This is a fan-fic based on characters created by Yoshiki Takaya and contains violent situations with adult language. All other characters are created by Brian O’Sullivan, et all for the Warrior Guyver fan-fiction website.
August 18, 2006 — Northern Washington DC — A Seemingly Abandoned Industrial Estate
The office was dark, save for the dim glow of a flat screen computer monitor that served only to outline the young man using the terminal. The *click* of keys as he typed on the keyboard was almost the only sound that could be heard in the room, aside from the faint hints of gothic alternative metal music coming from his headphones. So engrossed in the music and his work that when the door chimed to signal someone waiting outside, he completely missed it.
The chime signaled again, but still no answer. On the third attempt, the door slid open to reveal Dr. Thomas Drake, who stepped in and flipped on the lights. That, it seemed, managed to catch the young man’s attention, who looked up from his computer screen, blinking at the sudden influx of light.
With the lights on, the office looked to be an area that should have instead been deemed a disaster area. Half-opened operating manuals dotted the office space. A clutter of several half-dismantled desktop computer towers were set off to a corner, stacked three- and four-high. The desk was a little better, but still dominated by several zip drives and a plethora of CD cases.
The young man snatched off the headphones, allowing the strains of Lacuna Coil’s “Swamped” to be heard before he hurriedly clicked on the mouse to shut off the music. “Sorry, Doc,” he apologized, his voice a soft baritone. “Busy at work.”
“I trust that ‘work’ doesn’t mean playing first-person shooters or real-time strategy games,” came the mild reply from Dr. Drake. “You know, Gabriel, this office looks like a microcosm of what’s going on outside in the real world.” He paused for a moment. “You do know what’s going on outside, right, Mr. Kelso?”
“Hadn’t checked, to be honest.” Leaning back in his office chair a little, Gabriel Kelso looked up at the good doctor for a moment before standing up. “Actually, I was looking over the code for the Red Type guidance and targeting systems upgrades, prepping for the final check before uploading it all. Been doing that for… hrmm…” The young man paused for a moment, eyes darting around for a moment before looking up at Dr. Drake sheepishly. “What’s the date?”
“Oh… huh. I seem to have missed a couple of days, then.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Dr. Drake ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head. “Gabriel–”
“Doc, please, call me Gabe. I hate it when you all go formal on me.”
“Fine, Gabe.” Dr. Drake moved to take a seat in the chair opposite Gabe’s desk. “Forget the work, at least for the moment. And sit down — you’re going to want to before I’m done.”
“All right…” Gabe frowned, but did as he was told, sitting back down. “What’s going on?”
There was no sense in sugar-coating it for the young man, so Dr. Drake launched right into it. “Chronos made their big move yesterday. Most every nation on Earth has fallen — they had personnel infiltrated on every level of virtually every government. America, Canada, Japan, all of Europe, Russia — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Had General Carter not taken us off-grid from the beginning, we very well might have been taken out completely.”
Gabe’s head lowered, his mind racing as the words struck home. “So soon?” he asked quietly. “And without any warning? Why?”
“There’s some strange rumors floating around, a lot of it centered around the Japan branch of Chronos and their heightened level of activity there, but some of it is centered around what happened in Utah last year. It’s going to be a while until we can verify anything across the sea, though, let alone try and get assets into place to start gathering intelligence. General Carter ordered a complete lockdown yesterday afternoon when Chronos hit the United States.”
Gabe looked up at the mention of Utah, his jaw set, and he took a deep breath. “Utah’s a waste of their time,” he said quietly, but there was a tightness in his voice. “There’s nothing left there — Atkins was lucky that the dig team had already been evacuated before going full-bore commando. Never mind after the explosion from the Utah Relic blasting it’s way out to head back into outer space.” He shrugged after a moment. “As for Japan… interesting. But I suppose I can understand their reasoning — Chronos wants to keep on top of the latest technology, and Japan has a good reputation on that front.” He paused for a moment. “Guess that means we won’t be seeing anyone new around here, at least for the time being.”
“He did have a couple of people brought in from outside, so I suppose that’s the closest to souvenirs that we’re going to get. One came in with Special Agent Atkins early yesterday morning; the other came in later, about mid-afternoon, and it was fortunate we were able to get her here.” Dr. Drake pointed a finger at Gabe. “And you’re the one who’s going to be showing them around the lab after lunch, so try to get your head on straight and look presentable?”
