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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."
4 Aug 2005, 12:02 am (UTC)
"Right this way."

As Bryce led Ryan out of the main lab, down a large corridor with doors of varying sizes branching off of it, it was noticeable that there continued to be screens visible here and there. It was like no matter where you went, there had to be at least one TV available to watch. Every so often, the picture on one or another screen on their path flickered, seeming to momentarily show a man's face, but it's fleeting and hard to be certain.

Opening the door to Room 11 and leading the way, Bryce said, "The plan's pretty simple. I connect to your systems and attempt to transfer the other resident persona into some portable machinery that isn't your body. Hopefully he'll go peacefully, knowing that it's only temporary until someone can arrange for something he can move into and live his own life, but I'm not exactly holding my breath.

Bryce turned on the lights, not that it was more than vaguely necessary with all the screens. One of those screens flickered, like the ones in the corridor did, but this time, the image that appeared in place of a regular TV show stayed. The image resembled the head and shoulders of a man, with oddly scupted blond hair, unnaturally blue eyes, and a shiny black suit jacket over a white button-down shirt and similarly shiny black necktie. Behind the obviously computer-generated man, neon-colored lines moved around a black background.



"This is M-M-Max Headroom, coming to you l-l-live and--live and direct on Network 23, and what I want to know is... Who's your f-friend, Bryce?"

Bryce grinned and replied, "Hey, Max. This is Ryan. You might've seen him on Sages."

"Oh, yeaaah. The cyborg free-free-freedom-fighter guy from a d-d-desolate future."

Turning back to Ryan, Bryce said, "Ryan, this is Max Headroom. Remember I mentioned having experience with downloading human synaptic circuits into an online persona? Well, that's Max. He's patterned off of the mind of Edison Carter, Network 23's top news reporter, although he's diverged from that baseline in the year or so since his creation."

"Two minds, but w-with one single memory," Max added with a smile.

Bryce gestured towards one of the chairs, inviting his guest to sit while he himself went to one of the tables and began picking out components.

"I suppose I should probably start by asking, do you have some kind of purpose built jack or something for computer access? If you don't, that's fine, I can still make do, but it'd be simpler than having to mess around with setting up an inductive interface."
4 Aug 2005, 08:31 am (UTC)
Ryan laughed quietly as he heard Max speak. Freedom fighter. Hardly. "Gotcha," he remarked, hearing Bryce's description.

He sat down and tried to relax a bit, not wanting to give any clues of how he was feeling, though as the pressure started to build he couldn't help but feel on edge. "Computer interface? Sure - hang on a second. " Quickly, he ran his fingers along the panel by his eye and pressed down, revealing a number of small ports. "Should do the trick. Of course, I don't know if the standard connections are the same in my time as here..."

He paused for a moment and grinned. "To be honest, I'm not holding my breath that he's got any plans to go easily either."

((in thread this time! sorry!))
5 Aug 2005, 02:42 am (UTC)
"Huh. Not where I would've thought to put datajacks, but I guess that works." Bryce went over to Ryan and examined the ports, angling in with a small flashlight and magnifying glass to get a good look at them. "Interesting. The largest of the three is similar, though not identical, to a type used a few years ago for certain specialty video intermixing systems. It's obsolete, but I still have a few handy, one of which I can readily modify. The other two, I can just improvise."

Bryce walked back to the cart where he'd been picking out components, starting in on preparing the connectors and cables he'd need. "This'll take a couple of minutes. In the meantime, relax, watch some TV. I think Edison's on the air at the moment, or failing that, Blank Reg is probably running Sex Pistols music videos on Big Time TV. Again."

Improvising the other two connectors appeared to involve probe wires held in proper alignment by the application of a chunk of Silly Putty. Connectors were attached to cables, the other ends of which had their bare wires screwed into terminals in a box of some kind of circuitry and switches. Cables ran out from the box, a smaller one to something small enough to be more of a control pad and a larger one to a computer. Satisfied with his handiwork, Bryce wheeled the cart over to Ryan's chair, stringing wires from the tables along the walls to power up the systems, and then connecting the interface cables to the ports on Ryan's face.

