Happy Thursday, folks. Today’s Biotech Legacy: Long Fall update is Chapter 26: Impact Crater.
If you’re just joining Biotech Legacy: Long Fall, you can find all of the preceding chapters right here at the Oktopod Blog.
The previous novel, Biotech Legacy: Stars Rain Down, is currently available exclusively through Amazon.
Let’s get this thing rolling…
Legacy’s network of transport tubes delivered Marcus to the conference room, and he proceeded through the air to the head of the table. His three most trusted associates sat in metal chairs, while the numerous other seats remained empty. An apt metaphor for his fleet if ever he’d seen one.
“Tell me what we know so far,” he said.
Alex Faulkland grimaced and spread several papers across the table. “The attack occurred at 0527 UTC, approximately ninety-five meters from Amiasha’s central stalk. It was carried out by a lone human subject who’d infiltrated the city’s inter-species outreach program. We don’t have much to go on yet, but we believe he was working for the New Union.”
Faulkland pulled out a picture of the street from overhead, and the image was simultaneously replicated on the wall. It showed a ten meter circle that had been chewed out of Amiasha’s shining surface, while the façades of nearby buildings appeared to be melting like ice castles in early March.
Faulkland went on. “The weapon was an unknown destructive agent dispersed from a nondescript canister. The delivery device has not yet been recovered.”
Marcus looked down at the picture, and a very sour feeling spread in his gut. “No need to be coy, Alex. This is our technology.”
Juliette St. Martin nodded grimly. “The effects are consistent with digestion by omnibodies. But they’re not programmed to act indiscriminately like this. They’re eating everything in reach, reducing it to minerals and amino acids.”
“Someone’s managed to weaponize them,” Faulkland said.
Marcus turned. “Vijay, how quickly can we expect it to spread?”
Vijay Rao looked disquieted. He spun his chair back and forth and fiddled with his fingers nervously. Unlike the others, he’d never taken to a uniform, and instead wore a replica of his favorite clothes from home. His button-up shirt was white with beige plaid, and he wore corduroy pants in a matching color. Every last tuck and fold was executed with meticulous precision.
“Difficult to calculate,” Rao said. “It’d depend on their navigation routines and replication rates. I can’t make an accurate prediction without samples.”
Rao reached across the table and snatched up the photos. “Based on this, a few meters an hour at first. If the engineers weren’t idiots… not such a big if, really… that’ll accelerate quickly. The entire city could be liquified in a few days. Maybe a week at the outside. The survival rate will likely be less than 1% unless they evacuate immediately.”
There was simply no way to evacuate a population that size with winter approaching. Marcus felt ghoulish when he next spoke. “It should be moving faster than that. How large was the original infection?”
Faulkland pulled another pair of pages from his report. “Minimal, thanks to efforts on the ground. The attack was obstructed by a pair of Amiasha’s Civil Protectors… a Sey Chen alien named Shazz, and his human partner, Carlos Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez didn’t survive the encounter.”
Marcus’ eyes went wide. “Carlos as in Charlie? Jack’s brother?”
“Um,” Faulkland said. He leafed back through his papers and pulled out a personnel file with attached photo.
A moment later, the image came up on the wall and Marcus’ breath caught in his throat. It took him a few long seconds to realize it wasn’t a photo of Jack Hernandez. The man was stockier and cleanly shaven, but the resemblance was unmistakable.
“Son of a bitch,” Marcus said quietly and to the side. Every time he looked up, he found himself just a little further behind the eight-ball.
“How could the Eireki fail to safeguard against something like this?” St. Martin asked angrily.
Marcus was glad for the change of subject. “They never had to. The Eireki and Nefrem used similar technologies, and their versions of omnibodies protected against one another. As for internal threats, they simply weren’t a factor.”
The room was silent. He added, “So… Thanks to our stunning lack of forethought, Amira’s petri dish has cancer. I need remedies.”
“That’s going to be difficult,” St. Martin said. “Our sources in the Arkangel Compact say the entire city is in a panic. Everyone is suspicious of one another, and they trust us even less.”
Marcus’ expression hardened. “That doesn’t matter. Let’s figure out the cure first, and we’ll deal with anything else when we get to it. Could we use our own omnibodies to fight off the infection?”
“Possibly,” St. Martin said. “But what if the rogue strain’s programming is viral?. We could just heap more fuel on the fire.”
“How about excision?” Faulkland asked. “We bring a Humboldt in and train fire on the wound.”
St. Martin shook her head. “Might slow it down, but unless we eliminate every last one, the infection will continue to spread. There are probably millions in the wound already, and who knows how many more beyond.”
Marcus latched onto the cancer metaphor, and he remembered his history books. “How about some kind of chemo therapy? What’s toxic to omnibodies that Amiasha’s body could tolerate.”
Rao said, “Nothing we know of. They’re very durable, even by Eireki standards.” He stroked his chin for a moment. “I think I can slow them down, though.”
“Don’t leave me hanging, Vijay.”
“Well, I don’t know their movement patterns, but I’d bet they still use the same pathfinding pheromones as ours. We disrupt that network and their progress should stall. For a little while, at least.”
“How do you know that won’t just speed them up?” St. Martin asked.
Rao smiled toothily. “Whatever they’re programmed to do is no doubt highly optimized, and any change is likely to be in our favor.”
“Alright, let’s consider that stage one, which should buy us time for stage two. Gimme a stage two.” Marcus fluttered his fingers. He looked at the others as they flipped through notebooks and files. “Anyone?” he said.
Marcus thought back through the conversation and stopped, while pale yellow light came to his eyes. “Juliette, you worried the rogue omnibodies might be able to reprogram ours. Could the reverse be true?”
“If we knew enough about their codebase, sure. But we don’t.”
Rao tapped his pen on the desk. “No, but we know how they communicate. It might be possible to override their programming, maybe trigger some kind of self-destruct.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow. “What would that entail?”
St. Martin answered. “One of Legacy’s immune modules, about the size of a refrigerator. A good security analyst… and time.”
Rao frowned. “Where’s that asshole who keeps hacking the phone network?”
Marcus smiled. “Nils Jansen. You worked with him for two years, Vijay.”
“Yeah, that’s the asshole.”
Faulkland groaned and it eventually turned into words. “He and his two best friends are working maintenance on Charon. Too far out to be of any use right now.”
“I’ll do it,” St. Martin said. She looked to Rao.
After a moment of reflection, Rao said, “I’ll go too.”
“I don’t like it,” Faulkland said. Had none of the cowboy inside of him survived?
Marcus ignored him. “Logistics?” he asked.
Rao said, “We take a shuttle in carrying the immune module and a few portable workstations. We should be safe inside of our old GAF pressure-suits. The omnibodies only attack organic material. At least, ours do.”
“We’ll be safe,” St. Martin said authoritatively. “They’re designed to invade cell walls. They can’t anymore breach a spacesuit than a mole can burrow through steel plate.”
“Marc,” Faulkland said. Reservations hung on his voice like lead weights.
Marcus took a deep breath. Everything seemed clear. “These people are dying, Alex, and they think we’ve killed. They’re not entirely wrong.” Then he rose up into the air, and it pained him to say the next part. “I’m going, too. Be ready in an hour.”
The next update will likely be Tuesday, when we take a look at Chapter 27: Intracellular. I’m hoping to have some special news for you over the weekend, though, so stay tuned for details!
Copyright 2013. All rights (currently) reserved.