THE BURGLAR (THE HACKER)
He managed to get into the giant System network without any
trouble - there was just a thin squeak of an audio signal and
warning notices flashed in crimson. He had already seen those
phrases many times. They flashed constantly demanding the access
code, name, address, bank account number and a lot of other
information which he was not intending to share with electronic
guards. Then the questions were replaced with a list of
penalties; the least of them was a fine, the most serious - up to
three months in prison. But that did not frighten him: one has to
catch in order to punish. And he was not a man at the moment, not
a living person - with papers, citizenship and all the rest that
a law-abiding citizen is to have; in substance, he was a ghost,
even a shadow of a ghost imperceptibly paving its way between the
multi-coloured notices of the System.
It seemed to him to be a monstrous three-dimensional web
hanging in the emptiness full of light. Threads-passages
interwined, crossed and filled the space with curious patterned
garland; their cross points winked with multi-coloured lights. It
was not difficult to imagine that he was in a huge structure,
among corridors, rooms and chambers, squeezed into some kind of
dungeon reminding of the Cnossos maze. There were also its
Minotaurs here waiting for a careless traveller by traps and
snares, by wolf pits, lowerable gratings and bottomless
precipices! However, he was not afraid of them; he was cunning,
crafty and careful.
With assurance born out of experience of previous trips, he
rushed forward. In the tunnel which he passed with the speed of
thought, there was nothing unpleasant expected, nothing
dangerous; it was a wide highway accessible to any novice. He was
asked the access code four times more but the feeding-neutralizer
extinguished the alarm signals successfully; he was still a
shadow in the ephemeral world of shadows. He was excellently
equipped, armed and ready to fight at any moment, but for the
time being the active means of burglary and elimination were not
necessary; the fight was still to be.
Suddenly the unlimited space opened in front of him -
resemblance of a spacious hall with numerous gates, doors and
passages leading to other parts of the System. That was a
regional centre of which there were about thirty; the junction
where hundreds of imperceptible and weightless threads of the
three-dimensional web interwined. He had also been here many
times and knew what to expect in each of the numerous bypass
channels. One could get into some of them easily - into those
that led into book depositories, technical catalogues of
unrestricted access, to harmless film libraries and collections
of musical records. The entrance to other gates demanded a fee -
besides the one collected on the System threshold; sometimes the
one wishing to walk those corridors was to present a whole lot of
certificates of sanity, social status, age and abilities.
Sneering, he passed through those half-locked doors. His aim
today were neither pornofilms nor records of mentorhythms driving
into narcotic trance, not patent drug formulae, nor secrets of
politicians sunk into oblivion two decades ago. In his time he
had familiarized himself with the contents of all those hiding
places - not so much from curiosity but in order to have
practice; now breaking of locks protecting them was not a
problem. He could open any, even without a decoder.
More serious things started further - a row of reliably
blocked doors and narrow winding passages filled with traps. The
pulse of the business world was beating in a feverish rhythm in
those passages-arteries; the real treasures were kept here -
neither money, nor gold, nor diamonds but what replaced them:
columns of figures with code marks. All that part of the System
was a giant network as itself, woven by a spider of unimaginable
size, which he wished to draw a little blood from. Just a little,
practically unnoticeable if compared with the amount of precious
moisture that circulated in the veins of the universe of working
capital, credits and loans. In substance he was going to take a
loan, only an irrevocable one.
The decoder ringed shortly and the gates to the Finance
Empire dissolved moving to the sides like two shining stripes.
Crimson letters hung in front of him like an imperceptible
obstacle - the next request for the code, bank identificator and
the account number. "You will have your account," he thought with
unexpected anger pressing the feeding key, "you will have it! But
- in due time and due place!"
He tried to calm down; the operation was entering the most
decisive stage. He was in some kind of a light tunnel with numerous
hatches on all the sides, decorated with emblems and
inscriptions; there were Ali Baba caves hidden behind each of
them, guarded not by the forty robbers but electronic monsters
with incredible sense of smell, tenacious to life and deadly like
a dragon with seven heads.
Coming close to one of those doors, he switched the decoder
on once again.
The Compton Manhattan Bank... Not the largest one but fairly
suitable for his purposes. Respectability, irreproachable
reputation, reliability checked up by time... Exactly what he
The decoder ringed; the magic "sesame" was found and the
hatch dissolved like a camera diaphragm - for one tiniest
moment, but he had enough time to slip inside, to the jewel-box,
to the temple with the riches of the others. He froze choosing
the further way but suddenly darkness fell on him.
Green sparkles appeared in the dark. They rushed to him
spreading, forming the lattice frame, embracing the trespasser in
a tight cage, threatening with inevitable questioning. Thus, the
decoder had to work some more... One other password was necessary
to pass through the depository gate and he had to find it soon.
He attached additional modules, doubled, tripled the search
speed; the green lattice frame shone in front of him, blocking up
the way. Seconds stretched like centuries. His face froze, his
pupils followed the figures quickly flashing in the decoder
window. He could do nothing, only run away; at the moment the
tiny chip supplied with a program was fighting for him, scanning
millions of figures, paving the way to richness.
The long awaited ringing! The green lines of the lattice
frame shuddered, dissolved, disappeared and the white and lilac
lightning struck him immediately. Fortunately the protection
resisted but the active means of attack required immediate
measures. No less active! His fingers danced on the keys managing
the destructor-sprayer. To burn! To destroy! To disperse like a
cloud of chaotic signals! And - the most important! - to cover up
Physical destruction did not threaten him. But the angry
arrows ramming his defence shield could turn into chains, take
his ghostly image prisoner, rush along the track he had left like
a pack of bloodhounds to the fox lair... And if those electonic
demons were successful, he would not be able to get off with
three months! Oh, no! Getting into the sanctum sanctorum was
punished more seriously, much more seriously!
He fought like a cornered wolf, dispersing the white blades
of lightnings, scattering the alarm signals with his feeding. The
fight was going on in complete silence like some strange
soundless storm raging under the impenetrably dark sky. Out of
the corner of his eye he saw that the decoder was working as
before trying to find the third code combination. His gut feeling
of an experienced burglar told him that that password was the last
one. If he managed to find it...
He did manage! The flashing lightnings went out and he
rushed forward, through the ghostly columns of figures trembling
in the bluish emptiness. The property index, day turnover, data
on branches, listing of clients... That did not interest him.
Taxes, interbank credit, brokers operations... Further! Further!
Quicker! Symbols of debit and credit... Transfers!
Pressing the key sharply, he activated that position and
feverishly started typing the codes of his accounts. He had to
have about twenty of them ready, on various continents and in
various countries, from Australia to Canada; he was a farsighted
man. He allocated comparatively small amounts to each account,
from one hundred to three hundred thousands, indicating the time
of the forthcoming transfers from five to ten minutes between
them - so that the whole procedure could be completed within the
Victory! Victory! Confirmation signals flashed on the
screen. Of course! Now, having made his way through to his
purpose, he could pump out several dozens of millions... The
temptation was great; his fingers trembled for a fraction of a
second ready to add a couple of zeroes to the amount of the last
transfer, but instead of that he started the virus program which
was to eliminate all the traces of his interference in two hours.
The clever take little in order for the one who was taken from
not to ring all the bells... Should one advertise that there was
a smart fellow who had managed to find the keys to the money box
seeming inpregnable? It depends on how much was taken from the
Sweeping sweat from his forehead, he smiled satisfied, rubbed
his hands and switched his computer off.