Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent 9/6/17

I wouldn’t say that I’m a favorite of the powers that be. As a matter of fact, I’ve rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. I never pretended otherwise. That’s another thing to talk about later. What I will talk about is the mundane feeling that occurs day-to-day, when you’re craning your neck for your next mission. I’ve probably looked the furthest behind the curtain, but I can’t tell any rhyme or reason behind who gets what mission, or who gets promoted first, or how they distribute the androids between their minions, I mean, agents. Sometimes you can go weeks or months without any sign of a mission, and then you start wondering if it was all real in the first place as you trod along in the civilian life you lead as a cover.

They take your name, your time, your spirit, and they give you a flimsy promise. It’s something you hold close to your heart, because it’s really all you have once you sign up for that legendary ark that will boat the chosen ones over to After. There was one agent who I came to know, who kept looking for her golden ticket. Most agents can pass by one another on the street and never realize it, but I spotted her a mile away. I saw the furtive glances, the look of despair, and the thirst of desperation that guided her jerky movements as she walked through Prism City. Newbies often looked like that, but I didn’t know it at the time. At that point, I didn’t even realize how rare it was to be given an android right off the bat. Whoever had confidence in me, I had no idea why.

This particular newbie I later found out was Laney, a personification of her divinely-bestowed codename. I noticed that most of her missions revolved around reconnaissance, but her technique left something to be desired, like discretion. I understand why she was nervous. She didn’t yet know whether to trust if she would be given the gift that would lead us to After, just like the rest of us. Trust goes both ways, and those at the top of the D-MISE hierarchy weren’t exactly transparent. Perhaps that was why only a select few chose to truly believe with all their hearts, enough to dedicate their mortal lives to the cause. These were the ones that truly had nothing.

It was too late when I realized just how little Laney truly had – what drove her to compliance to an unbending titan. If I were Laney, I would be scared too. Especially if I were the one that had to take the blame for what happened to the Star Dog clan that night when the ship pulled out of the dock, taking Laney’s hope for redemption very far away.

Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent 8/30/17

My first mission was brutal. I was thrown behind the controls of an android in a dark, cramped room that I wasn’t even sure where it was. I was blindfolded through most of it, and too dazed to pay attention to much else. I wasn’t given any instructions besides those I could gather from my surroundings, and the controls weren’t exactly intuitive.

Although the room was sparsely decorated, hardly bigger than a closet, one wall held a monitor and had a semi-circle input panel underneath, gently curving around me. I couldn’t believe how thin it was, and transparent, almost as if it weren’t really there. Buttons and keys were highlighted in the darkness, and I gently tested them. The monitor was in a first person view, and I watched as a real-looking hand waved in front of me on the screen as I waved my own over the panel. It was tracking my movement, and translating it somewhere far-off.

I put both hands up and I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The monitor projected a hologram that zoomed forward onto my face like a mask, and I felt a tug of nausea, feeling like I was flung forward into a body that wasn’t my own. Now I couldn’t see the panel at all, but I could still move and see the movement appear in front of me. I was seeing exactly as the android was seeing, and I couldn’t tell you how. I moved forward with a combination of leaning and leg movements. It felt stiff and awkward, but I was able to build up a rhythm. There didn’t seem to be other people around.

I was behind a building, in an alleyway, and I walked myself out onto the street. I turned and walked some more, some people passing me by with strange looks, but many others didn’t. I couldn’t tell if they were androids too, or if they were real people. I passed by my new reflection in the glass in the front of the building, and I didn’t recognize that it was me, although I was looking right at me. I moved on, my curiosity building, as well as my nausea. It was a different world, and I was a different, well-dressed, fairly attractive person. Not that I’m usually considered otherwise, but I felt both anonymous and more alive than I had been before I was put on death row.

Within a few more steps, I found out I was in the New Prism City Museum of Art and Science, and I went inside. While in there, I figured out what my mission was, and I completed it to the best of my ability. At the end, I found myself on the precipice of a window ledge, staring down the infamous Star Dog for the first time. Which move would complete my objective? I jumped. As soon as I did, I vomited all over the panel back in that cramped room, and the hologram faded back onto the monitor, which was now grainy static.

I didn’t know it then, but I had done very well.

Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent 8/23/17

Another thing that may have nurtured my motivation to give my life over to D-MISE aside from the big picture may have been the morbid curiosity. The Star Dog technology had broken through a veil in our world and opened our eyes to new possibilities, and many others were taking that to heart. D-MISE was among them. I was curious about their experiments that sought to replicate the unique Star Dog formula. I had seen monsters evolve from a Petri dish. I saw where they hold them. I saw when the first one got away. I saw all of this not because I was told where to go, nor was it a part of my missions, but because I needed to satiate my own curiosity as much as I needed to breathe, and I figured it out for myself.

I’m used to the dance. I’m used to changing partners. I’m used to the music changing, and change it does. Soon, we’ll all have the power to change.

Creatures made from hybrid myths were hidden throughout the city, assigned to various caretakers. Human arrogance prevailed again, and more and more of the creatures are finding themselves loose. Some were from negligence. Others were simply underestimated. Whatever the case, Prism City is becoming even more unsafe for those that deign to walk the streets. If you’re of the many that have housing that corporations hand out like rewards to their vassals, I’m sure you’ll be safe. I’m sure you’ll never have reason to believe that these monsters exist. I’m sure your family won’t be torn asunder by nature overtaking the city.

As for everyone else, they’ve lost their skepticism to desperation. They know the monsters exist. They’ve heard the roars in the sewer, and saw something gliding past the moon just beyond Prism Tower. I’ve been taking notes. I know almost every monster as they were my beloved pet. I named them, although that’s only something you and I will ever know. Everyone else has their own names for them, and I know about those too. Their caretakers knew them by their identification numbers, although most of those are just arbitrary silver plaques on broken, empty cages.

I saw the program too, the one that used to be Star Dog’s. With a few clicks and button presses, a line of code could be inserted or removed, and his entire personality would change on a whim. His memories were uploaded, and his genome was edited like a word document. They could have made him purple with pink polka-dots if they wanted, but instead they chose that star on his hip. D-MISE started using that program, but I can’t tell you yet how they got it. You can probably guess, but they’ve been using it to alter the genes of their sideshow projects. They didn’t find what they were looking for, but they did find a lot of other things.

For instance, they found out that reptilian DNA doesn’t play well with mammalian DNA, but that didn’t deter them very much.

Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent 8/16/17

Even as a D-MISE agent, inside an organization built on secrets, there are many things that I am not supposed to know that I do. I know who our faceless leader is. I know why he founded D-MISE, and I know that I can get away with publishing these secrets because I won’t be around long enough to face the consequences, as far-reaching as they will be. I pity those that stand between us. I pity myself because the fruits of my labor could very well wither before I get to taste them in After. I never directly met our leader, but I’ve always considered him a mentor.

I haven’t been a perfect D-MISE agent. There were times when I went outside the protocol. There were times when I made hard choices that didn’t directly benefit the big picture. There were times when I was misguided, and there were times when I was oblivious. Whatever I was, however, I was good at covering my tracks. The decentralization worked in my favor, and perhaps our meticulous leader’s all-seeing eye had a blind spot that I exploited. Maybe he knew and kept me around for other reasons.

I can’t explain why I stepped outside my role on several occasions and interfered where I probably shouldn’t have. Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic for a life I could no longer lead. Perhaps I had gotten comfortable getting away with things that other agents would be fried for (that wasn’t a typo for “fired”). Maybe I just liked the guy, and I couldn’t stand back and watch him keep messing up and stumbling through mission after mission. Maybe I felt guilty that he was cursed with our lab experiment gone wrong, a very unpleasant and sadistic creature. Maybe getting involved stroked my ego and gave me gratification that working the shadows usually doesn’t. Maybe I just missed the sound of a human voice.

In my time as an agent, I became very attuned to riddles and clues, and I became good at giving indirect answers, no matter how much it frustrated him. I even enjoyed it on a mischievous level. Very few of us are granted anything close to resembling partners when we work for D-MISE, so for a stretch, he was my only company, even though we could only talk through shadows. I had to be careful that he didn’t rely on me too much, but that came to pain me as much as it did him. I needed to know that he could stand on his own two feet, and carry his weight for the big picture. I might not always be there to point him in the right direction, and I guess I needed to assuage my guilt. After a time, I began to feel a strange tingle of pride when he did well.

All the secrets that I kept for D-MISE, I struggled the most with keeping my own. I’m the one that helped Langston Romaijn, and I would do it again.

Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent 8/9/17

Most of us were driven by the bigger picture. Some of us weren’t. I can’t tell you the difference between which, because we all worked fervently to bring together the organization’s goals. It was our mantra. It was our life. The big picture was delivered to us in the same way that all of our information was – in bits and pieces, in riddles and clues in plain sight. D-MISE became our religion, and we looked for signs of those who would play God in our daily life. In a restaurant, in a club, in a parking lot, or in a store, our eyes would be scanning for something just slightly out of place. Whether we found it or not, the search would continue. Our lives depended on it.

I suppose it’s very possible that there are some among us who never interpreted the bigger picture and what D-MISE was trying to mitigate, and they just worked for the smaller reward of being able to live from day to day. I work for the big picture. I share the vision of how the world is changing, and I want to be a part of it. I want to be able to survive in it, and the only way to do that is to stay ahead of it. Something big is building in our world, and I’m not sure how many of us are going to make it to other side of After. There’s always a chance that I won’t, especially if certain information is released.

It’s too late to stop it. It’s out of humanity’s control. The world isn’t a great place as it is, but it’s likely to become worse – much worse. D-MISE is only trying to prepare us. D-MISE and all its agents are the hero of this story. We know about the change, and we know we have to change with it. The mass of citizens in Prism City might not know it, maybe a few can guess. We are agents because we chose not to be oblivious, and we are willing to do what’s necessary.

I mentioned before that there are some in our organization that like to play God. Allow me to qualify that statement. The Star Dog technology is the turning point, the fulcrum, around which our world revolves. It is the technology that will help us to After, and I can tell you that Before isn’t going to last much longer. Complacency is the killer in the shadows, and it will decimate a large portion of the world’s population. Not D-MISE.

We have learned to change the biology of other creatures, and we have had many, many failures along the way. It’s not an easy process, and if we are well-funded somewhere farther up the invisible rungs of our organization, I can’t tell. We’ve made monsters that terrorize the citizens in the dead of night, but I have to assume there’s something special about Star Dog. We tried to recreate our own, but things went wrong. So very, very wrong.

Confessions of a Partially-Reformed D-MISE Agent

Many of us didn’t know exactly what we were signing up for, but that doesn’t excuse us. Ignorance is the crutch of the weak, and by now, we’ve learned to become strong. I’m writing this now as a manifesto of the things we’ve been through, and things that I, personally, have encountered. During my time as a D-MISE agent, I’ve done some tremendous things, and equally terrible things. I wish I could say that I was ashamed of them, and on some level I must be to write this, but I can’t deny that it helped me live in an unlivable world, and I won’t apologize for that.

When this all started, I wasn’t much of anything. I had no direction in life, and Prism City wasn’t a very generous place. That hasn’t improved in recent years, and although I’ve had to face unthinkable consequences, I shudder to think where I could have ended up. Yes, I know about Paradise, and Utopia, and countless other squabbling communities that have popped up on Prism City’s streets. We have to know everything, including our fair city’s best kept secrets. We’ve made most of them. You’ll soon learn about a large quantity of them, but even I am not privy to all of them.

Our organization works best with decentralization. I don’t know who my superiors are. I don’t know who my inferiors are. I don’t know who my peers are. I only know who I know when I need to know them, and then I forget. I’ve become very good at forgetting, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I suppose that’s an occupational hazard I’ve been trained to accept, just like I’ve been trained to accept that my orders come when and where I least expect them. All I know is that I had better follow them, and failure is not an option.

