Manticore, a 'tail' of origins

Manticore, a backstory of Dr Maximilion Gorgon and his NetNavi
Chapter 1

Mad laughter rung off the walls, filling onlookers with dread. The scene before them was that of a nightmare. The lab was covered in silver panels on nearly all sides, even the floor. A large staircase rose against the back of the room, hugging the wall for those to watch in a semi-circle from above. They clutched the red metal railing as the aperatus from the ceiling descended, hanging above the tank containing the.. thing. As the doctor turned several devices on the aperatus, a cocktail of chemicals began to flood the tank, adding layer after layer of color. And the colors! They seemed to swirl and mingle without ever merging, like a rainbow of life swimming around the inert body within them. As the thing groaned and began to stir the doctor's laughter only rang louder. The cacophony held no words but it said everything. Bounderies only existed to hold back plebeians. Rules were meant to be broken. To anyone who doubted that creed, behold! I have created life! I am God!

Footsteps rang down the hallway, as workshoes clicked off sterile tile. His revery broken, Dr Gorgon reached out and turned off the television. The world of possibility fled and he was, in a moment, back to his desk at SciLab. The footsteps slowed and fell silent as he felt a presence near him. Observing, judging, he knew the truth. "Max, how is your research coming along?", the voice of his director inquired. Dr Gorgon looked halfway up at the middle-aged man, not bothering to take note of the false smile he was sure had been prepared. Gorgon glanced to the electronic eye of his PET and gave a nod. It was one of the perks of working at SciLab, and one reason he tolerated their ridiculous limitations.

A holographic display popped up as the PETs' emiters blinked and came to life. Several screens of information appeared, including a graph, data readouts and even an impressive-looking pie chart. "The advanced PET memory modules are coming along. Production is still a ways off, Director". It was difficult to disguise the cynical tone of his voice but he assumed he managed it.

The Director cleared his throat and fidgeted for a moment, as if trying to find words for something. Dr Gorgon narrowed his eyes, still not looking up to the man. Was the old coot on to him? He had been careful to keep things subtle and his tracks invisible. Sweat began to form on his brow and his eye twitched as he paused. What had he done wrong? What had he done wrong? Was it over? The director finally cleared his throat and spoke with a saccharin tone "The team was wondering if you were interested in this year's holiday party? We know you tend to stick to yourself, so they wanted me to ask".

Gorgon looked up suddenly, meeting the Directors' gaze. Was the director lying? Nobody truely cared for another in this world, the man had to be going through the motions for the sake of his own image. Yes, couldn't leave the odd loner in the lab alone. His behavior must have been making the other uncomfortable.. It was a crack in his disguise and it would widen if he didn't do something about it.

The look of shock quickly drained from his face and the color slowly started to return. He sputtered "Oh, that. Why, yes, I suppose I shall attend. The twentieth, was it? Yes, yes, I shall attend, thank you". The Director blinked and raised his eyebrows. It was impossible to put into words but When he met Gorgon's eyes he felt as though he was gazing into the soul of madness. It was only there for a moment then vanished in an instant. Perhaps he had, or both of them had, been working too hard lately. He shook his head a bit, discarding the thought as foolish. "Yes, the twentieth. Excelent, we shall see you there. In the mean time, keep up the hard work, Max", he said, befor ehe turned and walked off.

Footsteps rang once again down the hallway, their sound fading as Gorgon's facade did. He grinned to his PET and sat back in his chair. An electronic voice spoke up, out of the device's speaker "It's fine Doctor, nobody suspects a thing". The charts and data displays vanished one by one to be replaced by a larger image of the face of an unmodified netnavi. Gorgon glanced at the display and nodded to it, despite the PET's camera being nowhere near the hovering image. "Then, my dear Navi, we had best use our time and resources wisely". The doctor rolled his computer chair back to the front of his desk and turned to face his terminal. He opened a desk drawer and slid out a device that resembled a black metal brick, only smaller. One end had a jack-in port and the other end had another cable and plug to allow it to jack into another device.

