Meanwhile…Underground

Doc Hedge had agreed to bring Crusader to the surface. Before doing so, he gave him some more information, “So, we have a deal. Good. Here is our theory; just in case something happens. Actually Dr. Lao’s theory. He believes that the brain is ‘calling’ other AIs to it. The old battledroid was drawn to it (the one you have), as was the smaller humaform one from a couple weeks ago.

“If we can acquire that one currently held by the NY Security Police and get a third we, in theory, can triangulate the AI’s location and from there get enough evidence to find out who exactly in Lansing is behind this. Thing is, we have evidence of a potential ‘third’ being built by Lansing. This one was a prototype for the Big Brain. We learned of itwhen we hit the Bromberg Exchange and stole the non-active positronic quality platinum brain assembly. I’ve got the coordinates here,” points Hedge at his head. “But if we figured that out, they may have also.”

Crusader said, “What if this AI is in orbit? I would think that if it were affecting other lower AI’s funtions, it would have to be orbital?”

“Maybe. I’m no expert on that; but Dr. Lao (whom you may or may not have captured) said it had to be in the NeoYork area. It is some kind of machine telepathy and it’s range -so far- is limited. That will change of course once it goes online. But to be honest, no one knows WHY and WHO in Lansing is doing this. But I bet the Big Brain knows it’s master. We find it, we find the culprits.” said Hedge. Then he offered this thought, “It could be on a skyhook. You know one of the suborbital docking stations and private residences over the NeoYork area. There couldn’t be more than a dozen of them.”

Crusader replied, “That could be… However, I fear we would be spending most of our time theorizing about things when precious time will be escaping us. Your idea,to use existing AI tech to triangulate on this Big Brain sound like a good one. Besides the AI models that have already been activated, can you think of any we can get to and activate ourselves to use? The only reason I’m asking you is that your life looks like it revolves around technology so you would probably have a better idea than I.”

“You are right, less time, more action. Lansing isn’t sitting still. Here’s the thing, your team has a brain that Lansing no doubt will be wanting. The police have a brain that Lansing may be in the process of acquiring to ‘help with the investigation’. And there is a prototype in New Rochelle district, north of here that I told you about that Lansing has no clue we are after. That’s three.” answered Hedge.

“Let me see if I can get to the one we have and the one held by the police. I have a few contacts the police station and may be able to get it. The one we have I should have no problem getting to. If you want to see about the one in New Rochelle?”

Hedge nodded, “Sure. Let’s do it.”

Like all good plans, they collapse at the first sign of trouble. No sooner had Hedge and Crusader emerged in rural New Jersey then Hedge stopped and began frantically looking about. “I just got pinged. My scan suppressor must have been damaged in the fight. Someone is hunting us using the planetary satellite network. And that frequency isn’t military or police.”

Taking a defensive stance, Crusader looks about cautiously. “New plan! I’ll contact my people to secure the AI from the police station and the one we have on hold. You and I will hit New Rochelle together and procure the AI there. I have a feeling Lansing has found us and when they detect us approaching New Rochelle they will have time to ready themselves. We need the element of surprise on this. Are you able to dig us there?”

Hedge paused a second and then said, “No, not all the way. But I can get us to one of my safehouses near here, then repair and recharge before going the rest of the way. Hopefully we can get in and out before they re-acquire us. Do you need to call your team first?”

Crusader replied, “I’m not as secure as I need to be for this mission. Do you have a secure line I can use to relay a message to my team so we can get this ball a rolling?”

Hedge nodded, “The house has a secure com system you can use to send a one-way burst message to your people. They won’t expect it, so it shouldn’t be tracked.”

Just as Hedge finished his sentence, Crusader heard a pair of fully loaded spinners approach from the south west followed by an incoming volley ion blasts which Crusader easily deflected.

Crusader quickly assessed the situation. “The spinners are unmarked; the occupants wearing non-descript black combat armor.”

