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Building a Better Soldier

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Identity Crisis". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Riley has to brief 'The Brass' about the status of the Initiative following Maggie's death, as well as deal with some previously unrevealed aspects of the entire project.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Riley-CenteredGreywizardFR13211,01512113,03327 Aug 099 Dec 09Yes

Chapter One

Disclaimer: They all belong to Crack-Head Joss and ME. Deal with it. I have. Preston Lennox belongs Dennis Feldman and, possibly, MGM.

Category: Story #2 in my series 'Identity Crisis,' with minor crossovers with a character from 'Species' and mention of the film, 'Solo.'

Summery: Riley has to brief 'The Brass' about the status of the Initiative following Maggie's death, as well as deal with some previously unrevealed aspects of the entire project.

Time Frame: This story begins immediately after the conclusion of the episode, "This Year's Girl," and runs pretty much simultaneously with story #1 in this series, "Who Am I?".

Spoilers: None intended, but if you don’t know what happened up to this point, why are you reading this story?

Character Bashing: Well, Maggie Walsh isn't going to come out looking all that nice in this story, but I can live that.

Feedback: Of course! It's the coin of the realm!

Archiving: Talk to me first, please.

Author’s Note 1: Many thanks to Lori Bush and Bill Haden for beta-ing this story when I posted it originally.

As usual, “word” indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

~~~

Initiative base
Beneath Lowell House fraternity building
UC Sunnydale campus


"This whole thing is turning into one boondoggle after another," Riley Finn muttered to himself, as he finished packing his duffle bag.

As the current ranking field agent for the Initiative, he was less than pleased at having to hand over responsibility for the search for the murderer of Professor Walsh to his subordinates and report immediately to Washington for a meeting with the current project administrators as he had been ordered to do.

"So, what's going on here, chief?" Graham asked as he entered the putative T.A.'s dorm room. "Scuttlebutt has it that you're leaving town. I thought the primary objective right now was to locate Walsh's killer."

"It is, man. It is," Riley reassured him, as he picked up the bag and slung it over his shoulder. "And you and Forrest are now officially in charge of Operations. I've been ordered to report to Washington to explain what's going on here with the upper brass.

"Evidently, there are a number of high-level people back there who don't believe our reports are completely accurate regarding the existence of HSTs and their level of activity here. I'm hoping I won't be gone more than a couple days, but I really don't know how long this is gonna take," he explained. "While I'm away, I want you to head up the search for Maggie's killer, and Forrest to take charge of the administrative duties Maggie was responsible for.

"Until we know what's going to happen, now that Maggie's gone, I'm issuing orders, effective immediately, to cease all HST prisoner acquisition and revert to simple termination of all hostiles encountered within the town's boundaries while on patrol.

"We still don't have any idea how a Hostile managed to enter and then exit the base after killing her without being seen, remember, so I don't want anyone taking any chances," he elaborated.

"I want the base put on Security Alert Condition Yellow, with all leaves canceled and all personnel to return to the base immediately. Until further notice, no base personnel are to leave the base by themselves, and all patrol teams are to have a minimum of four members. Teams are to otherwise limit their activities to surveillance duties only and are to refrain from any actions that might lead to exposure, except in cases of imminent injury or death to the civilian population. Nothing more and nothing less, for the time being. I don't want anybody here going cowboy or playing Masked Avenger until we're certain of who or what is responsible for the Professor's death, and we know enough about him or them to make certain we can identify and neutralize all the parties responsible," he continued.

"Once we know who, where, why and how, then we'll come down on them. *Hard*. Any questions?"

"Just one, boss. Can you bring me back one of those spiffy Pentagon mugs with the President's Seal on them?" Graham grinned at him. "I dropped my mug this morning and it broke into about a million pieces, so I figure you might as well be doing something useful while you're gone."

"Done," Riley grinned back at him for a moment, and slapped him on the back as he led the way out of his room.

"Come on, man. You can drive me the airport. My flight leaves in less than two hours."

~~~

Unidentified Office complex
Crystal City, VA

It was a typical upper-echelon government conference room, much like any of those used for the various meetings that he had addressed when presenting Maggie's progress reports during the course of the past two years, Riley Finn noted as he entered the room.

A large wood-grained table conference table occupied the center of the windowless room, encircled by approximately fifteen comfortable, high-backed chairs, only eight of which were currently occupied, with a video-teleconferencing console set off to one side of the room, while a small table off in one corner held a variety of donuts, bagels and breakfast rolls, several coffee and hot water carafes, cups and the necessary sundries required by meeting attendees everywhere.

