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Alternate Beginning of Fallen Host

To Catch A Gene Thief




het slash

The Storm
by Eric Nette

The LINK's Brilliant ether was soothing and bright as I moved my Avatar quickly through the streets of the New York node. I could feel the LINK flow and pulse around me like a lulling stream. When I moved I exerted no force but simply used the current to push myself along. I flowed and drifted, my avatar gave all onlookers the image of a man drifting along with a cloak on. I passed several neon signs and screaming advertisements but none were what I was looking for.

Coming to a chat pub I drifted through the door and to one of the many booths in the back, among the shadows. I manipulated my avatar to sit in one of the plush seats. I felt the data that was pushed into my avatar from the seat, informing me of its plush ness and what would be perceived by my senses in real time. The seat began shifting as it got the automatic data feed back of what I asked of it. After "sitting", I positioned myself In the seat facing the rest of the room with my back to the wall. The wall in question was really just for the look of the room, as no matter how far humans got into technology, or far away from reality, they always brought some piece of real life with them.

I began to access the LINK outside the pub, bringing music to my ears and information to my eyes. Of course I still kept a small window open to the pub, watching all the other avatars with curiosity. As with the real world, I was easily able to listen to the nearby conversations, tapping into the data links between all avatar's involved.

After a few minutes and rotation of my music lists, one of the shifting conversations caught my eye. Apparently one of the many visitors was having a rough conversation with a new arrival. This visitor wore a bland avatar of a cartoon character, of which I was unsure of the source, and was talking with another cartoon character when they had abruptly been interrupted.

The interrupting avatar was rich in detail and had had a lot of time put into it. It was a knight of some kind, and was very large. It had put its gauntleted hand down on the table, a simple command but one that only warranted more trouble.

Seeing this I immediately shutdown my underlying programs, including my musical tracks, and began to listen intently on what was going on. As I had planned not to spend too much time in the pub, I was hoping that anything that came from this would resolve quickly.

"What do we have here? Nice avatars but I would have gone with something more grown-up." The knight sneers.

"Go away, this conversation doesn't concern you, there are plenty of other places for you to sit." The first cartoon avatar replies briskly, waving off the Knight.

"Oh really?! How dare you question me! Do you know who I am?! I would suggest you be careful what you say, little one." The knight venomously replies.

I knew now that this wasn't just going to end too nicely, as the knight seemed to mean business. Listening in I began to follow back the LINK to the knight, covertly searching his link connection. I flowed smoothly through it until I ran into a block, some form of firewall which was easy to side step. After that came several illegal run around programs that kept switching his connection to patsies, but that was still easy to get through. After all that protection I knew something was up, more than just trying to have fun with a few chatting LINK amateurs.

There! I finally found the programs I had been searching for, a few illegal steal programs.. Looking closer it was easy to figure out why he had interrupted the conversation, he was stalling and needed the open data link to finish up the program. The program was hacking into the cartoon avatar's address's and passwords, a high level program which many small time hackers found fun to use. Letting go of my grip on the knight I allowed myself to be pulled back to the pub by the LINK.

Coming back to it I snapped too like someone who had simply spaced out. Getting up from the table I had chosen I moved quickly around to the table in question. My avatar took shape as a dark figure that glided toward the table. Moving up I didn't take time to introduce myself or involve myself in the conversation. I quickly moved a protective hand over the cartoon character blocking the connection that the Knight had had.

The knight looked up from his conversation, and gave me a venomous look.

"What do you want? I was in the middle of a very interesting conversation with my friends here, asshole." The Knight insultingly said, I could feel the programs he had running before, trying to tap into my connection. With anger I smashed that connection sending his program to a frozen position and destroying it in the process. Looking at me I saw a stricken look appear on his face as if I had just said something perplexing, a very advanced avatar indeed. Too bad the avatar did not reflect his skill as a hacker.

"Another small fry hacker trying to ruin somebody else's life for a kick, how sad." I replied. Using the LINK around me I began to allow myself to drift into it, merge with it as it were. I felt it pulse around me and rather than manipulate it, as most people did, I used my being to shape the LINK to my choosing. I moved parts of code around as it all fell into place, like a puzzle.. Moving back to my own programs I began to pull my dark avatar into myself and let it reform into its rightful form.

The black bits began to link back together and formed into shiny midnight feathers. The avatar reformed briskly into a raven. The raven was lifelike in nature, and sat perched on the top of a chair. Its eyes were the only non-lifelike part, they burned with a dark blue flame that sent smoke spiraling to the ceiling which dissolved a few inch's above my eyes.

