Yeah, I'm way
overdue again. On the bright side, this episode brings us a major
reveal, though I imagine some of you have probably twigged to it
already. Also, a fun bit of trivia related to me by a reader and dear
friend: "mouchoir" is French for "handkerchief". So apparently that
computer in Transgressions is owned by Jean St. Snotrag. ...Anyway,
it's time to head to the British Embassy at Dupont Circle, where we'll
be meeting with Senator Erin Burr of the Citizens' Freedom Front!
It seems ironic that this charming, refined, old-world
parlor is the waiting room for the revolution - the outer office of the
head of the CFF's so-called Shadow Government, Erin Burr.
Multi-Server Unit (silver guy): You tentatively approach the Charles
Multi-Server Unit. Wrinkled skin and sagging muscles reveal the unit's
age, but it is powerfully built.
pants): A young Asian woman is near a flesh-and-steel monstrosity.
Literati (couch): A dangerous-looking man casts a withering,
unforgiving glare at you, making it clear that not everyone in the
Front welcomes your presence.
Talk to Vivid
You've got to be
kidding me. That can't be what it looks like.
Can be, and is.
What's the matter? Never seen a meat before?
I've never been this close to a living one before. Their skin's real,
and yet the machines... look! The control panel rises and falls as he
respirates. Doesn't he spook you?
Not me, but maybe
that's 'cause we're sorta family. Did my fetal time in a Fecund 5085!
You look fine. Any
negative side effects?
What do you remember about your mother's womb? Do you recall how that
affected you? Hell, I've got time-lapse film of my gestation.
Yeah, I remember
reading about it. "Science makes war on motherhood". That was the
feeling, I think.
Takes some adapting, but he's got his uses once you're onto him. Knows
what he's doing in the embassy commissary. Great omelettes.
(Charles is a
multi-server, isn't he?)
Charles is over sixty-eight years old. His hardware hasn't been
upgraded in fifty years, so it's clunky, and his organic tissue has
aged...but you're not so bad, are you, Charles?
System memory and processing speed functioning at 89.4% capacity. White
blood count is normal. No infections or serious illness to report.
Freaks the hell out of me. Solux may be evil, but I can't be sorry it
put the meats on cold storage. I mean, just look at this hideous thing!
Talk to Charles
His flesh is so
real, so human, but then there are those machines in his abdomen. It's
(Can we have
information on you, Charles?)
Yeah, Charles. Your
I am a Charles-class Multi-Server Unit. My hardware is powered by 400
megahertz of processing power and a twelve-terabyte drive. Gib-Tek's
free association modules and Pandar Labs creative memory cells serve,
respectively, as primary operating system and storage. My wetware was
spawned from New Corporeal's Genesis Genome and grown in a hothouse
Federal Center. Wetware incubation occurred over a seven-month period.
Quality assurance tests completed. Current diagnostics: Major organs:
73% efficacy (rating reflects minor heart blockage, development of
possibly precancerous polyps along wall of large intestine).
Organelles, 89% efficacy (rating reflects deteriorations in lymphatic
system). Skeletal system: 100% efficacy. Circulatory system...
400 MHz?! I've used
cell phones with more raw clock than Chaz here. Must be one hell of an
(Can we have a
list of services?)
I don't think so,
Go ahead, Charles.
Selected services catalog for Charles-series multi-server unit. Last
upgrade December 2048. Selected list, areas of specialty:
automechanics, cosmetology, epistemology, heating and refrigeration,
palmistry, and wok cookery. I am a licensed EMT. Language proficiency:
major European, African and Asian tongues, dialect upgrades available,
both Mandarin and Cantonese with assimilator modules for adaptation to
local variants. My Lexicon processors are fashioned from a
mech-cortical tissue matrix for rapid adaptability. I am a skilled
raconteur, programmed with fictional superstructures, symbols, imagery,
and themes particular to dozens of cultures.
Some other time,
Charles. We've just met, you know.
Talk to Charles
It'll take me a
couple meg of text to sell me on this thing. I still think he's
Sorry, Charlie! She
doesn't mean it.
Yes, I do! Don't
apologize for me. This thing doesn't have feelings.
Yes, don't apologize
for her. I don't have feelings, unless you want me to.
Talk to Derek
So, you're Eshanti
and Braque, the rogue ARC agents who've got the Five Fingers shaking
like palsied old women.
You got, it, chief.
Doing your job for you.
Maybe you are. Did
they check these two, Vivid?
Stripped 'em and
scanned 'em. Any weapons were stripped of ammo. Senator Burr wants to
You make one false
move near the Senator, and I'll kill you.
