Sandman, Part IV


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Scene Title Sandman, Part IV
Synopsis SESA, Raytech, and Yamagato Industries join forces to investigate Iov Oblonsky and make a startling discovery.
Date March 21, 2021

Advanced Sciences is a relatively small wing in the new Raytech campus, a basement-level research and development department relegated to research into civilian-use augmentation and prosthesis, something that began as a passion project for Warren and largely remains as such. The handful of employees working in Advances Sciences were, for a time, moved on to a robotics project regarding some sort of idea Warren had about a robotic baby. But, when Maxwell Huber became unavailable to assist in the project, Advanced Sciences found its energy—and funding—redirected to other more active branches of Raytech.

Today, however, this department is abuzz with activity. Security at the campus is doubled, with armed and armored Redbird Security officers on-site when usually plainclothes security will suffice. In Lab #2, Diana Hahn paces in front of a surgical table where an enormous bald man is laid out under bright halogen lights.

Iov Oblonsky is still comatose following his attempted abduction of Jac Childs on the Raytech Campus. Nevertheless, Hahn views him as an active threat.

“He so much as coughs,” Hahn says to a security officer beside her, “you boys lay the wail of the banshee on him.” She looks back at Iov, then claps a hand on the security officer’s shoulder. “I’m not taking any chances.”

Advanced Sciences, Lab 2
Raytech Industries Campus
Jackson Heights

March 21st
9:18 am

Dana Carrington wheels a cart-mounted computer over to Oblonsky’s side, unspooling electrodes and attaching them to his head, neck, and chest. She clips a heart-rate monitor to his finger, then looks across the lab to the gray-haired man watching Iov.

“It’s an honor to make your acquaintance,” Dana says, circling around the table. “You’re Hachiro Otomo, right?”

Otomo smiles humbly, offering a hand out that Dana eagerly shakes. “Hachiro will suffice, and I’m nothing to be impressed by. Just an engineer.” Dana doesn’t buy into the humility, but she saves her star-struck commentary for a more appropriate time.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Hachiro says, turning to Richard, “I brought Marlowe Terrell along to observe. While cybernetics isn’t her specialty, I have no doubt you’ll agree that her insights can at times be invaluable.”

Yamagato Industries has brought along their own specialists. A team of three cybernetics surgeons, dressed in cardinal red medical scrubs with augmented reality goggles hanging around their necks. There’s equipment set up all across the lab, tables arrayed with surgical and mechanical tools. Raytech’s emergency medical team is on standby.

Chel was going to be here, but instead she took off for Providence with little warning, obsessed with her side project of curing David. Her absence is blindingly obvious to Richard.

It's likely no great surprise that Alia is present, given something unusual with tech is happening. What might be a great surprise to most is this is likely the first time she's set foot in this wing of the business personally: She does go out of her way to give Warren space. The technopath however isn't speaking much out loud as she verifies the local networks have been delightfully isolated from anything remotely close to sensitive.

Standing a bit off to the side, Robyn Roux is fixated on a tablet she holds in hand, thumbing her way through information about Iov and what the goal is for today, along with a bevy of emails from work. She's here as an observer, but she's never been great about that when surrounded by the people in this room.

"Are we worried about keeping him alive?" It's a callous question - and she knows what her superiors would give as an answer if asked. They aren't the ones doing the actual work, however, and honestly… given that Iov tried to kidnap the daughter of a cherished friend, maybe she would be okay with letting it slip by.

"And has he been swept for anything… malicious that could make it's way from his augments outward?" Knowing that Richard definitely isn't going to have a concrete answer for that, Robyn looks to Dana, and then over to Alia, wordlessly aiming the question at either of them.

“This is the sweep,” Dana says with a raise of her brows, taking a step back from Hachiro. “And, uh, yes we—absolutely need to keep Mr. Oblonsky alive, otherwise we would’ve done this at the morgue. We don’t know how much he knows or where he’s even from. If we can wake him up, it could be invaluable to finding out why these kidnappings took place.” Then, looking back to Iov on the table she adds, “and uh… we don’t know if he has a dead man’s switch.”

Because this is the sweep.

Yamagato’s cybernetics team advance on the table, finishing setting up their own equipment. They each raise their AR goggles and cover their eyes, and then begin making what amounts to arcane hand gestures in the air, like some sort of modern-day warlocks invoking some technomagical ritual.

“The only confirmed information we have is from a biopsy of Oblonsky’s dermal tissue performed at Fournier-Bianco,” Dana continues, pulling up the information on her datapad. “His skin is inlaid with a synthetic weave of carbon fiber nanomaterials, which you can feel when you touch him. He feels… plasticy? According to the report of Agent Hall from the Department of the Exterior, Oblonsky took a 9mm round to the head with little damage.”

Hachiro’s thick brows rise high, and he looks from Dana to Iov. “Hard core,” he murmurs.

Alia headshakes. "Poking unknown systems that way with my … skill. Not a mistake I make twice, thank you. Trapped in flying robot bad enough." Her words are clipped and somewhat distant, since she is monitoring the machines in the area however. "This area, locked off from rest of network. Cell repeaters offline as well."

That said, she tilts her head at the description, and starts giving a very gentle surface poke at the augmentations even while listening to the description. Carbon Fiber doped dermis? How the hell did they manage to get the immune system to accept that?

Albert Gatter regards Iov silently, his usual sense of barely-controlled manic energy tamped down into a steely-eyed focus. Part of it is the work that they're here for today — work that is funded, relevant to his interests, and poised at the cutting edge of those interests.
Another part of it is who they're working with. He's familiar with the name of Hachiro Otomo, and the name of Marlowe Terrell isn't exactly unheard of, either. Between both of those factors… this is more important than even hiring interviews, or budget meetings.

Gatter's eyes flicker briefly to Dana as she speaks with Hachiro — points to her for picking an excellent target to be starstruck by — but Oblonsky draws his attention back like a magnet. Here, there is a mystery, waiting to be unraveled, and his hands are all but itching to start working on… something.

But for now Yamagato's doing the slicing and dicing, which, as much as it pains him to admit it, is probably for the best. For exploratory surgery on a subject they want to keep alive, it's probably better to have actual surgeons do the work. His time will come later. For now, he watches.

It's only when Dana mentions the dermal augmentation that Gatter's attention swings fully to her for a moment. "That's incredible," he speaks up. "Definitely hard core," he says, nodding agreement to Hachiro before his gaze swings back to Dana. "In what other areas can we already infer that the subject deviates from baseline?"

