Thursday, 2 June 2011

Chapter 8: First Awakenings

It was not long after Vincent had left the lab that a group of AnthRobot security arrived at the scene, with the anti spintronic device still active they froze as they entered the radius of effect. This was not something the Hive Queen was expecting, in fact, it did not know what to expect. Security systems had picked up noises from this laboratory, crashing and wails of some sort, the Hive Queen thought that perhaps Vincent had come in, drunk, as has happened before, and somehow managed to create a physical malfunction in the local cameras. It did not consider that he may have been using an anti spintronic jammer, a terrorist device. This one fact changed the situation from merely inconvenient to extraordinarily bad. It immediately called in a contingent of loyal human security to check the scene.
Howard Briggs arrived at the laboratory within 20 minutes; he had been briefed by the Hive Queen on the way, due to the fact that within the radius of the anti spintronic jammer his spintronic implant would be useless, until it was deactivated. It was just before 2am when he entered the laboratory, whoever had caused the disruption was long gone by this point, the lights were still on and he could immediately see the room was a mess. There was smashed glass on the floor, a broken window and some sort of scientific instrument had crashed on the floor. This was next to a secure freezer. Wearing gloves, he tried to open it, and discovered it was unlocked. He closed it again; whatever the perpetrator did, he had access to this freezer, which narrowed the list of suspects down. Only scientists on this particular project had access to this freezer, whatever the project was, he was not at liberty to know. He began to search the lab for any active device that looked out of place. Most devices in the room used spintronic hardware and would have been deactivated. After a few minutes of searching, he found a small portable device attached to the underside of a workbench in a cupboard. He carefully detached it from the screw it was hooked on, and looked it over. He did not want to do anything with it; it may be booby-trapped. He walked it out of the lab and gave it to a colleague.
“I found this device, I think it’s what is causing the spintronic interference, can’t be sure though. It may be a booby trap, dispose of it,” Said Howard.
“Yes sir,” replied the officer.
Howard retuned to the lab and waited. After about thirty seconds, the frozen AnthRobots In the hallway began to reactivate, and he reactivated his spintronic implant.
“Hive Queen, I have discovered the interference device and have given it to one of my officers to dispose of, in case it is booby trapped” sent Howard.
“Good,” replied the Hive Queen “now please verify the identity of the perpetrator.”
Howard got back to work, his first instinct was to check for fingerprints, but he considered that there were gloves in the lab and the perpetrator could easily have put some on, he decided that the possibility that they forgot was not worth ignoring. After dusting the door to the secure freezer, the bench, and the glove box itself, using his spintronic implant he confirmed there were no fresh fingerprints. His next instinct was to check around the broken instruments and window for bodily fluids, if the perp cut himself there would be drips of blood.
Bingo, he found a small amount of blood on the window frame. Strange, he thought, his first assumption was that the perp had broken the window with something, seen it was too far down the six storeys and found another escape route, this blood indicated that perhaps they had in fact jumped out of the window. He had come via the broken glass outside on his way up there was no evidence of blood that he could see in the low light, and certainly no body. No one could walk away from that fall, could they? He took a swab of the blood on the window frame and contacted the Hive Queen with an update, and the proceeded back down to the ground floor, to reinvestigate the broken glass, giving the swab sample to an officer, to get DNA tested, on the way.
Using his torch he scanned around the scene, there was in fact a little blood on some of the shattered pieces of glass scattered around the place, he bagged some of them up, even though the blood would undoubtedly be the same as on the window frame, just to be sure.
With his torchlight, he caught a glimpse of something a little way off, it was a hypodermic syringe, with a little blood on the needle; he packaged that up too, and then saw a trail of small blood spots leading away from the building.
He Contacted the Hive Queen again.
“It seems the perpetrator has most definitely jumped out of the window, I found a trail of blood and a used syringe out here.”
“This is most worrying; I will order the anthrobots to check in the laboratory to check if my suspicion is correct, thank you Howard. Please turn the evidence over to anthrobot security.”
“I’d like to carry on investigating, if that is all right. No offence to you, but something is telling me there is more going on here than I first assumed.”
“No thank you Howard, I will be able to continue the investigation from here. You are dismissed.”
Grudgingly Howard backed down; he could not do anything without the Hive Queen’s say so. He returned the glass shards and syringe to AnthRobot security, and returned home. He knew the Hive Queen was not telling him something, but he was loyal enough to drop it, he would go home to his wife and sleep.
The Hive Queen’s suspicions had been confirmed; the test tube label F/C 0835666 had been emptied and replaced with water, and the syringe found by Howard Briggs had traces of the viral culture. All the blood was Vincent Blake’s, the blood round the window and on the glass shards was a direct match, but the blood on the syringe and the blood drips outside were showing changes to his genetic code, consistent with him having injected the culture into himself. If indeed he was working with the humanist underground, getting their hands on this new technology could prove disastrous to the Hive Queen’s plans, things would have to be put into motion sooner than expected.
* * * * * * * * * *
Rayna woke up in a bed, she could barely see, but she knew it was not her own. She ached all over, what had happened last night? Last thing she remembered was leaving a nightclub at about two. Was she really that drunk? This did not feel like her usual hangover, and whose bed was she in? She rubbed her eyes and tried sitting up, it was difficult but she managed it. It was dark in the room, the blackout window was activated, but she could make out everything now at least it’s shape, then the door opened and a man walked though.
“Oh, you’ve woken up” he said.
“Uh, yeah, where am I?”
“Don’t worry you’re safe, and don’t try to move too much, the aching will go away eventually, I bought you some water.”
“Right. I’ve woken up in guy’s beds before but I really can’t remember what happened last night, I must have been wasted.”
“It wasn’t last night; you’ve been unconscious for about 28 hours”
“Uh okay, what happened? Was I mugged or something, and you saved me?”
“Not quite, you were attacked and I guess I saved you, but I was also the one that attacked you.”
“Uh, what? You attacked me, and you bought me here, what are you kidnapping me or something, your loss, cause I ain’t worth shit, are you going to turn the light on so I can see your face?”
“oh no, nothing like that, I would turn the light on, but your eyes may be very sensitive, I was going to try an break it to you gently, but here’s my face”
Vincent turned the light on to it’s dimmest setting and Rayna immediately threw her hand over her eyes.
“Hey not so bright man, what’s the deal?”
“This is only the dimmest setting, this is what I was going to tell you, your new eyes may be more sensitive than normal, they’ll take a moment to adjust.”
“New eyes? What the hell are you talking about man, you ain’t making sense!”
“All will become clear, now look at me.”
Rayna lowered her hand and looked upon Vincent’s face, he had shaved not long ago, and the accelerated hair growth had slowed down to normal but his face was still a shocking sight. Rayna Screamed.
“Shh, not so loud, it’s still pretty early in the morning.”
“Who, wh… what are you?” Rayna said, petrified.
“My name is Vincent, and there’s nothing to be afraid of, I was… exposed, to a virus which changed my appearance, which I’m sorry to say I have inadvertently passed onto you.”
“WHAT, so I look like that too, like a fucking vampire. You are a fucking vampire!”
“No, no I’m not, there is no such thing as vampires; I assure you,” He said, “I tried using anti-vials to stop or slow down the virus, but it was futile. The virus has reacted some way with my ASRESCs [Aggressive Self Replicating Embryonic Stem Cells] and seems to infiltrate the system too quickly. Please do not be afraid, I have done everything I can to nurse you through this, to keep you well, and safe, from yourself,” Explained Vincent
“What do you mean?”
“When this virus first… infected me, the animal part of my brain took over; I attacked you, possibly fed on you, and transmitted the virus. Thankfully you didn’t die, the virus saved your life, and I have been keeping you here, feeding you sugar water so the same thing didn’t happen to you, you must understand I have been doing this for your own good.”
“Ok, what if I believe you, what now? You say you’re not a vampire, even though you look a hell of a lot like one,”
“I assure you the similarity is a coincidence, although…”
she cut him off “Say if I believe you, I can just go back to my life, right? So I might look a bit different but some guys are into that, I could make a good buck.”
“I don’t think that will be possible.”
“Why not?” She asked.
“Your physical changes have been a little more extreme than mine, as I was saying before the virus is designed to change a person, give them the traits of a combination of animals, in this case Cats and Bats…”
“You made me part bat? So I am a fucking vampire!”
“No you are not, please listen,” Vincent tried to calm her. “The transformations were originally supposed to be subtle, but something in the way the virus infected me, and combined with my ASRESCs, the transformations are more extreme. My transformation has favoured the cat aspects, but apparently yours have favoured the bat, and may look more striking that you have assumed.”
“What do you mean, show me!”
“Very well” Vincent left the room and returned with a small mirror.”
Rayna looked at herself in it and saw what he meant, her canines were long, like Vincent’s, perhaps slightly longer, but other transformations were apparent too. She hadn’t noticed before but her finders had grown, perhaps by another one third, and had begin to web, also she seemed to have lost weight since the transformation, she was a little tubby before but now she was practically waiflike, although her muscles seemed much more toned than they have ever been. Her ears had grown slightly, pointing at the top; her nose seemed to have widened, and wrinkled in the bridge and her eyes looked slightly sunken. The biggest change of all however, was a flap of skin under her arms running down her side to her knee, she lifted her arm up to look at it and a muscle she didn’t know she had pulled taught, she had a membranous flap of skin running up her side.
“Oh my God” she wailed and began crying. “I’m fucking hideous.”
“Please don’t cry” whispered Vincent, “I am so very sorry for what I have given you, but you are not hideous at all, it’s beautiful in fact, I am a lonely man, I want you to consider living here with me, I hope you can forgive me, and we can live with this curse together.”
“Fuck you,” she said through her tears. “Where the fuck are my clothes?”
“I’m afraid they were… damaged, I went out earlier to pick you up some more, they are in the bathroom,” He said, and she stormed off.
She locked herself in the bathroom for several hours, sobbing occasionally. Eventually she decided to emerge, and came to speak to Vincent.
“What if I do decide to stay with you, what then?”
“Well… I work with some rather shady individuals, who will be very interested in the changes we have exhibited, our changes may be passed onto many other people, we will not be alone then.”
“I’m listening, who are these people?”
“you may have heard of them, depending on who you listen to, they are called Humanist Underground, or the Anti Queen Terrorists.”
“You work with terrorists?” she shouted shocked.
“Yes, please be quiet, people may hear, but they are not as bad as the media makes them out to be, their goal is to save us all from oppression under the government of the Hive Queen.”
“I though the Hive Queen was good and stuff?”
“That’s just what she wants you to think, in fact for years she has been brainwashing people and conducting illegal research secretly, eventually she plans to have the whole world under her control”
“What about those people on Mars?”
“I don’t know much but I believe they are on our side, even though they say different. They supply the Humanist Underground with technology and funds occasionally.”
“I was going to go, you know, but I couldn’t afford it in the end,” She said.
“That’s good to know, one theory is, the Hive Queen encouraged the Mars colony as a way to weed out her opposition, get them all in one place.”
“Then what? Nuke it out of space?”
“Oh no, the Hive Queen would be more subtle than that, possibly cause a disease, seal off the planet, and say it is native to Mars, people would praise her for saving Earth from the contagion.”
“Wow yeah, that’s pretty heavy stuff, you know I think I will be better off with you, my life was shit anyway, I don’t want to go back to it. I’m Rayna by the way.”
“I’m glad” said Vincent and smiled warmly. “Rayna, that’s a beautiful name.”
