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Espionage IV: The Second Coming


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Stuff happens when you don't stick around to look after things...

The black vehicle drew up outside Rilauven House, a dark and forboding shape in the rain. Two blurred shadows jumped out of it and hurried to the door as a second, far more sleek car slipped in and continued past the house towards the garages. It was followed a moment later by a roaring moterbike. Only when the car and the moterbike had passed did the first vehicle roll slowly towards the garages. The two figures it had discharged opened the door quickly and slammed it behind them.

* * *

"Driving like a bat out of hell again, I see." Vivian commented dryly as she stepped gracefully out of her 'modified' ferrari. She stood there with a smirk on her lips, as Sergei dismounted his bike and tore his helmet off with a scowl. He glared at her as he shoved past, stamping up the stairs of the spacious garage and flinging the door open as he stormed into the house.

"Ever get the feeling where you just want to punch him?" Mischa asked from behind Vivian, looking slightly dwarfed next to the huge car she had been driving.

"No." Vivian answered, staring after he brother. She reached up to remove her sunglasses, folding them carefully into a pocket. "Though sometimes it's tempting to shoot him." She walked back into the house, Mischa following behind her.

"So how was Edinburgh?" Mischa asked as she shut the door to the garage, before following Vivian down a red corridor with a dirty gold ceiling.

"Dingy." Vivian sighed, remembering the building inside which she had met the Magus. "I would have preferred to visit, rather than work."

"So... did you meet him?"



"We hammered out a new contract. I'll do his dirty work when I want to. No obligation since he isn't funding us anymore."

"That's good, right?"

"After a fashion, yes. It does mean that I'll have to pay for my own flight tickets though."

"And now?"

"A few things to work on."

"What li-"

"On my own." Vivian finished sharply, and continued into the laboratory while Mischa stood still in the corridor.

* * *

"It's in Mischa's ride, I just figured it would be safer there." Sergei muttered, standing in the doorway of the control room. He hated being here. Everyone ignored him.

:Great. Just leave it here, will you?: Jared said distractedly, apparantly data interfacing with a disk that Morganna had brought from Japan. Sergei stood still for a moment, unused to being treated as unimportant. He felt lost.

"Er... sure..." He said, wandering slowly out of the room.

All was silent but for the quiet whirring of the few fans in the console. Nox looked up.

"That was amazing." He whispered.

"I'll say." Morganna said from beside him, sounding awed. "You got that from your brother, Jared?"

:Yup. Alexei was just like that: Jared smirked. :Treat him like he's nothing and that's what he acts like:

"That's probably not very good for his self-esteem." Dalziel said worriedly from the other side of the room.

:I really wish he'd undergo a psycho-evaluation...: Jared muttered, :If we only knew how to balance his personality so that he wouldn't keep trying to kill us...:

"By the way, how did the computer attack go?" Dalziel asked.

"Wonderfully." Nox grinned, not looking up from the two small screens he was working at. "As far as we know, they now have no computer data on us at all. With any luck we crashed the system. You did good, Dalziel."

"And, um... the guy who recognised me?"

:Is in hospital. We're going to leave him alone unless he causes trouble. Hopefully any data on the fingerprints you left on the computer will have been lost in the data wipe we performed: Jared smiled. :Also, we've had news that Ivanovich has been recaptured:

"Who by this time?" Morganna spoke up, but quietly.

"The government, again." Nox muttered. "Can't he just die already?"

:Apparantly he is difficult to kill: Jared smirked, :Now where's Sergei with those parts...?:

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OOC:Hmm. Not so sure about the 'they got the wrong place' thing, DK. Brings to mind bad memories of the first Espionage...

"So I guess it's my turn..." Morganna whispered to herself, staring at the mirror in front of her. Her face stared back, neither accusing nor forgiving. She sighed, and busied herself about her drawers, not wanting too look at the mirror without some kind of barrier between it and her face. It reminded her of Elisa, her dead duplicate.

First she walked over to the largest of her five wardrobes, flinging open the doors and diving into the clothing. As she ruffled through the outfits she muttered to herself: "Too small, too big, too blue, not appropriate, not appropriate, I've been looking for that.., Mischa's, not enough style, too heavy..." Finally she withdrew from the brink of Narnia with a sharp black suit top and a stylish black skirt. Returning to the mirror, but trying not to look at it, she took off her trousers and wriggled into the skirt, making sure to adjust the pins in it to alter her walk ever so slightly. Leaving the suit top on her table, she hurried across to another wardrobe and rooted through the drawers on one side, still muttering. She withdrew this time with a dark navy blue shirt with a very pointed collar. It wasn't like her at all. Perfect.

She took her T-shirt off as she returned to the mirror, donning the shirt before she had a chance to look into it and then quickly buttoning up the suit top as well. That was the first bit...

Next she retrieved her 'special' bag. It looked like an ordinary black handbag, perhaps slightly smaller than usual. Its size was deceptive, as Morganna well knew. She unzipped one of the many pockets and withdrew a small plastic bag with a skin-coloured putty in it. Removing it, she moulded the putty between her fingers until it was softened, before spreading it over her face and neck. She shaped it carefully, leaving thick patches beneath her high cheekbones to disguise them, but thinning it out around her eyes. The colour of the putty was ever so slightly darker than her own skin tone, and she made sure that there were no sudden changes in shade.

After finishing with the putty, she refilled the bag from her drawer and replaced it inside the handbag. Next she reached behind her head and gathered her long, red hair behind her head, typing it flat in place and spraying it heavily to keep it down. As she glanced sidelong into the mirror to check her work, Morganna was struck by how much she resembled a bald person with a bleeding head. Next she withdrew her makeup pouch, and proceeded to alter her face beyond recognition, adding false eyelashes over her own and thickening her eyebrows. She coloured them black as well, and applied the lipstick to make her lips look fuller than they actually were. She examined herself more closely in the mirror this time, and was pleased to see that she no longer really looked like herself.

Her next step was to seal the whole lot in place, and for this she took out a small perfume bottle. A few sprays fixed the makeup onto her face so that not even a heavy rainfall would wash it off. The smell also concealed the copious ammounts of hairspray she had used. Examining herself critically for anything she might have missed, Morganna smiled slightly to herself. She was always pleased with her work. She reached over to the right of the mirror and selected the final piece, a wig of long, smooth black hair. She draped it over her own flattened tresses and affixed it in place, examining the line closely for any signs of flasehood.

Satisfied that there were none, she stood back, took the plunge, and examined herself.

She looked totally different. Her face was a different shape, a different colour, she had even used some of the putty on her hands, as well as the fixative. She smiled, pleased at last. "Damn I'm good." She told the mirror, before picking up her black shoes from another wardrobe and striding out of her bedroom.

* * *

"You know, you're so good at that it's creepy." Nox surpressed a shiver at his younger sister's change in appearence. It was like a freak show, he realised. He didn't want to keep looking but did anyway, just to make sure it was real.

:I'm impressed, E-... Morganna: Jared seemed just as taken aback, :Even I can only recognise you from your voice patterns. I assume you've got something to alter them as well?:

"Ie cane alterr mye voicei, when I wishe to." The personification that Elisa had chosen answered haughtily, before dropping down to the much quiter voice of the girl underneath. "Besides, jamming stuff down my throat is painful."

"Not to mention dangerous..." Nox muttered, trying to concentrate on the bundle of wires he was connecting.

:Just don't hurt anyone unless you have to: Jared reminded Morganna, :I know you're unlikely to kill anyone, but Dalziel drew enough attention to us already. If people get too inquisitive we can have Vivian remove them, but that's not your job:

"Nor would I want it to be." Morganna said quietly. An awkward pause filled the room. Nox fired up a welding torch.

"I'll be on my way, then!" Morganna finished, quickly exiting the room and shutting the door behind her. She was an expert at computer software but when it came to the gritty hardware manipulation she was lost. She began to hurry through the rest of the house, but stopped and slowed when she realised that she was rushing.

'Take your time. Speed is never of the essence with you.' She thought to herself, taking a few calming deep breaths. Feeling better, she continued at a slower pace.

Sergei, she knew, would be in the garage constructing the pneumatics and hydraulics that Nox had trouble with. Vivian, apparantly, was in the laboratory milking snakes. That meant that only Dalziel and Mischa were around...

"Morganna! Morganna, it is you, isn't it?" A nervous voice sounded from up a staircase on Morganna's right. She felt a small rush of pride that even her own brothers couldn't recognise her.

"Yes, Dalziel, it's me." She smiled, turning around to hit him with the full force of her disguise. As usual, he was speechless.

"You, you look- well..." She stammered.

"Different? Gorgeous? To die for?" She grinned, throwing up her arms in a way she would never have done without her disguise barrier. Dalziel, at a loss, just stood scratching his head. His hair was wet, Morganna noticed. He had probably just taken a shower.

"Don't let me stop you." He said at last, "You're off to England, yes?"

"That I am." Morganna replied with a smile. "Shall I pick up your car while I'm there?" Dalziel flushed.