"Okay. The breakout box will allow me to analyze and modulate the signals along the cables, mediate the connection between my console and your hardware. Shouldn't take too long. After that, the real work begins. And not just for me; you have a job too, and that's to keep a hold of yourself. I don't have the equipment to restrain you, and as exciting as they'd probably find it, I'd hate to have to call Security to throw themselves at trying to stop you if your friend managed to take over."

Sitting at the console on the cart, the breakout box's controls at the ready, Bryce ensured that everything was all set on his end, then looked at Ryan. "Ready?"
5 Aug 2005, 08:20 am (UTC)
"Always worked fine in my world..." Ryan remarked, shrugging.

The shows mentioned were outside of his experience, but he watched anyway. Anything for a distraction. He soon found himself paying more attention to Bryce's work than to what was showing on the televisions.

"Okay, I've got that - I can hold back. With any luck." He took a few deep breaths and looked at the machinery around the place.

"I'm ready."
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.
7 Aug 2005, 10:07 pm (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Ryan was becoming increasingly aware of the scans and the intrusions in his mind, and increasingly uneasy. Trying to cope with this as well as Cobalt's attempted takeovers was hardly a comfortable experience. Cobalt, himself, didn't really think like an AI. He'd been human once, and still didn't consider himself a native of the datasphere.

However, he was starting to work out what was happening. He made his move. Not outwards, into senses and motors, but inward. Taking refuge in the core of Ryan's mind.
Ryan took a gasp as if someone'd hit him in the stomach. "You're not... going to..."
7 Aug 2005, 10:57 pm (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Bryce had just begun scanning the central wetware interface junction core when his view of that section of memory showed him what his quarry was doing.

"Oh, hell."

Bryce knew he had a little time. After all, AIs are pretty big, and synaptic backup based AIs can be even bigger if they haven't made any effort towards efficiency, sorting the memories of its original life and so forth. It was fairly apparent that this persona had not, which meant that it had a lot of data that it had to cram down the pipe of the 'ware-face in particular specific ways if it hoped to write itself into the pathways of Ryan's brain.

Still, it wasn't a lot of time. The scanning process was quick, as such things go, so while he hadn't been able to do the block allocations that'd allow him to seal off the sector, the scan had allowed him to see where to drop a datatag into the AI's runtime image, streaming a trail back and ensuring that the connection through the junction stayed open and led to the target. It was time for drastic measures.

"Ready, Max?"

"R-r-ready."

Bryce reached to the network cable connecting the computer Max was on into the switch, unplugged it at the switch end, and jacked it into the breakout box. Before he'd even had a chance to say, "Go, Max!" the screen had gone blank as Max Headroom shot himself down the connection into Ryan's cyberware, following the trails Bryce had left behind to where the rogue AI was trying to upload itself into a human brain.

Max was, like Cobalt, a synaptic backup based AI. Unlike Cobalt, however, Max had, in the year since his inception, become quite comfortable with his electronic existence. He'd gone to great lengths -- often at the expense of Edison Carter, the template from which Max was formed, and the target of many late-night calls by Max asking for explanations -- to sort through the memories he had in an effort at self-understanding. He'd received several upgrades to his already highly advanced driver code, whenever Bryce made some new breakthrough. He wandered regularly through the networks of the world, often engaging in more than a little online B&E, either out of curiosity or because he was asked to do so to help Edison get to the bottom of a story.

He was, in short, as well-tuned to the electron as if he'd been born to it, and it was those talents that he turned to causing trouble for Cobalt while Bryce continued to work on code to pull Cobalt back out of his upload attempt.
8 Aug 2005, 09:52 am (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Ryan took a ragged, heavy breath as he felt Max's presence surge into his mind. Two other personalities circulating in there - it was hard to concentrate. Hard to try and block out the rogue thoughts he could already feel creeping across from Cobalt's mind. Hard not to try and block Max out with Cobalt, even if he was trying to help.

"You're not gonna... this is my mind..." he whispered, digging his fingers into the chair's arms, metal hand clawing into its surface. He reeled, dizzy from feeling the cat-and-mouse game in his head and circuits. Stay focused, he told himself, but it was proving harder than he'd hoped. Not that he'd ever expected this to be a walk in the park.

