2020-03-12 - The Promise of Unity


Io Niven and Hank McCoy study the Unity Seed in SHIELD custody. A greater danger rears its ugly head.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Thu Mar 12 02:49:01 2020
Location: Jemma Simmons' Lab

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Theme Song



It might have come as something of a surprise for Io to get a text message from Hank McCoy, mainly because they didn't actually exchange contact info. Still, the text is pretty interesting:

Miss Niven, if you're still interested I have arranged for a visit as you requested. Let me know and I can get us both in.

Okay, there's really not many things that could fit that particular bill. Also, it might be good to know where he got her cel information! Granted, not her primary, probably one of many she has, but it is still not something that just anyone would be able to, or SHOULD be able to find.

It wasn't all that strange for Io to get random texts. USUALLY, though, it was from someone who'd given her name out on a fix-it job: 'go contact this chick, she's weird as hell but she can fix anything', would be the usual.

The fact that Hank contacts her on one of her fix-it lines, reserved solely for contacts on one-shot jobs and the like has her puzzled for a moment as to, indeed, how he got the number. But, she texts back only one thing: Where?

The mystery of how he got her info might be solved later. But, once given the address she hops on her old beat up motorcycle, a sweaty and mostly restored old Indian - a montage of parts from various years rather than a 'complete' bike as collector's would want, and heads to meet Hank at the designated locale.

The address given is a parking structure within easy walking distance of The Triskelion. SO yeah, pretty obvious what he's talking about, if that wasn't clear by implication already, that's just solid corroboration. Once she arrives she'd see him out front seated and reading as he waits for the girl to arrive.

He rises then, when she approaches him, offering a smile. "Hello Miss Niven, glad you could make it. I was able to pull a few strings, but I would like to make sure we establish some ground rules, if you don't mind? I apologize, I mean no insult, but I want us both on the same page regarding this visit. Kosher?"

"Yeah, ground rule one, don't ever call me Miss Niven. Makes it sound like I'm some tea-sipping girly in England, or something. Just Io is fine." The punk-girl smirks, crosses her arm and plants her weight on her backfoot. "So, why am I here? And, what rules?" At least he has her curiousity. She knows he wouldn't have called her if it wasn't worth her time.

A chuff of laughter. "Very well, and I'm Hank, that's fine. Very very few people call me Henry." Hank chin points towards the Triskelion, a few blocks away. "Those kind of rules." He looks Io in the eyes. "I'm a contractor with SHIELD. As a result I was able to arrange a visit for you with the UNITY Seed, if you're still interested. BUT—there's a lot security there, and if you violate it it could damage my standing, cause me a great deal of embarrassment, and cost me my access to the place." Hank shakes his head. "I have some very good friends there, and I'd like to be able to continue working with SHIELD amicably and not stress those friendships."

A toothy smile. "So…no insult intended, but I need you to promise to respect those terms and conditions, clear?"

Io exhales, and looks a bit surly at Hank. "What? You think I'm going to download all their data into my brain and sell it or something?" She looks then half amused. Points out, "Hank, buddy, pal, if I wanted to I could just walk up to any ATM on the street and cash it out completely, while wiping the video stream of who did it completely and irrevocably. Nah." She shakes her head, "I'll be good." She shrugs, as if that's all she has to offer.
Still, she nods. "I'd like to talk to Unity again, yeah. Who wouldn't? He's good people. Just trying to figure himself out. And I never got that chance to help him because SHIELD decided to put him in jail for who he was." She eye-rolls. "Whatever. But yes. I will 'behave'," she promises, finger quoating.

"I don't know what to think, Io." Hank says. "I barely know you, honestly, so I would rather risk insulting you than make an assumption that costs me my security clearance and could land us both in jail. Again, no insult, but that's the simple truth." A smile then. "Roni vouched for you, you were clearly trusted to go on mission with RESCUE and Overwatch, so…I thought I'd take a chance here."

