First Day

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« on: <12-18-11/1711:09> »
Alice fell out of bed as the alarm blared in his ear, jerking the youngster out of a wonderful dream that was just starting involving a former classmate and pudding. Face-down on the floor, his hand shot up to the bedside table, fumbling for the commlink to shut the alarm off. His hand scrabbled at the side of it, knocking it further away, a dull whump telling him it'd fallen to the floor. Groaning, he dropped his hand, finally got hold of the commlink, and killed the obnoxious alarm.

Sighing in relief, the young elf rolled onto his back, throwing an arm over his eyes to block out the light streaming in through the bedroom window. For a few moments, he considered just going back to sleep.

"Alright, little brother, your first day at the university!" came a high-pitched, chipper voice that felt like nails driving right into his brain. "Get up, get up, get up, you've been blathering on about not wanting to be late and look bad for weeks!" Alice grunted in pain as a foot landed on his stomach, causing him to double up off the floor, his breath coming in heavy gasps.

"You suck," Alice groaned, blinking owlishly up at the feminine figure up above him. His sister looked, to put it kindly, like crap. She'd been hooked on beetles and party drugs back in the Barrens, and she was just starting to lose that "reanimated corpse" look that drug abuse pushes onto a person. Still; there were bags under her eyes that looked like the Hapburgs on vacation and a sickly pallor to her skin.

"Not anymore!" Chissa said brightly, a haunted look passing over her eyes for a brief moment before the smile returned. "Now come on, hop your ass in the shower. Your first class is in fifteen minutes." She looked down at her brother, lifting a brow at him. "A cold shower, from the looks of it."

"SHADDUP!" yelled Alice, flinging a pillow at Chissa and rolling away onto his feet, keeping his back to her and ignoring the peals of laughter that followed him into the bathroom.

"Stupid nosy brat. You'd think she was the young one," he grumbled as he stepped into the shower. As he did so, he stretched his mind outwards, capturing hold of the nearby wireless signal and riding it into the Matrix. Like he did every morning, he did a quick scan of his newsfeeds, checked a few of the message boards he hung out on, and cleaned the spam out of his inbox.

Five minutes later, he was clean and fully dressed and on his way out the door. As he left, he checked his hip to make sure he had his Predator... then remembered they didn't live in the Barrens anymore, and that he could leave his home without a gun. It was still an alien concept to him; he'd only gotten the scholarship a month ago, after turning himself in to Horizon as a virtuakinetic. They'd pulled him and his sister out of the Barrens, put them in a corp-sponsored apartment building, and enrolled him into the university on the conditions that he major in Computer Science and that he come to work for Horizon after graduation. It wasn't a bad deal, for a couple of Barrens rats.

He kept his commlink off until he reached the university grounds, and sighed when he finally turned it on. The image link in his glasses was immediately spammed by AROs, some telling him about college activities, but most ads for various products that college students might find useful. He grumbled as he tapped the AROs away and added them to his filter; he never had to deal with AROs when he was operating in Real Mode. He could just will them not to come near him. With the commlink he had to work at it.

His first day of classes were pretty boring. He still tried to absorb it all, though; it was pretty basic stuff, but he still thought in the childish terms he'd given to the Matrix when he was younger, before he understood the technology and terminology involved. He could only stay focused on it for so long before his mind and eyes started to wander.

And hey, that girl over there's pretty cute. Why don't you see more pink ork girls like that? Kinda hot... is that a changeling? Damn, she must get hit on all the time. Guess it's like that guy on the data haven keeps saying; catgirls and catboys are proof that someone loves us and wants us to be happy. Hm, don't see any other elves, though... wait, is the ork girl looking at me? No, don't look back at her, idiot! Wait, someone calling my name...?

"Mister Durens, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to pay closer attention in my class," the teacher, an elderly human male stated, staring over the frames of his glasses at Alice. "I'm not accustomed to having to repeat myself more than once."

"S-sorry, Professor," Alice murmured sheepishly, his cheeks coloring pink as he sank lower into his chair.

"Now that you've joined us in the land of the awake, maybe you can show us how well you were paying attention and explain the purpose of a Data Search Agent."

"U-um, okay..." Alice said, though his mind was racing. ...Drek! I don't know the purpose of a Data Search Agent. I mean, I do, but what kind of answer does he want? Does he want the textbook? A clinical definition? An in-your-own-words kind of deal? Why wasn't I paying attent

"That's quite enough, Mister Durens!" yelled the professor. Alice looked up to see the man trying to cover up a trideo projection in the middle of the room. Alice only got brief glimpses... but was that the professor in a gimp suit?! Raucous laughter echoed through the classroom, but Alice didn't hear it. He heard a quiet giggling in the back of his mind that most definitely wasn't his.

The trideo projection fell away at the same time the giggling stopped. The laughter took a bit longer to die down. The professor, red-faced and trying to maintain his dignity, strode back to his desk. "Thank you, Mister Durens, for that ... elaborate demonstration of a Data Search Agent. I suppose I don't need to worry about anyone finding out what my weekends look like anymore." The professor sank into his chair and covered his face with his hands. "You can all leave now."

Alice remained in his chair as the students started to file out. He saw most of them looking his way and grinning at him, some of them flashing him the thumbs-up, but his eyes mostly remained fixed on the professor, who hadn't moved.

Once the two were alone in the classroom, Alice slid out of his seat and approached the desk. The teacher looked up as he approached and sighed.

"Yes, what is it, Mister Durens?"

"I uh... I want to apologize for the... display, Professor," Alice said, casting his eyes to the floor as he muttered an apology. "I don't know what happened. I was trying to think of a way to answer your question and..."

"It's alright," the professor sighed, rubbing at his forehead. "I was told about your... special circumstances. Your beneficiaries are kicking me a little extra to not say anything, but I didn't expect ... well, this." He pulled open a desk drawer and rummaged through, producing a small business card. "They also wanted me to pass this along. It's an extra ... course assignment."

Alice picked up the card, eying it. Happy Hannelore's Matrix Services, it read in gold embossed script, with an address and commcode beneath. He looked back at the professor, who shrugged.

"She's like you," the professor said. "Supposed to be able to help you. I'm guessing your beneficiaries want you fully functional by the time you leave."

"Um... okay," Alice said, looking towards the door. This had turned... odd on him, and he wasn't sure what to do about that. "Well... I'm sorry again. I'll try not to let it happen anymore. Guess I better get going." As he spoke, he was moving towards the door, and by the time he finished, he was out the door and into the hallway. The crowded, noisy hallway.

Alice followed the push of the crowd out the doors and into the sunlight, breathing deeply of the fresh (well, relatively fresh) outdoor air after having been stuck in the classroom for four hours. And then promptly started coughing as he got a lungful of foul-smelling pollutants, which sent him grabbing for his respirator.

"Hey, kid," came a voice from behind him as he was bent over, sucking air through the respirator and trying to calm his coughing fit. He jerked up and spun around, blinking as he came face to face with the pink ork girl he'd seen in the classroom. Not that she was all pink; pink skin, pink hair, gold eyes, small white tusks, rocking the punk rockette look...

"Nice job with the professor. Stuffy old windbag never shuts up," she said, clapping Alice on the shoulder. "Name's Yuki. You look like you can handle yourself; wanna go grab a bite to eat? I know this wiz old place a few blocks away that you've gotta hack your way onto the list to get in."

"Uh... um..." Alice drew another deep breath through the respirator, then put it away. His mind racing with the usual sort of thing teenaged boys think about when confronted with this sort of situation - Oh holy crap she's completely hot and talking to me and so on - he somehow managed to remain erudite and loquacious.

"Yes," he said finally, after too long a pause. The girl gave him an odd look, then grinned.

"Alright, then, let's go. You're gonna have to give me a name, though, in case you can't hack it - ha! - and I wind up having to put your name on the list," she said while leading him off campus.

"Um..." Crap, I can't give her my real name. 'Alice' is... is... drek! Gotta come up with something, fast... "...Alice," he said, eyes downcast again. "Shut up. Wasn't my choice," he mumbled as he heard the ork girl trying to stifle laughter.

"Hee hee. Sorry, I wasn't expecting that. Guess there's something to that 'Dandelion Eater' stuff pop keeps shouting about, though," Yuki said, grinning and slinging an arm around the smaller elf boy's shoulders. "Well, that won't do, not at all! We'll have to come up with a better name for you. It'll take some thought, though."

Alice found himself leaning in to the close embrace, tilting his head slightly up to the taller ork girl, trying to see around her tit. It wasn't easy, given the size. After a moment, he extricated himself, his cheeks flaming from the close contact. "Uhm, well, okay. Just don't give me something embarrassing."

"Do my best," Yuki said, stretching and tucking her arms behind her head to work out the kinks. "Can't make any promises if you keep pulling the dandelion stuff, though. Might let you off easy with just a 'Dandy', might go the whole nine and name you 'Dandelion the Dandy Man' or something."

"Oh shaddup!" Alice growled, smacking her on the shoulder, his anger flaring up for a brief moment, obliterating all sense of shame. "I swear, you're worse than my sister."

"You ain't seen nothin' yet, omae," she grinned. "Anyways, we're here." She turned and pointed to a slummy building across the street. "Might not look like much til you crack the protocols, though. I'll go first, let you get a good look, then it's your turn."

"A... alright," Alice said, frowning slightly and clamping down tightly on his mind, popping open the AR overlays on his glasses through his commlink. He watched as Yuki's icon - a stock Maria Mercurial icon - darted behind the ads plastering the building as if it were just a wall; a moment later, the AROs flickered, then died. He blinked. He'd missed whatever she'd done, because her icon was sauntering back.

"Your turn," Yuki said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Let's see what you've got."

