The music throbs, pounding and incessant like an urgent lover. The light show is spectacular, as are the patrons of the club. There are galaxies of sequins, glyphs and patterns carefully, artfully, drawn out on bare flesh with glitter and brilliant jewels. Flesh presses against flesh, and the air is alive with electricity, the ever fragrant perfume of sexual desire, the heady rush of inhibition annihilating alcohol and forbidden desires made manifest. A woman leans on the bar, her breasts are full and magnificent, as is her electric blonde hair with the fiber optic blue highlights. The bartender smiles back at her, his body is gleaming white marble, as flawless as a renaissance sculpture. They both can be had for the right price, but Madam Thunderbolt isn't here looking for a cheap thrill. Instead she is looking for a man. His name is Herve, but he goes by Jadelicious and he is a specialist computer programmer and code designer. Madam Thunderbolt finds her man, he's sweaty, but colored like a tiger. A tiger made of carnal desire and dripping with the testosterone that drives women wild.
'You're not an easy cat to find,' Thunderbolt says. He purrs, dragging claws playfully across the side of her face, tracing the line of her neck and around her one exposed breast. He flicks the nipple concealing tassel with one of those onyx claws, he gives a look of mild disinterest. 'Pretty avatar, but I'm not interested in women,'
'That's good, I'm not interested in finding a good fuck, I am interested in finding the man who wrote the code for Shadow's attack LAI Timberwolf,' The gay man tiger paused in mid gyration, a look of curiosity replacing the annoyance earlier. 'How would a glittergirl like you know anything about grown up things like that?' he asked.
'Because I'm the one who wrote the code for Shadow's 88 Storm Blade attack program,' Thunderbolt says.
'I thought you were dead, you look different now,' He says. Madam Thunderbolt shakes her head, ribbons of jewels sparkling in rows of carefully braided platinum blond and hot pink. 'Still alive, and you look exactly the same. When are you going to change up the tiger motif?' she asks.
The Electric Chapel
The Electric Chapel is an underground CogNet host. It is like almost all other CogNet hosts as it allows for large numbers of people to meet virtually in an cognitive environment, and is completely malleable to the whims of the host owner/designers. It appears as a very large club filled with chaotic light displays and other things made of color and light to draw the eye. The amount of time and energy that has gone into the coding, programming and sculpting of the environment is impressive. Even more impressive is that the Electric Chapel is run entirely by a private organization and not a megacorporation or government agency, as most CogNet hosts are.
Getting into the Electric Chapel isn't easy. First you have to know where to find it. It's not a hardwired location, not connected to any sanitized arco-node or regulated by one of the CogNet AISC admins. It's black and it's underground, the dangerous part of the CogNet, the place where people think they are safe, but can bring things back with them, malware and viruses, even biological issues. It's dirty and it's dangerous. Once the Chapel is found, a gleaming building two stories tall, made of silver and jewels, glittering with church icons and imagry, there is the matter of the line. Hopeful entrants queue up in the line to be inspected by the bouncer at the door. Most are turned away, but a few are let in.
The Line is the I/O point of the Electric Chapel and it is not an unguarded entrance like that of a digital department store, or cybercafe. The doorway is guarded by 'Cerberus', a custom designed LAI. Cerberus runs three diagnostics on each potential entrant, weapons and threat assessment (armed trouble makers aren't welcome in the peace zone of the Chapel) sniffing for trace and tracking programs (There are plenty of people who want to find and destroy the Chapel) and a powerful Snoop program that makes sure none of the entrants are black listed, known narcs, or cyber security officers or programs in disguise. While the consensual perception is standing in a line, Cerberus is running the checks on everyone present, and once a check is completed, they are moved up to the front of the line for an 'eye check' to make sure the user isn't acting funny just through residual body image and body language.
Cerberus is the second line of defense, after the remote and private location of the Chapel, but the LAI is strong in a fight if called to action. He appears as a broad shoulders man of possible African or Arabic origin, but instead of a human head, he has a single jackal wolf like head with glowing eyes, and jaws that drip with glowing burning saliva.
Meteor Strike: Attack program, specifically designed to counter Armor and Buffing Codes. Meteor Strike is a Grey Intrusion Counter-measure, and being 'killed' by it causes the victim to be ejected from the CogNet. The sudden disconnect can cause disorientation, migraines, and memory loss.
