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Title: DS: Schrödinger's Prisoners
Description: a Darwin's Soldiers story

LettuceBacon&Tomato - July 31, 2009 04:21 AM (GMT)
This is another (shorter) story taking place in the Darwin's Soldiers storyline. It takes place well before the RP, and stars my character, Dr. Shelton. I thought it provided a little more of a background into his character, and a little back story. Most of all, it was just fun to write :)
Dr. Branston is used with permission.

“Look out!” declared Dr. Tinner, elbowing his way past his two assistants on his way to his work station. Being a rather large man, this was no easy feat.

“Geez, Bruce, what’s the rush?” asked one of them, rubbing his arm.

“Commander’s going to be here in three minutes, and I need everything to be ready,” he announced, leaning over his computer and typing without sitting down.

“Shouldn’t you have been ready way before now?” the assistant countered.

“He is ready; he just likes to be dramatic,” interrupted the other, rolling his eyes.

“Smithson, I warned you against—” cautioned Tinner, but before he could finish his statement the door opened and Dr. Branston strode in, with three soldiers and a scientist flanking behind him. Respectively, they were a Thoroughbred, a Siamese cat, a rabbit, an Airedale Terrier, and a human.

Dr. Tinner quickly stood at attention. “Dr. Branston. Thank you for coming.”

Branston didn’t return the formality. “Please explain why you want me and three of our personnel to lose three hours of our time on one of your projects.”

Tinner’s guise didn’t falter. “I assure you; the potential benefits of these next three hours will far outweigh the lost time.”


“Please follow me into the backroom.”

Tinner led the group into the laboratory’s experimental room, explaining the entire time. “Ever since I was stationed at Pelvanida, the first time I’ve been exposed to and worked alongside military-grade projects, I’ve wanted to find a way to give back to the men and women who protect us every day.”

The other scientist snorted.

Dr. Branston turned his head. “Dr. Shelton, do you have something to say?”

Dr. Shelton shook his head. “Yes sir. God love our country.”

The group reached a room filled with wires, dials, and control panels. Centered in the room was a tabular machine with eight metallic chairs embed around it. The chairs were surrounded with sensory deprivation units, which except for one were currently open. Everything else in the room seemed to compliment this centerpiece.

“Gentleman, I believe this will be the next step in virtual reality training,” Dr. Tinner flourished his arm for emphasis. “Anyone who straps themselves into the machine will become immersed in a world so realistic that it will seem as real as this one. As I’m sure you agree, a better substitute for quickly settable and replayable training scenarios could not exist.”

Dr. Branston stepped around the room, viewing the machinery. “How does it work?”

“It combines the intense photorealistic imagery already available in modern interfaces with the immersive effects of virtual reality simulators. However, I’ve taken the realism even further. This machine can stimulate the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, the parts of the brain that cause dreaming, to give the users the belief that what they are witnessing is as realistic as normal dreams are. However, unlike in a dream, the user will have full control of their motor and sensory functions, and can participate in whatever activities or training sessions have been programmed into the machine. The chairs are networked together, so the users will see and be able to work together.”

Dr. Branstom nodded appreciatively. “And you want these men to try it out?”

Dr. Tinner nodded. “I have a number of scenarios preprogrammed into the machine. They are designed to test several aspects of military expertise, and I would like these soldiers to test run the machine and report back on it’s effectiveness and potential.”

Dr. Branston turned to the soldiers. “Are there any objections?”

The soldiers were silent. Dr. Branston turned back. “Well then, Dr. Tinner you have a—”

“I have an objection,” interrupted Shelton, raising his hand.

“Dr. Shelton. What is it?”

“Bruce has had this same idea since college, and even then I told him it wouldn’t work. Nothing he’s said so far tells me he’s gotten around a major problem.”

“What problem is that?”

“Sir, the human brain has never been designed to view things such as virtual reality and display technology. We’re supposed to see the world as a 3 dimensional collection of objects illuminated by light, not a 2 dimensional collection of little lights that pointillate to give the appearance of objects. This is the reason why you get headaches after staring at a television or computer screen for too long. Therefore, this total-immersing virtual world Tinner suggests would be equivalent to sensory overload. At least with a TV you can look away every so often.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that after a few hours in this thing someone would start getting side effects much worse than a mere headache. And they wouldn’t go away until the person had disengaged from the machine and avoided it for a long time.”

“I’ve tested the machine myself, and no such side effects were ever observed,” mentioned Tinner.

“How long were your tests?”

“Ten to fifteen minutes.”

“That’s not nearly long enough. But your three hours you plan on having us in there are,” protested Shelton.

“Do you have any research or papers to back up your claim, Dr. Shelton?” asked Dr. Branston.

“Well, no, but—”

“Then your complaint is noted, but nothing will be changed. You are of course at your liberty to drop out of this assignment if you feel it is within your best interests.”

Shelton hesitated.

“I was going to make you the scientific advisor on the test run,” added Tinner, “to double check the programming and coding of the device. But I suppose if you like I could get Dr. Kerzach…”

Shelton sighed. “All right. Hook me up.”

Serris - July 31, 2009 04:26 AM (GMT)
I'm starting to like this story. With your permission and credit I may decide to include these with my novel.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 1, 2009 03:40 AM (GMT)
“Since the machine requires you to be dreaming to work correctly, it will put you into a state of REM, or rapid eye movement sleep. In rapid eye movement, the body is paralyzed to prevent involuntary injury, so your real body will be unable to move during the time you are in the machine. The sensory deprivation units will prevent any outside sensory information to interfere with your experience. Are there any questions?”

“The experiment looks promising,” said Dr. Branston. “However, I have other business to attend to, so I won’t be here for the entire experiment. I look forward to reading your report.” And he left the room.

“I have a question,” said Shelton. “What exactly is our respective jobs in there? How am I supposed to double check the programming and coding?”

