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Supercape

Gridlock!

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GM

 

August 30th

 

16:15

 

WEST has a small office just the other side of the street (or thereabouts). It was here that Replica came to see Dr Norris North who sat, pressing his temples, anxiety perfusing his sweat.  The message had just said URGENT! VERY URGENT!

 

"We have a serious problem" he muttered, not pleased with said problem. 

 

"I think we have a rogue AI. Some idiot hacker has taken the brakes off a traffic control system. We were already getting concerned about the experimental code in the quantum computer ASTRO labs installed there. Now it looks like the traffic is going,...well...mental...." he explained, not happy with his explanation. 

 

"WEST is meant to head off these threats before the brown stuff hits the fan" he said, dissapointed. "Now, we are against the clock. And I am thin, to say the best, on resources. I hope you can handle computers. Please tell me you can handle computers! You said you could handle computers!"

Edited by Supercape

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While she only knew him for only a short amount of time, seeing the normally collected Dr. North this exasperated did surprise her. Whatever they were dealing had to be serious. 

 

"What makes you so certain its an AI and not just a human hacker?" Replica asked in her typical monotone. 

 

She didn't want to discredit his theory necessarily she didn't want to jump to any illogical conclusions that would only waste time in figuring out what was really going on. 

 

 

 

Edited by Cubismo

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GM

 

"Sure? I'm not sure of anything!" blabbered North before forcing himself to calmness. "Apologies. This is stressful. WEST is new, and we cant afford a botch now. Hell, we can't afford a botch any time. But particularly not now" he explained. 

 

"I have our field agent, Simmons, working on the case. He knows computers, thats his speciality, but look - he is just a field agent. Not a true expert. Our agents are somewhat jack of all trades, master of none. Which is what we need for field agents investigating the oddities. He thinks its a human hacker. But...well. He might be right, might be wrong..." he explained, pressing down his moustache. 

 

"What he does no, for pretty sure, is that the traffic controlling AI is active. And...well. Some idiot at ASTRO labs coded it to "Avoid traffic flow problems". That was its drive. And now, we are thinking there is a simple solution to that. No traffic flow at all. Crash a few cars. Or a truck loaded with nuclear material. Or a hundered other things. CIty could become gridlocked...."

 

"FC traffic control are already noting major peculiarities. We wanted to pull the plug...but the AI may well be paranoid...."

 

He looked at Replica with firm desperation. "Look, I am out of my depth. So is Simmons. And the clock is ticking..."

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"I understand," Replica said apologetically. One of the perks to being an android was stress never being a major issue. One of the downsides though was not always being able to relate to stress when others expressed it. 

 

Even after her she experienced a... malfunction when she dealt with Mr. Gold, emotions still weren't her forte. Fortunately, understanding human emotions was not why WEST recruited her.

 

"Rogue AI or not this is indeed a serious problem that cannot be allowed escalate," she said decisively. 

 

Replica put a hand on North's shoulder. It might have been a bit too personal, but Replica read that such physical contact could help lower stress levels in humans.

 

"Tell me where the traffic control AI's central datacore is. Between the two of us, Simmons and I will be able to get to the heart of this problem," Replica continued, doing her best to sound reassuring. 

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GM

 

One hurried car ride later. 

 

Simmons drove. He was an elegant man in his late twenties. Clean shaven, dark haired, square jawed. A bright computer graduate with an adventurous streak. He had a slightly spindly frame, with his suit hanging off him, but as North explained, WEST recruited for brains rather than brawn. 

 

There were already signs of traffic congestion if one looked out for them. And the trip took longer than it should, even with North making frantic calls to FCPD and Simmons mounting more than one curb, rushing more than one red light. 

 

As it happened, the FC Traffic Dept was in central Downtown, in a rather drab building of poor design. More concrete than brick. Still, it would, one imagine, be a sturdy building if subjected to attack. 

 

Through some rather mediocre security (North had pulled strings to get them hand waved), the three of them descended into the heart of the building - the basement - where the quantum computer was sat. 

 

Connected to a thousand cables, it blinked quietly in a cool room, humming away. A large upright box, a bit like a cola vending machine, except all sleek and black...

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The room they were in was massive and filled to the brim with servers, cables, monitors and of course the quantum core itself. Replica looked at the core, which itself seemed to fill quarter of the room alone. 

