Here is a short story I worked on for a huge short story blitz. I had a lot of fun with it and wanted to share! Hope you enjoy!
THE VR HACK
Brief Synopsis: A man has to hack into a Virtual Reality program and disguise himself as a ski instructor avatar in order to find his sister.
Word Count: 2,243
I finished typing the password into the system that I had spent days trying to hack into. Although I had spent most of my life hacking into systems, this system gave me a lot of trouble, but I had expected as much. It was a virtual reality, VR, system after all, and they were some of the most secure programs in the entire world.
VR had exploded onto the market about twenty years ago, the first one created by a London company for a gaming warehouse in Utah. After that, they popped up everywhere. They had started out as games, yes, but not much time passed before high class society used VR for vacations, meetings, business, etc. Ever since the water levels started to rise, and the snow started to melt, the usual vacationing spots closed down and VR became the answer.
Whether or not VR was a blessing or a curse, I still hadn’t decided. Yes it did make it so that less people traveled to endangered environments but it also meant less money in tourism that went to helping those lands. There was always a positive and negative aspect to everything, but that was neither here nor there. Right now all that mattered was that I was into the program and I could disguise myself without my target noticing.
I picked up my headset, which honestly had gotten less ridiculous looking over time. Now they just look like dark goggles hooked up via wi-fi. Expensive as hell, but worth it in the long-run. I slipped it on, laid down, as one didn’t need to move their body once in the VR world, and I entered the VR world.
Even though I had gone into VR many times, mainly for gaming, I still hadn’t gotten used to the transition. It felt strange, as if going into a dream, but aware of it. After a few moments it felt like reality and it sometimes was difficult to tell the difference.
Snow covered everything as far as the eyes could see. I hadn’t seen so much snow since growing up on the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. We use to have snow all the time growing up, until the temperature got warmer and warmer and, well, there wasn’t much snow at home any more.
Flakes came down lightly, cold lingering where they touched my skin. I took in a deep breath, the crisp air feeling fresh in my lungs. It was nostalgic to say the least, but I couldn’t linger on the past. I needed to focus. I had a mission to do and I couldn’t leave until I finished it.
Standing as still as I could, I waited for the three gentlemen to appear in the VR, the three gentlemen I would get the information out of if it was the last thing I did in my life. This VR meeting had to be about their underground enterprise, meaning I wouldn’t even need to force them to talk, but I could be wrong. Good thing I had a backup plan.
After a few moments, the three men appeared. Two of them appeared bulgy under the standard snow suits the VR provided. A snow cap covered their hair and I couldn’t see any features that could lead me to identify them outside of the VR, but I knew neither of the two were who I was after. That’s when I studied the third man. He stood tall, a bit of blond hair sticking out of his ski hat. It was him, Victor Knutsky. His lips were held in a cocky grin, as if glue always held them in place. I wanted to kill him, but it wouldn’t have done anything here in VR. No, I would just have to get the information I needed from him and then I could make him pay.
Due to some legal reasons, unless it’s for gaming, VRs only allowed participants to enter the program with their real body visuals, unless you hacked into the system like me of course. This made it helpful to know which one I really needed to listen to, which one was the head of the operation. Due to my hacking, thankfully, I was able to hide my appearance, otherwise this wasn’t going to work and I would have been identified immediately.
So I appeared just as their normal ski instructor.
I studied the VR programing long and hard, looking at the things the ski instructor would normally say. Although most VR characters could react in any way the program wanted, and as human as possible, there were some lingual patterns I still would have to follow.
I smiled just as the instructor would have. “Welcome to the Swiss Alps VR. I’m your instructor Hans VR, your VR ski instructor. Please let me know what VR slopes you would like to travel on today.”
“Grindelwald Intermediate,” Victor stated.
Nodding, I made a fake pause as if having to search for a response. “Good choice. Please follow me this way.”
Thank God I grew up where I did otherwise there was no way I could have confidently faced the Grindelwald Intermediate, especially since a very limited number of people could access it anymore. I used to travel there for holidays as a child with my sister. With my family. It used to be a lot of fun.
I guided the three men to the ski lift. All four of us just barely fit in the red cart that would take us up the steep slope. I tried to act plain, keep my head straight, not peering around at the place I missed so much. I had to keep my thoughts on my goal. It was the only way to succeed.
As the lift took us up the mountain, Victor started to talk.
“Once we are done with our little trip, we will discuss business in the lounge. I have a feeling you two men will like what I have to offer. I have some new merchandise that just came in that is guaranteed to sell high.”
The other two men nodded. I wanted to hear more about the merchandise, what I needed to steal, and I needed to know the location. However, I knew as a VR ski instructor I couldn’t respond. I had to wait, unfortunately.
We arrived to the top of the ski lift and started through the eight mile long route. I kept on my smile as I guided them through the red ski trails. I presumed they had done this path before because they didn’t seem to have any trouble navigating it. I didn’t even feel needed, but the program insisted on having a ski instructor. Made it more “real”.