“You’ll be given a handheld screen with a running display of the code going on at any given moment. Just keep your eye on the code and make sure everything is formatted correctly. The soldiers, of course, are here to test run the training scenarios. To show the machine’s effectiveness for soldiers of all ranks, I’ve selected these men precisely because of their differing lack of experience." Tinner motioned to the Airedale, rabbit, and cat, respectively. "Lt. Compton has served in Iraq, Pvt. Ridgeway is not combat experienced but graduated the United States Training Corps with high marks, and Pvt. Finney went through only basic training. And then, for someone who’s had no military preparation whatsoever…”

Dr. Tinner crossed to the furthest sensory deprivation device, which had been closed this entire time. He drew the curtain back with a flourish.

Shelton and the soldiers were visibly startled. The Neanderthal inside looked to be around 18, with a small white shirt, black vest, and commercially available camo pants. His face was square, with a jutting forehead underneath short pink hair. He had a light-proof visor around his eyes, and wires connected to his temples. He didn’t acknowledge their presence.

“This is Biff Carlo. His only combat experience is with the local gangs around Carson City, but he’s agreed to participate while playing the role of a brand new recruit.”

“Are you telling me that kid had security clearance?” exclaimed Shelton.

“His chair has been designed to wipe his memory of the experiment once the machine is turned off. He’s been promised a very large amount of money to keep quiet about what he learns here.”

Shelton opened his mouth to argue, but at that moment a ding went off.

“That’s the signal to get you all hooked up,” explained Dr. Tinner. “The three hours just started. Until all of you are hooked up to the machine, you will be in NREM sleep, like Mr. Carlo.”

Shelton and the soldiers were placed in sensory deprivation units and one by one had the wires placed on their temples. Shelton was last.

“Bruce, you know this is a bad idea,” he repeated, as the wires inched closer.

Tinner stopped. “Rudy…” He pulled Shelton’s visor off. “Rudy, I selected you for this as a sort of olive branch. I want to get past the animosity we’ve had since college.”

“Or you want to rub it in my face that you’ve gotten something accomplished while I’ve spent most of my time running the control room for the rest of the base.”

“Can we forget about all that and give my project a chance? You couldn’t understand how much work I’ve put into this.”

“Actually I can. See, being the guy that signs everyone’s time cards and approves every project proposal, I know exactly how much money and resources you’ve used, and I had the ability to cut your budget whenever I wanted to. Please take into account the fact that I didn’t.”

Tinner put the visor back on. “Good night, Dr. Shelton.”

The next thing Shelton knew, he had fallen into a quick sleep.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 2, 2009 01:29 AM (GMT)
When Shelton opened his eyes next, he was back in the experiment room.

“What the…?”

The soldiers were also waking up around him. Finney stared at the machine. “Did it work?”

“Yes,” said a voice behind them.

Dr. Tinner stood at the controls of his machine, smiling. “This room is completely virtual. The reason you couldn’t tell it apart from the real was because of how well it’s been done.”

Shelton looked around. “You had an entire world of locations to choose from, and you picked the one we’d just left? Why couldn’t we go to the savanna or something?”

“This is a training field, not a vacation. It’s designed to show the effectiveness of the machine’s programming, and this is the place I knew how to design best.”

Shelton double checked. “Now that you mention it, the corners seem a bit blocky.”

Tinner handed him a portable screen. The screen showed rapidly scrolling lines of code. “Here you go.”

“I can barely read this. Can you slow it down?”

“Not if you want to receive the code at the same time it’s being implemented. I could reduce the font so more fits on the screen.”

“It looks like the font size is around 4 already.” Shelton tried the buttons and keys below the screen. They were password-protected. “What’s the code to edit the programming?”

“I can’t tell you that. The programming is not supposed to be edited mid-simulation.”

Suddenly the base alarm went off.


“The first training exercise has begun.” said Dr. Tinner.

“We have to get to the armory,” ordered Compton. He and the other troopers ran out of the room.

“Are you going to follow them?” asked Tinner.

Shelton shook his head. “I’m fine with staying away from the gunfire.”

“As scientific advisor, you need to go examine the realism of the battle and the enemy fighters. I have to ask you to get moving.”

Shelton continued to stand and examine the machine. “The realism isn’t bad,” he commented. “But you could have gone with more geometric shapes—”

A green plane of light suddenly came out of the wall, moving towards him.

Shelton stepped back. “What’s that?”

“If it touches you, you will be removed from the simulation and placed back into NREM sleep until the simulation is complete.”

Shelton looked at Tinner incredulously, even while running for the door. “That’s a little cheap, you don’t think?”

“You made it necessary, Rudy.”

As the pair ran down the hall for the armory, Shelton said, “This simulation is a little unrealistic, isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Some enemy army invades the base? There’s no way that would ever happen.”

“It’s not designed to be realistic, but to be a form of training.”

They could hear gunfire up ahead. Shelton threw open the door, and dove for cover.

The hangar door had been opened, and enemy soldiers were swarming into the room. Finney and Compton were hiding behind a truck, returning fire with an AK-47 and a P90.

“Where’s Ridgeway?” asked Shelton, crawling over to them.

“Making for the catwalk with a sniper rifle,” answered Compton. “we’re covering him and once he’s in position getting out of here.

Tinner stood at the door, watching them.

“What are you doing?” said Shelton. “Take cover!”

“The AIs are not programmed to see or react to me,” said Tinner. “I’m only here to watch you.”

Some gunfire flew under the truck. Finney was hit in the ankle, and fell, cursing. Compton answered by rolling a grenade.

“Well, gentleman?” asked Tinner, beaming at his handiwork, “what do you think about the real—”

“Shut up!” snapped Compton, dropping his spent P90 and picking up the AK.

One enemy made his way around the car. Yelling, he came at Shelton with a knife.

Shelton covered his head with his hands, when suddenly the man fell from a sniper shot to the head.

