Chapter 2: Interesting Companions and Curious Events
The next two weeks went by without incident, Alistair was on more frequently to help with training. Mellis was adapting well, she had a natural combat skill that let her compliment and build off of the other's styles to great success. They had started showing her some of the main perches they used and had helped her further mod her Gear. Thask had taught her about the AI that they would probably be facing and with more of Allistair's help, she had racked up over a hundred kills. Phen and Azrael had added with covert training and recon, along with some silent hack techniques. Mellis learned it all quickly and without complaint.
On the 7th week, they were ready to begin their first Run as a new team. There was still no sign of Dramax, Allistair had tried contacting him several times, but each time he was offline and only Phen and Azrael had any idea where he was. They heard that it was going to be a pretty easy job, they still didn't have the details, that was why they had Reaver.
Reaver was the go-to person for whatever was going on both inside and outside of Ultima Solem. He had residence in a shielded bunker under one of the lesser companies he owned. He was a wicked smart hacker and helped design the early neural linking code for the early models of the system with his brother, but now was just a crotchety old hermit. They entered the building at staggered intervals a few minutes apart, meeting in one of the lower conference rooms of the tall office building. It was a mid-sized room with a oblong table and a half dozen office chairs spread around. Several picture hung on the wall, mostly of subsidiaries and articles about the companies volunteer and charity work. The one that stood out was a small portrait secured to the wall of a rather young stag looking proud and holding up an old version of the neural link helmet. This was Reaver's brother, he didn't speak much about him, something about a fallout that turned Reaver into a shut-in. This was the one that Allistair went to when they were all assembled. He flicked through the code, accessing an old fashioned password entry field. Reaver was very old fashioned and paranoid about security, they used a modified version of the Enigma Code to send and receive messages. He opened the program, retrieved and entered the encrypted password and waited. The wall behind the picture slid back and into the wall, revealing a spiralling staircase leading down into the dark.
"OK, a few rules before you meet him", Phen told Mellis as they descended."He will know a lot about you and will probably try to use it to get under your skin. Don't let him. Also don't speak unless directly asked a question, he won't like that. And under no circumstances do you mention anything about the government, his brother, tacking or media". Mellis agreed, not quite sure what to make of this new and strange individual.
They finally reached the bottom of the stairs and were greeted by a large reinforced door with no handle. Azrael knocked on it and again, waited.
"Your not just going to open it?", Mellis asked.
"Can't", Azrael replied, "It's hardcoded into the system architecture. Physically impossible to do without crashing the district and everyone in it".
After a few seconds, they heard a small whirring sound behind them. Mellis turned, seeing a camera mounted on the other wall. The door finally opened with a mechanical thunk. The entry room was cramped, a terminal stood beside the door and cables ran along the walls into the other room, but other that, there was nothing to speak of. Reaver stood in the main room, a scowl on his face.
"I's about time you go here, I've been waiting an hour", Reaver snapped, walking around his bench and sitting in front of a wall of monitors. He was tall, about late 40s wearing a simple tshirt and jeans, his antlers cut back at to about a half foot above his head.
The room itself was plastered with screens, most were black, but a few rotated through different camera feeds of the building and several unknown areas. There was no furniture except for the desk chair and no other doors visible. The only illumination seemed to come solely from the screens, which didn't do much. Reaver was busy tapping away on a keyboard, hunched close to the screen and muttering to himself.
"Ah, here we go", he finally said. One of the large monitors on the wall turned on, showing a security feed of the outside of a warehouse. "This is from the new industrial district released about a month ago, a few people have started to buy up the properties, but this one was never put on the market. There is also the issue of this...". He zoomed in the feed to show two figures, standing stock still on either side of the main door. They were Guards, but not like any they had seen. They were stockier in build, looked designed for speed and were a blue and grey colour rather that the normal red and white.
"So, it's a government warehouse", Phen said, "do we know what's in it?"
"No, that's the concerning part", Reaver replied, "that's why I wanted you here. I don't trust what they are doing, so you need to get in there and stop it". He struck a few more keys and a second monitor came to life, this one showing a wire-frame of the warehouse. "There is one entry point through the roof and possibly one through a sub level. That is a big 'if' though because there are no signs of it on here, the entire warehouse is shielded, even more suspicious if you ask me".
"Then I guess we'll have to check it out first", Azrael said. "Is there anything else you have for us?".
"Not that I can remember...Though it appears that you have some for me, like how you came to find your interesting new recruit...".
Mellis scowled at the stag. Obviously he had just hit on some unknown nerve and from the smirk he was giving her, it was a deep one.
"She's in and that's all you need to know, Reaver", Phen pushed back, stepping between Mellis and the stag. "We should be going, we have some planning to do", she said finally, escorting the others towards the door.
