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By Matthew "Badger" Rossi
JACOB'S LADDER

Come on, poor babe:
Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and nurses
To be thy nurses! Wolves and bears, they say,
Casting their savageness aside, have done
the same for pity.
William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale

Slits in the metal, for sun. Where
my eyes sit turning, at the cool air
the glance of light, or hard flesh
rubbed against me, a woman, a man,
without shadow, or voice, or meaning.
Imamu Amiri Baraka, An Agony. As Now


Carter and DuFresne were surprised at how effortless the translation felt. One second, they were standing outside the Aegis International plant with the two armored figures, and then they were standing inside a warehouse, or more properly, an aircraft ha ngar converted into same.

"Welcome to our little fun machine." The projected voice sounded mechanical as it issued from the blue and gold one. Carter could determine the sex of the pilots by visual cues in the armors, which looked slightly like a prototype that SIRECOM had once commissioned from Dynamax to help even the odds against Omegas without resorting to same. Unfortunately, between Hauptmann's revenge on Owen and Tazakles' death, Brenda Washington managed to get control from the old man, and the suits had never been built. Owen was #1 on Carter's shit list now, but that didn't make him any happier about Washington and SIRECOM. Dan made a hand signal to Wolf, which translated in the BATSLAN of Defcon 1 as 'Be ready.' and DuFresne nodded.

The red and gold suit of armor moved her head.

"Don't bother with the Signs, Carter." She turned and pointed to the walls. "Mounted in ten places in this building are Dynamax Portable PX-1120 Psi-Suppressors." She didn't tell Carter that this meant that Jacob's Omega was also suppressed, and they were both running off of capacitor power. "Mr. DuFresne won't be able to possess our armors. On the other hand, the sound cannon you have could injure either of us before we could kill you. That won't be necessary, however, as each of us has something the other wants."

"Really?" Carter didn't bat an eye. "What do you have for us?"

"On this disk," Bluey held up a CD-ROM which slid from his gauntlet. "We have SIRECOM's entire database as of two days ago. They identify two Stormkiller bases, tentatively identify three more, and also have a schematic breakdown of the Project: Threlkain cyborgs that Owen managed to lift from Dynamax. Also, they have one thing more: They tell the current cover identity SIRECOM is hiding Dr. Theobald under."

"Impressive." Carter knew that Theobald was behind almost all of the advances that Dynamax came up with in anti-Omega weaponry. Also, he'd gone to work for Owen when Stormkiller had been started. "I thought Theobald died when Tempest broke out of the UN building."

"So did we." The woman in the Red armor was talking again. "Until we raided SIRECOM Atlanta. His files can all be yours." Underneath her suit she was sweating like a pig. This was Dan Carter! She'd read his file, and to be honest, this man scared the Irish be-jaysus out of her, to quote her favorite instructor at MIT. This man had more confirmed kills than any three SIRECOM agents. "Theobald details the operations of Stormkiller from his tenure there, including personal conversations with Owen."

Jacob looked from his sister to Carter and DuFresne, and was glad of the facemasks that covered his head and hers, because he was sweating like a pig even with the cooling systems on. The only reasons he didn't just snap and fry the both of them where they stood were:

  1) Terror. He was very afraid that Carter could take out the Psi-Suppressors before Jacob could kill them, and then DuFresne would have their asses.

2) Carter hadn't had any knowledge of the vivisections at Dynamax, according to SIRECOM files. In fact, even OWEN might not really have known what was going on. Big Taz kept cards close to his vest.

3) He'd been advised, if he ever got himself into this kind of situation, to stay calm. He thanked his lucky stars that someone with more experience that himself was backing him up.

"That's great. There's just one hitch: What do we have to do for you? Unless you're offering all this out of the goodness of your hearts, that is..." The disdain in Carter's voice was almost a physical thing. Jacob toggled his armor's radio system, dismissing the minute power drain as unimportant considering his capacitors were at 91% of full charge.

