This week has been a struggle to get through, especially since it seems that everyone I come in contact with seems to find me distasteful just for being myself. Needless to say, it left me in a state where I very much didn't want to create content for something where all it contains is me. I'm sure everyone feels like they don't belong in the world, but I know not everyone takes it that hard.
So, yeah, I'm lonely, frustrated, and depressed. That's why I didn't post until Saturday after starting the year off OK and then some. I'll spare you from ranting about my first world problems of feeling unfulfilled in life while living in the largest major metropolitan county in the richest and most populated state in America, here's some good things that happened.
I also made a Guinness beef pot pie, but I didn't take any pictures of it. It's a pie. Not much is photogenic about meat pie.
School's continuing to go well, now that the new semester has begun. My Short Stories class has been interesting so far. But, since it has over 60 students enrolled, it's not very engaging on a classwork level. I'm pretty much posting A level work to be ignored by goobs that get away with writing a paragraph generally with no depth or insight. And all the low hanging fruit pickers comment on those posts, lazy bastards. It's not like it's my grade that's going to suffer, but it's just another example of trying so hard, and getting so far, but in the end, it doesn't really matter.
|"PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!"|
Math has been insular, and mostly me just chugging through the daily work, trying to maintain as high a grade as possible. It's pretty much cheating, since I'm taking the lowest level of required Math, because of course my previous units didn't transfer. But being a basic college level math class, the other students attending it are pretty damn dumb. On the class forum, someone actually asked where the Roman numeral keys were on a keyboard. If you're also currently wondering that, there's no hope for you.
I'm already on week 3/8 for this session, and all I want is for it to be over. I want this year to be over to move on with the next one. Just hoping I can maintain my schedule of actually graduating by end of year.
My fiancée and I have officially begun wedding planning. My responsibility is looking for a DJ and catering, and all things entertainmentwise. So it's my job to make sure a party half in my honor is fun for everyone else who attends. What kind of twisted world do we live in where this has become an expected tradition? We haven't even gotten close to the nitty gritty of planning and already I'm longing for the days when marriage was little more than contract negotiations with a ceremony paid for by the father of the bride. I say nuts to this modern liberated woman business and saddle me up with 3 fatted calves and a parcel of land. If you've ever wondered why boorish and outdated modes of thought are still prevalent to this day, it's because the alternative takes too much work.
If you're confused how I can talk about being lonely when I'm also prepping to be married, let me quote OKGO's song, "The House Wins": You don't have to be alone to be lonely.
And in the best news, which will segue into our next part, I'm officially done with my draft of To Slice The Sky. Yay! 🎉🎊🎈
Now that I'm done with the novel for my second time, I'm currently giving it a read through and seeing what needs to be tightened up and fixed. The beginning needs a bit of work to catch up with the end, but it's all manageable. I was pretty surprised that it jumped in word count instead of shrinking with all the cutting I've done. There's entire chapters that were excised and changed, and whole swatches of useless first draft junk removed.
Today's chapter for TSTS picks up on Decker's side of the plan to deal with all of our problems with New America. While Trip is infiltrating Roplaxive's east coast servers, Decker is on the side of the country where the actual fighting of the clone rebellion is taking place. There, he's tasked with making sure that Gene Works Inc.'s rogue AI gets shut down before its infection spreads beyond the neuronet and into the real world. So here's part 2/4 of our climax. I posted it on New Years Eve on reddit to try and be all symbolic since the whole plan takes place on New Years Eve. However, because of that, or because this chapter sucks, or because the new title I gave it is dumb, it was wholly ignored. So... have fun!
|"I'm not fat. I'm just drawn that way."|
12/31/2099 - 08:01 HST
Sirens chirped under crackling loudspeakers. “Please remain in your homes. New Year’s Eve curfew is in effect. SHPD are investigating a red level terror threat. Do not attempt to leave your current location. This is for your safety.”
Decker barely slept the whole night. He caught a couple z’s over the last hours, filling the small times with checks and doublechecks of what wouldn’t set off red flags and undo his and Trip’s hard work. The rest of his eternal night was spent running constant scenarios; building confidence with successes, and falling into crippling self-doubt over the failures. With so many moving parts in this three-pronged attack, failure was certainly an option. Even with an “I Win” button labeled, OperationCantPossiblyFail.
