222 - The Golden Fleece

The Dragonfly sets down outside the city of Cairo itself. The dig site that was here a decade ago was collapsed by dynamite set off by Jason’s father, and whatever was down there hasn’t been brought to light since then. Jason is confident of that much. If it had, the world would know.

He exits the craft and sees a tent. As the hatch of the Dragonfly closes again, Alycia emerges.

“Thank you for coming, Jason.”

He smiles. “You didn’t say where to meet. I assumed it’d be the place we met before. Which is here.”

“Quite so.” Alycia looks down at the sands. “That was a long time ago. I’m glad you remembered.”

“I remember a lot of things.” Jason’s eyes stray to the landscape as well, but Alycia is never out of his field of vision.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I ran off, and why I haven’t been in touch.”


Alycia shrugs a little. “More cloak-and-dagger work. My family is involved.”

“I gathered as much.” Jason’s smile is still pasted on his face, but his eyes come back to the girl before him. “So what changed?”

Alycia sighs. “I ran into a wall. I was this close to something I needed, and now… Well, that’s my fault.” She turns back to look at Jason, features soft and mouth turned up in a smile Jason has only imagined her making, never really seen. “I need access to data in your system to continue the hunt. Data that’s locked behind Byron Quill’s access codes.”

Jason nods along. “Of course.”

Alycia gestures back at the tent. “I’ve got a laptop ready to go. We can relay through the Dragonfly–”

Jason is already turning back to the craft. “I give your imitation a B+ for effort, but don’t bother trying it on me again.”

A shot rings out, from a hidden sniper’s position, but the bullet caves on impact with Jason’s nanobots - already primed and ready, covering every inch of him. Even his face is coated in a transparent layer.

But the bullet wasn’t aimed at his head. It went for a leg shot - meant to disable him, make him bleed out, make him vulnerable, but not kill him. This tells him most of what he still wanted to know. How far would this imitation go?

He turns to see the Mirror Alycia drawing a gun of her own, considerably more potent than a modern military rifle, and probably armed with hyper-tech ammo. “How did you make me?” she asks, voice now flat, face now expressionless.

“And give you vital intel on how to improve the facsimile?” Jason snorts in amusement. “Try harder.”

The Mirror responds by leveling the weapon at him. Jason, already in tune with his nanobots and in sync with their trajectory-tracking system, is out of the line of fire, and ducks and weaves to stay that way as she tries to get a bead on him.

She aims, he jinks, and a round goes off. He hears an explosion behind him - the round hit the Dragonfly itself. The craft is hurt, but serviceable. This one isn’t playing around.

Before she can order the sniper back into play, Jason digs spare nanobots into the sand around him, then commands them to launch upward. The resulting cloud of sand obscures line of sight, and he sprints for the Dragonfly in the moment he’s bought himself.

The hatch opens at a mental command and he dives through.

“Dragonfly! Autopilot - suborbital - random destination!” he barks, and the craft’s computer complies.

He turns, and finds the Mirror already hanging onto the hatch from outside. Somehow she closed the much greater distance in the same time. Physically superhuman. Important detail.

She’s still got the gun. Another important detail. But she can’t aim it while the craft is lifting off, and she needs at least one hand to hang onto the hatch. Jason grabs hold of the control yoke and drags, sending the Dragonfly into a crazy spiral. The engines whine, and the attitude thrusters scream a full-throated song of chaos as they try to obey the senseless commands their pilot is giving them. But it works - the copy Alycia isn’t able to go for her gun.

Jason, knowing his own tactics, uses his nanobots to create tendrils that hold him balanced like a gyroscope at the center of the chaotic craft. As the Mirror finally stabilizes herself in the hatch enough to draw a bead on him again, his boot lashes out and sends the gun out into the waiting sky.

She grabs hold of one of the nanobot tendrils, and Jason notes with alarm that her fingers - then hand - then arm - dissolve into nanobots as well. Did I–? he fears, for a brief microsecond.

No - it’s worse. She’s nanobots. She’s all nanobot!

