FHD Remix Chapter 3
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 2: Forgotten Beasts; Familiar Mask; Silent Towers
Chapter 3: Doom
Opening of Doom 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePDR3Pza1_g (c) Id Software 2004
"The Union Aerospace Corporation is the largest corporate entity in existence. Originally focused on weapon and defense contracts, new ventures have expanded into biological research, space exploration, and other scientific endeavors. With unlimited funds and the ability to engage in research outside of moral and legal obligations, the UAC controls the most advanced technology ever conceived..."
"Do you not understand that the power of the atom was a gift, planted in the universe from the very beginning ... a key that may one day throw open the doors to the planets, and the stars beyond?" And yet, somehow this same key had been fashioned in such a manner that it could unlock the gates of hell. - Nagai, Paul Takashi; Charles Pellegrino, see discussion for this page
The woman is several years older than her haibane counterpart, faint lines etch a look of state-sanctioned obstinance permanently into her face. Her blonde hair drawn back in a modest ponytail. Her shoulders, bulging with triceps more prominent than her breasts, decorate the powerful, if somewhat small, body of a highly trained Marine Corporal. The quarters around her are a bland, unfinished grey; unknown are the words "comfort" and "beauty", as though an unimaginative medieval architect was introduced to space age steel. The uninviting bed is a chunk of stiff foam encased in a shroud of blue vinyl, a pair of fine white sheets, and a taut wool blanket showing off a white circle with a few of Earth's continents, wrapped in a circle of pointy leaves, stationed over the large letters, "UEG". The steel frame of the bed is so much like the rest of the room that seems to almost disappear, leaving the narrow two metre mat anchored in midair. Her folding computer beeps. She sits down and opens it.
"You're kidding," she mutters to herself, a transfer to Mars? A top-of-the-class Marine and they send her to the most boring post within reach of the United Earth Government.
A tap on the door. She answers it. "This came in scratched," her friend whispers.
"I wonder if it has anything to do with this transfer order," she croaks, "To get a transfer on just two hours' notice is pretty weird."
"I'll say," the young man sighs, "The top spook from Union Aerospace Corporation just showed up to pick up Campbell as his bodyguard. A something Swann. Really bad mood. Where are you going?"
"You won't believe it," the corporal sighs, "the UAC facility on Mars. I've been ordered to pack up and board this 4409 Darkstar."
"Interesting," the technician says, "I don't know where he's going, but the Darkstar is the ship this UAC spook came in on. Anyway, Marine Station Two will miss you," he puts a hand on her shoulder, "Too bad there isn't enough time to throw you a party. Oh, and don't think it'll be so boring. Word from the grapevine is that the entire UAC installation on Mars is haunted, we've been hearing some seriously spooky stuff, like that shooter game you like to play, what's it?"
"First Encounter Assault Recon," she says.
The young man addresses her by the forgotten name of this life, "I'll see you in the lobby with your favorite pizza, on me, half an hour before you go," he says, "It's the least I can do for the best shot on wings."
"I'll see you again, I'm sure," she answers.
After he leaves, she plugs the tiny microchip into her laptop. A message says its decrypted and contains the signature of the Communicator from the Seattle Chapter of the Featherwing Brotherhood. She gasps as an image appears, "God, you're shatting me. Director of Science Operations is a featherwing being!?" She knew there was a haoto-jin on the UAC Board, but she never guessed it was this guy.
The warrior rapidly dresses as she listens to the scratched briefing. An ordinary human would see her screen as blank and hear nothing from her computer's speakers. To her, it is Hogosho Kurato, UAC's Director of Science Operations.
"Your instructor has been assigned as the Counsellor's bodyguard, as usual. The Board is expecting trouble obviously."
"Why do you need me?" she mutters aloud. She continues to question the orders mostly because she knows the Director of Science Operations can't possibly hear her, ten light minutes away from the Training Center on Marine Station Two. He's on Earth, she's on a space station, and she likes the ability to talk back with impunity. "With Campbell, they have lots of firepower, and I've never seen the guy miss ... what more do you need?"
