The Rescue: A Revenger Mission Update

top_secretAtrum opened the laptop and spun it around in one fluid motion. The screen was now aimed at everyone standing in the small room, a map with a large, square configuration of buildings sitting in a large, green field in the middle of it. The overhead view provided few details, but the setting looked very similar to the one they had just left – a string of warehouses or an industrial park of some kind. Despite how confined they already felt, most felt the need to lean forward to get a better look.

“Thanks to the device the Captain handed off to us, I’ve been able to isolate the frequency of the tracker he had implanted on his person. Once I tuned my instruments to it, I was able to locate him.” He hit a button on the console, and a small, red blinking light appeared in the middle of the largest box-like structure. “This is the last reported location of the Captain. An abandoned truck park outside of Clarksville. This has to be a holding facility of some kind, or a transfer point for prisoners taken by the Intelligence services.”

“It looks weak,” said Pax, noting the frequency and intensity of the signal. “Which means he’s either barely in range or they’ve got him in some kind of hardened bunker.”

“Good eye,” replied Atrum. “I wish I knew more about the tracker he’s got, but the Captain never was one to share.”

“It’s not that far from here. If we move now, we could hit the place before they’re ready.” said Tsunami, drawing herself back up to her full height. Even with her shades on, the look on her face was plain for all to see. As was the fatigue, the poor woman had not slept since they had returned from their last outing. And she seemed destined not to until they made their next move.

“You got my vote,” said Judgement, his skin bristling with several new veins of gold.
Atrum raised his hand. “Now hold on, people. Like I said, this is a transfer point. And as Pax pointed out, its probably a hardened facility of some kind. We all remember what happened the last time we hit one of those. They were ready and waiting.”

“No shit, they were ready. They set us up!” Judgement growled.

From her spot at the outer edge of the circle, Erotica nodded. “And I seem to recall, we still managed to take out the better part of their defenders.”

“Yes, and what are the odds they’ll have so many surprises prepared for us this time around?”

It was Freedom saying this, and Atrum looked to her now. A current was flowing through the group and growing in intensity. He feared as much. After what had happened at the facility, everyone was in a hurry to rectify what they perceived as their own failure. But running headlong into a fight was likely to result in another. Conveying that though, that required some tact. There was a lot of anger in the room right now, and a lot of special powers…

“Look team… chances are, he’s going to be moved from that facility very soon. Our best bet is to try and get him while he’s in transit. The people holding him will be more vulnerable to an attack.”

“And how long will that be?” asked Panacea, her voice mild, but containing an unmistakably steely tone within.

“Before they try to move him? Shouldn’t be long. With prisoners like the Captain, they want to move them to a secure location as quickly as possible. Minimizes the chances that they might escape, or get rescued.”

Bonfire raised his voice next. “So they are anticipating that we might try to rescue him?”

Atrum shrugged. “Standard procedure really. Everything they’ve done thus far makes it look they are treating him like a high-valued enemy asset, lIke a terrorists mastermind. Always assume their followers will try to spring them.”

Judgment growled again. Everyone looked towards him just in time to see his fangs bared. “I don’t like where this conversation is going. And I don’t much like being compared to a terrorist.”

Pax raised his hands and intervened on Atrum’s behalf. “That’s not what he meant, people. Its just a question of procedures, not methods or motives. Right now, they are dealing with us as if we’re a domestic terrorist cell. But that doesn’t mean we are.”

“You’re damn right,” said Tsunami. “They started this fight. And if they want to see terror, they will shortly.”

“Terrorists,” said Panacea with a scoff. “Their methods are based in fear. They hope to paralyze us with terror and intimidate us into submission. They are cowards.”

The group began to raise their voices as one. The thought of striking fear in their enemy’s hearts, of paying back their terror with some terror of their own; it was a like lightning rod that was catching all their rage. Atrum looked to Panacea, and felt a sudden surge of trepidation himself. If even she was speaking of vengeance, then their situation was truly dire.

He raised his hands one more time and asked for calm. “Hold on, people! We need to be careful about going off half-cocked. If we try to rescue the Captain now, from this holding facility, we’re likely to hit them when they’re most prepared.”

“He’s right,” said Pax. “There’s no guarantee this isn’t an ambush too. For all we know, they’re waiting for us to make a move, to commit ourselves prematurely and run into another carefully laid trap.”

“Yeah, and while we’re waiting, what happens to the Captain?” asked Styka. She was joined by Freedom and Tsunami, both of whom began to voice their concern for his well being in Pax’s direction.

“For all we know, they’re torturing to death. He doesn’t have the ability to heal like you do.”

“And he can’t exactly just will himself out of that place. He’s stuck there until we free him. Helpless and alone.”

“No way!” said Judgement. “He’s not alone! He’s always been there for us, and we’re going to be there for him, dammit. Come hell or high water.”

Many began to voice their assent. Others began to avert their eyes, no doubt because they were having a hard time keeping their emotions in check. Anger wasn’t the only thing running the group like a current. One didn’t have to be a telepath to sense that their was a terrible amount of guilt and grief in the room as well.

“Okay,” said Atrum finally. “We’re going to be there for the Captain. But we need to do it in such a way that won’t put his life in danger. And won’t run the risk of failure. That’s not what the Captain would want. He’d be the first to tell us to play this smart.”

A short, tense silence followed. When someone did speak again, it was Angel, and Atrum could sense what she was going to say before he said it.

“I can’t help but notice that since the Captain’s departure, you’ve been stepping in to fill his shoes.” She looked to Pax next. “The two of you in fact have been acting like you’re giving the orders now. Am I the only one who notices this?”

Several more people exhibited the same combination of sudden anger, anger which they were directing at him and Pax now. It was predictable, so much emotion looking for an outlet. And since he was telling them to sit on it and wait, it was inevitable it would be directed at him. Out of desperation, he reached out to Styka and Tsunami ,using their shared telepathic link.

[I’m losing them here. I could use some help.]

Tsunami didn’t even respond. Her thoughts had become a wall, her emotions as cold and impenetrable as the look on her face. Styka answered him, but was not much more receptive.

[Don’t try to avoid them. It’s disrespectful.]

[Please. They’re not listening to reason.]

[Who’s reason? I don’t agree with your plan as it is. Don’t ask me to speak for it.]

[Fine. We can certainly disagree as to how to proceed. But the last thing we need is people turning on each other.]

Styka emitted an audible sigh. In real-time, people were beginning to shout at each other, most in Atrum’s or Pax’s direction. Few seemed to be coming to their defense, but it didn’t really matter. Even those who were in agreement seemed to be attacking each other with their words now.

Atrum reached out to Tsunami again. [Please, you can see they are on the verge of cracking. Help me restore some calm so we can sort this out.]

To his surprise, Tsunami did answer, though not quite as expected. At the far end of the room, the door blew open and a cold gust of wind thundered through. Not a soul was undisturbed by it and everyone was fast looking in Tsunami’s direction. Of all the people present, only she maintained her steady, forward-looking glare until the wind died down and the door slammed shut again.

Waiting for total quiet to return, she finally spoke. “The last thing the Captain said to me was ‘they’ll be another time’. He also told me that Atrum here would know what to do. If he has a plan… then let’s hear him out.”

Atrum was a little surprised.She said the words, but he could feel something menacing not far behind them. Though he could tell she was sincere, he wasn’t sure if what she’d said had been a vote of confidence, or a warning not to screw things up. Either way, he took his cue and continued.

“Like I said, our best bet is to hit these feds when they try to transfer the Captain. They’ll try to do it either by convoy, or by air. Either way, they will be most vulernable at this time. An convoy, even if its stacked with armored vehicles, won’t be unstoppable.”

“Yeah, we proved that much to them last time,” said Angel, looking to those who had been intrinsic in that regard. Standing not far away, Bonfire smiled while Judgment bristled happily.

“And an air lift would be useless. We’ve got several people who could take out escort choppers, and then land on board the one carrying the Captain and whisk him away before anyone could stop them. Either way, we’d have them.”

“What about aerial drones?” asked Freedom, remembering the last one and how it had ruined their day.

On that, Atrum smiled. Reaching to his laptop, he punched a few keys and brought up a new display. In the center, a large green reticule sat, with what looked like a picture of a radio wave bouncing around inside it. “Don’t worry. They caught us with our pants down last time. This time around, we’ll be ready…”

“What is that?” Erotica asked at last.

“That…” Pax interjected, “is the frequency that last drone was using. Next one we see one, we’ll be able to hack it.”

Atrum’s smile broadened, to the point where he was beaming at everyone in the room. “We all saw what just one of those things could do with its big old arsenal of missiles and bombs. Just imagine what kind of hell we could raise with that kind of firepower.”

