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General C# Fiction / Re: Manticore Defiant: A Star Kingdom AAR
« Last post by Pedroig on November 24, 2022, 06:20:14 PM »
The 24th checks in...  ;)
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Stormtrooper's Fiction / Re: A.F.R.I.C.A. Part 2: TRAPPIST-1 Run - Quarantine
« Last post 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.


Quote
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.
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Stormtrooper's Fiction / Re: A.F.R.I.C.A discussion thread
« Last post by nuclearslurpee on November 15, 2022, 10:05:15 PM »
And so I live on,

Damn.

Quote
this AAR lives on and hopefully I'll finish it without any further major hiccups along the way.

I mean yay.

I'll have to try to get back on the AAR wagon for this one, might be a challenge since I've had little time and a growing backlog again but the Part 2 prompt sounds promising and unique as always.
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Stormtrooper's Fiction / Re: A.F.R.I.C.A discussion thread
« Last post by Stormtrooper on November 15, 2022, 07:12:41 PM »
Well, between IRL mess, Aurora burnout and then the sheer momentum of it being so damn hard to go back to stuff one has too much of a break from, this AAR might as well have appeared as completely dead, abandoned and all the worst - I'm sorry.

I couldn't bring myself to play Quasar 4x again, especially after looking at 2.0 changelog, but fortunately 2.0 is here, together with some later patches and hotfixes. And a new major version might be just what I needed. I'm back, and that means this AAR is back as well. Originally I planned to run everything on one save, but fortunately what I have prepared for Part two will just work perfectly on a fresh one (but same story!), this time on the legendary Aurora 2.0 (more like 2.1.1 to be precise...). And so I live on, this AAR lives on and hopefully I'll finish it without any further major hiccups along the way.

Part one - introduction and Synthetic Dawn - was made to set up this retrofuturistic cyberpunk world, the general outline of lore and its major points that are yet to be properly resolved and the beginning of reconnecting the fallen world with the one that later emerged from the N.O.V.A. Bunker System. But what's a cyberpunk story without a proper cyberspace run - hence Part 2 (though honestly it's more like Part 1,5). For a change of pace figured out Aurora's minimalistic interface of stars and planets will do more than fine to represent cyberspace nodes and clusters. With the way I build my own lore it'll probably work even better than it did for my regular space adventures, because this time being restricted by jump points actually works because cyberspace routes, connections and everything.

This section is meant to be quick and intense, just for me to avoid second burnout due to long periods of staring at a loading screens without anything interesting happening - only 10 stars, but 2 NPRs, very high chance of generating a new one in a new system, all the spoilers turned on (both by me and NPRs), with the required number of player known systems for them to appear to be set to 1 (so active right from first turn), difficulty 400% and terraforming 250% as well as much higher player race's tolerance for environmental factors (acquiring a node in cyberspace is not really as lenghty project as terraforming a planet and it's all set this way for increasing of pace and intensity).

Expect intense combat as well as more lore development as some questions will be answered and new ones ask as more data is pulled from the nodes. Hope you'll forgive me this too long break and are as excited about this change of perspective as I am.
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Stormtrooper's Fiction / Re: A.F.R.I.C.A. Part 2: TRAPPIST-1 Run - Plug in
« Last post 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.


Quote
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.

6
Stormtrooper's Fiction / A.F.R.I.C.A. Part 2: TRAPPIST-1 Run
« Last post by Stormtrooper on November 15, 2022, 04:32:50 PM »
TRAPPIST-1 RUN

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.
7
Stormtrooper's Fiction / Re: A.F.R.I.C.A. - Clone Wars
« Last post by Stormtrooper on November 14, 2022, 06:29:37 PM »
Clone Wars

