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R&D, 13th Floor, Network 23
20 Minutes Into The Future
Bryce prepared Room 11 for the evening's work, arraying a few… 
1 Aug 2005, 09:05 pm
Bryce
Bryce prepared Room 11 for the evening's work, arraying a few separate computers at various stations around the room. Since it's not like he's ever done any of the kinds of experiments that would require custom furniture, he's wheeled in a couple of the larger office chairs he could find. Also wheeled in, on several carts, are assortments of electronic components, assembly tools, and interface cables and connectors. Networking equipment is strewn throughout the room, but most of the computers in the room aren't actually connected to one another. He doesn't want the quarry to have an out unless it's planned for, after all.

Once everything's ready for his visitor, Bryce calls down to Security and tells them that he's expecting a guest, leaving enough details so that they'll be able to recognize him and direct him to the elevator accordingly. After transmitting coordinates for the lobby, he settles in with a ZikZak Burger Pak to watch both the SecuriCam footage (so he can direct the elevator, which ordinarily doesn't stop on the 13th Floor) and whatever's on air at the moment.
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2 Aug 2005, 09:53 am (UTC)
Ryan steps through a portal into the lobby, the hood on his jacket pulled up in an attempt to vaguely hide the metal patch by his eye. Under one arm, he's carrying a small tablet PC, which looks far older than its style would suggest.

He walks up to the security man and gives him a friendly smile. "Hi, my name's Ryan - I'm here to see Bryce Lynch..." he says casually, but with his heart metaphorically racing.
3 Aug 2005, 12:35 am (UTC)
The guard, dressed in black with padded armor, looked at Ryan with a look of utter boredom and apathy. As long as he didn't start a fight, Ryan could've probably kept the hood down and the guard wouldn't have cared. He looked down at a display, appearing to check some kind of list, then, satisfied, pointed and said, "Elevator's over there. Knock yourself out, chief."

The elevator door opens as Ryan approaches, without even having to press a button, and, similarly, moves on its own. Thirteen being commonly considered an unlucky number, buildings traditionally skip the number in their floor numbering, going from "12" to "14". Network 23 is no different, except that sometime between those two floors, the elevator stops, its doors opening onto a short hallway.

There are a few doors along the hall, but they're all nondescript. At the end is another door, this one with a sign above it saying, "RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT", and a number of locks, which unlock on their own, leaving the door ajar.

A voice sounds from inside the room. "Come on in, Ryan."

((BTW, my AIM login's in my userinfo, if it helps for coordination or whatever.))
3 Aug 2005, 08:47 am (UTC)
He pushes the door open and looks around the lab space as he enters. The computer's set down on a free table, and the hood goes back. Ryan scratches the metal patch briefly out of habit, but stops quickly.
"Thanks, man. This works out, I'm gonna owe you one, seriously." Another glance at the computer systems. Primitive by his era's standards, but this isn't really the time to be fussy. As long as it gets the job done...

((Ditto mine, might drop a line sometime.))
3 Aug 2005, 11:04 am (UTC)
The room was large in width and breadth, as such things go in office buildings. Much of the space was taken up by tables laden with various kinds of equipment. Televisions and computer monitors abound; the monitors each show different things, while the televisions -- all of them on, with no indications of power-off switches, but with volume muted -- are mostly tuned to one station. Hung from the ceiling is a large cage containing a parrot -- a Scarlet Macaw, to be exact. The central table was more of the same, although one of the monitors was interesting in that it appeared to show a computer simulation of a parrot very like the one in the cage. A couple of other screens showed the feed from cameras aimed at the door from both the inside and out.

Seated at the central station, typing away on one of the keyboards with his back to the door, was a boy in his late teens, of average height and slender, with sandy brown hair and dressed in tan slacks and a black short-sleeved button-down shirt open over a white t-shirt. Apparently noticing Ryan's approach on the screens, the boy's head turns, revealing an average face with blue eyes mostly hidden behind large glasses.