He continues, "But we need a featherwing," he explains. "The Saviour specifically asked for you. I've enclosed briefing materials for you. You aren't supposed to know any of this." The screen goes blank, but soon comes up with the first of the briefing videos.
"What you see before you is a relic codenamed U-1, or simply Soul Cube. It was discovered in 2104..." the video continues.
(Note: Soul Cube briefing video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CAhfaWuW30 (c) Id Software 2004)
The corporal knows in her heart that he's right. She has her own channel to the Saviour, one that is not limited to the speed of light. She feels Hogosho praying for her in her wings.
Her whole squad shows up with her friend in the lobby leading to the docking port on the Darkstar. So long does she spend shaking hands and saying good bye that she can't eat her pizza. She has to go hunting for her platoon officer.
"Sir," she says, "I just want to make sure this is all legit. I mean, it looks like it to me, but how can anyone pull a transfer this fast? It feels more like a deployment by the minute."
"No, it's a transfer, alright. The UAC Board gave us your corporate security clearance, the whole spiel. Campbell is a deployment," the officer seems rather bewildered not only at the irregularity of her transfer, but with the departure of his two best Marines, he's losing the ability to defend his station. "The signatures of the military officials all check out. I can't do the same for the UAC representative, this Kurato, but yeah. It's legit alright."
"Good," she says, "'cus I don't want to get a shotgun pointed at me in a couple of days and someone telling me I'm AWOL when I'm just following orders."
The night on Darkstar after getting her sleep (including an extra unwanted hour due to a faulty alarm setting), the woman disengages the so-called E-locker on the Darkstar. She finds the Counselor's briefcase inside. She has no way of opening it, but that's not what she's trying to accomplish. Hogosho's briefing said that there was a hidden compartment that he figured Swann wouldn't find. She soon finds the secret latch and opens it, extracts Hogosho's kit of goodies, then closes it and puts it back, rapidly closing the E-locker. She stands, then heads back to her tiny room. Just around the corner is the balding middle aged man she was hoping not to bump into.
"You're the Marine requested by Sargeant Kelly?" asks Elliot Swann.
"Uh, yes," she says smartly. "You must be the Union Aerospace guy Campbell is escorting?"
He nods, and they squeeze past each other in the narrow corridor.
He opens his E-locker and checks his briefcase. Everything is in order, he can't see anything she might have done to it, even though there is nothing else at the end of this corridor. He sighs and puts it back, closes the locker, then taps his on-board communicator.
"Pilot, has there been any access to the E-locker you assigned me, especially in the last few minutes?" he asks.
<No,> the pilot answers, <nothing at all. Rest assured, we'll page you immediately if there is any unauthorized activity on your locker, Counselor.>
Elliot Swann seems comfortable with his answer and returns to his room. It doesn't occur to him that the pilot didn't see his own authorized access to the locker. The lock has been scratched, and the ship's computer can no longer hear any of its access reports, authorized or not.
She has very little time to get her kit from Hogosho set up, which includes a special position recorder and microphone implant, with noise cancellation and voice dictation. What's with all the spy stuff? Her orders are merely to sit tight and wait for some action, then record it when it occurs. Helmetcams and what not will do that just fine ... I mean, unless an enemy can take over Central Processing. How silly is that?
Days later, she would listen to what it recorded while it was sitting on the table waiting to be implanted: subtle vibrations through the steel table that she could have heard with her featherwing ears if she had bothered to pay attention.
"Containment is our first priority," said Elliot Swann, "I've only read the summaries of the archaeologists' reports, but they say that the tablets indicate the intermediate dimension is inhabited by some sort of enemy, which is certainly consistent with some of the medical summaries. Their containment expert is Dr. Jonathan Ishii. If we can't get Betruger to cooperate, we need to get him on our side-"
"Hey," Jack Campbell had interrupted, "You're getting me lost on all this investigation stuff. If you need him arrested or shot, that's my department."
