Who's Got Big Balls


devi_icon.gif gatter_icon.gif

Scene Title Who's Got Big Balls
Synopsis Devi and Dr. Gatter trade elevator pitches.
Date July 10, 2021

“Thanks for coming on such short notice.”

Perhaps it was the URGENT header in the correspondence. Or, maybe the plethora of exclamation points that followed it. But, really, where one is trying to express urgency when the apocalypse is nigh and the writer’s sense of business etiquette is nil… What do you expect?

The elevator doors slide seamlessly, silently shut, reflecting the watered-down versions of Director Devi Ezell and Doctor Albert Gatter back upon themselves.

Raytech Campus

NYC Safezone

July 10, 2021

For several long, businessy-awkward moments there is only the quiet hum of the elevator. “Special projects, you’d said-” Devi fixes her long braid in the reflection and adjusts the hairtie holding her tattered Metallica tee into a snug fit near her hip. “So, I looked you up. I admit, a lot of it in and out like a bad sloppy joe, but there was a thing or two that caught my attention.”

The lulling hum of the elevator has stopped, the only indication that its downward momentum has ceased. “Neural interface technology?” There is a non-intrusive, quiet bing and the elevator’s level indicator panel reads: Authorization Required. The Director instead turns to consider the Doctor with a curiously lofted brow. “Do tell.

Gatter is in lab attire at the moment, having taken Devi's e-mail at face value and shown up as quickly as possible. It's not a very exciting look — labcoat worn over a light blue button up shirt and plain tan pants and sneakers — but for what he's working with today light, bland colors are ideal; there are some things you do not want to spill on yourself, and want to be certain immediately if you have. Luckily, no such accidents have occurred today.

He chuckles politely at her sloppy joe metaphor, but when she asks her question he nods with enthusiasm. "The gist of the premise is… when you move your body, you don't have to consciously think about what you're doing. If someone tosses something at you, you don't consciously use visual calculus to calculate a trajectory and plot an intercept path. You catch it," he says, raising his hand up as if catching an imaginary ball. Gatter grins. "That's the goal of ICI. To make it so that you can control other devices just as easily as you'd do that."

"That's the," he tilts his head, giving a grin, "elevator pitch, anyway. There are some associated downsides that we're still working to mitigate, but it has accomplished its main operational goals; the technology is fully functional," Gatter says, beaming.

A curve at one corner of her hunter-green lips dimples a cheek. This expression holds, even as her dark gaze dances over Gatter’s face, unabashedly probing every sharp angle and scratching from something beneath the surface of the beaming enthusiasm. “As easy as that,” she says quietly, her husky tones turning it into a thoughtful rasp in the quiet of the enclosed, polished space. And then…

“Fully functional, you say? Great! And here I thought this was going to be difficult. PFFFFT!” Her lacquered lips blow a raspberry that is somehow more lewd for their confined space, and she wheels around and braces a palm on the elevator panel. A hand scan, a code, a blood sample, and maybe a horcrux-worth-of-soul later, and the lift begins to move anew.

“Given the nature of your assignments while under Too-Cardi-… Mister Ray’s supervision, I’m guessin’ you’re something of a trustworthy man?” Devi inquires, considering the Doctor over her shoulder through the watery reflection. “But, even if you’re not - well… to be frank, I don’t have many options at the moment. So it’s you. I’ve got you.” She turns around with a beaming smile all her own. And yet, when paired with the tone of next words, “And you’ve got me.”… It seems anything but pleasant. A warning? A threat? Some combination thereof, perhaps.

Gatter blinks blankly; something about that smile seems off, somehow. He frowns quizzically, trying to put together a puzzle he doesn't have the pieces of. "I… see," he ventures blankly.

"What exactly did you have in mind for ICI, anyway?"

“Well, I’ll be honest-…” A pause, a tilt of her head shifting that long raven braid like a serpent down her side. “And that’s something you and I are goin’ to be doin’ now - being honest, ‘kay?” She turns and her shoulder blades into the wall beside the panel. “I only dug out that clusterfuck to make sure The Project really has every chance of success. But, if only we could’a left it at that.” She smiles, this time more sincere. “But, then it’s never that easy, and you and I wouldn’t be here.”


The elevator stops.