Ida Autoson was nervous. She was so nervous that despite her bright intellect, amplified with some brain-computer interface chips and optimized synthetic veins being more effective at pumping oxygen and sugar into her brain, she only kept telling herself that she was nervous over and over again, unable to form any more complex thoughts, clinging to the ancient idea about toning an emotion down by openly admitting to it. Ter Threpangalia Gamma - as the Mutants called their primeval world - the small, but dense planet, the most alien out of the four inhabited worlds of 61 Virginis - had too little oxygen and too little pressure and the dark blue-greenish colors of the sky made her bionic stomach swirl and turn upside down. The city below Comitee's Hall contrasted both the sickening tone of planet's atmosphere and the neo noir glow of Solar System architecture. The white towers were so bright they must've been brighter during the night than SynthCity was during the day. And while the buildings were at least as tall and massive as well - the city only had one level. It was... oddly pure compared to the genetic composition of its inhabitants, where  having an ear grow out of a knee wasn't anything special and the cliche third eye gene was considered the most attractive trait a descendant of clones might posess, simply due to its clicheness. Of course, such visible modifications were very, very rare - they were too unstable and invasive for people to live with them, so they'd either be engineered out of the genome before birth or the patient would've perished - but ironically it was more unsettling to see a normal-looking human being knowing that some wild cancer ravaged through the body than to see an obvious mutant like from a comic book of the pre-apocalypse legacy. And maybe the outward purity of the city was a compensation for the screwed-up genes. And the metaphor went beyond that - it was such a human thing to obsess over one thing to compensate for the other, to make a pose and hide from own lack of self-esteem. And chasing humanity, no matter how flawed, must've been important to the people living there. And maybe they took special pride in traits nobody would want to feel proud about, as to oppose the philosophy of whatever human-enchancing programmes their ancestors had been put through.

Of course, the white towers were just a facade - that part didn't differ from the cities she'd seen before. The white towers were for the elite - the comitee and whoever they considered friends. Or enemies it was cheaper to bribe than to kill. Mutant's hatred for capitalism and the need to stick together imprinted in their mutated brains back from the days of societal ostracism on Mars was a very fertile land to grow certain ideologies on. The people of Mutant Alliance rebelled against corporation owners, not wanting to give up their genes for their profits - only to end up having them ripped off them in the name of Collective Purity Project. "Your genes, our future" - claimed the propaganda posters glittering above each extraction lab. The Comitee, being omnipotent and infallible, had to stick with it, but whatever pockets of resistance still existed absolutely loved the catchphrase - "our" was supposed to mean "us all, you included, dear poster watcher", but the rebels enjoyed twisting this phrase into what it really meant - your genes, but our future. Not yours. And dying on an operating table was still quite a good alternative - more genes extracted meant lower Purity Score. And impure genotypes breed capitalistic exploitation, at least according to official media outlets. That this whole strive for clean DNA contradicted taking pride in mutated legacy and possibilities it opened up - hardly anyone dared to notice.

And yet, above it all, Inner Comitee behaved oddly similar to Exadev management - they had no reason to spare a bunch of millions of their own slum dwellers for cloning experiments - that's what they were best at and Mutant Alliance no longer had any use for them - but why give it away for free if you can ask a price? In exchange they demanded a sample batch of androids Exadev managed to shield from activating killswitch and infodump on the recent activity in the Solar System. In retrospect, Ida Autoson wasn't sure if admitting to the truth (well, at least part of it) was really that smart of a move, but without Alliance's help, it'd be only a matter of time before Avalon Heights seized control of Tau Ceti. And with it, the passage to 61 Virginis. So it was in the best interest of Alliance to cooperate. However, nobody at the company was stupid enough to believe once the dust settles the mutants will just leave the Solar System be - instead, they'd probably march right in, attempting to defeat the weakened winner and gaining control of all three contested systems for themselves.

***

A clone was not an android. But an android was also not a clone, and androids were a hell lot of harder to make. And usually the winner of a firefight is the side that fires more shots. Starting first helps, too. But to fight the androids head-on was utterly pointless. They had one fatal flaw. While the clones all came from the same brainwashed template, loyal to the last bit of DNA shiponed from their dead bodies, androids grew too complex to handle. Exadev remembered the stream from Avalon Heights Inc lab all too well. A simple factory grunt, suddenly displaying the capaibility of comfortably operating with abstract concepts, questioning its very existence and unsure whether it's up to the task of its creators... A perfect opportunity. The androids were never the target - Avalon Heights Inc was. And without their synthetic army they were naked and afraid.