“I’m always happy to collaborate with Ms. Terrell,” is Richard’s affable response to Hachiro, flashing a smile over to the woman in question, “She’s more than welcome here, and I’m sure her insights will be invaluable.”

He’s dressed much like the security officers, in protective AEGIS gear although his helmet’s set aside so he can pay attention to what’s going on, arms folded across his chest as he stays back and out of the way of the scientists.

Security insisted he take precautions. Specifically, Hahn did. She probably didn’t even want him in the room at all.

“I wonder if he still has any sense of touch, with his skin like that,” he murmurs, head cocking a bit to one side as they examine the dermal layers of the unconscious cyborg.

“What does the bloodwork show?”

From where she’d been standing, quiet, unobtrusive, and unassuming, Dr. Ourania Pride eyes the man on the table, and the team from Yamagato about to perform their brand of science, shaded over with a layer of archaic magic. She’s already silently observed the room for signs anyone present is able to read her the way that she can read them. It seems for the time being that her envy and dissatisfaction are well-hidden beneath her clinical exterior.

Stepping forward, she nudges the black frames of her glasses up from where they’ve begun to slip down the bridge of her nose. Pride has some theories about what they might be dealing with, but isn’t sure anyone else in this room is waiting at the station for her train of thought. Although her eyes alight on Hachiro for a moment, assessing with an air of appreciation that serves to cover over her suspicion.

It’s likely for the best if no one gathered is in a position to pick up the thread she’s working with. The Sundered appreciate discretion, and Pride has already made one mistake in trusting the professionalism of another organization. Yamagato’s level of knowledge is a blank spot in her awareness and she doesn’t care for it. They know more than they’re saying, because they must.

It isn’t just her covetous nature that makes her venomous on this front.

Given there’s nothing she can do about that at the moment, she focuses on what she can do. With a quick glance in Richard’s direction, she turns her attention back to the unconscious subject, drawing in a deep breath as she reaches out toward him with her senses, singling him out and relegating the emotional complexities of the others in the room to little more than background noise. If there’s anything to be gleaned from the emotional state of Iov Oblonsky, Ourania will find it.

It’s a tapestry Odessa finds, at the moment, flat and featureless. Iov’s vegetative state has left him an emotional blank slate. Wherever his consciousness is, it isn’t a dreaming place.

“Bloodwork is anomalous,” Dana starts, circling the table Oblonsky is on. “His WBC is elevated, but not to the point we’ve experienced with the Manitoba crash survivors. No nanotech in his blood either. However, we believe there is still a correlation.” She notes, thumbing through some data. “X-Rays of Oblonsky’s body show that his skeleton is laced with some sort of synthetic polymer to increase rigidity, he also has unknown cranial implants, spine augmentations, and adjustments to his brain stem and central nervous system.”

Hachiro slowly shakes his head as he listens to that. He looks at Dana with curious eyes. “The WBC count, is that because of the implants? Did you detect any anti-rejection drugs?”

“We did. We believe he’s using cerebrex, one of Crito Corporate’s anti-rejection drugs. This one is typically sold to government contractors and paramilitary groups like Durandal.” Dana notes, looking up from her tablet. “One of Oblonsky’s eyes is also synthetic and we believe it may have been recording data during the attempted kidnapping. What we haven’t determined is if it was able to broadcast. We’ll presumably require the eye to be removed to confirm.”

As Dana speaks, Alia examines Oblonsky at a more than skin-deep level. Up close she can sense his cybernetics implants like a living organism. The dermal sheathing might as well not be there, it’s a material not an electronic system. However, the dermal sheathing does include microsensors that transmits data about his epidermis status to a processor implanted at the base of his skull. From that central node, Alia can feel information flowing to other cybernetic implants on his lymph nodes, heart, adrenal glands, through his central nervous system, and to his right eye.

It’s an interconnected system of information, all of which is neatly centralized in whatever cranial implant is attached to his brain stem. What Alia can’t be sure of is if there’s any security countermeasures, not without dipping into the system itself, which comes with risks all of its own. In the modern world, corporations like Praxis Heavy Industries installed dead man’s switches inside of their combat robots that would cause them to self-destruct if they detected technopathic intrusion. There’s a very real risk Oblonsky could be armed similarly, depending on how badly someone wanted his systems to remain secret.

“What we can be certain of,” Dana says, returning to her tablet, “is that his CSF levels lack the same heightened electrolytes and other oddities the Manitoba survivors exhibit. This leads us to believe that Oblonsky is merely…” she snorts, “merely heavily cybernetically enhanced. There’s only five companies in the entire world that could potentially create someone like Iov here.” Dana counts on her fingers. “Yamagato Industries, Praxis Heavy Industries, Crito Corporate, Celerity Technologies, and Renautas-Weiss Evolved Nanotech.”

Richard flicks a look over to Gatter and Odessa, the sort of look that communicates we need to be on that list in a year before he turns back to watching the investigation, shifting on his feet, folded arms adjusting a bit.

Marlowe hasn't come dressed in the red scrubs of biosciences but in CET division's grey and white jumpsuit patched with Yamagato's logo. A bit of safety in knowing the uniforms are padded enough to protect from welding sparks and sharp implements, it serves as comfortwear even, and a reminder of purpose. She's quiet as the cybernetics team steps forward to begin their examination.

Robyn's remark about Oblonsky's earns a lifted brow of concern. Again, though, the engineer adds no comment.

"We'll be able to identify and clear Yamagato's work," Marlowe says evenly after a beat after Dana names the companies. "And to some extent, Praxis and Renautas. That said, I don't expect anybody to have signed their work." She takes a short step closer for a better view. "But, you never know."

Alia just tilts her head, then whistles low, "Central processing is in skull. Tied into…" She just pauses and sighs. "Better wording: what isn't it tied to? Implants through nervous system, right eye, heart, adrenal gland, lymph nodes. And sensors throughout dermis" She pauses. "Trying to poke harder for me… dumb. If he's rigged to go that'd do it." She pauses. "Might be other countermeasures too." She adds even as she 'listens' to the system passively. After all, if anyone knows, in theory, one way how the dead man's switch senses a technopath, the person who survived getting shoved through the prototype's system twice likely knows the risks better than anyone else.

Gatter misses Richard's look, he's too busy processing Alia's rundown… though in this instance, it doesn't matter all that much — he's completely in agreement with that sentiment, anyway. "Adrenal enhancements and circulatory regulation, fed into a brain-linked processor… most people have to work up to a fight-or-flight response, but it's sounding like Oblonsky here might've just had it on a toggle." Gatter shakes his head. "Fascinating."

