Oh, of all the times to-He could already hear the sounds of Saru's warmech, as it stopped a hasty duck away from the predicted field of fire, and instead began to lean back in towards the ruined crater of an office. Ajax's heat sensors flared a warning, and he dove to one side and under a laminated multi-tiered desk as the chem-laser burned a path through where he had just been standing. The beam swept slightly to the sides before winking out, clearly searching for a target.
Really? You don’t say-
[Would you like to view a list of nearby vendors of this caliber and payload? Y/N]
Nice try, asshole.As Ajax picked his way down to the base of the ruined building, one of his internal processes pinged a results indication. Ajax had been surprised it had spoken up: typically this partition was for advanced or in-depth combat analysis, and to return a result this quickly was surprisingly quick given its previous processing speeds.
Looks like he still doesn't have a lock on my fusion emission yet. No telling how long the dust will give me cover in that regard though.
[Results ready for [Target Neutralization] - subtype [Alternate]. Data derived from combat diagnostics, strategic readouts, and [Lilutrikvian] warmech data cached in previous encounters with the [Ares] model.]Another rumble and shower of dusty clay pattered his frame as Ajax knelt near the bottom-floor lobby. Every few minutes he could hear the report of Hera's railgun, but judging from the lack of audible mechanical carnage afterwards he guessed she was in a poor position to do anything but lay down some sort of suppressing fire.
Ah, right: having the previous armor analysis file on-hand probably made that job a lot faster, but even then it usually needs a half-megacycle before it can assemble a de novo response-
[Secondary data sources based on primary correlations compiled from local historical EM data, local Terran expat demographic data, and 458 scans of immediate half-click surrounding region.]
That's a fairly specific set of searches; looks almost like the code was looking for other cogents.
Well, then. Explain reasoning behind this search.
[The [Ares] model of warmech is hardened against both chemical, biological, nuclear, and cybernetic damage and incursions. For the latter category, however, the general novelty in general Lilutrikvian digital warfare and lack of attack-hardened firewalls likely meant that cruder methods of security were more effective.]
[Instead of having fully-networked and robust wireless connectivity secured via reinforced and layered firewalls, the [Ares] appears to be limited to a single cluster of wireless antennae and a triwalled anti-incursion firewall for digital defense. Otherwise, the general design idea of 'air gapping' appears to have been the preferred method for digital security.]
Still not seeing it. Lilutrikvians tend to be naive in cyber warfare design, but why would it matter that the warmechs are the same?
[Control of the warmech frame likely occupying the majority of [Sarucogvian] processing output. Due to myriad of threats and security issues, physical security of his neural web would be key factor in where his primary data files and active web are located.]
Yeah, that damn thing is probably the most heavily-armored terrestrial bastard on this side of the planet.
Kind of wish we brought more rocket launchers after all. Railguns aren't ideal for trying to arc fire over obstacles like you can do with an explosive missile.Points of data and realization finally coalesced in Ajax's neural web as he realized what his projection subroutines had discovered.
This is starting to ramble. Summarize rationale as list.
[Point A) [Sarucogvian] is inside an [Ares]-class warmech.]
[Point B) The [Ares]-class warmechs require a functional communications array in order to wirelessly transmit or receive.]
[Point C) There are no functional and powered civilian cogents or high-level AI-equivalents other than self and attack-hardened contact [HERA] within [0.66] kilometers.]
[Point D) The [Ares]-class warmech [Sarucogvian] is occupying has sustained heavy damage to the wireless array. Effective expected range is < meters.]
[Conclusion: Target [Sarucogvian] is-]He ran a quick check to see if Sarucogvian had performed any similar EM-scans or other database pulls regarding any possible nearby substitutes for him to hide in. They all returned negative results.
-is trapped like a worm in a virtual machine.
Not only that, but he's too focused on me to even realize it.Ajax could almost feel a whoop of joy from his combat and fuzzy memory comparison modules: he had been anticipating a drawn-out need to run Sarucogvian to ground first, and eliminate his copies. Instead, he had apparently lucked into the Lilutrikvian cogent boxing itself off and cutting a months-long expected mission completion timeframe to less than two hours.
Two hours? I'll bet I can beat that.The ground shook as one of the red enamel-coated metal claws slammed into the pavement outside of the lobby. Ducking out as far as his security subroutines let him dare, Ajax scanned the position of the warmech and let his processors run for a few decacycles to come up with a top-efficiency climbing route.
