Discarded Chapter

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Discarded Chapter

Post by Il Direttore on Tue 18 Jun 2013 - 20:34

Basically, I took a look at my plot and realized I was going into the "stable government" version of my fic.

Hopefully I've made it clear in previous chapters that the government is NOT stable in Italy. Consequently, this needs to go. Seemed a waste to throw it out, so I put it here. Enjoy (?).

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Weeks passed.

For the Social Welfare Agency, much changed, and yet much didn’t change.

Triela was officially off the ready list for at least the next three months, if not longer. It was a testament to the resilience of First Generation hardware, the bullet had skipped off her skull at less than five degrees, conceivably the luckiest injury ever, that she hadn’t had her brain turned into paste. As it was, an examination determined that she was indeed suffering from a very traumatic concussion, but immediate treatment by the skilled surgeons and neurologists of Section Two had ameliorated most symptoms. Now all Triela needed was bed-rest and no more than light mental exercise. Knowing that she would be fine, however, did not make it any less chilling when Claes and Hilshire brought Triela back to the dorms in a wheelchair, the Princess of the Cyborgs dozing, and still drugged, under the cover of a blanket.

More distressing was Chiara and the state of her handler, Matteo. Matteo’s injury had been severe by most standards, but for scientists used to creating fully cybernetic limbs that could withstand multistory drop tests, the creation of a fairly robust replacement pelvis and femur for an adult patient was almost easy. This meant that Matteo would be able to go into physical therapy many months ahead of schedule, and most likely return to work within a year’s time.

But for a cyborg, especially a First Generation cyborg, one year was a long time. For Chiara, who was nearly as old as Angelica, a year would probably take her to the end of her operational life. Even factoring in luck and the latest in muscle replacement technology, Chiara and Matteo would never go into battle again as a fratello. Chiara was, quite understandably, taking this very badly. She spent many days at her handler’s side, talking with him and keeping him company while the muscles around his new bones healed, and during those times she regained some of her cheer. But around the dorms, where she had time to brood, her mood dropped considerably, and it was always depressing to be in the same room as her. Still, the cyborgs rallied about their sister and did their best to keep her company. Few of them could even imagine what it would be like watching their handler lie in bed, unable to move, and the prospect of never being able to work with him in the field again was terrifying enough to elicit empathy from all. It worked, to a degree, and it was generally accepted that Chiara needed to deal with this on her own, and the best thing they could do was support her every step of the way.

Yet life continued despite these changes, and the cycle of deployment and training ground forever on. James and Caterina deployed thrice more in their supporting role as battlefield controllers, keeping track of targets and cutting enemy communications, as well as breaking into buildings to allow for cleaner entry and exit by their comrade fratelli. Section One continued its operations and, following a nasty argument between James and Commander Draghi, something of an arrangement was made between the intelligence departments of the two sections. In exchange for some third party funding from various friends James had, Draghi conceded direct access to the entire Section One intelligence database, to James and Caterina alone.

The focus of both sections was the attack on the Prime Minister. The effectiveness of the GIS and the Cyborgs was never in doubt, and they were in fact widely praised by those in the know for their quick and decisive action. The real issue was how multiple agencies somehow managed to completely miss the signs of something this big. Either the terrorists were getting smarter or the agencies were getting more incompetent, and neither prospect was in any way favorable.

And so they researched. Huge piles of data were sifted through every day, looking for anything that could give them a lead. A system was quickly formulated where Section One got first look at all data, sifting through rapidly with algorithms and pure manpower to find anything of use. This cribbed data was then sent to Section Two, where Priscilla and her team cross referenced and double checked, while also keeping on the look out for anything Section One may have missed. This second round usually eliminated most of the false leads, an inevitable part of this sort of work, and created a body of data that was then sent to James and Caterina, who sifted through the remnants to identify the most probable sources of high quality information, cross referencing with information from the Section One database as needed. James then drafted a mission proposal and forwarded it to Jean, who would typically approve it and assign a fratello to collect the information and retrieve it. Sometimes, a Generation One fratello was sufficient for the task, but is was more common for James and Caterina to deploy and retrieve the data themselves.

