll find appended to the report, so I won’t beat the dead horse of what I’ve been doing there or how I’m acclimating to the alias you issued me. Figure that’s more your ballgame, anyway. But, since you asked me for my impressions – and just so we both know, I already know it’s as much to monitor my continuing mental development when surrounded by other novas as it is to share in the mana from Heaven that is my insight into this group of fucking circus freaks – here they are:

Nova Madigan, ‘Flicker’, subject 0223A: Let’s get this one out of the way. Nova is an otherwise normal and by all accounts well-adjusted and rational young woman. She doesn’t appear to have come home from Utopia’s tender care as being a sycophant, and she hasn’t revealed even a hint of nova supremacist leanings. Quite the contrary, in fact: her folksy “Aw, shucks, I’m just a normal girl who can do some things normal folks can’t” attitude would be charming, if it wasn’t so easily exploited by organizations in opposition to us. Of particular note is that she is a teleporter of pretty fierce skill. She says she can take up to a grown adult with her when she makes interspatial jumps, and with a little judicious use of peer pressure, ‘fessed up to having used her powers for a lunar excursion. So not only is she capable of breaching atmosphere, she’s capable of surviving the experience. You don’t need me to tell you how potentially dangerous or potentially useful that is. My recommendation is to keep an eye on ‘Flicker’ and see which way she’s heading: keeping her outside the clutches of those Terat cunts should be priority one. Oh, by the way. She sent me a chunk of the lunar rock she claims to have picked up on her jaunt. I had it sent to anon’s box 36QQ at the usual place, for analysis. I expect to have it returned to me once you’ve finished. Feel free to lift prints and genes from the package. I sincerely doubt the kid had the foresight to prepare the package in a clean room.

Aušrine; Vasiliauskiute, subject 0119D: There isn’t much to say about Aušrine. Her participation in this forum is somewhat surprising, but seeing as how we already know everything from the name of the bitch her father took to prom to which rosy hue of Color Girl matches her carpet, and considering her relatively trifling participation so far, I’d say it’s business as usual, here. Chances are, your spooks know what she’s typing before I have a chance to hit F5.

’Revenant’, subject 019D: Another one of our delightful repeat customers around the Intel pool, and another enigma in the tune of “What the fuck are you doing hanging out in a fucking chatroom, you fucking tool?” Danny Deader’s only contribution t to the table so far has been to expound upon his wrong-headed, fatuous, and ultimately amusing belief system regarding the nature of his powers. Like a lot of novas who haven’t been inculcated to sucking dogmatic dick, he’s flinging shit at a wall and seeing what sticks. Completely earnest, completely sincere, and completely forgettable. Again, I suggest no change in established routine on this one.

Ryusei Hideyoshi, ‘Long’, subject 137B: Ryusei probably isn’t as stupid as he lets on, but he suffers from a narrowness of perspective. He’s been a nova for a short while now, long enough that he should be knee-deep in that “pig in shit” stage, but his chief topic of conversation seems to be his disappointment at not being able to play high school sports. I know how seriously our esteemable Nip compatriots take their extracurricular activities, but it speaks of a fucking startling lack of vision. Speaking with him, he seems soft-spoken and unambitious, but I don’t see that lasting forever. Eventually he’s going to wake up to his potential and start flexing what muscle he has. Of particular interest is the paternal attitude he professes for his siblings. His kid sister (next on the list, 138A) is in the same carpool.

Sakurako Hideyoshi, subject 138A: If her brother marks the result of the average teenaged, Japanese male erupting, his kid sister fills in the feminine role. There isn’t much more to elaborate on this one from her participation on the forum thus far, other than to state that she’s what you’d expect out of your typical otaku loser. Her brother’s statements seem to indicate an almost paternal caring for her, though I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something incestuous about their relationship. My next paycheck says that if neither had erupted, the only interest either of those two would have to us would be whatever having evidence that the CEO of Dynamo’s kids are fucking each other would be worth as blackmail.

