Nawahune’s first reaction was to move quickly away from this room. But, the hand-sized daemonodendrons fused to his chest injected a healthy dose of cortical-suppressors that began to regulate his heart-rate, even his breathing, and allow him to think rationally.
‘’Alda, did you get a good look at the systems of security that we pass through from here to the apartment?’’ Nawahune asked calmly, but with a sense of urgency. ‘’What type of thief are we looking at? Can we assuming there are not many who can make it this far…are you even that good?’’
When Nawahune looked to Alda he saw that her hand had involuntarily gone to her mouth, covering it in shock and a futile, subconscious attempt to protect her self from infection. The Shen’s question snapped her out of it and she lowered her hand. Her eyes scanned the room, flicking back and forth, seeming to plot out methods, weak points and escape routes.
Still facing the ravaged lab, Alda replied, “This good? Yes. This psychotic and brutal. No. They did a real number on the systems. I could barely wade through it. They were searching for something hidden in plain sight judging from the files they accessed. They seem innocuous, but somehow important. The rest of the damage to the system was a smoke screen. I think it was an inside job, at least in part.”
Alda guided Nawahune to a secure location, outside if need be and confided, “This is bad. Not just “widespread-deadly-infectious-disease-at-large” bad, either. I dug a little deeper while I was in the computer systems. Hune, they were illegally testing on human subjects. Dozens of them. This adds a whole new level of motives and suspects to what happened here. But we can’t trust Sadik, or Mahanya for that matter. We don’t know how they’re involved. They may block the investigation or worse." She shivered at the thought of being infected with Xeno, “A bullet or fall from a building, I can handle, but slow, mutated agony is not on my list of ways out.”
Tumbrel was not sure what all this fuss about lab work and viruses was about, nor what it had to do with piloting a spacecraft for Doctor Emil Nemecek, other than the fact that his potential employer had ceased to function. Tumbrel decided that he “felt” fairly irritated by this turn of events.
He followed the others, who seemed even more upset over this turn of events than the death of one human would seem to imply. Tumbrel listened quietly to their discussion, standing to the side and slightly behind the group, where he could look over most of the laboratory.
Alda (little bird) seemed quite concerned about the destruction in the laboratory, and the effect the “virus” would have if miss used. Following her interest in the destruction of the lab equipment, Tumbrel activated his scanning sensors in conjunction with the passive array/proximity sensors, in order to scan the room, looking to see if anything stood out as unusual from his point of view. As a result, he also noticed the subtle conversation between Alda and Nawahune.
As Nawahune keeps a large, dark eye on the security chief, the human’s eyes are wide and darting rapidly around the room, his breathing quick and heavier than normal, yet his face is frozen tight and emotionless and his shoulders drawn high and back. Even from the Shen’s limited experience with humans, Nawahune can tell that Francis seems to be trying to camouflage his clear nervousness.
Unfortunately, perhaps watching the security director a bit too long, Francis’ gaze flicks over to meet Nawahune’s and he notices the Shen scientist watching him. He glances down at the symbiotic creatures attached to Nawahune’s body and slowly back up to the alien’s face – his lip curls slightly as he steps away and toward Dr. Sadik to murmur something quietly.
Thinking through the security systems of this facility, Alda quickly runs through how someone could have penetrated this far into the GSRP without tripping off any of the many layers of security between the perimeter of the campus and this room.
The first thing that comes to mind is the array of omni-cameras. Tiny button-like devices that integrated full-spectrum sensors and wireless transmission devices, each operated independently and would run even through an interruption in the tower’s ambient wireless power. They were a ubiquitous security measure in high-sensitivity corporate security and a practiced glance at the top corners of this very room confirmed for the agent that they were present here as well – likely in every hallway and room on this floor.
Quickly referring to the automatic preliminary reports generated this morning, the recorded feeds showed that whoever pulled off this theft had used advanced technology to blind the cameras without actually interrupting the transmissions so as to avoid setting off any alarms. That is, until the pattern recognition filters picked up a large distortion in the feeds surrounding this central lab. After the distortion cleared up, the feeds showed the lab in its current state, coolant pooling and spreading on the floor and the shattered rounded face of one containment vessel rocking back and forth on the floor.
