I had a lot of trouble whit this piece. I had a friend challenge me to write something with a cyberpunk vibe and it ended up being much more difficult for me than I expected. I’ve only read one or two cyberpunk books in my life and that was years ago. And to top it off, the prompt didn’t easily lend itself to that sort of story (at least not in my mind). I actually ended up writing three entirely different stories, starting from scratch each time, which not only destroyed my two-hour rule but has given me a massive backlog of pieces I need to write to catch up.
My goal is to get Day 11 out tonight, and then Days 12 and 13 out tomorrow early in the morning before I have to take care of social obligations at night. I’ve also got some notes on my book, so I need to start working on that as well this weekend—and I really want to finish reading Magician: Apprentice, so I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me. Anyway, finally, here’s Day 10:
Prompt: “The kingdom was like a quilt.”
The screen scrolled with Dai’s eyes as he scanned the map for abnormalities. Satisfied everything looked normal, he checked the small tattoo on the inside of his wrist for the time: 3 am. He was cutting it close.
Dai readjusted the Mind Jack were it connected to the base of his skull. He’d rerouted all the automated security and set the cameras on loop giving him a clear path to the Cluster. He’d gone over the plan so many times he could, and had, recite it in his sleep, but he was still nervous. Normally when someone hired Dai, he’d be working from the comfort of his living room, not jacked into a port on the actual facility.
Catching movement on the far corner of his screen, Dai scrolled with his eyes. “Crap.” He hated dealing with Kernel INfiltration Guard DOMains—or KINGDOMs for short—and this one was especially frustrating. The KINGDOM was like a quilt. A massive security system made up of hodgepodge pieces, stitched together. The first time Dai had dealt with a KINGDOM he thought the job would be easy. But the deeper he’d delved, the more he’d realized how much of a pain the modularization actually was. Every time he dealt with a KINGDOM he had to hack each security measure individually and the monotony made it easy to miss something.
Flipping a switch on his Mind Jack, Dai’s eyes went wide as information flooded his senses, converted from 1’s and 0’s into electrical impulses easily read by his brain. His mind worked like a computer. Breaking his consciousness into hundreds of tiny asynchronous tasks—one for each thing that needed doing. The Jack grew hot against his skin as it struggled to convert his mental calculations into signals readable by the computer. Even the latest model had trouble processing the volume of information Dai could send through it.
A moment later, he broke the connection. Glancing back at the screen, he watched as the security drones turned back the way they had come. Removing the Jack from the base of his skull, Dai packed up the heavy cable in his duffle and slung it over his shoulder.
A lump formed in Dai’s throat as he found himself in front of Providence. He’d heard about it before the job, but seeing it first hand was an entirely different experience. Running the full fifty feet from the floor to the ceiling, and as wide as a six-lane highway, the supercomputer was huge. But it wasn’t the size of it that shook him. It was what it was made of. Unlike most supercomputer clusters, Providence wasn’t made from an array of servers, crunching numbers at the click of a button, it was a network of minds. Human brains kept alive in glass cases and meshed together to form the fastest computing machine on the planet.
Refocusing on the task at hand, Dai hustled to the terminal in the center of the room. He had to be quick. Even though he’d jacked in onsite there was only so much he could do to cripple a KINGDOM. He swiped the digital ink on his wrist and pulled up the serial number he needed. Using the credentials he’d dug up, Dai worked the terminal. A moment later, a silver arm dropped from the ceiling and snaked around Providence until it found the brain matching serial number 1XJ24. Working it from its housing, the arm swept the case to Dai.
Dai shifted uncomfortably. There had been small hiccups, but so far the job had been too easy—and that made him uneasy. Lifting the case from the silver arm, Dai froze as he looked inside it.
The glass was empty.
The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, and without even bothering to log out of the terminal, Dai turned on a dime and started out of the room at a brisk walk, resisting the urge to run. Something was wrong, but a KINGDOM would pick him up on the cameras if he started running.
He made it two steps before sirens went off, and four more before the doors to the room sealed shut. “Shit!” Dai fished his Mind Jack from the duffle and sprinted back to the terminal. Connecting the heavy cable to the base of the terminal, Dai jacked himself in.
Everything was normal for a moment, and then his mind was on fire, like thousands of needles were stabbing his brain simultaneously. His eyes went wide. This wasn’t the work of a KINGDOM. Dai looked up. It was Providence. The terminal was linked to the supercomputer. It was hacking him. Dai tried to divide his consciousness into enough pieces to defend himself, but the effort was in vain. In under a second, he was on the ground—his mind devolved into involuntary blackness.
Dai had no idea where he’d woken up. He knew he was jacked in, he could feel the familiar tingling sensation of information flooding his mind, but that was it. Where ever he was being kept was pitch black. Sending his senses through the wires, Dai snaked his way through the system, searching the room’s network for anything that could give him a clearer picture of the situation. He was still somewhere on the facility, he could tell that much.
Finding an easy to explot camera, Dai’s senses came alive as his brain processed the data from the live stream into something he could see. He was still in the room with Providence. Panning the camera back and fourth, he struggled to find his body.
“Up and to the left.” Dai felt the message over his Mind Jack, followed quickly by the sensation of someone else moving the camera. Panning it back to Providence, the other presence zoomed the camera in on case number 1XJ24. Dai felt panic gnawing at the edge of his consciousness. The case was full.
Thousands of voices spoke simultaneously, “Welcome to Providence, Daikichi.”