The Ghost of the Future (Peregrine x Rootless)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Peregrine, Jan 12, 2014.

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  1. 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?
  2. Piper Carmichael could have entered a contest for the most bored teenager alive, and won. Her father had needed to run into work "just for a second", and she'd been in the car with him. They were now on the third hour of that second, and she was growing antsy. He had told her not to get out of the car, and she knew exactly why. It'd be a security breach to have a non-ITSA member walking the parking garage, even if she made no move to enter the building. So instead she'd gone to her device, looking up the latest developments on the Ghost. The girl admired him, and there were often jokes from other kids about how she had to be the president of his fan club.

    Really, she was just completely transfixed by the idea of her father finally meeting his match. Like every teenage girl, she had a love-hate relationship with her dad. He was a charismatic conservative man, with hard features and a stern way of speaking, at least to her. He was loved by many and seemed to be respected by all, they could barely walk into the market without spending an additional three hours while he caught up with twenty of his closest friends he didn't know he had. In reality, there were very few people that qualified as important enough to allow into their lives. None of Piper's friends made the cut, they were all major officials of the ITSA. So here she sat.

    And then, someone was in the car. Not her dad, certainly, but someone exceptionally skilled at whatever it was exactly that she was doing. She stayed quiet until the car was moving, not really knowing what to do or say. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?" She asked, stunned. This wasn't one of the people that would be sent to take her home. This person didn't look like an ITSA agent at all. Her brow quirked upwards and she crossed her arms as she sat up from her previous position.
  3. Fucking hell.

    Lael had never been one for swearing. She had worked with some very foul-mouthed people, and to her swearing lost its relevance when it was flung out arbitrarily. She saved them for when she needed them, when there was so much emotion boiling up in her that if she didn't say something she might start screaming. Now there were hundreds of swear words running through her head, directed at herself, the girl in the back seat, the company, the man who had hired her, and pretty much everyone else who came to mind. But now, when she actually had an opportunity to use one, she couldn't say anything.

    It took her a couple seconds to calm herself down. Now was not the moment to be stressing out. She had to think, had to adapt the plan. Even as she was watching the girl and the road she was keeping an eye on the code flitting around her. She quickly rewrote a few lines, making sure that any form of tracking mechanism, any way for the girl to "phone home" or leave the car was nullified.

    Let the girl wonder. There was only so much she could do back there. It wasn't as though she was going to be able to club Lael on the back of the head, or take over the steering. Truly, the car was mostly automatic, and while Lael wasn't allowing it to calculate the route she did allow it to handle most of the steering. She might start to panic soon, a few seconds after her question hadn't been answered, but Lael would be at the place where she planned to drop off the car soon enough. The kid wouldn't be a factor.

    What had changed, really? Someone had seen her, but that had always been destined to happen. The ITSA building was littered with cameras. It was the whole reason she had gone to the surgeon in the first place. An eye witness who could certifiably identify the "man" driving the car really wouldn't change anything. Besides, she was just a kid. What kind of damage could she really do? Best to just ignore her, and stick to the plan. She was going to abandon the car on the far side of town, near a subway that would allow her to vanish into the depths of this infinite city. The only difference to her plan was that now she would have to find a way to activate the tracking chip in the car, so that the ITSA would be able to track down the car easily.

    Lael might be a freelancer, but she was no killer. She took advantage of the system that the world had built, same as the criminals who ran ITSA. Yes, it was true that she had a vendetta against them, that she blamed them for many of the things that were going wrong in this society. But her medium was in information, not in bodies. If she left the car it might be days before the agents were able to track it down. By that time the girl would be in serious danger, if not already dead. Lael was not a fan of leaving hints, at least not hints that might actually contribute to her own capture. But this was one of those cases were nothing could be done about it. She certainly wasn't going to take the girl with her.

    Back at ITSA, the alarm must be in full uproar. Mr. Carmichael would doubtless have been pulled out of whatever activity he was entrenched in, sent after any trail she may have left. They would have tracked the fact that she had taken his car, and he would doubtless be panicking about the girl in the back seat...


