Science Articles

MACHINA - An Overview

Wed, 8th Feb 2006

Barry Gibb

No one knew what hit them, because no thing did. The inhabitants of OverCity-6 are settling down to a quiet evening as the enemy missile tears a path through the Orbital Defence Grid. With the Grid down, nothing can stop this new generation of weapon from reaching its target. In a remote defence base, a soldier's eyes draw sharp focus; his jaw loses tension as his display screen betrays that his future has just run out.

The missile hits the outskirts of the City sending a blast wave of red, iridescent light out across the streets, buildings and civilians. The initial blast seems curiously muffled, almost like a dying sigh, and not until the red wave reaches the population does the true nature of this state-of-the-art, precision-engineered killing hardware becomes apparent. The ground barely registers the impact of the device but the red light that is now travelling through buildings streets and life does its job with unerring accuracy, leaving only empty buildings and desiccated shards where once there was breathing organic tissue.

Machina_artworkApproximately thirty seven seconds after the missile hits, not even a virus remains alive in OverCity-6, and the perfectly intact infrastructure adopts an unnatural silence, usually reserved for funerals. To the north, Cirus Red leads a team of twelve Military Leaders to his new pet project. Cirus is the product of the kind of mech- and bio-enhanced tailoring that we now consider, 'unethical', but for the war that's going on right now, he's the type you want. Need, even. Cirus and the men are on the surface construction site of SubCity-V, a vast underworld city designed to simultaneously deal with spiralling overpopulation and make it more difficult for enemy strikes. Cirus lays down the ground rules for entry, making it clear that if you are a civilian over fifty or have omitted a decent education or find yourself pregnant - forget it, you will struggle along with the rest up top.

He leads them into the Primary Seal revealing a gargantuan cylindrical city, two hundred meters across, hollow core, apparently bottomless. The Leaders discover that SubCity-V has a secret weapons development substructure beneath the 'official', civilian city and Cirus alludes to something he's keen to show them at the bottom. A huge disc that fills the central core of SubCity-V arrives to take them. This is the city's Elevator, a colossal slice of technology that will spend its existence spanning the core.

Not too far away, in a poorly funded university Comp Lab, Storm Blue briefly notes a dull red glow through the blinds. Storm is piercingly intelligent, the type who was constructing working hypotheses about quantum computing by the time he was twelve. But by age thirteen realised that girls were far more interactive and fun. He's with his childhood friend, Rayne White, a sober and gifted psychologist. Rayne doesn't know what the fuss is about. Her tutors give her strange looks when they hand back her assignments, giving her A+, because they'd have to invent a new kind of scoring system to deal with her mind.

Storm reveals his latest pet project to Rayne, his Silicon Enhanced Lifeforms, or SELs. He's created the blueprints for a new nanotech device. Based partly on organic material, partly on quantum-based chipsets, Storm reveals his dream: with this new, programmable bio-nanotech he believes he can completely eradicate disease, possibly even death. Rayne, curious, if not a little shocked at the implications of what Storm is telling her, gets the feeling that they are being watched and tells Storm they can chat about his breakthrough later. She goes off to have dinner with her fiancé, Jack, leaving Storm to flirt with a cute brunette…

Within the Deep Labs of SubCity-V, Cirus proudly displays the holoprint of his new tactical stealth weapon, the Maelstrom. Cubic, dark, solid. The Military are impressed apart from one detail - the Maelstrom unit needs a human central nervous system to run. Cirus dismisses their concerns, alluding to the fact that there is no shortage of such material in their war. Suddenly an alarm screeches; Cirus is forced to deal with the blossoming emergency.