Damn you, father. Damn this technology you made.

By volume, there’s enough nanotech here to overwhelm his own, strip him of his own power to resist, infiltrate his mind, break the seal of his memory, extract what it wants. Control over the Quill computer network?

Jason never wanted to do this. But he’s grimly grateful for all the preparations he made for his eventual fate.

“Dragonfly! Full broadcast - all nodes, all stations. Sewer Lizard Protocol.”

The computer’s voice responds. “Sewer Lizard Protocol acknowledged.”


“Queen to Queen’s Level Three.”

The voice is that of Byron Quill. He’s sitting in the conversation pit, legs crossed, watching a much younger Jason. There’s an episode of the classic “Star Trek” playing on the screen, but neither Quill is watching it.

Jason is silent.

“Queen to Queen’s Level Three,” Byron prompts again.

Jason finally answers. “It’s a challenge. You’re not sure who is who, so you arrange a code - a secret - that only two people share. Like a chess move.”

Byron nods. “And cryptography is like playing chess with three people. Two of them look the same to you. But one is the attacker, and one is the recipient. You can all see the same board. You can all see the same moves. Only the recipient knows the significance of the move you’ve agreed upon.”

“Queen to Queen’s Level Three.”

The voice comes to Jason in the stillness between seconds. He’s in the Dragonfly. The nanobot replica of Alycia is here.

The voice is Sewer Lizard Protocol. It’s asking a question that only Jason - that is, an intact, fully conscious Jason could answer. A gibbering creature, mind destroyed by rogue nanobots or malformed merges, hiding in the sewers beneath Halcyon, couldn’t answer it. And Jason can choose not to answer.

The Protocol was instituted in the final days before the merge, when things looked bleak. Just in case it all went to shit, Jason reasoned, he’d rather not have a madman or a monster in charge of his inherited assets. Better to lock it all away.

“Queen to Queen’s Level Three.”

The voice comes again.

Jason declines to answer.

He feels the takeover of his own nanobots, as the invader makes her way through the neural pathways.

Jason grins to himself. There’s room in the sewers for two.

“Queen to Queen’s Level Three. Final prompt.”

Jason stays silent.

The doors of memory slam shut. His failure to answer the challenge lights a fuse that burns its way into the Dragonfly computer, out via the satellite link, and into every Quill-owned computer system on the planet.

The Dragonfly reaches apogee, on its journey to the unknown.


So I love this first part, largely because, goddammit, Jason is smart and competent and makes good decisions, which seems so out of keeping with how Jason too often comes across, and is very refreshing.

Jason, especially in this 'verse, is formidable. As he really should be.

Only critique here is that the blocking is a bit odd – it wasn’t clear to me first readthrough that the hatch never closed, which made it off then when Jason kicks the gun out of her hand.

  1. Oooooh. That sounds pretty … dire. But bravo to Jason for (a) anticipating such an attack and (b) being willing to take this extreme action.
  2. “Queen to King’s level 1” – take that, Dr Chin of Izar!
  3. Hmmm. Which makes me wonder. That sort of a dead man’s switch thing could be set up to simply (but catastrophically) block off the Quill network from an external invasion, as we have here. But … “Queen to King’s Level 1” … it could also be a honey pot to draw such an invasion in, and then trap it where the King could deal with it more securely …
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Stop reading my notes for next time


Jason wakes up.

The Dragonfly is motionless. The console is lit up, showing the ship’s current location. It’s somewhere in the Kostroma Oblast, in western Russia. He experimentally tries the controls, but everything is locked out.

The hatch is closed - probably the safety systems. He’s physically alone in the craft.

What have you done to me?

The voice sounds like Alycia, but Jason knows better. It’s that Mirror - the nanobot construct that looks like her, but isn’t.

“You invaded my mind,” he reminds her. “You came at a rather inconvenient time for you, though. I’ve locked out every bit of access I have - including control of the nanobots. I assume that inherited control is what let you animate them.”

And now I’m trapped in your consciousness?

