The Scout Part 1
By Michel Ward aka Wolfbert
Most of the people brought out of the Matrix are hackers and I was no exception. I was Elite. I hacked banks, DMV's, IRS, I even got into the NSA network. I was high on the FBI's most wanted Hackers list (oh yeah I got them to). That's when a girl named Mystic came to me. She offered to show me the truth, to pull the veil from my eyes and release me from slavery. All I had to do was make a choice, the red pill or the blue pill. I should have taken the blue pill, I think that someone once said, "Ignorance is bliss", Amen Brother.
When I was pulled out of the Matrix and shown the truth I did what most people do, I threw up. But unlike most of the people that are pulled out I decided not to join those who sat in the chairs and go back in. After learning the truth I never wanted to go back in again. Besides, what good would it do, not much in my opinion. A lot of people wound up dead at the hands of the Agents in the Matrix.
I decided that I would fight the AI's in a different way so I became a Scout. You see after the AI war when the fragmented remains of the human race retreated underground most of them looked at each other and said, "What happened?" No one was sure how it all went wrong, only that the machines that once served and protected them had turned on them with such ferocity that could only be described as cold blooded and methodical. The human armies of the world had put up a valiant fight and they took out a great number of the machines but it was not enough. As the war raged cities disappeared in blinding flashes of light, millions died and society began to break down. In a last ditch effort the armed forces used a device that turned the sky black and blotted out the sun. Without solar power the machines began to die out and the last of the human army pushed hard to finish them off. But then new machines showed up on the battlefield and overwhelmed the last of the troops. The tattered remnants of humanity retreated underground and began to rebuild. The first such cities where destroyed as the AI machines followed. But something strange happened, many of the people where taken alive, something never heard of before. People retreated further underground deeper then ever before. They massed together to form the fortress city of Zion, from there we fight for survival. After the formation of Zion and the ruling council, people tried to piece together what went wrong, how did this happen, and what is happening on the surface now? That's when the Scouts first got started.
A few brave (or insane, depending on who you ask) men and women volunteered to go back to the surface and report back what they found. Many did not return but enough did come back and what they told was almost too horrible to believe. They told of the birthing fields that stretched for miles, the huge power plants where people where used to generate power, and of the facilities where people's minds where used as array processors. The Scouts that returned trained others. They taught us on how to avoid the Hunter/Killer units, where the best places where to hide and holdup, and how to survive on the surface. Mostly they told us to take it slow and quite, avoid the machines at all cost, and never be taken alive.
I've been at this for three years now that makes me a vet. I've had a few close calls but I have managed to get out of trouble each time with skill and blind luck. Today I am traveling across West Virginia on my way to Washington DC. I'm flying low over the hills in a one-man hoverskiff I call The Shadow. The hoverskiff is a scouts best friend and home; small, nimble, and above all fast. Flat out it will even match the speed of a SwiftKiller. I have been using the same one since I started and she hasn't let me down yet. The Skiff has a roomy one-man cockpit with a sleeping alcove, refresher, and food preparation area (if you can call that protein mush food) aft of the cockpit.
I added a few of my own little features on her over the years, first is the computer system with mobile uplink, I still dabble in hacking and I actionably come across old computer systems that I scan for information. I also added a little firepower to her as well. One day I came across a damaged Squid that still had a good laser on it so I mounted it in a rear turret that I can control from the cockpit. Now when a Squid or SwiftKiller chases me I have a little surprise for them.
As I pilot the Skiff over the barren landscape I keep my eyes open and my sensors on passive. I'm nothing more than a ghost moving across the landscape. I have never been to Washington DC before. I always thought that the machines would have nuked it to ash in the war but apparently they didn't. Some speculated that the AI's recruited the Pentagon's system during the first stage of the war so they spared it. That's what I was sent to find out. As I cross over the Virginia border I turn east then I travel northeast till I hit the Virginia/Maryland border and follow that to Washington. I land on the Virginia side of the Potomic River near Arlington National Cemetery. I ease the Skiff into the remains of a building and shut her down. Afterwards I get out and cover it with a scatterback camo net that will help hide her from visual and electronic detection.
