Caitlin In Science Wonderland

October 07, 2018:

Caitlin Fairchild comes to enlist Nadia Van Dyne's help with some rather complex math and a potential science project.[

Sound Stage A - Somewhere Out There

A sleek, white box of a room, with shiny floor and polished ceiling, ultra-smooth walls, and bright omnidirectional lighting that evokes the feel of a futuristic clean-room… or an Apple Store. Holographic controls sit in one corner, waiting to be activated.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Caitlin Fairchild's a pretty smart cookie, but she knows when she's up against the limits of her abilities. But isn't that what real strength is— knowing who to ask, and having the right questions in mind?

Armed with a substantial amount of fresh data, she makes a detour over to Pym Industries after her usual patrol shift through the streets of Manhattan. With the invasion continuing and showing no signs of slowing down, the exhausted League has finally started directing something resembling shifts for people like Caitlin who do actually need to sleep periodically.

She waves through the high-security doors with a keycard given to her by Nadia van Dyne, and heads up to the third-floor labs where Nadia was last seen. She finds the door to the lab and knocks a 'shave-and-a-haircut' bit, loud enough to be heard, and buzzes the door open just enough to speak into the lab. "Nadia? Nadia, you there? It's Caitlin Fairchild. Can I come in?" she inquires. From her own experience managing laboratories, she knows full well the perils of interrupting an experiment at an inopportune time!

*

The G.I.R.L floor of Pym Industries seems pretty deserted and no reply comes from within. At least not until Caitlin tries the door handle. Then from inside there are a series of clicks and whirring noises, before the door swings open to reveal… nothing?

The room looks much as it did on Caitlins last visit, a large space with most of the interesting science equipment removed as part of the evacuation, only this time there is a table with a necklace on it. Next to the necklace is a piece of paper saying sit here and a vial which was just put in place by a robotic arm (now powering down) that has a label on reading 'And then drink me.'

*

Caitlin moves to the chair and takes a careful seat, testing to make sure it'll handle her weight. Kitted out in her Demon Fighting character skin with Realistic Accessories, she's close to tipping the 400lb mark.

Green eyes flicker to the note, then to the necklace, and she exhales. "Dear Lord, please don't let me get trapped forever in some awful subspace reality," she murmurs, casting skyward a glance of appeal.

She reaches for the stoppered vial and pauses. "Also, for the record, it's bad lab procedure to have food and drinks in the work area!" she remarks, raising her voice a little.

Down the hatch it goes!

*

And with that Caitlin is treated to a rather rare experience. A dose of a temporary pym particle shrinking serum configured with close to microscopic size. And suddenly instead of a chair and desk she's standing on a large flat plain with only a single object in the distance. Helpfully there seem to be very small guiding lines drawn on the desk which act much like a road map.

Getting closer the object seems to be a pink fairy tale castle grown from a single piece of crystal encased in a bubble of what looks remarkably like a huge diamond shell the size of a mountain. The foundations of which are vast segments of gold with a staircase cut into the side.

Following the stairs will lead up into the vast structure, through castle grounds filled with crystal sculptures (but thankfully no demons) and eventually through a series of rooms that bring her into the lab proper. Where Nadia bustles between huge stacks of computers in a cavernous lab space crammed with facilities that many colleges would envy. Person high stacks of research papers and documentation occupy more of the floor space than seems practical and there's even a wall mounted bank of screens which display a live feed of the room outside in G.I.R.L. from the view of the robotic arm. "I am sorry I did not come to collect you Miss Caitlin Fairchild," Nadia calls out, still scribbling away at a big chalk board of numbers. "But I have been /very/ busy with my work and the robot was programmed to guide you if you left the path by too much."

*

Down Caitlin goes into Wonderland, and admittedly— part of her knew from the get-go she was going to be privilege to a very rare experience. Papers about microscopic adventures and experiences hadn't prepared her for the actuality of such an event. The scope, the scale of things that she wouldn't have even noticed at full size was staggering. A bundle of lint on the chair would have been an obstacle difficult to surmount, and she eyes it as the primrose path (of sorts) leads her to the lab proper.

"Hi Nadia!" Caitlin greets, hearing the woman before she sees her. She follows the voice until she comes across the whiteboard and the physicist hard at work at… something that is a little beyond Caitlin's immediate grasp. Nadia's propensity for doodling mid-equation don't help, either.

