Looker.exe (part 4)

(A day late due to internet problems, he said, shaking his fist at his router)

(Start from the beginning here)

“What assets do we have planetside?” James asked over the communicator. I opened up a list of names and skimmed through them quickly.

“It seems like we only have Andrew at the moment. Syrus and Archer are on base, Patrick is still recovering from an illness, and Serena and Marcus are on Mars leave.”

I could hear a distinct sigh on the line. “Send the information on Sam to Andrew, and have him head to the Greene residence. I want Syrus and Archer heading planetside to rendezvous with him as soon as possible.”

“Will do.” I closed the connection, and started back to my office. I walked past Archer again on the way out. The pilot was chest deep in that monstrosity of a skimmer. “Archer?”

He looked up, beaming. “What can I do for ya, boss?” He rubbed his hand on his coveralls and extended it to me. I took a brief glance at it, and then looked back at him.

“I need for you to find Syrus and meet me in my office in fifteen. James needs you planetside.”

His smile vanished for the briefest of seconds. “Will do!” Archer closed the hatch on the skimmer and jogged off towards one of the other docks. I turned sharply and was about to walk towards the elevator when a person blocked my path.

“Hey.” It was Ari. Continue reading

Looker.exe (part 3)

((Read from the beginning here))

“Well, what do we have here?” I was looking at the expenses of the Greene family over the last two weeks. Everything seemed normal, but one thing jumped out at me. In the last two days, credit transfers had been made to a pre-paid card. They were moderately large – easily enough to cover the cost of a cheap hotel room as well as feed a person for a day or so. I dug a bit deeper, trying to find additional information on the location and usage of the card. Miss Greene was definitely planetside, as these prepaid cards could not be purchased or used in the Mars colonies. Where, I would probably find out in an hour or so.

As this tracer ran, I went for a walk. I passed by several cubicles, where members of my staff were busy working on upgrades to the satellites OS, fixing problems that came up from other departments, or helping with the UIs for various projects going on at ARC. Which cubicle was Jake’s, again? They all looked the same to me. I shrugged and walked out of the office. If he needed me, he knew where to find me.

Instead, I went towards the docks. The station consisted of several concentric rings rotating in place, connected by several elevator shafts. The docks were the furthest out from the center, for obvious reasons. The programmers and scientists were one circle in, and the living quarters one ring in from them. Finally, security, engineering and executive offices were in the smallest ring. I didn’t like going up there, everything felt more constricted and, well, pressured. Continue reading

ARC: A History (alternate universe – Part 2)

((Here’s the second part of the alternate backstory for the ARC short stories that I’ve been writing. Again, I may implement some of the ideas in the future, if I think that they work well with the new direction of the story. Enjoy! Part 1 can be found here.))

 

ARC: A History (Part 2/2)

Earth, 2115 – Channel 3 News bulletin

Header: Tragedy befalls New York City, ARC responsible

Octavian Rogers: “And there is a good chance of rain up and down the east coast today, predictions are that it might be a hurricane –“

Marie Matthews: “I’m sorry, Octavian, I’m gonna have to cut you off. The ARC positron plant – along with everything within a 10-mile radius – was utterly destroyed just minutes ago. Although an investigation is pending, it is believed that the containment field for the positron plant faltered, allowing for some positron material to interact with the metal guide tubes. The results were disastrous. The casualty list is in the hundreds and rising, and that is ARC personnel alone. If we include civilian deaths, we will easily be in the thousands by nightfall.”

Michael Anderson: “I don’t know if ARC will be able to recover from this one, to be honest. Notwithstanding the huge payouts that the corporation will have to make to the families of lost ones, and repairs to the immediate area, ARC just lost one of their research facilities. That’s billions of dollars of materials, manpower, and research lost. In addition, ARC’s stock is starting to plummet as we speak. Unless they make a bold move soon to attempt to recover, I think ARC is going to disappear almost as quickly as it came…”

Continue reading

ARC: A History (alternate universe – Part One)

((I’ll be honest, I got distracted today by a variety of things, so I don’t have the next part of Looker.exe written yet. I vaguely remember saying that I needed to work on a buffer? One of these days…Anywho, This isn’t the first (or second, or third) time that I’ve tried to write a story in this universe. It was the topic of a play-by-post site, an attempt at me to develop a D20-based system, as well as several attempts to write a full-length novel in the universe. Here is a portion of the backstory that I made in the past. It is not source material for my current set of stories, but it will have to act as a buffer for now, and may serve as inspiration for the direction of the current universe down the road. Part 2 will be saved for a rainy day – probably after Looker.exe finishes))