“What? Doc, come on! I haven’t run the final checks on the latest Red Type guidance and targeting systems upgrades yet, never mind–”
“That’s enough, Gabe.” Dr. Drake held up his hand. “General Carter’s finishing them up with showing them the rest of the base — they did the debriefing late yesterday afternoon and last night, so it‘s just a matter of getting them familiar with the layout. You’ve got–” he glanced at his watch as he stood up from the chair “–a little over three hours before they’re supposed to be brought down to the lab to see everything at 1300 hours. If it consoles you any, neither of them are military, and they’re roughly your age as well. If nothing else, you won’t be able to say that you’re completely alone.”
Gabe sighed quietly. He knew when he was defeated, and he’d learned all too well over the past year when it came to picking and choosing his battles with the ‘upper management’, as he referred to General Carter and his staff. “Fine. I’ll go take a run around the place, get a shower and all that.” A brief pause. “But forget the tie. I hate ties.”
Dr. Drake couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Fine, no tie. Just behave yourself is all I ask. Besides, it might just make General Carter a bit more predisposed to entertain some of your ideas.” Heading for the door, he opened it and then turned back around. “See you after lunch.”
Slumping back in his chair, Gabe watched Dr. Drake leave, then shook his head. “Carter sure as hell better be thankful for this,” he muttered to himself. Looking back at the screen, he reached for the mouse to click and save his work, then closed everything out and shut down his computer. Then he was up on his feet, heading for the door and turning the lights back off before leaving his office to head for his quarters and change clothes.
Ten minutes later, he entered what he called his own private little domain within the abandoned industrial complex that served as their base of operations. One of the smaller warehouses had been refurbished, the interior set up to resemble several city blocks, complete with stairs, alleyways and more to make it as authentic as possible. For Gabe, or any parkour enthusiast for that matter, it was a dream course to keep himself fit and keep his mind running.
Even so, as he began running, one thought ran through his head, stirring up old memories of his life before: How the hell did I wind up here?
* * * * * * * * * * *
In The Beginning
Born on April 4, 1983 to Henry and Terri Kelso, Gabe’s life was fairly typical of middle-class America, at least so far as the eastern mountains of Tennessee were concerned. Sesame Street, afternoon cartoons, toy cars — life was good, by all accounts, especially with places like Knoxville and Gatlinburg in such close proximity for places to go and enjoy. Elementary school was okay, though it did foreshadow future issues that Gabe would have throughout the rest of his school days with those who thought bullying was some God-given right.
Junior high was when the bullying really began in earnest. Gabe was rather late when puberty finally kicked in, and even then he didn’t really develop as much as most would have thought. A large part of that was the fact that Gabe had no interest in bulking up muscle and looking like all the popular jocks-to-be. More often than not, he found himself with the “geek” and “nerd” descriptors because he had more enjoyment reading science fiction and the more technically-inclined publications, or playing games like chess and strategy games than reading about (never mind playing) sports.
The result, more often than not, was that Gabe was the target of whatever tortures his so-called “peers” chose to inflict upon him on any given day of the week. Stuffing him upside down in trash cans, cramming him in full-size school lockers, trying to stuff his head down into the toilet bowl — those were only the beginning. Given that Gabe wasn’t much for fighting back, that left him with only one option: run like hell.
As time passed, he actually began to build up both speed and endurance from all the running he‘d had to do to evade the worst of the bullying. By the time he entered high school, he was running well enough to where the physical education coach began regularly asking him about running cross-country. Surprisingly, Gabe refused — after what he’d already been through and still dealing with from all the self-proclaimed jock bullies, he felt that it would be like selling out to the “in crowd” and trying to conform. It did, however, open a new avenue of interest for him in the art of parkour, which was still in its infancy in France. He began to study it, and find ways to incorporate it into his daily routine whenever he could after school.
But most of his time was spent with computers. All the “geek” talk aside, Gabe self-taught himself about computers and their inner workings, until he reached a point where he developed a small, but thriving local business where he would help people with computer problems — even so far as to repair them or custom-build new desktop towers for interested parties. The money was placed into savings — first to buy himself a used 1989 Chevy Cavalier, and then for college. While Gabe was confident in his grades, both his parents had instilled in him a sense of responsibility and work ethic, and he wasn’t going to rest on his laurels and hope for a full scholarship ride.
That dream, however, nearly came to an end during his junior year in high school. While Gabe wasn’t nearly the target of bullying that he had been before — mostly because there were very few who could keep pace with him once he was off to the races — he saw his friends still being subjected to the tortures and humiliation that being bullied caused. Finally, he decided to do something about it, and teach the bullies a lesson.
While Hollywood had glamorized computer hacking, Gabe knew it was a serious issue. But with the school’s hands tied and the bullies routinely getting away without repercussions because there was too much fear to blow the whistle, it seemed that extreme needs had to be met with extreme measures. And so one night over the weekend, Gabe remotely entered the school system’s computer records and made a few small changes to several of the student files.