He gave the device a pat and worked to jack his PET into the recieving end, before plugging the device into his terminal. It had set him back an entire paycheck from SciLab but it was worth it. This device contained a virtual landscape as large as he needed it, allowing him to run experiments and store data as if it were a large server, with his PET and navi being the only input devices. Perhaps more importantly, it functioned as a signal redirector, bouncing the data of his PET through it. To any outside investigator, the stream was coming from a dozen different places that didn't really exist. And bouncing off another dozen places that didn't exist either. Each. The thing even had a few lights on top to indicate if someone was poking at it's security and how far they got. Ahh the inventors had a mind like his. Do as you shall. The whole thing made him chuckle a bit.

"Navi. Jack-in". The Doctor said simply, and the unmodified navi did so.. It felt it's world pulse as it's data transmitted from the plain black and sterile environment it was used to, into the high tech one that the 'black box' had.

Dr Gorgon just called him 'Navi', said that attachments were unhealthy. He didn't even customise his look, said something about not having a face meant he didn't have to learn to tell if Navi was lying. He wasn't made for combat, in fact he had never even used a battlechip. He was, however, Dr Gorgon's digital servant and companion. The man didn't have any friends, after all strangers were just enemies you havn't met yet. SciLab offered to provide the doctor with one or more navis for research but they were usually declined.

An image of humility had to be maintained of course, especially since other navis had a habit of being altered and 'lost during research'. At any rate, the doctor had kept Navi around and hadn't sent him on any tasks at all. It seemed he had a soft spot for the guy, or so the navigator would like to think. And it's not like he was bored, since Dr Gorgon always had him going over data from their latest experiments or activites he couldn't trust anyone else with.

Navi didn't like the digital world of the black box, it reminded him of a deep and dark cave. A gaping maw in the net that nothing foolish enough to enter could escape from. Fortunately for Navi, he was directly jacked in so egress was simple, when Dr Gorgon felt like it. What really got him was how empty it was. It was huge yet lonely, with nothing to keep him company except the occasional visits from the doctor and the flickering of a few lights made to resemble torches on the walls.

He knew the way he was treated that Dr Gorgon cared about him, he had to. His owner simply wasn't good with words, yeah that was it. Exposing his inner feelings was alien to him.. He cared he just didn't feel the need to or know how to admit it. One day, Navi hoped, he would even be given a real name. Custom graphics could wait, just a name was all he really wanted.

Navi sighed and headed to a corner of the cave complex and held his hand out against an unassuming wall. "In the name of Doctor Gorgon open", he said to the wall as data flew about and reorganized it's self into a portal. He stepped through the backdoor access of the black box's interrior laboratory and headed to a series of displays on a wall made of what seemed to be obsidian.

It was time to get to work.
Chapter 2

It was quiet inside the black box, with only the low humming of the virtual server and the typing on keys to keep Navi company. The work he and Dr Gorgon was doing was groundbreaking to say the least. It was hard to figure out exactly what was going on in his operator's head but he knew it had something to do with using foreign data on navis and programs to boost their potential. They were using bugfrags now, the Doctor had posted missions from time to time on SciLab boards for people with SP programs to go and aquire some frags for research and the return had been more than expected.

Bugfrags were malable but also unpredictable. They had tried just putting them together and adding power and found they reacted, the more frags the more pronounced the effect. But they were just as likely to thrash about and try to consume their surroundings as they were to merge into any new form of life. They had managed to capture a few viruses and apply frags to them but the results were similar. The things were just as likely to mutate away from any recognisable form as they were to eat the virus. Either way, for safety reasons, they had to 'sanatize' the results shortly after words. The whole net was made of data and energy after all, and given enough time the bugfrags consumed or corrupted their containers. Containers made of energy could contain them for awhile, as the frags and viruses tended to suckle off of it instead of tearing it appart but that led to new mutations and discoveries.

One unfortunate loss happened when a SciLab navi was 'helping' them with their testing on new, high capacity PET memory modules. The navi entered the PET, as instructed and began to explore the new region of virtual space the memory had added but the whole thing destabalized and the navi was never heard from again. Officially. It had actually been whisked away to a containment area to be fused with bugfrags and lots of energy. Seems it was a step in the right direction as the bugfrags mutative properties did indeed begin to change the navi under the right conditions and within the bounderies of the navi's form, to boot. Claws, a wing, a few more eyes, things like that. Unfortunately the effect to the navi's mind as just as pronounced as it's body. It stopped responding and was consumed in a hateful rage as it attempted to destroy it's container and had to be 'sanatized' like the virii.