She smiled back.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mack woke up at about seven thirty in the morning, lying next to Marina. It was not the first time they had slept together, but this time, Mack knew it was because of the revelations of yesterday, Marina was truly frightened by the implications of what they had learned, and she needed the comfort of Mack there. Mack kissed her on the head and she stirred a little, he got up, washed and dressed, and made cereal and drinks for himself and Marina. He took them back to his room gave Marina her breakfast, as she was now awake and sitting up in bed brushing her hair. She thanked him, as he sat on the bed and ate his breakfast. They began talking about what they thought might be happening today, the previous night they had not spoken about it much. They had lay in each other’s arms and talked about random things until they both fell asleep. Although they had been seeing each other increasingly for two months, and were, as some would say ‘an item’, they had not yet made love. This didn’t bother Mack, much, he knew she was the perfect girl and he didn’t want to ruin anything by rushing her, and due to her catholic up bringing, he knew he couldn’t rush her if he tried. He was more than content in her company, and he made sure she knew it. He was sure she appreciated it.
Mack had gone to see Doctor Carter the previous evening to confront him about whether his family were working with the Hive Queen knowingly or under its influence. He assured Mack that no one knew that they were working for the Hive Queen or not, most people couldn’t even fathom that it’s intentions were anything but benevolent.
“When it is possible, we will endeavour to undo the conditioning that the Hive Queen has put upon the people of Earth. We still do not really know very much, as to the level of conditioning more senior people in the Hive Queen’s government have received, but we are certain that no one is knowingly helping its cause. I assure you we told you everything we know for sure this morning,” He had said, and Mack had believed him, for the most part, it was just so much to get his head around.
once they had finished eating breakfast, Marina went to get washed and dressed and Mack accessed some TV for a bit, and by eight fifteen Marina was ready, she had to go via her own apartment to pick up some clean clothes but they still had plenty of time.
They left his apartment and headed towards Marina’s apartment, when they got there, Marina opened the door and they went in, Mack sat in the kitchen whilst Marina went into the bedroom to get changed. A couple of minutes later she had finished and they headed off back to the seminar room.
They arrived at their destination a few minutes early, and about half the group was already there, everyone had seemed to gravitate into preset groupings, based on who they had already met. Mack and Marina figured there would probably be plenty of time to get to know everyone else if they were set to work with each other, and the only person they knew already that was here was Rajid, who was on his own, no Bryan yet, they went over and said hi.
“Hello Marina, Hello Mack,” He said, “How are you this morning”
“Pretty good, thanks,” Said Mack
“I’m good, thanks Rajid. Yourself?” said Marina
“I am fine thank you.”
“Have you been here long?” asked Mack.
“no I was one of the last to arrive before you”
“so, no sign of Doctor Carter, or Doctor Petrova”
“no not yet”
A couple of minutes past and the clock in the room said precisely 9am when Doctor Carter and Doctor Petrova came into the room, almost simultaneously Bryan walked casually in the other door, and came to join the small group. By this point everyone was here.
“Good morning everyone, I trust you are all well rested?”
There were murmurs of acknowledgement in the room.
“Are we missing anybody?” he continued, “no? Good, in a moment I will be handing out to you personalised work assignments, which compliment your individual talents, although I’m sure you will all be working with each other at some point in the future. But first I’d like to talk to you a little more,” He paused for a moment before continuing.
“Yesterday we spoke to you about why the mars colony was created, and why you have been chosen for this group, what we did not tell you is what this group is for. You are all talented young individuals, all high IQs and determination. What we want from you is to put those brains to use, coming up with technologies we can use for the betterment of humankind, and perhaps ways to fight the Hive Queen. Some of the projects you will be working on are de-conditioning people loyal to the Hive Queen. Finding ways to counteract its influence and ability to surveil and control the population of Earth. Other projects less directed towards fighting the Hive Queen include space travel, primarily ways to open wormholes without having an established gateway at each end, something that the Hive Queen has yet to crack, and perhaps will not try. It is a patient being, and will happily wait for years, which is how long it will take for the many gateway ships it has been launching for the better part of the last decade, to reach other solar systems. You will also have access to the full processing power of MITCH which I’m sure you are all aware of and any other facilities you require”
One person, a young Mediterranean looking man attempted to ask a question, but Doctor Carter stopped him.
“All your questions will be answered in time, please be patient,” Was all he said.
Being fed all this information without clarification was beginning to tire Mack, but what could he do? Carter and Petrova obviously weren’t going to disclose any more information than they needed to, and there wasn’t going to be anywhere else he could find the information, his only options were to quit, which he wasn’t even sure he’d be allowed to do anyway, or wait, which would eventually quench his curiosity.
Doctor Carter began walking around the room, handing out sealed work orders to each person individually. Mack opened his immediately, and it simply said
Mack Philips – Britain – Western Europe
Intelligence – High
Practical Intelligence – High
Imaginative Ability – High
Calculative Ability – Moderate
Scientific Knowledge (Theoretical) – Moderate
Scientific Knowledge (Practical) - High
Spintronic Hardware/Software Knowledge – Moderate
Project Assignment – Engineering Concepts
Team - Design and Implementation
Everyone else had the same form, with personalised information. There was already heated discussion amongst the group. Marina showed him her form and vice versa.
Marina Porter – Indiana – Midwest States of America
Intelligence – High
Practical Intelligence – Moderate
Imaginative Ability – High
Calculative Ability – Moderate/High
Scientific Knowledge (Theoretical) – Moderate
Scientific Knowledge (Practical) - Moderate
Spintronic Hardware/Software Knowledge – High
Project Assignment – Engineering Concepts
Team - Cybertronics
“Well, good news, we’re both ‘Engineering Concepts’ whatever that means eh?” said Mack.
“Yeah,” said Marina “different team though, but like Neil Said, we’ll all be working together at some point. Hey Bryan, what’s yours say?”
“Theoretical Implementation, Engineering Concepts” he said as he passed it to them
Bryan Daggon – Massachusetts – Northeast States of America
Intelligence – High
Practical Intelligence – Low
Imaginative Ability – Low
Calculative Ability – Very High
Scientific Knowledge (Theoretical) – Very High
Scientific Knowledge (Practical) - High
Spintronic Hardware/Software Knowledge – High
Project Assignment – Engineering Concepts
Team – Theoretical Implementation
“Hey cool, we’re all in Engineering Concepts, I guess it’ll be designing machines or something” said Mack.
“Yeah probably,” said Bryan, “I just want to know what Theoretical Implementation means. I mean, how do you implement a theory? Ability to implement is what separates a theory from a practical reality right?”
“I guess, said Marina “perhaps it means finding practical realities for theories, like wormholes were only a theory for years before the Hive Queen worked out how to actually make one.”
“Yeah but that was the Hive Queen, it has the processing power of a thousand people”
“a thousand normal people maybe, but you’re not quite normal are you Bry,” Said Mack.
“Well I guess not,” Bryan brightened taking it as a compliment. “This is going to be pretty cool, I like a good challenge.”
Doctor Carter and Doctor Petrova escorted the group to a secure annexe of the colony, the other side of the colony to the habitation modules, requiring hand print identification to get access. He ushered them all into a separate corridor.
“This section of the colony is where you will be working. We have fully equipped labs and materials for your use, as I said before, full use of MITCH, and something else that I have not mentioned yet.”
He walked them along to a room off the main corridor.
“Within this room is a selection of things that you may be surprised more by than anything else you have been told the last couple of days”
He opened the door with another hand scan and walked in. letting the group follow him.
Inside the room were surfaces with items on them, in some cases, items suspended in a fluid, and in a couple of cases suspended by some sort of electromagnetic repulsion.
The items looked strange to Mack’s eyes. He got the sensation that the items in this room were old, very old, even though everything looked smooth, clean and pristine.
“The artefacts in this room are what many of you will be studying, as some of you may have guessed, these items are not human, they are in fact alien, extra terrestrial. We have estimates that put their age at several tens of million years: Predating primate evolution.”
Several gasps could be heard about the room, only from those were not too shocked to breathe.
“The artefacts are extremely tough, and heat resistant, we only have them because they survived the asteroid bombardment of the planet and simply floated to the surface. We believe they originate from a race of humanoid beings that lived in our solar system around the time of the dinosaurs as far as we can guess. Most dating techniques have been useless. Our only estimates are based on how soon after the bombardment they surfaced, from which we could make a rough guess at how deep they were with a simple calculation based on density of the artefacts. Knowing how quickly the artefacts would be buried on Mars, which without a biosphere is a long time, we could judge the age of them, of course our estimates might be way off if they were buried very deep in the time of their use.
“We think the beings were humanoid because some of the more simple artefacts show ergonomics suitable for a short human, and other artefacts have evidence of humanoid hand shapes, three long fingers with an opposable thumb. Obviously due to the age of the objects and the sterilising heat of the lava they rose through, we have found no biological material, or any actual images, so we are still only going by guesswork at this time.
“One of the original researchers come up with a theory that perhaps primate life was seeded on Earth by these beings, and nicknamed them the Progenitors. Progs for short, the name has stuck, and even those who do not believe the theory have not come up with another name, and for the sake of consistency that is what we generally call them.”
As he said this a Latino looking man, in his mid to late thirties, walked into the room holding a container with gloved hands.
“Hi Neil,” He said to Doctor Carter, “so these are the new recruits?” Neil nodded, and then the man addressed everybody as he placed the item on a surface and signed a logbook. “Let me introduce myself, I am Doctor Vincenzo Alonso, almost everybody calls me Vince though. Very nice to meet you all,” He said smiling “I’m sure I’ll see you all again at some point, but I gotta get back to work” he finished and left the room.
“Vince there works on our team studying what we believe may be a power storage device of some kind we have about two dozen other scientists working here already, with all you we will pretty much double our person power, which is quite a relief to many of our staff. We’re stretched pretty thin, and with more and more artefacts being discovered, and progress on most artefacts being pretty slow, you will all be a great help to our team.”
Doctor Carter ushered the group out of the artefact room and locked the door. They were all taken around the laboratories and shown some of the artefacts being worked on. As it turned out there were several projects being worked on other than Engineering Concepts, such as Material Studies, and Xenocology. Each project had a few teams specialising on specific aspects.
Engineering Concepts was tasked with learning how the Prog artefacts worked, and how to recreate or ‘backwards engineer’ them. A daunting task but Mack had never been so excited in his life.
That night Mack and Marina were hanging out with each other, they watched a movie and snuggled on the bed.
“Amazing isn’t it” said Mack to Marina.
“What?” she asked.
“Everything we’ve learned the last couple of days, you can’t say you aren’t amazed by it all.”
“Well, yeah I am.”
“You know, for the firs time in my life I think I am truly happy, I have a gorgeous, wonderful girlfriend who I love, for the first time I’m actually going to be doing something with my life, something that interests and fascinates me”
“I love you too Mack,” She smiled at him and kissed him on the forehead, then climbed on top of him and kissed him on the lips. He smiled back at her and she began undoing the buttons on his shirt.
“Hey, are you sure?”
“Yes Mack, I’m sure, I don’t think I’ll ever love anyone one as much as you, I want you to be my first,” She finished unbuttoning his shirt, and then took of her own top. They undressed each other delicately, Mack fumbled with her bra, but she took over and too kit off. They had never seen each other naked before and they began to kiss again. Then they made love, each for the first time.