We're on the same
side, hard guy.
I don't know that. I just see a couple of ARC agents standing in CFF
headquarters, and I get suspicious about how a couple of narcs took out
a scrub team.
I thought we passed
our initiation when we helped Xenon set up Solux.
I want him dead. How do we know you haven't tipped Solux about that
homing device you put on his vehicle? Xenon's too trusting. So's
Senator Burr, for that matter. I'll be watching; you should remember
that. Senator's through the door on the left. Luck for you, your fate
is in her hands and not mine.
Talk to Derek
Still haven't talked
to Burr yet, eh? I'm getting more suspicious all the time.
That's enough from
you, Booky McParanoid. Before we go meet the Senator, let's have a look
at the computer room, which is accessed through the door on the right.
Computer Room: Where CFF revolutionaries get to watch the
revo as it unfolds on holovids and internets, like the rest of the
country. It's also where they develop illegal computer soci-techs that
they'll need to implement when...and if...they ever overthrow Solux.
Internets! Do they
have rumors on them?
A woman works a keypad like a concert pianist. She seems determined to
make her dated machine work magic.
Talk to Katerina
This looks like a
command center. Is that right?
Good eye, chief.
You're working on a
Lex 6000? Little dated, isn't it?
Casing's from a Lex. I got the insides cranked. It could probably
handle a deck if there were anywhere in cyberspace worth going. This
kind of hardware isn't easy to come by. The Brits pony up what they
can, but the Hand limits tech transfers even in here. Just a matter of
time before the Hand stops respecting diplomatic immunity altogether.
Talk to Katerina
Whatever it is, ask
the Senator. She runs the show. I just work here.
OK, fair enough. At
least Katerina's more polite than Derek. We now head back out to the
waiting room, then through the left door.
Burr's Office: Erin Burr has left the elegant trappings of
an embassy conference room relatively untouched, as if to remind
herself that while it's meant to serve as her office, it's only
temporary, and to savor its plushness would be to overlook the fact
that there's a turgid revolution brewing outside.
Indeed. A turgid,
veiny, throbbing revolution.
Burr: The formidable Erin Burr sizes you up with the perceptive eye of
Talk to Erin Burr
Mr. Eshanti. Ms. Braque. Aldous Xenon has briefed me about your
midnight visitors. Never trust animals that eat their young or a
government that shoots its own people.
Right now we don't
have a lot of trust left for anybody, Senator.
You've proved to me
that you have your uses. For now, at least, I'm going to risk trusting
You won't regret it.
Desperate people can make loyal allies.
There is something you can help me with, something that has divided the
Front's leadership for years. It involves missing comrades. The current
efforts to strike at Solux are by no means our first. Our most
ambitious and perhaps reckless attempt occurred a few years ago, when
fifteen of our finest agents undertook a guerilla raid on the Pentagon.
Acting on intelligence from agents we have on the inside, the attack
force was to infiltrate the Pentagon, make its way along air ducts and
secured hallways to the Imperator's sanctum, and kill it.
They never made it to Solux. In their final transmission, Marcus
Vanders, the attack leader, reported that they'd discovered something
so...significant, so...disturbing in its implications that they didn't
trust explaining it over wireless transmission. Whatever it was caused
Vanders to immediately abort the mission and order a return here to the
embassy. The last we heard, they were engaged in a running firefight
with the Imperator's troops. Eight members of the attack team were
confirmed dead by Vanders before we lost contact with him.
You figure the Hand
is holding them prisoner? Maybe in hell?
It's possible. I'm
among those who think we should not give up hope of rescuing them until
we know they are dead.
Corpus delecti, eh?
You're the boss; why not lay down the law?
Because my staff is
divided over the issue. Because I haven't the people to spare on what
is probably a futile effort.
But now you've got
us. Surplus labor, eh? A little gravy.
You get the picture. As you fight to save yourselves, I'd like for you
to search for evidence...on Earth or in hell...of the attack team's
fate. In addition to Vanders, the unaccounted-for commandos are Harold
Balk, Leena Gordon, Vic Tavaleo, Mick Malone, Claudette Simeon, Frances
Robinson, and Czech Vilsoz.
We'll do what we
Report to me whenever you learn anything about the attack team, or
about anything else that might aid in the struggle against Solux and
against hell. You can usually find me in the command room.
That's all we can
get out of the Senator for now. I don't feel like dealing with the
Psionic League's sidequest parade just yet, so in the absence of any
other leads, let's go check out Dean Sterling the demon hunter.
Office: Gadzooks, but from the moment you enter this
room, there's little question that the occupant knows how to hunt. The
question is, does he know how to hunt demons? The rumor is, he does.
