201 - First Mission, Mission First

Alycia Chin sits in an office at AEGIS HQ. Agent Parker is across the table from her. Parker does not look pleased. That much is normal, but Parker’s displeasure comes in a variety of flavors, and Alycia is learning their nuances. This is annoyance, tinged with frustration and regret.

Parker opens abruptly. “You’ve been… forthcoming about Dr. Achilles Chin’s empire in the past.” She spreads the contents of a manila folder across the table for inspection. “We’ve located, isolated, and disposed of the assets you’ve identified. New intelligence suggests, however, that a Chin-like pattern is emerging among new assets. See for yourself.”

Alycia looks down, and keeps looking, and looks and looks more, cycling between existing photos and documents, and new ones Parker doles out in due course. The pattern is there. Strike at a seemingly random place. Let the ripples spread, while you struck elsewhere. Return, just as the ripples reached another target. It was mathematically exacting terrorism, waves of fear interfering constructively. Social changes would align and point at something else, as focused as a laser beam but made of motivated people rather than coherent photons.

“Yes, I see it.” She can only acknowledge the truth, and guess at the implications. You think I didn’t tell you everything.

Parker doesn’t confirm or deny that unvoiced suspicion. Instead she gets right to business. “You, as part of your arrangement with AEGIS, are to conduct an investigation into one of the sites that was just hit.” She taps one of the photos intently with a fingernail. “To facilitate the investigation, AEGIS personnel will accompany you.”

There it is.

“I work better alone. Or with people I know and… trust.” Alycia’s mouth twists into the mockery of a smile at the word.

“We’ve accounted for that.”

Alycia scowls inwardly. Parker’s riposte was smooth.

The senior agent presses an intercom button. “Send 1337 in. And… their associate.”

Nǐ zài gēn wǒ kāiwánxiào ma?

Two people enter the office. Alycia is a little surprised. The one in sunglasses, wearing a jacket and cargo pants, was clearly going for the cyberpunk or hacker aesthetic. The other one? That’s Leo Snow. But somehow not.

Every human brain has everything it needs to be a genius. The key to genius is the threads between disparate elements, and how quickly the brain can build new links. There’s Leo, telling a story in the carriage house about an android he had to build for AEGIS. There’s the gradient skin tone, that distinctive look that Summer and Aria both have - not perfect, but too regular to be human.

“You’re the android,” she says. “The one Leo built.”

“Call me SNOWMAN.” The voice is the same. The tinge of anger is there, sharper than the Leo she’s interacted with.

“Sure sure. You must be…”

The other kid shrugs and answers. “Agent 1337. Call me Alex.”

Alycia turns back to Parker. “I don’t need them. This mission doesn’t need them.”

Parker tosses three photos on the table. Nyobé. Chernikov. Ramirez. The Chin fanatics. The ones she’d tried - and failed - to help. Parker could slap Alycia in the face right now and she might not notice.

“Your track record in personally handling your father’s assets is less, shall we say, professional than AEGIS would like, miss Chin. Your integration with the Menagerie has been admirable. Please don’t shake our faith in your ability to … cooperate any further.”

Alycia could only nod along. But this? Some young punk, and a junior version of Leo Snow - never the most stable of boys to begin with?

I can fight chaos with chaos. And I have some cards of my own I can play.

“Jason Quill has been working with a team of young people, many of whom exhibit their own hypergenius qualities. The site you’re investigating is a chemical weapons laboratory. One of the people I’m thinking of is a chemist. She, plus one of her associates, would be ideal here.”

Gods help me if I’m bringing Nono Rodriguez and Hot Mess into the field. But these AEGIS minders will be kept busy keeping track of those amateurs. And I’ll be free to get the real work done.

And if Parker doesn’t buy that, which she probably won’t, I have another idea–

“Approved. Contact your people. You’ll be deploying at 2000 hours.”

Alycia is suddenly very uncertain about this entire business.


This is the best day of Nono Rodriguez’ life. Well, best evening. She is going on a mission!

