Thursday, February 17, 2011

Connection: Keep Alive - Part 3

This story takes place one month after the events in The Know Circuit. Part 1 is available here and part 2 is available here

The first thing he saw with his real eyes was a blinding green light, mottled and distorted with months of sleep crusting his eyes. He could feel the whiskers on his face stuck to his skin, the saline solution that filled the interior of the sensory deprivation inner chamber of his crèche feeling like a thick layer of mucus covering him from head to toe. He heard the whoosh of the crèche’s lid opening. Mu could barely open it, his arm filled with lethargic fatigue. As the lid swung open, its lights shut off and he was bathed in a muted darkness, like a bedroom whose only illumination came from a tiny night light. Every muscle ached with lethargy, but he managed to sit up. The gorge rose in this throat, and he promptly threw up over the side, a wracking spasm of dry heaves that shook him for long minutes.

Mu carefully crawled over the side, avoiding the puddle at the foot of the crèche. He could barely stand, but every second he stayed awake brought more feeling into his legs, dispelling the needles that crawled up and down his veins. He leaned over to steady himself. Underneath his hand sat another crèche.

The room he found himself in was probably forty feet square, unadorned and dark, like a prison or barracks. Crèches filled every inch of the place, all dimly lit, their inhabitants unaware of him. The room’s lighting flickered and Mu finally noticed the source of the illumination. One wall of the room had a gigantic hole blasted in it, the edges of the hole still smoldering with tiny flames.

Mu saw something then which led him to believe he might still be in the GlobalNet. Hovering in the hole, oblivious to the impossibility of his being, sat a man. About the same age as Mu, the levitating man was Chinese, dressed head to toe in dark clothing that glinted here and there in the light, golden runic shapes barely visible in the flickering light. A hooded cape draped over his back and fell to the floor. “Ah, you’re awake,” the man said, his legs dropping to the floor.

Stunned that the man actually existed, dismayed that he might still be in captivity, Mu replied, “Fuck, I’m still under aren’t I?”

The Chinese man flashed him a bemused smile. “No, you made it out. This is as real as real gets. Though our perceptions certainly cloud our grasp of reality, and perhaps trick us into believing this is the real reality, the quantam reality we all expect, but the math on that isn’t quite solid yet.”

“What?” Mu asked. His head buzzed.

“Sorry, I ‘m getting a bit ahead of myself. Congratulations are in order. You managed to break the program all on your own.”

“Are you the asshole that put me in this box?”

“Didn’t you put yourself in the box?”

Mu recoiled as if struck. “Ok, technically that’s true. But I didn’t do it expecting to be there six months straight.”

“More like eight months I think. No, I’m not the one who kidnapped you. I am, however, the one who is going to ensure that you are able to get out of here. As well as the rest of your fellow prisoners.”

“Who are you?”

“My name is Wong. I represent a special order of scient… I mean, wizards. We’re wizards. That’s right. I’m a wizard.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Have you heard of the technomancers?”
“What? No, what the hell is a technomancer?”

“Oh right, eight months. Yeah, you probably haven’t heard of us. We don’t have a lot of time. I’d rather not fight the Chinese army that is probably even now headed our way. I just need to…” He began to gesture, his hands dancing in front of him. Mu stared at him in surprise, unable to figure out just what kind of crazy this stranger was inflicted with.

His surprise grew as Wong’s fingers began to glow, a dazzling shower of sparks that danced and dipped around his hands before spreading itself over the entire room, a fog of light that settled to the ground before disappearing. All at once, the crèches shut down, their lids whooshing open, their lights winking out. “Now then, shall we go?”

“How? Where?”

“We’re in Mainland China. Your captors were some very powerful people.”


“They resisted.” His face got very sad for a moment, a fleeting glimpse of vulnerability. “We technomancers had heard of a secret cabal of underground arenas that were using captive hackers to fight against their will. We decided to find you and set you free. Though you didn’t need my help for that.”

“Is that why I’m coming with you?”

Wong nodded. “You were the only one to spot a flaw in the programming and exploit it. Very good work, by the way. I’m impressed.”

Wong had been leading him quickly through a series of hallways, many of them charred and smoking like the room they’d left. His eyes grew wide as he began to see bodies as well, many of them still smoking. Suddenly, Mu stopped in his tracks. “How do I know you didn’t set me up, that this whole thing isn’t some elaborate scam?”

“You don’t. Would you rather go back in the box?”

“Good point.”

“You survived.  Revel in that. And if you are interested, how would you like to be able to do this?”
Again Wong’s fingers danced. But instead of a soothing glow, his hands exploded with a ball of fire that shot from his grasp and exploded against a wall, burning a hole through it to the outside world. Stinking industrialized air blew in with a hint of sea salt wafting across Mu’s nose.

“Are you recruiting me?”

Wong nodded. “No pressure. I’m taking you to safety no matter your answer. You have a gift. Fifty hackers are stuck in this place, all of them in the same situation you were, all probably wracking their brains to figure a way out of that trap. But you did it, you wrote yourself out of it without any help. That kind of creative thinking can be channeled into magic. The things you can create are limitless. Or, you can go back to hacking, waiting for them to try out version 2.0. Your choice.”

Mu didn’t take long to decide.

“Do I get to wear a cape?”

“If you’d like,” Wong replied with a smile.

Mu’s sticky beard split for a grin wide as the sky. “Kanpai, motherfucker.”

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