Again, one did not need telepathy to know that the mood had suddenly changed in the room. What had been anger and grief was slowly morphing into anger and elation. Everyone was beginning to see just how good a plan they had before them, and how much it would hurt the bastards who had put them here…

Panacea was the one to say it, putting all that raw emotion into words.

“When we came together, we took the name of revenge for ourselves,” she said. “Let’s show these men what revenge looks like.”

The Assault: A Revenger Mission Update

Justice-LeagueGood afternoon Revengers! We go now to the field where our league of crime-fighting superheroes is taking to the field to locate and destroy a very dangerous artifact. As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, our mission to investigate the Tyrene Code turned up some very interesting information. Following the clues left behind by the famed artist and superhero, we have found our way to a government facility where the source of his powers appears to have been kept.

Our infiltrators managed to get within spitting distance of the facility and take down its sentries, but things may be taking an unexpected turn. As such, I, your humble Captain, have ordered our second team – the strike force made up of Veiled Tsunami, Dark Angel, Freedom Fighter and myself – into the fray. The security is tight closer to the facility and we’ll need all our initial assets committed to take them out in time.

We go now to the location to see what’s happening. I hope everyone brought there A game because there’s no way we’re pulling this off with anything less…

*                    *                    *

The door slammed shut and Smackdown raised his rifle. His hands were like a frantic, noisy mess, everything he did rushed and producing loud, angry clacks.

“Are you sure about this, Captain?”

His fingers were like a blur, one hand slapping a magazine in the bottom on the gun while the other slid the front end open to place a grenade inside. He looked up with mild annoyance to reply.

“Look, you people were the one who said you didn’t trust my source. Now you wanna second guess my being paranoid? C’mon, we’re going in?”

Freedom raised her hand in mock surrender, though her fingers began to tighten on her sword. She used her best diplomatic tone too, just to let him know she wasn’t prepared to use it on him yet.

“No one is second-guessing you, Captain. This just seems sudden.”

“She’s right,” said Tsunami, crouching by the front end of the vehicle. “I get the feeling you know something we don’t. Or you’re just not telling us.”

Smackdown looked angrily at her next. Her eyes were invisible behind her darkened glasses and her face stony, but her tone spoke volumes. He looked to Panacea who was standing quietly next to her. Even she didn’t appear to be offering him the benefit of the doubt right now. Even her with her usually gentle demeanor.

Great, he thought. Surrounded by women, any one of whom could probably kick my ass, and I got to go and try to assert dominance over them!

“Look, I don’t know anything at this point,” he said coolly. “But I get the feeling we made it here too easily, and we’re finding our way to their front door like someone left’s it open. Feels wrong, that’s all I’m saying.”

Freedom looked to Tsunami. She wished she knew what had happened during his supposed meeting with that “Source” of his. Ever since that ended, he had been in a mood. She Tsunami was in the know, but not her. And the only other person she could ask was waiting behind, part of their team of last resort.

“So what’s our plan?” asked Panacea.

Smackdown took a deep breath and looked to their resident Goddess. Somehow, seeing her always did much to lift people’s moods. She suspected that was why he made it a habit of keeping her around. Calmer now, a plan began to form on his head and trickled out of his mouth.

“I want you two ladies,” he indicated Tsunami and Freedom, “to do a quick fly over. Get their attention and then swoop in, see if they’re stupid enough to start shooting. I’m thinking that will give Atrum and Pax enough time to teleport inside. Once they’re in, we start hitting the guards with everything we got. Depending on what the situation is inside, I think it’s fair to say the confusion will mess them up and make them that much easier to beat.”

“Captain?” Panacea said, an eyebrow raised inquisitively. “How are you to get in there? You planning on taking the car again?”

Smackdown smiled wryly. Yes, of everyone in their team, he was the only one not particularly gifted with the ability of flight. And he was the last person who needed to be reminded of that.

“I’m glad you asked,” he said, equally wryly. “You get to carry me, Panacea. We go in the second the ladies make their second pass and our boys with the means of teleporting pop up inside. And if we catch any flack, I fully expect you to heal me. That okay with you?”

Freedom cleared her throat and shuffled her feet. No one had ever seen her scowl or frown before, but Freedom suspected this was the closest she could manage. As the one to ask him about his apparent limitations, she had clearly volunteered – or grabbed the short straw, as it were.

