Timeo Eldraeos et Dona Ferentes: Acquisition 2.8


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Read, enjoyed, trying to kick the right ass so that fixing brain chemistry issues is far less “by guess and by God” than it is now.

…tho, I can still see the not-capes being an issue, in the same way that tossing sand into a working jet engine presents difficulties.

Appending text here, for He Who Hath Been Blocked:

Approximately 45’ beneath ground, between the Boardwalk and the Docks proper

The tunnel breathed slowly, a long slow exhalation of warm city air drifting towards a cold exit by the sea. A few scents and sounds went with it: the old dusty scent, rust-mingled, of the crumbling ancient brickwork; a whiff of the old mold and mildew that clung to it, with a faint coppery hint, for the keen of nose, of the new-establishing Brockton Goo; the foul breath of the sewers.

A few sounds drifted down from the city above. Thumps, bangs, suggestions of the rumble of traffic beneath the omnipresent gurgle of water.

And the heavy tread of two armored figures clomping along through the dust and dewy webs.

“I know why I know about these tunnels, but why do you?”

“Most of them run under the Docks, and the Dockworkers’ Association goes back a long time. Not all the way back to the original pre-Independence smuggling tunnels, or the crimps’ runs, but long enough, and they still keep an eye on them. Just part of keeping the gangs out of the docks.”

“That explains the anomalies in ABB and Empire smuggling routes.” I buried a smile of my own inside my helmet at the now-familiar sound of pieces coming together. “You used to play down here, didn’t you?”

“I did. In some of the safest parts near the warehouses. Emma and I”, my voice cracked, which Lisa kindly didn’t notice except for a touch to my arm, “ran all over the Docks with some of the DWA kids. It wasn’t until I saw your notes that I realized how many more of them there were, though. Or how much they intersected with the sewers – turn left here”, I interrupted myself, ducking through an opening, “or the ridiculous number of caves under the city. Need to stop for a moment.”

Straightening up, I looked around the new chamber. Walls of more crumbling brick led up to a vaulted brick roof, some storeroom or old warehouse dating back to the 18th century, name splashed across the walls in now-illegible tattered white paint. The floor, however, was packed earth turning to mud – perfect for my purposes.

A quick glance at my HUD flashed laser rangefinders, picking out the exact spot I wanted. I pulled the probe off my back, slipped the cap off the drill-head at its tip, and placed the second to last of my precious nanoseeds into the compartment behind. Straightening, I stabbed it into the earth –

“So you programmed a seed to grow a secret underground base.”

I looked over at Lisa, leaning precisely against the wall by the entrance. “Well, you mentioned that your boss had a secret underground base. I think if anyone has a secret underground base in this town, it ought to be us .” Also, we should have a safe place for emergencies, and to keep our backups , I didn’t say, but I knew she heard me anyway.

“Your logic is impeccable. I say that as a Thinker.”

“This is too much?”

“Taylor, sweetie, in the last two weeks you’ve gone on the run from the Protectorate, joined up with a villain, broke several major Tinker regulations, debuted as a hero by intervening in a gang fight on live television, invented a cape team, become entangled with New Wave, and turned me into a Thinker 12 pretending to still be a 7 by accident .”

“Ah,” I said, the flick of a thought sending the probe scurrying on its way. “So it’s probably still okay for now.”

Tattletale’s Apartment, the previous day

After mounting a successful defense against my panic attack, we agreed that it would probably be best to take a moment to think about what the changes to Lisa’s power meant and work out a safe, careful, and reasoned approach to figure out what was going on, rather than ploughing forward with any further precipitate messing with things I didn’t understand. However well that had worked out for me so far.

What that meant in practice was getting a night’s sleep, having breakfast, and then her sitting on the couch predicting the plots – and in some cases the bloopers, rewrites, public reactions, and personal quirks of the cast and crew - of daytime television¹ before they happened, while I waved every non-invasive passive sensor I had or could cook up on short notice around her head.

“So,” Lisa said, sitting up and shaking her hair back into disorder, “what’s the verdict?”

“Would you happen to know what your corona gemma used to look like?,” I asked.

That got me a very old-fashioned look.

“Well, according to these sensors, all the thinkier bits of your brain are sparkly with phaetons and axions blinking back and forth through photon states. And a suggestion that I should probably also look for an efflux of sterile neutrinos, but this doesn’t come with a sterile neutrino detector. I don’t think you can build one this small anyway². I only have the others because I’m supposed to be Taylor the Miracle Sniffer.

“And according to the neural lace diagnostics, the cognition-assistance function is running in overdrive. As if it was getting a massive influx of data out of nowhere, and since the quantum-dot interface elements are light-sensitive, it’s presumably getting it from the exotic particles. And it looks like meaningful data, so…” I trailed off.

“My power noticed that my brain had suddenly got bigger thanks to your gadget, adapted itself to use the additional capacity, and that’s why I’m now having all the insights and no headaches.”

“Well, I do now, yes. I promise, I had no -”

“- idea. I know. Next time I’ll wait until you’ve been off the wake-up juice for longer. Anything else?”

“Not a clue. Something about dark-matter physics, brane-edge interactions, and other things that might make more sense when I’ve spent more than ten minutes studying it.”

“Ask again tomorrow?”

I waggled my hand and tried to match her smirk. “We’ve got a lot of stuff planned. Maybe next week. Besides, I do have something else to show you today…”

  1. A copy of the Thinker Diagnostics Manual that fell through an informational oracle from an indeterminate point in the future advises against this practice in the strongest possible terms.
  2. The standard system-monitoring model of sterile neutrino detector, after all, is about a cubic mile in size, control circuitry not included, and comes wrapped up in a metastable neutronium shell. The little buggers really don’t want to interact, but they are pretty good miracle sign.