Storm is tinkering with his programs in the lab, drowning out the need for sleep with pounding beats when two soldiers enter, accompanied by a Well Dressed Man. The music is terminated, catching Storm's attention, causing him to practically fall off his chair. The armed soldiers make Storm think twice about running whilst the ultra cool demeanour of the Man captures his attention. The Man implies that not only can he help Storm's SELs become a living reality but also that Rayne is already helping these, gentlemen. Confused, Storm presses for more information. The Man casually informs Storm that they are losing the war. Within months they will be eliminated and his SELs are to become the latest in a long line of ever more deadly weapons. He discovers that Rayne's fiancé was killed in yesterdays attack, making her induction into their new programme a given. Storm quietly hits a key code on his terminal initiating a disc erasure programme whilst the Man elucidates the plan. The Military need fresh blood and they have nothing left to lose. Rayne is to head up a new Psych Ops division, working closely with a man called Cirus Red, responsible for tactics and weapon development. At the sound of the name the soldiers shift uncomfortably. The Man informs Storm that he is the final piece in this new trio, 'Machina' - the one who will change the balance of the war with his new tech. The Man notices the deleted files but merely smirks indicating that Rayne and Cirus had already decided that Storm would try some such stunt and that the files are already copied elsewhere. Storm tries to bolt for it and is thanked with a gun across the back of the knees. Crippled, the Man bends to face Storm, informing him that he will be collected in one hour. Concerned for his mother, the Man informs Storm that his mother thinks Storm is dead. The Man and his men leave Storm confused, frightened and alone.

Cirus enters the Deep Labs Testing Facility to be confronted with several mutilated corpses, one lone surviving scientist and one ominous cube hovering silently in the centre of the room, bloody probes retracting back into its core. The scientist, terrified, explains that during the course of a routine test, the Maelstrom unit went berserk during the shut-down routine. As he talks, Maelstrom emits one of his favourite weapons, a tiny black sphere that locates itself down the windpipe of the lone scientist before detonating. Cirus and the Maelstrom calmly discuss its behaviour before Cirus inactivates the unit. He realises one of the downsides to using human tissue - insanity. Six months later, Cirus flirts to no avail with the grieving Rayne. Having lost her fiancé to this war, she's in no mood for small talk. They discuss the role of Imagined Terror in the course of war. Storm bursts into Cirus's office, livid. Clearly Cirus and Storm have as much in common as a wild boar and a kitten. During a heated exchange, Storm announces his disgust that the officially closed down Maelstrom Project has been reinitiated. Unperturbed, Cirus dismisses Storms objections and points out reports from the field that his SELs may be malfunctioning, attacking soldiers and civilians from their side. Aghast, Storm is left speechless, disbelieving. He collects samples from the surface and quickly initiates a series of tests, revealing that the reports are correct. The SELs have mutated, they are still mutating and no one on the surface is safe. He initiates a total SubCity lockdown. Alarms sound, panic prevails. With machine like efficiency the SELs adapt to the new prey, an exponential mutation rate ensures that during the next twenty four hours everyone left above ground is destroyed: the elderly, including his mother, his friends, including Rayne, and the innocent, everyone else. A news broadcast describes the horrific scenes, describing this new weapon that their enemy has inflicted upon them, must have inflicted upon them. Human life disappears from the surface of the planet, leaving it to the rest of nature.

Four years later SubCity-V is a sprawling, overpopulated mess. A woman approaches a vending machine that provides melatonin tablets. Her credits go in and she receives a couple of tablets but one of them is an illegal narcotic, Sunshine. Oblivious, she takes her tabs. Moments later she is struck by an almighty rush. Inside the execution chambers of the city, Adam Kane is about to be terminated for the manufacture and distribution of Sunshine. The Judge reads Kane his charge before having him thrown into an airlock that is the last remaining space between the city and the outside world. Whilst the arresting officers and the Judge look on through a transparent shield, the seal on the city is broken and Kane is united again with the surface of the planet. Initially he is panic stricken, screaming with fear. But then he sees the world. A field lies beyond the seal and it is a beautiful, lush, blue-sky day. The sun is beating down and nature looks vibrant. He moves cautiously into the overgrown grass, hearing birdsong, smelling the greenness of it all. As the men in the city watch, Kane seems euphoric, until the SELs hit him. The Judge lowers his gaze as Kane's features contort in agony. His body starts to dissolve, one agonizing layer at a time, until seconds later, there is nothing left but organic sludge and clothes. The younger of the officers, initially mesmerised by the beauty of the world, now vomits beside his partner. The officers leave the Judge and a technician to reseal the city and decontaminate the airlock. Just before the seal is finally in place, a butterfly manages to get inside, landing gently on the transparent shield, opposite the Judge. He carefully watches the rich, colourful creature pulsate gently before the decontamination protocol kicks in, frying the insect.