The following week saw the worst of the bullies suddenly finding themselves with detentions — lots of them. Some found themselves suspended from sports because of it. They, of course, were the loudest to complain and claim they’d done nothing wrong, and soon enough it was apparent that someone had entered the computer system and made changes to a number of student files.
That Friday, school officials called an assembly of all the students together to inform the students what was happening, and that they were certain that it was the work of at least one of the students. If the guilty parties were to step forward, then the school would do what they could to mitigate the punishment that was sure to follow. If not, then the school would be forced to take more drastic measures.
Sitting in the auditorium, Gabe closed his eyes for a moment. It had been thrilling at the time, he could admit, but he was feeling guilty about it. Hacking for the sake of promoting better computer security for a business was one thing — that was putting on the “white hat”, as the hacking community called it. But what he had done was still, in some ways, for selfish reasons; he had put on the “black hat” when he gave detentions to the bullies. He didn’t want someone else to take the fall for his own actions, and deep down, he knew he had to do the right thing.
He stood up from his seat, and admitted to everything he had done.
The next three months were a firestorm of controversy — the small, quiet Tennessee community on the suburbs of Knoxville were floored by what had happened, and a schism rapidly formed to split the community in two. One camp saw Gabe as a danger, given the damage some hackers had already done in different venues throughout the United States. The other camp knew that there was some other motive for Gabe to have done what he did — they got their reason when the case went to trial.
Gabe didn’t plead not guilty to the charges — indeed, he knew he was guilty, but he felt he should have a chance to present his case for why he had done what he did. And so it all came out: the years of bullying, the humiliation and pain it had caused him. But even then, it wasn’t exactly vengeance for years of bullying that had never gone punished — it was, in a very real sense, an extreme means of defending his friends and calling attention to the fact that the bullying was going on with no signs of stopping. It was not something he intended to do again, acknowledging that he should have pursued other avenues to call attention to the problems in school.
In the end, the defense tactic worked — the judge ordered community service and probation until he reached the age of eighteen. Even so, Gabe had a lot of trust to rebuild with the school, and his fledgling computer business pretty much died as a result. And worse, a lot of the colleges and universities he had considered before were no longer open to taking the risk of accepting someone with such a mark on their record.
Slowly but surely, Gabe expanded his college search, until finally one school proved willing to take a chance with the young man: the California Institute of Technology, better known as CalTech, in Pasadena, California. It seemed like a good fit, especially since Gabe was considering expanding from just computers into mechanical engineering; the deal was only sweetened when CalTech was able to give Gabe enough scholarship funds to pay for his tuition and board — the two most expensive items on the college checklist. With that sort of deal in place, it was a foregone conclusion that Gabe would be heading for the West Coast. And so it was that, a couple of months after graduating from high school, Gabe began packing up his belongings into his used Chevy Cavalier, and made the cross-country trip from eastern Tennessee to the sunny climate of California.
* * * * * * * * * * *
August 18, 2006 — Northern Washington DC — A Seemingly Abandoned Industrial Estate
Sometimes, it amazed Gabe that he was able to multi-task so efficiently. Even as he reminisced about his past, his mind and body were operating on a different level altogether. His running had evolved past the tenets of parkour as originally set out by David Belle, to Sebastien Foucan’s “free running” — his creativity working in tandem with his instinctive sense of spatial awareness of his surroundings. That combination allowed him to vault, climb, jump, roll or run as the situations and obstacles dictated, all while focusing solely on efficiency and speed. Even so, Gabe still remembered the core mantra behind the philosophy of parkour: être et durer.
To be and to last.
Heading for the showers, Gabe let the hot water relax his muscles. After finishing a couple of circuits around the course, he had realized that part of why it seemed so easy for him was because he was getting used to the layout of the mock-city — he knew to anticipate it and act before conscious thought ever came into play, no matter the route. That meant spending most of an hour going through and making changes, repositioning obstacles for future runs, before he had to stop so that he could get ready for his impending babysitting duty. Even that work wasn’t going to be enough, though — it was going to take a lot more obstacle repositioning before the course would be ready for a new series of free running.
Finishing his shower, he toweled himself off before heading back to his quarters to change. Most of the personnel that had gone off-grid to work with General Carter were military, and made use of the new Army Combat Uniforms. Gabe, however, was still a civilian, and he liked to remind people of that sometimes. Opting for a white button-down shirt with a mandarin collar to avoid wearing ties and a pair of denim blue jeans, Gabe grabbed a pair of blue-and-white high-top tennis shoes to finish getting dressed. As soon as he was ready, he headed for the cafeteria.
