Thursday, 2 June 2011

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Mack turned around to see an outdated GyRobot, a pillar shaped servitor that moves and stays upright using a gyroscope-controlled ball.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.

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