The Hacked Medibot By Jacob Rosenburg
The first thing I do at the start of every day is take off the coat and fedora. It's the official uniform and half my coworkers would kill to get their hands on it... but I'm not here to look sharp.
My name's Jacob. Jacob Rosenburg. I'm a detective for the Nanotrasen corporation. And I'm stationed indefinitely at the metal-and-glass deathtrap known as Space Station 13.
I slip into something more comfortable- a set of security armor. Mine's got a pretty badge on it. Their little way of saying they trust me with authority, but not with the force to back it up. That's why I always keep a friend beside me. Officers need to buddy up in case something happens, after all. My friend's name is The Long Arm. He's a .38 mars Special, and he likes to hang out in a chest holster. I light the day's first cigarette and step out into the brig to meet the rest of the force.
Art White's already stepping out of the gear room. He's one of the good ones- may not say much, given the sort of people who usually walk the beat, but it damn well means a lot. A seafoam-colored lizardman walks in through the front doors- I almost don't recognize him without the suit. Betrays-Its-Kin, the Lawyer. I never asked him how he got the name, but for all the times he's had our backs he's not once jammed a knife in them. Things weren't off to a bad start. At least, until we hear the AI reporting an impact at the sec offices.
We rush in as all the breathable air takes a one-way-trip through a shattered window into space. Debris impact. Happens all the time. But you don't think about what the low pressure's doing to you until you look down at your arms and legs and see bruises spreading over your skin like a spilled inkwell. A spacesuited engineer is let in to assess the damage; I politely excuse myself. I need a quick trip to medbay and a pack of Dromedaries.
I step into the medbay foyer in time to meet a medical cyborg on his way out. He takes one glance at me and raises a syringe. One stick later and the bruises starts drying up; I give him a nod and step into the maintenance tunnels. They don't sell my brand on the station; Nanotrasen only stocks in-house wares for their facilities. You have to hope to find a pack some shady sort left behind. They usually have the sense to bring it with them when they leave, of course.
On my way out, I see the southern ward's familiar Medibot. Unlike they cyborg, these things don't think for themselves- they're automatons. They detect injuries and approach to apply medicine. I'm stuck a second time while I settle for a pack of Carp Classics from a nearby vending machine. I made it maybe halfway to the brig before I can feel my stomach start to speed up and my heart start to slow down. By the time I pass through the security doors I fall to my knees and vomit.
That wasn't medicine. Someone had hacked the medibot.
Art helps me back onto my feet. I look exactly as good as I feel. A quick tap from a handheld medical scanner lets me know it's not getting worse. I can keep on my feet- barely. I excuse myself again. This time, I've got my forensics scanner in my hand as I walk out the door.
The MD onsite is kind enough to give me a healthy dose of antitoxin. I prowl the hallways while I wait for it to sink in. I need to find that medibot before it tries to go after someone else. As luck would have it, it already did- but its would-be victim was a miner coming back to R&D with metal and plasma. Never took a scratch out in the field and knew right away that something was up when the little white box approached him. He got it stuck in a delivery chute; thankfully, my scanner works at range. We bludgeon it to death while avoiding its syringes to have it fall into a heap of parts and an explosion of profanity from its voice synthesizer while I print out the results.
White fibers of a water-resistant weave. Styrene polymer rubbings. No fingerprints. That'll happen when the culprit thinks ahead enough to wear a lab coat and set of latex gloves.Not much of a lead. That narrows it down to the entire southern half of the station. I walk back to my office and cool my heels while I try and remember where I put my lighter. They ask me if I found anything. I tell them- lab coat, latex gloves. The answer might as well have been 'no.' ...at least, until I get talking. Maybe the poison had dulled my head a bit too because it was only then that, finally, I start thinking.