“Hmm, probably CorpMercs, and they’re coming in fast,” says Hedge.

“You say you have a place to go! Let’s get there!” said Crusader.

Hedge and Crusader quickly disappeared beneath the earth leaving their pursuers behind and unable to follow.

Within an hour, they arrived at Hedge’s nearby safehouse, an underground location to the north of where they had been. Hedge looked at Crusader and said, “You word is good right?”

Hedge backed up against an alcove on the wall where Crusader heard a locking sound. Hedge’s front armor opened up revealing a medium-sized man wearing a body glove sub armor and interface helmet. Quickly he asked for Crusader’s comlink and upon receiving it, hooked it up to a nearby workstation. “Here you are,” he said, “Record your message for your team. They won’t be able to respond, but the message should get through. Meanwhile, I’ve got armor to fix and a safehouse to destroy.”

Crusader moved to the workstation and sent the following message:

Signal Burst:

Message – For Metatide only!

Metatide, this is Crusader. I verify the authenticity by reminding you that we need to set up something to authenticate messages if this ever happens again. This message should have a subchannel matching my comlink and my voice print can be checked. Otherwise, I remember the purple seas of Alpha and that you went their too. It’s me.

It is imperative that you secure the AI that we fought and captured. Make sure it stays in your hands and no one else’s! Also, you need to procure the AI the police currently have in their custody from a week ago. Try to get it through proper channels. It is however of utmost importance that Lansing does not get a hold of it. If you captured the scientists, remind them that Doctor Hedgehog says ‘hello’. If not, find them if you can, but the above takes first priority.

I am currently on the run and am investigating this from another angle. I will be in contact soon! Stay safe… all of you.

Crusader.

Crusader stands back from the com link and looked with the most serious of expressions. “Thank you. Let me know when you’re ready. We have people we need to see in New Rochelle.”

“That we do,” Hedge said as he and a pair of droids worked furiously on the suit. Within 20 minutes they were done, and Hedge looked ominously at a monitor. “They found us. No big deal, they are too late.”

Quickly he got back in the armor and said to the two droids, “Download yourselves to the alternate location.”

The droids eyes grew bright and then they shut down, collapsing to the floor. “A waste of material, but no choice. Computer, self destruct in 10 seconds upon my departure. Ready?” he said to Crusader.

The two dove into the ground, a muffled sound of a detonation and collapsing walls quickly faded behind them.

Hours later, the two emerged with Hedge’s armor cloaking them from EM detection. It was during the depth of night and the Lansing New Rochelle facility lay before them. It was in a large industrial park; the building was non-descript; but Hedge rapidly identified a dozen sensors of various kinds, a dozen armed guards, and a ray-shielded and armored area deep in the facility. “So,” he said, “what’s your plan?”

Crusader looked over Hedge’s data and said, “The facility under ground is protected well it sounds. What about the underground lift shafts to the protected underground facility? There maybe a weak spot there we can penetrate? From there we can work our way into the main facility via the lift shaft and maybe have a better chance of circumventing the alarms a bit longer. Do you detect any seismic sensors that may detect our approach?”

“You are right,” Hedge said, “there seems to be a possibility of penetrating the access shaft itself; and then it’s easy. Though it will be obvious we’ve been there. I have two of my extra special EMP charges left to scramble their sensors. I can place one now, timed to blanket the area when we go in. A little crude, but what can you do? That should deal with the exterior sensors. The second one I can release into the shaft to mess with the internal sensors. But, once we are in, they will be aware we have been there. Once we get the brain, I’ll give you something to get you out of here. That suit of yours still have life support?”

Crusader answered, “Yes it does. Let’s do this thing!”

Normally, these two would be enemies, but common cause brought them together. In moments, Hedge set up one of the timed EMP charges and along with Crusader, dove into the earth, tunneling through to the access shaft.