With the luxury of rest gone, Decker rolled his naked body off the mattress in the center of his bedroom. He waddled into the bathroom, pissed, and hacked a lung cookie into the toilet.
Reflected in the vanity mirror, Decker’s body looked like his mouth tasted. He lost himself in the glow behind his pupils, splashed water in his face then ran fingers through his bedhead.
He grunted, “Let’s kick this pig.” It was going to be a long day.
In the kitchen, Decker dialed up some coffee on the newly repaired MR. He knew he couldn’t trust RoPhar to come through on that espresso machine, especially since he hadn’t seen a paycheck in a month, so he paid the debugger with the expense account. The first bitter slurp of faux-Italian Roast made the day’s coming events that much sweeter. He booted up his ring of server hardware taking up the common area and turned on the HV.
Emergency syndication broadcasting plastered the apartment walls from as many Roplaxive-Pharrel channels that would fit. Decker looked from channel to channel, sipping his mug of weak brown water. A cartoon mouse lit a stick of dynamite wrapped in a cigar in a cat’s mouth. A family learned the true meaning of friendship along with their annoying next-door neighbor. Rod Serling announced that this episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ was unique and required a special kind of introduction. Slap bass kept playing from one of the stations over a blanket of competing audio tracks. Cackling laugh tracks and low fidelity film stock pushed Decker into sensory overload and muted the audio.
“Looks like the information squad was successful.”
The clone phone had no alerts. That wasn’t much of a shocker since no one was supposed to be posting in General chat. With Sweeps and his wrist stump on the loose, the rebellion considered their darknet compromised. Only field leaders were allowed access to private channels until the above ground assault began. With the media lines cut, the clones would march on South Hollywood’s station affiliates. Once the siege teams had control, Freeman and the clones would broadcast their message of liberation from Roplaxive-Pharrel HQ West.
Decker lit a smoke from the pack sitting on the counter and wondered how the east coast team was faring.
No check in from Trip on any of their numerous methods, though his current state would be even less connected than usual. A maintenance clone in the Ocean City office would be outright barred from neuronet access, coupled with a constant threat of recycling.
His cigarette paired with the coffee like slag and sewer water. Disgusted, he dropped it into the remnants in the mug with a satisfying sizzle then scratched his nards. There was still time to make contact with the other teams, so he popped in the shower.
12/31/2099 09:07 HST
Decker returned to the living room—following his clone phone ringtone—damper and wearing clothes. He finger-combed bangs out of his face and checked the status of his server bootup. Synced-up, he gained access to his personal little chunk of the neuronet. Necessary .exe’s & .xpz were booted up for the foundation of his part of this ridiculous plan.
Sitting on a server rack, the clone phone buzzed and rattled with notifications like there was a telethon he forgot he signed up for. Apparently ‘GO Time’ started during shower time.
In his bedroom, Decker loaded his bag with supplies. Vita-glucose bars, bottles of water, a plastic box filled with inhalant crackers, and a bag of multi-colored pills, tablets and capsules, made it into his new travel bag. A couple of the funner looking pills found their way into Decker’s mouth, chased with a blast of JumpUp.
Feeling the heroic rush of the Up, he slid the ole Minjung-Ui Him onto his left wrist and a brand spanking new Omni-Glove on the right. His clone phone was blowing up on his mattress. He switched off alerts and dialed up Fixer. No answer. He tried Brawl17.
//Decker. Bad timing. Kinda busy here.//
“Dude, what’s with the reverb?”
//Wired my phone to the biochip.// Automatic gunfire, “Haha! Take that you ugly hunka slag!” //What’s up?//
“Looking for a status check.”
//My unit’s over at Ventura and Shoup, pushing our way to the West Hills station. We’re popping out of tunnels and knocking out their clusters.// Pulses of gun fire sounded beneath the echo of Brawl17’s internal voice, //I thought you guvvys were shutting down the hive mind. Even upgraded we’re getting picked off faster than we shoot ‘em.//
“Soon. I need word back fr—”
More bursts of automatic weaponsfire.
//I gotta go. Having a convo in your brain and not getting killed is harder than expected.//
Decker launched OperationCantPossiblyFail.
12/31/2099 - 10:00 HST
The command center was up and running, and OperationCantPossiblyFail was at 3% loaded. Decker slung his bag on, put a leg over an abandoned mountain bike from Das Komplex, then shoved off past the front gate.
