The Libra Gambit: Chapter 11

Ray raids the fridge, sibling's spat, and Ada Lovelace makes a cameo.
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Chapter 11

While Ray was happy that Jessyn was happy that Koz thought he could slice into Cerberus, he was a lot less happy when, some time later, Koz explained that infiltrating the prison’s database would require more power than the Moth’s computer systems were currently allocated. 

Because of this, Koz and Mollin designed a series of bypasses, then directed the rest of the makeshift crew in the mechanics of rerouting the necessary energy from numerous ship’s systems. 

Harry, with his lean build and long reach, ended up inside the ventral utility tube, re-routing life support, shields, and inertial dampeners. 

Ray might have pitied Harry’s having to work in the cramped space, except that his own allotted task required donning his EVO suit and working outside the ship. 

There, clinging to the Moth’s hull, he painstakingly adjusted the ship’s solar cells for reasons Koz and Mollin explained, but had resolved into a haze of “Blahblahblah, q-space times force, blahblah.” 

The entire rerouting process, inside and out, took two-and-a-half ship days, which was exactly one ship day longer than could be counted comfortable on a vessel with three bedrooms, two baths, six passengers, and nowhere near enough rations. 

Halfway through day three, Ray emerged from the cockpit to find Mollin hunched over the forward computer station, his fingers flying over the keypad while his eyes continually skimmed the holoscreen upon which streamed line after line of code.

Further aft and starboard, Koz was parked on the deck, taking up the sliver of wall between the two bedroom doors. 

A multitude of tiles hovered above the computer, and while Ray watched, Koz’s left hand danced from keypad to holos and back, arranging and rearranging the mosaic of data over, and over, again. 

“I can’t get through,” Mollin declared as Ray stepped into the lounge. 

“Try the Lovelace variation,” Koz said, not looking up from his tiles. 

“The Lovelace is ancient,” Mollin said. “Pre-quantum computing ancient.” 

“Exactly,” Koz agreed. “It’s old enough that no cy-tech in the Known has bothered to design a counter-measure,” Koz added.

“They wouldn’t have had to,” Mollin said, spinning in the chair to face Koz. “Lovelace is so creaky it can’t even scale the shortest firewall.” 

“Mollin,” Koz said, still focused on his tiles, “just do it.” 

Ray, heading into the Galley, glanced back to see Mollin’s eyes narrow and waited for the explosion—but it never came as Mollin’s lips snapped closed and he returned his attention to the screen to—presumably—try the Lovelace Variation.

Whatever the hells that was.

Ray shrugged and continued into the galley to find Mo and Jessyn lingering over coffee and tea, respectively, and Harry downing a handful of pain pills with his own coffee.

“Spine?” he asked Harry. 

“Everything,” Harry said.

 “I told you, you don’t have to sleep on the lounge floor,” Mo, who was sleeping in Harry’s bed, told him. 

“Yes, he does,” Ray said, ignoring the fact he could feel Jessyn rolling her eyes. 

“It’s not the floor so much as the hours in the utility tube,” Harry said. 

“See?” Ray told Mo before diving into the frige unit, only to emerge a second later, holding a bowl that held a single, lonely leaf of what might have been kale. “Okay,” he said, “who ate the last Eiolian shrimp enchilada?” 

“That was yours?” Koz asked, peeking out from behind his screens. 

“Yes, it was mine,” Ray said. “Just like the last of the Verdunian gumbo was mine.” 

“Sorry.” Koz ducked back behind his work. “Maybe next time you should put your name on it, or something.” 

Ray’s lip curled and he hefted the bowl. 

“Please don’t kill him,” Harry said, stepping between Ray and his potential target. “At least, not until after he gets us into Cerberus.” 

“On that note,” Mo said,  “we all know slicing into Cerberus is only the first step. We still need to nail down what happens after we have access to the AI.”

If we even get that far,” Ray groused, returning to the fridge, where he grabbed hold of a container of yogurt. 

“Always the optimist,” Mo observed.

“And even if he does,” Ray continued, while giving the yogurt a sour glare, “I think you should sit this gig out. We can drop you at Vir-22, since we have to go food shopping anyway.”

“Yeah, that’ll happen,” Mo said. “Give it up, little brother. You robbed me of my shot at Danseker. I’m not losing the chance to add Prison Break to my resume.” 

“It’s not a  joke,” Ray parked himself in one of the chairs. 

