Poco walked, not fast or slow, through the Saturday afternoon crowds in downtown Seattle. The rich tourists strolling in and out of Nordstrom glowed bright blue in his field of vision, useless full sensory data being broadcast back over weakly encrypted frequencies to their fully automated hotel suites, from whence the data was uploaded to their family albums to--in all likelihood--never be experienced again. What a fuckin' waste. Of bandwidth, of cycles, it made him want to lash out with one of the nasties he had just added to his toolkit.

He settled for giving them a gift, a little wormlet that would wiggle into their personal networks, subtly corrupting the datastreams they were feeding back to their core selves. Even if they had planned on ever reliving this vacation, they wouldn't now. These moments, for these people, were again ephemeral. They were probably the first moments not perfectly recorded and archived in these peoples' lives. He wondered if they would be as pleased when they found they had received the gift as he was to give it.

As he passed west of 5th Avenue thoughts of tourists left his mind. On most days he would have spent some time screwing with them; he had tons of tools that were perfect for showing these oblivious idiots just how dangerous it could be to have trendy commercial software pre-processing your sensory input. Today was different, though. Today he had a goal--a seriously large cash payoff for delivering a few thousand gigs of data. It was probably illegal malware, but he figured it was none of his damn business.

He dropped one more little surprise for them, he couldn't resist. In a few minutes their navigation subsystems were going to completely freak out and, if they were using the software that their traffic patterns suggested they were, the navigation system was going to cut off their visual inputs for a few minutes. Their immune systems should recognize the pathogen quickly, well as quickly as their suddenly saturated 100 mbit channels could transport the necessary queries between them and the proper databases, after which they'd be all the way back to normal.

He called out to Messalina, his goal, "I have your thing".

The bright red line of his own dedicated comm channel--narrowcast to one of the numerous line of sight stations he had scattered about for himself, none of this broadcast bullshit for him, he liked security--intensified as she appeared next to him on the street.

"I want it over a secure channel", she said, passing through the wall of the bus stop shelter, "there's a partial instance of me near the head shop in the market. Go there".

She faded out as he kept walking. His immune system noticed that it took an extra few megabytes of data to terminate the transaction than normal with her, but after a moment of trolling databases wrote it off as her normal erratic software behavior. She was his vision of the hacker goddess, he had long since grown used to the fact that she was perpetually riding the crest of the technology wave. Living in the dangerous land of beta code for critical systems. He wasn't that gutsy.

As he approached the head shop the air grew redolent of incense and cannabis, the lights grew dimmer and farther away in the smoke rising up from nearly every sophont in the crowded hallway. Effective artificial lungs had removed most objections to public smoking long before genetic repair became capable of cleaning up the host of other cancers that it facilitated, but even that had been 30 years ago. His vision system brightened an off-the-hall nook, he had detected her signature.

It turned out to be a small recess leading into a dingy public bathroom. He stepped in and quickly suppressed olfactory input, the room stank. He cast his gaze about, expecting to find some small input device, probably an optical jack the size of the head of a pin with a hair thin line running from it to one of the building's high bandwidth pipes. What he found instead was a small, extremely light-skinned man with a thin poof of white hair standing up on the top of his head swinging a most inelegant heavy object at his ear.

His immune system flashed an urgent interrupt, breaking off all input channels as it informed him of a critical compromise in personal area security. A foreign piece of software had hooked into his navigation and positioning systems and raised an alarm to his vision when the headshop came into view. The immunodaemon was fairly sure the code had piggy backed in on the end of Messalina's transmission and was recommending he not talk to her over any higher-protocol channels. He authorized the production of additional antibodies to process input from her, but didn't approve the request for a complete block of packets. Satisfied, his immune system restored normal sensory input.

His face exploded in a ball of white agony and hot blood. He fell to the ground screaming as the gross physical attack was joined by an even more terrifying network attack. This was a gift he wouldn't appreciate for a very long time.


Next: Messalina prepares to run

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