He takes a step to the side, eyes narrowing as he peers at the subject. "Maybe even some kind of optical recognition and threat assessment programming in the processor, too, feeding off the data collected by the eye? Maybe from the dermal implants, too, if they're wired into that…" He glances to the others to see their take on this.

The Yamagato cybertechnology surgeons quietly go about prepping Oblonsky for examination. One of the surgical technicians runs some sort of wand over the bald man’s head, while another prepares a briefcase device with several retractable cables. While they’re searching, Alia intuits what they’re searching for. She’s able to trace up through the nervous system links to what must be some sort of subcutaneous access port, located under the skin behind Oblonsky’s right ear.

The Yamagato technicians find the port around the same time Alia susses out where it is, and one directs another on where to cut. The trio cleans the area, then activates a laser scalpel and begins to cut into the flesh at the side of Iov’s head. As this goes on, Hachiro paces back and forth, shaking his head and stroking his beard.

“I’ll be honest,” he says with a hint of trepidation in his voice, “I wasn’t sure this level of comprehensive sophistication was possible. This many systems operating at once, nervous system connections that makes our original work on Monica’s prosthetic seem like Legos.”

Dana looks up from her tablet at Hachiro, then adjusts her glasses and turns her attention to the surgeons as they work. “The arms race between Yamagato and Praxis had to have accelerated this, but all the blame can’t be laid there. I did some investigation into Crito Corporate’s potential shadier ties, and there’s — well, speculation that they were involved with the human cybernetic experiments done at Fort Irwin by Humanis First. We’re still not entirely sure what they were doing there. It wasn’t building an army, they didn’t have a large enough production facility for it. The robots there were sentries protecting something else.” The we don’t know what that something else is leaves Dana troubled.

“Oblonsky doesn’t seem like the type to work for Humanis First.” Otomo suggests.

“But maybe Crito.” Dana raises her brows. “But that’s—just conjecture. We don’t have any proof, just theory.”

“That whole mess is a brand new arms race.” Borrowing Dana’s earlier turn of phrase, Ourania’s lips twist into a sardonic little sneer. “It’s like they’re trying to build a better mousetrap, but why?” At least Gatter’s enthusiasm for the science behind all of this is enough to buoy the empath’s mood and keep her from sinking into the kind of hopelessness that comes from feeling outmaneuvered. It’s Hachiro’s temperance that keeps her from being swept up by that infectious intrigue.

The talk of Fort Irwin fuels her sense of melancholy. With the mention of their subject not being Humanis First material at first glance, Ourania huffs out a mirthless chuckle. “A lot of people wind up in the strangest places, counterintuitive to what they really feel or want.” Now there’s a faint smirk that brings no light to her eyes at the spark of a memory. “A person works for three things: money, love, or bombs.”

A look is cast to the nearby Dr. Gatter, serving as a convenient outlet for the blonde to shift topics. “What do you suppose his brain looks like?”

“What about InVerse?” Richard glances over towards Dana and Hachiro, a single brow lifting, “They’ve been heavily into biotechnology for a long time… it isn’t impossible that they had a dark division that was working on this sort of cybernetics. Their use of Expressives might explain why it’s so sophisticated, as well. A hypercognitive, a mechanical intuitive, someone like that might have been able to make this…”

He lets the scientists discuss the science here.

Hesitance, and he admits, “One of our official contacts there has gone suspiciously quiet as well, but that could be for any number of reasons.”

Alia frowns a moment, her head tilting one way, then the other. "Richard? Port is… " She looks for how to word this to make her boss understand her meaning. "Like someone found notes on Old SEER. and reworked from base notes." She frowns and bites her lip as she doesn't say what else that implies. Oooh boy what a can of worms THIS is going to be to deal with later.

"Sorry," is a belated but apologetic response from Robyn as she lowers her tablet. "I just want to be clear on what protocols are in place for. You know. Situations." She sounds as much like a fish out of water as she is.

Her attention brought to the efforts at hand more fully, she looks considerate for a moment. "Weiss?" is what she offers as a possible source of the cybernetics. "Either way this is… I guess somewhere between mildly terrifying and existential worrying. I had no idea the tech was this good, but then, I wasn't even initially sure Monica's arm wasn't real so…"

So she's going to shut up now, she's not helping.

“We don’t know what we don’t know about InVerse,” Dana admits with a small shrug. “Everything we have on them says they don’t have the fabrication space to build anything like this, especially not at cost. Even factoring in rather well-known men like Maxwell Huber and his natural looming ability, the components themselves would still need to be assembled and this is precision work.”

Otomo nods slowly, stroking his short beard. “Crito is an investor,” he points out, “they could share manufacturing space. But that’s all guessing.”

The red-clad surgeons continue to cut around Oblonsky’s ear, careful not to do lasting damage. They peel back a flap of armored epidermis revealing a hexagonal port paired beside a rectangular port attached to the mastoid bone behind his ear. One of the assisting technicians unspools fiber-braided cabling from the briefcase device they brought and plugs two wires into the side of Oblonsky’s head.

“私たちはつながりを持っています。”1One of the surgeons says to Otomo who gives a thumbs-up. The assisting technicians flip switches on the briefcase device and a low hum emanates from it. Alia can see—feel—what’s happening. A hardware bridge to his implants, a Yamagato-designed interface using similar technology. Richard recognizes it, they’d used it to connect to the SEER when Otomo was in a coma.

As the technicians speak amongst themselves, Dana looks over at the crowd of observers. “This isn’t a case of symmetrical design,” she says with a shake of her head. “The hardware Yamagato designed to interface with the SEER works with this hardware. They had to have been built, as Alia said, from the same blueprints. That does narrow down our field some.”

“According to SESA’s records, the first SEER was originally designed in 2010 to allow Richard’s brother Warren to connect with his father Edward.” Dana explains, flipping through files on her tablet. “The designs were originally filed by Shalegate Machine Factory via Boston Mechanical Dynamics, a shell company for the Commonwealth Institute. The DoEA requisitioned the file for review, but it doesn’t look like they did anything with it.”

Dana flips through her tablet more. “Which means anyone with access to the Institute’s archival data or the DoEA’s could’ve conceivable copied the SEER design. Based on some of the hardware picked up at Fort Irwin and their research into cybernetics…” She slowly shakes her head. “I don’t know. It’s not good.”

“So you’re saying the kidnapper’s some sort of bigoted extremist?” Hahn chimes in, looking at Dana, then around the room.

“I don’t know, Oblonsky is both Expressive and not from the US, so it’s less likely, but…” Dana sighs softly. “It’s hard to rule anything out.”

