See, Battan Furrek was having a pretty bad day. This morning, he'd woken up, sampled a little of his own product, then checked his bank accounts to find them completely empty with no record of what had happened to the hundreds of thousands of credits he'd had squirreled away there, the result of many, many drugs and users of said drugs. And, of course, said users being sold as product themselves when their funds dried up. Battan was, after all, a Batarian.
It was at that point that the front door of Battan's humble little skyscraper penthouse shattered under the force of a battering ram, Quarian police rushing to fill the room and demanding that the Batarian hold up his hands and lie down on the ground. He obeyed after only a moment of hesitation, more curses dribbling from his lips and directly into the carpet. I had the sneaking suspicion that there'd be a stain after they let him up. Quickly, two of the officers came forward, one placing restraints on his arms while the other patted him down for weapons, and confiscating Battan's Omnitool and the (illegal, unregistered, unlawfully modified) pistol he had constantly tucked into the back of his pants. This was, of course, the precise moment that, to my internal amusement, the wall panel hiding the leader's entire stash fell straight off and landed on the plush carpet with a muffled WUMP.
I think that some of the officers actually did a little happy dance.
What frustrated me was that I couldn't do more. I couldn't move too fast, I couldn't make it too convenient, and I couldn't hit too many people at once or at all. Sure, I could occasionally crack open a cold case and fill in just enough of the blanks to put the police on the right track, but I couldn't... I couldn't fix it all.
It legitimately angered me. The curse of being able to see everything, and know that I'm taking the path of least bloodshed by not doing anything... nrrrrgggh. It was agonizing. All I could do was the most unobtrusive things. Call an ambulance anonymously here, fix a device maintaining a heartbeat there, make sure that an apartment's alarm went off when it was broken into, ensure that an aircar refused to start for a hotwiring. Car crashes, accidents, preventable things I could manage with only minor attention- property damage, but no fatalities, and all attributed to luck. And I couldn't even stop them all there! I had to prioritize, pick and choose, select who lived and who died... it was maddening. So, mostly... I ignored it. I established algorithms to point me to those that I could get away with saving. It was the worst thing that I'd ever had to do.
I had to kill Sovereign as soon as possible. I don't know how long I could take the inaction.
So, then... towards the aim of the brutal murder of Sovereign... I had a shopping list.
First on the list was the formation of a list of corporate pawns and a confusing maze of financial documentation and ownership that would befuddle the most determined of bureaucrats. That, surprisingly, was the easiest thing to do: forging documents, back dating things, adjusting registries and records and the like, was incredibly easy for me. All I had to do was reach into the databases and twist things however I wanted, as the cybersecurity of Citadel races was so laughably pathetic to an unfettered 'smart' AI like me that they might as well not exist. From what I gathered from passing Council ships and the FTL communications hub in this system, the Quarians actually had some of the *toughest* cybersec in the galaxy. They were renowned for it, even. Sad? Perhaps, but it made my job a heck of a lot easier. Close to three hundred new companies, and me divvying up the resources I had, ahem... 'appropriated', out among them for use. Hiring intermediaries to begin the search for people to overhaul the properties those companies was simple as a call.
The Thing, as some of his peers liked to call it, was a large desk made from Mologaunt, a type of tree that grew in southern climates on Rannoch and was ridiculously expensive to procure wood from. This particular desk, while banged up and very obviously worn, had been among the furniture in a block sale area hosted by a nice elderly couple. He'd paid them a decent amount of credits for what he thought was a decently good artiwood replica, only to find, when he got it out of the aircar and showed it to one of his friends that specialized in furniture (a profession you didn't really see outside of Shoto's workplace) that it was a genuine article. He'd gleefully enlisted the help of several of his colleagues, who had regretted agreeing the moment they realized how heavy the Thing was, and gotten it all the way up to his office in a series of events that wouldn't have been out of place in a comedy. Simply put, besides the company Geth unit, this was the most expensive item in his office and he was proud of it. He settled into the chair behind it, wincing at the horrible squawk said chair made. The desk he might be proud of, but his seat? Not so much.
He reached down to adjust the seat, read: whack it until it worked right, then paused when his omnitool rang with an incoming call. He blinked, then shrugged and tapped the button to answer.
"Hello, Shansi acquisitions and labour, how may we help you?" The line was so familiar that it was basically instinct. Sometimes, he answered his home number with it.
"Uh, hi." the voice on the other end was slightly reedy and high- intern, or a mid level drone, Shoto already had him pinned. "I'm looking for a..." there was a sound of shuffling papers in the background. "A construction supervisor, with the licensing to direct Geth construction units?"
Shoto blinked. Geth construction... not a lot of smaller companies pulled those things, they were expensive to produce and required specially trained personnel to even store. Not to mention that supervisors with the specific license for directing their operation were not exactly a credit a dozen. But, well, if the client wanted to spend their money, who was he to say no?
"Alright, I think we can do that easily enough... what, specifically, are you looking for in construction standards? Commercial, residential...?"
"We're looking at a laboratory setup, physics."
"Physics, alright." Anywhere else, something like this out of the blue might be strange. Rannoch, however, had a good reputation for high build quality labs thanks to Geth labour, and their reputation for excellent cybersec, so really, this was the sixth call of this kind he'd received just this week. "We'll need some information, addresses for the proper procedural forms."
The intern, Shoto was sure he was an intern now, rattled off a string of necessary details. Shoto asked more specific questions, jotted down the information, and ended up finally closing the deal with some electronic paperwork and a promise that a small team of supervisors would be into the provided location very soon. He exchanged goodbyes with the person on the other end of the line, wished them a good day, and hung up.