Her mom drops her off at Maury’s house. Maury calls a taxi, and Nono takes it to the airport. Emma is waiting for her, looking impatiently at her watch. The girls take a tram to one of the satellite terminals. They don’t talk much. Nono keeps excitedly ruffling through her backpack. She does note that Emma is much more casual, even laid back. How routine is this sort of thing for a supervillain?

The girls are on the tarmac at 7:45pm - almost “twenty hundred hours”. There’s a big airplane here. It’s not marked with the AEGIS logo or anything. But it’s the right place.

After a minute, Alice Chan - no, Alycia Chin, though I can’t call her that at school - shows up. “Get on board!” she yells over the noise of distant aircraft, taxiing and taking off and landing. Nono starts to obey, but then sees a boy she recognizes. Leo Snow? Is he here too? Alycia, too, catches sight of him, anticipates Nono’s thought, and cuts her off. “It’s not him. I’ll explain once we’re aboard. Now get on and stow your kit.”

Emma jerks a thumb and starts walking, and Nono follows. The back of the airplane is open, revealing a jeep that’s strapped to the deck. The two girls skirt past it and find some narrow, uncomfortable seats. It’s the same kind of airplane that Nono rode on with Emma before, when they visited Dinosaur island. A Lockheed C-130, she remembers. Is it the same plane? Nono doesn’t think so. It’s cleaner, and the writing is in English rather than Russian.

“Put your backpack here,” Emma says, and illustrates how to secure stuff in the metal storage bins with her own bag. Nono already sees two sets of bags, similarly locked down, and wonders how many people are coming along.

“1950 hours!” shouts Alycia Chin. “Comm up!”

Emma gestures again, and the two make their way forward. Alycia is handing out headsets, like gaming headsets only much more rugged. Putting them on drowns out a lot of the noise, including the propellers of the C-130 warming up. Emma taps a switch on her headset, then on Nono’s. Her voice comes through via the headphones, sounding staticky but very audible. “Now sit down and prepare to be bored. Hope you brought a book.”

“I have my phone!” Nono replies, but Emma shakes her head. “No reception, and the signal will give us away. Power it off, plus any other electronics, and stow it.”

The voice of an older man - the pilot, Nono guesses - comes over the comms in a few minutes. “Clearance coming in from HLC, folks, sit tight, we’ll be moving this bucket of bolts in a few minutes. This flight is designated OZMA-9.”

Alycia, plus the not-Leo-Snow, plus another kid, take their seats opposite Emma and Nono. “Introductions. This is Alex, aka Agent 1337. AEGIS operative.”

Nono blinks and squints. Wait, she’s seen this Alex person at school…

“This is SNOWMAN.” Alycia gestures at the not-Leo, who doesn’t even wave, just shrugs in greeting.

“You’ll find a briefing packet under your seats,” Alycia says. Nono fishes around and finds it. There’s a “CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET” banner at the top, which really excites her, and she starts flipping through the paperwork immediately.

She’s interrupted by Alycia. "OpSec rules. No real names. SNOWMAN and 1337 already have aliases. I’m Charade. You’re… " She points. “Agent Em. Agent R. That’s Alfa Mike and Alfa Romeo if we’re on distant comms.”

Alex - Agent 1337 - speaks up next. “I’ll be managing comms while we’re on the ground, plus the satellite uplinks, data feeds, whatever. If ya need something, let me know and Hacker Claus will visit you for Christmas. If you’ve been good that is.”

Alycia rolls her eyes but doesn’t contradict any of that. She gestures at SNOWMAN instead. “Nono, you know Leo Snow, but this version of him has never met you. I suggest you two work that out amongst yourselves. After you finish the briefing.”

Right. Time to do my homework.

“Where’s your kit?” Alycia asks, out of the blue. The airplane’s been in the air for two hours, and only now has she said anything more than she did at the briefing.

“Uh…” Nono stalls while she thinks. Stow your kit. Backpack! “It’s in the um, the bins.”

“What kind of analytics tools did you bring?”

Tools? What? All she remembers is Alycia telling her that her chemistry knowledge would be needed, and to pack up.

“I um, didn’t bring any tools…?”

Alycia sighs. “My fault. You’re an amateur still.”