Random pops of explosives sounded from all corners of The 818. Along the north ridge of the mountains, fire plumed through the smog layer. Decker’s heart beat fluttered with the following shockwave and sound of collapsing metal, intensified by the JumpUp. He pumped the pedals, cruising at a decent pace, south bound towards Parthenia. He leaned into the turn like he was on a motorcycle, and followed the dip beneath a vacant train track shanty built on the bridge above. Cresting the other side of the underpass revealed a perimeter of Biodroids.
"Halt! You are violating a citywide curfew. Please dismount your conveyance and surrender peacefully." They said in unison, making a loudspeaker effect.
The way out was through and that required an uphill pedal in every direction. Decker stood up and pedaled with all the force his augmented body could supply.
Slugs zinged through the open air, forcing Decker to zig-zag his movement. Meaty—yet metallic—sounds came from around as the Biodroids caught each other with cross fire. He heard a loud Thwap! His back was wet. Not feeling pain, he zipped down a sidestreet and into an alley. His bag continued dripping. No health widget alerts. Just a burst water bottle. Sirens sprang to life.
Decker slalomed his way through a series of industrial lots, piled high with storage units and shipping containers. It reminded him of the stacks he grew up in. Sirens dopplered in the distance, getting closer and numerous. Decker's route through the stacks spat him onto Wilber. He skid to a stop into the wrong side of a river access gate.
Flashing cruisers sped past the avenue as the whooping song of ghetto birds beat through the midday air; complete with another crackling reminder for citizens to remain in their homes. Decker dialed up a bolt snipper from his Omni-Glove and cut through the locked chain within seconds. A well-placed kick knocked the gate aside, opening Decker's path. Peace officer radio chatter hummed through Decker’s scanner app. They were around the corner with eyes on suspect. Swirling red, white and blue reflected off the green river water below, while above red lasers cut through the orange smog.
“This is the Southern Hollywood Peace Division. You are violating curfew and trespassing on Roplaxive-Pharrel property. Surrender peacefully or we will open fire.” A human voice through a bad megaphone.
Decker pedaled down the access road, keeping towards the top of the wash. It was a dry December, but more space could be desired between the concrete and water.
The river left much to be desired for secrecy, but it was a straight shot to his destination. He kept a steady pace on wobbling wheels, zipping past cul-de-sacs, one with curious children being ordered indoors. Amidst the popcorn rattle of distant automatic weapons, ghetto bird song dipped closer to Decker’s position.
Through the orange layer above, a tornado formed in the smog, rippling out through the river. Decker bailed out trying to stop, path blocked by a black and white helicopter, hovering meters above the water.
“Frag that,” Decker ran up the sloping riverside towards someone’s backyard.
The crack of a bolt action rifle coincided with a warning shot lodged in the concrete. Squad cruisers and SWAT vans screeched to a halt on the Roscoe overpass in front, guns drawn and at the ready from emerging officers and Biodroids. Foot patrol lined up on the bridge behind at Chase. Decker gulped, put his hands up, and walked back towards the river making a good show that the jig was up. In his HUD, he loaded a little something he wrote on the road home from Metro City. If Gene Works couldn’t hold up to the hack job version, Ro-Phar didn’t stand a chance.
“Okaaay. I, like, give up and stuff.” Decker shouted against the rushing sound.
Officers filtered in along the sides of the wash, weapons drawn. Peace officers blackened the streets along Decker breathed in and out, trying to keep calm, waiting for his HUD to ding—
//Target in range//
He launched the toolkit macro, shutting down the officer’s weapons VI in a virulent manner. Each nearby weapon with an onboard computer system infected the next in proximity and serial number, leaving expensive hunks of metal and plastic in the hands of Hollywood’s finest. They waved them in ignorance like surrogate genitals regardless.
“Get down on your knees with your hands in the air,” came from the megaphone voice.
The ghetto bird took flight again, red dots dancing along the pavement around Decker’s feet, hovering just below the smog layer. Pocs in riot gear marched closer from all sides. Decker got down on one knee, then took a running position. He sprinted full force towards the helicopter’s position while someone in charge shouted to open fire. Nothing happened besides Decker diving into the river and swimming with the current towards the overpass. Underwater, he swam in broad strokes to an access tunnel to his right. Rifle rounds pierced tunnels through the water from above. Decker took pause then lunged forward to crash into the side of the river. He burped out an air bubble, gripping to what he could for dear life thanks to WallCrawler trait. Distant shouts and siren calls chased him underwater. Decker pulled himself into the rushing outlet, fighting the current and his lung capacity.