I saw the chemists when I went back to get anti-toxin. They weren't wearing gloves. The CMO always wore bright blue nitrile ones- you could tell the difference at a glance as you walked past her office. And blue nitrile was sometimes favored by the EMTs- just like the one who saw to my treatment. Nobody in medbay was wearing latex. One of the other officers was being treated for some minor cuts and bruises. He noted the same thing. That just left the research departments- and you didn't need a lot of latex when you didn't do a lot of sterile work.
...Except one department did. Robotics. They had to extract brains from cadavers and volunteers to put into cyborgs. The Warden had worked robotics in the past- she remarked that she and her coworker occasionally argued over who'd get the only set. I practically sprinted down towards the R&D wing. You had to be a scientist to actually get through the doors, but you could always glance through the windows. I kept a camera on me for just such an occasion- And as I strolled past the window, I managed to catch a polaroid of the Roboticist at work inside. I took a closer look at it once I was back in my office, and set it in the folder beside the forensic readings.
Lab coat. Latex gloves.
The same thing that kept me from seeing his prints gave him away when he declined to take them off. But far more troubling was the other part of the photo- the Medical Cyborg, undergoing maintenance. Its Electrical panel was open. And the Roboticist was being very, very attentive to his work.
I put out a call to all sec officers on staff. We had a positive ID on the saboteur- and possibly a rogue borg as well. Art White sprinted down from the Brig to lend a hand- he made sure to bring a flash, just in case we were too late to save the borg. The bright lights can overload their sensors and stop them in their tracks just like a human- Nanotrasen craftsmanship at its finest. We gathered at the door. The AI turned the knob. We sprinted inside.
I pulled my trusty revolver out from its holster and fired off two shots. We load them with special stun rounds- they'll leave a nasty bruise, but they floor you after just a couple rounds. Before he could react, the roboticist- Gary, from his ID card- was flat on his back. Art approached, handcuffs at the ready. This time it was the medical borg that high-tailed it away, dragging the prone roboticist behind. Art gave chase while I sounded out a message: Gary was making a run for it. We didn't know for sure if he did something to the borgs- sometimes they act like that in an honest effort to prevent human harm. Warden told the AI to lock down the borg. The AI responded with puzzlement. It didn't have any borgs synced up to it. That told us all we needed to know.
Art called in over the sec channel- he managed to catch up and brought Gary over to the brig. But as I hurried in behind- my earlier sickness now making my stomach crumple with hunger and my legs struggling to keep pace- I saw that we had one more visitor. The medical borg. I couldn't get into the gear room but there was a spare flash in the offices- I had to act fast.
It took a little more time, but you can't work a job like this and not know to always, ALWAYS come prepared. I turned the corner with Flash in hand just in time to see Art falling to the ground unconscious as Betrays tried to shake him awake. I nailed the borg with the flash, grabbed a nearby baton and started making some screws and sparks fly from its outer housing. But my breathing wasn't just quickening from adrenaline. Things were going dark. The bastard got me with poison from its hypospray as I walked in.
Flash. Crunch, crunch. Another flash. Another few blows with the baton. I played the rhythm in double time to try and fell the borg before I lost consciousness- but blacked out before I could hit the coda. On the floor. Gasping. But not getting any air. Black was starting to turn to white.
I heard the flash going off again. Sounds of metal on metal. Betrays had grabbed the nearest piece of scrap and went to finish what the rest of us had started. I didn't see what happened to the medical cyborg- I only remember being piled up alongside the Warden and my partner Art as the lawyer roped in some passerby to drag us all to medical. Sensation came back. Frost forming on my skin. Cryogenic healing. I must have somehow been in worse shape than I felt. But, looking back, I don't know how that could have been possible.
The sudden feel of fresh, warm air on my skin as I fell out from the pod was a welcome shock as Betrays-its-Kin helped me back up to my feet. Seeing Art's lifeless body convulse in futility under a doctor's defibrilator... wasn't.