It took a few moments before Cobalt realised that he was under a more direct attack. He froze for a moment, but started to try - rather inexpertly - to duck and dodge around Max's intrusion. You're not wanted, he thought. Go away. Anxious, he started trying to send data down any route available, jamming the connections into Ryan's mind.

Ryan shuddered, making a face.
9 Aug 2005, 03:05 am (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
"Oh no!" Max exclaimed as he started to jam himself into the interface junction, seeking to block Cobalt from passing through it into Ryan's brain, "I'm not w-w-wanted!" He made a little screechy noise of pretended shock. "Whatever-ever shall I d-d-d-do?!"

While Max continued to work at bouncing Cobalt back into more advantageous system space, Bryce continued to work on both helping Max and making his own attacks. He re-opened the pathways Cobalt was closing, re-tasking the garbage collection routines to keep them clear and setting quality-of-service parameters to give Max's processes priority, doing everything he could to rob Cobalt of CPU cycles to slow him down.

And as he watched Max and Cobalt engaged in the AI equivalent of combat, Bryce analyzed Cobalt's methods, his patterns, everything that the code in his object files expressed as to who Cobalt was. He'd already gotten a lot of what he needed before he even got Max involved, but a few seconds of that gave him the last bits of information he needed, at which point he picked up another keyboard from the next shelf on the cart down from the main level.

This keyboard was attached to another system, this one too sensitive to be on any network. It was the system which controlled a piece of equipment of Bryce's own design, which he used daily. He'd told Ryan about it, in discussing the possibilities of this effort, but he'd been vague about the particulars of how it worked. In any case, he didn't usually use it in this fashion, so he'd had to reprogram it a bit, configuring it to run in real-time and adding a parameter-based automated filter routine, which he then fed with Cobalt's signature.

((What is this mysterious piece of equipment? Tune in, uh, in the post I make after whatever action you want to interject. In the meantime, work was hellish enough on the brain that I'm lucky to have written this much, so it's bedtime for me.))
9 Aug 2005, 09:44 am (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Ryan gritted his teeth. The activity in his mind was, as much as anything, giving him a headache. In some ways, it felt almost like being drunk, his thoughts and actions no longer under all that much control.
It would be easy to fall asleep, he felt. But there was no chance in hell he was going to do that. He took a few deep breaths. Anything to keep a bit of clarity in his thoughts. Anything to try and keep any sanity he had left.

While he wasn't as comfortable in the computerised world, Cobalt at least had the advantage of being on his metaphorical home turf. He dashed from one pathway to another, anywhere that seemed to be an open channel in the right direction.
They were getting increasingly hard to find.
He didn't panic. As a human (or as a cyborg) he'd been trained to stay calm. But the pressure was definitely on at the moment. This is my body, he spat out. My home.
9 Aug 2005, 11:36 pm (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Bryce activated a macro he'd written to keep what he was doing to help Max going while he let up from the keyboard himself for a few seconds. With that attended to, he wheeled his chair around the cart to behind Ryan's chair, picking up something that looked like a metal yarmulke with little metal spines here and there, connected by a long tangle of cabling to the computer on the cart's lower shelf.

Settling the cap onto Ryan's head, the spines digging into his scalp without actually breaking the surface of the skin, Bryce said, "This is probably going to feel a little weird for a moment, but just hold on."

Getting the cap in place was pretty simple, since it was designed so Bryce could put it on himself and have it sit comfortably for however long it took him each day to sift through the memories he felt were important for experience, and then bulk-erase the rest. It was the sort of thing which sounded more ominous than it really was, given how much testing he'd done with it before he ever started using it himself. He hadn't been sure that he'd have to do something like this with it today, but he'd cleaned it up and stowed it in a handy location just in case.

Bryce reached over and hit the activation button, then swung back around to his place at they keyboards to watch the modified eraser start its work. The additional code he'd just written was designed so that instead of sorting and indexing a day's memories for manual tagging, the device instead monitored thoughts and memories as they were formed, comparing the signature of the originating persona against the parameters programmed into the filter (in this case, Cobalt's). If the signature matched, the thought/memory was automatically erased. Ryan's own mental activity would go on unimpeded.