“Ridgeway, thank God!” exclaimed Compton. He motioned for the door. “Let’s go!”

Serris - August 2, 2009 02:43 AM (GMT)
This is getting interesting. Also to note, I am considering this canon.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 2, 2009 03:29 AM (GMT)
Really? That'd be awesome! And yeah, of course you have permission to include this in your book if you so choose. I'll try to keep it good!

“I can’t walk,” groaned Finney.

Compton hoisted him onto his shoulder. “Come on, soldier.”

“No,” Finney shook his head. “This is training, remember? I’ll be back once the next mission comes along. Don’t bother getting me out of this one. Give me the AK. I’ll cover your escape.”

Compton hesitated, then gave him the gun and unstrapped his sidearm. “Good luck, soldier.”

With Compton leading, he and Shelton ran for the door. Bursting through it, Shelton turned around to see Finney.

Finney’s position had been compromised. Ridgeway was attempting to protect him, but one of the enemies kicked Finney’s gun out of his hand. Whipping him over the head with his rifle butt, the man emptied a clip into Finney’s head.

Shelton’s eyes widened. “Tinner, was that necessary?”

“The enemies are designed to perform as realistic as possible,” said Tinner, not blinking an eye.

Compton shut and locked the door. “Ridgeway is still in there. He’ll be okay on his own for a while with the sniper rifle, but they’ll get to him eventually.”

“What do you propose we do?” asked Shelton.

“Find rocket launchers and double around outside. Hit them from behind, same way they got in.”

“Where would we get a rocket launcher?”

“The armory we found was conspicuously empty,” Compton glared at Tinner. “Is there one with more stuff?”

“I can’t say anything,” said Tinner. “It’s part of the test.”

“What do you hope to do with the bazooka?” asked Shelton.

“Sever the ladder that leads up to Ridgeway’s position. Keep them from getting to him.”

“The prototype laser rifle would do that. It’s in the AWTR.”

“Lead the way.”

In five minutes, they’d reached the AWTR and Shelton retrieved the laser rifle. He handed it to Compton.

Compton crossed to the nearest window and kicked it. It didn’t break. Cursing, he limped toward Tinner. “What the hell’s up with that?”

“I haven’t programmed an outside to the base,” said Tinner. “You have to stay within the base perimeter.”

“You say this now?” exclaimed Compton. “Come on, Shelton, we need to get back to the inner entrance!”

They sprinted back. Compton was slightly faster than Shelton, so by the time Shelton was panting around the corner, Compton had the door open and had shot down the ladder.

“Ridgeway’s got the unchallenged high ground now,” he gritted his teeth. “Between me and him, we got this.”

As Compton continued to fire, Shelton turned to Tinner. “Any other surprise rules we should know about?”

Tinner shook his head. “I didn’t think you’d try to get outside.”

“Let’s hope you thought of at least some routes other than the ones you expected.”

After about thirty more minutes, Compton and Ridgeway finished off the intruders. The gunfire ceased. Compton cautiously led the way into the hangar.

He knelt over Finney’s body and checked the pulse. “He’s dead.”

“No, he’s not.” said Tinner. “He’s been returned to a state of NREM sleep, where he’ll remain until this simulation is over.”

“But we do get him back for the next scenario, right?”

Tinner was silent.


“The machine is set so that a death counts as a death for the entire simulation. Only if the machine is turned off and started over, then Finney would be back in. But not until then.”

“I thought you said no more surprises!” exclaimed Shelton, frustrated.

“Well, it wouldn’t be much of a training mission if you could just die and come back to life!” said Tinner. “It needs to mimic real life as closely as possible!”

“In real life, you can go outside! Or choose what room you feel like being in!”

“Hello?” called Ridgeway from the catwalk above. “Could someone get me down from here?”

“I’m on it,” answered Compton, crossing to the ladder he had severed with his laser rifle.

“You did rather good for my first scenario,” Tinner said to everyone, as Shelton and Compton tried to keep the ladder steady. “Once Ridgeway has reached the ground, I’ll explain Scenario 2.”

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 3, 2009 01:10 AM (GMT)
The code on Shelton’s screen erased and started afresh, shooting up the screen.

Dr. Tinner continued. “This last scenario tested your combat abilities. This one will test your technological skills. One room in this base had just been filled with a deadly knockout gas, which is slowly spreading out to infect more rooms. Your job is simple; to isolate yourself in a room so that the gas cannot get you, and to tell me which room the gas started in.”

Compton looked at Shelton. “We’re gonna be needing you for this one.”

“Actually,” interrupted Tinner, “as scientific advisor, Shelton is not supposed to participate in the—”

“Shut up,” said Shelton. “Has the gas been released yet?”

Tinner nodded. “The room is filling as we speak.”

“Then we need to get moving,” said Shelton. “Follow me!”

“Where are we going?” asked Compton, as they left the hangar.

“The control room. I can find out which room was infected from there.”

“What if the control room is the one infected?”

Shelton paused. “We’ll have to split up. One of us head for auxiliary control, the other for the control room, and one of us stay here. That way, we know at least one of us is safe, and one of us will get the information needed.”

“I’ll head for auxiliary control,” said Compton.

“I’ll stay, since Shelton’s better with computers,” said Ridgeway.

The group split up, and Shelton turned a corner. Suddenly the lights shut off.

“What the—? Ow!” Shelton ran into a wall. “What the hell?”

The intercom opened up. “There’s been a technological failure,” Tinner announced. “The base’s systems have shut down.”

Shelton swore extremely loudly. He turned and ran back down the hallway.

He finally met back up with Ridgeway. “Shelton?” he asked. “What’s happened?”

“I should have known Tinner wouldn’t let us get off easy,” he responded. We need to get to the fusion reactor.”

“Do you know your way there without lights?” asked Ridgeway.


After some time, Ridgeway said, “this doesn’t feel like the way to the fusion reactor.”