**He isn't stupid.**

^^Never said he was, Jake. Still, he knew dad, and he may know where he is. If he could fake his death, what's to have stopped him from helping dad do likewise? And the computers at Aegis said he'd resigned two years ago without leaving a forwarding ad dress, so we need something or the trail's gone cold.^^

**All right.** Jacob laid the disk down on a giant spool that he'd been using as a workbench when not at home in the garage and turned back to Carter and DuFresne.

"The reasons are simple: One, we want to sow as much disorder in SIRECOM as possible. Letting the two of you have access to some of their secrets is a good way to start. Two, we need to find somebody, and you knew him. You tell us everything you can on him, and we give you the disk."

"Yeah?" Carter rubbed under his chin with his right hand and looked over at DuFresne. The big man's eyes said pretty much the same thing Carter himself was feeling: It was almost too good to go for. Almost. "Tell me who it is, and I'll think about it."

"Chevalier. David Paul Chevalier."

"Well. I'll be hung upside down over a pit full of snakes. Old Davey? That explains the hit on Aegis...back when it was Dynamax Colorado, he was our mole there. But he wouldn't be there now."

"We know that. Do you know where he is?"

"I'll want some proof that that disk is genuine." Carter gestured to DuFresne. "That Laptop Wolf is carrying has a CD-ROM drive and all the latest gadgets. You let him scan the disk, and I'll tell you what I know. Deal?"

**Well?**

^^Hell, if they double cross us, it won't cost us anything. We've got several copies of that.^^

"It's a deal. Rewire, make sure that Mr. DuFresne doesn't touch anything he isn't supposed to." Heather nodded inside the red armor and walked over to stand next to the bench while DuFresne hit the suspend/resume button on his laptop and inserted the disk into the drive. Jacob crossed his arms over his chest and stood staring into Carter's eyes, and found himself grateful that Carter couldn't see his.

"It's genuine, Daniel. "

"Okay, then. Here's the scoop. Davey stayed at Dynamax for a while. Then, after I got out of prison during that Harrakin debacle with the Fix..." Carter almost lost his composure, but got it back and continued as if nothing had happened. "I saw Davey during one of the times I was talking to Owen and Dare. He was with this chick who called herself Auntie Gonay or something. He was stepping and fetching for her pretty hard. I don't know who she was, exactly, except that she and Owen were playing the same side of the fence on this operation."

"Auntie Gonay?" Jacob repeated. Heather walked over next to him.

"Not Auntie Gonay...Antigone."

"Yeah, that's it!" Carter looked at her. "How'd you know?"

"When I was raiding the Aegis database, I discovered a Microwave link that lead to a data screen. It was in Mykenean Greek, and it mentioned her name and demanded my report. I'd say that he was working for two masters for quite a while."

"Well, whoever she is, Owen treated her like an equal. And he doesn't do that, ever."

"Great." Jacob answered. "The more we know, the less we find out."


Despite standing there in his underwear, Bill Moulder managed to command a great deal of respect from people. Especially when he was furious with them. Right now, he was furious with Antera Montoure.

"You have an unlicensed nuclear reactor in your basement, and you have the nerve to tell me that since I didn't have a warrant to go down there, you refuse to allow the NRC on Aegis' property?"

Standing behind Montoure was Bladesmith, aka Evelyn Absalom, the Omega Head of Security. She was preparing. Having seen Moulder in his Werewolf shape, unlike her boss, she knew that he might just be able to reach over the desk and rip Montoure's face off before she could do anything about it.

"I didn't say that. I said they'd better have a court order when they get here."

"Billy, let's just get out of here." Moulder's partner, Mirabell Dylaist, was worn out by the events of their day. Moulder, on the other hand, was on the edge of fury.

"Fine. You want to play with me, Montoure, we'll play. The second I'm out of this building I'll have the local cops and FBI ring this compound. If you want to remove the evidence, you'd better do it now. Let's go. And as far as I'm concerned, Montoure, you just made an enemy out of me." Barely concealing the growl in his throat, he walked out the door, followed by Dylaist.

Montoure leaned back in her chair.

"Do you want me to take care of them?" Absalom's voice came from behind the chair. Montoure smiled at the instant knowledge of her needs and leaned back. The Absalom family makes such excellent attack dogs.