    Lael jumped violently, and had she been steering she might have driven the car right out of its lane. It only took her half a second to figure out what had happened. She hadn't blocked radio transmissions. There was no way for the ITSA to track her location through it, but they could communicate. Normally such a thing would never be permissible, but they must have made an exception because of the girl.

    "You bring my daughter back, right now!"

    It took a couple of seconds for that sentence to penetrate, a couple of seconds in which she automatically disabled the radio transmissions. Daughter. She felt a small bubble of laughter burst up from within her, and in a second she was once more glad for automatic steering as she felt herself begin to spasm with laughter.

    She had Special Agent Carmichael's daughter in the back seat! No wonder he had used the radio transmitter. It was doubtful he had even bothered to ask for permission before contacting her. She had finally found a way to ruffle his feathers, to make him lose his cool. Of course, that didn't change anything in her plan. She wasn't going to take the girl with her. She would simply have to be careful about where, how, and when she activated the transmitter, because the car would be swarming with agents less than a minute after she did so.
  4. Every time she even thought she was bored, or wished for something interesting or exciting to happen, it never did. Well, except this time. That wasn't cool. Now she was, what? Was this kidnapping? The guy looked as confused about this as she was. Carjacking in the ITSA building was ballsy, though. Piper now needed to know his purpose for coming here, why he'd decided that it was her dad's car he needed to take. She pulled a face, unsure of what to do. They hadn't even replied to her question, which believe it or not had not been rhetorical. "Uh, I said, what do you think you're doing?" The girl was five feet and four inches of complete and utter sass. Or at least that's what her friends always said. Now was no different.

    The driver was doing something up there, but the amount she knew about cars was basically that they had four wheels. Not exactly something covered in her public education. (Thank you government.)

    She had yet to get even a short response to her questioning, much to her annoyance, so, in proper teenage girl manner, she crossed her arms and began to think of all possible means of escape. From a speeding vehicle. With window lock capabilities thanks to a particularly memorable phase at the age of five when she really liked to throw everything (and I mean everything) out of the car windows. Don't stick a kid in a car for six hours and not expect bad habits to develop, right?

    Her dad's voice broke the silence in the car, and her eyes widened. That wasn't allowed. Her dad's first word was Ghost, and it all clicked. "You're the ghost? Like THE ghost?" She asked, in awe. Everyone had to have a hero, hers just happened to be the man who had managed to make her father's life a living hell for quite a while now. She did have to wait for a reply now, though, as if they didn't talk she'd probably scream. This was insane, she had to know something. "Please don't ignore me I'm a big fan of your work." She mumbled as an afterthought, unbuckling her seat belt to lean up to look at him, tilting her head.
  5. Lael's laughter was cut off quite abruptly when she heard the voice of the girl behind her. A fan? A fan of her, or rather, of Ghost's work? The notion was absurd, especially considering who her father was. However the honesty in her voice was almost dripping with honestly. Lael glanced in the rear-view mirror, only to catch a glimpse of the girl unbuckling and leaning forwards. Honestly, wasn't there something in cars that kept people int he backseat from unbuckling. What was the girl even doing here, anyways? Her father had been at work for hours. Had he just left his daughter in the car that whole time?

    Lael lifted her left hand off the wheel and brought it over her shoulder, planting it right in the middle of the path the girl's face was taking. She was reluctant to actually speak, as the modifications to her voice had been mostly passed over, as if she needed to speak it would likely mean that her mission was about to fail. But her mission wasn't about to fail. What might happen, however, is the cover she had assumed for years might be blown wide open. But she couldn't have the girl crawling up into the front seat, either. Lael had to plan, and she couldn't do that with someone babbling away at her or trying to distract her.

    "Sit down," she growled, dropping her voice an octave. On top of a naturally husky voice and the small modifications that she had received before leaving for the ITSA headquarters, and her voice came out undoubtedly male. Hopefully that was all the talking she would have to do.

