Author: chrysanth PM
Nox, a 22 year-old hacker, found himself cast out of the city he was born and raised in and into the notorious area of backward laws and criminals outside the city borders, known by most as the Fringe. It is from the Fringe that he and his friends determine that they must get back into the city and take down the so-called "flawless" computer overlord, Pangaea. M/M Slash.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 12,657 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 04-04-13 - Published: 10-11-12 - id: 3064736
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Beee-ep! Items #461-13 and #368-09 have been successfully purchased. Transaction 9334521 complete. Thank you for choosing Algernon_techmart, location 0001 4412 908, valued customer 0001-928 1!
Phillip Marcosson, no. 0001 5739 2928 6, fixed the collar of his shirt as he left the convenience store-plastic bag of milk and sugar in hand-to hide the raised spot on his neck where his identity chip had been scanned. As a portly man of about 45, he was both well-accustomed to the way that you had to be scanned to do anything these days and capable of remembering way back in his childhood, when paper currency had still been used. Lately he'd refused to allow himself a preference between the two because, either way, it made no difference.
The technical and electrical basis of everything was really just second nature now. He did not think twice of the self-cleaning sidewalk that automatically dulled the sounds of his footfall as he walked-as it was late and people were easily woken these days-and did not spare a glance to the advertisements silently coming to life and scrolling across the immaculate glass of the commercial building as he passed by, evidently taking notice of his bag and hoping to send him back to the store to pick up a whole cartful of unnecessary items.
With his free hand he pushed a button at the tear duct of his left eye, and the time flashed to him through his new contact lenses. It was half past midnight and he needed to get home to his daughter; there was a rain cycle scheduled soon and she didn't like being alone at night. Phillip walked more quickly now, the bag grazing his leg lightly with every other step.
The transition from the commercial district to the residential was, for the most part, a subtle one. There gradually came to be larger patches of grass and the buildings became less and less tall as the street went on. Phillip finally came to his apartment building after a block or two.
The home that he shared with his daughter was the most expensive on the block. As it was on the ground floor and had its own separate entrance, it more closely resembled an old-style house with a building on top of it. The windows were large, almost enough to qualify as walls in their own right. The front door was made of the same paneled glass as the walls, so if not for the thin silver lining of it, it would be completely indistinguishable.
He could see his daughter through the tinted windows more and more easily as he approached. She was laying on the couch, watching television. It was long past her bedtime, he remembered, and then had to remind himself not to say anything. She was nearly grown up now; it was time for him to lax his control. To let go. He didn't want to.
When he placed his hand on the glass and the door didn't slide open immediately, he should have known something was wrong. Instead, he tried again. For a moment, nothing happened-and then the entirety of the door panel flashed red. He could faintly hear the sound of the alarm going off inside. To his right, on the window, text appeared:
CODE NOT RECOGNIZED. ACCESS DENIED. CODE NOT RECOGNIZED. ERROR CODE 4463AAX. AUTHORITIES NOTIFIED.
Phillip's daughter sprung off the couch at the first sound of something going wrong. She could see her father, he was right there. Why couldn't he get in? He'd only left twenty minutes ago, surely there was some sort of mistake-
But there wasn't. There were never mistakes. The girl, Mia, was trying desperately to override the security system by entering the pin on the keypad inside, but to no avail. The house was on lockdown-it would not let Mia out nor Phillip in no matter what they did. Phillip knew this because he'd designed the system himself when Mia was young so that she would always be safe. From inside, she wouldn't be able to hear any instructions he might have tried to give. From outside, he couldn't tell her not to worry, that everything would be okay, that there had to just be a glitch in the system.
He could hear the police cars approaching, their sirens quiet but echoing down from the commercial district, back in the direction from which he came. Mia could see the flashing blue and red lights. Through the colorful reflections on the window, Phillip could see that she was crying. She was pounding on the glass as if she believed that she could break it so easily.
Phillip turned around to greet the policemen when they approached, to be polite as well as to explain that there was really nothing wrong, here, and he was sorry for wasting their time. But they wouldn't listen. He couldn't see their eyes through their helmets nor the shape of their bodies underneath the different protective devices they wore. Without speaking a word, one grabbed him firmly by the shoulder and forced him to turn around. It was when he felt the cool reinforced plastic of the handcuffs that he began to struggle and panic.
From this angle, Phillip could tell that Mia was screaming and kicking at the windows now, tears streaming down her face. She was yelling something, but for all the shaking she was doing, he couldn't manage to read her lips.
The warm touch of a special police-issue scanner to the side of his neck brought him back to his own predicament. If mechanical beeps could sound any particular way, this one sounded both negative and angry.
"No code," he heard one of the police officers mutter to the other. Phillip, to his extreme credit, managed to maintain most of his composure when they began to drag him backwards toward his vehicle. He managed to stay calm, for the most part, despite knowing that only 4% of criminals in Opis, once arrested, were ever released back into the city. His breath was deep and labored, but even.
