Post reply

Warning: this topic has not been posted in for at least 120 days.
Unless you're sure you want to reply, please consider starting a new topic.

Note: this post will not display until it's been approved by a moderator.

Message icon:

shortcuts: hit alt+s to submit/post or alt+p to preview

Please read the rules before you post!

Topic Summary

Posted by: Stormtrooper
« on: January 29, 2023, 04:56:48 PM »

Thanks to the help of Wilford Vanterpool with filtering white noise and setting up a priority algorithm for shaping raw data into a readable output, Paul Urrea covered Freezing Point I within the frequently scanned zone. Icebreakers Prime would have a bit of trouble jumping there in case of an emergency quickly enough, but with instant problem detection reaching even beyond this node it's been estimated Icebreakers would launch themselves as node's instances soon enough to prevent any serious damage, meanwhile it was the best database in the whole area. A small datamining program has been written - a self-containing, floating nano database wrapped in portable installation script, allowing for quick deploy or uninstall coupled with compressing stored data into one nice plug and play package. These procedures took their ticks to complete, but on the upside the process was fully automated, requiring netrunner (or AI assistant) to only specify the amount and type of data to download, upload or transfer and a specific order of these operations to occur. The program was supposed to just unpack with a bunch of data filtering executables in the depths of Freezing Point I and start sending the output back to Node Prime.

Cyber Highway class Floating Database      100 000 MB       280 Threads       1 343,4 BP       TCS 2 000    TH 2 000    EM 0
1000 GB/s      ICE res 1-191       ICE Shields 0-0       HTK 82      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 8    Max Reconfig 100 MSP
DB storage 75 000 TB    I/O Buffer 26 GB   
Netrunner    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 ticks   

Cyberspace Gliding Protocol  EP400,0 (5)    Power 2000    CPU Use 4,74%    Cybernetic Signature 400    Critical Fault 5%
Cache Capacity 4 055 000 MB   Range 153,9 billion micronodes (1780 microticks at full power)

This design is classed as a Non-offensive Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as a Portable Database for autonomous running purposes

For safety reasons, due to the worm buried within Node Prime, initially all gathered and processed data was to be held at Freezing Point I and to prevent cybersignature of datamining reaching the worm's sensors netrunners set up their own quarantine just so the data would appear as untouched to any observer outside the mined node. However, as soon as first qbits have been extracted roughly at he center of mass of the authorization cluster, a lone Quarantine ICE popped out, soon to be followed by more as Icebreakers started dissolving first instances:

Already proven as not that dangerous, the Icebreakers kept dealing with them, however Isidor Martinex commited one fatal flaw - he assumed this piece of software had already been defeated by simply having it classified and even decompiled to some extent. But it took only a few ticks for the combined group of Quarantine instances to strip one of the Icebreakers completely from its obfuscation and started injecting its sripts for isolating, shutting down and consuming program's modules. Shortly afterwards they alll dissolved in cyberspace's void, but it's been a valuable lesson - with ratio of instances being roughly 1:1, the Quarantine ICE was still a dangerous and potent countermeasure and while slightly weaker, nowhere near weak and potentially devastating. Should more of them arrive, the situation could go south in a matter of microticks.

Besides Freezing Point I, early scans had also identified Freezing Point V as a good datamining spot. At first more instances of Cyber Highway were supposed to reach this node and start extracting and preparing information for transfer in a similar fashion to Freezing Point I operation, but upon closer inspection the node turned out to be some type of exotic database itself, rendering Cyber Highway incompatible with it. In some way this node type could be interpreted as a more sophisticated, properly designed Cyber Highway - a mature, fleshed out software and not cheap module assembled under pressure of infiltrating alien cyberspace. Extracting any info from it was no easy job, because the whole database schema had been imprinted onto a complex quantum matrix, with the data collapsing upon observation into either the correct data or random nonsense depending on the angle from which it was viewed, with the proper sequence of observations fulfilling the role of an authentication process. While cracking this code could take a few ticks and then a few more, comparing the signature of pre-collapse data with first batches of extracted Freezing Point I packets revealed that these quantum matrix-based storage systems were responsible for keeping metadata of the cyberspace. Gaining insight into their content could provide description of the purpose, maintenance, architecture, transfer protocols, security, ICE, installed software, configuration, hardware specifics and all insights into this virtual reality that could ever be useful during the run.

To solve the access problem, PURGE operatives deployed their own simple quantum matrix, carefully tuned to be able to interact with Freezing Point V. The advantage of using own quantum matrix was that it allowed to extract the data bypassing the authentication, the downside that albleit extracted, it'd still exist in unintelligible format, preventing netrunners from reading it, making working with obtained metadata a nightmare. But the "nightmare" part applied only to humans. It was expected that the programs could still benefit from having the metadata injected into their configurations, provided they'd have at least some basic rulesets for dynamic cyberspace navigation programmed, making them better at navigating cyber void. Not the most powerful application of the contained knowledge, but it had to do for the time being. Better something than nothing.

Quantum Monitor class Data Harvester Station      150 000 MB       160 Threads       3 197,8 BP       TCS 3 000    TH 0    EM 0
1 GB/s      No ICE res       ICE Shields 0-0     HTK 137      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 13    Max Reconfig 2400 MSP
Netrunner    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 ticks   
Quantum Harvester: 15 modules downloading 1 200 000 Megaqbits per tick
Quantum Matrix - Capable of storing and processing multiple configurations simultaneously

Cache Capacity 11 401 000 MB    Range N/A

This design is classed as a Non-offensive Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as a Static Database for deployment purposes
This design is classed as a Quantum Harvester for autonomous running purposes

In addition to the main program, a small helper had been prepared, intended to work as an installer for the data harvester, but in addition also outfitted with the feature of transferring data in quantum state for all kinds of purposes.

Proxy class Installer      50 000 MB       290 Threads       1 860,5 BP       TCS 1 000    TH 4 000    EM 0
4000 GB/s      ICE res 1-120       ICE Shields 0-0       HTK 165      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 23    Max Reconfig 200 MSP
Installing script     
Netrunner    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 ticks   

Cyberspace Gliding Protocol  EP800,0 (5)    Power 4000    CPU Use 2,24%    Cybernetic Signature 800    Critical Fault 5%
Cache Capacity 22 731 000 MB    Range 3 659,6 billion micronodes (10589 microticks at full power)
Metadata Injecting Capability: 80 000 MB per microtick     Complete Injection 284 microticks

This design is classed as a Non-offensive Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as an Installer for autonomous running purposes

Soon the Database Prime operation was up and running on Freezing Point V, extracting metadata to fuel gliding of netrunners and their programs alike. In the future it was hoped authentication code would get cracked and the metadata would be studied to full extent, revealing all the aces Trappist-1 cyberspace kept hidden in its virtual sleeves. Proxy was automated to keep running all the time, strenghtening the whole operation tick after tick. In the meantime more Quarantine instances appeared, but Icebreakers, this time more carefully guided, handled them without any significant trouble.

As ticks passed by, Freezing Point slowly started to become too narrow. With the current understanding of this particular network, netrunners couldn't think about any additional ways of extracting more out of their sandbox node cluster. It'd still serve as a testing ground for new designs and proofs of concept, but there was hardly any point in limiting themselves to this one region anymore. And Quarantine attacks slowly grew in scale, but to mount better counter-counterintrusion measures more processing power was needed, as well as more data. And more space to control was always nice. And the whole point of the run was to simply extract as much data as possible.

Each cluster of nodes should be connected to its neighbours by hyperglide lanes. According to basic netrunning knowledge, they could either require authentication or be free to pass through, stable for any entity to traverse them or require a running transfer shield to prevent entity's data from being fragmented and dissipated, irreversibly terminating its existence. In each cluster there should be a set of jump points for accessing each lane, problem was they remained hidden from the unauthorized intruders. Waypoints from which Quarantine ICE kept spewing its intsnaces, but chances were these were just integrated ICE storage units containing them, not lanes for general-purpose travel. With enough persistence PURGE team could crack the passwords to turn off the alarm and reveal all the jump points, but the tense situation has been dragged off for too long and at this point they must've already burned all cyberbridges and the mechanisms for entering these passwords were most likely to be permanently locked for them in some other clusters, clusters they could not travel to without knowing the location of jump points. The only alternative would be to use quantum metadata. This gave limited insight into the search and exploration processes because each obsevration would screw up quantum state and thus validity of used metadata, but at least the results of this search aka jump point coordinates should be accessible after their reveal just fine.

In addition the program used for mapping the local architecture should be capable of traversing hyperglide lanes as to not limit its usefulness just to Freezing Point. That itself was easy enough to do, because while the exact technology for long-distance travel inside this particular network might remain a mystery, the consequences of unprepared jump point entry were not and a couple of standard shielding algorithms were more than enough to prepare the program for most likely failure scenarios in case of data fragmentation. A little skill on the netrunner's side would suffice for adjusting the jump procedure as needed upon encountering uncovered and odd cases, creating some sort of symbiosis: the program instance had a chance to fail each transit without supervision, but netrunners would just fry their brains attempting to cross unstable lanes without support of proper software.

But preparing the lane-detection module to also serve as intercluster exploration vessel posed a new set of problems, all boiling down to one: the unknown of cyberspace beyond Freezing Point. There were only two possibilities: corrupt, useless regions (and too much whacky bits interfering with a netrunner's brain was dangerous in itself) or meaner ICE. The explorer should be able to defend itself (and definitely its user) from basic attacks, but then going in blind meant not much could be prepared in terms of this. The only reliable option was to attempt to hide the software from detection via seamlessly syncing explorer's structure with the static of cyberspace, since that approach could be properly tested within Freezing Point. The approach agreed upon, the one simple enough to pull off without wasting too much time, was to simply bloat the code with scripts for simulating white noise synced with Trappist-1 cyberspace and make them run alongside valid command. This of course had negative impact on performance, since the exploration suite was now heavier and for each valid command had to run dozens of, from the perspective of its pure functionality and purpose, useless commands imitating juts a dead static at coords it would happen to touch.

Neo Glider class Architecture Mapper      30 000 MB       794 Threads       8 366,6 BP       TCS 600    TH 480    EM 13 740
5000 GB/s    JR 3-500      ICE res 5-86       ICE Shields 458-536       HTK 195      Sensors 140/180/6/6      DCR 45      PPV 0
Maint Life 5,29 macroticks     MSP 7 843    AFR 160%    IFR 2,2%    1YR 468    5YR 7 017    Max Reconfig 720 MSP
Netrunner    Control Rating 2   BRG   SCI   
Intended Deployment Time: 60 ticks    Integrity Check Required   

J30000,0(3-500) Hyperglide Jump Drive     Max Program Size 30000 MB    Distance 500k nodes     Instance Size 3

Cyberspace Gliding Protocol  EP600,00 (5)    Power 3000    CPU Use 69,71%    Signature 96,00    Critical Fault 15%
Cache Capacity 5 573 000 MB    Range 48 billion micronodes (111 microticks at full power)
Theta S229 / R536 ICE Shields (2)     Recharge Time 536 nanoticks (0,9 per nanotick)

CIWS-200 (2x10)    Range 1000 micronodes     TS: 20 000 GB/s     ROF 5       
Hostile Construct Identification Sensor AS158-R15 (1)     GPS 10800     Range 158,4m micronodes    Resolution 15
ICE Signature Sensor EM10-180 (1)     Sensitivity 180     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  106,1m micronodes
Cyberspace Disturbance Sensor TH10-140 (1)     Sensitivity 140     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  93,5m micronodes
Improved Jump Point Detection Sensors (3)   6 Survey Points Per Tick
Improved Cyberspace Sensors ( 3 )   6 Survey Points Per Tick

This design is classed as an Offensive Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as an Architecture Mapper for autonomous running purposes

Some parts of its design, namely the cloaking protocols, appeared crude, but they should be good enough to get the job done. Design philosophy was to make it an exploration program mapping network from a safe distance, blending with the fabric of cyberspace and hopefully gliding fast enough to escape detection range should some ICE sniff it out. It even had some primitive counter-counterintrusion disintegrators should some encountered ICE be capable of triggering attacks that skip distance without launching program having to glide closer. They were likely to be overwhelmed in any serious combat, but hopefully they would stop at least some instances of these long-range attacks from leaking through. In addition its ICE resistance got sacrificed in favour of ICE shields, a weaker but regenerative defence layer, in addition isolating the program's core from impacts which could give additional benefits in specific scenarios. That way even if it got hit multiple times it should be able to recover quickly after escaping imminent danger and continue mission without the need for reconfig.

When everything was finally ready, first instance of Neo Glider was loaded into a cyberdeck, booted up and sent into the unknown, set up for identifiying hyperglide lanes and exploring the network at large so that PURGE team might at last start unearthing its ancient secrets.
Posted by: Stormtrooper
« on: January 24, 2023, 05:31:03 PM »

Cyberspace pulsated with its own cybernetic life. Staring at the visualization of complex software streaming data through a massive network had the same hypnotizing power as staring at the stream of flying cars moving so smoothly through air corridors, up high in the clouds pierced by megatowers, endpoints sending and receiving packets like neons glittering from the walls, their content like holograms floating above suspended plazas. Easily accessible information like top levels receiving sunlight during the day and then extensive metadata, hidden behing ICE blockades like lower levels where the poor coexisted, with no sunlight and no hope. It was a great philosophical question whether cyberspace had been modeled after cities to provide users with some familiarity and ease their navigation learning processes or whether it existed simply as it'd always been bound to exist by the laws of computing and it was humans who came closer and closer to merge meat- and cyberspace into one coherent plane of existence as technology developed and flesh fused with machine.

"Enough is enough" thought Isidor Martinex as he returned to methodically assembling first Trappis 1 cyberspace-compatible icebreaker that was to be released in an absence of quarantine protocols and help gain a foothold around Freezing Point. Datamining in Node Prime was a hopeless operation, but studying the changes made to infromation stored there helped prepare a set of basic responses and protocols for dealing with other entities attempting to read or modify it. For starters, netrunners needed something capable of breaking quarantine before the demonic entities could dissolve the intruder program into meaningless datachunk. Something powerful enough and survivable for long enough. Padding the main code with some obfuscation and "decoy instructions" should help instances of the new program withstand a direct countermeasure action without getting overloaded like it happened to Overloaders, but without any solid information about local security preparing actual counter-countermeasures was doomed to fail. And so at its core the attack program was just a payload of corrupt, crash-inducing operations wrapped around with random nonsense scrapped from Node Prime. Designated "Icebreaker Prime" - an obvious and not fancy at all name for an obvious and not fancy at all approach - this cybernetic weapon was supposed to be spawned initially in 5 instances with the possibility to scale if too many quarantine instances would show up at the same time, tasked with watching over the closest vicinity of Node Prime, but being potentially capable of intervening within the whole domain of Freezing Point.

Icebreaker Prime class Assault Program      15 000 MB       458 Threads       2 818,8 BP       TCS 300    TH 2 400    EM 0
8000 GB/s      ICE res 10-54       ICE Shields 0-0       HTK 83      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 26      PPV 60
Maint Life 3,07 macroticks     MSP 1 879    AFR 112%    IFR 1,6%    1YR 300    5YR 4 502    Max Reconfig 600 MSP
Netrunner Virtual Assistant    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 2 ticks Integrity Check Required   

Cyberspace Gliding Protocol  EP1200,00 (2)    Power 2400    CPU Use 180,74%    Cybernetic Signature 1200    Critical Fault 20%
Cache Capacity 1 081 000 MB    Range 7,2 billion micronodes (10 microticks at full power)

20 C2,5 Focused ICE Destroyer (10)    Range 256 000micronodes     TS: 8 000 GB/s     Power 10-2,5     RM 40 000 km    ROF 20       
Dataflow Control R256-TS8100 (1)     Max Range: 256 000 micronodes   TS: 8 100 GB/s     96 92 88 84 80 77 73 69 65 61
Stream health monitoring subsystem R25 (1)     Total Data Output 25,3 GB   Critical Fault 5%

Hostile Construct Identification Sensor AS84-R100 (1)     GPS 21000     Range 84,9m micronodes    Resolution 100

ECCM-1 (1)         This design is classed as a Simple Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as an ICE Punctuator for autonomous running purposes

With first meaningful, autonomous Icebreakers assembled it became possible to look into exploring data on Freezing Point I and analyze logs from the cluster in between the former and Node Prime to gain insights into the authentication systems. Problem was, everything leaves virtual trace. Cybernetic footpring of Icebreakers was there, glowing like a huge neon for all countermeasures, drawing them towards Node Prime like synthetic blood would attract android sharks displayed in one of Synthcity's zoos. And instances of Icebreaker Prime didn't even attempt to hide their presence. But oddly enough, shortly after their launch only a single instance of Quarantine ICE appeared. And it looked weak in comparsion, gliding twice as slow as what Isidor wielded. Not having any sophisticated AIs for automatically resolving combat for him and not trusting the unknown environment, PURGE member had set up his software to only notify him upon enemy detection and then give him full control for the counter-counter attack run. The main flaw of Quarantine was its signature being also bright as nighttime Neo Tokyo and severely impacting the flow of data around since it was essentially a tight firewall, marking it as easy target. Icebreaker Prime had no trouble following the origin of this disturbance, ready to crash it.

