A Metamorphosis Alpha® play-by-post adventure run by supreme_arbiter
Zhaxier is too agitated to calm down enough to unblend. "Hey Chelydra, thanks," his voice is accompanied by the sounds of heavy breathing, originating from the ground in the vicinity of the door. "Guys," the voice continues, this time directed toward the other two clones. The voice pauses for a breath as the crumpled boxers rise and compact even further, all but disappearing into what is apparently blended hands, "I'm Zhaxier. Can't seem to turn my skin off, sorry. We should find another door!" The voice continues near the turtle man's location, "Any suggestions, Chelydra?"
"We have to find a more defensible position, and one with at least two escape routes, if possible," Nike interjects. "And if we could find a computer terminal too...." she lets her words hang in the minds of her listeners and looks at them to see their reactions. In the meantime, while she has a moment, she wields her wrench, just in case.
Percy tries to ignore, for the moment, the invisible man. He figures that if he can get past the invisible man, he won't have to worry about the fact that the invisible man is a naked man, too. Sighing, shaking his head, and nodding his head at Nike's suggestion about finding a more defensible position, he looks at the door entry panel, hoping to identify a lock.
"What I want to know is," he says as he quickly gives the door entry panel a once-over, "why the heck the security robot is trying to make minced meat out of us? If we're here, that means the ship is in trouble, and we're supposed to save it! Damn robots oughta be helping us, not blasting us!"
Turning to the others, Percy squints for a moment, trying to squeeze out the pain of his headache, and asks, "Anybody remember a schematic of this ship, 'cause I sure don't!"
"I have no idea where we are, but heartily second the idea of finding a more defensible base. If nothing else, we should put some ground between us and that security robot. Perhaps the robots have taken over, and that is why they are hunting us?
"Let's try some of these doors and see if any of them look promising. Are there any signs to tell us what's what?"
Scared to death of being hunted down by the sec-bot, frustrated at being interrupted and ignored by his indecisive pod-mates, frightened by his mutation and the struggle to control it, and angry at his former self's lack of foresight (he could have at least left a data pad instead of this worthless card! Am I really that lazy?), Zhaxier's first panicked impulse is to bolt like an alpha particle accelerated out of a fully charged nanocollider unit. Being impulsive (as he soon discovers), that is exactly what he does.
"Screw 'em," he thinks, throwing his wadded-up boxers (2 pocket variety) at the clone who spoke last, before he races (at a more manageable speed) for the door at the end of the right corridor. His card, gripped tightly in one hand, is his only possession. An engineer learns early the value of adaptation, and if nudity allows him a distinct survival advantage while blended (or so he thinks), then social norms be damned. Frak, it might be in vogue nowadays, for all they know.
Half of him hopes that Chelydra, at least, follows, and not just because he ably wields a firearm; the turtle man, surely more than the other two nameless and apparently perfect clones, shares his frustrations with being a mutant. The other half of him reminds the first half that he's fully blended, and that if he wanted anyone to follow, he's not making it easy!
Remembering that the mutant who just ran past him was working at the computer terminal in the clone bank room, Chelydra decides that he must have learned something of the layout of the area and turns to follow him. "I sure hope you know where you're going buddy," he mutters under his breath.
COMPUTER TIME LOG - DAY ONE
13:01 SCAN HALL 569870-K4
13:01 LOCATION CHANGE IN PROGRESS
13:02 CONTINUING SURVEILLANCE-LINK
.........-STATUS FOUR INDIVIDUALS
13:03 SECURITY ROBOT IN CLONE BANK
13:04 CONTINUE PROGRAM:
.........-FAIL SAFE 2
.........-TERMINATE WITH PREJUDICE
His introduction complete, Zhaxier also considers the current circumstances in which he is placed, given the excitement and emotional gambit the group is currently experiencing. It is a situation which is changing by the moment, but Zhaxier doesn't know if this is good or bad. He voices his concern, "I can't seem to turn my skin off, sorry. We should find another door!" As Zhaxier moves, his blended form appears to ripple the corridor (think of a cloaked Romulan warbird from Star Trek or maybe the creature from the movie Predator).
Zhaxier's voice continues near Chelydra's location, "Any suggestions, Chelydra?"
