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Quartet in WTFMagic!Alienville
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"That's why I am not merging with Scout 15 myself! Do it, before I start assuming you're a deviant yourself."


The Worker quickly nods, turning to Scout 15, "Yes, Supervisor," it says. It moves towards the Scout, it's hand losing shape to become a blob of coppery material, of almost mercury-like consistency. It reaches out, clearly expecting the Scout to respond in turn.


Scout 15 does the same, and he lets their minds merge, knowing full well that they will know that he attacked an artist on purpose, even if he was ordered to pick someone...


Worker 23 does note this, yes. It also skims through Scout 15s memory of the encounter with the non-native lifeforms.

We're really not going to hurt you, blood streaming from burst blood vessels: inexperienced Medani psychic. Devices made of materials not available on designation-Earth, synthesizer capable of producing neuro-stabalizers: probable Allurian medical technology. Familiar lifeform? Unknown signature, other collective? Possible ecounter with parent-collective? Unknown. 


 Preference of target outside standard Collective protocol, it notes, Why? 


Scout 15 recoils, but pours the answer out through the link.


Art is beautiful.


Worker 23 pauses, ...Art? 

It goes looking for a definition of this word. Instead, it finds a stream of images.

Pencils on a page, fanciful swirls of colour forming an image drawn from the artist's imagination. Hands on a block of soft clay, spinning and slowly forming into a crooked pot. A splash of colour upon a canvas, dripping slowly down to the ground. A detailed painting of a woman, her mouth crooked in the slightest of smiles. A child smearing wax onto a page, her focus and delight clear. An abstract sculpture, its shape conveying to the viewer a sense of melancholy and helplessness. A mural painted over an entire alley, depicting the struggle of a young woman to live her life on her own terms. 

Overwhelmed, Worker 23 almost pulls away as it retreats to collect itself. 


It unmerges with Scout 15 and turns to Supervisor 17, "Untrained Medani psychic, possible Allurian medical technology, one human, and one Unknown, Supervisor. Lifeforms encountered Scout 15 attempting to absorb a target and removed the subject from within it. Lifeforms were not hostile once Scout 15 had released its target; it was able to flee the scene through the sewage system."

It does not mention the Scout's... unusual preferences. 


"I see." Supervisor 17 says narrowing their eyes. "Scout 15 you're dismissed. The rest of you we have much to discuss."

Scout 15 does not waste a second and immediately leaves the room.


As quick as they're moving, it only takes them five minutes to reach the building. The ride up the elevator is made in antsy silence, Robin fidgeting with his keys and Erin with her scanner. On the tenth floor Jamie takes Robin's hand to stop the jingling noise, having noticed Caine getting more and more annoyed as it continued. They get off on the seventeenth floor and make their way to the second last door on the right. 

The other three loiter around the door as Caine unlocks it, and then file in behind him. The scent of bacon fills the apartment, leading Robin and Jamie to exchange excited glances and push past the others to race to the condo's small kitchen. 

"Hey Mr. Atten! What's for breakfast?" 


Caine's dad glances up from his place at the stove, giving the boys a smile as he transfers bacon from the pan to his plate. 

"Morning, boys," he greets, "Breakfast is whatever you make of it. There's more bacon in the fridge, along with eggs and bread. You know where the cereal is if you want that instead. Is Caine with you or are you here for my own company?" 


"Yeah, I'm here dad," Caine says as he enters the kitchen. He gives his dad a small smile as the man offers him a strip of bacon from his own plate, which he accepts, and then heads for the cupboard to grab some oil to fry the bacon Jamie is pulling out of the fridge in. 

"Favoritism!" Robin claims from the stove. Erin snorts as she goes to sit at the table across from Mr Atten, still fiddling with her scanner. 


Samuel stops eating once he catches sight of the scanner. He slowly puts his fork down, and then leans forward to get a better look. 

After a moment, he clears his throat. Erin looks up, and blinks in confusion at the look in the man's eyes. 

"Where did you get that, Erin?" Samuel asks quietly. 


Erin glances down at the scanner, then back up at Mr Atten. "Um. It was in my room this morning, and it wasn't there last night."

The others pause in their food-making, turning to participate in the conversation.

"Yeah," Robin says, "And apparently I'm psychic or something now? I definitely read this... guy's, mind just now, and I think I maybe saw some things earlier, too?"

"And apparently Erin's a lizard person," Jamie adds.

Caine hums, "Robin moved much faster than was natural twice this morning," he mentions. 

Robin whips around to stare at him, "I what?" He exclaims.

Jamie nods, "Yeah, I thought he seemed to be blurring a bit inthe alley, but it could have been the light." 

Robin waves an arm at Jamie, "And you didn't mention it?" 

"I mentioned it now, didn't I?" 

Erin shrugs at Mr Atten, whose eyebrows have climbed up his forehead and look likely to disappear into his hair at any moment, "So, yeah," she says, "It's been a weird morning. And that's all before we ran into that shapeshifter basically eating a guy on our way here."