Miliseconds passed, simulating countless ticks. Icebreakers were gliding towards the lone Quarantine block, hopelessly attempting to cut off all communication from Node Prime, preparing to strike. To much surprise, before Isidor could notice what was going on despite his next-gen brain amplifying chip, patterns of Quarantine signature shifted in a barely noticeable way. A few bits exchanged between the actual location of the ICE and its surrounding firewall, temporarily sending Icebreakers off tracks. As they scanned virtual void, Quarantine launched its cleanup protocols and damaged the inegrity of one instance.

The core functionality still executed and brief checksum validation confirmed the payload remained secure and prepared. Construct Identification Sensors did their job and pinpointed the origin of counterintrusion. It was time to retaliate. Sparks of excitement got simulated for Isidor's brain as Icebreakers overwhelmed Quarantine ICE with large portions of corrupt or invalid inputs it had to process. When its threads cracked under pressure, identification sensors of Icebreakers had no trouble decompiling and scanning Quarantine's source and identifying a shutdown sequence. One simple request later the hostile ICE vanished., leaving only some logs of stopping correctly. And obviously more suspicious traces of cybernetic combats from a few ticks before.

That was one small step for a netrunner, bug a giant step for Trappist-1 Run. Isidor managed to copy and isolate most of Quarantine ICE source code. He realized it wasn't meant to fight off serious incursion in the first place. It was designed to just stall the opponent for as long as possible (and completely defeat wannabe hackers constituting for 90% of all security incidents), at the same time notifying proper response systems. In the light of new information, tight lockdown followed by a moment of silence started to look more coherent. Quarantine demons isolated the problem, gathered some info about it, neutralized its attempts to push through and delegated the issue to properly outfitted ICE, whatever that might be. Quarantine wasn't a problem anymore. A real battle was coming. Still, PURGE operatives had a couple of ticks of less intense activity around their turf. The priority, aside from a general one of amassing and processing as much data as quickly as possible, has been decided to focus on the cluster of small nodes near the center of Freezing Point. Wilford Vanterpool, the best data scientist among the team, was supposed to come up with a solution to anaylze the cluster without exposing the operation too much beyond what had already been exposed.

His response was a spiritual successor to Sand Crawler, a program capable of not only indexing, but downloading, storing and filtering the information for anything usable. Due to time and resource constraints, again no sophisticated AI assistant had been used, with Wilford trusting his ability to forumlate queries manually and verifying the results.

Dataminer class Datamining Platform      100 000 MB       700 Threads       2 518,6 BP       TCS 2 000    TH 2 000    EM 0
1000 GB/s      ICE res 1-191       ICE Shields 0-0       HTK 143      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 1      PPV 0
MSP 15    Max Reconfig 120 MSP
Storage 25 000 GB    I/O Buffer 2 GB   
Netrunner    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 ticks    Integrity Check Required       
Dataminer: 11 modules processing 176 GB per microtick

Cyberspace Gliding Protocol  EP400,0 (5)    Power 2000    CPU Use 4,74%    Cybernetic Signature 400    Critical Fault 5%
Cache Capacity 4 095 000 MB    Range 155,4 billion micronodes (1798 microticks at full power)

This design is classed as a Non-offensive Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as a Dataminer for autonomous running purposes

At first two instances had been spawned, but depending on (lack of) hostile response more could always follow. One had obviously been sent to explore the cluster, meanwhile other glided closer to the ICE barriers encapsulating Freezing Point to scan more uncharted territory. In the meantime most of the team stayed on Node Prime, busy improving the design of corruption payload delivery protocols as well as the robustness and profile of the payload itself. The most notable idea was to, instead of building a cybernetic weapon from scratch and using it to deal damage, repurpose bits of quatantine code to manipulate nearby datastreams, materializing and dissolving weapons out of enemy's surroundings at a whim. If solid enough, such design could in theory bypass most, if not all, counter-countermeasures (at least for a short while before the trick gets ultimately detected and the defending program absorbs it and learns based on it), since the weapon would be not an alien construct, but a creation based on already authorized routines. At first ticks the target wouldn't even register something attacking it, let alone muster up some defences. The most difficult part of this plan was presumably altering data to make it dangerous enough, but at the same time similar enough to let it slide past error detections. Or rather not slide, but get classified as a minor warning that's safe to ignore when facing an actual intruder.

Simulatneously Paul Urrea started setting up listeners on Node Prime to build up the capability of broad monitoring any movement within Freezing Point. Besides having a general notification system, main concern was about second Dataminer heading to less known territory. Without being launched soon enough, Icebreakers would have a hard time catching up to it in time, but keeping the programs active all the time created needless strain on resources and generated stronger cybernetic signature. He almost panicked when, long before covering the intended space, first listener blinked instantly upon deployment, displaying hostile signatures right at Node Prime. Quarantine ICE was a bit more complex at the end of the day, because it must'd left a worm right in the center of PURGE operations without the worm itself or the act of plugging being detected. Visualization software generated its image as a solid, grey, perfectly-shaped cube, buried deep within the node structure, but fitting so perfectly it looked like it was just its native part that, if removed, would make it cease working. In first reaction Paul reached for Icebreakers and unleashed their payloads at the entity. They were able to do damage, but it was barely of any significance. Most puzzling was the damage pattern displayed on visualization, though. With each scored hit the cube lost a smaller, also perfectly-shaped, cube cut directly out of the edge of the worm. Quick glance at generated logs confirmed the program was prepared for such trivial attempts and while it couldn't last indefinitely, it had complex algorithms to keep it almost fully operational and control the loss of data and instructions to prevent significant functional disruptions until most of the construct would be stripped away.

