Chapter Three - Mainline the Digital Pixel Explode

While logged on to Geocities, Dare appeared as an idealized version of himself made from unpolished silver.Dare held the Interface jack between his index finger and thumb and slotted it into the socket on his temple.

Black.

Then a pinprick became visible in the center of his vision, this dot of light expanded and unfolded like an origami hippopotamus until a glowing neon grid surrounded him. Constellations of light exploded along the grid, burning nodes of data in the endless digital night.

Once the entire server list had been cached the pop-ups started attacking, swarms of them descending upon him like holographic locusts. They pursued him wherever he went, moaning and slurping and making jingling casino noises like some monstrous orgy taking place in Scrooge McDuck's money bin. He loaded in a pop-up killer application and they disappeared with a fizzle, freeing his vision to move through Geocities towards the towering monolith of the Family Funcapade Festival server.

He used a program called a "trojam" to access the server's "data". This gave him a way in to their server where their data was, and what Dare needed was a very specific piece of data. In Geocities datafiles were modeled to resemble hats. You find a hit, pick it up, put it on, and you "read" the data. It was not unusual to see people wearing several dozen hats all at once. Generally the fancier the hat the more important the data, so an encoded music file might be a headband or a mesh-backed baseball cap, while plans to build a fusion reactor would be a gem encrusted crown.

Once inside the server Dare used a second program to begin searching for the file. He knew he had to act quickly before his intrusion was detected by the Funcapade AI. AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and every movie or book that says "AI" has to explain the acronym in case the retarded or toddlers want to enjoy them.

Seconds passed and the trace program returned and told him where the file was located. It was the oddest icon he had ever heard of, a giant top hat made out of platinum and covered with diamonds. He assumed this meant it was pretty sensitive information. He headed in the direction of the file, through the glowing walls of the Funcapade server, hovering above the grid because there was no reason to walk in the magical land of Geocities. In fact if he wanted he could fly around like Superman, but in an enclosed server like he was in the flying ability was of limited usefulness.

The datahat containing the genetic code of the clown clones was as ostentatious as datahats come.

Dare found the hat in the bioengineering room on the third floor of the server. It was full of hats, most of them very nice looking or even garish. He did as he was told and carried the hat instead of wearing it. The hat weighed nothing since it wasn't real, it was a virtual hat mad out of data.

Then there was a flash of pixels in his brain like a lightning bolt in his cerebellum made out of colored dots of light. Dare looked around and saw a figure that was glowing blue and crackling with energy.

"Oh no!" He shouted. "It's the fucking AI, man!"

"YES HUMAN," replied the AI (short for Artificial Intelligence) in a voice that sounded like mummies falling down stairs into a decorative fountain. "I AM SUMMERTIMES, AND I AM THE ALL KNOWING EYE OF THE FUNCAPADE CORPORATION."

Dare had heard of Summertimes, the most powerful AI (or Artificial Intelligence) ever created. It required three whole computers to run on and they were very powerful computers, five times as powerful as a Pentium.

"Look buddy I am just trying to do some research as an upstanding Funcapade employee," he said, activating his guise as a low-level genetics researcher.

"DO NOT BE SO BOLD AS TO 'LOOK BUDDY' ME!!! I AM SUMMERTIMES AND I WILL CREATE A WHOLE NEW REALITY FOR YOU, ONE OF PAIN AND HEARTBREAK!"

Everything suddenly flashed just as Summertimes began to move towards Dare and he was looking up at Vera.

"You were convulsing," she explained, "I pulled the plug on your Geocities jack."

"I got the file," Dare croaked.

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