Calling In Favors

BLUE SUN vs. NULL: In this match, I had installed a Project Atlas and a PriSec in an undefended remote server and advanced it once. Null ran the server and took the PriSec tag, allowing me to rez a well-defended Zealous Judge in another server, and turning on a Scorched Earth play on my next turn.
door-to-door-2

Null was sitting his rig with a needle in his arm. Empty cans of Diesel littered the floor at his feet and his hand hovered over his keyboard. He was having second thoughts. He needed this one last run before he fled Salsette Island. Not for the thrill, though that was always a perk. No. Now he ran for the money. A quality data dealer would pay up to nine hundred credits for reliable corp intel, and that money would buy his way to freedom.

The 23-Seconds fiasco had brought too much heat down on runners everywhere. While he could probably just lay low for a while, reporter and movement sympathizer Valencia Estevez had made all of the arrangements for a hasty relocation. Null was not about to pass that up. First he needed the funds.

Finally, he punched the red launch key, flipped a few switches on his modded out Grimoire console, and stimmed up. As he watched the world fizzle away, cyber space rushed towards him in a three dimensional, binary kaleidoscope. Digital gibberish to the untrained eye. The intense buzzing in his head made promises of intense pain the next morning. But he pushed on, laser focused on the myriad servers in front of him. This “Blue Sun” division had been busy.

The first node he passed appeared as a cluster of digital code, so bright that it was difficult to look at. His read-out translated the node into WYLD:HQ:BLUSN/security/agg.rez. Though heavily defended, Blue Sun’s headquarters server was not impassible; but, Null needed maximum pay out from this run, and had no time to waste on fruitless single accesses. He re positioned to another facet of the network and continued probing.

Here and there, he passed half a dozen remote servers. This one too heavily defended, that one a marginally profitable campaign ticking away, the next one a spikey trap that fired a burst of feedback through Null’s cerebral cortex. His searching payed off when he came across an unprotected research project nearing completion. Slightly behind it, but clearly attached via several lines of code, he spied another file.

The most obvious defensive upgrade, or some devious trick, he thought. I should just move on. But, Null did not have a choice. He was out of time, and the target was too juicy. This is my window, he convinced himself, and if I miss it, I am not making it out of Salsette anytime soon.

He charged at the server, the code in his periphery racing by in a blur. At the end of the server, he touched the research project, ‘Atlas’. He watched the digital information unravel and added a few lines of code himself, sending the information onto an external drive and jacking out as fast as possible. The net fell away from his vision and became a pin prick in the distance, as the outside world slowly and fuzzily came back into focus. He waited a moment for his head to stop spinning. Damn stims!

The external drive in his Grimoire blinked red. He shot up in his chair, slid the needle from his arm, and ripped an external drive from his rig. On the back of his PAD, he opened a small compartment and jammed the drive into the corresponding slot. Then, he threw his PAD into his backpack, along with some clothes, grabbed his keys off the counter and sprinted out of his apartment.

On his way down the stairs, he felt his PAD vibrate as the newly installed chip downloaded to a secure folder. Had he been able to read it, he would have seen the name of the file: ATLAS.research.fin/SUB:PRISEC.exe.

******************************

   Henceforth, all projects deemed highly important

will be prioritized and sent directly to headquarters for immediate

execution. All expedited projects shall be made public for the purposes

of openness and political integrity……

-PROJECT ATLAS

Elizabeth Mills knew the details of Atlas. She had written it herself and had it passed above board. Its theft had not gone unnoticed. In fact, she had been counting on it. In the remote server control room of Blue Sun’s Salsette Island division, dozens of Weyland employees scrambled from one terminal to another, frantically responding to the break-in. Elizabeth sat in her chair at the back, calm as ever, and took a drag of her E-Cig. Three holo-screens in front of her, as well as her personal PAD, were linked to the information contained in that server. Now, they all flashed red, bearing the same message.

           PRISEC.TRIANGULATE.EXE

She inserted a security chip into one of the terminals and waited a moment. The prompt on the screens disappeared and her ear piece flicked on as a transmission was patched through. She was greeted on the other end by a waiting silence.

“We’re live,” Mills responded to the silence.

“Understood,” said a deeply muffled voice on the other end.

With that, all of the screens before her came online, and suddenly she had nearly unlimited access to the cyber terrorist, code name ‘Null’. On one screen, a satellite image displaying a pinpoint location of an apartment building in downtown Salsette. On another screen, a detailed list of connections and resources connected with the hacker, which she could now eliminate with the flick of a finger. A third screen opened a live video communication with the private security force already en route.

She didn’t particularly trust this ‘PriSec’ team that Weyland had recently employed. In truth, they were mercenaries, belonging to no one and easily available to the highest bidder. However, she could not discount their effectiveness.

Mills drew in a breath and turned her attention to the agent on the screen. “Great work,” she said. “The money should already be waiting for you in an offshore account. Two million, plus an additional three million for any successful ‘demolition’ work. Now, patch me through to the judge.”

With that, she retreated to her office on the thirteenth floor to await the other call that she knew was coming. There, staring out of the window smoking her E-Cig she watched the red and orange glow of the setting sun over Salsette. She watched the smoke rising in the distance as another apartment was being demolished to make way for a new construction project.

Eventually, her PAD flashed to life, sending into retreat the oppressive darkness of her office and jolting her out of her meditation. She moved across the room to her desk and beamed a projection of the image onto one of the holo-screens in front of her

A man’s face resolved into view, and he addressed Elizabeth first.