“You’ve been teaching me–”

“–The very basics. Listen, Rodriguez, you’re still new at all this. This isn’t one of your stories. I’m bringing you here for your brain, not your imagination. And I’m still filling it with how to do this sort of thing. But I’ve been doing it for a lifetime, and you – you haven’t. Remembering that is on me.” Alycia scowls, but Nono knows it’s not aimed at her. “Okay. Lesson for next time. If you have tools you’d use for chemical analysis, when you’re called on a job, bring them along. If you’re not sure what tools are appropriate, ask your contact to be specific. Got it?”

“Got it, ma’am!” Nono salutes.

Alycia winces like she experienced physical pain. “Don’t do that again. Alright, we’ll make do. The jeep comes with some basic tools for fieldwork. Just… go over the dossier a few more times, before we land.”

Alycia leaves. And Nono spots SNOWMAN staring at her, as the other girl walks away. He’s even scarier than the Leo I know.

The pilot’s voice comes over the headsets again. “OZMA-9 coming up on drop point. We hope you’ve had a pleasant flight. Rendezvous scheduled at 0600.”

Alycia gestures at the jeep. “Everyone in. Leave your headsets on the hooks, over there on the wall.”

“Shotgun!” calls Alex, and hops into the passenger side seat. Emma gestures for Nono to follow her into the back seat, where they buckle up. Alycia slides with practiced ease into the driver’s seat. Behind them, the ramp of the airplane is opening - but they’re still flying! Nono can only see darkness, and starts to freak out. Emma instinctively takes her hand.

Her curiosity jolts her out of the brief panic. The jeep has four seats. There’s five people–

“See ya on the other side,” announces SNOWMAN, and throws himself out of the plane.


“OZMA-9, Baby Chick leaving the nest,” calls Alycia over the jeep’s radio handset. She yanks on a lever. The jeep, and its passengers, suddenly slide out the back of the aircraft. Nono watches in horror as the plane slides away and above them. The vehicle is now in free fall. And she’s in it.


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I will probably say this for each new story, but this is already one of my favorites. The character dynamics are great. Nono is so in over her head. Excited to see what happens at the site. :smiley:


Being a villain is actually pretty easy when there’s other villains around! For example, we have Alycia Chin, who’s spent like sixteen years being Dr. Chin Junior, probably killed like a billion people or something, and who spent the remaining couple years of life sucking face with Jason Quill. Whose dad probably killed like a million people. Nobody likes a quitter.

Hot Mess isn’t sure about the kid in the shades - they come off more like the cocky rebel type than actual villain - but the dude who just jumped outta plane in flight? Yeah, he’s totally some kind of villain.

Nono? Well, she’s still not lieutenant material, but she has her moments.

It’s still Hot Mess, right? She goes by Emma under mundane conditions, and apparently now it’s going to be “Agent Em” which is bullshit.

We have about 90 seconds before the jeep lands. And Nono is right here.

“Hey, how about Miss Magma? Lava Lass?”

No good, Nono’s just screaming.

The chute opens. Nono’s screaming takes on another pitch.

Chin looks over her shoulder from the driver’s seat, clearly annoyed. Hot Mess claps one hand over Nono’s mouth, keeping a hand-hold going with the other. “Screaming gives away our position, hon.”

Nono, eyes very wide, nods in some kind of panicked understanding.


“How about Hot Stuff?”

The jeep comes down hard, but the suspension system in the sled handles it like a pro. The chute billows down next, but Alycia is apparently used to this, and drives off the sled before everyone is buried in arachnofiber nylon substitute.

It’s 2300 hours. The flight from Halcyon to the Yucatan Peninsula was direct. Assuming some travel time, that leaves about 5-6 hours for the mission. Cool.

“Badass. There’s a place called Xbox near here,” says Alex from the front, reading from a map.

The jeep rapidly swings from the jungle onto a two-lane road. A road sign just reading “MACTUN” flashes past.

