The Symposium: Pacific Northwest Orbital Construct
Dr. Michael Traveler turned on the teleconference system. At once, the far wall of his office vanished to be replaced by a virtual conference room. Symposium Chair James Thorndyke was already present. One by one, the other Symposium members winked in, followed by the week's guest speakers.
Thorndyke cleared his throat and everyone turned to look at him. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have convened a special meeting of the Symposium today to discuss an appropriate response yesterday's catastrophe and the ongoing crisis." Thorndyke looked around the room then asked the newcomers to introduce themselves.
One Japanese man introduced himself as Tetsuo Kawashita of the Syndicate, substituting for the usual representative who has lost two daughters. One other newcomer had a similar reason for being there. The rest had reports to present.
The first report was from the Void Engineers. The speaker wore the standard orange jumpsuit, but didn't carry it off with the usual Void Engineer attitude. The fact that he looked like he hadn't slept in thirty-six hours might have had something to do with it.
From him, they learned that the Incursion, which seemed to have already acquired a capital I, had gone from Darkside Moonbase to the Front Lines in less than a second. Every Horizon Construct in between had been struck, and nothing had been heard from any of the Union's other in solar system Constructs. It would be at least two weeks before anyone heard anything from any of the Deep Universal Constructs.
Then came a from Iteration X listing estimates of the missing and dead. Over two billion vanished, most of them children. Approximately thirty million more dead from medical crises or trauma. As the Iterator listed the Union's missing, Traveler found himself paying close attention to what she said about the missing constructs. Five percent or less non-human DNA. Was that significant? And apparently the remaining constructs displayed a level of individuality deemed unacceptable by the cyborg or her master. Traveler had to stifle his gut reaction to that assessment. The Iterator moved on to missing prisoners. Fifty-one prisoners had vanished from holding, all of them from the Celestial Chorus. Yet not every Chorister had vanished, and the Statisticians were puzzling over why.
"Trust a cyborg to miss miss the obvious," thought Traveler as he buzzed for attention. "You have input for us, Director?" asked the Iterator.
Traveler nodded. "My facility had three such prisoners vanish. All of them self-identified as Evangelical Christians. Of the four Chorus prisoners remaining in my facilities, one claims to be a Mithraist, two are Catholic, and one is a 7th Day Adventist. I suggest that you look into what religious sects the missing prisoners belonged to."
The Iterator, stopped, apparently watching a Heads Up Display. Then she spoke, "I have passed your observation to my superiors. They consider it worth looking into. Does anyone else have similar data?" Philip Austin of NWO Operations and Elaine Koenig of Psych Ops both looked down at their personal consoles, murmuring instructions to their computers.
"Not immediately," said Austin. "I'll have to put the data together later and forward it to Statistics."
Koenig looked up from her console, "Preliminary examination of Psych Ops records is consistent with Dr. Traveler's observation. I'll forward the complete records after the conference."
As the Iterator continued, a change in her normally uninflected voice caught Traveler's attention. An Iterator expressing emotion? Fear from the sound of it. "Most of you are no doubt familiar with the Apocalypse Forecast,*" she said. "This is an update. The crisis has begun, and we are unable to forecast anything beyond seven years."
That announcement nearly broke up the meeting as some people jumped up and started shouting while others sagged in their seats. The Iterator Programmer and the regional Comptroller merely sat waiting for everyone to settle down. Finally, Thorndyke had to lean hard on his buzzer to get everyone's attention.
"People! Before we worry about the next seven years, let's worry about getting through the next seven days shall we? For that, we need to know what's going on."
"Mr. Austin, what's the report from the Front Lines?"
"Well, accidents are up for reasons previously noted. In addition, suicides are up and there's been a few cases of people going nuts with guns, looking for someone to blame as far as we can tell.
We've been trying to help the mundane authorities where we can, but our available personnel are stretched thin responding to an upsurge in Deviant activity. It doesn't help that many Front Lines operatives are unable to work to, well, personal losses.
"Marauder and Nephandic activity are up. The Marauders seem to be just taking advantage of the Gauntlet breach, but damned if it doesn't look like the Nephandi were tipped off if not actually following a plan. No proof, unfortunately. Vampire activity is up. Seems to be just a case of taking advantage of the confusion. Lycanthrope attacks are way up and I'm getting reports of types I hadn't heard of before, felines, rats, a bear. Dr. Traveler's people have been very helpful dealing with them." He looked over at Traveler who'd suddenly sat up at the mention of a bear, "How the hell did you know? Nobody else seems to have anticipated that one."
Traveler shrugged. "Lycanthropes are my specialty. Basically you need to know two things. The first one, any field op who's ever encountered them knows; lycanthropes don't cope well with stress, and when they're over stressed they turn into 8-9 foot tall monsters with lots of built-in weaponry. The second thing is less well known; lycanthropy is inherited. In other words, they have families."
"Oh my god," burst out Barbara Sloan from Analysis. "They're lashing out. Just like the people with the guns."
Traveler nodded. "Bingo. And there's more of them in cities than you'd expect." A thought struck him and he bit off a curse in his native language. "You mentioned rats? Hell, we'll have to deal with epidemics anyway, but wererats will exacerbate the problem. They're plague carriers, enhanced plague carriers. You'll need to isolate anyone bitten by one of the creatures, and get them to a top level facility as soon as possible."
"They are?" said Austin. "Shit. Well, you're the expert." He made a couple of notes. "Superstitionist attacks on our facilities have also increased. Speaking of lashing out, at least some of the superstitionists seem to be blaming us for what happened."
Everyone digested that for a few seconds.
Thorndyke finally broke the silence, "So, the floor is open. Does anyone have any ideas for what we can do?"
"We'll need to get the most psychologically traumatized field personnel into counseling and put them back to work as quickly as possible," said Koenig. Kawashita asked if it would be possible to just put a temporary block on the emotions while leaving the patients' memories intact instead of wiping the memories completely. Koenig looked at him blankly. "But that would be inefficient. We'd just have to treat them again." Traveler managed to hide his appalled reaction, but noticed that several others at the table were less successful. The Iterators didn't react, no surprise there, but neither did Thorndyke. Either he was hiding his reaction too, or he didn't care. Traveler hoped he never had to find out which. The Psych Op was certainly living down to her department's reputation.
Just then, an attention chime sounded indicating that someone else wanted to join the conference. By the priority code, it was someone with serious pull.
The conference room reconfigured itself to make room for the newcomer, an older man of clearly Germanic descent in a white suit. He introduced himself as Martin Arendt, speaking for Control. The remainder of the Symposium was spent discussing Control's planned response to the Incursion, both internally and in terms of the Union's efforts to influence the world's governments.
*I didn't invent this; it's from the Guide to the Technocracy. Basically it states that there's a close to 75% probability of a world-shaking crisis occurring within the next ten years.
Crossposted to Right Behind RPG
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