I'm quickly brought up to speed- Gary had gotten away. There was one other borg, an engineering borg- it helped him escape. It was flooding toxic gas into the hallways, trying to get the crew to believe the AI had gone rogue on them. I thanked the lawyer and doctors and walked through the pain, watching them stuff Art into a cloning pod and hope for the best while Gary taunted us over the station's intercom. He'd slipped through our fingers. Twice, apparently- someone almost got him in cuffs while I was unconscious. But if he was going to choose to be unsubtle, that just made it easier for us.
I asked the AI to track the air alerts live over sec channel. Unless he was in the atmospherics room, an engineering borg on the run couldn't pump flammable toxic gas over the entire station at once. He had to go one room at a time. Funny enough, it wasn't even me who ended up dimming the borg's lights- some cargo tech had beat it to death with a shotgun. On any other day we'd have gone over there with riot gear after we found out they were opening gun crates- today, I was just happy someone gave a damn.
We were counting down to evac. The borgs were dealt with. But Gary had gone quiet. He must've known he'd already outed himself and had no minions left to hide behind. He'd have been a fool to show his face. I passed by robotics one last time. Some new worker was already inside, wondering why the shutters had been pulled and all the doors bolted closed. He was damn lucky he didn't have to deal with any coworkers- Especially not enemies of the entire station, across the room from him, with concealed weaponry and surgical tools. People shuffled down the south hallway towards the shuttle dock; there was only four minutes left. Some of them had minor injuries. Some were vomiting from the poison gas. Some were in tinted-helmet spacesuits to protect them from the atmospheric troubles... but only one of them wasn't wearing their ID.
I still had Art's taser in my backpack- I'd lifted it from his belt when they took him into cloning. To make sure it didn't get into the wrong hands. It had exactly one shot left. The electrode hit the unknown spaceman and he went to the ground convulsing. I heard a sickeningly familiar voice from inside cursing me out.
Gary. The Roboticist.
I keep an old fashioned nightstick in my bag- I always pray I don't have to use it. As a rule, as per regulations, I don't walk the beat and I don't apprehend. I work WITH the force. To get them their man. We also had a policy in Sec- take them in alive. If at all, remotely possible, take them in alive. We have accountability. We can't bypass due process. Only the Captain can authorize an execution outside of The most dangerous and extreme circumstances where it's a liability to bring someone in alive.
Gary had escaped capture twice. Wounded many people with his work. Killed at least one person. An officer. A good officer. And by the time I even knew what was happening, his helmet was pooling with blood from the inside, and each blow from my nightstick sounded less like a crunch and more like a dull, inert slap.
I was struggling to catch my breath. For once, it wasn't the cigarettes and it wasn't poison. I heard footsteps behind me. The sound of a gun being holstered.
"You got him?" came another familiar voice. Art White. Suited up after a cloning pulled him kicking and screaming from the afterlife.
I stuffed the nightstick back in my bag. "Yeah... I got him."
As I dragged Gary's sorry, broken carcass across the station to the brig's morgue tray the escape shuttle finally docked at the departure lounge. Last call to evac rang out through the PA system. But I had one last flourish to put on the record.
We're the security force for the station. People think of us as bludgeon-happy goons, but they still scream for us when some lunatic with an energy sword starts sawing down their door. As I'd said, due process- other than the most extreme cases and most vile offenders- doesn't come second to just desserts. I always kept records of all the evidence I came by, and it was my job to bring the truth to light if things went to trial on capital crimes- just as it was the Lawyer's duty to make sure the accused got a fair shake. Most of my reports get stuffed away in some dusty old locker in the corner of my office. But there's one big, red folder that I always keep on the corner my desk.
On one side, a forensic report from a medibot- Lab Coat. Latex Gloves. A photograph of a roboticist hacking a cyborg wearing the aforementioned. On the other, a bloodied corpse in the brig morgue tray in a Roboticist's jumpsuit. And on the outer lining, a big, black-and-white label: