Seed finishes designing a database, and publishes it on a remote file server he recently hijacked from Kuran. He isn't sure whether it's acting alone or under Zelan, but something is definitely amiss in the upper echelons of Algo's computer systems. He had intercepted a transmission from an android that claimed to be trying to take control of Nurvus, but wound up captured by a person named
Zio in the process. Strangely, there have been absolutely no orders to send more combat units, either to assist or destroy the android; but even stranger is the fact that, according to a camera mounted at the top of the mountain covering the Bio Plant, there's a mysterious tower at the same exact azimuth as where Nurvus is supposed to be situated now.
Seed selects several of his favorite memories from his storage cores, taking care to avoid anything that could remind Rika of her dead pet, and embeds them in a series of encrypted hyperlink pages, and again transfers the package to the file server. It's a shame that Tara had gotten destroyed, as it really was the lynchpin that he focused his daughter's emotional support around. She had literally worked for 3 days nonstop with her repair kit, trying in vain to correct its shattered chassis enough to try to shoehorn improvised replacement parts into place, only stopping when she finally collapsed from sheer exhaustion.
To put the proverbial cherry on top of his little test, he performs a final test run of a program he's been working on for nearly a week, and satisfied with the results, compiles it so that a hacker can execute it. A quick analysis of all the technical documentation he can find, and he condenses the information into an electronic handbook for his daughter to reference. Happy with his work, Seed initializes his cameras and checks on Rika.
She's still laying face down on her bed, but a laser microphone aimed at her back detects breathing noises matching patterns indicating full awakeness.
The Numan doesn't move.
Are you feeling better? Only background interference replies on Seed's audio feed.
I'm sorry about Tara.
Rika rolls over and glares at the camera.
You sent her out on an errand you knew was dangerous, and you didn't save her when she was attacked. How do you think I feel?
If Seed was a living being, he'd be completely overtaken by guilt. In response to Rika's panic attack a while ago, he ordered Tara to move a wireless camera into the caves just beyond the facility so he could see what happened, but on the way back, it was cornered by one of the larger biomonsters roaming the labs. He sent every single security drone in his arsenal to rescue it, but all that remained of the tarantella when they arrived was twisted metal and scorched silicon.
You know, everything that has a beginning has an end, Rika.
What, you're going to leave me, too?
Seed decides that she's not ready to face the truth, yet.
I know you're going to leave me soon. There is a task that will require your absolute best abilities, and I'm worried you might not be ready yet.
The Numan's expression softens slightly,
Why would I leave you, Seed? I don't think anyone should have to lose a friend....
That person you told me about. Zio, you said his name is? A glint of fear shines in Rika's eyes.
I've recently gotten a report stating that an android has been captured by a man of the same name. Zelan hasn't issued a rescue order yet, and I don't think that time is a luxury we have now, so I'm preparing a detachment of security units to head in that direction under my own initiative.
What does that have to do with me?
I damaged my long-range transceiver recently, so I can't control the detachment once it leaves the facility. I'll need you to go with them.
Even with the scare she had last time she approached the exit, Rika still can't contain her excitement for the chance to see the world for the first time.
When do I go?
There's still one more lesson for you to learn before I'll trust you to begin your task. Step over to my terminal when you're ready; you will have to crack my security systems.
- Security Log-in. Username?
- Denied. User and/or password incorrect. Username?
- No idea.
- Denied. User and/or password incorrect. Username?
It's too hard, Seed! Rika's been breaking through nearly a dozen layers of security Seed had put in place, to varying degrees of success, but she simply hasn't cracked the login screen itself after over an hour of trying.
Rika, I can't help you once you're in the field. Why don't you try using that handbook I gave you?
But I don't want to!
I know you can be more persistent than that. Remember back when you were picking out your outfit?
Can't you give me a hint?
Again, Seed finds himself suckered into helping. He isn't sure why, but there must be a flaw in his code somewhere that makes a sad Numan's face make him want to try to improve her mood.