His rugged good looks and a few well-placed scars go well with the
outback outfit; he looks like a demon hunter.
Talk to Dean
Blimey! Didn't hear
you come in. Got lost in these old texts here; fascinating stuff. Are
you Eshanti and Braque, then?
You got it, ace.
How'd you know?
Got to keep abreast
of everyone on the demon trail. Figured we'd meet up sooner or later.
Well, what can I do for you, then?
We thought maybe you could give us a hand. We're trying to track down
why the Hand wants us dead. The trail seems to keep leading back to
demons...like Mr. Beautiful, for instance.
Blimey, there's a
bugger I'd like to bag! Got dreams of mounting his head on my wall.
We know what you
mean. Are they all like that?
Essentially, yeah. It's a question of degrees, though. Some are a bit
more approachable. Guy I'm working on now, for instance, fella name of
Asmodeus. If you can find him, you can walk right into his hell front
and chat up a storm with him. Finding him's the hard part, though.
Tell us about this
Asmodeus. You think we could get into Hell through him?
Lord, I imagine he'd take you there in an instant. He's always
recruiting people for his film projects; bugger makes snuff films
involving humans and demons, even a few beasties thrown in for good
measure. Ghastly creature, bad as any of them. Maybe not quite as
bright as Beautiful, though. In fact...well, no, I can't ask you to do
Well, it just occurred to me that you two would have the perfect in!
See the way to get to him is to have him recruit you for a film. See,
he knows me. Don't think my scarred old frame is exactly his cup of
tea, anyway...but you two...it just might work.
What's your plan?
Well, the first step is to track him. Moves his operation around a lot,
he does, but I'm following some leads to his whereabouts. Once I find
him, I've got a device guaranteed to take him out, and his hell pit
with him! Only thing is, you'd have to get there first...and then, of
course, there's the little trick of getting out again.
We're willing to
He's operating out of some abandoned storefront near Union Station. All
right, then, once you get to hell, you've got to hide this device and
get out quick. It's on a timer, activated the minute you engage the
suction device. You'll have about ten minutes.
activation of the suction device?
Now there's a quote
to take out of context.
That's right. You're
familiar with these little gizmos?
No. I mean, yes, I
guess. To tell you the truth, I never saw one before, I don't think.
Gid, how did you
No bother! You're aware, that's the main thing. That's all there is to
it. Then you activate your fannies out of there. I'll station myself
across the way, where I can see into his shop. I'll bring along my
blaster in case things get dicey while you're still on Earth. Won't be
much help if you run into trouble while you're...down under, so to
speak. Good luck to you, then!
We now have
Sterling's Device in the inventory, but it has no description when
examined. Asmodeus's Porn Studio has been added to the DC Map, so let's
Studio: With its props and various sets, it looks like
any normal film studio lot...and yet, there's something different about
it all when you realize porno-snuff films are made here.
(short demon): A troll-like servant of Asmodeus and his actors
obviously loves his work.
Dove (on desk): A hell porn queen is lounging about the studio. She is
conscious that she is displaying her wares at all times. Her slutty
splendor is swathed in Southern charm.
lean, mean, keen-tongued demon filmmaker. He can't be still even long
enough to view one of his own snuff films.
Hello there. I'm
Rutterkind. You're new...what's your name?
Rachel, and this is
Rachel, Master Gideon. May I serve you?
No thanks. We can't
talk. We're here to do a little business.
I'm in the business. Ten years! Yet, my days were never happier than
these last three in which I've had the pleasure of serving Mistress
How nice for you.
Oh, I've had an
illustrious career. Would you like to hear the highlights?
You can answer yes
or no here. The decision has no consequence beyond the different
responses you get from Rutterkind, but I'll go ahead and transcribe
both because I love you.
I started at the very bottom. It was nothing like the level of prestige
I've achieved now. I started just fetching towels for the lead in
"NeuroManservant". Now I'm strictly in the service of Mistress
Grinda...but I'm sure that something could be arranged, now that you're
with us. I'll check on it.
Well, that's really
No, no, I'll ask,
and I'll put in a good word for you. Don't be nervous. I'm sure you'll
be just fine!
Perhaps, if I may be
so lucky, we will one day have the pleasure of working together.
Talk to Grinda
Hi there, gorgeous!
Wanna be in pictures? Haven't chosen my co-star yet.
Well, as a matter of
fact, I am looking for...
I wasn't talkin' to
you, beefcake! I am addressin' this lovely young lady here.
Listen, it comes
down to this. We're looking to make some good money, fast. Can you use
both of us?