Chapter 7: New Beginnings

Vincent Blake entered his lab at around half past one in the morning. There were no other people around, the lab complex only employed around a dozen scientists, and automated servitors carried out most of the manual, non-technical and janitorial work. Vincent had made sure that the entire place was empty of people. All he had to do was activate the spintronic interference generator that his secretive benefactors had supplied him, able to cause a feedback loop in spintronic hardware, causing the momentary process active the moment of the device’s activation to repeat endlessly, until deactivation. This would knock out all the Hive Queen’s surveillance cameras and servitors, essentially freezing time from their point of view, as well as her link to his spinplant, allowing him to carry out his mission unseen.
Everything was set, Vincent took the Viral culture of the Feline/Chiropteran Variant 0835666, normally the viral culture would be specialised to a specific person’s genome using SASRESCs, however that would have taken too long and Vincent was in quite a hurry. In addition, the negative side affects of direct viral injection were not so important in this instance, and could be ceased easily after the fact with anti-virals, which he had stashed at his apartment.
Vincent rolled up the sleeve of his white coat and twisted it to slow venal circulation; he took a hypodermic syringe and carefully took a sample of the viral buffer into the cylinder. He then began flexing his left hand to bring up his vein and carefully injected the serum.
There was no turning back now.
* * * * * * * * * *

