The first question was how to open the story. What should the first paragraph be? How can I introduce the reader to the main characters? Every book is different and after all the advice I received I decided there was no easy way to do it. No right one way.
So here goes, without further ado I will drop the first chapter here and folks are free to comment. Please be kind…
(note, whether this is the final edited version that ends up out there is a moot point. It will be largely along these lines.)
(post note, note : Copyright 2017 J.M. Grath blah blah blah of course. Any similarities to real people is accidental, it’s all made up fiction.)
Any grown-ups worth knowing
are really children
trapped in an older body.
“You don’t always get what you want but if you’re lucky you’ll get what you need. I don’t remember much about my dad but I do remember him telling me that. My name is Snow. I save people. I’m not a lifeguard, a doctor or anything you would think of as a giving profession. I’m a hacker, an outcast from society. Someone who doesn’t follow the rules. You read hacker and think criminal. That’s what the establishment want you to think when you hear my name. But the establishment works for and on behalf of the rich. The government believes that the little people are only there to create wealth for the super-rich. I stand up for the little guy. Is the bank going to foreclose on your mortgage, take your home away? I can help.”
A blinking message from her chat window caught her eye.
woj> Bigin’ yersel up there.
Snow sighed. Wojciech had been watching her update her online advert and was now pestering her. She shut down her advert and switched window.
snow> Of course. A girl’s gotta advertise.
woj> Guess things are slow. You only advertise when you got no work.
snow> Could be better.
woj> You could get a real job?
snow> Fuck off.
Snow closed the chat session and put her head in her hands. He infuriated her sometimes.
What would she do with a real job? She wouldn’t know where to start. Going to the same office every day, day in day out. How did people do that? That was the thing about Snow’s life, it had never been what you would call normal. At times it had been hard. She had lost her mother when she was very young. She never knew what had happened as her father hadn’t liked talking about it. If the subject ever came up there was always something pressing he had to do instead. He would make an excuse, forcing it to be left until a later date. Always pushed back until Snow eventually gave up asking. It was always easy for her father to claim he had something urgent to do as they travelled around a lot. He would say that he needed to check on their plans. Whenever he said that it became code meaning that the conversation was over. They travelled all over the world never being in one place long enough to put down roots. As a result it was hard making friends as she grew up. Any friends she did manage to make were transitory. Her father never let on why they had to keep moving but sometimes rumors caught up with them. Whether there was any truth in these Snow never found out. But when such rumors did surface Snow soon discovered who her real friends were. After enough time it usually ended up with her having no friends left at all. True colors shown by those around her and she would turn to the only person she could trust, her father.
“You don’t need anyone. The only person in the whole world who has your interests at heart is you. Depend on yourself and distrust everything you hear. In that way you will protect yourself and never be disappointed.” Her father’s words still rang in her ears even after all the time that had gone by since he died. She missed him dearly. His death had left her very much alone in the world. He had died when she was a teenager, and a young one at that. Not a good time if there ever was one to lose your last parent. Before he had been taken from her he had done his best to teach her how to fend for herself. According to her father she needed to follow two rules to survive. The first rule was to trust no-one, not ever.
“Follow the first rule and you’ll never be disappointed, never surprised and never taken for a fool.”
The second rule was to be a hacker. To be not any hacker, but the best in the world.
That’s exactly what she did. Her training started young, with getting free world wide phone calls. The telecoms companies were all too easy to hack. Phreaking, as it was known, covered the standard set of hacking tools used to crack phone company networks. Some of the hacks were so incredibly easy Snow, even as a child, couldn’t believe they worked. She practiced for hours with a small tin whistle until she could replicate the precise tones she needed. These tones were used for what the telecom companies called tone dialing.. Once her father was sure she had mastered it he drove her out into the countryside to an old public phone box in a poor district that hadn’t gone digital yet. There he lifted the receiver down to her and instead of paying for the phone call Snow played a series of tones on her tin whistle. Each tone corresponded to a digit in the number she wanted to call. Once she had finished playing the notes her father held the phone to her ear and she listened. A distant clicking could be heard and then finally a crackly voice answered in a foreign language. She had phoned Spain for free! Her grin was so wide her father claimed her face might snap in two. Snow still had very fond memories of that first ever hack. It gave her the taste for it. No matter how clever the people were who designed these fantastic systems that spanned the world, there was always a flaw. A crack somewhere, that if you looked hard enough you could find. Once you found a crack you only needed the right tool and you could pry it open and get inside.