Dr Gorgon had rambled on from time to time things like merging bugfrags with people, merging people with navis and all sorts of nonsense but that's one of the traits Navi liked about him. He was nothing if not ambitious. While most scientists were content to work on building a better mousetrap, Gorgon was busy building a liontrap. It was admirable, really. One day his operator would be famous the world over and their discoveries would change the way people and navi alike lived. As navi chuckled to himself he heard some coming through the microphone of the PET again. Seems the Doctor had left him to his own devices and began work on something else.

Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still
But he told us where we stand
And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear
Claude Raines was the invisible man
Then something went wrong for Fay Wray and King Kong
They got caught in a celluloid jam
Then at a deadly pace it came from outer space
And this is how the message ran....

Navi shook his head. The Doctor has his occasional.. eccentricity, that was for sure. It wouldn't hinder their reserch but it was interesting to observe. He laughed at that, the irony of observing the observor. He idly wondered if the meaning would be lost on Gorgon when the controls began to beep. The navigator pressed a red flashing button and looked up at a display before him.. Apparently a navi had stumbled into the virtual world of the black box.. Was this navi investigating them or was this just random happenstance, he wondered. More importantly, did the Doctor know?

"Doctor Gorgon", Navi tested through the PC's speakers. Nothing. He wondered if the Doctor was off getting his tenth cup of coffee and still humming that song. He did like his coffee. Said after a certain point the stimuli began to break through the barriers society had burns into his mind. Either way, without any input from Navi or Gorgon, the virtual environment of the black box would appear to be a winding laberenth with multiple floors and security measures built into it's depths. That navi was going nowhere fast.


Dr Gorgon was in a good mood for a change. Things were proceeding nicely. He had send Navi to go over the data from their last series of experiments but somewhere between his ninth cup of coffee (black as night, thank you) and the Time Warp something had occurred to him. He had been working from scratch, using information that was, more or less, public domain. Sure it was modified by things known in general among the SciLab community but it was outdated. He needed fresh data, cutting edge info, like from his own supossed research on PET data modules. He had wracked his brain on the method though. He hated people in general and the thought of befriending someone to get closer to new secrets was ludicrous. For the most part he was using SciLab funding and resources and those were being realocated subtly to try and avoid anyone stumbling upon his true research. Thus buying someone off or paying a third party agent was out of the question. And it struck him so suddenly that he had to laugh at the simplicity of it all. He would steal it!

He rocked his shoulders back and forth to the beat of one song or another as he clenched his teeth and one fist (it wouldn't do to spill his coffee), barely holding back a.. giggle? Linear thinkers were doomed to walk around in circles, no he was going places! And now there was a red light flashing on his black box. He took a sip of coffee and thought for a moment. That had never happened before. He would have to have Navi check it and- wait didn't that mean something? He choked on his drink for a moment before sputtering out a second or two of incoherant babble. He wanted to yell out orders to Navi but he was at his workplace and had to be careful what was said. If anyone suspected him and was nearby to listen.. Or had his room bugged, he had to be careful what came out of his mouth.

Clearing his throat and putting on a facade of interested disinterest, he sat back in his computer chair and spun it to face his computer. He typed in his multi string password and puched a sequence of buttons on his PET, all of which was required to unlock the workstation instead of frying it and and it's data. When the screen snapped back to his work he reached out to the holographic display and touched the corner of one window and another which had appeared next to it. The data he had been workong on shrunk as a small window, showing Navi typing away and operating various features of the black box's security system came into view. On the other, newer, window came a live feed of their intruder as it tumbled and rolled away from a few falling rocks in the labyrinth.

He watched for a moment, thoughts flying through his mind.. Was it happenstance that someone came into the black box? Someone just curious and looking to explore? No, the net was absurdly huge and his box wasn't indexed anywhere. One might even call it a slice of undernet, if one were so inclined. No, he was sure this intruder was up to no good. Was it SciLab? Was it the NetPolice? Was it some random do-gooder on a mission? Perhaps it was even an assassin or a thief, out to blow his cover. No this wouldn't do. He was sure it was either a terrorist or law enforcement and he wasn't ready to give up the game, so to speak. The navi would become one of his test subjects. Reaching a decision quickly, he asked into his PET's microphone "Navi, is any data currently transmitting through the black box?"

