Machine Ghost

Ghost Machine: Part 4

The Blank Man

Em Tee awakens to find himself in an unfamiliar location – a colony on Titan, not too far from the Firewall Safe House. More concerning however is the fact that it appears a week went by – and he has no recollection of what happened.

Meanwhile, Alfred and Brad remain in the Firewall Safehouse – Doctor Octopod called away on Argonaut business. The building locks down in the familiar way it had previously – a brief audio message from The Analyst that says simply “check the news”. Doing so, the duo discover that the Pathfinder CEO has been killed. He was shot inside his office, great efforts taken to destroy his cortical stack – and his expensive backup failed. An expert goes on record, saying that “it’s not unheard of, but it’s unusual for it to happen in such a high-profile case.” An investigation is underway. Additionally however, the studio had received an intercepted call from an anonymous tipster.

“Is this line secure?” – ?
“As it’s ever going to be.” – Pathfinder CEO
“ETS4 is still a problem. Do you have a plan?” – ?

“Our best analysts are on it. We dispatched a team to claim responsibility.” – Pathfinder CEO
“You already put out a bounty.” – ?
“I wasn’t aware of—” – Pathfinder CEO
“Do not give the theorists a reason to doubt you. It was a mistake.” – ?

“It won’t happen again…” – Pathfinder CEO
“We cannot have a panic on our hands. See to it that your team cleans up the mess.” – ???
The call ends.

After investigating the area he’s in and finding nothing of note to suggest where he may be, Em Tee contacts Icarus and requests a pick up. It’s not long before he’s arrived back at the safe house. Alfred greets him warmly, and Brad asks what exactly had happened – where he’d been. Em Tee explains that he has no recollection of the past week, and so the duo explain to him what they had been through before showing him the footage of him leaving, as well as the footage provided to them by the Analyst.

However, their gathering is interrupted as both Brad and Alfred notice a red dot trailing up along Em Tee’s chest and toward his forehead. Without hesitation, Alfred leaps at his master – knocking him down and helping him barely miss the sniper round that embeds itself in the wall behind where Em Tee was standing, shattering the glass facing out to the docking area – where Icarus is landed. Moments later, the doors to the safehouse blow inwards as three attackers enter, two rat-like Jenkin morphs and a massive Bruiser in addition to the jenkin morph with a sniper rifle out on the landing platform.

As Alfred drags Em Tee into cover and attempts to get around their attackers, he’s spotted and one of the Jenkins opens fire on him. Meanwhile, Brad dashes to cover behind the stairs up to the bedrooms. The Bruiser and other Jenkin move up either side of the stairs, but Brad peeks around and opens up on the Jenkin morph – riddling it with bullets and sending it slumping to the floor unconscious. In cover underneath a table, Em Tee uses his sprayer to slicken the floor ahead of the Bruiser – making them slip, but not fall as they try to keep their balance.

Moments after Alfred lunges at the Jenkin that had opened fire on him, Icarus comes over the communicator saying that there’s a shuttle overhead dropping reinforcements. But before he can finish, his ship explodes spectacularly as a two-tonne Daitya morph lands upon it, destroying the vehicle utterly. Surrounded by flame, the heavily modified synthmorph stands itself up straight with the audible sounds of whirs and clicks as its limbs correct themselves, before walking forward toward the entrance door.

After tearing the throat out of his Jenkin attacker, Alfred attempts to get a good look at the massive mech-like synthmorph and makes out the full extent of its modifications. Two disposable rocket launchers upon its shoulders, a hand replaced with a full-sized heavy machine gun, and distinctive symbols spray-painted onto its body that matched the patches on the rest of their attackers. Alfred decides that attempting to bite a synthmorph isn’t a great idea and runs to hide in the lab, as Em Tee opens up with his shotgun on the bruiser intent on killing Brad. It’s then, however, that Em Tee recognizes the patches on the group attacking them.

Brad and Em Tee work together to down the bruiser, riddling it with bullets and shrapnel before it falls flat on its face, unconscious. However, before they can celebrate, the massive Daitya mech crashes through the doorway followed by another two Jenkin morphs. Em Tee moves to the Fabricator room as Brad moves into the stairs down to the reactor below the safe house to reload. Icarus comes over the communicators again, his voice somewhat garbled. He explains that he uploaded himself into the safe house systems, and that he’s currently fending off hacking attempts from a very experienced group. Firewall support is on the way, but the safe house is compromised, and there’s no other choice – he’s going to blow the reactor the moment they are at a safe distance.

Just as Icarus finishes and Brad moves out into the room, the massive Daitya morph opens up with its machine gun on him. Most of the harm is thankfully absorbed by his armour as he returns fire, but as much as his bullets are leaving a dent the Daitya just keeps coming. Meanwhile, Em Tee peeks out from his safe spot in the fabricator room to unload a shotgun round into the Jenkin bearing down on him, making them at least rethink their plan of attack. Alfred bursts out from the laboratory carrying thermite that he discovered and charges at a Jenkin morph standing just outside – knocking him back through the shattered window and down into the abyss below.

