A Dark Web: Part Four.

Freethought Blogs - A DARK WEB - Halloween Fundraiser

This is Part 4 of a story chain that some FtB comrades are writing by turns.

If you have not read the first three parts of our story:

Part 1 is at The Bolingbrook Babbler.
Part 2 is at Freethinking Ahead.
Part 3 is at Impossible Me.

This collaborative story is a project for our Freethought Blogs Halloween Fundraiser. If you enjoy and appreciate the work we do here, please consider making a donation to our legal fund. Every single dollar helps, and is greatly appreciated.

 

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A Dark Web
Part 4

From the second Kyle broke through the door of Lucy’s, Connie would be operating on autopilot. Adrenaline, training and experience in dozens of these missions would coalesce in blood and brain to transform her into a singularly focused machine. And Connie’s unique “gifts” would provide a covert advantage no ordinary human could match.

But in that instant before the switch flipped, the events that led her to this precise point in space and time flashed before her in an instant. Images, sharp and vibrant, paraded by, bringing back with them the heavy emotional weight of her journey like an unexpected gut-punch. Connie Herbert remained one of few people alive who had a front row seat for all of it: a witness to the whole world transforming, fundamentally and forever, over the course of a single day twenty years ago.

One could only marvel that over two decades–two decades!–very few people knew anything of it at all. Fewer still knew the full story in all of its grotesque spendor. A 20-year, globe-spanning, total information blackout stood as a towering testament to the Company’s power and reach. An ongoing joke among insiders turned on the unfortunate fact that the most successful Op in company history could never be leaked to Sales & Marketing.

But there had been leaks, of course. A leak sparked the whole mess in the first place. The critical breach occurred one morning when nearly every subject in the study – H. sapiens, Latrodectus or “other” –  manifested a stunning variety of transmutations, all at once. The researchers were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the task of quantifying every one of these strange new phenomena. They called for emergency reinforcements right away.

Connie had awakened that morning feeling oddly out-of-sorts. Once she took in the view of the lab, she puzzled at the sight of Dr. Myers and a half dozen lab techs systematically peering into the dozens of small glass enclosures arrayed against the far wall. Another tech disabled the locks on the lab door and propped it open so the extra staffers could come right on in and get to work immediately–well, immediately after they picked their jaws up off the floor, and remembered how to breathe.

Billy was ranting and pacing in his pod, agitated as ever. Not for the first time, Connie was grateful the glass walls between them provided excellent soundproofing.

Just then, three men in well-tailored suits strode through the open door and made a beeline for Dr. Myers.

“Poor guy,” Connie smirked wryly to herself. “He hates dealing with the suits.” And if the suits were here, it could only mean one of two things: either phase III had just been deemed a smashing success, or something had gone very, very wrong. At the moment she couldn’t tell which. It looked like nobody else was sure, either.

Staffers in crisp white lab coats came streaming in continuously, some of whom she hadn’t seen since phase I or II. Those studies had gone exceedingly well. Phase I investigated human reactions to various Latrodectus venom extracts, as well as Latrodectus reactions to various H. sapiens blood extracts. Phase I yielded very little new information, but it did provide a vast trove of baseline data.

Phase II was similar, except the extracts derived from both species underwent molecular modifications before infusion. Results revealed, among other things, potential applications for modified venom extracts, including non-lethal bioweapons, a broad range of medicinal properties and “neurocognitive effects.” Or, as some of the H. sapiens subjects put it, “Wow, I am really high!” At the time Connie wondered whether the Latrodectus subjects experienced similar effects, and how anyone would know if they did.

In the present day, standing at the back door of Lucy’s Bar and Grill, Connie would wonder whether the “Venom” presently drawing in the Halloween party goers traced directly back to that fateful morning in phase III, or if it was indeed just a marketing gimmick. The cartels and dealers were always branding retail heroin packets with names of exactly this sort.