I hike to the high ground and survey the area; from here I can see downtown DC. The Pentagon is still there but some of the structure has collapsed, The Capitol Building is nothing but a hole in the ground and so is the White House; The Washington Memorial is lying on its side and shattered to pieces. I'm actually surprised by the fact that most of the buildings are intact. I decide search the surrounding buildings, you never know what you might find and after all that's what we are out here for. After about an hour I find a whole lot of nothing, A few newspapers with the same articles that I've seen a hundred times before. Mostly confusing reports about attacks in other cities by machines and of strange accidents here in town. When the final hammer came down it was swift and very few news organizations where able to report on it. I decide to head back to the Skiff and get something to eat.
One of the perks of being a Scout is that you can come across some real treasure from time to time. I'm not talking about gold and silver I'm talking about the real stuff. One day I was searching through a dinner in Philly when I hit pay dirt. In a back closet I found several boxes of salt and pepper packets and a case of Tabasco that was still good. So I sit under the wing of the skiff with my bowl of protein gruel and add a little salt, pepper, and a dash of Tabasco. If anyone knew that I had this stuff I could write my own ticket. While eating dinner and wishing it was a Big Mac I hear the high pitch whine of a SwiftKiller flying east to west about 10 miles from my position. I'm not worried; it's a long way off and probably on routine patrol. There are not too many of them flying anymore, the only targets they have to shoot at are us and the occasional Matrix hackers that get driven to the surface by Squids.
The next day I run through my checklist, M79 assault rifle with armor piercing rounds, grenades, binoculars, remote uplink, first aid pack, toolkit, climbing gear, and an image recorder. I start off and head towards the Pentagon. I start off checking out a few offices on the top floors, mainly I'm looking for the communications room. After a little while I find it, all of the com systems and computers are smashed. I read through a few of the notes and printouts that are scattered about, most of them are confusing reports from different bases stating that they where under attack from there own equipment. As I search through the offices I try to find one that belongs to the highest-ranking officers. I later realize that those offices are the ones in the collapsed section of the building; it looks like the AI's bombed the guys in charge. In the offices that I do search, all of the computer systems are either missing or smashed, I do find a few data disk and scan then into the mobile.
I start heading into the lower levels looking for the computer operations center. I descend the set of stairs and as I pass through a door and I come face to face with a Squid. I must have jumped back ten feet before I swung the assault rifle up and started to squeeze the trigger, but I stop just shy of firing. The Squids eyes are dark and it's not moving the thing is inactive. "Shit" I mumble to myself, I almost needed a new pair of underwear. As I move around to the backend of the Squid I see that someone hit it with an anti-tank rocket and blew it clean in half, the whole insides are twisted and burned too bad I would love to mount a laser on the front end of the skiff. After doing a little more searching I finally find the computer center it's exactly what I expect it to be, completely gutted. The floor is a mess of power conduits and fiber optic cables that are all neatly cut. The Pentagon AI was moved to a more secure area. I find a few data disk and some more printouts that could be promising. I scan the disks and take images of the printouts before I head back to the Skiff.
Later on after I transfer the data to the Skiff's computer I fly her over to the downtown DC and hide it in a parking garage. I check out the crater that use to be the White House and wonder if there is anyway to get to the elevator shaft that supposedly leads to an underground bunker but the ground is to unstable. I decide to head over to the Smithsonian Institute and see what I could find there.
As I walk through the museum I'm surprised to discover that for the most part the place is intact. As I wander the different labs I find that most of the computer systems are also intact. I scan the hard drives and what ever data disks that I find lying around onto the mobile. I spend the entire day going through the building wandering from lab to lab and then finally checking out the museum displays. It's hard to believe that at one time families use to walk through these halls without a care in the world while their children went ohhh and ahhh over the displays.