But, before it can open Devi jambs her thumb forcibly into the >| |< button to keep the doors sealed and their shifty doppelganger reflections looming over their conversation. “If there was anyone else that coulda given my side of this elevator pitch, Doc, I promise you I’d have sent them. But, I’m afraid this is where you either sign on for some real government-disapproving, life-saving Raytech-fuckery that stays between you and I alone.” She nudges her head towards the door. “Or… you say Uncle - you get to stay on the right side of the law, plead ignorance, and maybe lose some sleep out of curiosity and a sense of really having fucked the pooch for some innocent people. In which case, I’ll send ya back up and this never happened.”

She holds up a finger with her free hand. “The fine print… One: I’ll personally make you disappear if you cross me on this one. Too many people are relying on it. And, two: I promise we will do this in the most ethical way possible.” Her finger curls down slowly before her hand falls away. “So, what’s it goin’ be?”

Gatter's eyelids lower, half-lidding as he regards Devi's reflection in uncharacteristic silence for a long moment. "If we fuck the pooch on this, as you say… have you thought about what will happen? I have. I see it in my dreams, sometimes. Every living thing on Earth will die. Every human being, every dog, every cat, every insect, fungus, tree, blade of grass, every microorganism will die. Total biosphere collapse — a mass extinction that makes what happened to the dinosaurs look like a kid flushing a cherry bomb down the toilet. Seas will evaporate, plants will wither and burn, violent winds will rip at everything that's left. Actually, all of that's going to happen anyway — the seas, the burning. The death. The only difference is whether life — any life — survives it."

"That is my priority. I'll not bore you with talk on my opinions on political science, but even I know enough to understand this: laws are worthless if those they are intended to protect are extinct."

"Now," Gatter says, turning to regard Devi directly, his gaze dispassionate, his voice without emotion. "You have my thoughts on the matter of laws. Many of them are dubious. Ethics is a bit more… relevant… but you've addressed that matter. But if we are to be honest with each other," Gatter says, his gaze sharpening, "I'd like to ask that you refrain from threats. Every time the sun rises, I see the impending destruction of the planet coming one day closer; there is quite enough hanging over my head without worrying if someone who I'm supposed to be working with, supposed to trust, is going to decide to 'make me disappear'," he states flatly.

"I've been trusted with knowing that the end of the world is coming. By the government, and by our mutual employer. If that is not enough for you to trust without making threats… the button to take the elevator back up is right there."

Devi closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, saying a silent prayer of gratitude for one Richard Ray. Maybe she shouldn’t have doubted, but he did higher that One-Eyed Fuck-Face not too long ago. Her smile returns before she bothers to open her eyes. “Sorry, lab coat covered up them big balls you’re toting ‘round. My bad.” She chuckles openly, a warm husky sound that covers up the little ding when she jerks her finger up off the button and the doors glide open.

“This way, Dr. Cajones.”

Subterranean Level 5

Raytech Industries

The garishly bright light sweeps into the elevator, only to bounce off the reflective surfaces therein and back into the hallway flanked on either side by reinforced doors. The doors are identical in their double-wide, arced design as well as their blinking access panels. Only small alphanumerical tags above each panel set them apart. Devi makes her way past several and finally does the dance of the security mumbo-jumbo at another. One might’ve accused her of selecting one at random, if it hadn’t been for the whole show in the elevator… and what is revealed on the other side.

She steps in and promptly to the side, arms folded as she considers the contents.

They have entered a large work bay where several workspaces and tool benches around the room are already in various states of progress and disarray in seemingly equal, or indistinguishable, measure. Raised on a lift at the room’s center is a large mechanical quadruped - feline would be an easy guess, given the claws on one currently large, detached paw. One hind quarter still bears some chipped, faded paint of tiger stripes, while the remainder has been stripped down to metal revealing different levels of quality and craftsmanship in areas.

“Doctor, meet your new partner: Shere Khan… or, for the moment: Sherrie.”

Gatter blinks, once, processing the nickname. But on the whole… Dr. Cojones is certainly not the worst nickname. Most definitely not. His eyebrows rise a bit, a grin on his lips as he moves to follow.

The sight that Devi has in store for him sees his brow furrow. "He is called Shere Khan, for he is chief among tigers…" Gatter mutters to himself, peering at the robot for a long moment. His eyes flicker from one portion of the robot to another, studying the disassembled areas. Gatter frowns and looks to Devi. "Alright. What are your plans for, er, Sherrie?"