"What I want to know is," Percy says as he quickly gives the door entry panel a once-over, touching it with one finger and locking it, "why the heck the security robot is trying to make minced meat out of us? If we're here, that means the ship is in trouble, and we're supposed to save it! Damn robots oughta be helping us, not blasting us!"
Impatient for answers, Zhaxier throws his wadded-up boxers (2 pocket variety) at Percy, before he races (at a more manageable speed) for the door at the end of the right corridor. The hurled boxers cover Percy's face. With slight embarrassment, Percy pulls the boxers from his face and puts them in his sack.
"And if we could find a computer terminal too..." Nike lets her words hang in the minds of her listeners as she follows Zhaxier's rippling phantom outline towards the door at the end of the corridor.
Nike becomes aware of a sudden prickly sensation on the back of her neck. Tilting her head slightly back, she looks up towards the ceiling and notices a narrow red beam of light scanning her where she stands. Nike has no idea what it is, but it doesn't seem harmful and it stops after a moment or two.
Chelydra decides that Zhaxier must have learned something of the layout of the area and turns to follow him too. "I sure hope you know where you're going buddy," Chelydra mutters under his breath. His weapon pointed straight up and keeping close to the wall, he strolls down towards Zhaxier and the door. "Who is really in charge here?" he wonders, his gaze drifting along the walls.
Zhaxier almost instinctively slides his ID card through the card slot beside the door, and with a swishing sound, the door slides open. Beyond the door is almost more than the imagination can comprehend: you see a lush forest on a mid-afternoon day.
The door lock beside Percy (the door going into the clone bank) explodes as a heavy laser burns through the door lock instantly. Slowly, the security robot begins opening the door. Sprinting the fifty feet, Percy and Nike join the others.
What do you do?
I do want to emphasize one important difference in our Metamorphosis Alpha. Here you can post as many times as you like between turns. Just because only one post is required, it doesn't mean you can't post two or three times if you wish to express a particular point. You never know, it just may save your life.
"Here we go again," Nike thinks, fighting to mask her disgust with Zhaxier. "What kind of person runs off without a word, with no discussion, and not knowing where the hell he's going?" she thinks, her ire growing.
She ducks inside the doors, finding cover behind a large, very green tree and waits for the others to get in and find cover.
She is going to have to remember that Zhaxier cannot necessarily be depended upon to be a group player. Maybe it was just poor judgement in a moment of cowardice or fear? Or maybe it was just that no real leader has emerged, and Zhaxier acted accordingly. Whatever it may be, it sends warning flags up in her mind that in a pinch, Zhaxier may just do whatever suits him, and not think of the group first. And whatever the reason, she needs to watch him carefully and find out soon if he can be depended upon or not. In the meantime, a leader needs to emerge. "I'm guessing that will be me," she thinks, though she isn't entirely sure why. Somehow the role of leadership feels natural to her... perhaps that is why Zhaxier's impromptu departure continues to annoy her. So much to remember....
Percy risks a glance back down the hall toward the cloning bank before diving like a runner trying to reach home plate. He lands ungracefully just inside the door to the forest room. Not hoping for high marks from any Olympic judges who might be watching, he scrambles back to his feet with a wave of the bag and makes his way fifteen to twenty meters deeper into the forest scene, all the while scanning for heavy cover. He catches a glimpse of Nike taking up a defensive position behind a tree near the door, and smiles to himself. Not that he wants her to get blasted first, but he feels a lot better with her between him and the trigger-happy security robot!
Zhaxier steps just inside the doorway opposite the female clone and backs into the vegetation. At least the temperature is a bit warmer in here, he thinks, as something prickly scratches his back and he twists around. "Dammit!" he curses the otherwise innocent plant, whose leaves are serrated like a steak knife. His pulse still running rampant, he wipes the condensation from his forehead, and notes how the smooth metal wall to his left is equally streaked with moisture. Would the sec-bot pursue them in this environment?
Meahwhile, the techie clone scrambles through the doorway and plunges into the vegetation most gracelessly. Zhaxier immediately thinks "2.5," and wonders why.
He clears his thoughts---those that he can call "his," and not the property of some former incarnation---and she pops into view. It is the same face, vaguely feminine and mostly featureless, and this time muttering something over and over again in tones that waver in pitch like they are being Doppler-shifted. It sounds something like, "Come in, skee.... Come in, skee...." Zhaxier shakes his head again.
