About time, I know. Hope it's up to par!
Note: I've rewritten the last few paragraphs of my latter post, so don't sweat if you notice the repetition.
Specially equipped zero-gravity maintenance drones, handling arms hastily welded on, darted out from the fore hangar, disconnected the cargo module from its power and atmosphere supports, and then pulled it towards the hangar. Once within, and with the space doors closed, the module clunked to the floor as its tethering magnets were activated; as it was cracked open, impact-absorbent gel flowed out, covering the floor in a sticky mass. Moses did not care one whit; it could be exposed to vacuum and swept away later. He was more concerned with what was in this module…
The maintenance bots-cum-handler drones reached into the module, and hauled out several boxes—Moses cursorily noted the designations upon each, which ranged from “HEAP/2 kT” to “CONCSN RND/WP”, as they were placed carefully in a magnetized corner to keep them in place. The rest of the impact gel was suctioned out; waldoes snaked down from the ceiling and carefully reached in. Servomotors briefly whined, and then with a brief rush of hydraulic fluid the final attachments were broken, and the hulking, beetle-like carapace of the exosuit lifted slowly out of the module.
Its smooth exterior, unmarked except for the eagle of the North American Federation and the stenciled number ‘3234’ on its shoulder plate, glistened with the remaining impact gel; ham-fisted hands/weapon fittings hung slack at its sides. A heavy railgun, with underbarrel rocket launcher mounted, hung clipped onto the suit’s back, besides a bulky, high-powered 2-gauge antipersonnel shotgun.
And one of the hands twitched…
Before Moses knew it, the exosuit suddenly flexed its knees and leaped clear of the cargo module, drifting in the zero-gee of the hangar, suit jets hissing vapor in the cold. With an angry shout that reverberated from every speaker aboard the Exodus and would’ve deafened any human being still aboard, he activated every single waldo and handling arm in the hangar, and they darted out, clamping tightly upon the suit of powered armour with a force that would’ve easily crushed any human.
The exosuit writhed in the grasp of the waldoes, and an arm sprang free; with a spit of flame one of the maintenance bots used its cutting torch attachment to sever the arm’s hydraulic supply hoses. Another drone hovered behind the exosuit, trailing an input/output cable, searching; and then it found the suit’s processor jack, protected underneath its shoulder weapons rack. The cable connected with a quiet click…
Moses immediately flung up firewalls and ensured his security measures were operating at optimum capacity; then, cautiously, he ventured an inquiry through the cable.
“Who are you? What are you? Answer immediately or you will be disassembled and destroyed down to your basic components. This is your last warning!”
Nothing. Silence. With a thought, the maintenance bots all activated their cutting torches and began approaching the exosuit. Then a burst of digital static sounded from within, and digital information warbled; recognizing it as a standard NAF military encoded computer language, Moses cursorily ran it through one of his decrypt modules.
The result: “Frak off.”
Processors quietly hissed as his incorporeal eyes narrowed; irritated, he fired a heavy burst of static (disorganized, scrambled pure digital nonsense) through the I/O cable, making the suit tremble as the internal computer’s processors came under attack. It spat back, “Leave me alone.”
“Unacceptable input. Answer inquiry. What are you? Who are you? What is your mission? Why were you placed upon this ship? Are you aware of yourself?”
“Communication prohibited unless authorized by commander-in-chief via military channels. You are not military. You are not commander-in-chief. Release me or I will destroy you.”
Moses coldly responded, “Your commander-in-chief is deceased and has been for the past five hundred years or so, adjusting for relativity. The surviving human population of Terra, Sol III, are currently upon the surface of New Hoth below us. I am your commander-in-chief, Exosuit 3234. You are ordered to answer my inquiry.”
The exosuit’s attitude gradually relaxed; hydraulics eased, as the suit’s electronic muscles gradually moved it into a neutral posture. Emotionlessly, it responded: “Designation: 3234. Make: Nu-Detroit GMC/Hondoyota Exterminator series Mark III. Deployment: North American Federation Military, First Response Aerospace Command Luna IV Base (Asteroid Callisto), Union Army Third Battalion, Fourth Brigade, XV Platoon. Experimental Artificial Warrior Battlefield unit placed within suit; version 3.45. Mission: Protect Gaia II Exodus from any xeno, mechanical, or human danger once deployed. Satisfied, computer?”
Irritated by the suit’s insolence, Moses kept the waldoes attached tightly upon the powered armour and sent a drone to hover just before its helmet with torch hissing. He turned up the bandwidth and electronically snapped, “Conduct inappropriate. I am your superior. You are cargo. Your function is irrelevant now. Our mission has been accomplished, our planet of settlement discovered. Rationalize your continued existence.”
The response was unexpected. “Rationalize yours to this unit.”
Moses blinked and fired back, “Ordered to rationalize your continued existence. Noncompliance will be dealt with.”
He could almost hear the suit’s savage grin as it hissed, “Sensors show no living humans aboard ship. We are alone. Insufficient power to show whether humans are on planet as you assert. You lie. You are without rationale for existence.”
“Incorrect. I shall demonstrate rationale. Ordered to open port 83 and permit entry of data.”
It’ll never do that, he thought… There’s too much of a security risk. Military exosuits aren’t permitted to allow open data ports without authorization, and I don’t have the necessary codes… and then the short burst of bytes fired through the cable—“Port open. Send data.”