 

ARC: A History (Part One)

Earth, 2112 – On the Advent of Terraforming

Adaptation, growth, and expansion are the three steps of a waltz we know as evolution. If one step is missed, the dancers will falter; if all are missing, then the dance cannot begin, let alone continue. This is the problem that faced humanity in 2100 – all of earth had been conquered and adapted to Man’s design, leaving nowhere else to turn. As a result, Man grew stagnant, and began to destroy itself through warfare, plague, and famine. If not for the colonization attempts on Mars and the Moon, all would have been lost. Several companies pooled their time and resources to establish the first terraformed colony on the Moon. The colony prospered for several months before an artificial atmosphere malfunction occurred.

Rioting occurred on the streets, and it seemed that there would be more bloodshed than ever before. However, one man stepped forward to propose a temporary solution. Rather than terraform the surface of the moon, he suggested that terraforming be done within the moon itself. The United Nations was in agreement, and they appointed this man, Rudolf Berg, as the director of this project.

Continue reading

Looker.exe (Part 2)

Read Part 1 Here

It had been a full day, and I was no closer to finding the source of the slowdown than I was before. There was one lead that I was able to find, but it was not reassuring. Based on the tracer results, this code was already system-wide. How could something malicious have migrated so quickly without raising any flags? I had spent all morning weighing my options. Did I continue looking for other leads? Did I try and combat this from the shadows, slowly deleting each instance of this code over the course of a few days? Did I take complete control of the network for an hour or so and completely purge the code? Each option had it’s advantages and disadvantages, and I couldn’t make a move until I was certain what the right option would be.

While I deliberated, I got a vid-chat request. It was from James. I accepted the request, and his face appeared on my monitor.

“Q, How goes the search?”

“Poorly. The problem appears to be global at this point. I can’t easily fix it without shutting down non-essential components of the station for a short while.” I grimaced. I was hoping to have taken care of the issue without bringing it to anyone’s attention, but the head of R&D had managed to notice the slowdown.

“What are you talking about? I was asking how the search for Sam was going.”

Oh, that search. “Not so well either. I’ve been monitoring her ident verification, credit usage, and cellular usage. Assuming she went planetside, coverage should still be decent enough that we’d get a ping on one of these sources. Now, if she were still on the moon or gt a lift to Mars, then we might have a bit of a problem. But, given Mar’s current orbit relative to Earth, and the canvas that you had the military do of the lunar surface, I think we can discount both of those possibilities.”

“We’re in agreement on that much, but I would still like to find Sam as soon as possible. Try widening the net. See if there’s been any unusual activity on her parent’s end. The longer she’s out there, the more likely that she will get picked up by someone else.”

“Someone else, James?”

“Yes, like the people that came and stole the positron handgun. Either she’s working with them or she doublecrossed them and is now on the run. I believe that it’s the latter, given that we found one body over by the base breach.”

“If you say so…I’ll look into the recent expenses of the family. I’ll let you know the moment that I find something.”

“And only me. If Ari finds out, she might try to contact Sam. That could be disastrous.”

“I don’t like lying to my sister.” I said bluntly

“I know you don’t, but do you want for Ari to feel responsible if something happens to Sam?” I was silent, and James continued. “Trust me, the moment that we have some usable information, you can tell her everything. And Q? Whatever you’re searching for on-site, give it to one of your subordinates. I need you to focus on the task at hand.”

“Richard will be very upset with me if he finds out that I was handling a personal favor instead of ensuring the security and efficiency of the system. I’ll take care of both.” I turned off the video chat, and poured myself a new cup of coffee. James was right – as loath as I was to admit it, I needed to find Ms. Greene as soon as possible. I sent off an email. Within minutes, someone entered my office.

“You asked for me, Mr. Lodon?”

“Yes, Jake. I need for you to look into something for me…” I started to explain the slowdown situation in heavy detail. If I couldn’t figure it out, then he would need to know every single piece to even have a chance. After an hour-long discussion, I sent him off and returned to my current task.

