Apple arrived at the load point for Kayla newb with her recent Necropotens avatar. She sported the same long, hot pink, greased, liberty spike hair. The unrealistically large holster, which would never work in reality, carried a rune carved blunderbuss-like shotgun. A set of duel machetes with ritualistic hand wraps crossed on her back, were the only items covering the majority of her tattoos.
Jarred loaded up his most expensive and powerful avatar. When it came to defying real world physics, Jarred definitely preached as a member of the kitchen sink strategy, carrying a gadget for every occasion. He donned heavy power armor from head to toe. His gear included weapons and tools for every occasion. Due to the way his armor shone, some of the true old-school nerds used glitterboy to describe his avatar.
Kayla’s avatar shimmered as she let out another long string of curses. In virtual space, Kayla looked like the most generic middle aged white woman someone walking down the street could imagine. She was almost no better than a basic 3D visualized human anatomical drawing.
Apple let out a long sigh which reflected on her avatar’s face as a yawn. “Ugh, not kewl.”
The Kayla avatar’s seizures were a clear sign that she smashed at her keyboard and control systems.
Jarred made an attempt to calm her down and not damage the real life equipment which resulted in a quick and bitter, “Shut up!” from Kayla.
Jarred believed that not only did the virtual interfaces frustrate Kayla, but that she still held a grudge toward him. The break-up status had taxed Jarred’s happiness.
Apple explained all the functionalities of Kayla’s virtual avatar and Jarred translated so Kayla could understand. Kayla continually berated Jarred, showing her feelings, while also trying her best to grasp every detail of the virtual tutorial.
Kayla’s avatar, Apple explained, would be a basic 1.1 version iAvatar-Wellsian model. She would have standard speed travel modes.
Kayla’s combat mode loaded as a simple hand to hand port that would allow Kayla’s basic martial arts knowledge work in cyberspace.
It took some major deviations from standard tutorial and avatar building to get Kayla ready for anything more than a stroll down the side of cyber highway. At one point, Kayla almost stuck her head out into the dataflow and nearly got it cleaved right off.
The exertions that Jarred put forth to get Kayla to be comfortable had worn him out. Her constant harsh tone with him did not help the matter at all. Kayla wore her anger and bitterness for Jarred like a soldier’s patches revealed alignment and pecking order on their sleeve.
Apple did so little to actually modify her communication style that she barely noticed the endeavor. Her superior skills in cyberspace showed in comparison to Kayla’s like the difference between a cheetah stalking prey rather than a Chihuahua biting uselessly at a thug’s ankles.
With some old Massive Attack jams keeping her cool, Apple stepped off the end of the pathway and onto a secondary route. Her body started to disappear and join the cyber highway. The near instant acceleration of her bodily form nearly gave Kayla vertigo.
Kayla now stood at the end of the pathway, something she would consider a sidewalk or merging lane. Jarred nudged her arm and reached out a helping hand in assurance. Kayla scowled, but she looked around and saw little other choice than to calm her nerves before literally jumping into the highway.
Kayla took Jarred’s hand and he stepped off of the end of the pathway into the bright streaking lights of the cyber highway. The lights fluctuated, looking almost like a night street view recording of car lights with time dilation. Kayla felt an unnaturally strong tug compel her toward the bright lights.
The information and speed overwhelmed Kayla’s senses. Her reality became like a blurred fast forward of a video tape. Mere moments passed, she felt a yank at her hand like being pulled up from the ground while staring into the light of the sun. A yank turned into a tug as she moved from the incomprehensible transformative light of the cyber highway to a large solitary platform that seemed to hang in the air on its own.
“H with B’s on,” Apple screeched in a high pitched gleeful voice as she started to strut down to a set stairs that hovered in the air moving down off of the platform.
Kayla looked quizzically at Jarred and his armored shoulders shrugged and clanged, “Sometimes even I can’t tell exactly what she is saying.” Kayla noticed a tell in Jarred’s walk as he dragged his feet a bit more than usual. He knew full well what Apple said.
A few minutes later, they found themselves beyond the stairs, through a dark tunnel and to an area with a peculiar light coming through two sets of cracks that wrapped their way around the hexagonal tunnel shaft.
Apple and Jarred both stopped to examine the cracks. Kayla leaned against the tunnel wall and closed her eyes. She started to envision herself in verdant grassland with a cool breeze blowing over her face and her hair loose in the wind. Kayla felt a dog licking her hand and enjoyed the blissful feeling of the warm flem on her cold skin. Then, the dog growled as it bit into her flesh!
“R U Da?” Apple’s words uttered mere inches from Kayla’s face as she snapped out of her fantasy and noticed then Apple’s grasp on her arm.
“Yes. Right here.” Kayla said rather matter of fact.
