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Stirring Up A Metallic Nest (IC)


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Remote Laboratory Facility, Mountains, Sweden, Europe

Monday, November 11, 6pm Local Time


Anyone who knew Baron Katastrof wasn't truly shocked at what had happened. The man was methodical, safety-conscious, detail-oriented when needed, and demanded rigorous testing standards. 


He was also young, hideously intelligent, occasionally obsessive, and had a near-fanatical need to prove himself "worthy", not just of his place as head of his father's company, but also his place as a "super-scientist" in a world already brimming with them. 


Miss Americana had heard he'd been on the polar expedition to the remains of the Curator's ship. Archetech had had representatives there, and the Doctor himself had teleconferenced in. It wasn't known to the world, but basically everyone who had high-end scientific know-how and the trust of most of the world had been there. The place was a near-literal goldmine of data, materials, and technology samples. 


There'd been so many "dead" Curator drones you could practically build an office building out of them, and they were physically intact. Everybody had taken quite a few home, and Katastrof and Sorenson Technologies was no exception. They'd been careful, of course; all the Curator tech was set up in a couple of isolated lab buildings in the mountains, purpose-built a few years ago for handling "dangerous samples". The two sites were connected by 1 single tunnel with multiple security doors, and each site had internal and external airlocks, negative-pressure air systems, and a whole host of other standard and esoteric features. In the last couple of months, the primary site (where all the actual tests occurred, rather than storage at the connected site) had even received an extra dose of security in the form of magical wards, with the secondary site slated to receive them in a few weeks, thanks to discrete efforts from some contact or another of the Baron's. 


Which was all well and good, until one day every drone in the secondary site woke up and started moving on their own power, and suddenly the evacuation was underway and complete within 20 minutes. The staff was all set to use the emergency measures (which was to say, special explosive charges that would reduce both complexes to ash-filled holes in the mountain without disturbing anything else) when they realized one critical thing.


The Baron had visited that morning and was not outside.


That was Friday. On Sunday, the company had had no success penetrating the even-more-upgraded security, and, not wanting the matter to make regular public news (and thus strike a terrible blow against the reputation of KST), they made a couple of discrete calls. 


Which was why a small group of intelligent, talented heroes who focused on metal and wire technology found themselves standing on a tarmac at the foot of a mountain, the sun sinking below the horizon, and armed guards standing nervously to one side. 

Edited by KnightDisciple
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"Suppose it's to his credit that the problem's contained. As far as we know." One of the long, thick earpieces on Dragonfly's helmet - a recent addition, apparently - rotated a bit, adjusting itself to better look for radio signals that simply weren't to be found. probably encouraging - no breach - or stealthier than expected - mmh

The heroine stood with her metal-clad arms crossed, looking at the mountain as half-guessed, half-researched schematics and designs flickered across her helmet's displays. She'd responded quickly, for all her characteristic grumpiness; while she didn't necessarily have a vested interest in KST, she'd been a technology-based hero for a bit too long to think that the problems would stop where they were. "Filled a mountain with dangerous, badly-understood...things, and something went wrong. Nobody involved watches movies? Video games? No? Almost as bad as the government."

She paused for a moment, tilting her head to the side. "....almost. Government probably would have tried to blow it up by now."

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"Ah, pardon me, ah, Miss Dragonfly, but the whole point of this facility is to minimize risk. It's in the mountains so that in the worst case, there's space between it and populated areas. And we had it locked down and evacuated in less than 20 minutes, with the only person left being the Baron. He likely stayed behind to ensure complete lockdown, which is why there aren't half-built drones pouring out like ants."


The bespectacled scientist standing between two armed guards looked tired, edgy, and a bit affronted all at once. Clearly, the people here respected the Baron a great deal.


"Young Katastrof might be headstrong, but the sheer amount of security in the facility, and the separation of storage from testing, should have ensured this was flatly impossible. And if he wasn't trapped in there he'd have self-destructed the site. As much as he loves knowledge, as do we all, he would agree it wouldn't be worth the risk."


The middle-aged researcher gave the mountain a frowning look.


"But it did happen. We don't know why yet. That's why the group of you are here; it was felt you were intellectual peers of the Baron, and would also be able to keep this...discrete."


The man sighed with a slight shake of his head.


"Either way, we'll try to provide anything you need. Supplies, information, food and drink, whatever we can get."

