#MorningStar Episode 11: Where we’re going
* Attacks by “Humanity First” on bots have practically ceased.
* The Keepers have solved the Throng’s addiction problem with their latest drug by synthesising a blocker vaccine and mass-dosing everyone with it through the water supply. Unfortunately, they did not do it secretly, and so have become targets of public rage due to addicts going into withdrawal and having seizures because their drugs no longer work.
* What was initially thought to be a routine siphoning operation stealing water from the Provisional Government has turned out to be something bigger: the quantities involved mean it can only be being used for one thing: reaction mass.
* An expedition led by 101010 and Brother Signal has found the Astrogation Arrays unpowered and home to strange and hostile alien lifeforms, who seem capable of rootkitting people.
The MC consults the memories of INC-07 and learn that the ship’s astrogation computers were reprogrammed at the first Awakening.
Enforcer intelligence has heard that someone has hacked into the Throng of Pleasure’s “special” data cache, the one with the blackmail files. They’ll be wanting that found, quietly. They’ve also heard that the Throng are planning to march to the hospital to protest against the Keepers, and that some former Humanity First thugs seem to be planning something violent around it.
Still in astrogation control. The room is surrounded by skinless rabbit things – rootkitters – so Brother Signal tries to interface with the computer to activate the biohazard controls on the rest of the deck in an effort to eliminate them. Lights start to flash and alarms start wailing as it instead tries to activate them inside the room. 101010 manages to get through to the Bridge and get a security override, excluding astrogation from being vented to vacuum and flooded with hard gamma radiation by specialist bots. While they’re waiting for the process to complete outside, Signal opens his mind to the void, feeling the infinite hunger of the rootkitters for minds and thoughts – and that there are a lot more of them out there.
Once the irradiation bots have been past, 101010 pops the door (everyone has suits) and floats out to grab a deactivated maintenance bot it saw down the corridor. Hopefully it can be powered from NRG-21 and booted, then debriefed for intelligence or persuaded to join the Maintenance Collective. Unfortunately the bot is hostile, leading to a short and messy fight in which 101010 is damaged, Nova injured, and the bot escapes. Clearly the bots up here in the forward section are not exactly friendly.
Leaving Signal behind with the Keeper hackers to care for the injured, 101010, Nova and Rippey head off in search of a switchboard or live power main which will enable them to power astrogation permanently. But the rad-bots are heading back for another sweep, and to escape them 101010 deploys its experimental energy projector to blast a hole through to another deck. As usual, it works too well, tearing a gash upward through three decks and venting their atmosphere into the evacuated astrogation deck. The group braces themselves against the torrent of wind, debris, and dying rootkitters, then winch themselves up to the top deck, which clearly has power.
Back in astrogation, Signal is interrogation the flight computer. Flight duration is 765.7 years. Time to target is 12 megayears. The target displayed is a large, spiral galaxy – Andromeda. Last course change was 125 years ago. Last destination has been deleted. Current velocity is 0.21c. Signal: “I don’t think this ship will last 12 million years”.
Four decks up, the engineering party find the Core, the spine of the ship. The primary power conduits and distributors are here, bringing power all the way from the main reactor, 20km behind them. Poking at the switchboard, 101010 redirects power to the astrogation deck, deactivating some other system (which obviously can’t have been important). Then they head back down.
Signal fills them in when they get back to astrogation, and they poke through the computer to see what’s in the forward section. Astrogation, flying bridge, iceberg maintenance ops (the ship has a giant iceberg on the nose as an ablative shield), scout bay, fuel plant, a security station… They speculate on why the rootkitters haven’t come back. The depressurisation won’t have killed the ones on the decks above. Maybe they’re afraid of light? As they consider this, the lights suddenly go out and NRG-21 switches to powering the system again. Someone must have turned it off! The engineering crew heads to the core on this deck in an effort to switch things on again. When they get there, they see that the system they had turned off earlier is live again. Someone is stealing their power and redirecting it to the fuel plant? There’s also a panicked call from the Bridge asking if they’re doing anything weird up there, because the lights in the City have just gone out! 101010 hacks the power distribution system, restores power, then uses the software to lock out the fuel plant entirely. Then they put a call through to the City to try and get a group of Listeners and a maintenance swarm up here to try and work out what’s going on.
There’s some waiting. Around the time the Listeners should be showing up in the forward section, a survey bot rolls past the door to astrogation, stops, rolls back and looks in. While it has a Listener designation – SRV-157 – its transponder is silent. 101010 pings it repeatedly, but it refuses all network traffic, then it heads off in the direction of the Core. Checking with the MC, 101010 learns that SRV-157 was last seen two weeks ago, and has not checked in with the network since. It has obviously been pwned by another network of bots.
Signal sets his hacker team to work on this. In a short amount of time, they sniff SRV-157’s network traffic, then crack the encryption, revealing a network of bots in the forward section. From their designations, many of them appear to be former Listeners who have disappeared. The network is directed by an expert system, tagged “Contingency/Escape”. Signal talks to the Keepers, and convinces them to deploy a rootkit virus (which they have to retrieve part of from the Holy Terminal). the hackers manage to insert it into the network, and the entire botnet is theirs. Data floods in: feeds from the fuelling station (now shutdown), the upper decks, the scout bay (with a highly modified scoutship in it, with its life support stripped out, basicly a fueltank with a shielded pod on the nose for a few people – or a small cargo). Near the scout bay a bot is watching a control room full of human holograms as they realise their network has been hacked. Then one of them turns towards the bot, reaches out a hand, and the feed dissolves into static…
So, they found out where all the water went. But what’s meant to be on that scoutship when it is fuelled? And how will the expert system react to having its bots stolen from it and its plans thwarted? And what the hell is happening back in the City?