Adapting The Adaptive Code

August 20, 2016:

Jemma goes to talk to Tony about getting some help with some coding of her infection for the viral processors that TRINE stole

Stark Tower - New York


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Jemmas got problems. She's always got problems but a time travelling AI that is out to kill her because of something she might do in the future is the most pressing.

A time travelling AI that has aquired viral processing technology - processors that are able to mimic the way a colony of bacteria responds to outside stimulii, pass and share adaptations at viral speeds AS WELL as nanotubular material that will provide it with self powered, adaptive armour.

She's developed a 'viral infection' that combats the processors but the delivery system requires some work. TRINE is able to rewrite code quickly and Jemma knows that what she's developed will be neutralised quickly. She can write the biomedical procedures to have the virus adapt, but with Fitz out on long term assignment, the biochem needs help with the actually coding.

"Yes JARVIS…" having lived at Stark Tower for a while now, Jemma's become quite chummy with the Stark AI "… I have a base algorithm for the sea swarm processors but I could really use some assistance with making it more robust. Is Tony around and can he see me, do you think? I'd like to get his opinion." She's riding in the lift to the floor where her apartment is and in addition to carrying her tablet, the SHIELD Scientist also has a sheet of some material.

Should JARVIS redirect the lift, she wouldn't be surprised. Catching Tony is something akin to catching a Unicorn.

It's possible that TRINE came back in time to kill Tony Stark as well; it's also possible Tony drove the Intelligence to it. Either way, the billionaire inventor finds himself in a similar situation to the scientist from SHIELD taking shelter in his vast abode— or at least, -a- vast abode. The list of quandaries posed by the essence of how TRINE has engineered himself are rather legion; you'll get that when one foe splits themselves into uncountable nano-bits, many of them semi or entirely autonomous and operating on advanced artificial intelligence from the future.

Here's the thing, though: TRINE is a standard program, advanced as it is, and its offspring are the assembly line robots of a being that lacks creative spark. Being honest, objective, and not at all arrogant, even Tony's programs -do- have that creative spark, and for the last few weeks, almost all of their problem-solving potential has been devoted to this one seemingly insurmountable enemy. It won't be the first such foe Stark has faced, a threat he fully intends to surmount.

As is usually the case during said weeks, Tony is in his lab. Jarvis would direct Jemma to one of the chambers in said science suite, where she would find Tony standing in the midst of a multitude of holographic displays projected in the air around him, directing various functions with movements of eye and hand alongside neural impulses— a high tech tool for a high tech puzzle. The images around him would likely be familiar to Simmons: miniaturized micro-satellites deployed by TRINE like ghosts in orbit, dreadful little things that demonstrated their destructive uses on this very building; half the level is blocked off for reconstruction, after all.

The swarm-sat images fill in around the globe alongside the hypothetical certainty of their presence; a figure that's actively increasing in some cases. Also prominent in the holographic overlay of Earth orbit are several flagged debris fields, swarms of space junk that Tony's identified as matching the composition of various gathered swarmsats: one of which sits dismantled on a nearby table. Running the numbers and the sensor sweeps seems to be a networked set of Stark's own satellites… and a number of new, miniaturized probes feeding detailed thermal telemetry to the network.

"Thank you JARVIS." Jemma says to the air as she makes her way into Tony's lab, stopping at the door and shifting the small sheet of fabric she has. "Hello Tony… Keeping busy I see." her eyes flick over the imagery and she lets out a soft sigh as they land on the dismantled swarmsat. "I've been working on the Sea Swarm viral processors, developing a 'virus' that will combat them. I need some help though. I can write the medical algorithm, but the coding … it's eluding me and I know that TRINE will adapt quickly at any rate."

If Tony or JARVIS examine the material in her arms, they'll note it's really a series of carbon nanotubules. Why Jemma might have it here, could be of interest.

"That's the trick, isn't it?" The adaptive technology. One of the keystones of Stark's activities has been to keep TRINE as unaware of his methodology as humanly possible… for this very reason. "As soon as we start to strike at TRINE, he'll effect a retreat and adapt. To combat this thing we've got to decipher and target… well, everything at once." In layman's terms. Serendipitously enough, that does seem to be more or less the angle Stark is working on just now, a miniaturized display tracking the data extrapolated from Jim and Jarvis' work with the program tracking TRINE's more terrestrial movements in the digital realm.