"I'm sorry to bother you," Caitlin apologizes. "I'm here on League business, though. Formally," she clarifies. She unlimbers the heavy machine gun strapped to her back, the rucksack feeding a belt of ammo to it, and her tattered, much-loved slingpack.

She rubs at the base of her neck, wincing a bit as tired muscles groan protest. "I have the last data samples from the field analysis of the portals. I think I'm on to something here, but quantum mechanics isn't exactly my forte. I wanted to see if you'd be willing to check my math?" she inquires, hopefully.

*

"I think I can find the time if it is for the Justice League," Nadia decides after a moments consideration. "Please make yourself at home, find a seat and… if there is anything on it move it over there." She waves a hand at a slightly less cluttered workbench. "There's a kitchen over there if you are hungry, although it is mostly just the instant foods and survival ration packs. I think I made tea too, it is probably cold but not bad yet I think…"

It's not just the equations Nadia is working on which seem complex. Even the notes are a complex mixture of seven languages, short-hand, pictographics and mnemonics. Thankfully two boards at last provide some sort of key. The cat for example seems to be connected with Heisenbergs uncertainty principle.

Eventually she stops writing and starts flipping some of the boards around and revealing pristine writing space for any notes she might need to make "What sort of experiments have you been running? I am guessing they are linked to the extra-dimensional entities which appear as 'demons'?"

*

"That's right," Caitlin confirms, unlimbering her gear and with a habitual sort of fussy neatness, laying it all out in a tidy pile. Even the crude armor stitched to her grey bodysuit is removed and set in a neat stack, and she stretches her arms to the ceiling with a sigh of relief, before rubbing her lower back with a wince. "Sorry. Got thrown through a wall yesterday and I tweaked something."

She digs through her slingpack for a portable holo-emitter and sets it on an open table, and puts her portable supercomputer next to it to hook in together. A tapping of her fingers through the air and her data starts flickering in the holograms. It's not as tidy as some might hope, but given the field conditions (read: active combat), Caitlin's managed to pull down a fair amount of information and parsed it into useful contexts.

"Food sounds good," she admits. "I really need a shower. Can I borrow yours while you're reviewing my work?" she inquires, looking around for the facilities. "And I'll see if I can cook something up with the field rations. I know a couple recipes that make them halfway edible."

*

"A shower? Oh yes no problem," Nadia assures, her attention already largely taken up by the stream of information. "All of the guest bedrooms in this wing have ensuite bathrooms. Any of the doors down that way, but if you hit the ball room at the end then you have gone too far."

By the time Caitlin eventually returns Nadia is in full on eccentric scientist mode. She flits about the room using her backpack wings, fetching things from shelves cut into the cavernous room. Most of the previous clutter has been replaced with a brand new array of textbooks and research notes.

*

Caitlin's one of those girls who showed up to school with color-coded class binders and meticulously organized notes. It shows in her research and field notes, too; everything's catalogued, cross-referenced, and tagged with secondary information and index marks. The AI managing her computer is a little indifferent, even somewhat aloof, but responds to requests Nadia makes for data related to field notes. Anything else, and the device spells out a smug 'I'm Afraid I Can't Do That, Dave' over and over again in the holoscreen.

She's done a fair amount of experimentation in the last few weeks. Much note is made of how difficult it is to get proper lab sanitation to test these demons out, as they seem to fade into an unremarkable ash or ectoplasm of some kind that itself dissolves shortly thereafter, no matter what measures are taken. Still, there's interesting data, such as the efficacy of dilute holy water or the use of religious icons as weaponry. The silver inlaid into Caitlin's gauntlets is evidence of the latter working well.

Caitlin emerges from the guest suites wearing an athletic top and matching shorts, in plain black, and having undone her tight combat braiding.

"Ugh, that feels so much better," she mutters, pulling her red hair through a towel to dry it. She brightens when she sees where Nadia's at. "Wow, okay, this is the good part," she says, moving to the table. "SIRIN, pull up the telemetry from last week," she says to the air. The computer flickers and displays a video log of Caitlin aiming sensor equipment at a developing portal, and the data that comes along with it. Much of it is very interesting and totally useless at the same time, because she's detecting things that have not been established by modern science.

"Okay, please don't flinch at the word 'magic'," Caitlin cautions Nadia. "I'm a big a fan as Arthur C. Clarke as anyone else, but frankly if we just accept magic as a premise, it makes a lot of the math easier to do."

"Alright. We know these aren't singularities, because they roughly exist on Cartesian planes. I think we can rule out wormholes, too. Not enough gravimetric distortion to lead me down that rabbit hole."

