Screaming Fist

A William Gibson/Neuromancer/Burning Chrome inspired fanfiction

author/Electric Monk

Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen. Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white. Then they start to pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation. Your map is about to go nova. Cool it down. Up your scale. Each pixel a million megabytes. At a hundred million megabytes per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial parks ringing the old core of Atlanta…

Now go back. Way back. The war. Screaming Fist. US Strikeforce. Go global; few places would still be solid white - Manhattan, Tokyo, certain banks in Switzerland, the Pentagon, along with the Russian computer defense nexus in Kirensk. Jump the scale again. Once back at a hundred million megabytes a second you can see vague outlines, suggesting bunkers…

The sky above the Kiev was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel thought Jack as he rode a Nightwing parafoil down, the launch capsule behind it, fluttering as it shredded into small confetti. The pulse bombs left flickering ghosts on his displays, comforting solidness of the shuttle gone up and away.

Jack watched it all on his Virtual Heads-Up Display, showing him what the sensors saw. Jack reached out in the moonlight and flipped a switch, a stylized graphic, a 2-D graphic representation of someone's computer defenses, lines of neon woven like an Art Deco prayer rug, showing the penetration through the Russian ice at Kirensk. The screen paused, the graphic frozen, then it died.

"Shit" Jack cursed, then twisted around adjusting half-a-dozen controls, checking to see if anything changed - nothing did. Jack's lips were in a tight line as he gave up and punched up the real-time satellite footage of Kirensk. The picture revealed a scene from hell, at least to Jack; to a civilian it would appear to be a few short-lived flickering ruby red lights and a handful of brief flames tumbling into darkness. To Jack it was hell, the ruby red lights were fission powered lasers, knocking the Nightwings - shielded against radar but not infrared and fragile as butterflies - out of the sky. A stranger's voice came on, Midwestern, very young. "We are down, repeat, Omaha Thunder is down, we..." The voice dissolved into a hail of static.

He was next he knew, watching the wheat-field get closer, they had taken out the teams with virus and so he was screwed. He cradled his head in his hands for a few, precious seconds then started punching out commands, the 50 kilos of the radar dropped into the field soundlessly and his Nightwing was light and free. He flicked on the tight-beam laser, linked it up with the ComSat high above him then spoke quietly into it "Compromised, unable to continue mission, Russians knew we were coming, I assume I'll be under attack soon, you might want to get some backup out here."

A beeping noise came on briefly; something had tried to track him with radar. A flicker in the darkness below, a laser, probably tracking him on infrared he thought. The beam flickered again, aimed at nothing as it shot into the sky. He relaxed, too soon, another flicker and he was staring in shock, for his arm was gone. The laser had almost missed the tiny shape of the Nightwing, but it had still got his arm and - he glanced up - a piece of the thin, near translucent wing.

That almost would haunt his dreams, long after he retired, his fortune made from cracking Blue Lights with Quine.

Jack crashed, hard, the Nightwing out of control. He struggled out of his harness, dazed and bloody, weak with the loss of his arm.

The Russians, drunk as it was humanely possible found him later, he spent the rest of the war, only a handful of days, in a prison camp.

When he got out, he ended up with a new arm, almost hideous, the military unwilling to spring for an expensive one, but he was alive and it worked.

He got a new job, working with the newly sprung cowboy profession, building and modifying decks for them. He almost had a girl, Rikki, but he found her too late and she was gone. He found his fortune in a cowboy named Quine.

The dreams did haunt him, all his life. Dreams of the that ill-aimed little flickering light, "An accident" he cursed when he was drunk, "A bunch of drunken Russians firing because they received an alert." The prison camp, cold and frozen - deep inside Siberia. The dreams never left him, but he was one of many, most who been in the war had them or worse - especially the ones who seen Bonn destroyed.

The worst, Special Forces Colonel Willis Corto, he who had ridden a Nightwing down into the teeth of the defenses at Kirensk with his jockey who cracked the ice then died for his troubles. Corto would go on to testify, saving three generals who were directly involved and had known of the defenses. The Pentagon and CIA were gutted; speeding up the balkanizing process that was going on worldwide.