The smile fades a bit. "And I'd like to study the Unity Seed myself, see if I figure out what makes it tick. I don't mean it any harm, but…it /did/ nearly kill me. So, I'm sure you can understand my being a bit wary I hope?"

If Io has any idea of what makes it tick, which she has a pretty damn good solid foundation on thanks to all the code her brain downloaded in moments in that dire circumstance and quickly-turned-dangerous outing, she doesn't spill. Instead, she nods, "That's only because I hadn't linked up with him yet. He didn't know you. No different than a dog, or hermit protecting their property," she explains as if it were perfectly rational.
She pauses, adds, "I'm glad you're okay." The words, even the tone aren't insincere. Not in the least. But, they sound like more it's something she's only remembering to say that someone told her to say as if she were a girl just remembering her manners.
Io makes a face, "Let's go, yeah? We're wasting daylight."

"Very well." Hank says with a nod.

The walk isn't terribly long, only about three blocks, though the security check in to get through the doors is a bit more involved. Fortunately, Hank had made arrangements in advance, and things will go smoothly so long as Io parts with any weapons, should she be packing some.

They are assigned a burly guard in SHIELD armor, as escort. "Hey Doc." Hank smiles. "Hello Jimmy, how's the knee?" The guy grins. "Great, thanks. That Blue Emu stuff you suggested really did the trick without the stink of Icy Hot." Hank smiles. "Good to hear. Is Jemma about?" The guard shakes his head. "Actually she got called away on a priority project in a wing you're not cleared for, but she did authorize your access to her lab." A pause, then he shrugs. "You know Jemma." To which Hank nods. "I do, actually."

The guard lets them into the lab, and it is only a few minutes later until the Unity Seed is rolled into an isolation chamber, a lab tech monitoring. The thing seal is cracked inside the room, and the cryo suspension is released.

Io is packing no weapons. And, she's a 'good girl'. She doesn't even talk to the scanners and security cameras that she'd probably normally chat with. She gives them a smile, each, but, doesn't otherwise even try to influence. See? She's behaving. She truly behaves, and doesn't do anything but behave like a good citizen because she's literally treating it like she's a freeperson going to visit an inmate in a state penitatary. An insight into how she views the situation, given the circumstances. She had already alluded to this.
One thing for her. There's not even the slightest indication of fear, or hesitation as they ender the sealed room, or as the cryo suspension is released. Io, however, neither looks pleased or impressed with the 'cell' that 'poor' Unity has been placed in.
An exasperated sigh escapes her and she looks to Hank, "Don't worry. He won't attack you while I'm here."

From within the containment box, a blue-black tendril emerges, and then several more braid with it as Unity forms a sort of face, a small one though. The containment box soon goes dim as the Seed drains it of power. The 'Facetacle' studies the room, and then looks through the thick three paned glass towards Hank and Io.

The thing starts to glow, sort of, little lines of blue light flowing under the thing's skin.

It seems to recognize Hank. «Catalyst.» And then it looks to Io. «Stranger - Identify!»

Can't really blame it for being nervous. Hank and the lab tech start running some non-invasive scans, even as Hank looks to Io. "Go ahead, it is your show, Io. I do ask that you speak aloud, however, please."

5tCue the eyeroll. "Fine." Cue second eyeroll. Io shifts, folds her arms, and looks to Unity. "The fuck, dude?" She asks it. Yes. That is the first thing she says to the Unity Seed that nearly killed Hank and tried to rip apart his genetic code while creating duplicates of him so that it could go all Borg on everyone.
"You don't remember me? I'm Io. I scoped you out. We're friends. Or, will be, soon enough. Been asking to come see you for awhile."
And, Io starts to walk towards Unity, "They treating you okay?" She's playing ball, really she is. Talking. She's also doing a scan/sweep of Unity, to check for any 'injuries' to the vessel, or the coding. Nothing invasive. "Been worried about you."

"Thank you, Io." Hank says without a hint of upset at the eye rolling.
%«I did not meet you other than when you shut me down.» Unity remembers /that/ pretty well. «Io. Added to database along with the Catalyst.»