“Looks that way.”

Jason undogs the hatch manually, and shields his eyes against the sudden sunlight.

Nevertheless, you will give me what I want. You will provide me the Quill access codes.

“Little Quill, Little Quill, let me in. Not for the heir of the Chinny Chin Chin,” recites Jason, as he heads down the ramp.

The Dragonfly, left to its own devices, seals itself up per protocol and begins waiting for a re-opening command that will never come. Jason sets out across the countryside, not looking back.

Even without a physical body, I can make your life hell, warns the Mirror.

“You could,” concedes Jason. “Or, since you’ve lost every advantage you have, you could just tell me what you’re up to.”

Why would I do that?

“The real Alycia had a bad habit of it,” smirks Jason.

I did, didn’t I.

Jason smiles to himself. “I mean you’re not the real Alycia. A very convincing replica. But not her.”

If it’s really too late to do anything, why not tell me how I failed to fool you?

“Clever.” Jason shrugs - it’s a fair point, and he might tease some details out of the conversation. “The real Alycia doesn’t smile at me like you did. It wasn’t fake, but it was insincere. She’s always hedging her emotional bets, always second-guessing her feelings. It plays hell with my sense of micro-expressions, so I’m never sure how she really feels. It’s not that she’s trying to fool me. It’s just that she’s a complex person, in a complex situation. And you’re… not.”

What if I told you I was the real Alycia Chin?

“Hmm. Well, if you were committed to that position, I’d probably test you. Ask you about things the real Alycia should know. On the assumption you can’t access my memories - a safe bet, since you’re trying this gambit - I’d evaluate your answers. Some of them would be matters of public record, or things a skilled intruder could infer. Some would show a point of divergence that marks you as a clone, copy, parallel universe duplicate, or something else. Some you’d guess at, successfully or not.”

There’s a pause.

What if I told you I believed I was Alycia Chin, real or not?

Jason thinks about that as he walks across the countryside. “That, as the man says, is one of your conundrums of philosophy. What makes someone ‘Alycia Chin’? Your memories? Your personality? Some ineffable nature?”

My conviction that I am, the voice replies sternly.

“The Alycia Chin I know wouldn’t be trying to seize control of the Quill computer network for presumably nefarious purposes.” Jason takes a moment to squat and inspect a cluster of berries. He’ll need water, and food, sooner or later. May as well forage as he goes.

The Great Mission requires it.

“The Great Mission is something the Alycia I know has long since abandoned,” Jason says. The berries look safe, and he plucks some for later, wrapping them carefully in the leaves of a nearby plant for the moment.

What if you’re wrong, and the Alycia you know has successfully guarded her intent against you?

“Then she’s been dating a real nitwit,” laughs Jason.

Jason reaches his short-term objective, a hill with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. He’s far from tired, but still he shepherds his energy. It’s going to be hours or days before he can get back to civilization. In one sense, this is deeply concerning. In another, it’s invigorating. It’s an adventure, and the fate of the world isn’t on the line for once.

The conversation with the Mirror has been interesting too. He thinks he’s got it figured out. Sitting on a dirt-covered rock, leaning back against a boulder for support, he springs his idea.

“I think you’re something like Dr. Chin’s idea of Alycia, or my dad’s. You’re the Alycia clone they’d spring on me as a trap or something.”

And you think that means I can be convinced of my own reality, yet be wrong.


What if you’re wrong?

“Then I’m wrong.” Jason shrugs it off and smiles. “Hey, did I ever tell you about ‘Travelycia’ and ‘Minilycia’?”

Did you tell me? No. But I know. The airport booking AI you created to have someone to talk to, in a fascinatingly self-loathing twist of conventional narcissism. The Alycia simulation that looked like a child, and seemed to delight in teasing out oracular tidbits of wisdom at inconvenient times?

Jason admits some surprise to himself. “That’s right.”

You have quite the obsession with me, don’t you, Jason.

