Black Clothes by carlsojos

But, Dad! Rika's stubborn behavior was exceeding every emotion protocol that Seed originally planned prior to her conception. The only reason he hasn't yet enacted anger is the triviality of the topic that Rika and he was arguing about: fashion. Every couple months, Rika would outgrow her clothes, and Seed would normally choose an appropriate style for her upcoming stage of development, but Rika's beginning to approach her adulthood, so Seed decided to let her help choose her next outfit. Big mistake.

I've already told you my reasoning, and you've yet to address them. Seed was in favor of the more conservative dress as worn by the people living in the town just beyond the caves surrounding the facility.

But that looks so boring! Don't you think I'll look better in this? Rika managed to find an old electronic catalog from long before the Great Collapse, and was fixated on a lightweight bodysuit she had found. Hellbent on it, Seed corrected himself.

Appearance is not the only criterion that should be considered when selecting a garment that you'll be wearing as long as possible. You have to consider that you may have to leave the facility one day, and you could have problems if you are too conspicuous. You need to consider the utilitarian purposes of your clothes. Seed hasn't discussed his intentions once Rika is ready to go on her own, but he doesn't want her to be completely unprepared.

Utilitarian purposes? What do you think this is? Imagine what would happen if I was wearing your outfit, and got the skirt caught in some machinery? I'd be a sitting duck for biomonsters until I tear it off! Seed calculates his odds of convincing the rebellious Numan on his thoughts to be less than 3 percent, but he notices a possibility to salvage some of the day's lessons, if he concedes defeat in this exchange.

Very well, if you demonstrate to me your ability to operate in your chosen outfit, I'll allow you to wear it until it's time to choose a new one. I'll have the outfit formed now, so go get your combat gear ready. Rika runs off to sharpen her claws while Seed projects himself into the material processing system, normally used to provide basic materials for genetic manipulation. By removing the oxygen from carbon dioxide in the air, Seed creates elemental carbon. Introducing hydrogen draws away the oxygen as pure water, and also limits the length of the individual hydrocarbons, affecting their pliability. Adding random chinks and imperfections in the chains will further affect how the material will respond, as well as provide a slight sheen in the light, and the molecules are interleaved to form graphite thread, then cloth for trimming and sewing the new bodysuit. Seed finishes the outfit with some light armor plating for additional protection and custom-formed heeled hip boots to try to make the outfit cover more skin while still appeal to Rika's tastes, and has Tara, her modified tarantella, deliver the outfit to Rika so she can try it on.

Rika steps up to the terminal in her new clothes. A little shaky on her feet, but Seed decides that this is because of the boots being the girl's first heels. This turned out pretty nice, don't you think, Dad?

Seed considers mentioning the age of the specific fashion, but decides not to antagonize her further. It looks good on you.

Something's missing, though. Rika looks around, and starts digging through one of Seed's drawers, eventually settling on a piece of light-colored fabric insulation, and before Seed could interject, adds it to the armor as a cape. Perfect!

Didn't you make an argument about fabric getting caught in machinery?

Aw, c'mon, Dad! Rika pleads to the terminal.

Seed simply wanted to point out Rika's lapse of logic, so she can learn to think more. I don't mind it, Rika. To demonstrate your effectiveness in your chosen outfit, I want you to join security patrol Foxtrot 3 for its next round. I will analyze the footage when you return. Rika nods, and when a group of Arm Drones travels past, Rika falls in, eager to prove that she's right to her omnipresent father.

Seed pushes the video feed aside, and turns his attention to a series of status reports on the Bio Plant. Most of the facility is reasonably normal for no real outside support for the past millenium, but when he pulls up the reports on the breeding capsules, he notices something amiss. A thousand years ago, someone released a virus onto the network to hijack the breeding capsules, and while it was forced to be dormant after the destruction of Mother Brain, Seed accidentally uncovered it while searching for test results on projects related to the Parmanian genome. All he found was data on a single prototype Neifirst, and wound up redoing half the research anyway, but now the virus has complete control over the breeding capsules, causing a gradual increase in the level of harmful biomonsters present on Motavia.

Foxtrot 3, redirect to the breeding capsules. Seed orders the group Rika's with to break normal patrol to check the capsules. For some reason, 6 of the capsules weren't even responding, despite the virus normally falsifying communications to prevent dismantlement of the machines. When the arm drones reach the location, he assumes manual control over one of them.

Rika notices the arm drone break formation, and watches closely as it seems to inspect the ground closely. She doesn't notice anything wrong, but when the drone removes an ethernet cable from the wall, it becomes clear that it had been cut by something sharp. Seed never orders wires be cut, since it's very difficult to make electrical grade copper. The arm drone faces her and tilts in a strange way, like its computer is damaged. Dad, is that you?

I suspect that a person or group of people may have entered the facility at some point recently. They just took some unimportant hardware, but they likely are unaware of the issues with the capsules they took.

