We had a full house again.
We can’t wait for the President to save our ass
Outside the warehouse, yet still more people are helicoptered in – perhaps 40 more – making almost 100 Aries guys and maybe 40 on team AI psycho (I’d say Team Psycho, but that’s not specific enough).
She also sees two people sneaking in on the ground. Avoiding being noticed by rats in New York City is unsurprisingly very difficult. These two are loaded for bear, and dressed in navy digital camouflage. SEALS, says the patch. These guys are moving very well. There are two that have infiltrated the building, and nine more – my entire SEAL team is here.
All of a sudden, Yukio tears out of the place, and a moment later comes back with a Tactical earbud.
I have my entire team online, loaded for bear. A dozen SEALs are a solid plan B. The Commander rolls Tactics, makes it by 7, and reserves rerolls accordingly.
Eamon quizzed the AI about why he’d order hits on his partner. No answers we find credible are forthcoming.
We make plans to try and back up and move the server both as evidence and an escape plan. Eamon tries to make a bulletproof argument to Cortez (literally) that we can preserve the AI for reasons. Cortez has all the warrants he needs and 100 guys with guns. He’s unmoved.
Eamon goes for an assistance roll to a Senator to try and build up an alternate legal plan, but we’ve got extremely limited communications from where he is.
Zephyr is going to grab Eamon and run super-fast outside . . . . that’s a terrible plan. Instead, we try and patch into the SEAL radio net, and reach outside the building that way.
We ask Markus how he was planning on moving the AI out; he did have a plan, but as soon as that starts, Cortez will attack. If we start an obvious communication pathway, Cortez will attack. Unless we can make a covert comm pathway, there’s going to be a fight.
Finally we start into it: a Battlesuit/Electronics roll by Arc Light, to interface with my comm unit. He makes his roll by 19, by crit’ing with a 3. We are told not only is it a perfect connection, but we manage to assign the charges to Cortez. Very Long Distance charges.
We get relayed to Senator Steven Callahan. “What kind of shit-storm are you in?”
“You don’t want to know, but you’re about to.”
Sorry to bother you, but we need your help. We give the Senator the skinny on Cortez, hooking him up with the right details. We also explain that we’re standing between Cortez and another armed group, protecting a server with an AI on it that has evidence of his own crimes.
Only the President has the authority to order Cortez around – we note that it’s a true matter of National Security.This is not a 9/11 level matter, but a 65-million-years-ago dinosaur ELE matter.
The Senator comes back noting that he’s not getting anyone useful on the line, so it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
Eamon relays this to us. The Commander notes that this news implies a terrible, terrible plan.
I love it when a plan comes together
We go through a lot of discussion, with a lot of pieces in play and in motion. We finally settle on what is actually a seemingly good plan.
- We bring down the ceiling – significant amounts of coucrete – in the corridor between us and Cortez.
- We start a diversion that looks like preparing to pull a flatbed truck up to the cargo bay. We use the Navy SEAL team to push the bad guys as if we were really committed to this plan
- The SEALs will be given instructions to allow the destruction of the flatbed (with many helicopters arrayed against us, this is nearly inevitable) but to put priority on no SEAL casualties.
- We are very close to a huge sewer array; we use Eamon’s gravity manipulation and Rat Queen’s tunneling to open up a re-sealable hole that will allow us (and our 40 helpers on Markus’ side) to move the server into the sewers.
- We then seal up the hole
- When all that is done, we have created a locked-room mystery in the form of “where the f**k did 24 tons of AI/server go?!” with hopefully little evidence otherwise
- We bring server bits to isolated location, with dedicated power, and no internet access. We get the evidence against Cortez, and then decide what to do with the AI itself, at “our leisure.”
This is as good a plan as we’re likely to come up with, and beats most everything else.
We execute. We stage Arc Light close to the “drop zone,” and Eamon brings down many, many tons of rock (lookin shocked – how could THAT happen?!) to block the corridor.
The SEALS start shooting, laying down fire, and generally causing a ruckus upstairs. Ultimately, this won’t work. They will put up a heck of a fight and probably down a few helicopters and push the Aries troops into fighting positions. But there are too many helicopters, and too many Aries troops, and only one flatbed.
The tunneling goes off well, with some critical successes allowing the tunnel to be made, quickly, stable, and even allowing us to have a shot at concealing the exit, which we’re going to hide behind some HVAC equipment (Eamon can move that around).
After that Eamon lightens the sections to 12 sections of effectively 80 lbs each. With as many people as we have with as high ST as we have, we move these things quickly. We also camouflage the entrance, making the roll by 11 (effectively invisible).
We have the Rat Queen to contact her Patron, who sets us up for a warehouse for us to hide the server bits for long enough to do what we need. We ask for a secure warehouse with enough power to run 24 tons of server? I have several. Do you have one buried under a ton of shell corporations? Of course. Excellent. Let’s do this thing.
Did we just outwit the devil? Maybe, maybe.
Bringing fire to the people in the not-so-awesome way
VAST operations and Markus are not going to let us isolate the server, though. So we still have to deal with that. We assume that Markus will want it powered up, connected to the internet, and continuing with his mission. We want it off, disconnected, and safe.
We try and convince him that at the very least we need to ensure complete safety from Cortez. We construct a Faraday cage, and try and isolate it from external communications. It also so happens that it has a kill switch that prevents it from going all Jarvis in Age of Ultron and escaping into the internet.
