By the time Markus finally cracked the firewall, a cold certainty washed over him.
In the nanoseconds that passed, he could hear and feel the dull tone of the alerts going off, his senses translated through his Icon, integrated with his human flesh. Panic convinced Markus he could also hear the release of the Daemons, Ice and other constructs, hurled by the system with deadly intent. Soon enough they would triangulate on his position.
Don’t lose it, you’ve got time, he thought. Keep moving!
He shifted, moved through the firewall, now flashing an angry red. Markus couldn’t be sure how he’d been detected, not that it mattered anymore. The large block had a ragged hole through the center thanks to his forced entry, several logic lines extending outwards.
He linked with his Daemon, willed the construct ahead to scout the lines for solutions. It buzzed away in a flash, sped along one of the lines, pausing at breaks or new branches. The Daemon disappeared into the dim colors of the electronic: logical lines a softly glowing gold; constructs blindly performing assigned tasks, all tinted in shades of various colors; enclosed circuits opaque, mysteries held within their dark borders; the grid itself, seemingly endless, gave off a faint greenish hue in all directions.
Markus had long ago become accustomed to the look and feel of the grid, but still, an impressive sight.
Shifting into action, Markus quickly tied together the opening in the firewall, working to put blocks in place. Blocks that would in essence transition the firewall to work for – rather than against – him. Once finished, his improvised wall would hold the policing constructs for a bit longer, locking them out of this section of the grid until they could bypass new routines.
His work was interrupted by a short series of tones. Dammit.
“Seriously, Haze, right now?”
“Sorry man, just checking in. You ok?” Haze’s voice was muffled, encrypted, his speech blurred to frustrate voice analysis routines. “I have a lot riding on you.”
“You gave me the job, I said I’d get it done, didn’t I?” Markus finalized the new routine, and with a click it authenticated with the repaired firewall. The red alarm blinked out. “Bypassing firewalls is tricky enough without convo.”
“Alright man, hit it then. You get inside the circuit, you buzz me. I want to know what we’ve got before you grab.” A beep and Haze was gone.
His third job working for him, and the first time Haze had crashed his party. Stakes are friggin’ high for both of us on this one, Markus thought. Can’t blame him, I guess.
Markus caught a pulse from below, a small blur as his Daemon triggered its report feed. The construct had found a way into the closed circuit, his payday within.
He focused on the downward line and then shifted into motion, flashing as quickly as he could in that direction. Not as fast as a logical construct, but then they didn’t have his tricks, either. As he sped away, he felt his firewall pulsing alerts through his Daemon. The Ice had arrived, its algorithms working to hammer his rushed code into submission.
Markus didn’t look back. He didn’t dare.
He fled down the logical line, scanning the area for possible escape routes. His Daemon, still ahead of him, lit the route towards his target, a small closed circuit several branches distant. The route flickered in amber. The circuit only had one bottleneck, a large security construct that stood sentinel against his big score. Might just make this after all, he thought.
Markus prepped his Daemon as he flew down the line, setting up routines to run as soon as he reached the security block. He felt his firewall crack, the routines snapping, knew the Ice would be on him soon enough. His Daemon sent him triggered alerts. More constructs were closing, working to isolate the invader. He stood to lose much more than credits if they trapped him.
Time for a diversion.
The line his Icon traced ran to the closed circuit below, the sole point of logic running to the outer grid. Markus quickly patterned a small routine, executed it. A smaller Daemon branched off from his own, shifted back up the logical line. With a short snap, it merged with the logical line above him, triggering its main routine, fracturing the line between him and the pursuing constructs. The time taken for the system to repair the broken link was time Markus could use to finish his run. How I get out of here is another story.
He reached the last security block in place. Mind working feverishly, he set his Daemon, triggered routines, planted code into the giant structure. A small hole formed, green light spilling out from inside. Not big, but big enough. He shifted, his Icon changing physical shape to match the hole, and Markus slipped through.
He entered the circuit, scanning for hidden routines or alarms. His target hung in the center of the circuit. Vaguely humanoid in shape, the construct floated above the logical line, small tracers of connectivity flashing between construct and line.
Markus triggered his local link.
“You get it?”
“Hell yes,” Markus replied. He felt giddy. “Haven’t linked up yet, but you have my feed. What is it?”
“Mark, you’re the best, man. Exactly what we wanted.”
A small buzz rang in Markus’ ears, and his vision blurred. What the hell?
“Sorry man, but believe me, this is your biggest trick yet,” Haze said. “Here’s mine.”
Markus felt his heart pounding, roaring wind overcoming his senses.
The construct came to life, started to shift, transforming before Markus. It glowed, a dark hue, and too late Markus noticed the construct’s new features. My face, it looks just like me, his last, curious thought before his Icon blinked out.
Seconds later the firewall opened, and the new construct slipped through. The hole closed, routines instantly repaired.
Markus reporting. Sector 4GUID0.43 secure.