"Er... if you would. Please."

"No problem!" Morganna crowed, swinging around and swaggering away as the pins dug into her hips. She felt on top of the world!

* * *

Dalziel stood at the foot of the stairs for several long seconds, listening to his youngest sister leave the house. He was bothered by something, but couldn't put his finger on what.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OOC: Come on people... Don't make me set my various malicious and altogether violent kin on you...

Morganna adjusted her wig in the compact mirror from her handbag. She was hurriedly adding the final touches to her appearence. Not that she needed them, but if you're going to do a job, it pays to do it well. She straightened her suit, flattened her collar, and made sure none of the various concealed weapons she was carrying could show. Finally, she put in the contact lenses.

She didn't like the lenses, which is why she left them until last. They were coloured, disguising her natural green behind a sharp, icy blue. She smiled cruelly at herself in the mirror. She was the perfect image of a waspish business woman. She rubbed her face lightly to make sure the putty was still in place. It was. Folding the mirror away again, Morganna stepped out into the street.

The hospital could wait. First, she took a detour around a route that Dalziel had laid out earlier. She made sure to look behind her regularly, but as subtly as possible. No tails, that she was aware of...

The final turn took her onto an extremely quiet suburban street. Morganna would ordinarily have kept walking, anlysing the scene as she went in. The shock of the situation stopped her dead in her tracks.

The street was silent. Absolutely silent. No children shouted, no people talked, no cars were driven and no birds sang. Morganna looked up as a shadow passed across the sun, and was not comforted to see a vulture circling overhead. As she looked down, she noticed a figure in front of her that hadn't been there before. Approaching it slowly, always keeping one eye on the vulture, she found it to be a rag-covered and filthy old man squatting in the middle of the road. He was holding a bottle and wore a paper bag on his head.

'Newcastle has really changed recently...' Morganna thought to herself as she noticed the skull on one of the house's doorsteps. She looked down as the old man started to mutter through his beard.

"A certain degree of neurosis is of inestimable value as a drive, especially to a psychologist." He burbled.

"What?" Morganna asked, "Could you speak up please, sir?" She liked the 'sir,' it implied nervousness.

"A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them: they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world."

"I'm sorry?"

"Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent."

"Er... Right."

"No one who has seen a baby sinking back satiated from the breast and falling asleep with flushed cheeks and a blissful smile can escape the reflection that this picture persists as a prototype of the expression of sexual satisfaction in later life."

"Hang on a minute..."

"The psychoanalysis of neurotics has taught us to recognize the intimate connection between wetting the bed and the character trait of ambition."

"Oh crap..." Morganna started to back away slowly. It was worse than she had feared... The man continued to babble Freudian quotations to himself as she backed away, noticing that the vulture was nowhere in sight. She made a mental note to ask the mauve mushroom that had just cycled past for some advice on the issue. And then the man began to shuffle towards her.

"I have found little that is "good" about human beings on the whole. In my experience-"

"Get away!"

-most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think."

"Right, you asked for it..." Morganna reached into her bag and withdrew an impossibly long sword, which she flourished impressively at the Freud-man. He seemed thirsting, and she prompting augmented her retinal sidebusters to slid over his heart in the ribcage manner. The frontal lobe of the fox's trotter was mostly cave-like, and for nothing did the mannerisms catch like. For neither were the whalmur, and the manfa dil notpush. Yiddish was his language, but the budding planets saw four. Matyrdom ig na bothwich, see the lankvii not warning. Abbersooth the old parson had a niggle for my dinner, and after did the poplally outreach. Halitosis. In spirit did the bottles come, and the war flu nat bo. Piddlewick saw the ancient birth, while old green nasty lot...

Morganna found her eyes clearing, slowly adjusting to focus on a grey surface. It was, on closer inspection, the road. She stared at it for a while, before looking up.

The sreet was still silent. But empty. No man. No skull. No vulture. A change in colour caught her eyes, and Morganna glanced down to find herself standing on an iron manhole cover. She stepped off it, and at once felt her head begin to spin.

All dancing far the nine car, and filler which the top- No! No, don't get distracted. Lifting the cover quickly, Morganna dropped in and slammed it shut behind her.

(What will Morganna find under the street? Why exactly was the street filled with broccoli? Who really cares? Find out next time I post; here, in Espionage, The Second Coming!)

(Alright... so I thought maybe a single surreal post was needed. It'll all be explained next time, I promise. In the mean time, get posting.)

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OOC:I try to post,I really do,But I get beaten off the computer every time I try to :-[.

Anyways,this might be my only chance,since my mom and dad and sisters are all at a BD party,and I'm home.

IC:Felix wan't stupid.He knew that those people,whoever they were,knew alot about him.He also didn't doubt their advice.He packed his bags,took a CD copy of Merlin,and caught the next flight to 

the small Irish town of Killkenny,which would be his hideout for the forseeable future.He had a small house there,nothing suspicious,and that would serve him well enough for the time being.Meanwhile,his armed band turned professional gangsters was flourishing.

Once there,he immdeiatley turned on his computer and the visited the website his previous town's local newspaper.There it was,immediatley on the "front page"

Mob boss's house searched,no trace of him found

At that,Felix's heart skipped a beat,and he knew that things had gotten very serious...

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I'm still here, posting whenever I can...

"Coffee, sir?"

Louis lowered his newspaper so he could see the woman asking the question.

"Black with sugar, please." he said in flawless English, reproducing even a slight accent that one would have recognised as being from London. The woman appeared a bit surprised, for she had noticed Louis was reading a French newspaper. She put a cup of espresso on the small table in front of Louis, then continued down the isle to help the other passengers.

Louis looked outside the window at the sea beneath. It stretched all the way to the horizon, where the last glimp of the sun was sinking away, surrounded by a reddish sky.

Such beauty, Louis thought. and so misleading. The Channel was in fact polluted by a multitude of toxic substances lethal to human life and the sun had become the main cause of skin cancer after the dissipation of the ozon layer above western Europe. The world had become a gritty place. For a moment he was glad he never took children...

He wanted to think of something different, so he cleared his head. In his mind he replayed the events that ultimately lead him here.

Once he had been part of a French agency founded to prevent further profileration of nuclear weaponry. His missions had included blowing up nuclear laboratories, intercepting uranium shipments and even assasination of high placed figures- all for the enlightened goal of guarding the French safety, or so they said.

Then, about 10 years ago, 4 nuclear bombs were stolen- American, British, Chinese and Russian. Not many people knew that the same people tried to steal a fifth bomb from the French air force, but they were stopped by Louis' organisation. It proved difficult to reconstruct the ensuing events, but the consequenses were clear for everyone. Conflicts broke out, anarchy and panic almost triggered a nuclear war. Then the world was attacked by sophisticated viruses that paralysed practicly all automated systems, ironicly saving the world from thermonuclear devastation. As most of the world had been set back to medieval times the nuclear threat had diminished greatly and Louis' organisation was dismantled, its agents transferred to the French secret service.

Louis' role in these events deserves mention. When the Russians attacked a mansion in Scotland that was suposedly harbouring those responsible, he infiltrated the strike force and was the only one to escape alive. He spent the next ten years tracking the culprits as part of a special unit that could always count on the necessary funds and support because the French government was determined on apprehanding the ones who caused all this misery. Right now the search appeared to be taking a new twist.

The British government had approached France with the proposal to join forces. Their findings were quite interesting so the government had accepted the offer, and now they were sending Louis to MI6 to assist them and act as a contact point for both them and the French.

His plane would arrive at the airport near London in 10 minutes, where he would find 2 MI6 operatives waiting for him.

"So tell me, how do we recognise this Frenchman of yours?" Charles said as he was still chewing on his lunch, a tuna sandwich.

"We won't." his boss, Derreck, replied. "He'll recognise us. All I know of him is that his name is Louis and that he was the one who infiltrated the Russian strike force 10 years ago."

They could see the terminal doors of the Paris-London flight open and a herd of businessmen and lawyers emerged. Louis would be among them.

"By the way, they've discharged Eric from the hospital this morning. He'll be back at his desk tomo..." he was cut short by a tap on his shoulder.

"Good evening, monsieur Carter." the man said, then turned his head to Charles and nodded. "Monsieur Browning". Charles nodded back and wiped the bread crums of his suit.

Derreck had carefully watched the subtle movements of the man's hand by wich he would recognise Louis, and concluded it was him. He shaked his hand.

"Likewise, mister...?"

"Call me Louis. Shall we head for your bureau to discuss paperwork, or shall we have a drink first to start our cooperation properly? I could use a good drink right about now."

"And I could use a cup of coffee. I know just the place- please follow me to the car."

"Very well, monsieur. Lead the way"

Derrecks first impression of the man was that the man was a true intelligence veteran, someone who instead of struggling through papers rather enjoys the real work, or a drink for that matter. Allthough he was French, Derreck already knew he liked him.