Going through the line, Gabe got his tray of food and headed for a seat in the corner, where he usually sat, and dug into his meal. As he ate, he kept an eye out for General Carter. If the new arrivals were still with him, there was a good chance that he would get his first look at the pair. The General didn’t usually take such risks like this, not unless they were like Gabe himself — people who knew too much for their own good and had become targets of opportunity for Chronos as a result.
He glanced at his digital wristwatch of his left wrist. 12:14pm. Knowing how Carter kept himself on such a regimented schedule, it wouldn’t take long before he showed up. Right about now…
“–and this is the cafeteria,” he heard General Carter say as he entered the cafeteria, followed by Atkins and a pair of younger people, one male and one female. “Here, you can get most anything you want to eat — at least, depending on what’s on the menu. It’s not a five-star restaurant, but it’s still very good food — at least we don’t force everyone to eat MREs here.”
The male had a short, dark brown hairstyle and a lean, semi-muscular build. Judging from what Gabe could tell, he had the look of someone who wasn’t quite certain of whether he should be looking over his shoulder for the threat that might be lurking behind him or not — a look much like the one he had a year ago when Atkins first brought him across the country from Utah to go into hiding off-grid with General Carter and the rest. “Well, it saves us from all the take-out we’ve ordered over the last year,” he commented wryly.
“We aim to please, Mr. Barker,” General Carter replied.
“Sean, please. I’m not so much for all the formal stuff.”
Barker? Sean Barker? Where have I heard that name before…?
“Keep talking, Sean, and we’ll see what happens,” came the female’s voice. She was wearing a pair of reading glasses, perched halfway down her nose, even though she never needed glasses otherwise. Piercing hazel-brown eyes, medium-brown hair down past her shoulder, slender and athletic from her years out in the world. Very pretty young woman, though she appeared to look a little uncomfortable in her present surroundings. “You weren’t complaining about the food before.”
But the voice — that caught Gabe’s attention, and his jaw nearly dropped. He would have known that voice anywhere, and with that jolt of recognition, he suddenly knew immediately who Sean Barker was.
“I knew better,” Sean quipped, grinning a little at Atkins and General Carter.
“Just you wait, mister! I have ways of dealing with you later.” The female’s voice reflected the good-natured banter.
Quietly, Gabe stood up from his table while they started getting their meals, and slipped out of the cafeteria with the rest of his lunch, no one the wiser. He headed back to his office and set down his lunch on the desk as he booted up his computer and began to work again, while taking the occasional bite of his sandwich and sip of his drink. Now he realized why Dr. Drake had chosen him to show them around.
Who better to put Cori Edwards’ mind at ease, than someone with whom she had some history?
* * * * * * * * * * *
College And Tempus…
California was a definite culture shock for Gabe — after spending all his life in the mountains of Tennessee, the sunny beaches and sights all around him were a definite change of pace. In that first semester, he dealt with many of his general education requirements, with every intention of focusing then on computer programming. With his previous experiences and what he did know of computer hacking, Gabe had all but decided that computer security was his future.
That changed midway through his first semester when he met the self-proclaimed “outlaws of science” — Marcus and Cori Edwards.
While many academics and scientists weren’t willing to humor their theories, Gabe found himself intrigued by the possibilities. During high school, he had read The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil, and Gabe had found some of Kurzweil’s conclusions to be most interesting, particularly the belief that by 2029, a computer artificial intelligence would pass the Turing test to prove that a machine could be sentient. Kurzweil had his fair share of detractors, but Marcus and Cori went well past some of the near science-fiction predictions that Kurzweil had made: that, more than anything, was the reason behind their “outlaws of science” moniker.
Organic technology that could be grown, as if on a farm — it was the kind of science-fiction that Michael Crichton would love, the detractors said. Most of Marcus and Cori’s critics called it exactly that — science fiction, outlandish theories that were decades away from seeing any hint of daylight, if at all. Yet, the foundation of the Edwards’ scientific stance were based on blending together the work of other scientists in academia — scientists looking at nanotechnology as the new status quo for future technologies, and utilizing genetic programming specifically to achieve the results.
Attending a lecture that Marcus Edwards gave, Gabe took full advantage of the Q&A session afterwards, and the questions he raised apparently impressed Marcus. It was enough to where, as Gabe was leaving after the conclusion of the lecture, that Cori came for him, handing him a card with their address and inviting him over to visit and talk more in-depth.
