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927970 No. 927970 ID: f04f1a

Wiki: https://tgchan.org/wiki/The_Path_of_a_Hero

Part two; Good, evil, and true love. The greatest lies in history.

Chapter one, demon in iron.


Borya's journal, pt:1.

"My mind is swirling, chaotic. I've decided to write out my situation in a 'private' journal, with the hope that it'll help make things clear. I'll be burning these texts immediately after writing, so as to insure they are kept from prying eyes.


It's been three days since my meeting with the president. Fucking Boswell. To think, my parents voted for that prehistoric reptile.

My abdomen has closed up well, and should be entirely healed soon.

I've been given new quarters. A reasonably-sized single-room dwelling in the Brig. There are toiletries, a single chair which is bolted to the floor, a bed also affixed to the floor, complete with sheets and a pillow. However, there is a distinct lack of any sort of sharp or edged object (they wouldn't even trust me with a pen, so I'm writing with a crayon). Either they don't want me committing suicide, or they're being careful to keep me unarmed. (As if I'd need anything more than my bare hands.)

Training has yet to begin. I'm not even sure what it will consist of. I'm tired of waiting. Whatever the training is, it'll still be preferable to sitting in this windowless room for eternity.

I haven't seen Karma again. I hope she's alive.

That is all."


Moments later, a piece of paper is torn from its notebook, and set alight with sparks from jimmy-rigged electrical wires. It is thrown into the sink, where its solitary flame burns a lone vigil in the darkness.


In the darkness, deep below the cold steel deck.

Where a demon sleeps.
19 posts omitted. Last 50 shown.
>>
No. 928643 ID: c967e6

>>928638
Flying anything is super hard without prior experience, flying a 5th gen fighter without prior experience is so impossible you might as well wish a unicorn to existence and fly away on a rainbow. It's unlikely they'll teach you how to fly at all, it takes very long and they have other people for that. There's no f35b's on aircraft carriers (at least the us ones) there's only f 35c's (no STOL) and despite the f35 being labeled as easy to fly, don't hope to know how to do it. If they notice a jet taking off without permission they'll shoot you out of the sky in the blink of an eye. Just take the boat or wait till they get you to land for some special training session and then just run.
>>
No. 928644 ID: c967e6

>>928643
And friendly aircraft have special systems that allow the friendly radar to see you no matter how stealthy the aircraft is, and considering it was mentioned that Borya's not a fan of areal combat it's safe to say that she won't know how to turn that system off, hell they'll likely be able to shut down the plane mid-air or even take direct control over it, this is the future and every plane likely has an autonomous mode.
>>
No. 928648 ID: c967e6

>>928624
Technically not OUR job, just your's. if you decide to join their efforts feel free, and if you're willing to fuck 'em over feel free to do so too, just remember whatever happens to you and however you pull this off (you either completely ace, or flop dismally), it's off to you. We, the strange noises, cracks, yells and whistles you hear deep in your head are gonna stay here whether you do join 'em or not, possibly after you get killed too, don't do that tho, after all do you know that not breathing will get you killed.

Take this as you will...
>>
No. 928650 ID: 2202fb

>>928644
The plane has those systems, not the carrier, and they can be turned off (though we still run a pretty high risk of getting shot down).

Ofc, we dont know how to fly yet, but that is presumably something they will teach us.

This may not be an aircraft carrier and could be a landing ship. They look similar to someone unfamiliar with military ships.

This was a longshot, but we dont really have many other options at this point.
>>
No. 928680 ID: 8eaf98

Hello! I'm a new voice. Honestly, Karma can probably handle the 'massages'. If you show no signs of caring about Karma, they lose reason to keep hurting her, of course, it will probably get worse before it gets better. So if you are 100% sure you can keep your exterior stone cold this is a potential viable option.
I doubt that they will kill Karma, she has value similar to you and they no doubt noticed her loyalty to you (usage of prior option may jeopardize that) and may be attempting to leverage that loyalty to get her loyal to them via you.
Remember words are cheap, and, in this place, so too is most action. So what you did with your "primary psychologist" that made "you sick just to think about" can probably work here too. Enabling you to get out of here sooner rather than later, though a sudden 180 in behavior would be uncalled for and suspicious. An approach of gradually appearing 'resigned to this fate' could work.
>Wait, how did you use an emoticon when you're a disembodied-... We shall never speak of this again. OK! =D =P

>>
No. 928740 ID: 38e49f

You wipe away the stray tears dripping from your chin, and take a moment to recollect yourself.


Focus, breath... Focus.

>We're not telling you to not feel anything, in fact, the more the better, just don't let anyone in on anything.
>If you are 100% sure you can keep your exterior stone cold this is a potential viable option.
Okay. I get what you're all saying. You want me to keep my emotions to myself? That makes sense, if I can keep them guessing, I can maintain some level of control. I can do that, I can definitely do that. I maintained a stone cold exterior for my whole life up until a little more than a month ago.

>What else can I say, I'm a paranoid voice in your head.
You're right. You're only being logical. And I suppose you have kept me alive this long.

>Basically, feel how you want, but dont go along with their plans mentally.
I'll make a concerted effort to resist their control. So far, they haven't made any attempt to befriend me or gain my loyalty. Nothing overt, at least.

>Fly away in a plane.
No go. Even if I knew how to fly, they have a plasma Trophy system that surrounds the entire Super-carrier. I would be boiled in my skin before the aircraft exploded.

>Clarity is good.
You have no idea.

>Hello! I'm a new voice.
Oh good, my schizophrenic psychosis is getting stronger. That's exactly what I need right now. Well, welcome to the club. We're all batshit crazy dysfunctional fools, but we make it work, most of the time.


Guys I... You... You're all assholes, and I hate you all with a vengeance; but you're my assholes.

That didn't sound right.

You're all bastards and fucking degenerates, but even still, you've been more help than any person I've ever cared to meet. And you've stayed with me.

...thank you.

Tomorrow... Tomorrows gonna be better. I think... Maybe.

We'll see.
>>
No. 928750 ID: 8eaf98

>nothing overt
Unfortunately, anything overt is kinda, well, obvious and easy to ignore...
>And you've stayed with me.
We hope to continue that trend, but if we leave at some point without your consent... well this is an apology in advance.
>Tomorrow... Tomorrows gonna be better. I think... Maybe.
With thoughts like that, it might just be different, if nothing else
>>
No. 928760 ID: 13cd18

>>928740
In order to avoid additional trauma and suffering, it would be wise to use common sense provided by most of the cracks, whistles and yelps you hear in your mind, and more importantly, life(well not live, more like: prepare mentally) like every day is your last day you'll get to take a break and have some freedom, assume that every next day is gonna be extremely painful, extremely brutal and soulcrushing (to the point where you just wanna jump off a ship or attack a guard or two just to force them to put you out of your misery brutal and hard). This way you could avoid any mayor mental harm at the expense of stress and worrying (although you said these aren't you problems). After all, you can't be disappointed if you have no expectations to begin with. Just pull it together, you're a tough little bastard and this is gonna be the beginning of the mountain of BS we're gonna go over, so why not take your fellow sailors with you and make them just as miserably in their attempts to curb your rebellion.
>>
No. 929057 ID: 355206

Day 35.

10:23 AM, Upper deck, med-bay.

"What exactly did you say happened to your hand?" Asks a medical officer as he treats the injured appendage.

"Steel wall." You reply in a deadpan.

"And how did a steel wall fracture nine bones?" He asks.

"That's classified." You reply.

He looks at you askance. "Right."


It takes about ten more minutes before your hand is properly treated.

"Don't strain it, and it should heal fine." He says.

You give a vague nod before hopping off the medical table and heading for the door.


It's a nice day out, relatively. The sun is blotted out dark clouds, and it's fairly chilly, but there's also no rain, and the sea is calm.

You're walking along the upper deck, enjoying the fresh air, and are about halfway back to your room, two armed guards it tow; when an unarmed marine (a captain by his patch) approaches you and salutes. "Package for you, Miss Burkouskie." He says, handing you a parcel. He then turns to your guards; "You both are dismissed." He says.

Your guards look at each other in confusion, before saluting and heading off towards the Command center.

This is suspicious.


You make it back to your room without incident, and the guard at your door lets you in without comment. Very suspicious. He didn't even note the absence of your personal guards.


You plop down on your bed and carefully open the package. It's wrapping is drab, brown paper. But contained within is a polymer safety case, the kind guns come in.

You save yourself the disappointment and don't even hope for a gun, as grand as that would be. Instead you read the note attached to the outside of the box.

It is written in a beautiful, excruciatingly precise cursive.

"To Miss Burkouskie,

I would first wish to apologize for my behavior during our last meeting, I understand that your current predicament might be cause for great distress, and your anger is justified.

However, I would also wish to stress the necessity of your treatment. You are more important than you could know to the future of this great nation of ours, and as such, regardless of your feelings on the matter, I must insist that you comply with the orders issued to you. For the sake of the American people.

On that note, the enclosed package should contain a new uniform. One more befitting your position. Once you have donned it, head to the armory, they will equip you properly.

As well, you have been promoted to Private First class, and may now freely move around the ship; excluding restricted-access areas.

Again, I apologize for your treatment and my actions. But trying times require unsavory measures.

Yours in faith,

President Boswell.



And that's the end of the letter. Boswell really-... *sigh* No comment.

You suppose that's why the guards were dismissed. Looks like you can move around mostly freely now. A strange move on the presidents part, perhaps she wishes to build trust with you? Or maybe she's simply incompetent. Who knows.


Upon opening the polymer case, you find that it indeed contains a uniform. It is a peculiar type of camo consisting of dark brown, tan, and olive drab, with flecks of navy blue and black stripes. It almost seems to shimmer, but you suspect a trick of the light.


You don the uniform. It's fairly well sized, and of Army cut, but they've obviously left much room to grow.

The patch sown onto the left arm is of a design you've never seen, it's a skull with a bullethole through its forehead, and a vertical dagger behind it.

It also comes with a beret. The beret is black, and has the same strange skull patch embroidered on it.

Not a bad looking outfit, all things considered.


Part of you wants to immediately head off for the Armory. Yet you also might want to head for some other part of the ship, now that you have freedom of movement.

Let's see... You could head to the Cafeteria, as you're feeling a bit hungry. There's the Observation deck, if you wanted a moment alone and a place to think. And lastly, you could head for the section of the Brig where they keep Karma, perhaps they'll let you speak with her now.
>>
No. 929058 ID: 094652

>You are more important than you could know to the future of this great nation of ours
Right, I'm hedging my bets: 95% confident on the "expendable assassin" theory, 5% for the heck of it on "sleeper magical girl assassin" theory.

>For the sake of the American people.
Like you said, Borya: when was the last time she personally met with an American person to make amends for her ruthless choices, and not a military psychopath?
No offense of course.

>you find that it indeed contains a uniform
Oh good, she didn't put Karma's left nipple in that thing.