He is already out of his element, and now he wonders if he isn't out of his mind. What he would give for a data pad in his hand! He may have no clothes, but only now does he feel truly naked. With his engineering access and a data pad, he knew he could display the entire schematics of the Warden. It's why he isn't surprised to find a forest next to the cloning lab: his former self had visited such exotic biospheres when his duty took him there, or even for recreation with.... Frak! Not again!
He tenses his muscles for what he knows he must do next.
The turtle-man hesitates in the doorway. He doesn't know why, but he feels reluctant to leave the rooms and corridors. Despite the threat of the security robot, the unfamiliar jungle presents an unnerving prospect to him. Something about the regular outlines of the corridor is comforting to him, as if he has spent most of his previous life in such an environment. The turtle part of his mind stirs briefly, sniffing for water and the safety of mud. Feeling very aprehensive at the possible dangers of this unknown environment, Chelydra reluctantly steps through the door, shotgun at the ready.
COMPUTER TIME LOG - DAY ONE
13:04 ENVIRO-SCAN-TERRA 239837-E11
13:05 LOCATION CHANGE IN PROGRESS
13:06 CONTINUING SURVEILLANCE-LINK
.........-STATUS FOUR INDIVIDUALS
13:06 SECURITY ROBOT IN HALL 569870-K4
13:07 CONTINUE PROGRAM:
.........-FAIL SAFE 2
.........-TERMINATE / CONTAIN
Nike easily adapts to the irregularities of the situation as she darts for cover and motions to Chelydra, who catches the flicker of her hand movement. He motions back an acknowledgment almost as if it were second nature to him. It is clear to Nike that at least Chelydra understands tactical movement; likewise Chelydra suddenly feels the same way about Nike. Nike feels she can demonstrate the abilities to lead the group. In counterpoint, Chelydra carries the only real offensive weapon the group has in its possession, but his thoughts are on survival, not leadership.
Nike stealthily moves futher back into the the heavy forest and notes the movement of the leaves under a slight breeze. Without a focused command, the group may degenerate into chaos and find themselves in even more trouble, Nike thought.
Chelydra leans against the duralloy wall just inside the door, where Nike just left, planning his next move in advance, his hand moving restlessly up and down his weapon. He growls something intelligible under his breath to vent his frustration, then takes a deep breath to calm himself.
Percy's glance back into the hall falls upon the security robot exiting the clone bank door, but instead of immediately persuing, the robot wastes the time to stop, rotate its position and close the clone bank door forcibly (since it no longer works). Percy's slide and fall finds soft leaf-covered dirt to cushion his fall, with a few wisps of grass here and there. Percy scrambles back to his feet with a wave of the bag and makes his way fifteen to twenty meters deeper into the forest, easily finding a large hardwood tree for cover.
This is nothing like what Percy expected. Gathering his breath and composure, he thinks about the robot. What natural malfunction would cause a security to robot to act as this one had? "None," he reasons. "It's just following its programming," comes the harsh conclusion.
Zhaxier steps just inside the doorway opposite Chelydra. The other clones find heavy cover deeper within the forest, but he can still see them.
If he had wiring and access to an electrical current, he could stall the robot's main transmitter coil, causing it to overload and feedback into the dump capacitor, thereby damaging the robot's circuits and shutting it down. Zhaxier wonders how his mind concocted such a plan when he doesn't even have the tools to accomplish it.
In the hallway beyond the open door to the forest, the security robot slowly approaches the door, switching its cameras from standard lighting to thermal imaging after having recorded the movement of the nearly invisible clone. The short range tube on the security robot's back loads a grenade net (a fist-sized item which when fired, explodes into a sticky 10 by 10 foot net to trap fleeing suspects). The security robot edges ever closer to the door, its rubber track and gears humming as it moves in methodical fashion.
Raising one telescopic arm up to the electronic door pad, it presses a button and the door closes with a swishing sound as it slides shut.
As the door closes, Chelydra suddenly notices there isn't a pad beside the door on your side to open it again. (INSERT HEAVY THEME MUSIC...)
What do you do?
Feeling a brief reprieve from being bait in a chase, Nike lets herself relax slightly. She motions to Chelydra for "conference"---they need to convene and discuss what they were to do. Percy being behind her, she turns to catch his eye and motions for him to hold his position. Assuming that Zhaxier will follow, she begins to make her way deeper into the foliage to Percy's position. They need to talk, to discuss who needs to do what, and to decide on a plan (or plans) of action while they have some time. In addition, conferencing might stimulate memories and give them more information for planning. One thing is for sure---they need to find the exit or exits out of the forest and see if it is within their power to go and come as they please.
