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Title: For Something Other Author: Sean S

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  • Title: For Something Other Author: Sean S

    You step onto the sidewalk in front of the Arenas Nuevo Convention Center just as your U.V. garb begins to smolder. Through the sprawl of casinos you catch a glimpse of the partially completed spires of the Las Vegas dome in the distance. Even in the dangerously arid climate, Sin City is still the most popular destination on the planet and the major resorts are working together to build the first U.V. dome covering an entire city. Like most things nowadays, resources are too scarce and materials are too expensive to complete large projects without a monopoly or a collective. That's exactly why you're here.

    The automated doors to the entryway open automatically and you rush inside just as the radiation sensor begins to chirp it's ominous warning. You pull the ankle-length hoodie from your shoulders, remove your U.V. glasses and toss them in the vaporizer near the door. You hear the familiar whoosh of the vaporizer as your protective garb is dissipated into harmless carbon molecules and the residue sent to the recycler. You turn toward the doors to the lobby and a pleasant chirp signals that your radiation level is low enough to enter the building.

    The bland glass and marble lobby is bustling with activity as you get your first glimpse of DEFCON 42. To one side a line of people wait patiently to get their badges. Most conventions no longer use anything as archaic as badges but this is DEFCON and hackers still love to tinker. Across the lobby another group lines up to have their t-shirts printed. You realize you can't see the menu of t-shirts available and you think a silent command to the Imp deck A.I. implanted in your brain.

    "G-fah, opmode augmented, execute."

    Your deck sends a response through your auditory nerves and you hear it say, "You got it Kiddo."

    Suddenly the lobby springs to life. The plain beige of the marble walls suddenly burst with color as the advertisements and schedules come online in your mind's eye. The empty alcove next to you is filled with the image of a beautiful hostess guiding attendees around the Center. Your Niang told you about the semi-translucent holographic images that were popular between the time of video screens and Optical nerve layering. This is a completely formed and solid representation of a human being layered over your current view. She greets you pleasantly as you gaze around the falsely multicolored lobby.

    "Welcome to DEFCON 42 Mr. Hopper, how may I help you today?"

    Of course, you aren't Mr. Hopper and her greeting goes in one ear and out the other. Your Imp deck has a quirky sense of humor so he whispers to you even though you're the only one who'll hear it. "Psssst, Xaiohai, she's talking to me."


    He chuckles and gives you and auditory chirp in the direction of the Hostess' avatar. "The hostess? She's talking to YOU."

    "Oh shoot! Yeah, ok, sorry."

    Even though you've planned and practiced this disguise for months, you've failed the first test by forgetting that you aren't YOU right now. Your voice is much higher and younger and you struggle to lower your voice to match your disguise. You clear your throat and do your best old man voice. "Ah-hem, no thank you Xiaojie. I'm fine."

    A toothy smile crosses the avatar's face and she chimes, "Ok, then. Enjoy DEFCON!"

    You decide to keep moving to avoid any more needless encounters and head towards a long hallway to your right. As you pass a large mirror you catch a glimpse of yourself and you can't help laughing. Glancing back at you is an old man in a retro suit. You're wearing a full poly-silicone face prosthetic with micro weave nano-follical beard. The suit has an embarrassing wide lapel and you're shoes actually have laces. You chuckle and mumble "For fuck's sake," under your breath.

    G-fah's avatar fills your vision with his hands on his hips. His face matches yours but he's wearing a long hooded robe and wears a silver cylinder at his hip. He grumbles, "Excuse me?"

    You blink with disbelief even though it won't ever help. "Zufu?! What the hell are you wearing?"

    "This is the biggest day of our lives Kiddo, I've been saving my Jedi-knight outfit since before you we're born!"

    You vaguely remember the sci-fi marathons you used to have with your living Grandfather and something comes to mind, "Ummmm... Star Wars? Really?"

    "Uhhh... yes... really." He slowly passes his hand in front of himself as if he were carefully finger-painting an arc on an invisible canvas. His voice takes a soft hypnotic tone, "Now, tell me what's so fracking funny?"

    "It's nothing Gong-gong, I'm just not used to being an old man."

    "Pfft, how do you think I feel."

    As you make your way down the hall you notice a few people staring at you, recognizing your Grandfather's face. They lean in and quietly whisper to each other as you pass. You're disguised as one of the most famous computer scientists of all time. Your Grandfather was the inventor of the modern day Imp deck implanted in most people's head, and naturally some people here are going to notice. Fifteen to twenty years ago scientists began accepting that binary transistors weren't always going to be the architecture of the next generation of computers. Computing began moving away from the keyboard and mouse entry system that had been used for years. With that basic shift people began accepting the move from binary architecture as well. Advances had been made in quantum computing but that was still a binary system and your Grandfather still found it prohibitive. A microscopic molecule matrix in a fluctuating boson field allowed for a logical paradigm many orders of magnitude more complex than simple binary. Each synthesized atom, or bit, has 16 physical states, 16 electrical charges, and 16 chemical reactions making 4096 basic states. The logical paradigm for two bits is 16,777,216 cases and currently the matrix is 16 by 16 by 16 atoms. Even though millions of people still program computers, only a few really understand the logical paradigm at the lowest levels. Decks are implanted in children shortly after they are born, and can layer over all sensory input and output. From an early age people are used to the three realities, real reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality.

    You take a moment to look around at the people you pass and assess the layout of this year's DEFCON. A brawny guy passes you and the tattoo on his arm swirls and glows with snakes weaving themselves through a tribal pattern of black and forest green. You have several animated bioluminescent tattoos also. The micro-pixels are injected under the skin so technically tattoos are still pretty serious body-mods, but they can be changed or switched off at will. You usually wear plant and animal patterns as a tribute to your activist mother.

    A woman carries what appears to be a twenty year old smart-phone wired to an old motion sensor wired to a mini-amp and speaker system. This device mash up is affectionately called a frankenbox. Even though old-time projection and old-time concerts have been completely replaced by implanted decks this is DEFCON. Hackers try to outdo each other by mixing devices into amazing conglomerations of old devices and new tech. Someone will be throwing a huge party tonight and it looks like this woman could be one of the entries in the Classic D.J. contest.

    Two people you pass are having a heated argument about politics. One waves his arms and tries to argue the merits of Ronald Reagan while the other shakes his head and growls about Bill Clinton...

    "Reagan's got 15 million Twitter followers Bendan, and he just showed proficiency in chemistry!"

    "Oh yeah, Daizi?! Clinton's latest vlog got 30 million hits and they say he's already got a girlfriend!"

    The original Reagan and Clinton have been dead for years. They're talking about the clones which are each two years old now. People are still scared of human cloning but as pressure built, and modern politics became more and more corrupt, it was decided that the USA would clone the Founding Fathers as a symbol of honest politics. They're in their teens now and being groomed for office, but like most teenagers they pretty much just ignore and rebel against what people want them to do. Not to be outdone, the two political parties complained that the Founding Fathers only represented a time before the modern party system. They agreed that each party would clone one heroic figure. Now Reagan and Clinton are being weaned off baby food and playing with their own poop in pre-school. Like some sequel to a blockbuster film, new ideas are usually squashed by familiar old ideas that worked at some time in the past. At DEFCON the uninformed masses are called sheep, and as you pass these two debaters G-fah laughs and begins to bray in your ear. "Baaah!! Baaaah!! Baaaah!!!"

    "Oh hush Zufu! You and Mama will never change."

    "Hey, I know you Kiddo. You don't like it any more than I do."

    "Yeah, but politicians don't have any real power anymore. These figureheads will just bow to the corporations like they all do."

    "Mmm hmmm, the more things change..."

    "The more they stay the same," you answer.

    You pass a large open room and stop for a second when you realize it's your favorite stop at DEFCON. "G-fah, I'll bet you remember this!"

    The image of your Grandfather quickly slips into the room and his virtual robes brush off the walls and chairs as he passes. "Mmmm Lockpick Village! Oh, this brings back some memories! Have I ever told you about lockpicking in my day?"

    "Only about a thousand times."

    "Oh the days of mechanical locks! We had picks and wrenches and I can't tell you how many times I tried to beat the young kids at these contests!"

    Twenty years ago locks had a cylinder and tumblers that could be physically jammed in order to trick the lock. Today, Imp decks aren't only implanted in people's heads, but pretty much all devices are built around them. Including locks. Picking is no longer done with picks but by hacking the encrypted codes that protect them. There are no keys or cards or bio-verification, just a wireless connection to the Imp deck trying open it. You look in and see a smattering of hackers picking old mechanical locks, but mostly Lockpick Village is filled with people wearing blackout glasses and sitting quietly with an electronic lock in front of them. Imp decks have miles of wireless range so G-fah can hang out and watch for a few minutes. "Ok Gramps, I'm going to go check in. Stay close."

    "Where am I going to go? You should see this kid attacking this new Abloy, he's insane!"

    "Mmmmm, maybe next year."

    You reach the line for lecture check-in and try to wait as patiently as you can, dressed as your dead Grandfather. For years the companies that owned the physical cables making up the internet fought tooth and nail against the widespread use of Imp decks. Each deck is a node, client, server, router, and DNS all in itself. Once the number of users passed a critical amount, each Imp could be a DNS node and a client. Once again the paradigm shifted and what was left was basically a wireless peer-to-peer internet hosted by most of the devices and people in the world. G-fah gave away all the tech and open sourced all the code and still made a vast fortune.

    The halls of the Arenas Nuevo are sparsely populated as the vast majority of attendees come as virtual avatars. What appear to be a few hundred attendees is actually millions of attendees wandering the halls and catching lectures as they sit with blackout glasses somewhere in the world. You get curious about your friendslist and decide to see if any of their avatars are here. "G-fah, add friendslist to reality."

    "Here ya go Hot Packet, It looks like 75 or so running around. Only 18 in your viewable area."

    You acknowledge and suddenly 18 avatars are added to your reality. You see CherryBit across the hall and you have to fight the urge to go over and say hi. She's a close friend but you can't afford to have her recognize you so you turn away. You send a request to G-fah as you try to hide your face, "Oh shit! G-fah, am I hidden from my friendslist?"

    Your Imp deck's avatar slowly waves his hands in front of your face, as if he were doing magic. "Yessssss my child, you are as silent as the wind and hidden like a shadow!"

    "Ok, ok. How many people are here total? Real and Virtual?"

    "In your view distance? A little over a million."

    "Show me. I’m curious what a million people in one hallway look like."

