2.11: Masters Of Exocron: The Virus of the Qek
DS Day 176-178
Where: Exocron System
Dervious, Analia, Kl’aal, and Sooni, after dodging haywire harvester-droids, and pruning-droids, climbed their way back to the landing platform where the other awaited. The wind blew over the still platform. The wrecked droids lay about the landing area. Bifzik stood, in a daze, and talking to himself. Samarion performed basic first aid on everyone, while they surveyed the situation. The sprawl then suddenly shuddered, and a metallic rumble sounded in the air. The group steadied themselves as the quake subsided.
“Anyone want to vote that was a good thing?” Moyato said.
No one answered. Samarion was working hard to get into a secure door; the only way into the Sprawl from the platform. What was it doing locked? He burst open, and a millisecond afterwards, large mower blades were being hurled through the door way. Samarion made a valiant effort to fire an explosive crossbow bolt into the hallway, but was foiled by one of the blades, which nearly severed an arm. The bolt ricocheted wildly. Dervious and the other fired more arrows with explosive tips and took out another haywire droid.
The scene beyond the door was so horrific, some had to turn away.
The walls of the hallway were covered in blood. Partial human bodies lay all over the floor in tortured positions. The wrecked droid had human body parts “grafted” to it’s own body, as if they were attempting to become more human. Conduits and power cables were hanging severed from the ceiling; equipment was piled into barricades; there was signs of small arms fire, and explosives ( which surprised them considering the oxygen content in the air would make the extra dangerous ).
What happened here?
Bifzik was in his own world. The outside world was only a haze. He occasionally was aware that they needed his technical prowess to open a door or get system running. However, he was constantly distracted by voices in his head. He apparently had visitors. When he connected to the sprawls droid-net, as primitive as it was, something transferred itself into his own cybernetic systems, like a virus. It then seemed to convert itself from a cyber-virus to a organic virus. It was some kind of bio-nanotech construct with an interface for both organic and inorganic systems. It might explain the actions of these droids. But what was it doing to the humans. Or at least the humans that survived the droid tirade.
The nanos he contracted where caught in a decisionary loop. They didn’t know what to do with the Verpine. He was part organic, but also had enough cybernetics that he could qualify as part droid. He took the opportunity to interface with them. It should work. It was just like what he was developing on his own; his own CAST system that allowed remote control of simple droids. He just had to interpret their comm protocol… hmmm, tight beam hyperwave… They were communicating to a larger host system somewhere else. Perhaps that could be patched in… hmmm, what’s the Qek Assemblage?
He soon realized he was in some kind of hive mind network, or at least a very primitive one. These little nanos connected him o a larger network similar to the old holonet. Each node on the net was a Qek. However, it wasn’t a perfect hive mind. The nanos were a specialized virus to introduce new nodes into the network. There were millions of nodes. Bifzik had only access to a few thousand because of locality. They called this network the Assemblage.
Oddly, they was a collection of nodes VERY close to his local.
Bifzik tagged a long like a zombie while the others searched a control room for some answers. The sprawl was large, and had a simple rep-lev train ran from their side, directly to the other side. It had a sister system that ran perpendicular. They met at a turbolift junction at the base of the main control tower. The sprawl had rudimentary sensors, that could be rigged to at least sense life signs. Cargo logs placed another skiffhauler on the other side, on another landing pad.
Other information came to light with a quick search. This was not only a agri-sprawl. The rebels had secret cargo in the lower holds. However, their strongest concern was a group of life signs, not quite human, coming from the opposite end of the sprawl. They had just landed on an outer platform not unlike the one they landed on.
“They are Qek warriors. They are here searching for something.” Bifzik said, with surprising insight.
The sprawl shuttered again. A low rumble resounded throughout its structure.
Data indicated that a virus of some kind was contracted by the computer systems of the sprawl. It caused all the semi-sentient droids of the sprawl to go psychotic. Meanwhile, the virus somehow mutated and began infecting the crew. Those that were not killed by the psychotic droids went comatose with the organic-version of the virus, and were collected by the droids and stored…somewhere. There was just something wrong with that, Moyato thought.
Bifzik knew what was wrong. The virus was a prototype, and not a very good one. It was meat to reside in the cyber-systems of the droids dormant, however, this version stayed awake, causing the droids to …want to be more organic. They sought after spare parts from their organic counterparts…. The sprawl crew.
Bifzik mustered enough attention-span to help reconfigure the sprawl sensors to detect life. They still had to find their contact, this Eida Sharden. The Devisors still had the ship under a strong tractor beam, and she was their only hope of getting it free. If she was alive, they had to find her first.
The Verpine was able to rig the sensors into a hand scanner, then amplify the scanners output throughout the sprawl’s network, rudimentary as it was. The sensors were the best, but he was able to get a 75% to 80% accuracy with them. All they had to do is find a concentration of them. There they were, at the top of the tower. About a dozen. The scanner picked up a lot of ion energy in their area. Might be related to a defense mechanism they set up to fend off the droids.
