A Fuckup Of Unimaginable Proportions


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Scene Title A Fuckup Of Unimaginable Proportions
Synopsis InVerse leadership digs deep into their current predicament.
Date June 24, 2021

The London skyline spreads out from one end of the horizon to the other against a sky dappled in sunset shades of pink and orange.

The view out of the penthouse office of Morgan F. Atkins is a stunning one that is provided unobstructed and clear of division by way of a single, curving piece of glass that serves as 3/4ths of the office wall. In the middle of the office, Maxwell Huber sits in a chair opposite of the CEO's desk, head in his hands and elbows on his knees. Beside him, Gerrit Van Dalen pinches the bridge of his nose with forefinger and thumb. Both understand the weight of their being called here, to this office, in front of this man.

Atkins has chosen not to sit at his desk, instead lingering at the windows with his hands folded behind his back. The London skyline beyond draws his attention now, as does the diminishing light of the setting sun that makes the city's shadows reach long and deep.

"Either of you can feel free to go first," Atkins says in a breathy, conversational tone as he regards Huber and Gerrit's reflections in the glass. Neither are inspired to be the first to speak up. Atkins raises his brows, closes his eyes, and sighs hard enough that his breath fogs up a spot on the window for a moment. "Alright, then, maybe I can help us get to a point of mutual understanding."

Atkins turns from the window and walks back to his desk, choosing to sit on one corner and fold his hands in his lap. "Last year, we had a very specific list of clientele selected for the PHARO project. We had billions in donations from these clients who were very interested in prototyping our life-extension programs. Artificial organs, synthetic blood, replacement bodies for flesh-and-blood human brains." Atkins looks back and forth between Huber and Gerrit, neither of whom look him in the eye. "And we chose to spend these dividends on expanding the PHARO program with a select list of discreet candidates, yes?"

Atkins sits forward, brows rising higher, pointedly looking between Gerrit and Huber. "Yes?"

"Yes." The two say at once, nodding sheepishly with eyes averted.

"Wonderful, alright." Atkins says with a broad smile, gently clapping his hands together. "So, and I know this might be hard, can one of you tell me how we ended up with a list of the most indiscreet candidates on the face of the fucking Earth!" Atkins punctuates his sentence by slamming his hand down on his desk, going from soft-spoken to enraged in a single beat. Huber and Gerrit both jump and now they can do nothing but look at Atkins. They are, for a moment, frozen as they look into his eyes.

Atkins shifts his jaw from left to right. They can see the muscles in his neck tensing with every moment of silence that passes.

"We were hacked." Huber says in a shaky tone of voice, eliciting a sharp look from Gerrit. "Someone, either inside the company or outside managed to change the production roster when the procurement orders were sent out to the third party vendor." It's a clean, corporate-speak way of talking about hired mercenaries performing abductions. "Then they changed it internally, here, on site on systems that are air-gapped. All of the external test subjects were swapped with the current list. The—the project was so siloed nobody knew the list was wrong for—for like half a year I didn't think—"

"It's alright." Atkins says, shifting back to that feather-soft tone of voice. "I appreciate your honesty, Maxwell. So we have a security breach, but not one that went public. Because you'd think if you wanted to shut down our program, you'd take it to the press, yes? Maybe the Americans?" Atkins' brows rise. "Peculiar, that. Isn't it?" He looks over to Gerrit. "Thoughts, Mr. Van Dalen?"

Gerrit curls his hands into fists in his lap, works his jaw from side to side and focuses down on the floor. "None, sir."

"None." Atkins parrots back with a hint of incredulity. "Well, now we have a lab full of some of the most high-profile missing persons in the entire world, and billions of dollars worth of bleeding edge biotechnology running lose in the middle of fucking New York." He says that last bit through his teeth as a hiss.

"Our third-party sources aren't—" Huber starts to say, only to have Atkins speak over him.

"No longer under our employ." Atkins barks. "I sent a liquidation order in February. Why do we still have a laboratory full of milk carton portraits in our fucking lab?"

"R-Rami said there—uh—server issues." Huber stumbles over his words. "The email was lost. Might—maybe the hacker—"

"Ah yes, the hacker. Right. Well." Atkins says, turning around and pointing at an open point of space that then ripples with digital noise before forming into the silhouette of Colin Verse. "Mister Verse, perhaps you can shed some light on this situation."