Ah come on you oversized crawfish, you weren't expected to run a mass-countercheck until I got to the second joint.One of the other claws came free of the shop it was embedded into, sweeping forward to scrape him off of the leg with the weight of a decaton of steel-alloy behind the blow. It loomed overhead, dropping quickly, as Ajax vaulted upwards as quickly as his servos could handle.
That's the problem with fighting a damn AI, is they tend to notice everything.
Almost there. Just a few more meters-His display highlighted the outline of a knee plate that jutted out just far enough to give him shelter from the blow. The problem was that the limb had begun dragging downwards, the scraping of metal reverberating off of the buildings that still stood.
[Alternative route found: Estimated time savings of [0.58] seconds, increase in handhold grip risk up by [+25%]. Would you like to use this new route? Y/N]The dotted series of handhold grips flickered and shifted. Multiple of them were now marked in red, warning him of less than two centimeters of estimated raised texture or plating that he could grab ahold of. As he lunged for the next-closest grip, he could feel one set of digits slide off, a few minor reminders cropping up in his neural web to remind him that he was several years past the estimated effective wear date for the friction-adding finger coatings. As a result, the rubber-like polymer that would normally give him a fine fingerprint-like texture and greatly-enhanced gripping power had aged and worn and degraded to the point of being like a sleek and cracked plastic instead.
Y, damn it. I need all the speed I can get.
[Warning: target [killerLeg_1.0] will pass calculated point before estimated arrival. Faster and/or alternate routes not known. Would you like to perform a deep-calculation analysis prediction? Y/N]He turned his apical node slightly, allowing his lenses and sensors to scan across the nearby rooftops.
N. I can't afford the cycles to spare right now.
Time to find another way down.
I could always jump for it, go into a roll, and hope that the fall was enough to cause the claw to miss.His prediction files flagged a minuscule [8%] success rate, flagging the difficulty in sensor evasion on the rooftop free of any significant cover, the wide area of effect the weapons on the warmech could pulverize, and the ease in recalculating the arm's descent to just follow his attempted escape and continue to simply crush him on the rooftop.
Highlight structure of incoming leg. Cross-reference against observed structuring patterns and components I've seen while climbing this leg. Flag any with predicted rotational motion with a drag coefficient of less than 0.05. Execute.The leg was outlined in white, and a flashing set of vertical rings lit up in striped yellow, still approaching far faster than Ajax would have preferred. One such ring, designated as [predictedLubricationRing_G2], was nearly directly above him, and his zoom lens spun into focus to show him a crisp image of the exposed handles jutting out from it.
[Would you like to change the Reynolds number for fluid estimations, or keep the default value of 1E4?]
Default is fine, just execute the blasted program.
Perfect.Ajax dropped a half-dozen meters, alighting on a half-meter-wide servo housing. Bracing and aiming carefully, he spooled up several precise motor impulses in his awaiting command queue.
Over-exert servo speeds to maximum possible parameters, provided projected normal combat movement speeds are not reduced below 25% as a result. Power conversion of backup batteries 3 through 5 are designated for the next megacycle as Available in [capacitor-discharge] format.He leapt, arm outstretched.
If I tried just jumping onto the arm, Saru would probably just smash me against a building or try to smush me between two arms. This, however?Calculation completed, Ajax waited until the exact indicated moment before releasing. He soared upwards, momentum dying until near the apex of his leap. There, his frame roughly met the outermost edge of the warmech's armored carapace; a second later, he heard a crunch below him as the inevitable weight of the arm smashed another structure to rubble.
I don't think he'll have seen this coming.
Not leading their shots, then. Looks like Saru isn't hand-controlling everything at this point.He could dodge most of the shots, but not all, and small but insistent damage readouts began to pile up as they indicated minor wiring cuts and shrapnel splinters becoming embedded in less-reinforced areas of his frame. The cluster of damaged comm spires provided cover in most directions, but as Ajax listened the steady droning pingpingpingpingping continually became louder and louder.
Still, I'm not here for Saru to destroy himself. Again. I need that fusion core intact and unbreached for this plan to work.As Ajax had hoped, there was a Lilu-sized access hatch near the base of the ruined communication antennae. It was locked, of course, but Ajax had already begun a close-read scan for microwear on the keypad to come up with the access code.