"Be with you in a moment," he said in a voice which would've been mid-range were it not for the slightly higher tones indicative of adolescence not quite yet complete. He then turned back to the keyboard and typed for another moment or two, finally hitting the "Enter" key with a sense of satisfied finality before spinning his chair and standing, extending a hand.

"I'm Bryce Lynch. Welcome to Network 23."
3 Aug 2005, 11:11 am (UTC)
Ryan smiled in a friendly way and reached out to take Bryce's hand. "Ryan Alexander. Thanks for the welcome. This where everything happens, then, yeah?" He paused. "First time I've seen anywhere like this. Kind of all gone by my time."
He took in everything going on around him. "So. What's the plan, then? He's already worked out that I'm up to something here. We oughta get this thing moving quickly before... yeah."
6 Aug 2005, 05:22 am (UTC) - Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Fingers began tapping on keys, alternating between control pad and keyboard, as Bryce began both negotiating communications protocols and opening access to the foreign systems embedded within Ryan's cyberware. Random electrons turned to bits, bytes, packets, and finally a datastream. Satisfied at least that far, Bryce put the breakout box's control pad aside and concentrated entirely on the computer.

In conversation, Bryce seemed a bit awkward, hesitant, taking effort to pick his words and occasionally having to push his glasses up. He still had to push his glasses up every so often, but other than that, his movements had become swift and sure now that he was more in his element.

The ambiance of this world may have looked shabby, like there wasn't enough budget for shiny gleaming fixtures, but in the last couple of decades or so, increasing need for information and entertainment led to an explosion of technological advancement. In that time, the world had managed to make leaps which would ordinarily have taken much longer, and the increasing prevalence of child prodigies like Bryce in each generation was only accelerating the development curve.

Thus, despite equipment that, to Ryan's eyes, had to look hopelessly antiquated, it was surprisingly quick work for Bryce to gain entry and access; five minutes for basic user-level access, another five for super-user privileges, and not quite fifteen more to investigate all the little holes and ports and familiarize himself with the codes, firmware, etc. to roughly developer-level.

"Okay. I'm in."
7 Aug 2005, 09:27 am (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
((Yikes, sorry about the late reply!))
Ryan took a few deep breaths, trying to clear his mind of worry. He imagined he could feel the flickers of the datastream as Bryce worked, but knew that it was nothing more than an illusion, his imagination getting carrried away. A faint smile crossed his lips as he started thinking of just how much time he seemed to spend with other people going through his internal systems. Just another part of life.

Deep inside, the other presence that he had been carrying around shifted, aware of what was happening. The personality of Cobalt-2942, the ghost in Ryan's machinery, reached out to try and take control - but Ryan was prepared. He'd been expecting this. He made a face for a moment, forcing his other half back down.

"Gotcha. What're you planning now?"
7 Aug 2005, 08:39 pm (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
"I'm running a sector scan, with supplemental block allocation and buffer sweeps. Basically, my goal at the moment is to track him down, get an idea of where he's currently located in memory so that I can trace him as I work on encapsulation for transfer."

The keyboard continued to sound out a steady flow of clicks, the drumbeat of the hacker's industry. On Bryce's screen, information scrolled past in combined text and graphical formats, each stream being taken in and used to guide his search and capture routines. Minutes stretched out in this way, with the televisions around the room providing a low backdrop of background noise.

As he worked, Bryce was careful to leave a section of memory open, a clear path visible from certain other systems of which he'd been delaying his scans. He wasn't sure just how readily this would work, but it was worth a shot as an opening gambit.

Seeing the face Ryan momentarily made, Bryce said casually, "Interestingly, when he tries to take control? Certain paths light themselves up like a Christmas tree. He keeps that up, I might not even have to finish scanning the entire system; I'll just pick him up at the wetware interface juncture."
7 Aug 2005, 08:46 pm (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
"Hmm. I think I get you. I never was any good with the technical talk. And - you say he shows himself up like that? That's kinda interesting..."

Ryan tried to settle down, but still, he wasn't having much success. It was hard just to relax with all of this going on. His eyes roved around the room, settling on anything and everything in an attempt at distraction - even with the television sets scattered around the place, they didn't seem to be enough to take his attention away from just what was actually happening.

