Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Pryce of Heaven: Hacking Heaven (Part III)

The three of them sit against the wall. They wish they could save Jupiter, but none of them had the power to do so. Tetra couldn’t summon him to her location, and if she had tried to jump to his location, she would have immediately started dying too, because she has no idea how to survive in the vacuum of space. Missy could have tried to slow time for him, but then what? How would they have gotten him out? Téa doesn’t have any powers to speak of, so she feels even more useless. They just were never the right team to deal with a contingency like that, and now it’s up to them to continue his vision. That won’t be easy, because even though they’re in the matrioshka body now, they have no clue how to find whatever they need to get to, or what they’re going to do when they get there. Missy is still a brilliant engineer, but they just don’t have enough information about this place, or how it works.
“Does anyone know that we’re here?” Téa asks. The reality is that none of them knew Jupiter very well, and as sad as it is, the biggest issue they face is the fact that he had some kind of plan, not that they’ve been traumatized directly.
Missy takes a tablet out of her bag, and starts doing what she can. “I doubt I can hack into this place. For all intents and purposes, we might as well be trying remotely, even though we’re technically in the building. I could do more with a hardline, but if I were to design a matrioshka body, I would compartmentalize the systems to an extreme degree. We would probably not be able to do more than turn the lights on and off in this section.”
“How long would it take if we were to walk from here to where the main system most likely is?” Tetra asks. “I understand we can’t do that, but what would it look like? I’m just having trouble fathoming the size of this thing.”
Missy chuckles. “How long would it take to walk to Jupiter? How long would it take you to drive? Hell, how long would it take you to fly? From head to heel, it’s about the distance from the sun to the orbit of Neptune. We’re in the ass.”
“There has to be some form of faster than light travel,” Téa figures. “You don’t build something this big unless you can get clear to the other side of it in a reasonable amount of time, should you need to.”
“It wasn’t really built for humans,” Missy explains. “Mechs can just transfer their consciousnesses somewhere else instantaneously, and start operating a new body. Like I was saying before, this is not a solid structure. It’s a bunch of gravitationally bound parts, which move in concert. A moon could probably fit within the space between a finger and its hand.”
They sit in silence for a moment while Missy keeps working.
“We’re still in the bubble, right?” Téa inquires.
“Yeah,” Missy confirms. “The rooms around us are frozen in time.”
“I guess that’s good at least.”
They sit for another moment until a voice comes through their cuffs. “Hello? Do you read me?
“Jupiter?” Tetra asks. “Jupiter, is that you?”
It is,” he replies.
“Jupiter, how are you al—”
Missy interrupts Téa’s question by cupping her hand around her mouth.
You guys still there?” Jupiter asks. “If you’re avoiding asking me about my death, don’t worry. There’s no risk of a paradox, or anything. I’m not from the past. I am a quantum duplication of myself. I made a copy just as we were jumping, in case we needed someone to stay with the ship. I don’t really know why I didn’t tell you, but it looks like I made the right call. It’s taken me this long to establish a secure connection with you.
“So you don’t have to die?” Missy makes sure.
No, already happened. The good news is that this gives us an opportunity. Is my body there?
Tetra slides her back up the wall, and stands to look out the viewport. “It’’s close, but...” While his other body is on the other side of the hull, it’s still inside of Missy’s temporal bubble, but that doesn’t matter much, because there’s no way to get to it. They would need an airlock, and a vacuum suit. It might as well be on another planet.
That’s fine,” Jupiter said. “There’s a teleportation feature built into them. It won’t let you go wherever you want, but it will allow two cuff-wearers to jump directly to one another. The problem is it’s designed as an outgoing feature. You can’t use it to summon someone towards you. Missy, I’m going to need you to hack into them. Shouldn’t be too hard for you, Leona and Sanaa did it all the time. Maybe you could reverse the polarity?
Missy bursts out laughing. “If that was a joke, it was a good one, if not, it’s probably even funnier. But okay, I’ll see what I can do.” She gets to work on her cuff interface, trying to find a way to make it so they can bring Jupiter’s body into the room. No one bothers asking him why this is even a thing. They can’t fully trust him, but they can probably trust that he isn’t asking them to use his corpse to recreate Weekend at Bernie’s. Within a half hour, Missy has finished what she needs to do. Once she activates the apporter, the body appears on the floor before them.
Okay,” the living Jupiter says. “Now it’s time to move on to the hard part.
“That wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” Missy points out.
This isn’t going to be hard on a technical level,” Jupiter begins to clarify, “but a psychological one. If you could reach into my inside breast pocket, and retrieve a little black and white bag thing.
Tetra does this. “Got it.”
That is a bag of holding. The white side is a virtual inventory carousel. I need you to look for something called an oligodendroglian interceptor kit.
“Found it,” Tetra says. She selects the item on the screen, which causes the real thing to appear on the floor. It’s larger than the bag it was in. “What does it do?”
Open it up.
Tetra opens the pack, and starts to lay out all the pieces on the provided sanitary cloth. They look like medical devices. No...surgical tools.
