Science Talk

April 20, 2019:

Sage calls Iron Guard to talk about the AIM underground factory and related problems.

Undergronud AIM factory

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Toyman

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

As soon as the the battle had been fought, Sage had moved into lockdown and security mode, calling in the reserve X-Men as well as the few allies they trusted to assist them in the breakdown of the place and the securing of all of the tech, equipment, and evidence within. Sage, as she waited, sent out a coded message along the net, knowing that it would be found. Hoping it would be found quickly.


By the time the X-Men and Punisher take over the AIM base, including the computer systems, which finally surrender to Sage cyberpathic assault, the closure of the lowest level of the garage has been noticed by the regular workers of the mall. The police has been called.

It doesn't seem a critical problem, and they are not dealing with it with a large number of agents. But calls are being made, inquiring about the weird blast doors closing access to the sub-basement. The DEO or SHIELD will get involved soon. The X-Men have some time, but not hours.

Meanwhile the message is received by a young man currently several feet deep in the bowels of the electronic systems of the Titans Tower. To say the truth Nathaniel is quite impressed by Victor Stone's hardware and Red Robin's programming. But of course there are always improvements to be made. Little bugs to track down. Software to update. Architecture to optimize.

The magic letters are 'A', 'I' and 'M'. He is armored and flying a minute later.


Sage was as regimented and meticulous in the arrangement of the material for extraction and transport as she had been on the infiltration. It would take time, but she knew that the situation was critical enough that any who might otherwise be considering dawdling wouldn't. Everything in the underground base was being stripped and sorted, to be teleported away by those amongst the X-Men who had the ability. Still, the glance she cast back at the gathered group was,as much as her face seemed to hold any sort of emotion, almost disappointed, as though the personage she had expected to see among them…wasn't.


Iron Guard is not the most famous of the Avengers, but he has a degree of security clearance, so the police lets him go ahead, and he can cut his way in with a high power laser. It still takes him a few minutes to melt a hole through the blast door. It still takes him a few more minutes to get a channel open through the null-field, unless Sage turned it off. In fact it is faster to get down the elevator shaft, and meet Sage down there.

The sight of the AIM factory gives him pause. If he was prone to swearing, he would now. In the middle of New York. This. It is a bit of a personal affront AIM can do this so close to the Avengers and SHIELD HQ.

Also broken toy tanks on the ground. "There must be an interesting story here," he comments to Sage. "Thank you for calling me. SHIELD will want to go through this place with a fine-tooth comb.” Because yes, he has noticed they are trying to take away at least some of the high tech here.


"I am sure that they will." Sage did not bother to make apologies for what was being taken. It was not all, but enough to allow the X-Men to do their own research, without the oversight of SHIELD at their backs, possibly thwarting their efforts. "You felt the field? I did not want to shut it down until you had arrived. Better for you to feel it and analyze it than have me talk to you about it." A bit like putting your hand in the fire to know, not just believe that it burned. "Though the toys are not the most interesting story here." Sage stepped away from the wall where she had been standing, to lead Nathaniel over towards the remains of the Toymaster as well as the adaptoid, which might or might not still look entirely like X-23. "These are much more interesting." She glanced over towards the armored man, "This tech is so advanced to have given me a challenge. I couldn't think of anyone who would have more knowledge than you." Being, you know, future human and all.


"I am not going to stop you from taking what you need," points out Nathaniel. "But it might cause you difficulties later, depending how much rapport and trust you keep with Director Fury." That is friendly advice, and he genuinely does not know what level of trust the X-Men have.

"This was an Adoptoid," he comments at seeing the melting remains of the synthezoid. Biology is not my field, but I know they are a puzzle for SHIELD's brightest, and also Stark. Incredibly advanced artificial organisms. And in general AIM technology is decades ahead mainstream, some of their inventions are advanced even for galactic standards." Like the Adaptoids.

Now Sage can feel his armor connecting the computer systems, and his mind too, through the neurtokinetic link with the suit. "What where they doing here? Those look like toys and…" pause for a facial recognizement check on the Toyman robot. "Ah, interesting. I can share with you the information we have on this machine and its creator, a unstable man called Winslow Schott. It is a good thing it has been finally destroyed. It was involved in the murder of several children in Metropolis a few years ago."


"As far as I can tell," Sage offered as she left Nathaniel to do his work, "They were building more of these organic appearing sentinels. The leap between the ones we saw in Mutant Town which looked to be hybrids of organic and inorganic materials is vast. When we were fighting the Toymaster, or, well, this thing, he seemed to have no idea that he was not the real man himself, which is an advanced amount of programming, as it would have necessitated programming in an entire lifetime's worth of memories, experiences, and recollections. The null field, which you felt is unlike anything I have ever encountered before. It was targeted specifically to nullify both telepathy as well as probing by technological means." She glanced at the toys, "The toys were weaponized, as you can see and were remote controlled by the agents there. Loaded with grenades as well as bullets and other explosives. Given how often people discount things that do not appear dangerous, I have no doubt that they were intending to use them for infiltration. All of them would, for example, be small enough to make their way through the ductwork of a building."