Note, this post takes place before Nike's, may her pristine genes never mutate. It even cuts back a bit into the SA's post. I did submit the relevant MA-36-D form in triplicate, though, right ye grande ol SA? <silence, wind rustling the leaves, a lone mutated bird chirping>
"Frak it, I'm an engineer, not Ranger Rick!" Zhaxier thinks.
The crippled door to the clone bay screeches horribly with the sound of a snapping turtle trying to claw its way through inch-thick duralloy plating. It sends a shiver through Zhaxier's frame, and he cranes his neck around the corner just long enough to see the robot start turning around. The lab door is a couple of hand widths shy of closed. Zhaxier whips back around and flattens against the cold wall in the malignant shadows of the forest as the dull drone of the robot's tracks increases in volume, ever so agonizingly slowly.
His blended chest heaving in the midst of a flight response feedback loop, Zhaxier struggles to keep his focus, but the environment is foreign, his thoughts are foreign, his body foreign---frak he can't even see his hands. When the robot halts at the door and it begins to shut, Zhaxier realizes they will be trapped inside! It is too much for the propulsion engineer, 2nd class, to handle and he cracks. Faster than a death wish, he twists his body through the door in a Fran Tarkenton roll before it slams shut, and scrambles past the robot for the clone lab.
Zhaxier is nowhere to be seen. As Nike arrives at Percy's location, she scans the area, and cannot tell where he has gone. There are no bent over branches belying his presence, no indentions in the earth... nothing. "I bet the little freak took off again on his own," she thinks, anger welling. But then again, if he is prone to being unstable, then it is better this way. She doesn't want an unstable, unreliable person in her immediate vicinity---that is for sure. They bring unnecessary risk and danger to any group, two things that they already have aplenty without Zhaxier's help.
Percy stays put as instructed by Nike, who obviously is (or used to be) a security officer, and remains hidden until the rest arrive. He wonders what they are going to do in this jungle room. He makes a quick survey of the surrounding space behind and to his sides before reverting his attention to the door, now closed by the robot. "I wonder why that robot didn't follow us in here?" he thinks to himself. "Waaaaitaminute!" he exclaims as Nike and Chelydra arrive, followed, he assumes, by the invisible clone. "Maybe this is where that robot wanted us to go? But why would anyone have reprogrammed it to act that way?" Percy struggles with the ramifications of the reprogrammed food processing robot and the security robot, and suddenly realizes that his technical skills won't count for much in this biosphere.
COMPUTER TIME LOG - DAY ONE
13:08 ENVIRO-SCAN-TERRA 239837-E11
13:08 LOCATION CHANGE INITIATED
13:09 CONTINUING SURVEILLANCE-LINK
.........-STATUS THREE INDIVIDUALS / ONE MISSING
13:10 SECURITY ROBOT - IN HALL 569870-K4
13:11 CONTINUE PROGRAM:
.........-FAIL SAFE 2
.........-TERMINATE / CONTAIN
The security robot's sensors detect the slight rippling movement as Zhaxier rushes by it with a death wish no one but he himself can really understand. The robot hesitates until the door to the forest environ is closed and the force field protecting the door had been activated before it spins on its rotors and fires in a grid type fashion down the corridor. Its thermal imaging camera picks up nothing from the errant clone. It's as if he isn't there, but its sound sensors tell it otherwise.
The searing heat of the laser blast cauterizes the wound as it strikes Zhaxier in the shoulder, causing him to cry out in agony. A silent painful curse echoes from Zhaxier's lips as he squeezes through the not quite closed clone bank door. Once through, he races for his pod, sliding on the slick floor. Dropping to his knees beside his former pod, he pushes the button and the drawer opens. A quick search reveals a palm-sized data pad and a similar sized holo picture projector. Zhaxier can't help but notice he is no longer blended.
Zhaxier feels as if he might pass out. At the far end of the room, the security robot closes the clone bank door the rest of the way, effectively eliminating Zhaxier's easy return to his pod-mates.