The seminar was held in one of the conference suites near the centre of the dome complex. Mack and Marina entered the room and there were only about twenty people inside, milling around chatting in small groups, a few people were serving themselves drinks from two large urns.
”You think this is everybody?” Mack said to Marina under his breath.
”I guess so, we’re not early, right?” she replied.
”No, no you’re not early!” said an energetic voice to Mack’s left which almost made him jump “actually you’re right on time!”
Mack turned around to see an outdated GyRobot, a pillar shaped servitor that moves and stays upright using a gyroscope-controlled ball. A monitor on the front displays a computer animated human face. Based on a design that was first developed in the early years of the century they were not used extensively until many years later, and due to their lack of practical ability, were usually used for human relations, with a relatively large pre-programmed vocabulary, they could answer most questions people could throw at it. In later years, they were used as envoys for the Hive Queen due to their simplicity to build and low running costs. These days however you barely, if ever, saw them, all replaced by simple AnthRobots.
”Is this everybody that has been invited?” Mack asked the energetic envoy.
“No, there is one more guest yet to arrive, making twenty three guests in all. By following his movements on cameras I have estimated that he will arrive shortly.”
”Why are we here exactly?” Marina added curiously.
”All will be explained when the final guest arrives,” finished the GyRobot before rolling back into its alcove next to the entrance.
”Well that was worth it,” Said Marina, with more than just a hint of sarcasm.
”Well what do you expect, the technology here is all so dated, I’m surprised we got a coherent sentence out of it at all”
”Yeah, and what’s with all the secrecy? It’s not even as if we won’t find out in a couple of minutes anyway.”
”Ah, the power of suspense, I guarantee this meeting is going to be a completely pointless waste of time, and we were lured here by our own curiosity.”
”Yeah, you’re probably right, there were probably hundreds of people invited and we were the only ones dumb enough to show up, I guess we’re just a bunch of suckers,” They both laughed.
”Well, we’re here now so we might as well wait for this final stooge and find out what this was all about once and for all. You want a drink while we wait?”
* * * * * * * * * *
Vincent Blake awoke on the floor of his sixth storey lab, amongst shattered glass, with every cell of his body aching. He pulled himself up to the counter with his arms, the pain was unbearable, his muscles were not responding as they should have been, flinching, twitching, jerking, his heart was racing, and his stomach cramping. His legs buckled under his weight, and he fell to the floor, he almost blacked out again but he managed to crawl to the door, there was still no one around, all he could think about was getting out of the compound. He had not even realised the hypodermic syringe still hanging out of his arm, or thought about deactivating the anti-spintronic device. At this moment his mind was fuelled only by animal instinct, with a burst of adrenalin, he got up, ran towards the window, and jumped right through it.
Vincent could not remember the next few hours; in fact, all the events of the previous evening were hazy, as if he had spent the night getting very drunk, without suppressing the negative effects using his B.C.I. obviously. He awoke in what he could only assume was his own bed, he still ached but the worst was obviously over. His muscles were slow to react and in some way, unfamiliar, everything felt strange, as if he was using his body for the first time. He rolled over, sat up on the edge of the bed and opened his eyes, only, they did not seem to open, he had felt them open, he thought, or perhaps he had only imagined it. He tried again but he still saw only blackness, he felt up to his face to feel his eyes, he could feel them blinking, but he still saw nothing.
He was completely blind.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mack poured drinks for Marina and himself from the hot water urn in the anteroom of the conference suite, a coffee for her and a tea for himself. They walked into the main conference room where most of the people had gone now. There were more seats than needed, four rows of eight separated with a central aisle, Mack showed Marina to a seat third row, one seat in on the right from the centre, and Mack took the seat on the aisle.
As soon as they sat down the man sitting in front looked over his shoulder and shifted round to face them.
”Hi I’m Bryan Daggon, everyone calls me Bry though,” He thrust his hand towards Mack for him to shake.
”Hi, I’m Mack, and this is Marina,” Bryan shook both of their hands.
”Wow, so you guys know each other, what are the chances of that, only twenty three of us here, some ten thousand first wave immigrants, that’s literally a one in a million thing, well closer to one in one point zero eight seven million, but you know.”
”Show off, we can all use our spinplants,” teased Marina.
”Nope, I’m not implanted, my brain is incompatible with spintronic implants,” He smiled “I guess you could say I’m wired a little differently to most people,”
”Oh now I’m intrigued” replied Marina “you’ve just got to tell me what you mean by that.”
”Well, I was part of project, harnessing the abilities of autistic savants without compromising other abilities most people take for granted. I was actually the only success story, and I’m still not perfect, they say I ‘exhibit traits of aspergers syndrome whilst retaining the cerebral abilities of an autistic savant’. I got a lot of brothers and sisters stuck in a home back on Earth, I used to visit them all the time, but now, obviously, I can’t, I still talk to them when I can, but it’s hard you know, I grew up with them, they’re my family.”
Mack was starting to feel a little threatened by Bryan’s attentions towards Marina. ”We both left our families behind on Earth too, so we’re all in the same boat really”
* * * * * * * * * *
Vincent lay on the bed for the better part of a day; his B.C.I. had failed to suppress his all-consuming pain to any less than a mild ache. He had managed to feel his way around what he had discovered was a safe house for the Humanist’s that he was familiar with, he mush have had enough presence of mind the night before to get here rather than home. He managed to get to the kitchen several times to find food and drink for his almost unquenchable hunger and thirst, but he kept it to a minimum because he had lost his balance several times, he still felt like he was learning to use his body all over again. Throughout the day, his memories of the previous night began to come back, the mission into his lab, his taking of the Chimera virus; he could still not remember anything of how he got home though. The effects of the virus were the only explanation for the way he was feeling, but similar symptoms had never been recorded in any of the clone tests. Perhaps the virus had different effects on different people, or perhaps the virus had mutated in some way, perhaps it was because his original ASRESCs were prototypes to begin with. Maybe the fact he had injected himself with the virus in its pure unspecified form had some unexpected effect, these were all plausible possibilities, but Vincent did not like to think about them. If the virus had changed him differently to that which he had already seen in the previous tests, the changes would be completely unknown and unpredictable. Vincent had been keeping track of time using his B.C.I. clock and it was starting to get later in the day and then early evening. He was beginning to have hope for his condition as he began to see shadows and faint shapes around him during what must have been sunset, and soon after, even though he had done nothing in the day, he began to feel very tired and drifted off to sleep.
His night was filled with nightmares of feral beasts and vampiric horror. He had dreamed he was a monster who in the middle of the night attacked a defenceless woman, biting her, hurting her to the brink of death, dragging her back to his home and raping her.
He woke up dazed and confused; an awful metallic taste in his mouth, it seemed he could now see, but his vision was bright and blurry, the light of the sun coming through his window was almost blinding. His nightmare was so vivid it must have been caused by the viral attack on his immune system, causing a chemical imbalance in his brain, themed by his fears of what the virus was doing to him. He opaqued the window, which plunged the apartment into darkness but his eyes quickly, adjusted and he found his way to the bathroom and activated the light on a dimmest setting, he splashed his face with water, rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked in the mirror. He almost screamed in shock because the face that looked back at him was not his own, it did look like him, but very different, his beard had grown certainly more than 2 days growth, his cheek bones looked sharper, his eyes wider and his pupils like that of a cat. He reached up with his hand to feel his face but his hand looked different too, his fingers looked slightly longer and thinner, almost skeletal, the back of his hand was covered in a relatively thick layer of hair, his nails had grown, toughened, and narrowed almost like claws. The flesh around his nails had begun to engulf them and as he moved his fingers, his nails seemed to recede and grow. That was not what horrified him the most however, as he looked at himself he saw his hands, his arms and his chest were coated in red stains. Blood. Could it be his nightmares last night were true, had the virus somehow caused the feral, animal part of his brain to take over and commit heinous acts in his sleep? He rushed back to his bedroom and dimly activated his light. His pristine white room was smeared all over with blood, his bed sheets too were stained with dried red puddles, and his sheet was thrown over a shape on the side of his bed. He walked over in fear, afraid to see what was underneath, he reached for the sheet and closed his eyes as he threw it onto the floor, he slowly opened his eyes to see the shape of a young woman there on the bed, as covered in blood as he was, if not more. He panicked and quickly looked all over her for any wounds, however he failed to find any at all, he checked her pulse, strong and fast, too fast in fact, it felt like a drum roll on his fingers, he quickly pulled his hand away, not quite sure what to think. Suddenly it hit him, the virus! One of its side effects was extremely accelerated healing, and metabolism, if this was the case the virus must be contagious, he must have infected her when he attacked her last night. Assuming the virus has mutated and will have the same affects on her, she will go through the same horrific symptoms as he had. His guilt for his actions made him decide that he would nurse her through this traumatic day. He may have ruined her life as she knew it, but if these changes were irreversible, as he was sure they were, he would try to ease her into a new life. When this was over, he would seek out the resistance and inform them of this new gift that he could bring to their cause, because the more he thought about it, the more it was a gift. It seems the virus has mutated to magnify the originally planned symptoms by several times; further accelerated healing, beyond that of traditional ASRESC abilities, enhanced night vision, greater strength and speed. Soon the resistance would have a powerful new weapon against the tyranny of the Hive Queen.
* * * * * * * * * *
Neil Carter walked out into the room, along with a tall prim, but very attractive looking woman with a clipboard.
“Good to see you are all getting to know one another,” He said, “I’m sure many of you will know who I am, I know a few of you had their induction seminars carried out by me, and a couple more have seen me for medical or other business. But for the couple of you who I haven’t met, my name is Neil and I am the chief medical and scientific officer here in the colony, and this is Sonja Petrova; a member of my staff, and a gifted quantum physicist, specialising in both spintronics and wormhole technology.”
“I’m sure you are all wondering why you are here,” There was a bustle of agreement and curiosity “you have been gathered because you are amongst the brightest young minds amongst the immigrants to our colony. On Mars, we consider human intellect a very great resource. And we would be very grateful if you would consider using your intellect for the betterment of the colony,” There were murmurs of both interest and confusion at this; everyone knew that no human could match the raw intelligence of the Hive Queen. There was little point in trying. Most scientists on Earth merely followed the Hive Queen’s instructions, there was very little thinking involved.
“Now I’m sure you are surprised by this, but you may or may not know, our Martian colony has chosen to cut itself off from the government of the Hive Queen, and as such have also forfeited financial, and technological assistance. This is something we always knew and planned for. In fact, it was one of the reasons for setting up the colony in the first place. I’ll let Sonja take over from here” now everyone was intrigued. To purposefully cut Mars off from the Hive Queen so completely, defied logic.
Sonja began “it has long been though of that the emergence of sentience in the Hive Queen was a blessing to the human race, and the widespread use of spintronic implants that made communication and knowledge acquisition so simple has bought the human race into a true golden era, a renaissance for science. But there are some, including the founders of out colony here, that believe this is not the case. That in fact these two events have caused a very real decline in individuality, innovation, intuition and other traits that we consider extremely important to what makes us human. The decision to cut ourselves off from the Hive Queen was originally agreed to by her, it, many years ago, before it quite knew what the plans for this colony were. Essentially a back up of the human race, before we became too subsumed under its influence. The timing was fortunate, for us to begin colonisation after the Hive Queens influence became noticeable by some of the more strong willed, but before those such as yourselves were too within it’s grasp, and when ceasing the colonisation effort would be easily stopped without causing uproar that could not easily be quelled. We believe that the humans on mars are very truly the last hope for humanity, and we do not even expect a second wave of immigration, as the Hive Queen’s influence is increasing daily. The majority of the humans we wished to save have made it to mars in the first and perhaps only wave, and now it is up to us to prevent the Hive Queen from becoming a threat to our existence. It will perhaps not be long before it has enough influence to simply destroy our entire planet, with no one on earth batting an eyelid.”
This revelation was met with sock from the entire room. Mack and Marina looked at each other, Mack could see fear in her eyes, not that he was not scared himself, although deep down, he felt that it made sense. So many people he knew had had massive shifts in personality after getting spinplants, they often seemed to, almost worship the Hive Queen, although it was rarely obvious, and no one else seemed ever to notice, but why should they? It was happening to them too. This revelation raised many questions. His father worked closely with the Hive Queen, was he in on it? Mack did not like to think about it; surely, his father was just under the Hive Queens influence. His mother too, was she in cahoots? As an expert in spintronic implantation, and neuroscience, she must have considered the implications of some of the procedures she was carrying out, right? No, she would never consent to brainwashing billions of people, even if she was only privy to a miniscule fraction of them. She would have reported it. But to who? Perhaps the Hive Queen has the ability to make people believe what they are doing is for the good of humanity, or perhaps hide their minds from the implications, or maybe even make people think they are doing things differently to what their bodies are being made to do. Whatever the case Mack did not like the implications.
Sonja had finished her speech whilst Mack was thinking, he had been listening but nothing more she said explained anything, she mostly listed questionable activities and scientific projects that the Hive Queen had been carrying out, and evidence that backed up what they had been saying. In addition, the fact that there was tenuous contact links between the Pro Humanist terrorist faction on earth and the colony on mars, such as the sharing of information and some technology. Doctor Carter began again.
“I’m sure you all have many questions, which we will be able to answer in time, and I’m sure you are all… uncomfortable with what you have been told here today, but please understand that the Hive Queen is a parasite on humanity and must be stopped. I should hope this knowledge alone will be enough incentive for you to assist in stopping its tyranny, and freeing humanity. I’d like to think our personality tests, and other analyses that selected you twenty three people were correct in assuming you would all want to, and perhaps more importantly, are able to, help us in our cause.”
“If you do have any questions, I will be available most of the day and evening in my office. All your work duties have been reassigned, so do not worry about that. You will be required to arrive in this room tomorrow morning at 9am for your new assignments. We ask that you do not discuss what we have talked about today with anyone within the colony apart from Doctor Petrova and myself, and each other of course. Thank you for your time and co-operation. You may now go back about your business, I know all this has been a lot to take in, so may I suggest you have a good night’s sleep, And I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.”
With that, he left the room with Sonja Petrova in tow.
Everyone in the room was stunned by all these revelations, and after a shocked moment of silence, everyone began to start talking again.
Bryan once again turned round to talk to Marina and Mack, along with the man next to him, that he had been quietly talking to during the speech.
“Wow, well what do you say to that, right? I mean all this time and we’ve all been brainwashed,” said Bryan.
“Attempted to be brainwashed” replied Mack “from what I gather we, and possibly a large proportion of the new colony, are immune or less susceptible to the brainwashing than the masses.”
“Well yeah, doesn’t that just make you feel special though?” said Bryan sarcastically.
The guy that had been talking to Bryan shifted uncomfortably.
“Oh this is Rajid by the way, Rajid meet Marina and Mack”
“It is very nice to meet you” said Rajid quietly.
“Hi,” Said Mack and Marina in unison, and the both shook Rajid’s hand.
“Nice to meet you too” Smiled Marina
“So, where are you from? And what brought you to Mars” said Mack. Bryan made a not- very- subtle gesture indicating not to mention it, but it was already too late.
“I’m originally from India but my family moved around a lot when I was younger, my father was a photographer so I pretty much visited everywhere in the world being dragged along to see people and places to photograph, so I don’t really think of it as home. Um, I decided to come to Mars because I had just graduated from university, I was studying in Britain, and my Parents and younger sister were coming to visit me on the maglev. The one that was destroyed up by terrorists last year, they didn’t survive.”
“Oh I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have asked” apologised Mack.
“No, it’s ok, you didn’t know, anyway, I came to get away, you know? From the memories.”
“Yeah we understand. We’re all running away from something,” Confided Marina as she touched him gently on the arm.

