As August continues to unfold, the WEP challenge begins. While they released the themes for each month’s challenge early on in January of this year, I sensed this one would be the most difficult for me. I considered skipping it initially and entering again in the October WEP challenge.
After thinking about the challenge’s theme for the past three weeks or so, I began to have a few ideas. The first idea I scrapped after writing the first few paragraphs. Going back to a blank slate (so to speak), I thought about what I could do with the theme. Realizing I could do a redemption story, with a cyberpunk atmosphere. Keeping the vibrant natural atmosphere of a world heavily dominated by technology. Adding a heavy touch of virtual reality, and oppressive governments to the idea. Along with a slight bit of hacker noir. Managing to stick to my self-assigned “punk” challenge. Please enjoy my entry titled, “One Last Job.”
One Last Job
Various computer monitors illuminated my dark office. The dim neon white light from my keyboard was bathing my twitching fingers that hovered above it. A barely legal altered cognitive bolstering rig was resting precariously on my neck. Interwoven black cable ran from the back of the apparatus into a custom built quantum computer; I designed to keep my digital presence minimal. This task is supposed to my last job before getting out of the increasingly radical hacker group Entropy. Only agreeing to do this job after signing a contract that guaranteed I could leave without retribution from the group and other rival hacker groups. While I still had to worry about consequences from the legal system, this had a slim chance of protecting my new from them. With the impending birth of my first son, I realized I needed a fresh start, not just for me full life Taking a deep breath; I started running my virtual machine. Letting that run for a few minutes before rapidly typing the code that would bounce my entry signal randomly around the world. Scrutinizing the system’s programming code for mistakes before initializing the program. Feeling the pinch of the small needles pierce through the skin on my neck, allowing my mind to enter the digital world.
Mere seconds passed before the digital world appeared in front of my virtual eyes. Neon signs floated through the sky, advertising everything and anything could. Virtual portals connecting to businesses around the planet rested on an everchanging rainbow neon road rested on both sides of me. Lines of avatars were waiting to enter some the portals; others remained empty. Transporting myself through the multitude of unmoving avatars, trying not to attract any attention as I moved through it.
Managing to find a seldom used route obscured by barely functioning portals. Dropping into the entrance on the right, entering the Ultra-net. Seeing the sophisticated and powerful repeating encryption that created a continually changing protective firewall. The authoritarian government believed the firewall was unhackable. For the most part, their assumption was correct. The script had an exploitable weak spot that I could use to enter the mainframe. Now inside the mainframe, I searched for the virtual prison where the minds of people labeled dangerous where hidden. The government using their physical body, as a protection from any retaliation. It was one of their worst kept secrets; they used to create fear among hackers. Being careful to avoid the drones produced by the government’s artificial intelligence with the sole purpose of keeping the Ultra-net safe.
After a few hours of searching, I stumbled into the prison. Making a quick decision to hide in the prison maintenance node to protect me from the roving army of small flying drones patrolled the area. Watching their patrol routes with great care, trying to stay hidden from electronic eyes. Knowing any window, I had to break in without detection would be minimal. Thinking over my methods of hacker attacks I could use to decrease my chance of exposure, as the drones continued to encircle the facility.
With a quick decision to release a split attack on the node. Tapping at the virtual wristlet knowing I had only a few options I could use with such a narrow window of time. Choosing to unleash a complex program I created named Alpha_Breaker against the drones and node. Directing the initial attack wave at the opposite side of the prison, to get the drones attention. Watching the drones rush away before unleashing a robust second attack on the node. The secondary attack worked quickly devouring the protective barrier around the node before creating a small hole in the node. Using the distraction to enter, the weak spot in the node swiftly.
Seeing thousands neon blue ghosts floating around in vibrant digital purgatory, each one lost without its host. Conformist propaganda jpegs covered the virtual walls, silently mocking the prisoners. I would be there only chance of escaping here. Now to figure out how to do that, without killing those I was trying to free. Everything I had read before uploading my conscious to the internet, suggested I had to find a kill switch for the prison. In theory, it should allow their minds to download into their physical bodies. I had some ideas what the kill switch could be, but I would have to complete confident I made the correct choice. There was more at stake than just my new life.
Doubting it would be easy to find, I peeled back several layers of code. Managing to see that they had somehow had built a physical server with inside a digital environment. A flat screen and keyboard rested on top of it. Ignoring that something like this shouldn’t be possible, I cautiously approached the machine. Finding the server was exceedingly vulnerable to any hacker shrewd enough to discover it. Tapping on the keyboard brought up layers of exceptionally complex code on the screen. Processing the system the with haste, I realized this was borderline impossible. A single wrong keystroke could alert them to my presence here. With slim hope, I synced my virtual body with the server. Using it as an anchor to create a delayed release of a program named Reckoning. Preparing everything I could think of before erasing my virtual form the Ultra-net.
Feeling a pinch at my neck as my mind returned to my body. Reaching the keyboard, I quickly activated the program. Hoping that my actions wouldn’t come back to haunt my chance for a new life. Hoping that my former colleagues would honor the contract, and wouldn’t have a change of heart about letting me out of the game.
Word Count: 947 Critique level: Full
You can check out the other entries in this month’s contest here:
1. Denise Covey 12. Laura Clipson 23. J Lenni Dorner
2. Nilanjana Bose 13. L.G. Keltner 24. Elephant’s Child
3. Olga Godim 14. Hilary 25. Helen Mathey-Horn
4. desk49 -DL 15. Roland Clarke – DL 26. Dixie Jarchow
5. Sally 16. DG Hudson 27. Deniz Bevan
6. Pat Garcia 17. Jemima Pett 28. Anna
7. Pat Hatt 18. Diane Burton 29. Operation Awesome
8. Toi Thomas – DL 19. Christopher Scott 30. Haresh
9. Corinne Rodrigues 20. Rebecca M. Douglass 31. xmltutorial
10. Tanya Miranda 21. Michelle Wallace
11. Deborah Drucker 22. Rasma Raisters