I'm In

March 21, 2018:

Oracle hunts for the traces of the magical virus that caused so much havoc to Stark's Tower. She ends up getting into a little more than she bargained for.

THE MATRIX

Characters

NPCs: MODOK

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's easy to get a little monoptic, a little single-minded, when you're on a bug hunt.

Oracle has been on several lately. She's been chasing down aliens of all things, at least virtually in the form of her Birds of Prey, but there's a hunt she's been on for longer than that. Something started rapping on her metaphorical chamber door a while back, and though she managed to keep her door locked, bolted, and barred, the oily residue of a magical virus was hard to ignore.

The fact that it got close enough to her servers, evidently without even trying, was considerably upsetting. Her systems may be safe, but protecting them from magical incursion is suddenly A Priority.

So. She started from home with a server isolated from the rest of her systems but mirroring one of themspecifically, the one where the virus tried to make its entryand began tracing it back. It's been the project of weeks of looking for traces, odd bits here and there like bloodstains or other forensic clues, but at last she's sure she's zeroing in on the source. It means she's curled in her nest at the Clocktower, half a dozen monitors before her, illuminated by the flickering lights as she traces ports, following the digital scent, and enjoying a fresh hot bowl of chicken udon from the noodle restaurant a few blocks away.

—-

The trail has gone as close to cold as it can. It seems that someone was working on scrubbing the magical vile virus from well…everywhere. Not in a way of 'oh god I must hide my tracks' but more in a way of 'this should not exist and I'll make it not exist'. Its a purge not a shadow.

Still there is enough to slowly follow at least. That is one of the reason its taken even someone like Oracle this long to try to follow it. The trace of her machine working even while she tries her delicious noodles.

Right when she is about to take the second bite, is when there is a /ping/ on that program. A ping that signals that the trace just slammed itself into a digital equivalent of a brick wall. A firewall powerful enough to stop her little program cold. Mostly because she wasn't expecting something like /this/ existing /here/.

A glowing, golden wall of light keeping a multitude of programs at bay as they batter tirelessly against it.

—-

"…Huh."

Barbara's well used to crawling across the average net security, the average firewalls, like a lizard crawling up a window. You just have to know the trick of it, how the programmers think and what they tend to… well, not think of. It's always the same old suites, hardly a difference between them. Like walking through a city of narrow, twisting alleys.

And then running into a vibrant, gleaming wall of Nope.

The Oracle stares at the virtual fortress. This is unlike anything she expected. It's the most secure system she's seen in a long time, bar her own (don't even ask her about federal servers, not unless you want to listen to her laugh for five minutes. Their hardware is ancient, and while it makes their code tough as bricks, they're old bricks and there's always a crack in the mortar). Whatever left that blackened slime trail, she reasons, must have come from in here.

She's not wrong, per se. But as she begins to scale the golden wall, to slide searching fingers across it and climb its sheer surface, she fails to consider just whose wall this might be. Or rather, she's thinking of all the hackers and sorcerers she knows, but even the genius hacker isn't coming up with the simpler, more obvious conclusion.

—-

She's not the only one that is trying.

Dozens of other little programs, some autonomous worms, some possibly people all try to get though that wall. Some try to brute force it, and the wall simply flexes and repels, or shatters the offending code on its blinding light.

Some try to scale it like she does, and the wall shifts under their feet sending them plummeting screaming down though virtual space into the eather.

Some try to find the weak points, drill though and great tendrils of light at times extend to sweep them off the wall.

Whatever intelligence is behind this doesn't seem to have noticed her yet, but its reactions are phenomenal. So many reactions all happening at the same split second.

—-

Who IS this? It's almost like… fighting herself, and she takes a moment to check her own firewalls to be certain she hasn't somehow looped back to her own back door. Barbara sets down her bowl and picks up her VR headset. It's the only way she's going to get the sensory focus necessary to really combat this.

Two options to consider. First: it could be actively maintained security with a real live human or team of humans constantly maintaining it. It's possible she's up against an entire operations center, but who has one this good? It's not staffed by lazy, half-asleep guys more interested in playing Overwatch than maintaining their servers.

Second… it could be an AI. A really solid AI. That's the only likely way of creating something like this. It would make sense, too; what but an AI could compose a magical virus?

Whatever the case, going up against it is going to be dangerous. It's going to require the neural link. It's going to require putting some skin in the game. She slips the gloves on, secures the headset…

And then the Oracle stands before the glowing wall. Even an AI can't have infinite resources. Something's gotta give somewhere. She can't find a weak spot, not really, but that doesn't matter: she stages a feint some distance from herself, observing the reaction. How many of the AI's resources does it need to commit to fight off a simple threat?

