It Is All One System

EXCERPT FROM SIGNIFICANT CONTACT (Beautiful Resistance Book 2 of 3)

She was waiting when Cole entered MassNet, his body hooked to the same throne he’d helped repair previously for Nibiru’s extraction. It had been moved however, to a new site he’d never been to before, a cramped basement in one of the multitudes of habitation blocks in a part of the city rough enough that most people just looked the other way if anything suspiscious was going down. There were only a few people to watch over him while he worked, with only one Akiaten warrior present, and it lent a sense of urgency to his actions. If this mission went SNAFU and a hostile slinger was able to tag him, he’d be lucky to survive, as there was only the one exit. So don’t blow it Cole, he said to himself as Eight materialized on the metaphorical rooftop next to him in the digital realm.

The others, Cabal, Una, and a handful of Akiaten had piled into the back of a beat up van, and were well on their way to E-Bloc’s supply house. E-Bloc was not likely to be expecting an attack, though in this game one could never be too careful. According to the modest briefing he gotten from Cabal just before everyone split up to go their separate ways was that Union Americana had gone rather quiet in the absence of Hayden and Nibiru. Some of his warriors had spotted Laine in the streets a few days back, and they tracked her for several hours before moving in to engage, only to find the body of what they assumed to be a dead courier, Asia Prime by the looks of him, with his data drives ripped out, and no sign of the alpha augment. He imagined that most of their manpower was focused now on finding the pulse with what resources remained to them rather than wasting time harassing the resistance, as E-Bloc and Asia Prime had been doing plenty of that for them.

Lunatic 8 stood next to Hayden, or more to the point floated just off the ground next to him, her hair billowing from unseen wind and her lips drawn into a thin line without so much as a hello. He expected the same larger than life projection of her that she used to speak to him when it was just the two of them in the island’s network, tapping into the myriad of hotspots they’d set up on the island to make up for its lack of a high functioning power grid. Here, now, she was almost understated, movements barely visible, but still instrumental.

To his mind’s eye the E-Bloc compound appeared much like it did in physical reality, a collection of warehouse buildings arranged around a courtyard filled with shipping containers, with a series of docking bays near the back for road and air shipping and receiving. Hayden had always been a slinger who experienced MassNet as being something of a proxy of the physical world. There were many other slingers who described rich and vibrant fantasy worlds, while others experienced it in such an abstract sense that it was difficult to put into words. Though he was on the more mundane end of the MassNet metaphor spectrum, Hayden’s mind was adept at presenting itself with useful illusions that described what was happening in the code.

As he looked down from his perch Hayden slid a pair of stylish sunglasses out of his jacket pocket and put them over his eyes. He tapped on them continuously, and each time his finger stroked the frames the lenses would change color. It was a spectrum.exe that allowed Hayden to sift through the cascading datastream, piecing together security programs that had been discreetly woven into both the wireless and hard systems of the compound. While he might not be able to move between MassNet and CodeSource with the level of mastery as Lunatic 8 or Sun, Hayden had used some of his time on the island to come up with a few adaptations.

Build on your strengths and partition your weakness, thought Hayden as he continued to pull lines of code from the different metaphorical light spectrums, and soon a shape began to reveal itself surrounding the compound. With some patience and a new custom exe of which Hayden was rather proud, he was able to pull information from CodeSource and combine it with the MassNet hallucination to give himself a reliable picture of the wireless and hard systems that comprised the compound’s security grid. To his eyes the grid was a shimmering dome of wire mesh that radiated a menacing heat.

Hayden looked up from the compound and watched Lunatic 8’s eyes blink, and Hayden was positive that she’d just accomplished in a moment what had taken him days to build. He looked back at the compound and saw with his adjusted spectrum what appeared to his eyes as a shimmering field of energy around the compound. It looked almost like a dome, but made of lightning, and Hayden didn’t have to stretch his skills much to confirm that the field was capable of causing tremendous damage. It appeared to function, as he further observed its cascading code, as a conventional electric fence might in the physical realm, only one that had a deep enough database to differentiate friend from foe with some degree of accuracy.

“That is some pretty intense digital security for a warehouse facility,” mused Hayden as he pulled what his imagination saw as a rubic’s cube from the folds of his jacket, “They must be expecting something like this.”

