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Tuesday, 7th April, 2009, 11:29 AM #481
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 6 – Government Lobby
Jim-Bean put the phone down. "That should get them away from the door."
Hammer zip-tied Lillian's wrists. "Stay here."
Caprice looked out the window and swore. "That reporter's coming back here with a camera."
"I thought you shorted out their cameras!" Hammer shouted at Archive over his cell phone.
"Just their transmitting equipment." Archive was walking quickly to intercept her. "I'll take care of this."
"You, sir!" shouted Nina. The camera crew turned to focus on Archive. "Are you affiliated with this—"
He held up one hand, palm open. There was a symbol scrawled on it.
Nina turned and fled, stumbling in her high heels. The cameraman dropped his camera. The boom mic operator just dropped the boom. He struggled for a second as it unplugged from its power source on his backpack, and then he too fled. Archive kneeled down and ejected the tape from the camera.
Archive sauntered into the lobby with a big smile on his face. He handed the tape to Hammer.
Hammer didn't have time to congratulate Archive on his ability to strike fear into GNN reporters. "Stay here, watch the door, make sure the secretary doesn't do anything stupid."
Archive nodded and took a seat.
Hammer, Caprice, and Jim-Bean were doing a silent count to bust in the door when tear gas billowed around the door frame.
Jim-Bean shook his head and put on his gas mask.
"How did you know there was another raid going on?" asked Caprice.
"He's psychic," said Hammer.
"Actually," said Jim-Bean through his gas mask. "I was bluffing." Hammer kicked open the door and let Jim-Bean go first.
Two thugs were on the floor, eyes tearing. Guppy was slumped over a desk. A female agent in full riot gear had a pistol pointed at the back of Grant's head.
"Larry?" asked Jim-Bean. "What are you doing here?"
"Warner's orders," said Larry, his voice muffled by his gas mask. He turned to point his pistol at Hammer. "This is our collar."
"Guppy’s our team member," said Hammer, stepping out from behind Jim-Bean to train his Glocks on Larry. "We'll take it from here."
Keeping his pistol trained on Hammer, Larry called into his walkie-talkie. "Bill! Bill get in here!"
Bill didn't respond.
Caprice added his pistol to the mix of weapons pointed at the two agents. "You're outnumbered. Why don't you just take these two thugs here and call it a day? Little fish are better than no fish."
Bill shook his head. "These are rubber bullets, but they'll still hurt. Now I'm going to take Guppy—"
Bill swore as his pistol was shot out of his hand. "Damn it!"
"You were saying?" asked Hammer.
Bill clutched his weapon hand. "Fine, fine. But officially you got here before we did."
Hammer smirked. "Sure."
Jim-Bean grabbed Guppy by the leg and dragged him out of the room. Caprice zip-tied Grant's wrists behind his back. Then Hammer roughly shoved Grant along behind Jim-Bean and Guppy.
They passed Agent Bill, who was frozen with his pistol aimed at some invisible foe.
Hammer knew it had to be Archive's doing. "What did you do to him?"
Archive shrugged. "I stopped him."
Jim-Bean and Hammer marched Guppy and Grant to their car. Caprice shoved Lillian in the direction of Morgana, who stopped her advance to deal with the new collar.
That left Caprice alone with Bill.
Caprice smiled wickedly at Bill. "Bill! Old buddy, old pal! Remember me?"
Bill's eyes widened in alarm. He couldn't move at all, but their last encounter hadn't gone well.
Caprice stepped up to Bill so they were face to face. "Tell Warner Sprague's team says hello."
Then he yanked Bill's pants down to his ankles and ran out to join the other agents.
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Wednesday, 8th April, 2009, 11:24 AM #482
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 7 – The Trouble With Guppy
Hammer turned around to face Guppy and Grant. They had transferred to a van that Jim-Bean drove to Peterboro, which gave them more room to conduct the interrogation as they drove Guppy to undisclosed location.
"So now that we've got some alone time together, why don't you tell me what you two were doing?"
Grant shrugged his shoulders. "What do I know? I seen Hank last week; haven't seen him in forever since I used to beat him up for his lunch money. Next thing I know Hanky here is talking about aliens and conspiracies…"
Hammer frowned and looked at Guppy. "That's how we got into this mess, remember?"
Guppy shook his head. "You don't understand! I've seen it. They're already here!" He leaned forward to whisper. "Grant is a Protomatter Steward!"
"That's not too hard to confirm," said Hammer. "Jimmy?"
Jim-Bean stepped over to Grant. "Hold still."
