Hassun: "八寸"

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2 years 5 months ago - 2 years 5 months ago #89 by Kimiko Mazoku
Rain slatted against the cold glass, turning the city outside into a blur of blue-grey spiked with flickering neon, creeping around the rim of the thick plate window and trying to bleed through the edge seals and invade the darkness of the room beyond. Nearly as empty and barren as a parking lot paved over a nuclear wasteland, the only things in the room that spoke remotely of habitation were the low slung Japanese tea table and the mats to either side of it, one of them occupied by a rail thin figure, slung just as low over it, illuminated by the wavering flame of a candle. A tea light, relic of another era when using combustible hydrocarbons for heat and light was the only option. Ironically it's soft warm glow was the most organic thing in the whole room and that included the figure hunched over the light. Inky black hair pooling about the exposed cybernetic joins of skeletal shoulders, prosthetic limbs akimbo like a broken doll dropped to the floor; intent on the small item on the table before her. A chip.

Turning it over and back slowly, examining every nuance of it with an attention that defied the chip's simplistic nature, as if trying to read the data contained within by a hard enough stare alone. Meditating on its significance in the world perhaps, pondering out the enigma hidden in plain sight. It was familiar, but different. It's external design, even the altered logo on the label. And what exactly was the mysterious 'plus' advertised. Was it merely someone slapping a new label on a bootleg product? Or was there really something different about it. Accessing encrypted headware memory, she pulled up old files long archived, ones that hadn't been touched in years, the augmented reality display of her vision flooding with lines of scrolling text then intricate schematics. 3D objects that spun and grew in size, layers peeled apart, internals exposed. Overlaying the virtual imagery on the object before her and considering that sight for a few long moments.

At last it seemed even her unblinking stare was insufficient for the task - long lashes parting as eyes opened wide, wider than needed - the perpetual scanning swirl of neon-lit cybereyes pausing - a seam between schlera and cornea parting as the primary lens extended from each eye, telescoping outwards. Increasing magnification by function of optics rather than relaying on purely digital enhancement. Eyes that once peered at muscles and tiny nerve endings, microscopic layers of tissue and cybernetic components thinner than human hairs now turned their otherworldly perception upon the chip. Ferro-ceramic prosthetic hands stirred and long fingers as dexterous as any concert pianist picked up a fine needle from the table top. Once those digits scraped cancer cells from neurons and rewrought flesh and bone. Now they held the needle point in the candle flame, taking only a few moments for the thin metal to glow a cherry red. With one last consultation of the AR design schematic laid over reality, those micrometer precise hands moved to perform a new kind of surgery - plunging the hot needle into a very particular point in the chip's casing, melting a tiny incision in the plastic. Exposing a very specific portion of the inner workings, buried under the flash molded outer casing. She took a moment to exhale long and slow. The hard part had yet to come.

It was more trouble than it was worth - which is exactly what was intended. Beyond layers of internal encryption, the chip itself was designed to burn out after one use and tampering with it produced the same result, also by design. Wouldn't do for the chip heads to be able to score free rides now would it, had to keep them coming back. Costing more than a week's rent at a flophouse in the Shades, few junkies really had the inclination to tinker with their chips and risk ruining their fix on a whim. Ultimately the layers of security were intended for someone else - the competition. So why hadn't they worked?

Eyes spiraling out further, she peered down into the tiny needle point melt in the chip. It was a delicate dance - penetrate too far and the heat from the needle would scorch the internals. Not far enough and it wouldn't uncover the connections she sought. Wrong area entirely and it would be an exercise in futility. Reaching over near the Noh mask set on the table, pointed polycarbonate nails lifted a small wire of solder, holding its tip in the candle flame. Her other hand also held the needle in the same way - and the delicate dance continued. The solder must be melted to flow - the needle must be hot to hold it. Either one too cold and it would solidify too quickly, either one too hot and the solder would run off or evaporate. Letting the cherry red tip of the needle cool, watching the IR temperature reading counting down in her vision, calculating how long the operation would take. At the precise moment, dipping the needle tip into the softened solder, and taking the smallest amount possible. Then ever so carefully, sliding the needle back into that little incision to deposit a tiny blob of solder, to jump the gap between two circuits and cut off the hardware self destruct. Wrong spot and it would trigger, burning the chip out. Too much solder and it would jump multiple circuits and again the chip would be ruined. Too little and the objective would not be met. Too hot and the circuits would cook. Too cold and the solder wouldn't stick.. It was a most delicate dance indeed, but she had two advantages on her side: She was born a dancer. And she had designed the chip.

Setting the needle down once more, alien eyes retracted into their housings and for the first time in what felt like hours, eyelids slide across cybernetic lenses, moistening them with a film of synthetic lubricant. Only one way to find out if it worked. Those dexterous surgeon's hands moved to pull inky black hair away from the side of her face and, picking up the modified chip, slot it into the chipjack in her cybernetic cranium. The boot message played, but rather than kicking back to enjoy the Better Than Life (plus) high it would shortly initiate, she bombarded the chip's unused but still present input port with a massive string of very specific hexadecimal code - It hitched and stopped mid-line, it's program put on pause as the OS recognized the pass and granted her backdoor access to the internal system. The innards of the BTL laid bare, its internal assets exposed. A sight no chiphead would ever see, granted only to a tiny handful of anointed ones in the city's Underground - specifically, her and whoever had been fucking with her shit.

It was easy to see that things had been done to the chip's programming. It was a lot less easy to see exactly WHAT had been done to it. There were new assets, new files added, the over all program size had almost tripled. And as curious as she was to see what exactly they had done, she knew better than to look. There would be encryption, ferocious levels of it. And maybe something more - something worse than just a chip with a penchant for turning itself into slag. The very essence of the electronic drug worked by spiking the users vitals and brain activity through the roof, giving them an experience that was Better Than Life in all the worst ways, a slow steady spiral to burnout and oblivion wrapped up in an utterly addictive package. It wasn't that hard to tweak all those impulses just a little bit further and create something that would give the user a heart attack, even a stroke, or straight up burn out neurons and cause cranial cellular death. She would know. She had murdered people with these chips. Chalk it up to just another overdose and sweep the body into a morgue drawer.

Staying warily away from prying into the alien code, lest a deadly failsafe be triggered, she shut down the program and ejected the chip. Holding it in her hand for a long moment, then tucking it away, curiosity only piqued further. Leaning forward, pale lips of synthetic flesh pursed, making the jagged cuts in them gap open garishly, blowing a soft breath to extinguish the tea light into a pool of molten wax. Lifting the Noh mask back into place with a hiss of vacuum seal and securing the long painful lance through it and the face below, she turned to watch the rain sleet against the window.


 
Last edit: 2 years 5 months ago by Kimiko Mazoku.

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