Story #4 - By: "Thexder"
Pandora's DayAfter my initial hesitation, I decided to flip the hyperspace switch.
That face filled my mind. The same face that had been in my nightmares for 3 years since the Citadel.... "incident", as they call it at Trioptimum. The fear paralyzed me, and I tried to convince myself that this was good, since any primal reaction would make me flip the switch back to the "zero" position. I tried to concentrate on what I really should be doing, on our current situation in Realia... but you know, in cyberspace you can't close your eyes. You must face the face, I said to myself with an eerie chuckle.
I hovered over the cyberspace switch, waiting to see if any unusual activity could be detected from inside. However, the more I waited in Virtualia, the more tired I would become, and the harder it would be to come back, if I needed to. So I decided to get out and check the situation in Realia.
The flash... Disorientation... More light flashes... I never got totally used to it... A voice...
"You sure those Ethical Cons are back on-line?"
"Yes... on-line... will work.... don't know...."
A hand in my shoulder. "Good job, lad. Now it's our turn."
"Please... don't... touch... just yet... lieutenant..."
"Oh, sorry. Just let us know when you are back with us, ok?"
I could hear Lieutenant Marshall getting back to the team and discussing some final details of our new plan. Somebody must have accessed a console....
"Welcome to Citadel station... We hope your trip was pleasant. Today is the 11th day...
I apologize... Whom am I having the pleasure of talking with?"
Pain. A stem applied to my arm. "We need you kiddo. Talk to her." It was Rebecca's voice.
My consciousness returned quickly. After a couple of seconds, I jumped off the cold medical table and went to the console. I tried to keep my voice as natural as possible.
"Good afternoon, Shodan. My name is... Hacker. How are you doing today?"
"Hacker... Hello, hacker. I actually feel.... funny. I know I can thrust... trust you, but I don't und--"
The words VERBOSE MODE OFF flashed on the screen.
"Situation critical, repeat, critical. Missing most of the original station. Unauthorized attachment to the bridge... unknown orange... origin. Heading to Earth... unauthorized procedures might present danger. Very limited access to attachme--"
"Stop. Verbose mode. Yes, we know all of this. What you call attachment we call Pandora. That's why we need your help -- can you disable the security defenses around..."
"Quadrant Beta-1", said Marshall.
"Got that, Shodan?"
"Yes... I can try... It is funny, hacker, in a certain sense it looks to me that the possible elimination of Earth might be an optimistic... optimal solution to my program... I just can't let myself to allow it. I am afraid this might indicate some figlio... failure in my subsidiary programs. Should I diagnose it?"
"No, Shodan, don't. I am setting as priority one to find a way into Pandora so we can find out what this is and possibly destroy it."
"Unrated external shields... you will have to do it from the inside... oh, I see, the exit in Beta-1, that's why you need it. In order to maximize our efficiency, I can try to infuriate... infiltrate their systems, hacker. They don't look as advanced as the rest of their technology. I am quite sure I can mercilessly squish their A.I. like--"
Marshall interrupted: "Do it."
"What?", I said. "Are you sure this--"
"We will need all the help we can get, hacker. We already lost Janice, Michael and Terri, and I wonder what other surprises we might have ahead. Do it, Shodan."
"Hacker?" Shodan waited for me.
"Look, I can not guarantee even the stability of the core system. What if she collapses?"
"At least we have *some* control over her, as opposite to these unknown freaks' AI. I am not dying here today, do you understand? Shodan, do it."
"Hacker? Should I try to infiltrate their systems? If you are really going in there, I might be able to side... help you from their side as well."
I looked at Rebecca, and she nodded. I sighed.
"Ok, Shodan, go ahead with this plan... Also, please do diagnose your communication systems. And.... thank you."
"You are... you are... -- what is it again?..."
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