Storm Blue, protective suit in place, rises from the city on a platform. Worn with the last few years, he appears in the midst of trees and sunlight. Now in charge of trying to stop what has become referred to as the Genetic Plague, Storm reaches the remains of Adam Kane and collects a sample of the obliterated man for his research. Once back in the city, the sample is despatched to the labs and Storm undergoes a series of rigorous and closely monitored decontamination procedures to remove what are now referred to as 'Mites'. Cirus Red discreetly watches Storm's movements from a secret camera. Storm makes his way to his apartment through the throng. He lives in the highest inhabited sections of the overcrowded city, considered to be the worst. There is high crime and low lifes. He discovers his door lock has been busted, again, and has a brief chat with his large neighbour, Benny.

Later, Storm has his regular visit to the Psychiatrist - the busiest man in the city. He's after an increase in dosage for his anti-seizure medication that the shrink tells him are merely the result of not having had a break for over fours years. Unable to explain to the shrink, or anyone else, the precise reason for the obsession with his work, he leaves, feeling an anger born of depression. Back in his sparse apartment, Storm relaxes by doing his tai-chi, until the seizure hits and he passes out. Later, he screams himself awake, drags himself back to consciousness and lies on his bed, letting a television broadcast wash over him; there is an advert for the cities Cinema. We are now at the outside of the Cinema and, just like everywhere else, there is a huge crowd gathered, waiting to gain entrance. Two no nonsense bouncers protect the doorway with violent enthusiasm. Inside, the reality of this place is apparent. Once a normal cinema, it is now a place where people cling to dreams. To accommodate the vast numbers, there are no longer seats, just one vast floors pace and a ceiling that drips with the condensation caused by so many bodies. People meet here to watch reels, to take drugs, to have sex. A SubCity-V propaganda reel plays initially in an attempt to forge a sense of purpose in those watching and is followed closely by home video footage. Recovered from the world above, these show things that under any other circumstance would be mundane, but here, in the dark, oppressive under world, they serve to give the people hope.

Storm descends to his Deep Lab in the Elevator. On route he hears a woman's voice raised in anger. Shuffling through the crowd, he spots Hunter Green, a face he's been happy to see several times before. Hunter is youthful, feisty and about to show a groper where he went wrong; Storm watches with quiet amusement. After humiliating the groper, Hunter leaves the Elevator and resumes her day to day.

With a feral look, she moves slowly through the seething crowds, trying to sense trouble. There! She hears a scream from a level below. Like a missile, she's off. Detective Hunter Green slides towards the barrier that surrounds the central shaft. With practised ease, she hooks a harness to the barrier then leaps over into a freefall. Below, she lands solidly, flicking the cable, causing it to return home. A pimp is brutalising a hooker. With Ninja stealth, Hunter moves in. The pimp tries to slash her but she's too fast. Before he knows it, his ankles are handcuffed together and he's flat on his face. She leaves the man hanging by his feet from the safety barrier in the knowledge that unless one of his friends releases him, he'll be killed by the ascent of the Elevator.

