Experiment: Day 1
September 24th
Magnolia knocked on the door to Taylor’s office – there was no actual need to, but it was polite, and more importantly, gave him the opportunity to dismiss her before she could bother him. There was no response. She knocked twice more, then entered.
The office was in precisely the same state that she’d left it – he had stayed in his gym, obviously, and he hadn’t slept – there were no signs that he’d required his bed.
She placed the consolidated paperwork and notes down onto her side of the wide desk, checked her weapons, then walked into the gym.
Rapidly decaying training constructs littered the floor, as did liberal amounts of blood.
Taylor stood in the centre of the large room, one arm wrapped around the punching bag, the other hanging limply at his side, strands of long, bloody hair wrapped around his fingers.
He hadn’t acknowledged her, and for once, she was unsure if he knew she was there.
He hadn’t slept, that much was more than obvious from his posture. Agents needed very little sleep, and could generally miss a day or two without harm, but the fuckery of the mirrorfall was obviously far more draining than he wanted to let on.
She walked towards the armoury, which was far from its ordered state – in the few hours he’d demanded to have alone, sections had been ripped in the wall, brackets hung half-attached and bloody marks were everywhere.
She stepped in, and looked for the med packs that held the stimulants – if he intended on being awake, then he would want to be ready for anything.
‘Magnolia.’
She turned towards her commander – he’d shifted, there wasn’t a bloody trail, and she hadn’t heard him approach.
‘Sir?’
‘Detail.’
‘Sir, can I suggest-‘
‘Don’t suggest, do.’
She unzipped the pack, and handed him a half-litre wide-bottomed bottle. This one was best given the situation, a stimulant and a sports drink in one, it would help with the recovery as much as it would keep sleep at bay.
He took the bottle with the hand held matted hair. Blonde hair. Blonde human hair. She kept her expression neutral – the training constructs he used were rarely human – they didn’t provide enough of a challenge.
The hair, however, looked like it was a match for the woman who had started all this. In the interest of only providing him new information, she had skipped over the background information on Whitman, skipped learning what had happened to him, and only let herself focus on the problem of Mimosa.
No matter what had happened in the past, it wasn’t as dangerous as some untrained, undisciplined girl sitting in the basement with enough mirror to bring about an apocalypse.
He drank the contents of the bottle, then dropped it to the floor. ‘Detail.’
She kept eye contact with him, trying to ignore the wounds – he’d obviously used blackout protocols for some of past few hours – there were wounds that were still bleeding. He needed medical attention, at least what she could do, if not the techs – not that it was likely she would be able to convince him to see Jones any time soon.
He didn’t want care, he wanted intelligence, he wanted to know how to exploit the situation to reach its proper conclusion.
‘We have seventeen days to plan,’ she said. ‘The scholars tests will take that long, as will the full augmentation.’
‘How strong?’ he asked as he stripped the bindings from his fists.
‘Not a threat at all, sir. Thirty percent ability of a standard field agent, though the extended plan has views to reassess that and increase that over time, though the increase intervals are years apart. For now, thirty percent. She wouldn’t even be a challenge for me, sir. This experimental protocol does not have views towards combat application.’
He gave an affirmative grunt.
‘Punishment levels have been defined as one, three and six, with associated glitches to be induced at those levels.’
‘Why not seven?’
Magnolia struggled to remember what the paperwork had said. ‘It’s based on averages – as of the beginning of the quarter, those were the punishment levels that have been most commonly induced this year.’
‘And us?’
‘As yet the limit testing is largely undefined, we should expect definition to come later. For the moment, it’s freeform, testing exposure to various elements, weapons and physical limits. It’s dealer’s choice torture, sir, though there is a warning between each paragraph that the mirror is not to be damaged.’
He twitched.
‘if it helps to mitigate it any, sir, the protocol does seem to care more for the mirror than for the mistake.’
‘Doesn’t. The mistake still exists. She still-‘ He flicked the hair from his hand.
‘Sir?’
His gaze locked onto hers. ‘Did you read the other file?’
There was sanctuary in the truth. ‘I didn’t have time, sir, I felt it was more important to-‘
He raised his hand to stop her. ‘You know how to manage your time. It’s necessary for understanding. He’s doing it again. Worse. There’s mirror involved. It’s worse.’ He required tape and began to rewrap his hands. ‘Last time, we contained her, lockdown. Kept everyone outside safe, trapped the monster in here. Recruits died. Recruits died for no reason. Recruits were wasted.’
Her breath caught in her chest.
‘Mirror makes it worse. We can’t contain mirror. We can destroy it. It needs to be destroyed.’
He’d already reiterated this at least a dozen times since seeing the experimental protocol. It was difficult though – the mirror needed to be destroyed, in a way that didn’t implicate him, in a way that allowed him to continue operating as an agent. In way that let him live.
Even with the limit tests, there was still danger, as everything would be recorded, and everything would be judged. They needed a fool-proof plan, a fool-proof plan that could rid them of a fool’s creation. There would be ways. There was always a perfect murder when given enough time to plan.
‘Magnolia.’
‘Sir?’
‘Spar.’
‘Yes, sir.’