At that last, Samuel half stands from his chair in alarm, "Shapeshifter?" He asks, "You ran into a shapeshifter on the way here? What happened, were any of you injured, were any of you copied, did you see where it went?" 


"Yeah, we ran into one," Jamie tells him, concerned. "It was trying to eat this artist guy, it let the guy go when Robin touched it. Then it freaked out for a bit and ran off."

"Went down a manhole," Caine offers.


"Damn," Samuel breathes, "Damn it all." He leaves his breakfast and rushes out of the kitchen, making for his office. The kids all follow him, confused, and then watch in suprise as he opens up a secret room behind his bookshelf.

They catch a glimpse of what looks like some kind of high-tech armory mixed with a thief's wet dream before the bookshelf closes behind him. 

When it opens again about two minutes later, he's dressed in some kind of armoured bodysuit complete with a utility belt, carrying several weapons which look like something out of Star Trek, and carrying a device made of the same material as Erin's med tech. 

"Right, you four," he says quickly, most of his attention on the device in his hands, "You did good bringing this to me. I need to go, but once I get back I'll explain what's going on. Stay here, and stay out of trouble."

And then he activates one of the buttons on his belt and vanishes. 


There's a long moment of silence.

Then Caine starts for the door, the other three following.

"We're not going to listen to him are we?" Erin sighs. 

"Of course not!" Robin says, "Have you met us?"

Erin nods, "Usually Caine's at least somewhat sensible," she laments.

"Nah," Jamie snorts, "He's just a good actor."


They make their way down to the lobby and then out of the building, pausing once outside as they try to figure out how to track Caine's dad. 

"Hey, Erin, can you use the scanner to find him?" Robin suggests.

Erin frowns, pulling the device in question out of her bag, "I don't know," she says. She fiddles with the screen, seeing if there's anything that looks likely to help with that.


There is a function to find similar "bio-signatures" that can help her find family members if she has a template to work from.


A legitimately useful function, and not just in this particular situation. She taps it, and hovers the scanner over Caine, who bears it stoicly. It beeps, and then does a search of the area. It eventually locates a matching signature, and beeps again. The others, watching over her shoulder, while still unable to read the language, can make out a topographical map with a blip on it, showing a position fairly nearby. 

"That's probably him," Erin says, "Unless you have any immediate family we don't know about. The way this day has been going, I wouldn't be surprised." 

Caine snorts, and they begin following the blip through the city. 


The blip goes towards the industrial district, Samuel is moving fast enough that they have a hard time to keep up, but they still managed to keep pace.

It is plausible that they wouldn't recognize everything in this part of their town, but that abandoned factory building really isn't familiar. Nor is its gray logo which the name "Mercury Synthesis" beneath.


'Mercury', huh? That seems suspicious.

Jamie takes in the locked chain-link fence and then gestures the others to stand back. He backs up to give himself some momentum, and then runs up to the fence, springing up and catching some higher up links, and climbing up. At the top he tests whether there's and current coming through the wires above by listening closely, and then dropping a saliva-soaked hair on it. 

Safe from being electrocuted, he still unties his dirty flannel from around his neck and lays it over the wires, tying it down with the sleeves, to prevent them from cutting him. Then he carefully clambers over, unties the flannel, and drops down. 

Now on the other side, he slinks into the dark security booth and knicks the keys, then tries them on the gate lock until one works. 

One of these days he's going to get a lockpick kit that has the tools to pick padlocks. No matter how much fun going around obstacles can be, and how difficult getting ahold of a locksmith grade lockpick set will be, they're losing time right now that they wouldn't be if he had already had one.  

Key found, he pulls the gate open enough to admit the others, and then they make their way to the nearest entrance.



The place is completely deserted.

Jamie... finds the layout easy to navigate. Eventually the scanner points that Samuel should be in this large area. Oddly enough it isn't or can't give a more specific coordinate.

The large area is some kind of large and empty deposit space.

There is no sign of Samuel.


"...Was he onto us, you think?" Robin wonders. He tries to scan the area for minds, but doesn't find anyone other than them.

Except maybe there's something familiarly lizardlike hiding at the edge of his range, but then it's gone before he can pinpoint it. 

"This place is pretty cool," Jamie comments. He's sitting on his heels on a shipping container about twelve feet above the others, looking around for anything interesting. 


There are several containers, some industrial machines (fixated to the floor), a rectangular section of the wall that appears to be at an angle like an ajar door, a whole lot of pipes.


That looks suspicious!

"Hey, there's something over here, we should go check it out." 

He slides down from the container so he's holding on with his fingers and then drops down carefully. 

"What kind of thing?" Erin asks.

"A secret door, it looked like." He leads them over to it and then peers inside. 


There is an old room, dusty and cobweb covered, the town's map hangs from the wall with several areas circled in red ink. There is an office table beneath it, with several papers strew about. Plus several file cabinets and a dead potted plant.

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