"No. The NRC will arrive with a court order, I'm sure. But the reactor will be empty of radiation or radioactive material. We'll just pretend that we were unaware of the presence of the reactor. Our lady has friends in high enough places to keep any real investigations from touching us. And by now, the new generators should be connected. Still, I wonder how the attackers knew about the reactor?" Montoure turned and looked at her servant. "We'd better find out."

"For the lady." Absalom turned on her heel and marched out of the room. Montoure finally allowed herself to relax slightly. The real question was what Moulder and Dylaist would do. But there were others who could take care of them. The last thing Montoure wanted was to lose her best servant fighting a Fenrir, when there were others.

She picked up the phone and dialed a number entrusted to her for just such a situation. It rang twice.

"Erishkrigal."

"Video nautas posses interficere." Montoure's Latin wasn't very good, but it didn't have to be.

"Who?"

"Two of them. SIRECOM Special Agent Moulder and Agent Dr. Mira Dylaist."

"By tomorrow." The phone hung up. She smiled and replaced her end in the cradle.

It was nice when loose ends were tied up.


Jacob sat in the hangar, wearing only a pair of jeans and the wire-mesh converter shirt, looking at all of the gear they'd teleported from the garage. At least now Irene wouldn't know about their activities for a while. That was a good thing, because Jake didn't really want to tell her anything. With her being gone all the time and he and Heather both always off working on a new project, their extended absences shouldn't be hard to conceal.

"Well, what do we do now?" Heather was working on a design Jacob had just finished for sleeker, more compact versions of the armor. Using DeLeon's work as a base, rather than just as an addition to the SIRECOM/Dynamax prototype, a whole new kind of battlesuit had suggested itself to him. This one would contain every capacity the other suits had, but would use force-field technology to replace the artificial musculature, reducing size and weight by hundreds of pounds while losing nothing. It was a whole new approach, and he was proud of it.

"We have to tell him."

"But they're watching him! We can't go see him..."

"We don't have to. If we just get him a message, he'll get himself to us. And I need to have him look over what I'm thinking about."

"But how do we do that?" Heather looked up from the bench, more than a little frustrated with him.

"I think I can handle it. Especially now that we know SIRECOM's access codes."


Agent's Corridan and Corbomite sat in the parked Buick Skylark, watching the hillside house of James DeLeon. DeLeon's OVERTECH was one of the companies raided by Heather and Jacob, and so SIRECOM was watching him. Also, they were watching DeLeon for anot her reason. He'd recently developed a computer chip more powerful than either the Intel Pentium or the Dynamax Corestar. This new chip was based on Trinary Code, which DeLeon had learned about during his tenure with the Colony. Because DeLeon had fought Shiva, and had downloaded the Wrexxakt Computer Core from Shiva's ship. SIRECOM had sued DeLeon to keep him from marketing the chip, but they'd recently lost. Before that, however, someone had broken in to DeLeon's Providence office and made off with his d atabase. SIRECOM suspected collusion.

Bright boys, these SIRECOM agents.

Currently, James DeLeon is sitting at a terminal, writing a syllabus for the class he'll be teaching at Brown in the fall on Omega Powers and Technological Responses to same. After all, DeLeon was an expert on those. There were very few people on the pla net with more technical knowledge than James DeLeon, and he was an Omega. In fact, he was an Omega with the ability to invent devices beyond his own conscious understanding. In order to market the OVERTECH processor, DeLeon had invented it, and then disassembled it several dozen times to try and understand what it was he'd made.

DeLeon often wondered if the Omega wasn't an evolutionary response to high-tech. People like himself and Wes Hickman made him wonder. Without tools, DeLeon's gift was meaningless. Without computers, Wes was just a man without his hands. Yet they were perfectly adapted to take advantage of the new technological future of mankind. It often made him smile to think so.

DeLeon looked out the window and saw that his SIRECOM agents were packing it in for the night. It would take the second shift a few minutes to get here, as the SIRECOMMies liked to try for subtlety in their surveillance. As if James hadn't noticed them a week ago. When you spend your formative years on the run from Dynamax, you develop good senses for that kind of thing.

