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.