Bifzik routed the rep-lev towards their location, and brought up on a map that would lead them to a junction. The map showed severely damaged areas, and areas that were infested with droids. They had to avoid all of that and more to get to the junction. The computer system also alerted them to a serious problem in main repulsorlift engineering. It seems some droids had grown suicidal, and intended to take the rest of the sprawl with them. That was not a good thing.
The junction was barely recognizable. It looked as though a major battle occurred there, probably one of the crew’s last stands. The rep-lev still worked, but by droid control. Bifzik fixed that, and rigged a manual control. They soon were traveling down the rep-lev tunnel along the smooth repulsor-rails.
They arrived at the central junction and disembarked to board the turbolifts. The Lift with up the spine of the tower and at upper levels, they had a clear view through the glass lift tube across the sprawl and its crops. They could also see several droids on repulsorlift making strafing runs with debris and makeshift weapons. The shaft suddenly was peppered with debris and metal chunks the droids were throwing at them. Some were at dangerous speeds.
They reached the top of the tower and realized that the turbolift shaft had taken severe damage right at the top level where it met the control center. The lift could go no further and the position they were in made them sitting Tautauns for the strafing droids. Dervious and Slave both launched grappling hooks which attached to the ceiling above the lift, and started climbing. The others followed. The majority of the group climbed directly top, where the lift would have stopped. Samarion, Kl’aal, and Bifzik went into a maintenance hatch hoping to find a better route than the most direct one.
Samarion, while crawling about in the maintenance crawl-space, heard it first. A scream, not far off. It was human. Samarion reached a access-grating that peered up into a room. Inside were six or seven droids, with two humans. The droids were cutting away at the male human, while the female human lay bound to a table waiting for the surgeon droid. It appeared they were cutting for “spare-parts”. Samarion and Kl’aal made quick work of the droids, and after saving the humans, left an explosive-crossbow bolt behind as a calling card.
Bifzik shivered oddly when the explosion erupted, as if he felt a slight pain.
The sprawl rumbled and groaned again as another internal explosion ripped through repulsor-engineering. They started to feel the entire floating factory list.
The others worked their way up to primary control. The life signs were there. They broke through several barriers, after fighting off several droids. Beyond the final barrier were 8 humans, 2 of which were comatose on the ground. One human was their contact, Eida Sharden. The first thing to greet them was a ion-bolt right at Slave, who fell to the ground. The rest pulled weapons in a defense reflex.
A voice came from one human “He was a droid. It was the only way to be sure that he didn’t get infected.”
They entered the control room, and the survivors explained their experience.
“We take on new droids all the time. One of them was infected with the virus, and before we knew it, the virus had spread through out the sprawl…”
Out from a access panel in the floor came Kl’aal, Bifzik and Samarion. They joined their comrades as they listened to the survivor’s story.
As Bifzik heard their story, he filled in blanks from what he learned from the Assemblage. The virus was not meant to cause the droids to go haywire. It was faulty; a prototype. The insertion into this sprawl was a test. One that failed. The nanos were bio-tech; part organic, part machine. The droids were to simply act as carriers. The virus would infect the humans when they interfaced with the droids, through jacking in, or simply by touching them. The virus would reprogram the droids to create situations to infect human. However, the prototype caused problems within the droids’ own psycho-programming. This prototype was defective.
The Verpine also learned much about the Qek and their philosophy. The Assemblage and their obsession with bio-technology and genetic manipulation all relates to a religious belief that the universe was once populated by one species. Due to a mystical “split”, that species was shattered into the thousands of species we know of now in the universe. All the sentient species in the universe are pieces of a huge mystical genetic puzzle that they are piecing together. Evolution has covered up these pieces, but through their methods can be found. Soon, they believed the universe would be a one species universe once again.
He felt the nodes he felt earlier drawing closer. The Qek were drawing near. They were in search of the carrier.
The sprawl shuttered again. Great clouds of smoke and fire erupted from beneath the tower.
It was time to leave.
There destination was the opposite side where the computer had said the other skiffhauler was. They had one obstacle to overcome; the Qek warriors. The team of 8 or so were a challenge, considering the weapons they had. The battle was brutal, a few of the rescued crew were killed and wounded. These Qeks had different weapons than the previous ones they had encountered, but were equally devastating.
Only a desperate effort by a few of the crew allowed the others to escape. Two crew sacrificed themselves to save the others. They soon were on board the skiff and off the crumbling sprawl. The sprawl exploded just as they left.
Sharden, after realizing who thad rescued her, started plans to dethrone the Devisors once and for all. They had enough evidence to show that the Devisors did not care about the people of Exocron, only power. What she didn’t know was there was another power manipulating the Devisors, and that power cared little about life itself.