Whoever had done this had also clearly come in with the necessary passcodes and biometrics – confirmation of Alda’s gut instinct that this had been (at least in part) an inside job.
Why anyone so well-equipped and prepared would need to violently smash the lab equipment remained a mystery…
Tumbrel is able to simultaneously monitor both conversations as they occur in the observation room, both between Mr. Mahanya and Dr. Sadik close to the main window, and Nawahune and Alda as they walk around the corner of the L-shaped room – seemingly to get a better view of the main chamber of the containment lab.
From Mahanya, he hears a frustrated, murmured complaint, “Does that fish really have to be here, doctor? There are plenty of so-called experts already here.”
Nura Sadik, from where she had been leaning intently close enough to the glass to create a thin sheen of fog in front of her lips, whips her head to him with narrowed eyes and practically hisses.
“Emil respected him. I respect him. And I will thank you to refrain from insulting the company’s partners.”
“Partners? I still think we need to focus on this investigation. You can resume operations once we determine that the safety and security of this facility and its staff has been restored.” This seems to be an argument the security director and the scientist have had before, as both quickly fall into a practiced back-and-forth that distracts them from the situation for a moment.
“This project’s continuity is far more important. Tens of thousands of lives could be saved with our work and if we halt research or have no material to work with, it could set us back months – even years for some of our teams. I’m confident you can carry on your investigation without bringing us to a halt. Do I need to consult with Director Yeun if you are going to make this about authority?”
Eventually, Dr. Sadik and Mr. Mahanya come around the corner to join the rest. Francis looks defeated, as if everything in his world were going wrong at the moment, while the doctor has continued to recover vitality after having mourned her slain friend and mentor not so long ago. There is a certain manic energy about her as she begins to speak.
“Mr. Mahanya and I have come to a consensus about how to regain control over this situation. It is incredibly important that this Project’s operations continue without interruption – too many people have invested so much, and the stakes are too high for those out there who are counting on us to come up with a cure.” She pauses for a moment, her energy dimmed just briefly. “And this is what Dr. Nemecek would want.
“There is a second repository of Xenoviridae material at our remote facility in the Kotal Mountains. We need to bring it back so that our researchers can get back to work.”
The security director interjects. “I’m going to be pursuing the investigation here, with my own personnel; however, I have concerns about pulling Project staff to assist with this retrieval. So I’m recommending we hire trusted, external consultants for this task.”
Dr. Sadik takes over again. “Mr. Bengwe, I must remain here to speak with each of the team leads and manage this crisis. Emil recommended you highly on several occasions, and I’ve been following your recent work on cross-phyletic recombinant therapies, I’d like you oversee the transfer of the material and ultimately bring you into the Project as we resume operations. We just lost a brilliant mind and we’ll need someone to help fill Dr. Nemecek’s shoes.”
She looks to Tumbrel.
“Mister, ah…” She stumbles over the word as if unsure of the proper title. “Mr. Tumbrel, company records indicate that you’ve contracted with us before, and your combination of piloting skills and immunity to the danger this material poses makes you uniquely qualified to assist with both transport and handling.”
Mahanya interjects for a second time, drawing a harsh look of irritation from Dr. Sadik. “I must also insist that Ms. Vitrionne go as well, simply as a company representative who is already privy to the details of the situation. Ms. Vitrionne, I will notify your supervisors in Development that you are being temporarily re-assigned.” He smirks slightly before continuing. “I know this is out of your usual wheelhouse, but we would greatly appreciate your help in this.”
Nura nods, though she looks at Alda for a moment as if re-assessing the woman who had been introduced to her as simply a technical specialist.
“In the next few minutes you each should receive contracts with sizable compensation, both for the potential risk involved as well as your discretion. If you agree, we’d like to get started as soon as possible. If not, you will also find a copy of non-disclosure agreements you will be required to return to us before you will be allowed to leave the facility."
This time, Mahanya waits a moment to make sure that the scientist has stopped speaking before adding, “If someone is targeting the Project, I’d rather the retrieval be performed with a ship that isn’t licensed to Vesta. We’ve also engaged the services of a captain who will provide the ship, on the condition that you, as Vesta Personnel be allowed to perform your jobs without interruption. He should be at the spaceport now in one of our private landing areas.”
