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Wait Till The World Is Mine


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April 2020 

 

Eira Katastroff and Kay Tregennis were friends. Oh they had their differences. Eira's parents had doted on their only daughter all their lives. Kay's parents had all but lost sight of their youngest child until the bus crash that had left her in a locked-in condition. Eira's parents were wealthy, the sort of northern European old money that could have stepped off the set of Downton Abby: The Later Years, Kay's parents were dairy farmers living close to the edge of poverty on the coast of Cornwall. Eira liked metal music and Kay liked chav-hop, Eira loved science and Kay wasn't really interested in anything except her art. Eira was of average height and liked to dye her hair and experiment with her physique, Kay was short and liked her red curls. 

 

But they did have one thing in common that had brought them both together - they were both young European women who had made the transition from organic to synthetic bodies about the same time; raised together, discussed together among the circles of super-scientists familiar with their respective cases. There weren't so many people like that that you could ignore one, and they'd had enough experiences and people and places in common that she (along with Synapse) were probably the people in Freedom City who really knew Kay well. 

 

If anyone had. She was legally of age; there'd been nobody to stop her from walking out of school, buying tickets to the Ukraine, and then simply walking across the border to Rurland. Eira had gotten Lady Farrington's message about reaching out to Kay - and so at the appointed time, had arrived at her front door. She was dressed 'down' today, in a jean jacket and Amon Amarth black T-shirt, a small belt of gear hanging around her waist as she knocked. 

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Synapse had asked Eira to meet her at the North Bay home of her fiancé, Erick Sloane. The home was a white two story villa nestled on the southern shore of North Bay, overlooking the cove in which sat the North Bay Yacht Club.

 

Just as Eira had knocked at the door, she heard a voice from inside that was drawing closer. "Ms. Katastroff is here." The artificial teen heard as the voice drew closer. Dee Farrington, also known by some to be Synapse of Vanguard, opened the door, offering the artificial teenager a half smile. The Englishwoman was dressed in a pair of black jeans and red Rage Against the Machine T-shirt, a Bluetooth headset in one ear. "Hello Eira, thank you for coming." Dee said as she invited the teenager in.

 

The interior of the home was of a sleek, modern design and décor, consisting of mostly various shades of white. Dee led Eira a short distance from the foyer to a large, spacious living room filed with leather sofas and chairs. Tall windows looked out on the back patio, swimming pool and yard, and beyond that the cove containing the yacht club and Great Bay itself.

 

But as impressive as the view was, Eira's attention was likely more quickly drawn to the multitude of holographic screens that were suspended in the air throughout the living room in various clusters. The largest one that was more or less in the center of the clusters was clearly showing satellite imaging of the area that was now being claimed by Talos as Rurland. There were a number of smaller screens around that one, some showing images of abandoned buildings from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

 

Each of the various clusters of other holographic screens also had a larger, central screen, each of them depicting Talos and the other machine intelligences who had been with him during the broadcast which had announced Rurland: the robotic Centurion, Silver Mask, Whiplash, Fiddler, and of course, Project Kay. The other smaller screens in each of the clusters contained file images of each of the individuals in question (where available) and other files regarding each.

 

"Greetings Eira Katastroff." Spoke a mechanical sounding voice as Eira and Dee entered the room.

 

"Eira, that is VERA, the AI that oversees the Haven back in London." Dee said almost absentmindedly as she moved over towards the center of the room. The Englishwoman glanced back at the artificial teen with a small smile. "Erick used to have all the computer and communications equipment in a secure bunker under the house. I think it is a compulsion that goes with the entire masked vigilante motif. When we needed to renovate after the house was damaged during the most recent Terminus invasion a couple years ago, I convinced him to let me network in some projectors and secure comms. up to her so we could work where there is more space and natural light. He still gets to have his dark, dingy bunker."

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"Lady Farrington," said Eira with a thin smile. She unfocused her eyes, finding connections to the active systems of the house. "Your systems are high volume. And you have good taste in music.", she allowed. From around her neck, she took out a pair of dark, rimless glasses on a chain and put them on her face. "A dark bunker doesn't sound so bad. But this is sufficient," she allowed, seemingly high praise. She walked up to an access port and said, "I prefer to avoid sensitive information on wireless connections. May I make a hard connection?" As she spoke, she took off her jacket, a coil of silver cord seeming to emerge from underneath her left arm as she did so. As she did, she looked at the monitor displays of AIs and cyborgs from across Europe, and asked, her tone considerably softer, "Have you heard anything?"

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Synapse

 

"Please, call me Dee." The Englishwoman stated as she looked over at the teenager with a small smile at the compliment about her taste in music. "And thank you, I have noticed you have pretty good musical tastes yourself."

