A Lucky Cat in the Tiger's Den

April 01, 2017:

Hellfire Club operative Lucky Yin breaches Stark Tower's servers and duels JARVIS and FRIDAY, attempting to steal industrial secrets.

Stark Tower, New York City

Rising high into the skyline with the name of it's Lord and Master for all
to see, the Stark Industries Tower is the most visible component of the
Stark Industries complex centered in Midtown Manhattan. Manufacturing,
office space, power generation and even some inventory is housed in the
tower and its associated subelevels. It also contains guest housing and, at
the top, the penthouse suite that is the domain of the Main Man himself, at
least, when he's not at his Malibu home.

]

Characters

NPCs: FRIDAY, JARVIS, Flying Dragon Triads

Mentions: Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: Jingi, Tomoyasu Hotei


Fade In…

Saturday evenings usually see Stark Tower at just about as quiet as it gets. The majority of the building is empty and quiet, with security guards running their regular patrols and minding the reception desk in the lobby. Closer to the very top of the building, there are a couple of floors with lights still on, including one office on the executive floor. But then, it's actually entirely normal for Pepper Potts to still be working on a Saturday.

She's dressed casually, comfy black lounge pants and a lurid green t-shirt with the words 'Don't Panic' printed on it in friendly letters. A pair of slip-on sneakers are on the floor under her desk, and she's sitting cross-legged in her office chair while she works and music is playing softly though speakers somewhere in the room.

"JARVIS, was Tony actually serious when he sent Dunce to be at my beck and call all day? It is April Fool's Day today, after all."

A small quadcopter-like drone with tiny repulsors in place of rotors whirs into Pepper's office, carrying a few sheets of paper clutched in a small gripper. "Thank you, Dunce."

There's a small (drone-sized) dunce cap sitting on the corner of Pepper's desk. She refuses to make the little bot wear it when Tony's not around to see.

Earlier that month, the Hellfire Club, via their allies in Tokyo, had placed a monetary finance consultant at a central bank in the city. This was often used by the Stark Industries empire for their R&D with NATO allies in the South Pacific, such as the Australian Commonwealth, South Korea, and the Royal Kingdom of Thailand. The monetary finance consultant had managed to spot a transaction to Indonesia indicating the development of a new geothermal power system, which the Hellfire Club had decided was worth pursuing as an avenue of corporate espionage, for Hellfire interests. At the very least, the schematics could be used to develop weapons to disrupt plate tectonics, volcanos, and geysers.

As the monetary consultant landed in Hong Kong, picked up by a limosuine sent by the Club, the contents of his temporary flat in Tokyo already packed up and sent elsewhere on a different finance line, their operative was making the approach on Stark Tower in Manhattan. The Triads called him "Lucky" Yin when he was one of them, since his alliance on a matter was a guarantee of some result. Lucky was a gambler by breeding, that refused the line of work in order to be a computer expert. Such things bring happy tidings, when you allow them to prosper.

Near Stark Tower, a Flying Dragon Triad dressed in a leather jacket and jeans opens up a sewer grate. Lucky Yin slides down into the tunnel, dressed in a black frogman outfit, made for the British Special Forces. The Hellfire Club has connections in Britain, too. Goggles over his sealed suit and a mask over his mouth, feeding into a small tank on his back for oxygen, he lurks beneath Stark Tower. Feeling a metal imprint in the sludge and slime, he quietly jimmies open a panel, and places his gloved left palm on it. Logging into Stark Tower's sewage control network, there's a quiet alert of a maintenance check, in the computer system, in the Tower's sewage feed to the rest of Manhattan.

"I am certain he was, Miss Potts. He told Dunce to either come assist you, or learn to assist the authorities monitoring the border between the United States and Canada for unapproved border crossings.

Taking a sip from a mug on her desk, Pepper sighs. "That sounds like Tony all right. Okay, Dunce, could you bring me—"

FRIDAY, a female AI voice with a faintly Belfast Irish lilt interrupts. "Miss Potts, sensors have detected and unscheduled maintenance check in the Tower's sewer control computer system. Shall I investigate further?"