He put one hand on Grant's shoulder and concentrated for a second. "Nope. A sleaze ball, but that's it."
"It's true!" protested Guppy. "I saw a file!"
"What kind of file?" asked Hammer.
"On Grant! It proves that he's part of the Conspiracy. They're controlling us all, manipulating you even now!" He peered at Grant. "They can change shape. They can be anybody!"
Jim-Bean leaned back. "You know, he's got a point."
"I think he's snapped," said Caprice from the passenger's seat. Archive was driving. "Guppy's a danger to himself and others. He should probably be committed."
"You're not really helping," muttered Hammer. He turned back to Guppy. "Do you have any evidence of this?"
"Ask Rachel!" shouted Guppy. "She can tell you—"
"Guppy, Rachel's dead," said Jim-Bean.
Guppy blinked. "What?"
"She's dead. That's why we came to pick you up. Her charred corpse was found in your apartment."
"But…" Guppy recovered. "I spoke to her a few days ago…"
"She'd been dead for weeks," said Hammer. "You mentioned a file. Where did you get this file?"
"From Freddy Butts. He gave it to me."
Hammer and Jim-Bean exchanged glances. "Who?"
"Freddy," said Guppy. "He leads the Bringers of Sacred Light. They have a fort. He makes soap, but he’s actually making explosives. I was there!"
"Where Guppy?" Hammer said urgently. "We need an address."
All their cistrons beeped. "Wow," said Caprice. "Sprague's getting pissed. We better drop him off."
"Keeping driving," snapped Hammer. "I want to investigate this myself before we just hand Guppy over." He turned back to Guppy. "The address?"
"There's a card in my pocket," said Guppy.
Jim-Bean fished the card out and looked at it. "Just a phone number to a soap company."
"That's a start, we can trace it." Hammer flicked the card over to Caprice. "Hot Pants?"
"On it." Caprice rolled out a keyboard and plugged it into his cistron.
Hammer called the number. It rang and a recorded message answered him. He hung up.
"Got it," said Caprice. "It's registered to one…Hank Gupta." He turned back around. "Man you really are nuts."
"What?" shouted Guppy in disbelief. "I'm being framed! You have to believe me!"
"We tried Guppy," said Hammer. "I'm sorry, but we have to drop you off."
Grant cleared his throat. "I don't mean to interrupt, but being that this appears to be way above my pay grade, you mind dropping me off?"
"Stop the van," said Hammer ominously.
Archive pulled over. Jim-Bean threw open the side door to the van. Then they tossed Grant out of it.
Grant rolled to the ground, sputtering in the dust. "For government agents, you guys are really rough!"
"Who says we're government?" asked Hammer. Then he slammed the door shut and the van roared off.
Thursday, 9th April, 2009, 11:32 AM #483
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 8 – Dungeons & Dinosaurs
Located at the end of a cul-de-sac on the edge of the mostly suburban incorporated village of Bountin, Dinosaur Lodge sat on nine acres of land covered in standing copses of trees and bushes, surrounded by a twelve-foot stone fence.
"This place looks familiar," said Archive.
They drove all the way down to Maryland from New York, non-stop. Guppy had given up on trying to convince his former teammates that they were wrong and had lapsed into a depressed state, numbly staring at the far side of the van.
They stopped at the front gate. "We're dropping off Hank Gupta at the request of Major Sprague," said Hammer.
The guard looked at his clipboard. "Yep, okay. Welcome to Dinosaur Lodge." He waved the van on. "Go on through."
Archive parked the van in the visitor lot and they walked into the facility. The walls were oak-paneled and the rooms well furnished. The place was more like a vacation lodge than the housing facility of a research center, which the broad verandas and sunlit rooms emphasized.
Impossible to ignore, just within the main entry, was a gigantic mounted skeleton of an allosaur, poised menacingly toward the visitor. A housekeeper cleaned and polished the cool brown bones.
"Wow." Jim-Bean stared up at the allosaur skeleton. "That thing is totally going to come to life and eat us."
An attractive thirty-something woman greeted them. "Hi!" she chirped. "I'm Angela Smith." She shook Jim-Bean's hand, smiling warmly at him. "Welcome to Dinosaur Lodge! Please fill out these papers, Mr. Gupta, and we'll get you processed."
Hammer grabbed the pen from Angela. "I'll do it for him. Gupta is not to be released from his restraints."
While Hammer filled out and signed a number of standard forms and waivers, a slender, professional-looking woman arrived followed by a large bald man.