“So,” Richard says in quiet, chill tones in response to Dana’s words, “were Kazimir Volken and his Vanguard, I might remind you.”

His gaze sweeps to the man on the table, “He may not have been working for them willingly, either; blackmail is always a possibility, or even something in his cybernetics that was maintaining control. The not-so-proverbial bomb in the head.”

Ourania eyes the surgeons when they speak. There’s no confusion in her expression, because she understands what’s being said perfectly. Crossing her arms under her chest, her fingers curl into the fabric of her shirt for lack of anything better to dig her nails into. “So we turn our attention back to Renautas-Weiss,” she posits. “Renautas was in league with the Institute, non?” This is a topic much easier to address for her than the Vanguard.

Tilting her head to one side, she continues. “The ailing remnants Renautas are snatched up by Yamagato. They inherit the blueprints to SEER.” Ourania’s head tilts now to the other side. “Weiss engages the hostile takeover, that technology passes to the newly formed Renautas-Weiss.” Coming back to center, she shrugs. “What they’ve done with the technology from there… I’d be shocked if they sold it off.”

Smirking wryly, Ourania shakes her head. “If I were a betting woman, I’d say our arms race is between the combined forces of Renautas-Weiss and InVerse with Crito.” She makes a sweeping gesture toward the red-kitted surgery crew. “If I were involved, I sure as hell wouldn’t be trying to pull this off under the gaze of so many watchful eyes.” In other words, present company excluded from her hypothetical scenario of who might be weaponizing the tech.

The urge to ask if anyone’s actually sure what Warren’s up to these days is shoved down.

"…Oh, gets worse." Alia says in a tone that shows she's worried and not wanting to say what needs to be said here since it is a valid point. "Technopath with enough time, screw with the… connected hardware, so to speak." Alia hugs herself and looks a bit green around the gills. "Give … a month or two poking at… that, and I likely could make him do the can-can down Broadway for giggles." She might be exaggerating slightly, but it makes her point known. And given the current state of Broadway…

"That's… horrifyingly disconcerting," Robyn offers in response to Alia, brow furrowing as she looks at her tablet. An appreciative smile is offered in Dr. Pride's direction when she turns the direction of the conversation back towards Renautas-Weiss. It's validating to know she might have been on to something there given how out of her depth she is at this particular moment.

"Wasn't someone at Yamagato working on anti-technopath tech?" Her eyes raise up, one quirked as she looks over to Hachiro. How she knows that is anyone's guess, but anyone who knows her can guess it starts with E and ends with something that sounds like "lane".

“Leroy Jackson,” Otomo says with a nod to Robyn. “He’s still developing it, too, but his technology is primarily telecommunications countermeasures, nothing quite so sophisticated on our end.”

Dana looks at Hachiro, something on her mind, but she stays quiet for a moment while reviewing data on her tablet.

Gatter pays minimal attention to the hows and whys of corporate espionage; corporations, to him, are and have always been simple means of making the science happen, and if they want to fight each other over money then let them. He does hope that the perpetrator of this particular bit of malfeasance is found and appropriately put in prison or fined a zillion dollars or whatever it is that happens to bad companies, but as far as he's concerned, that's what the government is for. He'd much rather be focusing on the science.

Such as, for instance, Doctor Pride's earlier question. "Not enough to speculate on what his brain looks like just yet," he says at last. "I'd definitely be interested to see what kind of integration they've got between that cranial unit and the brain, though. How deeply it's patched in." He frowns, glancing to Richard. "Or… it could be that it is, in fact, a bomb," he admits; the expression on his face indicates he's not as fond of that possibility. He hopes that it's not only that, at least.

Alia's statement is met with a moment's impassive regard; he doesn't know her that well, but he's pretty sure that was exaggeration… though, the point she's making is recognized. Networking isn't his main focus when it comes to programming, but he knows enough to recognize that network security is mostly just a function of time — the question isn't can access to the rest of the network be gained from this particular node, but how long would it take. Parts of that network being organic doesn't necessarily change that, since they're already integrated; given enough time…

Troubling. Fascinating, but troubling.

The idea of anti-technopath technology is, admittedly, interesting — technopathy is itself an ability that is very much relevant to his interests, and anti-technopathy is a dark reflection of the ability itself — but something else occurs to him that is more troubling still. He glances to Hachiro, frowning; he knows a bit about SEER, and if the device Yamagato brought was designed to interface with SEER technology… "Are they trying to communicate with Oblonsky?" he asks, tilting his head slightly. Gatter actually seems a little concerned… but then again, Oblonsky did tear his way into Raytech and try to abduct someone.

“Yes,” Hachiro says, “in a manner of speaking. The datajack in the side of his head will allow our hardware to run queries on his cybertech, much like a car’s black box. Depending on what software it is running, it can give us information on where he has been, what he has been doing, and what his augmentations do.”

Turning off her tablet, Dana exhales a frustrated sigh. “There’s two conflicting but corroborating points of data I was just able to confirm.” She says with a motion to the tablet, looking between the surgery’s guests.

“Firstly, the Humanis First operatives who were unwillingly working for Georgia Mayes were implanted with cranial bombs able to be remote-detonated or context-detonated.” Dana’s brows rise slowly. “The remote part you likely understand, though it had a significantly limited range and was only deployed on operatives serving locally on Fort Irwin. It was disabled on remote operatives so technopaths would be less likely to notice the signal…”

Dana looks over to Gatter, then Richard, who both posited the idea. “The context explosive relied on the device’s connection to the subject’s speech center and a subdermal microphone. The device listened for “code phrases” that would trigger the explosive, whether intentionally on the agent’s part, or against their will if they tried to impart secrets to authorities.”

“The…” Dana looks down to the floor, then back to Richard, “former counterterrorism head, Jason Pierce, was revealed to be a sleeper agent for Humanis First and was unwillingly implanted with such a device by Mayes’ people. When Wolfhound helped unearth that conspiracy a few years back, we surgically removed the bomb from Pierce’s head so he could inform us where Fort Irwin was located.”

Dana paces, looking at Oblonsky, then back to the group. “But, Pierce was abducted from the Liberty Island Detention Center in 2019 when Mazdak raided it. Which…” she grimaces, “brings me to my other point. Mazdak has successfully developed a highly advanced anti-technopath device codenamed the Well. We first found out about it from Wolfhound shortly after Hana Gitelman went missing. It’s believed that the Well not only tried to copy and transcribe her mind, but was also able to erase large portions of it before she was able to fight it off.”

