- See also the List of cards in Kala Ghoda and Kala Ghoda category
"The Eyes of the World are Upon You..." As national elections loom in the Indian Union, debate rages over granting clones full citizenship. A shadow war begins, and Jinteki will stop at nothing to make sure their most lucrative product remains just that: a product. With this cycle you can explore the largest megalopolis in India, and expand your decks in novel ways with new consumer grade hardware and corporate alliances.
The crowds outside Chatterjee University are denser than I'd expected, but they're nothing I can't handle. Kids mostly, younger than me and uncertain why they're even protesting. The core of the movement are anarchs fanning the flames of discontent, forming flash mobs to antagonize MumSec into getting heavy-handed. One spark is all it'll take for this to spill over into violence. But tonight the protestors aren't calling the shots-- unfortunately for these guys, I need a diversion.
My console chimes softly in my ear yet again, reminding me that I have an unread message. I sigh and activate the message queue.
"Jesminder Nattar Sareen, vid me as soon as you get this. If you are anywhere near Chatterjee, I swear... Pick up! Oh..."
Poor Shara. I figure it's best to keep her out of the loop-- politics is a dirty business, and she needs... what's that thing called? "Plausible deniability," that's it. Besides, it's not like I can't handle myself. Shara likes to forget that I grew up on the streets of Surat.
I reach the steps of the old clock tower and send my queued comm. I feel kind of bad for what's about to happen.
The crowds swell forward like a wave, their shouts mingling with MumSec loudspeakers like white noise. Someone lets of a flare, and the skirmishes are framed in a hellish crimson glow. Soon I'm alone.
The clock tower is a building out of time; ironic really. It's so old that every brick has been replaced, but still it's preserved as a piece of "history." It used to house the library, but now it's a glorified server room buttressed to a one-hundred-floor nanotech research facility to keep it from tumbling down.
I flip up my collar to hide my face. "Mirrormode on," I whisper. Within moments I'm almost invisible in the darkness, my outline broken up by thousands of tiny cameras, screens, and mirror-fibers. Maya takes on the electronic locks, and nine seconds later I'm swinging open the door and stepping inside.
Overhead, the clock chimes once. 2130. Right on schedule.
The shadows are thick, like cobwebs. I send my microdrones ahead, six tiny spheres, their las-scanners cutting through what seems like years of dust hanging in the air.
My console buzzes; I have a hit. Third floor. I stay mirrored just in case. Better safe than sorry.
I find the secure access terminal hidden beneath a pile of dust sheets in a crowded server room. I blow away a film of dust before unrolling the ancient keyboard. I bridge the connection between Maya and the terminal and call my drones back after one more sweep of the room. All's clear, for now.
It takes a while to attune Maya to the University's systems, to set up stealth protocols and torjans until the mainframe accepts me as one of its own. Somewhere on this campus is an anarch who's been trying to hijack the Ēkatā Party netfeed-- and he's about to find out that nobody messes with my big sister.
He calls himself Sunder; he thinks he's a big-shot runner, earning kudos by attacking Ēkatā so close to the election, but he's sloppy, easy to find on the Shadow Net. he's anti-clone, but not the way we are. There's a lot like him out there: middle-class kids whose parents see Ēkatā's platform as a threat to their way of life. If clones have rights, then what's to stop them taking better jobs? Their jobs.
A lot of people can't accept it; they don't realize they're just screaming into the wind while a storm is coming, one that will sweep the country.
I get comfortable sitting on the floor with my back against the server tower. I pull my hood up, adjust the brain-net so it fits snugly, and close my eyes. The micro-cams in the fabric will stand sentinel over my surroundings while I'm gone, and Maya will autostart the log-out process if she detects any threats. But I don't intend to take that long.
Maya whisks me through the necessary handshakes and loads me up in my ready state. Around me swirl endless patterns like those inscribed on my smart-threads-- all the programs I could possible need to shut this runner down. Before I turn to go, I glimpse another program I remember weaving years ago. That'll do nicely.
Here on the inside, I'm already past the first layer of security. No need to bust through Chatterjee's defenses and risk seting off any alarm bells. Sunder is still sniffing around the ark AI at the Tabrez, making jabs at the Ēkatā cyberdivision there. Apparently he hand't thought I'd come down from my perch on high on Salsette Island. He doesn't know me.
Everything's loaded, ready to run at my command. Time to let Maya work her magic.
I reach out with a thought to touch the first program and initiate. The icon fills my mind as the light-lines explode into endless vectors and disappear in to the distance. The channels spread across the campus's internal network in search of a pingback.
The green and blue lines are constantly shifting, lines and dots entwining into petals and swirls and koyari as the search runs and adapts. Within a few moments, one of the far-off lines changes color. I watch the purple overwhelm the green and blue on its way back to my ready point. It's a hit. My course charted, I let Maya take me to the vector's end in a flash of light.
This is the router closes to his console, but he's hiding his rig from a direct trace. I initiate another icon and watch as it spins, cycling through all the possible connections until it stops abruptly and dissipates. If you can see the illusion for what it is, the truth reveals itself. The darkness around me falls away. I'm in.
A few more patterns sprout upon my cloak as protective measures, and I shift my perception for a moment to see what Sunder has wrought on his own environment.
It's a hellish realm of fire and red. Figures. Malicious lines of code try to sever my connection, but the patterns form a shield barrier.
Maya filters the strings of profanity flying my way. He can't be much older than me, judging by his vocabulary and aesthetics. Probably younger.
He tries to boot me but he's striking at air. I'm too fast; he can't predict where I'll jump next. I leave ghosts in my wake, bots trying to route his connection from the Moon and back six thousand times over, each one chewing up more mem on his rig until he's lagging to hell.
Maya analyzes another of his programs and warns me he's initializing something big and dangerous designed to purge and clear his rig of any trace of me. Perfect.
I pull up that one program and lay another below my feet-- my ticket out of here. But first I leave myself out in the open, hoping he'll spring at the chance. Of course, he does.
He initiates the wipe, complete with a touch of hellfire, and I'm out in a flash. But not before my program blinks through the inferno and plants itself in what's left of his bios.
When he tries to log back in, his own hardware won't recognize him. And when he tries to pass through this node again with his backup rig, it'll lock him out again. Unless he's really determined, he won't mess with Ēkatā again until after Election Day. he'll be too worried about recovering his assignments for class.
I follow the initial vector back to the clock-tower terminal and unplug. Footsteps scuff on the stairs below me. Time to go.
When the MumSec officers reach the main server room I'm still mirrored, and they don't even see me hop out of the third-floor window. My smart-threads keep me hidden long enough to slip through the security cordons, and I'm away across the quad and starting up my mini-hopper before anyone realizes I was there.
A bell starts to chime, the first of ten. 2200 hours.
I'll be home before bedtime. Shara will be mad, but she'll forgive me when she hears the news. She always does.