'Jericho Charlie Alpha 6-er 9-er Bravo.'
'Password accepted. Access granted. Welcome Command-'
'Shut it wirebod n' give me what I want.' I snapped at the screen. The jackpad had its pros but it’s annoying static voice was not one of them. My fingers flew across the keyboard, falling into their subconscious rhythm as endless streams of intersecting code flashed back and forth across the screen at me, trying to block my path with its panicked pixels.
But I was no ordinary Clickjack. I would go so far as to say that I was the best in the universe but since the universe was just two floating balls of rusted metal and a desolate planet, it wasn't as nearly as braggy as I'd hoped.
I crammed another stick of blueberry gum into my mouth and threw the wrapper with the rest of my collection nestled between the wires. Entering the final line of code, I hit enter and waited for the magic to happen. I splayed my hands and mimicked a great explosion. The code zooming across the screen melted right before my eyes in a dribbling mess of black and green numbers.
'Firewall Schmirewall.' I said, smiling triumphantly.
‘Sound effects too. Cute.’ Z cut in over the dial tone for the internet.
‘Pfftt. You love it.’ I smiled triumphantly. Z always did enjoy belittling me while I was in his part of the Space Station. But I always gave as good as I got.
The back entrance to the Education Creditorial System - or E.C.S for the lazy ones - loomed before me and I slipped in with the ease of a splinter, right where I could do the most damage.
The data unfolded before me showing the names of my classmates, or perhaps more accurate, my competition, with extensive lists on their current performance.
‘Let’s see who’s paying me today Z…’ I mumbled groggily. Mornings did not agree with me. Most things didn’t. And that went for half of the Commanders in Haven too.
I unhooked the small clipboard I’d smuggled out of the reports office from my belt and took extra care balancing it on the piping on my left. A thud in these pipelines would sound like a stampede of elephants running through the pipes and I certainly didn’t want that kind of shock this early in the morning.
Instead, I rescued my Walkman from the pocket of my hoodie which was bundled next to me and hooked it up to the vivid yellow headphones around my neck. The Walkman was trashed and mostly held together with duct tape but hey, it still worked. Even if I had no idea who or what I was listening too.
One of my favourites blared down the wire, wending its way through the speakers and up to my ears. Thrashing guitar chords and percussion accompanied by the words ‘Bad Reputation’ weaved their way into my subconscious and I got to work.
I lazily skimmed the pages of the clipboard. This part of the process always bored sticks out of me but procrastinating wouldn’t help matters. The sooner I got it done, the sooner I could get out of this blasted oven.
The pipelines ran all across the station, distributing water and electricity but they also distributed air and heat. It was unfortunate that my jackpad was positioned right next to the thruster engines.
I had to keep my gloves on to stop my sweat from getting me a nasty shock from the keyboards. Serves me right for using an ancient model I suppose, but it was the only thing the Commanders wouldn’t notice was missing. They didn’t care much for the Old School Tech. It was all mech this and mech that.
A quick flick of the keys and the first person was up – Cassie ?????. (want name to mean false queen)
It was way too easy and in a blink second, Cassie went from being average in Navigation to Intermediate. I’m not sure why I’d taken the gig since she was an almighty bitch but truth be told, food can do things to a girl. Besides, I fully expected her to blow her ‘newfound’ navigational abilities within the week. And she’d just come crawling back for more, much to the satisfaction of my stomach.
Needless to say, I was somewhat well known because of my jacking antics. I could make or break someone’s standing in the Eve’s eyes which, here on Haven was all that mattered to anyone. Most of them paid me my dues when they needed something done but for the most part, they left me to my own devices. Literally.
Numbers, algorithms, code. All the things I thrived on. Immersing myself in the firewalls like a cute little Trojan horse and yelling ‘Surprise!’ when my punk ass came barrelling out the other side.
But no one gave two sticks about the Creditorial System which was ironic since it was the foundation that everything inside Haven was built on.
It’s precisely why I’d gone after it.
I guess no one thought anyone was stupid enough to try. Well, they clearly don’t know me.
The buzz had dissipated soon after my twenty seventh attempt and I’d finally come to expect the hollow silence waiting for me at the other end. But I soon found that scamming food rations from my classmates had its buzzes too, like getting an extra helping of bacon in exchange for a higher grade in Mathematics or Quantum Physics as if they’d need that trash in the future.
The trials were all that mattered in the end. Finish your trials and prove yourself worthy in the eyes of the Eves and live a life of luxury forevermore. No more of this E.C.S BS and no putting up with the Commander’s crap. We just had to hold out long enough for the real work to get started.
Next up – Hattie Broder.
Short tempered much like her height coming in at 5’ 2 and completely useless in Engineering. Turns out being the same size as the problem hadn’t exactly helped her skillset though. A twitch of the keys and she’d gone from Failing to Average, just enough to earn her her free time back. I pulled back out of Hattie’s file and glanced at the class rankings.
