Fortitude 3.1

Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 1, for Owl Sector records, assigned to incident TRANSMISSION.

Current assignment is to quarantine and monitor the group of Guardians carrying overrides, care for any casualties, and so on. Easy peasy. No off-world missions and a dozen Guardians with flickering vision. My kind of job.

...Sorry, Shun, what was that?

Make that two hundred, then. Manageable.

...or a thousand.

...or ten thousand.

Oh Traveler...


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 2, for Owl Sector records, assigned to incident TRANSMISSION.

Quarantine failed shortly after institution. Note to self: Corralling sick Guardians is one thing. Healthy, rambunctious Guardians, armed to the teeth and impatient to go back starside...

They threw things.

Shun modeled the outbreak for me after we retreated in disgrace. We are on track for total saturation of the Guardian population, excluding those off-duty, inside of a week.

Should any complications arise—which, since we're talking about a mysterious invasive technological override, is likely—the Tower will stand undefended, and the City will be helpless and vulnerable to attack.

Traveler's shadow, they're going to blame me.


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 3, for Owl Sector records, not that anyone reads them, assigned to incident TRANSMISSION under protest.

In consultation with the Vanguard, the Owl Sector decided to restrict travel between City and Tower. Checkpoints have been installed. Landing clearances have been revoked. We can fly as far as the stars, but we can't walk under the Traveler.

This will last as long as it takes to determine cause and cure. All Tower residents fall under this restriction. Guardians. Civilians. The sick and the well.

When I joined the Owl Sector, I pledged to uphold and support the Tower and its Guardians, our best and last defense against the Darkness, no matter what threat arose. No matter the cost.

I am forbidden to go home.


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 4, for Owl Sector's mountain of records, on the everlastingly awful incident known as TRANSMISSION.

I can call my children on a screen and sing them to sleep, but I can't hold them or help them up when they stumble. I observe, I monitor, I wait, I read Berriole's communications.

Z. SHIRAZI CB-PZ-1.4
Patient D, Yaris, is here to support his family. Clovis Bray allowances are sufficient but not generous, and there's another child on the way. He is sorry to be separated from them but glad for the volunteer's stipend.

No changes in general health were observed after injection with Fortitude 3.1, but the volume of his voice decreased significantly and is at present a whisper. Unexpected but not cause for alarm.


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 5, for Owl Sector, on TRANSMISSION.

The Tower bubbles and seethes. No one sleeps. The Guardians rejoice, competing to infect each other, without a care in the world. The City glows in the distance. I sit alone in the Owl Sector observatory, at the highest point of the Tower, and watch the numbers on my monitor rise and rise. Shun is usually here with me, late at night, drinking tea and mocking my simulations. It's quiet without him.


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 6, for Owl Sector, on TRANSMISSION.

We don’t know what this tech mite can do—travel along communications lines and in data packets, say—so the Owl Sector has decided to cut all but two emergency connections between City and Tower. My screens are fixed on the transmission map and no longer can be pointed toward home.

Z. SHIRAZI CB-PZ-3.4
Yaris can't speak or make any sound at all. We do not know whether this condition is permanent. He lets me know what he requires, whether water or food, by typing, but has been reserved about his own thoughts. I find it difficult to look him in the eye.


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 7, for Owl Sector, on TRANSMISSION.

Shun, you Shank-chasing, Mote-thieving Traveler-hugger, I wouldn't be in the Owl Sector if it weren't for you. Now you bail on us? I'm going out of my mind because of you.

Z. SHIRAZI CB-PZ-7.4
Yaris remains mute. I regret not incorporating a self-annihilation function in these prototypes. I was too confident. I didn't believe I needed a failsafe. I will propose that we include this in future nanotech development.

The mixed blessing is that our results are solid. Further research will be rewarding. Yet I find myself hesitating to write the recommendation to proceed.


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 8, for Owl Sector, on TRANSMISSION.

Z. SHIRAZI CB-PZ-8.4
"Project results suggest…"
"Experimental outcomes imply…"
And I stop and look at Yaris through the glass. He is eating less and losing weight and hair.

I too am eating less and losing weight and hair. Bah, friendship. It makes us worry more and age faster. Bah, family. Same thing


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 9, for Owl Sector, on TRANSMISSION.

Z. SHIRAZI CB-PZ-12.4
Even if I cure him, would he speak to me again? I've never run an experiment with lethal outcomes or permanent disabilities. I never thought I would.

If they don't kill you with whatever mess of poisons they're mixing up, Shun, I will. I've never slept so little in my life.


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 10, for Owl Sector, on TRANSMISSION.

Z. SHIRAZI CB-PZ-16.4
"Thank you," he said. He walked out of the facility, a thin, slight shape against the red light reflecting off the dunes. The last to recover, and the last to leave.

After I sent my research staff home, I entered Clovis Bray’s data isolation chamber with borrowed credentials. I had to know. My predecessor’s annotations are sparse, but I believe the data from previous trials show mortality rates of 50-60% for the last generation of injectable biotech. I should have been informed of this.

My report will begin with the words: "Unacceptable, demonstrated risks preclude further human trials at this time." I must make Willa Bray see that this way lies disaster.

Our own disaster, meanwhile, has been averted. The Owl Sector relaxed the comms prohibitions today. I called my children and told them I'd be home tonight. They look no worse for the time apart. Guardians are being treated at the Tower as they arrive, much to their disappointment. And Shun—


Report of Geographer Quist, OS-I6 12, for Owl Sector, on TRANSMISSION.

Quiet? In the observatory? I miss it already. It's his birthday, Shun says. Or it feels like it. To celebrate, he brought, of all things, an arcophone. I wish he were unconscious again.