Inside his mind, an argument raged - both one with himself, and with the personality he shared it with. Had he been right to do this? Was this too much of a risk, for himself or anyone around him? Never mind, he told himself. It was too late now.
7 Aug 2005, 09:45 pm (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Having baited the hook, Bryce left it for now and continued his scans. If his quarry aborted his current efforts and moved into the bolt-hole that'd been prepared, Bryce would know.

In the meantime, he hadn't scanned everywhere else yet -- that'd take a while -- but he'd gotten through just about all of the basic systems that weren't involved in 'ware interface; most of what was left unscanned for the moment was bulk storage space, aside from a couple of other minor systems that he'd also left untouched as possibly less obvious honeypot bolt-holes.

As it happened, even though he'd said what he did to make his target nervous and more likely to make a run for it, he wasn't lying, either. (He wasn't that good a liar, so most attempts he ever had to make at being sneaky tended to involve doing so using the truth.) An AI's primary defense against being taken down was its mobility, and the persona Bryce was tracking down was leaving himself more than a little exposed by concentrating his efforts on taking over the body.

Also, a beneficial side effect of his efforts thus far was that by allocating space in each system as it was scanned, he slowed things down overall. Life support functions continued unimpeded, but if Ryan's control failed at any point, the slowdown everywhere else would be enough to buy Bryce a few extra moments for drastic measures.

The perimeter, metaphorically speaking, was secured, and Bryce started moving his scans into the interface junctures, approaching the central core from the sides. With luck, his quarry would make his move soon; otherwise, Bryce was also finishing up a program for when he actually reached the interface core. And, seemingly forgotten, a lone backchannel network connection remained.
11 Aug 2005, 03:08 am (UTC) - The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
Bryce talked as he typed, saying, "Re-tasked my memory bulk-eraser to automatically erase any thoughts and memories created by Cobalt in real-time." Realizing that the phrase "memory bulk-eraser" was inherently ominous, he quickly added, "Don't worry, it's perfectly safe. I use it just about daily to clear out superfluous data. I'd have started the plan out with this, but I needed to analyze and profile Cobalt to build up a signature for the eraser's filter to recognize."

There was another flurry of typing, and then Bryce continued, "As an additional safety feature, it's an external non-networked device, so there's no way for him to get in there and screw with it. I also had the filter back-track a bit, so whatever he managed to get in before I turned the eraser on is gone too.

"He knows it's there now; If his AI driver is advanced enough, it probably triggers the analogue of a pain response. It made him back off to regroup, which gave me the time to block off the interface junctions. Now he's stuck in the hardware, and Max and I can work on corraling him and making him travel-ready."

There were multiple pathways out from where Cobalt was after backing off. Just about all of them led into regions of open memory. Each of those was a trap, some totally obvious, others less and less so, especially with Max Headroom hassling him as he tried to think.

There were also a couple of open backchannel network connections to Bryce's cart-top workstation that seemed neglected. Even Max would have to go down one of those and discover that there was nothing there to realize that they were also traps.
11 Aug 2005, 10:59 am (UTC) - Re: The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
"Memory eraser. That's real comforting, there." Ryan made a face. "I sort of get what you mean, but... yeah." He sighed, trying to relax a bit, if that was in any way possible. "At least we're getting somewhere. It's weird, you know? In some ways, I can't believe this is actually working..."

Think... think... there's got to be some way through, some way round... some way out... I'm not going to be trapped! Cobalt started to 'explore', tentatively probing the different dataroutes surrounding him. He was almost starting to panic, though his training held the impulse in check. And you, you stupid prototype! Leave me alone!

He started to investigate the apparently clear pathways open to him.


((Thinking of throwing a spanner in the works, but there aren't really any places here to insert said engineering item...

And sorry my posts aren't longer. I'm not used to long-paragraph RP ^^;; ))
12 Aug 2005, 03:08 am (UTC) - Re: The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
"Seems to be." Now that Bryce had managed to close off the interface junction pathways from his quarry, he could go back to the scan-allocate-sweep methods he'd been employing earlier. The number of places still available for hiding steadily grew fewer and fewer.

