Life Arts

Short Story: "Lightning Strikes"

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"Uh-huh. She even said that traitor Alphon Quince was a hero for murdering half the planet's financial leaders in Greenland! That woman needs to be locked up somewhere. Unfortunately, the only thing we could do with her and the rest of her kind was to terminate them and get them off the property."

Fortunately, Roue was still there. She was the senior Heuristics Analyst at the Port, and she'd shown him the ropes when he was first hired in, fresh out of school. She was busy at her station when he walked up, but paused to greet him as she always did at shift change. "You're late."

Victor laughed. "Come on, Roue," he said as he plopped into his chair, "you know my shift doesn't start for an hour."

She shook her head. "Not that, Vic. You missed most of the excitement."
He leaned closer and asked her what had happened.

"It was crazy," she said, glancing around to see who was in earshot. "One minute the bots were shifting containers as usual, and the next everything just froze. Everything. All of the cranes stopped at once. It was eerie. There were full containers hanging out in mid-air that should have been loaded on trains or barges, empty containers that should have been positioned for loading but weren't. The thing was, it was just the Port equipment that was stalled. The trains and barges were still all running on automatic, but we lost intersystem sync. The timing was toast."

"So what did you do? How did you handle it?"

"Well at first, we figured the best option was to tell our shipping partners to hold fast. Just stop everything cold. That bought us some breathing room. But then the news came in."

"News? You mean about the Hacker Collective?"

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She nodded. "Yeah, and that's when this place went nuts. You know how everyone keeps their politics on the down-low while they're at work? Well, when that announcement hit the PA, all bets were off."

"Why? Who was it? What did they say?"

Roue didn't answer immediately. Then she said, "It was a woman. She said she was Maira Bundis, and that the Hacker Collective had shut down the Port to send a message."

"A message?" Victor said incredulously.

"Yeah; to the Port's owners in Basel. She said the world was going to know that they have used their power over businesses and governments to destroy the world's environment because they could make a killing out of it. And since the only thing they understand is money, they were going to--."

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"Why are you two wasting time?" It was Administrator Fletcher, and he didn't look pleased. "Get this operation back on track. Now!"

Roue looked him squarely in the eyes. "There's nothing we can do right now, Mr. Fletcher. The folks in Maintenance Bay C are fixing a broken truss on one of the lifters. It's got to go through the automated QC sequence before they can return it to service. Don't worry, it won't take much longer."

Fletcher stiffened. "We don't have time for that, Roue. Cut their testing sequence short and get that lifter back out there. Now!"

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)

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