Here’s an excerpt from my cyberpunk novella A Mote in the Eye, the sequel to The Dogs of Cyberwar. As I mentioned a few days ago, this is part two and I’m hoping to finish both this and part three in the next month or so.
In this scene, Logan (Connor‘s father) has put Connor in charge of a group of hackers who call themselves the Fianna, after a mythological band of Irish warriors. (Logan, we’ve discovered, has a bizarre quirk: he makes everyone who works closely with him take on Irish code names.) Their goal is to take down B.A.L.O.R., the Artificial Intelligence which monitors the FreeCorp network and destroys anything — or anyone — it considers a threat. Connor has done some reconnaissance and discovered a backdoor into the network, but he doesn’t like the idea of putting this group of people at risk.
The Fianna had their own small cafeteria off to one side of the “Link Room,” as Finn and his people referred to the computer area. It was small and almost cozy, with a table just big enough for the ten people in the original group, comfortable padded chairs and warm lighting. After Connor’s run, he dressed and everybody (including Luis) gathered around the table for real beer and poutine, a French-Canadian dish that was basically potato fries covered in cheese and gravy. This was more of a Quebec favorite than something common to Vancouver, but Finn had been told that Connor loved it. It bothered Connor a little to learn that Finn had been briefed in such detail about him, but he let it slide. It really wasn’t surprising. And after all, he did love poutine.
“So,” Finn began, after they were all settled, “once we’re inside, what’s our plan of attack?”
Connor wasn’t really sure he liked the idea of a team of people tailing along after him. It would make it that much harder to stay off B.A.L.O.R.’s radar. There was also no reason for them to risk their lives, if he could do the job by himself. “No offense, but I’m used to working alone.”
The expressions on the faces around the table told him immediately that this wasn’t going to fly. Finn glanced around at his team and then raised his hand. The air in front of it immediately lit up with a holographic image of a keypad and he tapped out a code with his fingers, each “key” lighting up as he tapped it. The keypad disappeared and suddenly the room was full of people. Or rather, holograms of people. There was a young man sitting in the chair to Connor’s left, which had been empty a second ago, and all of the other “empty” chairs now held ghostly occupants. They were three-dimensional and moving the way real people did—one was eating from an invisible plate; another was simply grinning and looking around at the others, as if following their conversation; the one nearest Connor was leaning forward, typing something into an invisible keyboard. One of these holographic ghosts was standing, leaning against the wall and watching the other’s in the room with a cocky expression. Connor suspected this was because he and Luis were taking up two of the chairs at the table, which would normally be unoccupied.
The only reason three chairs had been available, instead of two, was that Daireann was standing and leaning against the same wall as the hologram. With the two so near each other, it was impossible to miss the resemblance between them.
“These are the other members of the Fianna,” Finn said quietly.
“That one next to you,” added Goll, in his Québécois accent, “was Aengus.” He nodded toward the other two sitting at the table. “Umaill. And Oisin. All dead.”
Daireann smiled sadly at the young man standing beside her, reaching out a hand as if to brush his hair out of his eyes, though she couldn’t actually touch him. “And this is my kid brother, Lughaid. Louis, outside of here. He’s still alive.” She pulled her hand away. “If you can call it that.”
“B.A.L.O.R. burned them all,” Finn said. “Lughaid’s still in a coma, but the others all died pretty quickly after their brains were destroyed.” He waved a hand and the holograms faded away.
Caitlin leaned back in her chair, stretching out her long legs into the chair just vacated by Umaill’s hologram. She was a rough-looking woman, her head shaved and her bare arms covered in tattoos. “We owe that fucker. If Finn thinks you’re good enough to lead us in, well that’s fine. You seem to know your shit. But none of us is gonna sit by on the sidelines while you take B.A.L.O.R. down. We all want a piece of it.”
Connor suppressed a sigh. “I’m sure you’re all good at what you do, but a large group would leave a bigger digital footprint—”
“We’re all in this together,” Finn interrupted, looking him directly in the eye. “I’m happy to step aside and let you take charge, but we’re your team. Unless Logan says otherwise.”
For a moment, Connor considered going to his father and demanding that the Fianna be taken off the assignment. But that would make enemies of them. If he was ever going to escape from Logan’s grasp, he couldn’t afford to alienate the only group of people in NuadaTech who might potentially be allies.
“All right,” he agreed. “We’ll do it together. But we need a plan.”