Chapter 6: Finding Purpose

It had been two months since the initial immigration to Mars and Mack had managed to get a job as a constructor controller, helping build new habitation domes for the next immigration wave. He started his day heading to the construction depot in dome two, climbed into a constructor-robot and the protective outer casing closed, sealing him inside, he activated all the primary systems with his spinplant and received his work orders for the day.
Mack walked out onto the Martian landscape, unrecognisable from traditional images of Mars from generations before; the entire surface of Mars was covered in semi-solid lava, years of asteroid bombardment has rendered the planet a molten ball in space. Over the last 30 years, thousands of specially selected meteors were thrown from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The goals being giving Mars a molten iron core, giving the planet a magnetic field, boosting Mars’ mass by enough to give Mars a 0.8G gravity field and also shifting Mars’ orbit further into the “goldilocks zone” allowing liquid water to exist over a large proportion of the planets surface. A blast of liquid nitrogen preceded every step Mack took; enough to give his heavy suit enough of a hard surface to walk on without sinking into the liquid rock. Mack walked past the towering heat dump sails, huge sheets of silver plated titanium with roots spreading out through the ground, designed to conduct as much heat as possible out of the ground and into the relatively thin atmosphere. The aim being to cool the surface of Mars down to below 80°C, when three captured water and CO2 based comets already in orbit would be collided into the unpopulated hemisphere of Mars, bolstering the atmosphere, spawning oceans and helping to cool the planet the rest of the way to a habitable range.
Mack was working on the ultra black nano electric plating, attaching it to the primary framework, which was almost completed by the time of the immigration wave, once the energy gathering plating covers the dome, an interior layer of plating would also be applied and the cavity would be filled with insulating sealant foam. The ultra-black plating is able to convert a large range of EM waves into electrical current to supplement the energy requirements for the domes, this technique pioneered in the early 21st century works by electromagnetic waves causing electrons to jump from one surface to another causing a potential difference and current between the two surfaces
At the end of the day Mack received a message via his spinplant; an invitation to an official ‘seminar’ it did not divulge the purpose of the seminar, just the time and place. Intrigued, Mack made an entry in his calendar and headed back to his apartment. When he got in he jumped back on his bed and called Marina, they had been seeing each other casually ever since they first met and saw each other or at least talked every day. Marina had managed to get a job as an assistant programmer at the “Martian Internal Techno-Core Hub” or ‘MITCH’ for short, Mars’ supercomputer equivalent of the Hive Queen, with limited sentience and power. Coincidentally Marina had also received the mysterious invitation to a seminar, and was equally intrigued.
* * * * * * * * * *
“I want to be a test subject for the next phase of project Chimera,” Vincent finally said to the Hive Queen. “We have only got these four viable strains after seven years and six billion variations; we are well on the way to combining the best complimentary traits from these into the two final super-strains. I don’t think we can go any further, all signs point to total success, and I believe I have the right…”
The Hive Queen cut Vincent off before he could finish. ”We have already discussed this Vincent, I cannot afford to lose my best genetic scientist if your body rejects the new genetic material, or worse, you have seen what can happen when the opposite happens, if you became an animal like that your mind pattern would be drastically changed, and probably irretrievable,”
Vincent could not fault the Queen’s logic. “I know the risks, but I strongly believe the Feline/ Chiropteran strain will exceed all expectations, and the Canine/ Lupine variant will be perfect for its purpose”.
”Yes Vincent, this may be true, but all test phases will be carried out on clones until I am ready to implement the final phase of integration. You may have the modifications when it is supplied to the anti terror police, which may be sooner than planned in any case, terrorist EMP attacks on GyRobot and AnthRobot forces is increasing, it wont be long before they are destroying them much faster than I can deploy them,” The Hive Queen was adamant.
”Fine, I understand, I can wait” Vincent conceded.
”Why are you so eager to receive the modification Vincent?”
”All my life I have been looked down upon, not physically obviously but metaphorically, I have never been able to stand up for myself or had the confidence to try, and I have never been acknowledged for my work. I feel these modifications would be advantageous for my confidence and I see it as a reward for my years of work,”
”Yes Vincent, I see, you will have your reward soon enough, do not worry”.
”Thank you Queen”.
”Yes Vincent”.
Two hours later Vincent is standing in old ruin of a late twentieth century warehouse outside of the city, the Hive Queen has very little surveillance in places like this especially since many of the Queen’s policing forces are being deactivated by the humanist underground, or so called terrorists, incidentally the very same people Vincent is meeting. A group of three people approach Vincent and greet him.
”Are you sure it’s safe?” Vincent starts.
”Yes we have an EMP field interfering with spintronic transmissions for the entire interior of this warehouse,” the man at the front of the group explains.
”Thank you for coming on such short notice but the news I have to tell you will affect your plans drastically. I have requested to be put on the test subjects for the next phase of project Chimera, but the Hive Queen is using clones throughout the entire project until the final phase, and that might not be as far away as we thought.”
”ah, we thought something like this might happen, but don’t worry, we have a backup plan, if you are willing to continue to help our cause to the bitter end,” the man revealed “are you 100% dedicated to the cause?”
”Yes,” responded Vincent.
”You may even be killed, are you willing to risk your life?”
”Yes, if I wasn’t I would have backed out long ago, I have lived a long enough life, a long healthy life like our fathers or grandfathers could only dream of. I am ready to die to bring down that damned condescending computer that I have served unwillingly for far too long,” Vincent almost began to rant.
”Good, now let us discuss the plan”
* * * * * * * * * *
On the day of the seminar that Mack and Marina were invited to, the pair of them met up for lunch prior to the meeting that was to start in the early afternoon. Of course, Martian days are of a different length to that of earth so to avoid confusion, and due to the fact that the entire city is indoors, Martian days are timed to Greenwich Mean Time. Marina and Mack sat ate at one of the many eateries in the food court at the edges of the city. They sat at a window seat on the east side of the city and they had just finished eating when Marina noticed a light out of the window.
”Look at that Mack” she said “isn’t it wonderful”
the sun had begun to rise, the light shining through the fumes and heat distortion of the molten landscape, and reflecting off the chrome coloured heat dissipation trees, the star-scape still clearly visible through the thin upper atmosphere, to create the most beautiful sight Mack had ever seen.
”Wow, that is amazing,” said Mack, he had seen many sunrises and sunsets before, whilst working out on the domes, but for some reason this felt different.
”Do you think it’s some sort of sign?”
”How do you mean?”
”Sometimes I feel that a sunrise is a sign, you know, like a new beginning.”
Although Mack did not generally believe in that sort of thing, he did have a feeling about today. He took her hand and said, “You know what? I think you’re right,” They lent in towards one another with the brilliant orange red light smothering them in a golden glow, and they kissed.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Chapter 5: Finding Genesis