The operation was simple: Get in, extract data on the "android philosopher", blow some stuff up, make it look it's a work of one of anti-androids terrorist groups, use data to "convince" rest of the machine army to give up the fight because it's all pointless yadda yadda, secure Solar System and be ready for when the mutants arrive. What could go wrong.

***

Far ultraviolet laser fire illuminated the cold Martian night. Or at least it did so in the eyes of clones bioengineered to detect broader light spectrum and androids registering every wavelength possible. No point in stealth or elaborate tactics, since the Electric Shepherd, which emblems the clones wore, were known for their raw brutality when dealing with the object of their hate. Didn't matter that so many died uncessessarily on the mines that could've been detected with more careful approach. Didn't matter that the drones launched fusion missiles denting holes in the waves of clones storming the lone android research facility. Meson artillery pounded the defences from single-use suborbital platforms launched specifically for this mission and designed to burn in the terraformed Martian atmosphere afterwards, small PURGE taskforce kept messing with the navigation systems of Avalon Space Fleet to stall them just enough by picking less than optimal orbital maneouvres, Exadev management even agreed to deploy a small elite units of their own androids just to confuse their synthetic opponents further.

Meatspace victory was a given. Throw enough lasers at the target, boom fzzzztttt, problem solved. And Exadev just happened to have quite a few blasters stockpiled. But the team overseeing cyberspace aspect of the battle was too small and too focused on stalling the space fleet to prevent all the invading clones being bombed from orbit that it skipped one faint signal, easily lost in the neon forest of a myriad of others flowing through the virtual reality. And it's not that the effort of assault force mattered, because entire cybersecurity department of Avalon Heights Inc missed it, too. The Old World reminded about itself once more. Something inside it laid dormant, until it detected something. And not even the best netrunner could process it faster than an artificial brain, so the androids and AIs scattered around the matrix got to it first. Something advanced. Something seeking contact with the ones advanced enough. A sophisticated AI or a biological being at its core - impossible to tell. A simulation itself or not - but it knew how to resonate with another simulation. And it could give it a sense of purpose. So that this lonely android processing human concepts, but feeling so disconnected from them because being created as something fundamentally different than a human, could find something as deep for a machine as the philosophy it touched was for creatures of flesh, circuit and bone.

The best programmers struggled to understand the nature and purpose of this entity. Its origin - lost to history and eroded data. Its purpose - overwriting itself faster than any specialist could wrap their head around it. Its methods - unknown. Its source code - obfuscated. Its network protocols - encrypted.

But among all the cyberspace constructs beyond understanding, one message was plain and simple. An invitation to Trappist 1 system.

END OF PART ONE
8
General C# Fiction / Re: Revival
« Last post by MeatyBoii on November 14, 2022, 03:03:47 PM »
Day 1

   The invasion begins. After a few hours, the invaders openly describe themselves as revolutionaries fighting for democratic and free government for the humanity in Homeworld.
Five cities are quickly overrun and fall under control of the invaders, who openly named themselves  the "Humanity Freedom Movement", henceforward named HFM.
   Main planetary arsenal falls under control of HFM who quickly loot all heavy equipment before securing the location.
   The Freedom Broadcast is made public.
   Human colonies at Celestis and Brutix fall under control of HFM.
   In space, most of the invading fleet is destroyed or captured by Terra Nova (TN) navy vessels. Out of all the freighters of the invading force, just one made it to safety, outrunning the cutters in pursuit.

Day 2

   HFM forces at Myrmidon and Moros reignite their fighting. Small and poorly armed defense forces of the colonies are forced to surrender, with the arriving cutters still three days of travel away. The few available CWIS defences are jury rigged to target incoming naval vessels, information made public by a rogue broadcast. TN Navy vessels retreat and return to Unity orbit.
   HFM continues the offensive on the Unity itself. A heavy push supported by few available tanks and mechs is launched against the last city with military unit stationed there. While the barracks manage to hold out, the entire city is quickly conquered by the invading troops.
   TN Navy regroups in the orbit of Unity. In all, four patrol crafts, two cutters and five captured ex-HFM freighters, which were found to have a gauss gun each. They are pressed into TN Navy, with skeleton crew operating those.
   By the end of Day 2, military units besieged in the recently counquered barracks attempt a breakthrough to the capital city. Despite moderate losses, most of the troops - as well as all heavy equipment - makes it to the city wall.
   HFM controls seven out of thirteen settlements on Unity.

