#TeamCyberPunk - Part Two: Flights of Fantasy

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Flights of Fantasy - Part 1 - RoshelleD


"What's the plan?"

"Once the worm's inside the software, that trigger activates the attack phase. In this case, you'll be able to open a backdoor, and hide yourself under code until the right moment arrives."

The MOAV rubbed her chin. "That could work. But how would I carry out the rest of what I plan?"

Another man stood up. "That's the best part, Mother. Control of the VR software means control of the headset. You'll be able to do whatever you want."

She stood up. This was pretty good. It was the closest anyone had come to something that would finally yield results. "So I would have full control of the VR experience."

"Exactly."

"But the person has to be jacked in."

"The current government has helped us with that. There are so many people out there who love their VR. Find the right person and they won't remember a thing. They'll have a headache, but will think it was a side effect."

The slight buzz among her subjects along with the scent of singed wires relaxed her as she paced some more in front of her throne. There was an unwritten rule about users who would be more vulnerable than others. That was the nature of humanity, cyberspace and reality—virtual or otherwise.

"Then it's just a matter of me finding the right subject."

"Yes, Mother."

It wouldn't be hard. She was the motherfucking Mother of All Viruses. This was a long time coming. She'd waited, becoming more dangerous in the process. "I like it. Plus it will teach anyone who crosses me an important lesson."

"Yes. You've always said it." Her loyal subjects bowed before her.

"Indeed." She changed into her full form. "Try to strike me down, and I'll become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."

****

Max threw another electronic pad down with the rest of the stack then got up from her rickety chair. These cold cases featured too many of the lost and the faceless. Gone in a cyberswamp of their own creation never to be found. One case in particular had been on Max's radar for nearly a year. She pulled up the file of the nineteen year-old woman. The warm smile on her face belied her all black hair, clothes and makeup.

Raphaella Wright. A hacker who followed in her mother's footsteps.

Her mother Raphaelle died last week while the killer was still out there. At least her body had. Raphaelle had died time and time again. It was her curse it seemed. She'd undergone an amazing metamorphosis both in reality and cyberspace. Still there was so much that had gone bad in her life. After everything with the tracking of the man in black, her relationship with Elizabeth, and even the killing of Annabelle, which had started everything, her own daughter had died as well.

Max walked over to the one floor to ceiling window. Pods skittered by in the air until a signal stopped them. While they shuffled in place, Max looked toward the old Sears building. With its brilliant blues and pulsing purples, it put the administration buildings to shame. With the sharp prick of pain in the palms of her hands, Max realized she'd been balling her fists too tight.

The darkening sky outside mirrored her mood. It would be nice to control the rage built up inside. Pretty hard to do that in a place like this—one choking on its own hypocrisy. The law was pretty much a joke at this point. So why did she bother? The answer was simple.

No one else would.

She owed the victims that much. Raphaella had been found in the Curston district. Not the best part of the city. One witness had seen somebody standing over her, but they ran before they could get a good look. Not only did she have time working against her, but also certain high level members of the government. Max was quickly coming to the conclusion that whoever had killed her had done so with the blessing of the current administration, The Ministry of Alteration aka The Ministry.

They pretended to mean well but were actually set on keeping the people distracted. This way everyone remained unaware of what was going on around them, and also of what the government intended to do. Max cursed as she passed by yet another sign that showed some kid with a headset on. A vortex was in the background and two words covered the image in big white letters.

IGNORANCE=BLISS.

There were different variations of this poster. One featured the letters in gray against a white background. She'd also seen one with a smiling couple so focused on their handhelds that they weren't paying attention to anything around them. Another featured a snake-like creature with huge teeth and a forked tongue about to eat a woman alive. Max knew that wasn't what the creator of the picture meant, but leave it to The Administration to put their own spin on things.

Blatant with it, weren't they? Not that it mattered. So many times she felt exactly like that woman in the picture. But at least she'd eventually beaten her enemy. What could Max do to wake people up? Not a damn thing. It proved hard to focus on others when she had her own addiction.

Virtual reality had been the next big thing back in 2015 with the introduction of VR gear to the average person. Sure people looked pretty stupid with the big motorcycle helmet on as they jumped and screamed at no one, but as the phenomenon spread, they started to fit in. Living in a world that had gradually gone cyber had helped to propel VR. Now it had nested, infecting people faster than the last great plague two years ago in 2020. That plague had killed many, yet also brought a lot of technology together.

This was also what the government had hoped for. Max still couldn't pinpoint the exact day "the change" had happened, but she remembered the day she'd been introduced to it. It had been another day with her hard at work in the bleak white halls of The Administration. She'd been tasked to hack another chat room in order to gather information on possible activities against the government. With her being a hapless twenty-something who would rather get lost in a virtual world than page after page of code she took advantage of using it.

And now she couldn't stop. Everyone knew what she was really doing when she rushed to the private break rooms every day at lunch. Going without her precious VR was something she didn't want to think about. And even though it made her an outcast in the force, she had to have it at every opportunity. Her mind and body relaxed as soon as she saw her green-haired friend with the flashlight and laser gun waiting for her. As she walked off with her own weapon in tow, Max told herself this reality was what made her sharp.

Another lie.

Because what did these VR machines really do? You jack in, your world unfolds before you, and the weapons are already at your disposal. In short, they increase the number of things one can do without much thinking. Things people do without thinking—that's the real danger. One thing did stick out from her VR "missions." Although she was always in the distance and she never got to see her face, Max saw a woman. She was either in a black flowing dress or a black catsuit.

Max shook her head, clearing the thoughts away. Best not to think about all that now. She had to keep rounding up suspects. Unfortunately the ones they'd found would either lose memories or die. Max had spent six months trying to figure out how it happened. She'd eventually found out how far her superiors were willing to go. She'd also met a good friend...

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