“You’re getting a new roommate,” James mentioned during one of these package retrieval missions, carefully picking his way through the digital minefield that was the security to the private network of Antonio Veraspacci, a wealthy northerner. He was sitting in the fratello’s Subaru Legacy (2.5i Sport), his laptop propped against the steering wheel and his seat pushed all the way back to give him room to work. Antonio controlled a fair amount of Padania weapons shipments, but rather than taking him out, the Agency had decided to turn him into a data mine, using the information garnered to create strength estimates of the Padania in different regions of Italy and assign resources accordingly. You could always get another weapons supplier, after all, and then they’d have to break in all over again. Much better to get the information periodically and update the maps accordingly.

“They’ve already got the next Gen-2 up and running?” asked Caterina quietly, waiting amongst several bushes at the perimeter of the property in her infiltration suit, hair tied up in her usual ponytail.

“Yeah, apparently they’ve worked out most of the kinks,” replied James, successfully navigating the minefield and using the wireless to backtrace the security cameras, locking them into a single-traverse loop of their video. “Cameras are down, move in.”

“On it,” replied Caterina, easily leaping over the electrified fence, flipping forward and landing quietly on the other side. “Patrols?”

“Three, pairs of men in concentric rings,” replied James, tracking the movements on SigmaFind. “Pretty basic routes, nothing difficult.”

“Good, en route to the mansion,” answered Caterina, moving across the hedged and gardened lawn. “So tell me about this room mate of mine.”

“Her name is Marisa,” said James. “The fratello specializes in diving operations. Lessee... serial number yaddayadda-956, unit designation blahblah-07A-”

“Wait, zero seven?” asked Caterina, ducking into a hedge as a patrol walked by. “It took them SEVEN iterations?”

“Apparently you’re pretty unique for being perfect on the first try,” said James.

Caterina could hear the smile in his voice and rolled her eyes. “You know I’m not nearly as advanced as that. This is the first cyborg that can dive past thirty meters safely, right?”

“Yeah, the last one died of decompression sickness after the conditioning resolved from her bloodstream,” said James. He paused. “...Although you’re not supposed to know that, so don’t go telling anyone.”

“Relax, I broke into the Dive Center servers weeks ago,” said Caterina, hopping up to a window and peeking inside. All clear, and contracting records indicated that the motion sensors were all wireless. “Jamming motion sensors in three, two, one... sensors down.” Caterina slid a thin palette knife along the edges of the window until she found the pressure sensor, applied downward force, and duct-taped the palette knife in place. Confident that she wouldn’t be setting off any alarms, Caterina eased open the window and slid inside, her infiltration suit reducing friction and allowing her to slide as silently as a fish through water. “Right, I’m in. Why doesn’t this guy have patrols in the mansion again?”

“Rich people don’t always have sense,” replied James with a roll of his eyes. “Also because he has two mistresses, one of which is male, and probably wants to keep it quiet. How did you break into the Diver Center servers?”

“It was easy enough,” said Caterina, stepping very quietly across the floor towards the left. “I piggybacked the Director’s login and used it to get inside for a brief window. Didn’t have enough time to really look into anything, so I did a quick phrasal snatch.”

“That’s pretty clever,” complemented James. “Through this door and take a right, you’ll be in the kitchen. Go from there to the wine cellar, the servers are behind the eighth cask of wine.”

“Credit where it’s due, this guy did place his servers somewhere smart,” noted Caterina, stepping lightly into the kitchen. “Standard hidden door?”

“Unknown, but most likely, yes.”

“Any word on her personality?” asked Caterina, peeking down the steps to the wine cellar to see if there was anything in her way. Nothing.

“No, but I do know that she’s on the most absurdly light dose of medication the docs can manage,” said James. “Expect mood swings.”

“Aw, nuts,” said Caterina unhappily, making her way down. “Henrietta is bad enough when she’s doing it, now we’re going to have two of them?”

“I suspect that Marisa will be worse, actually,” said James. “You plugged in yet?”