“It’s not. The reactor is below us. We’ve got to grab something first.”

They reemerged in the AWTR. Shelton felt around the various weapons, muttering to himself as he tried to get the right one.

“What are you looking for?” asked Ridgeway impatiently, as a bolt of electricity shot out of the rifle Shelton.

“Got it,” Shelton smiled. “An electric rifle. We might need the electricity for a juice-up.”

“Great. Now what?”

Shelton grabbed any other weapon. “Shoot a hole through the floor.”

“What if I hit the reactor?”


Ridgeway blasted a hole for them on the far side of the room. Then he dropped through, followed by Shelton.

Firing the electric rifle once for light, Shelton made his way to the rector. “Hmm. Running fine. Something’s stopping the power from flowing to the rest of the base.”

“What could do that?”

“The CPU. Luckily it’s not far from here.”

At the CPU, Shelton found the problem. “How creative. He pretty much just turned the thing off.”

“Can you turn it on?”

“Done. It’ll take a while to reach a power level sufficient to actually start powering the base, but we’ll be in business soon.”

The intercom turned on again. “This is Compton. I see you’ve turned the power back on. Good work. But we’ve got a bit of a problem. I made my way to auxiliary control and found the source of the poison gas. It’s the sublevels, and the gas has already infected this half of the base. I’ve used the blast doors to seal your half off, but there’s still one doorway I couldn’t seal. I’m now trapped in auxiliary control, but know that the gas isn’t flowing nearly as fast.”

Shelton and Ridgeway had escaped the fusion reactor. “I wish we could say thanks,” said Shelton. “We need to get back to the main control room.”

They crossed through several hallways. In one, Shelton heard a humming in one corner. He turned, curious.

Auto-turret fire blasted the spot where he’d been standing milliseconds before.


Ridgeway tried to return fire, but couldn’t see where the turret was. They sprinted down the hallway, auto fire peppering the floor behind them.

They ducked around the corner, panting.

“Why did the auto turrets suddenly fire at us?” panted Ridgeway.

“Beats the hell out of me.” Shelton peeked back around, and then ducked his head back. “There are like eight more from here to the control room. We’ll never make it.”

The lights suddenly flickered back on. “Power must have reached a high enough level.”

“Cool, now I can see.” Ridgeway fired at the turret, destroying it.

Compton’s voice came over the speaker. “Shelton, Ridgeway. I see you on my sensors. Readings indicate a virus has turned the base against us. I can’t eradicate it from here.”

“Looks like a job for us,” Shelton groaned.


“Back at the CPU. Guess the electric rifle I left there will come in handy after all.”

Three hallways later, Shelton unplugged the CPU, removed the circuit panel’s outer covering, and gave the flow wirings a good zap. “There. No virus can survive that.”

“No real virus. Remember this base can do whatever Tinner wants it too.”

“Touché,” agreed Shelton discarding the rifle. “But there’s nothing else I can do.”

They continued running down hallways.

“This next hallway will have an auto turret,” warned Shelton. “We’ll see if Tinner paid attention in mechanics class.”

Sure enough, the next auto turret they encountered ignored them. They made to keep going.

“Shelton, Ridgeway!” yelled Compton through the intercom. “Don’t go that way! The gas has invaded the main base hallway! Find protection! Quick!”

“This way!” said Shelton.

“You’re going the way he said not to!”

“Hold your breath!”

Shelton turned the corner, and saw the end of the corridor was filled with wispy, yellow gas. He turned another corner away from it, making sure not to breathe, and saw his destination: The Double Helix Eatery.

Ushering Ridgeway through the door, he slammed it shut and locked it.

“Will that door keep the gas out?” asked Ridgeway.

“No. Unlike laboratories, the café has never needed to prevent its substances from escaping.”

“Then what are we—”

“The walk-in freezer! It’s airtight!”

They ran over to the freezer and locked themselves in.

“Are we safe?” asked Ridgeway.

Shelton looked around. “Yes. We’re safe.”

They looked at the small glass window. They saw the café filling with wispy yellow gas, trapping them in the freezer.

“Uhh, Shelton? What are we going to do now?”

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 4, 2009 03:23 AM (GMT)

“Can we find that emergency release that’ll turn the freezer off?” asked Ridgeway, shivering. “It’s getting pretty cold.”

“We can’t. The emergency release will also unlock the door, and I’d prefer the door to stay just like it is.”

As he said that, there was a knock at the door. Both men turned, surprised.

Tinner stood, staring in through the small window. He was smiling.

“Why isn’t the gas—?” asked Ridgeway.

“It’s not programmed to kill him.” Shelton crossed to the window. “What do you want, Tinner?”

Tinner tapped his ear and shrugged his shoulders.

“He can’t hear you,” said Ridgeway.

“Yeah, I figured that much,” snapped Shelton.

Tinner pulled a post-it note pad and a pencil out of his pencil, wrote something, and stuck it to the window.

Congratulations. You survived Scenario #2. Now can you tell me where the gas originated?

Shelton breathed on the window to fog it up and started writing.

F . . . U . . . C . . .

Tinner shook his head and continued writing on a new post-it. He posted it.

Luckily Compton already told me. It was the sublevels. Are you ready for scenario 3?

“Oh, yeah!” exclaimed Shelton exasperatedly. “Locked in a freezer with no hope of escape! We’re totally ready!”

Tinner seemed to grasp his meaning. Writing another post-it, he said: Once of the ice packs in there is a code pad. Type the word GLORY.

Shelton looked around. “Is he having us on?”

“No,” said Ridgeway, studying the ice pack. “This one’s got numbers on it.”

“Well, type ‘glory’ in, then.”

“It’s numbers, not letters.”

“Treat it like a cell phone,” snapped Shelton. “45679!”

A small section of the wall slid back.

“Is there one of these in the real Pelvanida?” asked Ridgeway, walking down and finding himself in a laboratory.