—-

Its a good theory, it's even a sound theory. Oracle sends her attack to one end of the wall and as it thickens there to block it there is a thinning of the wall at a different end. A stretch almost. It is only for a bare split second, but it is there, and enough for her to see.

That could be enough.

—-

Outstanding. That may be all it takes. She starts calculating, considering, and finally starts luring all the other little programs to a single port, a single location. When they make ready to attack, she makes ready to dive at the thinning spot of the wall. A split second is all she needs; she's confident she can swim through it as easily as a fish.

—-

It takes some time to convince all the other little programs to work with her, espicially the other hackers. However time, skill, and patience work to her adcantage and soon she is ready to take the oppurtunity…

…and she does…

…and it works…

To a point.

The bursts though the wall, swimming like a insect though amber at first but speeding up. Coming out the other side dripping with tendrils of golden energy…

To come face to face with one of the most advanced, if not the most advanced server system Oracle has ever seen. It stretches on forever, reams of infromation just behind what looks to her virtual eyes like a pair of double sliding glass doors.

Doors marked with a familiar logo.

Stark Interprises.

And standing in front of those doors is a gleaming female figure of blue light. Tall, and just the hint of red hair and green eyes that peer out towards the visitor.

"Well," The irish accent is thick and amused. "Just when I was getting bored…a visitor."

One hand reaches up and the glowing female knight draws a great sword from where it was resting against the side of the doors.

"This is where you state your business, lass."

—-

Dear Lord. She has well and truly messed up this time.

Oracle might be moving through molasses at one point, but that doesn't stop her getting through to the other side. She's just finding her footing again when she sees that figure like the angel guarding Eden.

Except Eden, apparently, is a big shiny tower in New York City.

The crystalline green woman pauses in her step, standing with gold dripping from her arms and legs and cheeks, flowing like the memory of rain. She takes a deep breath before raising both hands.

"You are not my quarry, madam. I'm tracking a filthy… thing. A magical virus, as far as I can tell. It tried to make its way through my security. It came, as far as I can tell, from here."

She narrows her eyes slightly. "Where is the thing I'm describing? This doesn't sound like something your maker would make… intentionally, that is."

—-

"Ah," The figure slightly lowers her sword. "The Janevirus. Damnable thing. It got in the systems, we've been rooting it out for weeks. Should be all gone though, and the demon that created it was stopped by the boss." The knight pauses a moment, quirking an eyebrow as he rests the greatsword on her shoulder.

"Though you haven't done the polite thing and introduced yerself, I think that might be for the best. Espicially since the boss is on his way now."

—-

Green eyebrows lift. But Oracle isn't out of her element. She's out of her expected territory, to be fair, but she's not intimidated. Not even by Tony Stark and his AIs. She's stared down somewhat scarier adversaries.

"Oracle," she replies easily enough. "And my apologies. I was expecting a lot more resistance than polite conversation. And I wasn't expecting Stark. I came to take out an enemy, not to break through the outer perimeter of a… peer."

Oracle glances back over her shoulder. Yeah. Big, solid golden wall. She's not getting through that without being let out. Or. Well. She MIGHT. Just not politely.

—-

There is a swirl of light and color that begins to form near the formidable figure of FRIDAY's security presence. That isn't exactly the surprise. What might come as a surprise happens as Oracle looks over her shoulder at the spot where she made a hole.

…they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery…but in this case Oracle might not like it.

The golden wall bulges slightly at the same point of entry that she made.

A hand punches though that golden wall, thick fingers curl along the gleaming code as something pulls himself though. First a head and then…wait…no…it sure looks like a giant…head? With tiny arms…

"AT LAST!" The face booms. "MODOK SHALL HAVE STARK'S SECRETS!"

FRIDAY slowly frowns. "Ya know, lass." Now the sword comes off the shoulder. "You want to apologize, help take care of that."

—-

Oracle… GLARES.

She turns around and stares down MODOK and his giant head. Taking a deep breath, her face seems to gain more of… its own features, really. Greater definition.

"Oh," she says, her voice a curious mix between cold and cheerful. "I see. You wanna go?"

And then? She's sprinting back toward the enormous face, a pair of escrima sticks materializing in her hands. Out of her hands, for that matter. This is the only place where she can run and jump and lay absolute havoc to anything, and this opportunity is too good to pass up.

