A New Line of Work: Part Six
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 5:02PM, Virtupets Space Station Recreation Deck, VSS Arcade++
"Yes! Yes! Mori! I found him! I found him in the system!" Kuvah exclaimed, attempting to access Thirteen Thirty Seven's programming and system files.
Moriarti broke away from the dwindling throng of admirers, causing the group of disperse back to their own game terminals or be on their way. He came in behind his assistant and poked his snout over her shoulder so he could see what she was looking at.
After a moment, he put a hand on her shoulder, saying, "Good work, Kuvah. Is there anything there we can use to get either him or the servers to shut down?" She quickly went about poking through the various folders for anything useful.
Finally, she stumbled across something. "Hmm... this looks like it's Thirteen's sense of justice program. It looks like someone tampered with it," she said, examining things more closely. She scrolled down through the long list of numbers and tags and phrases contained in the file. At the very bottom, there was a line: "Software Patch v8.8 C Norton Aquila."
Moriarti and Kuvah stared at the last line for a moment.
"Not only is he a jerk, he's a dumb villain, too," Kuvah remarked. Moriarti just shook his head.
"It's too bad he's actually a little lethal and angry, otherwise he probably wouldn't be much of a threat. So, is it possible we could overwrite this?" Moriarti asked his assistant.
Kuvah nodded. "If I run a copy of this file into the game system, everyone solves it, and he reads it, it should overwrite the old one and fix whatever skewed sense of justice Norton implanted him with," she informed her boss. Moriarti smiled.
"Knew I could count on you, Kuvah. Been pulling through for me all day," he said, patting her on the back, all the while filling her stomach with butterflies.
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 5:15PM, Virtupets Space Station Public Service Announcement++
"Hey, all you- Hey, all you- Hey, all you spies and agents out there playing Spy Game! This is your good friend [S3M1 13-37 CRB] here to let you all know of a new update!
"As of 5:15PM, station time, we're releasing a new series of puzzles for you to all solve! But, unlike past puzzles, we're going to make this one more challenging; we know you've b-b-b-been fighting the evil Doctor Moriarti Lugenbrau- Doctor Moriarti Lugenbrau and his evil underworld secretary Kuvah Magh, but we want to set a new record. Log in right now and help stop the devious duo!"
"The group that completes it in the fastest time will not only receive POSH BRAGGING RIGHTS, they will also receive not one, not ten, but one hundred thousand Neopoints worth of game merchandise and game credit. Yes, one- one- one hundred thousand! All for just completing the latest batch of five puzzles! And they're not hard, but being able to count to five helps! Ready? Good!"
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 5:20PM, Virtupets Space Station Corridor 556, Lower Level, Bay 8++
Norton wandered back to where Thirteen was still working. Thirteen could tell he was not pleased.
"What's this about a contest you're putting on in game, Thirteen?" the Disco Eyrie asked rather tersely.
Thirteen had no knowledge of this. He tilted his head to one side to search for records of a contest. Finding none, he looked at his employer.
"Y-yo-yo-you must be incorrect. No records indicate a contest," Thirteen informed Norton rather matter-of-factly, continuing on with his soldering of wires to a breadboard.
This answer only seemed to displease Norton even more. "What do you mean 'no records?' If you didn't start the contest, then who did?" He demanded.
Thirteen was silent for a moment, already having drawn the obvious conclusion. He stared back at Norton as a look of realization slowly crept over his features. He immediately drew another blaster he had scrounged up after the loss of his original.
"Moriarti. You've been a thorn in my side for far too long now."
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 5:30PM, Virtupets Space Station Recreation Deck, VSS Arcade++
After setting up the fake contest, there had been a boom in people rushing to play Spy Game. Quite quickly, the VSS Arcade had filled to capacity, brimming with people only playing the puzzle game. Little did they know that they were all part of a larger plan that was helping stop a crazed Disco Eyrie and his damaged robot friend.
Moriarti and Kuvah had opted to eat dinner at the café located on a terrace overlooking the Recreation Deck. From their table, they could see the arcade as people flocked to the crowded establishment in an attempt to get on and play.
"'Ere's your food, little lady. Same for you, mistah," the waiter said, setting down two steaming plates of reconstituted vegetable puffs and rehydrated chicken cordon bleu. They looked at the food, and despite its looks, realized just how hungry they really were.
"Geeze, easy to forget that you haven't eaten in several hours when you're taking laser blasts," Moriarti said, loosening his tie some and trying to unwind a bit. After being on his feet all day, almost stabbed, and shot twice, sitting down in the cushioned chair of the café was a nice change of pace. Even his shoulder and wing were starting to feel a bit better (though they still probably needed to get looked at and hurt rather bad if he moved either of them too much).
Kuvah laughed a bit, relieving some pent up stress. She knew they weren't quite out of the woods and she'd have rather gone to get her partner a doctor, but Mori had insisted on getting something to eat. He knew a doctor he could see when they were back on Neopia. The duo began to dig in ravenously and scarf down their meal.
