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This 8-Bit Life | December 21, 2014

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The Tortoise and the Hare - This 8-Bit Life

The Tortoise and the Hare
Leland Flynn

So… I just had to re-write a classic fairy tale or fable as a science fiction short story for a Lit class. What I produced was a cyberpunk take on The Tortoise and the Hare. It flowed out pretty well as I wrote but I’m not certain it’s my best work. I’ve always been a strong non-fiction writer but I haven’t dabbled much with fiction. Keep in mind the assignment was a short story, so some concepts are compressed and not as fleshed out as I would like.

So here goes, let me know what you guys think. I’m curious.

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Takeshi Nechayev, known by the handle “Turtle” in the sprawl of the net, flopped into the chair that sat in front of the most important thing in his life. He slid the visor over his eyes. “The most important thing? Hell, it was his life,” he thought. In front of him sat what was essentially a homemade supercomputer. With 48 Petabytes of holographic storage, a quantum processing unit (QPU), and 128 Terabytes of memory for caching, Turtle had spent well over 300,000,000 credits on the machine, more than his parents had made in their entire lifetimes combined. He thought it might be safe to call it an obsession.

Back when his parents were kids the corporations of the world had gone to war, and not just in the legal sense. Sure there were lawyers and political plays at first, but what began as lumbering beasts fighting over the scraps of the world economy soon escalated into armed conflict. Pyrrhic victories left most of the corps gutted with just a few exceptions. In the end the survivors did the only thing they could do and merge with the larger, more powerful conglomerates. The biggest corp was born out of a merger between Google and Intel. They formed a type of super-corporation that would go on to swallow up the remnants of Apple, Microsoft, and most of the real talent in silicon valley, what emerged was Dynatel.

Dynatel made the fastest, most reliable hardware on the market. They also made the most expensive. Turtle’s machine was running last month’s QPU model and desperately wanted to upgrade. He hadn’t bought a new part in a few weeks and was starting to get a little shaky. Sadly work had been uncharacteristically scarce in the ‘hire-a-hacker’ field over the past few days and he had spent most of his credits just keeping the lights on in his 50th floor walk-up. To make matters worse, Dynatel had just announced this month’s new quantum processor, the Tesseract M83, due out on the 15th.

“I have to have that part,” he thought. Just then he noticed the new message indicator flashing on his heads-up display. He could hardly believe it. It was like someone was reading his mind! Which he surmised was entirely likely.

Dynatel had sent out a net-wide message to any hacker who had ever done a bit of corp espionage for them:

The first person to own the global network of Quantix Lite Industries gets a Tesseract M83.

That was it, one line. It was all they needed.

Turtle knew that every ice-breaker (hacker slang for other hackers) on the net would be hammering Quantix’ networks in the next few seconds. He was not going to lose to them, he knew if he was careful and patient he could win.

A few years back Turtle had been playing around with the latest release of nmap, a network mapping tool that had been iterated on since the dark ages of computing and needed something to scan, he chose a particular range of IPv6 Internet addresses that belonged to a few different companies, luckily one of those happened to be Quantix. He already had a place to start looking for a weakness. After just a few minutes of digging through his log of the scan he found the perfect target, a database server that appeared to be poorly configured.

Turtle had a command shell open on the device within a matter of seconds but, just as the words “I’m in,” flickered into his mind his connection was dumped. Someone had beaten him to it! A moment later a new message notification popped up in his HUD, he had every intention of ignoring it and moving on to the next available target but the message flashed up in his field of view.

It read:

We are the H.A.R.E. We are all and we are none. Tread on our domain again and we knock you off the net.

He had wondered why this obvious looking server was so responsive while he was logged in. Surely if he had found it, others had too. The only explanation was that H.A.R.E. was using Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks to knock other ice breakers off the net long enough to claim Quantix. He had heard of the hacker collective before but had never met anyone that claimed membership. They were legion though, a massive, decentralized group of hackers all over the world that collaborated when it suited their goals. He remembered seeing holo-vids of members wearing rabbit masks giving various decrees to corps and governments alike, threatening to take them off the net for a myriad transgressions, or sometimes just for fun.

They were not to be screwed with.

Turtle figured that their plan was basically an all-out assault on the entire Quantix network. Divide and conquer. Of course it helped that they could devote half of their forces to blocking the competition while the other half threw everything they had at Quantix’ security measures as fast as possible.

Turtle would persevere though. He fired up his years old scan log and found another suitable candidate for attack. He pushed through a few simple layers of encryption pretty quickly; computing encryption keys generated with outdated algorithms was nothing for a machine that could calculate Pi to nine billion decimal place in about 3 seconds. Once he had basic user access he worked slowly and methodically, covering any trace of what he was doing. He was sure that a few H.A.R.E. members would descend on the machine any second.

The right side of his HUD was a flurry of news feeds, each one declaring another chunk of Quantix to the H.A.R.E collective. Turtle toiled away until he made it into the core network. He ran nmap from the inside and found the core router, the heart of Quantix’ global network. All he had to do was pop a command shell on it and he would win! He was almost to the finish line. Meanwhile the H.A.R.E. was still dividing its fury and attention between keeping other ice breakers out and throwing junk data at every network device they could find until a random bit gave them access.

Turtle was so damned close he could taste it! He needed that upgrade! He needed it more than he needed to breathe. And then, it happened. He was disconnected from the machine in an instant. The H.A.R.E. had just taken Dynatel’s prize.

Takeshi wasn’t one to be beaten, and he certainly wasn’t one to give up. The collective had only just breached the core router; they didn’t have administrator rights on it yet. He still had time, and lucky for him it looked like once they got in they stopped holding back the torrent of ice breakers. All at once the hackers of the world were hammering Quantix. This was his chance, all he had to do was find one crack in the core router’s security, and he would use the H.A.R.E.’s own trick to do it.

Turtle overclocked his QPU and killed all other processes but his session to the router. He used every ounce of power his rig had to push random bits of data to the router until suddenly he saw that most beautiful of sights for any hacker. In his HUD he saw a pristine, ready-to-be-owned, root administrator’s command shell. He had won! Instantly a message notification with from an address of mailto:admin@dynatel.com popped into Takeshi’s HUD:

Congratulations. Your prize is being replicated at your residence now Takeshi Nechayev.

Enjoy.

Turtle swiped away the message with his data glove and looked over at his cheap, 3rd generation replicator. It was already hard at work printing his new, top-of-the-line quantum processor and would probably take a few hours. “Totally worth the wait,” he thought.

But then he noticed it. The machine wasn’t printing a new QPU, it was rendering a rabbit mask.

His HUD filled with the words, “WE TOLD YOU NOT TO!”

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