>Where to
Cafeteria; make them think the brainwashing worked and don't go straight to Karma for the next week. Also, you're going to need food for your hand.
>>
No. 929061 ID: 8eaf98

>>929058 what is this! Kome? a voice of reason!? What is this headspace coming to!
wonder if that 'trick of the light' is actually some sorta advanced camo and reaching the armory is actually a test to see if you can.
>>
No. 929065 ID: 719d94

Going straight to the armory might give them the impression that you're planning on actually doing what they want. I don't think we quite want to give them that impression, but instead that you've considered your options and are willing to do what they want. Cooperative, but not necessarily obedient.

Could the cafeteria or observation deck be described as on the way to the armory? If not, is there another location we could detour past that would be worth stopping at?

And as kome said (it hurts) we probably shouldn't jump at the chance to visit Karma. Hopefully they won't ship us straight off to a mission without another chance to visit, but if they do that's just part of the price we have to pay to get dignity and respect out of our captors. Show them no weaknesses.
>>
No. 929073 ID: 2202fb

I like Kome...
>>
No. 929094 ID: 4e9b87

>>929057
Don't visit any suspicious places (armories, hangars, prisoner areas and such, just take a walk around the bridge or do something (un)productive, as other voices have said, anything that takes you a bit closer to possible means of escape will be noted as a unsuccessful attempt at brainwashing you, and don't take the note too seriously. While she seems to have a grasp over the fact that you're a hyper-capable sociopath, don't let her thing you're still pissed and loose from her chains, then again, if you act too compliant they may thing that you're faking it, which in turn will make then change your routine to a more severe one, so your best shot at this would be to keep an snarky, ever so slightly pissed off attitude (don't take it too far, because they'll think you've gotten comfortable) when talking to staff, make random 1000 yard stares at random people (not the more important ones tho) and generally be silent until you're asked something. Don't make a fuss, when Karma's mentioned feel free to give anything from a "if it dies, it dies" "look" at the news to "she's a threat and a traitor", whatever suits you.
>>
No. 929101 ID: 8eaf98

>>929073 I do too. He just typically isn't a voice of reason; he is usually more a voice of entropy.
>>
No. 929750 ID: 80c195

Right. So the plan as it stands is to keep them guessing. Follow commands well enough, but still show a little resistance. Cooperative, not obedient.

>wonder if that 'trick of the light' is actually some sorta advanced camo and reaching the armory is actually a test to see if you can.
I wouldn't put it past them. I wouldn't even be surprised.

>Could the cafeteria or observation deck be described as on the way to the armory? If not, is there another location we could detour past that would be worth stopping at?
Both the Observation deck and the Cafeteria require a significant detour from the path to the Armory. The only places worth note between here and the Armory are the engine room and the lower hanger. Neither of which I have reason to visit.

For now I'll head to the Cafeteria.


You knock twice on your door, the sign for 'let me out'. "It's not locked." Comes the voice of the guard outside. Well that's not normal. He's under orders to keep the door locked at all times while you're in the room.

You indeed find the bulkhead unlocked, and step through.

The guard salutes you. He's never done that before. "You are free to come and go from your room as you please, ma'am." He says.

You give a half-hearted two-finger salute back. "Understood. See ya, Maverick." You say. Eliciting a slight cringe from him at the use of his last name.


It's a short walk through the dark steel guts of the ship to the cafeteria. Alone with your thoughts and the staccato of your footfalls on the metal floor, you take a moment to collect your thoughts.

Along the walk, you pass several soldiers, all of them salute to you. Including the door-guards that would have previously stopped you. There's a look in their eyes, almost... Reverence. Something's up.


You arrive at the cafeteria; a large, well lit room where most of the floor space is taken up by large steel tables, occupied by what must be at least 70 people at the moment. A long window peers into the separate kitchen area, where various cooks can be seen busily preparing various 'meals'.


Nearly the entire occupancy of the room turns to look at you when you walk in. All at once, the constant din of the room dies as all attention is directed your way.

You ignore the looks, and stride over to the kitchen window.

On the menu today is various flavors of dysentery, diabetes, and food born illness. You opt for microwaved cardboard with a side of 'who ate this before me?' a cup of chlorine/fluoride dilution and a spherical GMO. Also known as a hamburger with a side of chili, some tap water, and an orange. The soldier who serves your food, young private, stares at you the entire time as if he was looking at some magical creature.

There's something going on, though you have no idea what. For now you take your tray of American chronic illness and sit down at the table with the least people.


It's four minutes, twenty three seconds (you counted) before the moment you've been waiting for finally arrives.

A man dressed in Navy fatigues walks up to you. He is bearded, sporting a tight ponytail, and exuding an aura that could only be described as rugged, sort of like Bigfoot, but Caucasian. You look to his shoulder, and are somewhat surprised to see a trident patch, the very same issued to Navy SEALs.

He motions towards the seat next to you. "Can I sit?" He asks.

"Don't know, haven't seen you try." You say, eliciting the heavily masculine equivalent of a chuckle from this man who looks for all the world an overgrown Tolkienesque dwarf. "But to answer you more satisfactorily; no, I don't mind if you sit." You finish.

He takes a seat, and for a fleeting, beautiful moment, you dare to hope that you will have to suffer no further social interaction. Yet these dreams are shattered like glass by the rough, grating sound of this great primordial hominid attempting to construct a sentence. You aren't really in a great mood, right now.

"You must be Borya." He says.

"Nail on the head." You reply somewhat caustically.

"Bad night of sleep?" He asks.

"Bad weeks of sleep, bad food, bad mood, bad company." You say. You'll admit. Even for you that was tactlessly blunt.

"Oof. I'm not that bad am I?" He asks, seeming to find your words more humorous than hurtful. Even going so far as to show a small smirk. Well, sort of. It's hard to tell past the facial hair.

You sigh. "No. No you're not. But as a general rule, company is unpleasant in this infernal place. This has so far been the most pleasant conversation I've had this week." You say.

"You seem less than pleased to be having it." He says. A surprisingly sharp remark.

"Just because something is the best among its peers, doesn't necessarily mean that it's good. You'll forgive my ill temper, I'm feeling less than up to polite conversation today." You say, sighing heavily.

"Than we'll skip the polite part. I'm Joseph Gould, Navy Seal. I'm supposed to train you in survival techniques, but I thought I'd meet you first, get to know who I'll be training." He says, still sounding friendly. You feel some credit is due for his persistence.

"Well then, allow me to illuminate for you the finer points of my biography. I'm a high-functioning sociopath that feels a deep and genuine loathing for humanity as a whole, I enjoy reading and occasionally staring into space contemplating the hell that is human existence, I refuse to drink anything out of a cup with a lid on it. Your turn." You say.

He gives a small chuckle. "I'm a Survival specialist born and raised in Alaska, I enjoy eating things that I've killed myself, swimming in ice-cold water, and watching sitcoms from the eighties. I find the smell of lavender deeply disgusting. Now, from what you've said I assume you haven't made many friends here on the Misery." He says.

"I envy your powers of deduction." You reply.

"Well, I have made a friend or two. And I was wondering if you'd be interested in meeting some of the people you're going to be training with." He says.


Hmm... On the one hand, this could be a ploy to try and get your loyalty. But on the other, this could be a good opportunity to make some friends, maybe buy yourself some sympathy. You don't really want to socialize, nor do you want anymore friends. But you could easily fake it.

This food really is terrible.
>>
No. 929893 ID: d5fbf4

>>929750
The guy sounds genuine, tho don't go too far, and while you're at it try to make a friendship with him, you may absolutely despise the idea of such a thing but have you ever tried it, it might help you keep afloat after suffering brutal training sessions, though take everything here with a shovel of salt, you don't want to be exposed as a high-functioning sociopath that hasn't been brainwashed yet.
>>
No. 929912 ID: 719d94

Your standing "orders" to report to the armory seem like a good opportunity to blow this guy off. Tell him you're interested in the offer when you have more time, and try not to sound too sarcastic about that, but you have places you're supposed to be. If he's supposed to be training you, you'll meet him again later and have more opportunities to either accept or disregard these kinds of offers in the future.
>>
No. 929973 ID: 5a828f

Still paranoid about his positivism, but honestly? I'm surprised that the military didn't screen this guy for his charisma; right now he has the highest chance of exfiltrating you out of this hellhole for his own personal army. So use that now, and worry about killing him for backstabbing you later.

But the soldiers are even worse. You've done everything to earn their respect and nothing to earn their trust. Why the hell are they staring at you with deer eyes? Do they want you to bash their brains in?
>>
No. 930284 ID: a0d7c2

>The guy sounds genuine.
Looks it too. Not a single tell that he's lying or being deceptive.

>Try to make a friendship with him, you may absolutely despise the idea of such a thing but it might help you keep afloat after suffering brutal training.
Firstly, I don't hate the idea, it doesn't cause me physical pain to socialize. It's just that I'm really not interested in a friendship, so it would be like a chore. Secondly, the training may be grueling, but so far I'm not suffering stress from it. It would take a lot to mentally push me to my limit.


"Not right now, I've orders to report to the Armory. This was just a quick snack. Rain check?" You ask.

He seems rather pleased to hear that, smiling genuinely. "Yeah, of course. We'll all meet up after the training session you and I have scheduled on Tuesday." He says.

It is currently Sunday, your only off-day. As far as you know, which isn't far, that timeframe should work. "See you then." You say. And with that, you leave him.


The Armory is a large room illuminated by glaring fluorescent lights, with many large steel cages lining the walls. Each cage is basically a walk-in gun-safe, and each one belongs to individual groups; the Marines, the Army, the Navy, and each individual spec ops team all have their own cages of varying sizes. At the end of the room, a very bored, and very low-ranking support-staff member sits behind a desk, typing away at her computer.

You stride over to the desk, and she looks up as you near.

Her face immediately lights up with shock and surprise, then an expression as if she'd been caught slacking. She bolts upright from her seat and salutes you, then stands to attention. You now see her patch; she's Air Force, Airman rank specifically.

"Private Burkouskie, ma'am! I wasn't expecting your arrival so soon, If I had known you were coming today I would have cleaned up! Forgive me, ma'am!" She says. It sort of all flows out in one continuous, nervous excuse. She looks like she's waiting for you to strike her.

"At ease." You say.

She visibly deflates, yet a look of concern and embarrassment remains on her face. "Sorry. How can I help you, ma'am?"

"Fuck if I know. Highest of the higher-ups told me to report here to receive equipment." You say. Annoyance curling your lips and edging your eyes. Not at this girl, but at Boswell for being so damnably unclear.

The look of fear deepens in the girl's eyes. "Sorry, ma'am! I- Of course. This way, ma'am!" She says, stepping out from behind her desk and heading towards one of the cages.

You follow, and arrive in front of a small cage that appears almost entirely empty.

The Airman (Airwoman?), opens the cage door and you both step in.

The walls are covered in various racks, shelves, and equipment storing facilities. There also appears much spare room for additional furniture. It is entirely bare of actual equipment save a single polymer box sitting on a table at its center.

The Airman turns to you. "This compartment is yours, ma'am. Any items you acquire may be stored here while you aren't using them."

A compartment all your own? This luxury treatment... And all the sudden respect? Something smells fishy. (Or like plot.)