“Is this server secure,” asked the man. He was much older than Mills, a burly man with a thick neck and a shock of slicked back gray hair. His intense face and cold eyes spoke clearly of a cruel past that Elizabeth was glad to know nothing about.

His takeover at Weyland had not been a smooth transition. While  his new leadership generated enough revenue to get a number of critical projects  off the ground, the bad publicity it generated brought down the press and local media. Elizabeth had taken it upon herself to save face, but not without some difficulty.

“We have our strongest ICE online,” Mills said. “Layers of it. anyone with half a nerve to try and break in is going to have a hell of a hard time. Nevertheless, I think it’s best we keep this transmission brief.”

“Go ahead. What’s the status?”

“The target is in our sights, and our men are closing in fast” Mills confirmed. She projected onto various other screens the information that was shown to her in the control room. The satellite image continued to display the movements of the hacker, as he fled toward Salsette Slums in a stolen Sports Hopper.

Then, suddenly, all of the screens went blank!

The man on the screen erupted, “You lost him Mills! He shook the tag!”

Mills sat and sipped her coffee, calm as ever. “Just…watch,” she replied.

******************************

Omar slouched at his rig and stared at the dozens of keyboards in front of him. In spite of the chubby little man’s posture, the nervous tapping of his foot gave away his concern. Periodically, he would hear footsteps pass the door, or a car pull into the parking lot, and his thoughts went to the worst.

His journeys through the net were countless. Thousands? Tens of thousands? The first split second when he became submerged in the Net, as the world was washed from his vision and only the code mattered. The unknowns of what lay ahead from the moment he jacked in had him hooked from the first time. As he got better, honed his skills, became more confident, the rush only intensified.

He did not feel confident now though. The 23-Seconds incident, as it was dubbed by the media, has blown up in their faces, and Omar was forced to flee to the most isolated place he could find in the outskirts of Salsette. He had been there two days, but already he could feel the walls closing in around him. He moved to the window, and pulled the curtains just far enough to take a peak outside.

It seemed quiet. Nothing out of the ordinary. The usual drug dealers and street peddlers hustling for a few dollars on a crusty, litter ridden street in the middle of the worst part of the city. When things ended up in the slums, they tended to stay there.

BAM! BAM! BAM!

A knock at the door sent Omar’s heart into his throat. A visceral fear gripped him and the hair on his neck stood on end. Without thinking, Omar unlatched the window and quietly slid it open. His eyes never left the door as he clumsily tried to climb out backward onto the metal fire escape below. His second foot slipped, and for a second, he lay there on his belly,  half in and half out of the window.

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!

“Omar, open the god-damn door!”

He recognized the muffled voice on the other side and was glad to hear it, though it was about sixteen hours late. He waddled his legs back through the window and dumped himself into the center of the room with a crash. With considerable effort, he scrambled to his feet and rushed to open the door.

The moment he unfastened the last lock, the door burst open , and sent Omar once again onto his back. From the floor, he saw Null whip around, slam the door shut and turn all five locks. It wasn’t until he was finished that he turned to help Omar to his feet.

The man standing before Omar was a tattered, bloody mess. His clothes were dirty and torn, his face bruised and swollen. His nose looked broken. Dried blood mottled his once white dress shirt. Worst of all, his left leg appeared to have been grazed by a bullet, and he was favoring it heavily.

“What the hell happened to you,” asked Omar, half annoyed and half concerned.

Null hobbled to the half-completed rig in the room and sat down. He ripped the hole in his pant leg a little wider to expose a weeping bullet wound underneath. Omar began to pace frantically.

Squeamishly, he let out a yelp when he saw Null’s leg. “My god,” he said. “Are you feeling ok? Are you sure? You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“I’ve had worse,” Null snapped back, feeling irritated. “The worst of this situation is past us. I’ve got a little over nine hundred credits to my name right now, so gather what you need and let’s flee. We will be gone before they even realize what happened. Val told me you’d be good for that.”

Omar exploded. “Not if you’ve already been tagged! That changes everything!”

“I shook the tag on my way out to you,” Null shot back. “I ditched the hopper miles from here, too. I sold Blue Sun’s research to the first data dealer I could locate. Now…it’s time to go!”

By that time, a commotion had erupted in the streets as a squad of trucks and demolition vehicles swarmed the apartment. Security detail followed close behind in heavily tinted, jet black AC Hoppers. All the vehicles bore the large, ominous ‘W’ on the side doors, with the slogan ‘Powering the Future’ in smaller print. Omar and Null peaked out the window as far as they dared to, but when a man behind dark glasses with a wire in his ear seemed to looked in their direction, they jolted back out of sight.

Null had lost his cool. “SHIT! How did they find us?!”

“They found YOU,” Omar screamed back, and with that he shot across the room to a compartment below his bed. He grabbed his backpack and filled it with anything he could find quickly. A credit chip with some paltry amount still available. His PAD was next, along with a number of external drives hosted on it. A few keyboards for good measure, three cans of Diesel, and a few stims.

With a surprising quickness, the stout old man had all five locks unfastened in an instant. He yanked open the door, and turned to take one last look at Null, who was still sitting at his rig. He didn’t move. He didn’t say anything. He stared desperately at Omar, pleading with his eyes. With his leg a bloody mess, he couldn’t keep up. The *CLICK* and *SQUEAL* of the charges being place around the building brought Omar back to his senses. He turned from the room and disappeared into the crowd in the hall.

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