I see Jared Paris’ silhouette in the upper floor of his lab compound, working late as usual. His posture’s awful.
I screech to a halt and walk up to the front door, start jamming the buzzer. Nothing. Bastard. I jack into the Interweb and start bombarding him with message requests.
“Open the door, you slime.”
“The front door, jackass.”
I jack out and it’s already hissing open. A soft blue light barely illuminates a room full of silicon and synthetic plastic tubing, sunglasses-black metal casing and miniature wireless antennae dishes.
The elevator dings open and I stride to his office. He’s waiting at the door, wringing his hands. Looks terrified.
“Ah!—Good evening, Jack.”
“Morning, Paris. Get your magic box, I need something checked out.”
“I—ah, Jack I’m in the middle of some—”
“Now. You owe me, remember?”
Mutiny flashes across his face. “I don’t owe you for—”
“For keeping my mouth shut, sure you do. Unless you want your wife to find out you use lab equipment to run the server for your own virtual underage schoolgirl porn ring.”
He goes pale as a bare ass in a snowstorm, starts scrambling for his toolkit.
“I want you to check out this TRUchip in my head, tell me exactly what it is, what it can do.”
He freezes, sets the toolkit slowly down on the counter.
“Jack, if I mess around with CyberCorp technology…”
I hold up a custom-made business card with the server address for his porn ring typed in clear 18 point bold script across the center. “Get to it.”
He pokes at me for maybe two hours with a dentist’s array of gadgets; I’m wired and impatient as hell, and I’m wondering if he isn’t taking longer on purpose. When he’s through it’s all I can do to refrain from grabbing him by the collar and kicking him around some anyway. Not because he’s a sleaze, or even a coward—just because. Mandy’s getting to me, getting deeper into my head all the time, setting me on a crash course around a blind curve.
Jared’s talking, and I try hard to focus.
“…lockout protocol, I guess they use it to ban people with pirated chips from the Metaverse.”
“Could it be used to lock someone in?”
“Well, theoretically it just reroutes the neurons of the brain to experience the Scape instead of the real world, so yeah, with faulty disconnect programming someone might get caught and not be able to figure out how to unplug.”
“Can CyberCorp track their chips by satellite?”
“Well, of course. Any time you jack in, maybe even when you aren’t jacked.”
“Well, it’s kind of odd. There’re complex models included in the chip’s program. The Scape’s all live data, though—no way you could store that kind of information load in a single hard drive. The detail level’s truly amazing, I—”
“Models of what, exactly,” I cut him off.
“Why… the city,” he says. “Every building, every street, right down to the garbage bins. Doors, windows, ventilation ducts—everything. Even the CyberCorp building’s on their, every room mapped out and waiting. My guess is it’s to eliminate initial loading times when TRUScape comes out, but I had no idea they’d build a city mod that detailed.”
TRUScape. I furrow my brow. “How long until it’s released.”
He looks surprised. “Why, thirteen hours, twenty-two minutes… six seconds and counting. Every TRUchip’s got a countdown timer, you know, when you jack in.
Personally I can’t wait—I mean, with genetic degeneration, biohazard mutagens free-floating in the air, the Meat’s getting worse and worse. With TRUScape, we won’t even need the Meat.”
I ignore him as he goes on, try to think. “Those models of the city,” I say finally. “Can you unlock them so I can access them in the Scape?”
“Well, I suppose so,” he says, somewhat startled, “but they’ll only render to current limitations… don’t you want to wait until TRUScape comes out and see them in their full, unbridled glory—”
I clap him on top of the head to shut him up. It’s a tough choice. On the one hand, leaving the chip in gives CyberCorp the means not only to track me but also to potentially lock me in the Verse if I become trouble. But those maps Jared unlocked could lead me straight into the heart of CyberCorp, if I used them right.
It’s not worth the risk. “Cut this piece of crap out of my head,” I say..
These maps of CyberCorp are too good to lose. Better keep the chip for now.