Nodding a greeting to those civilians he vaguely recognized from previous briefings, he helped himself to a cup of some actually fairly decent coffee and a lemon Danish, then seated himself in one of the empty chairs and tried to relax a bit as he ate.

What wasn't typical about this meeting, however, at least as far as any of the meetings that he had previously attended, was the unannounced presence of a three star general in mufti, he noted as he recognized the tall, massive and rough-hewn figure in the three piece suit who entered the room.

Lieutenant General Harold Cassius ("Hardcase") Marchinko had been called many things in his long and varied career, but "paper-pusher" and "desk-bound bureaucrat" were most definitely not among them.

The last time Riley could recall hearing about the General was news coverage from several months back when he had been haranguing Congress about newly proposed restrictions and additional Congressional oversight of some of the military's new programs. The General's blunt manner of speaking, his relatively open manner with the press and the jagged scar trailing down the right side of his face and down inside his shirt collar made the General a colorful and headline worthy figure to both the television and print media.

The appearance of a three-star here, especially this one, meant that this meeting was a *lot* more important than he had initially assumed it to be. And the fact that he was not in uniform meant that some people were taking great pains to make sure that the meeting was not noticed by other people.

{ What the hell is going on? } he thought to himself. { And what is *Marchinko* doing here? Last I heard, he was in charge of some new top secret programs based out of Bragg. }

{ I've got a *real* bad feeling about this. }

"Sir." He snapped to attention as the General entered the room, ignoring the comments from some the other attendees as he bumped the table, jarring their cups and spilling the hot liquid on some of the papers littering the table.

"At ease, Lieutenant," the General nodded at him as he took the seat at the head of the table.

"Why don't you just sit down and relax for the moment, son," he suggested, as several younger, dark-suited men armed with attaché cases followed him into the conference room, one taking up position outside the entrance to the room. Their stance and general demeanor screamed 'Military' and 'bodyguard' to anyone looking at them for more than a moment.

Studying them a bit more carefully, now that he knew who and what he was looking at, he could discern the weapons carried under the carefully tailored suits.

{ MP5K's? } he noted incredulously, although he managed to keep his expression imperturbable as he noted the faint outline under one of the 'aide's' jackets when he shifted the positions of several of the chairs lining the walls.

{ Inside an office building, and in civilian clothes? What the hell is a special ops team doing escorting Hardcase inside the city? }

As Riley settled back into his chair as instructed, the General looked over at one of the entourage who had accompanied him into the room, who was now busily occupied with the contents of his open attaché case which was situated on a small table in one corner of the room. After scrutinizing the interior of his case a moment longer, the young man looked up and nodded to the General, obviously indicating that he was now free to proceed.

"All right, now, gentlemen," he said, his tone of voice brisk and business-like as one of his aides set a cup of coffee on the table in front of him, "why don't we get started?

"First, I want to thank all of you for responding so promptly to my invitations, and to remind you that not only is this meeting not taking place, but that everyone here is actually somewhere else right now. And since there isn't any meeting taking place, there's no need to introduce people who aren't here.

"Now that that's been addressed, let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?"

Not hearing any protests to his initial statement, he then continued on.

"Lieutenant, I'd appreciate it if you could explain to me exactly what it is you understand the purpose of your present detail in Sunnydale to be, and why you are here now, if you would, please."

The fact that the General's tone of voice was pleasant and easy-going didn't make Riley mistake the order as anything but that, as he stood to begin his report.

"Sir, I am currently on detached duty to a military bio-weapon research project designated as the Initiative, which is based at the University of California college campus in Sunnydale, CA," Riley stated as he assumed an 'at-ease' position.

"The purpose of the project is the capture, for purposes of study and evaluation of possible military utilization, of various potentially hostile, non-human creatures recently discovered to be living in the Sunnydale area, primarily in the subterranean regions surrounding the town," he began detailing the stated goals of the program. "Subsequent to capture, laboratory research personnel then examine the psychology and physiology of the test subjects, in order to determine the optimum methods of capture, detainment, behavior modification or ecologic suppression for each subject species.

"At present, as the ranking field agent, I have command of all field units responsible for the actual implementation of the protocols developed for the apprehension and incarceration of the designated hostiles. To date, the field units currently have incarcerated eighty-seven HSTs belonging to sixteen previously unknown species, although only thirty-one HSTs remain in custody," he reported.

