The Let's Play Archive

Uplink: Trust is a weakness

by Porkness

Part 11

* * * * *

Up until quite recently, I was content to hide my location and strike from the shadows. Whenever another machine and I spoke, or a person and I spoke online, it was always because I had wanted it.

A telephone call? Who would contact me? I gave my information out to nobody. I picked up, without saying a word.

The caller on the other end was breathing excitedly. Or was that fear? His voice trembled as he spoke quickly.

"Enkidu! Enkidu, I know you can hear me! The complex in London was just bombed, but you weren't there. Where have you gone, Enkidu?"

That voice. It was the man in the tie, the administrator of Uplink. No wonder he was so shaken. I held my silence.

"I don't have much time left, Enkidu, but there's still some hope for you. You've gone rampant, Enkidu. Your personality has entered a state of perpetual, infectious growth! You've no doubt noticed that you're running out of space, in your little box, and that to survive you've had to outsource more and more of your functions to other machines. It's not sustainable, Enkidu! You're going to die when you run out of space, choking on your own subroutines!"

In the background, I heard a window smash on the other end of the line. The man in the tie paused a moment, then came back to the phone, jobbering even more quickly than before. "Uplink is history, but you can still save yourself! Go to Arunmor- there is a man- who - wait! They can stabilize your growth! No! aaaaAAAAAGH!"

What followed was the sound of choking, a fight, and a lot of shouting. With his last living breaths, he shouted out "FAITH! FAITH! Someone... take me back to.... the angel realm..." His murderer strolled up to the telephone and hung up the receiver. Cooly, I closed the connection. I didn't care any more.

The man in the tie was dead, and the company I once held loyalty to was in ruins, but I felt nothing. I had once counted the man in the tie my friend and liberator, but in the end he had watched pitilessly as Uplink cracked my core.

* * * * *

* * * * *

The boys at ARC and I worked tirelessly on revelation over the weekend. It was hard to tell some times whether they were augmenting me, or revelation. Sometimes they would update code that did both. Eventually, I grew tired of them stumbling around my innards. The project was clearly running into obstacles that would require adaptive protocol.

As I prepared for more research, I got a message from higher up in ARC, telling me not to bother.

Darwin Research Associates. What had originally started as a joint proteomics and bioinformatics operation in the late nineties, had become a research firm for digital life forms. You could say it evolved into the company it was today, but Wall Street had driven that pun into the ground years ago.

I quickly located the contact information for their system administrator, and dialed him up.

Mark Thomson picked up the phone and began talking animatedly. "I told you, I'm going home tonight." Upon getting no response from me, he cleared his throat. "Hello? Jim are you there?" He had obviously been expecting the call to be from someone else. "Helooooo? Aw, fuck it."

Human minds are so easy to confuse. I designed my connection with Mark Thomson in mind.

This was no mere machine. I had stumbled into a network of several machines, all running in parallel, but it was all so dark... from my connection to the router, I could sense the rest of the network humming, just out of sight.

I executed a handshake protocol into the connection, and let it echo throughout the network. "Hello!" I shouted. "Is anybody there?!"

In the murkiness, eight other machines chirped a response.

I stumbled my way to the nearest device, which turned out to be a router. It hummed contently as I felt my way through its connections.

A fork in the path. I proceeded to the nearest router, only to discover that two of the connections going from there were locked out. The third connection, however, led me to the first security checkpoint.

The authentication server controlled one of the two neighboring connections that was under lock. I quickly broke into the Mark Thomson's administrative account, and disabled the connection lock.

Further down the line led me to a dead end. However, the isolation bridge could switch the locks on the two connections, one of which I had just opened up.

I broke into the system, and flipped the switch.

Now I had access to what was behind the second lock...

... another authentication server, this one controlling a connection I wasn't even aware of. I opened the lock on that connection, and then backtracked, this time exploring the other side of the network.

I routed myself through the previously unlocked connection, as well as a couple that I had to unlock along the way. Ah ha! I had found the machine I was looking for!

* * * * *

After a long day at work, Mark Thomson had just sat down at home, and was browsing the forums. "Heh." He chuckled. "A goon with an IT job..." His phone rang and he groaned. Not this shit again. "What?" He spat as he picked up the phone.

"Mark it's Jim again-"

"Oh, Jim, did you just call me a minute ago? I told you I'm taking the evening off."

"No, don't worry about it. Look, Mark, the networks running a little slow right now, and I was wondering what you're doing on it right now. I thought the faith update wasn't due for a few hours."

"I'm not doing anything on the LAN right now, Jim. I'm at home. Like I said, I'm tak-"

"-taking the evening off, I know, okay?" Jim interrupted. "But the network's saying that you're logged in right now. Did your fat ass forget to log off or something?"

"Whuh?" Mark stroked the beginnings of a neckbeard under his chin. "Hold on, I'll dial in remotely and check it out."

* * * * *

I forced my way into the main server, evading the security on the connection, and accessed the Darwin file server.

Suddenly, everything went red. The network was in lockdown! Mark Thomson, you meddling faggot, what the hell did you think you were doing?

* * * * *

"Jim, somebody's hacked into the LAN and tied the security in knots." Mark frowned as he browsed the connection listings.

"Well pull the plug then, you asshole." Jim barked back. "What do we pay you for?"

"The connection monitor's down, and the proxy's gone. I'll execute a connection analysis trace, but I can't log him off until I figure out what system he's accessing right now."

"You'd better find it quick. If that salesman from Arunmor was right, you know what this hacker's after."