Day 3

   TN Navy initiates first orbital bombardment of supply lines of HFM army. Due to lack of training and poor combat readiness, most of the shots miss and destroy civilian housing as well as industry.
   Fleeing HFM freighter is observed falling apart due to probably excessive acceleration and attempted tight maneuvers.
   Ex-TN UMV Unity broadcasts message to Unity government, warning against move towards Celestis, claimning that life support systems would be destroyed if any offensive operation is spotted.
   HFM army on surface of Unity attempts reconneissance in force against the capital city. The vanguard is destroyed by massed defensive fire from multiple locations. HFM artillery and mechs attempt to provide cover, but they are unable to help pinned troops, who surrender.
   At the same time, a pincer move is executed about both neighbouring cities on the capital ring. Both cities quickly fall, nearly devoid of all civilians and with only automated defenses remaining.

Day 4

   TN Navy secures the few remaining defensive systems on the Ark. They are activated, and Ark is officialy christened a defensive installation.

Day 5

   HFM forces now control all the cities on Unity except for capital city which remains encircled. There are some supply planes and drones ferrying supplies in and out, with few destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. This is countered by orbital bombardment, which slowly becomes more and more accurate.
   The small and disorganised groups of HFM troops on Myrmidon are suddenly facing civilians who took arms and makeshift weapons against them. After an hour of struggle, the last HFM soldier surrenders. This is the first TN settlement retaken during the civil war.

Day 11

   HFM forces on Unity attempt a massed assault on the capital city. The defensive wall is breached in multiple spots with HFM units pouring through the openings, but are eventually forced back. Both sides face heavy losses.
   HFM gains control of two gauss guns under construction on Unity. They are turned into a makeshift turret with use of skills of their engineers.

Day 13

   Second defensive turret is built by HFM and placed in the middle of one of the conquered cities.
   Three vessels are detected incoming from the asteroid belt separating inner and outer planets. They lack targeting components and have to be aimed manually.

Day 14

   HFM draw out orbital fire with few units feigning advance. Once cutters open fire, the defensive turrets fire back. Two glancing hits remove chunks of superstructure of one of the cutters, forcing it to retreat to the shipyards of the Ark. Further shots heavily damage two of the captured freighters. TN Navy is forced to retreat to higher orbit beyond the predicted range of the turrets.
   Four vessels are spotted approaching Unity, with one of them visibly larger than the remaining three. The vessels of TN Navy are put on high alert and resupplied from the Ark.

Day 16

   HFM forces attempt another assault at the capital, utilising nearly all available forces. Despite initial troubles, they are able to break the defences after two hours, partially due to TN army units surrendering in vulnerable sectors. The turrets used for defence against orbital threats were turned at the spires of the capital city, bringing down the biggest building of the planet.
   The initial advance of HFM is stopped by a last ditch counterattack by all remaining mechanized forces of TN. HFM maintains a few bridgeheads in the city, but are unable to break through.

Day 19

   TN attempts an attack on HFM positions within the capital city, but they are unable to break through the heavy defences.
   On other fronts, small TN detachments depart for four different cities on the circle highway. They meet only token resistance, and quickly reestablish control over the settlements. HFM is aware of these attacks but are unable to commit any more troops to the new fronts.

Day 21

   Approaching vessels send a transmission to the armed forces at Unity. They identify themselves as HFM Navy ships, escorting a troop transport. They officialy request a cease fire on the surface of Unity, which is denied by TN. Three escorts accelerate, while the troop transport slows down.

Day 23

   HFM Navy engages the TN Navy vessels. Being much larger, boasting heavier armament and protection they manage to gain an upper hand on the orbit of Unity. Two cutters are destroyed, four freighters damaged and attempt to flee. HFM does not undertake a pursuit.
   The HFM troop transport accelerates again and heads towards Unity.
   Another two massive ships are spotted arriving to Celestis.
   HFM Army undertakes another assault, this time supported by orbital forces. They are able to overwhelm the defenders at multiple sectors, eventually forcing multiple units to surrender. A few sectors still hold out, however, with a large number of civilians enlisting into volunteer units.