Storm is in the Deep Labs with his three assistants, Tom, Dick and Harry. The sample of Kane's tissue is prepped and Storm gets ready to test his latest SELs - 12th Gen. With little hope of success, the tissue is exposed to the new SELs. At high magnification an army of red biomechanical entities crawl across the tissue, to be joined by an army of even smaller blue devices. The blue SELs rapidly enter the tissue, destroying the red devices and simultaneously rebuilding the tissue sample. Storm is, for the first time in years, happy. Inside Club Cerberus, a mass of bodies pulsate in time to the multi layered beat. Hunter is the DJ tonight; this is how she deals with living in this city. From the aisles, her partner, Flint, signals her over. Reluctantly, she gets off the decks. As she makes her way, slowly to Flint, she is suddenly facing Cirus Red. Cirus asks Hunter to do a private party for him; instead of reaching for her card, she reaches for her gun. Every fibre in Hunter's taught body does not trust this man. A pat on her shoulder and Hunter spins around, gun extended, straight into Flints face. She apologises, turning back to face Cirus. Gone. Flint makes it clear they need to talk shop and they leave for Police HQ. Back at HQ, the two discuss a recent case that has been plaguing the city. It seems a killer is stalking female inhabitants of the city, dismembering their bodies, leaving them to die. Until now, all such cases were dealt with by the military police division but Flint has been contacted and told that they want to pull out, leaving this case in the hands of the police. Already badly overworked, Hunter is enraged but Flint reels her back in with the news that another victim has been discovered and is still alive. What neither of them understand at this point, is why the victim has been taken to the Deep Labs. Storm and his colleagues celebrate in the lab. Until the proximity alarm goes off, informing them that an unscheduled entrance is underway. An armed soldier, a military doctor and the latest victim, barely conscious in a wheelchair, enter. The doctor wants Storm to use his new technology to 'repair' the girl. Highly reluctant to let the new SELs loose on a human, Storm refuses, until the soldier sticks a gun in Dick's eye socket.

The men prep the lab, Storm programmes the SELs to repair the girl - in this case, to stabilise her and build her a new arm using an external nutrient supply. He hits, 'run'. After a series of convulsions, a new arm, bone, tissue, blood manifests itself on the girl. However, it's still lifeless. Suddenly, they notice the nutrient supply - it's still full. In a state of panic, the girl is checked over and Storm discovers that the SELs have modified their own programme and rejected the provided nutrient supply. Instead, they dismantled the woman's internal organs and used that material to create the limb. The woman is dead. The doctor, with soldier in toe, bids his farewells, leaving the corpse and a crushed Storm to try and understand what went wrong.

From his ornate office, Cirus has secretly observed the entire scenario. Hunter has been doing some computer digging into the history of the Genetic Plague. Chasing leads that recount the history of the nanotech phase of the war and tell her that the scientist placed in charge of the operation to destroy the plague is one Dr Storm Blue, now resident in the Deep Labs of SubCity-V. She finds an old news story with his picture, suddenly remembering him from the Elevator. Storm is midway through his tai-chi routine when Benny pays him a call to barter for soap rations. A powerful man, you would consider him ominous, if it weren't for the fact that he's a friend. Storm gets a good deal - several weeks free air-conditioning maintenance in return for the soap. Benny leaves.

Moments later, Hunter arrives at Storm's apartment. He lets her in, surprised that she's a cop but happy to see this woman he's watched from afar. After bluffing that she's here on account of Storm's break-in, she quickly moves onto the real purpose for her visit - Rebecca Bird, the girl Storm's SELs just killed. Flattened and angry at Hunter's implication that Storm may somehow be connected to the disappearance of Rebecca and involved in the other killings, he forces her to leave. She leaves, determined to know more and walks straight into Benny. He glares silently and she moves off hurriedly. Storm is jolted back to reality by his phone. The lab contacts him, informing him that the girl, Rebecca, is conscious.

Cirus enters a small elevator in his private office and heads down to Maelstrom's prison. This Maelstrom unit is kept behind an energy field. Like two old friends, they discuss the state of play. They are secretly monitoring Storm's research, waiting for him to create the technology that will allow Cirus to play his hand.

