Friday, May 31, 2013

The Vault Incident-09

Roger, with Alex and Alan 1 behind him, stood before the full Council of Masters at the heart of the Inner City. As holographic images of things and places appeared about them, Roger began his briefing.

“Masters, I have reason to believe that this incident originates from the occupied homeland of the Atlan people.” The hologram depicting the occupied island continent, far east of the Sky-Blue Republic, and others depicted the monstrous god-like being reigning over it as well as the many inhuman minions ruling in its name, administering it as a key hub in a multi-dimensional empire focused upon the slave trade.

“Due to the verified intelligence produced by Operation Buy Back, we are well aware of the occupiers’ capabilities and willingness to use those capabilities. We also know that they are as aware of the Empire as we are, and therefore are likely to see the Empire as a useful tool to employ against any target.”

The Council nodded in agreement. “Continue, Engineer.”

“Due to the Empire’s dogma, we believe that the Imperial cult that is officially denied by the Empire became sufficiently isolated to become vulnerable to infiltration by the occupiers. We are aware that the slavers have the means to fool conventional as well as unconventional detection of their true forms, especially since the Imperial cult lacks the Hounds otherwise commonplace in Imperial forces as well as friendly relations with the Sons of Ken. We hypothesize that the individual handling this operation is actually a minion of the occupiers of the Atlan homeland.”

“To what end?” a Councilmen said.

“To test our defenses, Master.” Roger said, “This signifies one thing for certain: the occupation is not only aware of us, but regards us as a viable threat and is now turning its attention towards destroying us. This operation is the first sign.”

“What of Operation Buy Back?” another said.

“I recommend a thorough audit to eliminate the possibility of corruption.”

“Is this incident concluded?” another said.

“No.” Roger said, and the holograms shifted to The Vault, “Cosmo 3 completed reorigination as I directed. Since completion, several attempts to pierce our barriers occurred at The Vault. Not only did they fail, but trace-back protocols automatically activated to seek out the origination of the attempts.”

Alex stepped forward. Another hologram shifted to a location in the Outer City.

“We traced the attempts to a well-concealed location in the Outer City. Records, verified in the last four hours, indicate that the location is the dwelling place of a woman originally encountered on the frontier where the Empire seeks to expand. She has no record of subversion, and otherwise is known to live quietly and aloof from everyday affairs.”

“Is this woman suspected of being an Imperial cultist?” a Councilman said.

“At the least, a cultist.” Alan 1 said, now stepping forward, “Possibly a minion in disguise. I’ve ordered a review of the woman’s interactions since settling in the Outer City.”

Roger took over. “We request sanction to proceed.”


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Vault Incident-08

Cosmo 3 hovered well above The Vault, projecting a vast cone below that encompassed the whole of The Vault’s mass. It scanned The Vault, and then began systematic deresolution of its mass, layer by layer, bit by bit, while its satellites maintained combat patrols around the exterior maintaining a perimeter. Inside, Roger monitored progress from the bridge alongside Alan 1 and Alex.

“Engineer,” Alex said, “the Council is online.”

A trio of miniaturized heads, wearing cowls, appeared before them.

“Roger,” said one of them, “Alex briefed us on the situation.”

“Cosmo 3 is reorganizing The Vault as per instructions.” Roger said, “It just began the procedure, so anything anomalous has yet to manifest. What does the Council make of my assessment?”

“The Council, after conferring, agrees with the general assessment. We do not concur with the specific accusation towards the Empire, but we do concur that someone uses these entities as a cat’s paw against us.”

Alan 1 kept his attention on Cosmo 3’s progression. The first third of The Vault now derezzed, and the old system monitor nudged Roger. The Engineer shifted his attention accordingly.

“Hold, Council.” Roger said, “Something’s up.”

Out from the deresolving Vault raised a translucent entity, roaring and writhing. Cosmo 3’s satellites engaged it from maximum distance, quickly adapting their weapons systems to match frequencies with it, and once achieving resonant frequency they quickly ripped it apart and destroyed it in a most violent and brutal manner. Cosmo 3 continued its reorgination procedure while its satellites did their job, further deresolving The Vault and exposing the enemy’s hidden implantation of rooting protocols, creating a backdoor into The Vault.

“Suspicion confirmed, Council.” Roger said, “The enemy hacked The Vault and implemented a backdoor. It also had a guardian. Both have been destroyed.”

“This is not good.” The Councilman shook his head. “We still think that the Empire can’t be the party behind this operation, as this command of fundamental principles is known to be beyond Imperial capability.”