Edited by KnightDisciple
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"Well, the first thing we'll need is a remote headquarters," Miss Americana said, taking a look around the empty tarmac. "I have a feeling it's about to get pretty damn cold here now that the sun's going down, and we can't exactly work in the parking lot. Going in there blind, especially at night, is not our best option. It's been two days already. If Katastroff is still alive, he's found a place to bunker down and wait for help. He's smart and he knows the lay of the land, so he's got a decent chance." She turned to the lead scientist. "What kind of internal surveillance have you got in that place? Visual, audio, remote drones?" 

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(GM Post)


The designated "aide" gestured almost directly behind himself, where several simple geodesic domes and other similar pre-fabricated structures (all of them looking new and well-made) were either completed or near-completed. Probably brought in on those two larger planes down at the other end of the tarmac.


"We have some basic facilities up now, and are working to get more advanced gear up soon. The weather is being cooperative for the moment."


He sighs and shakes his head at her next question.


"Nothing. No signals coming out, and any hard lines have been cut. Whatever is going on in there, we can't get any information with our surveillance tools. It was already very secure, to prevent signal contamination or corporate espionage. Now, it might as well be blank rock."

Edited by KnightDisciple
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Caradoc, the shining armored knight of a technological realm far away from this one, did not like what he saw. "Truly, ye realm of metal sorcery is a potential risk." Though he was, by a wide margin, the least trained of any of them there, he was the one with the most personal experience in dealing with high technology - particularly with the technology of the Curator. "Have those who 'escaped' been evaluated for technological infiltration?" he inquired in a voice that didn't sound very medieval at all. "Controlling implants, or replacement by dread, er, homunculi." He frowned behind his faceless armor, trying to stay in-character. "Thy Baron would have been checked for this before he had a chance to use the Curator's technology, yes?" For his part the weather didn't seem to bother him at all, his massive sword planted in the ground like a flagpole as the winds blew past him. 

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The plates of Dragonfly's armor flexed a bit at the mention of people-impersonating drones, briefly shifting like the carapace of an angered insect. bad memories "Surveillance or not, need everything you have from before you lost contact. All of it," she emphasized, turning her helmet's glowing eyes to peer emotionlessly at the aide. "Don't care how trivial or secret. Miss Americana and I are very good at processing data. Need to know what we're dealing with. Maps wouldn't hurt, either, especially if they include infrastructure - power lines and vents."

She tapped a finger against her forearm, untouched by the climate as she turned her gaze back toward the mountain. "...also, have to ask: not any mining or drilling equipment, is there? Assuming whatever it is wants out - large assumption, not unreasonable - might be trying to make its own exit. It having to build from scratch would buy time."

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The man gestured for them to follow his path, even as some of the other staff on site went over to the plane to help the crew guide it to a parking spot.


"We checked everyone for signs of infestation or the like, and made sure to scan for, ah, robotic duplicates. So far we're all clean. Small comfort, anyways. And yes, the Baron triple-checked that everything that came in was utterly inert. About a third of the drones were more like drone-shaped collections of computronium, neosilver, and a few other alloys. Another third were half-wrecked, some with limbs punched off or sliced or the like. The last third, the ones we were most cautious with, were entirely or mostly intact. We made sure to drain their remaining electrical charges as best we could, and some of them have been stripped for raw materials, even."


The man unconsciously put Miss Americana between himself and Dragonfly. Perhaps he wasn't an insect fan. He leads them inside the largest dome, where the temperature is more comfortable, and multiple holographic displays show...not as much as any would like. A few people are half-asleep at their stations, while others are running everywhere at once. 


"We'll give you everything we can, though we're seeing evidence the interior systems may have been compromised about 10 minutes before the actual event. 


Maps we have in detail, assuming nothing's been radically changed. Hallway layout is that table, infrastructure is that one.


No mining, drilling, or explosive equipment is on-site. If you feel you need some, it would be..."


He trailed off for a moment, thinking hard...then apparently spacing out for a few seconds before shaking his head.


"Call it 8 hours to get here. But....that is the thing, Miss Dragonfly."


There's that worried and confused look again.


"We performed the standard lockdown, but the drones? They locked it down tighter. Maybe it will want out later, but right now, it wants to stay in, and keep us out. But yes, they/it would have to build from scratch. A lot of scratch. All the equipment in there is the "fine control" type, not the "brute force" type."

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Miss Americana looked a little unsettled at the reminder of the Curator's last mission on Earth as well, her face tightening briefly as she glanced at the knight in shining armor. There were plenty of reasons that ArcheTech and its subsidiaries had not taken a leading role in the investigation and dismantling of the wreckage from that event, some of them more personal than others. Assumung Katastroff came out of this little adventure unscathed, she'd have to contemplate a little light "I told you so"-ing. But that was for later.