Navi, startled for a moment at the random question paused then shook his head. "No Doctor. I made sure all transmissions stopped as soon as I detected the intruder", he said calmly. "Excelent. Then I believe the following course of action is most prudent", Dr Gorgon said with a mix of sadistic joy and anger in his voice.

He then reached out and disconnected the black box physically from the port, trapping their intruder inside.
Chapter 3

Confused shouts came from one of the offices in SciLab, blocked for the most part by the reinforced security door that was designed more to keep fires, gasses or other wild experiments in, rather than intruders out. "Polar? Polar?! Are you there? Respond", a female researcher said with increasing panic. Finally she activated the emergency jackout feature, hoping to be done with it all. Unfortunately nothing happened. For some reason, Polar was unreachable. But where was she? She had to be alright, she had to be! They had been a team since she was a little girl. They had been through so much togeather, she had to be alright!

Emily and her navi, Polar had been exploring around SciLab Net when they had noticed a conceiled portal leading.. Somewhere. It might have been coming from SciLab, due to the proximity but it could have been a surfacing anomaly. Either way it deserved to be investigated. It looked like a dimly lit cavern that was impossible to navigate quickly or safely. Loose rocks hung overhead, sharp stalagmites rose from the floor in areas, threatening to impale anyone foolish enough to focus on the ceiling, and everythign seemed so securely locked, there was no quick way through this place. Not unless you had some kind of navi designed to dig and tunnel anyway.. Just as they had proceeded a bit into the place her connection had been cut off.

Inside the black box...

Everything was so dark, illuminated poorly by a few torches built into the unhewn, cave walls from place to place. Dirt crunched under her feet as she wearily kept her focus as close to the middle of her field of vision as she could. Spikes were randomly placed on the floor, threatening to harm and wear her down, while rocks dropped from the ceiling fromt time to time, trying to crush her outright. She noticed that there was a patern to it and was able to steadily proceed through the first area untill she came into a large chamber with many places that the floor had fallen away, revealing the black abyss of the unknown below. There didn't seem to be any more rocks or spikes to worry about but as she looked down she heard a rumble in the distance and braced herself as a strong gust of air came from further within the cavern. She was blown off her feet and luckily landed on solid ground a few feet behind her, where she had just come from. She breathed deeply as she tried to calm the panic "Heh, close one, Eh Emily?", she asked to her operator, who had been strangely silent the last few minutes.

"Emily? A-are you there?", she asked again as she crouched low on the ground to try and reduce the impact if any other gusts came. Sill silence. She closed her eyes and tried to feel for the connection to her PET that she was so used to. As with an astral traveler, there was always a connection, a silver thread connecting her back to her PET. With a simple yank of that cord, an emergency jack out, she could be home. She opened her eyes, panic further setting in. She couldn't feel any connection. Nothing. She was cut off from the rest of the net. What in the world had happened? More importantly, that safety net of an EJO she had had all her life was gone. She and Emily had been busting for almost ten years but it was always just fun and games. Every once in a while she would take out a virus from inside Emily's TV, toaster, or whatever but nothing like this..

A grinding noise startled her as she wildly looked about. By the time she had located it, she noticed a massive rock slab closing off the path she had come from. "No!" she yelled out as she raised her hands and blasts of arctic air and ice flew out and into the quickly closing corridor. Ice built up in seconds, slowing the rate the wall closed, but not stopping it. "Come on, come on", she said as she hit it again, trying to freeze the program closing her off. The stone finally stopped but as she looked over her handiwork she bit her bottom lip and sighed. By the time she stopped it the wall only had another six inches or so to go before closing completely. There was no way she could fit through there and she didn't have access to any battlechips to widen it further. She was stuck.

Polar looked back at the windy chasm and tried to banish the hopelessness threatening to paralyze her. She could still go forward after all, and she only had a few bumps and scratches from the terrain earlier. After all, how big could this place possibly be? She would just proceed, looking for a way out. Maybe if she made it to the end there would be some kind of control area to open everything back up, she told herself. The cavern groanes and another gust came at her, but she was ready this time. She navi raised her hands and countered the incoming winds with a blast of air of her own. The currents swirled ahead of her for several seconds and she felt a pull tug at her as the warm cavern wind and her polar gust threatened to turn into a tornado. It passed however and she began to make her way forward, keeping an eye out for any more dangers above or below her. She would get through this, she would get home to her best friend and operator, Emily.