“Don’t let yourself drift like that. If you had the right software installed, you could teleport to a place like that or change the tunnel. That would alert the spam-bots. Now, steady yourself, I am gonna blow a way through the firewall for us.” Jarred said as his armored suit braced itself and the cannon across his back pulled itself up over his shoulder. It fired with a massive krak. The tunnel roof over the creased lines exploded and crumbled down.
Jarred leapt above the rubble into a black void that Kayla surely thought would be solid cave rock, but the space above the destruction contained just empty void. The small thrusters in the armored legs pushed Jarred over the rubble easily. He landed with a thud and a micro quake on the other side.
Apple pulled a small box out of her side satchel and pressed a button on it. The box amazingly transformed, bit by bit from box to gear to propeller to cockpit. It looked like a steampunk helicopter. She got on board, activated the controls, and moments later landed on the other side of the fire wall.
Kayla stood and glanced around the rubble to her two friends. “And what the hell am I supposed to do? Why don’t I just wait here?”
Apple and Jarred browsed over the rubble. Apple sighed, “GOI.”
“I’ll just jump through this crap,” Kayla expended the last bit of her fear as she started to run and leap through the rubble.
“No wait!” Jarred sounded panicked and he looked it as his face plate on his armor retracted revealing his pained features.
Digital flames leapt from the ground and up the walls where the creases hadn’t been blasted to bits.
Minutes later, the three found themselves cruising in digitized sailing ships through the virtual sky. Each only possessed enough space for two passengers. Apple and Kayla traveled together while Jarred sat in a second ship.
Kayla’s bruises, scrapes, and burns ached beyond what she thought feelings could convey in the virtual world. Even though she knew she wasn’t, she felt as if she could be suffering from a gun shot wound.
Jarred wondered why Kayla blamed him or at least both of them for her injuries from the firewall. In Jarred’s eyes, Apple didn’t seem to care one bit what happened to Kayla, where as he did care. He now sat in the second ship, ostracized from the two girls by necessity. He kept his armored helm open to feel the soft breeze against his face.
Apple frowned as the ships arrived at the first node after several sharp, gut wrenching turns that likened after the paths on electronics. She disembarked from the ship and studied the various bits of simulated hardware. The untrained eye saw something like a random mass of factory machinery at these kinds of raw nodes. Apple’s eyes almost felt less strained seeing such contraptions in cyberspace than they felt viewing a tree in the real world.
Jarred looked to Apple for direction. After a brief sweep of the node room, she shook her head and looked for another platform to grab another set of sailing ships.
Minutes almost seem to drag into hours to Apple. She took in information so quickly that time really stretched out for her in moments of boredom. Normally, Apple would just go afk and use a second avatar to do something, but the significance of this case needed her full attention. Apple giggled to herself and thought, or at least she’d have to give it the fullest attention she ever gave to a single task. A Mind.in.a.box song started to sing through her music player and she swayed from side to side, causing the sailing ship to swing a bit.
“Hey! What are you doing? This is freaky enough, please, don’t rock this thing.” Kayla asked in a pleading, almost nauseous tone.
Finally, after what seemed a countless number of useless nodes, a major memory hub came up on the horizon.
Jarred’s sailing ship took the lead this time from their previous node jump. He made sure the girls knew they were coming up to something major with a flare ejected from his armor. He took a powered leap onto the shore platform of the memory hub. There were numerous vaults running along the far side of the platform. Each would have its own security measures and secrets to reveal.
Jarred scanned the right end of the platform and then the left. There, on the left side of the platform, his gaze dwelled. A structure that looked much like an upright CPU fan started making a whirling mechanical sound. He took only a few steps towards it when four figures, in sequence, launched out of the fan-like device. They flew a hundred meters into the sky before tumbling down and landing in front of him, only meters away.
Each of the figures landed expertly and a resounding triple thud brought Kayla and Apple to a heightened state of alert. Their sailing ship approached the memory hub. Kayla and Apple braced themselves for danger.
Amongst some large fist sized craters, the three removed their fists from the ground where they had landed and stood at attention. Jarred closed down his face plate and started activating his combat systems. His cannon servos pulled the lumbering agent of destruction (what the game engine called his gun) to its shoulder post, and the suit braced to fire.
The men looked like a cross of blank grey humanoid and spider. Two split off and started to the vaults on the far side of the memory hub platform. The final grey spider charged towards Jarred. Just as the cannon started to spool up its firing sequence, the spider vomited a gooey substance that sealed the firing circuits of the cannon.
Alarms rang throughout the inside of Jarred’s armored suit. The move surprised him and he didn’t have a backup plan. In those moments of hesitation, the grey spider leapt in a speedy way that reminded Kayla of the jumping spiders that used to live in the wild. Grey spider one, as Jarred’s HUD named it, landed on Jarred’s shoulders and, with acrobatic ability, wrapped itself completely around Jarred’s torso. Jarred already had limited mobility, now he became effectively paralyzed.