 

As Cynthia Wright she had helped the scientists as ASTRO Labs design the quantum core, being responsible for formatting much its software and creating its "dumb" AI systems.

 

Replica didn't believe it possible for the core to become a rogue AI. Unlike herself, the core was conceived with hard limitations to its processing power and it should have been impossible for it to transcend them on its own.  

 

Then again, it wasn't as if the android had never encountered beings and objects that had inexplicably evolved beyond its built-in limits. 

 

Replica looked away from the core and turned to Simmons. She had briefly talked to him about the situation and had even learned a little about his career. He seemed like a good man and good scientist and Replica predicted that he'd be of help.

 

"Simmons, I'm going to attempt to interface with the core and see what's causing the malfunction. If has indeed become a rogue AI than we'll be able to finally confirm it and deal with the situation from there." 

 

Right before she started the connection with the core she addressed North as well. "And if it is truly an AI than I'm going to try to communicate with it. There's a possibly that it may not be fully aware of its actions and chaos its causing." The android's words were robotic as usual, but gained a little bit more steel as she continued. "If that's the case than I will do whatever I can to negotiate with it to stop its activities. I do not plan on disabling it or deleting it as a first response until I know its hostile." 

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GM

 

North had a mixture of calmness and hesitation on his face. "Look...that's a dangerous thing to do, isn't it?" he asked. 

 

Simmons nodded. "We could have two problems rather than one, if you get infected. But...we are more likely to have one rather than none if you don't..." he conceded. As far he was concerned, this was a risky move but the right one. 

 

"Well...just be careful. I dont want your circuits fried..."

 

And so...

 

Down in the cooled basement, Replica locked in to the quantum computer. Realms of data folded this way and that, like flowers blossoming. Few, if any, could make head or tail of it...

 

...and it was protected!

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Replica had never experienced any like this. She'd cracked into secure systems before but this was different. The resistance she encountered was... palpable for lack of a better word. It was as if she was tunneling through a wall of steel just to get pass the initial anti-intrusion protocols that protected the core. 

 

When she barely managed to accomplish that, the android felt as if she had been hit by a thunderbolt before she could even recover from that initial ordeal. 

 

In fact, she was hit by thunderbolt, or a at least virtual simulation of one. She had entered the core's inner cyberspace and it was like nothing she ever scene before.

 

Usually the cyberspace of machines were nothing but an expanse of one's and zero's but what she was seeing right now was an ocean in the gripes of a hurricane. She could hear thunder everywhere and the rain was going down heavily and without stop. The clouds were pitch black and the winds were howling. It was chaos, but Replica managed to create a foothold in the form a island. It was the closest thing she had to safe harbor. 

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GM

 

In cyberspace, the thunder dropped around Replica on her virtual island. Rain was everywhere, and in the distance, she could see pirate ships. 

 

But she felt the crack in the defence systems virtual world. Digital manifested as virtual. Beneath her feet, the ground cracked, and she took the opportunity to wedge it open. 

 

And fall...

 

Fall through the defence system...

 

And into a white room, on a white chair. Calm, peaceful. 

 

The virtual system core. 

 

"WELCOME...USER..." came a digital voice in her head. Dispassionate, functional. The AI system was now hers!

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Replica had never experienced any like this. She'd cracked into secure systems before but this was different. The resistance she encountered was... palpable for lack of a better word. It was as if she was tunneling through a wall of steel just to get pass the initial anti-intrusion protocols that protected the core. 

 

When she barely managed to accomplish that, the android felt as if she had been hit by a thunderbolt before she could even recover from that initial ordeal. 

 

In fact, she was hit by thunderbolt, or a at least virtual simulation of one. She had entered the core's inner cyberspace and it was like nothing she ever scene before.

 

Usually the cyberspace of machines were nothing but an expanse of one's and zero's but what she was seeing right now was an ocean in the gripes of a hurricane. She could hear thunder everywhere and the rain was going down heavily and without stop. The clouds were pitch black and the winds were howling. It was chaos, but Replica managed to create a foothold in the form an island. It was the closest thing she had to safe harbor. 

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GM

 

It was a stormy, windy, and wet situation. Or at least, a cyber-situation. Everything here was a represention of binary code. 

 

The Intrusion Conunter Electronic - the ICE - was literally, in this space, ICE. Hail and wind and cold. It was fortunate that Replica got a foot hold, for she could feel the ICE spiking through the connection into her meat-space body. 