“Sure thing, Captain. Whenever you’re ready.”

“Ladies, first,” Smackdown replied and looked in their direction. “Freedom, good to go?”

“Always, Captain,” she replied. Smackdown nodded and turned his attention to Tsunami.

“How about you, Hawa? You feel ready for this?”

Hawa stood up and looked to be scowling behind her eyewear. Though it was hard to tell with her. Her face always seemed to be poised on the edge of a frown, ready to spit flame at a moment’s notice.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” she asked.

“No reason,” said Smackdown, quickly. “It’s just that we may be on the verge of finding the artifact your father was working on. I know you must have some feelings about that.”

“None I care to share,” she said coolly. Smackdown eventually nodded and left it at that. Tsunami never really did like to talk about such things. He had thought that at this juncture, there might be something, but apparently there wasn’t.

“Alright then. You and Freedom are up. Give em a good show, cuz when you come back around, I expect those guards to emptying their clips at you.”

That elicited a smile. “They won’t see me coming, Captain…”

“But they’ll know we were here when it’s all over,” added Freedom, her shimmering sword now reflected in Tsunami’s glasses. Side by side, they looked like something out of a childhood dream, or a villain’s worst nightmare.

For a moment, Panacea and Smackdown simply stared at the pair and felt a strange chill. Panacea was not the type to deal in cryptic talk and reasoning, but the Captain was clearly drawing some grim encouragement from it. As dark as any of his people could be, at least he knew they could be counted on to deliver.

What’s more, he knew that they were right. By the end of the day, the poor bastards manning the fence lines would be very sorry they ever got stuck with guarding this particular facility. When the dust settled, anyone still conscious would be looking for a new line of work and hoping it had comprehensive medical coverage.

He almost felt sorry for them…

*                   *                    *

Styka’s haunches were beginning to cramp and her lower back was screaming out for relief. Not far away, she heard Erotica grunting quietly to herself, no doubt nursing the same aches from all the crouching and waiting. The grass continued to brush by their faces as they kept them poked just high enough to see the fence line before them. And in the distance, they could hear one of the men guarding it barking through a radio.

“Alpha team, report in, please… Alpha team, what’s your status, over? Alpha team!”

“We can’t just sit here…” Erotica whispered to her. Styka kept her eyes fixed on the nearest man and the weapon he had hanging in front of him. She wondered just how quickly he could get to it before she smashed the helmet he wore in with her boot. He would be an easy enough takedown, but there were plenty more within shooting distance who would see it.

And at this distance, any sudden movements would surely be noticed. She surmised that her and Erotica could take two, maybe even four down between them before they started firing wildly. Then, anything could happen…

“I’m waiting, but I’m getting nothing,” she said, reaching out again and again. Atrum wasn’t answering, nor Pax, and her attempts to reach farther were met with the same absence. It was like trying to make a call, only to find the lines were dead.

[Atrum, Pax, where are you? What’s the Captain saying to you?]

Nothing. No one reaching out with instructions, no indication or new orders. And they were hip deep in enemy agents with automatic weapons. Moving in any direction seem ill advised.

“Forget this, I’m going in,” said Erotica. Moving from a hunched stance to a crouch, she prepared to leap forth like a spring-loaded predator. Styka eyed the man she had in her sights and called out to her as loud as she dared.

“Casey, no…”

[Styka] the familiar voice in her head sounded. [Duck and cover!]

She had no time to send a reply before  a crack from overhead sent her reaching to her ears. Next to her, Erotica went from crouched and ready to practically hugging the ground. The thunderous roar from overhead seemed to have the same effect on everyone in the area, sending everyone down in a desperate search for cover.

“What the hell -?” she cried out. Over the sound of ringing in her ears, she could just barely make out the faint wisps of something cutting through the air overhead. Her dizzied eyes turned skyward and picked up the faint trails of two streams dancing back and forth through the clouds.

And then another sound, this one coming from within… [Styka? Can you hear me?]

“What the-?” she said aloud, before switching to her inner voice. [Atrum? Is that you?]

[Yes, Styka. Sorry about the short notice. Are you ready?]

[Ready for what?]

[For this!]

Again, there was no time to formulate a reply. All at once, the air changed around her, expanding outwards with a pop to admit a presence that hadn’t been there a second before. Just as quickly she felt hands closing around her. She got a glimpse of the face just in time to scold him.