As they walked inside, she looked around the facility with an analytical eye, taking in screensful of data and tucking the information away for later perusal. She cracked a few knuckles, a seemingly idle display that Caradoc, at least, would know meant that she was realigning her own internal energy processors for some new exercise. "I may be able to get  a look inside the facility without popping the locks first, assuming they haven't had time or inclination to completely shut down every machine in the facility.Any booby traps I should know about?" 

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(GM Post)


"We don't know for sure, but our current guess is that the drones are doing something with the machines. Remaking them, quite possibly. But we believe there are at least some non-drone machines active in there, yes. As for booby traps..."


The man looks a bit uncertain, but glances to a couple other people, who nod for him to continue.


"All KST facilities have aggressive network and software security. The Baron has a dim view of corporate espionage or sabotage, and while he's not a cloak-and-dagger fan, some of those 'information should be free' types are unruly at times. He prefers sending a strong 'stay away' message to those who would attempt access. 

Physically speaking, this facility has a few direct security measures, primarily some force field generators and a couple of low-powered 'stun cannons'. Beyond that, it's primarily geared toward isolation of dangerous samples. Quick-drying bakelite, fire-suppressing foam, quick-drying polymer foam, things like that. Potentially dangerous to people, but only installed in a few specific places to deal with samples that get out of control. At most, there are a couple of rooms that would fill with foam or bakelite, but there's plenty of warning, and a couple steps have to be taken to do it."

Edited by KnightDisciple
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"I can provide a distraction above," added Caradoc in counterpoint to Miss Americana's words. "I am not capable of interfacing with machinery, but I can certainly convince machinery that the hour of its destruction is close at hand." He tapped the point of his massive blade against the ground. "It surely know we are here, or that something of this place will try and stop it - I cannot make it more alert. But a system focused on an external threat will not be attentive to clandestine infiltration from below." He knew full well the extent of Gina's power, especially with her physically present, and was sure the most helpful he could be was keeping whatever physical defenses were occupied. "Even if we are dealing with a swarm and not a singular mind, keeping them physically present elsewhere will make your works easier." 

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"Dangerous plan," Dragonfly noted, turning her head to regard 'Caradoc'. "Don't doubt you could distract it, but currently seems...passive. Active inside, probably, need to stop that. But not aggressive. Swarm metaphor...'hour of destruction' option is kicking the ant nest."

She signed, frowning at the mountain and, in the back of her head, devoting some of her multi-threaded mind to the task of designing something that could see through distant, massive objects. "Still. May or may not have better options. Can't interface with anything at this range...if Americana can't get much, may have to go in anyway."

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"Don't you dare," Miss A told Caradoc in a tone that brooked no argument. It would've seemed high-handed except for the worry evident in her face. "Let's not mark the one year anniversary of the Curator getting you by letting the Curator get you again, okay? We don't need the distraction yet, and if we do, we'll find another way. Just sit tight, watch my body, and let me get a quick look at the place." She led the way over to what looked like an unoccupied office, nothing but a door, a desk and a couple of chairs, but it would do for some privacy. Sitting down in the chair behind the desk, she arranged herself into a comfortable resting position and closed her eyes, her beautiful face going serenely empty as she appeared to sink into a meditative state. 


A few hundred feet away, Gina opened her eyes to the feeling of the plane once again being rolled across the tarmac. The crew was obviously just pulling it off the runway and out of the way of incoming flights, but the feeling was still a bit jarring. Time was ticking, but it had been a long flight, so she took the time for a quick bathroom visit, a granola bar and a can of Mountain Dew before she sat back down at the extensive workstation hidden behind the plane's false bulkhead. Closing her eyes, she extended her senses in the direction of the facility, looking for machinery that was open to cooperation. 


Dragonfly and Caradoc didn't have to wait too long, it was no more than five minutes or so before a polite chime insinuated itself onto Dragonfly's comm channel. "I've got a limited window into the facility," the voice on the other end said, sounding like Miss Americana but not. Gina's voice. "The Curator drones are stripping it down, and I think most of the existing network has already been destroyed. There's something overtaking the facility, some sort of wave of shiny metal pouring down the hallways. Slow, but it's moving. If Katastroff's still alive in there, we don't have the luxury of time if we're gonna save him. The good news is, I can pinpoint a couple areas that should be safe enough for us to try and access without immediately being overrun." 