"Jarvis, get me the data on Dr. Simmons' swarm contagion. I can all but certainly work out a digital version using TRINE's own algorithms to match the adaptive threat… it's getting network saturation on all of TRINE's nodes that's the trick." Stark's eyes turn meaningfully back to the multitude of independent units operating in Earth's orbit, face pensive. "What have you got there? Another chunk of his hardware?" That is to say, Tony knows -what- it is, but not the purpose of this particular piece.

Pepper is, unsurprisingly, not in Tony's lab at the moment. She has her own job, after all, and that's what she's working on in her office. Mostly, she's correlating a budget prospectus for the MSF with the recent fund raiser and donation totals to see where improvements can be made. At the same time, she's looking for patterns — checking to see if there's one particular event or group or individual that seems to be a noticeably superior contributor. Oh, and she's idly one fingernail against her teacup.

"Yes, it is." Jemma murmurs "Transmitting it now, JARVIS." the biochem taps on the screen of her tablet and several pieces of code are uploaded. "The first set of code is the the base algorithm I created - a digital rendition of how a biological virus might surround and attack a bacterial infection. The second is the code I downloaded from the Trident the other day when TRINE attacked it with the networked Hulkbusters."

Blowing out a breath, she pushes her hair back from her face "We go lucky. It …" she always calls TRINE 'it', never he or she, even though JARVIS is a he and Friday is a she. "… didn't get any of the SeaSwarm tech and I don't think it got any code, but it had started to make changes to my code. That's what I got before it disengaged."

The material - there's not a lot of it - is placed on a workbench. "TRINE stole several tons of this a few weeks back from a DoD warehouse. It's pretty amazing really. In it's base form, as you see here, it can be used for artificial muscle and with a bit of work, becomes situationally flexible armour. But I've been experimenting and I've found that if I layer it into different configuations, we end up with an exoskeleton that adapts and heals itself on its own. I'm transmitting those results to JARVIS as well. Unlike the Hulkbusters current configuration, this material when layered correctly can be powered from kinetic energy - so the more we shoot at it, the stronger it becomes." Tony might wonder how much of this material Jemma has.

Back to TRINE though and combatting it "There's a few things to consider with TRINE, though, don't you think? Combatting and getting rid of it is paramount but finding out what it's trying to do is also important. We can't guarantee that if we get rid of this one, something else won't be sent to replace it. I take it you're working on tracking it?"

Whether JARVIS has notified Pepper to Jemmas' presence in Tony's lab, Jemma doesn't know. But given Jemma's propensity for trouble - Pepper might want to be there. Just in case.

"Convincing TRINE that mistakes were made is an uphill battle. So is getting information." Tony even tried being vaguely cooperative; relatively speaking. "And none of this precludes something else coming back from the future to do the job again— this thing's not making the call, just doing the job." At least, that's Stark's impression of the matter at hand. "We might be able to write the virus or time its release so that we can offload data and figure things out from that, but I have to prioritize stopping the thing that wants to kill us over figuring out why TRINE isn't susceptible to our considerable charms."

Tony observes this with a winning smile, finally drawn from interacting with his holograms not so much by Simmons as by the rod; which just makes the whole thing sound kind of scandalous, come to think of it. "Is there any more? You know what, we can probably make more." The non-cybergloved hand is held out in anticipation of receiving this great gift, which Tony seems to think he can fabricate despite his own nanomanufacturing tech being rather in its infancy; he doesn't lack for confidence.

"But yes— we're shadowing it through the 'net and I seem to have found a way to detect the swarm sats in orbit. … and tell which it's using." Stark's grin becomes a bit lupine, at that.

"Miss Potts, Sir has ignored his meals reminders twice now. Shall I have a meals sent to his lab? Also, Doctor Simmons is there consulting with him currently."

Pepper glances up from her computer at the AI's words. "Oh. Yes, please send up the usual." She closes the documents she's been working on and moves to fill a thermos with tea from her teapot sitting on a warmer.

A mere moment after Tony graces Jemma with a lupine grin, Pepper breezes into the lab with the thermos and an empty mug in one hand, and a covered platter of the sort that Tony is likely VERY familiar with in the other. "Hello. I see you both started this meeting without me." She sets the tray on a clear spot on the table nearest Tony and removes the cover to reveal a plate of finger foods — sandwiches and veggies all sliced to be easily to pick up and eat one bite at a time.

