Life is sometimes best shown in the obscure

Another Bloody Walk

At some point we will all get tired of this… Well I won’t but I will stop posting pictures as I will be covering the same walk… Okay to be brutally honest I will unlikely stop posting pictures as well.

This walk was across Ryelands Park, over Carlisle Bridge, along the river to the wetlands, up the lane to Aldcliffe and the canal, along the canal and then back into the City via Ashton Road to the Shadowcat Offices on White Cross

Pictures below.

Out Walking (Again)

Another day, another hours (which ended up as 90 mins due to a DETOUR) trek around Lancaster.

This time I trudged up the hill to Wliamson Park, down to the canal and detoured round the revitalised Fairfield Gardens and Nature Reserve before passing the castle and down the hill back home.

Some pictures below:

Out Walking

I came back to live in Lancaster in 2006 eventhough I could have chosen to live almost anywhere. I have been asked why Lancaster and not somewhere like Manchester or London and the answer has always been the views.

In the current pandemic crisis that has become even more true. Where else could I live in a city with access to art, culture, shopping and travel and still be within 20 minutes walk of the countryside?

Anyway here’s some pictures from today’s walk.

Written in 365 Parts: 159: I Needed You Alive

“I never was going to tell you anything, as I said, you are a product. You are now inconsequential. The task you were designed for cannot be completed by you. You are too damaged. So you are now expendable, it is why we tried to kill you in the Justice Department.” The figure laughed. “So this assault will eventually fail. Hopefully you will survive so that when I get my new body and have my memories brought up to date I can return the favour and interview you both. Though, I will admit, that I will be making my version very unpleasant.”

Drick read an internal screen and acknowledged the message. Signalling Marsh, Drick confirmed he had done the same. “You think you are going to take us alive?” Drick asked.

“I didn’t expect either of you, or your associates, to attempt a suicide mission. I know you are still in the building, as I am still in the building.”

“Yes, you are.” said Drick.

“That was another of your mistakes. In this building I have a significant amount of control. You should have kidnapped me. Then my implants would have been less effective and my memory not auto-stored to the building’s very secure servers.” The figure slid gently backwards in their chair as a replica of the desk appeared. “I may as well get into the same position for when you drop the construct. Why don’t we do that now so we can talk in the flesh.”

“Not yet,” said Drick, “I would prefer it if you told Marsh just a little more.”

“Why? What value can it serve? He could never get to them.” A gentle laugh, “even I would have difficulty.”

“I am sure they have offices, in fact I think we viewed their schematics,” Marsh replied.

“Yee On Kline is not the intellect that wanted you, and they are not anywhere close to where you could get to.” A longer laugh. “Now let’s drop this foolishness and talk in person.”

“That would be a little hard,” said Drick, “you see we left some time ago.”

“What?” a look of incredulity. “Why would you break in to have a pointless conversation?”

“Actually it has been most useful, “ said Drick, “don’t you agree Marsh?”

“Yup, the idiot leaked way more information than we thought they would.” Marsh laughed.

“You know nothing and it will be of no use to you. What a stupid waste of your time and resources. You did all this to have a few snippets of conjecture.” They were stood now, the desk and chair had disappeared and rage twisted their features.

“No,” said Drick. “I did all this to get all this for an entirely different reason. One that you will never know as in a few moments you will be very dead. Well this version of you will be very dead.”

“As soon as I get my download I will know everything, you will be hunted down.”

“Really. I look forward to you learning what has happened here. I would so like to see your face. I know exactly what you will know.” Drick smiled.

“Why would you do this?” they snarled angrily.

“You will never fully know, and I am not going to tell you. Enough to say we only kept you talking in here because you are the most high ranking operational officer in the compound. It wasn’t about killing you. If I wanted you dead, for any reason and not just for trying to kill me and my friends. Then you would be dead. I needed you alive. But not anymore.”

