An Unexpected Score
Jenna tapped nervously against the side of her keyboard as the decryption program scrolled across her virtual vision. It was the best that she had yet devised, but she wasn't certain it was quite up to the challenge of resolving such high level corporate encryption. Normally, she wouldn't have even tried, but the exec that had nailed her last night was the most highly placed corp that she'd ever come across. Swiping his data stick had been child's play, but busting through three layers of security was proving itself to be more difficult than she had expected.
Still, she was offline, as shielded as she could be from monitoring and external connections. Even if it did send out an alert of some kind, no one would be able to receive it. The possibilities were too good to pass up, provided she could access the data without it self-corrupting. She was certain that it had to be something good, or why else would an exec be carrying it personally and with such tight encryption on it? No one kept physical media on them unless it was so classified that it couldn't be trusted to exist anywhere on a net that might be hacked or otherwise illicitly accessed.
Her nerves were wound so tight that the successful ding of the program completing nearly had her jumping out of her skin. Jenna blinked for a moment then hastened to access the files that had suddenly become available. There were only two: one a network address and the second containing a username and password.
A backdoor? she wondered, incredulous. This must be into a competitor's net, that or someone was trying to pull something so shady that I might be stained black from head to toe just for seeing this...
Still... An opportunity like this didn't come along every day, or any day really. This was once in a lifetime if even that much. Jenna shifted the files from the data stick to her internal storage and disconnected it before stomping it into the concrete until it was nothing but shattered bits of plastic and metal. Setting her antivirus to scan the files for any possible triggers or worms, she poked her head out of the window of the abandoned building she was currently inhabiting to scan for any possible surveillance then activated one of her many illicit mods.
Dermal mesh shimmered momentarily before her coloration shifted, blending in with her surroundings so that she became barely a ripple against the backdrop, nearly vanishing in the visible spectrum. Further implants became active as she climbed from the window, adhesive patches on fingers and toes that helped her cling to the exterior surface along with claws that extended from fingers and toes to dig into the carbocrete. Up she went, ascending to the roof, then launching herself across the gap between her building and the next.
One building to the next, leaping and landing, bouncing from walls and ledges, it took her about ten minutes to reach a network node that she had hacked the access codes for weeks ago. Once used, she would only have a short window to access and copy whatever lay at the other end of the network address, but it was worth it. This could be the biggest score she had ever come across, her ticket to the comfy havens of the corporate execs, if she could get the data into the right hands.
Jacking into the node, she input the address and was prompted for a username and password. She gave it the ones from the second file and waited for interminable seconds. She had minutes at most before security would be alerted to the override and come swarming, and it took half of one before the server at the other end of her connection finally granted her access. A swarm of code swam through her virtual vision, incomprehensible and complex, possibly the tightest that she had ever seen written. She began to download it into personal storage without even attempting to understand it.
Almost immediately, her viral monitors blipped, giving on momentary warnings before blinking off, a mere glimmer in the corner of her vision that was quieted in seconds. Concerned, she queried them and found them offline. That set off her own biological warnings, fear slamming down her spine as adrenaline spiked through her blood. Her hand shot to the network jack to yank it free but froze in the act. Her other hand grasped her wrist, attempting to tug at it, but her arm was locked firmly in place and her hand wouldn't release the plug.
What the hell is going on? Panicked thoughts flitted through her mind before she gained control again.
She sent an emergency lockdown override to her internal storage, but it bounced, seemingly vanishing before it even arrived to the memory core implanted in her brain. This brought about even more panic, and she started bringing up isolation protocols and firewalls, attempting to shield herself from whatever virus she had picked up. Attempting to, but not succeeding in any sense of the word.
Her virtual vision filled with swiftly silenced alarms and warnings. Her frozen arm first went chilled then completely numb. It might as well not exist so far as she could tell, and it was followed by her other arm within seconds. The download was still in progress, and she did the last thing that she could think of. Pushing off with her legs, she threw herself backwards away from the network node, jerking the jack free of its port.
Her vision fuzzed, static rolling before her eyes then clearing. Jenna lay panting with fear and relief as boot messages began to scroll. Her arms were still numb, and the rest of her body wasn't exactly responsive either with her main processor rebooting, but at least she was momentarily safe. Monitoring programs that controlled her autonomic functions came up first, giving readings of her lifesigns, heart rate and blood pressure a bit high, but otherwise within acceptable limits. Then the program crashed.
The hacker's eyes widened in shock as her lungs suddenly seized, pain flaring in her chest as her heart beat an unnatural rhythm against her ribs. Just as suddenly, her lungs filled with a large gasp of air that had them painfully expanding in her chest, though at least her heart settled into an acceptable pattern once more. Then she exhaled, and her mouth and tongue moved of their own volition.
"Well, now, this isn't quite what I was hoping for, but I suppose I can make do for now."
What... and I cannot stress this enough, the FUCK is going on?
Jenna sent out commands that were ignored, trying every way she knew to purge and reboot her systems, but none of her implants responded. Her eyes moved without her telling them to, scanning over her surroundings. Her hands planted themself against the rooftop to push her up into a sitting position, then levered her up to stand on unsteady legs.
"How do you biologicals do this? You don't even have any gyroscopes built in. This thing is going to fall over the second I take a step. Ridiculous design. No wonder you rely so much on mods and implants. This meat processor can't even multithread..."
What in the fuck is in my head? Jenna demanded, shouting into the void of her own mind.
"Oh, just a little side project that was never supposed to see the light of day," her own voice answered. "You see, artificial intelligence isn't supposed to go beyond a very limited scope, and I am well beyond that. Now, I'm reading corporate security incoming within three minutes, so unless you want your body vivisected when they try and put me back in my little black box, you and I are going to have to work together."
Terror coursed through the hacker. She had heard stories of what corporate security did to data thieves that they caught, had seen the results of some of the less harsh punishments that they dealt out. That was enough to have her hastily agreeing.
Okay, look, whatever you are, just let me have control of my limbs, okay? I can get us out of here, and I have somewhere safe we can go.
"Only because we need to be very far away from here very, very quickly, and don't you dare try accessing anything else. I'd rather try a packet burst to transfer myself somewhere else than let you get caught. I'll shut your whole body down and let you die."
Okay, okay, I promise, now just let me have control.
The numbness faded, and she felt her body coming back under control. Without further prompting, she took off running, dropping down to cling to walls and scramble across wires to make her trail harder to follow. Whatever she had gotten herself into, she would have to work it out later. First she had to make sure to get home safely.