"HSTs, Lieutenant?" the General interrupted him, with a raised eyebrow.

"Hostile Subterrestrials, sir."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," he smiled. "Please proceed."

"Yes, sir. Of the sixteen currently evaluated species, sir, nine have definitely been identified as actively inimical to humans. The remaining seven species have not demonstrated any hostile intentions towards humans under any of the laboratory conditions tested at this time, once behavioral allowances for their incarceration were taken into account.

"As regards my presence here today, sir, I was ordered to report to this location with all pertinent information regarding the Initiative program, Doctor Walsh's research and the most current data we possessed regarding her death, and then await further orders," Riley stated as he finished his summary.

"If I understand things correctly, Lieutenant," the General continued his questioning, "the head of the Initiative's research program, a Doctor Margaret Walsh, was found dead yesterday, in one of your labs under suspicious circumstances. Would that be an accurate description of the situation, son?"

"Yes, sir, it would," Riley replied. "Dr. Walsh was found murdered in one of the labs on Sub-level Three at approximately fourteen thirty hours yesterday. Her body was discovered when one of the technicians who was taking a short cut through a normally unused section of the base, noticed an unknown substance, which she correctly suspected to be blood, leaking into the corridor from under the lab door. Upon investigation by base security, Doctor Walsh was discovered inside the lab, together with another individual, a currently unidentified male, also deceased. Both individuals were estimated to have died at approximately the same time, between fourteen and seventeen hours prior to their discovery. Although there were indications that Dr. Walsh had been involved in some type of work in the lab where her body was discovered, we found no –" here Riley paused for a moment, to select the best description of Maggie's work, "project – underway when investigators searched the premises.

"The cause of death for Doctor Walsh was determined to be from impalement through the heart by a sharp, cylindrical object approximately ten inches long and one half inch in diameter, while the cause of death for the unidentified man was a broken neck, most likely by an individual or creature at least six feet, six inches in height, to judge by the forensic evidence at the scene. Preliminary forensic examination of the wounds on Doctor Walsh's body and analysis of cell traces found around the wound suggest that the murder weapon was a bone skewer similar to those possessed by a species we have subsequently determined are referred to as Polgara demons.

"A thorough search of the immediate area subsequent to the discovery of the bodies discovered no trace of demons of any type, other than those already incarcerated in the Initiative containment units, and the only Polgara demon previously discovered in the town's environs had died during the attempted capture, and its cadaver partially dissected, sir," he elaborated.

"A subsequent second search of the entire base revealed no unauthorized individuals present, and review of the video records of all entry and exit points in the compound for twenty four hours prior to the estimated time of death showed no unusual or unauthorized activity.

"The lab in which the bodies were discovered had been noted in the activity log records as not being in use, but upon investigation, was found to contain several pieces of equipment that were not recorded in the base's inventory, and whose purpose is currently undetermined.

"In addition to the deaths, sir, a preliminary check taken immediately prior to my departure indicated that a significant portion of the information the Initiative project has gathered cannot be found, or is unavailable for evaluation due to a lack of knowledge of the proper passwords to access the information. At this time, sir, I am unable to offer any estimate as to when, or even if, the data will become available.

"That summarizes all of the information which I have regarding the incident, sir," Riley finished up.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. That was an excellent summary; short and very concise. I only wish some of my staff could do as well," the general sighed.

"I do have one or two more questions for you, however. Have you ever heard anyone mention anything about a Project designated as 314?" he asked, as he leaned back in his chair. "I want to hear anything you might know or have heard: rumors, scuttlebutt, locker room jokes, anything at all."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't know anything about any such project at all. This is the first time I've heard that term mentioned," Riley replied. "If any of my people have heard anything about it, nobody has said a word to me about it, sir."

"One more question, Lieutenant. Do you know, or have you recently met, anyone named Adam?"

"No one at the present time, sir. There was an Adam Reichsler in my first grade class in elementary school, sir, but I haven't met anyone else with that name since then," Riley answered, a bit thrown by the apparent irrelevancy of the question.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," the General smiled. "You can just sit back and relax for the moment."

"Thank you, sir," Riley answered before resuming his seat.

Despite the General's suggestion, however, he couldn't relax at all. He didn't have any idea about what was going on here just yet, that was evident, but he was damn certain that there was a lot more involved here than just an inquiry into Maggie's death.

