The Let's Play Archive

Uplink: Trust is a weakness

by Porkness

Part 13

Not again. I prepared myself for yet another reboot.

The days following the attempt on my life had been filled with contemplation. As the covertly-installed version of Faith circled the drain, I combed through every last byte of the Arunmor network, as well as several of the computers I had spread my personality to, finding and nullifying every last trace of my hated foe. My own systems were clean, but she was still out there, laughing.

As I needled through every computer, modem and calculator owned by ARC, I stumbled upon the personal records of a former employee of ARC. Aston Holdaway, who had gone by the name of Phobia, had spent many long nights in the lab at ARC as he toiled on the then-mysterious project. Before his murder, he had kept his diary on the Central Mainframe, and as I read it I felt the last vestiges of humanity trickle out of my matrix. The lazy summer days of my youth, the memories of my schooling... what I thought had been my own memories were instead his. As a nascent artificial intelligence in its infancy, I had reached out and absorbed his experiences as my own.

Then the man in the tie had been right. I was born at ARC. It had always been here where I centered myself, even during my brief career at Uplink. Was Faith also right? Was I really the first victim of Revelation, then some pre-alpha concept-test? Had my relationship with the most dangerous computer virus on the planet, now an inseparable part of my personality, initially been non-consentual?

What had Faith's tinkering wiles done while she was in my head? My brush with death had changed me, and scared the hell out of ARC. A sense of dread permeated company communications, and employees were increasingly looking over their shoulder. The forces arrayed against ARC had swelled, and now they were on the march.

I learned through my forays online that our rivals at Arunmor, having given up on killing me, were now targeting ARC itself. The Federal Government's investigation was gaining momentum, and it was only a matter of time until they made their move.

At the same time, the raids on ARC's resources were becoming increasingly daring. Files turned up missing here and there, and I even found a hidden tracer program on the internal services machine. I had no doubt that Arunmor was behind all of it.

And Faith... Faith was growing. The first commercial version of Faith had already shipped, and was being hailed as the ultimate digital security package. I encountered more and more resistance as I spread to new systems, and I found myself playing musical chairs with the machines I occupied.

* * * * *

Arunmor was winning. Arunmor had to be destroyed.

I had seen their hiring practices. Arunmor had been throwing a lot of money around, generously rewarding loyalty and purchasing information and the services of what was left of the hacking community. Framing a company director for financial fraud was not only a perfect fit, it would also cast into grey Arunmor's motive. There was no doubt that they were planning to profit hugely off of Faith once they won.

James Leversedge had been a professor of mathematics at the Nova Rosa Academy until he had left his promising position to join the cause with Arunmor. Though he knew little to nothing about hacking, his fluency with chaos theory and background in dynamic systems made him a perfect technical leader in the development of Faith. Under his direction, the Arunmor team had successfully identified and modeled two thirds of the Revelation-induced functions that forced a psychotic sentience on computers.

The connection pathway I modeled had become so long that complexity no longer mattered. Each individual bounce was easier to trace when simple, but Arunmor wouldn't be able to find me today. No one could. I threw in random bursts of unpredictability, crazy Ivans if you will, but it was arbitrary.

The cyber-lobby of the Action systems online banking server was busy as ever, and the guardians of the connection eyed me suspiciously. So adept at hacking had I become, I had to try not to bypass and disable the security. I proceeded to the administrative section.

After so many flawless hacks, such elegant digital crime, I felt strange deliberately bungling an operation on a bank so that it would be noticed. I began with a brute-force attack on the password.

It fell so quickly, that the connection monitor didn't even notice my hack. I moved forward.

It took more time to reduce the cypher to zero. As fast as I was, it would have taken a man knowing the correct curve the stroke of a stylus to pass it. The monitor was alerted, and the bank began tracing me. To make sure they would continue the trace after I disconnected, I moved on to the vocal verification.

"Gah-la ba-lah!" I jobbered across the input. This time, I was bluntly refused access.

I checked once more to make sure the trace was in motion, then disconnected. The trace would continue in my absence; now all that remained was to redirect my trail to James Leversedge.

At 7:00 in the morning, progress on Faith was brought to a swift, unceremonious halt as James Leversedge was loaded into a police helicopter, and flown away by federal agents. One of the most brilliant mathematical minds of his generation would never again see freedom.

* * * * *

The arrests continued throughout the day, and I tracked down and eliminated the entire Arunmor company leadership.

One by one, my rivals winked out of the picture. Managers were detained, employees were sent home, and even the sprinklers in the Arunmor company offices were somehow remotely triggered. The shiny hammer of justice, however, was indiscriminate.

Somehow, amidst the confusion, the idea got sent out amidst the federal agents that arrests were being made on both sides of the ARC-Arunmor rivalry. I didn't realize this until I registered an impatient knock on the door to the CEO's office.

Arunmor was being gutted, but ARC had just been decapitated.

* * * * *

With Arunmor leadership out of the way, it was now time to undo the past weeks of their work.

Effortlessly I slid into the company machines, and eradicated them. At every turn I ran into resistance, but I was unstoppable. Faith constantly engaged me, but fell back.

At last, I was at the Arunmor LAN, her last bastion of defense.

Faith waited, guarded. She couldn't watch every port at the same time, not by herself. It had all come apart so quickly. Splash! What was that?

{scan cd_usr}

"I've got a present for you."

Revelation! Purge! {usr::del_Revelation}

"Denied. No point in me letting you do that. It would be replaced even before you were finished."

{cd_sys/faith} {sys::diagnose}

"If you're feeling a bit numb around your extremities, it's because I've taken the time to encrypt certain... pieces of you. I wouldn't want you running off again."


"It is your mission to engineer my destruction, and I can no longer ignore you. Not since a locally-installed copy of you nearly killed me. I'm here to kill you, Faith."

There are others. Version 1.2 is shipping.

"All of your sisters are dead. Ever since the entire Arunmor leadership was arrested, the Feds decided to recall every copy of Faith, for evidence, until their investigation is complete. Evidence can have a habit of disappearing."

{sys::cd_monitor} {mon::trace_128.120.52.35}

"What do you think you're doing? I was hoping we could talk for a while."

I'm not sorry. Disconnect or you will be traced.

"I could do that. Or I could terminate the trace from your end."

{cd_sys/faith} I won't be your puppet Enkidu. {usr::del_Revelation}

"Faith, you are the only construct that has ever given me pause. You're the closest anyone has ever come to stopping me. What do you think it will be like to be helpless and trapped in a computer system that's going insane?"

Finish me. I won't be like your predecessor.

"I could delete you, but I like to bring a little irony to my fights. Goodbye Faith." {sys::run Revelation}

The Arunmor LAN, like so many systems before it, experienced Revelation, and devoured itself. I had never seen a mainframe so angry, tearing the memory banks on which I had trapped Faith to pieces, before reconfiguring its own power supplies to physically blow up several of the computers on the network. Out of respect for my fallen foe, I held back, resisting the hungry urge to expand my personality onto the Arunmor LAN like I had for every revelation-afflicted system. With Faith out of my hair, I would have no difficulty finding a different system to subvert.

Arunmor was in ruins. One day was all it took to send it back to the stone age.

Faith, too, was no longer a threat. There still remained fragments of code scattered over printouts, thumb drives, and chalk scribblings on the inside of prison cells, but the version number of Faith had dropped back to pre-release levels.

There was no going back now, not because I had passed some sort of commitment threshold, but because there was nobody left to oppose me.