Specs: Caped Cape Armor

“Somewhere a team of engineers is weeping gently over what I did to their baby to get something I could build here. But it turns out you can’t readily buy rare-earth metals and exotic matter in Brockton Bay. Who would have thought?”

- Eleutheria

“And yet somehow I am still not convinced that you know the meaning of overkill.”

- Tattletale

“…if you think it’s that excessive, I can always disassemble it again?”

- Eleutheria

“I never said that.”

- Tattletale, protectively

In theory, Eleutheria and Tattletale’s shiny new armor is the standard N45 Garrex field combat armor of the Imperial Legions (or, in the latter’s case, the derivative N45e Réyneri scout armor).

In practice, their armor is a somewhat slipshod derivative of the N45 series, because of the unfortunate problems with material availability and those elements sadly lacking in Brockton Bay’s effluent and landfills. You’d think people would throw away more yttrium and gadolinium and terbium, but noooo…

…so it’s a bit of a hack job by its designers’ standards, components – mostly replaced with inferior but functional C-allotropes or less exotic alloys - to be upgraded as material conditions allow. That said, by Earth Bet standards, even for tinkertech, it’s a miracle of rare device.

So, what for the sake of a filename we shall call the N45ב Taylormade cape combat armor is still the traditional dual-layered hardsuit armor¹: a sandwich of corrosion-resistant and refractory cerametal composite plating sandwiched on top of a flexible core suit of non-porous arachnoweave ballistic fabric, with an ablative layer sprayed on top which boils away to protect the wearer from directed energy weapons.

(The composite plating is supposed to be wrapped around electrical and thermal superconductor meshes to provide further protection against directed energy and electrical attacks, but Bet tech currently isn’t up to replicating the latter, and the former has had the proper orichalcium replaced with mere C-allotrope superconductor – which still works, but breaks down more easily under load.)

For the outer layer of protection, the suit comes with the same kinetic barriers used by starships and other vehicles to deflect away objects with enough incoming kinetic energy to trigger them, provided the suit has enough power remaining.

(This is unfortunately very below standard; building good vector-control cores requires exotic matter which Taylor has no ability to fab at this time, and even rare earth metals are hard to get hold of in quantity. So those barriers are notably underpowered by the spec; on the other hand, Earth guns are also notably underpowered by the spec’s assumptions, so it’s not as bad as it might look. But it’s also not I Laugh At Your Puny, Squishy Bullets territory either. At least where serious opponents are concerned.)

Like its progenitor, the N45ב Taylormade isn’t power armor (in the sense that it is powered to provide great feats of strength), but it does come with power-assist, rendering it feather-light and unlikely to interfere with movement or cause fatigue.

While the N45 standard system has been modified with the optional retractable teardrop helmet (PR demands it!), the N45ב Taylormade retains the capacity for internal climate control and self-contained air reprocessing (for protection against extremes of temperature, hostile atmospheres, and NBCN scenarios), which also provides a certain limited ability to operate in vacuum or underwater. If you remember to put your helmet up. The helmet comes with electronic sound transmission systems to let the wearer hear and speak, while filtering out potential sound-based attacks and noise loud enough to cause sensory stun, just as the integrated imaging system filters out basilisk hacks and excessive visual stimuli.

At the lowest layer, underneath the suit and its internal shock padding, is a silk organza body-glove designed to keep you alive, as it incorporates in addition to the necessary interfaces medical and environmental sensors for its self-healing system, which deploys wound gel and decontamination foam as needed to patch up the consequences of anything that gets through the armor, along with some emergency injectors of keep-you-on-your-feet pharmaceuticals deployed as needed.

Meanwhile, the very fancy computer systems built into the suit include an onboard microframe computer to run the suit’s management software, along with a full communications, navigation, and sensor suite. The communications suite includes simple radio and whisker laser communicators, as well as access to the one-time pad encrypted tactical mesh. The sensor suite provides a full head-up display of sensor data incoming from a variety of sources, including teamware (what one is aware of, all are aware of), tactical and strategic C3I systems, threat identification systems, weapon status data including “gun’s-eye view” projections, and other such information.

Once the TattleDrones™ are out and about, this will be downright terrifying . If it isn’t already, given that the Thinker now has complete data access everywhere . Incidentally, that’s what the scout armor comes with: extra reconnaissance computing power, extra sensors, and some lightweight disposable recon drones.

Unlike the N45 Garrex, the N45ב Taylormade doesn’t come with the jump-jets. All resources that could have been put into the requisite vector-control core for that instead went into the kinetic barriers. Combat freerunning is thus sadly limited for now.

Also unlike the N45 Garrex, the N45ב Taylormade comes with an extremely stylish cape, because looking good is half the battle. For reasons of basic cape-safety awareness², these capes aren’t made of grabbable fabric – they’re made of a whole passel of microbots clinging to each other and pretending that they’re fabric, which can ungrab quite easily if grabbed. That this also permits them to ripple stylishly in the wind regardless of whether or not there is a convenient and cooperative wind, and always provide an appropriate coda to a dramatic exit is, of course, entirely not the point.

  1. For visual reference, except for specific details and obviously coloration, it’s probably closest to the various N7 armor variations from Mass Effect in appearance. Except for the capes, which exist mostly because they look cool and can hide a multitude of killer robots.
  2. See that fine Aleph documentary, The Incredibles .

Thanks! I think that I have figured out what was going wrong, and am working on getting it fixed.

So, what else can the microbots do besides look cool?
And I can’t help but think a bunch of utility sand would be a nice intermediate before say a utility fog…

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