I return to the Skiff and download the information off the mobile into the main computer. It will crunch on the data using a program that I developed looking for any specific keywords. I have dinner, forgoing the Tabasco this time; after all I don't want to be spoiled. The SwiftKiller flies by again but this time a lot closer. I'm still not worried; I hid the skiff on the bottom level of the parking garage. There's no way it can see me through all this concert and steel so long as I keep the power levels low on the Skiff.
The next morning the computer is telling me that it found some hits. I make some breakfast (some gruel with a side of gruel) and go over the data. Most of the stuff is junk, emails sent to or from friends and colleges about strange things that are going on or about reports that they hear on the news. There are a few that do however catch my eye. One of them is an email from some IT tech at the San Diego Super Computer Center. It goes like this:
I thought that you might be able to help me out I have come across something really weird and I wanted a second opinion on it. I was doing a routine check on the raw log files (being the new guy and the lowest on the totem pole I get to do all the shit jobs around here) I came across something strange. I found a small data stream was being sent out on a line that was not supposed to be in use. Thinking that somehow that we had been hacked I decided to investigate. I was able to trace the line to the Mitsubishi Advance Computer Research Lab. Also the traffic flow was mostly traveling out and not in. I started to check the data in the stream but found that it was encrypted. Shortly after I started to check the data stream it disappeared. Later I found it again on a different circuit and every time I would try to nail it down it would move again. After a few times of this cat and mouse my system crashed on me, every time I would try to continue my investigation on a different system it would crash as well. I was finally able to get permission to access the system from the master consul only to find out that my account was no longer there and I could not get on. I finally decided to splice a packet sniffer into the hard line and I was able to grab some of the encrypted data. I have attached the information in the hope that you might be able to break the encryption and tell me what the data is that is being passed. I have told my boss about it but he thinks that it's nothing to worry about.
San Diego Super Computer Labs
The reply was even more intriguing.
It was good to here from you. I was able to break the encryption on the data that you sent me and what I saw was really interesting stuff. It appears to be part of an advance AI program. I know that you guys are working on a sentient AI system there and I have heard rumors that the Japanese are doing the same. If I didn't know better I would say that your system is sending theirs data. I would go as far as to say that your system might be reprogramming or "teaching" their system. I think that you should explain what you found to your superiors, you might even want to contact the people at Mitsubishi and bring them in on this. If your boss needs more convincing then he is welcome to call me. I look forward to hearing about what happens.
Professor of Computer Science
So the guys in San Diego where working on a sentient AI and it was sneaking out the back door to talk to other AIs. Well it looks like I'm heading off to the sunny beaches of California, Oh wait a minute the sun hasn't shined there for a hundred years. I pack up the Skiff and plan my next move. I plan to fly Southwest till I hit Arkansas then I will turn West till I come to the California border then head south to San Diego, I should make it there in three or four days. I want to avoid the central state that is where the AI's are concentrated at in North America.
At the end of the second day I am flying over Oklahoma about to cross into Texas when I get something that I never ever expected, a radio call.
"Shadow this is Hermes, come in."
I stare at the radio not sure if I believe what I hear. To transmit while topside is suicide. Even though all transmissions are encoded and sent via burst signal, every receiver in North America will start to triangulate on our position. I bet that every SwiftKiller and Squid in the area is being vectored to the guy sending out the call, if I answer I will be in the same boat. But it must be important if someone is willing to take this kind of risk. I hit the com stud.
"Hermes this is Shadow, I read you."
"Shadow, we have a situation and we require you assistance."
Great, these guys went and got themselves in trouble and now they think I can pull their bacon out of the fire (mmmm…¦bacon).
"What's the problem Hermes?"
"We received a relay. There is a group in the Matrix that has been cut off and their Operator is requesting help to get his team out. You're the closest one there and time is short."
I roll my eyes. I'm a Scout not a rescue team. I decide to look up the Hermes and see that she is a MRK 3 Hovercraft, standard Matrix hacking rig.
"Hermes, be advised that I do not have the right equipment to access the Matrix."