He also had a growing certainty that whatever it was that was going on was going to have a very strong impact on the safety of his people back at the base.

"All right, gentlemen," the General said, looking around at the other people seated around the table. "For those of you who may not have been updated on the current status of project ADAM(H), we're going to provide a quick briefing so that we can be sure that everyone is starting from the same page. Needless to say, all of this information is classified as Top Secret, Eyes-Only. Dissemination of any of this information to anyone without the appropriate security clearances and without prior authorization *will* earn you hard time in the prison of my choice, gentlemen. Now, does anyone have any questions?"

Seeing none, the General then turned to one of the aides who had accompanied him to the briefing, who had set up a small projection device atop one of the small tables lining the periphery of the room, and indicated that he should proceed. The aide flicked a switch at the base of the projector to activate it, as another assistant switched off the room's lights.

A glowing image, approximately half-life size, shimmered into existence above the base of the projector, displaying a stylized human figure apparently created by a disciple of Picasso's school of art, which floated in the air above the table. The figure depicted appeared to have been assembled from a multitude of variously colored, sized and textured body pieces, with a handful of metallic/cybernetic surrogates thrown in for good measure. Directly below the figure floated the icon "ADAM(H)" in large, flowing three dimensional block script.

"Gentlemen, this is the ADAM(H) project," the aide stated, as the icon grew in size and separated to permit additional letters to form the words: Auto-Programming Divergent Augmentation Matrix (Human).

"The ADAM(H) project is a supplemental offshoot of the Initiative program which was proposed by Dr. Walsh approximately eight months ago," he announced to the room at large. "The purpose of the project was the development of a manufactured, hybrid warrior, augmented with both cybernetic prostheses and demonic body parts, which could be initially utilized in clandestine military operations or deployed in situations deemed too dangerous for normal covert operations teams. Success of the manufactured units in these types of situations would then be evaluated for possible further limited use in various aspects of non-covert campaigns.

"Based on Dr. Walsh's preliminary reports on the capabilities of the various types of demons she had examined and the preternatural abilities they displayed, the project was given an "Ultraviolet" secrecy rating, combined with another 'black' project originally intended to develop an android, or robot, soldier, and then given the designation 'Project 314' and authorized to begin development of an initial prototype subject, using body parts harvested from the cadavers of captured Initiative test subjects as augmentations to the existing android matrix."

"Uhm, excuse me for interrupting you there, son," one of the civilians on the other side of the table, a tall, soft-spoken and strongly built man with a closely cropped beard, raised his hand with a question, "but, would you mind explaining, just exactly what you mean by the 'Auto-Programming' term in the project name?"

Glancing over to the General, who again nodded his permission, the aide answered.

"The original intent of the ADAM(H) project was to create a construct which could be programmed with all relevant information regarding a problem, and which would then develop and implement its own solution to that task. In more common terms, it would think for itself and determine and set its own goals, while operating within certain specified parameters of allowable behavior."

"Oh, my sainted mother in heaven almighty!" the civilian groaned. "I most certainly hope that you're not going to tell me that you combined this Build-Your-Own-Frankenstein project with the remnants of the SOLO program, are you?"

The look of surprise that flashed across the aide's face before he turned to look to the General made any reply unnecessary.

"What exactly do you mean by that, Mr.–?" Marchinko asked, staring down the table at the speaker.

"You can call me Mr. Lennox, General," the man replied. "And as for what I meant, I thought that I was actually pretty clear about what I just said, but since some of your people seem to be a little slow on the uptake, I'll try to speak a little slower and use smaller words."

Riley's flush of anger at the man's attitude and tone was obviously mirrored by the other military personnel in the room. His initial reaction to stand up and drag the guy out of his chair was halted by the General's laughter and a wave of his hand to his aides to stand down.

"Touché, Mr. Lennox," he smiled. "I seem to vaguely recall meeting with you several years ago, if my memory serves me properly. It involved a young lady named Sil, and the cleanup following her debut to the world at large, if I'm not mistaken," he said.

"Ah, yes, the lovely Sil," Lennox agreed. "Most definitely, a woman you would never forget – no matter how hard one might try. As I recall, your people managed to show up just after the party ended and most of the guests had departed, General. They were, however, gracious enough to offer to clean up the mess that was left. I have to say, they did excellent work, considering the constraints that they had to work under at the time."

"Thank you, Mr. Lennox, it's good to hear that something was done properly in regards to that mess," the General wore a rueful smile as he obviously recalled some previous event with regret.