    "Are you sure Kiddo? Sometimes people freak out or get sick."

    "I'll let you know. Just do it, ok?"

    "Ok Jie, Here ya go."

    Virtual mode resolves quickly from the outside in. For a split second you see cross-sections of virtual avatars building in layers like walls crushing in on you. You're immediately surrounded and buried in a mass of indistinguishable overlapping people in your augmented view. You can't make out any single individuals and the way the undulating mass passes through people and objects around you is definitely disorienting. You stare at the person in front of you as portions of his body come in and out of view as he's blocked by layers and layers of virtual people milling through him. You feel yourself get a little dizzy. "Ok, ok. That’s basically gross and useless. Just go back to augmented."

    "Yep yep, shutting down virtual connections."

    As the masses of virtual avatars disappear you notice the line has moved and you’re next. Standing there a little stunned you prepare for another audible conversation. The presentation host recognizes you and waves you closer. "Welcome Mr. Hopper, how was your trip?"

    You take a breath and step to the table. The bio-scanner sitting on the table makes your heart race. "Mmmm, a little bumpy but adequate I suppose, thank you."

    "Let's see... your scheduled for a two o'clock conference." She leans over, reaching for the bio-scanner.

    This was always going to be a problem. No matter how good your disguise is the bio-scan will need to match your DNA. There are a few experimental DNA spoofers on the market, but even at DEFCON the bio-scanners can be hacked. You silently issue a request to G-fah, "Ok, GongGong, here we go, are you ready?"

    "Looking good Kiddo, I've jumped the bio-scanners wave, I just need a few seconds to crack the key."

    The woman holds the tiny box towards you with a polite grin. You need to stall, so you stare blankly at her for a second and purse your lips. She quickly glances side-to-side for a moment and motions with the scanner. "Ummm, Mr. Hopper? We just need a bio-scan. If you wouldn't mind pressing the sensor with your thumb?"

    You give her an impatient look and gesture to the people milling around. "I've been attending DEFCON since before you were born Xiaojie, and almost everyone here knows exactly who I am. Is this really necessary?"

    "I'm afraid it is XianSheng, security was very adamant about it. I'm sorry, I'm just doing what I'm told."

    "This is DEFCON my dear, messing with the goons is half the fun. I invented the Imp Deck in that scanner, if I wanted to I could crack the procedure with less than a snap of my fingers."

    "Please Mr. Hopper. It's just a formality. I'm sure the privacy of your DNA profile is completely safe."

    You and several other people in line can't help but laugh and you hear a small chorus of "Yeah right"s and "Not likely"s. Fortunately G-fah gives you confirmation and you can bring this charade to an end. "Ok Little Bit, I've got the key. Go ahead and scan. This is going to be fun."

    You shrug you shoulders and lean forward to press your thumb to the scanner as you grumble. "Well, you're logic is unassailable XiaoJie. Here you go." Another chorus of chuckles.

    You press your thumb to the scanner and it issues an uncomfortable buzz. The presentation host wrinkles her eyebrows and turns the scanner over, taking a closer look. "Ummmm, that's weird."


    "Well let me just reset here and we'll try again." She presses a button on the side and the scanner chirps pleasantly.

    You sigh and impatiently offer your thumb for another scan. "Mmmmm, ghosts in the machine, eh?"

    "Heh heh, Yes Sir, I guess so." She presses the scanner onto your thumb and looks at the scanner hopefully.

    Another obnoxious buzz and G-fah squeals in your ear. "Oh she's persistent! I could do this all day!"

    You tilt your head quizzically and glare at the Hostess "Maybe I should go find someone to vouch for me?"

    I smattering of people raise their hands and gleefully try to volunteer. The Hostess is mortified and starting to get frantic. "Yes Mr. Hopper. I apologize. Here's your presenter's badge. I'll check you in manually."

    You take your badge and breathe a sigh of relief as you turn towards the ballroom. Walking away you hear the scanner chirp pleasantly after successfully verifying the presenter who was behind you in line and the Hostess quips, "Hmmmm, that's curious."

    You chuckle and G-fah laughs in your ear. "You better hurry before she tries to scan you again."

    "If I hurry, I might blow my cover Gramps."

    You've got a little time before your speech so you find a quiet spot behind the stage and sit down. hoping you won't be disturbed, you lean back and close your eyes as if you were napping. Internally you start a silent conversation with your Grandfather's A.I. "G-fah, how’s Mom doing?"

    "You miss her don't you?"

    "Yeah, I miss her. I haven't seen her for three years. Since your funeral."

    "Well, she a tough cookie Kiddo, she's doing fine."

    Your mother is locked up in a SuperMax prison in Arizona. For years she was an environmental activist, and with her connections to Imp Deck, a real pain in the butt to any cooperation she decided to bother. The Corps and the Government labeled her a terrorist for destroying some construction equipment on the last National Park in the U.S. For a few years she eluded all authorities but they caught up to her shortly after your Grandfather died. His death, and the funeral was a secret between You, your mother, and one brave lawyer. Unfortunately her travel plans were leaked and the Feds got her just as she was crossing the Mexican border into South America. "I hope she’s been exercising like I told her."

    "She's fine Kiddo, been running laps every day."

    "What do you think of DEFCON these days?" You ask.

    "Oh, all the pieces are still here. Wall of Sheep, Capture the flag. Lots of good presenters. Even with all the security in the world today this is still my favorite place. As corporate and restrictive as the world gets, this will always be a light of hope and rebellion. I hope that never changes."

    "It won't ever change G-fah. The more the corporations squeeze the more we get new activists and fearless hackers. It's bigger and stronger than ever."

    You're interrupted by a Stagehand tapping you on your shoulder. "Mr. Hopper? They're about to announce your speech. It’s time"

    You thank the kid and make your way to the stage. A thunder of applause greets you as your Grandfather's name is announced and you make your way around the curtain. This is G-fah's speech so you transfer auditory control to him as you take your place behind the lectern. "Here we go G-fah, passive auditory mode, confirm and execute."

    "This is going to feel weird XiaoHai, just try to make eye contact and relax your face. We practiced this."

    "I'm ready."

    You look down at the lectern as if you were scanning some notes and wave your hands pleasantly at the large audience, urging them to quite down. Suddenly your face goes numb and you feel like your jaw is missing. You hear your Grandfather's voice coming out of the speakers, and you have the strange impression that your jaw is moving, but you can only gesture and listen as G-fah begins his speech.

    "Thank you for having me today. I have some really exciting news to announce, but before that, let’s take a look at where we are with Imp Deck, and what that implies. As you know I imagined implantable matrix registers as an answer to the limited and clunky paradigm of binary computing..."

    You concentrate on making your gestures and glances match the words you hear. G-fah talks about the history of Imp Deck and the struggles he had keeping it OpenSource. He goes on at length about the pressure applied by the corporations and spends quite a bit of time on an activist's rant about greed and the false ideas of money and power. The speech is compelling, but you have business to attend to. You need to make sure your team is in place. "G-fah, Phoenix group commms, open and execute."

    A confirmation chirp rings in your ear and, in your mind's eye, you hear your hacking team come online. Beak is the first to respond. "I'm here Phoenix, what's up?"

    "Hang on Beak. I'm going to get everybody conferenced."

    Talon chimes in, "Talon here Phoenix."

    Then Feather, "Ready to fly Phoenix, go when you're ready."

    "Stand by," you respond.

    Hawkeye's the last to confirm, "Go for Hawkeye."

    There won't be much time after the conference so you need to prepare your team for what's happening. "Hey everyone. Good to hear your voices. Is anyone at the Hopper conference?"

    Talon laughs, "Yeah Phoenix, were all here. He's going off on freedom of information. Where in the xing are you?"

    "I'm up in my room, catching it on a wave. It's pretty awesome but he's going to announce something really big at the end."

    Beak interrupts, "How do you know?"

    "Let's just say I've been poking around HopperNet."

    Feather's thin voice squeals into your auditory nerve, "HOPPERNET?!?! Are you kidding me? The tightest security on the planet and you're 'poking around' AND YOU DON'T TELL US?! What the fuck Phoenix?"

    "Yeah, sorry. I didn't want to put you in any danger, until now."

    You hear Talon's typical enthusiasm, "Ooooooo DANGER. Now you’re talking!"

    "Ok guys, just hold on. I don’t have much time. There's only going to be a few minutes to react after he announces so I need you to be ready. Hopper's going to announce a hacking contest and we need to win it. There's a big prize and I want this really bad. The only thing is, we're going to win it even before it begins. Just make sure we get our table in Ballroom B, and make sure your all ready. Ok? This is really important."

    Hawkeye confirms, "You got it Phoenix. Can't wait to hear what you have in mind."

    "Ok everyone, thanks. See you in a few minutes."

    You sever the comm with your team and signal G-fah. "Ok Old Man, my team's ready to rock. Let's wrap this up."


    You let your concentration wander back to reality and gesture excitedly as G-fah makes the announcement.

    "As you know there are pieces of Imp Deck that still haven't been hacked. The speed of the rotating encryption has kept people out of remote access to sensory input to this very day. I'm very proud of that fact, but now it's time to really show the world what a small group of hacktivists can do. I'm starting a contest in a few minutes, and the reward is the current prototype for the next line of my beta Imp Decks. The matrix is going to 32 bits and we got the Weinstein-Bose field a bit cooler so they're going to change the world again."

    Gasps and applause erupt in the audience as excited hackers lean forward in their seats, licking their lips.

    "All right, yes, yes, please calm down. You haven't heard the rules yet! I've set up five Imp Decks as if they were implanted in five people. The winner of the contest is the group that can take remote control of all major sensory functions. That's right people. I want to find out who can hack a whole person. You're going to have to hack these decks and walk the Avatar through a simulated maze."

    Gasps and grumbles arise through the audience as skepticism spreads. Everyone knows the 4096 bit encryption is crackable, but only for a few milliseconds until the key rotates.

    The voice of G-fah continues as you gesture your acknowledgement. "I know, I know. It seems impossible, but I've got faith in you. My servers will monitor your progress and I'll announce the winner over the public wave. I KNOW some of you can do this. Make me proud!"

    You wave politely and turn from the lectern as cheers and applause erupt once again. You've got to find a place to change out of your disguise, so you rush into a back hallway. As you search for an empty room or bathroom a Goon spots you. "Excuse me, Sir? You’re not really allowed back here."

    You waver and grab your stomach as if you were going to faint. "Please, JueShi, age is getting the best of me, and this crowd won't let me alone. I'm going to need an ambulance unless I find a private bathroom."

    The guard grabs your elbow and starts walking you down a small side hall. "Ok Sir. Right this way, I'll take care of you."

    He ushers you to a small bathroom and you hear the lock click as he issues the unlock code. "There you go XianSheng, I'll wait here to get you to your room."

    "Uhh, oh no that won't be necessary. I'll be fine."

    "It's no trouble, and you really can't be back here alone."

    You shrug and sigh, feigning indifference even though you’re having a mild panic attack. "All right then."

    You step through the door, flip the inner lock and lean against the nearest wall. "Shit, he's not leaving. What should we do?"

    G-fah plays a chorus of trumpets into your ear and laughs, "Not to worry Lil' Bit, I'm sure I can cause a distraction. Just get changed."

    You begin peeling the prosthetic mask off of your face as you hear the Goon outside bark at an unknown intruder. "Hey you! You’re not allowed back here! Stop right there!"

    You turn your head as you scrape poly-silicone off of your forehead. "G-fah, what’s going on?"

    "Here, you can listen in!"

    You hear a quiet chirp as G-fah open your comm to one of his channels. "Ha ha! You're a big fat GOOOON!!! Why don't you come and get me?"

    You realize G-fah has hacked into the guard's optical and auditory ports. You smile, thinking of the guard playing hide and seek with an invisible avatar.

    The guard barks again, "I'm warning you! Get back to the convention floor right now!"

    "Nah nah na na NAAAAH nah!"

    The guard bangs on the door and speaks to you. "Sir? I’ve got to go take care of this idiot. I'll be right back."

    You throw your clothes in the vaporizer and hear the tell-tale whoosh. "All right. I'll just be a minute."

    The guard begins running down the hallway and you hear him call into him comm. "Central, this is Oh-three-five. I've got a guy in a long brown robe running the halls in sector 8. Send someone behind Ballroom C, ok?"

    You crack open the door and scan the hallway as you quip with G-fah. "Still with the Jedi Knight outfit, Zufu?"

    "You didn't expect me to pass up a chance to use a Jedi mind trick, did you?"

    You quickly find an exit back onto the convention floor and head for Ballroom A. The room is filled to capacity with hackers anxiously awaiting the start of the contest. You spot your team and make your way to the table. They're all wearing blackout glasses so they don't notice you. "Ok, team. I'm here. What's going on?"

    Talon speaks as you take your place at the table and don your blackout glasses. "We had to fight for a table but we've just been synching our decks. Are we ready to go?"

    You open a port with your team and their avatars come to life before your covered eyes. Beak looks like a giant ogre in a top hat and tails. Talon has his usual Goth vampire master avi on, and Hawkeye's avatar looks like the Flash. Feather changes her avatar constantly and today she looks like a translucent wood nymph with luminescent green sparkles falling from her auburn hair. "Nice avi Feather. You've outdone yourself."

    Her avatar spins gracefully in the air and places a coy hand on her hip. "Why thank you Phoenix! The vine's are an extinct species of Blackberry. I had to find old images on the web."

    You smile and begin your explanation. "Ok guys, I know I kept you in the dark about this, but I didn't want to involve anyone else. If anyone's going to lockup it's going to be me."

    Beak grumbles in a rumbling ogre voice. "Lockup? Over a CON contest? Are you crazy? That's just crazy Phoenix."

    "Well there’s more going on than that," you explain, "but I can’t get into it right now. We're going to win this contest and here’s how. You know the encryption on motor control ports rotates every few hundred milliseconds. It's pretty hopeless that any one team could crack an implanted deck for any significant amount of time."

    "Or at all." Talon chides.

    "Yeah, or at all. That’s why we're going to win this contest before it begins. In a few minutes Hopper is going to transmit the addresses of the 5 decks he wants hacked. He's going to send the public key for each deck, and that’s where we come in."

    Hawkeye peers curiously through his superhero mask at you. "We're listening."

    "There are millions of people logged into this contest right now. This is going to be dicey, but I'm going to block that transmission and send each individual a possible private key to work on. I'm sending you each part of the table that corresponds the contestant's address with the key I'm going to give them. It's only going to take a second for everyone to hack their code so with any luck we'll be in those decks almost immediately."

    Feather cocks her head and Talon wrinkles his dark eyebrows at you. "What are you saying Phoenix? You want us to match the current key in the rotation to the person cracking it?"

    "That's exactly right Talon. Each individual in this contest will have momentary control over a deck we're hacking. We just have to jump their waves for a few milliseconds and WE will be the ones who actually have control."

    Beak looks skeptical. "Phoenix, we can trace and jump the key in these tables, but there are lots more possible keys out there. We're never going to keep control."

    "No Beak we aren't. But human reaction time is a lot slower than these key changes. If you issue your physical commands as soon as you get control that should give us close to a second of actual human response, even if the keys slip through our fingers. It's going to look a bit like a flickering image but I'm pretty sure we'll be the ones with control."

    Feather questions you. "Pretty sure?"

    "Yeah, pretty sure. That's the closest I can get. We're going to need a little luck."

    Talon leans over the table and glares at you. "Phoenix, I love a good hack, but you aren't hacking these decks, you're cheating this contest."

    "Really Talon? Cheating? From the guy that makes his living shaving pennies off market transactions?"