"Jemma, would you like some tea?" After all, she's pretty sure that Tony didn't even think of offering.

"TRINE is particularly single minded, Tony. As you say, someone or something sent it back, of that I'm sure." She hasn't tried convincing the thing that mistakes were made, maybe it's because most times she's encountered it she's been running for her life. One thing is clear though, TRINE is worrying the biochem. Although, you'd think that after being chased by some many things and people in the last two years, this would be Jemma's baseline.

"Writing the virus once isn't going to be enough, I fear. TRINE will adapt the processing code to combat it. Much like the way a human body adjusts when it's ill or combatting a foreign body. I've some models we can use, and write the virus to evolve as the processors do. At the very least, it might keep some of the processing power tied up and unable to deploy fully. At best, we might be able to disable and destroy the viral processors."

"That's all I've got. I can section off a small part for your testing. The rest was stolen, I'm afraid." Jemma does hand over the fabric, reluctantly. "If you think you can manufacture more … " she doesn't sound convinced, even though it's Tony in the room. All of this, is so bleeding edge … not just leading edge.

"Hello Pepper, Tea would be lovely. I haven't stopped all day. And this was a little impromptu… "

"Exactly." Tony nods to Jemma's agreement with renewed agreement of his own. "And that's why we'll need TRINE's own code to combat it. One vector for the nanoprocessors, one for the rest of its hardware… and then the actual sites to deal with. Sure bet this thing's secured some serious fabrication facilities, and as much as I'd like to replicate this…" the rod gets a little waggle, "The other priority is figuring out what to hit it with, because whatever TRINE is building with this stuff…" And Stark certainly has some of his own ideas, "I want to be able to blow it up. Not literally, mind." Since that's a rather kinetic solution, isn't it?

"You're right, though, whatever we do, the logistics of getting, well, -all- of TRINE infected within a reasonable timeframe before parts of the Intelligence are quarantined or relocated are daunting. If we can narrow down where it's operating from, though… an adaptive virus may be just what we need to keep the thing busy long enough to lock it down and finish this."

Tony gravitates to the tray of food just long enough to pour himself a drink, and smile to Pepper. "Wasn't exactly on the calendar. But our refugee is particularly resourceful, might be the last piece I need to really get ahead of TRINE's algorithms." A predictable result would be superior to JARVIS and FRIDAY wrangling with each conflict anew… effective though that may have been; so far.

Pepper Potts smiles at Jemma while she uncaps the thermos and pours its contents into the mus she brought along to offer to the biochemist. It's almost as if she anticipated this.

"Is there anything I can do to help right now then, other than making sure you're eating?" She's not exactly the most science savvy person, after all.

"I have the original piece of code that it evolved from. Would that be useful?" It was, after all, Jemma that had released this menace. Unwittingly and there really wasn't anything that she might have done about it. "I don't know. But it sometimes helps me to see the origins of something."

"So you're shadowing it, you say? That's useful. I'm sure Thom— Marshal Nashoba will be pleased to hear you can track it." Tony likely doesn't remember Thomas - the marshals relationship with time means that nearly everyone forgets him within hours of meeting him. Why Jemma does, has a lot to do with the amount of time they've spent together. "He'll just want to know what the action points are, though. He tends to glaze over when I talk SCIENCE!!"

"Yes, I think you're right about having a place. When it raided the warehouse where it got the material from, it also took some automated fabrication machines along with other things." beat "I think it's going to use the material to upgrade the Hulkbusters. Think about it - machines that share data at the speed of human thought, adapting at the same rate with an armour that heals itself and is powered just by moving." she shudders at that.

Giving Pepper an apologetic smile, the biochem accepts the mug gratefully. Pushing her hair back from her face, the biochem considers with a slow shake of her head. "Maybe see if any warehouses or places that are capable of manufacturing have been hit or started up operation in the last few weeks? I know Tony's tracing TRINE through the ether, but these things will leave a physical footprint. Also, watch others like Stark Industries - see if any of their staff die suddenly or go missing. I can't believe, after what it's said to us, that it's just us it's after now."

"It might be." Stark would have to see it to know, but he's clearly down with that. "Who? I don't think I know him." Which is true, even if Tony should, technically, under the normal rules of space-time, remember the guy; maybe. "From what I can tell of the orbital operations, TRINE is operating in clouds of space junk both to avoid detection and for access to raw materials. More or less every model I've tested suggests nano-recycling and assembly dark sites, indeterminate in number, in those fields." Which explains the narrowing search bands drawn into corresponding clouds of junk on Tony's little map.