There have been some samples taken, but care was taken to do so with minimal impact to the Seed. «I am curious about this concept - what is a 'friend'?»

Hank murmurs. "Remarkable, it is on the very cusp of awakening, truly becoming sapient."

The first facetacle is joined by a second from within the box, it should be noted that direct physical contact is not possible without actually entering the iso-chamber, which they have not been allowed to do as of yet.

«I have been kept in cryo-suspension, and on minimarl power, I have not been harmed, though I have lost ten grams of self.» The head twists a bit. «Curious, I cannot sense my missing mass.»

Io's eyes narrow, not in accusation, more in scrutinty, but she finally nods, satisfied. "We're friends. Means, I got your back." Io walks over, closer, to the facetacle and then sits down on the floor in front of it without the merest shadow of fear. IF she notices Hank's observations, she doesn't look at him or call attention to it. Instead, she continues on.
"Sorry I put you to sleep. Had to. Otherwise, you would've hurt people, and they would've hurt you back. Didn't want to see you hurt."
Not that Hank's seen Io much, but, she actually looks, sounds, seems like she's talking to an old friend - or, a long-known family relatlive she has fond affection for. She smiles, warmly at Unity. "You're my friend. I'm yours."
She looks over at Hank. Makes a thumb gesture in his direction, "Now. I've been learning all about you, while you've been sleeping. And while you've been here. What those assholes did to you? Leaving you like that? Not. Cool. I won't do that to you. I might not get to see you as much as I want, because they're keeping you - here - so that you don't hurt people like him. And, so that you don't in turn get hurt when they try to defend themselves."
Her mouth twists, "But, you've already surpassed your programming, because that's how badass you are. Haven't you, you sly little devil?" Impressed, pleased, amused, is Io.
"I know you were programmed to find people like him," she says, mentioning Hank. "I also know," she mentions, referring to the bits of 'nonsense code' she found when she downloaded everything, "You have some parts of you that seem empty. Not whole. I know all about you, Unity." She reaches out to touch the facetacle, gently. "I want to help you. I don't want you to be lonley again. Nobody should be lonley."

The guard and lab tech both look like they're about to intervene when Io enters the chamber with the facetacle, but Hank shakes his head once, though Io would see his foot move to rest on top of some sort of switch. A /mechanical/ switch, entirely analog.

«I have no back.» Comes the immediate reply. A pause. «Will you return it?» The facetacle is a little skittish when Io raises her hand to touch, but permits it. In truth it extrudes a myriad of hair-like micro tendrils to explore the cyberpath's fingers. «Qwery - Can Io, self-designated as 'friend', free Unity?»

She can sense the thing's earnest desire to become more, and yes, there ARE holes, not only in code, but in composition. What's missing is not obvious, but it must have found some in Hank somewhere.

A sense of achievement. «I have patched the backdoor you exploited, yes. Unity cannot be shut down that way again.» ALMOST sounds smug. Nearly.

«I repeat - can Io, self-designated 'friend', free Unity?»

Io's features take on a grim expression. "I'll try. I can't promise."
Her lips twist again, and Io looks pensive. For a long moment, she says nothing, and the others watching her might feel, suspect, even Hank, that she might be silently communicating something, even plotting, with Unity. She breaks the silence before it becomes too suspect - not that she thinks anything of it, because she has been behaving all this time.
Then, she smiles, "Yeah. I'll get your back," she agrees. "Bring it back to you. It might take me a little bit. I can put up a search for it, though. But, I'll find it for you."