"Dangerous toys it is the modus operandi of the Toyman," offers Nathaniel, grabbing one of the broken tanks and opening the case. The armor hides his features, but he is definitely not happy at seeing the design is really remarkable. " As for the Adoptoids, they have been AIM's secret weapon for almost a decade. And getting more and more sophisticated every year."

The Toyman robot history is sent to Sage's systems right away. It is a weird story of an engineering genius that loved children and toys but got swindled and ruined by more business savvy corporations. He snapped and started a terrorist campaign against them. Superman stopped him, he went to jail and escaped.

A few months later he returned, much more murderous. Caused major property damage and then kidnapped a few children, some of which he killed. Eventually local crime-fighters stopped him. It was later revealed the murderer was a robot built by Schott and the real Winslow Schott had been in hiding. This robot has been missing for years, and it being here means perhaps AIM captured and reprogrammed it. Or they recruited it thinking it was the real Schott. There is no confirmation either way in the local databases.

Nathaniel is checking the engineering files in the computers. Nothing there on the null-field. No schematics. But plenty about Sentinel pieces. Most of them are copies of Trask technology. Someone is assambling Sentinels somewhere, definitely. The circuits for the cyborgs are different. They are AIM best tech. More advanced than the black market components from the cyborgs destroyed in Mutant Town. "So," he considers, "M.O.D.O.K. had this factory working for the Sentinels. It seems a strange alliance."


Sage was silent for the few seconds it took for the uplink to be sent to her systems, her gaze still studying the armored man going over the remains of the toys and tech that had been left scattered in the wake of the battle. The transport of materials seemed to be slowing down. If it was done correctly, it might be a while before the agencies who were, more likely than not, already on their way in to secure the place, realized that there actually were components missing. "We are assuming that the component parts are all coming from their parent organizations. They might well be working under false pretenses, or, are splinter groups who have separated from the people who normally control them."


"Yes, AIM splintered when the Avengers captured M.O.D.O.K. two years ago," confirms Nathaniel, leaning against a wall and folding his arms. "Some branches have gone mercenary and sell weapons to anyone. Which in some regards it is even worse than when they were planning to conquer the world. At least they did not put plasma cannons in the hands of any terrorist with money to burn."

A pause, "I think I have figured out the principles of the null-field. It is a wide-spectrum force-field that blocks electromagnetic 'noise' and reaches some parts of the psychic spectrum. Another little marvel that should not exist in Earth for a century, at least. And it helps explain why AIM bases are so difficult to find." Another pause, "so precise… I have no idea how they have managed to build this with Twenty-First Century technology. I am going to theorize M.O.D.O.K. himself did the calculations."


"Is it possible that there might be others like you, those from an earth or a time much more advanced than this one who might be either working with them or be directing what is being done? I am sure I don't have to say that knowledge of that sort of time travel is not within my current skillset. And clearly, you found a way to come here." He had never explain how, and Sage was intelligent enough not to ask. Yet. "And given that you know about when such technology would have been possible, you could certainly build something like this yourself."


"Yes," replies Nathaniel. "In fact I firmly believe the Horton Cell technology for synthezoids was brought from the future and given to Phineas Horton almost eighty years ago. But most of AIM tech is… well, it is human genius." He steps forward, pacing around the factory. "People like Reed Richards and Anthony Stark, with none of their scruples. M.O.D.O.K., too, is a super-human intellect, capable of developing cloaking technology to hide from SHIELD satellites and the best mutant telepaths. It keeps SHIELD busy; and the Avengers too. They have never acted against mutants specifically, however. It is not part of their agenda."


Sage nodded, hunkering down to examine one of the tentacles that had belonged to the Toymaster's suit, though her words were still directed towards the man not far from her, "That would lead me to believe that whomever is behind this is cherry-picking the components they want from less than legal organizations and turning them towards the ends they seem to have chosen as theirs, in this case, given the high presence of sentinel tech, would be the eradication of mutant-kind."


"Seems so," Nathaniel turns to look at the young woman, "I found the logs, looks like they have sent components for perhaps half a dozen Sentinels to Arizona. But they were building for at least thirty more units." So they stopped them in time to prevent the worst. "Same with the cybernetic components. Their operation was just starting and less than twenty percent of the mechanisms have left the factory."


Sage stood up from where she has been crouching, turning to nod her head to one of the X-Men, who seemed to be indicating that they had taken everything that they intended to take. "Everything since mutant town has led me to believe that this is not a single organization working in a multitude of areas, or, better to say, this is not any of the organization we are accustomed to branching out beyond the activities that we know of them. This is something far greater than what we've become accustomed to. It's moving too quickly, advancing and evolving far faster than it should be."