Then his computer suddenly went black.

"Motherfuck..." He didn't get to complete the swear, as the pixels of his screen suddenly became a human face. An almost recognizable human face. And as he only knew two people who could do that, and one of them wouldn't have waited for SIRECOM to leave, he knew who it was. "Jakey...don't do that! Did you bulk my files?"

"**No, they're fine. I'm just grabbing the screen. I only have a few minutes.**"

"How's things working out?"

"**I guess things are working out fine.** "

"Did you get the data core?"

"**Consider it downloaded.**" The pixel face on the screen smiled. "**I'm just glad Hickman wasn't there. The last thing I want is to have to deal with him yet.**"

"You steer as clear of him as you can, Jake. He can do shit on a computer'd make your head hurt. I think in a couple of weeks we'll have enough evidence to go to the SEEKERS with." Jimmy looked thoughtful. "If we're right, and there is some mystery con spiracy deeper behind the Dynamax operations..."

"**It's looking that way. As it is, one of the SIRECOM agent's at Aegis was a Werewolf.**"

"Really?" Jimmy smiled. "I know him, mon. Ol' Billy Moulder. Check the personnel file, it's a doozy. They must want us badly to send him." The smile died as a thought occurred to him. "Uhm, we're probably gonna have to move up the timetable...he knows me. He may put it together. Anything else you wanted, mon?" Jimmy's native Jamaica usually sat submerged in his voice, but Jacob didn't make the connection.

"**I have a re-design of the armor I'd like you to look over, tell me what you think. Heather's building a version based on my work..it's a new variation on the Wrexakt and Harrakin stuff, not really like anything else out there. I don't think even you've ever thought of anything like it. I've already implanted it onto your hard-drive.**"

"No problem. You'd better log off. They'll be outside any minute. I'll get in contact with you. You guys out at Quonset yet?"

"**Yes. Transmat out. I'll talk to you later.**" Jacob's face vanished, and the syllabus scrolled back on line. DeLeon smiled.

"That kid makes a better terrorist than I did."


The furry shape that had been a man a few moments before tore out the second man in black's heart and actually showed it to him before he died. Deep within the grip of its bestial temper, Moulder smiled. He'd always wanted to do that. There were two of them left, but they were both more than a little surprised...shocked would probably be a better word...and as Edward Morgan fell dead to the ground, the Wolf-man squeezed his heart into pulp and watched it run down his fingers, grinning through a muzzle of canine teeth.

After all, it so rarely got to come out and play now.

It leapt at the nearest man and reduced him to red ribbons of flayed meat and shattered bones.

In the doorway, Mira Dylaist was pressing down on her arm where the first man...the dead bald guy on the floor with his heart torn out...had slipped a knife into her shoulder. She hadn't been happy with this hotel anyway, she thought giddily, and now she was sure that she wasn't going to tip anyone. The last of the men in black was trying to stab Moulder and make it to the door, and Mira was pretty fed up with the whole thing, so she did the only thing that occurred to her just then. She drew her pistol out of its holster, and she shot him three times in the head.

The Werewolf stopped, turned and looked at her, and she could swear she saw disappointment in its face, like her Irish Wolfhound Macsen Wledig often looked when she'd stop him from eating a treed cat.

"Don't give me that...if I had to wait for you to finish up, we'd be here all night." Part of her was quietly taking notes on how quickly she'd come to accept the weirdness that was bombarding her. The rest wasn't in the mood for any type of analysis just now. She'd had a long, tiring day, full of mind-fucking experiences, and she just wanted to sleep it off. "You know what? I didn't really believe in all of the bullshit we deal with at SIRECOM until we started working this case." Moulder's hairy body began to contract, shrinking and shedding hair all over the place, and Mira giggled to herself when she pictured the maid's expression. Between the dead guys and the hair, this'll be one bitch of a day for him or her. "I mean, Shiva decides to destroy the Earth? SUUURE! Jarvin Tazakles is not really a philanthropist but rather the greatest maniac since Jim Jones? Okay, whatever. Aliens show up, and a sixteen year old kid keeps the world from blowing to atoms? Just file that over here. It's a lot harder to maintain my skepticism when my partner keeps assuming the starring role in WEREWOLF DETECTIVE."