Yet you give little more thought to these strange occurrences, an your attention is still mostly fixed on the conspicuous box, which is constructed of polymer, about 1x2x2 feet, and perfectly centered in the otherwise bare room. Your gaming instincts tell you that loot is afoot.

The Airman seems to notice your singularly focused gaze, and heads to open the box.


She steps away from it, and inside, resting gently atop some electronic device, is a Fabrique Nationale d'Herstal FNX .45 cal Tactical offensive pistol with a threaded barrel, flared magazine well, and Trijicon night sights.

You stand aghast for a moment, before remembering yourself and moving to pick it up. You feel the weight; perfect. You test the slide; someone has meticulously filed down the internals for a smoother action. You take stance and look down the sights; it's ergonomics sit perfectly in your hand, the foresight's red dot gleams, and you have not trouble imagining it centered over someone's head.

This pistol was made for you. The fact that it now rests in your hands is not chance, but destiny. If you were inclined towards such emotions you would be crying.

As it stands, you merely smile a wicked smile. The kind that usually precipitates someone's death.


There was a note underneath the pistol, which you read.

You'd better like the gun, it was a pain in the ass to get. Mind you, If it wasn't for me you'd be holding a fucking standard issue Glock right now. You'd think the President of the yanks could afford better for her best.

—T.



You have no idea who this 'T' is, but you owe him one. The note is written in a harsh, utilitarian hand with little aesthetic value.


Much as you hate to, you set the FNX down for the moment, and set to inspect the other item held within the box: it appears some sort of PDA, about the size of a large phone and housed in a shockproof case.

As soon as you pick it up, the Airman (who had been awkwardly standing in silence) grabs something else out of the box. "May I help you fit the device, ma'am?"

You look askance at the object she retrieved, it's solid black, and looks to be made from a material similar to a wetsuit. "Go ahead." You say, with some apprehension.

She fits the object around your left forearm; it turns out to be a sort of vambrace. She then fits the PDA into a slot on the underside of your forearm.

"What is this thing?" You ask, after the device has been mounted.

"It's an S.M.I, ma'am. Strategic Mission Interface. It's connected to a supercomputer here on the Misery which will aid you in the field. Data mining, analytics, real-time tactical planing, probability matrices, infowar, counter-infowar, SIGINT, autonomous vehicle piloting, that's just to name a few, ma'am." She says, pride playing across her features.

"You seem to know more than a fair bit about this S.M.I." You say, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm it's primary technician, ma'am. I, uh, I invented it." She says, appearing to suppress a self-fulfilled smirk.

"And who are you?" You ask, being unnecessarily blunt simply out of impatience.

"Oh, I'm Airwoman Holly North, ma'am. Shit! I forgot to tell you, I've been assigned as your primary support staff, ma'am. I'm an engineer, so my job is generally to repair and maintain all your gear; guns, electronics, armor, all that. But I've also been assigned as your operator, so I'll be in charge of logistics and field support, ma'am. We'll be working together a lot." She says. It looks like she was going to salute again, but aborted halfway through, thinking better of it.


You mill this over for a minute, the implications are large. You aren't really sure how to respond to what she's just told you. Or what you should do after this, it's only 12:16 AM, you still have all of today free.
>>
No. 930295 ID: 8eaf98

finish reading this and uhhhh WHADA YOU MEEEEEAN! I am entirely failing to conceve of a situation where this makes sense. Are you dreaming or some shit?
>>
No. 930296 ID: 8eaf98

Now with initial shock out of the way, we have not exactly been 'tuned in' for the entirety of your stay on the Misery and so not sure what you can do or what you want to do. Might see about putting in a request on the status of Karma, but not attempt to go see her personally yet. The thought being to keep an outward tone of professional courtesy more than that you actually care about her.
>>
No. 930299 ID: 2202fb

>>930284
Oh there is most definitely some sort of plot going on here, that much is certain.

Really sucks that you couldn't get an FN 5.7. Those things are much more versatile in my opinion.
>>
No. 930661 ID: a2aa23

>I am entirely failing to conceve of a situation where this makes sense. Are you dreaming or some shit?
Doubt this is a dream, too lucid. There's obviously something I'm missing, or something being kept secret from me. Welcome to the military, where the mushroom treatment is your 24/7.


Hmm... New faculties, more freedom, a gun of my own- ...And an operator. Shit.

Operator's are assigned for field work only, if they've given me one then only a single conclusion can really be drawn; they're about to deploy me.


The new freedom, the gear, probably all the strange respect I've been getting, and shit, definitely that buddy-buddy SEAL; it all reeks of a hurried attempt to gain my loyalty, to get me to like higher command. Things they'd want before they deployed me.

Damn it! How did I miss it? It's too fucking obvious.


But why? Why deploy me specifically? The military isn't lacking for special operations forces. Why send me, a veritable loose cannon?

Too many questions, and I'm not getting any answers like this. Shit. I'll need to ask around, interrogate someone.


You must have been making a face, because Airwoman North looks at you nervously. "Is- is something wrong, ma'am?"

You sigh. "No."

"Are... you alright, ma'am?" She asks, concern edging her features.

"No. No I'm not. Shit." You say, Leaning back on the table and running a hand down your arm; only to feel the hard plastic case of your SMI, weighing you down, binding you. The harsh fluorescent light above you claws at your eyes, and you feel a sudden fatigue. You're tired, too tired. And somehow, you feel that it's only going to get worse.

"I..." Begins North, before she trails off. It looks like she wants to help, but you don't know if you can trust her. You don't know if you can trust anyone anymore.

"I'm fine, just... Thinking. Now show me how to use this SMI." You say, ignoring your exhaustion through sheer willpower.

She appears grateful for the change of subject, and precedes to show you how to use the SMI's salient features.


It's fairly straightforward, and you quickly get the hang of it. It has all the abilities of a standard smartphone; web browsing, communication, navigation, basic organization tools, etcetera. Except it does it all about ten times more efficiently. And it has many abilities beyond any civilian device; it can spoof simple electronic security like keycard readers and magnetic locks if you get it close enough, it can wirelessly uplink with other computers, phones and so on, giving the SMI mainframe total access to the linked device. The SMI has data-mining routines which allow it to find solid, real time information on the fly, and then it's tactician AI can construct a plan based off that info. Pretty handy tool, all in all.


"Aaaand... You're all good to go, ma'am." Says North. She's a rather enthusiastic person; earnest, yet somewhat callow. At least as far as you can tell.

"Why do you call me ma'am? You outrank me." You ask.

She looks somewhat taken aback by this question. "Well, yes. I'm technically higher rank than you, ma'am. But you're... You're like the number-one badass on this ship, ma'am. Getting the best training from the best special forces in the world, breaking accuracy records with the rifle, and being the youngest SF recruit in the history of the world! Uh, ma'am." She remembers herself by the end, and quickly puts back up the serious facade. It's clear that she's something of an admirer.

A contemplative "Hmm." And a pensive, glazed stare is all you provide in response.

After a silence most would call painfully-awkward prevailed for around a half-minute. North clears her throat. "I, uh, I'll go clean up your link with the SMI, uh, ma'am."

She walks off with the halting gate of someone not entirely sure of wether or not the conversation has ended.

Good, you need some time to think.


The observation deck is peaceful. The sun is setting, casting long golden rays across the horizon. The staccato of waves against the hull of the ship punctuates the howl of the wind, this ocean soundscape a mere backdrop to the noise and confusion of your thoughts.

You sigh, long and deep. Like the last breath leaving a dying man's lungs. Only, you are not dying. You persist yet longer, and urge yourself foreword.

But to where?

The strength of flesh is great, it might fail, it might wane and collapse. Yet it will always rebound.

The mind is not so resilient.

It is a frail, fragile thing. Too much pressure, and it simply... breaks. And from this state, no repair nor respite is possible.

Under the strain of grief, the soul will be crushed.
In absence of the soul, the mind will stress until it shatters.
Without the mind, the flesh will waste away.

This is the destruction wrought by grief. The downfall precipitated by the failure of the psyche, and the weakness inherent of human emotion.

To put it succinctly: I need some fucking help here.


They're training me to be a weapon, a tool to combat Russian power.

Do I go along with the training? Do I resist?

Is my eventual goal escape? Or do I cast my lot in with the U.S, start fighting for it?

And what of Karma? She... I do not understand how or what I feel for her.

Nothing is clear, my heart, to use vernacular I despise, is troubled, my emotions are in chaos, and my will to live, to preserver, is fading.


The sun has all but disappeared over the horizon. Twilight descends, and the cold bite of the wind is all the harsher. Yet still you stand, silent in the dark. Asking for answers. Searching for direction.


Lost and alone.


>Please suggest an action.
>>
No. 930664 ID: 719d94

> Why deploy me specifically?
As an agent, you have a number of advantages. Your age, for example, can change how people look at you. They're more likely to let their guard down, and you can blend in with groups of other tweens, but you're not particularly lacking in effectiveness due to inexperience, as one would expect of a normal child. You're a loose cannon for sure, but you've killed before, know a variety of means for doing so, and aren't bothered by the idea of doing it again. And sure, the people you'd most like to kill right now are on "our side" but if they can just keep you pointed downrange they'll be fine.

That's probably the basic idea, anyway.

In terms of what to do about it, well... you knew all along that they wanted you in spec ops. Karma told you that when you first met her. So it's not like being moved quickly to active duty is a surprise, you have a lot of unique advantages right now. This is really going exactly as we've expected.

And accordingly, you basically have three options:
1) Just do what they expect you to do. You don't have much choice in the matter, but they've given you a job that you're good at, and one where you can be rewarded, rather than punished, for acting on your violent urges. Kind of a sweet gig aside from all the not-having-a-say-in-the-matter crap. And your dad was special forces, key word "was," so presumably they'll let you go eventually assuming you don't die.
2) Take advantage of the freedom of being "out on assignment" to run away as soon as possible. This one's gonna be real tough to make go well. It'll be hard to survive on the run, on your own, as a twelve-year-old. These people know you're competent and capable, but most people will think you're just some runaway kid. Other option is to make some media scandal regarding the military forcing an underage girl into spec ops, but what are the chances of that story getting published... How experienced are you with social media? And how would you feel about backlash against Karma, your family, etc.?
3) The goal remains the same as it ever was: kill General Wall. Keep "under their thumb," doing what they say, until they loosen up their control enough that you have a real opportunity to shoot the fucker in the face. This really plays out a lot like option 1, just with a more explosive conclusion. Though, if you have a real flair for the dramatic, you could actually wait until they let you go, live an "ordinary life" secretly planning an absolutely glorious assassination, and then put that plan in motion when you're ready.

Really though, all of these start the same way: swallow your emotions, keep training, wait for orders. Optional, go and see Karma when you have a good opportunity to do so, since it's hard to swallow emotions you don't understand.
>>
No. 930666 ID: 22acff

>>930664
I doubt the age thing is gonna work for long, especially if people realize you're a sociopath. when they realize what you are they're gonna take action both because you're a sociopath and because getting mowed down by a child of all things is quite embarrassing.
>>
No. 930667 ID: 22acff

>>930666
They won't send you to infiltrate bases filled with idiots, you're not that bad
>>
No. 930670 ID: 719d94

>>930666
I was thinking more like... if you're looking for a sniper after someone's been shot, would you even consider the schoolgirl with a backpack as a suspect?
>>
No. 930694 ID: 2202fb

>>930661
Russian? The Chinese are the ones with the giant military and the concentration camps.
>>
No. 930697 ID: 094652

Keep your options open as long as possible. Loyalty is measured by the approximate level of bull^&*( you're willing to put up with before you no longer feel obligated to obsess over obeying orders, and start decision-making in terms of personal benefits and values. And they've earned little of your loyalty.