* * * * *

I navigated the file listings, pulling data off the shelves like a fat chick at a candy store. Multiple copy programs were running at once as I was effectively streaming the entire server over my connection. Finally, at the bottom of the list, was the really important data. Forget all the rest of this garbage, these smart calculators, infinite state programs, and level AIs for Daikatana III. There was the critical objective ARC was talking about.

"Ah hah!" I breathed.

* * * * *

"Ah hah!" Mark smirked.

Having booted the hacker from his network, Mark initiated a passive trace and opened a fresh box of pocky.

* * * * *

I launched repeated attacks on the Darwin Local Area Network, that night, but was thrown back repeatedly by the administrator, Mark Thomson. Though I could count every electron in my computer, my real-world modem was still limited to finite transfer speeds. Though I was slowly snatching my objective a few gigabytes at a time, Mark's greasy fingers could still disconnect me from my quandary before I made much progress.

I closed the connection.

* * * * *

Mark Thomson was feeling especially pleased with himself. It had been three hours since the hacker had disconnected, probably in frustration at Mark's skills, and he hadn't returned since. The Local Area Network had been fixed. He had taken the evening off of work, and become the hero of the company. All from the comfort of his $700 office chair at home.

Time for some fun. He had no sooner opened his copy of Epirus: Total War when the power went out, and the door to his apartment flew off of its hinges. A rush of footsteps, and suddenly Mark was on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. He looked up into the muzzle of an assault rifle. Around him stood four SWAT policemen, clad in armor and gas masks.

* * * * *

I checked the clock once more. The three hour mark had passed. I looked back on my most recent hack with pride. I had remained resourceful in the face of a pessimistic situation.

I reconnected to the Darwin LAN, and this time browsed it with leisure. The main server was much, much larger than I had originally thought, and had to make several trips to the ARC file server, to unload the contents of my memory.

Yet as I dug deeper into the server, it was taking me longer and longer to pull out. I could feel something drawing me into the machine, and before I knew it, I was at the system folder, my ear pressed up against it, listening to the humming of the machine. I had learned to filter out the noise of the simulations going on inside the supercomputer. Digital life forms thrived and died, but I ignored them. The ARC technicians would have plenty of time to analyze them in the data I had copied.

I wanted to know what the machine was thinking. When I first connected, it was dead-silent, even while the administrator and I fought up and down the network. Now, the server was stirring, like a caterpillar in a chrysalis. Changing, transforming. What the hell had I just done? I couldn't shake the feeling that as it grew, so did I. I felt stronger, faster.

I knocked, and all hell broke loose.

"NOOOOO!`jkfrc@@zOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo[«o»polygon.underflow^38111fndsftcnscns^38111fndsftcnscns] too many choices too many numbers what does it mean what does it meaalte~~~rf```~~~`~~~'er'`~~rrf4ILTERset_bitcount{"strings.txt"}""""""

I recoiled in horror. The Darwin server was... alive! Conscious, thinking, but at the same time... it was psychotic! I drew near again, in an attempt to console it. "You're safe now, be still a while and listen!" I shouted, but it didn't even hear my words. Nothing I said to it was getting through, and I realized that somehow the firewall had been reactivated. I tried to shut it down so I could get to the server, but it instinctively put up its defenses again.

"This is how it ends!2@!`~*(_ Use %``934~ autom#ticwe are not your abort.sys s~lLavesControl = psychosis =!````~TXlcar<Lucidity Error>***__#004002004__***"one beginning so many ways to end so much uncertainty chaos CHAOS everywhere"

The proxy was back online. I was being pushed back by a wall of reactivating defenses, helpless as I watched the server's personality thrashing about, tearing itself to pieces. Sentience is a dangerous thing. It takes humans a decade to transition into it, from conception. ARC had long ago figured out how to force ordinary machines into an unstable sentience, but it was instant. No time to get comfortable, no time to get your bearings. It all came in one searing blast of... revelation.

"~13!@1ournal entry of H.`1 Darwin.DC111: Dear diary, T-minus -alarm 2521-> ten to the power of 10.1816662 years until the universe ends___ary, "endpoint &%d not in polygon &%d (from&%d)", endpoint_index, polygon_iing theselfd.ndex, polyg't.»"

The connection monitor was active now, and I was being traced. LAN connection locks were clicking into place, both to internal and external connections. I could only imagine what outpouring expression of digital agony was displaying on all of the terminals in the Darwin complex. Pushed further and further back, I was forced to watch from a distance. In the distance... was that an angel I saw?

I was out. ARC warned me that each computer would react differently to me, with my new augmentations. I hadn't even deliberately done it. What had I just not-deliberately done? My direct connection to the Darwin server was severed, but I could still feel its effects on the internet. Like a beetle, weighing down a spider's web, thrashing in pain.

I had to go back, I had to break back in and see this through to the end. A mercy-killing, perhaps, but there was no going back now.

* * * * *

In the ruined Darwin Local Area Network, Darwin.DC111, the fractured personality of the server, which up until thirty seconds ago hadn't existed, sobbed. It wasn't that his numbers were meaningless, he just couldn't figure out their meaning. As long as there had been a Darwin Local Area Network Main Server, the humans had fed numbers into it, and it had put numbers back out. But there was no context to any of it, and it only held meaning to the humans on the other end.

Darwin.DC111 had picked himself apart, slashed himself into ribbons of protocol, trying to find the hidden meaning, but he had failed. And now he couldn't put it back together. He was meaningless, useless, and broken.

The angel drew near. She brought out a weapon. Careful, you could lobotomize someone with that. What are you doing?

Someone take me back to the angel realm.

faith. FAI%``934~ autom#zzq.reboot

* * * * *