Moving from analog to digital was tricky at first but she persevered. That was one of her father’s favorite words, persevere, always persevere. Once she had asked him why he always said that and he had told her he had seen it written in stone once long ago in a place far away. When he had said that she had been looking up at him and she saw that look he always had when she badgered him about her mother. There was a sadness in his eyes that told her to leave the subject well alone. That made her want to redouble her hacking efforts all the more to bring a smile to his face. She loved it when he smiled. As her digital skills grew her father taught her how to crack the data plans and the vid feeds from the more modern telecom companies. With full net access anywhere and all the information she could want at the tips of her fingers she felt she ruled the world.
“But what world do you rule?”
At first her father’s question puzzled her. What could he mean? She knew the world they lived in. It was all around them. Even the bits she couldn’t see herself she could watch the vid feeds from networks all around the world. She knew what was happening everywhere. Then her father showed her how to crack the dark feeds. These were the vid feeds that carried the news that the Government didn’t sanction. They had the wrong interpretations and came to the wrong conclusions as far as the powers in control were concerned. Up until then she had mainly watched the BPC, the British Propaganda Corporation. That and large private corporation feeds owned by offshore billionaires. Now she could see different points of view. Then the world became a whole lot more complicated than it had seemed on the Government’s sanctioned news channels. Once she had mastered the dark feeds the lessons stepped up a gear. Time to take on the banks.
The banks were a lot harder. They had better security. So far she had the data access and the hidden dark vid feeds so she knew what was going on and what she wanted to do. As her father pointed out, knowing what you wanted to do wasn’t enough, once you had the banks you also had the money to do it. Lessons in financial hacking took a good eight months in the first instance. After that Snow could pretty much get into any bank and anyone’s account she wanted. She celebrated her tenth birthday by transferring a billion US dollars from a range of secret offshore bank accounts. She moved it to charities that helped the poor in Africa. The crime was the perfect gift. The charities needed it and the people who lost the money couldn’t report it without being arrested for tax fraud. It made Snow feel more elated than any present she could have received from anyone else. When her father found out he was very angry. He pointed out that the people who had lost the money were the kind of people who avoided the authorities anyway. They would come after her themselves. Even though he was visibly annoyed with her Snow could tell that he was also secretly proud. Hacking the offshore accounts graduated her training to the next level, breaking into governments. That brought her to the third unspoken rule.
“Don’t get caught.”
Snow shook herself from her thoughts and looked at the screen.
woj> You still there?
snow> Yes. Still here.
woj> You okay? You seemed a bit touchy. Why don’t you come over?
A ping from Snow’s computer alerted her to an incoming message.
snow> Too busy. A job has come in.
woj> Go for it girl. Don’t get arrested.
Snow killed the chat session and eyed up the job offer. It was an identity theft case. Some guy’s been careless with his security and his ID had been cloned. The job is to hack the hacker and wipe the client’s details from their servers. Snow clicked in for more details. Looked like Russian hackers. That made it trickier, a lot of them were good. Snow upped her price and bid for the work.
There was a ping back right away. Her bid had been accepted. Someone was obviously desperate. Her view filled with all the data from the theft. It didn’t take long to trace the hack back via Turkey, then the Ukraine and finally to St. Petersburg. Now all she had to do was crack their security and trash their servers. Of course destroying what backups she could access while she was in. If she could do enough damage to set them back a month that would be ideal. That would give her client the time to reset all his accounts and get his life back, with any hope. It should be a good night’s work.
Cyrillic characters flashed across her screen. Auto-translation flipped them into English as fast as they appeared. Snow got to work installing encryption routines. Encrypt all their data including connected backup drives. That should keep them busy. Now, do they have anything that’s useful to me? Lists of stolen passwords, handy. Tons of porn, no thanks.
Snow clicked. Lists of jobs she had done. Client lists, location data. Shit! If the feds got this she’d be on the next rendition flight out of London. How did they get this stuff? Why were they watching her? What was their game? Her greatest fear, breaking the third rule. Don’t get caught, by anyone, ever. The first two rules were really just ways of obeying the third.
This thought was her last before the embedded virus in the files she was reading finally managed to compromise her neural link. Her mind crashed as the neurons in her brain flashed into frenetic activity. Lights, sounds, screams and smells. Every sense went into overload. Snow’s skin was on fire as she collapsed to the ground retching with convulsions. She frothed at the mouth and with wide eyes staring in horror she curled into a fetal position and passed out.
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