“And do you think my work is a joke?” Mo asked sweetly. 

Jessyn scooted out of her chair and joined Harry at the counter. 

“I didn’t say that,” Ray said. “Did you hear me say that?”

“You didn’t have to say it,” Mo told her brother. “Not when you’re practically exuding ‘highly trained assassin’ from every pore.”

“I am not exuding—”

“The intimation being,” she cut him off, “that you are more qualified for this particular job than I am, when the fact is, I am the only member of this crew—”

“We’re not a crew,” Ray mumbled, spooning up yogurt. 

“—who has ever built a viable plan for extracting an individual from a high security prison,” Mo continued to steamroll over him. “Though Lawman here has some insider knowledge,” she added graciously.

“Awww,” Harry said.

“That said…” Mo turned to Ray, “… there’s no hope this plan, once we have a complete plan, will work unless we have a minimum of four bodies on the grift and two slicers. Three slicers would be better, considering the Cerberus triplets, but Koz is worth two slicers, easy.”

“Awww,” Koz said, proving he was, in fact, paying attention to what was happening in the galley.

“And We have Dorothy,” Mo added.

[Awww] Dorothy said, causing Ray’s eyes to roll as he took a bite of yogurt, then almost choked. 

“Holy Mother,” he said, grabbing Mo’s coffee from her hand and swilling it down. “How can you people eat this stuff?”

“It is better with fruit,” Jessyn assured over a sip of tea.

“Which we’re also out of,” Ray groused, then glared at Mo as she grabbed her coffee back from him. 

“Get your own,” she said. 

Ray made a face over another mouthful of yogurt. 

“I will get it,” Jessyn said, patting his shoulder. “As long as the two of you promise to stop fighting for five seconds.” 

Ray’s mouth opened, protest rising in his eyes, but something—simple common sense or the inside track to what Jessyn was feeling—had him easing back. “Thanks,” was all he said. 

“He can be taught,” Mo murmured, then slid her legs to one side before Ray’s instinctive kick could connect. “Since we need to hit Vir-22 for supplies,” she continued, while sending an arch look his way, “there are a few other things we’re going to need for this job. Clothing, props, and such.” 

“We should start a list,” Jessyn agreed, setting Ray’s coffee in front of him before turning to the galley junk drawer to pull out a spare palm comp.

“I could use a few more components, while we’re at it,” Koz said as Jessyn sat down at the table. 

 Ray turned to see the AD unfolding himself from the floor, leaving the comp and its holoscreen on the deck, where the tiles continued to float.

“As long as we get some actual food while we’re at it,” Ray said. 

“And more coffee,” Koz added.

“And maybe a mattress,” Harry threw in.

“Again,” Mo said, “you don’t have to sleep on the—“

At which point Mollin let out another curse.

Ray, and everyone else in the galley, turned their eyes forward to see the Cherrii standing in front of the comp station, staring at the holo screens popping to live over the desk in a veritable plague of intel. 

“What the hells?” Ray asked, rising from his chair. 

“You were right.” Mollin turned to find Koz’s eyes. “Lovelace let me slide your mirrors into place but,” he added, indicating the information popping up in front of him, “it looks like they got us into more than just the staff files.” 

“Cool,” was Koz’s assessment as he abandoned the coffee machine. 

Harry set his own mug aside, while Mo jumped up to follow him forward. 

Though he was still hungry, Ray had no problem leaving the half-eaten yogurt to follow Harry and Mo. 

As Jessyn also joined the pack, he took her hand and they both came to a halt behind Mollin.

“What is all this?” Harry, at Ray’s right, studied the proliferating tiles of data.

“It’s Cerberus. I mean, I think it’s Cerberus,” Mollin replied, falling back into the chair before glancing up at Koz. “Did you expect this?”

“I was hoping,” Koz said, leaning close.

“That is a lot of data,” Mo said. 

Ray had to agree. “Is it too much for the Moth’s drive to handle?” he asked, eyes narrowing as yet another flurry of screens came into being in front of Mollin. 

“No,” Koz said, the head bopping becoming a shake. “In fact, the Moth shouldn’t be downloading any of this. Dorothy?” He glanced up, “Am I correct?” 

[You are, Dr. Kosterlovovich] the AI replied calmly. [All of the data you are now viewing remains housed in the Libra Prison station.]

“How is that possible?” Harry asked, looking past Ray and Jessyn towards Koz, so the light of thousands of bytes of data flickered in reflection over the left side of his face. 