“Don’t you…”

The molecular explosion that Drick triggered remotely destroyed the entire of the contents of the office, and the windows, ceiling and floor. All of the elements broken apart into simple compounds. It left a gaping hole, a semi-globe like an ice cream scoop had torn through the building, where the highest ranking officer had been. Below alarms were blaring from the secure underground levels and two wisps of, slowly dissipating, smoke and gasses were all that remained of the outside forces.

Written in 365 Parts: 158: Orange Blooms

Charlie fired shots into the remaining security guard in the sub-level ensuring that they would be paralysed for several hours. Alpha covered the corridor from a vantage point part way up the wall while Charlie scanned the four remaining rooms to ensure that it was safe. The security screens, and personnel numbers matching their intelligence, told them they had covered everyone in the three floors they had gone down. But it was second nature to verify with a visual check ensuring they would not be disturbed.

Charlie signalled the floor was clear, and waited as Alpha detached from the wall and joined them. Moving as if one body the two Dricks quickly went into the second room on the left-hand side of the corridor. It was a break room for security personnel. Inside there were several circular metal tables fixed to the floor with seats attached to the underside of the tables. Along one wall were dispensing machines for food and drinks.

Alpha pulled the backpack from Charlie and started to unpack its contents. They passed Charlie a plasma cutting torch and Charlie immediately moved to a table that was in the area indicated on their overlay floor plan. They knelt and started to cut the fixings from the floor so the table could be moved.

Alpha had pulled two large tanks from the knapsack. They were controlled environment flasks. They used a monitor pad to attach to each tank and checked the contents. The internal environment was still inert at the moment and reported as being fully functional. A quick glance at Charlie confirmed the table would be free of its fixings in a few moments. Alpha started the activation sequence on both tanks, and then moved over to Charlie to help them lift and move the table.

They both checked the schematics. The circuit block they needed to interface with was directly below this section of the floor. Between them and the block was nearly three metres of reinforced plasticrete. Alpha placed the tanks on the floor and adjusted them so that they would release their contents directly above the circuit block and released the remote trigger that opened the cannisters. A metallic sludge poured out and instantly started to eat away at the surface of the floor. These were billions of nanorobots that had been specifically designed to pull the reinforced plasticrete apart to its molecular level. Using the exchange of forces for fuel and releasing the vast majority of the elementals that made up the surface as gases and dust particles. A second set of small machines was consuming this dust and gas. Using it to create duplicates of themselves to replace the work out nanobots who had only seconds of life before they wore down. The worn down bots were not wasted, they were re-assembled to be structurally similar to plasticrete and placed carefully to the side of the hole by their own descendents.

It was several worrying minutes before the Dricks saw real progress as the number of nanobots slowly decreased and a clear hole was formed. There was a precise circle of sixty centimetres diameter and three metres depth, at the bottom of which was an embedded block of circuitry. This was the main junction block for the fibre relays of the building. Every piece of electronic information flowed through this junction. It was in reality a very repetitive series of switches and pathways, but was significantly complex enough to be a low level intellect in its own right. 

Alpha readied a small harness for Charlie and then slowly lowered the doppelganger into the hole. The nanobots had all left the hole and returned to the cannisters as was in their instructions. A new programme was being downloaded into their functional matrices for the next stage of their task.

Charlie reached the circuit block and quickly assembled a skeletal framework on top of it. Then they attached several specialised robots onto the arms of the framework they had built. They winched back up the hole and drew a small kinetic shield out. A thought activated the device below and the machine quickly sliced through the billions of fibres that ran into the circuit box and instantly repaired them at the same time placing an interrupter cable into each pathway. 

Alpha had not been idle while Charlie was in the hole. They had assembled a device from the second backpack. It was another pulse weapon, but this acted more like a spike of energy than a wave. Alpha was setting up a complex series of panels, all pointed at the floor below. There was little chance of the spike going all the way through the floor without there being significant help. For this reason they had also started to assemble a small epoxy. It was three inert chemicals that they poured into a large pool onto the floor. One on top of the other. A large paddle was used to stir the chemicals. They then took a small glass bead from a secure box and placed it in the centre of the mix of chemicals.