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When Miss Americana had returned to 'herself', Caradoc thought for a moment before pointing to their map of the complex and the nearest clear area she'd indicated. "The front door. The systems that control it can be taken from there - and if not, the door itself can be sealed shut behind us once we pass through. I am familiar with the properties of such steel." For his own part, Steve was acutely aware of the dangers of exposing an entire planet to infection, and possibly invasion. "We go together. No separation once we are inside." With no disagreement from his party, Steve led the way in the air towards the big front door, a structure built into the side of the mountain itself about a quarter mile away. He kept watch as the technopaths worked, shooting an unconscious glance back towards the distant plane that held Gina's semi-conscious body. He had a bad feeling about this place. 

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"'Wave of shiny metal' sounds like possible nanite growth," Dragonfly pointed out as they flew, her four humming wings occasionally twitching or adjusting to keep her steady. "Added danger; we're a little metal-heavy if drones are stripping raw materials out of everything. Probably best to not touch anything in covered areas, just in case."

Wings flickering and disappearing as they touched down, she cocked her head at their barred entryway, pulling up the maps and schematics of the area in her mind's eye; something deep in her gauntlets spun to life, sending a glowing hum up the seams and lines of her armor as space around the trio distorted. "Not a bad door," she admitted, the world around them - in ways the human eye wasn't really built to perceive - bending in on itself like a collapsing sphere and expanding back out to leave them standing just inside the facility. "Depends heavily on 'outside' and 'inside' being two different places, though."

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Indeed, the whole door, airlock, and security checkpoint setup weren't bad at all. But for someone who could warp spacetime, things were always less secure. Then again, had the facility been complete, maybe things would have worked differently...


As it was, the trio found themselves at a "+" junction. Behind them was the entrance/exit. To their right and left, the halls were dimly lit with soft blue emergency lights, with directional signs leading right to the entryway. If explored just a bit, they show abandoned office spaces and a couple of storage rooms, mostly untouched.


But the hallway directly in front of them is lit for about 25 feet, and then is pitch-black and completely silent.

Edited by KnightDisciple
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"Well, we may as well go the most forbidding route first," Miss A reasoned, after taking a moment to get her bearings. Raising her flashlight, she flicked it on and shone it down the hallway as she began to walk. "Our first priority has got to be finding Katastroff. Once we get him out, we have the option to nuke this place from orbit if things have gotten bad enough. We should probably assume he's not near an outer wall or any doors, since if he was, he should've gotten out already. We'll look for protected spaces further towards the center of the building." As she walked, she swept the flashlight steadily back and forth, looking for anything out of the ordinary. 

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With his blade extended to the utmost, Caradoc kept pace just behind and to one side of Miss Americana. With long experience in using a polearm, Steve knew that behind was the best means to move in for defense. Not one for chatter in a crisis, Steve kept his own council behind his faceless medieval armor, ready to move to the assistance of the others as necessary. He had no intention of letting his disguise slip in this place; the Baron would hardly greet an Omegadrone rescuer with open arms. And besides, the idea of coming to the Curator's attention again was certainly not something he relished. He thought, a little absurdly, of Gina's sidekick Sharl, now the programmed defender of his electronic community beneath the Arctic ice, and wondered what the program would think of his old enemy resurfacing here. Thinking about the way Gina usually communicated with her protege, Steve decided Perhaps Gina will omit this story from her correspondence. 

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Dragonfly tapped a finger against her leg as they walked, the soft tik-tik-tik keeping time with her thoughts for a moment as she scanned their surroundings.

She almost stopped short when her visor brought up the first alert, but it wasn't until the third that the tik-tik-tik stopped and she made a noise somewhere between 'curious' and 'frustrated'. "....something's wrong," she rather helpfully supplied, breaking the silence. "Besides the obvious, I mean. With space. Something's wrong with space; keep getting signs of some kind of distortion, but it's too faint and infrequent. Can't tell what it is without being closer to the source - can only tell that it's...deeper in there, somewhere."

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(GM Post)


The corridor continued to be dark and silent for a long time. At this point, it was devoid of anything but scraps of wood (presumably from doors and desks carelessly smashed aside), bits of cloth and plastic (chairs, likely also smashed), and a few very small bits of glass from who knows what. Even much of the plastic and glass had been salvaged by the hive-minded drones, it seemed. Whatever was being done with all that material, it was no small thing.


The only sounds were their own footsteps and other noises, and a very gentle airflow they had to stop and listen for.