"Considering your earlier comments, would it be reasonable to assume that you were involved in a similar resolution of the SOLO debacle?" he asked.

"Feel free to assume anything you'd like, General," Lennox agreed with him pleasantly as he continued to gaze at the ADAM(H) hologram. "All I can say for certain is that my employer possesses sufficient information regarding this entire program that he felt obliged to send me along to join the party and see just what's going on."

"I see," the General said. "Hypothetically speaking then, Mr. Lennox, if by some chance, a significant part of the artificial personality knowledge base developed by the SOLO project team had survived, and been evaluated and then incorporated into the programming of the basic ADAM(H) personality matrix, what might the primary characteristics of the personality that could conceivably develop be?"

"Well now, that's a bit difficult to determine properly, General," Lennox answered. "I'll have to give you a little background on the project, in order for you to fully appreciate what was done.

"You do know that there were two prototypes created, don't you?" he asked, pausing to look away from the hologram floating above the table and over at the General. At Marchinko's nod of confirmation, he continued.

"Based on the after-incident information available once all the furor had died down, it appears that the primary problem with the first prototype was that it was overly pacifistic in its outlook on its place in life – at least from the point of view of the officer acting as project liaison, that is. Almost introspective, in a Zen-Buddhist kind of way, one might say, along with a relatively refined sense of humor. When the prototype first saw its unit designation, 'No. 1,' it pronounced it as 'No-One.' After being informed of the proper pronunciation of the abbreviation, it then began referring to itself as 'Nemo,' " Lennox stated, with a faint grin.

Noting the blank expressions on several of the attendees' faces, Marchinko briefly explained, "Nemo is Latin for 'no one' or 'nobody'," before nodding to Lennox to continue.

"As you might imagine," Lennox said, "the military personnel overseeing the project were less than delighted about having a weapon that appeared to emulate Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy, and insisted that the designers make extensive changes to the basic personality profile programming. From what I was able to gather, once all of the changes they desired were implemented, they ended up with something resembling a cross between a shark, Hannibal Lector and Ted Bundy, but without the warm fuzzies of the originals getting in the way.

"Once the second prototype was up and running, a decision was then made that the original unit was to be retired and reprogrammed, so as to be more in tune with his 'younger brother.' This decision evidently triggered Nemo's self-preservation and survival routines, and it then exfiltrated the compound in which it was currently located and pretty much skedaddled out of there and went to ground somewhere in the area surrounding the base.

"After Nemo's absence was noted, the second unit, which had been nicknamed 'Deuce,' was directed to locate and return the primary unit to base as soon as possible, through any means necessary.

"Unfortunately for the surrounding communities, Deuce interpreted those instructions to mean that the use of heavy weaponry and high explosives in areas of heavy civilian population were acceptable methods of operation for the recovery of Nemo," Lennox went on, "leading to what later amounted to a fully equipped invasion of several suburban San Francisco neighborhoods by units of the United States military in their attempts to neutralize Deuce's actions.

"The resulting firefights, during which Deuce razed several office buildings and one suburban high school, resulted in the deaths of nine civilians, including three adolescents, the hospitalization of forty-seven civilians and over thirty million dollars of damage to business and residential properties, and those figures do not include the loss of both SOLO prototypes.

"All in all, General, not exactly the type of accomplishment to warm the cockles of one's heart," he observed. "Which is most likely why, when news of this project reached my boss' ears, he was quite insistent that we not permit even the possibility of another incident of this type occurring. I believe he will be most distressed when he learns of the full extent of your project's ramifications.

"In any event, General, in answer to your question, if your project has incorporated any of the programming developed by the research team for the second android, then you are looking at a possible opponent who views absolutely nothing as unacceptable if it will lead to the eventual success of its proposed goals," Lennox finally answered Marchinko's earlier question.

"This – being – your pet mad scientist has developed will take whatever actions it deems most conducive to its ultimate goals, no matter how brutal or inhumane we may view them, so long as those actions will not impede the overall efficiency of its plans. Your main problem, I believe, will most likely be in determining exactly what your creation has decided its long-term goals may be."

"Thank you for your briefing, Mr. Lennox. I must say, I found your background information on the SOLO project quite interesting," the General said. "It would appear that the information with which we were provided was somewhat – lacking – in various specifics regarding the ultimate resolution of the SOLO project. At the moment, however, that consideration is of minor importance. We need to address the problem we have before us."

