"Wake up, worm-breath! Liberation day!" The voice was high and crackled with young puberty. Reggie, in the beginning stages of waking, felt a foot press gently against his chest.
The foot gave a short, strong shove. Reggie slipped and tumbled from the bed in a heap of gangly appendages and blankets with a loud, agonizing thud.
He was awake.
In the furious activity that followed, Reggie variously found himself pinning his younger brother to the ground with an arm behind his back, succumbing to a barrage of none-too-gently thrown pillows, and finally dumping his brother, fully clothed, into the bathtub and flipping on the cold water to full pressure. The shower head thrummed into activity and doused the squirming boy completely.
It was then that their father intervened and restored order, shoving the drenched boy towards his room to change and …
A single line of code blinked on the expanded vidscreen. Red, black, red, black.
Joan stared at the tiny fragment of program with bleary eyes, pink and itching. One was green, the green of the depths of the ocean, the other, sky-blue – light and fractal as ice.
“I don’t – I don’t understand. Theresa’s the Progger. You want her…you…”
She listened as her earpiece buzzed with aggravation. Her breath caught in her throat. Wordlessly, she nodded to no-one. After a moment the earpiece buzzed again, more soothingly.
“Yes. Understood.” She lifted a hesitant finger, activated a toolset. The symbols weren’t recognizable. “It’s in…I don’t know…this isn’t thoughttype. Looks like an old form of netcommon.”
The earpiece queried.
Joan drew her fingers along the menu. “No datestamp. Inaccurate internal clock figures. It thinks we’re in 2284.”
The earpiece went quiet.
She took the moment’s respite to reach down to her leg. She didn’t look. Just reached. Her hand returned slick with fresh blood. Her stomach quavered and her head felt at once light and far too heavy. The earpiece buzzed.
“I’m bleeding.” She said softly. She very much wanted to throw up. To curl up in a quiet corner and wait for death.
The earpiece buzzed more insistently.
“…okay…Okay, yes. Yes.” She turned back to the vidscreen, listened, input a few commands into the toolset. “Vi…sta…” she murmured.
Excitement now. She wanted to tear the thing out. “Next! Next, Stillman!”
A series of complex steps were slowly delivered to her and she did her best to comply. Various programs ran. Often, the console seemed to halt all functionality for long lengths of time. The ache below her thigh was unbearable.
The segment of code blinked.
“Nothing. Unchanged.” She said it through clenched teeth as she pulled torn strips of cloth taught with a metal rod. The earpiece buzzed.
“I am staring right at the fucking thing, and I’m telling you-” The segment of code had disappeared. The program was continuing. Ever more rapidly, long streams of alphanumeric characters streamed by on the vidscreen. “…It’s working.”
Silence again. They shared it as she stared at the visualized program beginning its background startup procedures. It took no less than a half-minute, but eventually a UI asserted itself, fullscreen.
She said it in a small voice.