Just as Alfred turns around to assist Em Tee with the other Jenkin however, the Daitya morph turns its attention on them. And a moment later one of the disposable rockets is launched at them both. Alfred is blown backwards and the Jenkin attacking Em Tee is destroyed in the blast, but just as Alfred is picking himself up he’s picked off by the sniper outside. Em Tee ducks out from his hiding spot, grabbing Alfred and pulling him into cover before giving him some first aid to get him back on his feet.

As Brad empties another clip of ammunition into the Daitya morph, there’s suddenly a massive explosion overhead. The wreckage of the dropship that was dropping off forces into the safe house crumples down upon the landing platform, further destroying Icarus’ ship and killing the sniper on the platform in the process. Firewall Sentinels rappel down the side of the wall and rush into the building, opening fire on the Daitya morph. It returns fire by launching a rocket at the group, but the Sentinels are hardly discouraged – and moment later, the Daitya collapses under a hail of gunfire.

Ordered to evacuate the building, the group hastily gathers their things – Doctor Octopod’s morph and gear, and the nanotechnology they retrieved. They board the Firewall vessel, and when Alfred asks about Icarus he tells them to not worry about him and escape – he’ll make his own way out.

As the Firewall ship takes off, the team realizes that Firewall came prepared. They have a fighter escort that shoots down another dropship headed for the safe house. And once they are a decent distance away, they glance back in time to see the area around the safe house collapse in on itself like a massive sink hole.

Flown into orbit, they are able to see a massive Firewall destroyer from the windows of their craft. Emblazoned along the side of the vessel are the words “Litany of Limbo”. Within a few minutes they’ve landed upon the destroyer, and are escorted to a security checkpoint where they are searched, scanned and even have their ego’s forked to Deltas in order to be interrogated. When Em Tee is scanned, the guards at the checkpoint pause – though they still allow him to go through once they have the fork of his ego.

The team is escorted through the ship to a meeting room with a large Olympian morph. He instructs the guards escorting them to leave, and the doors close behind the team as they are left in there with the man. He introduces himself as Leoren, one of Firewall’s proxies – one of its leaders. He asks the team to sit down before he starts asking them about the events that had led them up to this point – the ETS4 disaster, the terrorists that they wiped out, the mission they did to Saturn’s rings. Finally getting to Em Tee, Leoren asks about his memory of the past week, and Em Tee reveals that while he didn’t remember anything from the past week, he did recognize the insignias on their attackers – they were from the Scum Barge fleet that he came from.

Leoren seemed satisfied with the answer, though before he could say anything further his eyes went distant – receiving a message over the mesh. He briefly glanced to Em Tee before standing again and nodding his head. He explained to the team that he would not be able to allow them to stay on the Litany, though he would provide them with whatever they needed in order to get themselves where they needed to go. He provides them with bunks to stay in overnight, and informs them that the pilot of the Daitya morph is ready to be interrogated, and he wants them to do it. With that, he calls the guards back in to escort the team out, and they are taken to their bunks.

After getting some rest and having a medical team tend to Alfred, the team decide to go and speak with the pilot of the Daitya morph. Contained in a Spare – a small mechanical quadruped – it was locked away in a glass cell within a chamber connecting to an airlock, allowing them to vent the prisoner into space. A horrible sentence when one is incapable of dying.

The team question Cera, and she more than happily gives up information on her employer – a woman named Vide Homme, who comes from the same scum barge flotilla as Em Tee. She says that Vide is a fairly well known fence. They explain that whoever wanted the ETS4 survivors dead, she did not know – that was above her pay grade. But Vide Homme had paid them to go out and kill everybody in that safe house. Cera provides the group with a method of tracking Vide’s mesh ID so that they can find her current location, and with that the team decide it’s time to go and figure out what is going on.

Getting on the Firewall shuttle, the team decides to return to Titan to try and find a contact that would hold onto their things while they went and dealt with Vide. However, they have no luck finding somebody to hold their items. The Firewall crew on the shuttle offer to hold their things for them and return them to the Litany, and the team agree. With that settled they get themselves set in for the trip to the asteroid belt to track down Vide Homme.

After a few days travel they arrive, and the Firewall team informs them that this is a one-way trip as they cannot stick around to pick them up after they are done. The vessel they need to get aboard – called The Bugger by the scum barge mercenaries – is incapable of having the Firewall shuttle dock with it. The team decide their best bet is getting aboard one of the larger scum barges and contacting a friend on the ship that can get them passage to the Bugger.

Once they land and the Firewall team departs, Brad manages to contact a friend upon the Scum Barge and they get passage for the team to the Bugger. A security team comes out to meet them, weapons at the ready until confirmation comes through that the group has passage to the Bugger. They are escorted to a small shuttle that seems more like an escape pod and board it. It gets ejected from the scum barge and makes the occasional adjustment of its course before docking a little roughly with the Bugger, but no less safely.