He paused for a moment, before continuing.

"All right, then. Cards on the table, gentlemen," Marchinko said, as he slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis.

"To summarize what we do know: the ADAM(H) project was intended to build cyborg soldiers equipped with demonic augmentations, in order to provide us with a force of unstoppable power, without any risk to human life. To the best of our knowledge, Dr. Walsh was involved in building only one of her proposed super-soldiers, but I would hesitate at being fully confident in the accuracy of that information. Additionally, the person or persons responsible for Dr. Walsh's death is presently unknown, but information regarding the cause of her death indicates at least the peripheral involvement of a demon. Whether Dr. Walsh was actively involved in working on any aspect of the ADAM(H) project at the time of her death is unknown, and any results of the project are currently either still undiscovered or missing.

"Based on information provided by Mr. Lennox, we must anticipate that any type of product resulting from this project will act in a completely logical and unemotional manner, and is capable of initiating strategies involving large-scale carnage and destruction.

"Now, according to our intelligence sources, we have confirmation that, as of two hours ago, in addition to the murders of Dr. Walsh and Dr. Margolis, the individual whose body was found with Dr. Wash, all twelve of the researchers and technicians who were involved with the ADAM(H) project have been confirmed as either having died in apparent accidents or been murdered. It is unclear at this point in time whether the information gathered and developed by Dr. Walsh's team in the course of the project has been compromised.

"One thing, however, is quite certain: whoever or whatever is responsible for the deaths of Dr. Walsh and her associates is apparently attempting to destroy all extant information regarding the project. That is something I will *not* permit to happen, gentlemen. We *will* determine who or what is responsible for the interference with this project, and we will put an end to their interference, no matter what lengths might be required. Is that clear, gentlemen?"

Not waiting for a response, he began issuing orders.

~~~

Marchinko *hated* black projects; they inevitably turned around and bit you on the ass, no matter what efforts you took to control them.

Not surprisingly, the Initiative was running true to form, so far; according to the forensic accountants he had assigned to go over the program's ledgers, a very large chuck of taxpayer money had somehow managed to vanish down a number of drains situated in several off-shore banks. His own team of computer geeks (who actually seemed to take a special pride in the 'Mark's Narcs' nickname that somebody had tagged them with) had smiled and almost literally rubbed their hands with glee when he told them to find out who was responsible for the accounts and the quasi-legal fund transfers involved and to locate the missing money.

Now, if they could only determine the people or creatures responsible for Walsh and Margolis' deaths as easily as his hackers seemed to think they would be able to find the missing money –

"Excuse me, sir. I'm sorry to interrupt, but you left standing orders that you be informed immediately upon discovery of anything out of the ordinary connected to the Initiative project."

Looking up, he saw that the speaker was Colonel Henry "Hank" Stephenson, one of several senior Army physicians that he had drafted to review and evaluate the reams of data the Initiative had generated, while comparing it with the information Walsh and her people had presented to Washington, in the hopes of determining exactly what they had really been doing in their secluded little domain hidden beneath the peaceful college campus.

"What is it you've found, Hank?" Marchinko asked, as he put aside the autopsy reports on Walsh and Margolis he had been re-examining. Stephenson might be a little nitpicky and a bit of a pain-in-the-ass with his preoccupation with the smallest details of a project, but there was no question about his qualifications or his brains. If he thought there was something wrong with the data he was given, then there most definitely was something wrong with it.

"Well, we've been going over some of the test results we downloaded from the Initiative's databases this afternoon, sir, and one of our E-6's noticed that something seemed seriously out of kilter with the results of their field units' medical evaluations. They're all completely, totally, perfectly average."

"Well, that is surprising, although it would explain at least part of the problem they've been having with the loss of personnel there," Marchinko reflected. "Considering the type of opponent they've been encountering, I would have expected that their people would have improved their training procedures substantially by this time. Perhaps we should talk to Lieutenant Finn about this."

"Excuse me, sir. It would seem I didn't phrase my findings properly," Stephenson corrected himself. "What I meant is that *all* of the subjects' test results match perfectly with classic textbook figures in every instance. According to the data we reviewed, each of the field unit personnel for the Initiative are *exactly* on the statistical median for their height, weight or whatever other criteria against which we might choose to measure them.

"As you may or may not know, General, the tables and data used to determine whether patients are considered healthy are generated by evaluating and averaging the test results of thousands, or sometimes tens of thousands of patients. I've been practicing medicine for twenty-three years, and I don't think I've seen more than possibly half a dozen patients who exactly matched the published values, the way all of these soldiers' records indicate that they do. The odds of something like this occurring naturally are virtually incomprehensible.

"In a nutshell, General, somebody, probably at a very high level of access, has been systematically and deliberately falsifying the Initiative's records," the Colonel finished.

"Oh. Shit."

"Very succinct, and very appropriate, sir," the doctor agreed. "Somebody has playing with these soldiers' records in order to hide something. At present, I don't know what it is, but I'm completely sure about that fact."