The sky is still blue. The fight is still on. Your goal is to do something about this insanity. That does not mean allying with either side completely will solve everything.

Get information on your squad. Long term, program a few viruses of your own to play with. Tech like this might be capable of developing a rudimentary AI.
>>
No. 930699 ID: 8eaf98

>>930664
Ima second option 3, as while letting General Wall go is probably a better tactical choice, he really is kinda a dick. Probably could manage to help frame him as a spy or something with the fancy tech you got on your arm now. I assume that tech will survive much more beating then the arm it resides upon?
>>
No. 931276 ID: 3315d8

>The sky is still blue. The fight is still on. Your goal is to do something about this insanity. That does not mean allying with either side completely will solve everything.
Now, if I was an asshole that took great pleasure from picking apart other's sentences and mocking the slightest of inaccuracies, I'd probably point out that the sky is not blue. It is, in fact, almost entirely black, as it is night. However, as I am not such an asshole as to mock your supportive words, I won't.

Okay, I'll try to remain a neutral party. But something tells me this is not a fight I can fight alone.

>Russian? The Chinese are the ones with the giant military and the concentration camps.
Actually, 'Russian' is just a blanket term used for any member of the SDC: Strategic Defense Force. Which is basically the eastern counterpart to the UN. Under the flag of the SDC, are Russia, China, India, and a couple other small Asian countries that have names I can't pronounce. They're just called Russians because Russian government is leading them. Basically, they outnumber UN forces 10-to-1. If we didn't have so much damn money in our military infrastructure, we would have lost this fight before it began. As it stands, they won't attack the UN because all of their soldiers are starving, under-equipped, and under-trained. Sound familiar? That's because it's the same damn problem the USSR had.

>Swallow your emotions, keep training, wait for orders.
I can manage that.

>The goal remains the same as it ever was: kill General Wall. Keep "under their thumb," doing what they say, until they loosen up their control enough that you have a real opportunity to shoot the fucker in the face.
I'd rather kill him with my bare hands. Ha. It would be a particularly sweet brand of poetic justice if I killed him with a technique he forced me to learn. Though I'm not opposed to a firearm execution either. Point is, that fucker's gonna die.

>Probably could manage to help frame Wall as a spy or something with the fancy tech you got on your arm now.
Devious. I like the idea. Problem is the SMI is US-controlled tech. Now I'm just assuming this, but I'd bet they have enough fail-safes and hack-prevention software booted in the SMI to keep me, an amateur coder at best, from turning it on them.

>Long term, program a few viruses of your own to play with. Tech like this might be capable of developing a rudimentary AI.
Same problem; I'm not too good with computers... You know what though? I just might know a particularly skilled computer-wiz, who also happens to be confined to this very ship, who also happens to be the one and only person I trust in the entirety of the world, who also happens to have a vendetta against General Wall. ...I'm talking about Karma, if that wasn't blindingly obvious enough. She could probably whip up a program to usurp control of the SMI on the down low, assuming she had the equipment and opportunity. With total control of the SMI, and top brass still unawares, I would have a major playing card up my sleeve. The logistics of such an action, however, still need to be hashed out.


>Optional, go and see Karma when you have a good opportunity to do so, since it's hard to swallow emotions you don't understand.
I'll do that. And not just for the sake of my emotional well being. As far as a 'good opportunity' goes, that would be right now. Unless I want to wait until next week.

Which I don't.



The brig is the same as always; cold, dark, and grim. The smell a combination of rust, bilgewater, and human depravity. A tangle of pipes drip condensation from the ceiling, and several puddles collect at the low points of the plate-steel floor. This entire place exudes a sort of primordial despair that leaves only one fitting name: dungeon.

Karma's room is literally at the lowest point in the entire ship. A single guard is posted outside, his job to monitor karma through the multitude of cameras around her room, and ensure she doesn't make any escape attempts.

As you near the room, you see this very guard through an open doorway; he's sitting in a small security room adjacent to Karma's cell, staring blankly at a screen and sipping deeply at what smells like coffee; no doubt in an attempt to stay alert during the night shift.


You confidently step into his small room, a scowl on your face and your arms held rigidly behind your back.

He startles at your sudden appearance, and sits stunned for a moment.

"Hail, soldier. I need to speak to the prisoner." You say, letting annoyance and barely restrained rage edge into your voice.

He stands up abruptly and salutes. "Uh, Yes ma'am! Under, um, under who's orders ma'am?" He asks.

Your brows wrinkle and your scowl becomes one of absolute fury. "I'm sorry, O'Hara? Was I not clear? Did my words confuse you? I'm here, to interrogate the prisoner!" You hiss out. Calling him by the name on his uniform.

His courage visibly dissolves. "Uh, of course, ma'am! Sorry, ma'am!" He says, sitting back down and operating the controls to open the door.

"And turn off the camera feeds and audio. You don't have nearly enough clearance to hear any of this." You say. Starting for the door.

"Oh, um, uh, yes ma'am." He hesitates, but relents in the end.

Too easy.


The door is indeed open, and a quick glance at your SMI (which can detect electronic signatures) reveals that there are no bugs or cameras active in the room. You can speak freely.

The cell itself is a small steel box, illuminated by a single dim lightbulb behind ballistic glass in the center of the ceiling. To the left, a tiny cot and a rudimentary toilet sit against the wall. In the center of the room, a metal interrogation table with two chairs sits bolted to the floor.

Karma herself is sitting on the floor in one corner of the room partially obscured by shadow, humming something to herself and flexing her fingers in a sequence. She barely lifts her head at the sound of the door opening, yet sits straight up immediately upon seeing your face.

"Borya! What have you been up to? And who'd you kill to get that fancy uniform?" She sounds happy to see you, almost chipper, in fact.

"Oh you have it all wrong. No. You see, this was a gift from the president herself, some sort of peace offering or something like that. Oh, and this." You say, drawing your new pistol from it's holster at your hip and angling it in the light.

Karma sounds to be practically hysterical. "They let you walk around with a gun?! Ha haaa! That is the dumbest fucking thing! I mean, back when I was in Delta, we used to joke that they had the biggest idiots in charge, but I guess it's true now. So what, you come to put a bullet in my skull?" The way she said that, it sounds like she's not serious, yet wouldn't be surprised if you said yes.

"Yes. Make peace with your God." Your tone is openly sarcastic. For good measure you pose dramatically with your pistol.

She gives a short but genuine laugh. "Yeah yeah. You know, you're supposed to be this heartless killer or whatever, but really you're just the biggest damn nerd." You can hear the smile in her voice.

"You have no idea. I'm like the queen of Cyberpunk 2." You smile a little yourself.

"No shit? What class?" She asks.

"Solo mercenary with some Netrunner skills." You say.

"Netrunner purist. I have the most OP Nuke-software cybernetic." She sounds extremely self-satisfied.

"Yeah no shit that skill's OP. Fucking camper-ass build. I'm re-considering killing you where you stand." You say, holstering your pistol despite your words.

"Where I sit. Help me up." She says, extending a hand.

You grab it and lift her to her feet. In the light, you see that she has a new, long, stitched up cut down her left cheek.

"Where'd you get that?" You ask, pointing at the cut.

She absentmindedly touches it. "Oh this? Got in a knife fight with one of the guards, only he was the one with the knife."

"Where's he now?"

"Dead. Three broken neck vertebrae and a laceration to the right kidney. Not my finest work, but I still won." She says, shrugging.

"Three broken vertebrae? I'd've liked to be there for the open-casket, his head roiling around limply." You say, smiling at the humorous thought.

"I guess you could say I gave him a lesson in keeping his head on a swivel." Says Karma, smiling a sort of schadenfreude smile.

"Oof. You're burning in hell for that one." You say.

"I'm burning in hell period." She says, her smile widening.

"I'll see you there, we can compare sins." You say.

"Why wait? I assume you made sure the room is secure?" She asks.

"Naturally."

"Then what's the most fucked up thing you've ever done?" She asks.

"That's a hell of a can of worms you want to open. Let's sit." You say, taking a seat yourself at the interrogation table.

Karma follows suit, propping her feet on the table and getting comfortable.


You proceed to recount the tail of how you brutally murdered a young boy in a swimming pool. She listens with rapt interest, grimacing politely when you go into detail.


When you finish, she gives you an almost surprised look. "Yeah, okay. That's pretty fucked up. How did your parents feel? No wait, let me guess: Mark was proud of you for killing someone bigger and stronger bare-handed." She says.

"In the moment he was disappointed in my lack of self-control, but yes, later on he reflected on my innate martial prowess with reverence." You say.

"Where do you pull these fucking words from? You memorize the dictionary?" She asks sarcastically.

"No, just the first three books." You say, smiling complacently.

"Smart-ass." She says.

"Dumb-ass." You retort.

"Fair." She concedes.

"Accurate." You further.

"Now you. Most fucked up thing you've ever done." You say.

"Most fucked up. Hmm. That's difficult, too many contenders. Probably... Probably when I killed a big group of civilians by dropping a White phosphorus mortar shell on top of them. Didn't mean too. But hostile heat-signatures look the same as civilian heat-signatures." She says.

"That wasn't a story." You say, crossing your arms.

"What? You want details? Details like how their agonized screams still keep me up at night, like the image of a mother's corpse clutching the fried remains of her child, her face still contorted in horror, like the smell of burning flesh and hellfire, like how I will carry the weight of that mistake forever, like that?" She asks, her tone completely even and her face betraying no emotion.

"Yes, like that. Because that was a story." You say, nodding slowly in praise.

Karma shakes her head and smiles warmly. "You're pretty fucked up, you know that?"

"What happened to me being a nerd?" You ask.

"You're fucked up and nerd. Both at once." She says matter-of-factly.

"Cool. Like multi-classing." You say.

"Sure, just like that." She replies, smiling.

Seeing her here, so at ease with subjects that would make most sick, your thoughts turn to your previous turmoil and confusion, distress and despair. And you decide to voice your troubles to Karma.


"I'd like to speak seriously, for a moment." You say, your features gaining severity reflecting your words.

Karma's eyebrows raise, before she sits foreword in her chair, her expression softening into one of support. "Sure. Go ahead."

"Lately... I... It's..." You struggle to vocalize, and chastise yourself for the weakness.

You sigh deeply, and rally yourself to continue. "I care about you. I don't do that. I don't care, I don't... feel. It's... It's chaotic, confusing. I just... don't understand." You sag your head in defeat.

Karma closes her eyes, sighs, and starts drumming her fingers in a strange off-beat rhythm on the table. But does not speak. She seems... Sad. Melancholic. As if remembering something painful.

