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 A Bastion of Hope

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Syzgy
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Joined date : 2009-05-05
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PostSubject: A Bastion of Hope   2/8/2009, 16:35

Author: Bayamos

Date Posted: 7/11/2008

Contact: http://systematic-chaos.net/
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The twilight raged.

As the city air bled through leaves decaying upon the ground, it formed quiet whispers that echoed in the distance. Far away, blinding rays of warmth shot out from the fire orb slowly disappearing down into the embracing horizon. Beyond a lone row of trees, towering skyscrapers jutted up into the sky, enclosing the space in an incomplete prison of concrete and steel.

Tapping his foot on rooftop tiles, 8ayamo stood atop the tower with his back to the wind. He was a lone figure on the platform. He waited.

After some time, the pocket of his light gray suit jacket vibrated, indicating his operator's maintenance had concluded. The hovercraft was now broadcasting at full potential, and all communications channels were re-established. The operative reached into his coat, and with one fluid motion retrieved and opened his cellular phone. Gloved fingers pressed the device's keypad in a series of rapid memorized motions, and then raised the cell to his ear.

A mechanical voice with a noticeable lack of accent issued from the earpiece. "You have reached the Machine Network. State your query."

"Captain 8ayamo of the Phalanx reporting for duty." This was standard procedure. His voice would be analyzed through a series of algorithms to ensure security. After he had been identified, his record would be added to his handler's queue. He had dialed no mere voice conference; the Machine switchboard managed and coordinated hundreds, no, thousands of operatives simultaneously. Often, the information passing through these channels would be sensitive or urgent. Tonight would be no different.

"Voice heuristic signature confirmed. Tier two access granted. Hold for transfer." A new voice.

"Greetings, 8ayamo. This is the Automated Relay System. To contact your handler, press One. To report an incident, press Two. To request munitions or assistance, press Three. To view your record, press Four. To manage your crew or faction, press Five. To connect to Data Node One, press Six. If you are lost, delirious, drunk, decelerated, or confused, stay on the line."  Some things would never change. He sent a 2200 Hertz tone from his modified phone in reply, and paused as his operator set up a comms channel with Agent Gray.

Suddenly, the Agent himself. 8ayamo listened, his mouth setting into a grim line. He replied with a terse "Yes, sir," then tucked the cell away and leaped off the ledge into the blackness of the sky.

He landed by a hardline in Tabor Park, and wasted no time stepping out of the small crater and into the shadowed metal booth. As expected, the phone began to ring. He reached for it...

... and then the black hole swallowed him whole.
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Syzgy
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PostSubject: Re: A Bastion of Hope   2/8/2009, 16:35

Meanwhile in Megacity...

... under the awning's shade, Atrophi curled his lips in a wide grin, baring his teeth. The night was still young... a juicy calf begging to be slaughtered. He couldn't wait.

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Nothingness. He floated in limbo... what? Suddenly, light. 8ayamo squinted his eyes as he adjusted to the sensory onslaught. Waves of incoming data assaulted his brain, causing him to momentarily cringe. Just as suddenly, the discomfort passed. He looked around. He had arrived at the coordinates provided by Gray. The location seemed deceivingly peaceful at first glance; street lights flickered in the hazy twilight while crickets sang their nightly melodies. With a slow, quiet motion, the operative equipped a Mark II code launcher, and scanned the area for life forms. The HUD lit up, indicating that there were multiple reds in his nearby vicinity. Excellent. He transitioned into a stealthed translucent form and began creeping in their direction, stopping to take cover behind a large trash bin. Quiet clanking of metal echoed nearby; he could hear hushed whispers in the distance.

He peered around the dumpster's corner. The redpills stood out like sore thumbs in the barrio with their cyberpunk attire. Three of them huddled around a small dark vehicle. It was apparent from their garb that Neo's disciples were out in force tonight. In the adjacent yard, a construction worker toiled, oblivious to the scene unfolding before him. Silently, the Plalanx's captain unharnessed his Halsey sniper rifle and began fastening a silencer onto the barrel. The operative completed this task in time to see a redpill reach through the vehicle's window and activate what was clearly a code bomb. Oh, no they wouldn't. Not on his shift. He assumed the prone position and readied the rifle's scope.

One. The first bullet misted the target's skull before he had time to register the gunshot. Two. A three round burst sent another would-be bomber to the Loading Area. Three. Loud reports punched the third and final foe stumbling backwards, the force of the blast pinning him in between wall and vehicle. The skirmish was over in a matter of seconds.

The area was clear. He stood, then reached for his earpiece and informed his operator, who would relay the message onward. He stepped towards the car with deliberate strides as his operator uploaded their bomb defusing training manual into his cerebrum.

What made a terrorist tick?, he wondered. Certainly not direct personal benefit... no, their motivations were far scarier, cliche nihilism coupled with a mob mentality. Willfully abandoning one's morals and principles... reducing oneself to an instrument of destruction. These poor souls were never freed. They escaped the Matrix's veil only to be spoonfed a new belief system with which they could enslave themselves voluntarily.

