Dr. Derricks had been reborn. Perfected. Every inch of his body was a monument to his genius, a signpost pointing towards the glorious future that awaited humanity. Or at least the elements of humanity that were worthy of a future.
“Neural processing is benchmarking at 127% of projected capacity,” Simmons said, adjusting the controls on the scanning bed that Derricks was laying on. “Heat build up is within acceptable constraints though.”
“Give me the specific measurements,” Derricks said, his words coming out faster and higher than he intended. He knew systematic collection of data and accurate monitoring were essential to the final testing stage of the development process. He’d designed the tests himself, and had chosen the sampling period for a litany of excellent reasons. He hadn’t anticipated how unnecessary they would feel though.
He knew he was perfect. A perfect mind at last married to a perfect body. Waiting for confirmation of that, even for reasons he’d chosen, was agonizing. With his hyper-accelerated cognition, each second felt like an eternity passing by.
Simmons, to his credit, hadn’t made any mistakes in the data collection. Yet. Derricks still wanted to destroy him. Simmons was too calm and measured. There should have been more terror in his eyes when he looked upon a being so much more advanced than he was.
“Heat generation is 49.3% above projected values, but heat dispersal is at 72.7% over what the plan called for,” Simmons said. “The cooling functionality is evenly matching the heat generation curve, so signs point to unused capacity there. We may be able to increase cognitive speeds significantly further without a risk of overheating.”
“I don’t need analysis,” Derricks said, forcing himself to lie still on the bed. “Begin the seventh test regime.”
Simmons signaled to Park, Objawani, and de Mers, Derricks next most trusted tier of assistants. They weren’t as broadly talented as Simmons but within their limited areas they were some of the finest minds Tython had been able to find.
If Derricks was feeling charitable, he would have admitted that without their input, the project would have been substantially delayed. For large, complicated endeavors, it’s rarely the work of one person to see all of the aspects through to completion. There’s simply too much to be done. Some of the labor has to be delegated to achieve any sort of efficiency.
He wasn’t feeling charitable though. Not with all the waiting. Not when the techs nearest to him also represented all but one of the people capable of understanding the transformation he’d undergone and either stealing it for themselves, or in the unthinkable case, working out a countermeasure to undo it.
Simmons, Park, Objawani, and de Mers had all served him well and performed beyond the highest of professional expectations. For their reward, he would make sure their deaths were merciful and brief. Violent to be sure. He could afford to indulge himself to some degree, but nothing ostentatious. Just enough to balance the agony he was enduring now perhaps?
Derricks felt his temper cool as the next series of tests began. Aggression monitoring wasn’t until the ninth series, but he considered pushing the test up sooner. Whatever Simmons had been inspecting had set off a wave of emotion that he kept deeply buried under normal circumstances.
Rage, aggression, violent fantasies? Those were psychological elements the NME transformation focused on enhancing since the end result was supposed to be a weaponized human. Derricks had spent years working on solving the problem of retaining the psychological conditioning features of the transformation while stripping away the undesirable elements of it. It was possible his team had missed some, but given the return of his ability to suppress those desires there couldn’t be too much danger present. Simmons was stressing and causing temporary point failures throughout Derricks’ systems as part of the monitoring tests. Normal operating mode seemed just as cold and smoothly controlled as Derricks could have desired.
When he killed them all, it wouldn’t be as part of an NME rampage. He would be in control every moment of it, and would execute the task with the clinical precision it required.
“Initial results are being logged for the 8th test regime,” Simmons said. “All macro-muscular control interfaces report green status. Processing delay is hovering just above the synthetic muscle response minimum threshold.”
One issue with early test subjects was that hyper-accelerated cognition outstripped the ability of the body’s muscles to respond. In the worst cases, the newly enhanced brain told the heart to beat faster than its muscle tissue could respond. This typically produced a panic reaction, leading the accelerated mind to demand that the heart beat even faster. Those test subjects did not survive.
Others experienced similar, though less fatal, issues with loss of bodily control when the complicated instructions for shifting muscle tension to maintain balance or even move a limb smoothly couldn’t be executed by the muscles as quickly as the mind wanted.
Derricks had no worries for himself though. Their early failures had been addressed and then made irrelevant once he worked out how to replace the body’s existing musculature with vastly more responsive carbon fiber based motion systems. The synthetic muscles were not only stronger, faster and more enduring than natural ones, they were crafted with built in intelligence which could sync up with the subject’s augmented mind and avoid any timing issues from occurring.
Derricks relaxed as more results came in showing that his control over his new body was as close to optimal as he ever could have desired. He was perfect, as each new test was confirming for him.
“Sir, we’ve received a report from our field operatives,” Simmons said. “Shall I delay the next test while you evaluate it?”
“Absolutely not,” Derricks said. “These tests are the only thing that matter. Continue onto the next regime and summarize the report for me.”
The sooner the tests were done, the sooner Derricks could reconnect to the net and deal directly with the issues that were facing them. Until he was checked out and returned to a secured state though, any outside influences could be devastating. In his current “open interface mode”, with his internal security disabled to allow for direct and unfiltered monitoring, a skilled hacker could change him into almost anything, both physically and mentally.
“Our cleaning crews have missed their appointed check-ins,” Simmons said. From the lack of concern in his voice, he could have been reporting the weather in a far away nation. Surprise and worry gripped Derricks’ heart regardless of the Simmon’s delivery though.