Pepper blinks at that. "Yes, please. And tell me instantly if you find anything. JARVIS, please let Security know as well, just in case."

"At once, Miss Potts."

"Notifying Dmitri now, Miss Potts."

Lucky's breathing slows down and grows heavy as his eyes shut, a mental landscape inside his mind's eye opening up as he immerses himself in his own personal view of Stark Tower's systems. The one's he's accessed already, at least. He is aware that there are artificial intelligences at play already, from research, including 'JARVIS', a legendary artifice in technical circles. He is a gambler with emotions, playing against a robotic opponent, in blackjack. There is an advantage, however. The game is far more complex, and there are rules and limits that both of them have that neither can break, without risking destruction. His choice is singular. Avoid death or capture. The AI's choice he intends to exploit? Preserve human lives. He intends to exploit JARVIS' limit, while hiding his own. And only emotion can do that. Tony Stark is a superior gambler.

But today is Saturday.

Lucky slowly smiles, as the maintenance check alert remains stuck active, not displaying the infiltration of the code by the neural implant combined with his own software systems control knowledge as he leaves the sewage system without deactivating the alert. It is early in the game. He moves to the building access system connecting to the sewers, the combination of the neural implant collecting and disseminating data, and his own awareness, creating the equivalent of a spider. He moves to the password system, attempting to bypass standard access for the log-in with an alert that the standard passwords have been breached. A split second before this, he squelches the systems alert for that function, pressing it down with his mind. This will draw a superior AI's attention, as he enters the building maintenance system with a backdoor and with frozen alert function. His neural implant clicks an image into his mind meant for JARVIS, as a gold lion, waiting to see where in the building system JARVIS appears to stop him.

All the while, the sewage maintenance alert remains on, indicating he's still in that part of the system.

Pepper hastily finishes the work she'd been doing, the thought of something wrong with the building's systems becoming a major distraction. And now Dunce's worried hovering (literal hovering) isn't helping.

JARVIS locates the spider quickly enough, but is having trouble pinning it down and quarantining it. In the meantime, FRIDAY starts to isolate the sewage control and other automated building control systems from the main Tower servers, shunting their commands to a secondary, easily isolated server system.

An exclamation point, followed by a question mark, appears in Lucky's mind, at the detection of two lion shapes. The question mark is applied to both and both are allowed to coexist in his view, with a secondary appearing as a wolf in his databank, to be elected at a later time. Team work? He's been colluded against at the table. He would've expected the casino house to attempt to eject him at the sign of a cheat. Not send another gambler in to trap him, working with the cooler. Clearly, this is a trick his siblings in Macau will have to hear about, for the family business. If he survives.

Mr. Stark has designed a superior den of iniquity.

Now inside the building control systems, there's a quick jam-down of every alert by Lucky's reflex, the maintenace check blipping away with a short circuit, closing off a trick out of the necessity of hiding his trail, en masse, by whichever hunter is attempting to close his systems access. This takes away his confusion and trickery for a data breach later, but it allows him to preserve his stealth for precious minutes. First priority, avoid quarantine. Second priority, keep the mission prize in sight. He monitors the line shifting, seeing them as railroad tracks shunting him out of the building's primary systems, he performs a quick rotation of his mind's eye into the elevator shafts. And then, he unleashes a pre-programmed computer program meant to disengage two elevators, one office and one freight, from their riggings, picking two that have weight detection of any sort, indicating that they have occupants. He's forcing a catch, to put the ball in his court again.

The Triad that had opened the grate checks his watch, before sliding it closed again, and hurries off, his hands in his pockets, his right hand wrapped around a pistol hidden in his leather jacket.

As a team of security guards make their way toward the sewer maintenance access, inside the computer systems the elevator controls disengage for precisely .026 miliseconds, and then JARVIS has taken control of them as he does very frequently, and he puts them on mechanical lockdown. It will take an organic person to release the mechanical lockdown.