Hellfire: Attack program, custom Black intrusion countermeasure that causes severe biofeedback injuries in users attacked by it. An unlucky hacker who goes into combat with Cerebus can be killed in the real world if he is 'killed' online with Hellfire. The cause of death is electrical burns in the brain.
Sniff: White intrusion countermeasure that detects attack, snooping, sleazing, and other hacker codes and programs. While many of these are simply registered (what hacker is going to go into the black alleys of the CogNet without masking, evasion, and some sort of self defense?) only really dangerous or disruptive ones are flagged and prevent entrance.
Tattle-Tale: White I.C. that is specifically designed to look for tracking and tracing programs. Tattle-Tale runs around appearing as several puppies that bear a resemblance to Cerebus.
Scan: White I.C. that lists the appearance and data of entrants compared to a known list of troublemakers, black listers, known narcs and other undesirables.Â
For most visitors, they never went past the dance floor, and most of them didn't want to go beyond it. They were here for the most obvious of the Electric Chapel's offerings, illicit sex, the freak show, the cutting edge music and the designer cocktails. The Dance Floor is more than just an area for dancing and music, it is the general socializing area, and has a variety of sections.
The Discotheque and the DJ
The Discotheque is the name given to the area designated for dancing and being part of the musical experience of the Chapel. It appears as a large dark room, the ceiling covering in light and sound equipment and the floor consisting of light up panels that can change colors or display video as the DJ sees fit to run. The DJ is normally a entertainment and music programmed LAI but can easily be replaced with digital DJs, musicians, and other actual people who want to run the show for a while. As an underground club that caters heavily to music and entertainment, the number of celebrity entertainers who have donned fake avatars to run the DJ console is large and impressive. These musicians also generally have ties to the Chapel, or share an interest in the goals and ideals espoused by the Chapel owners.
There are 'Party Programs' that appear as attractive members of the opposite sex of the viewer, and are created by randomly combining image graphics of the many people who have come through the club in the past. There are extensive randomizers, to make sure that no one complains about the room being filled with 50 of the same people. Users are generally able to set the number of party progs they will deal with, depending on how badly they want to behave.
The Brass Lounge
Technically part of the Discotheque, the Brass Lounge exists for one reason: sex. Here visitors can hump, screw, fornicate and get their jollies any way they feel like. The music is still present, but the location is 'partitioned' off from the main floor. The Brass Lounge is a common destination for aspiring HoloPorn stars, gourmand sexual deviants, and the like. There are no Sex-Bot Programs traipsing around in the Brass Lounge, someone looking for an easy computer masturbation session can find it easier and cheaper elsewhere. Meeting someone and screwing the hell out of them in the Brass Lounge is a massive turn on for many people, because there is zero chance that the person they are nailing is a sex utility program, but an actual human being jacked into the same server host.
The Bar is a dispensary of designer cocktails, reality altering codes and perception warping programs that users activate by 'consuming' as drinks. Given the nature of the biofeedback system and the malleable nature of Residual Self Image, the use of these codes can be beyond the effects of simple alcohol.
100 Round Lager: A basic intoxicant, mimics the effect of drinking beer.
Mad Irishman: Intoxicant, plus self dimishing language codec, adds an Irish/Scottish brogue to the drinker's voice. The more intoxicated they become on this 'drink' the thicker the brogue becomes, until they are swearing and slurring in another language.
Flaming Lips: A party in every shot, this code allows the drinker to 'breathe out fire' as a purely visual stimulus, plus strong intoxicant.
Little Blue Friend: A bright blue shot, mild intoxicant, and sexual stimulant. A main cause of biofeedback exhaustion in CogNet users.
Mimi's Magic Cake Shot: a frilly desert shot that causes a biofeedback cascade that results in an orgasm. Popular with the ladies. Strong intoxicant.
The Redheaded Firebomb: Intoxicant and biostimulant, this shot keeps a reveler on their feet when everything else says they should be heading proverbially home. Also called Bull Blood, Juice, Hot Shotting, and Code Stim.
The Glitter Fairie: Strong intoxicant, also visual cortex stimulant, causes hallucinations and other sensory alterations.
A Painted Lady: A strong codec, this shot rewrites the residual self image of the user into a female figure.