She digs a little brush out of her slingpack (what /doesn't/ she have in there?) and starts pulling it through her hair to get it untangled. "So I started thinking about hyperstring loops. I think what these portals are is a macro-loop, connecting our world to something… totally disconnected from our reality. Not even the same space-time. It looks like anything that passes through these port— er, the event horizon of the anomalies," she amends, "becomes entangled with our unique P-brane frequency, and synchronizes with our reality."

"All of which is completely impossible," she concedes, sighing, "and frankly I am starting to think I'm going crazy, but…." she shrugs, and gestures at the screens. "there are these demons, y'know?"

*

"It is not really the magic aspect which I am avoiding," Nadia points out with a shrug. "I have seen plenty of reports on abilities such as sorcery and magic from credible research sources. Calling them demons well.. it demonizes them. How can we know this is not simply another dimension as distinct as our own which only co-incidentally matches our religious descriptions of a hell? And given magic is real and can grant access to these places is it not also possible the reason we have those descriptions comes from cross dimensional travel and spread into folklore?"

"Also I am wondering who this Dave person your computer kept mentioning is." She shrugs. "Either way it is still not a place I wish to have connected to my new home. Do you aim to build a machine to un-entagle them? Or simply to act as a jammer to stop more new connections being made?" She grins. "After all we can prove it /is/ possible because it's happening. I've already begun putting together all the sources which note similar phenomenon or have data samples which at least align with portions of what you have. You ah.. may wish to avoid looking at some of the document headers. I promise you that /I/ did not steal them originally. Only from people who you would not like to have such information."

*

"Okay, fair nuff, demons might be a generalization," Caitlin concedes, with a weary sigh and a nod. "That's not crazy. Then again— hear hooves, think horses, y'know? I've got a good number of professional magicians who've asserted these guys are demons, and I gotta say, holy water burns them better than hydrofluoric acid."

"And, sorry— SIRIN's the AI who runs my portable computer, and right before we went into space for a few months I downloaded a couple terabytes of movies. She thought HAL 9000 was hilarious." Caitlin narrows her eyes at the computer, which somehow fails to express any smug sentiments it might be harboring. "Don't take her too seriously," she advises Nadia, rising and moving her computer to an interface port. A seamless port opens, and Caitlin pauses before jacking SIRIN into Nadia's computers. "No, you do -not- have permission to 'snoop around'," she says aloud, staring at the box. "You didn't want her poking around in your memory files. Fair's fair." Another pause. "Oh, take THAT tone!"

She plugs the computer in, sticks her tongue out at it, and turns to face Nadia again. "Sorry. Sometimes she acts like the Singularity hit, and forgets she doesn't /have any legs/," Caitlin says, leaning over to raise her voice at the machine.

"Okay, focusing. Right— shutting down the portals," she says, resting her hips on the edge of a bench with a ripple of muscle and crossing her legs at the ankle. She claps her hands together, and points her compressed index fingers at Nadia. "Here's what I'm thinking. We have to undo the waveform phase of the hyperstring loops, at Planck scales. Effectively deharmonize the mechanism that's linking our world to theirs," she says, hands gesturing. "I think what we need is a subatomic acclerator of somekind. If we can locate a live rift, we can hit it with a stream of dipolar tauons and destabilize the connection. It might even work as a brute force tool for de-phasing these specific entities, and forcing them back into synchronization with their own reality."

"Problem is that I don't /have/ a dipolar tauon generator, even if it turns out my idea is sound. And even if I did know how to build one, I don't know how to make one that was portable enough to aim at an emerging portal. I'm hoping you have some thoughts."

*

Nadia Van Dyne hmmmms. "I do not think I have built a dipolar tauon generator yet," Nadia muses, walking over to a little analogue console and bringing up a coded filing system. "Not unless I did it mid project and never bothered to label it anyway.. It would take hours to manually check, I've got a few years worth of projects in storage here… Given the urgency it would be much quicker for us to simply build a regular sized generator and then I'll adjust the scale for you afterwards using pym particles. We'd have to ensure the output was properly calibrated to scale with the size change though. The shrinking process should enhance durability to a degree but I'm afraid it will make it virtually impossible to repair for anyone but me. So delicate handling would be best."

*

"Old school," Caitlin says, as Nadia digs into her file cabinets. "I guess the upside there is that nosy AIs can't hack into your subsystems," she concedes.

