"The hand of fate can give with an open palm. Or it can strike with the hardest fist imaginable."
- Praetor Vilas Singh, 2440.072 AS
2435.189.12.00 AS |
Research Facility X17
Recently promoted Elite Janzur Therive is sent to a far away world to investigate a mysterious lab facility. He nears the end of another long day of travel as his small ship draws near Research Facility X17.
Starship Hippocrates does not sleep, but might consider it a lazy afternoon, orbiting high above Ganfrey while the research crew corresponds with the Polymath Institute.
When his ship lands at the small airfield on the island, a mechanic trots out to meet it, but Janzur's Elite badge is quickly flashed and the mechanic instructed to make himself scarce and mention this to no one. From there, Janzur heads to the group of cookie-cutter laboratory buildings, and picks the nearest, labeled X17-9. The two guards at the door are Hegemonic Legionnaires, also theoretically out of place. While clearly unhappy about letting him into the building, they defer to his Elite insignia as well.
While the lab techs are all very impressed by having an Elite Guardsman show up, Dr. Symphony-Hayes is a bit less versed in popular culture and isn't quite sure what he's supposed to be doing here. As it seems to have something to do with the facility not having filled out all the proper permits, and as he keeps calling her Dr. Hayes, she is a bit exasperated, but the lab techs hastily fill her in that the Elite work directly for the Hegemon and when they show up places, they're generally speaking for the Hegemon.
What does Elite Therive want? For her to come with him. Well, she supposes if he's here on behalf of the Hegemon, she ought to. On the way out, she thinks to ask for ID, which is provided and is most impressive. However, Elt. Therive decides to get greedy, and asks about the administrator for the complex -- that's Dr. Thurgood, and he's located in X17-13, in the central administrative building. And in fact, he appears to be already on his way, flanked by a squad of soldiers, which explains where the missing door Legionnaire has gotten to.
Elt. Therive flashes his ID again, but Dr. Thurgood is unimpressed, and tells the guards that this is an imposter. There's a brief standoff (during which time Dr. Symphony-Hayes tries to get out of the line of fire), which involves a Legionnaire lieutenant drawing on his captain, but then the standoff breaks as one of the rookies fires. Therive manages to parry the blaster fire, but a ricochet off a building hits Dr. Symphony-Hayes before Janzur can cover her. The two retreat back to Elt. Therive's ship, but as he turns to open the door, she's hit again, badly.
The ship takes off and is put briefly on autopilot while he attempts to treat Dr. Symphony-Hayes, but only succeeds in get her to be dying less fast. Happily, his ship notifies him that there's a Hegemonic medical frigate, the Hippocrates, in low orbit nearby, so he heads there at best speed.
A small mob of doctors meets Janzur's ship and swarms over Dr. Symphony-Hayes, vanishing her off to a medical lab as Janzur trails behind. A bit of surgery later, she is in a wheelchair but much less unhappy, and being given a tour of the Kaufman Process area. Hippocrates introduces himself to the pair, as well, and arranges authorization to transport the two to Ridena.
A demonstration of the Process involves anaesthetizing a lab rat, then cutting it open, then putting it in a little tub of green goo. A short while later, the rat is healed and happily receives its rat treat (Dr. Symphony-Hayes is a bit squeamish over rat mutilation, but Dr. Andrews assures her that the rats don't feal any pain and will enthusiastically work for rat treats). They discuss Dr. Symphony-Hayes' work and the Kaufman Process and how the two might fit together (both are aspects of bio-nanotechnology). There is much demonstration of the human-size Kaufman Process pods (some of which currently have people in them), and when Dr. Andrews has to head out, two of the pods are open.
(The Hand of Fate wiggles its fingers beckoningly).
Hippocrates finds his authorization to escort Elt. Therive and his guest to Ridena confirmed by a seperate message -- on the Gold Channel, no less. Clearly powerful people are interested in these people, but that is not too unusual when dealing with the Elite.
A short while later, Hippocrates pages Chief Tukhanov to the bridge, and then, some time later, pages Mister Chen to the computer core. Janzur asks what's wrong, and it takes some while for Hippocrates to respond with ``Stand by, Elite Therive'' (``I'm not used to being niced. Things must be really bad.''). Another announcement is made that internal bulkhead doors are being closed, and all hands are directed to don environmental suits. Sadly, the Kaufman Process room does not have any.
The external airlocks cycle open. While the bridge crew has donned emergency environmental masks, they quickly pass out, as the air supply appears to have been compromised. (``Life support systems off-line.'') The internal bulkheads cycle open, and air begins whooshing out of the ship. Dr. Symphony-Hayes has locked down her wheelchair, but Janzur is nearly sucked out of the room before he claws his way back in and shuts the bulkhead again.
Dr. Symphony-Hayes manages to get into a Kaufman pod, while Janzur welds the door shut with his plasma brand (``Computers crashing don't open bulkheads''). Concerned about the rats, Dr. Symphony-Hayes manages to convince Janzur to grab a rat and take it into the pod with him.
As Elt. Therive and Dr. Symphony-Hayes undergo the Kaufman Process, Hippocrates continues to fight the virus, which has turned on the ship's engines to drive it into the system's sun. Unable to control anything but one navigation engine, Hippocrates manages to bring the ship into a controlled spiral and crash into the planet nearest the sun, as he powers down his core to purge the virus.
It will be a long time before anyone finds them...