"I love you, Karma." You finally force the words out. They burn your tongue like a hot brand. Speaking them makes you sick.

Karma's eyes fly open and her fingers abruptly stop drumming. She looks... Taken aback. "...Uh, is this the part where we kiss?" Though she's joking, she looks genuinely unsure what to do.

You scowl and roll your eyes. "Platonically, you piece of shit. Jesus, I was-" You're abruptly cut off when Karma lunges forward and draws you into a hug over the steel table.

You go rigid in shock, your muscles tensing in anticipation of a blow that will never come. Slowly, you recover from shock and return the hug.


For minutes, you just sit there, locked in her embrace. Staring blankly at the wall behind her. It's cold and uncomfortable, the table cuts into your side. But you don't care. You feel... Certain. You've hugged her before, of course, but until now it's been so confusing, so chaotic and unknowable. But you finally feel... Certain. Certain of yourself, and certain of one simple fact: You've got someone watching your back. And that's all that really matters.


Eventually, reality comes seeping back into your mind, and you draw back from the hug. Much as you want to, you can't exactly stay here overnight.

"Love you too Borya." Says Karma. And though you know her words are genuine, there's still that subtle melancholy behind her voice, that spark of sadness in her eyes. You don't understand it.

"Thanks, Karma." You say. And you mean it.

"Don't mention it. No really, don't mention it. It's gonna wear real thin real fast if we gotta do this every time we see each other." She feigns a serious tone.

"Yeah sure. Oh yes, and I meant to ask you: how good are you at hacking?" You ask, abruptly changing the topic to business.

"Best in the Army, and I guaranty I could trump any Chair-Force techie. Why?" She asks.

"Cause I got this fancy piece of tech on my arm, an SMI, that has a couple too many firewalls and failsafes for my taste." You say, showing Karma the SMI uplink on your forearm.

She inspects the gadget. "Shit, I stand corrected. This is North's work." Says Karma, releasing her hold on the gadget and sinking back into her chair.

"I know, I met her." You say.

Karma's face lights up. "You met Holly North? The foremost Engineer in the U.S. Military? How?"

"She's my operator. Hooked this thing up for me." You say.

Karma's eyes goggle. "She's your operator. As in, she, Holly North, is your field operator. One: this means you're getting deployed soon, two: holy shit. She's like the only person in the whole fucking Military that can top my computer skills, you know that, right? Not only that, but she's an expert weapons engineer, a ballistic materials specialist, and a master tactician. If you've got her, you must be pretty fucking important. What's your rank?"

"Private First Class." You reply.

Karma gives a loud laugh. "Seriously? I guess command wanted to keep you powerless. Ha, likely. You got any friends among the crew?" Asks Karma, making a sudden and unexpected change of subject.

"Yeahhhh, that would be me myself and you." You say.

"Well than you got to make some friends. A friend is worth ten times a teammate on the battlefield." She says, dead serious.

"Oh of course, I'll just turn on my irreproachable charm and I'm sure I'll have people lining up to make friendship bracelets with me." You say, adopting a cynical frown.

"Have you ever even made a friendship bracelet?" Asks Karma.

"Nope. Guess that one weird girl sitting in the corner shooting death glares at everyone just didn't seem like great friendship-bracelet material." You say sardonically.

"Well that's just fucked up. That's like, a critical childhood experience." She says in an obviously hyperbolic tone of outrage.

"Instead I had the childhood experience of breaking other kid's bones; Did you know that it takes only fifteen pounds of force to hyperextend a ten year old's knee?" You say with a wicked smirk.

"No, no I didn't know that. When the hell did you go around breaking ten year old's knees? And how the fuck did you get away with it?" She asks, sounding genuinely surprised.

"When I was ten. Annnd because I was ten." You say.

She nods. "Fair. Question: what time is it?"

You take a look at the SMI. "11:21."

"Damn. You should go get some sleep." She says.

"Yeah, probably. See ya later, Karma. And thanks." You say, standing to leave.

"Yeah don't mention it. Now get out of here, before you contaminate my whole cell with the smell of blood and tears." She says, propping her feet on the table once again and relaxing into a slouch.

"That really what I smell like?" You ask, raising am eyebrow.

"It's what you feel like. You exude pain. Other people's pain. It's a homey feeling to me, probably why I like you. God knows it's not your personality." She says, closing her eyes and seeming to prepare for sleep.

"Fuck you too." You say, as you head for the door.


Karma's guard asks no questions as you leave, and no one stops you on your way back to your room.


And as you lay in bed, regarding the steel ceiling above you, you ponder Karma's words: "A friend is worth ten times a teammate on the battlefield."

Perhaps it's time to consider forging some alliances.

...Maybe.
>>
No. 931286 ID: 094652

>But hostile heat-signatures look the same as civilian heat-signatures
Wait, the heatsig-phosphorous mortar's been around for a while. And it's still just white rectangles on a detailed black background? I think they mean for operators to occasionally @#$% up when shooting hellfire, same way microwave oven technology has stayed one vacuum tube because microwave guns are OP.

>Love you too Borya
>I don't understand sad undertone
You are either going into a warzone or you are going to make one. In short, there is a very real chance you are going to die like all the other people in Karma's life.

>Friends
Holly. You need to get an R&D team if you want to stay alive, and Holly can fill most of the roles until you get started, then synergize with most of your team.

Plan: Fight the SDC (did you mean Strategic Defense Coalition or SDF), undermine the UN. Focus on disarming both groups until the economic and social sub-factions can overtake the militaries of both factions.
>>
No. 931389 ID: 2202fb

>>931276
Only make friends with people you think you could either outsmart or socially dominate. Anyone else is a liability.
>>
No. 931482 ID: 7ec9b0

>>931286
>did you mean Strategic Defense Coalition or SDF?
Sorry, error. I meant SDC; Strategy Defense Coalition.
>>
No. 931490 ID: 8eaf98

an alliance is just someone you managed to defeat in a way that makes them help you with a side effect of potential ongoing costs.
>>
No. 931515 ID: 2202fb

>>931482
Here, i thought you meant CSAT.
>>
No. 932345 ID: 8fc210

Clang! Clang! Clang!

Your eyes shoot open as you jar awake, and your features flash shock, before rage.

Someone is banging on your bulkhead.
It is 4:17AM.

Someone is about to die.


You sit up in bed and grab your pistol off the night stand, chambering a round. For a moment, you are entirely convicted to open that door and paint the walls red with the brains of whoever dared rouse you, but you think better of it and get your anger under control. You remain seated, and let the pistol languidly rest against your thigh as you fume silently.

"Come in." You enunciate furiously.

There's a pause, before the door opens and a very nervous looking Airwoman North steps in. "Sorry for bothering you ma'am, but-" she cuts off when she sees that you're dressed in nothing but underwear and a tank top, and holding a pistol. "Oh. I- I'm- I didn't mean to disturb you, ma'am! I'll leave." She says, turning around.

You sigh. "Wait. It's fine, North. Not like I need sleep or anything. Just, go ahead with whatever you were saying." You drag a hand down your face in a futile attempt to wipe away the exhaustion, and set the pistol back down on the night stand.

North stops mid-stride, and after hearing you out, slowly steps back into the room, closing the door behind her. "Okay, uh, first; here's some coffee, for you, uh, to help wake up, Ma'am." Her sentence is halting and uncertain, awkwardness radiates off of her, and she is making a concerted effort to avoid eye contact. Still, she gets close enough to hand you a thermos.

You grab the large receptacle from her, and open it; the contents indeed smell and look like coffee. You're way to fucking tired for the paranoia act, so you decide to trust her, and take a sip. It's hot, the brew isn't bad, but she added way too much damn sugar. It's still caffeine, though, and you're somewhat grateful for the drink. This gratitude, however, is tiny in the face of your annoyance at her unwelcome appearance.

You speak as you drink, peering at her over the lip of the thermos. "So, why are you here? It's a little early for visiting hours."

She looks around warily, and speaks in a surreptitious tone. "Ma'am, is, uh, is this room secure?"

Well. Remember how I said I was too tired for the paranoid act? I was wrong.

You know for a fact the room is entirely private, having thoroughly, painstakingly hunted and disabled every listening device and camera in the room. "Yeah, it's secure."

North speaks softly and carefully, as if constantly fearing her words will anger you. "Well, ma'am... It's... I forgot to tell you about about a feature of the SMI; Passive audio and video recording." She winces as she finishes that sentence.

Well shit. That's just really not what I wanted to wake up to today.

After staring at her silently for around a half minute, she takes a long enough brake from cringing like an abused dog like to continue speaking. "I heard your, uh, your talk with Karma, ma'am. I mean I didn't actually hear it at the time, but it's in the SMI's storage."

You stare coldly at her for a good thirty seconds, not a single emotion betrayed by your features save a slight twitch of the corner of your lips. In reality, wrath to make the Gods tremble boils just under the surface, barely restrained. You close your eyes and release a great exhalation of air that causes North to startle. You throw up your hands and let a resigned scowl play across your face. "Fine, you've got me. I'm not gonna put up a fight, I'm too tired." You cover your face with a hand, trying and failing to think of a way to get out of this predicament.

North heaves a shuddering sigh before speaking in an uneven tone. "I deleted the recording, ma'am. There is no evidence that your conversation ever took place."

Your breathing stops and your mind skips a beat. "What."

She takes another shuddering breath, and says in a slightly louder, though no more certain tone. "I deleted the file, ma'am. No one else saw it. There is no longer any physical evidence of your conversation with Karma."

You stare at her blankly, your mind failing completely to understand. "Why would you do that?"

She looks at you with eyes full of sympathy, and fear. "You don't deserve this, Borya, any of this. I just... I just learned today how they captured you, took you against your will. And I didn't... I didn't know." She looks away from you, gazing off into nothingness.

You cock your head, surprised. "You care?"

When she looks back at you, her eyes are slightly moist with tears, her voice is calm and even, unmistakably melancholic. "Of course I care! I joined the military to help people, Borya. And what it's come to now; taking children against their will and weaponizing them against the SDC: it's disgusting. I met your father, you know; two weeks ago, right before he was deployed. They threatened to beat you if he didn't comply with orders."

Your interest is peaked when she mentions your father. "How is Mark?"

She winces at your question. "Borya he's... He didn't..." She seems to steel herself against sadness enough to regain some composure. "Didn't come back from his deployment, ma'am."


So the old bastard is finally dead. Can't say I'm surprised; it's really more surprising it took them this long to kill him off. I feel nothing for him, a cold hollowness. It's not that I disliked him, but rather I never really grew very attached to him. Well all the best to him anyways, fair well you inglorious bastard. Hmm, I'll have to pour a shot or two with Karma; in memoriam and all that.


You sense however that North cares a bit more than you do, so you attempt to respect her sadness. "Ah. Um, sorry to hear that, North. I hope you're not too, ah, too upset about it?" You clear your throat quietly.

You're not very good at this.

She looks stares at you, bemused, perhaps owing to your underwhelming reaction. "It's, uh, I'm alright ma'am. I... Thanks for the concern."

Oh Gods above this is painful.