    "That's different and you know it, this is DEFCON. There is some honor among thieves here."

    "Ok guys, I know this isn't going to be my proudest moment, but there’s something bigger going on. Please stay with me on this. I'll take any blame but I really REALLY need you guys right now."

    Feather's sing-song voice echoes in your ear. "We're big boys and girls here. Why don't you tell us what you're doing. Maybe we can help."

    You hesitate. "Mmmmm, I don't know."

    Beak crosses his massive arms and frowns. "I'm not doing this from the outside Phoenix. I've got your back PengYou. You can tell me or you can forget this whole thing."

    You glance around and see everyone at the table agree. "Damnit guys, you could get in a lot of trouble here if you know what’s going on."

    You team stares back at you sternly.

    You hear G-fah in your ear. "We've got to get this going Bitster. The other teams aren't going to wait forever. I don't think you have a choice."

    You put your hands up and nod. "Ok you guys, you win. Honestly I was kind of hoping it would be like this. You're the best friends I've ever had and I trust you."

    Talon rolls his eyes, "Yeah, yeah. We know. Now SPILL!"

    You take a deep breath and double-check the security of your local comm. "I'm going to break Mary Hopper out of SuperMax prison."

    Beak's jaw drops and Feather begins buzzing around her chair like an excited firefly. Talon blinks and they all start talking over each other.


    "Are you insane?!"


    "Why would you do this?"

    "There's no fucking way!"

    You lean over the table waving your arms. "Guys, guys, GUYS! Shut up for a second. She's my mother."

    The table goes silent as they process the deeper meaning of this. Beak shakes his head. "THE Mary Hopper is YOUR mother?"

    Feather whispers, "Meaning Charles Hopper is YOUR grandfather?"

    "Charles Hopper is dead Feather. No one knows. I've got his A.I. in my deck, he's helping me with all this, and I want to break my mother out of prison. I don't have time to explain everything. What'll it be?"

    Hawkeye jumps in, "I want to meet Hopper."

    You nod, "Yeah yeah, ok. His A.I. is named G-fah... G-fah, propagate Phoenix group. Confirm and execute."

    G-fah's avatar appears before your eyes. Sitting on the middle of the table in a cross-legged meditation position. "Greetings Padewans and Programs. I'm what’s left of Charles Hopper."

    Feather squeals as Beak's jaw elongates and literally hits the floor. Talon smiles and Hawkeye gasps, "I don't fucking believe it."

    You're on a tight schedule so you have to interrupt. "Ok guys, we're out of time. There are a few more surprise coming up so whose with me?"

    The team glances at each other for a brief moment and each begin nodding.

    "Hell yeah!"

    "I'm with you Phoenix, let's do this."

    "Wouldn't miss it."

    "We're going to be the all time king's of the hacker boards! What do we do?"

    You smile and give the group a sly glance. "We'll first we have to hack into these decks. Oh I almost forgot. The target decks aren't sitting in an office at Imp, they're in the heads of my mother's jailors."

    The group laughs and you see them start to concentrate on rapid table parsing as you confer with G-fah. "Ok, G-fah send the codes. No need for pretense with my team anymore. Let's get this going. Mom's train is getting close."

    "You got it Kiddo, sending the keys now."

    There is a rustle around the room as teams begin to get their encryption keys and addresses. Your team snaps to attention as columns and columns of keys begin flashing before their eyes. You check your data stacks and try to wait patiently for the first result. "Shit some teams are using all their decks to attack the keys one at a time. That’s going to slow us down."

    Feather screams and her avatar does loop in the air. "I'm in Phoenix! I'm in. It's coming in and out but I think I can get him moving. What do I do?"

    "Not yet Feather. We've got to do this in order. You’re going to unlock my Mother's cell so look for the cell key in there but just stand by. We've got other guards to deal with first."

    You check the data stack cascading in front of you and the first key starts blinking frantically. "Hawkeye! That's you! You're in!"

    "Yeah Phoenix, I'm in. But it's really sporadic. What do I do?"

    "Ok, You and Beak are just going to put your guards to sleep. We need them out of the way. The thing is you don't want to kill them."

    Beak guffaws, "Kill them? We could kill them?"

    "Well, yeah. That’s why this is the tightest security. Once you get a fairly consistent pattern of key locks you just need to shut down all I.O. to their sensory ports. They're basically going to black out but they’re still going to be conscious. They might panic so you need to watch their vitals."

    Hawkeye tilts his head and takes a breath. "Ok, here we go. Shutting down sensory I.O."

    You watch Hawkeye's stream carefully but nothing unusual happens. "Hawkeye? What do you see?"

    "He's fine Phoenix. Calm as a baby. I think he might have been sleeping already."

    G-fah chuckles as you start monitoring Talon's wave. "Ok Talon you've got the Captain of the guard. How's it coming?"

    "Born ready Phoenix. What do you need?"

    "You need to walk him to the guard station and get access to the cell block. Then you need to meet Feather's target and walk him to the cell."

    "Mmmm kay, let’s do this."

    As you watch Talon's stream you see the signal is far from perfect. He seems to be getting access for about one half second for every second. The Captain stands up from his desk but walks a bit like a drunken epileptic. "That’s not going to get it Talon. Let me see if I can jump in and optimize the stream."

