Posted By: Neo//hack<Hometokell@aol.com>
Date: 7 June 2003, 6:13 PM
"Did we make it?"
"I think so."
"This place. . .it looks too much like Halo. Is this really a program?"
"I believe it is. But there's something up in the middle of the ring. Could that be the mainframe?"
Captain Fargo gazed skyward. Between the clouds was what appeared to be a great sphere.
"Most likely. How do we get there?"
"Well, we could always take the elevator."
Fargo turned to look at what was behind him. A great steel shaft protruded from the ground and rose into the sky. There, it connected with the sphere.
"Right. However, it looks like that thing goes pretty deep. How are we supposed to get inside?"
Reia spoke up. "There has to be an access passageway somewhere. However, I doubt we're ready to make our way up into the mainframe. We're going to have to get associated with the place first and get together some tools. What about weapons?"
Fargo nodded. "I can get the operator to look into that."
"Okay, then it's settled. Now, how do we log out?"
Captain Fargo turned his head to one side, revealing his left ear. The small disc was still there.
Fargo reached back and pushed a button on the disc, which responded by beeping three times.
Within seconds, Fargo was replaced with a static appearance until he disappeared completely. The static died and faded, and then there was nothing.
"Welcome back, Captain."
Fargo opened his eyes. He recognized the face of the operator, who was unlocking the door that sealed his cryotube.
"Well? Did you make it?"
"I think so. We were inside something that looked like the original Halo, only there was some kind of sphere up in the center of it. We believe it's the mainframe."
The operator nodded. "You understand that this was only a test-hack, right?"
Fargo looked up at the operator. "I imagined that we weren't expected to do anything yet."
"That hack was to determine whether or not we had been able to load the right program. Now that we have, we're going to run more tests to find out what we can do with it."
"To see what we can do with it?"
The operator stood back as Captain Fargo stepped out of the tube and headed for the bridge.
"Yes. We need to know how we can communicate between the worlds, what weapons we can use, and so on."
Fargo turned to face her. "I doubt eight total soldiers is enough to take down a second Halo. Even with heavy weapons, how are we supposed to do it?"
"That is up to the tests to decide. Once they come back with the information we need, then we can figure out what weak points it has and what you can do to take advantage of it."
"How long will the tests take?"
"A few days, I believe."
"Hmm. . .what are we supposed to do until then?"
The operator opened the door to the bridge and moved to her station. "I suppose we should make our way to the next mother ship to continue picking up reinforcements. I doubt many more ships know of the virus yet."
"Very well. What is the next closest vessel?"
The operator checked the panels for her mapping system. "It appears that the next one in line is the mother ship Vega. She's about six hours away."
"Push up on the engines. Inform me once we get there."
Fargo entered the control center for the second time that day. The other seven Marines had exited the program and were busy trying to keep the system up and running while it was tested.
"Ah, Captain Fargo."
Fargo nodded in reply to Vincent, who was using a laser-insertion tool to reset some of the internal wires that had come loose during the hacking process.
Reia and Natalya were working together to activate another cryotube. Lara was pondering over a diagram of the desired cryotube.
Irvine and Lance were standing beside one of the mechanics as he pointed out key locations that needed attention for the next hack.
Cain was busying himself by correcting the disrupted programming within one of the cryotubes using a hologram model.
One of the mechanics approached him. "Captain?"
"What can I do for you?"
"We're a little short of hands around here. The new system is hard to maintain. Would you mind re-programming the system while we correct the faults?"
Fargo took the hologram panel and headed for the system mainframe. After activating it, he proceeded in entering the improved program.
"USS Serenity now docking aboard mother ship Vega, docking bay 5, docking station 11. Level 2."
For the third time, the Serenity slowly pulled in between the platforms and was quickly chained down. The loading ramp dropped.
"Captain, wake up."
Captain Fargo sat up in his cot, now fully awake.
He stood and put on his coat, then opened the hatch to his quarters and stepped into the corridor, heading for the loading ramp.
"Commander Smith of the mother ship Vega, Captain Fargo of the USS Serenity."
Fargo took a seat in front of the Commander's desk.
"So. . .you're the captain of one of the top ranking warships."
"One of the only warships."
"Yes, I heard about the accident with the Haymeadow. Do you know what happened?"
"A virus was inserted into the ship's major systems. All five vital systems were infected within the next day or two. It was determined that she would not last."
"I understand you were aboard the Haymeadow at the time."
"Many warships were. However, the Serenity suffered the least amount of damage and it was decided that we were going to evacuate. No other vessel could."
The Commander sighed. "This is getting out of hand."
Captain Fargo stared at him. "It's easier speaking with you about this. Commander Corwin would never understand. This is all a game to him."
"Ah, not quite a game, but a test of strategy."
"He should've lost that game a long time ago."
"Well, he isn't much for seriousness in a bad situation, but he looks to the bright side."
"He took much of what I said to be a joke, no big deal."
Commander Smith shook his head. "We're all different."
"So, captain, tell me what you know of this virus."
Fargo leaned forward. "We've yet to identify the full extent of it. It spreads through the systems quickly, then causes a malfunction. The ship collapses internally, and. . ."
"And the results aren't good."
"Let's just say that everything goes south from there."
"How can we protect ourselves?"
Fargo sighed. "We don't have an elimination program yet, but it apparently gains access to our vessels through what is now called the Broken Link, which is, as the name implies, a break in the links between the ships. The virus infects outgoing messages or data files, then travels with the infected message or file until it reaches another ship. At that point it spreads to the other systems and destroys the vessel by causing the major systems to contradict one another until they fall apart. What's strange is that this is all performed by the virtual Halo program."
"Hmm. So avoiding electronic interception from other ships can slow the virus, correct?"
Smith leaned back, rubbing his eyes with his index finger and his thumb.
"Don't accept any incoming messages or files. Chances are it's infected."
"Very well. Thank you for warning me. Are you to stay?"
"No, I'm afraid we must continue. There's a lot to be done. But there is something I must request."
"I need a few more experienced hands around the ship. Corwin gave me seven, but that won't be enough to take out the program. We're running tests on it now, but it will be a day or two before we know everything possible. I'm going to need a few more soldiers to assist me when we hack into the program."
Commander Smith chuckled lightly. "Hmm. . .I think I can help you."
"USS Serenity now pulling away from docking station 11. Clear the platforms."
The chains were loosened and the Serenity slowly backed out of the station. Once it cleared the platforms, the vessel pulled a 180 degree turn, then roared through the bay doors and headed into the endless void.
"How many more soldiers do we have?"
Captain Fargo took his place at the main display panel as he waited for the answer to come.
"Commander Smith supplied thirteen more Marines, sir."
"Good. How long until the tests are complete?"
"Another twelve hours."
"Hmm. Very well."
Captain Fargo lingered a while longer, then left the bridge and headed down one of the many corridors of the ship. He stopped a great window overlooking the darkness of space.
He leaned against the window, as if expecting to see Halo in the distance. He closed his eyes.
He didn't know if he was ready for this.