“I doubt it,” said Shelton. “Labs don’t come with armories.”

“I’m glad this one does, though,” said Ridgeway, abandoning his experimental gun for an M16. “I was low on ammo.”

Shelton scanned the code. “I can’t tell what the third scenario is going to test—” He broke off suddenly.

“What?” asked Ridgeway. “What is it?”

The ground suddenly started shaking. Shelton lost focus on what he was reading. Plaster fell off the walls.

“Let’s get up to higher ground!” cried Ridgeway.

Once back on the ground floor, Shelton could hear the sound of rain outside.

“What did you see in the code?” asked Ridgeway.

“There was more code than necessary in regards to unhooking us from the machine,” said Shelton. “I think he’s got something extra programmed in here.”

“Could you tell what it is?”

“No,” Shelton rubbed his head. “And new code has pushed it off the screen. I’ll have to ask Tinner about it before the test ends.”

He realized he was still rubbing his head. “How long have we been in here?”

Ridgeway checked his watch. “A little over two hours.”

“Good. We’re out in one more.”

A deep rumble ripped through the air.

“That sounded like thunder,” said Ridgeway.

“Seems a storm is involved somehow in our next scenario.”

Ridgeway made for the door back into the main hallway, but Shelton stopped him. “Just because the scenario is over, doesn’t mean the gas has gone away.”

“Then how do we get anywhere?”

“We have to travel through adjacent laboratories.”

As they traveled from lab to lab, Ridgeway asked, “What do you think the objective is for this one?”

“I don’t know. I hope he doesn’t expect us to stop a storm.”

“Have any of the scientists worked on something that would do that?”

“Not that I—” Shelton trailed off as they entered the next lab. Somebody was there.

Dr. Johnson Zenarchis rose out of his chair, eyes flashing. “What are you doing in here?”

Shelton and Ridgeway looked at each other. They were at a loss for words.

“Uh, Mr. Zenar—”

“Get out! Get out of my lab!”

Shelton and Ridgeway quickly left.

“What’s he doing here?” asked Ridgeway.

“Beats me. I didn’t think there were any personnel other than us.”

“We need to get through his lab.”

“I know.”

“I could shoot him,” Ridgeway offered.

Shelton shook his head. “Let’s not be hasty. I’ll try talking to him.” Shelton cautiously slid the door back open.

Zenarchis hadn’t sat down, and this time had a pistol out. “I warned you to stay out of my office,” he hissed.

Ridgeway shot him. Repeatedly. “Sorry,” he said, as the body fell to the floor. “It was a reflex.”

Shelton shook his head. “It is going to be so awkward talking to him in real life now.”

A radio cackled on Zenarchis’ belt. “Shelton?” said Tinner’s voice. “Come in.”

Shelton picked it up. “This is Shelton.”

“Since you’ve obtained this radio, you must have gained Zenarchis’ confidence. Congratulations.”

Shelton looked at the body. “Uh, thanks.”

“This scenario is designed to test your intuition. This base is now staffed with a few select personnel. One of them is actually an enemy spy with an alternate agenda. Find him, figure out what he plans to do, and stop him.”

Serris - August 4, 2009 03:39 AM (GMT)
Truth be told, I like this story better than Card of Ten. It just seems more in line with the Darwin's Soldiers than Card of Ten.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 4, 2009 08:36 PM (GMT)

The radio was silent.

“Well, this shouldn’t be too hard,” said Shelton. “Just find which staff member Tinner doesn’t like.”

Ridgeway rolled his eyes. “Can we be sure Zenarchis wasn’t the spy?”

“Didn’t sound like it. And if he was, we pretty effectively ended his agenda.”

“How do we find the others?”

“Hmm. Wait!” Shelton realized. “I can read this programming!” He held up the screen and examined it. “Alright, the other personnel are still being generated. Write these coordinates down,” he said quickly.

Afterwards, Ridgeway checked the paper. “Three coordinate sets.” he said.

Shelton sat down in Zenarchis’ chair and brought up the base schematics. “All right, these are set in the infirmary, the electrician’s closet, and the main control room.”

“Which are we closest to?”

“Electrician’s closet. We probably should go there anyway, to make sure the storm isn’t affecting the power grid.”

Another earthquake hit the base as they went down a flight of stairs to a minor hallway.

“What now?” asked Ridgeway.

“We can’t go the normal way; it’s filled with gas. We’ll need to take the air vents.”

“But won’t they be filled with gas? They are air vents.”

“If Compton was successful in sealing off the gas-infected areas, he would have sealed the air vents off. Otherwise the gas would be everywhere by now.”

Shelton pried the vent off the wall. “Hmm. Not dying of lethal poisoning. I think we’re safe.”

He crawled into the air vents, Ridgeway following him.

There wasn’t much room to breathe, and Shelton wasn’t a small man, but he knew he had to reach the electrician room. Ridgeway, who was shorter, was having a much easier time of it.

Suddenly, there was another earthquake. The vents creaked around them.

“Shelton?” asked Ridgeway nervously. “Are we over a non-infected section?”

“We’re over the main hallway. Absolutely an infected section.”

The vent creaked.

“Shelton? The seal has ruptured. Gas is coming through.”

Shelton’s blood ran cold. “Go, go! Faster!”

They clambered and clanked through the air vent, panting and slipping. Shelton could hear Ridgeway’s M16 ramming against the top of the vent. “Ridgeway! You should probably ditch the gun!”

Ridgeway didn’t answer. Shelton couldn’t look back.

Finally, Shelton found the exit they needed. Elbowing the seal off, he crashed into the staff room.

Shoving a table so he could look back in, Shelton peered down the vent. “Ridgeway? Ridgeway!”

He couldn’t see him. But he did see plumes of gas wisping towards him.

He left the staff room and escaped into the nearest laboratory.

“Tinner, I hope you’re happy,” he muttered into the radio. “We lost Ridgeway.”