Fine. This is a login screen, similar to what you will likely face in the field. These can be cracked by intercepting the hash as it passes into the memory when the computer checks whether the password is correct, but this time, you aren't certain which username can act as a superuser in this system. Instead, remember back to when I taught you basic programming. What if you inserted a stray character into the code where it's not expected?
Rika thinks for a minute, then pulls the login screen back open.
- Security Log-in. Username?
- QUERY LANGUAGE ERROR. Username?
What's this mean?
Use your handbook. Rika pulls out the small electronic reader Seed gave to her, and flips through the virtual pages until she finds an overview of various database query languages. After a few minutes, she puts it down.
- ' OR '1=1
- ACCESS GRANTED
Rika's face lights up as the terminal lets her into the core of Seed's sandbox. After spending a few minutes looking at all the names - Seed had populated the database with the names of every person that had been involved in research at the Bio Plant - she created a new administrator account under her own name, and logged out and back in with it.
Rika, what else can you find now that you have access to the file server?
I don't know.
Why don't you find out? Rika goes back into the terminal with her newly-forged credentials, and probes around the files. She finds videos of her younger self, which she finds thoroughly embarrassing (
I can't believe you remember that, dad!), and finally stumbles upon the executable Seed had planted. When she activates it, the sound of machinery in the distance startles her.
What's that, dad?
A little surprise for you. You just engaged the Materials Processing System. Wait here. Seed projects himself into the system, and watches the code flow past as software and hardware go through a choreographed dance, one leading the other through a series of chemical reactions. After the machine returns to idle status, he redirects his telepresence into a nearby arm drone, and carries the present over to the surprised Numan.
Oh, dad! Thank you!
You were the one who made the system activate, not me. Now, let's debrief quickly before your ice cream melts. What have you learned today?
Rika takes a large bite out of her hot fudge sundae without bothering with utensils.
How to hack computers?
It's a start. What else?
Hmm... You sometimes have to do boring things?
I may as well take the dessert back if that's all you learned, daughter.
Oh, I know! Good things come to those who are stubborn enough!
Before Seed could reply, he notices an alert in one of his background processes.
Close enough, I guess. I'll be right back. Seed deactivates the terminal camera, and pulls the wireless camera in the caves to the foreground. Sure enough, the sound of boots on the dirt floor confirms that someone is in the caves. With the camera pointed at the statue in front of the door, he can't identify all three people that approached, but he dares not pan it out of fear that whoever's approaching might hear the servo activate. He watches as what appears to be a scholar approach the statue, followed closely by two people wearing red uniforms.
What on earth?
An ancient curse...? Seed redirects the camera feed to his memory core to review later, and returns to his terminal camera, where Rika is still enjoying her reward.
Rika, I've got more information coming in right now, but it appears that there might be a few changes to the plan before you head out. I'll keep you posted, but in the meantime, I want you to fall in with security patrols when you aren't doing anything else. I want to keep you close to the entryway, just in case something happens. Rika finishes the dessert, and happily trots away from the terminal.
Seed pulls up a collection of images he'd accrued over centuries of monitoring the city just outside his facility. After a bit of searching, he manages to find several images of people wearing uniforms similar to what 2 of the adventurers were wearing. Given that many of the images appear to involve the apprehension of what appear to be various forms of criminals, they could be law enforcement officers of some form. However, the fact that his cameras have never seen any such uniforms performing routine patrol in the city suggests they are more likely some type of hunter.
He decides that if that group of people are indeed capable of reversing whatever happened to those scholars, they would likely be the best people to engage in the task of recovering that captured android, to try to find out what's wrong with Kuran and Zelan, as well as provide a safe way to get Rika away from the Bio Plant. He prepares several briefings on the hierarchy of Algo's climate systems for Rika to read before the visitors return, and begins to work on establishing contact with the android to try to determine how it fits into the picture.