hirobike.JPG (78085 bytes)            "Hiro puts his computer into speakerphone mode and stands up next to the microphone. "Librarian, read it back," he says. And a string of syllables pours out out of the speaker. In the middle of it, Hiro glances up at Juanita. She's standing in the far corner of the room with her fingers stuck in her ears.

            Down at the base of the stairs, a wirehead begins to talk. Deep down inside the Enterprise, there's more talking going on. And none of it makes any sense. It's just a lot of babbling. There's an external catwalk on the control tower. Hiro goes out there and listens to the Raft. From all around them comes a dim roar, not of waves or wind, but of a million unchained human voices speaking in a confusion of tongues. Juanita comes out to listen, too. Hiro sees a trickle of red under her ear.

            "You're bleeding," he says.

            "I know. A little primitive surgery," she says..."I've been carrying around a scalpel blade for cases like this."

            "What did you do?"

            "Slid it up under the base of the antenna and cut the wire that goes into my skull...so I wouldn't be exposed to the nam-shub of Enki. I'm a neurolinguistic hacker now, Hiro. I went through hell to obtain this knowledge. It's a part of me. Don't expect me to submit to a lobotomy."

            "If we get out of this, will you be my girl?"

            "Naturally," she says. "Now let's get out of it."

            With the nam-shub running its course on the Raft, the final battle to stop the metavirus will be fought on the Street. Hiro jacks in and travels the 32,768 kilometers to Rife's black cube at Port 127 in roughly ten minutes.

            As he leaves Downtown, Hiro notices a huge crowd gathering at an open plaza about a mile wide. He remembers that tonight there will be a spectacular benefit graphics concert staged on behalf of Da5id Meier, still hospitalized with "an inexplicable disease." More than half the crowd will be hackers, an ideal target for the Snow Crash virus. Hiro goes full throttle.

            Arriving at Rife's door-less cube, he hacks his way in with his katana (more because of a software loophole, really), and takes in the interior.

            "Rifeland is a vast, brightly lit space occupied by elementary shapes done up in primary colors...This is a model of a system. A big, complicated system. The shapes probably represent computers, or central nodes in Rife's worldwide network, or Pearly Gates franchises, or any other kind of local and regional offices that Rife has going around the world...(Hiro) has no idea what he's looking for."

             "He is now a stone's throw away from a big blue cube sitting at ground level...There is a motorcycle parked next to the cube, rendered in color, but just one notch above black and white: big jaggedy pixels and a limited color palette. It has a sidecar. Raven's standing next to it. He is carrying something in his arms. It is another simple geometric construction, a long smooth blue ellipsoid a couple feet in length... raven.JPG (84276 bytes)

            "The Big One," Hiro says.

            "It's exactly what we were afraid of," Juanita says. "Rife's revenge." "Headed for the amphitheater. Where all the hackers are gathered in one place. Rife's going to infect all of them at once. He's going to burn their minds."

            Raven and Hiro play cat-and-mouse on their respective meta-motorbikes as they race for the amphitheater. With a few minutes to kill, they catch up on their mutual past, as it turns out their fathers were World War II P.O.W.'s together in Nippon, when the first Big One was dropped. It was the first of two first-hand experiences with U.S. nuclear weapons for Raven's father, and it helps explain both Raven's unquenchable thirst for revenge and his desire to nuke the entire United States.

            Raven arrives at the amphitheater first with Hiro in hot pursuit. There are but precious few seconds left before Raven will release the bomb. There is no margin for error...

Can Hiro stop Raven in time? Head to the amphitheater to find out.

Are you actually rooting for Raven? Try this alley...

Are you actually rooting for Fido?