No answer.

Shelton reached the electrician’s closet and stepped in. Ng, the head electrician, was there.

“Hey, Martin, how’s the—”

Another earthquake.

“It’s good,” he said, grabbing onto the grid for support. “Holding. Storm ain’t helping nothing.”

“I bet.” Shelton wasn’t positive what to do now. “Hey, Martin, are you a spy?”

“A what?” Ng looked at him, surprised.

“Sorry, never mind, I was just—” Shelton looked over Ng’s shoulder at the panel. “Marty, look out!”

The circuits sparked with electricity. Ng fell backward, his hands raw.

Shelton scanned the panels. “The generator just got struck by lightning. Half the systems have overloaded and shut down.”

Ng looked at his hands. “I can’t do anything. My hands are burnt.”

“I’ll go,” said Shelton. “We need to reroute all systems to the backup generator. If you head to the infirmary, somebody’s there.”

Shelton left the room and strafed the main hallway, making for the fusion reactor. Before he got there, he realized the way was blocked by a gas-filled hallway.

“All right,” he muttered to himself. “Time to stop working around this gas and get free rein of the base again.”

He headed back for the electrician closet. Ng was still there. “Ng, is there an emergency station nearby?”

He nodded. “Three doors down.”

Shelton found a gas mask, a fire ax, a AED, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and a haz-mat spill kit. Taking the gas mask and the fire ax, he made his way into the gas-filled hallway.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 6, 2009 04:38 AM (GMT)
The fusion reactor was toast. Shelton needed to get to a control room. He decided to head for auxiliary control to check on Compton.

He banged on the door. “Compton! This is Shelton! Are you in there?”

No answer.

“I’m cutting this door down if I don’t get a response now! Compton!”

Hearing nothing, Shelton smashed the door down with his fire axe and entered. He found the room filled with gas. The earthquakes must have punctured the room’s integrity. Compton lay dead in the corner, but the room was still functional. Shelton rerouted power to the reserve generator, and used the sensors. The storm was gaining power.

Shelton’s head was definitely hurting now. He hated being right.

Something was odd. Even with the high power readings of the storm, the highest reading was coming from a spot in the main control room. A person.

Shelton didn’t know why a person would have a high energy reading, but he knew that it was his only lead. He had to check it out.

Other than him, only one other dot was moving. It was probably Tinner. Relieving Compton of his pistol, Shelton made a short stop that way.

Tinner was standing unprotected in the middle of the gas-filled hallway. He turned when he heard Shelton. “Ah, ingenious. I was wondering when—” He realized Shelton had the pistol pointing at him.

“We’re going to the control room. You’re coming with me.”

Tinner smiled. “Fire away. The pistol is part of the simulation, and designed not to interact with me. The bullet will fly right through.”

Shelton lowered it. “All right, what if I just sock you?”

Tinner put his hand through Shelton’s chest. “This world isn’t real, Shelton. It’s seemed like you and the others are together in here, but remember you are alone in your solitary confinement chair. The men you’ve been working with are avatars programmed to be exactly where they are in their worlds, just as you were an avatar in theirs. I’ve permitted you to touch each other. My avatar is slightly different.”

Shelton’s head hurt worse. “Don’t tell me you don’t feel the headaches. Exactly what I warned would happen is happening. We need to get out of here.”

“I feel nothing. It’s psychosomatic.”

“You’re lying.” Shelton turned and headed for the control room. Tinner followed him.

Eventually Shelton was back in clean air. He removed the gas mask but kept it around his neck.

“What are you going to do, Shelton?” Tinner called, as Shelton approached the control room. “Shoot whoever you find in there?”

“Are you kidding?” said Shelton. “I couldn’t hit a barn.” He swung the door open.

James Zanasiu turned around. “Dr. Shelton. What are you doing here?”

Shelton whipped him across the face with the pistol. Pointing the pistol at the control boards, he shot each and every one.

“Rudy, what are you doing?” cried Tinner.

“Whatever he was working on, it won’t survive this,” Shelton responded.

“Rudy, look behind you!”

James had pulled a black box out his shirt, and snapped a wire inside it. He glared at Shelton, blood dripping from his chin. “I’ll see you in hell.”

Serris - August 6, 2009 05:45 AM (GMT)
Ooh. Cool. Dr. Zanasiu gets a new interpretation.

Keep up the good work!

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 7, 2009 01:17 AM (GMT)
Shelton grabbed the box and opened it. “It’s an explosive.”

“A very powerful explosive,” agreed Tinner. “Set to go off in one minute.”

Shelton glared. “Suddenly Mr. Helpful, eh? What do you propose I do with it?”

Tinner looked unsure. “I had expected you to shoot James, not let him live long enough to arm it.”

Shelton rubbed his head harder. “I have an idea.”

Staggering out of the room, Shelton made for the hallway.

“Don’t forget your gas mask!” called Tinner. “Hate to see your journey end on such an anticlimax!”

Cursing loudly, Shelton put it on, then ventured into the hallway. Another earthquake almost caused him to fall.

“…30…29…28…” Tinner helpfully counted down behind him.

“Shut up.”

“It’s a pity you’re not invulnerable like me,” continued Tinner, unabashed. “Being in an explosion is actually quite exciting. Sometimes I turn this machine on just to set off that bomb, watch the flames destroy everything but me. Very meditative.”

“Not this time you won’t,” Shelton snapped back, “or I’ll fail your project. Which I have half a mind to do anyway.”

Shelton had reached Dr. Kerzach’s lab. He stumbled over to the supply closet.

“Dr. Kerzach?” asked Tinner. “Dr. Kerzach was working on…”

“Small Hadron Colliders,” said Shelton. “Mini black holes.” Finding one, he hooked it up to the wall and charged it up.

“Wait, Shelton! They won’t work! I never programmed the machine to work one of those!”