Dick in a Shot: An equally strong codec that like the Painted Lady is a gender swapper, but turns female avatars into male ones. It is sometimes disturbing to know how many visitors in the Brass Lounge are not the gender they appear, especially if they are drunk.
The men watched from the mirrored booth, at all the writhing bodies, the glitter and the sweat, the codec shots and the fucking going on. Each avatar was lit with an indicator marking regulars from newbies, actual users from party progs. A few were secretly, or not so secretly turned on, while the others were busy watching for trouble, keeping the server host tuned for the number of users, and the last were simpyl bored. They were here because they had vested interests in the Electric Chapel beyond the chaos.
The Electric Chapel has a virtual mainframe, moving from pirated host to pirated host as the situation requires. But this isn't something done easily. The mainframe is the heart and soul of the Electric Chapel, and it is well defended. There are three ways to access the mainframe; through the Booth, through the DJ booth, and a single hidden access point. Going through any of these points takes the user into the 'Buffer', a safety zone that serves to defend the core aspects of the Chapel and it's programming.
The Buffer is not empty, but rather looks like what the utility sections of a club would look like. It is patrolled by several Intrusion Countermeasure systems. The most common IC are 'Janitor' White IC that alert the other IC that something is going wrong and someone is where they don't need to be. Beyond Janitor IC there are grey 'Security' IC that look like rent-a-cops and can fight well enough, especially considering that more entrants have already been scanned, or disarmed by Cerberus. Finally there is Janus.
Janus is the LAI program in charge of security, and Cerebus answers to it. Janus was originally a government black ops IC system that was captured and stolen by the Electric Chapel creators, and was reprogrammed and repurposed to defending the Chapel from illegal hacking attempts. Janus is zealous in his duty, and as a strong Black IC, Janus has killed a number of hackers who a bit more skill than common sense. He is mundane compared to Cerebus, but does have two heads, one is a polite 'how may I help you' that mimics the white IC scanners, while the second is twisted in wrath and when it appears, the LAI arms itself with two scimitars and will attempt to bite the heads off of intruders through a grossly distended maw.
Under the protection of the Buffer and the Dance Floor is the Bunker. The bunker is a hidden command and control center for the crew of hackers, social miscreants and corporate anarchists who want to destabilize the current world regimes and replace them with their own utopian ideals. It is also a laboratory for building LAI programs, writing codec goods, and writing up the sort of custom programs that only hackers of the first order would be able to afford, or be able to use.
Madam Thunderboltfollowed Jadelicious through the booth and then into the buffer. She was a bit nervous, the buffer was crawling with active intrusion countermeasures, plus she had heard the stories about the passive traps that lurked throughout the buffer zone. Some were white, most were grey, but she had heard that some of the traps were black, pit traps that caused convulsions, fire traps that caused burns in the brain, all sorts of horrible things. But that meant the guys who ran the Chapel were good at what they did.
Jadelicious waved her through, and she walked past the towering figure of Janus, the two faced guardian of the Bunker. The LAI glared at her, she could feel malice radiating from the machine avatar. 'Don't worry,' the gay tiger said, 'Janus gets testy when someone new gets green lighted past him without 24 hours prior notice for him to do his security checks. You don't know anal until you have to deal with a Black IC with control issues. The door opened and they stepped into the lab. Inside row after row of racks held finished programs. Enough attack codes to arm an army of hackers, some of them were exotic, collections of light globes and strange geometries. Others were mundane, guns, swords, knives, and other archaic weapons.Â
The Bunker is divided into a number of sub-sections: the Arsenal, Tesla's Lab, Mission Control, and the X-Room.
The Arsenal is a stockpile of programs and codices used in cyber combat or in hacking. While normally programs are small, in the arsenal, they are represented in their full deployed position and can be picked up and installed instantly. Twice the Electric Chapel has been located and placed under cyberpolice interdiction. Both times the the cyber security forces who attempted to penetrate and take control of the central node were stopped cold by the elite clientele of the Chapel who had armed themselves out of the Arsenal. The second attempt was followed by a mob style hacker attack on the security node that had hosted the security personnel. The counter raid sparked three days of online unrest, vandalism and cyberwarfare across the local network.
Tesla's Lab is a mad scientist factory where technomancers create LAI, cyber weapons and tools, and plan out nodes and constructs and the other things that hackers would need or use. It is mostly filled with partially coded devices and holographic representations of nodes, plans and other projects.