And so began a relationship that spanned several years — that lecture actually convinced Gabe to switch majors, and so he began looking at mechanical engineering instead, focusing on nanotechnology. Computer science eventually became his second major; even so, he also began taking a number of biology courses, focusing on genetics and microbiology, enough to qualify as a minor. He stayed at school over the summer, taking additional courses instead of going back to Tennessee again, and pushed ahead with his studies into his sophomore year.
The only thing that could have derailed it all was at the end of his sophomore year at CalTech, when his parents came to visit him after he’d chosen not to come home for a second summer. Gabe knew they were coming, and had made the preparations for their arrival. The day before they were scheduled to arrive, they had called to say they were fairly close, but that they would be stopping for the night soon. Thinking nothing of it, Gabe went to visit Cori and Marcus, discussing more of their work.
Just before midnight, he came home to find a Pasadena police cruiser pulling in behind him as he parked his car. When the police asked for him, he was a little confused, but identified himself — he had been law-abiding ever since the hacking incident in Tennessee, and so he wasn’t sure of what was going on. He asked what was going on, and received the chilling news: his parents were dead.
From what the authorities had been able to determine, his parents had intended to surprise Gabe by arriving early, rather than stopping like they had originally planned. A drunk driver crossed the centerline six blocks away from Gabe’s apartment and plowed into their car head-on. The drunk driver had survived, though with serious injuries; his parents, sadly, had been pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
The next couple of weeks are w whirlwind of activity. Gabe flew back to Tennessee with the bodies of his parents, and with some help from some of his parents’ friends, was able to make all the arrangements for the funeral. Given the nature of what had happened, Gabe wound up with their combined life insurance policies — most of that went to paying the expenses for the funeral, but there was still several thousand dollars left over, which Gabe placed into savings.
The only remaining detail, after all was said and done, was their house — Gabe had already decided that he wasn’t returning to Tennessee, at least not any time in the near future, and knew he wouldn’t be able to care for the house while he was in California, and so he placed it on the market, furniture included. He packed everything he was able to pack into his parents’ remaining vehicle — a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee — that hadn’t originally made the trip with him when he’d left for college two years prior, and headed back cross-country.
Gabe made it back in time to attend summer classes, throwing himself completely into his schoolwork and his ongoing time spent with Marcus and Cori, who became a second family to him. As the months passed and gave way to the fall semester, he began to resemble more his old self, and everything seemed to wind back down to normal. But all of that changed when the Tempus Group became involved.
Towards the end of the fall semester of Gabe’s third year, a representative from the Tempus Group arrived in Pasadena to speak with Marcus, and slowly Gabe began to notice changes — Marcus became more secretive, began traveling more to speak with the Tempus Group. The secrecy was unnerving, and even Cori had her concerns, but it was Gabe who brought it up. Marcus assured him that everything was fine, that the secrecy was simply the result of non-disclosure agreements that he’d signed when speaking with the Tempus Group. That explanation mollified Cori, but Gabe still harbored certain reservations.
It didn’t help when Arlen Crane came on the scene just after the start of the spring semester. After just a handful of meetings, Marcus put in to take a sabbatical from CalTech, saying only that there was a site in Utah that the Tempus Group wanted him to examine as a potential archaeological dig site, and that if it panned out, the Tempus Group would be financing the entire dig, bringing in some of the best and brightest college minds from all over California.
Between Marcus’s growing secrecy — even Cori had no idea what all Marcus was up to — and the persistence of the Tempus Group, Gabe grew more and more concerned for his mentor. Marcus kept waving him off through the spring and summer, even after Gabe completed his four-year degree and prepared for his graduate studies. Finally, however, curiosity got the better of Gabe in the fall of his senior year, and he began snooping around, starting with Marcus’s personal computer in his office at CalTech, and then on his own computer at the Edwards’ residence.
What he found floored him: Tempus Group was involved with another group that had been in the news several months earlier. The story surrounding Chronos Corporation’s branch in Los Angeles was completely lacking in details — wildly speculative rumors, but no real proof to show for any of it. Not in the LA Times, not in any of the newspapers or magazines. But there was one name that kept popping up in the reports: a Special Agent Atkins of the FBI.
What Gabe would choose to do next would impact not only his own future, but also the futures of everyone he cared for, in ways he couldn’t begin to imagine…
* * * * * * * * * * *
August 18, 2006 — Northern Washington DC — A Seemingly Abandoned Industrial Estate
Cori Edwards looked around the main engineering bay with no small amount of interest. Plenty of equipment to use for research purposes — well above and beyond what even CalTech had on hand back when she and her father were conducting their own scientific research. Of course, most of it was for the Red Type Battle Armor, though Dr. Drake had already mentioned that research and development had already begun on a Blue Type Battle Armor.