The young man’s smile is lopsided, but honest. “I did. I do. But that’s all you’ve got, isn’t it. The hope of awakening some sympathy I have for Alycia, of making me identify you as her. Then this isn’t a battle of wills, but you appealing to my - admittedly vulnerable - heart.”

Whereas you want to think of me as one of your conjured AIs or holograms. That way you don’t have to feel bad when you inevitably drive me out of your consciousness.

The voice lacked genuine emotion before, but Jason can feel something from it now. Regret? Hatred? But not fear. Curious.

He rises from the rock, and sets out. The distant signs of habitation seem like his best bet, and he’s spent enough time observing. It’s a gamble, but the payoff is escape versus starvation in rural Russia.

“I don’t know about that,” muses Jason. “You could say I’ve rather radically changed positions on digital consciousness since Travelycia. It’s entirely possible you’re a person worth preserving, even if you aren’t who you claim.”

I want to tell you something only the real Alycia would know.

“Oh? Not going to wait for questions? You just want to get your bona fides out there? Or do you want to control the conversation, so I don’t learn the parameters of your creation?”

It’s something that’s important to me to say.

Jason raises an eyebrow. “Interesting. Go ahead, then.”

The reason both of us warmed to each other, ever since our first encounter.

The voice pauses, and Jason feels the Mirror’s hesitance. But she goes ahead anyway.

Both of us were the loneliest person each other had ever met.

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The hopper sits at a 60-degree angle, half-buried in the soil where it fell. Jason recognizes it immediately. So does the Mirror.

One of the weapons deployed by the Chin lieutenants, after my father’s disappearance. Sidorov.

“Probably one of the most reliable tanks ever found on Russian soil,” snorts Jason.

The vehicle is a hover-tank, with anti-gravity pads replacing tank treads. Its barrel can rotate 360 degrees, and fire projectile weapons with great accuracy. The nickname of “hopper” came from tank crews who mastered overcharging the A-G pads, letting the tanks leap over high obstacles at the expense of operating life.

Jason remembers the stories. When his father and Doctor Chin both disappeared, the power vacuums on each side manifested very differently. For Jason, it meant consolidating a high-tech empire around a single grieving son. For the Chin regime, it meant a struggle for domination between would-be successors to the throne. Brushfire wars and acts of international terrorism had been the result. The rise of Alycia Chin’s mysterious campaign against him came during this time.

You could salvage something from it, maybe. A working radio? the Mirror suggests.

“The locals have had years to do the same thing, and they’ve got better tools,” counters Jason.

The lonely farmhouse shows only a trickle of smoke from the chimney, but it’s all the sign Jason needs to deduce someone’s home. The weathered face of an old woman peeks out the window after his first knock, and she answers the door at the second.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Jason says, his Russian tinted with the vowel changes characteristic of а́канье. “My name is Jason Quill. I want to ask if you can contact the local authorities on my behalf.” He holds his hands up quickly, anticipating the woman’s reaction. “They’ll be pleased to see me, and will reward you.”

The door shuts, and Jason waits.

If she does it, the FSB will pick you up, and hand you over to the SVR, the Mirror warns. This isn’t the ticket home you seem to think it is.

“Doesn’t need to be,” counters Jason with an easy smile. “I can’t rely on an easy ticket home right now. I just need to get away from your Plan B.”

I don’t know what you’re talking about, the Mirror says, but Jason can hear the denial in her voice.

“Well, the Alycia I know wouldn’t just expect that little op to go smoothly. I’d land, you’d fleece me of my access codes, oops silly Jason. If I escaped, you’d have assets track the Dragonfly. If I had made it home, you’d make your next move. I expect your plan there was to have interceptors waiting along my most likely routes home, ready to shoot me down.”

Good guess. Missiles were indeed waiting. You defeated that by setting a random course.

“Quite. So now your forces are coming for me. But you can’t just enter Russian airspace without asking permission, greasing palms, sneaking in under the radar, or what-have-you. You’ve got to do it delicately. So I’ve lucked out, I think.”

And if the local cops respond to this, you’ll escape them easily enough. What are your odds against the Russian CIA? the Mirror asks.

“Better than average,” Jason grins. “But that assumes I want to escape.”

The FSB officer and Jason sit in the back of the truck. Four armed men are with them. Jason is handcuffed. The truck rumbles across the rough Russian roads, bumping everyone against each other. Jason notes with some satisfaction that the safeties on everyone’s guns are engaged. At least he won’t die to a foolish accident.

“You are Mr. Jason Quill,” the officer announces.

“Yes, that’s what I said,” says Jason.

“How did you enter Russian territory?”

“My aircraft made an emergency landing. I had no control over it, and no ability to contact your air traffic authorities.” All of this is true on a technicality.

“Where is your aircraft located now?” the man asks.

“Show me a map.”

The officer does so, and Jason points out his best guess on the Dragonfly’s resting spot. “I will advise you not to tamper with it. Bad things are likely to happen.”

“We will see,” the officer sneers.

Jason recognizes this as official bluster, and smiles vapidly in response.

This is not going your way.

“It’s going fine,” he says, sotto voce.

The officer continues. “You have violated our territorial sovereignty. There will be questions. You will answer them honestly and fully.”

“Of course,” smiles Jason.

This strategy makes no sense. You could have called your home. Jason enjoys how thoroughly confused the Mirror sounds. I’ve known you to be violently self-destructive, but why are you throwing away all your advantages here? The nanobots. Your access codes. Your freedom. What is your play here, Jason?

“That’s for me to know and for you to find out.”

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Jason is deposited in a numbered office in an unlabeled building, clearly owned by the SVR - the Russian foreign intelligence service. He’s sure the FSB would have liked to have him, but also reasonably sure of his own memories. What’s coming next will have to be conducted by these people.

The case officer comes through the door. Jason can glimpse the armed guard posted outside, for the moment the door is open. That won’t be a problem.

The woman wears a bored, detached look on her face - the face of a professional spymaster. She carries a manila folder crammed thick with papers, printouts, and photos. “You are Jason Quill, American,” she announces. She places the tome of a folder on the table, opens it, and rattles off a set of biographical facts, all correct (as expected), as recorded in its depths.

“You have been found to possess nanotechnology which may endanger the security of the Russian state and have been remanded to the custody of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation until such time as this technology may be studied and found secure.”

Translation: they want to scan your nanotech, the Mirror comments.

The woman continues. “Your aircraft was found in the place you indicated. We appreciate your cooperation. However, signals indicating the presence of this unknown nanotechnology were detected emanating from inside the craft, so we have been forced to hold it in a secure facility for a similar duration.”

And they’d like to study your Dragonfly.

Jason nods. “Of course. The fault was mine for coming down so unexpectedly in your sovereign territory. I’m happy to cooperate with your investigation, to the best of my ability.”

Of course it’s going to blow up in their faces. Byron Quill’s last-ditch security system, and all that. Ahh, I understand now. You want to get something from the bowels of their laboratories, and make off with it in the chaos. Very clever, even if you won’t tell me what it is.

Jason doesn’t answer the Mirror. He’s content to smile at the case officer. And in the moment she spends glancing up at the clock on the wall, he palms a pair of paperclips from the voluminous folder on the table before him.

Jason is blindfolded and placed in a wheelchair, with restraints. He’s wheeled through the building, with switch-backs, multiple elevator trips, and variations in speed to try and obscure his sense of where he’s going.

28, 29, 30… The Mirror is counting steps for him, perhaps just to show off. You’re in the third sub-basement. They switched ID badges twice.

“Mm-hmm,” mumbles Jason.

It’s kind of fun, doing this with you.

“Hmm?” Jason doesn’t want to chance actually vocalizing.

Espionage. Infiltration. Even though I don’t know why you’re here, it’s… just fun doing it, I suppose.


I’ve narrowed your potential list of goals to three. First, you’re hoping the security system blow-up will get me out of your head, so you can get back home securely. Until then, you don’t know just how much control over your body I might have. I might be holding back. So you don’t dare chance it.

