Eclipse Phase – narrative beat (by Albert K)

Firewall Mission Success T+2 Hours.

The sun shone brightly overhead, bouncing off the small oval metal platform floating calmly on the ocean, water stretching as far as the eye could see. There wasn’t much on the platform itself, except for a chrome plated octopus surrounded by floating VR screens.

The creature lazily poked one of the screens every now and then, but it was clear that it was a half-hearted effort.

A ripple in the air shimmered behind it for a moment, though the being seemed to pay it no heed.

A small glowing ball, changing between various hues of blue slowly moved out of the shimmer, floating towards the cephalopod.

The octopus sighed audibly as the object glided towards him.

“Why are you here Gladius, the meeting isn’t for another hour.” The octopus speaks slowly, with a soft tone. As if he didn’t wish for the target to miss the rebuke for disturbing him. The voice echos far out to the sea, seemingly not losing its intensity.

The sphere twists in the air for a moment, assuming a purple colouring. Even though it has no features it is clear, from the slightly electronic tone it projects the sheer exasperation it must feel.

“You are being far too care free about all of this Alexander. Firewall bested us despite our early surveillance, and our end response -a nuke-, what were you thinking?” The clear implication of ‘did you think at all’ hanging in the air, as the sound flew through the space both occupied.

The octopus turned to face the sphere for the first time. “I do not believe that you are correct. We have gotten to observe how firewall organises its new sentinel teams, and how they are allowed to operate. Besides, thanks to our surveillance of Mohammed, which, may I remind you the ‘idealists’ did not detect, gave us plenty of information on where to acquire the weapons for future reverse engineering.” He held a tentacle up to forestall a reply. In one of the other tentacles, four dossiers appeared. He pushed them into the ball.

The ball rapidly changed colouring, absorbing the data. “These are the sentinels then? An…interesting mix. I am surprised you were able to get their files this quickly.” It shook in the air for a moment.

“But do not distract me, why the nuke?” It replied, sounding not quite as annoyed as it had before.

“Simple, out there we control the feed, and if anyone somehow comments, we can easily say we saw something we didn’t like. That’s one of the benefit of being us, and not the idealists. Besides, it had the greatest chance of killing them even if they had escaped the facility in time. Our informants will tell us soon if it killed their team.” Alex replied easily, already turning back to his displays.

Gladius waited for a moment, before realising that for now, the conversation was over. “I will see you at the meeting then.”

The interloper fizzled out into the air.

The octopus sighed once more, storm clouds gathering above the platform.

“Smartass AI” he whispered under his breath.

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