She glanced back at Sean, who admittedly looked a little lost himself, and moved back over to him, reaching for his hand to give it a reassuring squeeze. He glanced back in turn, and a small smile appeared on his face. As topsy-turvy as life had been since fleeing Utah after burying her father, Cori knew without a doubt that she still didn’t regret it for a moment. She had lost everything because of Chronos, but she had found Sean, and together the pair had made a whirlwind trip around the country to try and stay a step or two ahead of Chronos.
“It is something, isn’t it?” Sean Barker moved up slowly beside Cori, looking at her. Cori knew that, despite his reservations, Sean was slowly warming to General Carter. Certainly, General Carter had seemed sincere enough, especially when it came to needing Sean’s help and Cori’s expertise. But on the other hand, Cori also knew that Sean still didn’t care for the military wanting the weapons, and the sight of several Red Type Battle Armors did little to ease his mind.
“Definitely a step up from what we’ve seen before,” Cori replied. She leaned gently against Sean, who instinctively slipped an arm around her waist.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Atkins said as he approached. “The general has high hopes, between what we have here and what the military in general has at their disposal. Of course, there are limitations right now because of the chaos outside.”
“I bet.” Sean’s expression, from what Cori could read of it, was that he still didn’t know what all to think about this. The last thing either of them had expected was to find a large subterranean base of operations where the remnants of the military were planning for the next stage. Never mind that the government was collectively compromised, but General Carter had been adamant, if not enigmatic, that the United States government was unaware of the facility’s existence.
“The armor is still in the prototypical stages for what General Carter has in mind for them, but we’re constructing several to see how they work.” Cori turned to see Dr. Drake approaching just behind Atkins. “I see you both survived lunch, after all. Good thing the general didn’t stick to having us all eat MREs — I can only imagine the mutiny that might result.” He smiled, extending his hand to each in turn. “I’m Dr. Thomas Drake, and these armors are my design. They were meant for space excursions originally, but…” He shrugged after a moment. “The best laid plans.”
“What I don’t understand,” Sean began, “is how you’ve all managed to keep this hidden from the public, let alone from the government. I mean, we’re in the nation’s capital. A facility like this has to be on the records, and even though the general was adamant that secrecy was still assured, he didn’t explain why. I’m not sure I like that.”
“We have our ways, Mr. Barker. As it stands, General Carter was one of five people who knew of the existence of this facility,” Dr. Drake explained. “When Special Agent Atkins here discovered just how deep Alice’s rabbit hole went with Chronos infiltrating the government, the General chose to prepare. NASA signed it all over and disavowed all knowledge — this was where we were putting together the Red Type Armor under my original mandate as a space suit before repurposing it to deal with Zoanoids — and a loyal government operative removed it from government mainframes.”
Cori and Sean both shook Dr. Drake’s hand in turn. “I have to admit, Dr. Drake, I’m still wondering what all I can do here,” Cori commented. “I mean, Sean and I understand his part of all this, but I’m wondering about myself.”
“Well, you’re one of two people that know about the technology Sean has at his disposal,” Dr. Drake explained. “Well, one of two that weren’t rounded up by Chronos. You have a more practical grounding, though, because you’ve been inside the Utah Relic, and you’ve seen the alien technology for yourself. Our other expert is still more in the theoretical realm of things.”
“I’ll be happy to meet him, then,” Cori replied with a smile.
“I feel sorry for them already,” Sean muttered, only to ‘oomph’ when Cori elbowed him. “No offense, Cori, but you do tend to ramble on when you get going.”
Dr. Drake laughed softly. “Freeform creative thinking is never to be underestimated, Mr. Barker. Otherwise, the Red Type would never have existed in the first place.” He glanced at his watch. “Where is he?” he asked out loud. “I told him one o’clock.”
“He ducked out of the cafeteria just after we arrived,” Atkins said. “He’s probably absorbed in his programming again, if I know him.”
“Tell you what, I’ll take them back to meet their guide,” Atkins said. “I know the General wanted you to meet with him again, Doctor. I’ll be a good chaperone, promise.”
Dr. Drake sighed quietly, glancing as his watch. “Very well.” He looked at Cori and Sean. “If you’ll both excuse me, Agent Atkins will take you to meet your new colleague.”
Atkins gestured towards a nearby hall leading to the engineering bay’s office space as Dr. Drake headed to the elevator. “Come with me.” He led Cori and Sean down the hallway, turning left at the first intersection and then stopping at a numbered door, which Atkins opened after swiping his passcard. He peeked in, then shook his head with a small grin. “He’s a workaholic if I’ve ever seen one. Come on.”