He’d sent in their three best teams. None of them missed an appointed check-in. Ever. It was why he did business with them. They were professionals and understood the need for clear and accurate communication.
“What has remote monitoring turned up?” Derricks asked.
“The building they targeted appears to be empty,” Simmons said. “The teams detected signs of Harcroft’s presence in the sub-basement levels. Two of the three teams breached the building simultaneously with no resistance encountered. Communications were interrupted when they ventured into the first basement level and did not resume thereafter.”
Derricks considered the choices faced by the team leaders. The signs of Harcroft’s presence were too easily faked to be relied upon. He’d required positive identification and the elimination of the Harcroft, so they had been required to enter the building rather than arranging for its destruction from an external spot.
His enemy Heartless could have guessed that easily enough. That was likely why Harcroft had been positioned in the sub-basement. What Heartless couldn’t have guessed was the strength of the teams sent to deal with the situation.
One team should have been more than enough to deal with the extraction, especially since they didn’t need to remove the hostage from the facility. With two active teams and a team monitoring for outside interference the mission should not only have gone smoothly, it should have left no witnesses.
“We need to debrief Team 3 immediately,” Derricks said. “They’ve recorded some information that will reveal what happened, even if they’re too stupid to understand what they have.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible sir,” Simmons said. “We have lost communication with Team 3 as well.”
“They followed the other two into the building?” Derricks bolted up into a sitting position, ruining the active test’s results.
“No sir,” Simmons said. “They passed along the alert and are no longer showing as online.”
“We have eyes on them don’t we?” Derricks asked, cursing that he hadn’t been in a position to plan the raid out personally.
“No sir, we do not,” Simmons said. “The operation was centered in an area with only partial EyeGrid support. Team 3 purposely setup in a viewing dead zone to prevent a forensic review of their activity.”
Derricks felt rage surge down the digital pathways that had replaced his nerves. If he’d still been human he would have broken something. Or someone. Instead, a cool, mechanical calm settled over him. The aggression he’d experienced while laying on the monitoring table was well under his control.
“Does their final message include their standard security credentials?” Derricks asked. A picture was beginning to form in his mind. An unpleasant one.
“It does not,” Simmons said. “They switched to anonymized communication to prevent triangulation of their position before the first two teams breached.”
“And do we have direct confirmation of the two teams breaching successfully?” Derricks asked.
“All recordings were routed through Team 3 sir,” Simmons said. Derricks could tell from the look in Simmon’s eyes that the tech understood the point of Derrick’s questions.
“Backtrack the approach route the teams took,” Derricks said. “We had a mass kidnapping of Tython employees. Or enemy is familiar with the transit system, I believe our team never arrived at their destination.”
Simmons turned from the test monitoring console, staring into the air as he called up the records Derricks knew would prove him right.
“We have visuals on the teams’ vehicles during their inbound trip,” Derrick said. “They made it into the neighborhood where the target building is. Telematics on their locators suggest that they are still there.”
That was wrong. They should be crashed somewhere.
“See if the vehicles will respond to a recall order?” Derricks asked.
Simmons waved a hand in the air and refocused to meet Derrick’s gaze.
“They acknowledged the order,” he said. “We should have visual on them in under a minute.”
Less than sixty seconds later, each of the unmanned trucks appeared on the EyeGrid cameras just where their telematics said they should be.
“This is impossible,” Derricks said.
“What do you wish to do next sir?” Simmons asked.
Derricks considered his options. He had a large squad from the Gray League in reserve, but sending them into a situation that had devoured three experienced teams without a trace wasn’t likely to accomplish anything.
Part of him wanted to go and deal with the situation personally. Whatever was there had been ready for three teams of experienced mercenaries. That was implausible but still possible. Being ready for what Derricks had become though? That truly was impossible. Not even the much lauded Black Valkyries would be able to anticipate his capabilities.
In that sense though, resolving a problem on the order of a mercenary squabble was beneath him. Derricks had a higher task to attend to. With the success of the project’s final experiment, it was finally time for the world to change, to break past the limits of humanity’s messy, random birth from the primordial soup. Everyone was flawed and broken and constrained by their irrational biological makeup.
Everyone except Derricks himself, who could finally uplift the worthless masses and perform the only true and meaningful alchemy there was by converting the human soul into something clean, and rational, and worthy of immortality.
Except there was still one thing holding him back.
The serpent in Derrick’s Eden. The one man Derrick’s couldn’t target and eliminate. The one man who could possibly halt, or worse corrupt, the uplift process. Until Heartless was dealt with, the Omnigrade couldn’t be deployed.
“I want that building destroyed,” Derricks said. “And I want access to the Medusa Cluster.”
“The Gray League is standing by and can handle the demolition,” Simmons said. “Tython won’t authorize a request for access to their primary fettered digital intelligence though. Part of the kidnapping announcement was a notification of the company-wide security lockdown.”
“I don’t care about the security lockdown,” Derricks said. “We have Harcroft’s executive credentials. Those will be able to override the lockdown.”
“We won’t be able to use them more than once though before they’re revoked,” Simmons said. “Can we afford that?”
“We have an enemy who’s capable of ruining everything we’ve worked for and is working to do so,” Derricks said. “Find him. Find Heartless, and pay any cost that’s required. Destroying him is the only thing that matters at this point!”