Simon sighed as he entered the room he’d been appointed. It was, to sum up, spartan. A folding cot on one side, a desk that dropped down from the wall on the other, and a decidedly uncomfortable-looking stool that was bolted into the deck.
Lucky I packed lightly, he thought, shrugging slightly as his sweat-soaked clothing stuck to him. He hadn’t noticed it before, but now that his was supposedly safe, he was more than aware not only of how wet his clothes were, but how much he stank.
“Guess I better B-link in,” he muttered, lowering himself onto the cot. It creaked ominously under his weight but held. Laying his head down on the stained pillow, he tried to ignore how it smelt.
Lowering his B-link down, he activated a series of firewalls, safety protocols, passive and aggressive anti-intrusion counter-measures.
Come on, simple walk in the park, he thought as he tried, and failed, to settle the butterflies in his stomach. Palms slick, he wiped them on his trousers. Just get in, get out. Simple.
And with a thought he was in Hyper Scape.
Seamless, not even any disorientation, he thought as he found himself in the Hyper Scape hub, a unique instance where he could access various functions such as his locker. He took a quick dive into there to check his various avatars, loading up with a D-tec pistol and a Ripper assault rifle.
Just pray I don’t need the damn things, he thought before opening up a sub-routine he’d created before leaving Prisma Corporation’s plush headquarters. A menu of Hacks appeared. Without a second thought he selected Invisibility and Invulnerability.
Both were Fused to the max, another one of his hacks. He wiped at his brow, blowing his cheeks out in relief. Due to the nature of the hacks, he hadn’t been able to test if they’d even work.
Looking towards the main portal to Neo Arcadia, he thought himself though. Almost before he’d finished the thought he found himself in a square. Buildings surrounded him, covered in neon signs and holographic ads.
It was astonishing, far better than the test he’d been involved in before go-live, the new B-link smoothing every edge, seemingly more real than real life. With a high-pitched whine, a drone travelled overhead.
With no warning it stopped, a search-beam lancing out towards him. Just as quickly he stared running, darting into an alleyway before the beam could touch him.
They know I’m here! He thought, heart hammering in his chest as he sprinted between the tight walls, glad that Neo Arcadia didn’t exactly match the real world as otherwise he’d have been struggling through piles of rubbish, rats, and scavs.
He burst out of the alleyway, staggering as he turned down the next road.
The pounding of his boots on the pavement was loud … the fidelity of Neo Arcadia was amazing. Simon wished he could isolate the audio and kill it – he didn’t need to hear his own footsteps, not when e knew they could find him at any moment.
The digital street seemed clear, as did the glimmering balconies and shimmering rooftops. The first crowds hadn’t reached it yet. But soon every district would be packed with early adopters.
Simon was half-way across the street when he heard the insect whine of a drone – maybe the fidelity wasn’t such a bad thing. He ducked into an archway, watching the drone and Prisma security agents scour the sector.
As he waited for them to pass, he opened up his messaging app and started recording.
“Amandine,” he began, “you’ve heard the news by now. The whole world has. I can’t believe Eiffel is gone. I need to check something in the HYPER SCAPE.”
A probing search-beam swept near him, and he had to move! He leapt up and grabbed the edge of a balcony, swinging up through the window and racing out the other side of the building. A frantic rush followed, dodging drones and security agents.
When he finally got close enough to see his target – a nondescript industrial door – a drone was sweeping the street. Keeping hidden, he reopened the message to Amandine and continued, “I can’t say much – the company could crack these messages. I can hear you saying I’m overreacting but … I’m worried Prisma might be dangerous. I’ll you when I can. Talk soon.”
With a thought he sent the message out across the network. The street looked clear, so he bolted across to reach the door. Simon’s glove lit up blue as it authenticated – then turned an angry red. A warning message popped up, “INVALIDE CODE. ACCESS DENIED.”
No, no, no, thought Simon.
He tried again. “INVALID CODE. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR ADMINISTRAOTR. SECURITY HAS BEEN NOTIFIED.
He froze. At the end of the street a drone whipped around the corner, probe-beams searching.
“Open up!” he hissed.
He could hear the charging footsteps of security. What to do, what to do? Should he bolt?
Suddenly, the door turned transparent, revealing an elegant, silvery feminine form.
“Grace!” Simon said.
“Hello, Simon,” Ultimate Grace replied in her liquid voice.
“You’ve got to let me in!”
“Mathieu left instructions that no one was to enter the MAKER-LAB while he was away.”
The drone pinned Simon with its search-beam. There were only seconds before security descended on him.
“I’m sorry Simon,” Ultimate Grace said, staring at him blankly with those solid blue eyes ….