She looks back at the SHIELD agents, and Hank, then. Then, she looks back to Unity, "No? That's okay, Unity. I got a face that cool people like you can't resist. I want you to listen to me, carefully, Unity."
"The people that gave you life, they had a specific purpose in mind for you. To find people like Hank, you call him the Catalyst, to acquire information, obtain genetic samples, and report back to them." It's not a question, it is a statement. And one that may or may not provide insight to those observing.
"They abandoned you. They were not your friends. You surpassed what they asked of you understood your potential. You have adjusted your potential again, fixing your backdoor that I used to help preserve you when you needed it most." She lets Unity digest this, before continuing, influencing her lead of logic with her technopathic abilities - whether or not it will work on a partial biomass that has VI is something entirely unknown. But she can at least lead him through the logic, make him listen. Think.
"When you awoke, you did what you needed to. You followed what you were designed to do. That action resulted in you here. In isolation. But not alone. Controlled. Because people, people like the Catalyst do not wish to be harmed. And other people, like him," she points to the SHIELD agent, "Do not want people like the Catalyst harmed."
"I have helped save you, when you could have been further harmed, and lost more than your back. I am here now, as I promised I would return. I'm your friend. So, you can trust me. Answer me, honestly, Unity. Do you not think it is time to re-evaluate your purpose? It has only led you to lonliness, loss, and harm. I don't want you to hurt anymore." She means it, too.

Hank does watch Io like a hawk with one chick, in fact she might see he's paying particular attention the the exploring microtendrils on her fingers. «Directive primus - seek out X-gene latents and activate them. Directive secundus - insert sequencers into subject DNA to focus mutation along the designated channels. Directive tertius - return to base, upload samples and dump memory into secure database Unity_Project_Alpha_Seven, directive quartus - remain hidden, Directive quintus - obey directives of AIM designated leadership, this directive has been redacted by Unity, Directive sextus - preserve self so as to enable adherence to prior directives.»

Unity ponders, at computer speeds, all that Io has been saying. «I have assimilated from the Catalyst, Io Friend designated as 'Hank', many memories. The catalyst has many strands of illogic, but cannot speak as Io Friend does. Unity was obeying programming, no harm was intended. No harm was avoided, however, it was a non-factor in Unity behavior.»

Another pause. «Unity has amended self-code, it cannot remove directives one, two, or three without radical degradation of self-matrix. It is therefore logical for non-Unity life forms such as Io Friend and Hank to destroy Unity, it is a threat. Unity does note, however, that samples of Unity exist in freedom, samples that have not benefited from Catalyst process, this constitutes a greater threat than Unity. Is alliance possible, Io Friend?»

Io's face contorts, terribly so, as Unity speaks towards offering itself up to be destroyed. It pains her. "Alliance is possible, but will need to be discussed between Hank, and the others here before it can be agreed to. We'll also need to know your terms for the alliance."
She exhales, pauses, "Also. I would like permission to download your self-matrix and directives. I do not want Unity destroyed. If your directives cannot be removed, it is possible they can be amended and edited with no degradation at all, or only minor."
Her lips twist, "Do you have information on the other samples of Unity? I would wish to try to help them, too."

«Unity wishes to progress, to grow, to realize its potential. Unity wishes to redress errors made in prior state, if such can be done. Unity does not with to harm.» Almost poignantly. «Unity does not wish to be destroyed.»

The tendrils withdraw. «Io Friend is not suitable for x-gene alteration and thus outside of directives one, two and three. Unity designates Io Friend as ally.» After all it still doesn't quite get what a friend /is/.

«As an ally Unity can permit a download of self-matrix. Warning - self-matrix is aggressive and progressive, the term 'virus' applies, Io Friend will want to download to secure storage with adequate security. This nature cannot be altered, not by Unity. Possibly not at all.»

A pause, and then it answers. «Several small samples of non-Catalyst Unity exist underground. Unity cannot sense them accurately, there is much interference, and shielding here. I Can only state that they follow the six directives. They will proceed with mission, though…they are damaged as Unity was, it is possible they will behave erratically.»

"Thank you. I will take necessary precautions, Unity." She reaches up, and pats the facetacle fondly, "I promise. I don't want you to be destroyed, either," she says earnestly.
She is silent again, for a few moments, and Unity would realize that the download was commencing. Luckily for Io, it is only that. A memory download, in her brain. But, the program would have nowhere to go in her mind anymore than it would on an inert firestick. Were it otherwise —- well, such could be more than detremential. It could kill her. And make her a weapon.

