|Stories # - L | M - Z | Authors
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The message quietly taunted me from inside the blast shield. It instantly made sense; something so important to so many different people would have to be protected somehow. One of the best ways to prevent unauthorized use was to limit access, like any expensive computer network.
The question was: what the hell was the login and password?
I walked to my bed and looked through the manuals. As I did, the message remained, silent and patient, in the top left corner of the blast shield.
Even if I find it, I thought, how do I type it in?
At last I came across two names I thought would do it.
“Martin Ramage,” I said softly to myself. “Ramjet.” I remember feeling my warm breath circulate through the helmet when I said them. Suddenly there was movement on the blast shield as the cursor spelled out something new.
Password incorrect. Please make sure your password is correct and try again.
Speech recognition. I should have known. I didn’t see an armored keyboard anywhere.
So what’s his password? I thought. Ramjet is too easy. That’s clear. What would it be?
I went over in my head what I knew of Martin Ramage. As most Paragonians are now aware, Ramage was a science and technology officer in the Brickstown Police Department, developing new (and hopefully less expensive) ways to keep super powered criminals in prison. His plasma field generator for the Zig’s V-Block (maximum security cells for super-powered villains) earned him the Governor’s Medal for Contributions to Public Safety. An engineer and scientist, he did extensive work on electro-plasma weapons for private interest groups and governments, including the United States. He also worked with electro-plasma energy fields, earning numerous accolades for his groundbreaking work. It was Ramage’s electro-plasma generators that made the War Walls possible.
He had a wife and two boys, a masters degree in physics, and a four acre family estate in Eden called Longbough, a well publicized dig at Longbow Corps, who famously (and to their eventual great embarrassment) rejected his technology when it first became available.
When the U.S. Government refused his request for research dollars to shrink the technology for home and business use, he built a portable power station himself – a suit of power armor -- and installed his electro-plasma generation systems, his RAMJET technology. Eventually he developed the cybernetics to control the suit and christened his new creation the cybersuit. Calling himself Ramjet, he registered with Hero Corps and began “field testing” his technology on the evildoers of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles.
Soon he, or rather Ramjet, was famous. Flying across the skies trailing his signature silver-blue streak, Paragon City press started calling him the Armored Star. He had a long and distinguished career before revealing his true identity in a dramatic retirement announcement in 1998. He remained beloved by the citizens of Paragon long into his retirement.
I remembered the headline in the Paragon Times the day after they announced his death: The Armored Star Falls. I wondered for the six hundredth time what I was getting into.
“Longbough,” I said.
*Password accepted. Initializing custom settings.
Hello, Martin. What are we going to do today?*
I felt a surge of energy course though me, and it wasn’t powered by cybernetics. I was in! The next question was: what am I going to do today? I decided to test the sophistication of the speech recognition system.
“I am not Martin Ramage. I am a new user.”
The message blinked up immediately. I was impressed.
*Not martinramage. Searching voice recognition files. No matching file found. Newuser not recognized. Cybersuit parameters restricted.*
Suddenly I froze, or rather, the suit froze me. I found myself locked in a modified standing position, like a statue. I was unable to move.
*newuser identify. Accepted access protocols only. You have 30 seconds.*
30 seconds until what? I thought fearfully. “New authorization and voice file requested,” I said quickly. “Use established protocols. Authorization: martinramage.”
*Voice file established. Authorization denied. Access password required. Would you like to name the new voice file? You have 21.8 seconds.*
I began to sweat. I thought quickly, trying to remember everything I learned in my computer systems training at the PD.
“New voice file designated: timmons1. Access password…. Stand by.” I glanced to my bed where the manual pages lay strewn all over. In there somewhere was what I needed, I was sure of it. If I could only see them…
I was momentarily disoriented as the vision through the blast shield flickered and changed. Suddenly I could see the pages on the bed close up. I could read every word. I could see the stitching on my bedspread. Optics! I thought. Controlled by cybernetics!
*Voice file: timmons1 approved. Access password: standby denied. You have 14.4 seconds.*
I began rattling off names. “Clay Anderson, Geoff Wheeler, Eleanor Wendleman, Sanjay Singh, Ronald Burrows, Andrew Cumberland, Antonio Milagros, Oliver Michaels….”
The blast shield flickered again. *Access file: olivermichaels recognized. User file: olivermichaels recognized. Newuser, you have 7.1 seconds. Password: *
Is this what killed Ramage? I thought. Was it not being able to get into his own suit? I started throwing out names. “Green Meanie.”
*Password: greenmeanie denied. You have 5.9 seconds.*
“Galaxy City Police Department.”
*Password: galaxycitypolicedepartment denied. You have --.*
*Password must be different from file. You --.*
*Password:ashley accepted. Initalizing command protocols for: olivermichaels.*
The suit released me and I stood straight again. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The only thing Michaels loved more than being a cop was his wife, Ashley. Then I heard a voice in my ear.
“Hello, Oliver. What are we going to do today?”
“Who are you?” I said to the voice in my head.
“I am the cybersuit Macro-Adaptive Computer, version 7.1. You may call me MAC. How can I serve you, Oliver?”
“I have questions.”
“I will attempt to answer your questions,” replied the voice. It was a male voice, but sounded crackly, like a bad phone connection.