Phase III had been a much more ambitious undertaking. For one thing, all subjects had undergone cross-species genetic modifications prior to the infusions. Early results in Latrodectus took an interesting turn when the females bore spiderlings that inherited their respective new gene sequences intact. Most of these clusters died off before or shortly after hatching; only two continued to thrive. As these clusters began hatching and maturing, it became apparent that the novel genes had expressed in mutations so profound, these creatures could hardly be classed in the Latrodectus genus at all. They were something entirely new. So was the venom.

Human life cycle constraints naturally prohibited any investigation into Latrodectus gene expression in the offspring of H. sapiens, to say nothing of the Geneva Conventions. The Company was already treading dangerously close to those limits, perhaps even exceeding them.

And those Latrodectus genes roiling around inside ten human subjects were not exactly lying dormant.

Connie was struck with the sense that something was off about Billy today (more so than usual, that is). She turned back for another look. Billy took heaving breaths, wildly contorting his upper body as if he were trying to glimpse the back of his own neck. Strange. But what was all that…that…stuff? Thick, glossy strands and strings clung to his arms and torso, wobbling like jello with every twitch.

No one seemed the least bit concerned about Billy: all attention was focused on the dozens of small glass enclosures lining the back wall. Some of them were moving, in short pulses. A metal cover from one of the higher enclosures came spinning down.

Dr. Myers and the techs descended from their ladders and took slow steps backward.

The enclosures were jumping and jerking more violently now. Metal lids came down. Whole enclosures crashed to the floor, and shattered. The Latrodectus were out.

Billy and a few other subjects were pounding on the glass walls, some throwing furniture and other heavy items. It was all for naught. All eyes were transfixed by the chaos exploding outward from the far wall. In less than a minute hundreds of spiders were trailing sticky silk to every nook and corner in the lab.

Billy swung at the glass with a piece of dismantled bed frame. The wall first cracked, then shattered under the blows. He was now swinging at the other pods, freeing the frenzied subjects inside.

“Get back!” he yelled at Connie. She could barely hear him, until Billy smashed down the wall between them.

The suits were the first to make a run for it. The swarm of techs followed behind them, moving like a single organism and sweeping Dr. Myers right out with them.

Someone had set off the fire alarm: sprinklers showered the room, a siren a strobe light flashed, sirens shrieked, silk webbing criss-crossed the ceiling. The effect was surreal.

Connie knew there were risks when she volunteered to be a subject. But she never imagined anything like this. No one did. The consequences were as yet unforeseen, but they would come, hard and fast, in the form of shockwaves around the globe. Connie or any of a hundred tactical officers like her would be there when they did, mitigating all of the damage, destroying all evidence and ensuring that any narrative taking hold would never lead back to the Company.

Kyle would be first through the door tonight. The others would follow in a practiced and precise routine. Just then, in that breathless last second, Connie wondered what the world might look like if only the last tech to make it out that day had stopped to shut, lock and bolt the lab door behind him.

“On my mark,” she said coolly. “Three. Two. One. Go.”

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Read Part 5 at Oceanoxia!

Again, if you enjoy the work (and the community!) here at FtB, please consider contributing what you can to our legal fund. And by all means, check out more Halloween treats we have lined up for you.

It’s a weird year, to put it mildly. Many Halloween traditions you might have enjoyed in the past may not be possible this year, at least not if you prefer to avoid catching and spreading a deadly virus and you have the terrible misfortune of living among conservatives in the US. So please, if you are celebrating this weekend, have your fun safely. And if you’re looking for something to do, hang out with us here on Halloween!

Freethought Blogs HALLOWEEN FUNDRAISER

Men, get to work.

[CONTENT NOTE: gendered violence, murder, suicide.]

OCTOBER 26, 2020
 BREAKING NEWS 

Man shoots girlfriend dead on Manhattan street, then commits suicide in front of shocked onlookers

Bursts of gunfire sent passersby running for cover just before 9:20 a.m. at Morris St. and Trinity Place in the Financial District, where violence is rare.

Read the Latest

[Read more…]

Conservatives Eat Their Own, Hilarity Ensues.

Oh noez! Jared and Ivanka are not happy.