“Hold on, almost there,” said Caterina, making her way to cask eight and checking it for a latch She found one hidden in the back of the cask, disguised as the maker’s mark. “Aha, found the door. Pretty clever if you don’t expect it.” Caterina expected it. With a sharp tug, two locks disengaged and the cask slid forward with its rack and the wall, exposing the multi-terabyte server stacks. Caterina picked her way through the rows, reaching the server maintenance station. Pulling out a USB drive from her waist pouch, Caterina gave it a little flip before plugging it in, the drive immediately beginning to break into the, admittedly robust, security with methodical grace.

“Make any progress on that number cruncher you were working on?” asked James as the two settled in to wait.

“Yeah, I’ve figured out how to get the three motherboards to talk to each other,” said Caterina. “Turns out I was going about it all wrong. I just needed to have them exchange information like one computer sending data to another.”

“Ah, so you got some of the fiber-optics they have in the lab?”

“Yup, so now it’s just a matter of heat management,” said Caterina. “I was thinking twelve terabytes of SSDs and thirty-two gigs of RAM should require a-”

*beep*

“Oh hey, we’re in,” said Caterina, switching gears back to the servers, the maintenance station now letting her in. It was a simple matter from there to access the automated behaviors of the server and have it make ports 4916, 4920, and 4936 open to external access between 2:30 and 5:30 AM.

“What do you think, every Saturday morning?” asked Caterina. “Antonio usually has a party Friday evening, right?”

“That sounds good,” replied James. “Diagnostics look good... we should be go on the intel, let’s pull out.”

“Roger wilco,” said Caterina cheerily, backtracking her way out of the server room and removing all sign of her passage, then avoiding the guards again and making her way out to the perimeter. It was a short hike from there to the fratello’s Legacy, where James was already packed away and ready to leave.

“The beautiful thing about having a cyborg is the lack of equipment I need to pack up,” commented James with a grin as Caterina brushed a smear of dirt off her suit and climbed into the back seat. “Most of my stuff is packaged into the same thing that’s doing the operation.”

“You know me, always endeavoring to please,” said Caterina dryly, shucking off her suit and changing into normal clothes as James started the engine and began driving. “Do you know when Marisa’s coming in?”

“Sometime late tonight.”

“Good, that’ll give me enough time to sleep in and tidy up a bit. I’ve got enough equipment lying around to kill an elephant.”

“Heh, better get that cleaned up then. We don’t want to make a bad first impression, do we?”

{===}

Caterina yawned, pulling herself out of bed with some little difficulty. The fratello hadn’t gotten back until seven in the morning, and after a sleepy breakfast in the kitchen with the staff, she and James had gone straight to their respective beds. It was now nearly four in the afternoon, and considering the amount of “stuff” lying around, Caterina needed to get up now or risk holding up her roommate’s move in.

Caterina slept on the bottom bunk of her two-bed room. From the door, the beds were situated on the far right hand wall across three meters by five meters of floor space. Some of this was taken up by the dresser under the window, the wardrobe in the far lefthand corner, and the table in the center. The rest of it was taken up by twenty feet of fiber-optic cable, a stack of solid-state disk-drives, five 28-gallon tubs full of reference materials, approximately four computers in varying states of disassembly, and a large variety of miscellaneous papers, ranging from old math practice, from back when she had been freshly activated, to her most recent attempts at using linear algebra to explain the history of the Padania movement.

In hind sight, she reflected, it seemed that she had become something of a hermit.

“Let’s see, when was the last time I went to tea?” Caterina asked herself as she collected her towel from the chair and her toiletries from their basket on the table, leaving her hair ribbon on the dresser to tie her hair up later. “Was it a week ago? No... two weeks? Jeez, I really need to see if Claes is having a tea party soon.”

All was quiet as Caterina walked barefoot through the hallways, her fellow cyborgs either off training or on a mission. Well, all but one.

“Hey, Triela, how’s it going?” asked Caterina, poking her head into the Princess’s room.

Triela looked up from her book, brightening. She was reclining at the table, still in her pajamas, with a small pot of Claes’ tea near at hand, and looked quite bored, despite the literature. “Hey Caterina, it’s going well! Just waking up?”

“Yeah, bit of a late night,” replied Caterina with a small grin. “Watcha reading?”

“Just catching up on some popular literature,” said Triela, flipping the cover over. “I had Hilshire pick up a copy of Harry Potter.”