Alice settled himself into the commlink, determined not to use his abilities; surely he was good enough with a commlink by now, right? He loaded up the programs and inwardly groaned at the waiting time. Then he launched an attack, sending an agent to cut through the IC while he distracted the protocols, made the security systems look the other way. A moment later, he felt a touch of feedback, slamming through the AR and jolting his commlink. He heard a faint sizzle and pulled the commlink out of his pocket, staring down at it.

"They bricked it," Alice groaned.

"Heh, not a bad first try, though," Yuki laughed. "Want me to--"

"No!" Alice snarled. He was already in Real Mode, leaping into the Matrix feet-first. Out in the meat, his body started to fall, but Yuki caught the slim boy easily and held him up, staring down at him. He sizzled through the wireless infrastructure, his Persona humming with joy at being let free. He thinned himself to almost nothing, slipping through one of the cracks of the IC. He ran through several dozen search routines, hunting for the so-called "guest list".

"Why are you doing that?" a voice asked to his side. The Persona spun around, complex forms threaded rapidly and ready to attack. It stopped when it saw the source of the voice; an icon? No, it was too... high fidelity. A tiny catgirl peered up at him, tilting its head from side to side. "Shouldn't you have called one of us by now? We're better at searching than you."

"Uh... what are you?" In the background, the IC found an intruder and began hunting for it.

"I'm a Sprite. How could you not know that?" The anime sprite hopped up onto the Persona's shoulder, peering over his back. "Oh wow, you're almost as good as me at data searches. I already know what I'm looking for, though. See?" The "guest list" popped up in front of the Persona, and Alice stared at it, blinking slowly.

"Uh, thanks," Alice said, starting to edit the list.

"No problem. You might wanna hurry up, though - he's coming, and he looks angry."

"Who's coming?" Alice said, distracted as he cleaned out the access logs.

"Brutus," the sprite replied as something slammed into the Persona, dumping it out of the Matrix. Back in the meat, a thin trickle of blood spurt out from Alice's nose as he came to, straightening up slowly and groaning, putting a hand to his head as the drummers started to play metal inside of it and the terrifying silence fell over his mind.

"That was kinda hot," Yuki said, grinning. "Never saw an actual techno work before." Alice went stock still at her words, slowly turning his head to look at her, a look of abject terror on his face.

"Oh, stop that," Yuki laughed, smacking him on the shoulder. "I ain't gonna run off to tell people. And the guys ain't, either. They'll probably laugh at you for getting dumped by Brutus, though. He's the lowest ice they got."

"Not my fault," Alice grumbled, using the sleeve of his shirt to wipe the blood off of his upper lip. "There was this ... catgirl thing talking to me."

"That'd be Chairmistress Mao," Yuki told him as she took his arm and started to lead him across the street. "She's a free sprite that runs around the CHN in here. Made it her home and such. She's mostly harmless, but I've never seen her actually hack, y'know? The old guys tell stories about her showing up one day and absolutely wrecking the network around here, but I don't believe 'em."

Inside, the building looked as if it belonged in the Barrens; half the furniture was broken in some manner, the windows were busted to hell, and the clientele looked decidedly seedy. Then his brain rebooted and loaded the iconography. Colors exploded across his field of vision, seedy clientele became Gods, and broken furniture became marble biers of beauty.

"Nice, huh?" Yuki asked, chuckling, her Maria Mercurial icon replaced by a custom job that looked like her; save that, while both were pink, the icon was elfish rather than orkish. Alice could only gape at the change. "Come on, I've already paid for two cocoons. Consider tonight my treat."

Six hours later, Alice stumbled his way home, half-drunk and half-high. He'd definitely gone overboard; the Pong 2072 tournament was his, but the 2100 tourney had left him dazed. Not to mention the dozen-odd games others had pulled him into because they wanted to see if playing against a virtuakinetic was any different. Yuki'd pushed a few alcoholic drinks into him during the brief breaks out of the cocoon, and he was definitely feeling them. And yet... he couldn't remember a day he'd enjoyed more, talking to people who actually understood him when he started talking about the Matrix. Old deckers, VR hackers, even Yuki. It felt... good.

Somehow, he managed to get the door open, and none-too-quietly through the apartment and into his bed. As he collapsed into it, he heard footsteps behind him, and his sister's voice, quiet and subdued, came from the doorway. "How was it?"

"You know... I think I'm gonna like it here," Alice mumbled right before he passed out. Chissa crossed the room and slid the blanket up around Alice's shoulders, leaning down to place a kiss on his brow.

"At least one of us will," Chissa murmured, patting Alice's head before leaving the room to return to her own. The latest tripchip from Mind Storm was waiting for her there.
Next time you're down on your knees, and you're expecting a slap, it might be me in that mask, and I just might have a bat.
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« Reply #1 on: <12-19-11/0659:21> »
Cool to read a storry about a technomancer.

Deplore killings made in the name of religion. Can't it just be for fun?


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« Reply #2 on: <01-19-12/1709:12> »
Wow! First story of a 'mancer I've read... Very nice! Hope there's more coming!