Seems some gaggle of wealthy, well-connected #NeverTrumpers started a PAC last year called The Lincoln Project. These self-styled “ex-Republicans” just put up two billboards in Times Square:

Photo of 2 billboards in Times Square. 1) Ivanka happily and gesturing toward statistics: "33,366+ NEW YORKERS. 221,247+ AMERICANS." 2) Jared smiling smugly next to quote: "[NEW YORKERS]" ARE GOING TO SUFFER AND THAT'S THEIR PROBLEM." (photo: Twitter via New York Daily News)

In case it’s hard to make out in the image, on one billboard Ivanka is smiling blithely while gesturing toward bold block print:

33,366+
NEW YORKERS.

221,247+
AMERICANS.

On the other billboard, Jared smiles smugly next to a quote:

“[NEW YORKERS] ARE GOING TO

SUFFER

AND THAT’S THEIR PROBLEM.”

[Read more…]

BREAKING: Smiley Pope almost drags church into 20th century.

BREAKING:The Washington Post

Pope Francis calls for civil union laws for same-sex couples

The pontiff’s remarks came in a new documentary and were quoted by the Catholic News Agency. They represent his clearest stance to date on a contentious issue inside the Roman Catholic Church.

Read more [at WaPo]

Before we get too excited, civil unions are not the same as marriage. And I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone reading here that “separate but equal” is a demonstrably terrible policy.

Still, the Catholic Church’s support of same-sex couples in committed relationships is a big deal, even if it’s only one tiny step. Whether we like it or not (NOT), the church holds tremendous political and social power, and this is especially true in Central and South America. This tiny step toward acceptance has the potential to influence entire societies steeped in Catholic bigotry, and can positively impact the lives of countless non-heterosexual people.

No word from the pontiff on whether women might be considered three-fifths human anytime soon.

Conservatives caught on video owning their $#!+.

Here’s something we hardly ever get to see: powerful conservatives owning the fact that they are terrible people. And I am 100% here for it.

Conservatives, especially elite conservatives, normally hide or deny their racism, lawbreaking, lying, hatred for democracy and… hmm, how should I put this?… Moral flexibility.

But I received this “Breaking News” email alert from WaPo:

Videos show closed-door sessions of top conservative activists: ‘Be not afraid of the accusations that you’re a voter suppressor’

Footage obtained by The Post, covering dozens of hours of Council for National Policy meetings in February and August, offers an inside view of activists’ obsessions, fears and plans at a pivotal moment in the conservative movement.

I clicked through to read the full article. And voter suppression? JFC that isn’t even the half of it. In fact, if I were writing that email blurb, “voter suppression” might not even make it in (although “open hatred for democracy” might). But that’s probably only because I am interested in things like truth and calling things exactly what they are. Unlike, say, editors at The Washington Post.

Investigative journalist Robert O’Harrow Jr. wrote the piece after viewing dozens of hours of video obtained by The Post from two secretive conferences put on this year by some Very Big Willies in the conservative movement. This Council for National Policy (CNP) sounds sort of like CPAC, only much more exclusive. You know, without all the riff-raff. Let’s dive right in and have a look, shall we? C’mon, it’ll be fun.

[Read more…]

Indigenous Peoples Day 2020.

On Friday, the preferred president of assholes everywhere issued a shitty proclamation declaring that today’s federal holiday is exclusively a celebration of Italian-American contributions to our nation and the exploits of a particular 15th century Italian explorer, said exploits necessarily encompassing the ensuing brutal colonization and genocide of Indigenous people in the Americas. This proclamation is much, much worse than I even imagined. (And I write this as a person with significant Italian-American heritage.) If you choose to read on, you will first want to ensure that your irony meter is in excellent working order and – this is the important part – still under warranty.

For one thing, consider what Pres. Alpha Asshole and his Merry Minions of Masklessness would be saying and doing about Italian immigration a hundred years ago. You know: before Italians suddenly and miraculously became white. I’m pretty sure my grandmother, who happened to be exceptionally dark-skinned even for southern Italy, would have been locked up in a cage along with her sister and all the other Italian immigrant children.