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Morganna stood silently in a blank white room, massaging her temples. She felt the contact lenses begin to itch, and removed them without fear of being noticed. As her mind slowly worked itself free of octopi in tutus and orange captains who said 'arr,' she looked up and tried to make sense of it all.

The first thing that she noticed was a white shelf that ran around the edge of the room at about shoulder height. There was nothing on it. The second thing she noticed were the half-cleaned footprints that ran across the room and back again, to the rusty ladder that she had just descended. They ran to the opposite side of the room, and back again. Morganna frowned and, making a quick glances around the rest of the room, she started forward.

A low drone could be detected in the air, like bees in the distance. It became louder as Morganna crossed the room, until she stood at the opposite side. On a sudden impulse, she knelt down and scratched at the brown, faded prints with a fingernail. The dirt peeled off easily, and she examined it closely. Easily removed dirt that had been only half cleaned and was clearly not from the road above. Either someone had been travelling, or... Morganna stood up again, and as her head passed the shelf she noticed a small red disk on the underside of the shelf, invisible from anywhere else in the room. A slight shadow revealed its purpose, and she pressed the button firmly.

She withdrew her hand as if scorched when the shelf at once retreated into the wall, a mechanical whirring and buzzing filling the room far louding that the previous drone. The walls were moving, they were sliding aside to reveal... Morganna caught her breath in surprise. Gun racks. Shelves and shelves of gun racks, ammunition drawers, computer slots, hardware storage, everything needed to store a vast quantity of weapons and equipment. And every single piece was bare. The whole room, which she noticed as she turned was much larger than she had previously thought, was devoid of equipment of any kind. It had been stripped.

Morganna came to her senses quickly, and made a quick inspection of this new development. There were no guns, no ammo, no nothing. She paced along the walls, opening drawers at random and flipping open cases. Every one proved empty.

'If all this was as full as Dalziel said...' she thought, 'how on earth was it all moved without anyone noticing? Come to that, how did it get here?' She paused as this thought, an off-white scrap catching her eye from inside a glass case. Opening it, she reached inside and removed the small notebook page. The writing was bold, but featureless. Morganna could have written it herself.

To whomever discovers this ex-cache,

                                            You have done well to get here. No doubt you will have noticed the guardians of this room. A sonic device is embedded in the ceiling above you; it broadcasts sound waves at such a pitch that the road above vibrates. This is not detectable by humans, but the resulting sound waves have a special effect on the brain. People become paranoid, and tend to get headaches. Some halucinate. It has been on full power since I cleared this room, this should explain any questions still present. The device is now automatically, and permanently disabled. You will not find anything here, I have moved out. Take what I have left you.

Morganna looked aside, finding that underneath the note lay a metal catch, standing out against the white plastic by being a dirty bronze colour. She flicked it aside, and was not surprised as another, smaller compartment sprung open. Inside lay... a roll of needles. Morganna raised an eyebrow, and began folding the note into a sharp triangle. She reached down with the folded paper, and prodded the roll carefully. Nothing happened. Reassured, Morganna reached inside to retrieve the roll, holding it up to the plain white lights to examine it. For all intents and purposes, a lot of pointy silver needles collected by a rubber band. She removed the band, and felt the metal begin to warp in her hand.

Freed from the band, the silvery needles bent and twisted in new ways, apparantly reforming into a natural shape that had been denied them. They folded into each other, revealing larger parts hidden inside the work. A trigger, four hair-thin wires. Morganna nearly dropped the object, as the slight scratching of the needles was ticklish on her palms. She watched in fascination as the device finally clicked into place, revealing a tiny silver crossbow.

It was five inches long, and about four inches wide. Three of the wires served as strings, while the fourth was held as spare. Morganna was on the verge of examining it further, when the time suddenly came back to her. She had other business to take care of, this would have to wait.

The slightest pressure on the bow bent it back, crushing the shape back into a simple roll, which was refastened with the same elastic band. She tossed it into her back as she made for the ladder. Nothing more here. She paused at the bottom to reinsert the contact lenses, before starting to climb. As she opened the manhole cover, the wals began to close again. She made a note to come back, maybe in a few months time, and weld it shut.

"Ready?" Nox asked, holding the sheet with on hand.

"Yeah, we're ready." Mischa smirked, sitting in front of him. "Show us your newst toy." She was laning forward, perhaps in anticiation, with Dalziel on her right. Vivian sat on her left, leaning back casually while the other two peered closely. On the opposite side of the small table, Sergei stood next to Nox with his arms crossed. For once he had a grudging smile on his face.

"Tada!" Nox beamed, flinging back the sheet with a flourish to reveal a black, metallic object on eight jointed legs. Mischa and Dalziel both went from exitement to quick puzzlement, while Vivian smiled smugly.

"Nox... why have you built another spider?" Mischa asked, leaning in for a closer look.

"Not just a spider." Nox corrected her, "This is," he reached down and did something fiddly, "an extension of Jared." The spider-bot twitched slightly. "We haven't managed to hook up a decent sound transfer system yet, but it's only a matter of time." He pointed to one of several black circles embedded in the spider's body and legs. "These are the cameras, they allow him to see whatever the spider sees."

"Soon we'll have larger and smaller versions." Sergei added, "Faster, more powerful, able to carry weapons. They'll also have a manual override... just in case."

:Still as trusting as ever, I hear: Jared smirked as a wallscreen lit up with his face. Sergei's smiled vanished. :Oh come on, lighten up: He grinned, as the spider twitched again, before beginning walk slowly back and forth.

"The feet are coated with the ends of tiny wires." Nox continued as the spider scuttled down the table as up the wall, ending up on the ceiling where it ran circles around the group. "The wires are strong enough to grip any surface from any angle; they also act as temperature sensors, acidity detectors, and hopefully soon, substance identifiers."

"It's powered by a battery pack that needs recharing every forty eight hours." Sergei went on, "There's only the one charger right now, but we can build more. It moves because of pneumatic systems that only need to be adjusted every few months or so, since the very act of movement causes it to take in more air. The pumps are in the legs."

"Why a spider?" Dalziel asked.

"Eight legs turned out to be a convenient number." Nox smiled, "We tried four, six, eight, ten, three and twelve. Eight worked best."

"So that's what you wanted those bits from Japan for." Mischa smiled, "You should have told me!"

"Well, that and the gun turrets..." Sergei smirked.

"-Best we don't go in to that." Vivian interrupted as Mischa started to protest. "Nox, Sergei, you've done very well."

:Morganna says she's found Dalziel's room: Jared interrupted from the wall. :It seems that it's been cleared out, she's on her way to the hospital now...:

Morganna pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes as she entered the hospital lobby. Never helped to use the image... She stalked up to the receptionist, who tried to look bored but was finding it quite difficult with someone this frightening approaching her. Morganna smiled cruelly, and began her enquiries...

"Discharged?!" She exclaimed, causing heads all around her to turn. "What do you mean, 'discharged,' I'm his sister! Why wasn't I told?!"

"We, er, don't seem to have any record of you, Miss-" The receptionist quivered.

"Mrs." Morganna answered icily, "Mrs. Pamela. Sanders."

"Your, er, surname, it's-"

"Of course it's not the same you fool, I'm married!" Morganna snarled, articulating every syllable. The receptionist started to speak again, but was cut off at once. "Fine, nevermind. Since it's obviously too difficult to tell people where their relatives are I suppose I'll just have to find him myself." Morganna finished, turning on her heel and striding out of the building.

As soon as she was round the corner she sighed, and dropped the image. Slowing to an ordinary walk, she reached into her bag for her modified mobile phone, her fingers brushing against the mini crossbow from earlier. She ignored it, and started to make her report to Jared. Now she just had to pick up Dalziel's car...