"Well..If you must. Say hello to your parents for me, will you Mellis", the stag shouted in farewell, waving dramatically as the door closed.
The conference room was locked, so there was no chance of anyone unexpected getting in. They left apart, like they did when they arrived, not talking or paying any notice to the others. They met up back at the perch in the 12th industrial district, ready to plan out the next move.
Allistair was the last to arrive, walking into the small warehouse. Azrael had actually been pretty good about not throwing more 'tests' at him and had actually been a decent person since Mellis joined. The others were gathered around a large table, the top of which was a screen that provided the brightest light in the room. They cleared a spot for Allistair as he looked down at the surface. He saw the map Reaver had shown them, the target warehouse really didn't have many entrances, just the front door and maybe a vent shaft up top. Phen had been talking the whole time with Thask about the Guards out front.
"I heard that they had been working on a new system for the bots before I left, but they would only be in the prototype phase now. I think they are just trying to play mind games with us, they're just modded skins", the wolf was saying, trying to convince a sceptical Phen.
"Even if that is the case, we should be extra careful and know exactly what we're dealing with before we go in there", she replied, Azrael nodded in agreement and Allistair could not argue, this was something to take seriously.
"Angel", Thask said, turning towards the hare, "Do you think you can get me patched into one of them, or at least scan them for anything out of the ordinary?"
Allistair thought for a minute. If they were just regular guards, then the regular scans would pick up on them undetected. however, if they weren't, they would be alerted. This would be a large issue because Thask would not be able to crash them so easily.
"Hmmm, if there is good cover, I can see what I could do, but I can't make any guarantees..."
"Well, there are a few shipping containers about 100 feet away, I can't see them moving anytime soon", Azrael noted, panning to a vertical view of the area. He was right, they were probably close enough and provided a good entry point.
They continued the debate, finally coming to the conclusion that is should be Allistair and Thask that go and Allistair would patch him into whatever he was seeing. They decided to wait a few days so that they could prepare and run a few tests on Thask's hacked Guards. They went off, thinking about the impending job and what it may bring.
The practice on Thask's Guards turned out to be a bigger help than they thought. Allistair was more than a little rusty about the techniques, but Thask soon had him doing it almost blindfolded. They had also patched Thask into Allistair's HUD, it made teaching faster and Thask even uploaded some moded hacks and diagnostics to him.The plan of attack was to wait behind the containers and study the guards movements (if they had any), from there, they would begin testing different hacks on them to see if they were really these new bots.
The approach went smoothly, the yard was pretty empty and quiet, apparently there weren't as many buyers as Reaver had thought. The cover was closer than they needed for connections, but every inch helped with observation. The Guards themselves did not move for about a half hour, so the pair decided to begin.
The first diagnostic was to see if the traditional radar could pick them up. Anything that was not hardcoded in or heavily cloaked would show up. Like a charm, the two stationary guards were putting off a signal, this one weaker than other bots however. The building itself was heavily shielded though, so no more information about what they were trying to break into.
The hacks were designed to slip past the regular guard's defences, if these were something new, they'd know immediately. Allistair began flicking through the ambient Guard code, opening up a path for entry.
"Careful, Angel", Thask whispered,"One missed protocol and they'll know exactly where we are".
"I know, everything seems to be pretty normal", he replied, still sorting and digging. "Hang on...I thing I see something".
Allistair removed some excess lines from his display, revealing a smaller section and showing it to Thask. They both stared at it, trying to figure out what it was. It looked like a small subroutine using a morphic algorithm, it was probably some sort of security measure that the owner used.
"Is it connected to anything?", Thask asked, shaking his head in disbelief. Allistair brought up a list of linked functions.
"Damn it, it looks like it's connected to almost everything. The hacks could trigger something...I think we should analyse this back at a perch before we do something stupid", he replied, starting to export the section and search for anything else out of place.
Both watchers were taken aback when the guards suddenly lit up. The pair ducked closer behind the container, Allistair keeping his radar up. The bots stood up straighter and raised their rifles in a saluting fashion. They heard the main wide doors begin to move, sinking from sight below the ground. This removed some of the shielding, only showing a small room beyond that contained a single person and two more bots. Allistair immediately began recording the scene on his radar, the others would want to see this.
They finally looked behind the edge of the container to see a slim male panther dressed in a black suit and cane. Each of the Guards that followed were each pushing a pallet cart with several black metal boxes. At the same time, a cargo truck turned the corner, this one not showing up on the radar in the slightest. It halted in front of the group and opened the back door. Two more guards got out of the truck and began loading the boxes in. After a minute, they finally closed the truck and drove off, past the container that hid Thask and Allistair. The figure and Guards went back into the warehouse and were again, gone.
"Ok", Allistair said, turning his companion, "what the hell was that about..."