This post was inspired by the Slactivist post "That's our Buck." It's another case of something being more plausible in the World of Darkness than in the original. It also provides a bit of background for the Right Behind RPG.
Date: 24 April 2011
"This is Marlowe Keller continuing a series of special reports on new technologies being developed to combat Global Warming and meet growing demand for food, biofuels and bioplastics. Today, we are visiting the Eden Project in Israel, one of the more successful efforts to make the desert bloom." The camera panned from his face across the field of grain they were standing in.
The camera shifted to the man with Marl. "Dr. Ismail Khalidi is the researcher in charge of the outdoor portion of the project." Marl held the mike out to the Palestinian researcher asking, "Doctor, what can you tell us about the grain growing here?"
"This is a particularly drought and salt resistant strain of triticale," said the researcher. "The grain is edible, and the stalks can be used to manufacture bioplastics, although we won't be doing that for a few years, because we need to plow the stalks into the soil to condition it."
"Pardon, me," said Marl, "What do you mean by 'conditioning the soil'?"
"Two things," said Dr. Khalidi. "One is that plowing the stalks into the soil helps to fertilize it and provide a feedstock for the the microbial mix we're cultivating as part of the project. The other is that it helps the soil to retain water which is a particularly critical detail when trying to grow crops in a desert. We have to keep the water from either running off into intermittent streams or draining so deeply that the roots of the plants cannot reach it. Plowing will stop the runoff, but it takes water absorbent material to keep it from draining. The triticale stalks will help with that."
Marl seemed to consider that. "What's so important about the micro-- Shit what's that?" He broke off staring at the sky. Something up there was glowing in the distance. Suddenly, pagers started going off all over the place, including his and Dr. Khalidi's. When they checked theirs, they found that the CO of the Construct had ordered everyone inside.
Dr. Khalidi grabbed Marl by the hand and started to drag him toward the entrance to the lab building while one of his assistants did the same for Marl's cameraman. Once inside, a security guard informed them that everyone was to transfer to the Horizon aspect of the Construct. Once again, Marl found himself being dragged to the transfer Portal. After the usual moment of disorientation, he found himself on the other side where another, apparently identical, security guard checked their IDs and told them to report to the CO in the Situation Room.
"This way," said Dr. Khalidi, heading down the corridor to the right. At least this time, he wasn't dragging Marl, which allowed the Watcher keep some of his dignity. Soon they were presenting their IDs to a third of the seemingly interchangeable guards in black suits and mirror shades. This one took DNA samples to verify their identities before buzzing them into the room.
"Clones?" asked Marl.
"Of course. It's cheaper that way," replied Dr. Khalidi. Then they came to attention, at least as much as anyone from their respective Conventions ever did.
The Situation Room could have been any military command center except that the tactical displays were all holographic, and with one exception, the uniforms came in two flavors: bright orange jumpsuits for the Void Engineers who ran this part of the Construct, and dark gray suits for the New World Order agents assisting them. The exception was the white suited NWO Observer. Of course, as Marl knew full well, "Observer" was a polite term for "Political Officer." Not his problem. All he had to do was avoid blatantly unmutual behavior and he'd be out of there with his standing intact. The Voids, on the other hand, had to step carefully around him.
"Dr. Khalidi, Dr. Ben-Meir, Marlborough Man and Eagle Eye Hawkins reporting as ordered," said Dr. Khalidi. "May I ask where Reuven is?"
"Dr. Even-Zahav just finished securing the hydroponics lab," replied the CO. She looked over the new arrivals. "I don't need to see him, anyway. I need reports from the personnel who were outdoors when the alarms went off. Also, I would like Eagle Eye to download the data from his camera into our computers in case it recorded anything important."
Marl, in the meantime, had been watching the images in the main holodisplay. "Holy f--" He broke off, suddenly very conscious of the White Suit on the periphery of the room.
"I thought I was imagining things when I saw a dragon outside. Where'd that come from?"
"Russia," said the CO. "It was visible on the Front Lines?"
"'Fraid so," said Eagle Eye. He tapped a couple of keys and a new image appeared in the main tank. It showed the dragon quite clearly, along with some other unidentifiable specks.
The CO muttered something that could only be a curse in what sounded like Hebrew. "On top of that small swarm of RDs, we have a major incursion in Jerusalem. We're not sure where that came from, but this Construct isn't big enough to handle both at once, and it's all we've got to cover this section of the Middle East."
One of the other Voids spoke up just then, saying something in Hebrew that made the CO look relieved. The only thing that Marl caught was the patently un-Hebrew sounding "Qui la Machina."
Dr. Khalidi confirmed that a moment later, explaining that one of the huge heavily armed Voidships was going after the dragon and its associated RDs. That left the Construct free to respond to the incursion in Jerusalem.
The CO had the four men give full reports to one of her officers, then dismissed them.
As they left, the White Suit got up to single Marl out from the group. Uh, oh. Marl's immediate first thought was "What did I do?"
"Relax, you haven't done anything wrong," said the White Suit, although the word "yet" hung unspoken in Marl's mind, if nowhere else. "It's just that while you're in this Construct, you're under my authority and I have a job for you."
"The Union will want a full report on this incident of course, but if anything spilled into mundane perception, a cover up will be needed. That's where you come in. You're the Watchers' man on the spot and you have a public career as a reporter. That makes you the ideal person to spin this incident for public consumption. So, that's what I want you to do."
"Of course sir." Marl straightened up, managing not to show his relief. "I'll get on it as soon as possible, sir."
"Oh, before you go. How did you get the nick 'Marlborough Man'?"
"Well sir, in my early career, I had a reputation for being something of a cowboy. I also smoked Marlboroughs. It kind of went from there. By the time, I was settled enough for a public role, the nick had stuck."
"Ah. I'd wondered."
"Could I get some kind of briefing on how Russia figures into this?"
"Of course. I'll send a Gray Man to explain matters to you."
The White Suit directed him to a conference room, then returned to the Situation Room.
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