"If it makes you feel any better, I felt that way when I met Shiva."

She looked at him for a few seconds. Her eyebrows knitted together, and her lips became a tight white line. Finally she lifted her arm for him to see it.

"Just get me to a doctor. And please, don't tell me his name's Allen Covenant or anything, because I'm not in the mood just now."


Jacob, now that they'd found out the name of their enemy and knew that she owned Aegis somehow, found himself having a difficult time culling any information on her. For starters, Heather'd forced him to teleport them both home, where he'd need to wear t he mesh to drain his excess power off into the armor. Right now, as an example, he had it on, and the feedback was giving him a headache. The feedback...and Irene, who'd just walked in the door, her suitcases like faithful hounds at her sides. And it was only Wednesday, which meant she was only a day late, which was pretty good for Dr. Irene Manden-Chevalier. Of course, if you were going to get snotty and call everyone by their proper titles, Dr. Irene Manden-Chevalier, Ph.D in Psychology, Sociology, Comp .Sci and Philosophy, M.D. in Psychiatry was home visiting her daughter, Dr. Heather Chevalier, Ph.D in Genetics, Classics,Microbiology, Biochemistry, Comp. Sci, and both Chemical and Mechanical Engineering, M.D. with a specialty in Neurosurgery, and her son Dr. Jacob Chevalier, Ph.D in Comp. Sci, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Nuclear Physics, working towards his Master's Degree and eventually Doctorate in Astrophysics, who'd written the papers "Particle Physics in Omega Applications" and "Chaos Theory, Superstring Theory, and Omega Physics: The Psion linkage hypothesis" which Don Riley and Archades Theobald had both hailed as "The most brilliant systemic explanation of the interaction of Omega powers with Physical law since Hawking's Comprehe nsive Physics of Mind." That had appeared in ORION, the Omega Research Institute at Olmstead-Newton magazine.

In elite circles, people who Jacob hated and was currently waging war on called the Chevaliers "The Brain Trust." During the Shiva crisis, Irene had been called to Washington. When the secrets of Dynamax's black labs had come out, both Irene and Heather had gone to Washington, with Irene helping to run the inquiry boards and Heather actually treating some of the survivors. When the Anderson papers had been discovered, all three Chevaliers had been consulted on what they said and its implications. And Jacob had written a classified paper explaining how the Transmat device and the Omega named Rift could teleport. They were brilliant.

It was too bad they never saw each other, he mused to himself. She was probably the only woman he knew who could still beat him at chess.

"Hello, you two. Have you been behaving yourselves?" Irene made a point of treating her little paragons like equals, and for some reason it annoyed the shit out of Jacob. If I'm your equal, why won't you let me emancipate myself and move out of here? It isn't like I would have a hard time getting a job. He looked over at Heather, who, as always, spoke up readily enough.

"Oh, we're fine, mom."

"Jacob? Are you still under the weather? You looked awfully pale when I left." That was last week. It might as well have been last year. And then, even though he knew he shouldn't, he opened his mouth and said it.

"Well, that's because I was triggering, actually. Turns out I'm an Omega with uncontrollable powers. My COED reads me at well into the Level Seven scale."

Heather sighed and closed her eyes.

"What?"

"I was kidding, Mother. Sheesh. You never could take a joke."

"That was supposed to be funny? People will be looking for an excuse for you two all your lives, just as they did me when I was growing up. If you let them hang the taint of freakish Omega powers on you..."

"Jesus, Mom, I didn't know you were such a bigot. You happen to be talking to two of the foremost experts in how the Omega works in the world, remember? Between Heather and me..."

"Hey, leave me out of this!"

"...we know enough to say that Omega powers are just..."

"Enough of this! I won't have this argument with you again, Jacob. I know you're just trying to upset me, anyway, and I won't have it." Irene, a tall, thin woman in her late forties, was turning a bright shade of pink.