Emma takes stock of Nono’s condition. “Okay, hon, we’re going to a place here in Mexico. We’re not gonna get noticed by the local fuzz, the gangs, or nothing. Charade and 1337 here are gonna take care of all that. Your job, your entire job, is to wait until we get to this place. Okay? And once we’re there, Charade’s going to ask you some chemistry questions. You’re gonna use the tools we got in the back to answer those questions. Then we’re gonna get back in the jeep, and everyone’s gonna go home. Understand?”

Nono nods, a little tearfully. Emma smiles, and wipes her eye with a forefinger. “Good girl. And if anyone gives you trouble, I’ll light 'em on fire.”

Girlfriend calmed down: check. Goofball passenger navigating us to our destination: check. Getting Alycia Chin irritated in a way that doesn’t endanger my ride home: still to do. But I have plans!

The jeep turns off the road and onto another dirt track, next to a sign that looks like it reads “IXINCHE”. But the lettering is hand-painted, off-center, and marred by what looks like bullet fire. Party time. Alycia turns off the headlights, slows way the fuck down, and slides on some kinda night-vision optics. The rest of us are left in the lonely Mexican midnight.

The site itself is about 10 minutes off the main road. Emma thinks it looks pretty run-down - just an old shack and some tools, probably for tending the tilled fields the group passed. The dossier says there should be a - yep, Alycia’s already pulling up a dirt-covered secret trap door. What’s underneath looks like Standard Issue Secret Laboratory #79, except it’s been blown to hell.

Emma recognizes the signs immediately, without even taking samples. Samir and the other guys, when they aren’t working for her, moonlight in Ukraine and elsewhere as anti-Russian guerillas. They’re her main source of, shall we say, big badda boom. She’s learned to identify what’s what.

“It’s not grenades or fire. This was plastic explosives.”

Alycia nods. She calls Nono over, and the two of them go through the kit in the jeep. Emma knows what they’re doing. They’re looking for taggants - unique chemical markers that trace the bomb back to the right bomb maker - and binders - the chemicals that tell you what kind of bomb it was.

Where the hell is that SNOWMAN guy?

It takes about 20 minutes. Nono doesn’t have the right gear to do the job, but the lab as a whole did, and she’s rather brilliant about pointing out intact pieces - or finding fragments that fit together. Emma is so proud!

Alycia announces the results at length. “EPX-1. 86% PETN, bonded with 14% thermoplastic binder using DBP. Egyptian. Military. Coding matches some bomb material stolen by Mexican organized crime a year ago.”

While Chinchilla is spouting off what she knows, woohoo, Emma has been keeping an eye on Alex, who’s been waving their cell phone around inside the blown-out laboratory. Now they’re on their laptop, putting together… what? Some kinda wireframe walkthrough of the lab.

“There ain’t enough taggants to account for the blast,” they explain. Alycia nods, like that means a damn thing. She helpfully translates for, uh, Emma guesses the idiots at AEGIS listening in on the comms or something? “A typical forensics team that came here would find the taggants that are meant to be found. Someone set off a small bomb to try and lead us off the trail, but used bigger bombs - big enough to actually blow up the lab.”

“So who did it?” Nono asks.

Alycia shrugs. “Spectral analysis might help. But we don’t have enough to do that here. We’ll have to transport some samples back.”

This part Emma knows. “You just need to super-heat a sample, then look at the spectrum, yeah?”

Alcyia turns, nods confusedly.

Emma has felt like an idiot this whole time, surrounded by apparent hypergeniuses. But when it comes to heat, she knows her stuff.

“Just tell me the temperature you need to hit, and I won’t miss it by a degree in either direction.”

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I don’t know how I feel about any of this. Myself, my fate. How people have been using me, over and fucking over. I remember being kidnapped by Rossum, once again, and going back to his lair, and then–

Waking up on a table, with some kid in sunglasses hovering over my face.

Waking up realizing I was the android.

AEGIS had used me. They had absolutely used me! And now - and now - I belong to them, don’t I.

The kid in sunglasses seemed to understand me. When I woke up, they and I had a long talk about how government agencies can own your ass for awhile, and about how they’d gotten reeled in too. They knew a lot about me, too.

I guess that’s why I’m willing to do the work, as long as it’s with someone else who’s gone through the same thing. Anything’s easier than being alone.