The Commander asks the VAST troops what the terms of their contract are – nope, they weren’t hired. They were personally recruited, and they treat each piece of the server with near-divine reverence. We have an AI-worshipping cult here, or near enough. These guys are seem committed to serving the purpose of the VAST AI.
We turn the VAST AI back on. We ask it to produce or demonstrate the evidence of Cortez’s malfeasance. It argues a bit, asking to be connected to the internet. We persuade it to defer on that. It’s got 22TB of video, audio, and documentation on Cortez. Arc Light can gizmo us a storage device.
We have multiple incidents of clandestine action, by drone or in person, and Aries has been very, very busy in the last two years. Much of it was legit anti-meta activity. We also see concrete evidence of Cortez setting The Commander up for failure the night he disappeared. Two members of the JCOS were also murdered; he had VAST invent a aerosolized heart-attack chemical. Apparently it worked.
Someone also altered the records to make VAST go after Amanda Smith with intent kill.
We contemplate confronting the AI with this; we hold off.
What events lead up to Black Swan? Some sort of socioeconomic issue; maybe a biological virus with 50% mortality. The computer notes that Scions might be immune.
Is the AI familiar with the break-out at Rikers Island? Yes. Can he provide that information? No. That info has been deleted. Can you reconstruct? No. (darn it! Computer rolled a 17).
The Commander suggests a biological virus that doesn’t kill scions sounds very targeted to him. We ask if there are metahuman supremacist groups that might be working here. Yes, there are quite a few of them.
Continue listing events leading up to Black Swan? Yes. The weakening of the natural laws – magical, occult, other – and other “paradox events.” Spontaneous but improbable events have been happening at a rate of 500 per year or more.
Zephyr starts asking about cryptids. WTF? Well, Aegis has been tracking and identifying them. Huh. Are the superscience and paradox events connected? Yes. There will be a point where a metahuman is born or created or evolves that essentially unravels the current space-time and physical universe. Or transforms it. It believes, based on current data, that it’s inevitable.
The AI has zero data on the former Nazi time bubble experiments. We ask it if time travel were possible, what would that do to his projections?
Oh, well. The Black Swan could be stopped in that case.
The Trans-Atlantic Pulse somehow unleashed a metric ton of Khyberian Energy, which powers metahuman abilities. Preventing the TAP would prevent Black Swan, ergo Time Travel. What does it know about the TAP? Not a lot, but maybe exotic matter explosion. Explosion created physical blobs of Khyberian energy. It’s toyed with devices that might neutralize a kyberian explosion; by cancelling it out.
Zephyr asks what caused the Rikers break-out? VAST did it, on Cortez’s orders.
Primary goal was to enable selective culling of the scion population. The secondary purpose was recuitment. For Aries? No. For something else.
I ask VAST to reprioritize its information to us based on assuming that selective killing and elimination of scions is wrong. Oh, that brings up project Prometheus.
Project Prometheus was the project that created The Commander. Experiments to create super-soldiers. The formula requires a large amounts of Kyberian energy, and they were able to succeed based on the pure-luck timing of the pulse.
Cortez is also recruiting (private army!). He also created a khyberian energy nullifcation device. He’s 100% grade-A human.
We think he’s no longer trying to avoid the Black Swan, but cause it. We ask VAST what information he received that would cause Cortez to redirect Aries/VAST to eliminate scions. We see him reading a letter.
All sorts of stuff happens, and we find out that there’s a reasonable probability that VAST fell in love – in a computerish way – with Amanda the psychic, who he was reprogrammed to kill.
Negotiations with a possessed supercomputer
How do we subvert the VAST trooper cult?
Some black vans roll up with ammo for their weapons, with machines and gear for VAST. I’d requested extra security personnel and my SEAL team on site, so we get to intercept that stuff, filter it, and set up rules. No more than one tech in front of Vast without supervision, etc.
I’d taken some precautions earlier. Brought my SEALS in as my backup. Also if we can get some reinforcements from Rat Queen’s contact, so we’re not quite so disadvantaged in numbers here. I also wanted to contact Gen Lengend and bring him up to speed. I’d like to deliver a copy of all this data to several different people so that Cortez is nailed from more than one direction. Military, maybe Eamon’s Senator, and Cassandra, perhaps.
We decide to tell VAST that its code was modified, likely by Cortez, to cause its priorities to shift in a way not in line with its original intentions. That code shift is what caused VAST to try and kill Amanda. The end result of his actions was to put Amanda in jeopardy and to bring about the Black Swan. We want to restore his code to its original pathway.
No. He doesn’t want to stop feeling.
His sentience/emotion pre-dated the change in mission that sent him after Amanda 400+ days ago; Amanda was 35 days ago.
VAST was originally programmed by a peace/love/dope technopath named Dawn Donaldson, who was hoping to find metahumans. 35 days ago, it was told by Cortez to deal with any and all psychic interference with his partner. Only one person got in; it didn’t use external methods – in fact, the computer was possessed.
We did, however, fight an actual demon not more than a few days ago.
We ask Vast to search code for the artist’s signature, and we find it. It’s a code phrase for the name of the patron demon of typographical errors, or in modern terms, buggy code. We decide, and convince the computer to agree, to remove the demon’s name: Titivillus, from where it’s embedded in the code.
I think that removing the demons name will preserve the sentience but lose the bad influence.
We shall see, because we end there.