“We have no hostilities with any other body capable of executing this operation.” Alex said.

“Not entirely correct.” Alan 1 said, “There is one body, albeit one where our conflict is not openly hostile.”

“Who?” Alex said.

“Hold that question.” Roger said, “Council, I request an emergency closed session.”

The three Councilmen conferred amongst themselves briefly, and then nodded.

“Engineer,” Cosmo 3 said, “reorigination is past the point of effective enemy action. Resistance is now a non-factor.”

“Execute the new paradigm as I directed in the code.” Roger said, “Then report upon completion.” Then Roger turned to the Councilmen, “We three are on our way back. Cosmo 3 can take it from here.”

“Acknowledged. End of line.” The Councilmen’s holograms winked out of existence.

Alex turned to Roger. “Who?”

Roger beckoned Alex to follow. Alan 1 did likewise. As they reached the flight deck, and then took off in their personal lightjets, Alex pulled alongside Roger.

“You asked.” Roger said, “What do you know about Operation Buy-Back?”



Friday, May 17, 2013

The Vault Incident-07

Alex came Robert’s quarters aboard the mobile fortress.

“Constructs need no rest. Users do.” Robert said as she entered his quarters.

“Indulge my curiosity.” Alex said, ignoring him, “Do you think that we’re being played with by a hostile force?”

Robert lay in repose on a lounge. “Indeed.”

Alex began to follow-up, but Robert cut her off. “The hostiles are not dupes as such. They are as they appear, insofar as their aim and objective is as it appears to be.”

A faceless servant construct delivers food and drink to Robert, and then leaves.

“Then they are assisted by the true enemy?”

“You’re learning.” Robert said, sipping his drink, “Good. Why would a hostile actor want to use a third party?”

“To distract our attention, blaming their actions on another likely target while they move against us unopposed until it’s too late- that is why they would use a third party.”

Robert sat up. “Correct. Now, if the Vault is not the true threat then what is it?”

“If this is really an elaborate ruse to test our defenses, then the enemy actor must possess the means to act effectively against us in ways similar to our own.”

Robert smiled. “Go on.”

“Similar entities are akin to frequencies. They can easily fall into discord because they are too similar to easily harmonize, and in discord cause interference that we interpret as conflict.”

Robert’s smiled widened. “Good analysis.”

Just then Alan 1 entered. “I concur.”

“Imperial Intelligence?” Robert said, looking at the elder system monitor, “They have people with the means and the knowledge.”

“Are they not disavowed?” Alex said, curious.

“Yes, they are officially disavowed. However, they started their studies from the same base that we did and never got past the fact that the Old World’s understanding of the arts derives from old cults and religious practices. That atmosphere promotes a fanatical perspective, which the Empire exploits to this day to keep them within the fold despite being officially disavowed.”

“Personal experience?” Alex said.

“Alan 1 and I encountered this cult—and that is what it is—performing operations for the Empire more than a few times over the years. Their methods, by comparison, are primitive and they are far more reliant on rote learning without the fundamental mastery of the concepts. They are, for all of their power, not that much better than the Imperial Army’s grunts.”

“Men that use tools without knowing the how or the why behind their function.” Alan 1 said, “They might as well be guard constructs.”

“Are all of them lacking like that?” Alex said.

“No.” Robert said, standing up, “Their leaders and top operatives are far more dangerous because they do understand what they’re doing, to a significant—if lesser—degree.”

Just them, Cosmo 3 appeared in hologram form.

“Engineer,” Cosmo 3 said, “we are in position.”

“Engineer Robert Prime, authorization Gold Omega Diamond. Execute Reorigination Protocol on Quaratine Facility previously designated.”

“Acknowledged, Engineer. Please wait while performing operations.”

“The game’s afoot.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Vault Incident-06

Robert, Alex and Alan 1 arrived at the mobile fortress Purifier. The trio immediately went to the bridge, where the three of them met with the construct in command: Cosmo 3. Not a captain in the way that Outer World ships do, but rather an installed artificial persona and expert system, Cosmo 3—for all intents and purposes—is the ship. The other constructs that appear as crew are actually its many subroutines, all of which are utterly expendable; the same is true for its boats. Its passenger capacity is solely for the purpose of moving external populations, a capacity that it can reconfigure in and out of existence with dizzying speed, and right now that capacity is being moved out in favor of firepower.

In the bridge, Cosmo 3 appeared as a hologram to facilitate cooperation, taking the form of an imposing older man.