Jason hums noncommittally.

Second. You want to send a signal to American intelligence, alerting them to the danger you see yourself in. You could have done this from many locations, and you’re doing it here because here is where you are. Your odds are not good but it’s something.

“Mmm.” Jason’s smile remains vague.

Third. You’re hoping the blow-up will draw the attention of a nanotech expert here in Russia, who can help you exorcise me.

Jason’s hum is more positive and encouraging.

“Mr. Quill,” comes a voice. “You will now be transferred to a table. For your own safety, you will be restrained. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, go ahead,” says Jason.

It’s possible your ‘random destination’ was pre-planned, but unlikely, the Mirror says, mostly to herself. There are better places to land, and better ways to infiltrate a complex like this if it was your goal specifically. The paperclips tell me you’re not here to cooperate with anyone. I haven’t heard any trace of familiarity, recognition, code word exchange, or other signs of collaboration with anyone you’ve talked to. So you’re here by chance, and improvising your way through. But not simply to get back to your home - you’re going to get rid of me, as thoroughly as you know how.

Jason is being secured to the table. He feels straps tighten, feels the restraints - good, good, old style mechanical locks, pickable with the right paperclip - and breathes.

His sense of presence tells him the attendant has stepped away, and he’s alone for the moment. Well, aside from the voice in his head.

You may as well admit the truth. Once again, I’ve got you figured out, Jason Quill, and you can’t admit it, so you’re going to kill me off and pretend like you’ve just terminated another AI. Me, the only girl you ever–

“Привет красавчик. Hello, handsome.” The voice is warm, and familiar. Soft hands peel off the blindfold. Jason finds himself staring up at the face of a redheaded Russian girl, about his own age.

Jason smiles charmingly. “Well, well. Jenny Byrne. Fancy meeting you here.”

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In his heart of hearts, Jason is terrified.

His mind, unhelpfully, defaults to constructing an “Adventures of Jason Quill” episode recap about the entire thing. It’s narrated by somebody with a deep, rich voice. Jason keeps thinking that it was Gary Owens on the actual show, but it was some other guy whose name he keeps blanking on, no matter how many times he goes back to IMDB to check in a moment of curiosity.

“Jason is strapped to a table in the bowels of a secret experimental laboratory in Russia. He’s been captured by the Russian foreign intelligence service, and is about to be experimented on by an old flame of his, revealed to be a spy for the Other Side, while the mental voice of his nemesis-turned-girlfriend Alycia Chin theorizes about his imminent demise! Is this the end of our hero?”

The young woman staring down at Jason smiles playfully. “Jenny Byrne? Oh, the cover identity. Silly me. Well, since the identities of intelligence personnel are a state secret, I can’t really have you call me anything else.”

She’s wearing light makeup, and has styled her hair. Jason is privately curious how much time she had to prepare for his arrival. Or does she always come to work so dressed up? Perhaps her cover story here is secretary.

Jason, is this actually her? The Russian spy? This coincidence is too improbable to believe. You must have planned this. But I can’t see how.

Jason hears the activation of machinery nearby, and smiles. It sounds like the jig is almost up.

“For everyone’s benefit then. Jenny Byrne introduced herself as a byblow of my father’s bodyguard Rusty. She was quite convincing, until she stole a certain something from my father. He traced the device to the Sayansk Science Institute and, as they say, dealt with the problem. Or thought he did.”

Jason tilts his head as far as he’s able. “Is that about the size of it?”

He hears Jenny’s voice come from nearby, speaking English and affecting an Irish lilt. “You’ve quite a command of the history, good sir. Is that all I was to you? An infiltrator, saboteur, and would-be assassin? Surely you’re not ashamed to reveal how you thought of me before that.”

Wait? Just how serious were the two of you?

Jason pauses. Jenny, operating a console out of his field of view, fills the silence with a new and excited announcement. “Ah! Got a secret admirer of your own in there, do you?”

Wait! Jason! What was she talking about?

