Stardock: Part 26

Reminding myself that the Stapledon Program’s secrecy wasn’t really my problem, I decided to concentrate on what was my problem—Blue Sky Lab’s current projects.

Isaac Lim had asked me to find out what they were, and intentionally or not, Dr. Griffin hadn’t answered my question about that. I hadn’t asked as directly as I might. I could change that.

As I was about to ask, Jenny’s voice sounded inside my helmet. “Brooke’s sending the prisoners to their cells. Stand back.”

I turned my head toward where Izzy, Jaclyn, and Cassie stood over the prisoners. Jenny stood a short distance away, acting as Brooke’s eyes no doubt. I didn’t know what they planned to do about the prisoners’ powered armor, but that wasn’t my problem.

All the same, working armor would make it way too easy to escape, but no armor meant that communicable diseases could be passed along.

One by one, darkened ovals appeared under each prisoner in turn. When the grass disappeared, each prisoner fell out of sight, and the grass became visible again.

Dr Griffin stared. “Do you have a teleporter?”

Vaughn grinned. “You could say that, but she’s a person, not a device.”

“Dr. Griffin,” I said, “could you show me the labs? I need to know what we’re protecting here.”

She blinked, turning away from Vaughn to look at me, and saying, “Of course. I think we might have lost the lights in a couple rooms when we were hit, but those were only offices.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have interrupted like that, but she seemed okay with it.

Vaughn and I followed her toward the front door, and she stopped next to her husband. He stood near the front of the staff members, still talking with the boy. The girl was a few steps away and was animatedly discussing something with one of the other girls in the group.

Talking quickly and quietly, she said, “They want to see the lab. You’ll have to watch the kids a little longer.”

The Rocket suit made the audio a little louder and clearer than it would have been on its own.

I hadn’t paid much attention to her husband before that moment. He appeared to be in his early forties, with a square face, and red hair. He’d been on one knee as he talked to the children, and rose carefully. I couldn’t tell much about him from his clothes. He wore a red winter coat, and jeans. It didn’t stand out much from the rest of them.

In a low voice, he said, “Are you sure? The contracts we signed don’t allow us to show much of anything to anybody.”

She glanced back at us, and said, “Do you think we could keep them out?”

He didn’t say anything. That wasn’t true of everybody. A twenty-something guy wearing a brown, corduroy suit coat under an open trench coat said, “Dr. Griffin, they could take away all the best artifacts and destroy—“

At her look, he stopped talking, and put his hands in his pockets.

I didn’t see a telltale bulge in either pocket, and decided he just wanted to keep his fingers warm. Still, it might be worth watching him. I wondered why he was more formally dressed than the rest of them. On the one hand, layered clothing like his could conceal gadgets or weapons. On the other hand, he might just as easily have been planning to attend an evening church service.

The thought that he might have a gun reminded me of something else. “Captain Commando, we’re going inside, and we might need your help.”

Cassie opened up a private channel to me, and asked, “Why?”

“In case the artifacts are talkative?”

She snorted and said. “Great. That’s what I need—more Abominator tech in my head.”

All the same, she turned away from Jaclyn and Izzy, and joined us.

Jaclyn held her comm to her mouth and opened up a connection on our group channel, “Rocket, you’re forgetting something.”

I said, “Uh, what?”

“Since the fighting’s over, the prisoners are gone, and you’re about to tour a lab, you should tell the rest of us whether we’re available to help other groups, or what we should be doing here.”

“Oh.” I thought about that. This was another example of why Jaclyn should be in charge, and not me. I’d never even thought about what everyone else should be doing. I was only thinking about the lab.

“Okay then, you guys—“

“Guys?” Jenny said.

Right. Vaughn and I were the only guys here. I kept on going.

“—should stay and make sure the people are safe, but if Lim really needs someone, go. Oh, and make sure Bloodmaiden doesn’t bleed to death before Paladin gets here.”

Cassie laughed as I said the last part. Bloodmaiden didn’t look as bad as she had. The spots where her armor had been punctured still glowed, but she stood next to Jenny, spear in hand. She wasn’t using it to hold herself up either.

Bloodmaiden gave me the finger, but smiled a little as she did.

With that Cassie, Vaughn, and I followed Dr. Griffin into the building. It looked like almost any office building anywhere—florescent lights, off-white walls, dark carpet and a complete absence of any personality.

Dr. Griffin led us down the hallway. “I missed what you were all laughing about.”

“Nothing much,” Vaughn said. “Just stupid stuff.”

Opening a comm connection to Cassie, I told her, “Tell me if you sense anything,” as quietly as I could.

Cassie only said, “Duh.”

We passed the doors of several offices. Dr. Griffin didn’t stop for any of them, and Cassie didn’t say anything. From that I guessed that if the researchers did keep alien artifacts in their offices at least they weren’t charged.

We came to the end of the hall, and the passage turned right, ending in two, windowless metal doors.

Dr. Griffin ran a card across a black pad on the wall, typed in a code, and waited. Something inside the door clicked, and she pulled a door open.

We followed her in. We were on the far end of a large room. By large, I mean it was as wide as the building if only half as deep. Granted, the building wasn’t huge, but the room used up half of it.

I didn’t recognize half the equipment. The computers and microscopes were obvious. I thought I recognized some machines used in metallurgical research.