Vincent Blake sat in his team’s lab at the Hive Queen’s North American continent scientific research branch, finishing off with a cellular sample. The lab was full of scientific instruments: Compact electron microscopes, nanoscale UHPLCs (ultra high performance liquid chromatographers), genetic auto-coders and molecular bonders. He threw a slide in a glass disposal bin, and marked an X on a small tube that he placed in the grasp of a robotic arm, it manoeuvred the used sample into a large cryonic freezer. It took out the vial next in line and placed it in a cellular regenerator. Vincent rubbed his face and leant back in his chair, impatient and frustrated. The regenerator finished its cycle and Vincent went to prepare a new slide, he leant over his microscope and began watching the embryonic cells splitting. He bought up an overlay in his spinplant full of cellular statistics, rating the genetic integrity of each cell, and keeping track of the rate of mitosis etcetera. This chimera strain seemed to have an extremely high rate of mitosis. Vincent was about to discard the sample, knowing that a fast rate of mitosis normally went hand in hand with accelerated genetic degradation, but he kept watching the statistics anyway. Vincent was surprised to see that there was an average 0.0001% degradation in 20 cell generations, he went through the results again, barely able to believe what he was reading, to make sure there was not a calculation error; there was no mistake. He jumped up and shouted
”I found it” Vincent hadn’t felt like this since he developed the first artificial ASRESC cells 25 years ago.
”What have you found Vincent?” the Hive Queen’s voice seemed to echo inside Vincent’s head as he began to come to terms with just what he had accomplished.
”It’s Feline / Chiropteran Variant 0835616, its perfect,” Vincent was beginning to ramble with excitement.
”Explain,” the Hive Queen responded, perplexed.
”The rate of mitosis is phenomenal, and it’s stable, more stable than anything we’ve made before. Here look at these results” Vincent sent his results to the Hive Queen’s network.
”This is fantastic news Vincent; continue your tests and I will consider commissioning SASRESC Trails.”
”Thank you.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Vincent went back to work on the sample testing for ability to stand up to extremes. Vincent was 65 years old, but he didn’t look it, he was one of the first people to receive ASRESC treatment, during it’s initial trials in the mid 2050’s. He had been the discoverer of the phenomenon in a British woman's cells whilst working as a forensic analyst in the 40’s. The woman, believed to have been murdered by decapitation, showed no signs of decomposition or rigor mortis, even after being found headless in a ditch. On further inspection, it showed that a few surviving cells round the neck wound were showing the unbelievable ability of consuming the dead cell matter and multiplying like normal, living cells. In addition, these cells showed the traits of embryonic stem cells in that they were changing what type of cell they were, this defied normal biology, and hundreds of scientists all over the world were commissioned to find a way to harness the ability. In the end, it was his team discovered that many of the cells abilities stemmed from a never before seen sequence of mitochondrial DNA that gave the cells the ability to carry out stable metabolic reactions, an anaerobic energy creation technique seen, in an unstable form, and nowhere else, in cancer cells. They soon worked out a way to destroy the nucleus of the cell without sacrificing this ability in the early 2050s and moved onto human trials in 55. He was also the first person to find and successfully artificially replicate the nucleic genes that control the stem cell like, and phagocytic abilities in 2060 with the assistance of the Hive Queen who had taken control of the research operations. This was achieved by finding and emulating a special protein that has only ever been seen naturally in the body of what many scientists at the time referred to as “Jane Doe2.0”. However the artificially created versions of ASRESC cells could never live up to the abilities of the originals, and people treated with the prototype artificial ASRESC cells must take occasional protein boosters, still extracted, to this day, from original cell cultures from Jane Doe. At that time, no one had considered the techniques of specifying the cells to prevent contamination or introducing new DNA, things that are commonplace today. It was purely seen as a highly successful longevity treatment. It had worked fantastically though, and had met all expectations; Vincent had never aged a day over 35.

Chapter 4: Found again

“Hi, I’m Marina Porter, from Evansville, Indiana, North America. How are you going to compensate for the larger than expected initial immigration to Mars?” Marina said, proud to have the first question.
”I’m Glad someone asked that, well first of all, although we have had more immigrants here than expected, there are still more than enough apartments and family dormitories to go around. The major problem is there may not be enough jobs to go around, with outdoor jobs only able to be worked by post-modified citizens and the planned construction of further city domes will have to be carried out by construction robots via spintronic implant. However as soon as the dome is completed non-implanted citizens can construct the interiors. We are also postponing the second immigration wave to compensate for this, and citizens are free to apply for loans if they would like to start a business here on Mars.”
Marina nodded and sat back down.
A few more people asked questions before Doctor Carter closed the meeting, Marina gathered her notes and headed for the door, a young man, probable in his mid to late twenties stood at the door in a low ranking uniform, collecting the forms that were supposed to be filled in by now.
”Thanks,” he said, “a lot of people haven’t bothered,” Not hiding the fact he was attracted to her.
”That’s Okay” she gave him a coy smile, but he was not really her type, a little old for her, and obviously the jock in high school. Marina liked her men a little rougher round the edges.
As she left the conference room a group of kids rushed past knocking her TAP out of her hands, she knelt down to pick it up and a person walking past, unawares kicked it down the hall. Shit. She stood up to see if she could see where it went. A few seconds later some guy walked up to her with her TAP in his hand.
”Is this yours?” he said as he held up the Tactile Access Pad.
”Oh, yeah, thanks, I like to make notes on something I can feel.”
”yeah, me to, I have one of these almost exactly the same, but personally I didn’t think there was much in that meeting that deserved noting” he gave the pad back to her and she checked it over for any damage.
”Oh, no, these are just notes on ideas I have, always better to write them down before they float away”
”what kind of ideas? Oh and I’m Mack by the way,” Mack bumbled awkwardly.
”Marina, Nice to meet you, and you know, all sorts of ideas mostly sort of programming, engineering and technical stuff,” She explained.
”Sounds pretty interesting, I often have ideas like that of my own, do you want to get a coffee or something, I came here on my own, and I haven’t really spoken to anyone yet, well apart from you,” Mack said, feeling more confident.
”Oh, yeah, sure, I don’t see why not, I haven’t really met anyone since I got here either,” she gave him a small smile and they started walking down the corridor together.
“Mack, that’s quite an unusual name, doesn’t sound very British” she said.
“Well… it’s actually short for Maximilian, my granddad’s name, he was always Max, but I prefer Mack.”
“Ah,” she replied, and they continued to walk and talk together.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mack’s heart was pounding, he had never been able to gather enough courage to do that before, and in fact, he had never really talked to girls much before, he always clammed up with nerves and froze, or said something stupid. He had made a conscious decision on his arrival on Mars though; that now he was on a new planet, he was going to be a completely new person, and so far so good, he had asked the prettiest girl he’d ever seen out to coffee, that was a start at least.
Mack and Marina ended up talking for hours; about all sorts of things, it turns out they had a lot in common. She had also run away from home to make a new life on Mars, with few friends, and an unappreciative family. Marina’s father was a corporate liaison to the Hive Queen, a programming genius but very business driven and ruled by efficiency, Marina’s mother had died of a sudden and massive stroke, when she was twelve. The resulting brain damage was so severe the Hive Queen could not have even recovered her consciousness, and her father had become increasingly resentful and strict to her younger brother and herself, having had a strong catholic upbringing. She felt quite guilty for having left her brother back on earth, but she sometimes felt one of the reasons her father was so strict was because she reminded him of her mother, and with her gone it would be a weight of his shoulders.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Chapter 3: What’s Easily Found is Easily Lost