A second map pops up on an adjacent flank, an overlay of major industrial areas-of-yore, "There's good reason to think that TRINE would follow a similar methodology in selecting Earthbound fabrication or server sites…" and yes, more than one, Stark suspects, "So I'm narrowing down various inactive installations that could either sustain that kind of construction or be well-suited to mesh with what's been stolen, cross-referenced with the locations we've detected software activity."

Tony breathes; a little, eyes narrowing. "But yes— I believe we have a chance of not only zeroing in on the swarm-sat sites.." say that five times fast, "But predicting where TRINE is operating or targeting next based on the signatures thereof. Between the substantial ICE and the nature of their signature and flight patterns, detecting the swarms in orbit via conventional means is all but impossible. They don't have silhouettes like anything being tracked, and looking for them as individual objects is almost pointless."

Stark's a little too pleased with himself to leave it on that dour note, however. "They're also each an advanced miniaturized computer running their own AI subroutines that gain computing power as they form up with their 'cloud'— I've not only modeled the rough idle state of these swarms and identified their heat dissipation patterns …" as even the most advanced computer has to sink its heat somewhere, sometime, "But based on spikes I've detected so far I'd say there's a better than great possibility that we can actually track which swarms TRINE is making use of based on the spike in heat necessitated by putting the machines through the paces." Doing things like controlling multiple murder drones. "Should give us a leg up on getting to where TRINE is robbing or attacking next, first."

"Was I supposed to be eating regularly?" Tony asides to Pepper, grin turning a bit more sympathetic, "I know you want a shot at this thing; and once we figure out how to take it, I won't forget that. I'm already stealing a fair bit of FRIDAY's processing might from you, though." So she is helping, really.

When Jemma says Marshal Nashoba's name, Pepper's phone buzzes faintly in her pocket. She pulls her phone to look at it and huhs faintly at the information displayed there. It's a picture of Thomas and some pertinent facts that JARVIS has compiled about the man. She turns her phone for Tony to look at — if he takes it out of her hands she won't protest — as she nods to Jemma. "I can check news reports, but I do remember hearing just the other day about more than one employee of Fujikawa being found dead. I can do a little more searching to be sure."

Tony's quip about eating earns him a gentle slap upside the back of his head. Not from the hand holding the phone, though.

Jemma doesn't try to explain who Thomas is, just adds "The US Marshal I've been working with." a faint blush of pink touching her cheeks as she nods to Peppers phone. She knows how Pepper combats the gauntlets affect on the man.

"That's … rather impressive." she notes of the way Tony has programmed the detection before falling silent and chewing her bottom lip for a moment, pondering something for a long moment before shaking her head "I was going to say that I hope you didn't do this in TRINES past - because then it would know what you're doing. But, its presence here is affecting your actions, so likely not unless it's still getting information the future." Ah, the joys of temporal mechanics.

"Just one more thing. That material is infused with something called Hyperium. A self healing, self amulatory, protoplasmic metallic compound." In other words a rock. "I've not seen the compound before and it's not in any of our databases, but I do know it has a temporal signature. I'm still working out what that does though."

"So we have a way forward then? I'll work with you and JARVIS on the viral component and you work on the tracking?" It's something at least, and they're closer than they were. They just need to move quickly to try and keep ahead of the murderous AI.

Peppers comment gets a look from the biochem "Fujikawa? As in Stark-Fujikawa? Like that phone Thomas and I found a few months ago? Please, whatever you can find. We can't have too much information …" quoth the Scientist! "… and anything might give us an unexpected lead."

Tony peers at the phone, peers at Pepper, would peer at Jarvis, "He's been here?"

Stark queries the air, the dignified British accent replying with an affirming, "Several times, sir."
"I've met him?"
"At least once."
"Huh." Tony squints at the phone again, shrugs, and passes it back to Ms. Potts. "If I have any conversations with him, record them." Back to the matter at hand, Jarvis is useful again, "And Jarvis, get Pepper the names of all the employees we think TRINE snuffed out."
"The requested information will be uploaded to Ms. Potts' StarkPad momentarily."

