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Friday, February 22, 2008

Tales of the Cypherpunk 15

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Shilo finished copying, powered off his equipment and stepped into tho invisible hallway. He was off balance for a step, after the brief period of vision, but his senses came back quickly. He felt the dry air currents leading back to the exit. He felt the throb of generators coming online, almost loud enough to break the silence.

His lips tightened. Someone was coming. The lights were still off, which meant hunters. Normally this sort of office would only merit plebs with flashlights and handguns, but RDI could hardly afford the image of lax security; RDI needed to train its elite personnel, in the absence of civil strife; RDI clearly had a fortune in sensors to notice Shilo.

Before, his footsteps had been agony, slow, silent. Now they were swift and silent. His boots were "true black," stealthy, dissipating recoil through a semifluid reservoir that also acted as a thermal dump. They produced no noise or observable heat. They flexed and formed to his feet like socks.

His clothes were soft, like lint, but "true black" and static free. The only stiff objects he carried were a knife, a box, and a headlamp. He hoped not to use the knife. It was strapped to his inner thigh, razor sharp and serrated, meant to open flesh but not meant as an offensive weapon.

He ran through the darkness, following his mental map.
A hand touched a wall and recoiled in disgust. His position was off. He tried not to think too hard and lose his bearings completely. He turned left, brushed a door frame, clenched his jaw. Besides the ill omen, the hunters might track him that way.

They might be following him with the motion sensors that normally controlled the lights.

He felt footsteps nearby. They were close, they had the advantage of active sensors. He tingled as he felt them sweep, but his clothing should scatter signals well enough. Only line of sight was dangerous. He ran through the maze faster, knowing the ghosts would follow an optimal search pattern. He took a detour that should avoid the search pattern-

He didn't know the pattern. He didn't know how many there were. He had no way to calculate pattern and distance without power. He just looked at the map- the 2 kilometers of hallway memorized that morning- and saw the path that would evade searchers. Left. Curve. Left. Right into a wall.

Shy felt frantically to each side. Was he lost? Was the map wrong? It spun around him and wiggled like a ball of wiggling things. Here was a corner- wrong. Here was no doorway, here was an elevator.

He had gotten to the central shaft of the building.

The elevator buzzed. The car approached. He knew where he was now. He spun to the left and entered the emergency shaft as the car stopped on his level and opened. Shilo dove down the stairs- quietly- heading for the bottom floor. The door at the next landing down opened. Shilo stopped, crouched, hoping the stairs would hide him. They did, but the hunter climbed up.

Shy stood halfway down a flight of stairs and as the ghost passed below him, he jumped.

Over the banister, he fell toward the next one- there was barely room. He couldn't drop straight down the shaft. He snapped at the end of a soft, thin line and swung back, a few feet behind the ghost. The ghost turned and Shilo kicked over the rail, down to the next flight.

Pursued through a black maze by ghosts, Shilo bit into a magic pill and released a minty refreshing flood of methamphetamines and psychodelics. The ghost fell behind, following the twisting stairs while Shilo dropped awkwardly down.

Nearly there, the ghost cut the line. Shilo fell, turned in midair like a cat, landed on the stairs, fell and rolled, got up and started running. Now he heard more than two feet, the soft murmur of radios earsplitting in the quiet.

Shilo made it to the ground floor, ran down the hallway and kicked a window. The glass stretched. The casement swung open. The bottom floor of the building, of course, hung a kilometer above the streets, even above the smog. Pursuers burst into the annex to see Shilo leap out.

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