Triton Circular 4983/7
Mutant Resources Department
Instructions for deployment and disposal of mutants.
Upon acquisition, clinical assessment must be made to determine correct classification.
Grade 1 Extra-terrestrials
Definition: the product of human births in Inner Circles. These units exhibit average physical functions and intelligence. No noticeable impairment.
Use: Suitable for normal assignments at low rank level, without adjustment. Their natural hyper-dependency makes them amenable to command, but unsuitable for any position of authority. Refer to Administration for assignment.
Grade 2 Degenerates
Definition: First- and second-generation births in the Outer Circles. These units frequently exhibit physical and mental abnormalities, including hypermobility, bone density, eye size, brain development and other organ variables. Resistant to authority or normal communication.
Use: Unsuitable for deployment unless subjected to corrective procedures. Refer to Clinical Research for admission to the Programme. Once processed, they can be assigned to tasks where expendability is desirable, but must be supervised.
Grade 3 Sub-humans
Definition: Multi-generational mutants spawned in the Outer Circles. Easily identified by pigment-free hair and ocular abnormalities, with lack of visible sclera. Also exaggerated Grade 2 mutations. In their natural state, they are mute, but can respond to simple verbal communication. Prone to violence, including self-mutilation. Brain function as yet undefined – considerable theoretical potential but apparent imbecility.
Use: Confine separately with mechanical or chemical restraints, prior to programme admission and refer to Clinical Research for assignment as specimens. Otherwise, exterminate.
Part 1: the Units
TRITON is cold. So cold, so distant, in its perverse orbit around Neptune, you’d wonder why anyone would bother with it. But Ragnox bothered. Ragnox was a corporation determined to exploit everything in the deregulated zone beyond Jupiter. For fifty years, Triton had housed its furthest station, and for thirty-three of those years it had been the control base of Jordan Pascal, Director of Outer Circles Operations, a man who knew how to get the most out of anything and anyone.
Unlike other stations, Triton’s biodomes paid no lip-service to circadian rhythms, or the occupants’ need for metabolic balance. Life, five billion kilometres from Earth, was regulated by whistles, bells and barked commands in the bone-gnawing chill, under harsh cold light that never faded. Here activity never ceased. Human labour units worked and then worked again and, if they were lucky, contrived to eat and sleep in the brief intervals between. Time was meaningless in the factories, research facilities, engineering works, extraction operations, processing plants, barracks, arsenals and stores that kept Triton in permanent operation.
In the Tower, the command centre at the heart of Triton 1, life was a little more civilised. Units walked rather than ran. They were permitted time to digest. They could count on consecutive hours of repose. But then Triton Tower was largely reserved for the elite – the commandants, the senior officers and those who served them.
On floor 126, Security Commandant Hurran, one of the elite amongst the elite, snapped his fingers and pointed to the door of the surveillance suite. The nervous unit currently on duty hurried out. Left alone, Hurran leaned heavily on a desk, clenching his fists. A buzzer warned that a new unit was approaching. He gritted his teeth as the pain burned inside him. When he was confident he had it under control, he snapped ‘Come.’
A unit entered briskly, saluted and met his gaze with a perfect balance of confidence and fake humility. Potential elite material par excellence – smart, fit, alert, calculating and oozing ambition. An actor couldn’t have conveyed it better.
‘2459313 Smith, sir.’
‘Another one. Any idea how many Smiths there are on Triton?’
‘Only one that matters, sir.’
‘Arrogant bastard, aren’t you?’
‘I know my own value, sir.’
‘Foster claims to know it, too. He reports that you are highly skilled in cyber connectivity.’
‘I am, sir.’
‘Better than anyone else.’
‘We’ll see. How long have you been on Triton?’
‘Sixty-six days, sir.’
‘You haven’t wasted time in proving yourself. I’d advise you not to burn out too soon if you want to survive your seven years. You do have a seven-year contract?’
‘It’s non-negotiable, you know that?’
‘I do, sir. And I mean to make the most of it.’
‘And maybe I can make the most of you. You’ve had a glimpse of our security systems, and by that fleeting smirk I presume you’ve judged them wanting.’
‘I can see potential for improvements, sir.’
‘Hm. Our systems have developed over the years, Smith. Before the Director cleaned them out, other corporations briefly had bases on Triton. When we took over, we incorporated their systems, adapted as required.’ Hurran strode around the hall, hands clasped behind his back, studying one screen after another. It helped to keep the pain under control. ‘The end result is a tangled cat’s cradle, too many crossed wires and pointless duplications. I intend to remodel the whole thing. I have set up a team to evaluate it, neaten, tighten, start again from scratch where necessary. If you really are useful, you can join them.’
He swivelled round to face the novice. ‘You don’t find the prospect daunting, Smith?’
‘I like a challenge, sir.’
‘Right. The surveillance suite. Look around. Tell me what we cover.’
Smith’s observant eyes took a quick sweep of the rank upon rank of monitors. ‘All zones, most floors of the Tower – not commandants’ quarters – all bases and out-stations, and, by the looks of it, some operations off Triton.’
‘Very good. So you’re quick to analyse. Yes, we monitor Triton territory, and the Director demands total control of it all. Nothing can get near Triton itself but our further bases are more vulnerable. Competition still occasionally ventures too close for comfort.’
‘Does Ragnox have any competition worth worrying about?’
Hurran managed a sharp laugh. ‘The Director wants all competition eliminated, so it pays to understand it. We’re on a chess board in the Outer Circles, Smith, with just two players that matter. Ragnox and Pan. Director Jordan Pascal is our Ragnox king. Pan’s is Benedict Darke, a name you mention at your peril in the Director’s hearing. The ultimate prize on both sides is the king, of course. Take him and the game is over. Till then, we guard the board and we take the pawns, the competition ships that trespass too close. Pan’s are exceptionally difficult to detect, so the Director demands perpetual vigilance. Surveillance needs revising, like all our systems. Examine it. Analyse it. Bring me an initial report of its flaws. I’ll give you twelve hours, and then we’ll see if you really are as good as Foster claims.’
‘Prove it.’ Hurran strode out, leaving his new recruit to it. In the privacy of the empty corridor, the Commandant leaned against the wall, groped in his pocket for pills and gulped them down.
Alone in the surveillance suite, 2459313 Smith gazed along the monitors again. A fight had broken out in the military barracks. A cluster of technicians were scratching their heads over a prototype in the engineering halls. A crate was being trundled out of port arrivals. A novice unit was stupidly trying to make a run for it in waste disposal, which was where he would probably remain in perpetuity. A freighter was leaving Triton Port. All this was laid out for him to manipulate.
Smith permitted himself a brief flutter of self-indulgent delight. One week and he’d be in charge of the cyber team. One year and, judging by Hurran’s sickly appearance, the Commandant’s post would be up for grabs. Little more than two months after being dumped on Triton by the freighter Heloise, Jo Jo Smith had been given the run of the candy store.