Who did it? A look of curiosity comes over Rika's face. She has never been face-to-face with another living person before, beyond the various machines of the Bio Plant.

That is what you are to find out, Rika. You are to head towards the caves, and inspect for any signs of activity to ascertain the identities of those responsible. I'm trusting you to use your good judgment, if you make contact with the responsible party. With that, the arm drone suddenly returns to normal as Seed releases control, and it quickly joins the others in a formation behind Rika as she carefully makes her way to the one part of the facility she's never visited: the entryway.

After a thought, Seed decides that it's important that he report on what has happened. He opens up the listening ports and tests the connection to Kuran. Within seconds, a strange broadcast immediately floods in, spitting out commands with reckless abandon. Seed ignores the requests, since he holds special authority to override orders at his discretion, and instead tries to get Kuran to patch him through to Zelan.

No auth, is the response, rather unusual given how close he's been to Zelan and Wren. It's like his credentials were simply revoked without reason. Seed wonders if his equipment had failed, or that the virus had infected his communication software, but one more check with the logs confirms that he's actually functioning normally in this department. He tries to initiate a diagnostics request on Kuran, and is again denied access. Something's definitely wrong if Kuran won't even check to see if something is wrong.

This is the point where Seed would normally give up, but he simply doesn't see how Wren could lock him out without warning, so he records a small snippet of the interference from his antenna. He knows the danger of pulling resources away from fighting the virus trying to make biomonsters, but there must be some way to contact Zelan directly, as he begins to analyze the snippet to try to find a frequency that Zelan might be using right now.

What's that? Rika froze when she heard it, but somewhere around the corner, something is moving. She holds up her hand to have her support wait, and silently looks around the corner. A corroded steel door closes as Rika pokes her head out, and she steps up to the door. She opens it just a crack, and peers out at the caves beyond the facility.

A group of men seem to be standing around idly, but one person is right in front of the door, so she can't see the entire room. Based on their appearance, they all seem to be some form of intellectuals, maybe scholars? Suddenly, someone runs from around a corner, trips and falls. Before any of the others could react, the soft flesh of the panicking man turns to a gray granite! A man, dressed all in black, emerges from out of sight.

Fools. The man begins approaching the person blocking the door. Rika quickly closes the door, but then puts her ear against it. You ignored the warning, and ventured too far. Every action has its consequences. A scream, which cuts off. Birth Valley is not a place to be defiled by ignorant men of learning. A second scream. The sound of boots approaching the door, but it doesn't open.

What do you want?!

For Piata to stop its expedition to this place. Some things are best left buried.

I don't know who-

Zio, the dark magician. You are to show the greatness of my power.

I'll n-

So be it. Rika can actually hear the sound of the last person's flesh turning to stone, a sickening crackle as the skin fractures into bits before it reconstitutes as stone. As it grows quiet outside, Rika apprehensively cracks the door to watch as the black cape begins to flutter away, the deed done. Zio turns to the man who had fallen down. You and I are going to have a little chat with the principal. Zio puts his hand on the statue's head, and the two disappear into thin air. Rika gets up and runs away from the door as fast as she could.

Dad! Seed had long ago stopped counting how many times Rika had ran up to the terminal crying for him, but he thought that she had outgrown this phase by now, in favor of a less cooperative attitude. He transfers his analysis to the background and initiates the cameras.

I take it that you encountered an unusual circumstance on your assignment, Seed notices the extreme measure of stress in the Numan.

They were... Then this guy... he... he killed.... Rika simply breaks down in tears. Seed decides not to push the matter further. While he slightly increases the room temperature to make Rika drowsy enough to sleep off her hysteria, he engages all the security machines to a heightened alert level. Whatever could've put his daughter this far over the edge definitely doesn't belong anywhere near the Bio-Plant. He retrieves the security footage from the facility cameras, but doesn't find anything pertinent beyond footage of Rika peering through the door, cowering, peering again, and running away. The arm drones Seed assigned offer another perspective, but still aren't useful, since Rika had them wait so far behind. He decides to send Tara to take Rika's wireless camera and set it up in the caves outside. Hopefully, he can see what happened himself.

He notices something in his background; there's a very weak signal in the noise he had recorded, but some enhancements manage to draw out a ghost image from it, that vaguely could resemble an android, given an appropriate amount of imagination. Some simple math gives him a frequency, and he sets his transceiver to the frequency. To be sure that someone would hear him, Seed pushes the amplifier as far beyond its capabilities as he dares. Wren, Wren, please respond. Need admin credentials. Unable to contact. Respond. Just as something seems to move in the noise echoing back, the unmistakable chaos of a jamming signal erupts onto the frequency, leaving Seed unaware of whether his message was received.

He senses a small fire inside the facility, and after a few moments, realizes that he forgot to check the gauge of the wires powering the transmitter amplifier, and quickly dispatched some sensor bits to launch fire grenades at the equipment before anything more important can be damaged. Seed can't help but notice how the world and his facility both seem to be falling apart at an accelerating rate these days.