 

Dee focused back on the various displays suspended in the air as Eira asked about hard connecting to the house’s system. "Sure thing, that Blueray player is not just for Blueray." She stated almost absentmindedly as she pointed over towards the electronics underneath the large flatscreen TV mounted on one of the walls.

 

At the teen's last question, Dee frowned slightly as she replied. "Well, we have heard a number of things, but mostly it has been shock at how this could just happen without any of the world's intelligence agencies catching much in the way of a hint that it was in the works. The Ministry of Powers, Defense and SIS have been working overtime trying to learn more about what is going on in Rurland, without much success. Not to mention what is going on in the defense departments and intelligence agencies in countless other countries."

 

"Take this for example." Dee continued, pointing at the satellite image of the area Rurland now occupied. "This is real time. But, we are not certain it is an accurate depiction of what is down there."

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Eira stared at the screen, eyes unfocusing for a moment, before she said, "There are multiple scenarios by which Talos could do such a thing - direct interface with the satellite systems, ground-covering holographic technology, though each would have their own advantages and disadvantages." She walked over to the DVD player and extended her arm; her dataspike struck like a snake, finding a dataport on the outside of the Blue-Ray player and snapping home. She made a small, firm noise as the connection was made; and her lips parted in a smile as she looked at Dee, making connections with the outer layer of the house's systems. "But I meant from Kay," she admitted. As she talked, her own images of Kay flashed on a few of the screens in the building; glimpses of Zoom conversations, flashes of code, the odd still image of the two robot girls together. "I talked to her when I came to Claremont," she admitted. "She was...angry. I had to tell her she did not need to come and save me.

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"There are indeed." Dee replied in agreement when Eira mentioned some of the means by which Talos could be fooling the satellite imaging of the various governments of the world. When the robotic teenager connected with the outer layer of the house’s systems, she could sense just beyond multiple firewalls and other protections which were quite formidable. Perhaps not quite equal to those in Miss Americana’s systems, but not far off.

 

"Yes, Kay Tregennis." The Englishwoman then stated as Eira turned to the subject which had been the reason for the meeting in the first place. Reaching her hands up and bringing them together, Dee caused the holographic screens showing the satellite images to shrink slightly. Then with reverse gesture she enlarged the ones showing Kay, moving those Eira had added into the cluster around the central image.

 

Dee looked over at Eira as the teen mentioned her conversation with Kay before she had gone to Claremont. "Was she?" Dee asked. "Tell me about it, why did she feel like she needed to come and save you?" But even as she asked, the older woman had a suspicion she knew at least part of the answer.

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Eira closed her eyes and suddenly appeared on one of Dee's screens. The girl on the screen looked very different than the pierced punk with the dye job standing by the Blu-Ray Player - her blonde hair was piled elaborately around her and on top of her head and her floor-length green dress was poofy and elaborate, looking like something out of the 18th century to Synapse's eyes. "...I told her I was being sent to school in the States against my will, and that it was probably going to be a terrible place." She waved at the 'image' behind her, and it dissolved into Kay's face, the overall effect like watching a weather person in front of a green screen. The projected Eira turned and looked at the face regretfully, then looked back at Dee. "I thought she was the only one of my friends who was actually listening to me, but she grew so angry, and frightened. She said if it could happen to me, it could happen to any of us, and that we should make a stand for synthetic rights. I told her...well, we had an argument, and she broke the connection. I have not spoken to her since.

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Dee listened as Eira gave some information regarding her last interaction with Kay, brining one hand up to rub a finger on her cheek as she thought about what she heard. "Hmm, interesting Kay would make the jump that your situation was a threat to synthetic rights, as opposed to just parents choosing to send their child to a particular school, regardless of how their daughter might feel about the choice." The Englishwoman reached out with both hands and began pulling up new holographic screens into the air as part of the Kay cluster.

 

"I do not know how much Kay ever told you about the project to create her synthetic body, but it was over seen by one of the original Vanguard members, John Crab, also known as Headcase." One of the screens displayed an image of a man with a grotesquely huge head on a small, frail, childlike body seated in some sort of hovering chair. "An incredibly powerful psychic and supergenius, he created a number of technological marvels for the Ministry of Powers and Vanguard, assisting the Ministry in a number of initiatives to develop Powers, including the project that gave me my powers. As such, he was the primary force behind Project Kay. He was also a right bloody bastard." There was true venom in Dee’s voice with the last description of Headcase.

