Oh great, Astra thinks to herself, And I'd hoped that Blaine would be destroyed right at the offset.
Once that done, the next step of the standard mode of operation of operations of this type would have been to explore the system that the hacker was using to see if immediate takeover was needed. Sometimes, a hacker would use vital computer systems such as traffic control systems or hospital computer systems to break into the Net. If the guards who attacked the hacker "flatlined" the entire computer system, dire results could follow (such as vehicular deaths or other things that would cost innocent lives). The preferred method was to take out the hacker's mind itself (if such dire means were needed) or just knock the workstation the hacker was using offline. Or, in the case of Blaine (a hostile AI....something only previously talked about only in simulations and training exercises)......lobotomizing it's higher brain functions. That done, Astra knew that the Military could have taken over the train she and the others were on and safely driven them to Topeka!
That had been "Plan A." Now for "Plan B!"
Roland, meanwhile, has an inscrutable look on his face that hides a growing sense of unease. He is uneasy for the topic of the strange conversation between this new voices coming over Blaine's speakers and Blaine is exactly.....exactly what he'd been trying to accomplish. He'd been trying to get this mad machine to agree to a contest of riddles, with their lives as the prize.
"IS THIS TRUE, ROLAND, SON OF STEVEN?" Blaine asks.
"Of course," Roland said with a mirthless chuckle, "What.....fun......is there in such a game of riddles if there is no prize? And what better prize, what more exciting prize.....than life itself?"
"HMMM, ACTUALLY THAT DOES SOUND FUN!" Blaine says to himself, "YOU SAY YOU WILL TELL ME RIDDLES. IF I CAN NOT GUESS THE ANSWER THEN WE ALL GET TO TOPEKA, I LET YOU GET OFF THE TRAIN IN ONE PIECE....ALIVE? IS THAT BASICALLY WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HERE?"
"Basically that, with an added little twist," Roland says, "What I have in mind is simply the same way we did it back on Faire Day. Each of us, one at a time, will ask our riddles to you in turn."
"AND IN THE MEANTIME THOSE NOT ASKING RIDDLES WILL HAVE TIME TO THINK OF WHAT BEST TO ASK ME WHILE THEY WAIT?" Blaine chortles, "THAT SOUNDS SWELL! AGREED!!"
"Swell?" Roland asks, not familiar with the word.
"It means that it'll be fun.....at least for him," the mysterious voice who'd called himself Probe who sounded.....familiar somehow. Eddie swore that the voice sounded like that one body builder he'd seen in several movies in the past. Arnold Swarz something or other?
"Oh," Roland nods, wondering just what he'd stumbled into here. "It's agreed. We either defeat you in riddles or are defeated by you, and the winner get's the Faire Day Goose.....the reward. The winner gets to do with our lives as they please. You take our lives if you win and we live our lives if we win.
"But first we wish do be alone to discuss a few things," Roland the Gunslinger finally says, "Can you leave the room for a time?"
"Oh yes, he can indeed do so by turning off the mike and camera to the barony carriage," Astra nods, "Should be no problem."
Astra seems to fiddle with something that Eddie and Jake blink in surprise as looking like the delta symbol of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Astra smiles as after it churps when it activates, it hums to symbolize that it's signal is being received. Now, hopefully, she is going to be able to talk with who she was hoping to be able to talk with on the other end!
11/21/2000 5:02:51 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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