September 26th, 2026
10:35 p.m.

The street terminal was being stubborn. 

Kris banged on the screen for good measure but the goddamn term wouldn’t let him access sysop privileges. He could access the normal options menu, a neon blue court jester mocking him with the promise of a payoff. The words “Banking” and “Taxi” and “News” glowed uselessly in a plain white sans serifed font. “Come on you fuckin’ piece of square trash, give me the goods!” he half-whispered at it. Kroger diverted his attention from scanning the streets for cops long enough to give Kris a concerned glance. 

“Take it easy, Ov3rdIv3. Last thing we need is some zero getting suspicious.” Kroger was the older one, all of 18. Getting caught with would mean real jail for him, unless the quasi-legal corporate cops got to him first. Then he’d probably just get his ass kicked. Kris was 15… No, wait, he was 16. In a flash of regretful clarity, he remembered that today was his sixteenth birthday.

Kroger and Kris had been living on the streets of Los Angeles for almost six months now, though Kris couldn’t be sure how long exactly. The Warehouse District was an ugly place for the hardest of criminals, but somehow he and Kroger had managed to survive. Every three or four days, they’d have to hit a street term to replenish their cash card. If they got really lucky, they could crack a database or two, download some juicy information they could sell to Kroger’s information broker. They’d lived like kings the week they’d lifted that memo from Cendar Ventures detailing the purchase of the company by megacorp Chronosoft. Share price had gone through the roof short-term, and Angela always paid top-dollar for short-term stock tips. She’d given them enough cash for a week’s worth of mescatripizine. 

The drug mescatripizine, more commonly known on the street as Trip had become a third entity in the pair’s friendship. It was the driving need of their lives, more important than the vague hunger and the revolving fleabag coffin hotels. They needed the Trip like oxygen. Netruns were almost pedestrian without it, a dull, droning, sluggish hell that only served to remind them how awesome the GlobalNet could be with the heavenly mana of the Trip. Their reflexes were faster. Their NetBodies were stronger. With Trip, no databank was impenetrable. They were data-fueled supermen. Without it, they were merely good hackers with shaky hands.