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The Machine, Part 5 - Fiendish Plots
Published Aug 31, 2011


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Written By

ShelleyB

Storyteller
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It has been a harrowing day for some of the residents of Sunset Valley. A series of events has begun while our main character, Grace Anne Browning, is taking a vacation in France. At least, she thought she was going on vacation. She will be returning much sooner than she anticipated. Much sooner than anyone anticipated...

Part 5 takes the cast and crew of the Machine series a little further down the rabbit hole, and a few days forward in time...

It has been a harrowing day for some of the residents of Sunset Valley. A series of events has begun while our main character, Grace Anne Browning, is taking a vacation in France. At least, she thought she was going on vacation. She will be returning much sooner than she anticipated. Much sooner than anyone anticipated...

Part 5 takes the cast and crew of the Machine series a little further down the rabbit hole, and a few days forward in time...
After an exhausting day of searching, Ariel successful found a piece of palladium out by the Ft. Gnome Military Base. She returned home; just a couple of things to do before going to bed.

She decided to call Grace Anne and give her the good news: no need to look for palladium in France anymore!

"You've reached Grace Anne Browning's phone. If you want to speak to Grace Anne herself, you'll just have to leave a message. Good luck and good-bye. **beep** "
"Hmm. That is so strange," Ariel said to herself after leaving a quick message.

"Even allowing for the time change, Grace Anne should have called me hours ago to let me know she had arrived safely. Maybe she's not getting good phone reception in the little village she's visiting.

"I'll just make one more quick call... "
"Yes, I KNOW it's after hours, but the number I dialed just rang and rang. I'm trying to leave a message for Dr. Manson. Would you please connect me to his extension?"

**monotone voice answers** "Voicemail box, full. Press '0' to return to attendant..."

"Arrgh! Fine! I'll send another email message. Dr. Manson is going to want to know I have the palladium!"
Computer screen reads: HTTP Code 501 Error Opening, Creating Web

Laying her head on the useless keyboard, Ariel moans, "I hate technology," then gets up to go to bed.
Back at Goth Manor, Dr. Warner had just finished showing the disappointed Professor Crowley through the house.

[Warner] "I'm sorry there isn't a satisfactory room to accommodate your vampire bats or a solarium to house your poisonous plant collection. We'll make space for it inside the facility itself, down the hill.

"This is what you've been waiting for.... Ta da!"
Professor Crowley peered into the murky hole that had been carved out of the foundation of the Manor. He wasn't pleased with what he saw, or rather, what he didn't see. [Crowley] "I'm not going down those stairs into that.... what is that exactly?"

In an exasperated voice, Dr. Warner explained:

"This is another one of the devices we brought in from Al Simhara! It is a two-way portal. It has no electronics or gadgetry of any kind. Frankly we don't know how it works, just that it does, every time we test it. We step into the black portal down there..... "
Dr Warner thinks to herself, "God! I hate that sensation. My head spins for an hour. I hope that old fool didn't chicken out....." [Warner] " .... and here you are! This black portal is tied to the black portal inside the Manor."

[Crowley] "That was fantastic! I'm going to do it again!"

[Warner] "What? Really? Well, um, Professor, I'm certain you will have oodles of time to 'play with the portals' once I'm gone, but I really need to orient you to the set up of the communications center we installed down here."
[Crowley] "Communications center? I thought you said my lab was down here."

[Warner] "Professor Crowley, relax. I'm really beginning to worry about your blood pressure. This is the area you will use to communicate with all your outside contacts.

"If you'll turn around, behind you is the portal we have already installed to be used at a later date to reach Ariel.

"The organization is already directing her in the construction of her own subterranean workshop for use in the final phase of the project. The blue portal here will connect to the blue portal she builds there."
[Warner] "This doorway leads to the remaining chambers of your lab, built to your specifications. All the 'esoteric' equipment you sent ahead lies hidden inside."

[Crowley] "All my precious devices are supposed to be safeguarded against outsiders by that 'skeleton key'?"

[Warner] "Another scientific marvel, that keypad. It came with the Al Simhara digsite artifacts. Only a very special key fits that lock. It can't be duplicated, and if it hadn't been properly tuned, it wouldn't have worked at all.

"If you value the work you have in progress behind that door, you'll keep close tabs on your key. I must be clear on this point; now that the keypad has been put in place, that door will not budge without the key I'm giving you."
[Warner] "The monitors and computer consoles you sent ahead have been installed on the rear wall. The bulk of the crates you sent remain sealed and placed within the adjoining chambers, locked behind the door I just showed you.

"Here, I present you with the finished product, as far as the organization is concerned. Any further work will be up to you.

"The tour is officially completed."
[Crowley] " 'I feel like dancin', yeah!' The BeeGees were my favorite band growing up, but all the other kids made fun of my bald head and trench coat when I tried to sneak into the discos with them.

"No! I won't let my tortured past stop me now! When I get finished, everyone who laughed at me back then will be reduced to DUST! To DUST I tell you! Ah hahahahaha!"

Professor Crowley laughed maniacally, he shook with rage, his eyes glazed over, his bald pate began to glow...

[Crowley] "Uh hem... You said the tour was completed? Very well, off you go."

The professor began humming to himself and murmured, "I wish she'd leave already. I want to jump back into that portal."

Dr. Warner shook her head and sighed, thinking, "And they all thought I was weird...."
Night has fallen in Sunset Valley. Hank Goddard and Lance Huntley join Lance's fellow CyberCrimes Unit officers Justin Black and Jason Brown in the police department break room. [Lance] "Hank, you look like a ton of bricks landed on you today. What happened in McDonald's office?"

[Hank] "You won't believe it when I tell you. Remember what I said about Tia Rose arresting Twyla Summers, and then sent to the hospital for it? The science lab arranged some deal to get Twyla off with 'community service'! I was furious!"
[Officer Justin Black] "Ah, well you better keep your hands off those cookies. They were sent over especially for Tia. I'll probably need to go by Tia's house and give them to her."

[Officer Jason Brown] "Sorry, dude. We're on overnight duty so I guess Hank gets the honors."
[Hank] "I owe it to her since I moved her to the overnight shift myself. God, what a horrible night! Lance, didn't you say something big happened last night in the CyberCrimes Unit." [Lance] "Yeah, but these two hoseheads are taking over for me. I've stared at my computer screen 'til my eyes feel like coals. You ask me? Something's rotten in the state of Denmark. This is the CyberCrimes Unit, right? I'm seeing loads of CYBER, but no CRIMES." [Jason] "I know exactly what you mean! Justin and I came on board after you had been monitoring the data streams for a while, but I've been looking back through the archives. Some of the data is over a year old. SVPD doesn't exactly need a Cold Case department; there's nothing left open."

[Justin] "Yeah, and you know what I discovered? Last night's haul came in from France, but the code is identical to what we already have. The older stuff has been up-loaded all over the world. What I can't understand is why Sunset Valley is the target. Curiouser and curiouser."
[Hank] "Just sounds like an old-fashioned detective movie where the villain leads the hero on a global chase to me."

[Lance, taking on his fighter's stance] "It may be old-fashioned detective work that gives us an edge, too. I'm always joking about intercepting aliens planning an invasion. What if the IDEA is right, but the ORIGIN is wrong. Could we have stumbled onto some kind of ancient language that only our new computer system is sophisticated enough to tap into?"
[Justin mimicking Lance] "Ooh, spooky! Next thing you know, he'll be saying we're 'listening in' on conversations from the ghosts of his grandparents. I think I'd stick with your alien invasion story if I were you, Lance." [Lance] "Shut up. I'm gettin' me a piece of that cake. All I've had to eat today were stale bagels." As soon as Dr. Warner left, Professor Crowley sat down to check his satellite feeds. He quickly scanned for the people on his Top Ten Most Wanted list. He watched their movements for several hours before remembering the business he needed to attend to in Sunset Valley. His email box was pretty full, so he slowly made his way through them all. A little nap may be in order after he finished responding to the highest priority correspondence.

"Ah ha! Noelle St. James! This email is the most important of all! There is no rest for the wicked." he cackled. He did his best work when sleep deprived...
"Noelle,

I just got settled in Sunset Valley, and am happy to hear you have new information from our operations in France. We will be able to communicate more efficiently if you switch to the televiewer.

Professor Edward Crowley"
Professor Crowley tuned one of his viewing screens to the proper channel to receive Noelle's transmission. "Good morning Professor Crowley. I 'ave many things to report about the activity of Ms. Browning. Or, to be more accurate, I 'ave a great deal of nothing to report about Ms. Browning's activities. She 'asn't left her 'ome since arriving." Professor Crowley was momentarily struck dumb.

"You mean to tell me she hasn't done anything at all?"
"No. But I 'ave arranged for plant in 'er 'ome to report on 'er comings and goings. The telephone line to 'er farm 'as been severed and a scrambler 'as been installed in 'er attic to be sure she is unable to get a cell phone signal from there.

"Isolating 'er like that makes me feel so good!"
"Oh course evil acts make you feel good!

"But wait a minute, what kind of plant did you say you are you using? You may not know this, but I collect, um, exotic plants and would love to have a walking/talking one!"
"No no, Professor. When I say plant, I mean a spy. I disguised 'im to go the 'ouse before she arrived and sabotaged the plumbing. Since 'e knows nothing about plumbing, 'e will never complete the repairs. It seemed to be a good way to keep an eye on 'er without alarming 'er." "Very good! Keep her cut off from Ariel until she can complete the project she is working on for me!

"It would also be useful if you would begin sending emails to Ariel in Grace Anne's name. It could be disastrous if Ariel became worried. I did program her that way, after all. Signing out."
"Just one more moment, Professor.

"One thing I 'ave observed is the interest Grace Anne 'as stirred up with the locals. She 'asn't done anything to draw attention to 'erself, but many questions are being asked. She is being watched by more people than my spy.

"I will use my cover 'ere as a tradesman and try to weasel my way into their circle. I am a very good chameleon."
"It is interesting to hear Ms. Browning has watchers in France. One of the members of the organization mentioned that she, too, had observed strangers near Grace Anne's home in Sunset Valley.

"Naturally, I feared the strangers were becoming curious about Ariel, but apparently I was mistaken. It is Ms. Browning they are watching.

"Keep up the good, or should I say bad, work you are doing."
"I will certainly do that.

"As soon as Grace Anne makes an appearance in the village, I will convince 'er that she cannot trust anyone but me. A little paranoia goes a long way.

"I will report any new developments. Signing out."
2:00 a.m. "Ariel....." 2:30 a.m. "Ariel, wake up." 3:00 a.m. "But Shi Fu..."

"Bao, you must help her to understand."
3:30 a.m. "ARIEL! I AM SPEAKING TO YOU!" 4:00 a.m. Grace Anne! Nooooooo! 4:30 a.m. ..........if you build it..........

..........THEY will come..........
"It has been nearly a week and I still can't rest. What is wrong with me?! I cannot function this way. I must get rid of this jumble!"

Shutdown Protocol: Disable Network Process 1; Disable Network Process 2; Disable Network Process 3; Disable Network Process 4; Disable Network Process 5; Disable Network Process 6.
Ariel tried to sort out her priorities for the day. Her power cell was fully recharged, but she didn't feel rested.

Her mind was whirling with data she couldn't make sense of. If Dr. Manson couldn't help her, she knew who could...
"Professor Crowley,

I am in desperate need. I fear I am malfunctioning and have been unable to contact Dr. Manson at the science facility. Without further guidance, I must initiate Auto Shutdown until my owner returns. I will wait 24 hours before taking further action.

Ariel"
"Now, one more try to reach Grace Anne."

Server address not found. Check internet connection.

"Crap! I am going to launch this thing through the window like a frisbee!"
"Wait a minute, wait a minute. One email in "Spam" folder from nstjames@ france.net?

"YES! It's from Grace Anne! Her internet connection isn't operable at the farmhouse; there is no landline! She can't receive cell phone calls out there either! Haha; she's fine and having a great time!

"I'll have to mark this address "Not Spam" so Grace Anne can use Noelle St. James' internet account while she's in France. That's one bit of good news, anyway."
"Just a quick looky-loo at my in box before going to the lab. Look at that timestamp! It's been days since I checked my email! It's been days since I slept. I wonder where I can find an old-fashioned pocket watch?

"Whoopee! Another email I have been waiting for. Ariel is going to initiate an Auto Shutdown sequence? No, no, no!

"I can't allow that to happen. It would ruin everything! I'll phone her now and arrange an appointment with Dr. Manson and myself for this afternoon. I can break the news to her then that Dr. Warner needed to step in while Dr. Manson's return was delayed (forever)..."
"Professor Crowley! I can't believe I'm hearing from you so quickly! Dr. Manson is dodging my calls and I don't believe I'm functioning properly.

"Describe it? Well, my recharging cycle isn't performing the proper file reorganization while I sleep and there has been so much noise in my head, I have disabled my network processes until a solution can be found."
"Certainly, I will meet with you and Dr. Manson this afternoon. I didn't realize you were so close by or I would have contacted you sooner.

"Enable all my network pathways? If you say so.

"Oh I see. It never occurred to me outdated device drivers could be the problem. That sounds a little low-tech if you ask me, but I'm willing to try anything at this point. If you would be good enough to beam new encryption codes to me....

"Just a second, I'm getting another call. I've been waiting to hear from Grace Anne for days now."
"Grace Anne! Is that you? I can barely understand you.

"What do you mean you have been in an accident? You nearly died? How? I don't understand. Pick you up when? What gate? Grace Anne? Grace Anne?"

I think she hung up on me!
"Professor Crowley, are you still there? I can't meet you this afternoon. Grace Anne just called. There has been a terrible accident and she is chartering a flight home right away. I need to pick her up at the airport as soon as she lands.

"There's no time to explain. I'll call you later."
"Drat! Double drat! I'm making a note for the future; my programming access must take a higher priority than the whims of stupid owners!

"That robot had better remember to enable her network processes. I have a great number of program changes I need to transmit to her!"
Oh Grace Anne, what have I gotten you involved in? All these secrets and lies...

Yet I know I must wait until meeting with Professor Crowley and Dr. Manson before coming clean. Maybe I'm going insane. Is it possible for a simborg to even do that?
We should be back in sync with the ending of Part 3 now, the end of Grace Anne's adventures in France, and the show-down between Grace Anne and Ariel.

Ariel has so much on her mind. Will Professor Crowley's new programs be a help or a hindrance? She clearly needs to make sense of the dreams she's having. And we have to ask ourselves, what is Grace Anne coming back to?

Thanks to all the cc creators whose fabulous "stuff" I use with abandon. Everything in these stories has felt the touch of customization, but I have to express a special thanks to cyclonesue for her jail "stuff." Twyla, my jailbird, would have been stuck in some undefinable dungeon if I hadn't been able to build a proper jail set!

Also a BIG thanks goes out to Hellsaint for loaning a few of his key players to Ariel and Grace Anne. They are going to need all the help they can get!
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RatRaceRobSep 22, 2011

Loved the load of eeevil humor in this one... and the many faces of Prof Crowley (31 text and expression!)... and that dream sequence... roflmao!  Thinking the local cop shop better keep practicing those fighting stances, cause they're gonna need em... lol-lol-LOL ... \:cool\: \:P \:rah\:

orlov VIPSep 4, 2011

Beautifully pulled together!!! Brava for you!!!! What a mess Ariel is in, and as I said before. . .Grace Anne, TRUST NO ONE!! Get on that plane and go ANYWHERE else but home! I can't wait to see how you and Hellsaint put these two stories together. . .\:eek\: give me chills!!!!! THANKS HEAPS for the great read!

Audrey May VIPSep 3, 2011

Great story and I love your sense of humor! \:rah\:

Milii454Sep 2, 2011

Yay for the Fates! And lol at Ariel hating technology. Evil Scientists, whatever have they got up their sleeves next...

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