Gideon's Chip, Part One

Gideon's Chip, Part One

   Some days, the Net rushes up too quickly, like a night carnival ride gone
wrong. Free fall into the sea of lights isn't as charming as it can be then.
And today was one of those days. I was tired, harried by enemies who
shouldn't be bothering with someone as insignificant as myself, and the
virtual drop just made me wince.
   Then my invisible yo-yo string caught me twenty feet off the Net's ground
level and gently lowered me to the cyber street. That was always magic, no
matter what my mood. I was always an angel or superhero deigning to come back
to earth on that string...
   That is just how the Net is: eight parts sweat and terror, two parts
sorcery and light show.
   But I had business to attend to. Not time for gawking or hackneyed
   Hands on wrists I couldn't feel brought up icons, fed the address to a
specialized one, and suddenly my deck had me zooming bright architecture.
Virtual representations of businesses and people flew past, a program of mine
making millisecond adjustments to keep me from hitting then...
   Then I stopped. I found myself out of the city of lights and into the dark
   There is a rumor among Runners that our civilization has been compromised
in places like this, dark empty stretches of the Net. The Ihara-Grubb
Transformation Algorithms that make this place also give it a strange kind of
relativity; the distance between Paris and New York will be to scale in here.
Everything is. And so when the link ups to the moon were setup, a whole new
area was created by the algorithms in the Net. It's a great, open blackness.
   The rumor is that aliens inhabit this dark place, that somehow they've
tapped into the Net between the earth and Tycho Station and are hiding in the
cyber version of the night sky. It's kind of funny, actually. And terrifying
when you think about it too long...
   There was a flash of light, something registering on my deck with it, and
a man was before me. The light, a kind of door, died. It was a neat trick and
I wondered how it was done as I watched him warily. A node of some kind, one
that could be taken off-line when he - it really - did not want to be seen.
   But if it was off-line now, how was he still here?
   And the icon did not track fully. What I could see of it wasn't much.
There was a face, a pale slip of one, and some kind of a cloak that blended
in with the nothingness around us. Hands appeared as if from invisible
sleeves. When I had my deck query the source of the image, a simple text
message was sent back: M*Y*S*T*E*R*I*O*U*S B*E*N*E*F*A*C*T*O*R.
   "Mr. O'Neil," said the image, "I believe you have something I want."
   Oh, that old story, I thought to myself.

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