A technician walked around the table, carrying a stack of paper. He nearly tripped over a wire coming out from the ground and mildly cursed. The room's lights were turned out to give the holographic emitter more contrast. It was an unfortunate effect that the table they used to display CAD/CAM data had such poor illumination, but their budget couldn't afford the new SP model.
The scientist plopped the stack next to Dr. Cain and went back to get more. Cain tapped his cane against the floor as he studied the printouts. "This makes no sense. One report says six Maverick reploids, the other says twelve."
"Mine says fourteen," Dr. Addison interrupted.
"Nonetheless, we must count on a number larger than what the reports estimate. At least we know they're all headed to the power plant."
"I disagree." Dr. Fremont typed into the keypad on his side of the emitter, manipulating the image. "See how this valley connects with the old factory? I think they must be going there."
"Preposterous," Dr. Addison said. "The old factory isn't of nearly as much value as the power plant."
"Wait," Dr. Cain held up his hand to the group while he looked at the computer screen. His personal monitor scrolled through lines of text.
"One of the B.E.A.T.s has sighted some shapes going towards the factory." He punched some more commands in and presented them to the topograph. Some black spheres with question marks showed up and moved into the valley. The stopped shortly where it branched off on the side closest to the factory. He turned to the other two with a raised eyebrow, in question of what to do next.
The two doctors crouched over the emitter, deep in thought.
Dr. Addison said, "We cannot assume that the Mavericks are truly going to the factory. The power plant is of much more importance strategy-wise. If there are only shapes being sighted then we don't really have ocular proof that Mavericks really are taking the plant. Plus, the plant has a G4 power transformer, extremely valuable."
"Wait," Dr. Cain declared, still at the console, still receiving cryptically coded lines of information. "There are more reploids around the factory. More info's coming in. I think... I think they're joining their allies. They must be congregating there and then moving to the plant. They're not going through the valley at all. They're going right over it."
"Of course not," Dr. Addison threw up his hands, "Why would they need to. The security on the power plant is meant for humans who would go through the valley. Mavericks don't care about environmental strategy."
Dr. Fremont wheeled his swivel chair to a console in a corner. "Rally the troops. We head to the plant at dawn."
Cain sighed, and twisted his cane into the floor as the scientists scampered to communication consoles to assemble the soldiers. "Another battle," he whispered sadly.
An extremely loud rapping came at the door. "Dr. Cain? Are you in there?" came the muffled voice of Zero.
"Enter," the doctor commanded the doors.
Zero, X, the general, and a host of troops and Maverick Hunters entered, filling the meeting room to near capacity. The scientists huddled together at the collection of brawn.
Cain swiveled his chair towards them. "Zero, we need you to prep for battle by dawn. Oh, General Brandle, what are you doing here? We could have used your expertise earlier."
The general stormed up to the table and slammed his fist down through the hologram. The doctors' eyes widened as they saw an expensive piece of technology throttled like a child's toy.
"So could I!" he yelled gruffly. "But my problem is significantly more important than your idle prattle. Our system has been compromised."
"Huh?" the equally bewildered scientist said.
"Corrupted, gone berserk,
haywire, Maverick! By all the chins in
Cain furrowed his brows. "If that's true, then we would have noticed something about that, wouldn't we?" Dr. Addison said.
"Not necessarily," Dr. Cain added. "What's your evidence?"
"Him!" He pointed behind him to a bewildered Zero. "He's the one that's done it! We'll all be killed because of him in a matter of minutes. Order his arrest now!"
The scientists looked at General Brandle confusedly. "Could you tell us what's been done exactly?" Dr. Fremont asked.
"Well...oh," Brandle remembered and dug into his pocket and produced the disk. "Here it is. Here's the knife that's been plunged into our backs. It's all there in black and white."
Dr. Cain took the disk from Brandle and inserted it into a panel next to the console. Bringing it up, he observed, "This is a log file."
"I know," Cain said, stating what was obvious to him. He took a brief glance at the multitude of text. "Would you like to tell me what's on it so I don't spend hours and hours searching?"
"It details how Zero," he paused to emphasize the name, "Created a privileged account for himself that gives him access to s-superuser...no, superuser access all over the network."
"At what time index?" Cain asked.
"Where in the file?"
General Brandle stammered, "Uh... somewhere in the bottom."
"Gentlemen, if I could say something?" Zero said.
"Feh, traitor," the general muttered and rolled his eyes as he spoke.
"It is true that I created my own privileged account and hacked into the system server to do it. Now, I'm not a great scientist or well versed in computer technology. I'm a Maverick Hunter, and I've been one for nearly all my life. I'm not a security tech, so I didn't cover my tracks well. And I didn't intend to. I just tweaked the permissions on my account. I didn't do that to bring down the system. And I'll tell you why and how if you give me a chance."
"Computers are delicate pieces of equipment," the general said, "They can't be toyed with. You have to go through channels to create system accounts. This is a vile disregard of protocol and everyone knows it."
Cain said, "This is hardly what I'd call irrefutable proof that Zero is a full-blown hacker." He turned away from the console. "Zero, please continue."
"So far everyone's been accusing me and no one really wants to hear the truth. In fact, I haven't done a damn thing wrong. Have you seen the way this system is set up? You can't access a text file without needing three passwords. So I changed my own account. The problem is we're so damn paranoid about Mavericks hacking in here that everything's bordered up to the point of inaccessibility. Even you must've seen the blockers and bumpers, the ASC, filters, scanners. They slow the system down to a crawl. I can't even play a game of minesweeper. It was the only way to get anything done."
Cain put a hand to his chin. "Well, I suppose you have a good point there. I can find the security system hampering at times too. It certainly seems overloaded with programs."
