How about this new redesign? It's taken me over ten minutes just to realize G+ no longer allows you to post from albums. Very annoying.+National Novel Writing Month
is going well. I finished the first short story this week, and then realized the second wasn't ready to start drafting. So after two days of fumbling through notes and task lists, I've finally found a story the fill the rest of the month (in the most NaNovely way imaginable ;) ). It means instead of switching from cyberpunk to contemporary fantasy, I've now switched from cyberpunk to sword-and-sorcery fantasy (which I haven't written in years), but at least it's something. Again, you can check in on me at: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/corwin
Anyway, this week we're between arcs, so I thought I'd share something I wrote for a recent online creative writing class. I've had this event in the back of my mind while developing Metis, and I finally had an excuse to sit down and write it. I hope you enjoy it. #saturdayscenes #cyberpunk #netrunning #collegeprank
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Figuring out the current password to the campus netrunning society’s secret hideout was one of Metis’ least favorite weekly chores. But the clue included in the invitation had been laughably simple. She couldn’t imagine anyone not figuring it out. Anyone from New Glory knew that “bay butt” was an old joking reference to Sai Anto Peninsula, which protected the bay.
Once inside, she could see various avatars hanging about the room. A quick count told her that about half the club had arrived. Terry hadn’t shown up yet. She wasn’t surprised. He had the most to lose if the club was caught, so he was usually the last one in and the first one out. As one of the more experienced netrunners on campus, he was also usually the one who set up the hangout, too. Most of those who had already gathered were relatively new to netrunning, and often couldn’t differentiate between or defend against the different types of daemons.
She idled her avatar, only to feel a light buzz on her actual body, producing a momentary disorientation and nausea. Terry had arrived.
“Looks like this party’s seen better days,” Terry quipped through his headset mic. “Anybody up for a little prank?”
“What kind of prank?” Although Terry’s pranks were usually harmless, Metis knew his skill set and his ambitions would one day trump his need to not get caught if no one tried to rein him in.
“You’ll like this one. I’ve figured out how to hack into the monitors around campus.”
“And I’ll like that because…”
“Because I’m going to blast that new music video across all of them.”
“During quiet week? Are you insane?”
“Maybe.” And then, “Everyone should have the map now. Usual assignments. This is going to be challenging enough as it is. Metis, you have your usual imps?”
“Sure.” Metis quickly scanned through to make sure they were in fact all loaded into her deck. One of them needed an update, but she could handle that when they were done. Then, she pulled up her map. The campus net, like so many university nets, was self-contained. It was supposed to prevent theft of digital and intellectual property, but hackers at various campuses were already working on creating back door access points. “We’re not going to be able to get to this node.”
“Don’t trust your imps?” Terry teased.
Metis flickered her avatar. She’d handcrafted each of her imps. It had taken her months to learn the programming tricks needed to give most of them the right set of capabilities. What Terry was proposing could possibly cost her many of her precious minions.
“Come on. It’ll be fun.”
“Fine.” Metis double checked her programs and set her avatar to follow Terry out of the hideout. Over the next several minutes, the younger runners would trickle out and join them at the rendezvous spot. When the club was together, they started out on their assigned routes. Terry and Metis ran together with one of the more promising newcomers. “You expect this to be difficult.”
“Why do you say that?” The smirk Terry’s avatar couldn’t wear could be heard in his voice.
“You never run with me when we split up. What do you think is going to happen when one of those other teams gets caught?”
“They’re not going to get caught. I didn’t give them anything real to do.”
“Right.” Metis followed him around a corner, only to find a mid-level hellhound in the corridor. She dialed up one of her smaller imps, targeted the hellhound, and took great satisfaction in watching the guardian program disintegrate.
“Nice shot.” Terry glided past where the hellhound had been and turned down another corridor.
Metis followed him, but right as she reached the corridor, their companion said, “Hey, guys. I’m beeping.”
“What?” Metis and Terry both replied.
“Oh, god, Terry. Now I’m beeping.”