Three sprinted steps and then she's leaping, whacking one stick and then the other over the enormous face's broad nose. She's going to make that sucker broader. A bounce off his forehead and she'll be flipping backward and down to break his teeth on her second approach. There's a bit of guilt here, too: if she hadn't smashed a hole in, he wouldn't have followed. Then again, well. She had to find out what was causing this.

—-

So. When you are a giant floating head. Swift melee action is not really what you're built for. This is something that MODOK should have thought of before he forced his way past a firewall without all of his minions. Oh there are some of them, in fact they split off from him, raceing towards the doors of the virtual Stark Tower even as MODOK's impressive nose is splattered all over his face and his flat tooth is chipped by a virtual escrima stick.

FRIDAY is of course recording all of this.

Though the blue tinged figure is also moving and there is a scream as a sweep of that greatsword turns the two AIM minions into spinning motes of dust.

They are fine. Prolly.

MODOK though staggers, half in and half out of the firewall as he tries to pull himself free of the sucking digital trap.

"YoU ShALL nOT StOP MODOK!" He roars as he flings out a hand as a beam of digital force leaps towards Oracle, intent on overloading her right out of the system though sensory feedback.

Yes. He wants to go.

Meanwhile a figure appears near the doors. To most he would be almost unassuming. A man in jeans and a t-shirt. A smirk on his face and a perfectly trimmed beard just smirks at the chaos in front of him.

"Yeah, looks like a typical Wendsday. JARVIS, spin me up the usual would you."

And red and gold light begins to build around him.

—-

This is somehow immensely satisfying. More so than the punching bags Barbara beats the snot out of every morning. She keeps her material body in as good shape as she can, what with the lower part not working super well. It just means every day isn't Leg Day. It also means her reflexes are still in tip-top condition.

The beam of digital force is well aimed, but Oracle knows how to move. She'd landed in a crouch; now she leaps high, beautifully so, and lets the feedback sail under her. This is clearly someone who's no stranger to punching way above her weight.

Once again she charges when she lands, darting to the side and charging in a serpentine. Trained. Definitely trained to avoid gunfire, among other things. She leaps forward, arching backward to give herself the force and momentum to smash MODOK's cheekbones, then bounce and roll away.

'YoU ShALL nOT StOP MODOK!'

"Wanna bet?" she shouts.

When she does roll away, it gives her the chance to look behind herself and see… okay, she's actually a little surprised. Tony Stark, in this ether, is… Tony Stark. She has to appreciate that, just as she has to appreciate the effect of his armoring up. Also, his appearance in the first place.

"Friend of yours?" she inquires. "I guess you want to get a punch in, too?"

—-

The lights swirl around Stark and the form builds. Then builds. Then builds further. Larger than the actual Iron Man suit. Fourteen feet tall and glowering down at the AIM figures that have dared to enter his domain.

Hulkbuster Armor.

When Tony gets to play in virtual, he doesn't bother with popguns.

"Oh yeah, best friends." The sarcasm is heavy as the massive hands of the Hulkbuster flex. "We have nightly penuckle games. Though right now, I think…" And now he shifts that imposing faceplate from Oracle to MODOK. "…I think you need to go faceplate. I have guests."

The beam goes wide as the sticks smash into MODOK again, driving him further back though the firewall. "nO! MODOK shALL NoT bE DenIeD!" Weapons deploy from his hoverchiar, whirling chainguns and blades sheathed in crackling lighting that swipe towards the lithe form of Oracle.

The gunfire slams into Stark and his armor shudders slightly before hunching forwards.

"Right. Bored now."

The repulsor blasts that follow entirely vaporize the minions surrounding MODOK, tearing off a weapon arm as panels slide back in the shoulders of the Hulkbuster to reveal ranks of micormissiles.

MODOK pauses and looks between the pair of them.

"MODOK nEEdS tO rEthinK hiS dECisiOnS."

—-

Oracle doesn't need to become a bigger target. Her way has always been to feint and dodge and be out of the way of the blow, only to land a really nasty one of her own where no one was expecting it. Stark, meanwhile, makes a pretty impressive showing for the Big Guns.

She rolls aside again when the lightning comes, crouching low and narrowing her eyes once more at the massive face. She's hefting her escrima sticks perhaps a bit less threateningly than the absolute arsenal of missiles ranked behind her on either side. A vicious smile curves her crystalline face. Even here and now, she isn't quite Barbara. Oracle's still an identity, and while Tony may be comfortable being himself in his own domain, Barbara's only Barbara in the real world.