The shaft, turned out to be tougher than Hedge thought; however with a few quick blows of the Star Shield, a weak spot was found, which Hedge exploited.

The twisted metal flew away as the access shaft lay exposed to view. An elevator car was stopped not five meters above them, rendered temporarily powerless by the penetrating EMP pulse. Crusader dove in, gliding effortlessly to the access door; Hedge’s suit light providing illumination. With a few quick cuts, Crusader gave Hedge the grip he needed to force open the access doors exposing the dim underground storage vault and laboratory. It was here that four automated spherical defense droids and a half dozen guards were there to meet them, weapons firing and obviously shielded from the initial power loss.

In the darkness, Crusader effortlessly deflected the incoming shots, even taking out a droid and injuring another. Hedge fired the second EMP charge and the droids shut down; followed by the energy weapons of the guards. Within moments, all of them were unconscious, save one who groggily said, “Do you know who you are messing with? We’ll find you. Soon enough, we’ll be everywhere.” Crusader noticed the guards had cranial cyberware; something not generally seen on Earth for hundreds of years.

Crusader looked down at the enhanced guard with little expression on his face. “I know exactly who I’m dealing with mister.” And with a simple swipe of the star shield, sends the final guard into a deep slumber. Looking around the room he looks to Hedge for direction.

“The EMP shouldn’t have effected the brain,” he looks at his scanner, “yes, there.” Hedge pointed to the main lab doors on the right side of the hall. “I can’t really disconnect it myself in this armour, but I brought you a gift,” says Hedge as he tossed a datapad to Crusader. “It’ll walk you through the process.” He also retrieve from his backpack compartment a electrostatic carrying bag. “You’ll need this too. I’ll cover here, the EMP should be over-ridden upstairs soon, but I have to kill the security sensors down here for longer so they are confused. But they’ll know it’s me, but you I want to keep out of the limelight so to speak.”

Heading for the door to the right, Crusader held up the data pad and followed Hedges instructions to the letter. By-passing the physical security the EMP did not effect, Crusader entered the room to see what could only be described as the center Brain.

Crusader noticed a few wires and cords connected to this centrally placed device but surprisingly fewer than he imagined. Entering the room he scanned the device and discontented it with little effort, thanks to Hedge’s help. Placing the device in the static bag he quickly moved back to the main chamber.

“Got it! Let’s move out!”

They raced back to the access shaft and shortly were up and out as Lansing security reactivated the lift; barely missing them. Hedge’s tunneling suit brought several hours later in an old 19th century pneumatic subway station deep under Manhatten District in Old New York.

“What now?” Hedge asked. “They can’t track us under here, but once I emerge they might be able to, I didn’t have time to fully compensate for their scanners. Your Starshield really put a dent in my ECM system, heh.”

“Now? Now we wait. This whole idea hinges on my team getting to the other two AI’s. It’s going to be tricky moving this plan into action without Lancing sending in their henchmen. So, we will have to plan this out step by step. First we have to set up a base of operations to coordinate this. Then we need to find the sites and secure them for the triangulation. From there I contact my team and we move forward. I’m giving my team five more hours to complete their task and then I will contact them. While we are waiting, can you think of a good location for our operations center and/or the placement of the AIs? Or, you could use this time to fix your gear. Which do you prefer?”

“How about I do both? I can get this thing up and running again in about three hours, though I’ll need your help. Down here no one can communicate with us, but I have somewhat complete sonar map of NeoYork. It’s complex, but I’m sure you can figure out three good locations that surround the JFK Starport that we could access. Meanwhile, first thing is first.”

Hedge pulled out a small harpoon-like device from his pack. “Connect this wire,” he said, pointing at a long wire emerging from the back of the device. “…to your comlink. It’s a drilling antenna. We’re under a park with little to no construction between us and the surface. We’ll be able to listen to communications from your team and do two, perhaps three burst transmissions before it is spotted by Lansing, or someone else…”

Continued next game session

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