Dana sets down her tablet on a nearby table. “But it means Mazdak is also in development of technology on this level, which could further broaden our net here.”

One of the Yamagato cybertech specialists looks up from the briefcase computer and gives a thumbs up to Hachiro and says, “Dekimashita.

Hachiro looks back to the others and informs: “We’re in.” He’s always wanted to say that.

Alia knew Hana had … a bad run in with Mazdak. Learning of what had happened? That's a trip down memory lane, and not a happy one. She grips her own shoulder a moment and takes a deep breath. "The Well. lovely." She sighs, but doesn't explain, not out loud. This sounds far too much like an anti-technopath defence she'd barely held off herself years before, just given even sharper teeth or less restraint in using them.

Neither is reassuring, when you know what Project ALIA was.

Richard’s expression flashes briefly with pain at the mention of Hana’s fate, and he merely nods; there’s no surprise there, just an unhealed wound being touched. They were never close, but they understood each other.

“I’m given to understand that Iov was last seen in Mazdak-controlled territory before his disappearance, so it’s not out of the question,” he murmurs, his jaw tightening, “But this… doesn’t seem Mazdak’s style. Mazdak and the Dinu have plans within plans but this doesn’t match with what I know of them.”

As Hachiro says that they’re in, he leans forward slightly, as if he could see something. Which he can’t, of course.

"Ahh," Gatter nods at Hachiro's explanation. "Thank you for clarifying, Hachiro," he says, nodding deeply. His concerns are somewhat mollified. They are not entirely laid to rest, but as Dana said — this is the sweep. And even if he weren't inclined to share the trust his employer seems to place in Yamagato, Gatter has plenty of respect for the likes of Hachiro Otomo and Marlowe Terrell.

Dana's talk of The Well draws a look of unease from Gatter, but he opts not to comment on it; while he finds what Dana has described to be frankly hideous, his opinion doesn't change that it apparently exists… and it's potentially relevant, so knowing about it is better than not.

So for now, he turns his attention back to Oblonsky, the red-clad Yamagato cyber-warlocks, and the box they're using as their instrument, watching for any signs of… anything, really.

Truth be told, Ourania stands with Gatter in the distrust of Yamagato Industries. Not necessarily of everyone to come from there, but the organization as a whole, its upper management, she takes exception to that. She’s on edge as she watches their team work. Will they even tell them if they see something truly interesting or disconcerting? Or will they keep that information to themselves.

Like they did with Yi-Min Yeh’s surgery.

Ourania crosses her arms over her chest and feels her jaw tense. She does nothing to work it out. “What,” she chooses to address Dana in favor of ignoring her frustration with the rest of the situation, “would Mazdak want with a non-Expressive former agent of Humanis First? Why bother with the abduction? Why not simply execute him the way they did some of the other prisoners?”

If it were her, it’d be to orchestrate something more theatrical. But they’d have acted by now if the intention had been to send such a message. “Maybe I’m trying to tie too many loose ends together,” Ourania admits with a frown.

The technicians speak in quiet confidence to one another, then turn the briefcase computer around to Hachiro who looks at the information on display. He nods, then looks to the others. “It would appear that Mr. Oblonsky’s onboard computer is a neural-link system, absolutely similar to the SEER with regards to the framework connecting synthetic to organic components. I have no doubt they were based off of the same original architecture.”

Hachiro taps a few keys on the computer, then brings up a display showing red highlights on a generic human silhouette. “Full nervous-system integration. It looks like the system was designed to terminate or stimulate Oblonsky’s pain sensors based on thresholds. So he could fight and operate while injured. But this here?” Iov motions to a purple area in Iov’s head. “This is data corruption and physical neuron decay.”

Dana exhales a huff of a sigh that blows a coppery lock of hair out of her face. “Brain damage. I was informed that the agent who subdued Oblonsky used some kind of telepathic interference. His subordinate systems must not have known how to handle it and the result was not only critical failure of the hardware, but cascading neurological damage to the wetware.” Meaning Iov’s brain.

“This is one of the reasons Yamagato hasn’t worked extensively with fully computerized cybernetic implants,” Hachiro explains. “Even the prosthetic we designed for Ms. Dawson and later those done for Ms. Nakamura and myself are partial integrations. There’s no onboard computer directly attached to the brain trying to regulate neurological functions.”

The surgeons bring something to Hachiro’s attention, and he relays it to the rest of the room. “Right now they’re trying to get into the feed from his prosthetic eye. We’ve found retained visual and possibly auditory records.”

Gatter peers at the screen intently. He nods, then frowns as Hachiro explains the integration; his frown deepens as Hachiro confirms his suspicions regarding the nature of the purplish blob onscreen. "It's impossible to foresee every possible point of failure, but that's precisely why it's critical to fail safe," Gatter murmurs, shaking his head. "Though I should likely reserve judgement until I know a bit more about the systems themselves," he concedes.

He raises his eyebrows at the news about visual records, eyes flickering between Hachiro and the surgeons.

Alia manages to keep a mostly straight face at this most recent set of determinations. The man is in a walking Skinner punishment box as far as anyone like her is concerned, even BEFORE you take into account the level of 'really bad' a technopath with a SEER could be. The telepathic damage also catches her attention though, and her eyes just narrow a little in thought as she looks at the work being done without saying anything out loud.

“She was worried that she’d caused damage,” Richard murmurs at the mention of the damage that was done to the man’s mind, “Hopefully we can still recover something useful.”

Hachiro and the surgeons confer on information, reviewing points of data for a few minutes. In the meanwhile, Dana observes their work from a distance, anxiously clutching her tablet to her chest.

“We have something,” Hachiro says with a look over his shoulder. “No transmission logs, from what we can see Mr. Oblonsky lacks any sort of radio or microwave transmission hardware, likely to protect against air-to-air technopathic intrusion.” He motions to the briefcase computer. “However, we have found firmware update logs. Agent Carrington, you should be receiving an upload of them to your handheld.”

Dana nods in confirmation, looking at the data. “There’s a lot here, but there’s potential hardware signature information. We may be able to review this and narrow down where Oblonsky’s parts came from and what software was used to perform these—”

Dana’s voice hitches in the back of her throat.


Hachiro looks at Dana, and Dana looks at Hachiro. They’ve both seen the same thing. Whatever it is, the surgeons all look at each other and then Hachiro. For a moment, Dana and Hachiro look like they’re in a Wild West duel, waiting for one or the other to draw first.

Dana waits for Hachiro to speak.

“This is Yamagato Industries software.” Hachiro says with a tightness to his voice. “Oblonsky’s firmware is… signed by our cybernetics systems.”

Alia makes a bit of a face about the attempted withdraw from technopath intrusion. She seems more amused by that then anything, then she frowns at the announcement. If anything, Alia is stepping back from the Yamagato contingent a little, because she's reasonably certain she can't fake the signature herself. At least, not on code of her own choosing. And thus the only three ways that could happen… "Private key leak, or insider gone rogue?" Alia voices the two options that aren't an immediate oh fuck. The third possibility is that it isn't a rogue but is an insider, and that option puts the situation into Very Not Good.

Nostrils flare with irritation as Pride lets out a frustrated breath. Of course it’s Yamagato tech. The urge to roll her eyes is barely suppressed. That suppression does not extend to the control of her words, however. “Your people didn’t tell us what they found when they performed surgery on Doctor Yeh.” She draws a circle in the air to encompass her visage, a frustrated deadpan. “This is my shocked face,” she snaps.

“左手は右手の行動を知っているか2?” Ourania asks Hachiro in Japanese, hoping to grab his attention. Voice pitched low, she speaks the language like she has a chip on her shoulder. “説明しろ3. If it’s not you,” meaning Otomo personally, “then who should we be looking at?”

The revelation of where this tech came from - unpleasant as it is to everyone in the room - has Richard’s jaw tighten for a moment, his gaze sweeping over to the Yamagato techs and executives in the room. He draws in a slow breath, then exhales it, lifting a hand.

“As much as I’d like to comment that I think Yamagato’s overstepped their licensing of SEER technology, I think we’ve stepped a little past quips here,” he says, “Can I assume… from your tone and surprise… that you weren’t aware of this, Hachiro?”

Gatter frowns; Alia's two possibilities do indeed account for the majority of possibilities, and, like her, he deduces the third possibility… but, like her, he opts to remain silent.

Not so Doctor Pride, who shoots the proverbial elephant in the room without hesitation. Gatter mulls over the possibility of Hachiro's involvement… then shakes his head, dismissing it. Personal admiration aside, it's hard to see what Hachiro would gain by admitting Yamagato signed the firmware if he, in fact, had a hand in it.

"But… this… isn't Yamagato standard hardware," Gatter points out, frowning at Hachiro. "Surely this isn't standard firmware. Is it?" he asks, frowning. "Using standard firmware for top-end custom hardware would be… an odd choice." And a telling one, perhaps. "If it's a custom version, but still signed…" Gatter frowns, trailing off. That would also be telling. "Does the signature tell anything about when or at what facility it was revised?"

Then he looks to Ourania. "I didn't realize you spoke Japanese, too," he says quietly — this, at least, is a pleasant surprise. "Maybe you could give me some pointers. I never really had a chance to learn that one."

Hachiro levels a flat look at Ouriana, thoroughly unimpressed. He blinks a look over to Alia, nodding to her as if in confirmation. “I believe what we’re seeing is unauthorized use of our third-party integration software, judging from the serial numbers here.” He explains with a motion to a series of nine digits that come after a period on the authentication signature displayed on Dana’s tablet.

“Yamagato Industries licenses out a wealth of this kind of technology to hospitals and charities that develop civilian cybernetic prosthetics,” Hachiro goes on to explain. “This series of numbers represents that the software came from a partner company, one that paid for a license of our integration software and used it to network their hardware. A cost-cutting tool, to be certain. What this also says is that it isn’t proprietary, which means it wasn’t done by Crito Corporate or any of their subsidiaries.”

Waving off the concern of the cybertech specialists, Hachiro starts to pace. His prosthetic legs make a soft whirr-click sound as he walks. “There’s a dozen or so smaller companies this could be, but it does narrow down the field. Especially when you consider the timing of Mr. Oblonsky’s implants, noted here in the installation date fields. The oldest augmentations are from two years ago, the newest installed nine months ago.”

“What’s to stop someone from say, Yamagato Park, from using a licensed version of this software to maintain hardware like Oblonsky has?” Dana asks.

“Our network mainframe, Jiba. It would be a systems violation and would be flagged for correction. And only a handful of people have access to Jiba, and only one person knows how to maintain that system.” Hachiro says with a gesture to himself. “Me.

“I am confident that this didn’t come from within Yamagato Industries main offices, but I can’t say that a satellite office wasn’t used. We only have a few of those, however, and they are all in Japan except for here and the SEATAC Safe Zone, but that office isn’t fully operational yet and wouldn’t have the facilities to perform this kind of work.” Hachiro adds, shaking his head.

Dana looks at her tablet, scrolling through some of the data. “It looks like your surgeons were able to pull the cache from his optical implant. The data appears to have been corrupted by the neurological damage, but should still play.” She looks around the room. “I can cast it to one of the larger wall displays.”

Alia just stares a few moments at Hachiro. A few more moments. Finally puts a gloved finger to the spot in the middle of her forehead to rub, as if she's getting a headache. "Wait. Licensees can sign code with Yamagato keys?" There's a moment as she lets that float a moment because that would mean the licensee's software has the signing key somewhere in itself… which would make signing anything with it trivial once you pull the key out. Same thing that was done to Blu-Ray and the PS3 pre-Civil War 2.

Alia sighs, and lowers her hand as she looks at Richard. "Also add anyone who had access to licensee systems or the licensee software. Wouldn't need the software even installed."

Ourania meets the look thrown her way with an impassiveness of her own. When that attention has left her, however, she turns away from the surgery team and starts to make her way toward the exit. To someone who knows her as well as Richard does, she’s positively bristling at this situation. A cat with its hair standing on end.

“I think I’ve contributed everything I’m able to here,” the blonde tells her employer when she pauses briefly to confer with Richard. “If you wish to go over the findings, I will happily make myself available to you.” A hand on her arm stops Pride in mid-step on her journey. Dana’s announcement of the retrieval of the footage and intent to play it causes her to hesitate. She does want to know. She wants to know who needs to pay for what’s been done.

“Easy,” says Richard in quiet tones as he stops the scientist from moving further, “I need your eyes on this, Pride. And on them.” A subtle tilt of his head towards the Yamagato detachment that are taking the lead on this examination.

A twitch of a slight smile, “You’ve dealt with worse before. I know that for a fact.”

He gives her arm a squeeze, then steps back towards the table, motioning to the wall, “Get it up, then, Agent Carrington. Let’s see what we have, if anything.”

