Information Unearthed by the Heros
The heros recovered three recordings of holo-meetings from a Defenders of Humanity training facility in Ohio. All have faces and other identifying information blurred out. One recording simply shows the base commander meeting some old army friends for Christmas. The other two are more interesting.
Recording from December 23, 2059
The recording begins with a tall black man and a hologram of a woman, both sitting around a real conference table. The faces of both are fuzzed out, but they apparently know each other enough to greet each other. The black man begins with nod. "Eagle," he says. She responds, "Commander." Then there is silence for a minute until another hologram appears.
"Let's get started," the newcomer begins. His face is also obscured, but his voice is recognizeable as that of John Doe. "Eagle, your report on recruiting for the month."
The woman rattles off a list of numbers of potential recruitment candidates and ones who have actually joined, numbers assigned to silently pass information to the Defenders, numbers assigned as agents provocateurs, numbers assigned to wait as sleepers until a need for them arises, and even two who have been asked to find more jobs where they can be more useful to the Defenders. She concludes, "And finally, we have had a record month recruiting agents for direct action, with 83 new recruits assigned for agent training. Commander Abdujab will report on them."
The black man picks up where Eagle left off. "We have been doubling up on classes for the month of December to take advantage of the holidays. Even though most of the agent recruits are unemployed, we have a backlog of those who cannot get away any other time. So far in December, we have completed training for 56 agents, with 3 failures and 1 death due to a firearms accident. I'm afraid the quality of the skills of these agents is low, as usual."
John Doe interrupts. "Yes, we've been through that before. You don't need to repeat your complaints. Once we've reached our primary recruitment goal, we can revisit the question of extending the initial training sequence."
Abdujab resumes his report, "This week we have reserved for a special advanced training week. Half the trainers are off, but the other two are leading courses on demolitions, martial arts, special tactics, and additional weapon training for 25 of our better graduates. We'll resume with the regular recruits next week."
Recording from Monday, January 5, 2060:
The first few minutes of the recording are simply people arriving at the holo-meeting. There are a total of 6 attendees, 4 men and 2 women. One of the men is present in person, and all of the other attendees are holograms. As with the other recordings, the faces and other identifying features have been fuzzed out.
A woman with a French accent starts the meeting. "Now that we are all here, let us begin. John Doe, you called the meeting to give a report on Project Wildfire."
"Yes," answers John Doe, the one man physically in the meeting room. "I think we can get the data we need for the project. The plan to acquire the samples is in place as well and can be executed shortly afterwards. If all goes well, we will have both by the end of this month."
"Excellent news," says the French woman. "Galileo, has there been progress on acquiring the necessary staff?"
Another man responds. "Unfortunately, no, not yet. We may be able to make do with our current staff. It will depend on what exactly is in that data package. I am still hoping to find a sympathetic expert."
A third man, tall and somewhat portly, interjects. "I still don't understand why we can't simply make one. Kidnap an expert and put him through SWEAT's machine."
The fourth man sighs. He is clearly a soldier by his clothes but the blurring of the recording obscures his rank insignia. "As we've explained before, the machine is in a secure area. We can't get access without compromising our agents in SWEAT."
"What good are you if you can't get us access to military technology, Charlemagne?" retorts the tall man. Charlemagne bristles, but the tall man continues. "John Doe's team needs to go into Fort Detrick anyway. Why not go to the machine while they're there?"
John Doe answers this one. "SWEAT's building has much higher security than the one with the samples. Trying to add the machine as an objective would risk the whole mission, not to mention the complication of dragging a kidnapped scientist around while doing so."
"But ..." begins the tall man.
The French woman interrupts. "Enough, Citizen. Now, does anyone else have any questions? No? Any other business? Yes, Rumor?"
The other woman speaks for the first time. "Thank you, Cassandra. What about this shapeshifting alien on the loose? Aren't we doing anything about it?"
John Doe responds. "It should also be taken care of, one way or the other, by the end of the month. It has not surfaced since our last encounter, so I consider it a lower priority at the moment, but it is definitely a concern."
Rumor persists. "Do we have any idea what it is doing here? Trying to replace someone important?"
Galileo answers this question. "I've been running a behavioral matching algorithm to try to detect any anomalies for 1,000 public figures. So far, everything is within normal parameters."
"That's not a great relief," says Rumor. "That just means if it has taken someone's place, it is a good actor."
"As I said," says John Doe, "we should have dealt with it by the end of the month. Technophobe has figured out a way to boost Mindstorm's pattern matching range. I expect it to be dead or in police custody soon."
"As public as possible would be desireable," says Rumor. "Shapeshifting aliens make great propaganda."
"But the most important thing is to take it out of circulation," adds Charlemagne. "That thing could do a lot of damage." Everyone nods in agreement.
Cassandra closes the meeting. "Anyone else? No? Since John Doe expects progress on Wildfire by the end of the month, let us meet next in early February for an update. We will follow the usual protocol for scheduling."