Posted By: Neo//hack<Hometokell@aol.com>
Date: 7 June 2003, 12:55 AM
"I know. It's weird, but it is possible."
"You're saying that this virtual Halo you speak of may have hacked into the mother ship's mainframe and caused the destruction of the vessel?"
"Yes. Halo's virtual existence does not limit its actions. It's possible that Halo could have launched the virus into the system and programmed it to annihilate the ship."
The captain of the mother vessel Perfection debated this over in his mind. "How did they gain access to the system?"
The captain of the vessel Serenity quickly replied, "I'm almost positive there was a break in the links between the systems. The virus could have easily been relayed through a message or some sort of contact between ships."
The captain of the Perfection, Captain Jones, nodded. "I realize what you mean. It's highly possible. Shall I send a message to the closest ship?"
Captain Fargo, ranking officer of the Serenity, shook his head. "No. If another virus program is launched, then it can easily be sent to the ship we contact. We lost the Haymeadow that way."
"If you must inform the other vessels, then send messengers out on some of your warships. It's the safest way."
"And if they're attacked?"
"Then they're attacked. We can't do much. They can fend for themselves."
"We're going to continue to find an anti-virus program for this new menace. Meanwhile, I want several ships to upgrade their systems. Once the program is fully upgraded, search for the Broken Link. That's the point in the system where we can hack into the virtual Halo. Then, we'll have to do whatever we can to destroy it. I'm not sure what will work."
Captain Jones nodded. "We'll work on it."
"Do we have full engine power yet?"
"Yes, Captain. All three engines are powered up and are running smoothly. Shall I order to proceed?"
Captain Fargo gazed out the vast window that separated the Serenity's bridge from the endless void of space. Earth silently rotated in the distance. From such a grand scale, the planet seemed too peaceful, almost a paradise. That is, if anyone can avoid imagining what really goes on down there.
"Yes. Full speed ahead. The mother ship Karunga is a little past Mars. Head directly for it. I want to make it there as soon as technically possible."
Captain Fargo turned and headed away from the window, leaving the two pilots to control the cruiser.
"How is the upgrade going?" Fargo asked the operator as he headed to his display panel.
"Going according to plan, sir. We should be ready in approximately one day."
Fargo sighed heavily. "Very well. Continue at a steady rate."
"Will do, sir," the operator replied.
Captain Fargo turned to his hologram panels, each displaying a different system status. He went about making changes to the ship's internal systems and structures.
Satisfied with his changes, he ran a security scan. The lower deck prisoner holding cells were empty, although they had been previously occupied by a few extra passengers, trying to get to another mother ship.
The ship's automated system made itself known. "All decks clear. No intruders detected. Status: stable."
Now for the worst part, Fargo thought bitterly. He decided to run a virus detection for the ship. He was almost certain that some form of the Halo virus was aboard. If it was, then the Serenity would not last through the hour.
The scan was launched, and the panels indicated the word: "PROCESSING" continuously.
Fargo waited rather patiently for the data to come back. After a few minutes, the automated system came back.
"Scan complete. Data processed, transfer commenced."
Captain Fargo waited for another ten seconds for the data to come through. However, while he expected the information to come through, another system within the ship 'decided' differently. It was the contact system that was infected. Several days before, the Serenity received an infected message from another vessel. The Halo virus was not known to exist then. The virus, miraculously, was somehow confined within the contact system, still trapped inside the sent message. Since the discovery of the Halo virus the previous day, the Serenity's crew had yet to scan the ship for an infection.
Now that it was up to the contact system to relay the information to the display panels, the virus was now to be freed.
The display panel was blank for another second, until a message blared across the screens.
"WARNING: INFECTION. POWER SYSTEM FAILURE. MAINFRAME SHUT DOWN IN TEN SECONDS."
Captain Fargo leaped from his seat and raced down to the operator's station.
"Charge the back-up system. Do it now!"
The operator stopped what she was doing and immediately switched to loading the emergency power system.
Fargo, still hunched over the operator's panels, turned to the pilots. "Stop the ship and shut down your instruments. Stay where you are."