Very satisfied at having netted a large commission for himself, Shoto leaned back in his chair- which caused him to wince as it produced a shriek from the surely haunted springs. Well, he had plenty of money coming in... this chair would be the first thing to go.
See, I was working within the tolerances of a system. Geth platforms were treated often like omnifunctional appliances, taking care of a laundry list of functions. They cooked, they cleaned, they did various jobs- manufactories were operated and maintained by Geth platforms supervised by specially trained personnel. Many less desirable jobs were done by cheaply manufactured low-grade Geth platforms, platforms that also saw presence in the homes of lower income families. A single Geth unit could cost as much as a mid to high grade computer, but having just one Geth platform in a household lightened a lot of burdens, especially in low income households where the parents often had jobs with long hours. A low-cost Geth platform, primarily made of plastic and aluminum, could care for children, keep things tidy, make meals and even serve as a personal computer with the right inputs and outputs.
The problem with this was... Geth platforms were generally considered to be high-cost investment. Generally, when you had a personal Geth platform, they were a personal assistant, a chauffeur, a secretary, even a bodyguard in some cases. You don't lose track of something like that, and you don't notice it going missing. Simply put, I could only 'borrow' Geth platforms in limited numbers for limited amount of times. One of the ways I was attempting to alleviate the problem was hunting down decommissioned or outdated Geth platform models dumped into storage containers or junkyards, yank them out, tidy them up, upgrade them and then use them freely. However, this only provided a limited number of units, and it required the attentions of yet other units to undertake the process- and on top of that, the platforms had to ensure that there were no witnesses to the process and that no one noticed the defunct platforms going missing and suddenly turning up half-fixed in somebody's garage.
Which meant what I was attempting now. For the labs and offices I was establishing, I was attempting to build a completely above-board network for me to work through in a fuzzy general picture. Somebody would notice if some mysterious figure appeared out of nowhere, purchased a bunch of expensive machinery for no discernible reason, and then vanished into the night with no trace. However, a network of corporations purchasing said equipment, moving it between a couple of locations, then losing it at some juncture? People wouldn't question that as long as the companies themselves didn't kick up a fuss about it, which, considering I was running the companies... well. it gave me a lot of cover for lateral movement and a lot of things that would otherwise be huge risks in my position.
However, I also wanted something... off the books. Of course I could lose a Geth platform here and there, some machinery, a few raw materials shipping from mining companies for this or that... but I didn't just want a few individual platforms. No, the aim and goal of the construction geth I was sending out was to establish compounds in which I could Von Neuman myself to pieces and be perfectly happy. These platforms would build the compound, then salvaged platforms would be shipped there with parts to construct machinery, which would then construct machinery, which would produce more platforms, who would build larger and better machines until I was producing my own arms, vehicles, small spacecraft... anything I needed, I could make. But I had to actually establish both these compounds, and a large enough corporate network to support my efforts without being too obtrusive.
Plus... there was a lot to be said for the Geth platforms, but they were not exactly cuddly. In fact, the Geth looked like something out of a paranoid's nightmares about xenocidal AI, which may have been purposeful on the part of the designers to remind the users not to fully trust their machines... or it might be a totally unintentional design flaw that nobody ever thought to fix. Who knew, with corporations. Simply, though, I needed a full redesign, and I needed it cuddly, cute and very likeable. I was already considering and virtually testing various designs for when I got my physical manufacturing up and running, at which point I could start handing off ideas to the R&D teams and poke them in the direction I wanted them to go. Once I had the design, I could announce it as a new and improved Geth model marketed as a companion VI unit as well as a personal assistant slash janitor, play up some new features and slowly start hauling off older units to be updated into the new design. I even already had the basics of the design itself, basing it on a synthetic-organic android race from back home, which was generally designed to look cuddly and friendly with paws and digitigrade legs, as well as a muzzle-like screen face. Really, I'd have to get a team on turning the same hardlight projection tech that made omnitools, keyboards and computer screens into simulating realistic hardlight fur, which looked and felt like the real thing: would be a huge boost to how aesthetically pleasing the things were. More than that, I was going to make them shorter than the average height of the galactic species, meaning that most races would quite literally have to look down at them.
As many ways as I could psychologically stack the deck in the favour of this currently-hypothetical new model, and by extension, me, I would. Once I slew Harbinger, one way or the other, I'd need to slowly bring myself into the public eye.
Which... meant I needed to address my own panic attack.
It was a delicate thing. I'd been feeding information to news media since an hour or so after it happened- the freeze had been what was essentially a DDOS on major server hubs just as the Geth were downloading a major update, causing an increase in system load to the point that they were all overwhelmed and thus needed to hard reset. It... wasn't technically false. The problem was... there was disbelief.
Some of the kookier conspiracy theorists, in a way that would have made me bite my nails in anxiety if I was still organic, proclaimed this to be a sign that the Geth were achieving sapience and that they should dispose of all platforms. They weren't wrong about the sapience bit, they were just ignorant of my intentions, not to mention the true nature of my existence. Many more mainstream news outlets seemed to disagree with the farther sources, no surprise in that, but they professed varying degrees of skepticism about the attack. These positions ranged all the way from 'we can't find any evidence to conflict with this conclusion' to 'some of the evidence changed before our eyes'. Which... damn. Damn, damn, damn. It meant I had to be a lot more stealthy than I thought, consider my steps a lot harder before I made them. I'd obviously moved too fast in editing the information and evidence to support the story that I'd constructed. Now, I just had to hope that I hadn't tipped my hand as I turned my metaphorical eyes towards my next goal.
The Leviathan of Dis.
- Man in the Van with a Plan
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