“E-Bloc thinks in linear terms, they will expect a smash and grab because it is how they would conduct such an operation,” breathed Eight as she slowly floated over to Hayden and placed one hand gently on his shoulder, causing him to flinch as where her fingers touched him he could see streams of code rippling out, as if her very digital body radiated a sort of field that warped the MassNet hallucination to her own abstract view of it. Suddenly Hayden had a flash of understanding, and began to consider the idea that Eight wasn’t so brilliant at coding so much as her own imagination overpowered MassNet around her. It was as if she was a god inside her own bubble, and since that bubble moved with her, she was never anywhere in the digital realm but her own inner universe. How a mind could handle such a perpetual information tsunami was beyond him, and the slinger looked away from his shoulder, carefully ignoring how her touch revealed his avatar for the flimsy construct that it was.

“Well isn’t that the plan? Pull down the grid and then take what we need. E-Bloc wouldn’t even bother slicing security, they’d just knock out the power grid with bolt-cutters and explosives, then storm the place,” Hayden said as he returned his focus to the rubic’s cube, his metaphor for the masterkey delivery system, a purely digital operating platform that he’d been using for years, slowly modifying and upgrading it as his career continued, “Instead, when the drones are in range we wait till they connect with the system in order to communicate passcodes.”

Hayden finished moving the sliding cubes on his device, allowing his metaphor to seem as if he’d solved the puzzle and made each side a single color. He held it up to Eight.

“I graft the masterkey to the first drone, it will slip a hook into the motherboard. When the drone and the system complete their handshake I’ve modified the masterkey to send a spike.exe through the link,” said Hayden, proud of himself for the brilliant bit of coding and yet annoyed that he felt compelled to seek approval from the fractured slinger, “It brings down security without having to kill the whole grid or blow anything up. Then our people have the run of the place.”

“That would be the Union way, an elegant combination of slicing and combat operations, but it is not our way,” breathed Eight as she gently took the masterkey from Hayden’s hand and stared at it intently as she spoke, and already the operating system was glowing from her swift re-code, “You will recall that it cost the resistance blood when Akiaten raided the Union HQ during your digital conflict. Each company has developed, through trial and error, a methodology that is best suited to its corporate culture and capabilities. So too has the resistance, even if our learning curve has been steep and costly by necessity.”

Eight handed the cube back to Hayden and then looked at him expectantly. The slinger turned from her piercing gaze and investigated the cube. He knew she’d changed it, but from her expression he got the distinct impression that she wanted him to tell her what she’d done. It was a test, even if her demeanor insisted that it was a friendly, and Hayden found himself struggling to keep his ego from being bruised by the sudden role reversal of teacher and student. He’d been rapping knuckles and assigning homework to lesser slingers, and cursed himself for apparently having gotten overly comfortable being i the dominant position.

Hayden peered into the cube, which was now a jumble of colors, the single color sides arranged in a pattern that he struggled to comprehend.

“Look past the metaphor,” whispered Eight as she knelt beside him, “See the code.”

“The metaphor is what allows us to process the sheer volume of code,” snapped Hayden, perhaps more petulantly than he’d intended, though Eight seemed not to mind, and he added, “That’s the whole point of MassNet. If our minds could handle it we’d just stick with CodeSource.”

“The physical brain does not differentiate between waking consciousness and the realm of dreams. CodeSource is the body Hayden Cole, and MassNet is that body’s dream. When you let go of the metaphor, when you focus on the code alone, it doesn’t matter whether your are dreaming or if you are awake,” whispered Eight in a sing song voice that gave Hayden the same sort of feeling he’d have if Laine 2.0 was suddenly behind him, a predator in its chosen hunting ground, “It is all one system.”

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Altered Carbon Aftermath

Like many, I have been enjoying the new Netflix series ‘Altered Carbon’ and like many authors I have been daydreaming about what my own cyberpunk epic might look like on screen. The filmmakers did a fantastic job with AC and I encourage any and all of my readers to check out the show. When I see something like that I am encouraged to continue, at least on occasion, to create cyberpunk fiction. As a genre cyberpunk has a significant ebb and flow in its popularity (thus sales) unlike the more stable military scifi and creature feature genres, and so I only plug into those wires when the story is burning through my spirit for release onto the page. Seeing the Takeshi Kovacs series of novels (Altered Carbon being the first) make their way to the screen and to witness a resurgence in the popularity of the novels is extremely heartening.

For those of you who are into my military science fiction series ‘Necrospace‘ or the ‘Extinction Fleet‘ trilogy, I encourage you to give ‘Beautiful Resistance‘ a chance.

High-tech mercenaries find themselves pitted against freerunning revolutionaries as global corporate warfare becomes centered around a struggling island nation and the freedom fighters defending their home.