“I see the device survived the explosion,” Jason grins. “My father’s nano-reactor. Not the crucial thing you wanted - the real generator, the device to make them - but an important piece.”

“The only piece I could get away with, after my plan to steal the Dragonfly was foiled,” Jenny admits. “So. The readings do indicate you’ve got two independent consciousnesses in there. Such a funny word to pluralize, yes?”

She walks back into Jason’s few and leans over him, very close. “Who’s in there with you, m’dear?”

I don’t like this bitch at all, grouses the Mirror.

“Jenny Byrne, meet Alycia Chin. Or rather, someone who identifies as her. We’re still sorting that out.”

Jenny’s eyes widen. “Alycia, you say? The daughter of Doctor Chin himself? Well, this is my lucky day!”

“Running into you was my lucky day.” Jason can’t be very suave while restrained on a high-tech table, but he’s doing his best.

Stop flirting with her!

“That’s so sweet of you to say!” Jenny operates other controls. Jason can make out the click of artificial nails on plastic keys, achieving a commendable typing speed. “I think we can get access to that second consciousness… Hmm… Yes, here we go. I’d hate for the conversation to be so unfairly one-sided.”

A burst of static comes from a speaker, and Jason can hear the Mirror’s distorted electronic voice. “If you’re going to kill me, Jason, at least spare me this indignity.”

Jenny laughs at that. “Kill you? Farthest thing from my mind right now. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Alycia Chin. I’ve ah, read so much about you.”

“I’ve survived worse. I’ll get out of this, and make you regret toying with me,” the Mirror growls.

For his part, Jason’s busy working the paperclips around in his hands. He’s interrupted when Jenny approaches the table again, slides her fingers between his, hand to hand, then closes her grip with the paperclips now in her possession. “Naughty boy,” she whispers. “Trying to leave before I’ve gotten what I want.”

Jason decides it’s a good opportunity to stall for time. “Jenny, Alycia doesn’t know about you. I’m afraid I might misinform her on certain matters. Perhaps you’d like to speak on your own behalf?”

“Certainly.” The spy leans up against the table, and gazes up at the ceiling with hands clasped. “Poor poor Jenny Byrne, so lonely, who ne’er knew her real father. Taken in by the kind folks at the Quill compound, thought to be Rusty Byrne’s long-lost daughter. Met charmin’ young Jason Quill, with whom she exchanged glances, perhaps a few caresses…”

The Mirror’s voice sounds genuinely annoyed. “Jason, this isn’t funny.”

“…And thanks to a generous material grant courtesy of Doctor Byron Quill, commenced a new career as a researcher into nanotechnology.”

The girl turns back, and rests her hand on Jason’s chest. “I swear to you, though, Jason. I didn’t want to kill your father. I doubt I could have succeeded anyway. But orders were orders. You understand, having an authority that you must obey, but wanting to be yourself?”

Jason glances in the direction the Mirror’s voice comes from. “Oh, I think everyone in this room understands that feeling.”

Jenny leans in closer. “And I’ll also confess, some of my feelings were genuine. And I never thought I’d get a chance to continue–”

She glances down at her hand on Jason’s chest. One of her press-on nails is missing.

Jason’s own hand slips out of the restraint he’s been picking with the missing nail. “And I’ll confess, I always liked the naturally pretty Jenny Byrne, without all the dress-up. But it came in useful.”

He grabs her arm, and twists, throwing her across his body, across the table, and onto the floor on the other side. In the scant few seconds he’s got, he pulls off the other restraint.

“Jason, what are you doing?” the Mirror demands.

“What I came here to do,” Jason announces. He strikes Jenny at the base of the neck with a knife hand.

“To flirt with an old girlfriend, and dispose of an inconvenient voice in your head?”

Jason bounds to the nano-reactor’s console. He has only a few minutes in which to act. It better be enough. “See, this is how I know you’re not the real Alycia Chin.”

“What? How?”

Jason starts typing commands. “You assume I’m here to delete you. But I’d never kill Alycia, even if she was trying to kill me.”


