Time passes much more productively in the halls of the Resistance than it ever did at the Department. Eugene continues to examine the strange sample he liberated from Ascar’s lab. Work goes relatively quickly as the Resistance has provided several research assistants (a few of whom are occasionally poached by Suzie for her more recreational pursuits).
At the same time, Phia continues her efforts to break through the security on Ascar’s laptop. One of the Resistance members offers to help, but Phia declines saying she’d rather do it herself. It is fairly obvious that she still doesn’t entirely trust the group’s new associates.
Eager to explore her new abilities, and also brighten her friend’s day, Suzie invites Vanessa to a unique sparring match. As Suzie has the ability to borrow skills from other people, she attempts to download Vanessa’s fighting skills. Vanessa enthusiastically agrees and, after a brief painful moment during Suzie’s process, the two fight. They are well balanced, but Vanessa is still obviously the more skilled.
Pete, meanwhile, explores his own abilities by trying to figure out how to fly. Jumping off a ledge in the gym (careful to select an area with high ceilings), he forces a TK “kick” through his feet and launches 15’ through the air. Giggling in a fantastically masculine way, he rushes off to teach Vanessa and soon the two are bouncing all over the gym.
Later, perhaps inspired by Suzie’s example, Eugene suggests another alternative for Vanessa to challenge herself in the sparring ring. On their way back to the gym, Vanessa asks if Eugene can conjure a hallucination of chocolate cake for her to eat. He does so quite willingly. Vanessa munches happily on cake (that is a lie) until they reach the gym. Eugene leads her to a padded area with plenty of space, moves out of the way, and conjures a series of ninjas to keep her entertained.
More time passes. Vanessa is finally permitted to start teaching, and ends up with a small class of 10-14 year olds. She is given a curriculum that focuses on a historical look of important social issues.
At the same time, the group is provided with the Resistance’s T-0 report. It seems to repeat much of what Blackwood already told them, just in greater detail. The Resistance is of the opinion that T-0 is some sort of memetic mutation, propagated by a cult of psychics. Resistance operatives have run across heavily damaged agents of T-0 on multiple occasions, who seem to be working at cross-purposes to both the Resistance and the Department. They have also documented several shrines with similar imagery to what the group saw at the Muscular Woman’s house in Buffalo: fetal imagery, the idea of being watched, and always underground. There is some recorded discussion of trying to partner up with the cult as allies, since they seem to be more anti-Department than anti-Resistance, but the idea has been dismissed as untenable.
One other theory on the source of T-0 is a hive of linked psychics, but it is extremely speculative so far. Also included in the report is a section called “T-3 Triad Investigations”. It is a list of words & images – specifically “disease, cancer, god” – that seem to be linked to the shrines.
Eventually the group is invited to meet with Blackwood once more. Before he is able to begin, though, Phia asks about the possibility of contacting friends & family that were left behind in Toronto. When Blackwood dithers, saying that it might cause serious confusion depending what the Department has done with their memories, Phia & Vanessa request that the Resistance at least try to find out if everyone is okay. Blackwood agrees.
With that out of the way, he informs the group that they represent a rare opportunity to locate and infiltrate/attack the Department. He would like to have the Triplets pull from everyone’s memories, to see if they can put together a comprehensive image of where the Department’s headquarters is located. There is some debate about what would happen after that. Pete & Phia (in a rare moment of agreement) are all for charging into the Department and liberating all the psychics trapped within. Vanessa is worried about the chance of civilian casualties, and Eugene says that a frontal attack will just prove that the Department is right in limiting psychics’ powers.
Blackwood interrupts the debate to remind the group that even with the Triplets’ help it may not be possible to locate the Department. Whether that happens or not, he would like to know what it would take to convince the group to join up and fight with the Resistance. There is some hemming and hawing, so he suggests the group talks about it before making a decision. In the meantime, he has cleared everyone for training and hands out a syllabus.
Taking the syllabus, the group returns to their quarters to discuss matters. Pete & Phia manage to convince the others that joining the Resistance is the only way to ensure not only their own safety, but to help all other psychics. With that settled, they look at what sort of new things they can look forward to learning. Many things on the syllabus are skills the group has already started practicing, but one in particular jumps out: the ability to screen when one is performing a process. Pete’s reaction is one of studious calm.
Training begins in earnest. Similar to their training with the Department, the group is strongly encouraged to practice linking their processes together. Terry often sits in on these sessions. Phia also asks Eugene to help her practice screening. He agrees, with the condition that she use TK rather than push. Much to her delight, Phia is able to lift a pencil without Eugene picking up on her mental efforts.
One training session, Eugene’s beeper goes off, summoning him to the lab. He arrives to find that the results of his latest tests have arrived. The various research assistants seem completely stumped, and apologize profusely for making what was clearly a mistake. They promise to re-run the test. Eugene, staring stone-faced at the results, agrees that they should check everything thoroughly and re-run the test. Leaving the lab techs to their task, Eugene gathers the rest of the group back in their quarters to explain what he’s found.
Uncharacteristically solemn (and pulling his glasses on and off, for some reason), Eugene informs the group that what they originally thought was a rock is actually a crystallized brain. The group begins theorizing on what could cause that to happen. A new level of psychic ability that renders a physical body obsolete? Some sort of experiment gone horrible wrong? Their debate is interrupted by a beep from Ascar’s laptop, chiming “decryption complete”. Phia immediately grabs the laptop and starts going through the files. Unfortunately, it appears the hard drive has been corrupted and only a few text files remain. Reading aloud to the group, she shares what appear to be the five most recent entries in Ascar’s journal.
With Ascar’s ramblings to augment their theories, the group wonders if Cognite is the name for the crystallized brain, or some other substance that Ascar was trying to mine from the bodies in his lab. They also wonder if the “node network” refers to a sort of living brain using samples buried all across the globe to act as axons/dendrites would in a normal brain, turning the Earth into one big active.
One thing the group can agree on, they are all extremely uncomfortable with the idea of the brain-thing just sitting around, unshielded in any way. They decide to tell Blackwood what they found, and let him have a voice in what to do next.
Surprised to see the group back so soon, Blackwood is initially amused by the group’s story. However, the more they talk the more serious he becomes, until he is very obviously worried. Although he brushes off Ascar’s writings as those of a madman, he does say that the sample will be shielded and stored somewhere safe. Eugene may continue his research, but only under strict surveillance.
On a somewhat happier note, Blackwood informs the group that he has been looking into the people they left behind in Toronto. Apparently Dr. Cornelius is out of the hospital. There is still no sign of his notes, or whatever files he once hid from the TSI. Blackwood admits that he is surprised Dr. Corenelius is still walking around, rather than being disappeared by the Department. He suggests that the group returns to Toronto to re-connect with their former caretaker, and see if they can find out whether he knows anything of use. After voicing concerns that it might be a trap, the group agrees that it’s a worthwhile risk. To Toronto they will go.
Quotes without context
“Your ability to keep her tied up is limited only by her interest in fighting ninjas.”
“My work is suffering for your . . . appetites.”
“If your cock wasn’t such a terrible scientist…”