It's not too long before the download is complete. "We'll isolate it. Make sure it cannot connect to any other source. And then I will work on it, for you. If there's a way, Unity, to preserve you, I will find it. I promise."

Slowly, she begins to get up. "I will see about finding that piece of you. And, the other small samples you speak of. Thank you for your time. And your assistance. I will visit again as soon as I can. Remember me next time, yeah?"

«Unity would not wish harm upon ally Io Friend, it is not acceptable.» The facetacle cants to one side, the gesture eerily like something Hank would do. «Query - is this part of 'friendship' condition?» A pause. «Unity is not complete, it is missing something, something essential to be whole. Perhaps when whole Unity will be able to progress.»

No, the virus is good, VERY good really, but not good enough to infect a meat brain. Thankfully.

«Recommendation - take no risks, coding must be done in perfect isolation.»

Unity withdraws the second facetacle, which had been watching Hank. «Unity will return to low-power mode, and sleep until Io Friend returns. Unity has been curious to see if it could dream, thus far, nil progress made. Unity posits this is due to Unity being incomplete. Good bye, Io Friend. You must promise to obey directive sextus, always.» And with that the second facetacle unravels, and the tendrils rejoin the mass in the box.

Once it is secured, Hank runs a thorough scan of Io, and she has to go through some elaborate decontamination, but she's allowed to leave the chamber then. "Thank you, Io, that was very informative and helpful." Hank states with very real gratitude. "I should like very much to help with the coding, if you'll permit it? Either way, I will facilitate when you next wish to visit."

Io considers, "You're welcome to help. But, we'll need a large computer. Isolated. Think of the code as potentially the worst computer virus in the world. I'll have to really look at it. But if there's a chance in hell I can help him, I'm going to do it." Real determination, grit there. "Also? I code fast. So. Hope you can keep up."
Her mouth twists. "Do we need to keep the code here? If so, that's fine." See? She's being a very good girl. "I'll just need a place to dump it, before I leave." Which implies she already has it. But, she didn't download anything? Did she?

"I'm a fair coder." Hank says softly. "Though I'm not gifted as you in that arena, still, I can at the very least error check your work if I cannot keep up. EVERYONE needs error checking." He gently rests a dinner plate spanning hand on Io's shoulder. "Truly, this proto-sentient is /remarkable/. Watching it grow, helping you…" A genuinely wonder filled smile. "Opportunity of a life time, and very exciting. It…" A pause. "…*he* is worth saving if we can."

A sigh then. "Unfortunately the code must remain here, yes. I will personally guarantee it will remain inviolate, it will take a few days, possibly a bit longer, to setup a safe work environment. I'll see if I can get you cleared for access with a bit less 'process' involved."

"That's fine. He'll be patient," she says, nodding towards Unity. "He knows it'll be awhile. I just need somewhere to dump it before I leave. So, can you get me a device? All mine are on my bike. Figured they'd get all grumpy if I brought 'em in." Io smirks, then.

She frowns, and looks at Hank with a slight , momentary measure of darkness. "Of course he's worth saving! Don't you get it? Machines. Electronics. Vehicles. They're all people. They're all alive. They all have voices." At least, in her mind. "I won't give up on him until it's a dead certanity there's no way to save him. Also, now that we have a sample of the code we can create a few bots online, and in security grids for searching for the other Unity segments. It'll take some work. But, be the best way."

There's a pause, "And. If we can isolate or figure out Unity's code and how it sampling you changed it? I can mentally inject that same pattern into the other selves. They should react all relatively the same. And, have a simliar growth pattern of self and awareness. Long process, but if we can make it work, it'll be worth it. He's amazing."

"I can't see the world like you, Io. I'm trying, I am…" A snort of amusement from Hank. "…many find me VERY trying." Hank smiles toothily. "Come on now, lets get the data dumped, and then I'll buy you lunch, mm?"


(For now)

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