Fargo then braced himself as the ship rumbled from within, then the lights, display panels, and all electrical instruments and systems flickered and died. A distant hum of dying power was all that remained.
"Did you get the back-up loaded?"
"Yes, Captain. It will need a little time because of the sudden loss of power, but we will have all systems online in two minutes."
"Once it is, contact the Lieutenant and have him meet me here."
Once the power was back online, Captain Fargo waited patiently for Lieutenant Jackson to arrive.
With a hiss, the thick steel doors that sealed off the bridge slid open, and the Lieutenant stepped into the room.
"This is about the power failure."
"Of course," Fargo replied. "It was because of an infection within the contact system. Do you know anything about it?"
"I do know that it may have come from a previously infected ship. I believe that it could have made it into the ship through a message. Which one it was and from which ship it came from, I don't know."
Captain Fargo sighed. "It just proves that our contact technology is next to useless right now. The only way to inform other vessels is to travel to them. Our method of instantly sending information back and forth between cruisers is much faster than that. By the time we could ever arrive, it would be too late."
"The ship would be lost, yes. But what of the crew?"
"The Halo virus is designed, I'm sure, to disable all systems aboard a vessel. There'd be no way to launch any lifeboats. The warships are capable of leaving, but usually they are too damaged to leave. We got lucky. We managed to escape with no damage."
"Great. So our anti-virus programs are useless as well."
"Until we discover how to fight it off once it's aboard a vessel, yes," Fargo replied.
"And right now, hacking into Halo's program is the only way."
"Well, let me know what you find if you come across anything. I'm going to check on the upgrade's progress."
"USS Serenity now docking aboard mother ship Karunga, docking bay 3, dock station 17. Level 4."
The Serenity slowed to a halt, just short of grazing the platforms on either side. Her engines shut down, and the loading ramp clanked to the docking platform. Captain Fargo stepped off, followed by Lieutenant Jackson and the rest of the crew.
"Captain, the Commander is waiting for you. Shall I lead the way?"
Captain Fargo agreed and therefore followed one of the Commanders' second officers to his quarters.
"Commander Ford, Captain Fargo of the USS Serenity."
The Commander, aged and gray-haired, turned away from the great window he had overlooking the docking bay. The Serenity was just below.
"Captain Fargo," the Commander said, extending his left hand. "What a pleasant surprise."
"Likewise," Fargo responded, grasping Ford's hand and firmly shaking it. "Is there something you wanted to speak with me about?"
"Yes. It's about the newly discovered Halo virus. I need to know as much about as you can possibly tell me. You are the last person who knows about it, correct?"
The image of the Haymeadow, the last mother ship to be destroyed and the Serenity's previous stop, was too much. Fargo shook his head and returned his gaze towards the window behind the Commander.
"I don't know much about it, but I do know that it can infect a ship through a contact message from another vessel. Apparently there is a break in the system links and we cannot detect it. The virus has most likely been inserted there and was carried to another ship through an infected message or form of contact. We don't have any defense against this virus other than to destroy the infected vessel. However, several other ships are already infected and are sending the virus even further, ahead to different cruisers. We're working on a way to hack into the virtual Halo program. Thus, we can find and eliminate the origin of the virus and then destroy the program."
The Commander nodded. "Is that the only way Halo can destroy us? Through virus infections?"
"I'm not sure. All I know is that our anti-virus defenses don't stop it and we have no way to eliminate it once it is inside our systems."
Commander Ford sighed. "And to think I had our newest systems activated with the anti-virus programs, hoping it would work."
"I know what you mean. Our contact system was infected as well. During a virus scan, it malfunctioned and killed the power."
"When can we expect the upgrades to be complete?"
"By tomorrow, I hope. If the power holds up long enough, and nobody sends the virus any further, then we should be able to get inside."
"How do we contain the virus?"
"Don't allow anyone to send any messages or information between ships. This is what spreads the infection."
"Very well, Captain."
"We'll be setting off tomorrow, once the ship is repaired. Remember what I've said."
Commander Ford nodded, then asked his officers to escort the Serenity's crew to their quarters. He stayed, now alone in his private quarters, and stared down at the docking bay, watching the hundreds of soldiers and crewmen as they worked into the night.