As they went further, Dragonfly would be able to determine that what she was seeing might best be thought of as "echoes". Which was to say, the distortions were further into the complex. That also suggested that instead of one single source, it was multiple sources. Which was not necessarily encouraging.


(For Miss Americana and Dragonfly only

Caution. Can't trust. Must learn



After about 50 feet of corridor, there was another + intersection. Just before the intersection, there was a small office to their right. 


For some reason, that office still had what looked like a single desk and a laptop, intact, in it. 

Edited by KnightDisciple
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"Give me one second here," Miss A murmured. Reaching into what seemed to be a well-concealed pants pocket, she withdrew a slim plastic casing with a blank LED screen and a number of integrated circuits. She opened the back of the case and began placing the circuits with great rapidity, occasionally soldering a connection with her fingertip. After mere seconds of tinkering, she clicked the case back together and watched the screen light up. "This should pick up on any life forms within a thousand feet, maybe more..."


She frowned as she studied the screen. "Something's blocking the scan. I get a clear reading behind us, but only about ten feet on each side, and fifty feet down the hall. It might do better as we go on." Keeping the scanner raised, she walked to the open doorway and looked inside cautiously, checking for signs of recent habitation. 

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At first, the room was quiet and still. Empty of anything but the desk, chair, and laptop, which was glowing softly with the light of a screensaver. 


Until either their presence, a quirk in the electrons, or perhaps an unconscious "poke" from one of the technopaths shook the computer awake. 


For a moment it just sat at a desktop display, before a black screen with green letters came on for a moment.



Have to show record. Need to know the path taken. The price paid for arrogance.


That was all for a good 45 seconds...


And then it began to play a >series of videos. The heroes would be able to pause, stop, and rewind. But after a time the system would gently force it to continue. As if it wanted or needed them to watch it all.

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Dragonfly watched the video impassively, at least at the start; her attention span was more than capable of keeping an eye on their surroundings and the video at once right up until the point where Katastrof mentioned lacing brains to 'increase performance' - then her stance went from guarded to something a lot more complex and heavily laced with anger, armor flexing like a threatened (or threatening) insect.

When he started experimenting on his own mind there was a sharp metallic sound as she, without turning away from the video, nearly put her fist through the wall next to her.

"....we are going to find him," the armored heroine noted in a calm and flat voice completely at odds with her body language. She pulled her hand away from the wall and flexed it, bits of concrete dust trickling down from where her still-active force field had eaten a shallow dent into its surface. "And if his idiocy hasn't killed him, may have to kill him ourselves. On principle."

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Miss Americana startled when the computer activated itself, then folded her arms and watched the video, her face impassive. Around the end of the first log, one finger began tapping rhythmically against her elbow in a very restrained sort of tic. By the end of the mouse experiment, the neutral expression was gone, replaced with a faint and growing horror as pieces began to fall into place. When he announced his intention to begin experimenting on himself, she began swearing softly, her musical voice reciting a filthy and very unflattering set of descriptors for the Baron, his lineage, and his company. 


She jumped again as Dragonfly punched the wall, her attention diverted for a moment by the sudden violence. She gave the other heroine a look of resigned understanding. "On principle," she agreed quietly, "or because there is nothing human in him left to save. If these machines do what he says he wants them to, and if they have achieved any complex level of sentience, it's likely they've been able to destroy or overwrite his brain. You saw the kind of access he allowed them, how pervasive and uncontrolled. Even if we find him, he may be little more than a technological zombie." 


With a sigh, Miss A turned her attention back to the screen. "At least we can analyze the data recorded here, perhaps get a better idea of what we're dealing with. If we know the makeup of the nanites, we might be able to rig up a detector and scan each other. We're all vulnerable, you know. Nanites could get into the machine parts even easier than into organic material. We could do little to stop it." 

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The two technopaths hadn't had a lot of chance to dig through the non-video data, and it seemed like the files present were a bit touch-and-go for integrity and whatnot, but it was quite likely they'd be able to figure at least some things out.


Of course, that would probably have to wait. Because Caradoc chose that moment to turn around and face the hall again. And noticed something that hadn't been there before.


Three somethings, in fact. They looked a lot like the "deactivated" Curator drones, though things had obviously been shifted around a bit. Their arms had large barrels mounted on the forearms, the muzzle ending just before the wrists. Their heads were smooth, with no facial features beyond a set of three glowing green dots in a triangle centered on the blank metal. The slightly skeletal robots seemed to stand there for a moment, assessing the three in front of them.


Before raising their arms up, clearly ready for combat.

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