Gatter frowns at Pride momentarily. Not that he doesn't understand why she might leave — right now most of what they're going over is that someone from Yamagato has been very naughty indeed and quite thoroughly shit the bed, which is good to know for people who deal with either a.) corporate malfeasance, or b.) Yamagato, but… rather less so for Gatter.

Gatter doesn't really care that much… but he's hoping they get back to the actual science soon, and when or if they do, having a dedicated bioscientist in the room would be very helpful. So it's with some relief that he sees Richard arrest Dr. Pride's escape. He nods, as well, when Richard gives the order to bring up the footage, turning to watch the indicated display.

Dana swipes two fingers across her tablet and brings the file up onto one of the large displays mounted on the lab wall. There is video, but it is primarily a grainy mixture of grayscale and off-colored pixels with enough blur to suggest movement and vague shapes.

“I don’t know how much we can do with this…” Dana says with an apologetic shake of her head, “we might be able to clean this up, but we’d have to process the data in our offices.” Audio pops and warbles, the quality wavering between crystal clear and underwater from moment to moment.

«hrrsvurr» is a slurred sound that is almost intelligible speech. Dana works a pair of sliders on her tablet, trying to fine tune the audio levels.

«Complications?» A British man’s voice comes into focus. «I don’t pay you for complications. I pay you for completeness. But please,» he says in a gentle tone of voice, «do go on.»

It’s clear that Iov is talking in return, a deep voice resonates from the display, but the voice is muddied and garbled. “I don’t think this is a quality issue, I think it’s a synaptic one. Auditory processing, the brain is filtering our Iov’s own voice. I think we’re only going to get one side of this, because only one side was recorded.”

«I understand your frustration. But your partner was not available when we needed to move them, which led to this entire debacle. If you want to be paid for this, we require completion of delivery. It’s as simple as that.» The British man says with a gentle and polite tone of voice. He sounds old, perhaps a smoker, his voice has a hint of a rasp to it.
Iov’s murmuring baritone comes afterward, at times it sounds agitated, but the true context is lost.

«Then I want you to start with the one who wasn’t on our list. The young girl.» The British man says succinctly.

Iov says something short in response.

«Yes, her. I’d very much like to know who she is, how she came to be added to our list, and if she has any insights as to why this may have been done. The others…» The British man’s voice lingers in indecision, «they’ll all be a self-solving problem on a long-enough time table, but my concern is with protection of our intellectual property. Obviously you understand.»

Iov’s reply seems to indicate as much.

«I recommend you and your partner deliver on this, or there will be more consequences than mere financial destitution Mr. Oblonsky.» The British man says with a threatening tone sheathed in velvet. «Do I make myself clear?»

Iov makes some short, monosyllabic response.

«Have a wonderful day, Mr. Oblonsky.»

Dana breathes in deeply and shakes her head. “The recording stops here. It feels intentional. Iov must have made this purposefully.”

Hachiro nods, looking up from his briefcase terminal. “There’s indications of the recording systems being brought online at request and ended at request. Your suspicion was well-founded.”

“Is there anything else in there?” Dana asks, looking from tablet to Hachiro and back again.

“Unfortunately, no. He had a limited onboard storage. However, we’ll create a duplicate copy of the data for SESA to review.” Hachiro explains, and Dana nods somewhat distractedly at the notion.

“Unfortunately there isn’t more we can do here. According to the damage assessment my team has done, Iov has suffered a stroke coupled with significant damage to his temporal and occipital lobe when his implanted cyberware was overloaded.” Hachiro says with a slow shake of his head. “Mr. Oblonsky is alive, but he may never wake up again. I can’t even be certain if there is enough brain activity to recommend a telepath.”

Dana nods, humming softly. “I have some thoughts on this, actually. How we might be able to tease a bit more out of this situation, if… Richard is amenable?” She posits, looking across the room.

It's Dana and her distraction that Ourania is drawn to once she's taken her place again and listened to the audio, with nothing to currently be gleaned from the video.

Turning to look at Richard, the empath shakes her head. "In my opinion," she offers, as though it were a scientific one and not one related to her ability, "telepathy won't do us any good here. He's blank." Dr. Pride offers a small, if somewhat tight smile to Dana. "I'd be more than curious to know Agent Carrington's thoughts."

The recording has Richard frowning deeply, his brow furrowing. “Jac wasn’t even supposed to be involved? What the hell…? Dana, I assume that SESA has a voice recognition archive you can run that through? Slim chance, I know, but…”

He trails off, frowning as he considers the implications. Then Ourania’s speaking with him.

He is, yes,” Richard says softly, gaze sliding to Hachiro and the Yamagato techs briefly, then back to her. His attention then pulled to Dana again, and he notes, “In all honesty, Agent Carrington, I wouldn’t object to extracting this man’s brains and putting them through a blender if it had a one percent chance of getting answers. I’d even buy the blender. What’s your idea?”

Gatter nods at Dana's explanation; it's plausible enough, and, more importantly, suggests some absolutely fascinating things about how Oblonsky's implants work. "So it's a recording not of raw sensory data, but of Oblonsky's processed perception of events," Gatter muses aloud. "Fascinating."

Ourania's assessment, however, draws a curious tilt of Gatter's head, his gaze swiveling towards her. He says nothing aloud, but there is a quality of consideration to his gaze, focused on her.

“A voice-print match? No. SESA doesn’t have anything quite like that,” Dana admits, “nothing comprehensive enough to work in this use-case, anyway. We’re still dealing with a tech debt from the war, but we can share it around with our contacts in the CIA and DIA, see if there’s anything further they can assist us there with, be it technological or Expressive.”

“As for my idea,” Dana says, starting to pace back and forth, “we use SEER. We connect Oblonsky to the SEER system and do a full data upload of everything left in his declarative memory and off of his hardware.”

Hachiro’s back straightens subtly when Dana suggests that. “That’s… treading some dangerous ground,” he says with a shaky voice. “I’m all for this, but if that transfer is successful, and you put it in your report, it could raise a whole new level of scrutiny on the hardware. There are moral implications about transcription of human consciousness.”

He feels guilty, Ouriana feels in her heart.

He’s done this before.

“That’s why this is Richard’s decision.” Dana says, turning the onus onto the owner of the technology. “SEER wasn’t designed for this use, but if it’s successful it could lead to a number of high-profile questions regarding the nature of SEER and the legality of its use. I’d still need to get signoff from SESA’s superiors, regardless. And we’d need to test the system to make sure we’re able to get data and not—I don’t know, scramble eggs—but it’s a possibility. It just—it opens a particularly large can of very complex worms.”

Hachiro exhales slowly, nodding in agreement. “It does.” Then, looking to Richard, he waits to see how this falls.