"Okay, well— lemme know what you need for the emitter," Caitlin says. "I'm pretty sure I can borrow stuff from THINK or Baxter Industries. Starr Labs can donate computer parts to the cause, too, I'm sure. Unfortunately, Stark Tower's currently the epicenter for this infestation, and it's a bit too risky to duck into there for equipment. I barely made it out last time, and that was just me ensuring the security systems hadn't been compromised. Can you double check my math, though, and let me know if you come up with anything radically different than what I've got here?" she says, nodding at the data being loaded into Nadia's computer. Deciding that her hair is sufficiently dry, Caitlin binds a matte gray belt around her midsection and touches a plastic tab. Clothing unfurls from the material, climbing up her body and under her current garments. It looks skintight for a moment, then thickens out into something closer to a lightly padded jacket with denser inserts covering impact areas. It even pops a pair of low-soled boots to her feet.

"How soon do you want me back here with the first load of materials? Or can I just take the necklace with me to the Hall of Justice, and we can work there?" Now that's she's decent in the bodysuit, she peels off the black athletic gear and tucks it into a small pocket in her slingpack, and starts strapping greaves, gauntlets, and cuirass back into place. The bodysuit seems to 'grab' the armor as it's attached, as seamlessly as if it was built into it to begin with.

*

"I built this place in secret," Nadia replies with a grin. "And haven't had the time to upgrade a lot of the non-essential components. The entire transportation system is still running on the clockwork mechanism that makes it appear more like a novelty pendant. I may keep that though because the gears look nice."

"It might be better if I bring the necklace and accompany you. Remaining inside the necklace while you travel through a hostile environment would likely be quite uncomfortable," she points out. "Besides it will be easier to travel with both of us to watch for danger. And do not worry about my safety on the way, I am more than able to protect myself."

*

"Worry about you? I'm counting on you to watch my back!" Caitlin laughs. "I got laid out by a demon two nights ago and I'm still sore. They're not bad one on one, but a whole horde of them becomes a problem." She clips a tactical vest into place, then shrugs into the heavy military backpack and picks up the machine gun off the floor, loading it with a clattering of steel and a certain brisk competence born of familiarity. It's slung at a hip and she tosses her smaller slingpack to ride on her opposite side. It's a solid fifty pounds of kit— maybe more— but she doesn't seem bothered by the weight in the slightest. "Do me a favor and let me take point, though," she requests politely. "I can lay down better fire if I'm not worried about hitting you. Nice, huh?" she says, patting the heavy ordnance. "The ammo's all been treated with consecrated oil. Oh! You'll want this," she says, producing … a water pistol. A small one. "Holy water from the font at the Church of the Sacred Heart. Like I said, better than acid when it comes to demons. I've got spare water balloons of the stuff if you need more."

*

"My suit has energy weapons which can cut steel plates," Nadia notes, looking at the water pistol. "Water based weaponry would not typically work well with my size changing." She takes it anyway, just on the off chance. "Has anyone proven that holy water works regardless of the belief of the user?"

"Rest assured I have no intention of being at the wrong end of such an oversized weapon! And if it helps you plan your route back I can maintain a sixty mile an hour flight speed, but not while carrying you at full size. Unfortunately I do not think I would recommend any further exposure to pym particles for you today. You would risk undue strain, likely only short term, but not advisable."

*

"I can top out at … uh, I'unno, a little under fifty, at least," Caitlin remarks. "But that's on a straightaway with no traffic or turns. I can't corner at that speed, 'cause I can't quickly slow down. If we had to get overland fast, I'd say let's just get on the turnpike and head across the bay. We could cover a lot of ground. But I think we'll be all right. Besides," she adds. "I still want to do a sector sweep to look for stragglers and refugees. People have been trickling into the Hall for days now— some just weren't willing to evacuate, so we try to catch them when they make a break for the bridges."

"Well, if you're all ready, gimme the magic potion, and — " she makes a 'zzzip' noise and wiggles a thumb over her shoulder. " — we'll get this show on the road."

*

Nadia Van Dyne laughs. "Oh there is no potion to revert you," she explains. "That would be far too unsafe! But there is an energy field which will trigger the shift back to normal built into the doorway. That way the process can only be triggered when an appropriate volume of space is available to grow into. I am already ready to travel, I just need to pick up this place. Lockdown will activate automatically when I leave preventing anything from moving around as we go."

*

Caitlin laughs. "I should have known, right?" she says, rhetorically. "It's not as Lewis Carrol as I thought!"

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