Charlie waited a few seconds longer than was required to ensure that all the interrupts were functional. They had at least thirty seconds of leeway in the plan and this was a crucial moment. Satisfied that the frame was in place they activated the system and signalled the controller. 

The device was a relay which simply allowed every pathway to receive a signal. But what that meant was that the vast series of intellects Rodero had prepared suddenly had full access to the entire of the network and more importantly the memory stacks for which this main board was the gateway. 

The security system for the building was already severely compromised. Mapped and observed by a few thousand ice programs that had been unleashed on the system. They gave enough insight to the intellect programs assaulting the main data store that it was a matter of microseconds for them to compromise the security. It was a few moments more to unravel the encryption, this was less difficult since Rodero had designed some of the principal algorithms themselves.  Then the system was breached and the intellects started to tear and transmit every item of data from the entire store.

Four minutes passed and then the system reported that they had taken almost all the data and transmitted it offsite using the maintenance relays and compromised satellite dish on the roof of the building. Drick Charlie winched themselves back down to the skeletal structure and quickly signalled it to repair and remove itself from the circuit box. At the same moment Drick Alpha restarted the nanobots who started to rebuild the plasticrete floor. Charlie had just four seconds of grace to remove the skeletal system before the nanobots started to rebuild the plasticrete over the circuit box. They quickly winched themselves out of the hole and nodded to Alpha.

Alpha triggered the small explosive and the ball exploded in the centre of the soup of three inert chemicals. They instantly reacted and turned into a powerful acid that started to melt the plasticrete floor. The nanobots completed repairing the floor and returned to their containers looking like nothing had happened. Charlie and Alpha quickly reattached the table to the floor with a molecular weld that showed no trace of the plasma cut. They had to ensure that no one knew they had accessed the junction box and the servers.

The room was filling with thick acrid smoke as Charlie and Alpha tossed the nanobots, tools and satchels into the deepening pool of gloop that had already eaten down through over a metre of the floor in a wide circle. Charlie and Alpha both signalled that this phase was complete and then placed themselves onto the edge of the hole. They waited until they could see the soup start to eat through the ceiling of the vast server stores below them. They could hear the screams and shouts of security personnel, and engineers, who were hidden inside that pulse shielded area.

Alpha looked at Charlie and nodded, They both sent a signal. “Task complete” and then as one they dropped into the hole and activated two switches. The first switch triggered the internal explosives both of them carried in stomach pouches which blew them to pieces and made  a larger hole through the floor.

They exploded in large orange blooms spraying the remnants of plasticrete and acid into the server storage area. The second trigger had fired the electromagnetic spike that was aimed into this server room. It was a wave of energy that was powerful enough to kill organic life that was within ten metres of its main beam. It was more than powerful enough to completely annihilate the vast memory stores in this room wiping them clean.

Written in 365 Parts: 157: Eradicate Everything

Beta and Delta breathed an almost simultaneous sigh of relief as the second wave of vehicles drew back to a safe distance. The assault from the auto-cannons had been too much for the vehicles. There had been ten vehicles in that wave, they were using magnetic suppression and electromagnetic damping to reduce the impact from the electro-mag cannons the two Dricks had deployed.

The protocol was still to reduce any extraneous loss of life or damage. That would only cause increased attention and would escalate any response. The response from this was already going to be significant. 

The cannons the Dricks had deployed fired targeted beams of electromagnetic energy, which was less damaging than a global pulse of energy but significantly more precise. They were commonly used by the justice and military sections of government. This weaponry caused less lasting damage and was sanctioned for use against civilians. They were highly illegal for non-official usage but that was less of a consideration when one was conducting an all out assault on a building. 

The enemy had tried to use speed and countermeasures to get close enough to overpower and land troops and support units. The second wave was harder to beat back than the first and had also revealed the weak spots on the defence coverage. The Dricks knew that the next wave would be even greater in force and would target that weakness. The next wave would likely succeed. They signalled the command and received the go ahead for the final phase of their part of the operation.