"Hello. I'm Dr. Marina Ivanovna. This is Farley Danzer, one of our orderlies." She looked Hammer and his team over. "I've been instructed to assign you to security. So you'll be working in conjunction with the team here to secure the facilities." Ivanonva paused as she caught sight of Archive. "You're not on my list."
"He's a consultant," said Hammer quickly.
"He's not authorized," said Ivanovna curtly. "So he'll have to stay in our guest facilities. Sorry."
Archive shrugged. "No problem."
Angela handed each of the agents security badges. Archive received a badge that read VISITOR in big bold letters.
"Angela, please show mister…"
"…Fontaine to the guest house. The rest of you, follow me please."
Archive left with Angela, who shot a smile over her shoulder at Jim-Bean before departing. Then they followed Ivanovna into the facility.
"Dinosaur Lodge is a dream research and sleep facility," said Ivanovna. "The first floor contains general access rooms, the kitchen and dining room, and offices. The second, third, and fourth floors are devoted to the staffers’ rooms. You'll be staying there as well."
There were guards armed with sub-machineguns at every intersection. They wore black, unidentified patches.
"The real work goes on in the Dreamweb." Ivanovna led them out of the Lodge and towards another building.
"Dreamweb?" asked Caprice.
"The Krogen Institute studies and monitors dreams, primarily through the use of an amazing technological innovation called the Dreamweb, a device simple in concept and awesomely complex in construction and operation," explained Ivanovna as they walked. "The Dreamweb monitors minute electrical impulses and chemical changes in the brain of a sleeper, translating them into bits of data decipherable by a computer. This data becomes a video image transmitted to one or more recording sites. By inducing minor chemical changes in a sleeper’s bloodstream and applying electrical stimuli, dreams can be slightly altered, though the precise nature of the induced changes is still unpredictable."
"And you think this can help Gup—I mean Hank?" asked Jim-Bean.
"Yes. We've had some major successes with some other patients like him. Mr. Brendel is a similar case, a programmer who suffered some extreme mental stress. Dr. Perov has made great progress with him by examining his subliminal consciousness. Here we are."
The Dreamweb was contained in a circular, glass-in chamber at the center of the lab building. In the middle of the chamber was a plush examination couch that promoted deep relaxation. Dozens of electrodes were taped to key points on the subject’s head and body. Wires from the electrodes extended to banks of sockets mounted on the curved wall, giving the chamber a rather spidery look when in operation.
"Now I know why they call it the Dreamweb," said Caprice.
Around the outside of the web chamber were banks of consoles displaying the input from the monitoring electrodes.
Each of the five monitoring stations, as well as the two observation areas, were equipped with viewing screens on which dreams were displayed. They ranged from flying to a person standing naked in front of an audience to reunions with relatives.
"From here," said Ivanovna, "researchers can track incoming data while simultaneously observing the dreamer through windows. Let's get started shall we?"
Friday, 10th April, 2009, 11:38 AM #484
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 9 – Welcome to My Parlor
Dr. Ivanovna led Guppy into the Dreamweb proper. When all the other agents started to crowd in, she turned.
"Gentlemen, I appreciate that you're all eager to keep Mr. Gupta safe but I must insist that only one of you be in the room. It's clear he's stressed and your presence isn't going to help."
"I'll stay," said Jim-Bean.
The other agents left the room.
"Okay, Mr. Gupta. Please change and we'll get started."
"I'm handcuffed," said Guppy.
Ivanovna sighed. "I think we can let Mr. Gupta free now, don't you?"
Jim-Bean shrugged. "Sure, fine." He took a knife to the zip tie and cut it.
Guppy walked around behind a dividing curtain. He came back out in a hospital smock. Ivanovna led him over to the couch.
"There are eleven leads that connect to various parts of your body. I'm going to tape them to you. They're a little cold, so I apologize in advance."
Guppy nodded mechanically as Ivanovna attached the sensors.
"So, Hank. Can I call you Hank?"
"Sure," said Guppy.
"So Hank. Tell me a little about yourself."
Ivanovna asked Guppy personal information, including his name and address, his chief complaint, the history of his current psychiatric problem, previous psychiatric problems, family psychiatric history, medical problems, and family background.
Guppy patiently explained it all. "My chief problem is that nobody believes the aliens are already here. They've taken over." His glassy eyes struggled to focus on Ivanovna. "You don't believe me either, do you?"
"I do not agree with that thinking, but I understand your belief system," said Ivanovna. "That doesn't lessen that what you're experiencing is extremely frightening and real to YOU. That's what matters."
Guppy seemed to take comfort in that response.