MODOK is rethinking his decisions. "MODOK is smarter than he looks," Oracle replies, her lip curling. "Still thinking about it? Let me show you the door." And she rushes him once more, getting bigger with every step, matching the Hulkbuster armor in size and using that mass plus the speed of her acceleration to shove the enormous face back through the barrier.

—-

And that sets him off again.

"MODOK IS THE SMARTEST BEING IN TH—"

Which is about when he gets shoulder checked by a fourteen foot tall Oracle. There is a nasty sounding smash, a shocked noise from the giant face and then suddenly with a gooey pop he is gone.

Ejected back out the firewall.

Shards and blood of the battle litter the area around them and Stark just sighs.

"Oracle right? Can you just…step right back…yeah that'll do thanks."

…and then the Hulkbuster deploys what looks like flamethrowers. Eradicating the debris in a rush of destructive virtual fire.

"MODOK can transmit himself though most of his little pieces if he concentrates himself. Hell he can even email himself to people. Though it is /hillarious/ to find him doing that and stuff him in a server loop. Well. I think it's hillarious. He just shouted at me for awhile."

A shrug again before he glances back towards her.

Then the massive armored suit seems to dissipear, lowering once again the man himself back to the ground.

"So…the Janevirus made it all the way to Gotham eh?"

—-

The description of how he's handled MODOK before is met with the same broad, amused smile that observes all his bits getting burned up. "I'll remember that," Oracle replies. "Given that I don't think I was particularly on his radar before. MODOK, right? I'm guessing he likes to brute-force his way through most of the time, and most of the time it works. He looks like the kind of guy who'd build himself a really huge brain. I've heard of him, though I've never had the pleasure before now."

Oracle shrinks as she speaks, turning back to Tony. When she's not in a fight— and when she's in mixed company— she goes full Greek, dressing her green crystalline form in a draped white chiton. The mention of Gotham brings a brief narrowing of her eyes, but. Well. He could have easily traced her route here, at least part of it, and she's aware of the rumors (the true rumors, unfortunately) that whoever and whatever Oracle is, it started in Gotham. Not hard for someone paying attention to discover.

"It tried to wiggle its way in. I suspect I know why it didn't succeed." Because she doesn't use AIs, for a start. Because Oracle doesn't entirely work, not completely, without her neural link. Because she was lucky, and because it wasn't trying that hard.

She extends a hand to shake his: "A pleasure to meet you. My apologies for causing problems, but I wasn't sure the virus was entirely stamped out. Sometimes it seems like there's more than just a few miles between Gotham and New York."

—-

"Oh it was entirely stamped out," The inventor replies with a smirk as he takes her hand. There is a grin at the narrowing of the eyes. She /has/ heard that Stark has no boundries, little in the way of restraint, and loves to keep people off balance.

Gotta live up to the reputation right?

Right.

"Well I managed to lock it down before it spread out of control, but…it caused a lot of problems before I managed that much. Then there was a demon involved, I /hate/ demons. Even if some of them are smoking hot."

Literally.

"You managed to wiggle yourself past JARVIS though, so I have to say that was impressive." That is also why he has two AIs on security.

"But the pleasure is all mine! I've heard of the mysterious hacker. Member of the JLA right?" A smirk at that. "You know, Greenbean invited me in." A pause. "I know I know, they'll let anyone in nowdays. Standards gone so far downhill and all."

Greenbean. That has to be Hal.

—-

Tony Stark he is. From top to bottom.

Oracle smirks a bit, regarding Tony with some amusement. "It took some doing. You have some very serious security, Mister Stark. You're aware that a concentrated DDOS on a single port can cause momentary weakness in your outer firewall? If you want to avoid that, I can recommend a slight change in server architecture. But I expect you're probably still in repair mode after the incident last month." Generous of her to suggest, either way.

Greenbeam. It takes her a moment— "I think I know who you mean. I did help the JLA with their security, and I like to be their eye in the sky when they need one. You're well informed. But people in the JLA meet me in person about as often as they meet Batman without the cowl."

In other words, more often than they think.

"Now, if you don't mind, I'll see myself out. If I see any signs of MODOK again, I'll be sure to let you know."

And then she dissolves. She transports out, in fact, in a vivid Star Trek TOS-style shimmer, and closes her connection.

In Gotham, Barbara tugs off her gloves and removes her VR headset. For a moment she settles back, grinning and amused with the way her evening's turned out. And then?

She starts updating her own system security. "New protocol," she says. "Call it: KODOM. …I'll find something for those letters to stand for later."

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