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Literature / Next Breed of Thief

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Among the exposed beams and wires I weaved to my secret stash of necessities and weaponry. First, I reconfigured my cochleal cell to another service and number so calling out wouldn’t triangulate my position. I armed myself with a tasersabre, and a dagger, because sometimes a good old fashioned gutting is better than stuns or shocks.

And I was free again. I was ready to come at Mephisto from another angle, I just needed to plan. The best place to plan was a bar, and the best bar was the Black Roach.

Next Breed of Thief is a Cyberpunk flash-fiction series started by ElshaHawk in response to a cyberpunk writing challenge on Ficly. It has since expanded greatly.

In a dystopian future, there is a conflict brewing between the soulless MegaCorp that controls many aspects of life and the hacker elite who want to bring it down. The Scavengers, cybercriminals who are just trying to eke a living out and subvert the oppressive status quo, mostly remain holed up in the sewers underneath the city. When one Scav gets into a scrape with a new adversary under the control of MegaCorp, she finds some unexpected allies who have their own motivations for taking the system down.

The series begins on Ficly here. After the closure of Ficly to new stories, the series was picked up from where it left off on Ficlatté here.

This series contains examples of:

  • Bio-Augmentation: Pretty much par for the course. At a minimum:
    • Elsha has some sort of implants in her eyes and ears as well as artificial lungs.
    • It's implied that Daemon's body was subject to some sort of experimentation by MegaCorp.
    • Acrylic has basically become a walking computer interface; it's mentioned that his scalp has numerous protrusions and ports.
  • Biodata: MEPHISTO is an organic computing system.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: MegaCorp are definitely evil, but the Scavs and their allies aren't exactly angels either…
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Acrylic. He's able to hack systems on the fly as he walks within range of them. He was an unwitting experiment by MegaCorp…at first…
  • Call-Back: Elsha picks up the dead drop at the same oxygen bar where she meets Fetus.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Fetus' arm plugs contain the key to retrieving Acrylic's backed-up memories.
  • Commander Contrarian: He's a Councilman, not the man in the hot seat, but Shortcut's m.o. seems to be to disagree with everything.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The drop of the firewall (with Acrylic's subsequent explorations) and Fetus' break-in of MegaCorp's servers happen at the same time.
  • Coolest Club Ever: The oxygen bar where Elsha and Acrylic meet up with Fetus is so brightly-lit that the former has to adjust the implants in her eyes.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted. In this case, perhaps clean, maybe pretty, but not reliable. Hard Drive and Elsha try for an hour to save Fetus. They fail.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Fetus. Those body modifications she has? They conceal useful equipment. Including a method to restore Acrylic's memory.
  • Culture Chop Suey: At one point, Elsha and Acrylic eat chow mein pizza.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: When Elsha and Acrylic grab a pizza while they wait for a signal from Fetus, it's mentioned that it's just rained.
  • Cyborg: A few, to varying degrees.
    • Elsha has cybernetic lungs and eyes.
    • Acrylic is basically a walking Brain/Computer Interface.
    • Daemon may be one, as it's mentioned his chest is transparent.
  • Dead Drop: This is how Elsha and Fireboy communicate with each other and exchange items.
  • Easy Amnesia: A large portion of Acrylic's memories get wiped by a supermagnet, but he has backups.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Scavenger base, which is built into the sewers, has quite a few different sections.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: MegaCorp HQ has at least one hundred twelve floors, not counting the roof.
  • First-Person Perspective: Mostly, but not entirely so. One installment in particular takes the form of a memo from the Shell.
  • Fun with Acronyms: MEPHISTO.
    “‘Multiply Enhanced Personified Heuristic with Integrated Sapience and Threaded Optimization’,” Acrylic replied, all in one breath.
  • Future Slang:
    • "Catbox" connections are links secured using quantum cryptography and other similar systems.