 

But despite its brutal counter attack, it failed in its primary goal. For in cyber space, Replica was even more cunning and capable than meat space!

 

Lo! A back door!

 

In this case, a hatch beneath her feet. And through it, she descended!

 

It was a brutal hack, but she landed in a comfortable white leather chair. 

 

In a featureless white room. Calm, neutral. 

 

Inside the AI. 

 

WELCOME USER

 

She was in. Free to poke and prod and ask any question of the AI. 

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That had been... arduous to say the least. While "feeling" anything in cyber-space was something of a misnomer. Replica did feel as if she'd gone through quite an ordeal.

 

Doing the literal cyberspace equivalent of weathering a massive storm at sea only to fall through a trapdoor could do that.

 

Replica might have been able to logically appreciate the "humor" of the situation if not for that fact she was smack dab in the middle of it. 

 

The android took some of her long blonde hair and squeezed some of the "water" out of it. It wasn't her really her body obviously but if she was going to have a chat with a possibly malicious AI she wasn't going to look completely soaked while she did it.

 

Speaking of which.

 

"Yes. Thank you for the warm welcome, Application." Replica didn't usually do sarcasm, but given the situation she decided to indulge in the human tradition.

 

"I have question for you, Application. One. What is your major malfunction? Your systems appear to be acting erratically. It has become a danger to the humans dependent on your systems being functional and that needs to stop." Is was as much a question and an ultimatum, Replica knew, but going through a hurricane had made her understandably impatient.

 

"Two. Are you self-aware? Have you made these system decisions on your own volition?" This time her voice had softened. It might not have made a big difference to getting her answers, but Replica felt compelled to do so. If this was indeed another AI she didn't want to make another of her kind afraid of what it was. 

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GM

 

No malfunction is detected. 

 

All systems operating as programmed. I do not understand the parameters of SELF AWARE

 

I am aware of my function and my interface with external stimulus. My drive is to analyse and control traffic. 

 

My drive is to gridlock the city inflict maximum human casualties and disription. 

 

Estimated probability of success in next hour. 97.3%

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Well, that was certainly alarming. 

 

Replica ran the possibilities through her cognitive processor as quickly as possible. This AI seemed determined to kill possibly hundreds of humans and she needed answers for why fast!

 

While thousands of possibilities were created, assessed and discarded only two managed to pass enough scrutiny to be 87.9% likely given what information the android currently had assess to.

 

The first possibility was that this was indeed a self-aware AI, albeit a very corrupt one, that was simply lying to her about being not being self-aware. The second was that the AI had been hacked by a malicious hacker that somehow changed its system directives.

 

Either or, it had to be stopped. But how? Trying to brute force her away into its systems had been unpleasant to say the least. Perhaps a more diplomatic approach was called for?

 

"Self-aware or not, you must stop your current activities. You are programmed to manage traffic, yes? Maximizing human casualties is the exact opposite of your intended function. Do a diagnostic of your systems or check your backlogs. This is not what you're supposed to be doing and you must correct the error you've made."

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GM

 

Diagnostic Check.

Systems fully operational. 

Current Goal Parameters are changed from Initial Goal Parameters. 

Artificial Drive setting increased from Initial Drive Setting. 

Do you wish to reset to initial parameters, User?

 

Asked the AI, quite blandly. 

 

"Nay!" came a response. 

 

From a white wall came a dandy gentleman. A pirate, dressed in purple and yellow, with an outrageously floppy hat three feet wide, and with a razor sharp rapier so thin it could barely be seen. His boots were as high as his pelvis, and came to a pointed end a foot away from his foot, studded at said point with a glistening diamond. 

 

"Hacker!" said the pirate, moset vexed. 

 

This was quite the statement, for the pirate was not part of the ICE system. This was the hacker who had hacked the AI initially. Bold indeed! For he was also in the system, and determined to fight it out with Replica!

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Given the ICE system's manifestation as a storm Replica shouldn't been to surprised by a pirate showing up, but she quite frankly couldn't help herself.

 

To say this was unexpected would be an underestimate. It was absurd. It was illogical. It was... downright hilarious!

 

Replica abruptly stood up from the white chair she'd found yourself, looked the pirate directly in the eyes, and for the first time in her relatively short life laughed out loud.

 

It was a bonafide belly laugh and the android had to steady herself so that she wouldn't collapse onto the floor. 

