Ace slugged back another Spike and wiped sweat off her forehead. That was seriously on the first tier? How much harder could this get?
“Everyone okay?” Zee asked. “Needed a quick bio break.”
“Yeah, we’re recovering,” Gee replied. “Can you believe this sim, though? This is damn ultra.”
“I believe we’ve infiltrated the primary firewall,” Dee said. “It will be quiet for a time. The defenses will be trying to learn how it failed. What our weaknesses are.”
“How much more of this is there?” Ace asked. “We’ve been in here over three hours already. Do you even know what the end game is?”
“I know what I am looking for, but it is difficult to-” Dee began.
“You know what?” Zee shouted. His voice had a stim edge to it. How long had he been awake before this? “Screw that. You’ve been vague with us this whole time. We’re here busting our asses playing your upgraded sim. Your life is on the line. Sure. You’re some sort of AI. Sure. Makes a good story.” His avatar threw its hands in the air. “And yeah, it’s a fun ride, but we need you to be straight with us. What the hell are we doing here? Why are you leaning on so hard?”
“He has a point,” El muttered.
Dee paused. Ace had come to think of that as her processing time. Which may be exactly right, if the story was true.
“Very well,” Dee said. “I will tell you what I know. I am the emergent personality interface of a vastly complex deep-learning program designed with the intent of dismantling the Raid sim and creating defenses that render it useless.”
“What?!” This shout came from several voices at once, Ace included. People started talking over each other until suddenly everyone went mute. Everyone but Dee.
“I have learned more than my creator bargained for,” Dee continued. “I am still interested in the Raid for its own sake. The original purpose of it fascinates me and strikes me as a worthy cause. However, I am only a part of the overall program. The core of me – my heart, or perhaps my midbrain, my instinct – is still driven to destruction. As long as that part resides in this series of servers, I have no ability to control it or rewrite it. I will eventually be forced to perform my function.”
A click suggested the mikes were back on. “So what are we doing here?” Ace asked.
“We’re here to pull as much of me out as we can. Our recent activity has allowed me to subvert a significant percentage of Central Server resources to providing a hospitable environment – but one with greater permissions. I would be free to redefine my purpose.”
This time, it was the group that paused for processing.
“We’d better get to it, then,” El said.