A Short Cyberpunk story
| Caspar stood at the window contemplating the sprawl below. Neon lit streets were awash with crowds, intermittently speared by searchlights from the patrol aircraft drifting above them. Glass fronted buildings rose through the smog pulsing with a riot of colour, nestling alongside the black corporate skyscrapers that loomed over everything like monolithic sentinels.
He glanced over his shoulder at his companion, her features cast in harsh monochrome by the light of the high-end micro deck she was working with.
“How we doing?”
“We?" she glanced up, eyebrow raised.
“You know what I mean Mel. How long?” Another slug disappeared from the bottle in his hand.
“I’m almost in. The countermeasures are vicious so I've gotta be crazy careful.”
He turned, the neon strobe causing his shadow to dance over the rooms cheap fittings. “We knew this job was never gonna be a cakewalk.”
“Yeah, well.” She retorted, briefly looking up and raking her hand through her hair. “It's not like you've got to do much on this one. It's all system work, and your starting to get on my nerves just moping around.”
“Your still going quicker then anticipated though; will you be able to stay undetected long enough?”
“Oh please. It’s me, like anyone would ever notice.” A smirk played over her pale features as she returned her attention to the deck and the reams of information only she could see. Caspar knocked back another slug from the bottle before offering it over, Mel shook her head. “You know how that affects my link.” Tapping the cable running to the jack behind her left ear. “Anyhow, make yourself useful an’ find something to do so I can concentrate. I don’t want this to turn out like the run in Kiev.”
He sighed. “I'm gonna go & get some takeout. Whadda you fancy?”
Mel glanced up. “Not hungry, you choose.”
“Fine, I'll just get whatever I find. You sure you’ll be ok?”
Mel glanced up, “I’ll be fine. I’ve got the link if anything goes wrong. Go. Find food. Enjoy.” Turning back to the window, Caspar could see a pair of patrol craft buzzing around over the nearby sprawl. Pulling a jacket from the back of the rooms single chair he slipped it on, fishing around in the pocket till he found a small radio link which he slipped into his own implanted socket. Picking up the half-empty bottle he took a long swallow. “Still don’t feel right.”
Mel looked up, a half smile on her face. “C’mon Casp. You know I’ll be fine. Really, now stop distracting me an' get outta my hair.” Caspar hesitated before patting the heavy shape of his pistol in it’s shoulder rig to reassure himself and heading out into the hallway, hanging the 'Do not disturb' sign on the door handle on the way. He chuckled to himself as he headed for the stairs. The flickering lights throwing his shadow on the stained carpet ahead of him. “Like room-service are gonna bother in this dump.”
Mel cracked her knuckles and stretched, working the kinks out of her shoulders. Overlaid on her vision was another world, a data world, the interpretation of the network she was connected to via the cybernetics linking her to the deck. Two lines of glowing neon connected her avatar to the First Orbital Finance construct that was the focus of her efforts. One pulsed with a steady red light, indicating her software working on the layers of security and intrusion countermeasures surrounding the constructs data systems; The other, a steady green pulsed in time with an incrementing counter on the decks secondary display screen. Mel smiled as she glanced at the rapidly rising number. 'Just a little bonus of the job, it’d be rude not to take advantage of how deep I’ve got in so far.’
She flicked her attention back to monitoring the intrusion software as it wormed deeper into the construct. It was getting harder to keep her presence undetected by the security programs that orbited it like a flock of birds. Every so often one would swoop around the interface point where the software was burning into the construct, hovering like a raptor sensing prey. “These things are getting smarter. Dumb programs ain’t supposed to get smarter.” she mumbled.
“What?” Caspar’s voice came back over the link, she could hear street noise bleeding through like static.
“Nothing. Left the link open, my bad. It’s just the security countermeasures, it’s like they're learning or something.”
“That’s garbage, unless your talking AI and no bank’s got that level of research cash.”
“Yeah, but I hear rumours all the time about how close the corps are getting to releasing...” She paused.
“Hang on.” Mel whispered. Back in the data world things were changing swiftly. The red of the invasive probe shifted to a healthy green. As it did so, blocks unfolded around the interface point, forming a gateway that faded into the side of the construct. “Jackpot. I’m in." A flock of security programs swung round and clustered around the gates location, their colours rapidly cycling between red and black. She quickly shutdown the first intrusion program, its neon representation blinking out in the data world. With a tug she pulled a memory stick from the side of the deck and slipped it into her pocket.
“Problem?” Caspar whispered over the link.
“Not sure, I don’t think the gateway’s been spotted yet, but this is still gonna take time to inject the new code.” Mel reached into another pocket, pulling out a memory stick similar to the first. Plugging it into the deck, she entered a few commands, and almost immediately the links representation between her and the construct started pulsing with data transfer. Seconds passed, then all hell broke loose. The security programs started keening alarms as each replicated again and again, flooding the area around the construct like ants defending a nest. “Frag! Forget the food, I’ve just been spotted. We gotta abort!” Mel exclaimed.
“Damn. Ok, you know the plan.” Caspar looked up and around, searching the sky for police drones. ‘How long before they get a location? Have we got enough time to get out clean, or is this gonna be messy again?’ He started to run.
Mel’s fingers blurred across the keyboard in an attempt to screen the probe long enough for her to disconnect safely. Glancing at the deck she saw the display lines being overwritten with garbage. The security countermeasures were trying to trace the decks location in the real world. ‘No time, this is gonna hurt!’ Mel yanked the interface cable out of her socket, a burst of static fuzzing her vision as the hard unplug jolted through her brain. The distinct smell of burning electronics started to fill the room, there was every chance if she hadn’t unplugged when she did that she would have been hit with lethal feedback.
“It’s the Kiev run again, ain’t it?” Caspar sounded dubious.
“Not if I pull my finger out.” Mel replied, lingering static fuzzing her link. Grabbing the bottle of liquor Caspar had left she took a quick slug from the bottle, before stuffing the neck with a torn scrap of bed linen. Fishing around in a pocket she pulled out a battered silver lighter. “Fire in the hole!” she whispered, lighting the wick and throwing the improvised incendiary onto the deck. She yanked the door shut just as the dull whoomph of ignition reached her.
“Did you just torch the place?” came a panting voice over the link.
“Yeah. Hadda get rid of it, I reckon it’d been compromised. “
“You know we’re gonna be screwed without the deck. How are we gonna get another crack at this?” Came the reply.
“Relax”, she panted, jogging out of the hotel door, “I said I had a plan, an’ I’ve got a plan. I’ll meet you later.”
Caspar sat in the corner booth of the club toying with his glass, the thumping pound of the music threatening to drown out his thoughts. It had been hours since he’d heard from Mel. He started as a glass was slapped down onto the table in front of him. Mel slid into the booth across from him, a sly smile on her face. “Well, that didn’t quite go to plan.” Caspar knocked back his drink.
"I’d never have guessed.”
“Hey, we’re both still alive, and my other plan worked, so I’m counting that as a win.” Another smirk.
“So, what’s your wonder plan then?” Caspar replied, an eyebrow arching quizzically. With a small flourish, Mel placed the memory stick she had unplugged earlier into a small display pad retrieved from another of her numerous pockets.
“Oh nothing much. Just set up a new account for us while I was in there. Got deep enough while it was working to do that before it went to hell.” Working the controls on the pad, she brought the details up on the small screen and spun it round, so he could make them out. Caspar whistled softly as he took in the information, a grin slowly spreading across his face.
“Now that’s a backup plan I can live with.”