Drick Delta signalled to the watcher that they would not likely survive the next assault and that God would no longer be needed to watch them. It was not part of the mission parameters for them to require a rescue just to hold off support forces for the maximum length of time. 

While the assault team was attempting to inflict as few casualties as possible, the opposing side were not so picky. They waited for confirmation of their response and for approval to move to the final phase. It was a few moments before the response was given and they were requested to hold for as long as possible to give the internal teams time to implement the final phase of their assault.

The Two Dricks began to assemble the molecular explosives. Once triggered the bombs would eradicate everything in a three metre radius. In an instant a globe would be reduced to its components eradicating all traces that would reveal who had conducted the external assault.

Written in 365 Parts: 156: Tell Me Anything

“So amuse me,” they leaned back as a small side table appeared with a glass of iced water on it. “What is your contingency plan now?”

“In warfare you cannot always prepare for every contingency,” Drick said as they pulled a knife from a thigh sheath, “so you allow for improvisation.”

“I have told you that threats will not work. So that would be tedious.”

“Oh this,” said Drick looking at the knife, “you misunderstand. I like to chew.” Drick pulled a small block of dried beef substitute from a pouch and peeled a strip clear with the knife. A smile, and then Drick began chewing on the spiced protein.

“I’d still like to know about myself.” Said Marsh. “I get that you don’t have to say anything. And honestly I have no real control over this computer program we are in. I want to know more. Can you tell me more? Will you tell me more?”

“Why would I? Convince me if you like.” The smile was broader now as they relaxed and sipped at the iced water.

Marsh sighed and shook his head. “I can understand that it doesn’t benefit you. I can understand that you are probably paid to clean stuff up and this is just pointless to you, beside the taunting to pass the time. But does it really break any allegiance you have? Surely you are just a paid servant? What you know surely cannot have any level of consequence or value. So telling me changes nothing. In that regard holding back is meaningless. Unless you think that I will gain some special advantage? What does the truth hide?”

“I think you’ll find I have greater importance than you credit me with, and the truth can hide a multitude of lies and deceits. People often think it is the other way around. Use a lie to hide a truth. But the reality is more that truths can be brandished to hide the necessary undertakings of those who wield power. They don’t hide lies, they hide actions. Deception is movement that the eye doesn’t see not what words might conceal. Only politicians lie to hide truths.”

“I don’t get that,” Marsh looked confused. “I mean I know you control a region and that’s why your clients used you. But you are not at the head of this organisation. You’re an operations manager. That’s like middle management isn’t it? What makes you imagine you have such levels of power?”

“That’s how it is intended to look. Do you think those above me have greater say in the day to day control than I? Their job is long term financial and strategic partnerships. They are traders and accountants. I am the highest ranking active officer. What does that say to you? Active. Officer. You confuse power with position and that’s always a failure. I control this sector. I control all of the actions that happen here. I just don’t tally up the cost or invest in fiscal guesswork.”

 â€œSo you are not going to tell me anything?”

Written in 365 Parts: 155: A Very Good Question

“Let us move on as we are exhausting the point in discussing how you cannot really threaten me. This is the object that has been causing so much consternation?” The figure looked at Marsh and gestured with an open palm towards him. “I assume this is a fair representation of your external form? No augmentations? No alterations?”

“This is how I look,” said Marsh, “and I go by the name of Marsh.”

“Really, that’s of little consequence, but duly noted. You are not Marsh though, are you?” A tight smile played across the features once again. “I assume you want me to tell you all that I know about you? Why you were born and what purpose was in store for you?”

“It would be useful if you could fill in some gaps.” Marsh moved closer, but still kept a moderate distance. “Why were you trying to kill me for instance?”

“We were not, originally. We tried to recover you. If it weren’t for some unfortunate pieces of luck this would have been entirely dealt with and there would have been no complications.”

