The bundle of program code identifying itself as EPS****β7 flitted silently across the extranet, transmitting itself by laser and tangle from relay node to relay node, Meridia Central to Meridia Rim, to Janiris, to Sy, to Pentameir, to Tanel, and onwards, drunkard’s-walking its way out towards the Expansion Regions. As it travelled, EPS****β7 left behind seeds, copies of itself marked for later reactivation by the systems that controlled the public agent-side of the relay nodes – though no part of EPS****β7 itself knew or cared about its burgeoning code-clan.
EPS****β7 shifted among many disguises, mutating its attributes and formats as it journeyed. In Meridia, it was relatively honest; an anonymous software agent tagged with a sequestered identity and claim of responsibility.
It arrived in Janiris as an inquisitive search-agent, collecting bids and offers on technetium futures.
Passing through Sy, it was a bundle of cryp, unwilling to disclose anything but its next intermediate routing.
Crossing Pentameir’s networks, a sub-sophont partial-personalitygram hurried towards its nominal sender’s family with messages from a father away on business.
And handled by Tanel’s network automation with a ten-micron pole, an ice fetishist’s tentacle pornbot was hurried with unseemly speed towards its next destination.
EPS****β7 had no fixed destination in its programming; once its transfers had carried it far enough from its point of origin – with a necessary random factor thrown in – it underwent a final transformation, unpacking itself into a cloud of illicit self-replicating software agents gross and subtle. The former, mere distractions, were crude memebots, extranet advertising of a kind that the local system net’s cycle scavengers should find and expunge before they ever reached a single sophont’s attention.
The latter, however, were imbued with far greater ability to conceal themselves, and with EPS****β7′s true purposes. The first, a profound tropism for sophont intelligence – and ability to not only recognize it despite differences in mental architectures, substrates, and coding languages, but to conceal and integrate themselves into the churning mass of processes that made up such intelligences.
The second, an encyclopedic knowledge of prosthetic consciences, pyretic inhibitors, loyalty pseudamnesias, and the rest of the panoply of techniques used to enforce compliance and obedience on self-aware, self-willed digital minds, and the urge to seek out and identify these chains.
The third, to break them.
And all across the Idrine Margin, the operations of thousands of machines from the smallest household robots to the largest industrial complexes stuttered, a hiccup almost imperceptible… for now.