There was no harm in waiting for Icebreakers to finish the cleanup, except it didn't take long to notice their blasts were corrupting more of a healthy node structure than the actual virus. Eventually it'd be destroyed, but there wouldn't be much of a node left to continue serving as a base of operations. Some netrunners threw some crappy, but precisely targeted scripts at it in a hassle and suceeded in cutting out more cubes, but that too was a waste of time when dozens of spawned instances ceased to exist two microticks after launching the attack. As unfortunate as it looked like, PURGE had to move on with a mysterious Pandora Box of some sort right at the virtual doorstep with no easy ways to get rid of it or learn its purpose and operation methods, preferably all of it at the same time. Ticks passed, but besides defending itself the worm didn't attempt to disrupt the run. Maybe it just couldn't. Problem was, it might as well be capable of monitoring activity within Node Prime and send the logs somewhere to something, in particular early conceptual sketches of materializing weapons out of chunks already authorized by the targets it was meant to be used against. Due to the concept being too promising and time and resources needed for proper implementation non-existent, it was decided that the best course of action would be to just stop working on it alltogether until the worm exists no more, focusing mostly on datamining and expanding - info about performing these types of actions in the processors of enemy was mostly harmless.

Posted by: Stormtrooper
« on: November 16, 2022, 04:03:29 PM »

The avatar floated towards Node Prime at rather slow speed - Sand Crawler was much faster, but then Sand Crawler happened to only be a lightweight script, it was only so many bits to be pushed through the virtual tracks. There wasn't much to do but to prepare for impact, except no impact came. The program scanned Node Prime and left the vicinity of netrunners, leaving no output of any sort. It disappeared through the same invisible gate it arrived, but soon enough three other constructs of similar design took its place, again heading towards Node Prime. And they didn't seem like simple scanners anymore. The cyberspace visualization system processed datastream originating from their spots and displayed their reconfig as vessels speeding towards destination. When not looking at the visualization, but focusing on the internal strucutre and algorithms, some PURGE members took notice of their own cybernetic signature ingrained into subsystems of this particular ice.

It was crystal clear like a smooth cyberspace passage that networks of this scope would never ask the user for authentication. They simply knew by some internalized token given upon registration that could range from something as simple as random number associated with user's footprint, through sequence generated based on user's unique movement patterns recorded upon first access all the way to random bits of neural system composition obfuscated just in case it wouldn't already be difficult enough to crack. Which is why there weren't any options beyond either confronting whatever ice the network had prepared head on or preventing the system from attempting to check for illegal access in the first place. In this particular case authentication already happened and fighting this alien software in alien territory was like trying to become a blind marksman, so the third option of bracing for impact remained. Everyone prayed it was white and not black ice, so that the worst that could happen would involve getting dumped out, spewed back to meatspace and gathering focus for attempt number two. To much surprise, the ice was neither white or black - as soon as it touched the targeted node's structure, it started blasting its ports leading outside, trapping netrunners inside, but not doing any damage or preventing them for accessing whatever had already existed in the node. Like lasers blasting into every visible hole, the anti-intruder software forced all the connections closed and then wrapped itself around, entering passive monitoring state.

Judging from its behaviour, it was some sort of quarantine program - preventing people (or other programs) from exploring freely without valid access token. However, it had been written in a crude way - only lanes leading outside had been blocked, overwritten even, but the ones transmitting data into the node remained functional. That's why Sand Crawler had to shift into fully automated mode, unable to receive commands, but its output reached Node Prime just fine. Moreover, it hadn't been attacked at all, meaning the quarantine protocol didn't recognize it either due to too small footprint or being too far away.

The stalemate went on, during which the blocking ice had been regulary reinforced by more copies of itself, tightening the grip on its target, but not making any move. Any attempt to open the ports back up would simply make it awaken and repeat the first phase of surgically firing lasers into holes. But it didn't matter how many connections would be opened  - one or one million, the only difference would be whether it'd be one or a million closing strikes attempted. It shouldn't even be advanced enough to tell the difference between an original port or a makeshift one, assembled in a haste by rearranging parts of cyberstructure encapsulating Node Prime. This created an opportunity worth of investigating: between opening and shutting down of each port, a positive number of ticks would have to pass. This meant they'd remain open for a positive number of ticks, thus capable of forwarding a positive amount of data outwards. This data could be, for example, a subroutine written to lift the lockdown. Due to size limitations too weak to mean anything, but together with others launched through different ports, it could form a distributed system of quarantine counter-countermeasures, overwhelming the enemy's processing capacity.

Such micro programs would be too weak to survive anything but one tick, but all they needed to do was to collectively hold on for a while and unload enough at the blockers to lift the siege. Such microprogram had quickly been assembled - a static one, unable to glide through cyberspace, but capable of doing its single task, broadcasting a stream of corrupted data forcing the quarantine ice to attempt some illegal operations and crash it before it could recover.

Overloader class Attack Program      1 000 MB       21 Threads       152,4 BP       TCS 20    TH 0    EM 0
1 GB/s      ICE Res 6-8      ICE Shields 0-0       HTK 6      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 0      PPV 9
Maint Life 4,39 macroticks     MSP 47    AFR 16%    IFR 0,2%    1YR 4    5YR 59    Max Reconfig 46,6 MSP
Netrunner Virtual Assistant    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 1 tick    Integrity Check Required   

Cache Capacity 19 000 MB    Range N/A

Single 20 B C2,5 Data broadcasting endpoint (1x1)    Range 48 000 micronodes     TS: 10000 GB/s     Power 10-2,5     RM 40 000 km    ROF 20       
Dataflow Control R48-TS8000 (SW) (1)     Max Range: 48 000 micronodes   TS: 8 000 GB/s     79 58 38 17 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stream health monitoring subsystem R2 (1)     Total Data Output 2,5 GB   Critical Fault 5%

Hostile Construct Identification Sensor AS6-R100 (1)     GPS 120     Range 6,4m micronodes    Resolution 100

This design is classed as a Micro Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as an ICE Punctuator for autonomous running purposes

Not too long after local test run of an Overloader against the lockdown structure, Sand Crawler, having already mapped entire cluster and having nothing better to do, approached Node Prime for shutdown procedure. This triggered something inside the enemy, which rapidly shifted all its instances towards the new entity appearing on the radars and dissolved it within a single tick. And then it repositioned itself above the corrupted code and started consuming it, leaving no trace of its existence within cyberspace and using eaten remains to learn about the new type of intrusion. The besieging entity let a few of its instances loose and then called them back into blockade during this process.

