The Terra Episode Chapter 8
General Fencross was the second general of the Imperial Army of three. He had a long record of battle experience and had earned the respect of many soldiers. In terms of patriotism and bravery he stood second only to General Leo. His merited rank, however, was not to be taken lightly. He was a fierce fighter and a shrewd tactician. His real battle strength lay in stealthy counterstrikes and one-to-one combats. At least, it was before he was promoted to a general.
General Fencross entered the lab deep inside the main science complex. Walking about inside the huge room were scientists in white suits. Some wore protective goggles and were operating odd-looking contraptions. Others were simply pushing carts, transporting different equipment from one work site to the next. Others, still, were on desks, logging their findings from a certain experiment to their computers. The scientists didnt salute to the general because they were just civilians.
He was in the lab for a reason. He was to meet a team of scientists who were part of the investigation of the reactor explosion. A man in a white suit unlike the others approached him and greeted him politely.
"Good afternoon, General."
General Fencross nodded simply. "You found something?"
"Indeed," Dr. Brown, the scientist leading the science investigation team said as he led the general to another room. "We found a Magitek Drone," Brown said, motioning to a half-disassembled sentry drone. "Its a Silver Drone GT-590. This specific drone was programmed to patrol the corridors of the yellow section of the Devils Lab." Brown pointed his finger to a big colored floor plan of the Devils Lab. An alarming discovery came with it. The walls of the corridor where we found it had blast marks that match the drones weapon intensity. There were other sets of blast marks found as well, and they matched the intensity of a standard issue Bolt Rifle that the guards in the area used. The odd thing was, it was the guards that destroyed this drone."
Fencross had a puzzled look on his face. "Where are these guards now?"
"They were the same guards that perished in the reactor explosion," Brown answered.
"Why would the guards destroy a Drone?" Fencross asked shaking his head.
"Well, we asked the same question, and the Drone gave us a bit of an answer," Brown replied as he walked closer to a half-incinerated Magitek Drone. General Fencross followed. "We extracted its memory modules and accessed its most recent command logs. These logs are kept in two different places. The first one is within the Drone itself, and the second is in our Central Computer Core. All the Drones within the Bronze Fortress are in constant communication between them and the central computer. This way their actions could be monitored and controlled in the most efficient way, as you may already know. First, we checked the most recent command given to the Drone by the central computer. Everything checked out according to specified parameters--"
"Meaning?" Fencross asked.
"It means that the central core gave it a series of commands that it was supposed to. Mainly, to patrol a designated area and to identify intruders, if present, and stop them. We found this very suspicious because it held no records, whatsoever, about the Drones encounter with the soldiers. If the soldiers, indeed, opened fire upon the Drone, then it would have registered them as a hostile group. The log mentioned nothing about it at all."
"What about the other log?"
"Exactly! Though there are two different locations that the logs are kept, both should ultimately be the same. We extracted the records from the Drone and found them to be physically undamaged. The logs revealed a totally different thing." Brown turned to a subordinate scientist and ordered, "Show the general what we found."
The scientist nodded quickly and went to the closest computer terminal. He punched in a series of commands, and the screen flashed cryptic codes in two parallel columns.
"Explain," Fencross said.
"Yes. A line of code represents a specific command at a given time. The codes on the left column are the ones from the central computer. The ones on the right are the commands from the Drones memory module. As you can see they are different. We looked up the meaning of the codes, and they translated to the following in order."
Detection of unauthorized presence
Authorization input failed
Authorization input accepted
High-level security bypass
Query new command
New command accepted
Detection of unauthorized presence
Switching to attack mode
"After that the Drone was terminated by the soldiers," the subordinate scientist explained.
"Explain, professor," Fencross asked again in a more irritated tone.
"Er, yes. What my colleague meant was that somebody approached the Drone, gave it a high-level command that overrode all security and gave it a new command to attack the soldiers. This is our best guess, of course, as we have no visual evidence of the particular events, but this is the only way we could interpret it. But judging from the blast marks in the area, I am convinced that the series of commands really took place," Brown explained more clearly.
Fencrosss face grew more solemn. "So we did have an intruder?"
"It would seem so."
"We have security cameras on those corridors. Do we have a footage?" Fencross asked.
Brown and his colleague looked at each other. It seemed like it was a hesitation to answer the question.
"We have cameras everywhere, and they are always online. The Devil's Laboratory Compound has the best security system in the entire city. The security we have there is even more sophisticated than the one we have in the Bronze Fortress. We have a crew that keeps in check this particular security system everyday. We--"
"What is your point, professor?" interrupted General Fencross all of a sudden as a sign of impatience. "Do we, or do we not have the footage?"
"No, sir. We do not," Brown finally said.
General Fencross raised a brow.
"Why not?" he said as calmly as he could. He didn't want to attract attention. Unfortunately, he was also known to have a very short temper.
"We've checked all the security cameras in the immediate area, and they seemed to have inexplicably shut down, just minutes before the Drone was destroyed."
"Shut down? How is that possible?" Fencross asked, losing his tone of impatience. It was replaced with a tone of puzzlement, much to the scientists' relief.