The end result was to provide a sort of firewall protecting Ryan's mind. Now, if Cobalt really wanted to, he could keep trying to write himself into Ryan's brain, but it wouldn't work; a copy attempt would be erased as quickly as it was attempted, and a transfer attempt would be a one-way ticket to oblivion.

"There. That should open up on breathing room."
10 Aug 2005, 10:13 am (UTC) - Re: Preliminaries complete; the work begins...
Ryan shuddered as the cap settled into place, feeling the sensors press into his scalp. "What the heck did you just do?" he asked, but he could already feel a difference. Cobalt's presence seemed muffled and cut off.
For the first time in weeks, he felt alone, or close to it. And it seemed like a strange sensation.
In some ways, he didn't even feel like himself.

Cobalt himself soon realised something was up. Trying to break through the firewall hurt in a way that should have been impossible without nerves. He backed off, trying to reconsider what was what, 'looking' around the datascape for any way out of there. There's got to be some way around this damn thing! he cursed.
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."
13 Aug 2005, 09:25 am (UTC) - Re: The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
Ryan shuddered for a moment, the file reconstruction shooting a strange dizzying sensation through his mind. "You... you did it? He's ready to get out of there? That's the best news I've had in a long time..."
It took him a few moments to realise just what had happened. He was alone again...

Realising the changes in the datascape around him, Cobalt furiously threw himself around what memory-space he had available. This is impossible! What's happened? How could I let myself get caught like this... A search around the parameters of his virtual prison revealed no way out.
And at that point, things started to go dark. His thoughts slowed down.
Offlined.
13 Aug 2005, 08:57 pm (UTC) - Re: The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
"Yup. Give me a moment and... there. I've got him moved into my system here. Okay, Max. Come on out of there, then sort and store for shutdown."

"Finally." Max shot himself back up the cable into Bryce's workstation, and having squared himself away in his new location, added, "Ready."

Bryce shut down the system, unplugging it from the breakout box and everything else and, pulling another cart over, swapped it with another more or less identical system that was sitting on the second shelf down

"I'm not taking any chances here. I set both machines up as known clean machines. The one that I've moved onto the other cart is now 'tainted', and there are some simple but necessary hoops to jump through to get Max and Cobalt off its drives in a manner that ensures that Cobalt doesn't leave anything of himself behind or accidentally gets re-activated."

As he got the second machine hooked up and powered on, Bryce continued, "Similarly, this system I have here is so that I can run another full sweep, to make sure your systems are totally clean." He started typing commands, resuming his connection through the breakout box and beginning his scans, adding, "This'll take a couple of minutes, but after that I can take all of this extra stuff off of you and you can finally get up and move around while I handle the other system."

It did indeed take a few minutes, but only a few, and soon enough, Bryce was shutting down the workstation and breakout box, unplugging the cables from the ports on Ryan's face, turning off the eraser and pulling its cap off of Ryan's head.

"There. Your systems have a clean bill of health. How's it feel?"
13 Aug 2005, 09:16 pm (UTC) - Re: The mind firewalled; Tightening the noose...
Ryan fidgeted as the system scanning went on, feeling very strange indeed. Empty, in some ways. He hadn't realised just how used he had gotten to the phantom presence in his circuits. He flicked the cover back over his interface ports and reflexively scratched at the area.

"Strange..." he muttered. "I... I don't feel like myself... as long as he didn't take anything with him when he left..." He laughed, weakly. "But... I feel okay... well, I'll be okay in a bit."

He stood up and stretched. Even his body felt different in some ways, without the presence of the systems' previous owner in them. Unused to having such full control for so long, he almost overbalanced for a moment, but caught himself on the back of the chair with a sheepish grin on his face. "So he's in there, now? He can't feel anything?"
13 Aug 2005, 10:28 pm (UTC) - Clean-up
"Not too surprising that there'd be some disorientation; if Cobalt had been active in your systems for so long, they're going to have to find some new equilibrium now that he's not an influence on them. You'll get used to it."

Bryce moved his chair and the second cart over closer to a wall, near some additional power sockets and a parts rack. He slid the system he'd used for the capture out from the second shelf of the cart, popping it open with a screwdriver, pulling a couple bits of cabling from the parts rack and plugging them into a couple locations inside the machine's case. The other ends of the cables were run to the powered-off system on top of the rack, which had some additional ports on the side that appeared to be custom-added.