    She was still at least five minutes away from the place where she had been planning to drop the car. There was no need to rush it, even with the girl in the back. There was no way for her to phone home. If she would even want to. The way the girl had sounded, it was as though the idol of her life had just walked into the car. Maybe it had...
  6. Piper seemed to have caught the ghost off guard, which was something she hadn't anticipated. It just seemed like a guy that had managed to wreak so much havoc on pretty much everyone wouldn't lose his cool over a teenager who had managed to get stuck in the center of everything. If looks could kill, he would have been missing a hand. That wasn't cool, he didn't get to tell her what to do, or stop her from her original intentions. "If you'd kindly move your hand, it'd be greatly appreciated." She told him, pulling another face at it.

    He spoke and she jumped a bit, surprised. Though it seemed as though he wasn't directing the words at her demands, she sat back and glared at the back of his head. "Wow, no wonder adults don't like you. Demanding, geesh. You know, there's nicer ways to do things. Like, for instance, not stealing cars. People don't like when you do that." She said, well aware that she was rambling. It was her major downfall, not that she had very many. She had to stop herself from continuing to speak, knowing it was probably falling on deaf ears and he was just going to ignore her some more. People who considered themselves more important tended to do that a lot.

    Curiosity got the better of her though, and more words came tumbling out. "Where are we going? Is this a kidnapping? If it isn't does this mean I can come with you?" She asked, persistent. Characteristics of hers that agitated her father to no end were shining through, and she didn't really care. Yeah, this was her idol and she was having a cheerful happy-squealing session in her head, but that wasn't cool to do in front of people.

    She hoped the Ghost didn't think she was going to settle for no responses. She'd talked to a wall of a man for the last ten years of her life. It was second nature to talk until her dad got so annoyed he answered her questions in their entirety. "I really don't have any intention of shutting up, y'know. I'm exceptionally long-winded."
  7. All of her carefully laid plans were falling apart, the more this girl talked. Lael had always prided herself on her ability to improvise, even in the middle of a plan. She was adaptable, able to figure out how to make the best of a situation when things began to fall apart. So why couldn't she think now? Why couldn't she find a way to work around this one, little kink? She was becoming frustrated with herself, and that was only making it harder to come up with a solution, which in turn caused her frustration to increase.

    Finally, she stopped everything. She let go of the wheel, closed her eyes, trusted that the car would not run itself off of the road, dismissed all the code that was still floating in front of her eyes, and took a deep breath. It was with a mild detachment that she heard the girl in the back say that she wasn't going to stop talking. Well, that was no real obstacle. She couldn't do anything to Ghost, not in her current position. There was, after all, no one around to hear her. If she wanted to chatter herself hoarse, so be it. There was only about five minutes until Lael got them to a place where she could dump the car and get into the lower subways. Then she would be gone, and things could go back to normal.

    It was a little difficult to ignore the girls voice, and a couple times Lael found herself a moment away from responding, if only by habit. She was, all things considered, not an unsocial person. Certainly not someone who went out of their way to be rude. But she also had a business mode, and eventually ignoring the girl came down to simple training as much as anything.

    There was no doubt that she would have to lay low for a little while. She had made a mistake, and even though it was something entirely beyond her control it would tarnish her reputation. She would get the money from this latest job, but clients would hesitate to call her, worried that she might be slipping. At the same time, the ITSA would take this to intensify their search. They would try and get things out of the girl, but even though she couldn't offer anything, they might consider this a step closer to catching their most wanted. She would have to rebuild, make sure that her next several missions went off without a hitch.

    The car beeped gently as Lael finally gave it a destination, the side of the road less than a hundred feet away. It began to slow before pulling over, the light thrum of the engine turning off once it had come to a complete halt.

    The girl had been a good lesson, in a way. She was a reminder not to do anything stupid. Lael double checked that the back doors were securely locked, before getting out of the car and locking her own door behind her. She would turn on the tracking chip once she was far enough away to ensure that no cameras would spot her. The entrance to the subway was less than a block away. She would have to move quickly, but things were looking up.
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