In the lab, Storm has to deal with a situation he had not predicted. The SELs he created are designed with a basic level of intelligence and communication, without these components, they would not be able to perform elaborate commands. However, it seems that they have developed a common mind, and as such are capable of independent thought. As a consequence of this startling breakthrough, Rebecca now stands before them, more machine than human. Storm interfaces with the SELs through Rebecca. She is neither one thing nor the other, a human/computer hybrid, each mind struggling for the upper hand. Storm is horrified. The SELs tell Storm that they have perfected the host, whilst in moments of human clarity, Rebecca winces and cries, schizoid. Storm's colleagues want to study her but Storm decides this is way too screwed up - he has enough death on his hands. Before he terminates the hybrid, he tries to enquire about her attacker. All she/it can remember is the smell of oil. Once satisfied there is nothing more to learn about her killer, Storm hits the destruct sequence and Rebecca Bird crumbles silently into a mound of dust. Storm asks to be alone.

Stopping himself from sliding into the waiting depression, Storm attacks the problem head on. He reasons that the problem with the SELs is that they have the power of basic independent reasoning. Rather than have him programme them to perform basic tasks that they can reinterpret, he decides to create a SEL that can directly interface with the human mind - taking its instructions directly from the host. He sets to work programming with an intensity born of desperation. He starts to create the 13th Gen.

Hunter has been hacking. Having bypassed military security, she has accessed files dealing with the origins of the plague. She gets Flint over and relates her findings. She's discovered that the plague was not developed by the enemy at all. She knows that it started out as a biomech weapon, that it was originally designed to target specific DNA sequences present only in the enemy and that it evolved, becoming indiscriminate. She knows now that it is likely that every single human on the face of the Earth is now dead and that the military government has been using their enemy as a smokescreen to hide the truth. That Storm's weapon has imprisoned them.

Storm is woken up by an electronic beep, indicating that the sythesis of his new SEL is complete. A small, blue pill-like object sits on a small platform. Suddenly the proximity alarm sounds again and Storm swipes the new SELs into his seizure tablets bottle. Hunter and Flint enter. Flint wanders menacingly around the lab, playing Bad Cop, whilst Hunter confronts Storm about the plague, about the missing girls, about the cover-up, about the fact that her father was one of the millions who simply did not qualify to get into the SubCities. Storm starts to crumple but there is an almighty noise as Flint is shot in the back by Cirus who has arrived to claim Storm and his technology before the police get in the way. Shocked into action, Storm, who thought Cirus dead, and Hunter, who has witnessed her partner being shot, try to organise cover. Hunter tosses a mobile emitter onto Flints body, Storm initiates a destruct sequence for the lab. But escape is impossible; Cirus's modifications make him faster and stronger than they could ever hope to deal with. Within moments, they are led to a small elevator. Once gone, the destruct sequence reaches zero, setting achain of small explosions off around the lab. The noise jars Flint into consciousness and he crawls agonisingly back to the exit. Cirus and his prisoners arrive at Deep Office and are promptly shot with tranquilisers.