[The party has split:
Chelydra leaves his position beside the door at Nike's motion and skillfully makes his way over to where she stands with Percy. "Waaaaitaminute!" he exclaims as Chelydra arrives, followed, he assumes, by the invisible clone. "Maybe this is where that robot wanted us to go? But why would anyone have reprogrammed it to act that way?" Percy's knowledge of robotic operating procedure tells him his thoughts are accurate.
Chelydra shakes his head negatively. "I don't know jack about robots, but I do know blend-o-boy is gone: he moved out the door before it closed. I think his reliability is in question," says Chelydra dutifully, scanning the area as he speaks in a lowered tone. Chelydra wonders just how drastic the psychological fragmentation of his own reconditioning is. Everything comes to him in small bits and pieces.
Nike feels comfortable in control and it suits her to be in a working cohesive unit that pools its resources toward the same goal. To Nike this is a mission. A mission to survive. Zhaxier is a loose cannon and she knows it. "Mistakes cost lives," she tells herself, and she isn't planning on dying any time soon. Nike's face shows visible signs of worry even though Chelydra told her of Zhaxier's exit. "He could have been very valuable to the group," she thinks, "even if unstable and unreliable."
Nike notices Chelydra scanning the forest apprehensively and follows his line of sight. This place is more than just large, it is vast. Nature run amok. The temperature is a very warm 80 degrees or higher. In a fan-shaped area in front of them, she sees at least 100 yards into nothing but more forest. Behind her is the smooth duralloy wall.
It is not, to her way of thinking, a very auspicious beginning. Either way, it's not exactly a sort of situation that fills Nike with confidence. Responsibility and leadership have a bitter taste if used incorrectly. With Percy's innate programming abilities, Chelydra's well-honed security skills, and her guidance they just might make it work, the primary word being "might."
Nike's eye sees the small foot-long green and yellow lizard Chelydra was watching high up in one of the trees. Without warning it abruptly unfolds hidden wings and flies away. Wind moves the trees slightly and other bird and animal noises echo throughout the forest.
"Even this place must have a control room somewhere. It's simply an interesting exercise in applied electronics which ultimately appears to be failing due to unforeseen irregularities in programming." Percy gestures offhandedly at everything around him. "What---?" Percy notices everyone seemingly enthralled by his sudden burst of knowledge.
Chelydra moves his weapon to his shoulder, and raising one of his fists, he leans against a tree. "All that mumbo jumbo don't mean diddly squat if we are stuck here eating flying lizards, does it Percy?" Chelydra's logic, as usual, is blunt, precise, and to the point.
What do you do?
"Hell's bells, how could I have missed these??" Zhaxier laments. He risked everything with his crazy stunt, a desperate gamble on an sudden gut instinct that turned out to be right on target. Despite the pain of his laser burn, and the exhaustion coming off an adrenaline high, he feels a newfound trust in his memories and abilities, an affirmation of who he knows he is.
"I knew I couldn't be that stupid," he thinks, hefting his palm-sized friends as he recalls doubts of his former self's foresight. The irony doesn't escape him. "Probably not what Butch, RAM and Chelydra are thinking of me right now," he sighs, as his stomach gurgles with worry. (Zhaxier still does not know the other two clones' names, so he has invented some.)
He smarts from that thought as much as he does from the pain in his shoulder. Then he realizes he can see his shoulder, and nearly hulches with the gruesome sight and stench of his own cooked flesh. It's enough to kick in his mutation again without a thought. Just as well, he decides.
He sits down against his pod out of sight (indeed, blended) from cameras and the doors, turns on his pad and pulls up a schematic of the clone banks and the nearby naturalized area, including the forest where the others are trapped. "Leaping Leptons!" Zhaxier gasps, as he gets a quick refresher course on just how BIG Warden is.
Ruling out the sealed doors of the clone bank room, he searches the maps for any means of access to the other clones, and any additional exits from the forest back into the ship proper. The data pad controls are so familiar, so comforting.
He also queries his gadgets' persistent memories for any personal messages left from another, surely happier time. To his amazement, he finds one stored in the holo projector. It's a 3D hologram digitally signed, "Remember me, Z. Your eternal Valentine, E." The display is jittery, so Zhaxier tries to adjust the resolution grid, but finds it is his own blended hands, trembling uncontrollably. Exhaustion kicks in and the engineer weeps silently.
This page updated: Mon Jan 09 14:22:09 2006
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