Come on, come on. Even for a fresh-off-the-line model, they still did maintenance and quality control tests, right?It took painfully-long cycles, but finally he had a ten-digit set of possibilities that he began rapidly trying. His hand was a blur as it vibrated against the predicted button sequences.
[Access denied]A notification pinged in his neural web, from a sender that caused him to immediately quarantine and analyze the message.
No buffering and prevention of repeat code-entry attempts.
An oversight, but understandable if you think the only people who can get close enough to plug a line into your ports again are your own techs.
That said, I'd kill for a set of personality profiles to pull from to try and do a Markov estimation.
-Ah, Ajax. Having fun yet?-It seemed like the attack attempts on Ajax hadn't ramped up significantly as Saru initiated the message, but a brief check of his firewall statuses indicated a large surge in data packets, seemingly harmless, attempting to be granted access.
Attempting to send code-snippets inside, to assemble later? Saru, you'll have to try harder than that.A possibility was forwarded to him from his cyberwarfare algorithms, and intrigued, Ajax allocated a set of cycles for the idea. He was further encouraged by the timestamp with the previous time he had used this tactic as being a medium-priority sub-memory from over fifty years ago.
Probably not something you were paying attention to when snooping around my head, so there's less of a chance you'll know to counter it, or even be on the look-out for this stratagem.The program altered the output tolerances of his heatsink ever so slightly, to effectively pulse them. A cogent who wasn’t careful to sanitize all of their data input streams, including those coming from their own sensors, would read this pulsed binary code stream into their own systems. It was slow and inefficient, but Ajax’s predictive drivers were flagging it with a surprisingly-high possibility of success.
Splinter viral-payload designate [FullNelson_4_v2.2]. Encode in repeating pattern, and translate through [UnwantedObserver] cyphering program, wavelength specification [Infrared], component specification [heatsink_2_PandoraSystems3BHI_redundant]. Add current objective as secondary objective to primary payload.
Saru might be just too clever to try pushing back a splintered attack program, but my bet is he's not too familiar with what one AI can spring on another.He re-opened the message band to Sarucogvian.
[Oh, it's a little fun, I won't deny it. You're actually giving my heat sinks a good workout, for once!]Ajax could feel the suspense spooling up in his combat response drivers, as they calculated how long it would be until a viable missile lock was achieved and he was a smoking crater on the warmech's hull.
Come on, take the bait-
Come on...There were a series of loud, clattering thumps and hums as various parts of the warmech began to slow, before locking into place. There was an odd, echoing silence, punctuated only by the tinkle of glass shards falling from cracked and battered windows.
[Incoming message from contact [Sarucogvian]. Display? Y/N]The file opened, and a full and comprehensive diagram of the warmech blossomed to life, filling in the few grey areas of his own schematic analysis wireframe. All of the joints and weapon systems were flashing red, with frantic green flashing along the neural cabling pathways showing Sarucogvian's attempts to break the encryptions.
List subheading only.
[Subheading: ACHIEVED - VERIFICATION 70776-e6564]
Excellent. Open message.
[Estimated resilience of encryption algorithms is  seconds. Warning: Estimate is based on Terran-model cogent neural pathways only]He punched in the combination into the keypad, and was rewarded with a hiss of a breaking atmosphere seal and the hatch mechanically cranking open.
So there's no telling how long it could take Saru to crack it. Well, I'll make sure to make these seconds count either way.
[Addendum: Secondary Objective achieved. Access code is 313-233-343-5.]
Looks like my luck is finally having a bit of a change for once.
No telling if those are sensors, lenses, or explosive micro-mines; best to ignore them and hope for the best.Larger Terran vehicles, particularly unmanned battleships in the 'Retribution' class and above, were typically infested with a mix of defensive and repair nanites. His memory files remembered Malachim, a personal friend of Ajax: on the occasions Ajax had a chance to visit him onboard, the nanites had been an unsettling mixture of both relief and latent fear.
Thank the code the Lilutrikvians haven't taken up nanomachine engineering yet, or else I'd be feeling a hell of a lot more itchy at the moment.
Never a fan of being surrounded by a potential threat I can’t kill.Malachim had of course assured Ajax that the nanites had been self-restricted against replication outside of the boundaries of his own hull-frame, but even so Ajax had made a beeline to the nearest magnetic oil bath when he'd returned to port. As the memory file was re-archived, he added a reminder for checking into magnetic oil bath options on Lilutrikvia.