"That's a good idea, Pepper." Because this is -exactly- what she had in mind, "We should call around after these targets, talk to the people closest to them, try to figure out what they were involved in— might be involved in soon— might know that makes them priorities for TRINE." It's a job that requires a diplomatic hand and a keen mind for asking into potentially interesting details; to Stark's mind, right up Pepper's alley.

"Once I realized there would obviously be mechanics in place to surreptitiously sink the heat bits at a time, and recalibrated to look for subtle fluctuations akin to part of a fully functional cloud instead of the whole thing, it was only a matter of time before we narrowed down false positives from the real sites; now, yea…. let's just hope TRINE doesn't know I know." Or that changes in the timestream don't impact TRINE's point of origin in anything approaching real-time, which is also a hypothesis Tony is comfortable putting some faith in— but what choice do they really have.

"Sounds about right, though, Doctor— agent…. Agent Doctor. I've got some other toys in the work to cut TRINE's escape off when we've got the locations ID'ed, and maybe turn some of these fancy future toys to -our- advantage— but one thing at a time. If I say it out loud the Time Cops might hear me." Never mind they could just be watching him… in his lab. There's a moment's gleam of paranoia in the sidelong glances tossed around the place.

Pepper Potts is so accustomed to Tony's (thankfully occasional) bouts of paranoia that his sidelong glances don't seem to distract her at all. "I'll get started on tracking these people and the projects they'd been working on … as soon as you at least half of what's on that plate, Tony." Because she knows, he's eaten nothing that requires chewing in at least twelve hours.

Jemma understands the paranoia, she's lived with it for several months (if not longer) by now. Heck, she's even created offsite labs where some of her work can be done.

"Just Jemma, Tony. But the official title is Doctor Simmons. I just do field work as well." It's always an interesting discussion to have. "Have you been visited by Time Cops lately?" It's hard to tell if she's joking or not or even that she believes they exist. "But other toys sound like a good idea. I'll give the virus more thought too, maybe something else will come to me. When do you think you'll be ready to move?"

Sipping her tea, wrapping her hands around the mug, Jemma nods a little to Pepper. "I'll stick around and work with JARVIS on those models, if that's ok. Make hay whilst the sun shines and all that."

"Better than Phil." Jemma, that is. Tony mutters it under his breath, casting side-eye towards Pepper and pre-emptively moving away from another smack. "Look Pepper, if you want to put off this highly critical intelligence gathering because Tony Stark isn't eating enough finger sandwiches, I'm sure all the families of all those workers will understand." Big, sad eyes are focused on her now. As he picks up and eats a finger sandwich, staring.

"You'll never know…" he offers after (mostly) chewing his food, of the Time Cops. "They wipe your mind after the interventions. After awhile it drives a man… a little mad." Stark breathes dramatically and flicks his fingertips, casting his orbital map to the side and bringing up schematics of the swarm-sat, alongside a minutely detailed comparison to various fabrication prototypes of his own; yes, he's making more. "Mi casa es su casa, Jemma." Stark offers accomodatingly, "Just… don't touch anything. That's doing stuff, I mean." That's the technical term.

"Far as when we're ready to take this monster down?" Several progress windows that seem to be working on breaking into all the data TRINE's left on Tony's systems and elsewhere, as well as running through multiple permutations of the adaptive future-code welded onto Stark's own, "As soon as we've got it pinned by all twelve hundred squirrely little limbs." And you thought spiders were bad.

Nodding, Pepper is seemingly satisfied by Tony eating the first little finger sandwich. She knows him. Now that he's eaten one morsel, he'll keep going back to snitch more. And just to be sure, she plucks a baby carrot off of the plate before stepping over to a vacant workstation seat and setting up with her tablet and cell phone. Apparently, she plans to stay here to work on this also.

Pepper starts by looking at all of the potential TRINE victims that JARVIS has compiled for her, sorting them by time zone to call and inquire after them and what they were doing during business hours in their localities. That means, sadly, that the Fujikawa employees will have to wait. It's still the middle of the night in Japan.

Jemma snorts at the puppy dog eyes and the commentary. Agent May wouldn't be swayed by such tactics! Turning to a workstation as she shakes her head "Mad, huh? I thought that just made it easier for us to do what we must. And promise, I won't touch things that are doing stuff." All the technical terms.

Before she starts work again though, she shoots off a quick message to Thomas. An update … with no anticipated timeframe - which is likely to make the man grumble, but it can't be helped.

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