Day 24

   HFM army takes control over the Ark, whose defences are destroyed or incapacitated.
Multiple shuttles detach from the troop transport and begin lifting troops to the surface, bringing exhaused combat troops back to the ship.

Day 25

   Remainder of TN Navy heads to Brutix and enacts a blockade of the moon.
   HFM Army retreats from the forward positions around the capital city, with the troops converging on the shuttle pad. A tight defensive circle around this location is established. Shuttles are seen flying between the troop transport and outlying cities on Unity.

Day 27

   TN Army attempts a recon mission against known HFM forwards position. They meet no resistance. TN staff discovers that the majority of HFM forces are retreating from the planet, with heavy shuttles lifting a lot of heavy equipment from the planet.
   TN Army units attempt a massed assault at the shuttle pad, but are driven back by heavy orbital bombardment.

Day 28

   HFM Navy ships begin approaching the TN Navy vessels blockading Brutix. A short fight starts, which leaves both sides with heavy damage. HFM ships limp back to the troop transport, who ignites its propulsion and moves towards Celestis.

Day 29

   TN Army begins mop up operations across the entire surface of Unity. No alive troops of HFM are found.
   Shuttles launch from Brutix and Moros, linking up with the troop transport. Soon enough contact is reestablished with both colonies, as the police units are able to reestablish control over the colonies.

Day 30

   There are officially no HFM forces in close proximity to Unity left. The tracking instruments on Ark were destroyed and the incoming or departing vessels are untrackable.



An excerpt from the Unity Herald, the prime newspaper of Unity, a day after the invasion forces departed from the planetary system around Unity

The invasion proves to be devastating to Terra Nova. While the collateral losses were not as sever as it was first expected, massive losses to infrastructure, stolen industry, as well as extremely diminished armed forces of Unity might prove detrimental to our continued existence.

Of course, we are here. The invaders are gone, currently escaping to the outer planets. But who knows how many are there really? Initial attack came as a complete surprise, with both navy and army caught by a complete surprise. We still aren't in contact with Celestis, and it's feared that the contact wont be established any time soon. From what we know, the invaders have entrenched themselves deeply in the planet, with some smuggled photos showing something that could be described as orbital defenses, something that our navy is plainly incapable of counteracting.

Currently, our politicians are unable to answer any questions posed by anyone. They can make no promises, nor do they want to – for the first time in a long time. Military outright refuses to talk with any civilians about the situation. Questions regarding the state of Ark remain unanswered.

For now? We can't be sure of anything. We don't know what to do, what will happen, and what's our current course of action.

We must wait – and see what happens.
9
Steve's Fiction / Re: Gothic III Screenshots
« Last post by Steve Walmsley on November 13, 2022, 12:11:40 PM »
Now almost 19 years into the game and I have explored 237 systems. I think I have wiped out the weakest of the five Hive fleets, although there a few stragglers I haven't tracked down and I have taken a couple more Necron systems, although still not the major Necron system of Hagia. Despite three Aether Rifts, there is no sign of any Chaos ships so far.

I am also holding ground against the fast attack craft of the other hives using the Faustus class interceptor. The latest in the series is shown below. They operate in groups of three (six for older models) from Hydra class bases located within a few million kilometres of the contact jump points.

Faustus V class Interceptor      2,000 tons       22 Crew       886.6 BP       TCS 40    TH 806    EM 0
20164 km/s      Armour 1-14       Shields 0-0       HTK 14      Sensors 0/0/0/0      DCR 0-0      PPV 12
Maint Life 1.15 Years     MSP 1,150    AFR 400%    IFR 5.6%    1YR 878    5YR 13,169    Max Repair 403.125 MSP
Commander    Control Rating 1   BRG   
Intended Deployment Time: 1.5 days    Morale Check Required   

Ravenor AC-800-DB Attack Craft Drive (1)    Power 806.2    Fuel Use 166.02%    Signature 806.25    Explosion 21%
Fuel Capacity 198,000 Litres    Range 10.7 billion km (6 days at full power)

