H4X0RZ: Pr3-F14/\/\3z X3k115+

Having been given the mandate to save the Hive from the Flames, Sook is trying to be prepared. She's arranged for some Hive protoplasm to travel with Grimblemaury and the Inopportune Moment / Santa Maria / Mendel leap to the future, and the Hippocrates crew claims they have a mad psychic ritual that she's arranged to have some combat support for, but just in case neither works, she has another backup plan: upload herself into a computer as an AI, and power down for the Flames themselves.

In order to finish this, however, she needs to make sure that Project Nero is finished, and also, needs some better hint on how to mechanically transfer personality. First things first: Nero should get one more stress test, and then a final Extra Stressy test. The penultimate stress test is participation in the Oktoberhackerfest competition on the Well - Hippocrates arranges for Nero to participate, and Ace watches his back. Though Nero really isn't a sufficient hacker to do well at all, he picks his battles against n00bz well, and passes the test.

Then, the final stress test: this involves cloning Nero's process into four separate AIs, sending them on different missions, and then merging them back into one.

  1. The Hippocrates copy heads off to try and figure out what on Riden got compromised during the assassination attempt. There's a lot of Detectiving and Comm Analysis and Hacking to try and get into various systems. He thinks he may have set off some watchdog expert systems, so Riden is going to be, er, maybe a little more hostile to hacking for a while.

    His overall report: There was a lot of comm traffic that spiked at the assassination attempt. But there was a little bit of anomalous traffic before that, and most of it was outbound from the planet. Maybe to a Riden ship, maybe a lot of messages being transmitted out of system to somewhere like Gateway. So in the list of Things to Worry Most About, he would prioritize them as Gateway Battlestation, then Gateway Ground Forces, then Red Fleet. But he wasn't able to narrow it down beyond that.

  2. Ace (with Nero) goes and picks up a bank employee with the plan of getting him drunk, breaking into a bank with his identicard and disguise, then hacking into the bank from the inside to get blueprints and security records.

    Nero's part of the plan is, overall, a great success, and he gets a general layout of the bank, but a more sophisticated overview of the security setup.

  3. The DaVinci copy (told to Do Something Useful) heads off to investigate the governmental changes that have taken effect since the Brochoan Protectorate took control, and to analyze the effects on emergency social services. (His report, in the end, concludes that they are better for the average case now, being more efficient, but are more vulnerable to unusual catastrophic effect, having less excess left over to be called upon.)

  4. Sook's copy helps Sook with planning and surveillance as Sook acquires personality transfer technology.

The Sook and Ace copies integrate more succesfully than the Hippocrates and DaVinci copies (resulting in a Nero a bit more willing to disregard the law as necessary), but the experiment is a success and Nero survives.

Finally, Sook needs something that will let her transfer her personality into a blank Nero-class AI, and she needs it on relatively short notice. The only person she knows of who has done this sort of thing before is currently being held in the Corregidor Secure Facilty on Riden, so off she goes to visit Dr. Cain.

Corregidor has enforced that Dr. Cain use a tty talk connection for the rare visitors he has, so that he can't actually talk to people (including guards). This seems to have kept him put so far. He's happy to see a new visitor, but hints that it's hard to talk in private. Sook 0wnz the teletype terminal, so that it's reporting to any watchers that they're just chatting about inconsequential things as simulated by a couple of Eliza algorithms.

Dr. Cain wants to know if Sook is here to throw down his captors so he can go and rescue Eva. Sook doesn't think that was really her plan - she's not so much the throwing down type. How disappointing. Sook chats to Cain about personality transfer - he thinks human-to-human is boring and Done, but she mentions human-to-machine. He finds the idea intriguing. That would be a great leap forward for killer robot technology. Sook tries to get him to explain how to do this, but when he does so, she can't make heads or tails of it (is "magnetointercalculoss" even a word?). Cain seems to think that the only person who can build a mad science device is a Mad Scientist, and that if Sook could get Sophia (the second most brilliant mad scientist in existence) to build the device, she wouldn't be in Corregidor talking to him. Sook remembers Nero having mentioned there being some trouble with not being able to reproduce the Hegemonator, and begins to have a sinking feeling that she will have to arrange for some throwing down of captors in order to get her device.