"Mom, you went to dinner with Tazakles way too many times."

That fell into the room like a bomb. Irene whirled on her heel, leaving her bags right where they were and marched away from the living room and them both. Heather couldn't believe what she'd just heard.

"What the HELL is wrong with you? If you want to hurt her, next time why don't you just punch her in the head or something, Jacob?"

"Don't you get it yet?" He leaned back into the sofa, head pounding from the inefficent drain of the mesh. "This house, our lives and education, everything we have...it all comes from either Dynamax or SIRECOM. Mom designed their Omega screening program..."

"She didn't know what it was being used for!"

"...and she wouldn't have cared. Dad we know was...maybe still is...up to his eyeballs in the actual vivisections, and the cover-ups. And they both manipulated us into doing work for them. I designed the goddamn new model Psi-Suppressor to get my degree, didn't I? It was being made two weeks later. And without your work, the cybernetics of Project: Threlkain wouldn't have happened. So whatever uses Tazakles and Owen put them to...isn't at least some of that blood on our hands?"

He leaned back further into the sofa, closing his eyes tightly both against the pain in his head and the guilt clutching at his chest. He knew Heather was probably crying a little, not wanting to look at it the way he was. He didn't blame her.

"So what do we do, then?" Heather grabbed his shoulder, making him open his eyes wide. "What do we do? If you're right, all we can do is make amends. We bring down anything left standing from Dynamax. We take care of our father, and we make a positive use out of the things we made that went wrong. I can't accept that we're at fault for this , Jake. I'm not strong enough for that."

"Uh...you're really digging in, there." He shook his head at his shoulder. "It's starting to hurt."

"Oh...sorry." She let go and stood up, looking at him. "But I'm right, Jake."

"You probably are, at that. So let's do it, then." He stood up and put his arm around her. "I'll go apologize to the iron maiden, tell her I'm still not feeling well, and then we'll go out to the warehouse and get the new suits built. I have an idea on w hat we can do with them."


Washington, DC.

The Miresco Building.

Brenda Washington was on the phone.

She wasn't liking what she was hearing, either.

"Uh-huh. So you don't think they were operating with the thieves? Oh. A reactor. I see. So what is your assessment, Bill?"

What she heard next she liked even less.

"So you think we should investigate the OVERTECH raid. Agent Dylaist is usually right, I agree. Okay, then. Bill, I want you to come back here and report directly to me. Yes, Agent Dylaist as well. I'm going to send someone uniquely qualified to investigate DeLeon. Yes. Good. I'll see you then. Good-bye, Bill."

As she hung up the phone, Brenda looked across her desk at the man she intended to send to Providence. Currently his eyes were closed, he was breathing deeply, and his hands were on top of her computer, using it to link himself to the SIRECOM database. And those hands were metal.

Wes Hickman knew all about living in a net.


Inside the SIRECOM database:

Wes floated, searching through the iconic representation of all of the knowledge SIRECOM had managed to acquire over the years of its existence. Wes' Omega used his subconscious mind to interpret the streams of numbers that were electronically stored, ma king a world out of raw information.

Right now, Wes' mind was explaining his descent into the personnel files as an elevator ride. He looked around the wood paneling of the elevator and smiled at the realism inherent in the interpretation. I do good work. Then that satisfaction turned to anger. Someone had invaded his turf, stolen secrets he'd encrypted. And it was all because of that bastard Owen and his sneaky two timing hidden terminals.

<Computer: Analyze system integrity.> <<System integrity intact. System has not been damaged, merely copied.>> <Extrapolate on how long a Dynamax MegaCompression Protocol would need to duplicate the entire SIRECOM archive. Arrive at a serviceable estimate.> <<Dynamax MCP would take two hours.>>

<What?> Wes wasn't surprised. He'd thought the archive to be far too large to be compressed so quickly, even by the MCP. <Then has the entire archive been duplicated?>

<<According to the system log, complete duplication took place in ten minutes.>>

Wes scratched at his iconic 'chin' as he mulled over that one. The elevator was nearly at the ground floor now, and he prepared to step out and into the records area.