"We checked the security system for answers as well as the central computer. Both reported a malfunction," Brown answered. "It's a mystery to us, general, I assure you. Our men are accomplished technicians. They could not have made a mistake that caused the malfunction. I stake my career on it," Brown said boldly.
"What are you saying, professor?"
"I well, I know that it's not for me to say this, but I think " Brown paused for a second before continuing. "I think we have a spy inside Vector that has access to the central computer and has found a way around our security system."
Fencross expression changed. It grew very serious, losing any sign of impatience. "Can you prove this?"
"No, sir, I cannot. But I just think that the crewmembers that maintain the security system could not have made a mistake that wouldve caused the malfunction. They are professionals. And we have a special method of action. They watch each other. Should one make a mistake, the other one would point it out and another would confirm it. This alone makes an effective error prevention method."
General Fencross moved away from the computer screen that flashed the Drones logs and moved closer instead to the big screen that displayed the Devils Laboratory floor plan. He stared at it, deep in thought.
"You said you checked the immediate cameras. What about the others? I only see so many direct paths to where the Drone was found. Surely, other cameras might have recorded something prior to the destruction of the Drone."
"We thought that also, general. We did check the rest of the cameras and found more puzzling malfunctions."
Fencross turned to Brown in alarm.
"We would not have been too surprised if they were the same malfunctions, but instead, they were different. The cameras outside the range of the Drones untimely disassembly all seemed to have stopped functioning normally. But they didnt shut down, exactly. They stopped monitoring and froze to a single frame. The odd thing about it is that the clock continued ticking. Its almost like it was done deliberately to make us think that--"
"Nothing strange happened," Fencross concluded, nodding to himself. "This is certainly all too convenient, isnt it? Signs of infiltration, a fight and a violent destruction of a sentry drone perhaps pursuit of an intruder and yet no visual evidences whatsoever before and after all these things might have happened. These findings are inconclusive and yet, very alarming."
"There is more, general," Brown added. He started walking to another section where another group of scientists was working on another type of Magitek Drone. It had an upper body similar to a humanoid creature and the legs of an insect. The drone was larger than the previous one, and it seemed to be completely intact. "We found this outside of the warehouse that blew up. It was about fifty meters away from the warehouse, a long way from its designated patrol sector, and outside the limit of the central computers area of control. We found it deactivated, on the south side of the warehouse facing south.
"No drone is programmed to leave their designated areas let alone leave the Devils Lab Compound. This particular drone left its post, crossed two distinct restricted areas, left the Devils Lab, entered the annexed Magitek warehouse that blew up and exited that warehouse also. The exact path it took was unknown since the cameras were down, but judging from where it was supposed to be to where it was last found, it couldve taken one of three possible ways."
Brown turned to another scientist and asked him to show the general a printed floor plan of both the Magitek Laboratory and the annexed Magitek Warehouse on a wide rectangular table. Fencross quickly identified the areas immediately saw three different colored arrows each spanning different paths from a common starting point to a common end point.
"The exact path it took before it arrived to the end point is not important. But do you notice anything about the three possible paths?" Brown asked.
General Fencross nodded. "Each goes through the same area in the Magitek Warehouse before exiting the building," the general answered.
"Correct. In plain sight of the workers in the Magitek Warehouse assigned that night."
"Six soldiers and nine workers, dead. One survivor, still recovering in the hospital. Hes our key."
Kefka frowned at the news brought to him by Tayan, his most trusted servant. It was about General Fencrosss findings in the preliminary investigation. Both stood in a round room with a high ceiling inside the Bronze Fortress. Around them were dimly lit glass cases containing very old books, scrolls and parchments. One would first guess that it was a museum. At the very center of the room was a round table. No chairs surrounded it.
Kefka stood on one side of the table while Tayan waited on his master from the opposite side.
"An intruder " Kefka repeated aloud.
"They said that they have no proof of that, and their findings are inconclusive," Tayan reported.
"Of course, they would think that. The evidence stands in front of them, and what do they do with it? Ask it for an identification!" Kefka said with a sinister chuckle. "But who could it have been? No one person could have accomplished such a thing. There must've been more than one. At least, two. But not too many. Whoever they are they risked everything just to get into extraction room. But for what?" Kefka thought aloud.
"General Fencross thinks that the surviving worker is the key. They will have guards to protect that man."
"Fools. I doubt that they know what the man needs protection from. But the general is right. He is the key. How is the man faring?"
"He is slowly recovering, master. They do not want to risk feeding him with magical aid too much," Tayan replied, always to the point.
"Another foolish move. Do they not realize that the longer that man stays unconscious and helpless the greater the risk of losing him? The people who did this are after something very specific, and we must find out what it is as quickly as we can. They will not allow us to discover what it is. They will try to eliminate that surviving worker."
"Should I put additional guards of our own, master?" Tayan asked.
"Oh, stop thinking like those military dolts!" Kefka said scornfully. "You dont need the chest if you have the treasure."
A twisted smile appeared on Tayans face. He bowed in understanding and left the room. Kefka stood alone in the room once again staring at the mysterious pages of the ancient books behind the protective glass casings.
"The time is close. But emperor moves so slowly," Kefka whispered to himself. "All that is about to change."
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