Same Old New Year | Joey To


Same Old New Year

Joey To

The New Years Ablutions Award


The man stroked his grey beard. “Grab a souvenir if you can, Sergeant.”

Jake smirked and pressed “CLOSE”.

As the pod’s canopy lowered, Jake noted that the general’s uniform – like his own, like most of their stuff – had seen better days. The old man’s stars and nametag “Ford” were perfectly shiny though.

Jake then released the brake.

A flash of white, then a blur of rubble, derelict buildings and black skies…

“Just as well,” muttered Jake as his world vanished… Then another zoomed into view – a cold blur of skyscrapers, busy streets and orange skies washed over him. On the chronometer: 31.Dec.2018.

Jake had only seen aboveground cities in historical records. Still, with the right attire, he had no problems blending in. Up high, a massive screen blurted out advertisements.

<< …free extended subscription with TotalByte’s new Brien smart speaker. Stocktake sale ends January… >>

Jake found Fulgar Inc easily enough, a tower of concrete and glass. He swiped his watch across the lock, instantaneously hacking it.

Jake had scanned the entire mainframe. No trace of the Virus or anything which could be its precursor. Approximately 120 years before his own birth, the Virus somehow collapsed society. Without power and without computers meant going without just about everything. Billions died.

“I know it’s not a public holiday, but most take time off.”

Jake spun around, still feeling the cold caused by the jump. It was a woman, late 20s, same as himself.

He shrugged and gestured at the hardware. “Holidays don’t stop people using all this.”

She smiled, then left. Jake scanned everything again.

Nothing.

Must have been too early.

31.Dec.2019: Still nothing, except for a major war which Jake already knew about. He half-expected the Virus to have military origins but found no evidence either way.

31.Dec.2020: The war had ended and, despite widespread destruction, the hardware running cyberspace mostly remained intact. Even the Fulgar building was still standing. Jake hacked into all their networks.

Nothing.

31.Dec.2021: Life resembled the pre-war days, albeit with a lot less people. Still, they were drinking and eating and carrying shopping bags.

<< …new TotalByte Brien, giving you total control of… >>

Jake entered the Fulgar building for the fourth time. Although it was merely minutes between each visit, he felt like he had lived in this city the past few years.

He quickly found the mainframe, which had expanded, and initiated the hack. His hands were still cold from the jump.

“Wow, can’t believe you still work here.”

Jake recognized voice but froze momentarily.

“I could say the same,” he said to the woman, clearly with one baking in the oven. “You look… well.”

“You too.”

Jake could tell that she remembered him looking the same. Thankfully, he did follow protocol and changed his clothes after each jump.

“Well,” she said, “with the post-war rebuilding and the upcoming merger with TotalByte, it’d be good to stay.”

Jake’s watch beeped. He glanced at it: one suspicious code fragment found.

The lady held out her hand. “Angela Ford, R&D. How come I don’t see you around?”

Jake firmly shook her hand. “Jake Wilfork, contractor. They bring me in when they need me.”

Ford nodded at his watch. “I’ll leave you to it then. I guess you have a party to go too.”

And with that, she left.

Jake checked out the fragment, then quickly researched TotalByte. The merger was never mentioned in their records and his mind now churned.

31.Dec.2022: Found it. And he merely had minutes to destroy it before the midnight update. The Virus was to be embedded into the Brien “management” system. It was linked to everything, logged all activity – someone could watch and control… everything, everyone. But something must have went wrong; well, more wrong than—

“Brien, lock the door.”

Jake froze… No mistaking that voice and the click which followed.

Indeed, Ford had a gun on him. “It wasn’t exactly what we intended. Failed at every attempt to fix it. Still, control is control and I’m here to make sure of that at least. Happy new year.”

_____

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