Lights tingled at the edges of his vision. Flashes of primal fear lit up his brain chemistry. His muscles burned with lactic acid, feeling rubbery from lack of freshly oxygenated blood. In the dark of the underground, Decker swam for the surface, only seeing black above. He found a black concrete ceiling before an air pocket. Panic flared. Time slowed. Decker lunged with his arms and legs, feeling the wall around a corner and the ceiling falling away. He reached for air, finding water each time. Darkness and fatigue were his only companions.
He broke the surface with an intake of stale oxygen, hacking and gagging in the underground tributary. He dogpaddled towards the walkway, collapsing in a soggy heap. He got himself upright, fighting his gag reflex at the smell. A nearby access cover rattled above with the tromp of peace officer boots.
He checked his compass heading in his HUD and walked along the poorly lit sewage tunnel. He fired up his flashlight app and headed south beneath the streets.
12/31/2099 - 12:36 HST
Still no bugs from Ro-Phar in mom’s house. Digital and physical security still in working order with no breaches or attempts. Dripping water on the floor, Decker sighed with relief and started up the HV. Vaudeville music carried from the living room into his old room. His bag leaked water from its bullet hole when he dropped it on the floor. He stripped his wet clothing, tossed it in the dryer, then showered off again, unable to get the smell of bilge out of his hair.
He pulled on some old clothes stashed in the room. Shrapnel chunks of Decker’s stimulant crackers littered his bag interior. Besides the blown water bottle and inhalants, the shot fragged the top off an innocent energy bar. He salvaged goods from his nasty bag, and started swallowing pills in his command chair. Decker cracked a tube of something with a long name into his nasal inhaler while he blasted more JumpUp down his throat. A sensation of floating in space at the same time as being charged with lightning took hold as he melted into the chair. Much like the last time he did a speedball. He hoped this DeMo, trait, and nootropic cocktail Trip mixed for him wasn’t fragged. When Decker was certain he had access to every molecule in his body, he jacked into the neuronet.
12/31/2099 – 12:52 HST
Decker’s avatar sat in a minimalistic living room. He held a sheaf of smartpaper loaded up to an email timestamped an hour ago.
‘Hey dude. Heading down now. I look like
Fight Club. Link up to me when you get
this. Make it soon. -T’
‘Dig. I’m set up. We’re getting hit
hard. When you get this go to here.’
Decker walked out of his launcher into The Raw.
Decker’s home point dumped him above the blacked-out mass that would be the WSC Arcade District. Each kiosk blipped and glitched in a dance between graphic and code. Everything held a trademark sunset orange underhue, but lacked the usual brilliance the southwest servers. Silicon Alley lit up the horizon to the north with its towering blue spires. How long before they turned pink rested on Decker’s shoulders. He could feel MIR/AGE pushing around his senses. MIR/AGE, the beast breathing on his neck. Just out of reach from really sinking its teeth into Decker’s graybox.
Growing up in a city with ubiquitous CCTV couldn’t prepare Decker’s psyche for the feeling of every move potentially waking the sleeping giant. A presence masking firewall would be more helpful if he wasn’t the only user around.
His heart rate climbed to 82 BPM, pumping acrid sweat back in Base Plane Reality, as he hit accept for his server’s IP address. He shifted in front of a brick wall. A door with a knob and lock jumped about the façade, till Decker caught it on a pass. The knob remained, the door kept moving. He slid his encryption key into the lock and gave it a ceremonial twist. He slipped inside.
Inside his home server, Decker gave a real sigh, the tension gone from his body. His safe haven inside the neuronet still ran like clockwork. Hovering in empty space, a progress bar for OperationCantPossiblyFail hung at 42%.
A chatbubble labeled ‘Trip’ materialized. Decker accepted. A clone image built from multiple camera angles took shape before his eyes. Decker sliced into the security feed and delayed the security camera buffer. Trip vanished from the Line REC display while still displaying in Decker’s server room. The time stamps remained intact. No alarms set off so far. Trip fiddled with his netshades, taking paranoid peeks over his shoulder. A cleaning droid buzzed alongside Trip. Decker hijacked it.