"Man, after all the excitement of today, I'm not sure this is going to be enough!" Kuvah stated. Moriarti nodded with a mouthful of vegetable puffs. They weren't great, but having skipped lunch and not eaten since, neither Moriarti nor Kuvah were willing to complain.
They quickly got through about half their food when there was a commotion from the arcade. Moriarti looked over to see what was up, and wasn't happy with what was going on. Without taking his eyes off the commotion, he reached into his pocket and pulled out enough neopoints to cover the cost of the meal and then some, not really caring at this moment. Kuvah looked on in confusion as her accomplice paid the bill and made move to get up.
"What's going on, Moriarti?" She asked, looking out at the crowd. Quickly, she found her answer: Norton Aquila was pushing his way through the crowd with another blaster in his hand, determined to find his mark. She was thankful he hadn't noticed them yet...
Nope, scratch that. Someone had pointed them out, and from their high point on the terrace, they were plainly visible. Norton saw them and immediately took a shot at them, though at this range he was highly inaccurate, the beam streaking off into the rafters and sending a cascade of sparks as it burnt a hole in the ceiling. Nonetheless, this was enough to get the pair moving.
Norton cursed under his breath as his targets ran. Most of the crowd outside the arcade began fleeing for cover from the madman with the blaster, though he paid them no mind as he marched off in pursuit of his bounty.
++19th Day of Relaxing, Year 13, 5:33PM, Virtupets Space Station Corridor 556, Lower Level, Bay 8++
Thirteen was alone again in the vast hangar on the lower level, working on various pieces of server equipment that ran Spy Game as well as subconsciously going through the various files that the users of the game were decrypting. Actually, he noticed that not a single new file had been completed in the last eighteen minutes, fifty two seconds, and three nanoseconds.
When he checked to make sure the game was running, he saw that usage of game terminals had skyrocketed in that same time and the game was being entirely devoted to solving one impeccably large file.
He quickly ran through the calculations to find out how close the game's players were to actually decrypting the file, and was pleasantly surprised to see they were all actually fairly close. He'd expect to see a finished file in-
A small alert bubble inside his field of vision popped up to notify him of the completed file being deposited for review. Norton had him check each file individually to ensure if decrypted correctly and that the file was at least of some value or other; otherwise, he decided it wasn't worth the storage space on the hard drives.
Thirteen quickly made to retrieve the file in one of the servers, downloading it from its place with all the rest of the finished files. Upon its completion, however, it did something completely unexpected: it began to immediately overwrite one of his system files on its own accord! He tried to stop it, but it wouldn't stop.
Thirteen Thirty Seven's vision went full of noise as the file progressed in making systematic changes. He could feel himself losing his current sense of self before finally it completed. Upon doing so, he was thrown violently sideways into a stack of servers that crashed down around him as some electronic components gave way under the excessive stress and detonated.
He was down for mere minutes, but to him it felt like a century. He wasn't in any pain; as a robot, he was almost incapable of feeling it. He had a small hole in his head that would probably require some work, and his visual input was crawling in a vertical loop. Despite the disorientation, however, he remarked that his systems were doing far better than they had been since Norton had forced a software update on him.
Slowly, the Robot Ogrin got to his feet and surveyed his surroundings, the brunt of what he had been involved with now in the last few weeks coming to the forefront of his mind. Where there had been a drive to accept Norton's money in exchange to set up this game, there was now guilt for being involved. Thirteen surveyed the piles of servers and knew what had to be done.
He moved slowly and deliberately towards the far wall of the hangar as he slowly attempted to readjust his visual sensors before finally coming to rest in front of a lever set in the wall. It was large, and surrounded in the color red and cautionary stripes of yellow and black. The plaque above it read "EMERGENCY DOOR RELEASE."
Thirteen stood in front of it and turned to look back out across the hangar space, stacked high with papers and electronics. He lifted his arm and grabbed the lever, being sure to have a very firm grasp on it. Then, with no hesitation, he pulled it down a full 90 degrees.
There was a trembling along the far hangar doors as the grind of metal rang out through the cavernous room. Soon, there was a slight breeze; it fluttered papers and pulled them towards the door as they slowly began to split. The breeze began to pick up as more atmosphere was vented into space, pulling papers and loose, light pieces of electronic equipment out with it.
Soon, it was an almost unbearable vacuum. Anything not bolted down was quickly lost to the vastness of space. Thirteen, with his grip firmly on the handle, rode out the decompression until nothing was left in the hangar save himself. By then, the entire hangar was in a state of vacuum, and for a moment he looked out at the beautiful curvature of Neopia as the sun slowly set behind it.
Thirteen pushed the lever back up, starting the recompression sequence. Through the closing doors, he watched the various pieces of what had been Norton's master plan slowly burn up in the Neopian atmosphere.
To be continued...