At the same, in fact. Use and abuse. You folks look pretty hard up.
That comes in handy 'round here, but you've also got to be versatile.
That's the name of the game here, sugar.
And what does that
hooves, horns, you name it.
Wait a minute. I
thought this was just straight smut.
Aw, relax, darlin'. They're just like us, except they don't go hidin'
what they're all about. They ARE lust, sugar, the real thing. Droolin',
snarlin', cloven, hopped-up flesh hounds.
Hey, Rach, do we
really know what we're getting into here?
Aw, it's not that bad. Asmodeus pays great money, but on the other
hand, none of these fiends have ever seen bathwater. Then there's the
pot bellies, the moltin', the belchin'. C'mon, sugar. Take a walk with
me on the dark side!
Talk to Asmodeus
Well, well, well! Look what the cat dragged in...and dressed so
fashionably! You gotta love that about young people. Whaddya, whaddya,
whaddya? You wanna be stars? You wanna see yourselves up on the big
screen, is that it? Speak to me, baby, I'm wanted on the set!
Well, my friend here
Whoa, baby, slow down. This side of beef is part of your package? Give
it to me straight. What's the deal? What's the skinny? Where's your
representation? Who you with? Whaddya, whaddya, whaddya?
We're looking for
Whoa, no shit, Sherlock! Everybody who comes in here is looking for
work. Everybody wants to be a star. Asmodeus, they say to me! Asmo,
baby, I'm hot! ...But really, they don't know "hot", you know what I
mean" Heh, heh, a little industry humor there. No, seriously, what kind
of experience you got?
That's OK, baby, don't worry about it. I can tell just by looking at
you that you're good. You got good bone structure, heh heh. You know
what I'm saying? 'Course, I'm gonna have to audition you. Why don't you
just have a seat on the couch here with me while your boyfriend hits
Both of us, or no
You two are killing me. All right, all right, don't worry about it. The
effects department can take care of it. Let's go down to the set and
see what you're made of. I got a plot going I could use you two in.
Standard contract, don't worry about it, we'll work out the fine print
later, no problem. You game?
We need to consult
with our, uh, agent.
Your what? You get your first role, and you got to talk it over with
your AGENT? Forget about it. There's a million more where you two came
from. Go, on scram.
Talk to Asmodeus
Come crawling back,
have you? They all come back to Asmo. I'm willing to give you one more
chance. You gonna take it this time?
Fabulous! Let's go
down to the set and see how you "emote". That's an acting term, heh.
Skull hat, Aztec
barbershop smock, you know the drill.
playground set D:
Office: Barely recognizable as a film office, it's even less
recognizable as a porn-film headquarters.
demon filmmaker seems to thrive on the infernal insanity of the hell
Talk to Asmodeus
All right, all right. Don't touch anything on the set, and don't let
any of this spook you. These people are all professional actors, eh?
Oh my God!
Take it easy, baby, it's all effects! Trust me, they don't feel a
thing. It's like falling off a log. Let me just go talk to this one
actor over here. He's hamming it up, doesn't wanna do his part the way
it's written. You know, some performers you just gotta stroke all the
time. Pamper, stroke, pamper, stroke, that's all I do around here! Be
right back, baby.
You got the device?
Where should we put it?
I don't know. Is
that his director's chair? Let's put it under there.
Hurry, he's coming
There's a bit of a
plot hole here. You can't take items from Earth into hell, or
vice-versa; this is reinforced by the fact that Gideon and Rachel have
separate inventories for the separate planes, and by some information
about hell we'll be discovering shortly. So, how did they bring
Sterling's widget with them to Asmodeus's pit? Ah, well, it's
ultimately of little consequence.
Hey, you're looking beautiful, baby! Hey, Beefcake, I told you, don't
touch nothing on the set. Now, let me set the scene for you. Being as
this is your first part, I'm gonna give you something easy; I just want
you to show me some pain. Got it? We'll work our way up to agony and
misery later. For now, just give me...pain. OK? Play around with it,
see what you come up with...then you get a little drunk and you land in
jail. Gaffer, get a grip! You gotta look for the union label. All's
well that ends well! Swell! Swell! Lights, camera, interaction!
What's going on?
He's talking to us like we're not here!
It's like he's
shorting out or something. Did you place the device?
No, he came back too
Suddenly, all hell
loose down (Local)
strange interlude, we find ourselves back in Asmodeus's earthly studio,
with the boss looking slightly the worse for wear.
Sterling: The intrepid demon hunter's bazooka is still
smoking as you come to consciousness. He's bagged another one.