Mission Control is the nerve center of hacker and electronic operations. Banks and rows of monitors flicker with light while a dozen LAI and a handful of human monitors watch activity both inside the Chapel, and more importantly, in the node hosting the Chapel, and the nodes around it for signs of security activity. Mission control has also in the past functioned as a command and control center for coordinated hacker assaults against megacorp domains and cyber security nodes.
The X-Room is a training facility that allows for the use of assault and attack programs and codes against LAI and gladiator style training matches. The parameters of the room are infinitely variable and can range from TRON style retro-hacking, copies of domains for preparing for raids, jungles or even exotic locales for dealing with cyber disorientation.
The Core Node
Madam Thunderbolt walked through the Mission Control center, and two of the LAI looked up and noticed her. She nodded and they nodded back. They recognized their creator. Jadelicious looked at her, 'I thought you were Valerie, she copied Fairchilde's EchoBlade attack program and called it the 88, you look like her.'
'Valerie is dead, fried by Corp Ice.' Madam Thunderbolt says, 'I scavenged her node and wiped out the Ice, and now I'm here, I'm back for what's mine.' Jadelicious is quiet, and then opens the door to the Core Node. 'I'm guessing your the bitch who built this node,' he says. Thunderbolt nods, pausing at the door panel to access the security protocols, a few seconds and she had the passcodes changed and the digimetrics set to hers. 'You really should have changed the locks,' she says. 'We've been waiting for you to come back.'
'Good, now get the fuck out of my node, Madam Thunderbolt is taking over the Electric Chapel and it's time to get back to business.'
The Core Node contains all the functional code and programming for the Electric Chapel, as well as hosting all of the resident LAI programs and the systems that anchor the Chapel to the domain the mobile node has attached to. The Core Node also has the defensive structures that defend the Electric Chapel if it comes under attack by a serious threat such as a AISC coordinated attack. Damage to the Core echoes through the structure and enough damage will cause the Chapel to become unstable and collapse.
The core is a treasure trove of trophies and relics taken over the years, and a stockpile of money used to finance operations for the Chapel, and it's operatives. There is a second arsenal inside the Core Node that has cyber weapons that carry serious prison time for being caught with, as well as codices that are designed to static-nuke domains and vaporize cloudware LAI in a flash. Between the money and the weapons, few private stockpiles are more valuable or dangerous.
The Purpose of the Electric Chapel
The Electric Chapel is a front for a major underground organization, and has significant resources. The goals and ideals of the Electric Chapel are left up the GM, but they can be a banner carrier for whatever counter culture or hacker creed is needed. In the setting of the Cosmic Era, the Electric Chapel is an anti-corporate liberal cyber terrorist fortress.
'I created the Chapel as a sanctuary, a safe place for boys and girls who didn't want to sell their souls to the megacorps, to the soulless machines that fill the CogNet. I made it a safe place for people to be as a strange and real as they wanted to be, to experience music like never before, to alter their minds and lose their hate and misconceptions. But there were people who didn't like that. They made perception altering codices illegal, and made the people who just wanted to be free into criminals. We were persecuted while the assholes in the megacorps made legal PerkAlts and sold them to the public. Dirty code, programming addiction and directing behavior in favor of the megacorps.'
When you marginalize people, when you make them criminals, you shouldn't be surprised when they become real criminals. When they become good at it. The music will be free, the people will be free, free from the greed and the hate that we are taught from the womb and through the tube.
Even if it kills the corps.
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? Responses (6)
We need more futuristic stuff like this! Moar!
Great atmosphere. Gives me a Gibson vibe with all the cool tech speak. I need to go back and read some of you other stuff!
Hot damn, what a magnificent piece! Best of Gibson and TRON in one highly sexy package. I haven´t dealt a 5 in a dog´s age, but I´m doing so now,
I see the Gibson, but I also get a 'Strange Days' flavor and an aroma of Pynchon. I don't even think of this as 'futuristic', as much as a mirror on the 'current' (yet post-modern)
'Readers who think that SF is 'about' the future are naive,' Gibson reminds us. 'I don't think science fiction has a lot of predictive capacity, but it's an interesting tool for looking at the world you live in.'
Great stuff. Bonus points for being the only Cyberspace location to date.
Spectacular. The voice is very consistent with this one and again I think this should be published.
Though i am certainly no literary agent :)