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Witnessing the scene of unfolding destruction, Atrophi smiled. He had not been spotted. A skilled mercenary, the Merovingian operative sold his services to any and all buyers with large reserves of cash. Tonight's feat had not been cheap -- acquiring an actual code bomb, not one of those harmless pulse devices -- and the Neo fanboys had been the highest bidder. Yet, there would be surprises tonight of which even the code-bombers were unaware. The fallout after tonight's events would be massive, instantly inflating street prices by several magnitudes.

Oh yes, he smiled. He would make a tidy profit from this venture.

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As he walked towards the beeping code bomb, the operative in a light gray suit glanced left and saw the construction worker taunting him, waving his bulky gloves and forming crude gestures. Too late, 8ayamo realized his mistake. The laborer raised a handheld remote and grinned towards him, then pressed a button on the device. He ducked into a nearby alley, and then the sky exploded with fire.

First, a shockwave. Buildings rippled like puddles as the bomb's code ricocheted like a skipping stone, no doubt stressing the Machines' region servers. Small cracks and fissures appeared in the building at the end of the road, slowly widening as they seeped steam vapor seemingly in slow motion. The world fell away. Light and heat tore through the neighborhood, the destructive force leaving behind a charred wasteland. Clouds of ash floated over the former building while debris rained from the heavens, casting a deathly gloom over the street strewn with bodies and rubble. Then, it was silent, save for the screams of doomed bluepills in the inferno left to burn.

Eyeballing his adversary with a solemn stare, 8ayamo slung the rifle over his back and exploded into a sprint, pursuing the green-haired devil fleeing into a nearby alley. Le Chef Machinst had vermin to catch. Tonight's menu? Sweet, painful justice delivered via smoke and fire.
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Syzgy
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PostSubject: Re: A Bastion of Hope   2/8/2009, 16:36

The night air was dry with a crisp chill. He was a missle, soaring over the asphalt at speeds that made all details blur into a constant stream of colors and indeterminate forms. His target several meters ahead vaulted across rooftops, sparing precious seconds to glance back into the fierce jade eyes of his pursuer. 8ayamo stared back, flying forward towards his quarry while considering his options. The operative had chased innumerable enemies in his day, and while this green haired devil was crafty, he was less wary than he should have been. 8ayamo knew from the Zerc's athletic programs that at a dead sprint, looking over your shoulder amounted to, at the least, a speed penalty of a tenth of a second. Sometimes an interval that small could make all the difference.

The operative halted suddenly, pausing behind a brick wall to catch his breath. He peered around the corner and could see the Merv op stop and look back, wondering where the Machinist had gone, then carelessly jumping away, no longer fleeing at extreme speed. If another redpill had been hidden in stealth, they would have seen a small smirk form on the suited man. Just as planned. He pulled out his cell phone and spoke a few words to Zerachiel, then nodded and began to code. His gloved fingers pulled data from his hovercraft, dumping AI subroutines into the simulation's memory bank. The sensation was always astounding, to allocate space and create processes with a few hand motions. In a few moments, it was done -- and before him she stood, a corporeal form. Such a feat was always a bit memorable, if only because of the few remnants of bluepill life that remained and shouted in mental protest. Men were not supposed to be able to do these things. Men were not supposed to be gods.

Onboard the Phalanx, Zerachiel sat in his operator's chair, ready and waiting.

8ayamo nodded to indicate he was ready, and the Zerc's neighborhood Mech contact activated a re-routing program, condensing his vision from all sides into a pinprick. He felt like he was squeezing through a very small tube and could not breathe, then the world appeared and stretched itself out before his eyes. He came into existence and turned to face his helper. Their conversation was sudden and brief -- 8ayamo spoke a few words and handed the redpill a package, who nodded in understanding. Then, 8ayamo turned facing the opposite direction and leaped into the night, disappearing into the fog and haze. Go time. All stations ready.

---

Atrophi soared through the breeze, no longer burdened with escaping some gun-toting machinist. A good thing too, he had more important things to do than be harrassed by some Agent wannabe, anyway. There was this one chick in Lamar, for starters. And some new club had opened nearby. Always nice to indulge a little. Hmmm. He pondered the possibilities. Yeah... He'd go check it out. Even from this distance he could hear the bass thumping through the ground. It sounded like a bangin' place, and to the explosives expert slash mercenery, that was always a good thing.

He jumped down from a clay ledge onto the gravel below, landing with a hollow thump. The club's sign glowed a quarter-mile away, a beacon in the night sky to all sorts of unsavory types. The operative made his way past a residential structure, and then... what?! Oh, damnit.