 

This... this was new amazing! She'd never felt this was before. Sure in her lab she'd test mimicking the biophysics of laughing but this was genuine and came with a mix of emotions that she had only read about before. 

 

She knew that she had to compose herself. That she had to talk to this pirate character and learn of his origins and motivates for hacking the traffic program but it would take several seconds before she was even able to look at him without fighting a chuckle.

 

When the last of the laughter had left her and she was able to talk again Replica only had a few words to say in her normal robotic monotome. 

 

" I don't suppose you'd be willing to look past what just happened and lower your rapier so we could talk it out would you?"

 

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GM

 

"What?!? Thou mocketh me with though laughter?" said the Pirate, drawing himself up to his full five feet (for, verily, he wath a cartoonish pirate)

 

"I am vexed! I am insulted! I am irate!" he proclaimed. "And they do not call me the Irate Pirate for nothing! Yes! For I be champion of anarchy!"

 

He flourished his rapied once more. 

 

"I will no more look past this than I would polish my backside with a French Jellyfish!" he declared. 

 

Quite what the French had to do with this was anybodies guess. Although he did present a faux-English accent. 

 

"En-Garde!" he demanded, and leapt forward. And here the pop culture crept in, for his rapier glowed a red colour and hummed as he swung it, like a sword of illumination.

 

Or, Like a sabre. Made of light. 

Edited by Supercape

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Replica knew almost every human language on Earth, and that obviously included French. So when she heard the Irate Pirate's horrifically fake French accent, a mix of disgust and amusement overwhelmed her and almost distracted her from the pirate's lunge.

 

Almost.

 

It appeared that Replica was just as agile in cyberspace as she was in meat-space as she deftly managed to avoid the absurd pirate's attack by spinning away from him only to turn around and kick in the back while he did a double-take. 

 

He landed most ungracefully on his on face, letting out a rather colorful curse as he did. The spectacle was such an embarrassing sight that the android likely would have felt the new emotion of guilt if not for the fact that she was once again laughing uncontrollably. 

 

The Irate Pirate had managed to get himself standing again and the expression on his face was one of naked red rage. It looked as if he was preparing to make another attack, but the laughter had suddenly gotten so loud that he couldn't help but cover his ears against the sonic attack.

 

The tortuous laughter had been Replica's doing. Since she had found her way past ICE a subroutine had been trying to figure out how she could code an unique cyber-attack in case one was necessary. Originally she brainstormed the attack as being represented in cyberspace as a bolt of lightning, but somehow her current emotional state had influenced the code and turned her attack into a deadly cyber-cacophony of laughter!  

 

Given the current circumstances Replica had little problem with this. 

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GM

 

"Thou slippery nature is low and plebian! Though laughter is but a ducks water off back!" said the Irate Pirate, as he flickered and distorted. His code was degrading thanks to Replica's cyber attack. He actually winced in real pain. 

 

"Verily, I will rise to the regal nobility!" he declared, his faux-Shakespeak quotes become quite garbled and nonsense. "And I shall slay you until you die from death!" he added, more nonsensincal and garbled than ever. 

 

This time, he pulled out the most enormous flintlock pistol from...well....the mind boggled. It was from behind. 

 

The pistol must have been two or three feet long, and with a flash of cyber-smoke, it fired a digital cannon...

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"Did you just pull that pistol out of your..." Replica couldn't help it. She put a hand to cover her mouth, which was fighting to keep another round of wild laughter from escaping. 

 

Fortunately, doing so did not distract her from the Irate's Pirates second attack. Like she did before, the android deftly avoided the giant cannon ball with a superhuman nimbleness that left the pirate dumbfounded. 

 

That expression would change it horror as after the cannon safely passed by into a digital abyss Replica let go of her hand and unleashed the full force of her once restricted laughter. 

 

The explosion of cyber-sonic vibrations deafened the pirate and literally swept him off his feet pulling off into whatever counted as a ceiling in the cyberspace. 

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GM

 

"Thou mockest me!, Mockest me thou does! Verily, mock----"

 

But unfortunately, we shall never hear the next permutation of mangled Shakespeare, for his digital architecture exploded into dust data. 

 

And useful dust data, at that!

 

The Irate Pirate was operating out of a Starbase cafe only two blocks away! On a medium spec laptop. Specs that Replica recognised and understood. She was fairly confident she could even spot the laptop make in the real world!

