2084

The screams of passion were heard a mile away. In the stench of flesh and sweat he finished her off and then it was gone. As quickly as it had arrived - he shrugged it off. Three nights it had been and still he yearned. The light streamed through the blinds - it would be morning soon. He shut them, the light had never been a kind thing to him. Suddenly he heard a sound of wood but not the kind he was used to, this wood was breaking - and then glass. Soon it was clear to him what was happening. He had seen it before.

"Cole Wintake? You're under arrest for possession/creation of illegal lifeforms, you have the right..."

"I know my rights."

"Yeah.. you know this bit real well."

Cole was 14 when he write his first virus - he started late. From the age of nine he was a hacker and didn't see the attraction in writing virii. The Uniden system (as Unix is now called) always seemed a challenge for him and one night he watched as his three "friends" used a virus which was known as "gelf4" to infiltrate a system and erase their latest criminal records. Cole had done it 13 times since then. Six of those times being after an arrest just like this one. It was 2001 when the first Unix virus was isolated. It was found on a military computer system and in 2002 over 200 strands were found. Late that year a bill was passed outlawing the "possession/creation of illegal lifeforms", of these were electronic lifeforms. Virus writers everywhere were outraged at the new law and protested almost as much as the Anti-virus writers who's businesses had just then been cut short. The entire virus community - including AV - were forced underground in what some call "the revelation".

"Get in the car."

Police had the best cards, they could move twice as fast and run you down without even breaking your skin. Cole wasn't worried, he'd been in a cop car before and knew he'd get bail - only to return to his system and erase the arrest. Criminal systems had gotten easier to enter over the years - whereas commercial systems like Itv and AllWll only got harder with AV influence. You often heard of raids and so forth on commercial organizations but no-one got convicted - it only costs a small fee to get someone like Cote to remove your record and any trace of the arrest.

"This is the 3rd time we've busted you Cole."

"No sir, this is my first offence." - Cole wasn't falling for that bluff.

"They all say that kid."

The ride was short and Cole was tired - the dreams got worse every night but nothing was worse than the silence. The times when he would sit in front of his system and stare into the cube - he would just wait for the ideas to come. Thee nights it had been and he had coded nothing. Three nights he had drank synth till he passed out and still nothing had happened. The car stopped. This wasn't the usual station.

"Out."

"But...." - Cole hesitated.

"I said out.." - The door swung open and the burley cop reefed him out of the car and onto the pavement.

Just then - at the worst time - an idea struck Cole. It struck him with such force he figured the cop was already beating the shit out of him. An air of superiority ran along his spine as it commonly did in his room at night. He had to find a system and he had to find it fast. With that he was up. Something no-one had done in a cop's presence in many years - he laughed. The cop was puzzled - What's wrong with this kid? But it was too late - Cole had already laid four shots into the cop with his own gun. It wasn't his first kill - it was his first cop.

Before he knew it he was running, running home. Cole had to find his system.

Two weeks had passed since that morning and Cole was sweating. He'd written the erasure unit very fast ( a little under 3 minutes) and was not sure of its integrity. He had justified this only by saying "the ideas come first" and "I have to break this dry." Over six ideas had come to Cole since that morning and his nights had become shorter again - his dreams more controlled. Cole decided to write a sweeper. Basically it would before the same job as the erasure should have done - assuming it didn't work - and clean up any mess it may have left behind. The idea was sound but to do it after this long was asking for trouble. He shifted in his seat and started coding slowly - this had to be done right - it was his neck on the line. He took his time and finally finished the code only when he was sure it was right (10 mins 36 seconds.) Cole pressed the release and the race was on. He loved the blur of his cube as the flimsy security of a criminal system was busted open. Only four parasites were sitting on this system - usually Cole wouldn't care but this time he needed no high-jackers (A parasite phorm sits on your tail as you enter a system and sometimes tries to convince your phorm to do its dirty work. They're usually written by squids who don't know enough or couldn't be bothered to break the security themselves.) Four was good - sometimes you can have thousands come in with you but only on commercial systems. Now he was in. He headed for the records and found six pieces of what was no-doubt his code.

"Shit.."

This was not good - the code had been sitting there for a long time and Cole could only assume it didn't complete its mission. If the system was monitored as low key as most criminal systems there's no problem but there's always the chance.. Maybe a freelance AV-cater was roaming this system.. Maybe. He had to think. If he went for the records he might get traced, if not he could clean this mess up on the way back. Either way the object was not to waste time - he'd done enough of that already. A parasite screamed past and after an internal curse, Cole took a look where it was going. It was headed for the spindal! (The spindal verifies and updates the information throughout a system and should be avoided at all costs. On a large system there are what's called "blanking periods" where the spindal is bouncing between data pockets and can't verify your phorm.. if the spindal does verify you it shuts down the sector you're in and sounds the alarm.) Obviously the coder of this parasite was a no-brainer. Cole figured he had less than 9 seconds to act - if he went for the records now and toasted then instead of "slightly altering" them like he usual did he just might make it in time to sweep the mess and get out.