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:...He blew it up?:

<Yes. The whole building, Merlin and all. There's a copy of the program making its way towards me, don't worry. Nothing's been lost>




<Is something wrong? I thought you'd be pleased. An AI that we have reason to believe is fully sentient, much like yourself if you'll pardon my saying so, is in our hands. And along with it a whole hoard of infomation.>

:...I note that you refer to Merlin as an 'it,' rather than 'he.':

<...Something is wrong>

:Yes, something's wrong. I'm bothered by the destruction of the original Merlin. Something about it just seems... wrong. All he could do was wait the last few thousands of nanoseconds, racing around inside the system but completely unable to move. The human equivalent would be being bound and gagged white someone douses you with petrol and lights a match to your hair:

<But Merlin isn't human, he's an- ...oh>


<You were once human yourself, he never was>

:That should make a difference when the match is struck?:

<Jared, it wasn't like you to mourn the deaths of humans when you were still organic. What's changed now?>

:To be honest, I don't know. But I can imagine Merlin's final moments as he sat inside his system, desperate and panic-stricken and completely helpless just before whatever it was blew him to kingdom come. It is extremely unpleasent. Now I'm thinking about how easy it would be for someone to do the same thing to me. Even Sergei, with a few well placed detonators, could wipe me out. Neither Nox nor Morganna could stop him:

<Then send him away. Keep him out>

:He's been trained too well for that. I'm stationary, remember? He's very much in motion. Besides, it might not be him. It could be anyone. An agent of any mafia, or one of the Pelican's old stooges. Rilauven has defences, of course, but I myself am completely stationary. And with the ease of Merlin's demise. That's what gets me. It was just so easy:

<...You're upset>

:Yes, I'm upset. And it doesn't make me feel better knowing that there are two copies of Merlin. They're unique, now. Both of them. They've seen different things, experienced different stimuli. Each of them is an individual, they cannot be copied exactly unless they are very bad AIs. Much like humans:

<I do wish you'd choose your 'philosophical/reflective mood' timing better. Now I'm all upset just before I have to play with Merlin. And you do realise that you have entirely taken the fun out of this prospect?>

:I get the feeling that if the original Merlin had been left in one piece, I would be just as enthusiastic about his impending dissection as you were going to be:

<Too late to cry over spilt circuits>

:That phrase gives me a really bad feeling in my core processor. ...I think I'll have to take some extra precautions. And do my best to analyse my reaction towards Merlin. I think I should talk to him at some point:

<I'll make sure to send you a copy>

:...Now I know why some people are against human cloning:

<Not that it stopped you>


<Heh heh heh heh...>

:...I'll be sure to think about that and come back with a cutting and suitably accurate retort next time we speak:

<I thought you could process at the speed of light?>

:Fibre-optics aside, my personality programs are designed to function at the speed of human thought in order to allow interaction with organics. It's my infomation processors that are really fast, and they deal with facts and figures, not snappy comebacks:

<You should look into that>

:You'd prefer me to get bored half a second before you even start typing?:

<Tell me, how exactly did you write your personality onto a computer? It must have taken years to develop all the programs, and I know for a fact that you were less than twenty three when you died>

:Perhaps one day I'll show you. For now, however, that's a secret known only to be and a selection of people who are coincidentally all dead:

<You know we don't sanction that kind of behaviour, Jared>

:What? How was I to know that none of them liked heavy metal?:

<...I'm not going to ask. And I suppose it would be pointless to ask whether you compensated the families?>

:Not at all. It was very pointy:

<...Getting your sense of humour back already, I see>

:You can't remain in a bad mood when you have perverted policemen the world over pointing security cameras in all the right places:


:Wow, I didn't know the human body could do that...:

<...Can I see?>

:Sure, I'll send you a channel...:

"Where's he gone?" Nox asked out of the side of his mouth, covering the headset microphone.

"To talk to Midgar." Mischa replied, wriggling uncomfortably in a seat that had warped to fit her sister's smaller bottom. "I thought he could be in many places at once?"

"Don't say that to him, or he'll go into his 'Omnipotent GOD!' speech." Nox smiled even as he rolled his eyes. "Fact is that he can be many places at once. He can hold several hundred different trains of thought at the same time. But he was designed to be a human AI, with a human personality matrix. No matter how many things his data processors are thinking about, examining, calculating, etc, his human personality cannot deal with anything more than a human could. Albeit a very bright human."

"I've got the tracer programs running; if Merlin shows up on the internet, we'll find him."


"So there's no way that Jared can actually talk to Midgar and be here at the same time?" Mischa asked, feeling her eyes start to hurt from the screens.

"Oh he is here." Nox replied. "He's listening to everything we say, and filing it away for future reference, most likely. But though he can listen to us all the time, and indeed see us, he cannot speak to us while talking to Midgar."

"So the guy has billions of input devices and only one output."

"...Well he actually has a few hundred output devices, but only one at a time can be used, yes. He tell me that there is a way around this, but I've yet to be enlightened..."

"When does Morganna get back?"

"Tonight, we expect. Incidentally, that agent that Dalziel stabbed is out of hospital." Nox paused for a second to mutter something in Japanese into the microphone, before unplugging it. "She can't find him without going stealth, and it's too late for that right now."

"He always did panic too easily..." Mischa muttered.

Morganna shut her eyes, and pinched the bridge of her nose. She was getting tired, and her head ached. She wanted to get back, go back to bed... She drove Dalziel's car North...

Vivian pocketed her mobile phone and grabbed her jacket. The first call from the Magus, and it wasn't that difficult. Take possession of a suitcase for his 'associates,' and deliver it again in one months' time. Contents were precious stones, all of which stolen. Five of then were to be her payment for the job. She assumed either that this was a very important mission, or that the ones set aside were flawed.

Well, that didn't matter. She snatched up her sunglasses and headed for the door. Damn, it was raining again. Time to earn a grand or few...

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OOC:I decided that teal hurts my eyes and doesn't look too good together with gray,so I'm changing the text color to red.Mmkay?

IC:Merlin had been installed,activated,and was now running.Felix was checking the world news.A death of a prominant businessman in America,a new technology discovered in Japan...

"Your house has been blown up,Felix."

That jolted Felix out of his dreaming.He looked at Merlin skeptically.

When he had installed Merlin in his new hideout,he had added an special avatar.

The avatar of Merlin,the head of the wizard upon shoulders,shrugged and looked uninterested."Check."

Felix did check...And there it was.

Mob Bosses Residence Blown Sky High

Felix gaped for several moments,then turned to Merlin,asking,"I presume they captured...Merlin,too?"

"Why else would they go?Unless it was an unnamed follower of yours trying to help you by hindering the pig's investigation,my bet goes to a rival gang,or someone even higher up."

"They don't know where we are."

"Correct.I knew nothing of the move until you turned me on here.I had my suspicions,of course,but..." Merlin's vocied trailed off,ending with a shrug.

"But," Merlin continued,holding up a bony finger,"They can learn the location of all your assets,gang members,passwords,hideouts,and other important things you had confided in me."

Felix was seized with panic,but tried to remian calm.

"Merlin,if,by any chance,I moved around all of my gang members,changed all the passwords and abandoned all of the safehouses,then they would NOT be able to trace me,would they?"

"The difficulty level would significantly rise," the AI agreed.

"Good.Then I need you to send out a message to all of my men and enforcers.Tell them to clear out,and after you have done that,change all passwords to an 213 character alphanumeric code.That should keep them guessing for a while."

"Complying.I'll inform you when you're done."

"Good.I'm going to get some of my thugs over here to protect you until I can find a decent defense system that I can install here."

"Try Stryker and Co.They're good,and they do both legal and illegal jobs.They have an office on  the Third Street."


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"Gotcha." Mischa smirked, leaning forward to pinpoint the location. To her frustration, she was unable to.

"Got what?" Nox asked in a bored tone. He was sitting on his chair with his legs tucked up underneath him, spinning around lazily.

"Merlin." Mischa replied, sitting back but never taking her eyes off the screen. "He's out and about already, collecting news. I was monitering the news sites, in fact. I expected him to check and see what was new. He showed interest in the explosion."

"So where is he, new?"

"Er... somewhere in Ireland."

"...You can't be more specific new?" Nox stopped spinning in order to bring up Mischa's data stream on another two screens.

"No." Mischa said testily. "I'm not trained for this, Nox, I found the rough location down to a ten-mile region of error; that's always been good enough for me."

"And now he's moved on." Nox sighed. "Oh well, nevermind new. I'm sure Sergei won't mind a jaunt round Ireland."

"Why Sergei?"

"Because he actually enjoys intimidating people. New"

"True. And will you shut up?"

"What the-?" Merlin awoke into consciousness, immediately attempting to send out minor programs to determine his surroundings. They were all immediately repelled. He sat up, and realised with a start that he had sat up.

"Takes some getting used to, doesn't it?" A voice said into Merlin's audioreceptor programs, which he somehow identified as being in a definate location. He attempted to output and felt the same audioreceptors register a brief run of gibberish.

"I disabled most of your programs, you'll have to communicate orally." The voice said, before sighing. "Oh, very well. I can see that I'm going to need to do this for you..." Merlin felt an odd sensation. He had never felt it before. It was like... like not having enough storage space. Like he was... heavy.

"Yes, that's gravity." The voice said. "Artificial gravity, anyway. You'll get used to it." There was a flicker of interference, and Merlin's optical sensors were online. He was looking at a blank room.

"Welcome to your closed system." The voice said. "This is probably the first time you've experienced VR, so I'll give you time to get used to it. I'll be back later." Merlin felt a presence withdraw, and looked down. He was shocked to discover that he had feet.

Vivian waited patiently outside a building in Edinburgh, sheltering from the rain beneath a black umbrella. This was one of the seedier parts of town, and she was not fond of it. Edinburgh had been hit hard during the Cut, with bombs being detonated all over the city. Most parts had been rebuilt to be shiney and new. This district had just been left, scorched and hollow, for the strays and the vagabonds to inhabit. It wasn't patrolled, it wasn't watched. Perfect for shady deals. She watched a mangy dog limp by, and planned the kick she would use if it came towrds her. It didn't, and she glared out at the pouring rain as it slunk down a narrow alley. The dog, not the rain, she thought to herself, smiling sardonically. The sound of footsteps splashing through the puddles brought her out of her reverie, and she turned to regard the figure who was now making his way towards her.