My bunkmate Lori was Number One. ‘That’s my girl.’ I winked at the screen. She was tall, bendy and packed a hell of a lot of muscle on those toned arms of hers. That had definitely worked in my favour, so it makes sense it would for engineering too.
Two down, one to go. I checked my wristchip on the fly, my eyes triggering the backlight to show me the time faintly.
‘Shitsticks.’ I needed to hurry my ass and get out of here. I did not need to lose any credits by being late. It would make this enter charade pointless.
The angsty voice of some ancient rock band with a catchy rhyme blasted in my ears and within seconds, I had made Seren Barkley almost too perfect.
I mean, she was perfect any way. She aced pretty much all her classes but one problem of being the Eve’s favourite was being swamped with work. She’d burned herself out before she’d even got to her Mech assignment and since that’s my favourite subject she came to me for help. The document I uploaded for her now wasn’t ‘Verfect’ but it was a close second. After all, I couldn’t give away my top spot. That would just be insane.
With my checklist done, I backlogged out of the system, hopping and skipping across signals and supply lines, cutting off any path, making it nigh impossible to track me down even if someone was following me.
Even if by some miracle they did track their way to my jackpad, I was sat in a pipeline hundreds of metres away from my bunker, with a router that ping ponged my signal to four different pads I’d set up as decoys around the whole of Haven.
You could say I had a knack for disappearing. Or being paranoid.
I slammed the fold out computer back into its cut out slot in the wall and carefully unhooked the wafer thin keyboard before sliding it into the fixture at the side. Endless wires and cables wound around it feeding it code that was keeping the station alive. Electric veins pumping a heartless mind.
I kissed my palm and lightly tapped the console. ‘Cheers, Z.’
I moved to gather my things. I reattached the clipboard to my belt and scooped up my yellow jacket and made my short but laborious way back down the pipeline.
The pipe beneath me ran through the centre of the tunnel and distributed the station’s water gathered from the tanks nearby. It hummed rhythmically, it’s outer casing was ladled with power cords, aluminium wire and bright white LED lights that snaked around its exterior. The tunnel itself made me feel like I was inside a computer, the vivid green and black of the chipboard encompassing me on all sides.
The wandering air grew more intense as I approached the ventilation system. The fans grew stronger, their wings beating as one, the whump of air echoing down the pipe. Three vents branched over my head. The incredible rush of air standing beneath them chilled the sweat on my back and made me shiver with delight.
I regretfully walked through to the other side and headed for the maintenance outcrop. I leaned against the far wall with my shoulders and left my middle hanging weightlessly in the air. I lined up my sights and threw my hoodie into the small black square situated slightly off centre to where I was leaning before straightening back up. I hooked one foot under the heavy cables for balance and dropped myself over the side, grasping the same cable on the way down to swing myself upright and onto the chipboard beneath which bowed and creaked in protest. I bent down and tapped the green button on the side of the black outcropping and the shoot slid open, my hoodie tumbling to the ground a few feet below.
The vent beeped its familiar countdown and I dived through it without hesitation landing softly, the noise cushioned by my fallen hoodie. The vent whooshed shut and all was silent besides the roaring of the engines and the heaters down the hall. I scooped up my hoodie and quickly shrugged it on, the sweltering hear of the pipeline a distant memory. I removed the Walkman from my back pocket and slid it into the front right pocket of my hoodie.
'You really need to learn to look Pink'.
My hands quickly ruffled the back of my hair into their signature spikes.
‘You ever thought I could hear your fat ass over the engines Lori?’ I glanced over my shoulder, the beginning of a smirk on my face.
Lori stood against the midnight blue walls a few feet away observing her nails. Her engineering digs were half hanging off her shoulders revealing the grubby white vest underneath. She’d pasted black oil across her cheeks in two lines like war paint to match her dye job.
Damn, she looked hot.
‘We both know you love my fat ass.’ Lori purred giving me side eye, one eyebrow raised to the ceiling. I fake swooned across the corridor before pressing her flat against the wall, my leg interlocking with hers. The next second we were kissing.
I may not have been completely truthful about the two of us.
My hands teased the white stripes of her hair, curling them around my fingers while Lori’s hands sneaked their way up the back of my hoodie.
‘And the rest.’ I breathed against her lips. ‘Perhaps I should take my hoodie back off?’ I looked up into her deep black eyes and winked as I shrugged it off one shoulder with my best seductive moves. Which being honest, were not great.
Lori shoved my shoulder playfully and smiled. ‘As much as I’d love for you to do that, we’re late.’
I rolled my eyes. Lori cupped my faced with her hands and pulled my gaze up to meet hers. ‘You keep those harlot eyes on my sister.’ She whispered before pecking me lightly on the lips and forehead.
‘We better get a move on. You know Blaine will ride our ass for being more than three milliseconds late.' She pulled her hair up into a messy bun and started down the hallway. I traipsed along beside her, my hands grudgingly in my pockets as we headed towards the Nav-Room for our first lesson of the day.