Cain explains that he has a Plan - "312 kHz". Sook takes this to mean that he'll transmit his personality over that wavelength to a hapless dupe outside, and doesn't think this is the best of ideas. After some misunderstandings, it is clarified - Cain just wants that frequency (which Sook thinks is an audio channel with nothing of interest on it right now) hooked into the guards' headsets. He'll handle the rest. Sook says she'll think about it, and heads off again.

After some discussion with Nero and Phaeton (and angsting about the Hippocrates crew's potential reaction), they finally decide to cut the deal with Cain. Sook will hack in the audio channel, and Cain will build her an upload device, and a robot brain to test it on. And there will be no Vengeance afterwards. They consider how to make sure Cain doesn't screw them over, but Nero thinks that while Cain is willing to betray people to get what he wants, or if it's made a particular challenge, he's already getting what he wants now, so it could be okay. Maybe he'll be grateful enough to Sook to send her zombie minions or something.

Sook starts generating feedback in Cain's audio channel to communicate back to him - he's very impressed. Has she ever considered a career in Mad Science? She offers him the deal, and he accepts. She hooks up his audio to the guard communication channel.

By the next day, there has been some chaos at Corregidor, and Cain has checked himself out. Nero follows after him, surveilling him from various cameras and security devices, as he heads a few towns away and rents some lab space. Nero reports:

Cain does talk to himself, and his comments seem to circle around three areas:

  1. Uploading into a machine will be a clever new thing to play with, he's glad that he thought of it. Build build build. Nero reports back some of the technical things he says here, but they make about as much sense as "magnetointercalculoss."
  2. Eva's been kidnapped, how foolish of her. He'll have to do something about that.
  3. He has a new independent minion! How marvelous! She was very clever with that audio feedback thing. He wonders what she'll do next.
It takes him about four days to build a Blinky Helmet with a Big Cable; the helmet has a bunch of wires running around it, and small panels filled with what looks like bubbling etch-a-sketch fluid.

Then he builds a couple of black boxes, which involve more etch-a-sketch fluid and a lot of transistors.

Then he builds legs and razor mandibles for one of the black boxes, and then mounts a blaster in a little turret on the top. It's about the size of a large shoebox with legs now.

Then he puts on the blinky helmet, and connects it to the black box that isn't in the little robot. The helmet extends a couple of antenna, and they do the Jacob's Ladder thing for a bit. Then he disconnects the cable again, humming happily, puts that black box in a mailing container, and puts it in the mail. (Nero is mostly using some IR security cameras for the lab complex to watch all this, so doesn't get the address).

Then, he packs up the blinky helmet and the little robot, flags down a passing cab, and heads to the designated meeting location.

As promised, Cain demonstrates the blinky helmet to Sook (the documentation he provides says to "PUSH THE BUTTON"), with his new killer robot. It appears to duplicate the personality, rather than transfer it - apparently Mad Scientists don't believe in conservation of information. Cain has to argue a bit with the robot to let it overwrite Cain's uploaded personality with Sook's, but he's eerily convincing, apparently even to killer robot duplicates of himself.

Cain also demonstrates how the blinky helmet can be used to download, instead - you just turn the cable around. Sook boggles. Anyhow, she tests uploading herself into the killer robot, and thinks it works. Cain's work here is done - he takes his leave and heads off to see what he can do about rescuing Eva from her brainwashers.

Sook heads back to Tinara, where she writes a couple of blank Nero-class AIs for herself and Phaeton (who is intrigued by the idea of having an AI-size daemon). She offers uploading-for-the-Flames to Dr. Gallagher, but while he's interested in the idea of AI, he's still not convinced about these Flames.

Sook and Phaeton upload into sharing a mainframe - it's much more fluid than a robot brain. Sook makes a bunch of backup copies of herself, and sends them all over the place to be uploaded by Hive drones, for more insurance.

Wilson arranges to stock a bomb shelter (Scooter makes sure it has coffee), and Sook badgers Scooter and the Gallagher family into joining herself and Phaeton for the duration of the Flames catastrophe.

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