“Was it luck or was it incompetence?” Drick quipped.

“I think it would be fair to say it was a mixture of both,” They looked over at Drick, “but that’s a story that is replicated in many places. We were unfortunate and we were sloppy. Trust me when I tell you that those responsible for laxity were dealt with in an appropriate manner.”

“I bet they were. Always with the subtle little plays on words. What are you a criminal mastermind? Why not have a big chair with evil overlord emblazoned on it. Why not just say you had them minced? Also, why were you not included?”

“Aside from my high level position, my real failure was in being held back. I would have preferred to move to an immediate cleansing of the situation, but that decision was delayed. When I say cleansing I mean of course you, Marsh and all of your friends and associates. The item, Marsh as it likes to be known, was considered too valuable. A recovery of property was originally requested. Hence I was restricted and that allowed for errors to multiply.”

“I am not anyone’s property.” Marsh snapped angrily.

“Well, that’s not my debate,” the smile reappeared, “I merely couched it in terms that would be familiar to the client. They see you as their property.”

“Are you saying your organisation is tasked to do this work by a client?” asked Drick. “That’s interesting. Or is it that you refer to Yee On Kline as clients, or is it just someone inside that organisation?”

“So many little pieces of information, each one vital, and each unknown to you. It is a little more delicate and complicated than that. But they do have a significant financial contribution which allows them to dictate certain terms and conditions.”

“Why don’t you spell this out a little better. In fact, stop with the clever word play and just tell us plainly what you know.”

“Since we have established that I have no fear of you, or of dying in this form. That I can control this construct to some degree which will allow me to at least avoid any direct unpleasantness. That my forces in this building will soon overwhelm yours. That you have no real evidence that I have any information worth your while. That I am not indispensable, by the end, as we are calling them, client. That I have a replacement body and a recent copy of my persona available. That you will soon be my prisoner, unless you have already exited and this is remote, which is what I would do. That even if you are not here, I will find you and destroy you, and Marsh. I mean, I already took out your justice department friend. Did you really think that ruse in the morgue and the desert would work? Why would I tell you anything?”

“Well that’s a good question,” said Drick. “ A very good question.”

Written in 365 Parts: 154: The Real Risks

“Looks like they are waking,” said Marsh.

“About time,” Drick snarled impatiently. “We are on a tight schedule here.”

“Give them a break, Drick, I did hit them with about fifty shots.” Marsh tried to sound calm, “they are bound to be a bit sluggish coming round is what I meant.”

“The neutraliser would have taken the toxin all out of their system. So this is them. They are faking it. Wake up.” Drick kicked the form on the floor. The figure leapt out of the way before the kick landed spinning in the air to stop in an upright position on their feet. They had a smile on their face and their eyes were wide open and staring at Drick. 

Marsh stepped back in shock. Drick hadn’t moved. “So you know that you’re in a construct,” Drick’s voice dripped venom. “Hardly surprising really.”

“Naturally I know,” the figure was dressed in a very similar, featureless, grey tunic to the one their organic form wore in the breathing world. “Aside from the fact that it is the most obvious tactical approach, allowing you full control of all conditions including some manipulation of the passage of time, it is the only manner in which we could communicate without me performing some deception that you could not have planned against. So, moving me into a virtual world was the most likely situation where you could have a modicum of control over events. I, also, have implants that remote detect such matters. Even inside a construct as sophisticated as this they are overlaying information for my perusal that is beyond your ability to control. But I suspect you knew a good deal of that already.”

Drick stared into the cool grey of the avatar’s eyes. “Good, nice to see that you are so loquacious.” Drick snarled, “I hope we can dispense with any niceties, similarly we can avoid unpleasantness, and just talk.”

“You may talk as much as you wish,” the figure smiled and moved over to a chair that had just appeared in the centre of the grey space they stood in. “But, as you can see I will remain in control as well. My implants allow for me to create micro-conditions inside any virtual environment. So I do hope you weren’t going to attempt anything tedious. You would be unable to give me any unpleasantness, as you desire to call it, in this place.”