Shelton threw the programming screen at him. “Well, you better make the game work one of those, or this half of the base is gonna go up in flames!”

Shelton had his SHC ready. He stared at Tinner, who was hitting buttons furiously. Tinner grimaced, shaking his head.

“Head hurt?”

Tinner ignored him. “Shelton, the programming isn’t supposed to be altered mid-scenario. I can’t predict what will happen when I do this.”

“I can predict what will happen if you don’t! Do it!” Shelton yelled at him.

The SHC flared to life. Shelton chucked the bomb through it and shut it down.

For a few moments, both men paused, and looked around the room. Nothing happened.

“Bruce?” asked Shelton. “How long have we been in here?”

“Three hours,” said Bruce. “Exactly.”

“Then why isn’t this ending? You said to win we had to find the spy and foil his plan. We did that! We’re done! Why isn’t the game ending?”

Serris - August 7, 2009 01:50 AM (GMT)
Awesome! My heart rate actually increased for a moment. A delicious high octane thriller.

On a side note, you made a little mistake, gauss guns do not fire electricity; they use a series of magnetic coils switched on and off in a sequence to accelerate a projectile. Of course, I never said if the gauss guns are the previous type I mentioned (coilguns) or if they are railguns (use a projectile to bridge two conductive rails, creating an induced field that accelerate the projectile). On a side note, I am making it canon that the "small arms" gauss guns are coil guns.

Nevertheless, much power is needed to fire them, so it is feasible that Shelton would use the power pack to deliver the required jolts to the fusion reactor and the mainframe.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 7, 2009 03:22 AM (GMT)
Oh, my bad. I have no weaponry experince or knowledge, and in the RP Zachary "fired a bolt of electricity" out of one, so I assumed it worked like Tom Swift's electric rifle. Probably a bad assumption, but I don't know of any weapon that would work better. Do you know something that would be more feasible?

Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you're enjoying it!

Serris - August 7, 2009 07:04 AM (GMT)
I have the entire RP archived and I did a search. Nowhere did Zachary fire a bolt of electricity from any weapon.

However, since laser weapons consume large amounts of power, Shelton could use the power cells from a laser rifle to deliver the short burst of electricity that he used to reactivate the fusion reactor and to wipe the computer's memory.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 7, 2009 08:06 AM (GMT)
Huh. You're right. I could have sworn I read that, but I did a quick scan too, and I didn't see it.

Compton took the laser rifle with him already, so I changed Shelton's weapon to a more ambiguous "electric rifle." It was the experimental testing zone, anyway.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 7, 2009 07:31 PM (GMT)
The whole base was shaking. This wasn’t an earthquake, the storm had reached hurricane proportions. But even that paled in comparison to the thundering migraine in Shelton’s head.

Even Tinner didn’t bother trying to hide it. Rubbing his temples furiously, he cried, “Three hours is up! We should be reviving back in real Pelvanida!”

“Well, we’re not!” Shelton grabbed the screen back and read the code ripping up the page. “I’m seeing codes from all over the place, the enemy fighters, the gas…” He trailed off. He’d noticed the odd readings he’d seen after Scenario 2.

“What?” asked Tinner, stepping forward, but Shelton spun around and took a swipe at him. His hand went through, and Shelton went sprawling.

Shelton tried to get to his feet. “You tricked us,” he spat out. “You said the thug was the only one whose memory was going to get wiped. This thing says that every chair except yours will wipe our memories when we’re removed from the machine!”

Tinner said nothing.

“Then,” Shelton continued, squinting to keep reading, “it’ll stimulate the pleasure part of the brain, convincing us that the test run was an extremely enjoyable success, not the mind-wrenching nightmare it’s so far been!” Shelton staggered to his feet and tried another unsuccessful strike.

Tinner sighed and nodded his head. “You’re right. I knew of this problem, and couldn’t find a way to counteract it, so I found a way to cover it up. But whatever’s happening now, I’m not responsible for us still being here!”

“Oh, you’re responsible,” glared Shelton, “just not directly.”

Suddenly a radio went off. It wasn’t Shelton’s. “Dr. Tinner. Come in.”

Tinner took a radio out of his pocket. “Biff, what’s going on?”

“There’s been a change of plans. Welcome to Scenario 4, where we see what you’ve learned for the last three hours.”

“What are you talking about? What’s going to happen?”

“Oh, just an enemy attack during a neuro-gas breakout in a tropical storm. Your objective this time is to survive. Good luck.”

“Biff, wait!”

The radio cut out.

“Bruce, what just happened?” asked Shelton.

Tinner looked pale. “He’s combined them. He’s combined all three scenarios into one death match. With us as the targets.”

The walls started cracking. The hurricane was forming into a cyclone.

“Tinner, where’s Biff?”

“My laboratory,” said Tinner.

“Great, then we need to get there.”

“No, you stay here. I can’t be injured, so I’ll go.” Tinner flung open the door and strode into the hallway. Gunfire echoed down the hallway at him. Tinner fell to the floor.

“Bruce!” Shelton stuck his pistol around the corner and fired randomly. He doubted he hit anything, but the enemy retreated.

Tinner was hit in the arm. He tried to move it, and cried out.

“I guess Biff made sure you weren’t invulnerable anymore.” Shelton tried to help him to his feet. His hands went through him. “Hey, I still can’t touch you!”

Tinner looked dizzy. “I’m just an avatar. Just like you’re an avatar to me…programmed to be right where I am…and where you are…”

“That’s nice, Bruce. Now get up.”

Tinner shook his head. “Hurts,” she said.

The enemy came back around the corner. Shelton opened fire, using the last of his ammo. They retreated again.

“Bruce, get the hell up! Now!”

Ever so slowly, Tinner got to a sitting position, then to his feet. “Ow,” he said.

“Your arm?”

“No, my head.”

“My head hurts too, but we’ve got to keep going! Limp that way!”