“Hey buddy.” Decker’s voice came from the robot. Trip jumped out of his skin. “It’s okay man, it’s me.” Decker made the robot take a bow.
Trip looked down at the industrial cleaning robot with relief. “Man, Decks, you sound like I look.”
“Thanks, I think? Good news: we’re on the path to shutting down our big problem. Bad news: you’ve got a bit of a walk ahead of you.”
12/31/2099 – 13:45 HST
Trip’s stood in front of 000. He walked through the door and Decker followed with the servebot. They moved down the catwalk through the center of a massive collection of server farms and cooling turbines. At the end was a massive terminal that looked like it was designed by an unrepentant brutalist. Trip hunched over the interface.
“Here we are. Log in screen,” Trip said.
“Alright, dude, remember how we set this up? I enter the log-in for each Decision Maker, then you have 30 seconds for each override.”
Trip groaned, “Thanks for the refresh. Why did the security team make this such a pain in the ass again? Were they trying to be obnoxious when they built this place?”
“I would. To keep people like us from doing what we’re doing. Are you ready or what?”
Tripclone took a huge breath, “Let’s go.”
“Prepare for history,” Decker said. The servebot slumped over as visuals in Decker’s server morphed into his slicing GUI.
With the click of the confirm key, Decker waited for Trip to handle his end.
Thirty seconds, alone, in a black space filled with contextless progress bars. Decker felt his heart flex his ribcage the whole time, counting his breaths. Twenty-four...twenty-five...twenty-DING.
A new lock popped into his avatar hands. Heathcliff's password was a tighter affair with nothing for Decker's lockpick to latch onto. Dead spaces in the cylinder forced Decker to dig deeper into the lock. He griped to himself about the prick who allowed alt code characters to be used in passwords. With thirteen seconds left he completed the alchemical formula to make fire from metal.
Decker tensed as Trip did whatever it was that went into manually shutting down a corporate mainframe.
A lockpick set sprung into Deckavatar’s hands. :13 picked up from the last counter. The lockpick clicked and spun open on the first go around. Brett Richardson, the prick. His password was ‘password’. Decker wanted to have a laugh with Trip about it, but their connection was severed.
12/31/2099 - 14:11 HST
Decker’s chat overflow from behind his avatar pinged to get his attention.
“D. Check your phone. -M”
Decker jacked out. Neuronet haze laid over his real eyes like cataracts. A 6.2 rattled his pocket from his clone phone. Numb hands fumbled with the vibrating plastic and glass block. Concussive pops sounded from everywhere with commands barked by Hollywood’s peace keepers.
The general chat channel was flooded. At the pisser, Decker scrolled through his messages with one arm, ate a calorie bar with the other and made water with the third. He left the bathroom for the living area, scanning through channels for something resembling news. GWINews was blocked. Roplaxive-Pharrel channels were more syndicated reruns and dead air.
An incoming call from Brawl17 popped over the message feed.
“Brawl, talk to me.”
//I don’t know what you did, but the Biodroids are zerkin’. Shootin’ up everything like they’ve gone psycho.//
“I think we just shut down Roplaxive.” Call waiting. “Hold up a sec, Fixer is trying to join in.”
Booms erupted through the speaker.
Fixer said, “Was this part of your plan, Decks? Blind firing roboclones rampaging through your home town?”
“The Roplaxive server is down. The hive mind’s been cut off. They’re working off pure lizard brain.”
//That sounds about right.// Brawl17 echoed.
Fixer said, “We took over a good majority of stations on the east side. Morgan’s waiting for the word to blow the charges.”
A crumbling roar like the earth splitting opening up to swallow a city came from the east.
//Who the frasg did that?//
Decker’s phone rattled. A new general message from Sweeps blipped over the top of the screen.
Sweeps: Have fun with your little rebellion, limpricks.
Decker was blocked before he could type a reply.
//Oh skag. Take cover!//
The call dropped.
Decker ran back to his command center. He jacked straight into the server space. OperationCantPossiblyFail sat at 86%. Decker tried to search for any contact with the outside world, finding his connection severed. The walls hummed with the faintest glow of electric pink.
“Greetings, Decker Ames.”