You try to fake a sympathetic smile. "Think nothing of it. I, uh... Thanks for not selling me out to General Wall." You attempt to reciprocate.

She latches onto the change of subject like a castaway a lifeboat. "About that, ma'am... Are you still interested in gaining complete control over the SMI?" Her tone is wary, but she sounds almost hopeful. For what, you don't know.

You adopt a wary look in kind. "Yes? But I suppose that is pendent upon what you had in mind."

She takes a deep breath and leans in close, speaking in a conspiratorial whisper. "Well, ma'am, I don't know if you're aware, but I'm something of a programmer. Having built it myself, I know the SMI pretty well. And I think, I may be able to score you complete, unrestricted, unmonitored access to the SMI without anyone noticing."

A wicked grin curls your lips, evocative of cruel, primordial pleasure. "Well, North; you've intrigued me. And I congratulate you on that. But this is the part where you tell me who dies to make this happen." You tent your fingers as that cruel smile widens.

North goes pale. "Wha- No. No! No no. No one has to die. Would you really have?- No, never mind. I don't want to know. Jesus." She shakes her head and regains composure. "All I need you to do is sneak into the room where the SMI is held, and plug in a USB thumb-drive that will give me backdoor access. That way I can grant you total access, disable the failsafes, and disable all monitoring subroutines. You'll be in complete control."

You arch a single brow and give North a concerned look. "Holly, you're making this sound really easy. Why do I feel like it's going to be anything but?"

North closes her eyes and sucks her teeth. "Well you're not wrong about that, ma'am. They have tight security; guards outside the room, only a single door in or out, and a number of cameras covering the whole area. The cameras are an easy one: I'll give you a program for your SMI uplink that will redact you completely from the camera feed, making you effectively invisible to the cameras. As for the guards, I've got an idea." She begins to make hand gestures illustrating upon her plan. "The SMI is basically a supercomputer, albeit a sleek, very efficient one, but fundamentally it shares traits. One of these traits being its obscene heat off-put; I designed a unique system of heat-sinks to combat this, but even still it's too hot. So, all of this excess heat is drawn away by a large cooling vent which ejects it from the ship. You should be able to gain access to the SMI by entering the cooling vent through one of its maintenance hatches." She suddenly grows grimly solemn. "There's a catch: the vent has and average internal temperature of 120 to 140 degrees, but can get as hot as 200. At best, it will be miserable, at worst; unsurvivable."

You pinch the bridge of your nose, thinking. "Great, I was hoping for a vacation to somewhere warm."

North closes her eyes and nods. "I know it's not ideal, ma'am. But please consider it. I... really do want to help."

You give a dismissive wave of the hand without looking at North. "Yes, yes. Just give me a moment to think."

North steps back a few feet and settles into a straight-backed stance, waiting for your answer. All the while averting her eyes and coughing uncomfortably.

It is at this precise moment in time that you remember you're still sitting on your bed in your underthings.


You'll have to contemplate her plan. The payout is huge, invaluable if you plan on any real form of organized resistance against the authorities. But the consequences should you be found out are enormous. And when it comes down to it, can you even actually trust North?

Also, you don't think she would be very comfortable if you just went about your morning shower while she stands there. You yourself couldn't give a shit if she was staring the whole time, but you're trying to be sensitive to her discomfort.

...You're kinda tempted to take a shower right now, just to see the look on her face.
>>
No. 932354 ID: 2202fb

>>932345
Strip down, get shower. See how she reacts.

--

Make sure she realizes that quite a few people may wind up dead just to get access for a thing. Additionally, her involvement already could get her booted out at best. Ask her what she envisions happening. After all, you are still trapped on a boat while WW3 wages elsewhere and everyone's morals fall to shit and society breaks down. Also good to note is the fact that if you make one wrong move, the entire ship is going to try and come down upon you like the wrath of god. Since this is a carrier, it is also a pretty important ship. If it suddenly stops responding, or responding incorrectly, best case, they send in a platoon to "retake it from the enemy," worst case, they nuke it from halfway across the planet.

Long term plans are kind of non-existent right now.
>>
No. 932359 ID: 094652

>I deleted the file, ma'am
Sure, you did. After copying it to your own personal USB stored in your hidey hole.

You know how you delete military secrets in a world of surveillance? By lying so diffusely that even discussing the truth becomes a vibrating poison. If nobody has any inkling of how to even inch towards a garbled version of the truth then it's perfectly secure by definition. If she really wanted to delete the files she could doctor her own that say something extremely different and encrypt-store them at various levels.

Whatever, these things happen, blackmail is cat scratches compared to a warzone. Let her think you trust her, you'll need her support or you're dead.

>Mark is dead
I doubt it. I also doubt he'll help you very much either way, so meh.

>Sidequest: Sneak into the central computer and obtain Watch Dogs level access to your SMI
This stinks of a simulation; they're probably expecting you to take the offer only to reveal that it's a test of your actual skill in stealth. But if it's real, it's your main opportunity to go rogue without breaking your brand new enemy-screwer.

Take it, you need the exercise.
>>
No. 932407 ID: 8eaf98

Alright I'm thinking North is not composed enough to be a effective lier at this point. Do you have the SMI on right now. If so, probably get it out of earshot. Additionally let's make sure North has no bugs on her, like we accidently brought in to our conversation with Karma.
To clarify the wrist part is just like a relay for the main computer? Why not heatsink into the water under the ship?
Who all had access to the recordings.
If we are going to work together you are going to need to be able to relax a little around me, to this end I am going to take a shower while we talk.
Possible flaw in the plan, live person redaction from multiple cameras sounds rather resource intensive and thus hot, possibly sending the vent from unreasonably hot to deadly.
Also of note if it is noticed that their big bro systems are suddenly not working it will be mighty suspicious right quick.
Until we verify North has no bugs on her let's keep to pointing out flaws in the plan and not commit to doing it or voicing any workarounds
>>
No. 932809 ID: b8a0ce

>To clarify the wrist part is just like a relay for the main computer?
Precisely, thus it's name: the Uplink. Without that link, it's basically a glorified smart-phone. Albeit a powerful one.


You grab the Uplink from your bedside table, and scan North for bugs or electronics of any sort, finding nothing. "So North, can I assume that you've done something to prevent the Uplink from listening in on that conversation we just had?"

She nods, "Of course, ma'am. I severed the Uplink's connection with the SMI, meaning that the Uplink is currently not recording anything. When not directly connected to the SMI, the Uplink stops passive recording entirely; problems with storage, you know? I don't know how long until some technician notices that you're not connected, but when you are reconnected you'll know. I gave you a small indicator on the Uplink, right next to the Wi-Fi bar, that will tell you wether you're connected or not."

Connected has stopped sounding like a real word.

You take a moment to parse her words. "Okay, then."

You take a look at the Uplink's display: indeed, a new icon has appeared in the top right corner signifying that you are not connected to the SMI.

You give North a bemused expression upon turning away from the Uplink, "So, I take this to mean that whatever camera spoofing tech you want to boot up on my Uplink works without connection to the SMI?"

She gives a contemplative look as if trying to find the right words, "Well no, not exactly. It's your uniform that will actually be obscuring you to the cameras. Your fatigues are equipped with prototype digital camouflage. I wasn't supposed to tell you. This camouflage will render you totally invisible to any conventional electronic imaging, though you'll still appear to IR and the naked eye."

You give her an irritated look, "So basically, I'm screwed as far as sneaking past actual humans and any device with IR, but I'll be totally invisible if someone tries to post a picture of me on social media. Great." You pinch the bridge of your nose and sigh deeply.

North speaks in a matter-of-fact tone, "Actually, ma'am, social media poses a greater threat to urban spec-ops than detection by other combatants. If a civilian spots you and posts pictures of you all over Twitter saying 'there's an armed girl running around the neighborhood!', the op could be compromised. And even more so nowadays, the threat of drone surveillance is very prominent on the battlefield. That tech is more useful than you think."

You give a resigned nod, "Sure, you have a point of course. It's just that I'm kinda sore you had the chance to give me an invisibility suite and instead I got the cloak of instant Photoshop."

North looks at you askance, "True invisibility? Do you have any idea how obscene the logistics of something like that are? I'm sorry ma'am, but it's going to be a long time before we're anywhere near that kinda tech."

You give a dismissive wave of the hand, "Yeah yeah, I was only joking. I know I'm never going to see invisibility in my life."

The words have already left your mouth when you realize the oxymoron.

"Well not see, but-" you abandon your foolish quest to salvage dignity, "fuck it, you know what I mean."

North smiles a good-humored smile, "Yeah I get it, don't worry ma'am."

You frown and change the subject, "So about the SMI: why build a ventilation shaft? Why not just syphon excess heat into the ocean? And I will call bullshit so fucking fast if you say 'for the good of the environment'." You punctuate your sentence with a jab of the finger.

She sighs in exasperation, though by the sound of it it's more a general exasperation, and less directed at you, "Tell you the truth? Money. The SMI was installed long after this ship was built, and let's just say it was much cheaper to build a vent, instead of converting the hull to be conducive to heat transference. Just something to keep in mind, the U.S. Military doesn't go with whatever's best, the U.S. Military goes with whatever's good-enough and cheapest. Your rifle, your gear, they weren't built by the best manufacturers, they were built by the lowest bidder." She frowns resignedly.

You give her a somewhat sympathetic, if unenthusiastic, look, "You don't have to lecture me about it."

She give an apologetic look, "Sorry. Didn't mean to wax on."

You shrug. "Don't worry about it." A concern crosses your mind and your expression is clouded by it, "North, you said you 'deleted' the recording of me and Karma. Are you entirely certain nobody else heard it? And are you sure nobody can retrieve it? I know how-" She cuts you off with a gesture of the hand.

"Ma'am, I don't mean to brag, but I'm the best computer technician in the entirety of the U.S. Military. If I say something is 'deleted', that means that there is nothing on this earth short of time travel that will bring it back. And as for someone else seeing the video? I'm the only one on this ship aside from General Wall that has the authority to view the Uplink's recordings. So unless Wall was up earlier than 01:57 just casually listening to the Uplink's data, which he wasn't, no one else heard the recording." Her tone is of absolute confidence.

You throw up your hands defensively. "Alright, I'll trust you. I just wanted to be sure."

She sighs and her look of severity melts away. "I know. And I don't blame you. Hell, you've got more than a right to be paranoid at this point."

You both fall into pensive silence for a moment, and you realize that the conversation has become somewhat derailed and depressed.


Quit spontaneously. You stand up from from where you sat on your bed, and pull off your nightshirt before north can react, leaving you entirely bare-chested. You've decided to proceed with your morning ablutions immediately.

Her expression of shock, then mortification, is perhaps one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen. It's quickly obscured however when North shuts her eyes tight and covers her face with a hand. Then, as if even glancing at you could kill her, she spins on a heel to face away. "What are you doing?" She hisses in a half whisper.

You reply in an obscenely innocent tone, "Taking a shower." As you remove your underwear. It takes all the willpower you possess to keep the smile out of your voice.

Her tone rises to a half-shout, thick with indignation and irritation, though still restrained to a semi-whisper, "You could have warned me!"