He didn't look back to his house, to his daughter, until the policemen slid him into a seat and pushed the button to make the door slide closed. She was standing there, alone, with her hand pressed to the glass, the living room looking a lot like a prison cell behind her. There was a resigned, weighted slope to her shoulders. When she realized she'd caught his eyes, she touched her heart and then touched the glass again. She was not crying anymore. Strong, just like her mother was, before-
It wasn't until he was engulfed in complete darkness and sensed movement beneath him that he began to heave dry, silent sobs.
Benjamin Davies, no. 0001 2234 8547 2 and 28 years of age, was lucky enough to live close enough to the Weather wing of the main government building at the center of Opis to walk there from his apartment. This meant that, thankfully, despite the fact that he often worked the graveyard shift, he was often able to keep decently normal hours of sleep. He yawned as he walked and stretched his arms up above his head, untucking the hem of his white button-up shirt from his black dress pants.
He stopped at a small 24 hour coffee booth at the corner across the street from his office lit with fluorescent green bulbs and neon lights, allowing the mechanical arm to scan his neck. A tinny, cheerful voice from a speaker to his left declared its gratitude for his patronage as he left, warming his chilly hands around the warm drink. Since caffeine was outlawed so many years ago, the beverage itself wouldn't do much for him but there was something to be said for culture and tradition.
The rain cycle was scheduled to start in less than ten minutes and Benjamin had to be at his desk to monitor it, so he picked up his pace and made his way to the office. He got in without issue. He started the rain cycle without a problem. He clocked out for his thirty minute break just fine, but when he went to log back in to the Pangaea interface, his fingerprint scan didn't work properly and he was arrested within minutes. They said he didn't have a code and was in the city illegally-never mind the fact that he'd obviously been going about his business just fine minutes before.
That didn't matter; Pangaea never made mistakes, but people were known to lie.
Lauren Goldstein, a 19 year-old college sophomore, identification no. 0001 6893 2460 8, snuck out of her dorm late one night to see her new boyfriend for a little while. She'd never done it before and didn't intend to make a habit of it, but she was intrigued by the idea of doing something to have fun for once and taking a break from studying. She couldn't sleep, anyway.
As it was a place with many young people, there was four different security checkpoints Lauren had to pass through to get back inside, shower, and nod off to sleep. There were no classes the next day and she was looking forward to being able to sleep in.
Unfortunately, two security checkpoints in, Lauren found herself caught between two separate glass doors, unable to move forward into the next one or back outside to get help. The outdated screen on the wall which normally showed each person's ID number as they passed through read "ERROR 4463AAX," and then the text scrolled sideways, allowing more words to be read on the tiny display:
"ERROR 4463AAX… 00000000XXXXX…. LOCKDOWN INITIATED… ERROR 4463AAX…"
And so forth. Lauren was stuck in a 4ft by 4ft box, able to see far behind and far in front of her but unable to proceed any further. She screamed, but no one heard her. She pounded on the walls, but nothing gave. While her classmates slept peaceful, dreamless sleeps around her, Lauren was contained in a cell too small to lay down in for almost an hour. While she waited, she thought herself in circles and became resigned to the idea that her life as she knew it was definitely over.
As inappropriate as it was, all she could manage to do was laugh at the thought of what her parents would think as the police restrained her.
YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO ENTER HEAVILY PROTECTED DATA
MODIFYING CONTENTS MAY RESULT IN EXTREME NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES _
SPEAK YES TO CONTINUE _
SPEAK NO TO RETURN TO HOME SCREEN
"System override. Zero zero zero one."
YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO ENTER HEAVILY PROTECTED DATA
UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY IS PUNISHABLE BY LAW _
WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONTINUE?
SPEAK YES TO CONTINUE _
SPEAK NO TO RETURN TO HOME SCREEN
COMMAND NOT RECOGNIZED
COMMAND NOT RECOGNIZED _
COMMAND NOT RECOGNIZED
UNAUTHORIZED ENTRY IS PUNISHABLE BY LAW
SPEAK YES TO CONTINUE
SPEAK NO TO RETURN TO HOME SCREEN _
"Pangaea defense system, disarm. Filipendula ulmaria."
WELCOME TO PANGAEA, Nikola Tesla _
Nicholas allowed himself a satisfied smile. Though he had been raised and bottle fed by technology and software, respectively, he had long since become disenchanted with the system.
Pangaea was the biggest and most widely used computer system in the modern world, a sort of crown at the top of the head of mankind. She was smart, created and run by 50% human input and 50% artificial intelligence, and she was fast. He could delete any essential file in the database and within minutes, she would detect and repair the missing link. The world ran on Pangaea and Pangaea on the world. All the propaganda and news spoke of Pangaea almost as a goddess in her own right; infallible, infinitely intelligent, omnipotent, omniscient. She single-handedly made an entire civilization obsolete. Hate her or love her, she was everywhere, and she had been for long enough that not many people around could remember a world in which she did not exist or was not necessary.
And Nox did hate her-but also had to respect her, to a point. His parents created her with their own hands and minds-his father, the hardware, and his mother, the software. In a way running Pangaea was his birthright, so it only made sense that he should be the one to run her straight into the ground.