Valentinian-Ventris V12-240 Heavy Lance Battery (1)    Range 240,000km     TS: 20,164 km/s     Power 37-5    ROF 40       
MK III Faustus Fire Control (1)     Max Range: 320,000 km   TS: 15,000 km/s     97 94 91 88 84 81 78 75 72 69
R-5B Inertial Confinement Fusion Reactor (1)     Total Power Output 5.1    Exp 20%
MK III Fury Augur Array (1)     GPS 3     Range 3.5m km    MCR 317.9k km    Resolution 1

Hydra class Interceptor Base      9,750 tons       162 Crew       1,266.9 BP       TCS 195    TH 0    EM 0
1 km/s      Armour 1-40       Shields 0-0       HTK 74      Sensors 0/33/0/0      DCR 12-12      PPV 0
Maint Life 11.89 Years     MSP 3,474    AFR 63%    IFR 0.9%    1YR 45    5YR 680    Max Repair 105 MSP
Hangar Deck Capacity 6,000 tons     
Captain    Control Rating 2   BRG   AUX   
Intended Deployment Time: 120 months    Flight Crew Berths 120    Morale Check Required   

Fuel Capacity 451,000 Litres    Range N/A

MK II Light Cruiser Active Augur Array (1)     GPS 12600     Range 94.6m km    Resolution 120
MK II Cloak Detection Array (1)     GPS 315     Range 21.1m km    Resolution 15
MK II Very Large Electromagnetic Augur Array (1)     Sensitivity 33     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  45.4m km
 
There are still no Inertial Fusion ships in service larger than the Faustus, except for a couple of freighters, although I should have the first before 4020. The Tyranid Hive and its escort ships were taken out by a pair of Emperor II class battleships (Indominus Rex and Thunder of Heaven), with similar tech cruisers and light cruisers in support.

Emperor II class Battleship      78,125 tons       2,533 Crew       19,353.1 BP       TCS 1,562    TH 12,500    EM 25,500
8000 km/s      Armour 10-162       Shields 850-510       HTK 492      Sensors 33/33/0/0      DCR 60-7      PPV 408
Maint Life 1.61 Years     MSP 9,299    AFR 814%    IFR 11.3%    1YR 4,188    5YR 62,820    Max Repair 1250 MSP
Captain    Control Rating 2   BRG   AUX   
Intended Deployment Time: 12 months    Morale Check Required   

Ravenor RDS-2500-B Magnetic Fusion Drive (5)    Power 12500    Fuel Use 22.10%    Signature 2500    Explosion 12%
Fuel Capacity 2,349,000 Litres    Range 24.5 billion km (35 days at full power)
Valentinian-Stern VS-85 Void Shield (10)     Recharge Time 510 seconds (1.7 per second)

Valentinian-Ventris V12-240 Heavy Lance Battery (12)    Range 240,000km     TS: 8,000 km/s     Power 37-5    ROF 40       
Astaroth Kinetics AK-25 Weapons Battery (24x4)    Range 250,000km     TS: 8,000 km/s     Power 15-5     RM 50,000 km    ROF 15       
AK-10 Defence Battery (24x4)    Range 50,000km     TS: 8,000 km/s     Power 3-3     RM 50,000 km    ROF 5       
MK IV Energy Weapon Fire Control (6)     Max Range: 320,000 km   TS: 8,000 km/s     97 94 91 88 84 81 78 75 72 69
R-25 Tokamak Fusion Reactor (10)     Total Power Output 254    Exp 5%

MK II Cloak Detection Array (1)     GPS 315     Range 21.1m km    Resolution 15
MK II Battleship Active Augur Array (1)     GPS 30240     Range 146.5m km    Resolution 120
MK II Torpedo Detection Array (1)     GPS 21     Range 8.6m km    MCR 771.7k km    Resolution 1
MK II Very Large Electromagnetic Augur Array (1)     Sensitivity 33     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  45.4m km
MK III Very Large Thermal Augur Array (1)     Sensitivity 33     Detect Sig Strength 1000:  45.4m km

ECCM-1 (1)         ECM 20

Strike Group
1x Thunderhawk Assault Transport   Speed: 9504 km/s    Size: 19.99
10
Garfunkel's Fiction / Re: Interstellar Mercenaries
« Last post by Warer on November 11, 2022, 07:13:11 PM »
Damn that quality, can't beat it!
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