You can't help but smile at that, "Could, is operative."


The shower you were provided is, well, basically a rudimentary shower-head walled in by a stall with curtains to prevent the water from spraying the the room. And though possessed of curtains, the shower is basically open to the rest of the room.

So when you climb into the small stall, close the curtains, and turn on the (frigid) water, it hardly provides you privacy from North. Or vice versa. You could care less, but even without looking you can tell that she is extremely disturbed by the all-too-thin curtain separating you.

So of course, you're going to milk this discomfort for all it's worth, "North, could you get me a towel, change of clothes, and my uniform? Please."

She grunts something that vaguely resembles "Yes, ma'am."


And sure enough, around a half-minute later when you exit the shower, there stands North, holding out a towel and stoically looking at anything but you.

You grab the towel and give a sing-song "thanks", before rubbing yourself dry.

You then discover that North has laid out an entire outfit -from underwear and socks to your uniform and beret- on your bed, all organized in order of bottom layer to top.

If it was up to you, you'd give North a raise.


After donning your complete ensemble, from headwear to boots to Uplink (North adamantly staring at a wall, faced away from you the whole time), you address North, "You can turn around now."

She hesitantly glances over her shoulder, and upon seeing you fully dressed faces you directly, "I've got to head off now, so I need your answer. Do you want to take the SMI?"

You give her a resolute stare and a firm nod, "I'm in."

She nods back, "I'm glad. Meet me at 22:30 tonight in maintenance room F-9, wear your uniform, bring the Uplink. See you then." She gives you a formal salute.

You return the salute with a serious, stone-hard expression, "Stay alive out there."

North nods, and leaves.


Good, if this pans out it will be a major step towards gaining an upper hand over..... Everyone.

At some point, it might be beneficial to actually figure out what side you're on. But that's long term.

In the short term, it's 05:27 and your first training session doesn't start until 08:00, breakfast is at 07:30. Until then, you're free to do as you see fit, within reason.

Personally, you're partial to heading to the cafeteria and grabbing a cup of coffee, as North has absconded with the thermos-full. It also sounds nice to head up to the observation deck, watch the sun rise.

Or even better, watch the sun rise with hot coffee in hand.

Of course, you're not exactly on vacation either, so as nice as relaxing sounds you realize that you could do something a bit more productive with your time, much as you'd love to just decompress. Though you're not entirely sure what you'd do that qualifies as productive.


So, what's on the agenda?
>>
No. 933131 ID: 8eaf98

>>932809
I mean you have been through a extra rigorous training regime, so I'm thinking decompressing is probably one of the more productive things to be doing right now. No good going into a mission compressed, sanctioned or not.
>>
No. 933350 ID: 83ea0c

Hmm? It's so... Quiet.

It's almost as if I've suddenly recovered completely from psychosis/schizophrenia and no longer hear the demonic cacophony of voices that haunt my every waking moment and warp my dreams into horrific landscapes of pain and loss, torturing my mind and fragmenting my conscious.


>I mean you have been through a extra rigorous training regime, so I'm thinking decompressing is probably one of the more productive things to be doing right now. No good going into a mission compressed, sanctioned or not.
Oh there you are. Thanks for the concern, but I'm fine. Though, I think I'll take the advice anyway, it's a nice excuse for lazing around.

Well, the pre-daylight isn't just going to wait around for me to get my sanity in check. Time to move out (in the direction of coffee).


You slap yourself across the face, hard. Dismissing the haze of sleep-deprivation and getting a little blood pumping. As well as helping to organize your scattered thoughts. After that rousing bit of self-inflicted blunt trauma, you head off (in the direction of coffee).


Just as you might have suspected, when you heave open your bulkhead to greet the sad, cruel world beyond your walls, naught but a barren steel hallway greets you back. It's not exactly a surprise, but some paranoid part of your mind thought that perhaps there would be a group of guards ready to take you in for questioning after your talk with North. The very same part of your mind, it so happens, that suspects you can't trust at all North.

You're not so sure you can dismiss that part of your mind out of hand.


The rest of the walk to the cafeteria is similar; couple crew members up early, fixing this, guarding that. Aside from this occasional contact with other humans, the ship is as a huge hunk of floating metal will be; cold, damp, and possessed of a feeling of suffocating confinement that permeates the halls. All in all, a pleasant morning stroll.


And yet again similar, the cafeteria is as always; cold, with the peculiar scents of cleaning products and cooking chicken nuggets mingling in the stagnant air, yet two key details give the room an entirely different atmosphere: silence like the grave and a darkness that rivals the blackest midnight, only the light at the small service window and the eerie red glow of the exit signs illuminate the huge hall. At first it appears that, excepting the kitchen staff, the room is entirely empty. But squinting, you see a lone figure sitting in a far corner of the room, as deep in the prevalent darkness as one could get; it is perfectly, unnaturally still, and looking at it sends shivers up your spine; even though you can't discern any features, you just really don't like the feeling you get from that person, it's like a tangible, ancient fear; as if you were peering into the void itself.

Your attention is drawn away from the shadowy figure by a voice that echoes around the high ceiling, and upon turning, you find originates from the well-lit kitchen, "Can I get you something, ma'am?" Asks a young, clean cut kitchen staff through the service window, the very same that served you last time you ate. His warm, friendly voice is in stark contrast to the dour environment, though you admit it isn't a bad change.

You turn quickly back to look at the shadowy figure, only to see an empty seat where it sat a moment ago. Great, now you're gonna be jumping at fucking shadows for the rest of the day.

With a bemused frown you turn back to the kitchen staff, "Yeah, can I get a cup of coffee," You call out, as you start making your way to the service window, repeatedly looking behind you, thinking you hear footsteps.

The kitchen boy seems genuinely happy when you arrive at the window, smiling a smile that shows in his eyes, "Good morning, ma'am! It's good to see you again!" He's upbeat, chipper, even; despite the obscenely early hour and grim surroundings.

You smile mirthlessly, and speak in a sardonic tone, "Good to see me? Now now, let's be honest."

He gives a confused frown, and some small part of you is sad to see that genuine smile gone, "Why wouldn't it be good to see you, ma'am?"

You're about to laugh when you realize he's being serious. Oh.

You give a dismissive shrug, not really sure how to respond to such a sincere question, "Well, I'm not very nice, for one."

His frown becomes indignant, and he crosses his arms, "Now you're just being down on yourself."

You raise an eyebrow skeptically and cross your arms back, "Uh huh. I'm sure."

He mumbles something under his breath about "just being sour" before walking off deeper into the kitchen, to return holding a steaming-hot cup of coffee, "If you want to be bitter that's fine, but I'm still going to talk to you. Here, what do you like in your coffee?" He asks, holding up a small carton of half-and-half as well as several packets of sugar.

You grab you coffee off the counter before answering, "I take it black."

He shrugs,"Suit yourself. Have a good day now, ma'am." He sounds so sincere saying it, as if he truly wants nothing more than for you to have a good day.

You nod, and even return his overwhelming kindness with a small smile of your own, "Thanks, and good fortune to you." You say that, but as you turn away and began the walk to the Observation deck, your words ring hollow in the face of this strange man's kindness.


The Observation deck is quiet, peaceful. The the wind across the water a sounding-board to your thoughts. It is cold, the night air bites the skin of your face, the edges of your ears, but you don't mind. The moon is halfway below the horizon, the first light of dawn chasing it and the stars away before the radiance of Sol. Crimson, golden, and purple light streaks against the clouds and sky in an unearthly display of color, hailing the start of a new day, uncertain, quite frankly terrifying, but a chance. Then, after a moment that lasts forever yet fades like a dream, the sun finally crests the far horizon, the dawn arrived.

Hello tomorrow.


You hear a sharp intake of breath near to your left, and your attention is sharply pulled away from the scenery before you to this interloper.

Your breath catches in your throat.

It's him.

The figure from the cafeteria, the one that exuded an inner darkness, it's him. You were expecting him, you don't know why, but you know he was coming. He stands straight as a ramrod, gazing off into sunrise. His pale, grim, inhumanly symmetrical face deeply lined with creases is contorted into a slight smile, one that does not reach his eyes, dark eyes that look older than time itself, stare sadly off into the distance. He's unnaturally tall, wearing a black business suit so perfectly cut to fit his frame that it appears part of him. His hair is neatly cut and kept in a tight business style. Though his back remains perfectly straight, he leans forward against the railing in a pose that looks impossible; almost relaxed yet perfect, flawless. Unnatural.

He speaks without looking at you; a cold, measured voice that seems to reverberate within you, it's so melancholic, so tired, "It's beautiful, isn't it? Such short-lived beauty; a few fleeting moments at the beginning and the end. Which do you prefer, Borya, the beginning or the end?" He remains fixated upon the horizon the entire time he speaks, not moving, not blinking, you don't even see him breath.

You frown at the question, never taking your eyes off this thing, "The end."

He nods once, solemnly, considerately, "That's good. So very many things that could begin yet never do, but all things must end. Yes, better to find beauty in inevitability than to seek the beauty of improbability. And what are you, Borya, inevitable or merely probable?"

You frown even deeper, reminded of your goals, "I am inevitable. No one can stop me." You hiss, still refusing to take your eyes off it.

He nods again, "I believe you. Some forces are indeed unstoppable, unknowable." He turns his head to look at you, the rest of his body remaining remaining perfectly still as his neck pivots in a motion not quite right. His eyes meet yours and a type of fear you didn't know existed blooms in your stomach. His irises are a bright silver, like the filament of a light, his pupils like endless void, absorbing all light, staring right through you, unerring. "You fear me, Borya, I can smell it, palpable, almost. Do not fear me, I am not going to harm you."

You believe him. Against all common sense, against the instincts telling you to run, to gun this thing down, to cry for help and pray it arrives fast enough, you believe him. Something in his eyes, his horrible, terrifying eyes that are not of this world, something says that you have to trust him. Not because it's a good idea, not because he's telling the truth, but simply because you have to. Surely as you have to breath.

You take a deep, shuddering breath, close your eyes, and look away from his awful gaze towards the rising sun. Even as your instincts scream not to let him out of your sight.

There is a long silence, and for its entirety you dread this thing's next words. But when he finally speaks, his tone is almost reverent, "You are brave. A rare trait. Don't lose it. A battle is coming, you will think the fighting finished, you will think peace secured, but a catalyst of war will come, and with it: war. Stay ready." He takes a deep breath, and his tone grows mournful, "Goodbye, Borya, I hope your ending is beautiful."

You turn to ask it what the fuck any of that was supposed to mean, but it's disappeared into thin air.

A strange cold so intense it burns blooms on your left temple. You run a finger over the spot, but feel nothing out of the ordinary.


With a great, exhausted sigh you turn back to the sunrise. Taking a sip from your now-cold coffee.


What the actual fuck.
>>
No. 933363 ID: 094652

... Well, we're @#$%ed.

>Silence
We have short attention spans, so if you don't need us then focus on a boring routine. But routine is going to die during the war so don't shunt us out entirely.

>Brave
I think it's a matter of filtering contrasts. Most of us are cowards and you learned how to be brave by not being us.