"Well, if we lose containment," Elliot Swann had said sombrely, "I'm sure you'll be putting that BFG to good use." There were six seconds of silence before the operative picked it up.
[First stage of Doom 3]
The transport docks and its three doors open, the ramp extends. Two people emerge from it, a younger man in combat armor with a shaved head and an intimidating weapon case, and an older man who's naturally bald, wears a business suit and a very frustrated look. The modern twenty-second century business suit is a set of grey coveralls and humanity has apparently forgotten the necktie, but hey, Swann does have really cool shades!
Counselor Elliot Swann, a look of frustration on his face, mutters, "I can't believe it's come to this, I didn't want to come here."
Sergeant Jack Campbell, clearly his friend, responds, "He left you no choice."
"True," the balding lawyer acknowledges, "but this is the last time. I'm tired of running damage control every time he makes a mess."
"Right," sighs Campbell laconically, "you're the control and if that fails, I'm the damage."
Swann responds, "If that's what it takes. Betruger is going to start doing things our way."
The panicked looking young lady emerges from the transport, her loose blonde hair blowing about in the chaotic convection currents of the hangar. She drops her small duffel bag and starts to gather it up. <Damage Control?> she thinks.
As she ties it into a bun, the Marine guarding the platform says to her, "You need to get to Marine HQ, report to Sergeant Kelly ASAP."
She nods nervously, embarrassed at being so unprepared for docking. It seems she's been just a few minutes behind ever since she got the transfer order.
"They get the trip over with fast, eh?" the Marine offers.
"Faster every time it seems," she mutters as she grabs her bag and heads up the stairs.
At the security checkpoint, she enters a room which has two pads.
The officer on the other side of the window (which is made of an exotic new composite containing, among other things, a transparent aluminum nitrate compound making it nearly as tough as steel) greets her through the audio repeater built into the window, "Welcome to Mars, Marine."
One she recognizes has just scanned her Marine instructor, Sergeant Jack Campbell. From the other she learns the name Elliot Swann. < I can't believe I didn't find out his name during the trip,> she thinks. < I'm not a spy, I keep telling them that!>
"I'm gonna need you to step on one of those red squares on the floor for a bioscan," the officer says, "This'll only take a second."
She dutifully complies, stepping on the second pad, catching the faint familiar scent of her Marine instructor still lingering where he stood a few moments earlier.
"Okay, let me get this started," he says.
Suddenly nervous about her scratched transponder, she reaches for it with her right hand, rubbing the skin over it on the right side of her neck as though scratching an itch.
"You're gonna need to hold still, moving around only makes the test take longer," he says as the scanners pour over her body. She sees behind her the screen reflected in the window. None of her hidden equipment shows up in the scan, and she breathes a sigh of relief. Scratch is pretty amazing stuff, she thinks.
"Alright, bioscan looks good," he says as it completes, "You're cleared for entry."
The Marine passes through the second door, officially into Mars City, the oldest of the facilities United Aerospace Corporation built on Mars. She steps back briefly into the chamber to say to the officer, who stares at the screen with a look of awe, "Kelly might not mind, but don't let Sergeant Campbell catch you looking at my scan."
The embarrassed officer closes the image of lady's virtual strip search and smiles sheepishly at her.
After checking in and getting her Personal Data Assistant (for which Hogosho had provided an outrageously illegal hack chip), she advances down the corridors to Marine Command, which overlooks the hangar's approach lane. On the way, she hears an ominous voice say, "Why, exactly, are you here?"
She emerges into the monorail lobby and looks left to see him, Dr. Malcom Betruger, standing across from Swann. Campbell stands between them and the window, his back facing her.
"I'm here," answers Swann, "because there seems to be some very serious problems."
"Oh really!?" retorts the scientist, the iris of his right eye seems to have grown over its pupil, "Do I need to remind you of the groundbreaking work that we're doing here?"
"No," answers the Counselor calmly, "but I've been authorized by the Board to look at everything."
"The Board authorized you?" the insolent scientist scoffs.