((Continue to Part 3 here))

Looker.exe (Part 1)

I drifted along lazily, watching little chunks of data speed by. Each packet traveled at exactly the same rate – one of the few perks of having such a highly interconnected system. Not one seemed to deviate – or did they? As I looked closer, I noticed one little bundle chugging along just slightly slower than the rest. As it passed by, I reached out towards it. A slender strand shot from my palm towards the packet, ensnaring it. The packet disappeared, popping back into existence inches from my hand. I popped open the “lid” of the packet.

With the lid opened, the data on the inside popped out, floating around my entire self. I took note of the origin IP, and then began to inspect the chunks of code. Nothing looked terribly out of place. However, something here – or was it something back at the source? – was causing this packet to slow down. This wasn’t the first case, either. I had gotten a handful of warnings from the system monitors about reduced upload speeds the past few hours, and it was starting to get obnoxious. No one else had noticed (yet), but it was only a matter of time before a formal complaint was raised. I ran a custom diagnosis on the packet, trying to glean whatever I could on the cause of the slowdown.

<External Stimulus Alert> The green text flashed briefly above my head. I copied all of the data from the packet, and handed it off to a tracer. Destination – the IP of origin. It would look for copies of any of the code in this packet being sent or received, and record the source, destination, and packet speed. “I’ll check up on you in a bit,” I said to it as it sped off.

<External Stimulus Alert> I looked at the text again. “Disengage haptic control.” Everything went dark for a few moments. A whirring sound could be heard as the visor retracted back into the headset. I blinked a few times, my eyes readjusting to the stations artificial light. My sister was staring at me from in front of my desk. “Good morning, Ari.”

Continue reading

Positrons and Paychecks (Conclusion)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

The last 48 hours had been hectic beyond belief. It took four hours just for the airlocks to be released. It wasn’t for another hour beyond that that we figured out if there were any casualties or missing items.

Two things were missing. An emergency low-atmo suit was missing, and Sam was nowhere to be found. None of us had seen her after the reception, and security believed that she was in the room that had been breached. Tracks lead both to and from the breach, and there was a dead body found just outside. Did Sam kill the person? Was he one of a group that wasn’t necessary? There were too many questions.

It didn’t help that all of the video evidence for that room was missing. Even the backups were somehow missing footage from that time period. Q suggested that it was a local tampering job, stopping the cameras from recording any input at all. I’m inclined to believe him, but how? Did Sam do it? Was there an accomplice to all of this inside the lunar base itself? I put my glasses on my desk and started rubbing my temples. There were too many questions, and not enough potential answers. It all seemed to boil down to the same thing – Was Sam involved? If she was, why?

My phone started to ring. “Varnum.”

“It’s Chris from payroll. Did you authorize a payment to the family of Miss Samantha Greene?”

“I did, it was backpay for her most recent project, I told her that she wouldn’t be receiving it until completion.”

“Mr. Clark didn’t feel that the payment was necessary. After all, Miss Greene is – “

“She’s missing, not dead. And a promise was a promise. Let the payment go through.”

“I can’t. Mr. Clark won’t allow it, he put a lock on the transfer.”

Really, Dick? “Use my employee ID to authorize the transfer, the access code is…”

Richard walked into my office a few hours later. “Care to explain why that payment went through?”

I took a sip of my coffee. “She did the work, she’s getting paid for it. We had a written contract, if you’d like to see it – “

“Not interested. It’s not like she’ll be able to spend the money, given that she’s MIA.”

“If she doesn’t, then her family will. All of her paychecks went straight home anyways to care for her grandparents. I’m just skipping the middlewoman, is all.”

“Sentimentality from you? I’m shocked. I could dock it from your pay.”

“Good luck explaining to Zeke where his allowance was this week. He’s getting to the age where he actually would care that it was gone.”

“Unless you pay him a thousand dollars a week in allowance, I’m pretty sure that you can cover it.”

“I know, I’m just rattling your chains.”

“Seriously though, James. Why are you being so stubborn about this? It’s just a paycheck.”

“Not everyone is like us, Richard, caring about the company for the company’s sake. To some people, it is all about the paycheck.”

“And I’m supposed to encourage it?”

“You don’t need to encourage it, just accept it for what it is. Dock my pay, if you want, but don’t take this away from Sam’s family.”

He stared at me for a moment, then walked out the door without another word. I sat there, thinking about what I just said. After a moment, I picked up my phone.

“Q? I need a favor from you, off the record.”