The International Technological Security Association was able to boast the tallest buildings in the city. Towering over a half mile in the sky, it was one of those landmarks that was always visible, assuming you could see the sky. It was a gleaming tower, all steel and glass and sharp edges. Overall, very representative of the organization that dwelt within it. The second tallest building in the direct vicinity was one hundred stories short of the two hundred fifty story ITSA building. Most of the others averaged around one hundred twenty stories. Despite the massive interconnected buildings, narrow alleyways, and seemingly infinite rows of streets, the City was built with ease of public transport in mind. Deep underground the bullet trains raced along their tracks, covering massive distances in the blink of an eye, carrying blank passengers from one point to another, and keeping track of every person who passed through its doors. It was always clean when someone stepped out of the subs, and rode the escalator back to ground level. Everyone came to use the subs, it being the only method of long-distance transportation for everyone who could not afford a car, and that meant the rich, too. The wrapper that Lael Dowe threw onto the ground was quickly swept up by a passing trash-bot, which neatly ate the wrapper and flamed briefly, using the energy to give its long-lived battery a little more life. In this part of town the elevators were made of glass, allowing occupants to gaze at the city as they soared up through the levels. It was no mystery why most of the elevators that littered the town preferred a solid siding. After passing the fifth story above street level, the living style began to deteriorate. And the evidence of filth and poverty did not fade until about six levels from the top. But none of that trash was allowed within a quarter mile of the ITSA building. This was the place where the richest men in the world worked. They wanted to be able to quietly survey their domain, with none of the dark stains present in it to taint their visage. They wanted to see the glowing greenhouses of those rich enough to afford the uppermost stories, the graceful stone facade, and sweeping staircases. From the air, the city had to be the most beautiful place on earth. Such a shame it only went skin deep. They started checking the TS chips ten blocks from the main entrance into the headquarters of the ITSA. Lael could see the code in her chip communicating with the countless sensors that lined the streets. She slowed slightly, paying strict attention the code cross over the contact lenses in her eyes. It had been a long time since she had messed up something as simple as an identity rewrite, but this mission was too important for her to risk messing it up. Even a small mistake, and the ITSA agents would be on her like the dogs they were. Forty five years ago, the ITSA made its first appearance. A computer that could recognise its user, and ensure that user was the only person who could use the computer. It wasn’t an instant hit, but it became common in corporations. But, continuing to work along that general line, the ITSA found something that would make it successful. And that was car security. It wasn’t long before car theft rates were down ninety eight percent. And suddenly everyone wanted ITSA security on their cars. And from there it was only a small step to bank vaults, to break rooms, and then to houses. Eventually, it became inconvenient even to connect the security to something like a key, which most owners carried with them all the time. Besides, a key could be stolen, and then the top notch security would be useless. The TS chip was introduced to market. There was no doubt whomever designed it was a genius. It combined everything that most people would look for, into one, small, unnoticeable chip, that could easily be sown under the skin. Continuous access to the internet, and adaptations for a personal viewing and control system to go along with it. Reminders and notices, communication, all a twitch of the hand away. Two decades later, and it was abnormal, even frowned upon, for a child to not have a chip implanted upon birth. There were modifications to check for the beginnings of cancer and heart disease. It registered what ailed the human body, and suggested a form of treatment. It was security, nothing more, nothing less. It didn’t control, didn’t force, just guided, and made sure its owner was safe. And, best of all, it was unhackable. Your chip was yours alone, and no one could ever copy it. No one could get into where they weren’t supposed to be, and those who somehow, miraculously did would be caught by the ITSA security that monitored every entrance way. Or so they let everyone believe. Hidden deep within society was a network of hackers, who had figured out how to hack the TS chips. Reprogram them in a way that someone could become someone else. And, at the forefront of these hackings was a person that the ITSA could only call “Ghost”. Faceless, nameless, genderless, all they knew about the Ghost was that he was a freelancer. He could be hired by anyone, for anything. And no TS security was safe around him. Because he could hack the chips as easy as breathing, re-write his own to mimic anyone else perfectly. And the ITSA security couldn’t keep out those who were meant to be there. The ITSA had been trying to hunt him down for a very long time now, but they never even drew close. Every time they came to investigate where the Ghost was last reported seen he was gone, with no evidence left behind. And, worse, every security update they put out there was cracked seemingly within the day, almost as though the Ghost knew what the next updates would be. They had looked for a lead in R and D, in the whole ITSA, had checked out everyone who had any connection with hacking, and had even tried to send in an undercover agent to flush the Ghost out. And they had had no luck. The “Ghost” felt her lips quirk as she walked up to the gate of the ITSA. It was her most bold job yet, taking a file from within the ITSA itself. But it shouldn’t be that hard. She knew their security inside an out, and had planned for over a month for this. They would know that it was the “Ghost” that had hit them, but they always knew. They would get nothing more off the cameras than they ever did. She had been to see an underground surgeon last night, and he had worked his usual magic. Her hair was cropped short and boyish, her chin strengthened and nose broadened. Her eyes were narrowed, brows strong and ragged. “Welcome, Sir,” the door intoned as she strode close to it. She had taken the identity of a man named Geoffrey Carmichael, a high ranking ITSA agent who had a certain file concerning a certain man. And that certain man wanted that file deleted, and was willing to pay very, very handsomely to make sure that became so. The computer opened up willingly before her fingers, and she set to work on its own code, sorting through the information quickly and finding the relevant stuff. And, so long as she was here, she might as well have a little fun. She dove headlong into the system, hacking security cameras and getting everything ready to loop. She copied every file they had on the “Ghost”, and inserted a whole bunch of nonsense, just so that they would have to go through everything to clean it all up again. She left a funny message on the President’s computer, that might just lose Geoffrey his job. And, as soon as she was finished with all of that, she quietly destroyed the computer, just in case they had any measures in place to track how she had hacked them. No need to give too many hints. The elevator ride took her to the lowest story, where those rich enough parked their cars. She knew Geoffrey had one, and that he was one of the few to take it to work every single day. It was part of the reason she had chosen him for the hacking. That, and he was also one of the lead agents on the “Ghost” case. Always fun to throw the bird to the ITSA, if she got the chance. The car was a sleek looking thing, low, smooth, efficient, and, most importantly, fast. It opened up when she lay her hand upon the handle, and she slid into the drivers seat. It took her a moment to hack through the fingerprint scanner guarding the steering wheel, but the ITSA was very careful to keep records of all of its employees, and they had graciously provided her with a complete set of prints. A few moments later, and the car was rolling away. It took Lael a few moments to realize that there was a flaw in her flawless plan. A flaw it was impossible to have accounted for. For who would ever have guessed that there would be someone in the back of the car?