It took him 4 seconds to code the entry and 1/2 a second to initiate it. He'd had closer calls than this before but never caused by an unknown parasite and never with so much to lose. He stared at the cube for 4 seconds before he saw his sweeper scream past. The dust was gone and the sweeper was out with a whole 1/4 second to spare! From the corner of his eye he saw a flash of pink-blue that shouldn't be there but apart from that all was fine. He watched as the sector he was in turned gunmetal gray and locked shut. With luck they would catch that dick head who wrote the parasite and decide to destroy and rebuild the sector.

Cole was not a fanatic. He didn't write virii to "preserve the freewill of mankind" - they were merely a tool to him. Control structures were his favorite (and not because they fell out of the category of "illegal lifeforms") and he had watched many a commercial system turn full control over to him. Not many could do this and Cole was proud of his latest creation. But now it was time to test it. Debugging is tedious. Even with a Uniden sim and his speed k'ord it often took Cole a little over 20 mins to full test a phorm. There was a faster (and more dangerous) way that Cole was doing right now. He flipped over his CS-direct and rambled to himself - "nothin' too tight, just tight enough". After sound sound thought (about 4 seconds worth) he chose a zlock system. Zlocks were easy, all you had to do was specify maintenance and add your pok code to the entry list and you're in. Getting in wasn't the problem this time: hanging onto control was. Only a dozen or so phorms had ever convinced a Uniden OCer (an illegal lifeform found only in commercial systems. They mediate control between phorms) to give them control. Cole's idea was slightly more complex. He intended to send in 2 phorms. The first would notify the OCer of the second's arrival and then turn itself over. The second would arrive and greet the OCer before pointing the original phorm's pok to the OCer. This would result in the OCer accepting the original phorm as a part of itself and finally the original phorm would do the same for the second phorm. Thus both phorms would have total control over the system as they would be accepted as part of the OCer. All this was possible because there was no functional code in either the first or second phorm - although once they were accepted as part of the Ocer they would merge together and the resulting phorm would kick the OCer "just in case".

Cole slammed the release and watched. There was a snag - the gate to the system was totally crowded with parasites and the intake was clogged. He had 2 choices - 1) give up, try another system and 2) smooth things along. This system looked cherry as the OCer would obviously be too busy to notice him so Cole decided to take option number 2. He started scanning - a practice not appreciated in the virus community but he justified it by stating how more important a control structure is than a parasite. Finally he found what he was looking for - a chain of spawning parasites. He located the head and in 1.3 seconds coded a complex Y formation loop. Cole hated this method of entry but it was about the only way he would get in without "cleaning up". So he attached his 2 phorms to the Y arcs and slid in with 3 of the parasites. As he had guessed the OCer didn't even see his 2 phorms break away and proceeded in informing the Ocer of the second phorm's arrival. Something trivial - the OCer then asked who he was - he said "invalid request" and turned himself over to the OCer - an old trick carried on from the 1000-80x series. Cole took a skulk of synth (usually a no-no on such an occasion) and send in phorm number 2. As he expected, the OCer gave it general access and accepted the redirection of both the first and second phorms' poks. All that was left now was the merge and the kick. Cole took a deep breath and exhaled, when a familiar shade of pinky-blue flashed in the corner of his eye. This time Cole had time to check it out. He ran a low level scan on the formation and pushed his nose to the cube to view the results.

"Definitely AV. Might be tracer."

Cole shrugged off the idea. A tracer couldn't have followed him out of that criminal system - BUT it could have been on him sooner. Cole began to panic. There was only 1 way to check a tracer's pok without letting whoever is tracing you know you're doing it. Luckily he was in that situation now. Cole initiated the merge and slammed the OCer straight through the entry gate. He then proceeded to eliminate the remaining parasites in the system (no-one goes for the spinal this time) and locked the tracer into the adjoining sector. For maybe a second the gate was wide open. If the OCer had reentered then Cole would have had an AV type war on his hands - of which he most probably would have lost. But it didn't and now the gate was locked tight. The only 2 morphs that remained on the system were him and the tracer and soon that would change.

He initiated the pok request - then hesitated. True - this was flawless - he owned the system now - there were no logs unopen to him. But what if this tracer is new - what if. He shook it off, slapped his face and took a swig of synth. No - this is a standard tracer - most probably from one of his fans who wanted to learn his style. But he had to find out. Just as a precaution he bounced the pok IDer off the spindle as the real OCer would do and waited the outcome. It didn't come - what did come, was a tracer at full force. Cole was stunned - this tracer was using an old stealth/shadow trick. The sucker clamps went on - it was only a matter of time before it was on his system. Cole smacked furiously at his horse-shoe k'ord but he knew it was too late. He put up 9 lines of protection but the tracer slammed straight through them. He had one chance and one chance only. He picked up the snippers and did something he hadn't done since 2 weeks previously - he ran. He ran as fast as he could to the blue/green cable box outside and ripped the door clean off its hinges. A few seconds later he was safe - he cut the intake wire. In three hours he would reconnect it when the tracer's life source was dead (ie when the real OCer returns to the system and follows the vapor trail along the same line as the tracer and destroys it).

Cole cursed his luck of late and sculled the rest of the bottle of synth. It was his last but it didn't matter - he was plastered.


QuantumG
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