“Yeah, they’re tracing me, too.”
“And you thought they wouldn’t notice us running into a secure area,” Metis ran a couple of programs, trying to make herself show as a false positive to the tracer. But she continued to beep.
“Are we in trouble?” The other netrunner asked, his inexperience driving his voice up in pitch.
“Not yet. And we’ll try to stay that way,” Metis assured him as they caught up to Terry. “You realize they’re going to tighten security in this area. I don’t think I have the imps for that.”
“It’s okay. I have some black market programs on me.” There was a moment of silence. “You’re glaring at me, aren’t you?”
“Actually, I’m considering wasting an imp on you.”
“We’re not too far from the node. Let’s go.”
Metis bit back her disbelief and followed him. Another hellhound blacked their path. Metis armed an imp, and then disarmed it and readied a daemon.
“They already know we’re here. Do you really want to help them confirm the tracer?” Her deck pulsed out the program, and the hellhound shorted out, stiffening and falling over before vanishing into what passed for the floor in the net.
Just beyond the hellhound was a small room – the node Terry had been looking for. “Hang on.” His avatar flickered in and out a few times as they listened to him mutter.
“You do realize we’re in the net, not the magical realm, right?” Metis kept an eye on the corridor they’d come from.
“There it is. Forgot I renamed it.” The room pulsed with a soft light for several moments, and then stopped. “All done. Let’s get out of here and hope the others follow their maps.”
The beeping became louder and more frequent. “They’ve found us, Terry.”
“That’s fine. There are other ways out of this node.” Terry spun around slowly and then headed for an open doorway.
“One would hope, seeing as it’s a node.” Metis follwed him, their tag-a-long on her heels.
But just down the corridor, the experienced netrunners could make out a light sentry. They ran back toward the node, their less experienced friend struggling to keep up. Terry ran over to the last open door, but in a moment his avatar turned around and shook. “There’s another sentry about halfway down.”
Metis ran for the nearest closed door and hacked it open. “I think we can get out this way.”
The three ran for it, Terry occasionally calling commands as he checked his deck’s map. Just a few turns from the hideout, a hellhound much larger than any Metis had faced charged out into the intersection and stopped.
“Please tell me you can get us past that,” Terry sounded nervous for the first time Metis could recall.
“I think we’re hung.” She was scanning through her loaded programs and imps. “Well…maybe. Give me a minute.” She’d designed her imps to play nicely together, and she’d loaded a handful that had some interesting complementary skills. But she realized she could also break some of them apart and put them back together to work more efficiently. No netrunner had ever redesigned imps while inside the net before, though.
“Well?” Terry’s avatar had changed color. He’d raised some sort of shield against the hellhound, who was just watching them, waiting for them to move.
With a deep breath, Metis called up a terminal and set about to reorganizing her deck. It took longer than was comfortable, but finally she turned her mic back on. “Let’s see how it likes this.” A daemon-sized creature that looked like a mashup of several popular, colorful imps materialized in front of Terry and took off after the hellhound like it was possessed. The hellhound started to charge, but then thought better of it and ran.
While the creature pursued the hellhound, the trio ran for the hideout. Metis waited for the high-pitched wail that would mark the hellhound’s defeat, and then summoned the daemon back to her deck. Neither of her teammates was in the hideout when she got back in, but Terry had left a message: Meet us at the square.
She jacked out, threw on an old battered flannel shirt and her favorite jeans, and made her way to the Commons. Terry was already there, wearing one of his old cartoon shirts, hands shoved in his pockets like he was any other normal university student. “You’re going to get us expelled one day. You know that, right?”
“Maybe. But I was thinking about dropping out after this semester, anyway. Argent’s offered me a pretty sweet deal to work for them.” He nudged her. “How about you? Any idea where you’re headed after all this is over?”
The monitor flickered to life, and a candy-colored light show filled the screen. As the students around them whooped and danced, Metis smiled thoughtfully at Terry. “Actually, I was thinking I might change my major to journalism.”