Apple and Kayla watched, nearly helpless as the second and third grey spider now approached Jarred from his right flank. If they slammed into him with enough force, they could knock him right off of the platform!
Apple pulled out a tiny cube and tossed it up in the air in front of the sailing ship. She climbed up the mast of the ship, and before Kayla could protest, she leapt off of the mast and started to fall below the ship.
Kayla’s nervousness came nearly to the point of a heart attack until she saw Apple hanging on to a spoke of her gyrocopter with one hand and steering up towards the platform with the other. “Holy fuck!” Kayla exclaimed.
“I’ve got adds!” Apple screamed over all the myriad action sounds. With those words, she steered away from Jarred to another part of the platform.
Apple triggered her music player to a hard hitting Angelspit/Combichrist playlist and activated her combat attunement program. Apple’s shotgun, no longer in its holster, readied to engage the dark, invisible figures that Kayla and Jarred couldn’t see. She whispered a silent blessing to her ViewerPro App.
“What in the hell? What does… Help Jarred! Now I know why I’ve got to be in this shit.” Kayla spluttered out phrase after phrase of confusion like a student caught napping by a dutiful teacher.
Kayla, forced to wait for the ship to reach the platform, watched as Apple landed and immediately came under attack by dark, classic spy looking figures that only Apple could previously see. Apple would have her hands full with her own fight. Kayla’s eyes darted back to Jarred, who futilely attempted to knock his attackers off. The three grey spiders were nimbly ripping off his armored plates off, piece by piece. Kayla cringed as one of them bit his arm and tore at his flesh.
Kayla slid off of the side of the sailing ship just as it edged onto the platform; a second sooner and she would have slid to the nothingness below. Without a second thought, she charged towards the position occupied by Jarred and his three assailants.
Unable to reach the spider on Jarred’s back, Kayla pushed off of the ground and shouldered right into the biting spider that was grasping one of Jarred’s now exposed arms. The grey spider spun through the air in a ballet-like routine from the impact.
Kayla did not stop there. She continued to barrel towards him once her feet made contact with the ground. She stomped on the grey spider before it could regain composure and then dived into the rolling figure to pin it.
Still helpless, Jarred gasped as the non-grappling grey spider dropped to the ground and moved to assault Kayla. He resolved that he must do something. In cyberspace, Kayla’s abilities were not yet equivalent to those in real life. He looked over his controls and thought about his programs.
The armored suit waved a single arm towards the memory vaults in what looked like a useless gesture. A small thunk was accompanied by a zip line flying in the direction of the upper vault walls.
Jarred felt the line go taut, activated his power leap App and howled as the suit propelled rapidly towards the walls of the vaults. The resounding splat signaled the end of the grappling grey spider, and though the blow hurt his exposed arm, he felt very satisfied.
He turned around to see that Apple was finishing off the last of the previously invisible anti-spies with her shotgun. Kayla took to her feet just in time to avoid and nearly deadly snap at her neck. She took several steps back towards the platform ledge. The grey spider that she stomped, only now returned to its feet while the other started to slowly close on Kayla.
“Duck!” Jarred yelled out as he raised his remaining armored arm towards Kayla.
Kayla looked around for only a moment. A compartment on the armored suit opened, exposing a rocket. Rocket fuel ignited as the small device began to fly towards its target. Kayla fell backward off of the platform as her two assailants closed on her position.
“NO!” Jarred screeched as he heard a high pitched feminine voice echo his own, Apple.
The rocket impacted and obliterated the two grey spiders, leaving a smoking crater. The satisfaction just did not come for Jarred. He blew away a couple of programs only to fry a friend. In here, she would not come out whole again on the other side.
Apple motioned for Jarred to come closer to the edge. As he approached, he saw Apple extend an arm down, off of the platform. Another arm embraced Apple’s and, inch by inch, Kayla slowly appeared. She had simply hung on to the ledge to avoid the blast!
With the fighting over, the group overlooked their bruises, cuts, scrapes, bites, and burns. Apple quickly got to work on hacking the secure vaults.
Opening the first secure vault revealed tidbits of information that explained just how Representative Arthur Bachman was being paid off.
The second secure vault contained communication records between Gary Jones and several other unidentifiable members of the Oathed Technocrats. A quick analysis revealed the astounding plans that the technocrats had prepared several secure servers with new coding. The new coding would pull online users into a portion of cyberspace that allowed only one way travel. Once there, the innocent virtual users would never be able to return to their real bodies. They would effectively be in a coma for the rest of their lives.
There wasn’t time for all the numerous vaults. This data would be damning enough. People needed to know about this data, and they must be the messengers to carry it to the public.