“Where are we on that data dump people?” Novae asked, watching her monitors.
“We’ve just received the last bits and are uploading and dumping now.”
“Let me know when it is complete. I’ll be runnin’ interference on my end.’
Novae sat back and rubbed the inside corners of her eyes. This was by far the largest information snatch she’s ever done and she had been at it for hours. The blue light from the monitor was starting to give her a headache and she popped some stims to keep her going. Neko was hard at work, compiling and storing relevant information on a farm outside of the city, someplace Jacker had set up years ago. Novae hadn’t seen him since she moved into the metropol area of the city.
“Neko, how’s it look?”
“I’m running a terabyte a minute and I’m barely scratching the surface,” the holographic cat meowed. “No pun intended.”
“Fuck!” Novae cursed, pushing herself back from the station. “If we get away with this, we’re fucking set! We can use this information on anyone, anywhere, and be the ones fucking standing on necks. Free. Finally!”
“Novae, you know what they say about counting eggs. Try to be patient. Go get some air. When this is done, I’ll call you. Should take the rest of the night, so maybe try to contact Jacker? We’re going to need him.”
Novae waved her hand in the air, cutting off anymore sound from Neko. What was that? Some early 21st century Jarvis and Tony Stark shit? Where did Neko get that? Novae had reprogrammed Neko herself and was positive that the AI she installed didn’t have psychology blocks in them. She’ll have to take another look at the code when this was all settled and she had the time. But for the moment, Neko was right. Novae needed to step away and compose herself. The real battle began after.
Novae stood by the window and looked out over the city. She had come a long way from being Novae “Junkyard Dog” Saitoishi and is now being called “Deity” Novae. She didn’t choose the names. A few years after forcing the MPs to leave the place she lived alone, the residents started going to her for help and she began the life of a low time information broker. Jacker and Neko were instrumental to making that happen, but so were Switch and Shiro. Switch, having a hand in the business dealings of the bottoms and Shiro being a ghost on the ‘Net, helped get her started. With Jacker’s connections, they formed a unit called Neverside and made a name for themselves. Now she was sitting in a position that threatened the higher powers and they didn’t like that.
Novae watched the pedicabs glide over the illuminated streets, guided by chips and sensors all over the city. The technology was rudimentary but the encryption was top of the line. NSA and NASA level shit. The guy who invented the first iteration was filthy rich and had retired to a settlement on Mars, living out the rest of his life in bliss. As the tech grew, people became open to sensors being embedded into objects that gave them a sense of safety. Now, she was using that same tech to launch a campaign that would cripple the MPs and bring about anarchy. She wasn’t sure at first, but after the death of Elisa, she was certain: Fuck this world.
“Nove, we got something,” Jacker said through her ear implant, breaking her reverie. “Meet me in the war room.”
“Why do you still call it that? Such a childish fucking name.”
“You’re still gonna meet me there, right?”
“Yeah, like I have a choice.”
“War room baby!”
Novae laughed out loud and ended the call. Jacker had a fun side to him that she loved when things got tense. He knew how to lighten the mood and put people at ease. Novae had relied on him through everything since they were kids.
Making her way through the overly expansive office, littered with custom designed furniture and security, she walked down the hall to the stairwell. Normally, she would take the elevator just to her right, but she was being overly cautious. No telling if someone had hacked into the system and was just waiting to corner her. But she shook the thought. If someone had broken in, Neko would have notified everyone immediately.
“Okay, what’s up Jack?” Novae asked, walking through the door. She didn’t bother asking when he got into town or how he even got into the building. Jacker had his ways. She made a note to question Neko how he got pass her security however, knowing the damn cat let him in secretively.
Jacker sat in a leather chair facing a hologram showing the information they were downloading and sending to his farm. The information scrolled by faster than she could read but here and there, bits were pulled and enlarged, moving into a designated bin for further processing.
“We got enough to start making noise. I’m talking politicians, movers and shakers. Hell, we even got some SecForce people here.” Jacker responded, pointing at the information. When he did, faces and bios appeared. “‘Deity’ is ready to take over the world.”
“Yeah fuckin’ right. All we’re doing is mining and stashing. If the MPs want to mess with us, then we drop this shit on them. But I’m not looking to be some ‘Net goddess,” Novae replied, taking a seat near Jacker. “If that was the goal, you would have been done did this, am I wrong?”
“Nove, I’m just a middle man. A fixer and a mover,” Jacker replied, leaning back in his chair, turning to face Novae. “You’ve done a lot more for the people around us than I have. You’re the only one who can do this. Besides, you have a room upstairs filled with some of the best the underside has to offer busting their ass for you. That’s leadership. That’s trust.”
“No, those are desperate people wanting to get back at the MPs for shittin’ on ‘em for so long. I just provided a place to do it.”
“Don’t downplay this Nove,” Jacker said, swiveling to face her. He placed a hand on her thigh and she caught her breath. “You are a face. A symbol. People know who you are and that you are a fighter. They are here because of you, not just for you.”
Novae sat there looking at Jacker’s hand and thought about what he was saying. Sure, she had somehow gained a following after the scrap stack war a few years back and has since been a thorn in the Congos side in the city. But that was it. She was a ripple in the bigger pool of shit that mattered.
