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Sensory Overload and Ghost Trap - a couple Cyberpunk stories I wrote a while back

I dug these up out of some old archives of mine, got a good response when I posted them back in 12, figured I'd re-post them here.

Sensory Overload.

    It was Thursday, the Light was beginning to rise over the endless cityscape, shining across the gray concrete structures, mixed with the neon glow of the Led and Holographic signs signifying what the different places were.
Within one of these buildings we find a young woman, around the age of twenty five sweating profusely, her sheets soaked from the strange nightmares people had come to know as sub-con's, subconscious adverts designed to make sure you were informed and given an opportunity to buy something even in those six to eight hours normally allocated to sleep.
The woman's name is Ellis, but her friends call her ell, and she hates those invasive ads, the endless screaming, the odd coloring, like being in a TV show from the 1960's only it's one endless advertisement after another, all mixed together into some strange dream, unfortunately for ell, her subconscious usually turned these into an unconscious h***.
As she felt the buzzing in her fingertips, she realized it was time for her to wake up, the alarm clock a tech-modding friend gave her designed to activate the magnets in her right hand, something kids thought was all the rage not too long ago.
She climbed out of bed activating the OLED screen on her wall, it wasn't that big, similar in size and shape to a wide poster, and placed like one too, the screen sprung to life as electricity surged through the leds, news feeds, her morning play-list, the current weather forecast traffic between here and her part time job, all this fed into the room from a fiber connection given by the government as part of an incentive program several years back.

    After skimming through the info for anything of value she stepped into the other room, using the oddly rustic bathroom which in most places these days had been replaced by compartmentalized Cleansing rooms making sure to get cleaned up before heading out.
As she left the house she made sure to put her tablet in her bag and grab her bike from it's resting place just inside the door, glad that she had the day off today, rushing out the door and taking the elevator to the roof top garden which lead to the city wide pathway she mounted her bike and rode off to the local hangout which she and her friends frequented.
The place used to be an old warehouse, something from the twentieth century which was refurbished sometime around the 2020's, it was converted into various places, but none larger than Cyberia, a multipurpose facility owned and run by an old hacker going under the name ghost cypher, and an old friend of hers who had helped her out a few times.
She approached the place and hauled her bike inside to the storage closet setup for regular customers/visitors then browsed around a bit playing a few rounds of asteroids on one of the seriously outdated arcade machines.
After a while she began loosing concentration causing her to loose the game, and so close to the high score too, the odd thing was it was a strange image just outside her peripheral view that caught her attention, wavering and glowing like those pop up ads which were outlawed a while back due to high levels of malware infecting them.

    As she turned around trying to bring it into view it seemed to vanish, figuring it was a hallucination she made a mental note to get more sleep that evening, there was a tap on her shoulder which caused her to jump since she wasn't really paying attention to her surroundings, a man in his sixties with a large mow hawk and a very obvious data-port protruding from the side of his head.
“gah! Cypher you spooked me, haven’t I told you not to sneak up on me like that?”
the man grinned
“not that I can remember, you are usually paying attention, I trust everything is going ok?”
“yeah yeah just more of those weird sub-cons I've been getting lately, d*** things should be illegal” she looked at him unable to stay mad and smiled
he spoke up
“tell ya what, why don't you go sit on the couch over there and Ill bring ya some coffee to help shake those nerves?”
“sure thanks cypher”
as he walked away she noticed that strange glowing again, as she turned she was able to get a clearer look, it was a simple white picture with words on it, the words read, Data-net what you want we can get, this was like one of those holographic billboards frequently seen around town but what was it doing in Cyberia, Cypher would not normally agree to this sorta thing.
She blinked to make sure it wasn't another hallucination only for it to vanish again, so she tried to put it out of her mind, still this was twice in the last few minutes that she had seen that image, the first hiding just out of sight, shaking it off she remembered that sub-con she suffered through, it was odd because it seemed to inter-mix with her memories rather than just per-recorded stuff they pumped into your head.
Figuring it was just her nerves she sat down as cypher brought her the a cup of what passes for coffee these days, in reality it's a fake made from various chemicals and caffeine designed to taste like coffee, well the kinda coffee which was common at the turn of the century anyway, but Starbucks had been bought out decades ago.

    She drank it diligently hoping the caffeine would shake her out of her hallucinations, and it seemed to work for a while so she pulled out her tablet and began sifting through her news feeds again checking recent events when something caught her eye, 5 people committed to a hospital after going into a coma shortly after reporting commercialized hallucinations.
She began reading closely, the symptoms reported so far had been increasing hallucinations then collapse, presumably from some form of sensory overload, doctors were at a loss as to the cause of the hallucinations.
then another article caught her eye, this time from a small time news paper, stating that data-net had been experimenting with a next generation version of the sub-cons supposedly it had been successful so far since there was an increase in commercial purchases for their data services.
She motioned for Cypher to come over and read the articles, he just looked at her like she was mad, trusting news articles when everyone knew that most if not all media was controlled by data-net these days, ever since they grew out of the old News Corp which owned most of the newspapers and news broadcasting stations in North America and Europe.
“more rubbish in what passes for free press these days eh ell?”
“I'm not so sure Cypher, I just hope I don't start having hallucinations as well.”
“she finished going through her news feeds, read a couple web comics she had been following and began back to her apartment hoping to relax and get this sense of dread out of her mind.