William Daughtry, ‘Vile Bill’, subject 071D: Bill surprises us again, right? We expected him to be DV’s answer to David fucking Duke, and it turns out the guy’s more open-minded than a San Franciscan Unitarian minister. Who would have predicted that his interest in technology would expand beyond the latest liquid-plasma television and the most bleeding edge developments in things that fill other things full of holes, or that his interest in socialization with other novas would extend past his desire to shove long, hard things into them? As a sub-contractor, Bill’s proven out a worthy investment, in the past. I don’t see any reason to change that. All of Bill’s cards are perpetually on the table for the time being. It would be wasteful to not take advantage of that while the door is still open. He may be little more than a thug-for-hire, but his track record suggests that he stays bought.

Miranda Letchford, ‘Miranda Skye’, subject 124A: Get ready to expand the file on this tart. Even I had to go back and look her up, and frankly, I think you wrote Willy Reed a thicker profile than you’ve got on this babe. Her opening gambit on the forum was to find recruits for a documentary series about eruption. She seems, for the time being, concerned chiefly with her art, and using this forum as a means of drumming up interest, support, and finding subjects. Strictly opportunistic. I recommend stepping up ACOUSTINT for the interviews she has to follow: they’ll be most revealing and advantageous before they hit the editing room.

Doctor Robert White, subject 059A: White’s another case of inexplicable association. His persona here doesn’t change from his persona in public: very formal, very professional. Dry, even. What he’s bothering doing here isn’t something I’ve caught on to just yet, and most off-putting is the fact that his attitude towards his presence there is utterly natural and sensible. Perhaps his interest will taper off shortly, but if it doesn’t, I’ll have to assume it’s for ulterior reasons. No change in current monitoring recommended.

(cont.)

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  • 3 weeks later...

DIRECTIVE FILE: GD013, supplemental 04J

REL: Core Intel Heads, Project Heads

IPSP: None

Encryption: Alpha

RE: Project HK047, ‘Baleful Eye’

As I continue this assignment, I’m becoming increasingly aware of several disturbing revelations. First and foremost by a damn sight, I have come to believe in the eternal recursion of souls via reincarnation. I have come to this conclusion via certain empirical means: Occam’s Razor, in particular, demands an answer to the wherefore of this of this task I’ve been put to, and the only reasonable accounting I can make is that there is such a thing as past lives, and in one of mine, I was Goebbels, or perhaps Saint Thomas Aquinas, or Mother Theresa, or someone equally evil.

More germane to the issue at hand, the most surprising thing I’ve learned about the group of novas who make up the forum’s membership is how oppressively fucking mundane they are. I’m sure you’ve already got somebody crunching the numbers hard at work to figure out the demo of the site’s appeal, but it’s apparent that the idea has yet to catch on with the Null Manifesto set. Most of the novas represented are young, which also should be no surprise, as well as the fact that the central issue of discussion seems to be rather shallow discourse on news items, naturally with a focus on those pertaining to the nova world, further illustrating the vanity and narcissism that’s nearly inborn into the sub-species. Along similar lines, virtually all of the casual discussion revolves around the unique problems and challenges that novas face by virtue of being gods. It’s basically a lot of self-promoting “’mo money, ‘mo problems” horseshit, naturally, serving to further underscore the inherent differences between novas and baselines the same way the rich cluster in country clubs to bemoan how the poor just don’t understand the awkwardness of having to fire your immigrant maid or the bedeviling uncertainty of not knowing which IRA to invest in. Some, naturally, are worse than others, but that’s your call, after all, not mine.

Following are further preliminary case files on some of the more recent additions to the site:

Noel Christopher Hayley, ‘Maverick’,subject 243A: It’s generally accepted that a nova’s powers are determined by a sometimes unequal combination of what is necessary for survival and wish-fulfillment. It’s hard to imagine what situation would demand of one the ability to transform into a unicorn who can cure trauma and disease. This is by his own admission, of course, so take it as you will. The OCEAN I ran on him seems to indicate that he’s harmless: a nerd, by any other name, almost certainly either gay or bisexual. Worth watching only in the most minimal sense for the time.