It was also fun to watch the rendered view within Ryan's systems as Max continued to harass Cobalt. "Prototype?!" Max exclaimed with a slightly whiny edge to his voice, "I'll have you kn-kn-know that I'm the only type!" His tone shifted to that of a Serious News Anchor. "Often imitated; Never du-dup-duplicated. And besides," he continued in a more normal voice, "as a f-fellow AI, I think we could be f-f-friends! Bosom buddies! Hang out at each-each other's mainf-frames and go to Sunday field s-s-services" -- Max broke out his Revival Tent Preacher Impression -- "and bask in the g-glory of the bliss of our elec-lec-lectronic existence! Can I get an A-A-Amen, brother?!"

Max's main goal at this point was basically to distract Cobalt so that, each time he got away from Max for a moment and saw how many fewer avenues there were than the last time, he would eventually panic and do something stupid.

It seemed to be working, as he started to see signs of activity in monitored sections. Traces of momentary treads in memory spaces here, a tentative portscan of his workstation there. Bryce kept doing what he was doing, giving no indication that he saw these things until Cobalt finally either committed himself to making a break for one of them or flailed about for so long that the remaining truly open space ceased to be so and he was boxed in place. Either was fine for his purposes, and it wouldn't take much longer now.

((heh I guess I've done my job, then. :-) It's a bit of a challenge, actually, thinking up to Bryce's level with covering all the angles, even without having to work out the details of making the TV-tastic technology work.

And don't worry about post length. My posts are long not because I prefer it that way, but a) to keep things going, knowing that my end's the one where most of the stuff-happening takes place, and b) to make sure there's enough background that what I'm having Bryce (and Max, who, for me, is hellaciously hard to write for) do makes sense outside my own head. Also a little bit because it's usually late evening when I have time to post, and I tend to ramble a little when I'm tired. As you can see just now.))
12 Aug 2005, 10:10 am (UTC) - Re: The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
Ryan could hear the AI conversation faintly in the back of his mind. It felt more than a little disconcerting. At least the firewall was muffling the worst of it. Otherwise it would probably have been a lot worse.

No, you stuttering idiot. Go back to your own mainframe. You tell me this is bliss, glorious? Don't make me laugh. As... intriguing as this experience has been, I belong in the physical world. And your stupid games have taken that away from me... Cobalt snarled, furious. If he had had a physical presence at all, he would have lashed out at Max at that point.

The distraction was, indeed, working. He wasn't being so cautious any longer; he wasn't caring about where he went so much. The obvious traps were being left alone, but in his anger and confusion, he wasn't thinking well enough to avoid the more subtle and inviting avenues open to him.
And just pushing that little further down one channel wouldn't hurt, he thought. Would it? Anything to get away from Max's taunts...

((And a very good job you've done of it! Might be a good job nothing's going wrong, my other character already got his brain fried by an AI so I don't really want to go the same way with Ryan (!)...

And thanks, that's a load off my mind.))
13 Aug 2005, 07:50 am (UTC) - Re: The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
Another indicator on Bryce's screen lit up, as "that little further down one channel" turned out to be "right through a pathway made to seem longer than it really was, into one of the prepared buffer spaces". Noting which buffer it was, Bryce keyed a few commands. The first one closed off the pathway Cobalt had gone down.

"Got him."

He'd considered giving Cobalt the option, once he was trapped, of making his own preparations for transfer, but decided that it'd be too dangerous, with the possibility that Cobalt might find a way to escape. So instead, having nailed his quarry down into one known location, Bryce's next few commands did some smashing of the execution stack, crashing Cobalt's processes offline, then marking that buffer as non-executable space.

"He's offline. Almost there..."

If started back up immediately, the results wouldn't have been pretty, but in the course of encapsulating Cobalt's object, data, and resource fork files into a data packet sheath for transfer, Bryce also performed some reconstruction, defragmentation, and re-indexing, thus restoring their integrity.

"Okay. He's bagged and tagged. Now I can start getting him transferred out and making all the final sweeps and stuff to make sure nothing's been missed."
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