398 Serpent Revealed
0845 Gemini Temple
Nix said goodbye to Shae and gated directly to the Gemini Temple. He was a few minutes early for his rendezvous with Chiba, so he opened the file that Leva had sent him during the night. Covering a yawn with his hand, he took a seat on the platform and started reading.
Subject: Temple of Khione
Agents of Khione approached Kodus Mora after he left Ionova. He was brought to a secret Temple where he was indoctrinated along with dozens of others. He doesn't know the location, only that it was surrounded by jungle and every day was hot and humid.
The two guards he worked with in Ionova were also part of the program. The three of them are tasked with 'spreading the word.' Basically, the word is that the world is ending and that Khione will save those who follow her.
Kodus, his two friends, and two others are working Free Trader City. If they garner enough support, they are to build a temple. It's obvious that he messed up when he went after you. Sometime after he arrived in Free Trader City, he was attacked by a lycanthrope. As he started to turn, he felt an irrational anger building. His intent was to find you and slay you.
There's a cure for lycanthropy, although it's expensive. If we cure him and send him back to the other cultists, he could become a valuable resource. The other option is to kill him and the other four assigned to Free Trader City. Keep in mind that there were dozens of cultists going through the indoctrination. Some of them were heading to places he'd never heard of before; Jenzi, Safarza, Escavar, and Broyan.
I say we turn him and use him. Until I hear back from you, he'll stay in the Nether with me.
[End of Report.]
Nix turned to the shadow sphinx sitting on his shoulder. "What do you think, Soup? Lets answer her quickly, so we don't have to worry about it while we are training."
Thanks for the hard work. Cure Kodus before he becomes a minion. The lycanthrope blood may interfere with the process. Cure him, turn him, and put him to work. Find out what our dark priestess friend from the Cabal knows about the Khione Cultists. We need some options on how to deal with these people.
[0900 hours Colonial Virtual Reality Lab, St. Paul, Mn]
Director Sahara Obrien's Office
Sahara closed most of the huds she had opened on her desk and turned her complete focus on the dragon NPCs. BALTO was the virtual intelligence that governs the actions of NPCs; however, this did not include the dragons. Initially, dragons were to be thought of as an overpowering existence that didn't regularly interact with humans. They were programmed to be aloof, arrogant, and alien.
Sahara, or 'Hara' to her friends, slammed a small hand on her desk. One small code issue gave BALTO behavior control over something it wasn't supposed to have access to. Her thought process was interrupted by her desk hud buzzing, she answered it when she recognized the I.D.
Marshal Tucker's face popped up on her desk hud. "Director Obrien, you asked me to let you know when my class completed their second dive."
Hara's eyes lit up with interest, smiling slightly while she scanned the results. "A perfect jump with no fails? That has to be some sort of record."
Marshal let out a long breath. "I've never seen anything like it."
"Give them the weekend off; the next jump is the hardest."
"Understood Director. Do you still want to see Glory Jones?"
Hara nodded. "Send her to my office. Thanks for the hard work Marshal."
"Just doing my job."
Hara was still considering her dragon problem when Glory stepped into the doorway, she motioned her in with a hand and closed the hud. "Looks like everything went well."
"I'm getting used to it. Thanks for the special assignment Director, it was good to see him again."
"We're friends, so call me Hara." Hara brought her scores up. "It seems like you fought very well. Sometimes that can be the biggest issue in this program. Not everyone is a gamer."
"My training as a corrections officer came in handy." Glory glanced at her rating. "Did I mess up when I defended Floyd?"
Hara shook her head. "The bio on Thessa says her goal is to strengthen and unify the Serpent Clan. Had you acted against those objectives, Balto would have booted you out instantly and the Thessa NPC program would have taken over."
Glory considered the statement. "What if I attacked Floyd instead? Would that have booted me out?"
Hara shook her head. "Probably not. There's a lot of room for interpretation here. Speaking objectively, siding with the Goddess of Winter could very well be the best thing for the Serpent Clan."
"Wouldn't that lead to their destruction when Inferno kills Khione?"
"It's not rigged Glory. Inferno could fail. Khione is an NPC programmed with an objective, that objective is conquest."
"Is Khione part of the drift program?"
Hara leaned back in her chair, her brown eyes studying Glory. "In the interest of fairness, I have recused myself from the Khione faction. I assigned one of my assistants to oversee things, with strict orders to not share anything with anyone, including myself."
"What happens if Inferno is defeated?"
"Defeat or Victory, both scenarios usher in the next expansion." Hara reopened the hud and let Glory see it."
"Flight of Dragons?"
Hara nodded. "That's not the real title, just something the devs are calling it until it goes live."
Glory's dark eyes wandered around the office. Sahara Obrien had enough Doctorates and awards to fill an entire wall. The former corrections officer grinned when she saw a framed picture sitting on the corner of her desk. "Isn't that a bit odd?"
Hara raised a perfect eyebrow. "Hmm? What's odd about having a picture of my boyfriend on my desk?"
Glory rolled her eyes. "Nothing, when you say it like that."
Hara nodded and handed her the frame in question. "It's from a fairly intense battle, where Nix defeated an Ashobel Chieftain named Glacio."
Glory laughed suddenly; the oddness was nearly overwhelming. "It was nice talking with him again. As I remembered, he wasn't the chatty type. I told him every joke I knew for six months; the man was a stone wall."
"Your next jump is the toughest for most recruits. If you can do six months, then anything longer than that will be cake."
Glory didn't have to pretend to be excited. The VR world of Colonial was beyond anything she could have imagined. "Will I continue as Thessa?"
Hara shook her head. "Thessa has a huge role to play; an NPC program will play her."
Glory sighed, "it was fun while it lasted."
Hara leaned forward and lowered her voice to a conspiratory whisper. "It's traditional for recruits to be given their permanent DRP during the six-month hitch. The best I can do is make sure you end up in Mid-Everspire."
"I haven't finished the questionnaire yet for the six-month assignment."
"When it comes to permanent assignments, Balto is given the data from those questionnaires." Hara put the picture frame back in its place, her brown eyes staring at Glory. "Want a tip?"
Glory nodded without hesitation.
"Be vague in regards to things like species and abilities, but make strong statements regarding goals. Saying something like, I would like to be someone who is loyal and dedicated to a cause. It sounds corny, but Balto eats that up."
"What if Balto sticks me in Khione's faction?"
Hara smiled sweetly while drawing a finger across her throat. "Do your best, but it was nice knowing you."
Glory's lips curved in a wide smile, although said as a joke, there was an undercurrent of seriousness. "I will keep that in mind."