This is Part 5 of the Serial called Disconnection.
* * *
They weren’t on maneuvers; these days were mostly spent in training and observation — in the silent zone, you had to use your augments in different fashions. Here, it wasn’t always about the soundstreams, datalines, grids, connections, or anything like it. They were used, but with inconsistent feedback, messages sent out piggybacked on the transmissions of anyone and everyone else. Ops who were in the silent zone were forbidden from initiating com to main host, save for emergencies. Often, they’d go for weeks without a single blip to or from anyone, which was why the sudden sharp tone of a summons, via the soundstream, would catch the triad off guard.
Earlier that day, the three had decided to do more than simply ‘observe’ — they made the rookie mistake of being damned sure they could handle themselves. Every triad does it at least once, and most are lucky enough to come out of it with minor scrapes and a few blown augments here and there.
This time, however, the triad containing the top three of the most recently advanced class was not precisely lucky. They sat in a dingy corner table of a ratty old bar, eavesdropping on conversations and communicating with one another via gesture and expression. Right around the time one of the three clicked up her audio augment past what could be considered sane or safe, and began to record, (across the bar, there was a conversation going on that she was fairly certain everyone in Nex would want to know) Runig opened wide his own comstream and transmitted a high-pitched shriek of interference. Normally, such a sound would be painful, but not damaging even to the most sensitive of ops.
This time, hearing such a thing at an amped volume was bound to be more than painful — receiving such a signal right then would overload the augment, but not before it flashfried what systems it touched — it would be like a surge, except small, precise. And slow enough to be agonizing before it got fatal. The receiver would no doubt hit the floor before she realized what was happening, tendons strained in throat and jaw, eyes wide and unseeing as blood poured, thick and red from now-deaf ears. Except that the augments are inside, and stimulate the brain still, convincing the op that the roaring noise hasn’t gone. She’d claw at her ears, her face, muscles jerking as her own voice lifted in a howl of agony. Such behavior would betray the three as a triad to the entirety of the bar. In the silent zone, they’d be decimated and likely strung up as examples.
The Never Connected were a furiously vengeful sort — just as religiously psychotic as those who refused to detach from their sync points and rejoin humanity — instead preferring to waste away, atrophying in the chair.
Before any of that happened, however, Autorun detected an anomaly that would’ve registered as incredibly similar to one years ago (and several, in between, really) had the original (or any of the subsequent) signals been recorded. Less than a second after the anomaly was detected, Autorun deleted it (as it always had) and kept on going with its routine, which would be unremarkable, save that it stands to remark that Autorun was never supposed to delete anything. Ever. Not a mistake, not a keystroke, not a wrong turn, not a number, not a character, not a line, a feed… nothing. So to cannibalize an entire possible compromise was simply… unheard of. The anomaly caused the comstream’s signal to be balled up and kept from the listening op, as though it were being collected, and stored for later.
* * *
Back at Central, Runig knew that his message hadn’t gotten through, and he was about to rethink his entire strategy on making the op an example, when the triad pulled its next stunt.
* * *