Monday, 9 September 2013

Eye of the storm

You know what the problem is with writing on a weekly basis? I genuinely can't remember if I've written this stuff before and I don't have time to re-read everything to find out.

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The storm lashed at the carapace above as the passengers decanted from the seriously weathered vehicle. Around them, skaters were falling one by one as the remnants of their energy were fed into the vehicle's protective shield that responded to the sounds of impact and explosion high above.

A welcoming party stood near a heater, backlit by the blue neon that was used throughout the pit city. First came Helda - personal assistant and primary public contact for this incarnation of Salinda Cotra. She made the way, eyes taking in all the surrounding details, ensuring the surroundings were as she had been briefed and the welcoming party were all personally known or at least identifiable from network discussions. The data dump she took upon leaving the shielded vehicle barely made her stumble, although her eyes lit up to a bright shade of green as she processed it.

Following her came the brain of Salinda. The body was easily nine feet tall and physically powerful. No signs of the rigours of the journey showed; instead the simple leather armour she wore enhanced her physique and silenced any who had wondered that she dared travel without a bodyguard. The various input points around her arms, thighs and neck had been disconnected and sealed over before she left the vehicle and the metallic rings and dark tattoos appeared purely decorative in the absence of any wires or peripheral devices. She did not bother to look around - all data received by Helda was filtered and fed through to her. If she thought something vital had been missed she had access to everything in Helda's mind and could also take remote control of Helda if she thought it expedient.

Lastly, hauling all of the additional technology needed to run Salinda's brain in the event the body were to be dismissed, came Junta. Whereas Helda was a physically weak human with a small amount of technology to allow her to fulfil her role (not least of which was as a firewall; in the event anything malicious got past her security, it would infect and kill her before it reached Salinda) Junta was made of whipcord and steel - figuratively by nature and literally by nurture. Junta was able to embed into any technology, view the data streams as a natural born human would watch an instructional video and what little human physically remained was sinew which had been trained and honed to lightening fast reflexes and appalling skills of both nurture and destruction.

The three moved from the vehicle to the city with the absolute confidence of the unassailable.

The welcoming party showed no signs of objection to either the attitude, or the ravages Helda and Junta were making to the data being picked up by the Pit City's security systems. Salinda herself remained as a data black hole, visible only to the naked eye and traceable only by the absence of any information at that point. As her trail was always coated with a subtle stream of dissonance and manufactured alternative data, the hole would be blanketed over moments after it was created. Helda and Junta, although terrifying as a defensive unit when connected with Salinda, were unremarkable without her backup and mastery - much as the body she used was merely a thug without her guidance, the two of them were exceptional but not awe-inspiring without her power controlling them.

Salinda nodded to the party who grovelled at such a mark of consideration and walked into the chambers prepared for the meeting. She seated herself at the head of the tables, Helda assumed a place at her right, and Junta disdained the available chairs in favour of hovering at Salinda's left shoulder, much in the manner of a mounted gun, ready to be fired at any second.

The welcoming party filed in and took their places. They were the actual physical forms of the leaders and head merchant bodies of the Pit City and were making a rare physical contact as a sign of gratitude that Salinda had made this journey. Behind the thirty two of them flickered hundreds of screens as Helda triggered the network conference bringing all the representatives from other local cities and more far-flung industries online.

They all made their respects and waited to hear Salinda speak.

"I am here as a representative of the government of all worlds and economies. Over the next few months I shall be travelling to a random selection of cities within this sector in order to establish growth requirements, tax collection and investment opportunities. I have been chosen to cover this sector as Salinda Prime and relatives have no personal or business connections to these cities.

"These visits are being made on a personal basis as we have reason to believe significant evasions are being undertaken by various parties, hindering the advance of the world economy for the benefit of the individual. Similar visits are being made across all sectors including those under the government and subsidy of Salinda Prime.

"There will be no future investments made by Salinda Prime or relatives in this sector as a result of this visit. Likewise, Salinda Prime and relatives shall take no information sourced on this visit and employ it within their own business dealings.

"A complete report of the observations and recommendations of myself and my colleagues shall be produced and submitted to the governor at the end of each visit and made publicly available upon completion of the tour. Depending on the content of the report and the recommendations made, there may be action before the report is made public. No city will see their own report before it is publicly available."

As she spoke, Helda and Junta had been scanning and storing responses and data traffic generated by her words. A few were privately flagged up, but for the most part it was generic data. Suddenly a massive data spike occurred, targeted straight at Salinda, via Helga's interface.

The spike encased a body of malicious software and was designed to overwhelm Helga, shut down her filter and overspill into Salinda, releasing the virus. Salinda stopped speaking and turned to watch Helga as she stiffened and absorbed the data. Junta had bonded wirelessly with Helga the moment the spike occurred and the two of them were locked in stripping out the unnecessary content to find the core, while preventing the virus from being released. Helga's eyes glowed a bright unnatural green, while Junta was muttering under his breath as he ducked and dived through a maze of projectiles only he could see.

Salinda casually leaned back and tapped into the cleaned surface data. After a momentary analysis she shut the connection and left her two aides to do their work.