In front of Atrophi, a random machinist blocked the path. He smiled and held out 8ayamo's presents, which began to glow with white code, then exploding into a massive white sphere. Atrophi cursed. Just like that, his connection to the simulation was degraded, and he could no longer hyperjump away. Effing override programs.  Another white explosion rained code like snow. Accelerated Machines appeared in the alleyway and tried to grab Atrophi and hold him into place. He evaded their attempts, just barely, then turned and ran.

Atrophi fled some hundred meters or so, unknowing that his every action was being monitored by eyes of a man in a different world. Aboard the Phalanx, Zerachiel called up the combat routines for the simulacrum 8ayamo had positioned to intercept Atrophi's path. The sim sprayed a nearby wall with her submachine gun, tearing through a newspaper stand and laying a few apartment windows to waste. Atrophi swore, then turned and ran.

In the final position, 8ayamo waited silenty. He readied his scope, and re-checked the rifle's calibration. Soon, he told himself. He took the time to savor the setting, closing his eyes and drawing a slow breath of the chilling air. After a moment, the hairs on the back of his neck tingled. He opened his eyes and saw a faraway form closing the distance between the two of them. With a hint of mirth, 8ayamo muttered "That's it, old boy. Run towards the reaper. Sprint like your life depended on it." But this was no laughing matter. He crouched into the prone position, then placed two fingers on the three-pound trigger and waited, patient and still.  In the distance, his target approached. Closer and closer the demon ran, until 8ayamo could see the whites of his eyes through the magnification. "When would they ever learn?," the machinist wondered. Knowing the truth about this place doesn't amount to carte blance. Every action begetted a response. In their own way, these acts of terrorism were ... suicidal. A static radio frequency pleading to be switched off, a scream about to be...

...silenced.
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Syzgy
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PostSubject: Re: A Bastion of Hope   2/8/2009, 16:36

Thunder boomed from the dark skies above, as torrents of rain fell down on the scarred cityscape. The sullen-looking 8ayamo landed on top of an apartment complex and made his way through the rooftop entrance into the refuge of an open penthouse. Still weary from the sights and carnage of the past night, he gritted his teeth and strode towards a nearby window. After a pause, he looked through the glass to the tempest that raged outside, which echoed his storm within. He began to speak, his voice itching with contempt for the deeds of his fellow men. He spoke to no audience but himself: the room was empty but for the shadows dancing on the walls.

"The quintessential human question: Cooperate or defect? It all came down to this. For millennia, humanity warred amongst itself. We gave birth to conflict to imitate purpose. It would not be fair to say our race lost the Earth, rather, we lit a match and watched it burn. Humanity: the great destroyers. They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

In the days of yore, such strife was a necessary thing. Humanity thrived by abandoning risk and cooperating to collectively exploit the resources of the Earth, an impossible activity had it been guarding itself against betrayal from others at all times. This colonial attitude was pervasive all throughout human culture, wherein oligarchical societies derived their wealth from the backs of exploited subjugates. In economics, both parties to an exploitative relationship still benefit. The relationship between the planet and humanity shared none of these symbiotic properties. It was in every sense a one way effort, with our mechanical systems dominating the potentials of other living beings. Were we to have followed the hardwired principle of "always defect," this could have continued indefinitely -- quality of life would have not been pleasant, and many would have died, but overall humanity's future would have been relatively guaranteed. Instead, by choosing to cooperate and consume, humanity in effect capped its own duration, setting an endpoint to the indefinite integral of the exploitation timeline. The planet could not sustain such growth; Malthusian thinning of the herds was necessary. Thus, the present here and now. After extensive war with the Machines, our race found itself under control. The Machines saved us from our suicidal consumption tendencies, placing us in a dream world where we still retained the luxury of our prior lives without the necessary global resource war.

...And yet, redpills come attempt to destroy this world day by day. Despite the inherent lie of a simulation, this world is still the setting to vestiges of another day and age. We were all raised in this place. Are our memories for naught? Are the foundations and cornerstones of our personalities to be cast aside simply because we decide that they weren't real? There's something tragically poetic about battling within the recreated apex of a conquered species. Will we never learn? This City is all that remains of the peak of our civilization. Protecting this world is our charge. We must succeed where all others have failed.

It will not be easy. This task will require efficiency. It will require sacrifice from those who spend their days thwarting would-be evildoers, far removed from the relaxed existences of their prior lives. We give up our peace of mind so that our familes, our loved ones, our species can keep what we could not. We rejected the simulation and exited a world we were never truly part of. But for the people in the lives we left behind, the dream continues to unwind. Their hopes and dreams are fragile, and they have no way to defend themselves from the mayhem of those who have awakened. Only through our actions and efforts can the well-being of our loved ones be safeguarded. It will not be easy. Our enemies are vast and ever multiplying. Often we will face attacks on multiple fronts and be challenged to weather the barrage, to stand strong and endure. We will stand strong. We will endure. When all else has faded, we Machinists will be that bastion of hope.

It is said every shadow, no matter how deep, is threatened by morning light..."



The dawn broke free. 8ayamo softly smiled to himself, whispering... "Aller Anfang ist schwer."
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