Devi leans back and props a boot up onto the wall behind her. Her pupils begin to dilate as they skim across the various parts around the mechanical beast. “I promised we’d do this as ethically as possible. I’m not putting this literal killing machine back out there with the mods I have in mind without some serious fail safes and security. So…” She tips her head and claps her hand on the back of her own neck with an audible smack.

“Hook me up doc.” She blinks and her pupils return to normal. “ICI. Tech in the brain bullshit. Mindmeld us.” She takes a deep breath to stop the rambling that’s only partly disguising her unease. “Can you do it?”

Gatter is silent for a long moment. "Yes," he says finally. "It can be done. Not today, but it appears that Sherrie isn't exactly in an operational state at the moment, anyway," he says, his gaze sliding back to the robotic tiger with a momentary look of fascination.

But the drone isn't the concern at the moment. He forces himself to look back to Devi. "I can start to get things lined up for an expedited procedure as soon as I leave, to get the implant installed as quickly as possible. But I mentioned downsides to the ICI technology. They are mitigable, but they are real. Do you want me to run through them?"

“Nah, she needs some serious TLC if she’s going to accomplish what’s necessary.” Devi, pushes off the wall with a boot and takes up one of the machine’s paws in two long-fingered tattooed hands. Her dark eyes scan the beast, growing darker until pupils leach out across the iris and fray inky whisps into the whites of her eyes.

“We’ll have to do the procedure here. At least to start. I can’t send her over whole. I don’t have the privacy or means to store and get the work finished there.” Her husky tone and expression lower in equal measure before a blink reverses the obvious side effects of her ability and her more natural gaze turns to the doctor.

“All the fine print, huh? Only if you do it in the voice like the old ‘scrip commercials back in the day.” She smiles. “Let’s hear ‘em. It won’t change a thing, but I’d rather know.”

Gatter stares for a moment. "The ICI device is an implant that interfaces directly with the brain, which means surgery is required. At this point, it's fairly routine — the procedure itself is something that's well refined. The device itself is… about the size of a half-dollar, and is typically implanted about here," he says, tapping a point on his own skull, about an inch behind his left ear. "Incredibly fine wires connect it to the brain, and it maps neural outputs to usable instructions for the device you're operating… and, as well, maps the machine's own inputs to things your senses can understand."

"The requirement for surgery is the first drawback. The second is that, since it's a neural-linked implant, you'll need to take medication to combat Kauper-Engel syndrome until such time as you decide to have the implant removed — also requiring surgery. Unfortunately, we haven't found a way to cure Kauper-Engel yet; it was going to be high on my research priority list before… all of this," he grimaces. He glances to Devi. "Kauper-Engel, if you're unfamiliar, is essentially a maladaptation from your body perceiving the implant as a foreign object; it tries to fight the implant off to prevent damage to your nerves, instead causing it. The medication prevents this, but it's something you have to keep taking."

"Finally there's the risk of psychological complications. Spend too long as a robot tiger and you get used to it. Admittedly I don't really anticipate that as much of a problem — you strike me as someone who is extremely comfortable in her own skin," he says with a momentary smile.

The raven-haired woman mirrors the doctor’s movements, brushing her roughened fingertips up under her braid and over the indicated fleshy spot behind her ear. She nods once after that post-commercial legally required warning rundown. “How is the medication taken and at what frequency?”

Shere Khan’s lifeless form looms, but even Sherrie proves to be no competition for the doctor’s compelling little compliment. Devi’s lacquered lips tilt in a mischievous way. “Plenty comfortable. Spent a lotta time decoration’ it all pretty.” She gives a wiggle of one shoulder.

Pretty thought it is, it itches - for one more hit of this, or a line of that. The alcohol takes the sting out of it, at least.

She could tell him.
She should tell him.
She doesn’t.

Like she said, it wouldn’t change a thing, anyway.

"That's good," Gatter says, grinning back at her for a moment. Then, more seriously, he adds, "Physical activity is encouraged as much as possible when you're not remoting into a drone, to help keep you aligned with it. You still have to live in that body, after all."

"The medication is taken weekly, via injection. We do not, at the moment, have an in-house production stream for the medication; we get ours from Yamagato. That's another thing that got sidelined when all of this started," Gatter says, frowning briefly, his disapproval of that plain. "If the anti-rejection meds are not available, you might want to take magnesium supplements daily; unfortunately, that only helps alleviate the symptoms. It doesn't fix the damage being caused, which is non-reversible. TLDR, do not skip the meds."

"Once the implant is installed, I can run you through the basic ICI training program down here. We typically start with a wired connection to a SPOT, then progress to wireless precision operation. With practice, you'll be able to move the SPOT as precisely as you could your own limbs. Possibly moreso; one of the big selling points was precision operation, after all." Abruptly, Gatter pauses. "Remind me to revisit that, by the way. There was actually something I was hoping to pitch your way," he says, raising a finger.

Then he moves on. "In between your Operations crash course… maybe I could help you work on that," he says, looking to the robotic tiger. "I'd be very interested to see just what its parameters are."

The Director nods and nods and nods and nots, until… Even her tattoos and flamboyant makeup cannot hide her deadpans. “Fucking SPOTbots,” she shudders visibly. “Fine. But how long is this all going to take?” She grimaces as if the proverbial clock were grating across her flesh and nerves with every tick-tock.
Devi’s gaze then does a quick volley between Sherrie and Gatter, settling finally on the doctor. “You-?” A brow pops. “Wanna?” Dark irises tilt down-down-down and even more slowly back up, this time far more sincere in their probing, daresay undressing-down, of the labcoated figure. “Okay then,” her husky tones toy at the air. “Pitch it. I’m a good catcher.” She leans into workbench, nails ticky-tapping on the edge as she wets her lips with a soft peek of her tongue. Her gaze is uncharacteristically focused in its intensity and calculations, a look primarily reserved for her projects as opposed to people.

Gatter considers Devi, considers the robotic tiger. "Depends on how hard you go after it. Normally it's a three week course for full certification, but if we're working on an accelerated timetable — and of course, we are," Gatter says, cracking a grim smile, " — then we can probably have you ready to drive this thing by the time it's operational. Judging by its, er, current state, that is."

Her invitation sees him nod, his own gaze focused. "You recall I mentioned using ICI to pilot small units to accelerate precision work on Project Agartha. We have the Operators for this. We do not, however, currently have the drones for it — not really. We have some small generic units, and we have the SPOTs. Also a few specialty projects, such as, er, Sherrie," Gatter says, glancing to the tiger before looking back to Devi, his own expression serious. "So…. I was hoping to pitch a cooperative project to design a small, utility-type drone. Something able to maneuver in small spaces, stick to vertical surfaces, and perform precision manipulation tasks. Repairs, especially — anything as compact as Project Agartha is going to have a lot of very small spaces that need to be accessed if anything goes wrong, and these drones could potentially save lives."

Devi raises a hand, cusping thumb and middle finger across her forehead to massage at her temples within one tattooed grip. “You know what I hate most about the this pre-apocoloypse shitfest?” Her hand stills and angles up enough to reveal her quizzical expression.

“Actual work,” she groans, shoulders hunched up as if the word was vomited rather than merely spoken. She wriggles out of the posture with a deep breath and gives a simple nod. “Seems like a smart move, anyway,” she concedes. Her attention sweeps the boundaries of the room. It’s lacking the eclectic selection of half-finished projects that decorate her own lab… for now. “I’ll dig up things we could use as a foundation to kickstart us off. Get me a list, including suggested dimensions, of features you think will be important, and we’ll light another end of this candle.” She focuses on Gatter with a renewed smile. “I’m pulling wicks out my ass at this point, pal. Hopefully this isn’t a ‘sleep when we’re dead’ scenario, yeah?”

Gatter nods, then laughs at her wick metaphor. "I like to work. But it feels like we're all burning the candle at nine different ends, these days…" he says, and for a moment he looks tired…

… but then he shakes his head. "But we'll get it done. Maybe I can make the extra work up to you with a bottle of Very Experimental Scientific Vodka at some point," he says, a momentary gleam of mischief in his eyes. It's quickly replaced by a more focused expression, though. "In the meantime, I'll see what I can do with regards to scheduling the ICI procedure; I'll pass you details on that as soon as I can get things lined up. Anything else on the table?" he asks.

Devi squints thoughtfully. “Very Experimental Scientific Vodka will be a good start.” She levels a darkly polished nail in his direction. “But, when we celebrate, we’re goin’ to be needing something a hella lot stronger.” Her lips spread into a grin and her body turns to consider the suspended metallic beast. “A lot stronger.”

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