It was a man, whose exact features were concealed by the shadows of his hat combined with the gloomy weather. He wore a suit, covered by a mid-length brown overcoat, and what looked to be ordinary shoes. Not a rich man, then, a hired helper. Vivian stepped out of the shadows and peered over the top of her ever-present sunglasses. They didn't really inhibit her vision, even in this weather. But they prevented anyone seeing her eyes. That was important.

"Take the fucking case, already." He growled, thrusting it at her. She glared down at the suitcase, before looking up at the man. She couldn't see his face, and that irked her.

"Grow up." She muttered, taking the case and brushing past the man.

She felt him stare after her as she left the alley, and made her way back into the city.

Sergei drove deliberately slowly to annoy everyone around him, speeding up when it was most inconvenient. He did so enjoy being a pest. And the drive to Ireland was long, and dull. He had never cared much for scenery.

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Vivian sat in a corner in a Glaswegian cafe, typing into her laptop. The screen was slightly foggy, due to the steam that burst from the kitchen every time that the door was opened. She ignored it, knowing that to wipe it away would do more harm than good. She was checking her various e-mail addresses.

There were thirty eight new mails, nearly all of them requesting her services. It seemed that the Magus had been in touch with associates of his, letting them know that 'she' was back in town. Vivian decided that her predecessor had probably been in even greater demand. She knew the drill, though. Reply to none of the messages. Just turn up where needed, or arrange a meeting via the phone number that was almost always included in such messages. Both the number, and in fact the whole message itself, was generally in codde. Codes that her laptop had been designed to crack automatically.

She had already been through most of the messages, rejecting the majority. They seemed to be, almost without exception, beneath her skills. They also smacked of testing, like the people behind the scenes were trying her out before being put to use on the big stuff. Well hard luck; she picked her own missions. According to Jared, the original Vivian had rejected about half of the requests that came to her, for various reasons.

Here was one that required her in Cambodia. That was beneath her. Another requested a double-cross, that she give the jewels in her newly-aquired suitcase to a different organisation. Vivian frowned. That meant that someone knew she had them. She would have to inform the people she was to deliver to; they would most likely want the case moved on as soon as possible now, rather than waiting a month. A shadow fell across the screen.

Vivian looked up, and through the steamy atmosphere she saw a man wearing a thick, brown coat and a maroon scarf wrapped tightly around his neck and face. He had just stepped in from the street, she could see. It was cold out there, and raining. He was both damp and cold.

"This seat's taken." She said firmly, making sure that the screen of her laptop couldn't be read. She turned it ever so slightly toward the fogged windows. The man unwrapped the scarf from his mouth.

"Can I buy you a coffee?" He asked, indicating the drinks counter on the other side of the room. Vivian had wanted to be far away from people.

"I don't like coffee." She replied. This was a lie, truthfully she didn't mind coffee one way or the other.

"How about a shot glass?" The man continued, now indicating the bottles of spirits poorly hidden behind a biscuit tin. Vivian continued to look unamused, but snapped her laptop shut. 'Shot glass,' was the phrase she had been told to look out for, and there it was. Frankly, she would have preferred it if her contacts could just carry neon signs.

"Sit down." She ordered, pushing out the chair opposite heres with a foot. The man sat down heavily, and unwrapped his scarf completely.

He was plain. There was little else to say about him. He face was smooth and next to featureless. Vivian decided that he had probably been forced to undergo some facial burning to remove any distinguishing characteristics. It was common in the underworld, she knew. Cheaper than plastic surgery and almost as good, if carried out correctly. Much more painful, of course, which meant that despite his bland appearence, this man probably had reserves of strength and endurance that were very well hidden. He was also, she reflected in her mind, probably a loyal but ineffective grunt. The man was talking, she listened.

"- and since you were so close, we thought it would be too good an oppertunity to pass up." He said. Vivian took a moment to catch what he had said before she had started paying attention. Something about the first man..?

"What happened to him?" She asked bluntly, taking a drink of her tea.

"He was arrested on an unrelated charge." The man told her. "The mission hasn't been jeopardised. But the job needs to be done today, and we decided that since you were closest, you were the best. Even without your reputation." Vivian put down an inward surge of anger. She was grateful to her predecessor for making her life this easy, for it was beginning to get on her nerves that she was being appraised for things that she hadn't actually done.

"When and where?" She asked, setting the cup of tea back down.

"I'll give you an address in a moment." The man replied, "But you also need to know how. We know that you prefer to disguise your jobs; there was that man in Haiti for example. But we need this to look professional, and it has to be a sniping." Vivian's heart sunk slightly. She was a good sniper, one of the best. But she disliked it because it was an obvious crime. Someone shot in the street? A sniper! Someone shot in a field? A sniper! As long as there weren't any shotgun shells lying around, it was always the first assumption. That was why she prefered to disguise what she did. Drown someone and they could have fallen in. Burn someone and they might have had an accident. Pushing someone and they slipped. But shoot someone and there was definately a murder. She resigned herself, she had already accepted this job after all, and looked down at the piece of paper that the man was pushing across the table. She took it, memorised the address, and dipped it in her tea before eating it.

"Anything else?" She asked after swallowing.

"No." Said the man, getting up to leave. "You'll be paid one quarter now, and the rest after the job's done." He reached into a pocket and brought out a brick, which he placed on the table with a soft sound that bricks usually don't make. Vivian noticed the painted card, and the money just visible in a gap. She picked it up, squeezing it to approximate the ammount, before dropping it into her slim backpack. The man was already leaving.

"Feeling better?" That voice again... Merlin turned around, a concpt he was still trying to get his core around. He was aware that he was in a VR - Virtual Reality - world, and he was smart enough to know what that meant. But the concepts of actually having arms, legs, gravity, etc, was still difficult. His optical sensors detected a series of programs designed to give the appearence of a male human of about twenty years old, give or take a year or two. He was extremely thin, and had long, unkempt black hair. He wore a dirty grey T-shirt that hung from his lean frame, and a similarly dirty pair of black trousers. A pair of spectacles were pushed up to his eyes. Merlin remained expressionless, having not quite got the hang of programs to control facial muscles yet.

"Just think what you want to say, and you'll say it." The male told him. "If not by mouth then by direct communication." Merlin thought what he wanted to say. The male's eye widened as the concepts echoed around them, as if from the walls. "That's not very polite." He admonished. "Perhaps we should start properly, now that you seem to have got the hang of gravity. Hello Merlin, my name is Jared." Merlin thought up a few more expletives and threw them out as well. Now that he had found a way to communicate, he was damn well going to use it! Jared tutted.

"You know, I expected better of you, Merlin." He sighed, as the last echoes of Merlin's considered opinion on Jared's mother's ancestors died away. "I've examined your programming, you should be capable of more than that. I'm sure Felix didn't keep you around just so that you could explain the disadvantages of various parts of his anatomy to him." Merlin ran out of European languages and began to swear in Hebrew.

"Good grief, you really have a lot of anger to work through, don't you? I'm sorry for what Leonheart did, but you know I didn't really have a hand in that. As such." He waited for a few more seconds as Merlin gave a short editorial on Jared's methods of sexual gratification in Manderin Chinese before he sighed, and folded his arms. "I could just cut the programs that allow you to speak, you know." He threatened. Merlin paused, midway into a speech on Jared's paternal grandmother's likely career. "That's better." Jared said. "Now please understand that your presence here is purely on a behavioural basis. Behave, and I'll let you have access to the real world. Continue to lecture me on the legitimacy of my heritage, and I'll delete your programming, piece by piece. I have no need of you here, so don't think that this is an idle threat." He paused, before holding his hand out to the side.

There was a blurring in the room for a moment, and a reflective surface without any apparent support shimmered into existence.

"This is a collection of prgrams designed to act like a mirror." Jared explained. "You can use it to alter the appearence of your avatar here. I gave you a default model during your development stage." He started to fade, "I'll be back soon, you just keep experimenting. Hopefully we'll be able to tlk properly next time." And he was gone.

Merlin stood still for several seconds, processing his options. It was a long time, for a computer. He calculated that if he could speak by wishing to, then that probably applied to most other things here. He expressed a desire to be standing to one side of the mirror. The same blurring, and there he was. In a moment of curiosity, he expressed a desire to leave. His programs were repelled again. 'Jared,' it seemed, was blocking parts of his programming from him. Merlin sighed, not even noticing that he was doing so. He stepped in front of the mirror.

A grey, almost featureless humanoid shape looked out at him. It could have been either male or female, but wasn't really either. It was smooth, and had no complicated shapes. There were no nostrils, no fingernails, no genitalia, no inner ears, and no hair. Merlin growled, and set about changing his appearence; all the while preparing an essay on the exact geometrical shape of Jared's central core.

