Part 5: Jill's Gambit
They were back at the warehouse. Jill, Fred, and several members of Fred's team were gathered around as Robert was seated at a computer workstation plugged into the Arachno-bot CPU. His jaw hung low as he read dense, seemingly endless lines of code. He rubbed his eyes then turned to the others.
"This is next level stuff," Robert said. "It looks like the person behind all this wrote, not just programs, but their own custom programming language exclusively for these machines. I recognize a few things that might be conditionals, loops, and variables, but most of the rest of it is new to me. It's a lot of code too, it could take me weeks or even months to get to the end of this."
Fred rubbed his chin. "I guess we shouldn't be surprised, considering the complex behaviors these things are capable of."
Jill stared at them dumbfounded. "Wait, so you're saying the mastermind behind these Arachno-bots wrote a whole new programming language? From scratch?"
Both Fred and Robert nodded. Robert replied, "Looks that way."
"Jesus," Jill rubbed her temples. "I take it you'd have to be some kind of high-level programming guru to do that?"
"Yeah," Fred said.
"It's not something you can just slap together over a weekend either," Robert added. "They had to have been working on this for years."
Jill thought for a moment. "There's still one thing that puzzles me…"
"What's that?" Fred asked.
"The Arachno-Bot we got this CPU from was off by itself. The last two times, they attacked in numbers. Just seems odd to me."
"I think I have an explanation for that," Fred replied. "We examined the unit this morning and it looks like its transceiver was damaged. If it was part of the force that attacked the beach yesterday, it may have got lost and, without the ability to receive guidance from home base, it defaulted to doing what it was preprogrammed to do."
"Okay, I guess that makes sense." Jill shrugged. "Is there any way we can hack them? Override their master's signal and make them all shutdown?"
Robert shook his head. "Hacking a system I know next to nothing about is a tall order. As it is, it would probably take several months or even a year before I can create a virus that can successfully attack one of these things. I don't think we have that kind of--"
It was then that Robert's workstation beeped at him. In red block letters, the screen printed:
UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS DETECTED! BEGINNING SELF-DELETION…
"Shit!" Robert frantically began hitting keys on his keyboard. "No…no…no…stop!"
But it was too late. The code on screen jumbled and then it went blank.
"Fuck!" Robert pounded his fist on the desk.
"What are we going to do now?" Robert held his head in his hands. Jill and Fred were with him in the break room. They were all three sitting at a table, their spirits low. "If I'd had more time I could've--"
"It's alright man," Fred said. "We'll just have to come up with a new plan."
"What new plan? It's game over, that CPU was our best chance at tracking the bastard down."
"We'll think of something, there's always a way."
Jill got up and paced the floor for a moment. she stopped, turned to them and asked, "Do we have any kind of tracking device? Something I can wear on my wrist or under my clothes?"
Fred looked at her and replied, "I think so, why?"
Jill smiled. "Because the next time they attack, I intend to let them have me."
"You're going to what?" Robert looked up at her, astonished.
Fred raised an eyebrow. "You're going to offer yourself up as a Trojan Horse?"
"Something like that. You should be able to track me back to their base and then bring in the cavalry."
Robert asked, "You sure you want to put yourself at risk like that? What if something goes wrong and we lose your signal?"
"You better not lose my signal, I'm counting on you two."
Fred and Robert looked at each other, then all three of them left the break room.
They were aboard an Army helicopter, watching the landscape blur below them. Jill strapped a thin band of plastic and metal to her wrist while Fred and Robert were busy adjusting a portable receiver to pick up the signal. They were soon over the local shopping mall, where a legion of Arachno-Bots were forcing their way in through windows and glass doors.
"We're ready to go," Fred said. "Now, you're absolutely sure you're prepared to go through with this?"
Jill nodded. "This is our best shot at finding their lair and shutting them down for good."
"Good luck, Jill." Robert said.
Fred turned to the pilot, "Take us down."
"Yes sir." Came the reply.
The helicopter landed on the roof of the mall and Jill climbed out. Jill looked back at Fred and Robert.
"Remember," She said over the noise of the rotors. "Once one of those things takes the bait, start following my signal and be ready to call in the cavalry."
They both nodded to her and then the helicopter lifted off and hovered nearby. Jill found a roof access hatch, opened it, and started down the ladder.
Jill came out of a door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY and looked around. It was complete chaos inside the mall, women were fleeing from the Arachno-Bots as fast as they could run, abandoning shopping bags and carts in the middle of the floor. Several men were picking up anything that wasn't bolted down to use as weapons against the robotic monsters, to no avail as they were swatted aside. Several of the newer model Arachno-Bots launched nets, ensnaring women and moving in to seize them. Some were already leaving with cocooned captives. Jill swallowed hard and then charged towards one of the machines, waving her hands.
"Hey! You! Come get me! Catch me if you can!"
She got its attention, the Arachno-Bot advanced menacingly towards her. She turned and ran, thinking, I've got to give this thing just enough of a run for its money to make it look good.
The robotic arachnid chased her though the food court, then passed a Forever 21 and a Gap. She deliberately threw herself to the floor, pretending to stumble. Here we go…
It was on her in an instant, picking her up with four of its legs. She felt the sting of the hypodermic "fang" as it injected her with the paralytic drug and robbed her of voluntary muscle control. It brought her up near its chassis as the hatch opened and out came the arm with the roll of wrap. She was spun around dizzyingly as the super plastic was wound around her. It was a bit rougher with her than the pallet wrapping machine back at the warehouse had been, but not enough to cause injury. She lost consciousness by the time the Arachno-Bot finished cocooning her from head to toe. Just before she faded to black, she thought of Fred and Robert circling the building in the helicopter. Don't let me down, boys.
The Arachno-Bot strapped the fully cocooned Jill to its back and left the mall along with the others.