There isn’t much else I would rather be doing, because before this I was lined up for death row. I wasn’t particularly a good person, but I can say with certainty that I didn’t belong there. I didn’t deserve to have my neck on the chopping block, but I had ended up there anyways. At the last second, I had received a pardon from an anonymous source, and before I knew what was happening, I was being loaded into an unmarked van like an animal and carted off to the unknown. I was dressed up like their doll and thrown into missions before I had even known the protocol. Looking back on it, I can see that was their test of my mettle, and I had passed. When I had, I came out the other side of their artificial adversity as a new man, with a new life, and even a new face.

This wasn’t a real face, but it passed for one. I remotely operated an android to do the dirty work while I stayed in the shadows where I belonged. It was through these electronic eyes that I had first encountered the being that irrevocably changed our world: Star Dog.

2 Truths, 1 Lie: Permutation #3

“Are you sure this is alright?” Star Dog asked as he followed his human companion for the day around the stage. His ears were slightly laid back and his steps were tentative as he watched all of the other volunteers at work on the stage. Some were painting a few fixtures, others were taping blocking on the stage, and a couple with headsets were off to the side looking over the stage directions on a clipboard.

“This is community theatre, and you are part of the community, my good sir,” Clancy said with a smile as he pranced around the stage before resting against a hardy stage set. It was on wheels, so he was able to easily spin it around to reveal a fancy circular staircase. “I told Nathan you’d be getting in a lot of work experience today, and I intend to hold to my promise.”

“I just want to make sure I’m not in the way,” Star Dog said, but even while he wanted to remain modest, his curiosity was being tugged in so many directions with all lively activity surrounding him. “I didn’t imagine it could feel like this.”

“What were you expecting?” Clancy chuckled as he started roving through the costume rack backstage. He found a vampire lord outfit from last Halloween’s production and held it against himself while looking in the mirror. Star Dog eyed the costume as well. “Did you really believe Nathan when he said this theatre was haunted?”

“Would it be foolish to admit it?” Star Dog said to the dirty blond teenager in the mirror, who turned and dramatically grasped his muzzle in the crook of his finger. He peered into his eyes and smiled widely.

“Absolutely not, because it’s absolutely true,” Clancy winked and then went back to ransacking the costumes before explaining. “There’s so much energy poured into theatrical arts, especially here. It’s impossible that none of it was captured in the walls and in the sets. Everything is made from our sweat and breath, so everything we do captures a little bit of it. Our spirit beats on this stage, and in many other places. Our director swears up and down that she saw a ghost in one of the halls. I’m telling you, it’s one of ours.”

“Interesting,” Star Dog said, not sure what else to say. He wasn’t sure if the tale intrigued him to stay or gave him second thoughts. He had faced all manner of mortal men, but anything beyond the realm of the living and he wondered if it really mattered how many abilities genetic engineering bestowed on him. Ghosts probably don’t care if a dog can talk or not.

“Here, try this on,” Clancy interrupted his thoughts by tugging on a Victorian suit and cravat over Star Dog’s lupine snout. It took some fiddling, and Clancy even had to re-do it once he found out it was a three piece suit, but after the torture was complete, Star Dog couldn’t help but flash a toothy canine smile in the grimy mirror at his own dapper reflection.

“If only I had some steampunk goggles,” Clancy muttered with his fingers to his chin thoughtfully, but he clapped his hands joyously anyways. “You look great! We could really put a twist on this new vampire screenplay we got in. Have you acted before?”

“I guess you could say that,” Star Dog muttered while considering his reflection. Does it count as acting when others thrust the role upon one without their knowledge or consent? It technically is still fulfilling a role, which is something Star Dog was all too familiar with – but that was behind him now, as he had to keep reminding himself.

“There’s so much that goes into acting,” Clancy said while picking out a costume for himself. “So much more that goes into theatre. I can show you how to work the lights, and we can help build a few last minute sets. Are you good with power tools?”

“Can I start with the powerless tools?” Star Dog whimpered, and Clancy laughed.

“You’ll do fine,” he said while donning a frilled shirt and a billowing velvet cape. “The show must go on!”