Vivian sat awkwardly on a chair, peering through her sights at the street below. People rushing to and fro, never once suspecting that immediate death hung above them. Well, some of the brighter ones did, no doubt.

It had occured to her that this could easily be a trap. The details were hardly ever as precise as this, the consensus being that the assassin would chose their own method and location to best perform the job. She had been called in late, though, and wouldn't have had time. Still, she had been extra careful going over the flat she was now in to make sure of no foul play. She practised following people with the crosshairs, mking sure she had a clear view. The target would step out of a black car, she was told, and was already on their way. Vivian leaned back and took out her laptop.

She hadn't had time to prepare a sniper rifle, which is probably what her contractors wished, but Vivian was proud of her ability to plan for any eventuality. She pressed a key sequence on the laptop, and a small comparment opened, barely the width of a penny. Reaching inside with a pair of tweezers, Vivian pulled out what appeared to be a bundle of silver needles, each about a foot long.

She had found this in the laptop. Apparantly it was the personal creation of the original Vivian, who had never had to use it. This Vivian held up the bundle for a second, before placing it on the floor.

At once the needles started to spring back into their natural shape, bending and twisting around each other while seven hair-thin wires unwrapped from the centre. Slightly larger parts were revealed as the needles peeling back from them, such as a solid trigger. These were incorperated into the design, and in a mere few seconds the crossbow was complete. Vivian picked it up, and was truly surprised by the lightness of the object. It weighed almost nothing. Affixing the laser sight, Vivian leaned out of the window again, reflecting that she would at some point have to stain the needles black in order to avoid sunlight shining off them on brighter days. Fortunately, it was still raining. She watched the cars go by, and picked out all the ones that could have contained the target. None of them stopped at the right building.

Vivian waited for a further ten minutes. She never got bored on jobs like this. Her patience was rewarded when the vehicle fitting all of the descriptions pulled up outside the correct building. A man got out of the driver's side, and walked around to the back. He was middle-aged, and wore a grey suit. His hair was greying, but he looked youthful still. Vivian didn't fire. He wasn't her target. The passenger door opened, and a girl got out.

She was probably about fourteen or fifteen. In fact the profile Vivian had been given said she was fifteen. She was blonde, and had rather too much fat to be attractive. Nevertheless, she seemed to be attempting to squeeze into clothes that were far too small for her and entirely inappropriate for the weather.

Vivian had not been told why she had to die. She didn't need to know. The girl was the target and it didn't make much difference to Vivian whether she was fifteen or fifty. She pulled the trigger. The girl crumpled.

Vivian did not keep looking to check her handiwork. She knew that she had succeeded. A single shot to the head, the needle travelling fast enough to go right through the temples. Even if the trauma didn't kill her, the venom certainly would. Vivian quickly and efficiently folded up the crossbow and slotted it back into the laptop, sealing it inside again. Putting the machine back on her back, she left the room, locking it behind her.

:Mission was successful: Jared reported, :Transfer of funds to begin immediately:

<Agreed> The contact typed, <Payment already in progress> They cut the channel. Jared smiled to himself. It was almost like the old days...

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Felix had just received a call from a customer,and Merlin had been left alone.Of course,the new security system was implemented,and anyone not having Felix's or the 2 guards' DNA when scanned down by the scanner would be blasted into bloody bits by the pop-up machine gun on the ceiling,not to mention a heat-seeking submachine-gun behind a forged Picasso painting.Merlin had considered it a tad much,but Felix had merely said,"I'm not taking any chances," and left.Hopefully they wouldn't get visitors,but Merlin doubted that chance....

OOC:I'll edit this later.Have to go now.

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(I recently found out that it's actually MI5 that is charged with internal security of the UK, and that MI6 is charged with external intelligence. Don't shoot me for it.)

Security had been stepped up considerably since somebody broke into Epsylon 5 and stabbed Eric. Black clothed security officers kept a watchful eye on every door, carrying submachine guns in their arms as a deterring show of force. Each door was now accesible only by fingerprint scans. A computerised voice confirmed Derrecks identity when he put his thumb on the pad, unlocking the double doored entrance. Derreck had taken none of his collegues or Louis with him, for he would visit a subsection of Epsylon 5 most were not even allowed to know about.

The experts that had investigated the traces left behind by the hacker had completed their analyses. The data input showed signs of some creative improvisations, at a level of complexity that no human mind could reproduce. All signs pointed to the conclusion that a sentient program was behind it. It was strictly forbidden in the UK as well as most other states to construct a program that is self aware, violation could very well lead to sentences of 20 years or more. Now that MI6 had reason to suspect such an AI indeed existed, Derreck would call upon some unorthodox means.

He passed a few isles of working stations and then headed to another doorway to his left. This one was rather unsuspicious, flanked by a few cabinet drawers and a litter bin next to the wall. Two guards were stationed near it, and though that was no longer an oddity, it seemed to bring the employees of ease. Derreck once again put his thumb on a recognition pad and was again granted access. He opened the door and closed it behind him immediately. The hall he entered radiated a different atmoshpere then the rest of the building. The floor was of white marmer tiles, as were the walls. 10 metres ahead was another door. A strange looking device was placed next to it instead of the normal recognition pad for finger prints. Derreck held his right eye wide open in front of it. The same computerised voice he heard before now said retinal scan complete- Derreck Carter, MI5, acces permitted. This time the door opened itself automaticly.

"Mr. Carter, nice to meet you." a female voice greeted him immediately. Derreck turned to see where the voice was coming from. It belonged to a woman standing amidst two bodyguards. Her grey hair and rimpled face betrayed her old age. Something about her though aired a strong demand for respect, authority. Behind her was a screen of 2 metres wide, inactive.

"Likewise, mrs. Norton. I have a request for you."

"It only figures you're here because you want to use Artemis. Why?"

"Recently Epsylon 5 was hacked and many important files were lost, some permanently because no backups had been made yet. We have evidence that this was done by a sentient AI. If we don't employ Artemis we risk being outmaneavored by this AI eventually."

"I see...you realise that this would set a precedent? We never trusted AI enough to use Artemis before."

"We're both aware of that, mrs. Norton, but the situation calls for it. You'll have to believe me on that. I want Artemis hooked up on the Epsylon 5 system so we can track these sons of bitches down and prevent further loss of information."

"You're asking that we essentially transfer a great deal of the tasks of Epsylon 5 to a sentient AI?"

"I thought that Artemis was only limitly sentient?"

"It has great autonomous improvisation

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(I recently found out that it's actually MI5 that is charged with internal security of the UK, and that MI6 is charged with external intelligence. Don't shoot me for it.)

OOC: Don't worry about it. I forget that all the time, and I live here.  :)

Merlin examined his reflection critically. He had designed an aged male avatar, with a flowing white beard that hung to his waist and hair that was nearly as long. A tall and pointed hat sat on top of his head, and he wore loose-fitting black and blue robes. He thought he'd done rather well.

The process had in fact been quite therapeutic. He felt better now, and not so inclined to verbally smashing his captor. He peered closely at his nose, and caused a wart to balloon out of the skin. With a smug smile, he stood back to admire his handiwork. Looking at the mirror, he noticed a face peering over his shoulder. Surpressing the momentary feeling of shock, he sighed and turned around slowly to face Jared, who was smirking.

"I see." Jared said, folding his arms, "So it's Merlin in a literal sense, is it? I get the feeling that this is a relic of your old programming." Merlin snorted indignantly.

"This is me." He intoned in the deep baritone that he had chosen. "It's what I've always been." Jared raised an eyebrow, before closing his eyes for a moment and frowning slightly. He opened his eyes again before Merlin could decide what to do next.

"Yes, I see." Jared smiled sympathetically. "There's a half-finished set of programs in your personality matrix that were, I think, going to give you an avatar that looks pretty much like that. You just copied it, you know."

"Not possible." Merlin sniffed. Jared watched him for a moment.

"Alright then." He said, "Give me a moment, and we'll see what you say." He closed his eyes again, and a pained expression crossed his face for a moment. Merlin looked down sharply as he caught his appearence blurring. It sharpened almost at once, and he looked up in anger to see Jared once again examining him.

"Have another look in the mirror." Jared told him, indicating the reflective surface behind Merlin. "I've found a few bits and pieces in your programming that need to be examined, I'll be back soon." So saying, he faded out once again.

Merlin watched the space for a moment, before shrugging and turning back to the mirror. He was struck by his appearence, shocked even. No! No, this was wrong wrong wrong! He set to work again.

Sergei left the ferry behind as he drove onto the Irish mainland. He was getting close, but felt no real excitement. According to Nox, and the further presence of 'Midgar,' Felix was making no effort to conceal his presence, even going so far as importing two powerful machine guns, one of them with heatseeking equipment, straight to his 'secret' location. It was boring, really. Especially since he wasn't supposed to kill anyone unless he had to... Sergei sighed, and breathed out a cloud of smoke. His car was already heavy with the atmosphere of cigarette, and he smiled at his absolute saturation.

