The Eight Pointed Star, Part III


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Scene Title The Eight Pointed Star, Part III
Synopsis Benjamin Ryans walks a familiar path in an unfamiliar time.
Date February 27, 2020


Four support legs unfold from the titanium frame with a twist. Once the rubber-footed ends are place down on the rooftop, the entire central spine telescopes upward, extending to a height of twelve feet. Four arms extend outward like the bones of an umbrella, each adorned with a long row of hexagonal plates of exotic metal with tightly concentric bands of shimmering fiber. The device is activated by a fold-out touch screen, no automated or wireless components. After an access code is keyed in, a simple monochromatic menu screen appears on the touch-pad.

Benjamin Ryans looks up past the device, to the city skyline spread out before him. The high-rise buildings stretch out into an expanse of concrete, steel, and glass. He steels himself against the vista, looking back down to the machine in front of him. He keys a security code from memory, then uses his thumb print on his regenerated hand to unlock a second security layer. Only then can he select what he needs from the menu.

PraxicLogic v5.6.1 — SirenSys3
Standby Mode Activated

Then, with a touch of another key…

Security Lockdown
Are you sure you want to activate security lock-down? You will be unable to unlock the device without reconnecting it to a mated system and will activate based on predefined parameters.

Benjamin breathes in deeply, then uses his thumb print to confirm.

System locked down, entering standby mode

When the final switch is activated, the telescoping machine collapses back down into a two foot tall and ten inch wide metal cylinder, tucked away behind an HVAC vent on the rooftop. At nearly the same time, Ryans’ phone rings in his pocket. He retrieves it with a subtle, telekinetic gesture and brings it up to his ear with an unseen hand.

Ryans,” he responds warily into the receiver.

His eyes widen in shock at what he hears.

Three Hours Later

Two Thousand Miles Away

Praxis Ziggurat
Basement Level 1
Praxia, California Safe Zone

February 27th
12:22 pm Local Time

Cargo elevator doors open with a rattling metallic percussion. The first basement level of the Praxis Ziggurat is a robotics holding facility, a massive open space two city blocks long on any side. Massive concrete pillars break up the space, dividing it into discrete sections additionally marked off by black and yellow lines on the floor. Dozens of legged ZZ7 walker-tanks sit in rows, many of which are partially covered by tarps. Blocks of the vehicles have been uncovered and moved out onto the helipad through additional freight elevators and ramp tunnels.

Two dozen bipedal robotic soldiers march in rank and file past Ryans as he emerges from the elevator, their internal mechanics whirring softly as they move past, armed with rifles. Human security forces move past behind them, all armed with what look like modified RayTech Banshees and backpack power sources. Ryans hasn’t seen that hardware down here before.

Adam stands not far away from the elevator in a suit of black tactical gear, boots laced up, body armor donned over his chest and shoulders. Also RayTech design. “I need the URSA unit ready for local deployment,” he instructs a security officer standing near to him. “We have to expect an outside attack once we start to move. I want this entire building on lockdown until you hear back from me directly.” Adam pauses, looking to some of th ZZ7’s. “Position these across the hills in the Safe Zone, make sure they have Anti-Aircraft ordinance.”

“Aye, sir.” The security officer says, before noticing Ryans’ approach and angling a look over to him. Adam pivots, spotting Ryans approach and dismisses the security chief with a wave of one hand.

He had hurried to find his old friend going over what he’d say to Adam; but seeing him there, he can only think to ask one thing. “How are you holding up?” Ryans rumbles out quietly, with barely contained concern for the immortal. He was still reeling from the news, so he can only imagine what Adam was going through.

He doesn’t ask ‘what happened?’ or offer an sympathetic apology… simply was the old man okay. “Are the other girls okay? Jac? Joy?” Ben had spent time with Adam’s girls, trained with his youngest.

“Not good,” is his shaky response once the security officer has departed. “I'm down to 27 heads.” Blue eyes track movement of robots behind Ryans, then focus closer onto him. “It's hit us, hard. If we wait another day to deploy it's all over.”

Making a motion for Ryans to follow him, Adam starts to cross the floor. “We’ll be airlifting supplies and troops before sundown. Eight-craft formation, flying slow and below radar level. We’ll reach the designated engagement zone within 24 hours.” That wasn't a part of the plan. “The sub’s been destroyed, the rocket with it. Everything was hinging on that…” he says with exhaustion and frustration. “So we’re going in hot.”

