[So thanksgiving time here in the US is usually a pretty busy time. I think I’ll go with that as my excuse for not updating Monday. You buy that right? Right? :p]
It wasn’t that systems security was an inherently boring job. Hando liked his job generally. He liked programming ICE, he liked laying the traps and the decoys, he liked knowing he was keeping the wolves at bay. The job wasn’t boring. Except right *now* it was boring. It was boring the hell out of him.
The problem was one that Hando never thought he would encounter: a lack of decent runners. Oh sure, there was never a shortage of runners, black hats, and jockeys, but it was quality that was lacking. Gone were the days of legendary hackers like Morph. Hando knew his own company had had a hand in that. After the video of Morph having his head blown off was leaked, all the smart runners had retired. The rules had changed with that killing. The code used to be civilized. The way things worked before, if you were caught by a megacorp, you either got black bagged or given a job. It was a more civilized time. Things had dissolve to barbarism. Meddle with a zaibatsu, and get your fucking face blown off, on camera. It was a damn shame. Hando got the sense that a golden age had past.
He feared his job would be boring for the rest of his days.
Until 18 alarms began screaming at once. Hando scrambled to assess the situation. Outer ICE was being cracked. Decoys were being ignored. Mazes and barriers were being cut through like they were nothing. Hando recognized all the signs. This wasn’t a kid with an off-the-shelf deck. This was an old school runner. Hando smiled at the screen. He had felt terrible before, thinking his interior ICE would never see action, but now he had a chance to show this jockey real ICE. Hando hoped the runner would appreciate the defense as much as he appreciated the runner’s own skill. He saw the runner approaching the ICE. Contact was made. It slowed the runner, somewhat.
Hando was flabbergasted by this runner. He was a humble man, but that ICE was his finest creation. It was protecting secrets which could ruin captains of industry. Proprietary data worth millions, perhaps billions. He had made a defense more than worth of the treasure it protected, and yet the hacker was advancing. It was not possible.
Hando had only one defense left after this. He grabbed the neural jack from the desk and jammed it into the port in his neck. He felt the lightheadedness and his vision flashed brilliant white. He stood atop his last barrier, black ICE, and looked out at his defenses. Amid his crumbling battlements, there was a flash of light. It was like a drill boring through. He steeled himself, prepared a counter attack. As the runner finally approached, the drill which had been vaguely shaped light took form. A horse, no, a horse and rider. And feathers. Was the horse winged or the woman. He unleashed his counter attack, meant to disconnect this runner with harsh side effects and a trace on top. He never got the chance to use it. The woman rode him down with unimaginable speed. Seeming to come at him from three directions at once. Hando whirled around trying to figure out which were decoys when the runner unleashed her own attack. Hando shouted in pain and yanked at the burning neural jack. Pulling it from the socket in his neck and throwing it away like it was on fire. He looked at the screen, totally blank now, save for 4 characters:
0 s l 0
So that was her name, he thought. Hando sunk back into his chair. His job was about to get so much harder. He’d have to explain this to the board, of course, and he’d have to fight something fierce to keep his job. But he had to keep that job. He had to find himself opposite that runner again. Had to see that level of skill again. And next time, Hando said, smiling, I’ll give her something worthy to fight. This Valkyrie runner. 0sl0