The storm had caused major damage to the building, which was why the hallway no longer had knockout gas or a ceiling. Stinging rain beat against them until they escaped through a door on the other side.

Just as he shut the door, Shelton heard the enemy fighters return fire. They were back, and they knew where Shelton and Tinner had gone. No doubt they would be following them.

Shelton saw gas seeping through the next door. “Hold your breath, Tinner.”

Tinner shook his head. “I won’t make it.”

Shelton undid his gas mask and held it out. “Take this. But dammit, you’re going to have to move!”

Shelton opened the door and led the way into the hallway. The gas was everywhere. Shelton made his way to the next room. Then the next one.

“Here,” said Tinner. “It’s here.”

The door stood in front of him, Bruce Tinner’s name on it.

Shelton balled his lab coat in his mouth and breathed once. He didn’t know if it was enough, but he didn’t seem to be dying. Removing the gag, he spoke once. “Go.”

Tinner stepped forward, but suddenly a green plane of light came out of the wall, coming at them slowly.

“Shelton,” said Tinner. “I don’t know if I’m immune to the green light any more. If it hits me, I could…I could…”

Shelton didn’t have enough air to respond. Water started seeping from the ceiling. The storm was breaking in.

Tinner watched the green light coming at him. His eyes were wide. When it hit him, Shelton dove forward, tumbling through Tinner’s body as the green light passed over.

Shelton slid on the water-coated ground, crashing into the far wall. He looked back. Tinner crumpled to the door, dead.

Shelton opened the door and slid through, gasping as he shut the door before the gas could get in.

Biff stood at the control panel. He had one hand on the control panel, and the other held a Luger pistol pointed straight at Shelton.

LettuceBacon&Tomato - August 8, 2009 10:20 PM (GMT)
Aaaand....the finale! This was loads of fun to write, and maybe more will come in the future!

“You’re not Dr. Tinner,” said Biff.

Shelton nodded. “I know. Biff, you need to turn the machine off.”

Biff shook his head. “You don’t understand. I can’t go back to the real world. I won’t go back.”

Shelton looked at the control panel. “I take it you’re not just a gangster like Bruce said you are.”

Biff shook his head. “I’m a hacker. Sentenced to ten years in jail for viewing Top Secret government files.”

“How did you get to know Bruce?”

“He was involved in those government files. The secret project it was talking about. He said he’d try to get me a reduced sentence if I helped him complete his project.”

Behind them, someone started banging on the door. The enemy troopers had shown up.

Shelton didn’t take his eyes off Biff. “And you didn’t trust him.”

Biff shook his head. “I can’t leave this machine. They’ll lock me up, and I can’t go to jail.”

Shelton rubbed his head. “Do you feel that pounding headache? It’s only going to get worse, to the point where you, me, and anyone else who’s awake may very well die. You can’t live in here.”

“I can’t live out there either.” The pistol shook. “I’d rather have a bit of a headache than spend a decade in the clink.”

The troopers started shooting the door.

“Biff, if you’re a hacker, then you know how this works!” cried Shelton. “How do you plan on living in here? There’s no food, there’s no water, you can’t even fall asleep or you’ll never wake up until the machine is off! Look,” continued Shelton, as the door started splintering. “If you let this machine run its course, then we will eventually, whether you like it or not, be revived but our memories will be wiped! If you let me at that thing right now, I can make sure we remember what’s happened in here! I don’t think you like the idea of getting your memory wiped any more than I do!”

The soldiers increased their efforts.

Biff pointed his gun at the door, then Shelton, and then back at the door. Finally, he dropped the pistol, fell to his knees, and cradled his head, sobbing. Shelton ran over to the control panel, located the memory wiping command, and deleted it.

A scripted box appeared. PASSWORD? It asked.

Shelton swore loudly. He tried Tinner, Bruce, Glory. He tried Tinner’s middle name, Tinner’s birthday, today’s date…

The soldiers had successfully punched through the door. One of them shot at Biff, who fell crying. The yellow mist wafted into the room.

“Come on,” muttered Shelton. “It’s got to be something Tinner would never expect me to guess…”

He typed Shelton.

Everything started fading. Shelton was waking up.

“Well, son of a bitch.”


Shelton realized he was sitting in his sensory deprivation chair. The visor was black. He ripped it and the wires off and leapt out of the chair.

Tinner’s assistants had already removed the others from the chairs. Finney was clutching his face, Biff held his side, and Tinner was unconscious, though none of them had any actual injuries. Compton and Ridgeway were gasping for air.

“Dr. Shelton!” exclaimed Smithson, looking up. “We didn’t think any of you were—”

“By the powers given me as scientific advisor,” interrupted Shelton, swaying slightly, “I have decided not to clear the project.”

And then he collapsed.


Shelton sat in a hospital bed in the infirmary. Down the row was Biff, then Tinner. Compton, Ridgeway, and Finney had already been released. Tinner was still asleep. No permanent damage had been done to any of the participants, but doctors wouldn’t let them leave until the migraines had subsided.

Shelton was eating lemon sherbet. “It’s odd how this hospital stuff never tastes like normal ice cream. Maybe it’s not the ice cream, but me, eh?”

Biff said nothing.

“Hey,” Shelton leaned over. “I’m sorry you had to leave your virtual world, but I hope you at least understand that you had no choice. And we wouldn’t be having this conversation if you hadn’t let me turn off the memory subroutine.”

Biff sighed. “I know.”

“You know,” Shelton lowered his voice, “This may not have worked out your way, but maybe we can make it worth something. Could you tell me what was in those top secret documents you read?”

Biff turned and met Shelton’s eyes. He let out a slight smile. “Sorry, I’m not going to do that. But you may find out on your own someday.”

“Mr. Carlo?” The nurse entered the room, flanked by two police officers. “You’ve been cleared to go.”

Biff got out of bed. “Thanks, nurse.” Looking at Shelton one more time, Biff left the room.

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