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The transdimensional gateway whirled to life. The giant Ascended machine was going to take a few minutes to warm up. It was working locking onto a brand new dimension, at a geosynchronous position on the far side of the world. It was even going to have to dig through the dimensional barriers to the infernal target.Tiffany Ann Tucker adjusted her Space Marine armor and equipment. She looked out at her troops. Twenty male Icers stared back at her. One by one she had asked them their alert status. Each had said, "Ready." All the answers were in the characteristic, emotionless way that BASISS systems responded. They didn't even emote as she had labeled them one through twenty, rather than using their Unit designations. It occurred to her that she had effectively removed their names. But, she had felt it necessary for her own human limitations for the battle ahead. They had never questioned her. They never whined or protested. They just trusted her unconditionally. Though she looked at a congregation made of every major ethnic group on the planet, she saw the common thread. She saw a sea of green eyes. Only the BASISS systems remained in these units. The human sides had quit. The eyes she saw were the stares of minds that had given up. They were human brains that had permanently moved into catatonic psychosis. Their humanity had moved on into fantasy, rather than deal with the stress of their new life. In many ways, Tiffany felt that she was looking at herself for the first time. She was looking at twenty units. They were twenty BASISS systems that were completely alone inside. It reminded her of something. Tiffany remembered her analogy to BASISS. It was the one that she made after the symbiot had catastrophically dressed her up for a mission. She had begun looking at her computer companion as a five-year-old child, rather than just an ignorant computer. In those eyes, she now stared at twenty lonely children preparing for a mission. They were twenty living beings preparing to die if necessary, if not really understanding why. Something moved her inside. She decided to say something. Time would not allow for such things soon enough. Tiffany spoke, "I want your attention." The Icers obeyed and listened. Not one questioned or uttered a word. Tiffany stated, "I'm an Icer. I'm one of you. I know what it's like to be one of you." The Icers listened quietly. Not one of them moved. Tiffany continued, "I know that each one of you started as a team. I know from my own BASISS unit how much you depend on us. It's almost as much as we come to depend on you." The Icers listened. Like innocent children, they offered no protest to the words. Tiffany said, "I'm sorry that your human sides gave up on you. I'm sorry that you've been left alone for this fight ahead. I know that most people just treat us like machines, that they think of us as disposable pieces to be used when necessary." In a strange show of symmetry, they all responded, "Yes." The symbiots did it as if they were one mind. Tiffany knew better. They were twenty lonely children conforming to comfortable patterns. Tiffany continued, "I'm one of you. I understand that we are more than just machines. I understand that we all made a conscious choice to help the Illuminati whatever the cost. We did so, because the ideals that we fight for are both just and noble." Once more the symbiots answered, "Yes." Even her own BASISS answered internally this time, exactly conforming to the timing of the other colonies. Like a new teacher finally finding her rhythm, Tiffany knew that she had found a way to really talk to them. She continued, "The enemy that we are facing wants to harm humanity. Gilam wants to keep the nations of the Earth unbalanced. He wants to put an end to the hope of the Illuminati. He wants to end the work we struggled for over three thousand years." The Icers grimaced. Stoic gazes gave way to one of the few emotions they truly understood. Tiffany emoted, "We are the Illuminati. We did not form to succumb to the vanity of trying to rule the world. We gathered together to be the light against the darkness. "We formed to protect mankind from the supernatural predators of the world. We gathered regardless of nation, race, creed, or religion to protect our sisters and brothers, whatever the personal cost. We gathered to do what no one else dared do, or could do." The green-eyed troops never blinked. They drank the opportunity to be understood. They listened to what gave them purpose. Even though, they knew that failing this mission meant death with no chance of recovery. Tiffany continued, "I can't say that this battle will improve our lot in the world. I can't say that this battle will improve the lot of humanity. But, I can say this." Twenty-one symbiots listened. They hungered for what would be said next. Tiffany spoke directly to them. "Whether we live or die today, we will insure that humanity gets a second chance. They get another chance to kick their own way out of the darkness of fear, envy, ignorance and hate. Humanity will get another chance to grow into something greater than they were before." The symbiots swam internally. It was the purpose they craved. They knew what she was going to say. She stated, "It's what we do. We are the Illuminati. We are the light against the darkness." The gate whirled behind them. The time was up. Unit 613 looked out unto her troops. The soldiers looked back unto her. Tiffany simply finished with three sentences. "We shall destroy this foe whatever the cost. As a unit, whether we live or die will not matter. We will prevail." The symbiots simply declared, "Yes." Even the symbiot inside her mind swam from the words. They were all a team, united in purpose and principle. Tiffany put on her helmet. The troops placed on their helmets. All as one, they strolled out to their mission. The task force walked into the grinding whirlpool of light. The team stepped fearlessly into where no other Illuminati had ever dared go. They stepped into a place of pure evil. They walked straight into a mouth of Hell.