<Extrapolate from systems log and preexisting established facts: How was the system compressed so quickly?> <<Possibility 1: Intruder was intelligent cybernetic life form. A Project:Threlkain cyborg's neural net might be able to hold the data, and to compress it within a twenty-five minute window. This is fifteen minutes too long, but there might be factors this unit is unaware of in current Threlkain design. Possibility 2: You did it. This is easiest to believe, because you are capable of doing so, but this unit is aware that you were engaged elsewhere at the time. Also, the visual report of the intruder and his demonstrated powers on two occasions do not match you.>>

<At least I have an alibi. Continue extrapolation.> Wes stepped out of the 'elevator' and into a vast wasteland filled only with filing cabinets. Cute. I knew I shouldn't have watched *Brazil* with Riley and Walker last week. He knew that all of the filing cabinets would contain the same files, so he walked up to the nearest one and pulled it open. Rifling through it, he listened as the computer continued.

<<Possibility 3: The intruder has Trinary Technology. See file #77218767, DeLeon, James; OVERTECH RAID appended file #9917672. This would mean not only would the intruder have POSSESSION of said technology, but intruder would be able to understand the applications of said technology in combination with Dynamax MCP.>>

This was the possibility that Wes hated the most. Not only was Trinary faster and more responsive, it was actually capable of intuitive reasoning. When he'd gone into the Wrexakt computer in Newfoundland, the strange, semi-alive nature of Trinary had nearly fried his system. And when he'd gone into South America against Metro, he'd barely been able to stop that combination of Omega and Machine from going on a killing spree. While not truly sentient, Trinary could actually oppose Wes' near-total domi nation of computers. An opponent with Trinary that actually worked, much less an opponent who understood Trinary, was a dangerous one. He pulled out the Chevalier file from the cabinet, the one the intruder had scanned.

Chevalier, Chevalier...where have I heard that name? It wasn't you, Razorblade...who was it? Wes stood up and away from the cabinet and read through the files. Chevalier, David Paul. SIRECOM Agent 1974-79. SIRECOM Special Agent 1979-1986. Presumed killed in action. Former Marine Corps Sniper. Tested negative on COED and Riley-Angstrom Psion Response test. Married Irene Manden 1974. Twin Children, Heather and Jacob Chevalier, born 1982. That would put them in their teens now.

<Computer: Readout on Irene Manden-Chevalier.> <<Dr. Irene Manden-Chevalier, Ph.D in Psychology, Sociology, Comp.Sci and Philosophy, M.D. in Psychiatry, AMA and APA-board certified, former member Brown University Cognitive Science Department, current member of American University Board of Regents, Head of Department of AI-Cognitive Science Research Wing, designer of the...>>

<That's enough, Computer.> Wes smiled and folded the 'file' under his arm, ensuring that it would be copied into his system, and jacked out. Which in his case was more of a psychological change than anything else. He came out of his slumped over state an d removed his hands from the computer. Then he smiled his best shite-sucking grin and looked at Brenda.

"Well? What did you get?"

"Not much." He leaned back in his chair. "I just know who our thief is."

"Who?"

"Dr. Irene Manden-Chevalier, head of the American University AI-Cognitive Science project, and our Agent Chevalier's widow."

"That makes sense." Brenda leaned back in her chair, feeling a great deal of relief. "Every time I see that woman, usually at some horrific charity function or VIP event I can't get out of, she bludgeons me about the head and shoulder with requests to see his files. I keep telling her that there's a fifteen year period before she can see them, but...are you sure about this, Wes?"

"I don't have any evidence, but it makes sense. She lives in Providence, so the OVERTECH raid suddenly falls into place. They weren't anti-Dynamax raids, just raids of convenience to get her the components she needed to build that suit. Then she hit SIRECOM Atlanta. Her husband probably let slip the existence of the bunker, and she's smart enough to override their BWP system and lock them in. I'll take Ricochet and Armor and hop on the next plane to RI, see what I can dig up."

"Good." Relieved that Wes was going to get this matter over with, Brenda allowed herself a small smile. "I'm glad you were around, Wes. Thank God you figured that out, or we might have started investigating DeLeon again, and opened ourselves up to a mons ter lawsuit."