I drop like a silent missile out of the airplane and down to the Mexican forest, soft-landing at the last moment thanks to a brief flare of micro-rockets. I flex a muscle that nobody else has, and featureless black armor wraps around me.

Most human beings only have one pair of eyelids. I have an extra set of nictitating membranes, that provide different vision modes. I ‘blink’ a couple times to slide the thermographic set into place, and I see a technicolor wash of life. Passive sensors slide into place in my peripheral vision, indicating direction and distance to the objective.

I start leaping, a hundred feet at a time, a nigh-invisible blur against the night sky.

My job here is perimeter security. If this is a trap, there might be soldiers deployed around the site. If there are, I take them out. Clean and quiet.

“You got an anger management problem,” Alex told me once.

“I got a lot of problems. Anger is the solution,” I’d retorted.

It was a rude comeback, not a philosophically grounded counterpoint, and I get that. But what else was there to say?

My girlfriend was gone, taken away by, well, myself. I couldn’t make contact with her, or I’d be endangering some kind of AEGIS deal that kept the biological Leo Snow out of prison. And me too, if I had to guess.

My life was a lie, and I was working for the people who’d betrayed me and my work. I was still struggling with that one.

I couldn’t even talk to Otto! My big brother, my lifeline, my guy, my safety. My family. God dammit, they took Otto away from me too.

Of course I was angry.

I kind of hope there are some soldiers, waiting in ambush.

Quickly toggling my thermographic, UV, and T-beam lenses let me spot them. Guys in tactical gear, no obvious patches or insignias. Weapons, which the onboard computer identified as CZ 805 BREN guns, once used by the Mexican police. One medic. One heavy weapons guy, with an RPG. They expected aerial reinforcements? Most of the guys had shotguns slung on their backs. They were expecting CQC - close quarters combat. They knew about the lab, probably were the guys that blew it up.

I decide to play a game with my anger. It’s one way I keep myself sane. There’ll be a challenge. If I do everything right, my anger goes away for awhile. If I screw it up, my anger gets free rein.

What’s the challenge? Take all these guys out. No gunfire. Nothing to alert the rest of the team, who should be arriving in a few minutes. Let them think they were safe the whole time. Particularly Alex.

There’s three squads. They’re all in radio contact. It takes some time and tuning, but I get the frequency. I’ve got more electricity in my body than they’ve got in their rinky-dink radios, and I start broadcasting a jamming pattern - the equivalent of an open mic, but strong enough to override their broadcasts.

Good. That gets one guy from each squad thumped by their leader. I can imagine the conversation. “Hey, chucklehead. Go check if those other guys are fooling around with our comms.” Three guys spread out. Three guys go down, as a carbon-black shadow slams into them at superhuman speed.

There’s about 6 guys left in each squad. I clench, popping out some of my anti-personnel weapons. Nothing lethal - that’s not how I roll - but effective. These guys aren’t wearing masks, so I think I’ll go with gas. Doesn’t bother me, after all. The first squad doesn’t know what hit them.

The boss of the second squad is getting more antsy. He doesn’t like anything out of the ordinary happening, so he’s fanning his guys out, heading toward squad A’s position. Fine, I got ballistic impact weapons too - rubber bullets, basically. Fire and forget. I fire, and they can forget about waking up for a few hours.

Squad C knows something’s up, and I have to take their guys down individually. Fortunately, we have all these trees around, so I Predator my way through the branches, using the good old reliable grapple system. One guy catches sight of me, and two more open fire.

Technically, I lost my challenge. But my anger feels so much better when it’s finally let loose.


I am definitely the squishy wizard of this party.

They’re doing their spectroscopic analysis when we all hear the distant gunfire, then the screams. So naturally I do the bravest, most pro move of all time. I dive behind the jeep and get on comms. “SNOWMAN, you on the CB, good buddy?”

I hear a broadcast grunt. Well? “Light contact,” he responds, finally.

He found and is fighting soldiers. Fine, don’t talk to me, your best buddy. “What’s your vector, Victor?”