"Now I'm going to ask you some questions about your current state of mind," said Ivanovna. "Answer from zero to five, with zero being not at all, one just a little, two somewhat, three moderately, four quite a lot, and five all the time. Okay?"
"I feel that others control what I think and feel," began Ivanovna.
"I hear or see things that others do not hear or see."
"I feel it is very difficult for me to express myself in words that others can understand."
"I feel I share absolutely nothing in common with others, including my friends and family."
"I believe in more than one thing about reality and the world around me that nobody else seems to believe in."
"FIVE!" said Guppy emphatically.
"I talk to another person or people inside my head that nobody else can hear."
A voice spoke in Guppy's head.
Guppy paused. He looked at Ivanovna. She hadn't heard the voice.
A voice that nobody else could hear had just told him to lie about hearing a voice nobody else could hear. Guppy broke out into a cold sweat.
He looked at Jim-Bean. Jim-Bean just smiled at him. It had sounded like Jim-Bean. But Jim-Bean's lips hadn't moved.
"Zero," said Guppy. He answered the remaining five questions with an answer of "zero."
"Interesting." Ivanovna leaned forward and asked, "So, Hank. What can you tell us about Majestic-12?"
Guppy blinked. "What?" He looked at Jim-Bean, looked up at the banks of windows above him, and then back at the camera. "I don't know what you mean …"
"Well, that's odd," Ivanovna's demeanor turned cold. "Because your co-workers tell us that you mutter about Majestic-12 constantly. You say things like 'I didn't want to kill him. Majestic-12 told me to.' or 'When is Majestic-12 going to call?' or 'If Majestic-12 had sent me backup, that thing wouldn't have eaten Oakley's brain".
Ivanovna followed up on these revelations with questions about stress, dreams, hearing voices, talking to god, magical powers, occult conspiracies, and so on. It was obvious Ivanovna thought that Guppy had become schizophrenic, and had invented an elaborate conspiracy theory and a supernatural authority figure which justified taking the law into his own hands.
"I'm not here to get you, Mr. Gupta. I'm here to help you realize you have a problem. If you agree to therapy, including drug therapy, mandatory counseling, and treatment here at Dinosaur Lodge, we will excuse you from work with fully pay due to work-related stress until a subsequent assessment determines that you are fit for active duty. Your psychological evaluation will also be cited in your defense in an inquiry or trial should Mr. Grant press charges."
Guppy sighed, beaten. "Fine."
"Good." Ivanovna's demeanor changed instantly back to the warm, concerned psychotherapist. "I'm going to arrange a complete blood count, electrolytes, thyroid function tests, urine toxicology screen, and urinalysis as well as an EEG, CT scan, and PET scan. But given the circumstances, I think it's safe to say that you are either developing or have a psychotic illness.”
She got up, and Danzer led Guppy out of the room.
"There was some audio glitch," said Hammer, greeting Ivanovna just outside the Dreamweb. "It cut out while you were in there." He frowned at Jim-Bean. "What happened?"
Dr. Ivanovna shrugged. "The Dreamweb uses an extraordinary amount of power; we have surges occasionally."
"What's the diagnosis, doc?" asked Caprice.
When Guppy was out of earshot, Ivanovna replied. "Mr. Gupta's suffering from psychotic symptoms that significantly impair functioning and that involve disturbances in feeling, thinking, and behavior. The disorder is chronic and usually has a prodromal phase, an active phase, and a residual phase. Fortunately he's in the residual phase at this point."
"English please," said Hammer.
"Schizophrenia," Dr. Ivanovna said simply. "Paranoid schizophrenia."
Saturday, 11th April, 2009, 02:22 PM #485
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 10 – Mr. Sandman
The first night spent at Dinosaur Lodge was Guppy's acclimation night. No real study or observation was attempted. The idea was that the patient should relax, become used to his surroundings, and be able to have a normal night's sleep the following night.
Jim-Bean stood outside of Guppy's room, yawning. It was going to be a long night.
His date with Angela had gone well, but not so well that Jim-Bean was at her place rather than standing in a cold hallway. As long as things kept going the way they were going, Jim-Bean hoped he would have an excuse to change shifts with Caprice.
Bored, Jim-Bean pulled out a file from the wall bin near Guppy's room and read it.
Guppy's blood work was totally normal. An EEG showed an epileptic wave of force during the times Guppy claimed he experienced a vision. A CT scan indicated an increased ventricular size in the brain, which was an associated finding with schizophrenia. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan measured and map out metabolism and chemical distribution in the brain. Guppy's CAT scan on indicated cortical hyprofrontality and high activity in the left temporal lobe. Both were associated findings in people with schizophrenic illness. Neuropsychological tests (including the Thematic Appreciation Test and Rorschach test) turned up bizarre responses.
