The sun rises over the edge of the crater, burning John Hackman’s eyes like a wall of static after a long night spent liberating the accounts of a small bank. He slips on his mirror shades and turns toward the elevator that leads to his old friend, Aesop. He burned his Lady last night, but that guy can always seem to find a use for anything. He shoulders his way through the door, trenchcoat now welcome in the cool darkness of the pawnshop. He approaches the counter, shades on, this is about business. Aesop examines the memory chip, plugs it in and runs a few test cycles.
“Yeah, I can do something with this.” He always can.
“I’ll do you a trade.”
John Hackman doesn’t flinch, Aesop is an old friend but business is business.
“I don’t do trades, I do business”.
“This relates to your personal interests… I remember your extremely specific request for archaic paper entertainment from a certain Clot Mancy. and it seems someone else has taken an interest.”
John’s eyebrows rise above the carbon fibre tops of his mirror shades.
Aesop continues, “I assume we have a deal”.
John pulls down his shades, “This had better be good.”
All it is for now is a mem chip, universally compatible but heavily encrypted. John has the key loaded on his pad. John had been crashing at Kate’s in an effort to keep a low profile but the secrets he didn’t know about his brother were proving too dangerous and he’d had to move upstalk to the Earthrise Hotel. He headed back there now, apprehensive as to whether he’d hit the big time or if his good nature had been exploited again.
He slipped the chip into his console, ran the decryption algorithm and went to grab what the lunar authorities stripped a diesel down to from the minibar. His console pings before he’s had a chance to register his disgust at the price being charged by the hotel. Furiously John jacks in, what could possibly be so tiny that it could decrypt so fast? It seems to be purely text files, no complex data structures or media containers. He scans through it, it is the finishing of a script, almost complete and ready to be produced, actors selected although they did not know it yet, their corporate contracts would bind them to appear in it.
He begins to read it in detail, to begin with it reminds him of his favourite Clot Mancy novels but as he continues something strange happens, maybe its the ‘stalk lag, maybe its the knockoff Diesel but something awakens in his brain, as if he’s jacked in, pure visceral information. It’s his brother, its not a rewrite of a classic, they’re taking what happened to his brother and turning it into a movie!
The script awakens neurons burned on that run where he went too deep, faced an intelligence both inhuman and human but bent on his destruction, his memories overwritten but the fear left by the scars remaining. Not enough to remember what actually happened that fateful night when his brother disappeared from his life; but with a surging realisation that they would twist the outcome and forever sully his brothers legacy, whatever it may be.
He takes stock, John Hackman knows people and most of those people owe him favours. He dials up the pad of an old colleague from Levy University, a professional contact if you will. It turns out some of his students have found some vulnerabilities that they have not quite realised the full potential of during a White Hat session in the lab, its in beta but is more than functional.
More terrible caffeinated drink, John is going to need to find a supplier for proper Diesel if he’s going to stay up here. It’s the kick he needs to jack in though, he cruises round cyberspace, entering the corporate zones but keeping a low profile, currently appearing as a basic accounting AI. Scouting round NBN he spots a blur of journalists around the new productions cluster, he scoots in looking for the archives. Admitted on a routine chargeback query John engages his sneakdoor and suddenly his world flips and collapses on himself as he is thrust into the central operational server of NBN.
John is shocked by the huge amount of HB data stacks, something big was going down if those two were working together. Then he saw it, the reason this had flagged on one of Aesop’s many feeds, the fast tracking of a project but it was not yet in play.
John jacked out, hours had passed and he was exhausted but he knew what he must do. NBN would announce their lies about his brother to the world as breaking news and he had to stop them so he could discover the truth and clear his brother’s name. He jacked in again, they said it wasn’t healthy, that you should rest before re-entering cyberspace, but cyberspace didn’t sleep. He positioned himself to attack NBN’s development server full on but began to lose himself in the subtle fractals of the layers of ice, this wasn’t normal, he’d trashed unpublished news reports before to help clear someone’s name and there was never this amount of ICE on NBN servers.
John realised this was it, this was do or die, he was going to need everything his brain had and probably more. He grasped for the hidden pocket in his trench coat and pulled out the stims. What had the guy said? Military grade; possibly experimental; incredibly illegal and don’t take them all at once.
John Hackman didn’t do Don’t.