"We know that Shadow but you have to help out somehow. This is a priority situation. Help get those people out at all cost. We are transmitting their data to you"
"OK Hermes, data received, Shadow out."
After ending the transmission I change course for Nebraska and the power plant. To get there in time to do any good I have to take the Skiff up to hypersonic. After that radio transmission and then breaking the sound barrier I'll have every Hunter/Killer in North America zeroed in on me.
I put the skiff on autopilot and go aft to gather my gear. There's no way I can jack into the Matrix even if I wanted to so it looks like I will have to do it the old fashion way. In ten minutes flight time I slow down and land outside of the power plant. I leave the engines running, it's not like they don't know that I'm here. I run into the access tunnel heading down. As I exit the tunnel I enter a huge cavern that disappears into the depths of the earth. Five immense pillars run from the top of the cavern to the floor which fades off in the fog far below. Encircling the pillars are the pods that contain the humans that provide the power for the AI's and there machines. I wonder how many people there could be on each pillar, a hundred thousand, a million.
I run along a catwalk to the closest pillar, there I find an access port that I plug the mobile into and establish a link the computer aboard the Skiff. With the information that the Hermes has sent me I begin to hack my way in to the Matrix and looking for the lost crew. Hacking in is easy I guess the machines never thought that someone would try to get in this way. Finding the crew takes a little longer but I finally come across them, they're in serious trouble. There are three Agents after them. It looks like they are trying to loose the Agents by running through a crowded airport. But the Agents are just jumping from one person to the next easily keeping up with them. That's just what I was hoping for. I access the computer on the Skiff and release Fido into the Matrix. Fido is a program that I have been working on for a little while, its design to attack system security and destroy it along with any anti-intrusion countermeasure that can be thrown at it. With a few modifications it wasn't hard to adapt it to the Matrix. The really cool thing about Fido is that it can rewrite its own code to adapt to changing situations. As one Agent leaves the body of a person Fido, all teeth and bad attitude greet him. It's not pretty sight as Fido makes short work of the Agent program, the other Agents pause for a moment and then begin the chase again. This time they are not jumping from person to person, damn so long as they stay in someone Fido can't get to them. I do a quick trace and find the two people that the Agents are using. My finger hovers over the enter button for a sec before I send the command that terminates their life. Without a host the Agents are thrown out into the system and into the waiting jaws of Fido. Finally I help the Operator establish a link to his crew and I watch as they exit back to their ship. I'm about ready to disconnect when here comes Fido with an Agent program lovingly carried in his jaws. "Oh My God"
I quickly set up a protected space on the mobile so that Fido can drop him in there and then instruct him to stand guard. As I disconnect the mobile I hear the drone of a DocBot Spider rise behind me. I quickly duck and roll to the side just as a mechanical claw snaps shut where my head was. As I come up I squeeze off a full clip from the M79 into it. The Spiders aren't built for combat and the armor piercing rounds tear through it, the Spider wobbles and then falls to the depths below. I don't take the time to watch fall, I'm already running flat out for the exit as more Spiders come up to catch me. As I run up the access tunnel I look over my shoulder and see three Spiders enter the tunnel after me. I yank a grenade off of my equipment vest, press the arming stud and toss it over my shoulder. It detonates in front of the first Spider and severally damages it. As it trashes about it blocks the way of the others. I come out of the tunnel half expecting there to be a dozen Squids waiting for me but the area is clear and the Skiff is waiting for me with its engines still running. As I run up the boarding ramp and hear the warning signal of incoming SwiftKiller coming from the cockpit. I jump into the seat and immediately take off, I look at my scopes and see five SwiftKiller vectoring in on me from different location. I aim for the widest gap between two of them and slam the throttles to full power. I if don't have to do too many evasive maneuvers the ones behind me won't be able to close the distance but the ones ahead are turning to intercept me. It's going to get hairy, my best bet is to get into the tunnels where they can't chase me. The only problem is that I don't know of any tunnel access points nearby. I sure hope that this Morpheus guy and his crew that I got out of the Matrix are worth this.
To Be Continued....