Jael Carver, subject 313A: Another member of the teenage clique, Jael hasn’t made much of a name for herself yet, though her temperament is indicative of someone kind and even-headed. What little she’s said has been in the interest of making peace or drawing attention to others. She doesn’t seem interested in self-aggrandizement (strangely), and has publicly vouched to flying, though a cursory amount of research turned up the appended news articles from her hometown that I think you’ll find quite interesting. It seems apparent that her demeanor is a coping mechanism generated by the means of her eruption, one I see her growing out of eventually. For the time, she seems to be interested in law enforcement and has been flirting with trying to get to Quantico. While I’m sure she had an interest in these subjects prior to her eruption, her sudden interest in Club Fed smacks of the kind of psychological Stockholm’s Syndrome typical to people who suffer an intense trauma at the hands of a “criminal” or other figure set in opposition to law enforcement. Owing to the remarkably destructive nature of what she can do, I’d recommend tapping someone to monitor coroner’s reports from the geo area and keep an eye out for suspicious maulings.

Caitlin Aislinn Kieran, ‘Fianna’, subject 212A: Chances are you boys already know all about Fianna from a local level, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. The NYT articles covering her eruption and hospitalization are appended, of course. Caitlin has been a fairly outspoken participant thus far and has distinguished herself as friendly yet tough-minded. She’s taking part in Miranda Sky’s docu and at present still seems pretty happy with working for the metro zoo and studying Biology. She’s of notable interest as a person: as a potential threat, not so much.

’Everyman’, subject 217D: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: cryptic bastard shows up to a public gathering, hides behind a mask of anonymity, and dispenses snippets of Zen-like wisdom to anyone who’ll listen. I don’t have the equipment required to run traces on this guy’s posting, nor do I feel particularly inclined to do so. The nova calling himself Everyman is tabula rasa for the time being: he’s expressed slight sympathies with some of what William Reed has posted, but he’s otherwise inscrutable. I’ll leave the rest to your group of bloodhounds.

Tim Duke, ‘Spartan’, subject 301B: Is Vile Bill recruiting or something? The presence of seasoned, adult, male Elites to this forum, guys who shit bullets and would generally be perplexed by a book club meeting on ‘The Little Engine That Could’, was totally inscrutable to me at first, until I looked back over my last couple dispatches and noticed the litany of female novas ages 16-25 who make up the forum’s membership. Whether that means Spartan is particularly savvy at trolling for snatch or has simply bumbled into a honeypot, I can’t yet say. Needless to say, his online demeanor is virtually identical to his offline demeanor: he’s a swinging-dick tough guy who likes to brag about the brass in his balls. Time Duke is a simple creature, and provided he’s steeped in blood, pussy, and money, he won’t think about anything all that hard.

Alexis Layton, subject 219A: It would be a mistake to write off Alexis as a pampered, prima donna socialite bimbo. Don’t get me wrong, she is all those things, but the hidden subtext beneath her writings show a surprising amount of conscientiousness. Where it comes from, I can’t say, but I think it would be wise to put a closer eye on that whole goddamn family. Aside the fact that we already know she’s a walking powder keg on her own, her still waters run… well, let’s not say “deep”, but how about “not-quite-as-shallow-as-the-preliminary-eval-indicated”. When William Reed mentioned his minor cash troubles, she privately contacted me and offered me a grocery stipend, citing that the work William does is good and necessary. I turned it down, of course, and asked instead that she make a donation to a local food bank, which she said she’d take under advisement. Whether or not there’s any iron in those words remains yet to be seen. It’s possible that the offer was more of the same “brotherhood of novas” bullshit we’ve seen wherever these fucks congregate.

Addendum, subject 223A: You’ll notice from the appended logs that Nova has announced her first Martian excursion in the past tense. When questioned about it, she further endeavored to announce that she had made the trip in a single jump. For those of you not paying attention, that’s nearly sixty million kliks in one jump. I really hope you fuckers are acting on this.

(cont.)

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