X stepped into the conversation. "We all know the security measures are extreme, but we need them. The propensity of Mavericks is to attack technology systems where they're weakest. It's better than having no access. But I know Zero well. I was there when he created his account. He's invulnerable to Maverick status, we all know that. Same as me. I hold as much loyalty to him as I do to the human race. I pledged to serve and protect and so did he. I think this might just be a case of misunderstanding between human ways and reploid ways."
Dr. Cain rubbed his long white beard. "All right, I'm going to allow it. But I want full access to your account."
"I'll do that as soon as possible," Zero nodded.
General Brandle lunged forward, shaking his fist in the doctor's face. "You fool, you can't possibly think this is all right! This is a breach of security, clear and simple."
"It's fine. Zero's the only who can access the account, and we haven't had an internal breach of security for a while." Cain could see the general was still fuming. "General Brandle, let me give you a piece of advice I heard in school: when someone gets the better of you, don't let your angered feelings stew."
"Oh, that's very clever Dr. Cain. I have one for you too. 'When your job is to keep the peace, don't make business with reploid thiefs'." He turned on his heel and walked out of the room. His military troops followed him, leaving only scientists and reploids in the room.
"'Thiefs' doesn't really rhyme with 'peace'," X pointed out.
"Isn't it supposed to be 'thieves', not 'theifs'?" Zero added.
"Enough. Grammar lesson later." Dr. Cain waved his hand to dismiss the entire issue. "We've got Mavericks to worry about." He motioned them up to the center table. Zero and X took foremost positions, with the others looking over their shoulders.
"The power plant?" X asked as Cain got out his laser pointer.
"Right. We estimate eighteen or more Mavericks in there. Its security system is not exactly up to par due to budget cuts, but they've probably rendered it useless by now anyway."
"Well, at least that means it won't try to attack us," X commented.
Cain continued, "We're preparing our mobile command units. We need to gather the proper Maverick Hunter divisions and head out immediately. We'll be there by dawn."
"I'm ready to go now," Zero said, pumping a fist in the air, apparently recovered from his sleepiness. "Just need to gear up."
"X, are you going on this mission?" Dr. Cain asked. "It should only be a clean-and-sweep."
"Most definitely," Zero interjected. He and X had been inseparable partners in battle ever since the Dr. Doppler incident.
"I can handle myself equally to Zero," X said.
"Fine, then. Prep your systems. Let's get rolling."
Zero turned to leave and noticed Janus standing there in the background. "Janus, rouse your division commander, tell him what's going on."
"Yes, sir," he saluted.
Zero, X, and the other reploids left the room. "Let's set that account up for Cain before we have to go," the red one said as the door closed behind them.
Dr. Cain, Fremont, and Addison gathered their papers. "Gentlemen, sorry to deprive you of more sleep, but we must get that MCP online first thing."
"Not a problem,"
"Ugh," Dr. Addison said, "My wife is gonna kill me." He turned off the emitter and left as well, leaving Janus and Duplex the two sole occupants. The two looked around the empty room awkwardly, as if waiting for more people to show up, waiting for someone to break the silence.
"Well," Duplex said and shrugged, "What do we do now?"
"Now? ... I think I'll go back and relax before dawn," Janus smirked. "You?"
"I think I'll retire myself."
"You saw them. They ignored me, they ignored you. I was promised a commendation by the general if everything turned out all right, but I lost it. We didn't accomplish anything. I just got yelled at. Again. Why shouldn't I want to have myself deactivated?"
"Because deactivation is for bad computers and faulty antiques. Do you know what we just proved?"
"What? We proved something?"
"Sure. We proved that Zero is clearly the favorite son. He's untouchable. He can do no wrong. Now, if you retire yourself, they win. This isn't about you lamenting how little pull you have in the system. It's about whether you have pull in the system at all. It's about whether you have the willpower to succeed. Your emotions are something you can take off and put on like honor. Therefore, I say prepare for success, prepare for the future. Soon, the leaders will stand up and notice your valor, therefore prepare for success. If you prepare for success, success will follow you. We are all what we want to be. If X and Zero want to be untouchable, they will be. But that doesn't mean they're invincible. So, prepare for success. X and Zero were born into violence, and violence will undo them. So make all the money you can. Forget about deactivation. A silly notion."
"Then will you still support me?"
"I will. Mark my words, Zero and X will pay. I've told you before how much I hate them. So no more talk of deactivation?"
"Prepare for success."
"All right," Duplex mumbled.
"We ride at dawn, my friend. Get your stuff together."
"Right," Duplex said, somewhat despairingly. He turned and left the room.
REC SYSTEM 1.2
Copyright © 2105, 2109, 2114
Real Mem = 8192 TB
Avail Mem = 32768 TB
Primary Data Cache = 512 KB
Primary Inst Cache = 768 KB
Secondary Cache = 32768KB
Testing file system..........
Janus2214347> new log -nx
Created new logfile 6/29/21XX 184934
Duplex may prepare for success. Too bad he doesn't know whose. The one truth I have told him is of my hatred for the crimson commander. If I should ever be seen with Zero, making merry and amiable, then retire me. I saw his privileged account as I snuck through the computer pathways, broke through the ice that encased secret files, and then I knew. That wretch thought it was allowable to make his access unlimited because he's outgrown his own ambition. And the executives accepted it. He's reached the top of his game and now he can't go any further. He's trying to be better than the best. But it's hard to keep your balance when you're at the apex of a tower. He'll fall eventually, and his ego won't be there to catch him. Whether all this is true or not, I don't know. But I'll pretend like it is for the sake of my own hatred. The difficulty is 'how'. How will Zero fall? How? ... X and Zero are partners at the top. They hold loyalty to each other most of all. So much they trust each other without question.
That's it. I have it.