Gorgon growled as he watched the filthy navi mess with his security systems. Freezing the walls? Negating the air? That was cheating! Well two could play at this game. A cruel grin spread across his lips as a thought occoured to him. He rested his elbows on his desk and folded his hands in front of him, the fingertips touching on and off. "Navi. Release our last experiment into the next room", he said. Navi hesitated for a moment. He knew what would happen if he did that. That experiment was origionally a navi but was now a savage monster. It wouldn't stop until it was dead or recaptured.. "A-are you sure, Doctor? Isn't that-", Navi started but was cut off by an angered bellow from Gorgon "Do not question me. I gave you an order". Navi gulped and typed in several commands and gave several confirmations to security bypass alerts. As Navi worked the Dorctor snarled. Nobody should dare to question him. If he hadn't had so much time invested in this Navi and plans for him, he would have sent HIM after the intruder. The dirty invader obviously had SOME skill to still be around, mr 'never seen battle' would have been deleted in seconds. No no, he still had several experiments to throw at this newcomer. He might even get some valuable data. Besides, he had designed the labyrinth himself and she was only in room two of a hundred..

Back within room 3..

Polar looked around, it was a large open cavern. She floor seemed to be solid and she couldn't see the ceiling.. There were some torches on the walls, sure, but none going further into the center or up to the ceiling. She gave a nervous look around, wondering what death trap was waiting for her now. At about the halfway point in the room she felt something touch her shoulder and stopped. It wasn't painful or heavy, just distracting. She reached up and felt her shoulder and pulled her hand back with some kind of slime on it. She ran it through her fingers, sticky and nasty and it had fallen on her from.. above.. She looked up, straining to see into the dark.

Without warning a trio of glowing red eyes lit up the dark and a horrifying monster could be seen hanging from the ceiling. It breathed in deeply as it smelled the meal beneath it. As it exhaled it opened it terrifying maw and exposed row after row of sharp teeth jutting in several directions. It bellowed a deep roar as the navi under it, paralyzed with fear and shock finally came to life. She ran back to try and get some distance between them but as she glanced over her shoulder she saw the beast open it's arms and reveal long membranes like bat wings extend. It lept after her and it was all she could do to tumble to the ground as the thing flew overhead. What the hellw as this thing? A virus? It wasn't like anything she had ever seen and the feeling she got from being this close to it chilled even the ice navi to the core and number her senses, like it was trying to drain her of all hope and life.

From a prone position she pushed herself up with one hand and raised the other into the cavern, firing a blast of ice and wind blindly. It didn't seem to connect with anything and for a moment everything went silent. She looked around wildly as she got to her feet and pointed her palm about her, trying to find a target in this pitch black arena. A beating of wings could be heard from above her and Polar quickly threw a gust of strong air above her. As the incoming blast of air from the beast's wings and her own fought to cancel each other out she extended two fingers from a hand and several blue shots of ice went up into the darkness. As she tried to focus, pushing back the nausia the creature was radiating, she was suddenly caught from behind as the monster tackled her at high speed. She cursed herself as she tumbled forward, flying helpless across the chamber but managing to break free of it's grasp. Of course, it had thrown wind as a distraction and circled behind her.

She grimaced as she felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. She glanced over at the damage and realised in shock that not only had some of her body been damaged but a portion of her data had been corrupted. If she ever got out of here she would have to go through some kind of decontamination before she could even be repaired. Great. Change of plans, this thing wasn't just a mindless beast, it had some tactics to it. She didn't have her usual healing or area effect chips so she would have to be creative. As a program loaded up within her core, she raises her foot and stomped the ground and in a flash a cold snap had covered the entire cavern floor.