    As you and G-fah both work to chase the encryption keys around the world the signal settles down a bit and the Captain’s stride become manageable. He stumbles out of the office and seems to wander aimlessly towards the guard office. At the window, he bumps his head and looks around confused.

    Talon barks excitedly. "I've lost him! Shit! He's completely gone! He doesn't know where he is!"

    "Hang on Talon. Beak, jump in here with us! NOW!"

    As the four of you race to connect encryption keys to users all over the web a loose connection begins to rez and you hear the guard in the office question the Captain. "Sir, are you all right? You look lost."

    "Um, yeah. I was... in my office..."

    Talon jumps in, "I've got him again! I've got him! Hang on."

    Through the link you see Talon's lips move and hear the guard Captains voice. "You just worry about yourself Zi. Open the door to the block."

    "Yes Sir."

    "That's your guy Beak. I need you to put him to sleep after the Captain leaves."

    "Got it Phoenix. I'm ready."

    "Talon, you need to walk across the cell block and meet Feather's target. We need both of your cell door keys."

    Talon nods his head. "I'm on it. I see the guard up ahead."

    You switch stacks again, "Ok Feather, that's you. They don't need to interact just stand up and meet him. Beak, send your guard to lala land. We're almost there."

    Beak grimaces and nods slowly. "Ni ni sweet prince."

    You switch to Beak's stack and notice the guard's vitals shoot through the roof.

    Beak gets a worried look on his face. "He's panicking Phoenix. His senses are down but he's flailing his arms and kicking his legs. I think he's punching himself in the face."

    "Shit. You're going to have to knock him out Beak. Take his arms and make him strangle himself."

    "I don't want to kill him. Are you sure?"

    "G-fah can tell you when to stop. Just do it!"

    On his stack you see the guard's breathing stop and heart rate skyrocket. After a few seconds Beak jumps out of his chair and you hear G-fah, "Ok, Beak perfect. He's out. Relax his arms."

    Feather interrupts, "We're at the cell door Phoenix. What do you want us to do?"

    "Stand by guys."

    You notice Beak looking worried and you get confirmation from G-fah. "G-fah, what do you see? Is he going to be ok?"

    "He's sleeping like a baby XiaoHai. You're good to go."

    Beak exhales loudly and slumps back in his chair, cupping his head in his hands.

    "Great job Beak, you did it."

    You turn your attention to the last two stacks, "Ok, Talon and Feather, Have you found the cell keys in there?"

    "Mmm hmm," Talon murmurs.

    "Ready!" Feather chimes.

    "Ok, I've got to get Mom on the line. Just a sec."

    The SuperMax is heavily shielded from outside transmissions, but now that the team has control of five insiders. The peer-to-peer transmission to your Mom's deck is a no-brainer. You open a comm, hoping she'll be ready. "Mom, it's me. We're in. Are you ready to do this?"

    You hear the sound of your Mom's voice, and she doesn't seem pleased to hear from you. "Sweetie? What are you doing? I told G-fah you weren't allowed to do this!"

    "It's too late Mama. We're already through the looking glass. You can ground me later."

    You hear her sigh, "You're just like your Grandfather!"

    Feather and Talon both issue their private door keys and you hear your mother take a deep breath. "Ok mom, that's it. it's really easy from here, don't worry."

    "I've been fighting corporations and running from the Fed's your whole life, I think I'll be ok."

    "Well we're not out of the woods yet. Send me your sensory key so I can see what’s going on. Just walk out of the cell and straight down the hallway."

    Feather looks at you and smiles while the rest of the team concentrates on keeping control of their Goons. "What do we do with these guys Phoenix?"

    You smile and wink, "What else? Walk them into the cell, lock the door, and delete the cell key."

    They smile broadly and work their guards into the cell. You piggyback on your Mother's sensory I.O. and see that she's headed down the hall to the exit door. She steps over the guard passed out on the floor and stops at the door. "I hope you have a ride for me Sweetheart. It's going to get really hot out there."

    "Yeah, sorry Mom. This isn't a public exit so we don't have an easy way to get U.V. garb. You might get a little tan and lose some hair, but you won't be noticing."

    "Won't be noticing? Why not?!"

    "There's a high-speed train passing by you in about 2 minutes. It'll be speeding up from its last stop. I'm going to take control of your body and jump you onto it as it passes by."

    "What?! That's crazy. Even if it's only going 40 I'll never make it."

    "No, you wouldn't. I'm going to have to jump your deck and run you there with G-fah's help."

    "Oh this plan just keeps getting better..."


    "I'm thinking!"

    "No time Mom. Now or never."

    "I don't want this to be the last time I see you darling. Make me proud, ok?"

    You hear a chirp as you receive her private sensory key and say your last words before she goes unsensory. "You'll be fine Mom. I'll be talking to you in a few minutes. Love you."

    "Love you too Baby."

    You take control of your Mom's body and take a deep breath. "You ready G-fah? What’s our time?"

    "You've got about ten seconds kiddo. Just run as fast as you can. If you need to slow down I'll tell you."

    You put your Mom's hand on the door handle and take a few breathes as G-fah counts down the last few seconds. "Three, two, one, Go! Go! Go!"

    You burst through the door and immediately feel the scorching heat on your Mother's shoulders. You pump her legs as fast as you can without tripping her up and in the distance you see the transport accelerating towards you.

    "Faster!" G-fah barks.

    "I'm trying!"