However, despite what the media would have everyone believe, she was not flawless. If you just knew what to delete, something that changed so often that the additions and losses would slide right under the radar, eventually there would be nothing left that she recognized and thus would be rendered not only unusable, but also entirely irrelevant. If enough data was missing, people would have no choice but to cast the flawed system aside.
So, in an effort to make Pangaea's database have all the substance of Swiss cheese, Nox deleted the people. Of course, they continued to exist, but with their identification codes removed from the database, Pangaea had no record of their existence and cut them right out of Opis. This fatal flaw began as an attempt to save space in the main computer's memory drive. Once a person was dead, their data was wiped to make space for the coming data of newborn citizens. Of course, if someone were to do something truly noteworthy, the record of that event and their name would be recorded in the rarely-opened history files. The identification code was still forever gone, and so the system could continue without requiring a person to monitor birth and death records to save space. Efficiency to a fault.
He had been doing this for a few years now, entirely undetected. No record of previous crimes was kept because the punishments were all handled through the system which had very little use for them. Crimes of missing identities could not possibly be recorded without the identification numbers to save them to. If anyone in the legal system noticed a spike in occurrences, they had no way to know whether or not they were actually noticing a change at all. Nox was committing the perfect crime.
Thus, it was not that which led to him being cast out of the city. No, those many crimes were still undetected. He was caught in the process of hacking into the monetary records to pay his rent.
0001 5739 2928 6
0001 2234 8547 2
0001 8934 2390 7
0001 3489 2984 1
0001 6893 2460 8
0001 7837 5322 1
0001 9348 2039 4
0001 5849 3948 5
0001 4384 2394 3
0001 1386 2057 9
Nicholas had a strange habit of writing. He kept records of all the codes he deleted. It wasn't like he would ever need them, but he liked to have them. If nothing else, it let him know how many people he'd freed from their ignorance and suppression. These were just the identification numbers he'd deleted over the last couple of days; he'd filled half the notebook he'd found the first day he'd been out of the city.
DELETE SELECTED FILES? _
ARE YOU SURE? DELETED DATA IS INACCESABLE, NOT STORED IN BACKUP DRIVES…
SELECTED FILES DELETED. _
He signed out of the system, disassembled the computer he'd rigged, lit a match, and dropped it onto the motherboard. There was a sizzle and a spark, and suddenly his recent actions were untraceable. He could never be too safe. While punishments of death were few and far between these days, he felt fairly sure the government would make an exception in his unique case. He may not have been the only one deleting codes, but he was definitely the most likely to be caught. With the frequency of his offences and the fame of his parents, he was almost asking for it.
Nox packed up the parts of the computer that he could still safely use- an old school keyboard and monitor, his modified voice distorting microphone, and various wires- along with his record notebook and two black pens into his yellow backpack and headed out of his temporary living quarters. His boot caught on the broken glass of what used to be the front door of the building as he left.
For all of its disorder, the world outside of the cities was really rather beautiful. Though the streets were peppered with trash and overgrown with weeds, it was refreshing to catch a glimpse of what life might have been like without the takeover of technology. Vines and leaves and roots grew over concrete and foundation; trees sprung forth from ashes and asphalt. Flowers and berries of colors so dull compared to those of the city captured the eyes, despite the imperfections and the varying states of decay. There was no definite cure for diseases, no vaccines, no carefully monitored weather cycles. Things died here before they were supposed to and, in that, they thrived.
Nicholas remembered being overwhelmed when he was first sent to the Fringe. He, like everyone else, was raised in a sterile environment of planned procedures and obvious outcomes. Thankfully, unlike everyone else, he learned from his parents what a world without such things would be like. It was different, and he loved it. Of course, that isn't to say that he would stay here if the opportunity to return to Opis presented itself. He preferred to think of his current situation as a sort of unplanned vacation.
The sky was gray and overcast that early morning, and a bit colder than the regulated temperatures he was used to. It cast the colorful world around him into an eerie light. Even the flora seemed to huddle into itself in discomfort.
He made his way down the cracked and ruined city street, pausing here and there to listen to the birds. It was strange, but he couldn't remember ever really hearing any birds in the city. He knew they were there, all around him, but he couldn't once remember stopping to listen to a song. A tree blocked his way, growing straight up out of the sidewalk, its branches buckling under their own unhealthy weight and dusting across the ground with the slight breeze. Never one for set courses of action, Nicholas altered his route and headed out toward the forest. He was in no rush to get back indoors, and he had the strange feeling of being watched. It was not an uncommon feeling, what with the animals hiding around every corner here but he could never really be too safe as this was, after all, a place designated specifically for dangerous criminals.
What? It didn't sound like a normal cough, not one of someone choking on something, or an animal's, but a genuine, unhealthy human cough. He'd seen it happen, seen many videos, but since the universal vaccine was invented, no one coughed like that anymore. Could it be, someone who had never been vaccinated? Someone who had never lived in the city? Would they be like he imagined they would? And, moreover, could he, with his superior knowledge and immunity, help them? He found himself wandering toward the sound. The investigation was not in vain.