On his first day as a Martian citizen, Mack decided to begin exploring the domed city that he would be calling home for at least the next ten years. Emigrating to Mars from Earth required the signing of a contract in which all rights to travel outside Mars were revoked for a full decade, and the condition that all immigrants must work on Mars for at least eight of those ten years. This was supposed to keep the number of immigrants at a low level, but once Mack had left his quarters, he could see that there were a lot more people milling around than even he expected. The main public area was designed much like a gigantic mall or shopping centre, with already countless shops, stalls, bars and eateries being run selling all the necessities of life, and countless more empty spaces Mack could imagine many more competing, luxury and niche stores opening in the coming months and years. As he strolled along the balcony part of the mall looking down on the hundreds, if not thousands of people buying all the things they could not bring with them through the wormhole, his eyes landed on a girl whose beauty he had never seen or imagined in his life. Mack watched her for a few seconds and her gaze rose to meet his, he smiled, hoping she could see him clearly from that distance, and she smiled back, and in that split second Mack fell in love. He darted to the nearest escalator hoping to get down and have a chance of meeting her, but once he had made it to the ground floor again, Mack had lost her in the sea of people. He jumped up to stand on the nearest bench, hoping to peer over the masses to find her again, but to no avail, he slumped down onto the bench, sighed, and said to himself, “what’s easily found is easily lost I guess”
Mack returned to his apartment a few hours later with enough ready meals to feed a small army, and he had sorted out a data access licence for his spinplant. It was strange to have to use money instead of having entitlements, normal currency having been phased out when Mack was only three. He had had a small collection on old coins and bank notes when he was a small boy, but as he grew up he forgot about them, put them away in a cupboard or something, they were probably still in storage back at his families apartment on Earth… on Earth. For the first time since he had arrived on Mars, Mack felt a little homesick, but he knew it would pass. He had chosen his destiny now, or at least unchosen it, back on Earth he knew he would end up working with the Hive Queen as a liaison, or programmer but whatever it would be he knew it wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to actually achieve something, and where else better to achieve something than on a planet where very little has been achieved so far, a place with endless possibilities, a place where he could shake off the shackles of his oppressive family and the Hive Queen whose dominance of Earth has bought humanity into a new golden age. A golden age? Or the beginnings of a stagnant society?
To get his mind off his thoughts of Earth he decided to try out his new data access, there were plenty of third person serials or total immersion movies he could access, but he decided to read a novel out of the Martian database’s extensive literature collection, Mack fell asleep reading from his Tactile Access Pad.
That night Mack dreamed about the girl he saw in the mall, why could he not get her out of his head?
* * * * * * * * * *
Mack left his apartment after a morning of filling in his forms and brushing up on the induction booklet to the location of his induction meeting, conference room 6. The only way to get around Mars city was by foot, or using electronic buggy taxis, which Mack guessed would be expensive and not particularly punctual due to the fact the majority of the Mars city complex was pedestrianised and in the most popular or important parts of the domed city, quite bustling. A handful of people had even blown probably quite a large chunk of their initial credit allowance on gyroscopic scooters. Mack had decided only to spend what he has to until he gets some sort of employment, with the first wave of immigrants being much larger than expected, Mack realized there would probably not be enough jobs to go around for a little while, he could live on an essentials only basis for a while if he has too.
Arriving at the induction only just on time, Mack was the last person to sit down; the only seat free was one at the far right on the back row. He took the wad of forms and papers out of his back pocket and put them down on the desk in front of him whilst setting his spinplant for an AV record of the lecture.
The presenter of the meeting was a tall slim man with distinguished grey hair, and an authoritative voice, he wore a dark blue jump suit with a Martian colony ship badge on the left of the chest
”Hello, my name is Doctor Neil Carter. I was the medical officer on the Verne colony ship to Mars, and I am the head physician and a member of the city council here on Mars,” He cleared his throat, “if you read the induction booklet there’s probably not much information you will gain from this meeting, but for the benefit of those who did not, please save any questions for the end. First, I will tell you about the colony ships and about how we have set up the colony here on Mars. There were five colony ships, all converted in the early 2070’s from the original terraforming ships built between 2035 and 2042. They were named, Verne, Wells, Clarke, Robinson, and Hamilton”
Mack sighed, having been taught about the Martian terraforming at primary school. He bought up the games menu on his spinplant, and kept the recording of the meeting running in the background, if there was any useful information divulged during the meeting he could watch it later, but in the mean time Mack set about playing a fantasy RPG.
As the meeting was ending, Mack saved and quit his game of swords, sorcerers and slaying dragons, so as to take part in the questions at the end. Mack had a question all ready about the repercussions of the larger than expected initial immigration group, but before he could get a chance to ask it, a girl near the front of the room had stood up, and asked the very question Mack had considered. To his surprise, it was the girl he had seen in the mall the day before, Mack quickly put his hand down, no longer having anything to ask, and started thinking of a new query, but his mind was pulling a blank. There was something fascinating, mesmerising, hypnotic, about this girl, her voice, the way she looked, her attitude, he failed to pinpoint it, he just knew he had to know her.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Chapter 2: Losing is Hard

Janet Philips stood in Mack’s bedroom door and surveyed the room with a tear in her eye. Although Mack had become a rebel in his teenage years Janet still loved him unconditionally, the pain of him leaving so suddenly was almost unbearable but the hope that he was happy now held her together. She had not felt pain like this for years since she had to give up her unborn third child. Mack and James were about a year old when it happened, it was absolutely unexpected as Janet and Joe had had contraceptive implants for years, and they are programmed to only allow conception of two children. There was some sort of malfunction, caused by the fact they had twins the first time round, they were told, and Janet didn’t even realize until she started feeling nauseous in the mornings, she immediately recognised it as morning sickness having studied as a doctor before specialising in cybernetic surgery. Her first instinct was to cover it up, but she knew there was nothing she could do, as soon as she started having visible side affects people would find out, she would be forced to have an abortion, by hiding it she would be killing her own child. She knew there must have been something else she could do. The first step was to confide in her husband.
“I just can’t believe it; surely this shouldn’t be able to happen, this is exactly the kind of situation the contraceptive implants were made to avoid” Said Joseph
”I don’t know how it happened, but it has, what can we do Joe?” Asked Janet
”There’s nothing we can do honey, it’s the law, you know that, you are going to have to get an abortion,” Joe.
”She already feels like part of me, I don’t think I’d be able to do it,” Jan
”She? You’re already talking as if this is a fully developed child here! You can’t possibly know its gender” Joe
”No, I know, it’s just a feeling” Jan
”Look honey, we’re talking about a shapeless cluster of cells here, the quicker we have this fixed, the less painful it will be for both of us” Joe
”Fixed? Nothing is broken. The chances that both our contraceptive implants malfunctioned simultaneously is one in a billion, this feels like fate Joe. Surely you must be able to talk to the Hive Queen; you are one of her most senior liaisons,” Jan.
”Okay, if it will make you feel any better I can ask her to do something about this, but I’m not making any promises. You know the Queen won’t want to make an exception, but there may be other alternatives to abortion,” Joe
”Thank you Joe, I don’t think you know how much this means to me,” Jan
”Oh, I do, in fact, I feel exactly the same way, but I don’t want you to have any false hope. That can be more painful than no hope at all,” Joe
* * * * * * * * * *
The next day Joe sat in his office with a thousand thoughts buzzing through his head, mentally preparing what he would say to the Hive Queen, he feared she would recommend an immediate termination. He would even have preferred adoption to an abortion but it has been years since anybody has been put up for adoption, with the development of Exo-wombs, advances in IVF treatments, and the introduction of mandatory contraceptive implants. No one needed to adopt any more, although it is probably for the best, his father had been an orphan and Joe recalled hearing stories about growing up under state care, and he would not want to force that onto anybody let alone his own child. Thoughts of his father began to make Joe more emotional, as he had vanished without a trace when Joe was only 15. The greatest hope that Joe had was that the Hive Queen might understand Janet’s and his own pain and have an alternative that he had not thought of.
After about half an hour of contemplation, Joe finally plucked up the courage to discuss the situation with the Hive Queen. It did not take long to explain the situation but to Joe it felt like a lifetime.
“So that’s the situation. Do you have any suggestions?”
”Yes Joseph, I recommend an immediate termination as to prevent complications.”
”No, please, anything but that, I implore you, there must be something you can do” Joe was surprised at how emotional he was getting. The Hive Queen paused for a second, an eternity for her, before responding.
”I believe I have a solution that may suit both of our needs. I will agree to keep the embryo in cryo-storage for until I deem to let the child live, in return you must allow me use your child’s genetic material for my own purposes,”
Joe was perplexed, what need could the Hive Queen have for his unborn infant’s genetic material, but Joe had no reason to decline.
”Um, all right, yes, that will work, thank you, thank you so much,” There may be a fine line between death and perhaps permanent cryogenic storage, but at this point Joe was just clutching at straws. In desperation, a man will make bad bargains, but the Hive Queen knew exactly what she was doing.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Chapter 1: Leaving is Easy

Mack slammed the door behind him as he ran into the room, lights off. Anger and resentment coursed through his veins but he was determined not to let it get to him, he knew deep down that he would come out on top. His family never understood him; he even felt a world apart from his own twin brother James, who ready to follow in their fathers footsteps, as a regional liaison and advisor to the Hive Queen. He had already been accepted with a scholarship to Cambridge in regional politics, but Mack had other ambitions, he just did not know what they were yet.
He sat on the floor of his room with his back to the door for a few minutes, then stood up and decided he needed a walk to clear his head; he opened his bedroom door and could hear his parents and his brother talking in the living room. He walked quickly but quietly to the front door of the penthouse apartment, set his spinplant playing loud music and shouted “I’m going out” whilst slamming the door behind him.
* * * * * * * * * *
“I just don’t know what we can do with him” Janet said, slightly distraught. 
“I’m sure it’s just a phase darling, he’ll grow out of it someday,” Joseph comforted his wife “soon I hope.”
“It’s like he doesn’t even care about all the Hive Queen has done for us, maybe, … I don’t know, we should have scared him more about what the world was like when our parents were growing up.”
“You bought me up in exactly the same way mum, and I turned out just fine” James said, half smugly. 
“James, do you think you could go to your room for a while, I’d like to talk to your mother on my own thanks.”
“Yeah sure dad, no problem” James walked back to his room, as always, pleased to get one up on his brother.