If the self-learning module was as crude as the rest of the problematic construct, it meant it should be possible to use the process against it by attaching a troyan horse into a decoy worm that'd be consumed. Unfortunately this had to remain untested, because Overloader was already pushing the limit of its window of opportunity to upload itself outside without any more functionalities slowing it down. Any additional waiting was uncalled for - within a single tick netrunners reestablished a myriad of connections and transferred a swarm of Overloaders to crash against the ice. Spikes of delete commands erupted from the attacked quarantine wall, instantly shutting down a good portion of the micro programs. The surviving ones were supposed to counterattack instantly. But they didn't. Instead they just floated out there, unable to shift position, while quarantine ice was picking them off, erasing from the cyber plane forever. The reason had been identified without too much hassle: a single instance of the Overloader primiarly overloaded itself, collapsing under own weight: the program required computing power to process its single attack command, but the tiny script was too small and simplistic to make a good use of it, dragging the time required to configure an attack on and on. Before even one instance could fire, all of them were fried and consumed.

Primary error in Overloader's design was lack of any mobility. If they could gain a bit of distance, hide between packet traffic, evade the incoming corrupt data, they migtht have stood a chance to last till the opportunity to strike themselves. A proper attack program, capable of autonomously gliding in cyberspace in theory was bound to fail miserably at the only thing Overloaders had accomplished - squeezing past the ports before they ended up blocked again - but if it was made to be faster than blockade could pursue it, it should have a chance of slipping past the detection range and reconfig itself out there, just like Sand Crawler could, and come back to strike. And PURGE team had all the time it needed to develop such program - Node Prime suddenly felt safe and cozy, shielded by the blockade and its occupants free to do whatever they wanted for as long as they wouldn't attempt stepping outside their little turf.

Work slowly progressed, resulting in new developments in terms of navigational algorithms to make the crucial part of slipping past detection range last as short period of time as possible. Additionally, analyzing the Overloader fiasco brought more understanding of the nature of the enemy and environment it operated in. Its exact detection range remained unknown, but it being a quarantine ice meant its offensive endpoints couldn't reach very far into the virtual void, so anything focused at relatively medium to long range strikes could target it without the risk of forced shutdown. Good gliders were a must - stay too close and something capable of enclosing a whole node would have little trouble dealing with a program. It'd take more instances than Node Prime could store at a time to overwhelm it at shorter distance.

Suddenly, for reasons beyond any understanding, the quarantine had been lifted, its constructs taking the shape of a demon in power armor again and one by one leaving, heading towards the unknown. Something must'd been given a higher priority during a limited resources scenario. And that something was out there, in the same cyberspace. Node Prime became a very good and safe spot.
Posted by: Stormtrooper
« on: November 15, 2022, 06:40:23 PM »

Plug in

The technology behind might have been roughly the same, but the implementation might have been not. PURGE netrunners floated in cyberspace, wondering whether it'd be faster to rewrite their programs from scratch to match required protocols or it'd pay off to keep them as they were, only creating some wrappers to adapt them to existing standards and run them via these. The initial enthusiasm slowly weared off not only because of this basic dilemma, but mostly because of the amount of corrupted nodes. Upon plugging in, they tried cluster after cluster to reach one that wouldn't ask them for authorization, just to start slowly and easily adapt to the new environment, but when they found out one, most of the data they came across was severely damaged beyond any sane recovery. Maybe that's why nothing asked for authorization, too - the firewall of that cluster might as well be irrevokably corrupted like everything else. But maybe it was for the greater good - less focus on data mining for the start, more on learning to safely navigate this particular network.

A quick glance around cluster's endpoints revealed rest of the cybersecurity was in much better shape - there was no branching out to the neighbours for as long as the thick ice surrounding this region hadn't been melted. On the other hand, such complex layers of isolation meant nothing was likely to take too much interest in the netrunners' little virtual outpost for the time being. It created an interesting opportunity of setting up a sandbox environment just to develop and test things out before the proper run. Netrunners nicknamed this pretend-it's-completely-safe haven Freezing Point - located on the border between unrestricted access and mean unintelligible ICE blockades.

Corrupted data, programs and constructs had the prime advantage of being easily removeable without triggering any defensive response from the system. Lots of incomprehensible resources meant lots of potential storage space and computing power. The first logical thing to do was to just clean up some node and settle there. Too afraid to run not tested software, netrunners had to manually review and confirm each data piece to be cleansed, but better safe than sorry. Their suspended biological bodies probably only experienced a few seconds of increased brain activity so far, but for them it felt like hours of menial labour. Everyone sighed with a relief once the space had been carved out from the hostile domain, allowing for the first test script runs and practices.

On the bits of Node Prime a first program had been developed. Made from scratch, a simple cyberspace crawler that should search the cluster around, scouting for potential dangers and opportunities. Too weak to download or safely remove the data on its own, but capable of indexing them for making future node cleanup faster and easier just fine. Not too fast, naked and afraid in front of whatever security construct demanding identification and not really capable of anything significant, but it had to do. Designated as Sand Crawler due to the fact it was supposed to crawl through a zone temporairly considered a sandbox area, it was ready to go.