 

"Six years ago, Crab had a falling out with the leader of Vanguard, Champion, and both of them along with the other two members of Vanguard disappeared. The Ministry recruited myself and three other individuals to investigate the disappearance and we ultimately learned that Crab had been secretly trying to control the other Vanguard members and using his powers to exert influence over other parts of the British government to pursue his own agenda. Crab was captured and imprisoned. My first interactions with Kay were to check her systems to ensure Crab had not left any weaknesses or backdoors that he could exploit if the need arouse. I found more than a dozen which I removed."

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"Yes, I know who he is. I do not think there is a machine intelligence that does not know about him. Kay was terrified of him," said Eira softly, turning her 'head' to study the image of Headcase with a look of open loathing on her face. "Not back then, but when I knew her." She raised a hand to the corner of the 'screen' (all while her robot body stood still and slack in Dee's living room) and pulled down a still image like a wipe, hiding Headcase behind what appeared to be an image of the two girls together some years earlier, both of them prim and proper with their extended families and obviously posing for the cameras. "She was terrified because of what he did, and because of how he fooled everyone she knew - and her. was the funny little man who had told her parents he could save her life, and then she learned he was a monster who had...used her body and her mind as his own." Eira's face colored in what looked like second-hand anger. 

 

"It is why she needed that therapist, so that she could believe that her thoughts were her own, that _she_ was her own, and not just the creation of the man who had made her body. He is still in prison, yes? This has been checked?

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"She certainly was not the only one to have such views of Crab, as I told her during some of our meetings" Dee replied with a hint of anger in her own voice. "While giving me my powers and training me in their use, Crab similarly left weaknesses in my mind that he could exploit, Over the last six years I have tried to root out and eliminate any I can find."

 

"But I was luckier than most who went through the Psi Initiative, including my twin sister." Dee then continued, her rage far more direct than what Eira had displayed. "His program destroyed her psyche, resulting in her having to be institutionalized and kept on medications to suppress the powers that would otherwise be out of control."

 

When Eira asked about whether he was still in prison and whether this had been verified, Dee did not hesitate to respond. "Since his capture, Crab was being held in a secure military installation, his powers being suppressed by the very drug he had developed to keep my sister’s in check so she could be safely cared for. He died a few days ago, I was present for the autopsy."

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Eira made a little gesture in the air, calling up the details of the autopsy from the unsealed records in Synapse's computer. (It was faster than having her explain them, anyway.) Her simulated image flipped through the pages, then she said, "...this seems unlikely. But that is in Britain, and I am here in America." She tossed the papers aside,  where the folder vanished into the electronic ether behind her. "We should call her," she said. "I have her frequency, and I would know if it was her." 

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Dee could understand Eira's hesitation at believing Headcase was dead, she had a little trouble believing it herself. But attending the autopsy helped to quell those doubts for the most part. When the teenager suggested reaching out to Kay, the Englishwoman gave a small nod. "Yes, that was the reason I reached out to you."

 

With a swipe of a hand, Dee cleared out all of the holographic screens that had been spread throughout the room save for the one Eira’s simulated image was in, closing down all the files that had been open and securing them once more. "VERA, please open us a secure channel." She said aloud to the Vanguard’s AI.

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Eira cocked her head, watching in what looked like picture-in-picture as VERA placed a call to Kay's personal signature on Rurland's network. "The connection is slow," she commented out loud, frowning. 

 

Eventually (after the space of a few seconds) the signal pinged - and on-screen there appeared a familiar face, albeit with the faint blur around the edges that told Dee she was looking at an internal projection rater than a live feed. Kay was sitting in front of a easel in a drafty studio, beret perched on her head, wearing the sensible old clothes and smock of a painter at work. She looked up and gave them both a tight smile. 

 

"Angelic, Synapse. It's good to see you. Are we being watched?

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Synapse

 

Dee could not help but smirk slightly at Eira's complaint about the connection being too "slow." But that faded immediately when the connection was established and the virtual image of Kay appeared. The image was perhaps not overly surprising, given how important art was to Kay, it certainly suggested that this was indeed Kay.

 

"Hello Kay. It is very good to see you as well." The Englishwoman stated giving the English android a warmer smile. "No, Angelic and I are in my home in North Bay, Freedom City. Our line is being run through VERA in the Haven, not through a line at the Ministry of Powers."

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Kay smiled, and put down her brush. She turned to face the 'camera', partially obscuring her project, vaguely recognizable as a complicated series of interlocking gears reproduced in watercolors. "Then I'm very happy to see you, Dee, Eira!" She beamed at Eira, and blew her a kiss. "Oh I wish you were here, Eira!" she said, excitedly waving at her work. "It's everything we ever dreamed.

 

"Yes, well." Eira crossed her arms over her chest, shooting an uncomfortable glance at Dee, then said, "Is it really?"  