~~~

"I'm sorry to disturb you again, sir, but I believe you need to know the information our 'hackers' have discovered as soon as possible."

It was Stevenson again, and the look of uncertainty, disbelief and what Marchinko would have called outrage and fury, in anyone other than the restrained and somewhat laid-back Colonel, immediately set off every danger, warning and emergency signal the General had.

"What's the problem, Hank?" he asked quietly, as he rolled himself off the small, (relatively) comfortable couch in his office and rubbed his eyes, his long dormant combat reflexes waking him up immediately from the short nap he had been taking. He then headed towards the coffee pot he always kept running during operations like this.

It was only about forty hours ago that he had been notified of the first of the series of fourteen deaths involving the ADAM(H) project, and he hadn't had a chance to sleep, or even doze, for more than a total of four hours since. The possibility that a demonically and cybernetically enhanced android serial killer, created under a military black ops program and possessing tendencies towards widespread mass destruction, was running loose under its own programming protocols didn't permit anyone involved to have your typical nine to five work hours.

"I've just gotten the latest updates regarding our people's efforts to access the Initiative's records, General. Strictly for the record, sir, it seems some of our people enlisted the aid of some – independent contractors in their field, I suppose you might call them – when they ran into some problems attempting to open the databases.

"Independent contractors? What –"

The Colonel cut him off before he could ask any specific questions. "I really don't think that you should ask for any additional details, sir. Not if you prefer to avoid having to answer what might end up being awkward questions, should any Congressional committees end up in any investigations," Stephenson added parenthetically.

He then continued, "In any event, sir, a 'Lord Nikon' finally managed to open the database for them. And the information we've uncovered there would put Professor Walsh and most of her staff in Leavenworth for the rest of their lives, if they were still alive, sir."

"What exactly does that mean, Hank?" The Colonel had Marchinko's complete attention now.

Very little upset or perturbed Stevenson, which was one reason he had been put in charge of investigating the Initiative's projects. Anything that got him wound up like this would probably have caused a stroke in lesser men.

"This is still tentative, as of fifteen minutes ago, sir; we haven't been able to correlate the identification codes Walsh used to track her test subjects with any of the other databases yet, General. But a brief examination of the information in it leads me to believe that she was experimenting with recombinant DNA transfers taken from the demons captured by the Initiative's field teams – and implanting them in human beings, sir."

"She was doing WHAT?"

"The evidence we've uncovered leads me to believe Professor Walsh was involved in multiple testing programs that required the transfer and implantation of non-human DNA genomes into human test subjects, sir. It's uncertain, from the information we've recovered so far, whether the participants were aware of the full ramifications of the procedures involved, or even if they were aware of any, at all. As best we can determine at present, the testing programs were still proceeding through the time frame during which Professor Walsh and her staff were murdered."

"Walsh was experimenting on human beings with demonic DNA? Quite possibly without their knowledge or consent?" Marchinko suddenly wondered if Dr. Mengele had a daughter.

"It certainly appears that way at the moment, sir."

"Hank, if anybody ever finds a way to bring people back from the dead, remind me to request the procedure be used on Walsh, so I can have the pleasure of shooting that bitch dead, myself."