In short, as much as Jim-Bean wanted to believe Guppy, he was starting to think Dr. Ivanovna was right. But after what they had all experienced, after what Jim-Bean actually WAS – who was he to say what was real or unreal?
The lights flickered. When Jim-Bean looked up, a man stood in front of him, eyes half-lidded. His nametag read: BRENDEL.
"Hey!" said Jim-Bean. "Hey, what are you doing?
In his late thirties, Brendel looked like a stereotypical pudgy computer programmer.
Brendel tried the door to Guppy's room.
"What the – stop that!"
Brendel ignored him.
A broad-shouldered, well proportioned man ran down the hallway, a clipboard under his arm. "Don't touch him!" he shouted. "Don't touch him!"
"Get him away from the door," said Jim-Bean, hand on the holster of his pistol. "Or I will."
The man's nametag read: DR. PEROV.
Perov deposited his clipboard in the empty slot near Guppy's door so he could use both hands to grab Brendel by the arm. "Don't disturb him or you could inflict severe psychological damage!"
"That's not all I'm going to inflict—"
Perov sneered at him. "I expected nothing less from you people." Brendel let go of the door. "Let's go Sam, back to bed with you."
"You were monitoring him? How'd you lose track of him? I thought you guys had monitors everywhere?'
"I was having trouble getting proper readings with my equipment," said Perov. Brendel slowly started making his way back the way he came. Perov followed behind him.
Jim-Bean reached into the bin and pulled out the clipboard. It was Brendel's psychological profile.
Sam Brendel had been arrested the month before for the brutal murder of his wife. Brendel claimed that he had no memory of it--he just woke up and found her stabbed, bludgeoned, and dead. Dr. Perov' analysis was that Sam was the victim of an extreme sleep disorder known as severe parasomnia.
There was another note. It was from Warner, with inquiries weekly about his progress.
Jim-Bean smirked. "So Warner's got a crazy agent in here too."
Sunday, 12th April, 2009, 03:03 PM #486
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 11 – Power Hour
Jim-Bean snapped his eyes open. He was standing in his boxer shorts in front of Guppy’s room. Hammer stood in front of him, Glocks out but lowered.Angela sighed dramatically. "Oh goody, another note from the Director."
Jim-Bean leaned over her desk to take a look. He'd been spending a lot of time at her desk. "What's that?'
"Director Krogen is complaining about the large electricity bill," she said, holding up a memo. "He even left a nasty note on the employee bulletin board in the lounge."
"What do you think that's all about?"
"Oh who knows with this place," said Angela. "It's probably the furnaaaaAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"
Angela screamed as she was enveloped by a huge pair of jaws that appeared out of nowhere. She disappeared into the phantom maw.
Jim-Bean ran. The teeth faded out, in hot pursuit. They flickered in and out of existence. The jaws could be anywhere. They were everywhere. The teeth would swallow him whole like some kind of demented Pac-Man game.
“Jim-Bean!” shouted Hammer’s voice, far off in the distance. “Wake up!”
Jim-Bean looked around. “Was I…sleepwalking?”
The lights dimmed for a second.
“Yep,” said Hammer. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Had a strange dream.”
“Not surprised. This place is pretty creepy.” He nodded towards the ceiling as the lights flickered again. “Lights have been flickering all night.”
Jim-Bean cocked his head. “Hear that?”
Hammer listened too. “Yeah. Some kind of buzzing.”
“A machine,” said Jim-Bean. “Has to be loud for us to hear it here.”
“Yeah,” said Hammer, trying not to look at Jim-Bean. “So…maybe you should go back to bed.”
Jim-Bean checked the time on his cistron. “Nah, it’s my shift anyway.” He rubbed his forehead. “Let me get changed and I’ll come back.”
Hammer nodded. “I’ll get some coffee.”
Jim-Bean turned to go and then paused. “You staying up?”
“I’m not going to sleep until morning,” said Hammer. “Just in case.”
Monday, 13th April, 2009, 11:26 AM #487
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 12 – Fielding Questions
Caprice fiddled with the lock to Valentine Krogen’s office. He had placed a repeating image of the hallway on the monitors. The place was far more secure than a simple facility. And yet he had gotten in relatively easily. There was something familiar about it.
Jim-Bean had found out from Angela that there was a receipt from a Burton Fielding. Angela didn’t know what the receipt was for or who made the purchase, but she needed to find out for her accounts. Caprice suspected that the director knew.