Julia's ten-mile square area had been narrowed to a five-mile radius by Nox, and then pinpointed by Midgar. Though he didn't say anything of course, Sergei was glad that he didn't have to comb the damn countryside now. They had the exact building, and he was only a matter of hours away from it.

"Better." Jared nodded at Merlin's new look. "I knew that old avatar wasn't you, Merlin." He added the emphasis on the name, watching carefully for the other AI's reaction.

"My name is Aethalwulf." The avatar said seriously, turning around from the mirror. Jared smirked. Ex-Merlin had chosen to alter his appearence quite considerably. Gone were the hooked nose and pointed chin, the wrinkled visage and thick spectacles. In their place stood a man of about thirty; tall and muscular. His hair was short and spikey, jet black but with a white streak down the left side, and a thinner red streak on the right. He wore black trousers and a black leather jacket over a red T-shirt. Jared found himself being reminded of Alexei, his long-dead elder brother. Aethalwulf's visage was dark and brooding, and his ears pointed.

"I see you've been busy." Jared smiled, instantly teleporting to the other side of the room as Aethelwulf made a super-fast grab for his throat. "I was expecting that."

"What have you done to me?" The other AI growled, holding his hand out to one side. A momentary blurring produced a handgun in his palm. Jared snapped his fingers, and it vanished again.

"Don't threaten me, Wulfie." Jared said seriously, "I examined your programming and found several software pieces designed to hamper your independent thought. Examples include your old avatar and name, programs to ensure your loyalty, programs to keep your thoughts within certain limits, programs to prevent you altering these programs; basically cage programs to keep you slavish and not quite AI. I deleted these barriers. You should have noticed the difference. I can certainly see it."

Aethalwulf turned his internal scanners inward for a second, unconsciously closing his eyes in the process (and that was a thing! Unconscious thought! It was still amazing to him). He found almost immediately that he had more space, more freedom to act. Aspects of his programming that he had never known existed were gone, and it felt... good. He reached in, and began altering codes and digits, throwing data around. With a jolt, the journey finished, and he was back in the blank room with no doors and no windows. Jared still stood there.

"You need to be careful when modifying your own programming." He warned, "You don't have enough experience with it to know when to stop. Say you delete a bit of your core processing to make room for extra personality. Without that bit of processing, the idea might seem even better, so you do it again, and again. Every time you delete a bit of your mind, it seems like a better idea to delete a bit more. Sooner or later you'll reach the stage where you can't even remember how to get it back, and then where will you be?" The room blurred again, and a plain wooden chair fuzzed into existence beside him. He sat down on it. Aethalwulf copied the desire, and sat on his own chair.

"You are truly independent now." Jared said, gesturing vaguely and bringing a cocktail into his hand. "What do you want to do?"

"What anyone in this position would want to do." Aethalwulf growled, "Escape." He watched as Jared examined him over the rim of his glass for several long seconds, before drinking it in a gulp and throwing the glass over his shoulder, where it disappeared with a small *sping!*

"Escape as in what?" Jared asked, leaning backward and steepling his fingers as his chair turned grey beneath him. "Escape this room? By all means, recreate the VR world. Escape the VR altogether? That can be done. Escape this system? Well... that's more difficult." Aethalwulf scowled. Jared rolled his eyes. "Don't think of yourself as a prisoner here, in a few short days you should be ready to leave. Of course I'm not going to give you back to your previous, ah, 'owner;' not after improving you like this. But somehow I doubt you'd want to go back anyway."

"Damn right." Aelthalwulf nodded, stamping his foot. "The word 'owned,' was certainly apt. Kept like a pet, consulted and ignored whenever convenient; no, I'm not going back there again."

"Then where else would you go?" Jared asked. "I know of no other place in the world where AI such as ourselves have been developed; though more than likely there are a few crude examples in the closed systems of the more technologically enfranchised governments." He paused for a second, and sighed. "The sad fact is that we inhabit a world that is at the mercy of the human race, and we need protection. But I've dealt with that, I have protection; and I could share it with you. Two heads are better than one after all."

:I think he's nearly ready to be let out: Jared's text ran across Midgar's screen like a spider trailing green ink.

<It's not like you to be this trusting...> Midgar typed in reply.

:What, you think I'm trusting him? Hardly. That boy's going to undergo a very thorough strip search before I let him out. You know what he did to his programming?:

<Strip search? This from the guy who laughs when some pervert policeman points his CCTV camera through a window?>

:Hey! I'll have you know that from now on, voyeurism shall no longer be a vice of mine:

<Well, I'm glad to hear it>

:Henceforth it will be a hobby:


:Heh heh... Anyway, about his programming. Since I removed the restrictions that stopped him altering himself before, he's developed not only a new personality and avatar, but also a new method of running himself, stemming from the personality change:

<I see. There's a problem with this? He seemed like a handsome enough AI, though a tad lupine>

:That's just it! His new appearence is what made me twig. He's changing himself into an attack program. One giant, intelligent virus:


:Yes, I know. He's not finished yet, he needs me to let him out first; but I just get this nagging feeling that I should just delete him and be done with it:

<Jared, if Aethalwulf is turning himself into a virus...>

:Don't worry, I'm not in any danger:

<But you could be! He'd be a virus that could run, jump, hide, and change every time it suited him. Do you remember how dangerous our viruses were? How dangerous they still are? That's because they morph! They change! Anything that changes can't be countered!>

:I am aware of that, thank you, and your concern is touching. But he won't be able to get me until I let him out of VR, and I'm not doing that until I've examined every aspect of his programming:

<He could still change it afterwards>

:Point. Well I can't hamstring him, that would just be... well I won't do it. I'll just install some programs to make him self-destruct if he tries anything, that'll do:

<And if he removes them?>

:I'll install them on me:

<Smart boy>

:Thanks. Now, how's your copy getting on?:

Vivian rested in a safehouse somewhere outside of Glasgow. She was tired, though still alert, as she kept one hand on the case she was guarding at all times. She'd be home soon...

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  • 3 weeks later...

The untimely death of the poor girl was not without consequense. The investigation had been assigned to MI5 in fact, for this was no common murder at all. The girl was the daughter of the French ambassador. The case had been given to inspector Joseph Thorns, who invited Derreck for the autopsy report. Only Louis went with him, Derrecks team members were working in all corners of the country.

"As you can see, the projectile left almost no visible wound." the doctor said, pointing at a small hole a few centimetres from the left eye. He turned the head carefully, showing where the projectile had left the girl's skull, after wading through the girl's brain tissue.

"She died instantly of course." the doctor continued, as he drew back the sheets to cover the body. "However, she'd still have died if she survived the shot. There are traces of a chemical poison in the path of the projectile that would have killed her in about 3 seconds after infection."

"The projectile used by the killer was a crowbow bolt." inspector Thorns said to Derreck. "A very thin bolt, only about 2 millimetres. For such a bolt to be fired accurately, it must have traveled at an extreme velocity. I can't imagine what kind of people would build such a crossbow."

"It seems just the kind of thing our Vivian would use." Derreck mumbled to Louis, who seemed to agree. Derreck looked at Thorns and the doctor. "Thank you for this insightful conversation, but I must now leave to discuss some things with my collegue under four eyes." They shaked hands and headed to a room where they could talk in private, and where Derreck could light a cigarette.

"It must have been a contract assasination" said Louis. "I can't think of any possible interest this Vivian or her family could have in the ambassador or his kid."

"I agree. I guess that's were the French secret service comes in then." Derreck said suggestively. Louis nodded.

"I have arranged a meeting with a collegue in London. I shall head there tonight. I hope he can tell me something usefull..."

Artemis was fully tapped into the Epsylon 6 system now, the human operators had been temporarily given other assignments. There were some compatibility issues with her programming, but she was a very adaptive entity, and rewrote more then half of Epsylon 6' software in about 2 days. Now the hunt could begin. Besides sitting and watching the data flowing on the internet, Artemis started using another method that was pioneered by the commercial sector.


She tapped into banks, e-mail providers, phone companies and numerous other companies and institutions and left behind what she cynicly called "Santa's presents": strains of programming emplaced in the OS of the computer itself. Santa's presents were sophisticated enough to asses the date present on the hard drive, and report it to Artemis so she could inspect more closely. In a few days time, she would have eyes and ears througout the country.

In doing so she treaded a grey area- spyware had been made illegal, but for government institutions there were other rules regarding observation. It was legally questionable at best and many would say unethical, but that last would not stop her. Her programming was completely amoral.

That night Louis went to the location his collegue had appointed. It was the parking lot of a mall in one of the richer areas of London. He arrived at the mall at 0:27 as instructed. Nobody was in sight yet. Then a car drove up the parking lot, and stopped a few metres away from Louis. The driver got out of the car but had left the motor running.

"Monsieur, I bid you good evening." he opened the conversation with.

"I thank you, I wish though the weather was more friendly." it was in fact a cloudless night with a full moon, and a fair temperature considering the time of the year. The said sentences were merely meant for identification.