A distant red flare lights up a far-off patch of forest. SNOWMAN’s signal, showing where he - and the enemy - are at.

I address my compatriots at the lab site. “Alright my fellow nogoodniks, I think we’ve outstayed our welcome.”

Alycia flares up, of course. “We haven’t established anything yet!”

I hold up my hands, trying to make peace. “Listen. We’ll get off site. SNOWMAN will take care of the TICs out there. Once it’s safe, we can come back. That is, if the enemy doesn’t have some kind of fast mover en route. Or IEDs downstairs.”

This is personal to Alycia Chin, and I know that, and I’m hoping a rational appeal makes sense. And to my relief, it does. She gnashes her teeth, but finally: “Agent Em, Agent R, mount up. Tactical retrograde.” She scowls at Nono. “Means we’re retreating for the moment.”

We reverse course along the dirt road, Alycia with a side-arm in one hand and the steering wheel in the other. I’ve got my pistol out, and am scanning the road behind us. Emma’s helpfully keeping Nono’s head down. Good good! This is going really well.

There’s a rocket-propelled grenade that goes off.


“You’re fine, keep driving. This jerkoff underestimated my tech.”

Okay then.

Alycia glances at me, eyes narrowed. “I’ve worked alongside Leo Snow. I extend no such grace to this individual. Can he be trusted out there?”

I grin, as saucily as I can. “He’s as trustworthy as I am!”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Alycia mumbles.

We get the all clear from SNOWMAN. Alycia doesn’t believe it, and melts into the Mexican night like a ninja on a mission. That leaves me, Emma, and Nono to drive back to the lab site.

“Alright! I’m Agent 1337 and I’ll be your tour guide to this remarkable underground structure…”

Did I mention IEDs? Yes! There might still be bombs, waiting in the lab interior. That’s why I’m sending a drone down there. It’ll feed video back to my laptop, and we’ll all watch it and enjoy popcorn as this thrilling movie plays itself out.

Nono is the first to identify the thing I’m interested in. “This is a chemistry lab. But the stuff they’d be synthesizing - it’s not here. None of the stuff they’d store anything in is here. Look - here, and here - you see the empty spots on the ground?”

The hot girlfriend - get it, because she’s pyrokinetic? God I’m hilarious - joins in. “So you’re saying they evacuated the lab, took what they’d made, blew it up, then blew it up again with the EPX-1 to cover their tracks? Make it look like one of the drug cartels went to war and hit a rival’s lab?”

I mull that over. “That fits with the observed data, yeah.”

“It’s a classic Chin tactic,” comes Alycia’s voice over the comms. “Whoever’s running the team now knows the old playbook, to use an American sports expression. They probably made a deal with a drug cartel here in Mexico, then used the laboratory to make something that served their own interests and evacuated before the deception could be found out.”

The drone comes across a lucky break. There’s a half-burned fragment, something that looks like it might have been an invoice or a bill of goods? I zoom in. It’s in Chinese - a clue! - but I can read that, even without the translation software on the laptop.

Company name - hackity hack hack - a shell company. Go further, another shell company. Okay, I’ll need some processor time back at work to solve this riddle.

What interests me is a little handwritten note along the side. “树高千丈,落叶归根”. I say it out loud, mostly for my own benefit, but also for Alycia’s.

There’s a long silence. “Get out,” she says. “I’m coming back. Everyone onto the jeep. Right now.”

Nono looks scared. “Wh… what does it mean?”

I provide the literal translation. “A tree ten thousand feet tall has leaves that fall back to its roots.”

It doesn’t look like that explained anything. Alycia’s voice comes over the comms again, then segues into her regular voice as she jogs back from her stint in the forest. “It’s a proverb. ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ perhaps, is the equivalent? It means a child will always return home.”

“So?” I admit I’m baffled too. This has got Alycia Chin rattled. What could do that?

We pile onto the jeep. SNOWMAN emerges from the tree line, hopping lightly onto the back and perching there like a god damn crow.

Alycia’s back on the road, lights still out. “We’re evacuating Mexico right now. Get OZMA-9 on the radio. Find a new rendezvous. The old one is burned.”

“Gonna tell us the deal?”