Téa is watching it happen. “You’re gonna make us cut into your brain?”
The body’s already dead,” he reminds them. “You can’t hurt it. Just dig a hole, find a spot to stick the antenna, and connect to it with your tablet. It’s just like syncing your phone with a pair of wireless headphones.
“It’s absolutely not like that,” Téa argues.
Oligodendrocytes are all over the brain. You just have to stick it on and connect. I know it’s gross, but this will allow us to hack into the simulation.
“They don’t do this in The Matrix,” Tetra notes.
They probably could,” he retorts. “Look, this has to happen quickly. We’re finally at an advantage I never had, because the signal is extremely strong here, but it won’t be long before my copy’s body loses its link to its former consciousness. You have to do this now.
“Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine,” Tetra says.
“No, I’ll do it,” Téa decides. I’m not a teleporter, or a tech genius, but I’ve cooked meat before, and I feel like I need to contribute something.”
No one argues with her.
Téa gracelessly uses the blade to cut into Jupiter’s head, all the way into the brain. She then drops this little pebble thing into her hole, and waits for Missy to find the connection on her tablet. It really is as easy as he claimed. Within seconds, she’s linked up to his neural signal. It’s fading fast, but it’s enough for her to establish a permanent connection to where the neural signal is going, which is directly into Pryce’s afterlife simulation. From here, they should be able to gain access to the virtual constructs.
“How much time do you need?” Tetra asks as Téa is getting herself cleaned up.
“Impossible to tell. I don’t know how complex this is, or even what language it’s written in. I’m from the 21st century, this is all pretty far beyond me. I hope there are a few cots in that bag, because it could take days, or honestly, even weeks. Sorry.”
Several hours later, Missy has pretty much full control of the simulation. She would be capable of switching it off, or altering its speed of time, or even giving people clone bodies to transfer their minds into. None of that really helps them, though. They don’t need control of the simulation, but the matrioshka body as a whole, and they need to use that control to detrone Pryce himself. Unfortunately, they’re separate systems by design, to prevent something like this very thing from happening.
“We need a distraction,” Tetra suggests as Missy is looking through the simulation specifications. “Someone is going to have to go in, and make a big stink, so the other two can get to the real controls.”
“I think we all know Missy can’t be the person who goes into the simulation,” Téa adds. She needs to stay out here, so it obviously has to be me.”
“It could be me,” Tetra contends. “I’m the one who thought of it.”
“And you also have superpowers, which I’ve already explained. I can make a stink. I made a lot of stinks when I was younger, I was an abolitionist. It has to be me, in case Missy needs you out here.”
The other two give her this look.
Téa continues, “I won’t be dead, so Pryce won’t be able to delete my code, or whatever. I’m just hacking in, and if anything goes wrong, I’ll come right back to my body.”
“I can’t promise that,” Missy says, shaking her head.
“I don’t know if my pattern is over or not,” Téa goes on. “If the powers that be still have a hold of me, then I will ultimately be here for three hundred years, at which point, who knows? But at least there’s a chance they’ll protect me. You two can’t say the same thing.” She lifts her cuff closer to her mouth. “Neither can you, Mister Fury. So jam that needle into the back of my head, give me a halo, stick electrodes on me, or do whatever it is you gotta do. Let’s stop wasting time.”
Jupiter informs them that there is indeed a VR cap in his bag. It isn’t all that difficult to interface it with Missy’s tablet, and the simulation signal. Tetra places the cap on Téa’s head, and Missy prepares to send her into the frametrix, as she calls it jokingly.
“I’m putting you in lurker mode,” Missy goes over. “No one will be able to see you if you don’t want them to. Take as much time as you need to get your bearings, and make a plan. Pryce will probably be able to see you right away, but he might not notice immediately; it just depends on how preoccupied he is already.”
“Got it. Beam me up, Missy.”
Missy activates the sequence, and resolves Téa into the simulation.

She’s standing in a room. A room full of Jupiters. It looks like a party, except that every guest is the same person. They are all wearing different clothes, but all in the same style, and they all have dates and times on their shirts. No one else is around, and Téa wants answers, so she reveals herself to the world. Little by little, they notice her amongst them.
“Who is this?” one of them asks.
“She looks familiar,” observes another.
The Jupiter listed as December 14, 2134 approaches her. “Miss Stendahl, you’ve come. But you’re not dead, right?”
“Nope,” Téa replies. “We hacked into the sim.”
He nods. “That was a contingency, in case you couldn’t gain physical access to the servers.”
“I don’t know if Missy knows where they are, or what,” she explains. “It’s just my job to create a distraction.”
December 14, 2134 lets out a maniacal laugh, and looks around at his quantum duplicates. “We can do that, can’t we boys!”
Responses like, “hell yeah,” and “I’m great at that,” came out of the duplicates. They whoop and holler and smash their glasses on the floor. One of them conjures a baseball bat, and breaks a lamp with it.
“That’s right!” December 14, 2134 concurs. Still smiling, he looks back at Téa. “I knew there was a reason I kept letting my duplicates die.” He nods proudly as they begin rushing out of the party venue. “Let’s go raise some hell.”

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