Colin looks up as if surprised, then up and around at the room, and back to Atkins. "I'm right in the middle of—"

"I do not fucking care," Atkins says with a quaver in his voice, "if you are balls deep in the fucking Queen."

Colin steps away from something that isn't projected to the office, slides his tongue over his teeth and turns to Atkins. "I'll tell Her Majesty to hold on a minute then."

Atkins' right eye twitches.

"As our security specialist, have you seen any anomalous server activity at the PHARO Production Lab?" Atkins asks with a flash of a smile that seems more manic than genuine at this point. Colin exhales a deep, huff of a sigh and runs his hands through his hair.

"I mean, I only have so much access to our systems. You know, trust issues?" Colin says with a eat shit smile. "But uh, I mean it's possible. Interception between here and the ARM facility for the pickup, then maybe something viral that got brought in on a hard disk or—hell, maybe when we jacked in that technopath, Tetsuyama?"

Atkins' eyes slowly widen and he looks back to Huber and Gerrit. "I'm sorry Colin please hold," Atkins says as he rounds on Huber. "Did I hear Mr. Verse correctly that one of our test subjects is a fucking technopath!?" Atkins screams, inadvertently spitting on Huber's face. Huber, to his credit, only flinches a little.

"I—I'm—yes. Yes Tetsuyama. But she's—she's under the same negation protocols as the others." Huber says with a nervous look to Gerrit, then back to Atkins.

Atkins swallows tightly, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry Mr. Verse, where were we?"

"Virus." Colin says succinctly. "Possibly brought in directly from the technopath. We might've been made a long time before the hack happened, opportunity struck. You know, we send out that list, Tetsuyama intercepts it and puts herself and a, what, a fucking strike team on the docket and we bring them into our fucking lab like a… what's that… Trojan horse?"

Atkins slides his tongue over the back of his teeth, drawing in a deep breath.

"I mean, more than half of them took down the United States government because they felt like it." Colin notes with a tilt of his head to the side. "Like, that can't be a coincidence, right? Maybe the others were to blur the lines, make it not so obvious that we were opening the gates for this?"

"Then why are they still comatose?" Atkins asks with a frustrated flail of his hands. "If this was some sort of tactical strike why are they so fucking helpless that I could put a fucking bullet in each of their heads right now?" He asks Colin with a sputtering hiss.

Colin breathes in deeply and spreads his hands. "I dunno, boss. I don't have any access to them, I can't interview or interrogate their systems. If you could convince the tech team to let me have root access to OPTICA I could—"

"No." Atkins says in a hushed afterthought. "We need to move them. Disconnect them from the simulation and—"

"Well you might as well just shoot them all now." Colin says with a look to Huber at Gerrit, then back. "They're at maximum integration, you just unplug them and you're going to have a bunch of vegetables on your hands. And I'm sure when the trail runs back to you that'll be extra messy, you know, needing to explain why you executed all these people, right?"

"Then what the fuck do you suggest?" Atkins hollers, turning around to face Colin.

"If—I may?" Gerrit speaks up in a small, sheepish voice. Atkins slowly turns to look over his shoulder at him. "Ah, Sir. If this is an, ah, internal attack, perhaps it's best to interrogate the situation? If they were the ones who planned this they know. We could interrogate their cortex copies in our system and see what it is and how much they know? Without needing to touch the copies, or those in the simulation." He glances at Huber, then back to Atkins.

"How long would that take?" Atkins asks.

"A month? Maybe two?" Gerrit says with a quaver of uncertainty in his voice that he tries to desperately to hide.

"Do it." Atkins says with a wave of his hand in the air. "Do it and—" He breathes in sharply and looks to Huber. "Keep them connected to the simulation but get them into a secure location. I want an armed security team ready to neutralize them if they so much as try anything."

Colin tilts his head to the side, looking at something out of view of his projection, then back to Atkins. "What should I do?"

Atkins waves a hand dismissively at Colin. "Do your fucking job." And his projection vanishes. Atkins looks back to Huber and Gerrit. "I want status reports every night until this is resolved."

"Yes, Sir." Huber says while Gerrit hangs his head. Atkins makes a hand gesture toward his desk and soon he and the skyline of London vanish into digital noise. Huber and Gerrit are left sitting in chairs in a room lined with OLED displays mounted to the walls and ceiling that go dark one by one.

For a moment the two sit in silence, and then Gerrit breaks out into a fit of hyena-like hysterical laughter. Huber looks at him, brows twisted, and affords a nervous smile.

They'd bought some time.

But only some.

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