“Mirror neurons reflect both ways,” Koz said,  as if that explained everything. 

“That didn’t explain anything,” Mo pointed out. 

[In essence the mirror neuron program Dr. Kosterlovovich created entangles with the Cerberus AIs] Dorothy said.

“Still not helping,” Ray said. 

“Right, sorry.” With obvious reluctance, Koz turned from the screens to face his audience. “What you’re seeing here is what Cerberus is running, in real time. It’s not a download so much as—”

“A reflection?” Harry guessed. 

“Almost,” Koz agreed.

“But in this case the reflection isn’t reversed.” Mollin added. “Which would be problematic.”

“I would think,” Mo agreed. 

“And they—the Cerberus—doesn’t know we’re watching?” Jessyn asked.

“Nope,” Koz replied with enough certainty Ray almost believed him. “Cerberus has no idea they’re being watched, because my mirrors match their mirrors so closely. In a sense, we’re like a fourth head.”

“So, if we wanted to, we could slide in a task command to, say, generate a prisoner release?” Harry all but jumped on Koz’s statement.

“Oh… ah, no. Sorry.” Koz raised his hands in apology. “What I should have said is we’re like a ghost head. We can see what the other three are doing, but not act.” 

“Read only,” Mollin clarified. 

“Then how can you insert the fake IDs?” Ray asked. 

“Once we get a read on how new hires are taken on, I can create the appropriate legends and insert them from the point of hire,” Koz explained. 

“But there is so much data,” Jessyn said, her eyes gleaming as she studied the screens. “How do you know what to use?” 

“For that matter, how do we freeze anything long enough to read it?” Mo asked.  

“Oh,” Koz said, blinked, then slumped a bit in the chair. “I hadn’t thought of that.” 

“I think we need to take the surgical approach,” Harry said. 

[I thought we weren’t going to damage Cerberus] Dorothy countered. 

“Not that kind of surgical,” Harry waved the AI’s concern aside. “I mean, maybe we can get a freeze-frame of, say, a few milliseconds. Would that put a burden on the Moth’s memory?”

“It shouldn’t be,” Koz said, his brow furrowing. “Dorothy?” 

[I believe I could bear up to three milliseconds worth of data from Cerberus] Dorothy replied. 

“How would that help?” Mo asked, turning to Harry. 

“To start with, most of what the AIs are running are repetitive actions. Housework that’s going to be the same subroutine over and over.”

[Too true] Dorothy agreed. 

“And even the more unique actions, shift times for the refinery, intake of new prisoners and the like, that’s not going to change much. At most we get different names, but we know the name of the prisoner we’re interested in. All we need is a snapshot of a minute out of the day on Cerberus to get a sample size of the whole, which would logically include sapient resources and hiring.” 

“And if we don’t get sapient resources in our snapshot?” Mollin asked. 

“We delete it and take another picture. We can, can’t we?” Harry turned to Koz. “The mirrors you’re using, are they stable? Or is this a one shot deal?” 

“They’re stable—ish,” Koz replied, glaring at the screens and chewing his lip. 

“Define ish,” Ray said

“They’ll hold,” Koz told him, looking up.  “As long as we remain in this spacial location, anyway. Once we move the Moth, I have to start the build over again, to match the, let’s call it the fractal, for simplicity’s sake, of Cerberus’s neurons.” 

“Yeah that’s simple,” Mo murmured.

Ray shoved the instinctive snarl down and turned to Harry. “And how long do you think it’ll take to get a read of everything on your snapshot?” 

“Ask the Duchess.” Harry looked at Mo. “You’ll have the best idea of what we need.”  

Mo huffed out a breath, sent Ray a rueful glance. “You may be eating yogurt for a couple of days.” 

The snarl flexed its muscles, but Ray held firm.

“There may be some peanut butter left,” Harry  offered. 

“No, there isn’t,” Mollin said, then cleared his throat. “Sorry.” 

“No one has touched the emergency stores,” Jessyn pointed out.

“Because the emergency stores taste like cardboard,” Ray told her.

“Then I guess we should get to work,” Mo determined. “The sooner we get our data, the sooner we can hit the grocery store.” 

“My life used to be simple,” Ray lamented. 

“I think your definition of simple is wildly different from the rest of the Known’s,” Mo noted.

This time, Ray didn’t even try to tame the snarl. 

Before Harry met Ray

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