If this thing wanted a fight, it would get one.
Chapter 4

Sadistic laughter filled the laboratory as Dr Gorgon watched the battle on-screen. The little girl navi tried to put up a fight but she was badly outclassed. The unstable beast he had released on the intruder had missed a swipe as it flew by and skidded off the ground she had iced up. Rather than slip around though it just caught wing and if anything accelerated faster. "Navi, play track 4. You know what I'm talking about", the Dr said. Within the lab room in the virtual server of the black box, Navi sighed, he didn't feel too great about his part in the battle but he knew better than to refuse the orders of his operator. As Navi keyed in a few commands he accessed data back on his PET and ran the requested track.. Moments later music began to pick up and a deep, calm man's voice spoke:

It's astounding.
Time is fleeting.
Madness takes its toll.
But listen closely.

The Doctor grinned as he watched the slaughter begin to finally unfold. His monster had crashed down in front of the girl navi and gave a deafening roar, shaking the cavern from floor to ceiling. The reverberation threw echos, multiplying the effect and sending a shockwave which shattered the frozen floor. Ice flew up through the air almost in slow motion as the wave caught the navi and she raised her hands to cover her ears, stunned. An empherial woman's voice added to the song:

Not for very much longer.

The beast swiped out with a claw across the navi and she cried out as the force of the blow tore off one of the arms she had moved from her ears at the last moment, and blew her back off he feet. She struggled back to her feet, her face covered in tears and her holding the fragmented stump of her arm with her remaining hand. Trails of blackened corruption slowly poured from the wound as data tried to gradually reassemble it's self and failed. The calm man's voice picked back up for a moment:

I've got to keep control.

Dr Gorgon cackled and stood, pushing his chair back suddenly, the wheels carrying it into a nearby wall with a crash. As the beast sprinted at the girl navi for the kill she dove to the side, barely avoiding the attack but with her body being wracked with so much pain, and her weight without an arm being different, she faltered at the end of her tumble and fell to the side, landing hard. The beast was radiating a constant aura of corruption, making her feel sicker by the moment on top of everything else. Her wounds burned like fire and finally her mind cracked. The beast chewed up and hungrily consumed what was her arm and licked it's chops, still staring at her like it was starved. It began slowly walking towards her, long tounge hanging out and rows of crooked teeth grinning. Struck with sheer terror she scooted back along the floor, tears streaming down her dirty face as she pleaded "No.. Please no. Don't!". And the calm voice of the song broke out into a pitch best described as a madman screaming in tone:

I remember doing the time-warp!
Drinking those moments when
The Blackness would hit me!

Gorgon began dancing in revelry. At the tune or at the slaughter, Navi couldn't be sure. Either way he looked away from the monitor and tried to ignore the screams of terror coming from the girl. The monster dove at Polar and sunk it's teeth into one of her legs, eliciting screams of terror between babbling cries of agonozing pain. It ripped the limb off and threw her back into the wall. As it consumed the limb her program kept trying to activate her EJO procedure but she was cut off from the net and her PET. Her screams rung out again and became gurgling cries as the beast finished it's snack and dove on top of her, going to town for the meal proper... Punching the air as he cheered and said "Yess, thats what you get! Behold the fate of all who get in my way!". The Doctor snickered and barelt held back the urge to laugh at the top of his lungs as he watched intently, forgetting that he wanted to use the intruder for his experiments. This would do. The woman's voice spoke again, almost drowned out by a final bloody cry:

And the void would be calling...

All fell silent, except the snorting and slurping of the monster as it finished off what was left of Polar. Navi swallowed as he tried to focus on work, anything to take his mind off what was happening. He had followed the Doctors orders and made him far happier than he had been in a while. That was worth it, surely? He pressed a few buttons and a gas began to fill the cavern. It would be awhile before the room was filled and the beast was asleep but it was, like that girl's fate, inevitable. Dr Gorgon was grinning like a child as he still stood and began keying in data and gawking at the readings from the previous fight. As the song went on into the night he bobbed his head. He couldn't have heard but outside his lab door the Director stood, considering beeping in or at least knocking. The rooms were insulated but not quite sound-proof and he had been listening for several minutes. He didn't know exactly what was going on and he was aware they had more than one.. eccentric personality working in the lab. He would have to keep an eye on that man, Dr Maximilion gorgon. Something wasn't quite right with that one. Even through the door, one could faintly hear a chorus sounding out:

Let's do the time-Warp again.

Let's do the time-warp again.