“You gonna move that or do I need to?” Novae asked, raising her head and an eyebrow towards Jacker. He moved his hands and smiled. Novae could see his temple implant blinking.
Looking Novae direct in the eye, Jacker said in all seriousness:
“We have a problem.”
“What the fuck you mean we’ve been back traced?!” Novae yelled, running upstairs to where everyone was still busy at work. “Neko is running security screens on this place and your security as well is layered on top. We should be fucking ghosts!”
“I don’t know. I just got an alert. Someone somewhere is better than we imagined. I’m pumping a fuck ton of data through my servers and skull, so try to not fucking yell at me?”
Novae almost lost it on Jacker but when she looked at him, he was drenched in sweat and beginning to breathe heavy. He was pushing his implant to the limit and the data that he was mentally processing seemed to be the real deal. Novae cursed and stormed to her own terminal. She pulled up Neko’s security systems and went over them.
“Okay everyone, listen,” She commanded, not taking her eyes from the monitor. “We’re in dump and dive mode. Cut every fucking connection you have and get the hell out. Once you confirm you’re no longer connected, then get the fuck out of here. You know the escape routes. Use them and I’ll contact you. Is that crystal?”
A furious cacophony of fingers smashing keyboards began and Novae watched as connection after connection was severed from the backdoor. One by one, the people who gathered grabbed their stuff and bolted, soon leaving Novae, Jacker, and Neko to themselves.
“Whatchu got Jacker?” Novae asked, looking over at him. He had his eyes closed but you could see his eyes dancing beneath the lids.
“I got a SecForce team inbound. Arriving in five minutes, maybe ten. I’ve also got some kind of lead on who it was that traced us but I won’t know for sure until I hit my contacts after.” Jacker looked at Novae. “We need to be literal ghosts immediately.”
“Neko, you there?” Novae shouted, closing her connections and setting the immediate terminals and servers on auto destruct. As the information was coming in, Neko processed it and sent it to the farm Jacker had set up. They could not be tracked after these nodes blew.
“Of course. I’m already shedding myself from the system. I’ll see you,” Neko meowed, ending her signal and fading from the network.
Novae typed furiously and when she had set everything up, she stood and grabbed her jacket and keys. She thumbed the bike and ran. She turned to see Jacker right behind her, sweat pouring from his face.
“Jacker, you escape down. I’ll head up and draw them out to give you time,” She said, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Nove,” He puffed, trying to catch his breath. “If they catch you…”
Novae leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t worry. I have a ride on the way.” Winking she bolted and left Jacker behind. Hearing the hidden stairway door open and close, she ran up the main stairs to the roof. Reaching the door, she looked at her wrist and called her ‘cycle to meet her at the top. She would have to wait exactly one minute before it arrived and she hoped she could stall the SecForce team that was sent. What she was about to do was stupid and dangerous, but she had no other option. Buying time for everyone to get out and escape was the priority.
Pushing through the door, Novae was awash in lights. Helios were circling above and she could see the neon green and red eyes of the members onboard through the blinding light. Holding up a hand to shield her eyes, she slowly made her way to the ledge where the cycle would be coming up. She had to maneuver them so that when she made her move, she had a clean route to run. The helios dropped lines and SecForce came pouring out.
“Novae Saitoishi, place your hands in the air where we can see them!” A voice boomed over the loudspeaker. “Make any movements and we’ll fire.”
Novae smirked and raised her hands slowly. Surrounded by automatic non-lethal weapons was bad enough, but these guys didn’t know how to play by the rules. She was positive some of them had live ammo loaded. Standing there, Novae glanced around as casual as possible, checking the time before the bike arrived. Thirty seconds. She could make this last for that long.
“Guys, now now. What’s this all about?” Novae asked, looking at the body that stood closest towards her.
“Novae Saitoishi, you are under arrest for suspicion of attempted espionage, infiltrating the Directorate using nefarious methods, and,” The person stepped even closer, the orange glowing eyes menacing. The hand lifted the visor and a woman’s face appeared underneath, smirking. “And for being a general pain in everyone’s ass.”
“Ah, c’mon now. That last one seems a bit personal, Captain Henderson,” Novae said, smiling back.
Capt. Henderson stood back and looked at Novae. “Well, it should be a crime.”
Novae lowered her hands slowly. “I won’t do anything, but this gets tiring. I’m not half machine like some people.”
“No matter. If you do try something, I’ll break those arms anyway.”
Novae smirked but she knew the Captain was dead serious. She had run into Henderson many times as a young teen and saw firsthand how violent and uncaring she could be. Novae unconsciously took a step back. Just below, she could hear her cycle making its way up to her through the rumble of the other traffic. Novae wasn’t sure if she could make the leap in time before getting shot by the SecForce surrounding her. But she had another trick she was waiting for the right time to use. The building had large spotlights installed that roamed the sky above the city, projecting ads, often employing small pyrotechnics to draw attention. Novae had hacked into them long ago with the help of Neko.
“Well, Nove, time to come with us,” Capt. Henderson said, walking confidently towards Novae. “I won’t be too rough.”
“I’m sure you mean that. But I’m going to have to rain check that, Cap’n,” Novae said.