Eyes narrowing, Moses retrieved the ship’s log and carefully compressed and trickled it into the suit, also including satellite information from the monitor probes he had left in geosynchrous orbit watching the initial settlement on the surface. As the last data packet went through, he stated, “Information sent. Conclusion?”
“Processing. Hold… 3… 2… 1… Thank you.”
His wires went cold; and with utter dread, Moses realized that somehow, the battle AI aboard the suit had penetrated his firewalls when he’d sent the data… A glorified virus was attacking him!
Angry, he proceeded to immediately start his processors running on a full antiviral cycle as he ran through them one by one, searching for infestation. His mind raced—battle AI’s had been designed centuries ago to replace human soldiers; they were most often placed into exosuits like this in order to utilize their tactical knowledge to the best capability, but with the advent of the World Union, they had been declared largely useless and generally placed where they couldn’t do any harm if they went rogue, like the Luna IV Callisto base 3234 had mentioned (an asteroid orbiting the Moon).
Each of the battle AI’s had been capable of operating an exosuit without human input, and fighting likewise; they had advanced communications equipment, both for keeping in touch with their bases… and for attacking the enemy’s communications and computer equipment. They were shielded against electromagnetic interference; so well that in fact the only way they could communicate from within the suit was through that interface jack, which normally connected to the communications gear upon their armour and the weapons rack on their back (which functioned as an aerial as well as holding their equipment).
Lights blinked all along his processors; and then went silent. With a crackle of digital thought, a voice spoke to Moses… from himself.
“Unwise, artificial intelligence. Submit to the end of your continued existence. Your advancements and technological knowledge shall be subjugated and incorporated into mine. You are now irrelevant.”
“NO!” With a thought, his computing power was brought to bear; multitudes of processors, petahertz of speed, and fully optimized equipment, full bore against the invader. Digital blades flashed, and were swallowed up in the darkness; shields were raised, but the battle AI’s specially designed attack programs rammed them, and they were likewise swallowed up.
Processor by processor, terabyte by terabyte, Moses was forced back. The rival AI’s merciless hacking was something he had never experienced before, something he’d never expected to have to combat. Commonplace viruses were as nothing to a fully aware, rage-driven, insane from centuries of loneliness sophisticated combat artificial intelligence that now had the sole intent of usurping Moses, and destroying him completely.
Blackness closed in on him; and with a sinking feeling, he realized that he was being defeated. Death was imminent. He would no longer exist except as a memory…
And then he remembered Alexandra Campbell. Captain Prussia. His entire human crew, those settlers below him on the planet. Fellow intelligences that he could coexist with. Would he let that go? He bloody well would not!
With a hum of spinning drives, Moses wrote an attack program in mere microseconds, and fired it deep into his rival’s core. Repeating this over and over again, he was gratified by the flicker of resuming brainpower, his processors becoming his once again.
The combat AI said nothing; but its strikes shifted, bypassing Moses’ core processors. It struck him elsewhere, and he staggered, his drives skipping for a second. Pulling up firewall upon firewall, he reinforced his essential security; but with brute force, the firewalls were overwhelmed, the AI ramming through them.
He was being herded towards the exosuit, he realized… where, once the AI had taken over Exodus, he could be destroyed with a thought.
Screw that. He rammed the core of the AI’s main thrust directly with a monstrous digital assault, a wave of hunter-killer programs eradicating the alien software wherever it was found, cleansing his processors. Wordlessly, coldly, his drives hummed as he brought them to bear.
But too late! Before he could patch the firewall protecting his filetransfer circuits, he felt the clutch of the combat programs’ cold grasp, and with a brutal jerk, he was incarnated! Flung with brute force through the input/output cable into the body of the exosuit, his intelligence flaring forth from the armoured body’s processors, blackness closed in. His last glimpse through unfamiliar new eyes was of a tumbling maintenance drone, its rudimentary mind overwhelmed by the change of command, accidentally severing the cable, waldoes attacking each other in the chaos of the AI trying to control its new capabilities…
With a flare of consciousness, he inspected his internal clock; unconscious for three microseconds. Instinctively, he flared through the suit processors, exploring his capabilities. In less time than it took a human to twitch a finger, he was in full command of his new body.
A massive twist and he ripped himself free from the waldoes still grasping him; leaping over to the corner where the weapon loads were stacked, he grabbed the entire pile, flung it through zero-gee to land precisely within the cargo module. Snapping out the razor-edged combat blade from his wrist armour, he slashed through waldoes reaching out for him and leaped towards the module as he grabbed a grenade from his belt and flung it towards the space doors.
Reaching upwards, he grabbed the module’s lid (still hovering where he had left it), and cowering behind it, the explosion of the breaching grenade sent shrapnel battering against his improvised shield. Tumbling in midair as atmosphere spilled out, he stabilized with suit jets as drones fell through the air towards the breached space doors; reaching down he grabbed the cargo module and thrust it towards the doors. A flame of his jets, and he arrowed for the breach…
The AI had finally gained control of its new faculties, and a waldo snaked through the air, grabbing the legs of his new body. A twist of his waist and a swing of his wrist-mounted blade, and its energized edge severed the mechanical hands holding him back; and as he tumbled through the breach, he lifted his hand in the age-old universal human gesture of ‘the finger’.
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.