My eyes burned brightly as I screeched and spread my wings pushing my new code forward from my chest. The Knight stared on in shock as he fell backwards into the wall, being pressed into it. His avatar began to collapse as it screamed out in pain, the sound file carried across the room, and degraded into a electronic howl . Through the LINK I could feel it as it began to crush his avatar within it, forcing him back to his body and wiping a lot of his Nexus along with it. This will force him to leave his hacking days long behind him. Making sure my work had been done and the passwords and page history erased I called back my avatar and consciousness.

Opening my eyes into reality I slowly sat up in my chair. Stretching my neck and joints I could hear the tell tale crack that told me I had been inside too long. Putting my feet to the cold floor I walked over to the window, which cast a low light into the room.

Looking around me I found nothing of surprise, the same empty room with the same chair and other assorted furniture I found necessary. The furniture didn't number greatly, but it was all that I needed. I walked over to the dresser and pulled out a warm long sleeved shirt, which I pulled over my head.

I looked at my HUD chronometer and realized it had in fact become a lot later than I thought.. I originally had been in a deep meditation, clearing my head and worshipping my totems. Finishing with that I thought that reviewing a few news articles and checking in on my favorite pub would be more than interesting before I would leave for work.

While I wasn't an official SysOp I did enjoy helping people. As I saw it I wasn't in it for the general good but I could not allow the victimization of innocents, sticking to my neutral Druidic nature. I was registered as a Christian but I had more than a few links to the druids. Of course I knew truly at my heart that I was a Druid, I told few that fact. Pagans ,while more widely accepted than in years past, still had some resentment in the modern world. The mention of the name brings imagery of Satan and the Morning star to mind, of strange occult practices and human sacrifice. Of course some extremists had done so to try to please Odin and the other gods, but every religion had the same extremists that brought clouding and misinterpretation to their name. Of course those religions in power had been able to cover up their problems quicker and bring out the ones in others. They also spread propaganda which started back in the time of the Romans where those such rumors began to spread. The Druids would have to again walk in the shadows, the great judges of the world.

Sighing deeply, I subconsciously began to rub my right arm, where my tattoo lay. Pulling the sleeve up I slowly began to show the dark outline of the swirling Raven shape that flowed down my arm. It had taken me some time to find someone that could use traditional ink instead of a chip, but in the end it had been worth it. I wore the tattoo as if it were apart of my skin, telling all what my words could not, I was the Raven.

Using the same name on the LINK was no coincidence, I knew myself by no other name. Most found that simply as someone who had gone in too deep. My abilities confirmed that opinion to most, as I had surpassed many others. As they saw the LINK it was something unreal, something that didn't exist unless they choose to acknowledge it. As I saw it, it was something else, an extension of reality, completely independent and only controlled by those who choose to see it that way. The LINK was not somewhere to escape from reality, as the LINK was more of an alternate reality.

I had been wasting too much time though. I yanked my sleeve back down and ran over to one of the doors. Opening it I revealed a small closet filled with a single jacket which filled only a small percent of the space. Removing it from the closet I threw it over my shoulders and felt the same fabric drape its familiar burden upon my shoulders and back. The Jacket was dark and worn in the all the right spots, I felt comfortable inside it, like a protective shield holding me safely and snugly inside. Closing that door I opened another nearby and walked through it. Shutting that door behind me I heard the telltale click of the lock system.

I walked silently down the hallway and into the stair well. The echoing stair well repeated the door and the return of the doorknob to its original position, but it left my footsteps untouched as I stepped down the steps, step by step. My trench coat fell along side me flowing like the black avatar that covered the Raven.

As I walked out into the lobby I was greeted with the same emptiness. I moved the same way I did before, through the silent lobby, past the reflecting surface of the elevators and into the street beyond.

Looking up into the rainy sky I felt the water fall onto my jacket and face. The cool water flowed down my face and into my jacket leaving no trace upon my skin.

Opening my eyes I remembered the hacker I had just disposed. They were common, but lately more and more had been showing up. Something was happening, something I couldn't exactly place.

Looking to the east I felt the same thing I had many times before. There was a storm coming, the like of which no one had seen before, and not a single person would be left unscathed.

* * * * *


Disclaimer: These stories are based on characters and situations created and owned by Lyda Morehouse, published in Archangel Protocol, Fallen Host, and Messiah Node by Roc (a division of Penguin Putnam).

No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.