Caprice popped the lock. The room was peculiar. Several statuettes were scattered about the suite, octopoid in nature and carved of green-veined soapstone. A painting above the mantel depicted a horrendous circle of half-human entities baying at the moon. A brass plaque gave the title and painter: “Ghouls Baying,” by R. U. Pickman. There were piles and piles of periodicals on psychiatry and technology, none of them read.
Caprice made his way over the computer at Krogen’s desk. He hooked up his cistron to it and started hacking.
Security was tight. But it wasn’t insurmountable, complicated by the fact that Caprice was an inside man: he knew how Majestic-12’s systems worked and he knew how to circumvent them. Data from 1966 onward was contained in the computer and text files. He searched for Fielding.
Burton Fielding was an electrical engineer who had worked for some important firms in their research divisions. He was thought of as a crackpot, an alcoholic, and a ne'er-do-well. Caprice also found a record of Fielding’s education. He had taken several university-level courses and advanced study. Fielding’s imagination wavered for several years, then began to gnaw on and race through specific courses, while dropping others and simply failing to attend many more. He had attended six universities, but had no degrees whatsoever.
Caprice found a highly-technical, trail-blazing monograph on advanced dream research by Fielding. It was difficult reading, even for Caprice, but he had an appreciation for the man’s intellect. Fielding was clearly the inventor of the Dreamweb. It was possible, Fielding explained, through the use of a Crystal Matrix Artificial Intelligence. It was the kind of crystal used by the Greys, the kind Caprice and his team had worked hard to prevent Centurion Computer Systems from using, and the kind that powered SINNER and Blacknet.
There was also something else: work on a three-dimensional dream imager, which could be used to monitor a subject’s sleeping visions. Its development easily rivaled the Dreamweb itself in sophistication. The file ended abruptly.
“What happened to you, Fielding?” Caprice asked himself.
He pulled up a map of the facility. There was reference to a Datamaster computer that handled the Dreamweb, but no actual location. It was only notable because it was missing; the amount of computer power necessary to run the Dreamweb was awesome in scope, and it required a huge cooling facility to keep it running. The computer was secreted somewhere on the acres of property of Dinosaur Lodge. But where?
On a whim, he searched for information on Guppy. And he got more than he bargained for.
There were medical reports, summaries of “treatments,” and even around-the-clock transcription of subjects’ speech during the course of the experiments. There were files on more than fifteen thousand test subjects, as well as several hundred summaries of stress simulations, such as “Subject informed of parent’s violent death” and “Simulated schizophrenic degeneration,” each rated from 1.0 to 10.10 in .1 increments. The highest was 10.10—“Alien Invasion Scenario 4.” Each file described in great detail how to conduct each simulation, all created using Dreamweb technology. And all of it watched over by Warner’s Delta team.
The Dreamweb could be used to control a subject’s dreams as well as record them. Dr. Ivanovna had done so several times while charting the reactions of violent patients. Such control made the Dreamweb perfect for interrogations or torture.
And yet there were no files on Guppy. There were conflicting orders between Sprague and Warner. Sprague didn’t want Guppy to go to Dinosaur Lodge, but Warner got his way. As usual, they were chess pieces in a larger political battle between the two men. Sprague’s team may have beaten Warner’s team to the punch by picking Guppy up first, but ultimately Warner had gotten his way. All files about Guppy were forwarded to the Puerto Rico facility and required MAJIC-level clearance. Caprice checked the other agents. Oddly, they all abruptly started after 1995.
He typed in Jim-Bean’s codename and it returned:He typed in Archive’s name:STRESS SIMULATION 8.5, “Subject is buried alive.”He tried Blade:STRESS SIMULATION 7.0 “Simulated amputation.”His throat tightening, Caprice typed his own codename.STRESS SIMULATION “2.5. Subject informed of nuclear terrorist attack on Washington, D.C.”
It returnedAh yes, Caprice remembered the fire ants well.STRESS SIMULATION 6.9, “Subject immersed in vermin.”
Caprice was typing in Hammer’s name when an alert dinged on his cistron. A sniffer was on to him. Time to go. He shut off the computer.
Once he had placed everything back where he’d found it and left Krogen’s office, Caprice opened a secure channel over their cistrons. “Guys, I think I know why this place is familiar.”
“Why?” asked Hammer.
“Because we’ve been here before. This is PROJECT OUTLOOK.”
Tuesday, 14th April, 2009, 11:52 AM #488
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 13 – Capricious Dreams
The lights flickered. When Sam turned the corner, Caprice was ready.