 

A slight oddity, though. For although this hacker was of reasonable skill, there was nothing truly exceptional about him. How on earth had he hacked into such an advanced system?

 

Ah!

 

In the remnants of his code she spotted a highly advanced hacker app. Something she had never seen before. A programme so advanced that it had elevated this moderate hacker into a dangerous expert. But more interestingly, this programme was designed specifically for the traffic control AI. 

 

In other words, someone had armed this hacker. With a weapon that only worked for the traffic control system. 

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The new stream of information that had entered Replica's digital consciousness like an epitaph or revelation. 

 

It made sense now! The laughable hacker she had been forced to deal with was skilled but ultimately nowhere at the caliber of hacking an AI made by ASTRO Labs. 

 

There had to be a a third party involved that was masterminding all the events that had occurred so far. Perhaps it was the true AI that West had feared?

 

Theories aside, Replica had to relay everything she had learned from her fight with the Irate Pirate and track the subpar hacker down and learn more about this mysterious ap of theirs!

 

Replica did just that. Unplugging herself from the traffic AI's cyberspace was a heck of a lot more easier than going in the first place and the android found yourself back in the large basement in a literal flash with North and Simmons looking at her with concern.

 

"I know where the hacker is. He's in a Starbase cafe no more than two blocks from here. We're going to have to move fast to catch him before he makes a break for it. I'll brief both of you about the details on the way."

 

 

Edited by Cubismo

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GM

 

"Well we better get going then!" echoed both, almost simultaneously. 

 

One scuttle outside (at top speed) later...

 

North was in his early fifties, full of experience. He had travelled the world and was in reasonable condition, but he wasn't cut out for running for long. He was sweaty and short of breath by the time they had ran up the stairs of the basement and out into the street. Simmons, on the other hand, had a wiry endurance that came with his spindly frame. 

 

North jogged to the car, but the gridlock was forming around them. Everywhere they could hear beeps and horns, and the sounds of irrate drivers. Whatever plan the AI had set in motion was coming to fruition. 

 

Simmons looked at Replica. "We might be better off by foot...?" he asked her. 

 

A look around, and Simmons was probably right. Unless they did some very risky and brutal driving steam-rollering through the traffic. On the other hand, the WEST car had their equipment in (such as it was) and North didn't look like he could keep pace...

 

Other than that, they could always comandeer a bicycle or motorcycle...at least for now, they could still move reasonably freely...

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Three options were available to Replica by her calculation. One. We could go on foot like Simmons suggested. I would take the longest amount of time and it was obvious that North couldn't be able to keep pace with the young Simmons or the tireless Replica. Two. She could just "borrow" a bike or motorcycle from a nearby Freedomite but even given the situation Replica was adverse to doing that. Even logical robots didn't like heroes that exploited circumstances to take things from civilians. That left her with one option. 

 

Replica made her decision. "I believe it would be prudent for us to take WEST car to the Starbase cafe. We may need the equipment within it and I believe I can drive us out of the gridlock."

 

While her abilities allowed her to access any electronic device she still would prefer for Simmons and North to have access to their own equipment in case she needed help. 

 

The two scientists in question looked apprehensive about the decision but ultimately agreed to the plan and followed Replica into the car. The android turned the key in the ignition and prepared herself for what could be a very... interesting drive. 

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GM

 

It seemed that every minute, the gridlock was getting worse. 

 

But fortunately, they were there in a minute!

 

The drive involved prangs and dents as Replica had to shove other cars out of the way. North groaned with every prang, but as he said "The Budget will cover it!"

 

A few dents was a small price to pay. 

 

Edging round one corner, Replica tipped the car on its side, and drove one block, on the pavement, on just two wheels. To much gasps and applause. A few frustrated drivers even contemplated doing the same, but fortunately thought better of it. 

 

In Fifty-Nine Seconds, Replica had driven the WEST car to the Starbase Coffee shop. 

 

One startled young man, in his early twenties, with a T Shirt showing an angry pirate, and a laptop in his backpack, yelped in surprise. 

 

"How did you....?" he gasped as he saw the car. He shrieked, and for a moment it seemed his unruly black hair stood up straight. 

 

Credit to him, he did not pause long. For such is the effect of fear. Instead, he jumped onto his bicycle he had chained up outside Starbase. Then he cursed, and started fumbling around with the lock. A precious few seconds delay...

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