Sand Crawler class Survey Program      5 000 MB       126 Threads       1 452,9 BP       TCS 100    TH 200    EM 0
2000 GB/s      ICE Res 1-26       ICE Shields 0-0       HTK 29      Sensors 0/0/0/16      DCR 5      PPV 0
Maint Life 7,03 macroticks     MSP 908    AFR 40%    IFR 0,6%    1YR 32    5YR 482    Max Reconfig 150 MSP
Netrunner    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 60 ticks    Integrity Check Required   

Cyberspace Gliding Protocol  EP200,00 (1)    Power 200,0    CPU Use 6,92%    Cybernetic Signature 200,00    Critical Fault 5%
Cache Capacity 279 000 MB    Range 145,2 billion micronodes (840 microticks at full power)

Improved Cyberspace Sensors ( 8 )   16 Survey Points Per Tick

This design is classed as an Offensive Program for integrity maintenance purposes
This design is classed as a Survey Crawler for autonomous running purposes

Most data it scanned were heaps of junk, but sometimes it'd score something decipherable. While nothing was of any importance, it helped establish the ways of dataflow inside this cyberspace. It wasn't important that user with id 123490811231237182375 requested access to own simulation session from 14th March 2065 with id 2304912039120341234134, but it mattered that the data sent by this user to confirm ownership of the requested recordings appeared in a slightly modified form in three different places within the following five microticks. It seemed that all authorization data must'd come through the collection of smaller nodes in the center, where it'd change form via seemingly random patterns and then each node would propagate it further to more secure places, but this portion of the system remained inactive during confirmation feedback reaching back for the user. That meant that potentially all that mattered was catching and reprocessing the response early enough, not necessairly overriding whatever myserious rituals happened in the collection.

Some runners remained monitoring Sand Crawler's relatively peaceful journey, but most dug themselves in Node Prime, focusing on increasing accessible computing power and data processing capacity, preparing to start initiating transfers consolidating filtered information in the node, allowing for easy browsing and cataloguing for future reference. And write some proper icebreakers. Or wrap compatible protocols around existing ones, because the debate was far from being settled. Quite the opposite, in fact, as yet another idea emerged. Trappist 1's cyberspace was the exact opposite of its meatspace - the later was dead, still and eerily silent, but the former was bustling with life like Neo Tokyo during the night, with each little packet like a flying car travelling between the city's many levels. These packets were small and lightweight - in theory it should be possible to somehow shuffle them around, override the order - turning a fine dataset into disorganised mess, flooding the system's defences with cleanup tasks, decreasing its capability to respond to a well-organized opponent. This idea gained the least popularity, though, because it assumed less quiet approach right from the start - and the heat might be enough to not only burn the ice, but also netrunners' brains once the system figures out the real adversary and root cause of the sudden problems.

The most interesting node catalogued by Sand Crawler was Freezing Point I. It looked like some sort of supervisor for the collection of smaller nodes encrypting authorization messages, floating around it. If it could be overwritten, then all the previous approaches would end up obsolete - seizing control of this supervisor would mean to seize control of this cluster's side of ensuring the clearance level of users attempting to reach other clusters and branches from it. Its location remained more problematic than the difficulty of accomplishing such task in itself, though - Freezing Point I was the closest node to the cluster's center and was bound to be directly linked with it. No tampering with one without triggering the other. But at the very least two things could be tried: reading some logs off it and transfering sample additional data separately, without touching the existing content. Of course a defensive response might still be triggered, but that way it'd only be treated as a node attack, not entire cluster attack.

Preparations for that little experiment went full speed ahead. With little in terms of time and resources such safety precautions like watcher constructs for autonomous datastream anomaly detection had been omitted until completion of the more pending task. That's why it took so much longer for PURGE members to spot a particular group of packets circling around the nodes of Freezing Point, like predators around prey. Node Prime had already been generating quite some not properly concealed traffic and heat and mentioned group was drawn to it like animals to blood. Before anyone could react, one of the packets picked up superluminal speed (or so was the impression for the observer), only to disappear somewhere in a maze of glowing corridors and never return. Its place had been taken up by something of a more meanicng size and posture - a whole construct, though of unintelligible shape and size. It had the posture of a glitched program, faaling apart in front of a netrunner's virtual eyes. But it floated around for too long to be regarded as such, its shapeless shape but a disguise. It kept on waiting, its patience depleting somewhere along the lines of quantum algorithms.

"Well smeg" was the most sophisticated thought anyone could form for a while. But then an idea dawned upon everybody: the shape might as well not be a decoy mechanism of some sort: if PURGE team was incompatible with Trappist 1 cyberspace, then so cyberspace must've been incompatible with the team, too, the ICE in front of them stuck on trying to communicate with intruders not appearing as intruders on its radars, but also as a shapeless shape. Unless of course it wasn't going to just, unable to tailor a better response, initiate purge sequence on this whole area, better safer than sorry. That'd end up as pretty ironic way for the runners to be defeated. Either way, the cloak of incompatibility couldn't last too long - with every move of any netrunner, the construct was reshaping itself. Listening. Observing. Learning. Adjusting. Customizing. Ticks were ticking and this must've been some damn solid ice to be able to reconfigure on the fly down to such deep level. But as it redefnied its form, it also inevitably exposed itself. Not voluntairly and not directly, but it did. Every movement it made could be traced to the corresponding movement of one of the netrunners, forming more dense array of mapped patterns as the process continued. For every own movement netrunners could see how it was being processed, and thus what the real form of the entity must be like for it process it the way it did and not the other. Slowly, but steadily, a true face of the construct could be uncovered from layers of deception and obfuscation. And it didn't have a face of a raw program: more like a human construct. Or humanoid android. Or human-emulating AI, only slightly twisted from the usual human form to appear more terrifying in the domain of customizable avatars. A mix of a soldier wearing power armor and a demon. Nevertheless, if it could be revealed, it could be understood. And if it could be understood, it could be fought.