When Storm wakes, he is sitting in a wheelchair-like contraption. A sadistic nurse slaps him alert. Storm sees Cirus and makes a hopeless attempt to a punch Cirus. But at the touch of a button Cirus paralyses Storm - he collapses to the ground like a doll. Cirus has inoculated Storm with the 12th Gen and now has him under his complete control. It becomes apparent that the Cirus and his team have been constantly monitoring Storm's work, downloading his files, researching and building the SELs themselves. Cirus suspects that Storm is hiding information about new developments destroyed by the lab's self-destruct and tortures him by making his body feel as if on fire. Storm's nose bleeds down his face. Cirus enlightens Storm of his plan to inoculate all of the SubCity populations with these SELs. An inoculated society will have no disease. An inoculated society will no longer have war. As a demonstration of Cirus's new found power, Storm is forced to watch Hunter remotely, in her cell. Cirus commands Hunter to undress, fill a basin in her cell with water, then place her face under the surface. Distraught, Storm begs Cirus to leave her alone, spitting particles of blood into the atmosphere from his bloodied nose. Cirus wants Storm to join him in rebuilding a controlled society. Storm refuses and Hunter collapses into unconsciousness. Alone, bloody and paralysed with only a borderline psychotic nurse watching over him, Storm reviews his position. Scanning the room, he spots his seizure tablets on a bookshelf. His only chance is to get 13th Gen into his system. He cautiously requests his medication from the nurse who spitefully pours half the bottle down his neck. Inside Storm, the living machines begin to glow. But nothing seems to happen. Frustrated, Storm curses to himself, resulting in a hard strike across the jaw from the nurse, causing his saliva and blood to fly across the room. Blood lands in the terminal by his side. The screen blinks out then in again but with a stream of interrupted words. The realisation that the terminal is displaying his own thoughts hits him like a train. The neural interface is working. Mentally, Storm communicates with his new SELs, instructing them to deactivate the 12th Gen, then to replicate within him. He asks for full system enhancement. In a pulse of blinding blue light, Storm's body becomes fully integrated into the SEL system within. Senses, bones, muscle, neural efficiency; everything is boosted to maximum efficiency and more; his eyes are cobalt blue. The nurse is disabled before she can react and Storm gets to work. Hearing guards beyond the door, he looks for an alternate route out of the room. He gets the SELs to access the mainframe, locate maps for the entire area - which he assimilates in seconds. The map reveals Hunter in a cell nearby and the safest way to get her is through an air-duct, twenty feet above. Acquainting himself with his new power, Storm leaps to the grilled access, tearing it off and entering the hole. He finds Hunter, barely conscious on the floor of her cell. Dropping down, he sees no alternative but to inoculate her. He cuts their arms with broken glass from her fall, and merges the blood, telling the SELs to acquire their new host. Again they are bathed in light - she awakens, eyes deep blue.

Cirus and Maelstrom look on from a hidden camera placed on Storm. They are impressed, eager to obtain this technology. Hunter comes too with a start. Naked, confused, bloody, and angry she slaps Storm hard, sending him flying into the wall. He explains what has happened and slowly she remembers. Once she's dressed, Storm demonstrates her new powers by telling her to will her wound closed. Sceptical initially, she does so, amazed. They escape from the cell and the guards using stealth and speed, moving faster than the guards can respond. The get to an elevator, trying to get to the upper levels of the city but it's a trap. The elevator judders to a halt, then begins a painful descent to Maelstroms holding room. They cautiously exit the elevator into the dimly lit room. Cirus and Maelstrom wait patiently. Cirus is armed and tailored for speed and strength. They are in trouble. Disbelieving, Storm spots Maelstrom. Hunter sees the device too, but is ignorant of its purpose. To demonstrate his weapon to the full, Cirus lowers the energy field, kicks Storm into Maelstrom's domain and raises the shield. With Hunter at gunpoint, she can only watch. The biomechanical hybrids circle each other before Maelstrom lashes out its probes, directly into Storms torso. The machine extracts blood, including the new SELs. Storm painfully extracts the probes then uses them to swing Maelstrom around, smashing it into a wall. Maelstrom fires off a salvo of its tiny sphere grenades like bullets, all missing as Storm moves fast as electricity across the room. At full throttle, Storm is running horizontally across the wall and before Maelstrom can react, Storm has landed on it, crushing its external casing with his bare hands. Shaken, Maelstrom thrusts its probes directly into Storm's skull and for a surreal moment we can see their shared thoughts on monitors in the background. Storm wills his hands to become talon like, piercing the Maelstrom. It shrieks and now, desperate, fires the sphere grenades directly into Storm's mouth before he can react. He stumbles backwards, smiling as the grenades explode. Hunter cries out. Stretching a split second, Storm becomes an expanding sphere of broken flesh. The flesh stops expanding suddenly and starts to travel in a reverse trajectory, reassimilating Storm Blue, complete once again. He stands, perfect and throws Maelstrom against the energy barrier, killing it and wiping out the field simultaneously.