Flying an attack formation out of Praxia will eventually get the attention of NORAD. What's left of it, at any rate. The US Government will have a response, of which Ryans assumes this is preparation for. It feels like going off to war more so now than ever. “I'm going to want you with me in the lead craft. I need you,” he says, taking out a small remote from a Velcro pocket on his tactical vest, “to take charge of things if something happens to me.”

Adam offers the remote out to Ryans. “I'll explain what this is when we’re closer.”

There is no hesitation as Benjamin turns on his heels and follows the man, brows furrowed with concern at the news Adam lost another of himself. However, it's the news about the sub that makes him stumble a step in surprise and he is forced to play catch up. “Son of a bitch,” is uttered under his breath as he comes alongside the other man again. It isn’t often that he curses. “All of those people?”

In war you expected casualties, but still those losses always weigh on the ones that sent them into harm's way.

“Rarely does anything go the way we plan, hmm, old man?” Ben acknowledges, taking the remote after a moment of hesitation. The older looking of the two, couldn’t even fathom the idea of Adam going down or being taken out of the fight… but there was that one time. He studies the device in his hand, before tucking it into an inner suit pocket for safe keeping. “I’ll do everything in my power to see that the mission is complete, Corporal,” he rumbles out with a hint of a reassuring smile.

Corporal,” Adam exhales breathlessly, coming to a full stop when he hears it. He turns a slow look back up to Ryans, a ghost of a smile threatening his otherwise serious expression. “It’s nice to have you remember the old times, Ben. It’s…” but then it fades, drowned by a sea of related worries. His blue eyes track away and he turns his back on Ryans, continuing apace with purposeful strides.

“I’m expecting the US Government will see this maneuver coming, precognition or not,” Adam explains, his pace hurried. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to make it to our rendezvous site without having to engage an aerial sortie, but I’m having two unmanned aircraft loaded into our rear ships in the event we need to perform anti-air activities. Worst comes to worse, Joy and Jac should be able to take out any resistance,” though he worries about being able to push Jac to fight against people.

As Adam reaches the ramp that leads up to street level, he steps aside for a cargo truck making its way down into the basement. “Once we hit the rendezvous site, we’re going to maintain a static position over the city center, that should get every eye in the world on us. At this point we’re going to be fighting a battle with whatever assets the US has on hand there,” and it doesn’t sound like Adam enjoys that. “We’ll be deploying autonomous fighters to the street to try and repel ground forces and using our aircraft to maintain air superiority… but we shouldn’t have to hold for too long once we make our appearance.”

Adam’s back tenses, jaw set. “It won’t take long to get everything ready.” Ryans can feel he’s being left out of something, corners of the plan he’s unaware of. Certainly, there is a reason for compartmentalizing knowledge, but…

“No!” It’s a scream, Ryans’ scream, that breaks the silence.

Something, muddied and deep, bubbles up to the surface of Ryans’ memory. The disembodied sound of his own voice.

“Adam, listen to me!”

Distant, foggy, unclear.

“Don’t make me do this…”

There is a subtle incline of Ben’s head, when Adam gets the reference to the man he was when the pair met. He doesn’t say anything else, just listens to the rundown. “If Richard is doing his job, the Government probably will. The Ray family, if anything, is meddlesome and… observant.” A worried sigh escapes him unbidden, turning his attention ahead of them, watching automated soldiers moving with an unease that comes from being born in a time when things like that were mere science fiction in books and movie screens. Nothing more than men in costumes.

At the moment, that wasn’t what was really bothering Ben, it was the obvious omission of information and the shreds of memories it was invoking from the depths of a fractured memory.

Ryans is quiet for a moment, lost in his own thoughts trying to grasp at the threads of memory that. Brows furrow in his frustration as they are nothing but water through his fingers. “Adam.” Benjamin stop and turn to study the immortal. “You’re still holding things back.” From me he doesn’t say out loud. “If things are happening. Should I know? We’re no longer waiting, but marching forth into battle.” Thin brows tip upward expectantly.

“What are you not telling me old man?”

Adam pauses in mid stride, bringing a hand up to the bridge of his nose. He breathes in, deeply, then exhales a slower and calming breath. “I’m dead, Ben.” Adam turns, looking over his shoulder to Ryans. “For good, this time.” None of what Adam is saying make sense, given that he’s standing right there.