After she and Nawahune rejoined the group, Alda’s eyes fell on Tumbrel42 and smile lit up her face, “42! It’s good to see you! With all this news I guess I didn’t notice you come in. I’m glad to have you on board. I’m happy to have someone I can trust aboard an unknown ship with an unknown pilot.”
Alda decided that she would continue with the mission as ordered for now. She had no real evidence that either Mahanya or Sadik were involved. Only that the project was acting illegally.
Alda nods to Mahanya assignment and agrees to go, “It will be best to get that back up supply before whoever did this gets to it. By the way, it was an inside job.” Alda pauses and watches Sadik and Mahanya carefully to gauge their reactions, “Had to be. They knew exactly where the omni-cams were and how to by-pass them. They’d need to be working with someone familiar with the systems to do that. Would anyone from either staff have any motive to do this? Who else has access to the location of the second repository of Xeno? They may already be on their way.”
Tumbrel shifted a mechanic plate above his left eye lens in a reasonable facsimile of raising an eyebrow, which he had learned was the organic equivalent of a welcoming smile, and replied to Alda. “Alda-bird, Tumbrel feels satisfaction at working with you again. However, there is no worries on concern of the pilot. The ship may be currently unknown, but I have been contracted as the pilot. You know Tumbrel, therefore you know the pilot.”
Tumbrel waited patiently for the rest to determine the proper course from this point. He also mentally calculated the disbursement of funds for this contract versus the amount needed to procure his own ship as a percentage.
“Well,” interjected the Shen somewhat distracted by all he was trying to calculate in his mind from the scene. “I am not one to dwell on long conversations, so I feel that we should be moving hastily along to this external site.”
Nawahune was feeling a sense of uneasiness being outside of his own secured lab, where he was the one in control. Typically he preferred the benefits of isolation: peace, quiet, calmness, predictability, decreased variables. But in this moment despite being so close to where an explosively virulent microbe once was housed and freed, he was getting mixed signals between isolation and the present company.
“Doctor,” Nawahune directed his question at the lovely Nura. ‘’Will you be escorting us to the spaceport? If so there is much that I would love to discuss about the Emil.’’ He offered her his arm to lead her as a proper gentleman. In doing so, his other hand trying to conceal the careful placement of a bug (something Nawahune might call more correctly a Gromphadorhina intellica) on to the under-ledge of a steel table. [STEALTH]
“Nura…may I call you Nura, Dr, Sadik?” Nawahune continued. “Have you ever heard of Emil’s and my exploits in the jungles on Ronig-Suer? It was very exciting! There we were amidst thrawls of Proteo simian Gong-murins trying to collect specimen of the rare Galendraethicus arencetes, the most beautiful flower in the three galaxies, when…”
Over hearing Nawahune’s story from her conversation with Tumbrel, Alda rolls her eyes; and says under her breath, “Here he goes again”
Director Mahanya takes a long breath before replying to Alda’s suspicions.
“I’ve been thinking along similar lines, Ms. Vitrionne, though I have no good answers just yet. All the internal staff undergo extensive background checks, though I suppose a visitor from one of our partners might have slipped through with less… stringent investigation.
“The facility in the Kotal Mountains is used as a remote site for several projects and ongoing operations, so the existence of the facility is no secret. The Xenoviridae repository though – I can only think of a handful of people who are aware of it. Those of us in this room, Director Yeun, the on-site staff at the Kotal facility…” he trails off, as if trying to think of anyone else, and Dr. Sadik finishes for him.
“One of our senior team leads here oversees the scheduled transports – Charles Sawin with Procurement and Distribution.”
The doctor seems pleased with everyone’s acceptance of the task, and after a moment’s hesitation, she ultimately agrees to Nawahune’s proposal to join them on the way to the spaceport. A faint smile begins to cross her lips as she listens to Nawahune’s tale, and her demeanor begins to change gradually – neither sorrowful nor driven with a manic determination, but slowly relaxing.
Director Mahanya, on the other hand, watches coldly as the others move to leave. “If you will all excuse me, I have much to attend to. Please keep me apprised of any developments.”
As the others recede from view, his dark eyes turn slowly to the steel table in the observation room…