Furious, Cirus loses concentration long enough for Hunter to crack him on the skull with her elbow and grab the gun. He writhes at her, only to receive two bullets, one per thigh. He collapses in a heap, giggling awkwardly. Storm looms over and grabs Cirus, inoculating him with the new SELs using a hypodermic probe that appears from his hand but keeping them under his command. Hunter and Storm are about to leave when Cirus warns them that it's already too late. He has already inoculated the inhabitants of the various SubCities and unless they receive his instructions within a certain time, they will default to their secondary instruction. To destroy the host. Storm hammers away at a terminal in the room, trying to find the command route for the 12th Gen under Cirus's control. Unfortunately, Cirus has used state-of-the-art bioencryption; a highly sophisticated code that utilises the creators genetic blueprint to generate a key. Realising they can do nothing there, Storm and Hunter leave, but only after Storm instructs the new SELs within Cirus to subject him to severe pain. They leave the howling Cirus alone in the dark. Storm and Hunter make their way to Storm's apartment. Now in the main Elevator, they see the effect of the inoculation for the first time. Thousands upon thousands stand still, silent, blank. As they rise silently through the structure, the sound of screaming woman can be heard. They look out through the glass - a lone woman, terrified and conscious, is moving from person to person, looking for signs of life. She is immune to the SELs but is clearly losing her mind.

In the apartment, Storm pulls out an old box from beneath the bed and hauls out what looks like a laptop. Hunter is incredulous. But it's not an ordinary computer and in seconds Storm is bathed in a holographic matrix, surrounded by a revolving screen. Using DNA he obtained from Cirus, he starts to hack his genetic code for the key. The speed of his movements, his accelerated thought processes, eventually he stops dead, the hard light vanishing. He knows that they cannot break the code in time and he knows that there is only one solution. He grabs Hunter and explains that they need to get out of the city; the primary seal has too many security protocols, but the Execution Chamber is a simple one way exit. She needs to get them there - fast. Moving through the stagnant crowd is nearly impossible. To accelerate the process, Hunter hooks her harness onto the safety barrier, gets Storm to hold her tight, and they fall, one, two, three floors, down to the police HQ. Hunter proceeds to get Storm to the Chamber via its secured private elevator. Once in the Inner Chamber, Hunter activates the wall that closes off the outside world, allowing it to appear, to her, for the first time in years. Cautiously at first, they leave the protection of the city, moving like children in the sunlight, smelling the air, listening to the sound of nature. The new SELs make them totally immune to the plague - they are free and Storm, at last, has succeeded in creating a technology that can liberate his people. Happy, but confused, Hunter asks about breaking the code. Before she has finished asking the question, Storm has put some distance between the two of them and asks her to help the survivors just before he explodes in a brilliant blue light. The light travels in all directions, knocking Hunter to the ground, smashing the city wide open. It passes through every individual within every city, shocking them back into the real world, leaving them with deep blue eyes. The city's power is destroyed leaving the shattered entrance to the city as the only light source. People slowly start to migrate towards the natural light.

Liberated from their freeze frame of life, the light reanimates the good, the bad and the depressed. Even the killers amongst them, like Benny, are free. All except Cirus, who remains tormented in the hell of his own and Storm's making. Hunter stands at the new opening to the city, a welcoming committee of one for the many thousands of confused and vulnerable.

Eight months later, a pregnant Senator Hunter Green resides in Office. Together with the survivors, she is rebuilding the World again. Storm left Hunter, and Hunter alone, with the gift to manipulate her body at will. With this extraordinary power and his blood mingled with hers, she chose to create a new Storm Blue; a new beginning.

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