Of course those among us who think we should instead recognize and reckon with the truth of our nation’s history are deemed “radical activists” and “extremists” who “seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy” and instead promote a “radical ideology” and “revisionist history” just to “spread hate and division.”

Let us pause for a moment here so that you can recalibrate your irony meter and/or attempt to extinguish the flames emanating therefrom.

Okay now? Good. The preceding was merely setting the stage for what I really want to talk about on this Indigenous Peoples Day. If you guessed that is “Indigenous people,” you win all the internetz! 🏆⭐️🏅

[Read more…]

What’s up, doc? The ills of race-based medicine.

I know you’ll all be mightily impressed to learn that I read The Lancet [although I hardly understand any of it]. I even have a subscription – actually several subscriptions: to The Lancet, The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and The Lancet Oncology [I have “email subscriptions” to these journals, which are free and contain lots of links to paywalled content I can’t afford to read and probably wouldn’t understand anyway]. Despite being imprisoned by the Evil Elsevier Empire, there is actually plenty of open access Lancet content available to anyone with a web browser [and delusions of scientific literacy in multiple areas of cutting-edge medical research]. Some of that content is accessible in every sense of the word, and so outstanding that you might consider becoming a regular reader of The Lancet yourself. Exhibit A comes from the current issue: a “Viewpoint” titled From race-based to race-conscious medicine: how anti-racist uprisings call us to act.*

While I would encourage you to go read the whole thing [perhaps with another browser tab open to a medical dictionary?], I just want to highlight a few…uh…highlights.

[Read more…]

Erasure: Women in STEM and Your Liberal Media.

One of these things is not like the other:

Two news feed headlines. 1- New York Times: "Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to 2 Scientists for Work on Genome Editing" and 2- Washington Post: "Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to two women who developed CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing tool"The difference is equally apparent in the summary blurbs from NYT and WaPo:

From this morning’s New York Times email briefing:

Two scientists, one from France and one from the U.S., were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They discovered a tool that allows researchers to change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with high precision.

From The Washington Post breaking news alert:

University of California at Berkeley biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French scientist, were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for their work developing CRISPR, which is contributing to new cancer therapies and helping to cure inherited diseases.

Listen up, motherfucking New York Times. Feminism does not mean erasing gender. Just like equality in the broader sense does not mean erasing human diversity. Erasure is not a neutral act in a world where women are systematically denied opportunities to advance their careers, particularly in STEM, and face institutional bias (and worse) as they try.

It would be different if people of all genders enjoyed full equality across the board. But until that happy day comes when women (and minorities!) in roles and professions historically and visibly dominated by (white! cis! able-bodied! het!) men are equally commonplace and visible, their representation in these contexts is vitally important for everyone to see.

And yes, for those keeping score at home, this is reason number 6,858,945 I hate The New York Times. But not to worry! I ain’t goin’ soft on ya! I still hate The Washington Post, too! Both of them get it right a lot of the time, which only makes this all the more infuriating because it proves they are perfectly capable of doing so. And getting it right sometimes hardly exonerates them for all the times they get it very, very wrong.

YOU’RE WELCOME, PEOPLE.

As infinitesimal fractions of millions of fans of my debut short film Boss Bitch Fight Challenge II – The Reckoning will recall, your favorite squirrel hater explicitly promised she would neutralize certain bitchez, by way of poison.

Iris holding a tray of four drinks and a bottle marked with a skull & crossbones, pictured outside the White House with Trump, Pence, Ivanka and Jared Kushner. Bold block lettering says "Iris Vander Pluym Will Poison These Bitchez."Still photo from
Boss Bitch Fight Challenge II – The Reckoning
(courtesy of Death to Squirrels™ Productions)

Poisoning of course is a very ancient dark art, its practice dating at least as far back as 4,500 BCE. The variety of suitable substances and delivery methods has continued to expand and evolve to this very day.

One day I got to thinking, and a plan quickly crystallized in my mind. While shooting the film, I found myself incognito at a party on the White House lawn, costumed to blend in perfectly with the catering staff.

I saw my chance. And I took it.

[Read more…]