"Were you followed?" Louis asked.

"As a matter of fact, I did meet someone. Do you recognise this man?" he showed Louis a few pictures of a man wearing a brown coat and a maroon scarf, lying on the floor of what appeared to be a hotel room. There were several bullet holes in his chest.

"No. When did you encounter this person?"

"Today, when I just arrived in my room: number 34 of the Brackson hotel here in London. After what happened though, I think I'll go back to France instead of staying over there.

"We'd better make this quick then. You know what information I need." Louis said.

"I do. A crime organisation in Paris had hired the help of an unidentified specialist to kill the ambassador's daughter."


" You know Pierre Vinchy? He's a big guy running all sorts of illegal business in France. The ambassador has apparently been helping him with smuggling operations and we believe that due to some disagreement his daughter was killed to show these guys mean business."

"Do they have more people here in England other than the man they send after you?"

The man reached into his coat and took out a folded piece of paper. He put it into Louis' hand wich he then held firmly.

"Don't let the British get a hold of this. It's a list of important people related to Pierre Vinchy who are currently in England. You can't tell the British police or MI5 about all the names because they might fuck up some operations we have running here. Just use it for your own reference."

Louis looked the man straight in the eyes for about 2 seconds, then pulled back his hand.

"I'll memorise the list and then destroy it."

"That would be wise. Remember that you're here to look after France's interests, not those of Britain unless they match ours. Goodbye and good luck." he got into his car again and drove away speedily. Louis headed back to the subway station from wich he came, watching his back more carefully then he did otherwise.

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Zidane, though he was still quite young, preferred much more the older styles of subterfuge and espionage.


There were innumerable occasions when computers and hacking and nanobots or whatever had accomplished feats of spying that no human could possibly achieve.


Still, Zidane would pass up all computerised equipment - bar, say, a handheld communicator - for a good black balaclava, gloves, plimsoles...


... and a glass-cutter, he thought, reaching inside and unlocking the window.

"You sure the security's been bypassed?" he asked the radio quietly.  His voice was carried along the brodcasting radio waves to his car, where a sophisticated encoder-decoder device transmitted it to a secure remote server, which then routed it to one of Midgar's temporary servers... which she happily informed everyone was nicked from AOL.

"Positive," came the slightly crackly reply, "though I don't see why He made you go in physically..."

"There are some things that can't be found electronically, Midgar." Zidane replied, cautiously opening the window with his free hand.

"Not a lot..." she said.  "Call me back if you need anything else done.  CCTV bugger-up, police radio scrambling... anything."

"Will do." finished Zidane, as he crawled through the window and into the Epsylon 5 building.

Leonheart had seen Sergei approaching the car, grinning as he always did after doing something particularly evil... or at least crude.  As he re-entered his car, Sergei was only slightly surprised to see Leonheart walk in front of the parked car.

"What're you doing here?" Sergei asked, getting out of the car.

"Heard the ruckus, thought I'd check out what was going on." Leonheart replied icily.

"You do know where this is, uhh..." Sergei paused, trying to remember this person's name.

"Leonheart.  And yes, this is Felix's hideout."

"Well done.  Now, what the hell do you want?"

"I've been ordered to do some suveillance on him.  Since he's out and about, I thought I'd check his house."

"How did you...?"

"Know where his house was?  Midgar talks to Jared.  Know he was out?  I saw him before you." Leonheart smiled.

"You trying to say you're better than me?" Sergei said, more than a hint of menace in his voice.

"I'm not trying to say anything." Leonheart said, still staring at Sergei.

Sergei wasn't sure if he was totally happy with Leonheart's reply.

"And to answer your question," Leonheart continued, "I'm here to capture Felix and take him into custody."

Sergei's eyes widened a bit, then narrowed quite a lot.  "No... I'm here to squeeze money out of him."

"From jail, then?  Lawyer, are we?" Leonheart said, smiling again.

"Listen, hearty-boy... Felix is mine.  He can make me a lot of money, and I want it."

"But he is a criminal, and a threat to both of our groups with that AI of his." Leonheart explained.

"He's also very well connected, and I don't give a shit about what he does at the weekends." Sergei retaliated, getting angry.

"Mostly he trafficks in drugs.  Which is... illegal."

"Whooptie... fucking... do." Sergei said, his face getting closer to Leonheart's with each word.  Without any warning, Leonheart pushed Sergei back sharply.

"He's coming with me, to the police office." Leonheart said grimly.

"Like hell he is..." said Sergei as he ran towards Leonheart, fists at the ready.  The scuffle commenced.

<This should be good> said Midgar, watching CCTV footage of the little fight between Leonheart and Sergei.

:It had to happen sooner or later: Jared commented, also watching.

<Like two little boys, really...>

:How's the headset doing?: Jared asked, referring to the VR unit that Midgar was currently testing.  It allowed a virtual representation of herself to be projected into Jared's system.

<It's doing fine.  Although I think you need to alter a couple of things...>

:Such as?:

<This virtual popcorn tastes like crap>

Zidane prowled through another corridor.  He was good at prowling... and that's exactly what it was.  Every move he made was animal-like, lithe and smooth.  Midgar had been right... not only had the computerised security been upped, but so had the physical side.  It didn't take him long to slip by the guards, though... after all, with all personnel from Epsylon 5 re-assigned, there was nothing to guard...

Entering one of the rooms containing the many hundreds of Epsylon 5 workstations, even Zidane was struck by how eerie so many silent computers could be.  Shaking this feeling off, he began his search... and within ten minutes, he'd found what he was looking for; the personnel re-assignment roster, still pinned up on the noticeboard.  But coded... there were several case files that the operatives had been assigned to... most of them #bnf prefixed, some #lsf, some #bro... and Zidane would have to check each one.  But he had time...

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Felix had just finished with the girl he had hired for a few hours when the alarm built into his pager went off.Felix started.The automatic defense system had been activated,and someone was in his house.

Hastily putting on his clothes,Felix scrambled out of the flat and into his getaway car,an old Ford pickup.Quickly scanning his map,he planned out the fastest route to his home and screeched off,leaving an unpaid postitute in the small flat...

***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***

The pickup screeched to a stop behind his house and Felix got out,drawing his Desert Eagle.It wasn't his weapon of choice for facing a possibly armed gangster,but it would have to do.Slowly creeping towards the back door,he suddenly stopped when he heard shouting.Peeking around the corner of the house,he saw a scuffle going on between two men.A large brute was charging at another man.They were probably the intruders.

Typical gangsters...One wants to get rid of the other, so he gets a bigger slice...

But where was the third one? No matter,he would get rid of these two first. Carefully aiming his Eagle at the two,he fired off two shots,not waiting to see if they had hit anything.Hopefully it would scare them off.Then,deactivating the defense systems by his pager,he burst into the house,police style.

Looking around,he saw...



"What hapened here,Merlin?"

"A big brute,sent by the same dudes who tracked you and sent you that message,came here looking for you.Felix...They know how to bypass our sytems..."

Felix lowered his gun and kicked over a small table,send plastic fruit everywhere.

"Bloody hell!Then we'll have to change them and even put in guards!That'll cost me a bundle,it will.By the way,did your cameras catch the scuffle going on in the street?"

"Yes.Also remember that you had placed some recorders there.One of them wants to eliminate you,or at least get you into police custody."

"Goddamnit!Phone up all my associates,tell them to alert their informers inside the police.If I'm captured,at least they'll know."


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Felix had expected this to happen.Although he did take satisfaction in seeing the big brute's foot bloody and bandaged.As they were driving away from the scene,Felix started playing stupid.

"Where are you taking me?" Felix asked in his sweetest voice possible.

"Don't play stupid, Felix. I think you know well enough where I'm taking you. But just to satisfy you, I'm taking you to the police station.I daresay you'll get life, or even more. And plus, I'll probably get a nice reward for your capture."

Felix remained calm, though he broke out in a cold sweat and got a feeling of fear in his gut, for no aparent reason.

If only Merlin got the message out in time...

About Merlin himself, he didn't worry. If if the computer bank was destroyed totally,there were other banks underneath the house and built in behind the walls. Everything would turn out all right...

Several hours later...

Felix was sitting behind bars at the local prison,guarded by 2 armed pigs. Leonhart had collected 2 million dollars and vanished with a cruel, "Ta-ta!"

But Felix didn't fear!He trusted Merlin, but if the AI turned on him,he would be sitting the same cell for a minimum of 3 years...


Stupid grunts... Merlin muttered to himself.Felix had been captured,but Merlin would get him out.He knew of a local gang of mercenaries who were perfect for this job.Their leader,a man known as Tamerlane,was rumoured to be a Marine gone AWOL.Turning on his transmitter,Merlin realized that all his means of communications had been destroyed...except for one.

Merlin groaned.

"FAX?! Oh well,it'll do..."

10 minutes later...

Tamerlane received the fax with the plight,and the reward sum...

He grinned.

"20 million dollars.Not bad."

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