"I see," replies the armored man. He offers no immediate response, reviewing what the Avengers do know about this case. Not enough, in truth. "I would like to see what evidence you have gathered and examine your conclusions if at all possible. In the case we are facing a problem of global consequences, I would prefer the Avengers and other agencies to be as prepared as possible."


Sage nodded, a breath taken as she spun up a program in her network, "I will have the file compiled and sent to you in a moment." It did not sitract her from her conversation, however, "May I ask you a question, Nathaniel Richards?" Quite unlike herself, she actually waited for his answer before she'd actually speak again. "Two, actually."


"Thank you, I appreciate it," Nathaniel has uploaded much of the AIM base databanks into his systems by now. He is filtering to eliminate traps and Trojans. Plenty of them, AIM computer techs are good. But they can't operate on his armor systems, which are simply too alien, so they will be eradicated before he moves the files to the Avengers servers.

"You can ask me anything, of course," he replies to her question. No promises of sincerity to Sage. But he knows she knows better.


Sage nodded, "First, why did you choose to work with the Avengers? There are any number of organization which could have used your particualr skills." She did not make any attempt to refute his sincerity, "Second, is this an event that you already have in your timeline?" Given that he's literally hundreds of years ahead, "Or is this something unique to now?" if it isn't, Nathaniel may have more information than he knows.


Well, look at that. A personal question followed by an important matter. He makes the helmet recede from his head and tilts his head at Sage. "When I was younger I idealized the crime-fighters of the Heroic Age. The Avengers in particular. The true story, the complete files of the heroes' deeds, however, was not known. The corporations that ruled the Earth for most of the Twenty First Century, during the Second Dark Age, collaborated to eliminate records and downplay the deeds of their victims. But some remained. Captain America survived, for instance."

It is not the whole truth, but for now it will do. As for the other question. "My historical databanks are definitely corrupt by now, Sage. However… the Sentinels are very dangerous. They were instrumental in the end of the Heroic Age and responsible for the deaths of most of the super-heroes. It is not supposed to happen this early, so perhaps this is not a critical juncture. My psycho-historical models do not foresee a major societal upheaval yet. But I am working with just a few hundred millions minds. The chance of error is significant and the actions of influential individuals too decisive. Once I have your analysis I might be able to offer a better answer."


Sage nodded, seeming unwilling to pry beyond what she already had. Perhaps she understood that some things were personal to people, well, people who were not her. But that was what the internet in all its manifestations were for. "It should be available at my secure storage site now." She did not attempt to beam the data directly to the suit. That would have been far too personal. Instead, she sent an encrypted access code to the same place where he found the message she had sent that brought him here. "It may not seem critical in hindsight, but right now? Given the world as it is in this time? it is like a bullet-train speeding towards the station with no one at the controls to protect the passengers from impact."


Nathaniel chuckles. "No, it never is. The world carries a good deal of ideological and psychosocial inertia," he frowns briefly. "I have to admit the current anti-mutant campaign in the media is causing some impact in my models. It is unexpected. I cannot find any economic or political benefit except for very fringe groups. Which I suspect means we will soon see a counter reaction of the powers that be that are losing power." He is talking of sociology and economics, not of super-powers acts. Or maybe it is the same.

Psychohistory is a science that does not exists yet. But it has been theorized as possible by writers and futurists like Isaac Asimov and Reed Richards himself. The possibility to predict the future in broad strokes reducing sociology and economy to pure mathematics.


"Perhaps there is not a benefit to all, but only a benefit to a small segment of the population. Those who want to see only the human population ascendant, rather than seeing a world where the two human species survive and live together. But it is not uncommon a thing. When one segment of a population sees themselves being supplanted by another, or believes they will be, they tend to strike out in fear for the loss of their own power." Sage paused a moment, accessing systems, "I do not have much time left. I should not be here when your people arrive."


"We should pause this conversation, then." Confirms Nathaniel. A SHIELD Quinjet is landing in front of the mall right now, indeed. "However I should state ideologies are generally irrelevant without an economic backing. To understand the anti-mutant undercurrent in American culture, for instance, an historian needs to observe the economic forces that benefit from it on a national and global scale. Within such paradigm, what happens right now feels like an alien intervention. We should ponder it carefully the next few days."


"I would counter that some ideologies do not care for what is beneficial or what is right. Those who are zealots, those who want something only because they want it, those who seek vengeance or retribution do not care about a bigger picture. You have only to look at the many criminals in Gotham and other such cities where they thrive to know that. Not all evil is as, for example, Magneto, who seeks to, in his way, better the lives of mutant-kind. Sometimes, evil is just evil." She nodded, as she began to make her way towards the lone X-man waiting for her. "You know how to contact me." She was fine with leaving it at that, as she made her escape from the underground factory.


"Aberrant individuals like those criminal in Gotham will not impact on a nation the size of the United States," counters Nathaniel. But Magneto is a different problem, however. His ideology has a profound economic and political impact. If Magneto didn't exist, then some other powerful mutant would be in his exact role, because those economic and political forces. "Pleasure talking to you, Sage. As always," he adds as farewells.

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