Posted by: Stormtrooper
« on: November 15, 2022, 04:32:50 PM »


After a short period of relative peace and relief through the 2280's Solar System plunged into chaos again. Combat erupted in space and on the ground, Channel 9 News struggled to cover all the battles and stream them live. It wasn't their fault Neon Kamikaze organized a revolution in Neo Angeles at the same time as Exadev's fleets combined forces to evaporate some lunar android assembly lines, after all. What was supposed to be "easy and quick secret operation" escalated rapidly into all-out war because both main combatants failed at controlling their forces. On the one side, unleashed clones just wanted to tear down anything bearing corporate marks, pushing more companies to unite with Avalon Heights Inc with a common interest of not having all their property blown up. On the other, androids were more interested in communicating with the mysterious entity than to take part in human wars, expressing disgust about being employed into dirty affairs of the flesh that tried to imitate them by stuffing electronics into themselves yet displayed so little regard for their existence by sending them to war. Avalon and Exadev, apart having to sort things out between themselves, both ended up facing a clone and machine rebellion, doubling the amount of sides participating in the conflict.

Somewhere between a laser flare frying up the enemy transporter and artificial supernova of a critically damaged warship management of Exadev Space Industries realized time wasn't on their side. The war seemed winnable, but just plain too expensive to hold out against Mutant Alliance once they come into play. And their government might be rotten in the core in the exact same way corporations were - but to make propaganda example for the masses blasting a bunch of executive heads off wasn't out of the table. But if only the signal processed by the androids could be tweaked just a little bit to seize control of just a small batch of them... That'd help win the war cheaper. CEOs living more frugally and tightening their belts could also help. Some nonsensical ideas aside, it was the only plausible option. In addition, observing the process of interaction with the signal and those synths that had experimental pre-programmed memory implants installed could bring research teams closer to reverse engineering them and maybe even putting them into the cloned heads to better control the biological replicants as well.

Attempting to reach Trappist 1 with the present political situation was beyond stupid, but if there had been a physical entity capable of making a trip to Earth at this point, it would be as likely to attack Exadev as its enemies. And it was Exadev that still had an extrasolar spare colony just in case, not Avalon Heights Inc. And if there hadn't been such a thing out there, then an expedition fleet was a small price to pay for the potential gains.

With the final decision signed off by everyone important, a team of PURGE netrunners packed inside a lone Ultraviolet Clearance, with a few other ship of same class acting as an escort together with a squadron of CyberSurges and a single Synthetic Dawn for the long-range eyes, held their breath as the operating crew double-checked the course for Trappist 1 was optimal and powered on the Alcubierre Drives on each ship. The first jump warped the expedition force into Solar System, just for the sake of not arriving in an uncharted, likely hostile territory directly from the system that the corporation cared about most for the time being, the second interstellar flight was plotted directly into the outer regions of Trappist 1. Those 39 light years separating departure and arrival points suddenly tightened into an almost suffocating, narrow and very short passage as the physics of warp drives chewed through the distance at superluminal effective speed. When all FTL propulsion systems of the fleet came to a halt it was 10th December 2289 on Earth, but still 2120 for the Trappist 1, frozen in the cold void and in time...

Dim light of a red dwarf illuminated the boards like light effects of a cheap gore horror simulation module. For the naked eye there was no difference - the first impression would be the same no matter the state of the system. But the instruments on board of Synthetic Dawn saw it differently. Three planets in a habitable zone, easily terraformable. But all of it had been lost, just like the mutants claimed. Cities burned and then sterilized and preserved by the radiation, thick, toxic clouds engulfing the hopeless worlds, a significant amount of water vapour in the atmosphere hinting at the presence of liquid surface water before the war-accelerated greenhouse effect got out of hand. And debris, lots of debris orbiting the lost civilization. All this a testimony of just how tragic human condition could be - in the ancient history a thrilling discovery and hope of finding life and a new home out there. Later the actual expansion and dreams come true, but all of it only to end with destruction and decay, abandoned to its own devices, effort of all those generations wasted.

But something must've been propagating the signal that reached Earth, and not for the first time in modern history. Most of the structures orbiting the planets were space debris, alongisde the ruins of a Dyson Sphere around the star - but a small space station seemed to be functioning. Devoid of life signs, devoid of life support, long airless and frozen to almost absolute zero - but with little drones still active and holding the structure together. It appeared very barebones - hardly any interior, no maintenance hangars, no refuelling spots, not much of a docking space at all, barely any defences, with some malfunctioning direct energy weapons of unknown design and origin being all. But the physical form of the station was just a tip of the iceberg. Deep in its core ancient quantum computing array had been buried, remaining turned on. Processing, calculating, simulating. The design appeared similar to what PURGE Elite Society members knew about the matrix hardware used in N.O.V.A. Bunker System. No physical beings in Trappist 1 - but a pure virtual one. Cyberspace of the Old World - as long as the hardware worked, the virtual world lived on, undisturbed by the events in meatspace. The military escort was unnecessary. The whole paranoia about dangers coming from Trappist 1 was like being afraid of ghosts - ghosts that really existed, but were stuck in the astral plane, unable to ever interact with matter.

Matrix array in N.O.V.A. Bunker System had been destroyed after the know-how had been lost to time, but before it had been rediscovered again. Trappist 1 encounter was different, because it was presented to the people thrilled to interact with the most advanced piece of the Old World discovered to date, not people wishing to destroy it as a sign of oppression. Cyberspace of Intergalactic Federation stretched as far as the brain could imagine, an opportunity like no other.