“Back during the war, I was exposed to a nerve agent. The US government developed something powerful enough to kill me.” Adam would smile in appreciation were this not such a serious moment. “I was exposed to it, and it was slowly killing me. I feigned strength, for a little while, but eventually…” he steps back, closer to Ryans. “Eventually I had a make a choice on how I was going to live.”

Adam sighs, shoulders slacking under the weight of this secret. “All the experiments, the alliance with Mazdak, all of it was to save myself. I developed these clones,” he says with a gesture to himself, “networked my consciousness together like I was doing an improv performance of Brian Fulk, and once we got the process down…” Adam looks away, “we used Gemini to strip what was left of my ability from my original body and give it to one of me. That one just died upstairs.” He says with a gesture to the ceiling.

“My original self… the real me,” Adam shakes his head and swallows audibly. “I’m fairly certain the Entity killed him this morning. I’m not linked with him — couldn’t be because of that neurological damage — so I’m not certain. But the comm buoys I was using to track the area were all disabled, I confirmed the sub was destroyed, and NORAD reported detecting a low-yield nuclear explosion off the coast of Virginia.”

Exhaling a shuddering sigh, Adam squares his shoulders and tries to keep himself together. “I thought, maybe I could keep him— me— safe. But I was wrong. Dead wrong.


The question slips out before Ben can even comprehend what the man in front of him was saying. His brows lower into a defiant manner, as a part of him wants to say the obvious. He was standing right there. For a moment he was an old man trying to get his brain to understand the concept.

Ryans knows though and does understand, he knew Brian after all; because, even as his Baby Boomer brain rebels, his stomach drops with the sensation of loss. It was a weird sensation. Adam sees the moment it really hit, but Ben doesn’t allow himself to process it further. The emotions are painstakingly gathered and stuffed into a box at the back of his head. It is how he has survived so much for so long.

There is a nod of acceptance to what he’s being told. There would be more time to give it some serious thought.

“Well, I guess that means you are just one of us now,” Ben reaches out a hand to grip the other man’s armored shoulder. “Have you told your family, yet?”

Adam shakes his head, swallowing audibly. “No,” he admits in a hushed tone of voice. “I can’t distract them. My copy with what remained of my regeneration ability,” the one that restored Ben’s hand, “died upstairs this morning. It’s over.”

“Even if every single one of me doesn’t die in what’s about to come, this is the end. These bodies don’t have regeneration, so I’m going to… “ Adam laughs, bitterly, “if I’m lucky, grow old and die.” Adam looks back to the ramp headed out of the ziggurat. “But you and I both know not many soldiers lead lucky lives.”

“No… no we don’t,” Ben rumbles quietly, after a hard swallow. Emotions ooze from the box at the back of his mind, making his jaw work for a moment while he rolls the consequences over in his mind. “Though, I don’t know.” The hand falls off the other man’s shoulder so it can be held out in a ‘look at me’ gesture. “I’ve managed pretty well thanks to you, of course.” The creases at the corners of his mouth deepen as he gives the other man a rueful smile.

“Besides, we’re not dead yet, old man,” Benjamin grasps onto this fact, not letting what his friend tells him drag him down or distract him. “We make it through this and I’ll show you the finer things in the life of the elderly.” He grips Adam’s shoulder and starts walking again.

“Senior discounts are pretty sweet, I’m not going to lie,” Ryans offers in reassurance with a forced chuckle. “And strangely enough, women are pretty attracted to the graying look.”

He may or may not be joking. It was a bit of the old Ben that only seems to surface around Adam. “It won’t be so bad… just wait and see.”

“Senior discounts…” Adam says in a small, worried voice as he looks away from Ryans. There’s a flash of guilt in his eyes, something unsaid. “Yes, let’s… let’s have that chat.” He agrees reluctantly. “In the future.”

“Adam I’m not going to warn you again!”

Adam’s smile is weary, and as he turns away from Ryans there is a distinct sadness that he hides by putting his back to his old friend, and marching toward the exit.

“Adam, step away from Ms. Pratt.”

But a nagging worry in the back of Ben’s mind fills the silence.

“I’m sorry, Ben.”

That he’s forgetting something.

“There’s no other way.”


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