He finishes the sequence, and starts operating a nearby computer, searching for a satellite uplink, a fast network connection, a mounted storage device - anything. “But on the other hand, I can do to you what you wanted to do to me.”

“Wait.” The realization hits home, and he can hear the Mirror’s modulated synthetic voice change. “You’re here to steal my secrets.”

“You got it. Anyone who can constitute an Alycia Chin from nanomachines, overcome her natural aversion to robots in the process, and send her after me must really be something. But Alycia’s really something too. So you’ve been entrusted with your own clearance codes, call-signs, schedules - operational details of whoever or whatever’s behind this. And I’m going to download it all from that mind inside my stolen nanomachines.”

“Jason, wait, we can-- You don’t have to do this!”

Jason grits his teeth. “Oh yes I do. Because somewhere out there, the real Alycia is fighting your creator too. And I’m not going to let her get hurt in the process.”

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The next bits deserve their own thread so we’ll end this particular bit of story on this cliffhanger.
How is Jason doing? How did we like Jenny?

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Okay, that was worth the price of admission. :rofl:

Good times.

She’s not wrong.

An interesting aspect to the various factions – use of irreplaceable Chin tech resources by factions. Some would go balls to the wall, throw all the high tech gear they had (hover tanks, rail guns, spiderbots) while it still worked, trying to score big victories. Others might hoard the tech, use it sparingly, while it lasted, allowing attrition through maintenance loss while still having a good last ditch defense or knock-out punch. Still others would fall back on tried and true slugthrowers and conventional arms, financing themselves by selling their stock of tech piecemeal. And yet others might have tried to bring in a new hyperlect under their control to attempt to keep the pipeline going, with various mixed results.

Just some thinking aloud.

Okay, Google Translate didn’t help with that one, except to think it’s Kyrgyz.

… as he thinks of endless hours of educational anecdotes from Rusty.

Also, given the number of times he slipped away from “her” father …

I’m loving this, btw.


Utterly unexpected, and completely perfect. Bravo.

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I had no idea Gary Owens died as late as 2015. Ted Knight would be a strong possibility, except that he passed in 1986, far too early. Don LaFontaine died in 2008, he’d have been fun. But I’m gonna go for Bill Woodson, who did a lot of Super Friends work, and who passed in 2017.

So did you have an actual voice artist in mind?

So Jenny Byrne was my off-hand way of dealing with the source material’s 1980s Jessie Bradshaw, who was the daughter of Race and Jade – red-haired, and an extra person to add to the kids table in the movies and subsequent episodic TV (and to establish that JQ was a red-blooded cis-het kind of hero).

It was fun using her as (a) a double-agent and (b) past love interest.

And so it’s a hoot seeing her back here. I didn’t get a huge amount of characterization for her in her limited time on-screen (even her accent kind of fades in and out), but having Jason’s fake ex-girlfriend encounter a fake of his current girlfriend is triffic fun.

Jason’s coming across as nicely competent – he should be, increasingly, as time goes on. I’d probably have written him as being less confident than he seems to be much of the time, but we get glimpses of that worry that suffice.

Anyway, loving it all. The fact that he’s managed (for the moment) to outwit two highly competent opponents is gratifying to see.

(The only question I’d address on rewrite is, why is there no video surveillance of this particular room? I can think of internal operational security considerations, but eyes upon eyes upon eyes is what I’d expect here, meaning both that the audio is being listened to and his taking down of Jenny has been noted and those guards outside will be coming inside momentarily.)

Ready for the next thread!

You got it, William Woodson. He actually came onto my radar from “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”, which is my own little in-joke.

It’s hinted later on and I can be explicit here without spoiling anything: Jenny’s current patron is trying to set up his own little fiefdom within the Russian military/intelligence apparatus. He’s been valuable enough to buy freedom from prying eyes (so far), but he’s ultimately got his own agenda and doesn’t really want the SVR or FSB knowing about it.

I added a Wikipedia link in the text itself explaining а́канье (basically it’s a quality of sound when speaking).