“Dr. Perov,” called Caprice over the comm. “Brendel’s sleepwalking again.”
Static. He wasn’t getting any reception. Great.
Caprice was curious. What did Brendel want with Guppy? He decided to find out.
Brendel made his way over the door. He tried the lock. It didn’t open.
WHAM! He slammed his shoulder into it. WHAM!
Another slam and the door splintered off its hinges. The strength Brendel had was incredible.
Guppy was awake, sitting bolt upright in bed, staring at Brendel fearfully. “What is—“
That was all he got out. Brendel closed the distance between them and, grabbing Guppy by his hospital gown, hurled him into the wall.
Caprice drew his pistol. “Okay, that’s enough of---“
Brendel slammed into him, grabbing for his pistol.
“Backup!” shouted Caprice into his headset. “I need backup!”
Brendel grabbed Caprice around his throat. He coughed and wheezed, trying to focus, but the man’s grip was incredibly strong. The edges of his vision faded…
Brendel fell to the ground, jerking from the sparking taser in Hammer’s hand.
“Out of my way!” shouted Perov. He shoved past Hammer into the room. “What did you do to him?”
“He was attacking another patient,” said Hammer. “You’re lucky he’s not dead.”
“No thanks to you!” snapped Perov. He dragged Brendel to his feet, who was blinking away. “Come on, Sam.”
Caprice checked on Guppy. “Guppy’s hurt but alive.”
“He’s not my patient,” said Perov over his shoulder. Then he half-dragged Sam out of the room.
Hammer called after Perov. “Strap him down doctor. Or next time Brendel will get more than a shock.”
Wednesday, 15th April, 2009, 11:37 AM #489
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 14 – Blind Date
Jim-Bean straightened his tie. This was his third date with Angela. Hopefully he would have an excuse to switch his shift.
He knocked on the door to Angela’s apartment. No answer.
Jim-Bean called Angela’s cell phone. She didn’t pick up.
Jim-Bean checked his cistron. Nine p.m. He was on time, for once. Something was wrong.
“Angela?” he shouted through the door. “You in there?”
Jim-Bean kicked open the door, snapping the chain.
The room was quiet. Angela’s tabby meowed hungrily at him.
Jim-Bean drew his Glock. Yep, something was definitely wrong.
He went from room to room, stopping at her bedroom.
Jim-Bean had plans to visit her bedroom. But not like this.
Her bedroom was empty, but there were signs of a struggle, including shredded and bloody sheets. There was a strange, sticky substance as well.
Jim-Bean remembered his dream. A giant maw, opening wide…
He ran back to his car and gunned the engine. “Guys!” he shouted over his cistron. “Guys?”
Static. He knew what that meant. The power surge again.
Jim-Bean drove through the checkpoint, but no guards greeted him. The facility was wide open, unprotected.
He parked the car and sprinted to Guppy’s facility. This time the power had simply gone out. Emergency lights illuminated the hallways with a hellish glow.
Gunfire echoed throughout the darkened hallway. Hammer stood, Glocks out, over the bleeding form of Brendel.
“What happened?” asked Jim-Bean.
“I told the Doc I’d shoot Brendel if this happened again.” Hammer squinted past Jim-Bean. “Perov should have been running down here by now. Something’s seriously wrong. I can’t raise Caprice and Guppy’s room is empty.”
“The gate was open and there aren’t any guards outside,” said Jim-Bean. “Angela’s missing. I think something ate her.”
Hammer lifted up one sleeve. “You mean the kind of thing that might leave a bite mark like this?” There was a strange mark on his bicep that looked almost as if he’d been bitten by a shark.
Screams echoed throughout the entire facility, first in the distance, then closer. Jim-Bean drew his Glock.
“We have to find Guppy.”
“Agreed,” said Hammer. “Let’s—“
Hammer just started firing. Floating down the corridor was a floating bag of putrescence, like a jellyfish mixed with human organs, dangling shark-like jaws. It shimmered in and out of existence.
Jim-Bean remembered the thing. He had seen something like it before when he and Hammer had had been trapped inside Daoloth.
They both emptied their pistols into it, but the thing kept coming. One tentacle darted off into the wall, only to come out the other side near Jim-Bean’s head. He fell backwards, pulling the trigger on his Glock until it clicked. Empty. Hammer fumbled to reload his own pistols.
The mouth yawned wide…
And then the creature howled in pain. The crack of a pistol tore through the creature’s roars. It shimmered away.
Archive was at the other end of the hallway, holstering his Elder Sign-inscribed pistol.