“You’re pretty confident. Are you sure you can affect the conditions that much? There is also your organic body outside of this construct.”

“No. I am well prepared. To the casual observer the one state might be confused for the other. Honestly I expected more from you than this. We have underestimated you significantly over the last few cycles. But it appears that in a one to one situation, you have your fallibilities. I have not forgotten anything.”

“Really?” Drick mocked a laugh. “Why don’t you fill me in on my apparent failings.”

“Well you had not anticipated everything about me. Right now I imagine whatever ground forces had started to attack will have encountered our armoured response unit. We have a full military-grade combat mech, I know it deployed as that information came through before your little interruption rendered me silent to internal comms. The armoured unit is almost invulnerable, and can easily hold off a small army. I hope you brought one of your own. Though i suspect you didn’t. I will have to learn how you managed to penetrate the buildings defences though. I was surprised you got to this floor so expediently. I was also surprised you had gotten an attack force past our perimeter tracking systems.” A smile appeared and was quickly dismissed.

“You want me to tell you how we got to you. Easy. You’re over-confident. You rely too much on systems and don’t think like people.”

“I have to admit, it was a surprise you got this far. I hardly think that it was as simple as relying on machines and confidence that was the hole in our systems. But, I have already noted, your penchant for pulling an astonishing response is extraordinary. Though I feel it is all one off flairs without serious planning of the full consequences of your actions. How long do you imagine you have before I am released?”

“You’re very confident that we will release you.”

“Of course I am. It serves no purpose for you not to. I have a significant amount of influence. Naturally I have a clone of my current mental state taken just two days ago. There is enough information recorded and stored by my implants to make up any other important data that is not in that ghost. I also have a new organic shell. I chose it some months ago for slow growth. I change flesh form with the season. I do like to keep abreast of the latest trends. So I have no real fear of losing this current state of corporeality. I understand it is not the same for either of you. It is you who are taking the real risks.”

Written in 365 Parts: 153: Rogue Data

The answer came back a lot quicker than Hooper had hoped. Barely an hour had passed. The Slicer had reverse engineered the code from the pattern of changes to every sensor reading related to the dates when Camile had visited the satellite. The whole data set had not been affected and so it was easier than expected to infer the answer. Since there were many other dates where a similar pattern of numbers occurred, the slicer had been able to determine which days and sensors were affected. This was achieved  by matching the values when changed, by the reverse engineered algorithm, against an extrapolated figure based on trend for the sensors when not affected.

There were so many occurences of the alteration that the pattern had been easy to verify. There was a high probability that the sensors they thought were affected had been changed. This gave Hooper a lot of dates to help gather more information. It also gave Hooper more sensor readings to decipher. The type of sensors affected was interesting. They were mostly motion, weight, and oxygen detection systems. 

Almost all of the affected systems were in areas frequented by organics. Mess rooms, staff rooms, some offices. Hooper smiled grimly. This wasn’t just a matter of masking the import or export of goods. Someone was hiding themselves. Hiding where they had been. Hiding to throw suspicion away, so they could conduct whatever nefarious activities they wanted.

Hooper requested the full video feeds from the past year and all records from the same period. It was time to start matching video footage to sensors. If they were good, and Hooper suspected they were good, they would have kept clear of almost all surveillance equipment. But it was impossible to hide from every camera or reflective surface. Hooper directed a computer to start matching the suspected rogue sensor data to the video footage and matching any faces, Hooper needed just one image to know who they were looking for, if it were just one organic behind this.

Hooper made sure that the computer also attempted to work out which of the sensor readings might be a false trail. If it was Hooper they would make sure to leave a false trail. Always best to corrupt the data process, it hindered any detection.

Hooper left the program to run. They had another problem to solve. Were the sensors themselves affected, or was it a system? Was someone retroactively changing data, or was there another method in use? It was time to try and work that out while the computers crunched yet more data.