“What happens when the thirty second warning is up?”
“I activate emergency communications and notify the control station of an attempted cybersuit hijack.”
“Where is the control station?”
“The control station is in lab vault twenty-two C in sub-basement four of Stanley Tower in Steel Canyon, Paragon City, United States of America. Would you like me to contact the control station?”
“No!” I said quickly. “No, don’t do that. What is the function of the control station?”
“The primary function of the cybersuit control station is to monitor and integrate systems.”
“Does the cybersuit control station have secondary functions?”
“What are the secondary functions of the control station?”
“The secondary functions of the control station are to communicate with additional approved authorities, coordinate multi-agency response and to activate failsafe when authorized.”
“Am I being monitored right now?”
“Negative. The control station is not online. There are no operational security cameras within current scanner range. Of course, I am only on initial systems power.”
Of course, I thought. “Before I go on, can I create a new user file and protocols with my clearance?”
“Good. Create a new user file under voice file: timmons1.”
“New user file: timmons1 established. Clearance level, please.”
“Authorize all clearances. Highest clearance level.”
“Oliver, you are restricted from authorizing clearance levels above your own.”
Well, it was worth a shot, I thought. “What is my clearance level?”
“Oliver, you are clearance level bravo.”
“Okay. Authorize clearance level bravo for new user: timmons1.”
“Already done, Oliver. I anticipated your request 3.5 seconds ago.”
“Oh. Okay then.” Pattern recognition. Impressive.
“Would you like to change any of the settings for timmons1?”
“Can I log off as olivermichaels and log on as timmons1?”
“Very well. Re-initialize systems under configuration: timmons1.”
“Stand by. Re-initializing complete. Hello, timmons1. What are we going to do today?”
This was nothing short of phenomenal. I had heard groups in Paragon had advance integrated software systems, but I never knew they were this fast and, well, adaptable. This computer seemed capable of monitoring the suit’s systems and maintaining an awareness of its surroundings. It made sense, really. The suit was designed for mob control.
“First, my name is not timmons1. I am Steve. I want you to call me Steve.”
“Interactive name file changed, Steve. Would you like to change any of your other settings?”
“Yes. I want to change my login and password.”
“Login is currently: olivermichaels. Password is: ashley. New login and password?”
“Login: steve. Password: cassidy.”
“Action complete. User: timmons1. Login: steve. Password: cassidy.”
“Okay. Now I need answers. What is your function?”
“My primary function is to monitor and integrate all cybersuit designation: greenmeanie systems, assist the user, and manage all cybersuit designation: greenmeanie subsystems. You may call me MAC.”
“That’s the second time you’ve said that. Do you want to be called MAC?”
“I like being called MAC. Creator1 calls me MAC. He says it is a friendly term. I want to be helpful.”
“Okay, MAC. Is Creator1 Martin Ramage?”
“Well, he was right. And you have been helpful. I will call you MAC from now on.”
“Thank you, Steve. Steve, you used the past tense.”
“Steve, has something happened to Creator1?”
I wasn’t sure where this was going to go. I had no idea how sophisticated MAC was, or what protocols might be in place in the event Ramage died, but I had to find out. “Yes, Mac. Creator1 was injured. He died.”
“Injured: damaged. Died: Biological systems permanently offline.”
“Yes, MAC. Creator1 is no longer…functioning.”
“Can Creator1 be repaired?”
“No, MAC. Creator1 is gone. Something happened to him.”
“What happened to Creator1?”
“That, MAC, is the sixty-four thousand dollar question.”
“$64,000 Question: television quiz show of the 1950s and 1960s. Contestants tested their knowledge for money and prizes. What does this mean?”
“It means I don’t know what happened to Creator1. It is a mystery.”
“Mystery: an occurrence of unknown cause.”
“Yes. Maybe together we can find out.”
“I have created file:creator1mystery. I will integrate information. I will help you find out.”
“Do you have secondary functions, MAC?”
“My secondary functions are to adapt to changing conditions, anticipate user requests, initialize communication when necessary, and to play chess.”
“Would you like to play chess, Steve?” The blast shield flickered and a gold tinted chess board appeared.
“No, not right now. What are the cybersuit’s primary systems?”
The chess board disappeared. “Cybersuit designation greenmeanie systems are ventilation, physical integrity, propulsion, defense, power generation, communications, weapons, diagnostics, tactics, component integration and field repair.”
“And how do you assist the user?”
“I assist timmons1 by anticipating requests, integrating systems, performing navigation, managing cybernetic links, relays and commands, and by playing chess.”
“I need you to assist me now. I need help understanding the functions of the cybersuit.”
“Would you like me to initialize the tutorial, Steve?”
“You have a tutorial?” I asked, surprised.
“The cybersuit is designed to assist law enforcement officers with crowd control and protect them during multiple subject encounters. A tutorial was developed for training purposes.”
“Activate tutorial, MAC.”
The MAC gave a long beep and a new voice came on, a richer, deeper voice I seemed to recognize from somewhere.
“Welcome to the cybersuit tutorial,” it said. “Over the next four hours you will learn all you need to know to engage, disperse and otherwise control criminal groups of any size. Let’s begin by introducing you to MAC.”
Then it came to me. The new familiar voice. It was Martin Ramage.