Friday, September 14, 2012

Story: The Cause

I wrote another story this week for one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenges.  This one was similar to last week's in that you randomly picked from three buckets of story elements to create your story.  I would have been happy to write in almost any of the genres, and I got cyberpunk.  I love William Gibson, so this pleased me immensely.  For setting, I got Wal-Mart.  Meh, I would have liked any of the other settings, but this would work.  For the element to include, I got a robot.  That would work beautifully with cyberpunk.

My first draft of the story was over 1300 words, which is way over the 1000 word limit.  It was hard to pare down to 1000 words, but I'm coming in at 992 words now.  I had to remove a part of the story that I really liked, but I think that the story is still as good without it.

I hope you enjoy my attempt at cyberpunk, Wal-Mart and robots.


Gibson sat down at a public terminal in the library section of Wal-Mart.  He glanced around to make sure that no security robots were around before plugging his neural adapter into the connector and transferred his consciousness into the terminal.

Inside, he took a moment to get his bearings.  As with most public terminals, viruses and other malware were prevalent.  He ignored those as they couldn't harm him.  He was on the lookout for either an AI or another user connected to this terminal.

Satisfied that he was alone, he began unpacking the tools that he would use for The Cause.  First, he constructed a worker factory.  Workers would free him up for more important tasks.  Then, he built a firewall factory.  The firewall factory would build pieces of firewall code that Gibson had customized to defend this terminal from outside influence while allowing the traffic that he wanted to flow.

Workers started emerging from the factory and he sent them to clean the terminal.  With the firewall factory finished, he began assembling his firewall as his workers began to tear down the terminal's firewall.

Suddenly, several workers were vaporized and Gibson realized he'd forgotten to disable the terminal's antivirus program.  He cursed himself as he couldn't afford any delays.  Antivirus programs were a joke nowadays, but they were still better than leaving a system free to any virus from the 21st century still lurking around.  Also, they could still identify and kill processes trying to overtly seize a machine.  That's what the worker processes would look like to the program.

Gibson left the firewall and went back to his tools.  He pulled out what looked like an tablet computer and punched some keys and told the terminal's OS to disable the antivirus program.  The tablet made the terminal think that he was an administrator, it complied.

He chided himself for forgetting such an easy step and went back to the firewall.  He knew that he had to hurry because the network security AIs would soon detect his firewall and try to retake control of the terminal.  A human couldn't control an AI and they could easily eject him from the machine if he didn't have his defenses up.  An AI wasn't as clever and adaptive as a human, but they made up for that by being faster.

The firewall work was finished before long, which was good, because a moment later a network security AI hit his firewall, trying to access the terminal.  He shored up the port it was trying to access and sent workers to the firewall to maintain it as the AI would start trying to break it down soon.

Gibson took the tablet computer out and opened an unsecured connection to the security terminal of the Wal-Mart.  The security terminal controlled the security robots.  The plan was to destroy every Wal-Mart, worldwide, from the inside in order to try to break the megacorporation's oppressive control of the world's culture and economy.  The security robots would be Wal-Mart's downfall.  If The Cause could break Wal-Mart, it could free the people of the Earth.

He found the security terminal and ordered his workers to start building a secure tunnel to it.  They opened a port in the firewall and began constructing the tunnel as Gibson pinged the security robots.

Panic set in as Gibson realized that one of the security robots was heading his way.  The network security AI must have sent it to physically check out the terminal.  The defenses would have to hold in his absence.

He removed the neural adapter and shoved it into his backpack.  He moved to another terminal as he gripped the EMP gun he had stashed in his backpack.  He pretended to work on the terminal as he waited for the robot.

He didn't have to wait long.  The robot rounded the corner and said, "Greetings, Wal-Mart shopper.  Is there anyone using this terminal?"  The robot was pointing at where Gibson had been sitting before.

"You just missed him," Gibson said, his grip on the EMP tightening.  He used his other hand to point, and said, "He went off towards the bathroom."

The robot looked down at Gibson.  "The security cameras tell me a different story, citizen.  They..."

The robot stopped speaking when Gibson pulled his gun out.  It tried to raise its own weapon, but Gibson had the advantage of being ready.  He fired and the robot crumpled to the ground.  He didn't have much time now, so he quickly plugged back in.

His found that defenses were holding, but there were now three AIs trying to break down the firewall.  He quickly sent all of his workers there and went to complete the tunnel himself.

Once the tunnel was finished, he entered the security terminal.  Luckily, there wasn't an AI there.  They were probably all at his firewall by now.  Soon, it wouldn't matter.  He pulled a small cage out of his tools.  It housed a virus that The Cause wrote just for this occasion.  The virus would take control of the security terminal and order the security robots to destroy the store.

As he released the virus he felt a breach open in his firewall.  He left the virus to its business and hurried back to the tunnel, only to find he was too late.  Two AIs were in the tunnel heading his way.  Trapped, he knew that he was dead.  He couldn't be harmed by an AI if his consciousness was still in the terminal he was physically connected too, but if the tunnel collapsed, his consciousness wouldn't make it back to his brain.

He glanced back to the security terminal and saw that the virus had taken control and had disconnected the terminal from the rest of the network.  The Cause had won in this store.  As the tunnel collapsed around him, Gibson smiled.  He'd done his part to save humanity.

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