If there is an expert on that can of worms in existence, Alia is probably the leader in surviving experience from having it used against her. No lies, she has no love for the remains of a man on the table, so frankly, she'd go buy that blender herself out of pocket if it'd get even half-answers.

This path, however, has Alia outright shivering and having a few lovely flashbacks of her own. "… Richard." She finally manages, in a tone that is pure ice. "If it copies personality, I'm dumping it in the river."

She pauses again and takes a few slow, deep breaths, before turning to looking at Hachiro, and asking, very bluntly, "How theoretical of moral complications?" Someone may want to save the visiting tech from the wrath of a technopath torn.

Gatter's expression squinches progressively more as this discussion goes on; he's been thoroughly distracted from Ourania's questionable diagnosis. For the moment, at least.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Gatter interjects. "Back up a step here, wait just a minute. Are we talking about copying memory, or consciousness? Or personality? Because those are different things." Gatter takes a deep breath, collecting himself. "In this context, none of them really seem like good things, either," he adds, looking somewhere between bemused and perplexed.

“えとね そしたら…4” Ourania’s low murmur is a distracted thing, her head tilting to one side as if considering what she’s heard. She’s attuning herself to the ripple of guilt, like adjusting rabbit ears above the old television in the living room with the wood paneling and the shag carpet, finding the right signal.

“Moral. Ethical. Legal,” Richard observes rather bluntly, both brows arching upwards at Dana’s suggestion, “As far as I know, a procedure like this has never been performed on a non-technopath, and if it works…”

He whistles, rocking back on his heels as he looks to the man on the table, “…this is more than just a can of worms, it’s the whole damn barrel. That said…”

“…we need to know if it’s even possible, because if it is we need to build limiters into the technology to prevent abuse of it in the future,” he says finally, “And this is the perfect opportunity to do so while possibly getting some key knowledge that we need here. Reach out to your superiors and— ”

Dr. Pride’s blue eyes narrow on Hachiro. Her voice raises, loud enough to be heard over the din of moral and ethical ramifications, the pitch of her delivery still much lower than her typical speaking voice. “効果的だった5?” She turns slightly, her face toward Richard, but not breaking that eye contact as she snorts derisively. She isn’t addressing her friend. “勿論6.”

The louder voice of one Dr. Pride draws Richard’s attention to her, a single brow lifting over the edge of his shades in questioning. “What? I don’t speak Japanese, Ourania.”

There’s a moment where Ourania has to consider whether it’s wrong not to give the other man a chance to speak, but it isn’t to Yamagato Industries that she owes her loyalty to. Her freedom, her happiness. It isn’t even Raytech.

It’s Richard Ray.

“He’s done this before,” Ourania says plainly. “And if it hadn’t gone well, he wouldn’t be so reticent right now.”

Hachiro stares wide-eyed at Ouriana, glancing with furtive worry to the Yamagato surgeons who look to Ouriana and then Hachiro with confusion. Ouriana feels the spike of panic, fear, and confusion flow through Hachiro’s emotions. He wasn’t expecting to be caught in whatever it was Ouriana did, but to be called out on it openly has struck him like a truck.

“You’re mistaken,” Hachiro says, and that’s enough to get the surgeons to look back to their work. To change the subject, he quickly looks to Gatter. “What is consciousness if not memory persisting?” He poses in a thin philosophical veneer. “Nuanced differences, perhaps. But I do not know if there would be enough to pull of Mr. Oblonsky to count as a person.”

Hachiro breathes in deeply, then spreads his hands. “We do not need to make this decision today. The hardware is not going anywhere and Mr. Oblonsky’s vitals are stable.”

“I’d need to get clearance from…” Dana starts to say, but trails off. “Honestly, probably all the way up to Secretary Choi.” She finally decides, worrying at her bottom lip.

“Otherwise, what we have found here is all we have to find.” Hachiro says with a look back to Iov on the table. “Which, admittedly, is still a treasure trove to sort through.”

Ourania's assertion draws a look from Gatter — again, there is that moment of evaluation, of consideration.

Then Gatter’s gaze swings back to Hachiro; when Hachiro turns to him, Gatter raises an eyebrow. "I would posit that consciousness and memory are two different things," Gatter says mildly. "Memory informs consciousness, but I would argue that consciousness is not entirely a product of memory."

"It's a matter of personal interest to me… though, as you say, also a matter of great nuance. Something that would, perhaps, be ill-served by debate under these circumstances," he concedes with a small smile, his gaze placid as he regards Hachiro. "Well. Another time, perhaps."

"For silicon, different. For carbon-computer, two are… not the same, but not divorceable." Alia clarifies. She tugs a bit at one of her gloves, as if considering taking it off. But instead she just pulls it on tighter after a moment. "Copy of data, on my desk." She instructs one of the people for later, before turning on her heel and to the door. There is an upset technopath and it seems she's going for some air. Or for some drink.

Maybe both.

The accusation - and the quick response - draws Richard’s gaze to Hachiro, a single eyebrow lifting sharply enough to cut glass. He regards the man for a long moment, then sweeps his gaze back to the patient at the table.

He doesn’t stop Alia from leaving. He understands why she is.

“Get clearance, then, Dana,” he says, lips pursing, “We’ll keep Mister Oblonsky’s husk comfortable in its coma until you do. I’m tired of letting these terrorists wander in and out of Raytech’s territory at will.”

“Hn.” Ourania regards Hachiro with a flat expression that juxtaposes the sharp one from Richard. “本当に? 不幸な誤解7.” That she shrugs it off after is in action lacking utterly in sincerity, but suffices for now to keep the boat from rocking.

All the same, she leans over to Richard, chin tucked toward his shoulder as she murmurs low enough for just his ears, “Ask him what he found out from Nakmura’s autopsy. See how much he sweats.” Rather than sweep from the room then, she stays at his side, presenting that unified front where she belongs.

Hachiro turns to the surgeons, motioning for them to finish up their work and pack up. “I will share our findings with SESA,” he says of the information, “and trust them to disseminate the information as appropriate.”

Dana nods, flicking at something on her tablet without looking up. “We’ll have a copy of Oblonsky’s data sent to Raytech, but we need to keep this quiet for now. We don’t know who he was working for and for all we know there could be others in the city right now looking for him or willing to subvert our work. The less people who know the better.”

Powering off her tablet, Dana takes one last look at Oblonsky and shakes her head. A troubled look crosses her eyes. “If Oblonsky is the leading edge of what’s coming…”

“…It’s about to get a lot weirder out there.”

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