Talk to Dean
Man, where the hell
I found you two in here hooked up to this bloody machine, Asmodeus
watching over you. I saw him hook you up through the window and I
didn't like the looks of things. I got a good shot off and down he
went! Fell over like a bull elephant hit with a tranq shot!
Yeah, he was acting
weird in hell. He just started jerking and stuttering...
Now it makes sense!
Look at him; he's an android!
WAS an android. Whatever he was, you sure took him out, Sterling. Man,
I hope I never get on your wrong side. What kind of gun are you using,
You only get one
shot with a demon. Better make it a good one.
But what did you do
to disrupt his system, and how come that made the whole place go
Got some weird news for you mates: I don't think you were in hell. I
mean, I found you unconscious, hooked up to these little gizmos here.
What? Hooked up to
these decks? Impossible!
Wait a minute, Gid, this is beginning to make sense! The android, the
whole place shaking up, the message just appearing in midair like
Blimey, you mean
hell was virtual? Naaaw! It's too incredible!
You said yourself, Asmodeus was already short-circuiting when you got
here. Somebody got into the system and planted a bug so it would crash!
The same person sent us that message!
You know, I think
you might be onto something, Rach. Unbelievable; all these
years...hell...virtual! What a SCAM!
But...who else knew?
Who sent us that message?
I think we'd better
get to Dante's and find out.
Absolutely incredible. The bloody government...look, let me know what
you find out. I've got to get back to my place. This changes
everything, except how dangerous the bloody Hand is.
We'd better take one
of these decks with us. Dante can help us figure this whole thing out,
and whoever this mystery person is.
Yeah, well, watch
your backs, mates. You now know what may be the most dangerous
information you could possibly know.
You do, too...but at least now we're more certain than ever that our
battle isn't just with a scrub team. It's with the entire Hand itself.
The Hand it is. I'm
gonna have to get myself a bigger gun! Go carefully, mates.
And there we have
our big reveal! Also, our very own psychopomp, which will doubtless
come in handy sooner than later. For now, though, we'd better go check
in with Dante, as per the suggestion of those mysterious flaming words.
Talk to Dante
Dante, we've had a
No kidding! I'm networking with a deepthroat who claims he's been
working from within the Pentagon! He says he's been in contact with
you. What's the story?
Something big. Could
change everything we know about hell.
It locked up! We were in a hell pit run by a demon called Asmodeus. The
whole thing...everything, except for us...locked up, and this
"deepthroat" contacted us in flaming letters!
What? A lockup? Get
Quality Assurance on the line! Bug free, they said it was.
Locked up? What's
that? You're babbling!
extraordinary, an unprecendented violation of physical laws. What did
Deepthroat tell you? We must contact him!
He said the psychopomps are really wireless decking units, that you can
access hell at will! He left an address..."garage"? What does that
mean? What is this...decks, addresses?
I wouldn't know
anything about decks. I'm just an old man with sore joints and bad
I've got some
guesses, but only Deepthroat can tell us what really happened.
Oh, shit. I think I
get it. Oh, man...
What are you
I'm thinking that hell may not be real at all, that it's an enormous,
complex virtual reality, that all these years of terror and suffering
were founded on a lie.
That's my past,
dammit. Can't an old man be left to die in peace?
Oh, man, they
didn't! Don't tell me...they outlawed the stuff and kept it all to
Kind of interesting
how they set that up, really. I don't believe the game ever comes right
out and says it, but if you think about it, all of the Hell technology
is likely rooted in some of the illegal stuff we've been learning
about; the hell VR is likely based on the Acti-Deck's parallax code,
and the real-world robotic demons are just meats. I dunno, I think it's
They could be even
more powerful than we thought.
More vulnerable, too. Damn, they made fools of us, Rachel! Reality
Containment's a colossal joke if Deepthroat tells us what I think he
If we talk to
Drexler, he just gives his usual ramble about refried beans and
pan-fried quails, but Dante has a bit of new dialogue.
Talk to Dante
I've been panning
for gold on the nets, but nothing's turned up on you two yet.
Keep trying; we
appreciate it. How's Drexler?
He's an interesting
old coot, but I gotta eyeball him long hours 'cause he keeps rigging my
Can't damn a man to Tartarus for trying to stay current. Tech jacks in
the warrens fetch a high price. I been making do for years with
insufficient amperes and sluggish clock speeds. I'd pay a fortune for a
multi-spectival poly-robust graphics system...
Hey, I'm hip to all that, but let me know the next time you plan on
tapping the heating unit's power supply to run an arc welder. The
coating on the wires melted into the floor!
Next time on IPAT: Hell, we use our newly acquired psychopomp to meet
the mysterious Deepthroat!