Alycia sighs. I can see her waver. Hell, I’ve been the one monitoring her since she joined the Menagerie. I know her secrets pretty well. I don’t know this one, though. But I know if she’s learned to trust, she’s gonna trust us with this.

She does.

“It means there’s another child of Dr. Achilles Chin. It means I have a sibling, who’s carrying on the Great Mission.”

I mean really, no conversation could stand up to a drama bomb like that one. We were back on the C-130 before anyone started talking about anything.

Nono is buckled in, fast asleep from exhaustion and stress. Emma is leaning her head against Nono’s shoulder, and reading some kind of paperback. She looks pretty tired too.

SNOWMAN is, of course, leaning against the wall of the plane, arms crossed like some kind of imperturbable badass. I’ll knock his pride down a few notches later, but right now I gotta call this in.

The secure satellite uplink from the plane kicks in. I phone it in. Parker hops onto the call about two thirds of the way through. At the end, she drops the bomb I half feared she’d drop.

“Agent 1337, Alycia Chin herself is probably not a threat to us at this time. However, she is a person of interest to a dangerous enemy, and may have additional data to supply. Your orders are to return to AEGIS HQ and turn Alycia Chin over to a security team.”

Man, I’m already taking bets on how that’s going to work out.

All I can do is nod, like I have a choice here. And our first mission was going so well. “Mission first, ma’am.”

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I’m going to take a break here, to see what people think will happen next! My personal favorite outcomes are:

  • Alycia jumps out of the airplane and goes on the run
  • Alycia goes along with it, but busts out at AEGIS HQ
  • We learn some new shocking discovery that twists events further

Any other theories? Any favorites from this list?

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I am a fan of the Neo-Chins attempting to extract Alycia mid-flight for whatever nefarious schemes they have, but that also undercuts some of the interpersonal drama between the main characters before its had time to play out. I guess it really depends on the tone of story you’re going for and how long you want that drama to play out.


That is very Achilles Chin. I may steal the way this is framed.

Thinking about A’s reactions to the others here:

  • 1337 - A has reasonable respect for AEGIS elint. Nothing she can’t handle, of course. And she’s probably unlikely to think of Alex as field material.
  • SNOWMAN - I can see a lot of different reactions here – amorphous irritation about Leo, serious childhood-related dislike for an android designed to take Leo (or others?) down if someone deems it necessary, sympathy for an android kept under AEGIS’ thumb, confidence that she can handle a Leo-esque figure (between her knowledge of Leo, of Jason, and of Summer).
  • Nono and Hot Mess - It’s reasonable to think she’d believe she could fob them off on 1337 and SNOWMAN and slip away and take care of things. It’s a pattern she’s used (and been punished for) in the past. That said, she’d also (out of consideration for Jason) want to be sure they weren’t going to be hurt.

But, yeah, if someone is pretending to be her father (or is her father, or is trying to be her father, or is scavenging off of her father’s empire, or is some poseur pretending to be heir to her father), she’d definitely want to handle that first solo, and quite possibly with extreme prejudice.

Okay, for my internal voice, is she spelling out 1337 (“Thirteen thirty-seven”) or 1337-speaking it (“Leet”)?

I am sure hoping that Emma calls Alycia “Chin” a few times. That’ll be very entertaining.

And wishes to hell she was running solo using her hoverbike with the collision avoidance system.

My gut says she would equivocate a bit about this. Make it “may mean”. I don’t know she’s ready to admit it to herself, let alone to others. Esp. something this big, which might damage her own situation in AEGIS. [UPDATE: Like it does.]

Certainly the clue – I assume intentionally left behind – is targeted on her. And she’s been told there’s someone out there using that name. But she’s going to be very reluctant to state such a conclusion so baldly.

From a logical standpoint, either Alycia bailing out on things (before she learns about Parker’s order, because she needs to tackle this herself, or after she learns about Parker’s order, because she really needs to tackle this herself, and is highly paranoid), or else she is herself nabbed by the putative “sibling”‘s forces (to take her off the board, to take vengeance, or to, ha!, free her from AEGIS’ clutches) are the obvious choices.