    • "Iced" = "black-market".
    • "May everything return 200" is used as a send-off wishing for success, derived from the appropriate HTML code series.
  • Hacker Cave: More like Hacker Sewer System, where the Scavengers operate.
    The first thing I noticed about Fetus when we exited through the side door was how impossibly pale she was, especially considering how strong the UV rays given off at the bar were—even her hair was white. It contrasted rather starkly with the dark ensemble she wore.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Fetus ends up pulling one, basically electrocuting herself in order to save Elsha and Acrylic. They try to save her, but are too late.
  • Hidden Depths: Hard Drive cries after he fails to save Fetus.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The mug in Fetus' pad reads "Moral Code", with a bit of programming on it.
  • It's Personal:
    • Fetus' parents were kidnapped and harvested for their organs. They were used in the construction of the system controlling MEPHISTO.
    • Acrylic wants revenge on the corporation that he used to work for and that turned him into the cyborg he is.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Quite a bit of Acrylic's memory goes missing. Justified in that a lot of it was stored magnetically.
  • Layered Metropolis: There's some hints in the story that the city might be one, though the lower layer is in the sewers.
  • MacGyvering: Hard Drive converts a defibrillator into a power source for a computer so he can contact the Scavengers. It ends up frying the computer but the message gets to its recipients.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Averted. Hard Drive even says that you can't use a defibrillator on someone whose heart has stopped.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: One of them even nearly kills Elsha at the beginning of the story. When the protagonists attack MEPHISTO, there's more of them (although a few are holograms).
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Acrylic, so much so that when he loses a lot of his memory to an unexpected supermagnet, he starts talking more colloquially.
    Acrylic: It is my belief that MegaCorp has at last detected our intrusion—or at the very least, that MEPHISTO is now nonfunctional—and wishes to minimize any further detriment wrought upon their systems.
  • Shout-Out:
    • C:\ is one to Doc Brown.
    • The worldwide hackers' network is called "Radio Armenia".
  • Smoking Is Cool: Subverted.
    Everyone assumed I smoked, but honestly, with one and a half cybertronic lungs, I couldn’t risk it.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • C:\ is the leader of the Scavengers. The C:\ drive (on Windows, anyway) is the main hard disk from which the computer boots.
    • When we first meet him, Hard Drive is basically a bouncer for the Scavengers. He sets up a program called a "bouncer" in order to communicate with the Scavengers after Fetus dies.
  • The Stoic:
    • Fetus, who only really breaks character when in the room with the computer made out of her parents' harvested organs.
    • Acrylic, to a lesser extent. He only really breaks twice: Once in Fetus' house when trying to recruit Elsha to help take down MegaCorp and once when most of his memory gets erased by a magnet.
    • Not So Stoic: When saying good-bye to the harvested remains of her parents, Fetus tries to hide it and fails.
  • Surveillance Drone: Some are all-out police drones and can arrest people, as Elsha finds out.
  • Theme Naming: The Scavengers on the council are named after computer terms: C:\ is the leader; there's also Virus, Daemon, Beghilos, Shortcut, Readout, Taskman, and the twins Scroll and Locke. Also, Hard Drive, though he's sort of a bouncer rather than a council member.
  • Tron Lines: Neons, LEDs, or other sorts of light are pretty much ubiquitous in most places.
    As gaudy as I thought the neon of the streets was, especially at night, the oxygen bar was far worse. It was clean, but every surface was backlit. People giggled, their skin looking bright blue in the ambiance, while drones served drinks as bright as the lights. My oculars toned down the light, blocking harmful UVB and other rays, but cast everything in purple hues.
  • The War Room: Subverted. It, as Shortcut is wont to point out, is just a closet.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Sprock was a decoy!
    • Somebody wants to help Elsha out!
    • MegaCorp killed Fetus' parents and used Acrylic as a guinea pig!
    • MegaCorp abducts and kills people to use their brain matter and stem cells to make a biocomputer!