"Well, now you can forget about him for a while, anyway."


Jacob finished the last connection in the suit and looked around, trying to figure out what time it was. The massive adrenaline jolt that Carter's presence had given him was still buzzing around in his head, and he'd sort of zoned out into a kind of Zen state. He looked up at Heather, who'd been following along on the big screen TV that Jimmy'd converted into a diagnostic scanner.

"What time is it? I'm done."

"It's..." She looked around for the clock, buried somewhere underneath a pile of trash on the workbench. Finally she found it, knocking away a box of Twinkies and several bottles of Jolt. "5:07 AM. We've been at this for more than eleven hours. Jesus, I need to sleep. I need a life. I need a date. Do you know, in the past fifteen years of my life, I've never had a boy ask me out?"

"Sis, news flash: We aren't just geeks, we're the patron saints of Geekdom. I mean, we did our Bachelors before we were twelve. Who's gonna ask you out, Doogie Houser?"

"Thanks for that ego boost, boy wonder. You are Doogie Houser."

"Yeah, and you'll notice I haven't asked you out yet." He smiled. "Anyway, I just soldered the last connection in place. It's done." Jacob closed up the chestplate and stepped away from the new armor. "Two suits based on radical new design elements."

"Why does mine have that bulky rectangle on its back?"

"That, sister mine, is a special kind of solar collector that's based on my powers, believe it or not."

"You designed a hyper-static thermocouple that small?"

"Yup." Jacob had to admit, there was something cool about the way the two of them could discuss bad TV shows one minute and battle armor the next. "So in case I go out of range, or just plain don't have the juice to give you, your suit has the wherewithal to function indefinitely. I also increased the range of the microwave link and built a rapid oscillation filter into both suits, so the beam will switch frequencies often and only your suit has the same algorithmic program to pick the next channel. No mess, no fuss, no jamming."

"Cool."

They stood there for a moment and observed their handiwork. Unlike the other suits, these were only six and a half feet tall apiece, and although designed to fit them, did not reveal anything about their wearers, not even sexuality. They were built out of segmented components, a design idea that Jacob had snagged from a Manga RPG his old roommate Everyn had played, back at MIT. That had been the best semester of his life, and he'd felt bad about graduating so fast. Sometimes, he thought about getting a job there. It gave the armor a vaguely art-deco look. This time he'd used monomolecular expended plutonium and bonded it with the Hyper-Dense Titanium Steel alloy that Jimmy'd invented, making the armor coating even more durable and resistant to impact. Both suits were basic black, glossy and slick looking, with his armor having a blue faceplate and trim and hers red. Superstition or not, that was the way it worked in his head.

Instead of the robotic limbs, these suits were based on his force-field idea. Copying the enhanced strength of telekinetics like Harvey Hauptmann, Jacob had lined the suit with a powerful EMG force-field generator system. This system would move the metal lic armor the way Hauptmann's mind moved his body. And, the crowning achievement were the Dynamax HA-77 Psi-Shields. They wouldn't stop a determined Psionic Attack, but they would insure privacy from nosy telepaths trying to take a peek. And a telepath at tacking directly is easier to stop. At least, he hoped so. He also hoped that the shield would obscure him from anyone trying to read for an Omega signature. After the Alpha incident, Jake knew the value of hiding that light under a bushel.

"Let's get dressed."

"What? Where are we going?" Heather laughed.

"I don't know. Out. I still need to see you test the weapons systems in your suit, as well as the Wrexakt Transmat I installed so you won't be dependent on me to teleport you away."

"Didn't you install any weapons in your suit?"

"Nope. Except for a small laser. I have my EK, remember? And if someone suppresses it through the Psi-Shield, then you can blast them for me. I wanted my suit to be lighter so I could add more EMG Force Field generators, boost the strength curve a little."

"Oh, sure...make me the weaker one." Heather smiled. And then she looked down, and picked up the red and black helmet of her armor. "Let's do this."


NEXT ISSUE:
THE SEEKERS!

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