*a character profile I commissioned

Check out Defiance Pattern (Book 1) and Opposition Shift (Book 2)

The second novel in the series has arrived, with the third having been submitted to the publisher and added to their line up.

The corporate slinger Hayden Cole finds himself seeing a different side of the clandestine war over the mysterious island energy source, learns that the some of the warriors have a dark secret, and are anything but human. The legendary slinger Lunatic 8 wages a one woman cyberwar for the resistance, matching the hackers of her corporate rivals program for program in the virtual dreamworld of Massnet, while Hirohito, the deadly cyborg, is unleashed. Hayden and his engineer partner Nibiru begin to question their loyalties as they witness the freedom fighters struggling to stay one step ahead of mercenary death squads.

The streets of the city are full of gun smoke and the wires of cyberspace hum with digital violence as opposing forces struggle over wealth, freedom, and the very soul of the islands in this grim futuristic thriller.

Your Wires Are Showing

“The future is already here — It’s just not evenly distributed.” – William Gibson

It was so much easier to write cyberpunk fiction in the days before laptops, iphones, and bluetooth. Or maybe easy isn’t quite the right word, since the authors of the 80’s & 90’s were making up the technology as they went, imagining it freshly in their minds as they forged the motherboard of a genre that was just as much about style as it was substance.

High Tech Low Life

It was glorious. I cannot say enough about how shaped I have been by the works of William Gibson, specifically Neuromancer, the Shadowrun and Netrunner pen & paper role playing games, the anime Ghost in the Shell, and of course our man Philip K. Dick with stories and resulting film adaptations like Minority Report and Blade Runner. I love the movie Johnny Mnemonic, and no gushing about cybepunk from decades past would be complete without mention of The Matrix.

To write cyberpunk now, in the year 2017, is a different endeavor. So much of the technological advancements that get imagined in the above works are now commonplace. The sorts of “oh wow” moments that used to hit hard in cyberpunk works just don’t hit quite the way they used to, at least for most of us. I know there are still some basic cable shows that try to present hacking as people typing Really Fast and Looking Stressed at cascading lines of gibberish while they say “someone is hacking our network”, and while that isn’t remotely what real hacking looks like (and no amount of fast edits and soundtrack could make it exciting to watch), those shows and their presentation illustrate the line we creators have to walk between real life and dynamic fiction.

For “Beautiful Resistance” we did our best to imagine a near future that moved along a similar path of technological advancement as we are now. We created our fictional “CodeSource” to be the more conventional ‘system’ that is what we basic users experience today, even if amped up for dramatic purposes, so that it would ring true to a contemporary audience. We created our fictional “MassNet” as our ‘full immersion’ system, the computer dream world of our story, which functions much like the simulations in The Matrix films, or the Neuromancer and Snowcrash novels. Throughout the story we work to present an engaging story with near-future technology that feels legitimate given where we are, as a contemporary society, today. We knew that we had to give you just enough tech-speak to make sense of everything happening, but we did not go so deep into it that A) readers poke holes in our science and B) the story doesn’t get slowed down. Though the hacker parts of the story were the most difficult, there was also the ‘combat operative’ element, where we had to present cyborg warriors who had upgrades and implants that felt realistic enough for a near future setting, but were still exciting to read about.

We also had to look at implications of near future technologies, and what they might do to the political, environmental, and economic landscape. For this we imagined a post-WWIII world, where the great superpowers finally went for blood, and our story picks up some years later. In our imagined near future corporations have taken the place of most world superpower governments (that’s a theme with me I know) and the inequality of the world has become more dramatically pronounced. In our story the mega-cities of the first world country are the neon spectacles one might see in films like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, while much of the rest of the world has experienced very little growth compared to where they are in our contemporary real world. Much of the setting, in fact the story itself, is based on the above William Gibson quote. While we don’t get preachy at all (we’re writers, not politicians, economists, or activists) we do address some of the unavoidable elements of setting a story about high powered agents pursuing first world agendas in the boardrooms and back alleys of what we call in our story ‘low grade regions’. In this way we were invited to present a rather poignant illustration of High Tech Low Life in a way that may conjure up images of Neil Blomkamp’s work from films such as Chappie, Elysium, and District 9.

As for the street shaman and the jungle island vampires, well, that’s another post all together.

This has been a project that I have wanted to create for some time, and am happy to finally be able to present it. Our goals are to give you a reading experience that feels less like science fantasy and more like science future, while still delivering on the style & substance promised by dubbing it a work of cyberpunk.

Naturally it is for you to decide if we accomplished any of this, and we are excited to get your feedback!