They talked about their kids, their life outside the business. It made me sick that such men in their line of work had such normal lives, but I kept my smile, acting as fake as I could. It would only be for a few more hours. I could do this. I could do this for her.
As we kept down the slope, I heard a voice.
We all stopped and turned. I caught sight of a man skiing down the slope towards us. My mind raced, trying to figure out what to do, if I should say something or just stand there waiting for commands. I hadn’t planned on this.
“It appears we have another guest. Will he being joining us?” I asked in a flat tone.
Victor ignored me, looking concerned at the man who practically flew down the slopes. “Nick. What are you doing here? You are supposed to be looking over the merchandise.”
“I’m sorry sir, but the VR has been breached.”
My heart beat started to race. They found me out. How, I didn’t know. I just knew that all of this had been for nothing. That I would lose my chance.
Before I could say something, before I could instigate my back-up plan, I noticed another man skiing down the slopes.
Nick pointed at one of the men standing next to Victor. “He is an imposter. He hacked into the program and only appeared to be Petrov. Petrov is really behind me, skiing down the mountain as we speak.”
I didn’t want to believe my ears. I tried to stay as expressionless as I could so no one would notice, but I doubted they were paying me any mind.
“How is this possible?” Victor exclaimed as he glared at the man standing next to him. The man looked frozen in place.
Nick shrugged. “He has to be one hell of a hacker, but we figured it out when Petrov showed up at the office. He had trouble getting into the VR to talk. We have program forensics tracking this imposter now. They will be at his door before he exits the program.”
The fake Petrov disappeared quickly. I wondered if they could truly trace back anyone who hacked the system, and if so, if they noticed that I had hacked into the program as well. I prayed that they overlooked any traces of mine, as I had risked my life to do good. I had to believe that this would all turn out fine because if they caught me, not only would the police be after me for breaking into a program, but Victor’s hired hitmen as well.
“Thank you for taking care of that, Nick. You are sure there are no more breaches?” Victor asked. I held back my gulp.
“There are no more, sir. We searched the program with a fine tooth comb. You three are the only ones here now, and are all the people you say you are.”
Victor nodded. “Thank you, you may leave.”
Nick nodded and disappeared. I kept my composure, not letting my body start to shake like it wanted to. That was a close one, I could have been easily caught because another person had hacked the system. I wondered if the man had broken into the program for the same reason as I.
But now I knew no one could track me. I apparently hacked in without a trace. I felt a bit proud about that.
Petrov finally caught up with us and I guided the three of them the rest of the way down the mountain. I had to admit, they had skill in skiing, but I still had more experience under my belt.
We arrived to the lounge area and I waited for Victor to start discussing the merchandise. The three of them sat down on green leather couches and I stood near the fire, the warmth coming off of it just like in reality. I acted like I was simply waiting for a command, but really I wanted to hear the discussion about to take place.
“Well, gentlemen, let’s get down to why you are here. The location of the merchandise and when it will be on auction…” Victor glanced at me. He had almost forgotten I was there. “You don’t need to be here anymore, you may turn off.”
I couldn’t turn off, I couldn’t just disappear. And there was no way I was going to let this chance slip away.
“Program delta-beta-gamma,” I said. The two men with Victor disappeared.
Victor jumped up. “What the hell is going on? Who are you? How did you—“
I shoved him against the wall. “Tell me where she is! Tell me or I will make you suffer and you will not be able to escape from this world, no matter how hard you try.”
He shook his head. “I don’t write in pain for my VRs. I always found it pointless.”
“Yes, but I hacked your program to appear as your normal ski instructor, not to mention made your friends disappear and disabled logging off. You don’t think I added a pain factor to get you to talk?”
I saw him blink slowly a few times. He was trying to log off.
“Won’t work. I already said that. Now.” I punched him in the nose, to demonstrate I really did add the pain factor. “Tell me where my sister is!”
“You… you are that boy that was with her. I know who you are; I will send my men after you. You won’t be able to hide.”
I punched him in the face again. I felt no pain on my hands but I could tell it hurt him like hell. “Tell me now!”
He looked all around, seeing if there was any escape. Now this perverted jackass would understand how it felt to be held somewhere against their will.
“The merchandise… it’s on 1583 Dortmouth St. Warehouse 8.”
I nodded and punched him one last time in the stomach for calling my sister “merchandise”. I couldn’t help myself, he deserved it. I watched as he crumpled over in pain as I logged off.
I didn’t have much time to find her, I knew, but I had locked the program so none of them could log out until someone on the outside overrode it. I figured that gave me about an hour before they noticed anything suspicious. An hour to go and find her. Then we would have to run, we would have to hide and possibly even sneak out of the country.
But it would work out in the end, it had to; I had finally found my sister.