In this kind of trope, it’s just as likely that Alycia’s thrown into protective custody, and the rest of the team breaks her out because, yay, team! Or because she knows stuff. Or because they learn she’s going to be broken out (or break out) and decide that’s the most expedient way around it because nobody here is really a clear thinker in this way.

At which point the story is about the Agents formerly-of AEGIS on the run from the authorities and trying to take down the new Chin.

Overall … Lots of fun stuff here. It’s tough writing such an ensemble – at the moment, I’m having the most problems following Emma and Alex as their own characters – but that’s a practice thing. Net-net, good stuff.

Have some faith in me :smiley:

“The tallest tree’s leaves still fall to its roots,” her father would say. He said many things. He said this when she seemed rebellious, when she was younger. “You cannot help but be my daughter.”

The other thing Achilles Chin said was to plan with contingencies in mind. If you cannot evade your own mortality, indoctrinate your descendants. If you cannot teach them loyalty, chemically erase their emotional bonds with the enemy. And if even that fails…?

Something else was going on, and she had to find out what.

I’ve put a lot of trust in people. I can’t let them get hurt. Either by the enemy, or by what they learn about me - the full extent of what I’ve done.

She’s been planning how to get away from AEGIS for awhile. Every plan had some kind of contingent condition, something she couldn’t find a way to trigger on her own. It seems her father’s mysterious successor has given her that opportunity.

She turns to 1337 (“one-three-three-seven”, I am not condescending to that ‘leet’ nonsense). “Listen. It’s very probable there’s a clone or identical twin of me. Someone who can impersonate me to AEGIS sensors and personnel. They’re probably trying to infiltrate one of the compounds right now, with me out of the country. You have to revoke any access they’ve given me, right now.”

She allows the merest of pauses, then drops the phrase calculated to manipulate this agent the most effectively. “I understand if you can’t do it from here. We can call Parker.”

Alex thinks it over. “Nah, I think I can take care of that,” they say at last. And they start focusing on the laptop, which is exactly what Alycia wants.

One down, three to go.

She checks. Nono Rodriguez is asleep, definitely. Emma Agney, aka “Hot Mess”, is reading, and temperamentally doesn’t seem to give a shit about anything else.

Where’s that Leo robot?

Does he have to sleep? Summer and Aria were both insistent that their brains mimic human brains, including a need for sleep. Summer even explicitly said she has to sleep. This is an earlier model. He’d need it too.

She saw him head toward the cockpit earlier, hasn’t seen him return. Ergo he’s still there. Actually going up there would attract attention she doesn’t want. It’s now or never - she has maybe a minute before Alex dips out of their initial state of focus. She edges past the place where the jeep was anchored, snaps on a parachute in a few seconds, takes a breath, opens the door. The sudden gust of wind will give her away, but it’s too late to stop her. She vaults outward, leaving the plane and her team behind her.

Parker comes on the call a minute after the door shut. “Did she escape?” she asks, perhaps a little too casually.

“Yeah. She overheard your orders and bailed on us, just as predicted.”

Parker nods approvingly. Alex, privately, feels a huge swell of pride. They’d been monitoring the Menagerie for how long? The AI behavioral models were pretty good by now. And everything here had indicated the Only I Can Do This Scenario.

“Where’s SNOWMAN?”

Alex grins. “He bailed out half a minute after her. He should be able to pick up her trail, since she’s out there with no ECM kit.”

“Very well.” Parker looks pleased.

“Orders, ma’am?”

Alex hides a smile at Parker’s response. “Help her. Any way you can. AEGIS’s official presence can only hamper Alycia Chin in a mission like this. But you individually can still help.” She grows more stern over the video link. “One more thing. Don’t let that child be hurt. I would take it… personally.”

“Understood. 1337 out.”

Finally, the fun really begins!


I didn’t play ENTIRELY fair with the audience, I’ll admit. Alex was a bit of an unreliable narrator. But I like how the actual events turned out.
So now we get to see Alycia chase things down her way, with the unexpected and probably unwanted help of her team! That will happen in future stories, however.

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I ought never to have doubted.