"Max and Cobalt are currently in the system down here, yes. The power's off, so to put it in human-ish terms, they're effectively dormant, like a state of cryogenic suspension, for example. What I'm going to do now is load its drives on this other machine as non-executable volumes, so that they'll stay offline until I explicitly re-activate each of them.

"I can then do some shuffling of cables and machines to get Max out and back into the networks safely. The Board of Directors hates it when I keep him off the air for too long for one of my projects, so I need to get him online soon. But that shouldn't take long. After that, I can get Cobalt moved."

Looking at the tablet PC that Ryan had brought with him, Bryce asked, "I take it you brought that along to put him onto?"
14 Aug 2005, 11:23 am (UTC) - Re: Clean-up
"Yeah, that's the one. I hope the connections are gonna be okay again..." Ryan wandered over, still feeling unbalanced, to grab the computer in question. "Get used to it. I better had... this just feels wrong."

He booted the system up quickly, getting everything ready for action, and passed it over. "Hope it's compatible with your hardware. Otherwise..." He shrugged. "Well, you know more about that sort of thing than I do. I never did understand computers - and damn, that must sound weird..."
15 Aug 2005, 03:08 am (UTC) - Re: Clean-up
Examining the tablet, Bryce said, "No, no problem. This has a network port that matches one of the ones you have, which isn't that surprising, since it'd be silly to give you interface ports for completely different standards from the rest of your world's computers. So I can just use the breakout box with the settings I already have put in."

Bryce then started working with the system on the cart, interspersed with a couple of different machines on a nearby desk, and a lot of shuffling of cables back and forth. After about fifteen minutes all told, he'd gotten Max's files moved and scanned a couple of times, ensuring that he'd suffered no trouble from his adventure and that he was on an isolated system where it was safe to bring him back online and, hooking it into the network, letting him wander around again, which he promptly did, shooting off into the city's TV sets to engage in his usual shenanigans.

That task done (and, thankfully, before he'd gotten any calls asking him where Max was), he hooked the capture system's drives back into the system on the cart (Bryce had unplugged them at one point, to keep the drives offline while the quarantine system was hooked up to the next machine down the chain), pulled over the cart with the breakout box, used the breakout box to connect the quarantine system to the tablet PC, and transferred the still offline Cobalt over the link.

Disconnecting the tablet and powering it down, Bryce handed it to Ryan and said, "There you go. I've kept him offline, and set it up so that he'll stay that way until and unless you explicitly start him back up again. He may find that tablet a bit cramped, so assuming you ever do decide to bring him online, I suggest you move him somewhere else first."

((Were this the original UK TV-movie version of Bryce, he might've mentioned the possibility of just deleting Cobalt, as he was a slightly more bloody-minded git who got what was coming to him. US series Bryce, however, would maybe think of it, but wouldn't be so crass as to suggest it.))
15 Aug 2005, 08:52 am (UTC) - Re: Clean-up
Ryan watched, curiously, as Bryce went about his business. As the tablet was passed back over, he gave a smile. For a moment, he caught sight of his own reflection in its screen - he could almost imagine another face in there, staring back at him. He looked away.

"I've already lined something up for him." He paused and laughed. "I don't have a clue why, mind. He hangs around, interferes with my life, makes me into a..." His voice trailed off and he looked down at the tablet. "Maybe I should leave you in there. Probably others around could make better use of that body than you could... no, I can't think like that. It'd make me as bad as you."

He looked back at Bryce and smiled. "Thanks, man. Thanks a lot. I seriously owe you one for all this."
16 Aug 2005, 03:42 am (UTC) - Re: Clean-up
"Yeah, sure, no problem. It was an interesting experience."

((Guh. That's all my brain has at the moment. It's been a long day. Also, y'know, denouement.))
16 Aug 2005, 11:25 am (UTC) - Re: Clean-up
Ryan smiled and headed out of the laboratory, ready to leave for his own world as soon as he was clear. He looked thoughtful, confused, refreshed - a strange mixture. At least it was all done now.
"Bye..."
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