Scattered among the desks and equipment, the counters and a few refrigerators, were safes, some of them taller than I was. I supposed that that would make it easier to put away an object you were studying.

That wasn’t all of it though. In the middle of the room stood a piece of equipment that I almost recognized. When we’d rescued Cassie from Rook’s hideout, we’d destroyed a series of tanks that had been artificial wombs. Rook had probably intended to clone Cassie, and create a clone army able to operate Abominator devices. That or isolate whatever DNA made that work for her, and insert it into lifeforms of his own choosing.

This artificial womb held twenty roughly human sized tubes, each made from some kind of transparent substance. I didn’t think it was glass. The canisters stood in a base made of a grayish-blue substance that glinted like metal in the light.

I didn’t recognize it, or the language of the writing on it either.

I did have a guess as to what I was looking at though. It looked a lot like the object the League had destroyed when it found Cassie, and prevented Dr. Mind from creating an army.

The Nine appeared to have found an Abominator birthing and genetic modification suite.

11 thoughts on “Stardock: Part 26”

  1. Chances are good that whatever that lab’s duties entailed, it wasn’t cloning. Stuff like the shield and some of the other equipment indicates they were more about figuring out how to use the stuff. So there’s that, at least.

    Though, and this has been bothering me somewhat…they might want to get a very good look at those children outside. We have a Little Tiffany situation here. Kids not where they’re supposed to be in suspicious circumstances that may make them a threat.

    Why did I feel Little Tiffany deserved to die? Because that’s a lab where the people signed non-disclosure agreements. They were barely warned to start getting their stuff out, it’s night time, and there are children present.

    Time to get out our murdering sticks. I know the religious amongst you might feel it’s wrong to kill these kids randomly at a top secret lab of alien research working on clone tanks and/or genetic modification, so now we will randomly turn in this here bible for something to read in meditative prayer.

    Here we are, Psalm 137:9: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

    Some might see that as just a random coincidence. Let’s flip the page. Here we are now at Isaiah 13:16: “Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.”

    Not applicable here, I think. Rocket hasn’t taken inspiration from the porno enough to invent the Rocket Cock-It. Let’s try another random verse to figure out what we need to do to these kids for those seeking spiritual advice. Hosea 13:16 this time: “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”

    I think we can all agree that there appears to be a trend in here. You know what, we’ll give it one more. Surely there can’t be yet another verse advocating what appears to be the Psycho Gecko Child Killing Method For Marital Happiness?

    Nahum 3:10: “Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains.”

    Whip out the dead baby comedy, folks. And don’t call me Shirley.

  2. PG, considering Cassie’s own origins, I very much doubt there will be any dashing upon stones for these children. I see a much more terrible (hilarious?) fate in mind: The Stapledon Foster Care Program. Or the new superhero sitcom: Captain Commando and the Cadet Crew.

  3. Well how do you know you got the cloner working properly unless you take it for a test drive?

    “Isn’t that intern taking a flight out of Memphis to get back here?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Good. Have him stop by Graceland and pick us up a DNA sample. We finally have a means to handle Earth’s real biggest threat.”

    “You don’t mean-?”

    “Yes. The Galactic Emperor of Pop. He’s been retracing his steps, with telescopes even spotting him walking forward on the moon.”

    “Mother of God. I’ll see if I can get Tupac too.”

  4. I’m definitely concerned that Dr. Griffin gave up so easily. And skip the kids, what about that square-faced blond haired husband…. Oh dear who was that girl that was 1/2 blue and 1/2 green or some such thing from another universe.

  5. In chapter 21: She wasn’t alone. A boy and a girl held her hands, and a man walked next to her. He was red haired, and walked stiffly.

    From this chapter: I hadn’t paid much attention to her husband before that moment. He appeared to be in his early forties, with a square face, and blond hair. I couldn’t tell much about him from his clothes. He wore a red winter coat, and jeans.

    So what happened to the red head who walked stiffly and who was he?

    In Chapter 21 we had: Men, women and children walked behind them. All of them wore clothes that looked like they’d been planning to spend Sunday night at home with the family instead of with alien technology.

    And why is there suddenly no mention of all these people?

    And back to this chapter: A twenty-something guy wearing a brown, corduroy suit coat under an open trench coat said, “Dr. Griffin, they could take away all the best artifacts and destroy—“

    The open trench coat doesn’t fit the Sunday night with the family image from chapter 21.

    1. That’s what happens when you lose track of a description that you wrote earlier. I keep a file of character descriptions that I check when characters reappear and disappear so that I keep things consistent. The husband wasn’t in it because I am unfortunately fallible…

      The guy in the suit though, is entirely intentional and was supposed to be inconsistent with all the other characters that way. I’d intended to make more of a mention of it than I did.

      Also, the Tara is the woman who was the product of alternate versions of the same genocidal clones.

  6. I only noticed the change because I went back looking for a description of the children. However, if it was in book form, I might have noticed as I would have read it all at once. Anyway, you could still give the guy in the trench coat red hair and a limp. I don’t think it explicitly said he was her husband and I could see trench coat guy always staying within 2 ft of Dr. Griffin’s elbow… He just seems like that kind.

    You are a good writer and you have a ton of characters that, as far as I can tell, you are doing a great job of keeping track of.

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