    "You've got to go faster! I just opened the door to the storage car. Angle to the left a little bit. We need to make up ground."

    You push your Mom's body to the limit as you try and judge the distance to the rail. Two hundred yards or so. It looks like you're way ahead of the train but you realize it's probably perspective.

    G-fah's voice seems a bit more calm. "Ok kiddo, you're pretty much on target. This door isn't that big, so when you get close you'll have to take your best guess."

    "Ok Gramps. Here we go!"

    You're close enough now to see the edge of the culvert the transport travels in. You won't be jumping up onto a train car as much as leaping out into air as the door passes by. You and G-fah decided your Mom might break a few ribs jumping onto a train going close to 40 miles an hour, but it's a calculated risk. The edge of the culvert looms in the near distance as the front of the train passes directly in front of you. You look down the tracks searching for the open door. Twenty steps to go and you can barely see the telltale shadow of the open door approaching. The hair on one side of your head is starting to singe and smolder, and you feel the sun blistering the skin on your shoulders. Just before the open door gets right in front of you, you make the last step on the edge of the culvert and throw your Mom's body into thin air.

    For a moment you feel the weightlessness of her body and see her arms and head enter the door. Suddenly, everything goes black and you lose the connection. "Mom!!!!"

    You've jumped out of your chair and notice every avatar in the room staring at you. Your teammates motion you to sit down and you fight the urge to scream again. "G-fah. What's going on? Is she all right?"

    "Hold on kiddo, I've got to hop another deck somewhere on that train."

    You nervously move around in your seat and look around at your team.

    Feather comes over and puts her arm around you while the others reach out and take your hand. "It's ok Phoenix. She'll be fine."

    Beak forces a smile, "Yeah, she's fine. Just stay calm."

    Hawkeye shrugs, "That was stellar."

    Talon and Feather glare at him and he gives a crooked grin. You look at G-fah hopefully while he takes a meditative stance and closes his eyes. Suddenly you hear the voice of Your Grandfather, Charles Hopper come over the public channel to make an announcement to all of DEFCON. "Ladies and Gentlemen! May I have your attention! We have a winner for the Imp Deck remote hacking contest. Team Phoenix has successfully hacked all five decks and won the prize!!!"

    You and your team leap out of your chairs and you all toss your blackout glasses into the air. The other teams are clearly disappointed and shocked but they begin to applaud you politely. You hug Beak and Talon while Hawkeye lifts Feather off the ground and swings her in circles. While you celebrate you check in, "G-fah, is she all right? I still haven't heard from her."

    "It looks like she's unconscious Kiddo, maybe some broken ribs. You were thirteen hundreths of a second too late, but she'll be fine. She should wake up in a few minutes. She's on the floor of the delivery car and the transport's going over 200 miles an hour now. She'll be in Vegas within the hour."

    You smile and exhale a sigh of relief as you shake hands with your team and continue celebrating around the Ballroom. Unfortunately you won't be sticking around for the rest of the CON. You gather your team and make your way to the exit doors. Other teams slap you on the back and shake hands with your teammates. You struggle down the crowded hallway and finally make it to the marble and glass lobby. You turn to face your team.

    "I can't stay guys. Someone I've got to go pick up."

    Feather smiles at you, "We know Phoenix. Go do your thing."

    You grin playfully as you reach into your pocket and pull out an implanting gun. You open your other hand and your teammates smile broadly as they see the new 32 bit matrix decks in your hand. One by one you extract their current deck and replace it with the wildly expensive prototypes G-fah had made for you. "We're going to be unstoppable with these guys. It's going to be at least a year before anyone else has these."

    You hug and shake hands with each teammate and they nod and smile back at you as you turn towards the door. As you don your U.v. garb you hear your Mother's groggy voice over your auditory nerve. "Oh damn sweetie, my side is killing me, what did you do to me?"

    "Sorry Mom, 130 milliseconds late. There's a change of clothes and a new deck in the package marked for Hopper industries."

    "Oh sweetie I can't wait to see you! You're in a LOT of trouble but I just want to put my arms around you first!"

    "Yeah, Yeah, I know Mom. I can't wait to see you either. Say 'hi' to G-fah. He did a lot too."

    Over the comm you hear your Mom's sweet voice. "Hi Dad. Thanks for do... WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WEARING?!"

    As you step out onto the sidewalk you pull a glass lined vial of acid from your pocket. Glancing up at the sky you notice the unfinished spires of the Las Vegas dome in the distance. You slowly slip your team's old decks into the acid, take a deep breath and smile.
    "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

  • #2
    Re: Title: For Something Other Author: Sean S

    Hack all the People!

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


    • #3
      Re: Title: For Something Other Author: Sean S

      Originally posted by eris View Post
      Hack all the People!

      Good Luck!
      Thanks for the comment Eris. I'm about half way through the stories and there's some great stuff here. Definately more Good and well written stories than prize packages. Your job's not going to be easy.


      • #4
        Re: Title: For Something Other Author: Sean S

        Originally posted by Photonic View Post
        Thanks for the comment Eris. I'm about half way through the stories and there's some great stuff here. Definately more Good and well written stories than prize packages. Your job's not going to be easy.

        Imagination is key to the "hacker" mentality and the contest this year hast proven that once again, for sure. The final winners should definitely feel they worked for what they won. :D
        "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."