“Pax? What’s going on?”

“We’re going in!” he yelled. He looked to his right, gave a thumbs up. Styka followed the direction of his site and saw Atrum negotiating an embrace with Erotica. Unlike her and Pax, they seemed to be having an easier time of it though.

“Ready?” he said, quite pointlessly.

“Fine. What’s one more shock?” she said, and took his hand. He grabbed hold of her shoulder with his other hand and closed his eyes. Styka did the same, knowing the experience she was about to go through was anything but comfortable.

Another pop, and then they were gone…

*                     *                    *

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to the latest Revenger mission! Despite all that’s happened so far, I promise you that things are just getting started…

Big News in Quantum Science!

Welcome all to my 800th post! Woot woot! I couldn’t possibly think of anything to special to write about to mark the occasion, as I seem to acknowledge far too many of these occasions. So instead I thought I’d wait for a much bigger milestone which is on the way and simply do a regular article. Hope you enjoy it, it is the 800th one I’ve written 😉

*                    *                    *

C2012 saw quite a few technical developments and firsts being made; so many in fact that I had to dedicate two full posts to them! However, one story which didn’t make many news cycles, but may prove to be no less significant, was the  advances made in the field of quantum science. In fact, the strides made in this field during the past year were the first indication that a global, quantum internet might actually be possible.

For some time now, scientists and researchers have been toying with the concept of machinery that relies on quantum mechanics. Basically, the idea revolves around “quantum teleportation”, a process where quantum states of matter, rather than matter itself, are beamed from one location to another. Currently, this involves using a high-powered laser to fire entangled photons from one location to the next. When the photons at the receiving end take on the properties of the photon sent, a quantum teleportation has occurred, a process which is faster than the speed of light since matter is not actually moving, only its properties.

quantum-teleportation-star-trails-canary-islands-1-640x353Two years ago, scientists set the record for the longest teleportation by beaming a photon some 16 km. However, last year, a team of international researchers was able to beam the properties of a photon from their lab in La Palma to another lab in Tenerife, some 143 km away. Not only was this a new record, it was significant because 143 km happens to be just far enough to reach low Earth orbit satellites, thus proving that a world-spanning quantum network could be built.

Shortly thereafter, China struck back with its own advance, conducting the first teleportation of quantum states between two rubidium atoms. Naturally, atoms are several orders larger than a quantum qubit, which qualifies them as “macroscopic objects” – i.e. visible to the naked eye. This in turn has led many to believe that large quantities of information could be teleported from one location to the next using this technique in the near future.

And then came another breakthrough from England, where researchers managed to transmit qubits and binary data down the same piece of optic fiber, which laid the groundwork for a conventional internet that runs via optic cable instead of satellites, and which could be protected using quantum cryptography, a secured means of information transfer which remains (in theory) unbreakable.

quantum_compAnd finally, the companies of IBM and the University of Southern California (USC) reported big advances in the field of quantum computing during 2012. The year began with IBM announcing that it had created a 3-qubit computer chip (video below) capable of performing controlled logic functions. USC could only manage a 2-qubit chip — but it was fashioned out of diamond (pictured at left). Both advances strongly point to a future where your PC could be either completely quantum-based, or where you have a few quantum chips to aid with specific tasks.

As it stands, quantum computing, networking, and cryptography remain in the research and development phase. IBM’s current estimates place the completion of a fully-working quantum computer at roughly ten to fifteen years away. And as it stands, the machinery needed to conduct any of these processes remains large, bulky and very expensive. But miniaturization and a drop in prices are too things you can always count on in the tech world!

^So really, we may be looking at a worldwide, quantum internet by 2025 or 2030. We’re talking about a world in which information transfers faster than the speed of light, all connections are secure, and computing happens at unheard of speeds. Sounds impressive, but the real effect of this “quantum revolution” will be the exponential rate at which progress increases. With worldwide information sharing and computing happening so much faster, we can expect further advances in every field to take less time, and breakthroughs happening on a regular basis.

Yes, this technology could very well be the harbinger of what John von Neumann called the “Technological Singularity”. I know some of you might be feeling nervous at the moment, but somewhere, Ray Kurzweil is doing a happy dance! Just a few more decades before he and others like him can start downloading their brains or getting those long-awaited cybernetic enhancements!

Source: extremetech.com