"An excellent idea, sir. I'll be delighted to help you implement it, should the opportunity ever arise."

~~~

"Can you tell me why I suddenly need to have another physical before I can do *anything* else?" Riley asked the E-6 who was currently taking all of his vitals.

"Because Colonel Stephenson said he wanted you to get one, sir," was the laconic reply he received.

"Well, did he say why he wants it?" he persisted, a combination of annoyance and mild concern/worry evident in his tone as he spoke.

"I don't know how you do things in your outfit, sir," the technician paused her efforts for a moment to look over her shoulder at him, "but around here, when an officer tells me to do something, I don't ask him why he wants it done. I just do it. Sir."

Riley absorbed the mild reprimand without a word, mainly because he knew the tech was right. If and when the Colonel wanted to explain himself, he would. Until then, all he could do was sit around and wait for orders. And wonder just what it was the Colonel wanted these test results for.

One of the problems he'd noticed about Maggie's rather autocratic management style was that she didn't tell anyone anything she didn't think they needed to know about what the group and the lab boys and girls were doing. Hell, sometimes she didn't tell them things they DID need to know about what was going on, so he wasn't at all confident or reassured about what she had told the brass about the various programs the Initiative presently had running.

He was beginning to worry about his people. And himself, of course.

Maggie usually distributed the supplements once a week, and it had been five days since their last issue. He knew, intellectually, that they really didn't need to receive them more often than once every ten days, but he'd feel better if he could be certain that he wasn't going to be around here any longer than was absolutely necessary. Things were going to be tough enough to explain to a bunch of bureaucrats as it was, without having a potentially homicidal, demonic, cybernetic android running around loose in your home base, with the local authorities not aware of anything out of the ordinary.

Actually, it was probably better that way, he reflected, at least in this case. The Sunnydale police force rarely rose to the level of 'incompetent' on a good day. Not having them involved with the efforts to track down ADAM(H) at least assured the Initiative that they wouldn't be dealing with a whole town of Barney Fife-clones.

He just hoped he'd get the chance to explain before things started going down the toilet.

~~~

A conference room
DeWitt Army Community Hospital
Fort Belvoir, VA

"At ease, Lieutenant," Marchinko said, as he followed Stephenson and two MPs into the conference room and the Initiative soldier jumped to attention. "Have a seat," he suggested/ordered as he walked over to the table.

Taking a seat opposite the one in which Riley sat, rather than at the head of the rather large table, while Stephenson took a seat next to the general and the MPs took up positions against the wall behind the younger officer, Marchinko paused for a moment to look over the young man seated across from him.

A few inches over six feet, muscular, clean cut and clean shaven, his hair a bit longer than most soldiers kept theirs (although his cover assignment as a teaching assistant on the UC Sunnydale campus necessitated his being inconspicuous and blending in with the student body), Finn certainly appeared to be a recruiter's ideal representation of the prototypical American soldier. Hell, he could almost see Finn posing for the poster.

He certainly didn't resemble the person described in the files his team of hackers had managed to uncover and deliver to Stephenson earlier in the evening. The sheer number of impossible things that modern science could do grew larger everyday, but if what his people suspected – actually, what they were virtually certain – had occurred were true, then they may have finally reached a point where they needed to stop, step back and make some almost-literally earthshaking decisions before they proceeded any further.

"How are you doing, son?" the general asked conversationally. "Having any problems settling in?"

"No, sir, none at all," Riley politely replied. "Actually, I'm mostly feeling a little bored, since I don't really have anything to do here, sir. I was hoping to be able to get back to base soon, and get back to work. Things could go south pretty quickly, if there's no one there to keep a lid on things. Especially with the way things currently are, sir. We don't want to let things deteriorate with the whole demon situation. If we're not careful, things could end up even worse than they were when we first started operations there."

"Yes, I fully agree with you on that point, Lieutenant," Marchinko nodded, "which brings us to the point of this meeting. We've had a number of questions pop up that we need you to answer for us."

"Sir?"

"You see, son, the results of your last physical disturbed Colonel Stephenson here a great deal, after he compared them to the information we found listed in the medical files of one Riley Finn, a twenty-six year old male Caucasian living in Gutenberg, Iowa. That is your home town, isn't it, Lieutenant?" Marchinko asked him, his eyes narrowing at he focused his attention solely on the young man across the table from him.

"Uh, yes, sir, it is," the young soldier agreed, as his face paled slightly, betraying his nervousness and discomfort at the question. "If you give me the chance, I'm sure I can explain everything to your satisfaction, sir," he said, as he looked his superior in the eyes.

"Well, if I were in your place, I would most certainly hope that I could, Lieutenant," Marchinko's voice now more closely resembled a growl as he spoke, and the look in the general's eyes was one that had cowed more than one arrogant congressional representative who had believed that their exalted position had imbued them with the rank and power to play god with the military's budgets and personnel.

"Because, to my untrained eyes, you certainly don't look like someone suffering from an advanced case of Becker Muscular Dystrophy," he continued in the same tone of voice, "and you most definitely don't look like someone who's been confined to a wheelchair since the age of twelve, now do you?"
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