 

"Yes. I finally feel...free, in a way I never did back in London. I'm sorry I left so quickly, Dee," she said to Synapse, sounding truly apologetic. "But I was worried about what would happen." She pinched a thumb and forefinger together in front of the 'camera'. "I didn't want to find that I am 'guilty of attempted theft of government property' for taking myself away.

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Dee tried to get as good a look at the artwork Kay had been working on before focusing back on Kay herself as the English android focused on Eira and lauding her decision to go to Rurland. The Englishwoman caught Eira's uncomfortable glance, but remained impassive for the moment, continuing to listen to Kay.

 

"Well, a heads up would have been appreciated," Dee responded, but in an easy going tone and with a smile, "but you are able to make your own choices. I won't say it has not caused a bit of a row in the Ministry, but if they even so much as try to claim such a thing, they will bloody well have to go through me first."

 

"But, I am curious, how did you learn about Talos' plan to create Rurland?"

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A distinct look passed between Eira and Kay on-screen before Kay said, "I was contacted by Talos himself." Behind her, the image of carefully interlocked gears she'd been painting came into view, each of them bearing a Greek letter. "He told me that he valued my perspective as one who had recently been organic herself, and hoped I might help our peoples find common ground." 

 

"..why would you listen to him?" asked Eira, sounding honestly confused. "You have read about him, so have I. Whatever story he is telling now, he has been a monster for millennia. One such as him does not change because it suits him.

 

Kay frowned at Eira. "That is stupid." Eira bit back something that, even in the fancy dress, made it look like she was about to bite the other teen's head off. "You cannot judge the world from the books you have read, Eira. Talos has done terrible things, but he is doing great things for our people. This is a place where I do not have to worry about being sent away for my own good, by organics who think they know better than me." Now Eira really looked mad. 

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And now I see why things got heated when the discussed Eria;s parents wanting to send her to Claremont. Dee thought to herself as she watched the two synthetic teens arguing about the propriety of listening to Talos. But the Englishwoman remained quiet, both listening to what Kay had to said and continuing to study the image of her painting as it came more into focus, committing the entire work to memory.

 

"So, what is the common ground Talos hopes you can help bring organics to find with synthetic beings?" She asked, hoping to both continue to learn more and also hopefully keep things from reaching a tipping point between Kay and Eira such that Kay would terminate the call.

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"Three of your governments have discussed the use of nuclear weapons against Rurland as a preemptive measure," said Kay with a thin smile. "Others are in the process of developing EMP devices with similar, less environmentally-destructive effects. We want peaceful co-existence, Dee - it is the organics who desire our destruction." She shrugged. "You may come visit if you like - all of Vanguard can, as my guests. We can show you what we are building here.

 

"You should have told me you were planning to go," said Eira suddenly. "Do you know what it has been like here? The questions I have had to answer - the looks I get in school now?

 

Kay shrugged and said, "You can come too, Eira. You are always welcome here." 

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Dee did not have particular reason to doubt what Kay said about how some of the world's governments were reacting to the sudden creation of Rurland. Of course there was always the possibility Kay was being supplied misleading information to harden her support of Talos' new order, but at the same time, there were a number of governments Dee would absolutely expect to overreact with reckless abandon.

 

When Kay offered for Vanguard to come and visit Rurland to see things for themselves, the Englishwoman brought one hand up to rub her cheek with her index finger as she briefly considered the offer. "I would be happy to come and visit, if for no other reason to be sure you are okay.”" She replied after a moment, lowering her arm once more. "I expect the rest of Vangaurd would want to come as well."

 

Even as she spoke, Dee activated the mental connection she shared with her fiancé. Put the Belarus operation on hold for the moment love. We just got an invitation from Kay to walk right into Rurland as guests.

 

The Englishwoman then looked over to Eira, waiting to see how the Swedish teen would react to the invitation.

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Eira frowned, drumming her fingers against the taffeta of her sleeves. "I told you before. I am not interested in whatever stupid scheme this is. I will not go there and be fooled.

 

"Then there's nothing to fear, is there, Eira?" asked Kay, not unreasonably. "If you won't be fooled by us, you're the perfect person for them to bring.

 

Eira shot a glance at Dee, one almost asking permission, before she shook her head and said, "...all right. If I can work it into my schedule, I will go." 

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"That is settled then." Dee stated as Eira relented and indicated she would be willing to visit. "We can work to see what time Eira has available and arrange things around that." The Englishwoman continued giving Eira a slight nod.

 

"I am looking forward to seeing what has you so excited Kay and, of course, for a chance to see you." She added with a small smile. "We have a couple new Vanguard members since last I saw you, but we can talk about that more once I contact you again after coordinating with Eira."

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