He opened the door to the office, and the trio entered to find the office alight, but not in use. However, the attached lab housed a simulator that showed signs of being in use, and Atkins led the way into the lab itself. “The simulator is for the pilots and techs for the Red Type Armors,” he explained to Sean and Cori. “He must be testing something.” He moved to a microphone and turned it on. “Your one o’clock is here, with me.”
The simulator stopped moving, and after a moment the door to the simulator opened up. A young man emerged, turning to retrieve something, and then slowly turned around.
Cori’s eyes went wide with shock and recognition. “You… you’re dead!” she blurted out.
“No, I’m not quite dead yet, Sis. I’m actually feeling much better.” Gabe Kelso glanced between Cori and Sean, then back at Atkins. “You should have warned her what to expect, you know. After all the trouble you went to–”
“And you aren’t supposed to be playing around in the simulator,” Atkins replied.
“I wasn’t. I updated the guidance and tracking for the Red Type this morning, and I wanted to see how it looked in simulation. A flatscreen computer monitor will only show me so much. Besides, Dr. Drake knows I always test my work on the simulators. It’s the perfectionist programmer in me.” Gabe glanced over at Sean again. “That’s the one who’s supposed to have been from Cal State, I take it.”
Atkins nodded. “Yeah, he’s the one… and he’s in a position to give you some of those answers you’ve been wanting for over a year now, so you can go wild with all that high-tech futurist mumbo-jumbo of yours.”
“What, the genetic programming, biomolecular computing and all that? I’m a geek, Atkins. You’ve known that for two years now.” Gabe paused, then gestured for the trio to follow him. “Come on, I think Sis needs a few moments to let it all sink in, and I’ll explain everything.” He sighed softly. “At the very least, it’ll answer some questions.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
Resolutions, Endings and Beginnings
It took Gabe most of a week to decide how to approach the situation; certainly he couldn’t tell Marcus and Cori what he had found. It was their safety he was worried about, and the fact that neither the Tempus Group or Chronos security was paying him a visit gave him the feeling that they hadn’t picked up on his discoveries and what he had learned since. If he told them, and either of them told the Tempus Group, it would inevitably lead back to him, and he doubted that either group would look kindly on an outsider knowing some of their secrets.
That left Atkins, the FBI agent whose name had popped up several times. A closer look at all the information had revealed that while there had been CIA interest in the case, that it ended with the death of one of their agents, Max Reid. Gabe thought about it, and finally hit on an idea.
Purchasing a prepaid cellular phone, then headed out into a small park in Pasadena that he occasionally spent time in. Then he placed a call to the Hoover Building, the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC, and asked for Atkins.
“You and I have a shared interest, Agent Atkins. We should talk sometime.”
“Who is this?”
“Someone who’s seen your work from most of a year ago and read it front to back several times now. How soon can you be in California?”
“…I’m in Los Angeles now. Who are you?”
“We’ll talk when you get here. Victory Park, Pasadena, one hour. Come alone. I’ll be watching.” Gabe thumbed the END button and pocketed the phone. There was only the wait now.
An hour later, he was sipping on a bottled water when he caught a glimpse of Atkins. He glanced around to make certain no one was following Atkins — granted, he didn’t know what to look for, but he wasn’t going to go into this blind. Steeling himself, he took a deep breath and approached casually. “Let’s walk,” he said once he got close enough.
Atkins turned, looking at Gabe for a moment. “Kid, this had better be important, because the trouble you’ll be in otherwise–”
“The trouble I’ll be in pales in comparison to the trouble my friends and colleagues are in,” Gabe interrupted. “And I’ve been in trouble before. That said, I’m going to admit to a few less than legal things, but I think you’ll pass on prosecuting me. Come on.” He began to walk, and after a moment Atkins caught up with him.
“The Tempus Group has been very persistent with a couple of friends of mine,” Gabe began quietly. “Their pressure has been bothering me, and it hasn’t helped that one of those friends and colleagues of mine has grown increasingly secretive. So I went snooping, first in his computers, and then in the Tempus Group computer system itself.”
“Yeah, and I imagine the judge in Tennessee isn’t going to be happy that I did it again — not that it matters, since that’s my juvenile record. But the Tempus Group isn’t the benevolent scientific foundation they claim to be.” Gabe glanced over at Atkins. “They’re actually a scientific think-tank for your friends at Chronos Corporation, based out of Arizona.”
“What do you know of Chronos, kid?”