“I am so going to get you reinstated,” said Hammer.
Thursday, 16th April, 2009, 11:57 AM #490
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 15 – For Whom the Bell Tolls
The carillon was a thirty-foot circular tower of stone blocks. It housed an elevator, the normal access to the Institute’s emergency power and, Caprice suspected, the Datamaster computer. When the power went out and he wasn’t able to raise Jim-Bean or Hammer, Caprice decided to strike out on his own and track the source of the loud buzzing that could sometimes be heard accompanying the power outages.
It led him to the tower. When Dinosaur Lodge was a vacation attraction, the tower held a carillon, a number of differently-toned musical bells.
Judging by the amount of security on the doors, it was a carillon no longer. Caprice spent several minutes disabling the alarm on the door. Then he popped the lock.
Within the base of the tower was an elevator leading down and stairs leading to the elevator mechanisms above. By the doors stood a narrow length of pipe topped by a palm-sized disk perforated by a keyhole. An elevator call plate.
Caprice used his cistron to hack the elevator call plate. It dinged and opened for him. He took it down to the basement.
He faced an entrance with a keypad. He could see a computer room beyond an antechamber blocked by sliding glass doors.
On the floor before the doors was a black pad. Caprice recognized the room: it was a sterilization chamber. The tacky pad used a harmless electric current to remove dust particles from the clothing of anyone entering the sterile room.
Caprice hooked up his cistron to the keypad and went to work. A minute later the doors whisked open.
“Easy as pie,” said Caprice. He stepped onto the pad…
Electricity tore through his body, jolting him spastically. His only saving grace was that he had already opened the doors. He was blasted into the sterilization chamber.
His body smoking, Caprice tried to clear his head. He looked over his shoulder just as the doors whisked closed. A red klaxon whirled above him.
A sign flashed over and over: STERILIZATION IN PROGRESS.
Caprice shook his head. The tacky pad was supposed to be harmless too. He caught a glimpse of a security camera in one corner of the room focusing on him. The Datamaster was defending itself.
Fans whirred to life. This was normally to prevent outside air from contaminating the filtered, temperature-controlled atmosphere of the computer room. But they kept on whirring, sucking the air out of the room.
Caprice stumbled over to the keypad and hooked up his cistron. He had only a few seconds before he ran out of air.
He typed furiously, running several hacking programs of his own design. The only way to get to the Datamaster quickly was a brute force attack, pinging it from multiple nodes. Except that Caprice didn’t have that luxury from within the limited access of the carillon tower. He was more like a mosquito to a giant, poking at it feebly.
The world turned gray. Caprice was starting to black out.
The Datamaster’s firewall had been compromised. Intentionally, it seemed. Someone had shut down its defenses. Someone on the inside.
Caprice’s vision faded. All he could see was the cistron’s display. He felt light-headed…
Another program was running, this one separate from the Dreamweb. It was Fielding’s Dream Imager!
Caprice changed tactics and ordered his programs to mimic the Imager. Sure enough, it had full administrative rights. He just had to pretend he was the Dream Imager. Caprice clicked a button and promptly blacked out…
He awoke, gasping. The door was open and cool air brushed his face.
How long had he been out? Caprice ran into the computer room. The Datamaster itself covered three walls of the room, with a single terminal. Two metal consoles on either side of the doorway contained hundreds of discs. A security camera swiveled menacingly in each of the room’s four corners.
Caprice tapped into the security cameras and communications system. What he saw was complete chaos.
There was a flash of something over the nearby lake. It might have been a person, floating in mid-air, sweeping a beam of light like a lighthouse across the Dinosaur Lodge grounds. Fires were raging.
Caprice flipped through the cameras. He found Dr. Perov’s horribly mutilated body in the computer lab. The corpse appeared to be covered in horrible bites, with large chunks of him missing.
There was no response. Caprice flipped through the log until he found her in one of the rooms where other patients were sleeping, all of them hooked up to IVs.
The warning monitors were blaring as all of the sleeping patients thrashed and gasped. Caprice confirmed the warning code; they were all having massive heart attacks. The alarm was supposed to alert the doctors on call, but nobody was responding. Dr. Ivanovna walked past them as if in a trance, injecting each IV with a long needle.
“Dr. Ivanovna,” Caprice shouted through the intercom, “Stop!”
Ivanovna, needle in hand, plunged it into her own eye. She screamed as the chemical she had used to murder her helpless patients was pumped directly into her brain. Then her suffering was over too.
“Hammer?” shouted Caprice into the intercom, everywhere at once. “Jim-Bean?”