“Engineer,” Cosmo 3 said, “sensors report that the cocoon’s integrity is holding, but if the current pattern continues that will fail within one day.”

“Fortunately all useful subsystems in the vault are disabled.” Alan 1 said, “That is likely why the cocoon hasn’t broken yet.”

“Agreed.” Alex said, “So, what do we do?”

“The breech cannot be wholly sealed as it is. Even with the prisoner’s corpus destroyed, some portion of its essence remained. It was enough to activate the hidden circle. The situation is itself now at a near-catastrophic level.” Alan 1 said.

“I am authorizing a total, deep-level reformatting of the vault.” Robert said, “Nothing less will do, and nothing more is possible given what we have on hand. The Council monitors this situation, yes?”

“Correct.” Cosmo 3 said, “I feed the Council data in real time.”

“Is there anything we need to do before we’re close enough to begin the process?” Alex said.

“Standard procedure is to establish and maintain quarantine.” Cosmo 3 said, “Assets are on station doing just that. Nothing gets out, and nothing will suborn my assets.”

“Then we must be prepared for a non-standard response.” Robert said.

“What do you mean?” Alex said.

“To become effective in destroying an enemy, one first studies the target. Executing operations meant to test responses, tease out procedures and others compel the target to expose how he thinks and acts given this or that stimulus is how Engineers tailor our techniques to the flaws of our foes.”

“I concur.” Alan 1 said, after a long pause.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Vault Incident-05

“My scans confirm that the prisoner left nothing corruptible behind.” Alan 1 said, “According to procedure, we should be able to lift the quarantine on the chamber as soon as the deep-level scans come up clear.”

“Good.” Robert said, “But that’s not why you called me into this office.”

“No.” Alan 1 continued to watch the scan progress, “I am curious as to your decision.”

“An entity of great power, but nonetheless subdued and imprisoned here, is one that’s been out of action for a very long time. I don’t believe that it was what it claimed to be.”

Alex entered the room. “Then what was it, Engineer?”

Robert glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be better able to answer that question when the scans are complete.”

“Until then,” Alan 1 said, “I would like you to elaborate on your decisions previous.”

Robert sighed. “Entities that are powerful, arrogant, but still subdued and imprisoned mean that there is a serious disparity between the self-image and the reality of the entity’s actual capabilities. If the entity is as lacking as the pattern indicates then there is nothing gained by continued captivity, so elimination is the wisest response. If it isn’t, then its captivity is part of a larger plan, and that makes it wise to eliminate it. I could not be wrong either way.”

“Are you certain?” Alex said.

“The scan will prove it.” Robert said, “Just a few cycles more.”

The automated deep scan protocol completed, and a report appeared on a virtual screen before the three of them.

“It seems that your assessment is correct, Engineer.” Alan 1 said.

“I concur.” Alex said.

Robert looked at the the report data, and his eyes narrowed. Alex moved over by Alan 1, and she whispered into the older construct’s ears. “What is it with him?”

“Let him run his process.” Alan 1 said, whispering, “Engineers, like all users, are constructs of the Outer World originally.”

“I’ve been in the Outer City.” Alex said, still whispering.

“Yes.” Robert said, raising his voice, “You have. Both of you have. Therefore you should know enough to respect non-linear cognitive processes, especially from my brotherhood and I.”

Alan 1 looked over to Alex. Alex just shook her head.

Robert ran his hand over the virtual screen, rearranging the data from a stream of numerical data output into a symbolic form and converting the output into a visual mapping output of energy flows in and out of the prisoner cell-block. The data report flowed until it settled into place, forming a pattern that—at a glance—seemed like a clean map of the prison. A closer examination revealed a hint of dim points of superficial corruption, but arrayed in the pattern of a pentacle.

“DAMN!” Robert said, “Alan 1, everyone out- NOW!”

Alan 1 didn’t hesitate. The klaxon sounded, and all constructs immediately evacuated. Then they followed, sealing things off as they fled. When they arrived at the landing platform, Alan 1 handed Robert and Alex each a forearm-length rod. Then they ran, jumped off and as they fell they activated the rods. Personal lightjets resolved around them, and the trio launched high into the sky. As they flew away, the prison sealed itself in a solid cocoon.

“What’s wrong?” Alex said, pulling alongside Robert.

“It planted a summoning circle.” Robert said, “It used itself as the anchor for others to breech the barrier. Killing weakened the link, and the lockdown will buy us time.”

“For what?” Alex said.

“For a total reformat and re-installation.”

“That bad?” Alan 1 said, “Sending word then.”