During the trip, Em Tee gets themselves a little more untidy so that they look like they belong on the scum barge. As the team leave the shuttle, Em Tee attempts to deceive the guards by telling them that they are there to try and sell Arthur – a very expensive Feral morph. The guards buy it, though they find it highly unusual that somebody travelled all the way out here to do that when they normally make pick-ups. They escort the team to Vide’s office to allow them in. On the way, the team pass a dozen morphs lingering around the ship and going about their business – most of them civilian. It seems like most of the mercenaries were dispatched to kill them.

Vide appears to be an Ayah morph – just like Em Tee. Looking up and seemingly surprised at Em Tee’s presence particularly, she asks what they are there for. The team keeps up the deception, explaining that they are there to sell the canine morph. Vide seems to accept this explanation, and gets up from her computer to investigate Alfred. While distracted with Alfred, Brad locks the door – preventing the guards from getting into the office quickly. Satisfied that they had some time now, Em Tee injects Vide with his Oxytocin – a trust drug – and starts to question her.

They start simple, asking if Vide knows who they are. She replies that she at least knows Em Tee, but not the others. They move on to asking why she sent people to kill them, and Vide just seems confused. Rather than answering, she moves back around to her computer. The team asks if Vide knows what Cera has been doing, and Vide tells them no, she does not. She explains that Cera is her second in command and that – from the records on her computer – a few ships left to go collect supplies, but nothing about an attack.

Asking to see her screen, Vide refuses – but Em Tee eventually persuades her to do so. Spinning the screen around to give the team access, they find mostly useless information, save for logs from Vide for the past couple of months.

Entry One
Em Tee continues to impress. Their skills have progressed well beyond what anyone had expected, though the memory wipes take a toll. Singling out the problematic memory patterns and destroying them keeps them obedient and unquestioning, though it damages their capacity and skill every time we do so. Em Tee cannot be allowed to recall who they were – much less some of the more expensive the work that they have been made to do. Our clients pay for secrecy as well as results.

Entry Two
It seems Em Tee has gained a fan. I was contacted by an investor that was very interested in Em Tee’s skills. The offer they made was astronomically better than any of our previous jobs. I didn’t need to consider it, I said yes on the spot. As soon as Em Tee finishes up this latest job, I am sending the recall command to check their memory and ensure nothing of their past has bled through so that we can send them on this new task immediately. They will be accompanying a Hypercorp team through a Pandora gate, stealing the TITAN artefacts that the team gathers and bringing them back for our client – right under the Hypercorp’s nose. This is exactly the kind of work they were made for.

Entry Three
Em Tee never returned. My investor informed me that the expedition through the gate was a complete loss – no survivors, no chance to pass through the gate and retrieve the cortical stacks. No matter, Em Tee was always intended to be expendable. The client wanted another fork to attempt another gate, this one out on the Kupler Belt. So I forked a new beta of myself, erased the problematic memory fragments and put them into another of the old disposable Ayah pods we have sitting around. Turns out it was a good thing, this Em Tee seems to retain much more of my skills than the last. They are signed up to go through the gate to find the ‘next big score’. All that’s left to do is hope that this one is more resourceful than the last and can survive the trip.

Entry Four
News came that there was a terrorist attack on some transit station on the edge of the solar system. I knew right away that it was the transit station Em Tee was passing through – not many active stations by the Kupler belt and all. I was ready to fork a new beta of myself to start over again, but out of curiosity I sent the recall command and to my surprise Em Tee reported back. I told the client and they were surprisingly ecstatic. They instructed me to send the fork straight back to where it came from. Apparently it presents an “unprecedented opportunity”. When Em Tee arrived, I wiped it’s memory of our meeting and sent them back without adjusting their mission parameters. They’ll not recall the past week, but it’s the best I can do on short notice.

With this information in hand, believing Vide innocent but no closer to figuring out just who attacked them, Vide begins to have a breakdown. She realizes that there’s something horrible going on, and that they were sent there by Cera to kill her – that she’s been framed. Seeing no other way out, Vide turns her shotgun on herself (for what little good it would do), but before she can pull the trigger, Alfred knocks her over and sends the shotgun scattering away.

After taking a few moments to collect herself, Vide looks to Em Tee and basically explains how highly unusual this all is to her. To have a fork of herself return. So she poses to Em Tee the options – either one of them needs to cease to exist, they should go their separate ways and one of them go into hiding, or they needed to merge.

Em Tee takes some time to consider this – the potential repercussions of a merge and what it would mean for who they consider themselves to be, or how many ways the merge could go wrong. He considers just how stressful it may be to destroy somebody that is him. And eventually, he settles on the suggestion that Vide go into hiding from whoever is manipulating Cera in attempting to kill her. Vide agrees, and gives her ship – the bugger – to Em Tee. She departs after informing the crew of their new command, but before the team can make themselves comfortable on their new ship they receive a message from Leoren.

He hastily explains that he needs their assistance. A spacecraft is on a collision course with a colony on Mars, and it is not responding to any attempts to get in contact with it. The team is the closest to the situation, and best suited to figuring out what is happening and preventing a potential disaster.

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