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Title:48 Hours Author: zCat

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  • Title:48 Hours Author: zCat

    I had 48 hours to cram.

    A week ago, the competition had been fierce. Old-school Sysadmins, RMSers, forum kiddies, they were all crawling over Realspace and the Worldnet, dragging up clues and forming loose posses to solve the challenge stacks that had been submitted this year.

    A matrix cowboy I was most definitely not, but I had grown up with legacy in my blood, and whoever was pumping out the shit this year had a serious love affair with ancient pre-Worldnet tech.

    When I was a little kid, I called myself a hacker, first because it was stupid-cool to do it and I didn't know any better. Later, when I learned what it meant, I called myself a hacker because it stood for the kind of things I believed in that ran contrary to the way the world wanted me to believe.

    By the time I was in high school, the 20th century nostalgia craze had come and gone for the second time, the United States was fighting a third Gulf War, this time over modified bio-crops and 100-year patent rights on gene code, and over half the country and I were looking at a lifetime of being on permanent government assistance thanks to incredibly stupid policies that had become a recipe on how to turn a prosperous society into an aging, bankrupt has-been.

    Then came the Worldnet Games.

    Some people called them the ultimate escape. Old people just called them ARGs. My personal belief was that the Games were meant as an educational tool, to force people to wake up and use their brains for something other than passively consuming the latest celebrity sim while waiting for the monthly Federal Assistance funds transfer to clear. If you were among the winners, you got recruited, would be offered a slot creating puzzle stacks for future Games, and a ticket out to do something important.

    I wanted that respect. I wanted that power. I wanted to shake up the world.

    I grew up in a household with actual paper books, manuals for systems and software written by people long dead for equipment that should have been substrata in a landfill. Instead of gravitating to the latest Ocular sims like my classmates, I found old-school game ROMs in archives and remixed those instead. From games, I branched out into comm protocols and packet radio, trying to get these old systems talking to each other so my friends and I could have a private Realspace hangout instead of having to settle for being monitored and tracked in a public Ocular.

    I had tried playing in the Games in years past, but it was like trying to win the lottery - you'd get your teeth into a problem and find out when you came up for air that some guy in Switzerland had figured it out during his lunch hour. Joining a team was iffy - sometimes it would help, sometimes you'd just get used and discarded when the next stack set was released.

    This time, yours truly managed to get ahead of the pack by sheer luck - I'd been noodling around with some ancient data compression routines and had accidentally found part of a key puzzle left on a public drop before I'd even heard that a Game was in the offing. What I'd found was a primer, an outline of the challenges this year and the sequence in which they would be released. Whoever had put this together hadn't just carelessly left this information out there. This was a filter, and it was my chance to be a serious contender.

    The next set of challenges would coincide with the global hacker conference, DEFCON 42. They would run in Realspace throughout the conference and be paralleled by stacks accessible via the Worldnet.

    I had already managed to hitch a ride with a collectivist bus out to New Las Vegas.

    We would arrive on Wednesday.

    I had 48 hours to cram.
    "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

  • #2
    Re: Title:48 Hours Author: zCat

    Short and to the point.

    Good Luck!
    "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."