“You ready for this, Zen?”
The small white-clad monk did not stir from the floating lotus position. “You are asking the question of yourself, my friend. If you wait until you are truly ready, you will wait until you are truly dead.”
The armor-clad rabbit gave the monk an annoyed look. “Whatever. I asked for your help so I don’t get fried again, not to hear philosophy.”
It’s enough to give you the creeps.
“Are you certain? I have observed that you often ask for my help when you have something important to discuss. I would argue that you have asked for my help precisely to hear ‘philosophy’. Perhaps it will lead to less ‘frying’.”
“…Just… shut up and come on.”
A quick mental command sent the two mismatched icons flashing through dozens of nodes to the secure server. The system was well hidden, and it had required days of painstaking investigation, hacking and data-sifting to get here. The user accounts had been tough to insert into the system, but having Zen along would be worth the extra trouble.
“So… He asked me out this week.” Even as she said it, she realized that this was what her friend had meant.
So annoying when Zen’s right…
“I see.” the monk-icon replied.
The system accepted the access codes without any alerts. She needed admin access for what she had to accomplish, but Zen only needed security access. The logon completed flawlessly and they were in.
“We had dinner at a nice place. I had a nice outfit, wasn’t sure what to wear. Grace suggested something slinky, but then she’s a big skank. He wanted to talk about a job, but we could have done that at StarKaf’s or something, right?”
Stop saying ‘nice’.
The system’s sculpting made the node look like an army base. Very appropriate for the information it stored. The security systems and spiders would have an advantage operating in the metaphor. She triggered her filtering program, and the Alice in Wonderland sculpt briefly flickered into existence before being suppressed by the node’s superior processing power. That was going to make the job just a little more dangerous.
“We talked about a lot of stuff, not just the job. He’s an interesting guy. A little odd, but nice… I mean cool… I mean…. Hell, I don’t know what I mean.”
The monk had been replaced by a soldier, dressed in battle fatigues with a service rifle. The icon blended in with the system sculpt, while the furry, armored, assault-cannon wielding bunny icon would be a bit…awkward. Zen never tried to over-ride system metaphors to gain an advantage, but also never suffered when the node insisted on its own sculpting.
“He’s not like any of the other guys I’ve hung out with. He’s older for one thing, but who the heck knows with elves? Is that weird? That he’s older, not that he’s an elf… Frag. I don’t even know if he’s thinking about me that way.”
Or if he’s just milking it for cheap help and kicks.
The soldier stood at easy alertness as row upon row of olive drab filing cabinets slewed past them. The browsing software began sifting data far faster than would be possible in a meat-life office. Secretarial icons flitted about, legitimate users of the system working with less sensitive files than the one they wanted.
“And the rest of them are ok. Looking out for me and all. They’re a hell of a lot more interesting than Grace and the rest of those ditzes. Taking advantage a bit, but I guess that’s mostly my fault for offering.”
Gratitude doesn’t pay for upgrades.
A sniffer agent ghosted by, an MP with guard dog icon. She and Zen were running in stealth mode, so it should be difficult for the scanning program to detect them. And it would still have to recognize their access ID’s as illegitimate. The soldier at her back remained vigilant nonetheless.
“Still, I don’t know how much I can trust them. Especially the little guy, Hirito. Used to be MCT special ops. Team got cacked last year. Black IC protecting the personnel file. And someone makes sure his info is blanked, wherever it’s stored. Very strange.”
Don’t be surprised when knowing him bites everyone in the ass.
The browser finally signaled a hit and the filing cabinets retracted into the distance, leaving a single icon, an old-fashioned manila folder. After the last mistake handling a file on this topic, she carefully scanned to make sure there were no little surprises attached.
“Dammit, Zen. Don’t you have anything else to say besides ‘Yes’ and ‘True’ and ‘I see’?”
“You are not really asking me, but asking yourself.”
Very helpful. Why is Zen here again?
The scan found a simple data bomb, set to destroy to file and trigger a system alert if opened without additional authorizations. The rabbit smirked as she defused the software protection with relative ease.
“Very helpful, Zen. I don’t know why I bring you along on these outings.”
A second, careful scan revealed a second layer of protection, an agent program loaded with attack IC and tracers. That would have been inconvenient if triggered, but simple enough to bypass now. She opened target file to verify the contents. It was the guy they were after, all right.
“Well, at least this way I can keep an eye on him. ‘Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer’, right?”
Or just geek them all and let God sort it out.
The MP/sniffer dog returned for another pass, this time scanning Zen’s soldier icon and verifying the security account. She had just started the file copy when the MP scanned her admin access. The growl of the guard dog announced a system alert, but Zen was already raising the service rifle to shoot the MP. The virtual bullet triggered glitches in the icon’s code, but not nearly as much damage as she had seen Zen do to security programs in the past. The speed of the MP’s reaction confirmed her suspicion; this was no simple security construct, but a jacked in security rigger. Crap.
“Spider! Must have missed something on the admin access codes. Frag!”
The MP/Spider drew its sidearm and opened fire at the rabbit, ignoring Zen altogether. That mistake would likely cost him the fight, but she was still in the line of fire. The attack program punched through the rabbit’s virtual armor inserting disruptive code into the icon itself. But it wasn’t enough to disrupt her subscription to the node. She busied herself repairing as much damage as possible on the fly, trusting Zen to deal with the threat.
“Hold him off, Zen! I just need a few ticks to get the complete file.”
Jumped twice now because of this MCT spec-ops garbage…
The soldier raised the service rifle a second time, the resulting flash of code disrupting the integrity of the spider’s icon, leaving them alone for the moment. More attack programs and security response would arrive in seconds, but the file had finished downloading. No need to hang around.
“Got it. Let’s get the hell out of here!”
Another dozen or so nodes flashed by as the pair returned to their originating node, sweeper systems scrubbing the evidence of their passing. The soldier icon reverted to its previous appearance.
“Thanks for the support, Zen,” she said. “The extra cred is on its way… Y’know, with all this ‘enlightenment’ and ‘zen’ crap, shouldn’t you be ‘detached’ from the whole ‘rat-race for creds’ thing?”
“After enlightenment comes laundry. I am pleased to have been able to contribute to solving your problems.” The small white-clad monk bowed and dissolved into a shower of lotus blossoms.
Still, the whole issue with a certain elf didn’t seem quite so confusing…