“Enough to know that they’re playing around with genetic engineering. CalTech has genetic splicing equipment in their molecular biology department. I’ve seen the machines before, and I recognized some of them from the pictures your team took after the mess in Chronos LA.”
Atkins stopped. “That’s classified–”
“No shit, Atkins. But they have your report as part of their file, and I found just enough extra in their files to worry me — something about some secret project of theirs that got lost right about the time the shit hit the fan.” Gabe turned back towards Atkins. “I didn’t call you here to brag, though. My friends are in danger — hell, so am I — but they’re about the closest thing I have left to family now, and I don’t want to see them in trouble because of some group of lying bastards who have ulterior motives of their own.”
Atkins shook his head and started walking again. “Okay kid, since you’re the expert, why don’t you tell me what you want to do about it?”
Gabe continued walking as well, thinking for a moment. “They have an archaeological dig planned in Bear Lake State Park that’s going to start up next semester,” he finally said quietly. “There’s a series of cave drawings in there that has them excited — it would be vindication for Marcus and Cori that their theories are right, if they find anything. But the Tempus Group is looking for something specific, something to do with that lost secret project of theirs from Chronos LA.”
“Could you get me in?”
“Probably. Hopefully they won’t know what you look like.” Gabe shrugged. “I’d start taking a crash course in archaeology, though, so that you don’t blow your cover over something crazy.”
The following months were a whirlwind of activity. Gabe managed to get into a position where he could approve potential members for the dig team, and inserting Atkins wasn’t too much trouble at all. The dig teams would be a rotating group of a dozen students, not including the “staff” — the Tempus Group, Marcus and Cori, and Atkins.
Fall and winter passed, and spring brought in the first of the dig teams in Utah. The teams found little more than fossilized bones, but the kinds of creatures those bones belonged to — at least from the few photos Gabe managed to see from Cori — defied identification.
Gabe read over the reports that came in from Cori and Marcus while continuing his graduate studies, but there was little he could do but wait to see what would happen. As spring passed, his patience was pushed to the limit, but somehow he managed to hold on.
It was the start of June when he received a strange call from Cori, wanting to add some stranger into the dig site. The name: Sean Barker, who was supposed to be from Cal State. That got Gabe’s attention, but there was little he could do aside from confirm that there was space — one of the members of the dig team that had come in over Memorial Day weekend a week or so before had been unable to make it. The only reason it piqued Gabe’s curiosity was the tightening of security when it came to the sudden upsurge in “bear attacks”, but Gabe trusted Cori’s judgment.
Even so, it didn’t stop him from deciding on his own to make a little trip to the dig site itself…
* * * * * * * * * * *
August 18, 2006 — Northern Washington DC — A Seemingly Abandoned Industrial Estate
“…it took me two days to get there, and even then I missed you both by half an hour.” Gabe was sitting behind his desk, looking at Cori and Sean as they sat across from him, and Atkins standing near the door. “Atkins gave me long enough to pay my respects at the cairn you made for Marcus, and then the second team arrived. I went with them, and I got shuttled straight here to DC.”
“The news said your apartment caught fire, that you were dead.” Cori looked up. “Didn’t you at least try to call on the way to Utah?”
“Twice, actually. The first time, the signal crapped out on me. The second time… I think the second time the cellular service was jammed or something, because I couldn’t get anything.” Gabe shrugged after a moment. “It wasn’t for lack of trying. But when Atkins and I came here, he said precautions had to be taken, because with his cover as a professor blown to Chronos, it would quickly lead back to me.”
“He hated it, Cori,” Atkins put in. “But we’ve tried to keep him busy, let him adjust to things. He was able to set up part of the training facilities we have for him to run off the excess energy.” He shook his head. “I still don’t get how you pull off some of those wall-running stunts of yours.”
“Parkour is good exercise, and I’ve been doing it off and on since high school. What more can I say?”
“So, what now?” asked Sean. “Don’t get me wrong, I want to help where I can, but I need to know where we’re going to start.”
Gabe hmmed softly. “I want to have an idea of what we’re working with here. If you have this technology, then there is a lot I want to see. I could give two shits about the military applications–” he glanced up at Atkins “–sorry, Atkins, but it’s the truth.” He looked back at Sean. “I want to see the science, see how the technology looks, how it works, all of that. And even if we can’t find more utilitarian applications for the technology itself — medical advances, construction, how it functions in relation to us — at least we can help give you an idea of just what all you might be capable of doing with it. It’ll mean being a bit of a guinea pig, but understanding the basics of the Creator technology would give us something to work with.”
Sean nodded, looking at Cori first, then back at Gabe again. “Well, let’s get started.”