After all, a slug capable of punching through reinforced plate is a bit overkill against a single nanite, and next to worthless against a swarm of them.
Never hurts to be cautious, especially if the Terran engineers up on that asteroid got some bright ideas and started trying to supply their mechs with nanomachinery. There's no approved nanomachine production facilities on or near Lilutrikvia that I'm aware of, and the only thing that could make this situation worse would be to accidentally release a bunch of bootleg nanomachines.There were several recorded events of planets and colonies going 'gooey', as unrestrained or corrupted nanomachines self-replicated to the point of melting electronics, buildings, cogents, even organics, into a homogeneous sea of microscopic machines. Directed EMP was usually sufficient to cleanse a nanomachine infestation, but oftentimes it would be too late and the cleaning crews would be left shoveling tons of sand-like drifts off of what little scraps remained unprocessed and reclaimed.
Damn near every time was a result of some half-wit either giving them faulty code, or faulty radiation shielding, or both.Sometimes the damaged nanomachine processing would simply ignore limiters, and continue building the frame of a shed to skyscraper-like heights, or continue the path of a bridge into the side of a house or mountainside, burrowing mindlessly.
[Initial tone and word choice suggests that contact [Sarucogvian] will be attempting to barter and/or appease for an attempt to flee in safety. Confidence of this occurrence is p=[9E-3], with some deviations possible.]Sarucogvian confirmed the prediction as he continued. "You killed me, or let me die; either way, my blood, my suffering is at your hands. However, you seem driven to inflict more pain on my frame, on my mind, even now. Why?"
Now's the time for diplomacy; I'd much rather talk down an angry AI wielding a warmech than keep trying to dismantle it from the inside."SARU, DAMN IT-YES. I WANT YOU TO AVOID MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES I HAVE. IN A JUST WORLD I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT THROUGH MY PROCESSOR BY A FIRING SQUAD AND DROPPED INTO A SMELTING CRUCIBLE FOR SOME OF THE THINGS I DID."
Fun thing about counterhacking is that you get so focused on the offensive and defensive code, you often lose sight of the little things like variable assignments.For this particular attack virus, he had added a secondary layer of encrypted lock-out protocols specifically for internal and point-defense security systems. As a seed, however, instead of relying on a random clock value or assigned code he transmitted on a detectable signal, he'd simply called a brief scan-check of a still image taken from the skywards-facing sensor lenses on the warmech. Even if Saru had noticed, Ajax had buried the actual value used by the code in another nested layer of obfuscating code.
With a little luck, Saru would be going down a rabbit-hole trying to calculate which star cluster it looks like I'm using the luminance of for the seed, when all I really need and receive is a quick-and-dirty average of the sky's brightness."Redfour was an idealist. Contents of the mind and existence is all well and good, but you are Terran, Ajax. You don't understand."
Without a little luck, however, and I'm probably due to receive a subsonic-velocity railround up my distal coolant flushvent.
-Here’s proof. Proof of why your mind, here, in this place and on this world, is like trying to fit a round capacitor into a square receptacle-Ahead of Ajax, he could see dozens of security bulkheads slam into place. His analysis subroutine threw a brief loop, as he realized that Saru had been offering only a fraction of the barriers and obstructions he could have.
[Attack programs isolated as complexity level: . Program consists of direct uplink streaming thread, of a bandwidth and complexity that would indicate a complex multisensory or compressed memory file.]
Initiate download of file directly to quarantine drive.
[Error: target designate [Sarucogvian] has denied the download request. A connection-thread for a live viewing-feed of the stream has been re-sent.]
[Look, Saru, I want to see if there's a way this ends that doesn't wind up with one of us in the junkyard. But you've got to give me something besides an untethered streaming thread, something to let me know I'll be safe.]
-My trade is thus: access to me, to sway my opinion, 'turn me from this path'; it is likely you would break further into my frame if I blocked your progress entirely.-He weighed his cybersecurity program suite and projection of his progress speed had he continued brute-forcing his way through the warmech, taking into account the far-greater number of doors than he had previously calculated.
-To this end, a self-decrypting subcode in each file contains the passcode for releasing the next set of doors.-
-But in exchange you will learn why your humanity's ideals do not apply here, in this place, to my existence.-
[Agreed.]Ajax buffered the memory file, double-checked his latent and subnet firewalls, and then plunged into Saru's memory.
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