“I haven’t read it yet,” remarked Caterina. “Is it good?”

“Well, I’d say it’s weaker than the previous volume,” said Triela consideringly. “Goblet of Fire is much more cohesive, and the characters aren’t nearly as whiny.”

“Er, I meant the series,” said Caterina with an awkward blush.

“Oh, well uh... really?”

“Only activated three months ago, remember?”

“Yeah, but surely we’ve talked about it around you!”

“Er, well...” Caterina went slightly more red “...the truth is, I don’t think I’ve been to a tea party for a month or so....”

Triela was severely tempted to roll her eyes. “That was way back to right after the Palazzo, right?”

“I’m not sure,” said Caterina with an unhappy frown. “It was either that or the one before the Palazzo. Either way, it’s been way too long, and before that I was training to get up to speed, so....”

“Yeah, you and your data,” said Triela, giving in and rolling her eyes in exasperation. “You really need to get out of that cave of yours more often.”

“Yeah, yeah,” sighed Caterina, ducking her head self-consciously. “It’s just... the data!”

Triela couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re obsessed, you know that?”

“Stahhhhhhp,” groaned Caterina, falling forward and thunking her head into the doorjamb. Triela dissolved into giggles, and, after a moment, Caterina joined in. If it weren’t for James dragging her out for missions, she’d probably never see the light of day.

Caterina’s face fell at the thought of her handler. She was lucky to have him, but some weren’t so fortunate.

“Have you seen Chiara?” Caterina asked.

Triela sighed. “Yeah, I had to snag her to get to the showers. Balance is still out of whack.”

“How is she doing?”

“She’s... better, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“I think she’s managed to accept that Matteo’s not getting up for missions anymore,” said Triela melancholically. “Though I hear that he’s on track to be at least mobile before Chiara....”

“...yeah,” Caterina finished. “Has Hilshire mentioned anything about Chiara’s future?”

“No, but they can’t just leave a cyborg on the sidelines,” said Triela with acerbic certainty. “We’re too valuable an asset. It’s not like we’re human or anything.”

“Keep soldiering on, right?” said Caterina with a sad smile. “It really would be kinder to let her grieve and pass away.”

“Given that the alternative is to recondition her....”

“Yeah.”

The two fell silent, one staring grimly into the doorjamb and the other staring at a distant view. The sun shone brightly through the curtains, bouncing off the top of Triela’s dresser and scattering, lighting the room with a gentle glow. The distant sound of gunfire made its way through the air to visit the two cyborgs, a soft reminder of the work yet to be done.

“I better go shower,” Caterina finally said. “I’m getting a room mate, and the room needs to be cleared up.”

“Have fun with that,” said Triela absently.

“See you later.”

Triela nodded. Caterina walked away.

{===}

Caterina’s first task was simply shifting her reference materials to the corner closest to the door. There was nothing critically important in those tubs. Besides, keeping sensitive documents in a dorm was just stupid. This accomplished, Caterina had to deal with the computers.

The disassembled pile of components was the beginnings of the “number cruncher” James had mentioned last night. Feeling rather bored, Caterina had decided to cobble together four desktop computers into some sort of frankensteinien RAM monster for James’ office, capable of chewing through huge gobs of data very quickly while also having the storage to act as a data repository. Unfortunately, this took up a lot of floor space and there wasn’t a huge amount of places she could store the project, seeing as it would overflow from the dresser if she left it there.

...Leaving it between the wardrobe and the tubs could work though, especially if she went and got a tarp from the gardening shed. She could bundle the fiber-optic cable into a loop and leave it by the computers as well, and put the stack of SSDs inside one of the casings for safe keeping.

Well, best get to that momentarily. The first issue was the multitude of paper lying around. With a sigh, Caterina went to get a broom. Most of it was just idle maths anyway, so she may as well donate it to Claes’ compost heap.

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"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

- President John F. Kennedy
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Il Direttore

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Forum Posts : 1003

Location : Chicago, Illinois, United States

Fan of : Henrietta, Triela

Original Characters : Lieutenant James Spettro/Caterina

Comments : In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?’ -Horatius


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