Corporal reflects the thought, <The Board,> recalling her own hidden agenda.
"Hmm. The Board doesn't know the first thing about science," Dr. Betruger says in arrogance as he turns away from the Counselor and her, "All they want is something to make them more money, some product." She notices his whole demeanor says he's up to something. "Don't worry," he assures Swann ironically, "they'll get their product."
Swann, apparently still in the dark on Betruger's purpose, "After how many accidents? Tell me, Dr. Betruger, why are so many workers spooked? Complaining? Requesting transfers off Mars?"
Betruger answers, "They simply can't handle life here. They're exhausted and overworked," then turns back to Counselor Swann. "If I had a larger, more competent staff and bigger budget even these few accidents could have been avoided."
"I'm afraid you'll get nothing more until my report is filed with the Board. I will need full access, Dr. Betruger, Delta included," the Counselor calmly demands, "I won't have any difficulties doing that, will I?"
She suddenly notices that Sergeant Campbell is looking right at her, a little alarmed at her presence. Slightly startled, she offers him a polite wave. <Surely he must know that I can hear through the window,> she thinks, < I hope he's on our side.>
"Only if you get lost, Swann," Betruger explains, "Just stay out of my way. Amazing things will happen here soon. You just wait."
<Betruger is lost,> the secret voice whispers to her. The question she's about to ask her Saviour is answered as well, <Don't worry, sis. I will protect them.>
Swann notices how distracted his bodyguard is and gives him a nudge in the shoulder, "Let's go."
The Marine walks slowly past the window, observing as her suitor, and his boss, leave Betruger's Mars City office. Betruger himself turns to a computer station and opens a file to something she recognizes, the U-1 Artifact, nicknamed the Soul Cube. After this, she hurries on her way to Marine Command, lest Sergeant Kelly become suspicious of her true mission.
On the way, she rounds a corner and with the "Kitchen" (actually resembles a Commons) to her right, she decides it would be a good idea to go to the washroom, directly behind her.
As she crouches to do her business, she hears whispers coming from the ventilation grille. She holds out her hand and whispers back, "Saviour's light" and the whispering silences with a breeze she can actually feel over her hand.
<Bad idea,> the voice in her head sighs, <Now they are onto you, and you will have no time at all to prepare before the attack.>
She suddenly stops. It is a most inopprotune moment to get attacked, so she finishes her business and quickly leaves. < I need a weapon,> she thinks.
After making sure that her hair is secure enough, she walks the final corridor between Marine Communications and Marine Command. The door opens.
"Took your sweet time, Marine?" Sergeant Kelly greets her, then adds, "I can see why."
Sexist jerk, she thinks
"Another member of the science team's gone missing," he explains, "Since you're the ranking FNG, you get to find him. I want you to check out the old decommissioned comm facility. We heard he might be headed that way. The only way there is the service passage under Mars City."
The operative smiles inside herself: that's where she was planning to set up her scratched link with Earth.
"Sir- Sergeant," she corrects herself, "I haven't been issued any gear."
"Pick up some gear at the security checkpoint at the bottom of the elevator," he explains, "I've programmed this sentry to guide you to the maintenance elevator. I hope you follow this sentry better than you've followed orders so far."
"I've studied the base schematics," she protests, "I don't need a robot to guide me by the hand."
The look on his face tells her that arguing was a mistake. Fortunately he seems to overlook it for the moment and tells her, "Oh, when you find him, just bring him back, do not hurt him."
She comes smartly to attention and marches off, trying to look like a smart FNG. She's ahead of the Sentry all the way to the maintenance elevator. She's about to enter it, when she hears the Saviour's voice again.
<Three nine six,> he says.
"What?" she turns to her right. Up a few steps over top of some utility pipes sits a security locker.
She hears it again, <Three nine six.>
She enters the number and it unlocks. She lifts the rolling shutter to discover a damaged coolant manifold. The Saviour explains, <How it got that way is a mystery to technician who replaced it.> It is, however, plainly obvious to her what caused the damage.
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 4: The Final War Begins