    As she settled in to enjoy the remainder of her day however the image began showing up more frequently, after a few hours there was suddenly two of them, this continued until around the evening. she was browsing through her tablet again absentmindedly clicking links when she ran into another data-net sign up page, they seemed to be more and more aggressive today as even clicking on a song link seemed to bring her to one.
The strange image appeared before her again, this time rather large accompanied by a voice stating more commercial gibberish “Buy data-net, we have what you are looking for”
she tried to tune it out but it began getting louder and louder, not even listening to music could tune it out, it was like it was screaming inside her head.
She began running from it, but it seemed to follow her no matter where she went, chasing her like some  unholy demon out of an old horror novel, picking up pace until it stood in front of her screaming at her to buy data-net.
“go away!” she cried trying to make the screaming apparition go away to no avail, running only made it worse, it continued screaming, her head began pounding as flashes of light began sparking in her vision, the voice screaming at her to buy data-net the image blinding her and taking up most of her vision.
Finally she collapsed right there in broad daylight her body convulsing as if she were having a seizure, a medi-trans came not too long after taking the unconscious woman to the hospital a doctor looked at her report, “put her with the others” he said, “I don't think she will be getting up for a while”

    the doctor looked at the now 10 or so patients in the ward which had been set aside for these unusual patients, not much more we can do now, make sure these test results get back to data-net R&D ok?
The man nodded walking out of the room, the sun setting on the sprawling metropolis, daylight giving way to colorful neon, life moving on like before, only now with a few less people in their homes resting this night.


Ghost Trap

    The Metroplex, a sprawling collection of cities smack dab on the western edge of middle America, between the plains and the mountains, my home, looking at it now it's funny in a way, the last thing I see is this place, and then I have to submit to that which has brought me here.  It started a few days ago, I had just finished a job which was posted on the local forums via the cybernet, compared to the internet it was small, but the information was independent, and hard to track down due to it's decentralized nature, if only those few outcasts and anarchists that made it possible knew how it would be used years after they were gone.  You see I'm not exactly what one would call an upstanding member of society, rather I've mastered a set of skills that come in handy in my line of work, unlike those isolated capitalists in the denmet group, who sit in their towering spires of glass while the rest of us live in run down apartments scraping to get by, I actually have to work for a living.

    Unfortunately my most recent job didn't go all that well, I should have known something was up, all the signs were there, the missing net jackers, the absurdly high pay grade, the secretive meeting points.  Usually I do small time work, but I was hoping to make it big just this once, guess I fracked up big time.  You see I was following the instructions for contacting an anonymous poster from the cybernet, since you can't very well track users you have to rely on where and when they setup meetings, granted I found it strange that it would be in a back alley somewhere as that's usually for black market stuff, but I went anyway.

    The man even had code words setup, after speaking the phrase a random person walked past me and dropped a letter into my hands then walked off, inside it was my target and half the pay for the job.  The directions seemed odd since they were in the net but were through a new VR matrix interface, probably why he gave me half the pay now.  After getting the rig setup I jacked into the cyberspace link for the internet, and followed the instructions, I knew something was off when I picked up a blip on my radar, but I kept going anyway since it vanished, making me think it was a sensor ghost, man was I wrong.

    Having arrived at the coordinates I found something rather normal, a large data tower, probably belonging to some conglomerate, and from the surface it seemed to be guarded quite well, the instructions told me to locate a file in archive sector L, considering my line of work, it's not my place to question it so I went in.  I quickly found a back door into the system and began to work my way through the archives, locating what appeared to be a fairly empty sector labeled L, from there I managed to find file number 3325, which after looking at the encryption it was clearly something nobody wanted getting out, this was my second warning to get the h*** out of there, unfortunately it was too late by then.

    There was a surge and I couldn't feel my arms and legs anymore, it was like my mind was still working but my body had gone dead, finding the call back command I quickly realized that I had made a huge mistake, as I began to be surrounded by ominous red glowing tendrils, it was like I was trapped and couldn't move.  I began getting weird feedback from my body, indicating that I had in fact not died, but rather that I had lost connection, something that should be impossible.  There were sensations of movement, though my body should still be laying in the bed of the run down inn that I was using as a setting off point,  instead I felt a cool air sensation on my face, I knew it was night time, but unless somebody turned the AC on or opened a window this shouldn't be occurring.

    There was another surge of energy, more painful this time, suddenly I find myself standing on the ledge of a building looking out over the metroplex, the lights of the com towers atop the mountains in the distance to the west blinking onwards to warn aircraft away.  And I guess this brings me back to where we started, still staring out over the sprawl, expanding out in all directions, then I hear a whisper in my head, “your fate is nigh.”.  There is a sudden rush as I begin falling towards the ground, the lights of the tower rushing past beneath me, the ground coming up faster and faster, time seemed to be slowing down, and then there was an instant of pain, but some how I was still there, standing in that room in cyberspace, but I knew then that my body was gone, there was no way of returning to what I was, it seemed that whatever this thing was, it had trapped me here, a ghost in the machine pathways of cyberspace.

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