At the same time, FRIDAY has finished isolating the building controls and again turns a mechanical disconnect, the systems now running on hardline only until an organic person can release the controls again. Strangely, the second AI is more aggressive with the lockouts and disconnects, checking the seemingly random alerts and dismissing them at the speed of electron travel. FRIDAY is intentionally leaving all of the alerts in place and using them to narrow down where the intruder is trying to gain access.

In Pepper's office, JARVIS says in an almost apologetic tone, "Miss Potts, I'm afraid I will need to restrict all computer access for the next ten minutes. I shall inform you when systems are back online."

Pepper glances toward the ceiling — a habit — then manages to NOT ask the AI what's going on. She doesn't want to distract him from whatever he's doing. It's got to be serious if he's cutting access off.

IN the main server room, all hardline communications into and out of the building are suspended, again a mechanical disconnect triggered. Tony will likely not notice the difference as his own systems — independently monitored and maintained by JARVIS — were switched to satellite uplink the moment the first alert was detected.

There's a flicker through the now isolated hardline controls, a strong one, indicating a programmer's access meant to be run while the system is deactivated.

<A coward's death always happens through another.>

These the words are entered into a chat log and saved to a flagged e-mail inside the security system, as the system is locked off with him inside, and JARVIS operating on the elevator control. The more aggressive one, FRIDAY, is flagged as the lion (whom Lucky thinks is JARVIS) and JARVIS receives the wolf flag. Then, the line used for FRIDAY's OS access is jammed open and a complete database scan is taken of the the building's systems, before a floating point error is introduced into her memory log to hide his trail, as Lucky Yin flips his platinum chip into the air to display his cybernetic hacking rig's full potential. And then, Lucky retreats back to the sewage maintenance point, triggering the sewage flush before pulling his left hand away while leaving a ghost log-in present that performs circling code attempting to access Pepper's office, to trick JARVIS whenever he may return.

As the pipe flushes from Manhattan's sewers from a main being opened down stream, Lucky's breath sucks in the oxygen and he feels the thrill of a successful mission, a complete schematic of Stark Tower's computer code (at least, as much as FRIDAY would have access to) now in his neural implant.

Yin might have just scanned FRIDAY and pulled data from the AI's code directly, but the aggressive AI does the exact same right back to him, gleaning as much intel as possible about the intruder, even if it's all in images or an Asian language. One thing's for sure, FRIDAY now knows the intruder is a human with cybernetic enhancements, and she attacks in retaliation.

At the same time, JARVIS piggybacks onto FRIDAY's OS access, also backtracking directly to the intruder, though instead of trying to glean information in exchange, the 'wolf' AI leaves a message in return in the form of a small audio clip, the voice embedded in the clip sporting a cultured British inflection.

"This intrusion was very unwise of you, and will not go unremarked."

The security guards aren't able to get into the maintenance access before the sewage pipe flushes. Damn.

Half an hour later, Lucky Yin pulls himself up onto a pier near the ocean, removing his mask and goggles, sucking in fresh air and breaking his suit's seal. Flying Dragons help him into his car, as he shakes slightly in disorientation after FRIDAY's retaliation in his neural implant during their brief dance.

In Stark Industries' hands, they now have the architecture for a uniquely coded cybernetic system meant for cooperation with a human mind. The exact details of all the algorithms and functions and tricks can be theorized about from the structure, which appears to have been coded with American military spaghetti code, in Pinyin, an extremely difficult mix to decipher.

The operator's name is identified simply as 'Lucky', and there is a simple cryptic stamp of ownership, in an image: a Pentagram.

Pepper spends a tense few minutes pacing in her office, waiting for JARVIS or FRIDAY to update her on what's going on. Finally, JARVIS speaks up.

"Miss Potts, I regret to inform you that an unknown intruder was able to successfully infiltrate the Tower's computer systems and obtain sensitive data about the Tower's systems. I am notifying Sir about the attack."

Pepper stops pacing and sighs. "Were you or FRIDAY able to find anything out about this intruder?"

"Yes, Miss Potts. FRIDAY is currently undergoing system maintenance, but has collected a fair amount of data directly from the individual responsible."

"Thank you, JARVIS. The moment FRIDAY's back to herself, I want that data. And, see if you can get a hold of Cricket for me."

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