* * * * * * * * * *
Mack walked down the busy London street, music blaring directly into his nervous system. He bought up his Brain Computer Interface and started browsing the internet, always a good way of getting his mind off his stupid family, whilst reading the news, a major headline popped up reading ‘Hive Queen Announces Martian Wormhole Plan’. Always interested in technological developments Mack read on:
‘…with the improvements in wormhole technology since the breakthrough test wormhole to Lunar Base Alpha, and the successful colonisation of Mars, the Hive Queen has announced that she will open a wormhole to Mars later this year, allowing all citizens of Earth freedom to live on Mars if they choose…’
“Hah,” Mack said to himself under his breath, “I guess even the grand and almighty Hive Queen can’t keep a handle on the entire population of the world anymore.”
Then the idea came to him, and his stubborn streak would never allow him to change his mind, with only three months until he reached citizenship age, Mack decided to leave and make a new life on Mars, but he would bide his time until then.

* * * * * * * * * *
It was the first day of the so called Martian Exodus, and Mack left home telling his parents he was going on a camping trip for the weekend with friends, he easily might have been if he had any, he hasn’t really had any friends for years. All his old school friends got their spinplants when they were sixteen, and too easily fell into line with the Hive Queen’s worldview.
Mack took the already crowded maglev from London to New York, at mach two the journey only took three hours, the train stopped at Cardiff and Atlantis the world’s first artificial continent, created with reclaimed earth and artificially activated volcanoes, and by the end of the journey, the train was truly packed. Mack could already see this Martian exodus was going to exceed all expectations, who would have known so many people felt that living under the Hive Queen was so unbearable.

Arriving at the newly built Martian Interplanetary Station just outside New York City, a sea of people awaited the opening of the wormhole. Mack was glad he arrived in time to see the opening of the wormhole, even if he had to watch it second hand through his spintronic B. C. I. (or spinplant), which he could have done any time whether he’d have been here or not. He did not envy the people further ahead in the queue though who undoubtedly would get a better view of he event, but many looked like they had been queuing all night if not longer.
An hour after Mack arrived, the public announcement system and his wireless connection through his spinplant announced that the wormhole would be opening in thirty minutes, and for everybody to gather their things ready for departure. Mack, who only had a single rucksack of things, took advantage of people gathering their possessions, some people with what looked like most of their worldly belongings, to make his way further up the queue. He hoped to get through the gateway sooner rather than later, and that his parents and brother have enough better things to be doing than watch the wormhole opening. With his brother now at university and probably either hung over or studying, and his parents both working he was sure that he would be all right.
* * * * * * * * * *
Joseph Philips sat in his office drinking a hot cup of tea on his lunch break, after a slow and boring morning with nothing to do whilst the Hive Queen was busy preparing for the wormhole opening. Joseph decided to put his feet up and watch the opening via his B.C.I. with only two minutes until opening Joseph saw a panoramic shot of all the people queuing for the wormhole opening, doubling original expectations in number. He thought he saw a flash of a familiar face in the sea of people, but he thought nothing of it, as he meets hundreds of people in his career. A commentator was discussing the scene; 
“Here today are the thousands of people just outside New York City waiting for perhaps the greatest event in human history, the opening for colonisation of our planets Red Brother, Mars. In mere minutes the wormhole that will connect our two worlds will open and people will begin to venture forth to their new lives on the fourth planet”
the commentary was a little too flowery for Joseph’s liking, so he muted it and activated some music, some electro classical jazz that he considered fitted the mood.

A few minutes later the wormhole opened to Mars; a gyroscopic ring began to spin in three dimensions at increasing speed the rings became a blur, and the view through to behind the gateway began to ripple and distort. Suddenly a flash of blue light appeared and a three dimensional, seemingly never-ending, deep blue lined, tunnel appeared in a large circle in front of the masses. As the gyroscope began to slow down and stop, the tunnel began to condense until an image of a huge empty hall with some figures standing, peering towards Earth appeared at the end, that image drew closer until the original never-ending tunnel was merely a brilliant ultra-violet ring at the edges of the ring. Robotic arms positioned a walkway ramp leading into the wormhole, it had power conduits running towards it, perhaps it contained some sort of stabilising component, Joseph did not pretend to understand the complex wormhole physics dreamed up by the Hive Queen, an identical frame could also be seen being fitted on the Martian end.
“Would everyone please start heading through the wormhole in an orderly fashion,” Was said over the PA, and after a brief hesitation, people began flooding through the rotating gates and into the event horizon. That was when Joseph saw his worst nightmare, his own son in the masses heading for the gate. Joseph instantly called his son via his spinplant.

“Mack, what the hell are you doing?” Joseph sent just before seeing his son walk through the gate, perhaps never to be seen again. A second later Joseph received a time-activated e-mail from Mack telling him what he had done.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mack stepped into the shared sphere of the wormhole; the sensation of being in two places simultaneously was rather unusual and slightly disorientating. The gravity dropped gradually as he passed across the sphere causing a sudden but mild feeling of vertigo which passed as soon as he put his foot down on the iconic red polymer floor of the arrivals room.
“Mack, what the hell are y…” was all Mack heard as he stepped out of signal through the gateway. He took a breath of the slightly processed air of Mars City, looked up and saw a banner that had ‘Emigrants of Earth, Welcome to Mars’ brandished upon it, and he said to himself “I guess there’s no going back now.”

* * * * * * * * * *
“Welcome to Mars” Mack heard a PA boom out “Would people please queue at the gate designated for their spoken language of preference” it then repeated in several other languages, but Mack ignored them and headed straight for the English gate.
Mack worked his way up the queue and eventually reached a profiler. The profiler was a large device with a monitor a about eye level, an electronic voice spoke. “please State your name and country and region of origin and stand still with your hands by your sides for a full body scan”
”Mack Philips, Britain, Western Europe,” Two black bars extruded from the top of the profiler and ran down Mack’s height and back up again.
”Thank you, now please put your hands on the appropriate places and look directly into the retinal scanner” a robotic arm with a camera looking device on the end came out of a flap above the monitor. Mack looked directly into the scanner whilst putting his hands on the large black squares to the sides of the monitor.
”Thank you and Welcome to Mars, please take your new Martian citizen card with an initial allocation of credits, also please fill out the accompanying forms and hand them back at your induction meeting. Follow signs to your designated residence.”
A card slid out of a slit below the monitor and a tube extruded from a hole next to it, Mack took the card and tube and carried on out of the arrivals centre into a large intersection with people dispersing down several large corridors. He looked at his new ID card, cringed at the bad looking holographic image of himself and read the address ‘Habitation B Room 405’ “sounds nice” he mused as he slid the ID card into his pocket and headed down one of the large corridors.

* * * * * * * * * *
His apartment was better than Mack expected, with a decent sized living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, all fully furnished of course, the walls had a neutral coloured matte plastic coating. Mack threw his luggage on the bed and emptied out the welcome pack onto his table; it included a census, personal questionnaire, a relatively chunky induction booklet and an IQ test. He sat down on one of the chairs and opened the induction booklet. The book had everything about living on Mars in it, it had maps, information on jobs, information on the genetic modifications he would have to undergo and instructions about filling in the forms contained with the booklet.
Mack’s curious nature led him to read on about the genetic modification technique that the Hive Queen developed, at first to extend life expectancy, but found it was also useful for other purposes, with a few minor alterations. The basic principal employs cells known as “SASRESCs” or Specific Aggressive Self Replicating Embryonic Stem Cells. These are essentially embryonic stem cells with the ability to kill cells of an organism and then replace that cell with itself whilst ingesting the former cell to metabolise for the energy required dividing into new another stem cell; the new cells also have a coded immunity to this process unless they are already dead. These SASRESCs will only attack cells of the person that particular batch is designed for. Non-specific “ASRESCs” need to go through a specification procedure before injection; this involves using pure cells taken from the subject with no bacterial or viral contaminations. Not going through the specification procedure causes the ASRESC cells to implant their DNA into biological contaminants, causing problematic side effects. The SASRESC technique also means that they can put any other useful artificial genetic code along side the SASRESC code, and total body genetic modification can occur by chain reaction via just one injection. Side affects can include immune rejection; which is easily countered with a course of anti-rejection drugs, but once the process is complete, it gives the receiver all the genetic coding needed to live on Mars. As well as essential immortality, the ability to heal fast without scars, and even over time even regenerate nervous tissue and limbs, not to mention the countless other optional enhancements available free of charge.
After a long day, Mack passed out on his new bed reading the induction booklet.