>Was that d-
Check your SMI. NOW. It should have recorded that guy.
And if it didn't, that's one more 'conversation' for North to delete.
>>
No. 933413 ID: 8eaf98

Checking the recording to see if guy was recorded is a good idea.
I would also recommend not being upset when someone acts happy to see you. Better to have someone randomly irrationally happy with you than rationally upset with you, I think.
That coffee cooled fast it seems, possibly unnaturally fast, probably something else you can check with the SMI.
It seemed to suggest that the war will break out shortly after it looks like it was averted.
>>
No. 933901 ID: 5630f3

Well shit. This...

Fuck.

What the hell was that thing? I didn't imagine him, I think. I've never had hallucinations before, let alone a full-blown delusion of this caliber. But that would mean he was real, which... Well shit, which is crazy.

Can't think about this right now, I've got to much shit on my plate already, to much pressure. I'll figure it out later, but right now I'd like to focus on something I can at least fucking comprehend.


>That coffee cooled fast it seems, possibly unnaturally fast, probably something you can check with the SMI.
What? No it's... freezing cold. Shit, this barely even seems strange at this point. But no, that's not normal at all. That and the burning on my temple... But the SMI Uplink doesn't do forensic scanning all on its own, I'd need additional sensors to collect the data before the SMI could figure anything out from it.

>Check your SMI. NOW. It should have recorded that guy.
>Checking the recording to see if that guy was recorded is a good idea.
The Uplink is currently disconnected from the SMI, and as such is not currently recording things passively. Assuming you can trust North, who allegedly disconnected it. And if you can't, there's nothing you can do about it anyway.


>I would also recommend not being upset when someone acts happy to see you. Better to have someone randomly irrationally happy with you than rationally upset with you, I think.
Maybe you think right. But it's not exactly easy to accept this sort of thing. Imagine for a moment everyone who sees you either gives you the 'Oh god, it's her.' Or the 'What the fuck is wrong with you?' Look. Got that image in your head? Congratulations, you now have a tiny inkling of what my childhood was like, now multiply by several years, add a couple instances of being beaten to near death by bullies, and you're getting an idea for my experience with people. Eventually, I just stopped trying. Stopped trying to be civil, stopped trying to be polite, stopped pretending I was ever going to be normal. People were mean, rude, so I was meaner. I choose to become the monster they saw rather than let them break the child I was.

So forgive me if I don't jump for joy when some random fucking kitchen boy shows a fraction of the kindness that people were too oblivious and disdainful to show a scared, lonely little girl! YOU HAVE NO IDEA! NONE! Don't fucking preach to me about being happy, or making friends. I tried, I fucking tried. And all it got me was being beaten with fucking bricks in an alley! So you take your goddamn moral advice and you SHOVE IT!



.......Sorry. I'm sorry. I know you were just trying to... I didn't mean it. I don't mean it. I just...


You lean backwards against the Deck's railing, closing your eyes and releasing a long sigh.


Listen to me fucking whine.

Yeah, I'm tired of this shit. I'm tired of War, and the threat of War, and the fear of War. I'm tired of being scared every moment of every day because at any second they can take everything away from me. I'm tired of emotions and feelings and all this bullshit fucking with my judgment.

And most of all I'm tired of cheap God-Damn coffee.


So boo fucking hoo. Poor me. I'm still alive, and I've still got a reason to be alive, and that's all that matters.

I've learned that from you guys.


This road may be long, and paved with corpses and pain, but I'll survive. I'll always survive.

You can't kill me.

The U.S. Hates me, wants me dead. But they think they can control me.
Fools.

The SDC won't know what hit them, but sooner or later they'll want me dead.
Idiots.

Two superpowers, two armies of immeasurable strength. Both of them pitted against me.

Yeah, they're all gonna die. Because they forgot one thing.


You can't kill me.
>>
No. 933952 ID: 8eaf98

>So forgive me if I don't jump for joy [...] So you take your goddamn moral advice and you SHOVE IT!
Whoa. I would like to clarify I'm not asking you to believe he actually thinks nicely of you, that it is all a act to cover how he actually feels. I'm just asking that you don't respond to a 'nice to see you' with 'Fuck You, you're wrong.' rather something more neutral, just a 'ok' kind of thing. Also, as the kitchen boy, part of his JOB may be to be to act nice. So being mean to some guy just trying to do what his job tells him to do is extra uncalled for.

>You can't kill me.
Thoughts of invincibility are dangerous, but let's assume this is true. In the case of us voices it is literally true. First and foremost 'fates worse than death' exist.
Just looking at things that have already happened: The USA caged you on a ship. You don't need to be killed to be taken out of the equation. Not to mention that should you be the threat you are currently making yourself out to be and you oppose both superpowers, as the war has not actually started yet I would expect they, atleast, would be willing to go non-aggression while they both independently attempt to neutralize you (again this needn't be death)
You are but one mortal woman, you may be strong but not that strong.

Also check if there are any matches to this figure in history, see if we can't get more info on him.
>>
No. 933997 ID: 094652

That's the spirit! You don't have to play by their rules or live in their world if they refuse to accept you!

Just remember that you can try. And then go back to ruining their lives.
>>
No. 934419 ID: 4ae3a9

>Whoa. I would like to clarify I'm not asking you to believe he actually thinks nicely of you, that it is all a act to cover how he actually feels. I'm just asking that you don't respond to a 'nice to see you' with 'Fuck You, you're wrong.' rather something more neutral, just a 'ok' kind of thing.
>Just remember that you can try.
I didn't mean all that, like I said. Sorry, I'm just... I'm a little stressed out right now. I'll try though, I'll try to be better.

I'll try.

>Also check if there are any matches to this figure in history, see if we can't get more info on him.
That, I can do. Later though. Not enough time right now to be doing research.

>Thoughts of invincibility are dangerous. You are but one mortal woman, you may be strong but not that strong.
Oh come on, give me some credit. I was being grandiose. Like, it was a metaphor for how my Will shall preserver in the face of overwhelming odds. I don't actually believe I'm bulletproof. Don't worry, I only have a small God-complex, and it only acts up on good days. Which today is not.

>That's the spirit! You don't have to play by their rules or live in their world if they refuse to accept you!
They will kneel before me, or they will fall!

...That was sarcastic.

Mostly.



The day goes by in a blur; training, learning, practicing. Being bruised, beaten, shouted at, pushed to the human limit and beyond. Shaped into a weapon, a machine that kills and manipulates, survives and preservers. Taught that the mission comes first, that your life is inconsequential, an expendable asset. Taught order, discipline, loyalty.

They think you believe, they think you are a patriot. You let them believe that, you let them believe they are safe.

They teach you to kill, you listen.
They think you are a weapon, you are.
They believe you are loyal, you will show them their mistake.

You have a good memory for faces, and names.
You put it to good use.

You memorize every detail of every face of every leader who looks away as you are held against your will, every officer who pushes you too far to please the brass, every soldier who takes pleasure in your suffering.

You will remember them no matter how long it takes, you will find them no matter how far they run, and you will kill them without exception.

But for now, you wait, and let them believe they are safe.



A day of blood, sweat, and tears behind you, you sit on your bed, in your room; searching the web for any mention of the thing that visited you.

What you find is... Interesting.

The year 1917, World War One; there is mention of a figure that walked across the no-man's land between the Allied and German lines and straight through a cloud of mustard gas, there are accounts of this sighting from both Allied and German troops. He is seen again in the thirties, during the Great Depression, then again in World War Two. There is a Soviet photograph of him standing behind Stalin during a speech, dismissed as fake out of hand, but you can tell it's real; the eyes. There are accounts of a figure matching his description being seen in the crowd at the time of Kennedy's assassination, though they were dismissed as he was supposedly sighted in two places at once.

Again and again and again, every important event since the turn of the twentieth century. Always he's there, always in the epicenter of chaos. Always watching, always observing.

That's what he is, an Observer.

You really don't know what the hell to make of any of it. It's impossible, it should be impossible. God your head hurts.


Feeling that you've had enough internet for one day, you allow your arm, burdened by the Uplink, to drop slack at your side. You throw your head back and take a deep breath, organizing your thoughts and reviewing your immediate objective.

It is 22:05, twenty-five minutes before your scheduled meet up with North. You need to get a move on if you want to make it in time.


You don and straighten your beret, ensure your boots are tightly laced, and take one, long look at your pistol, resting on the nightstand.

North said there could be absolutely no harm inflicted on the guards, but caution wins out and you grab the gun, just in case.

Then you're out the door and on the move, ascending floors and headed towards maintenance room F-9.


Encountering no delays, you arrive at the door to the maintenance room three minutes before the scheduled meet.

Heaving open the bulkhead; you find North crouched and grunting over a large square opening in the far wall.

She looks over her shoulder to see who opened the door for only a moment before returning to her work, but it is enough to see the large beads of sweat that cover her face, "Hello, Borya. Close the door," her voice is raged with exertion.

You do so, and walk the length of the room to crouch next to North, "What are you so hard at work on?"

She lets herself fall backwards into an awkward sitting position, heaving a sigh of exhaustion, "Finished working on, actually, ma'am. And it's a silent winch. How much do you weigh?"

You peak into the square hole in the wall, finding it to be an opening to the ventilation shaft North spoke of. Immediately, an intense blast of heat traveling upward hits you in the face, making your eyes water. You also see the 'silent winch' she mentioned affixed to the edge of the vent opening. "About 115 pounds," you say, "Why?"

North wipes sweat from her eyes, and fishes for something in a duffle bag lying next to the open vent, "Because the winch has a maximum weight capacity of 200 pounds. Please put this on ma'am," she holds out what would look to the untrained eye a mass of nylon straps, but you recognize as a fast-rope harness.

As you fasten the harness, North pulls something small out a pocket on her uniform and extends it, held between index and finger and thumb, towards you. It appears a large USB flash-drive. You snatch the object from her grasp and inspect it; it seems a perfectly mundane 5 Terabyte flash-drive.

"So this is the nasty worm I'm to plug into the SMI?" You ask.

"No. That's a permanent fix for Uplink. It'll stop the whole eavesdropping problem, as well as containing a small tune-up for the Uplink's user interface." She replies.

You plug the Flash-drive into the Uplink and download the only file on it. It takes about a second and a half to transfer, and immediately upon finishing you notice a new icon on the home-screen simply labeled Turncoat. You ask North what it does.

"It's an extremely advanced tool for electronic warfare," she explains, "Simply choose any electronic device you have any sort of connection to, and activate the program. The SMI will invade and overtake the device, giving you and the SMI complete control over it. Hardwire into the SMI and activate the program, that should let you take control of the SMI without anyone noticing."

You nod in understanding, the think up another question, "How will I know where I'm going, or what exactly to look for?"

"The uplink has a map/GPS system, I've uploaded a floor plan of the SMI core room and set a waypoint on the port you need to access," she explains, "now if that's all of your questions, take this wire and hook-in to the winch," North hands you a communication wire and gets ready to operate the winch, "oh, and Borya? Please be careful."

You hook in and exchange thumbs up with North, before descending into the chasm of the vent shaft.

And towards the first step to freedom.


End of Part Two.
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