by RUYI WEN
Labyrinthine by quapan | Flickr
Some call us hackers.
We drop through an opening in the ceiling we have made, three pairs of feet landing silently upon the floor. No one can match our ability to infiltrate even the most secure of server rooms, no matter if they are underground, underwater, under the radar.
Our true strength, however, lies in knowing what to do once we’re inside.
Many people think hacking is an activity of brute force, a desperate charge with a battalion of bots and a battering ram. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ahead of each mission, we fine-tune strategy and finesse our plays. Many hours of planning go into a few moments of action so we can complete our task with the lightest touch. Most times, all that’s required is a gentle tug on a loose end that unravels everything.
Some call us witches.
How does that saying go? Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?
Our sorcery’s not for sale, but people attempt to buy it anyway. We occasionally take commissions for projects, but only when the requests happen to align with our artistic vision. Can you spin a web of lies? Warp this rumor into truth? Rend the very fabric of society? The three of us study floor plans and blueprints, extracted from unmarked envelopes left at dead drops. We review flaws in the data architecture design we can exploit and unprotected gates through which our Trojan horses can fit, but mostly we discuss the human weaknesses we can harness to do our work for us. Debates stretch deep into the night until at last, three heads nod in unison. Yes, we can.
Of course, there’s a good chance that, after we deliver what we promised, the customer will rage that this was not what he asked for and it should have been obvious what he wanted. We’ll listen and smile politely through the furious abuse, threats to simultaneously burn us at the stake and drown us on ducking stools. In this line of work, it’s important to stay focused and not take things personally. If we snap in anger, we could cause great unintended tragedies.
We do our best to cause only great intended tragedies.
Some call us weavers.
Weaving was how we got started in this line of work. In our younger days, we moved nimbly among humming looms in hooded cloaks and flowing skirts, just as how we now slink past humming servers in hooded sweatshirts and black jeans. From half-finished tapestries, we pulled old yarns out and slid new ones in, altering the course of history imperceptibly each time. Onlookers could hardly see the movements of our deft fingers, pulling the strings.
We call ourselves sisters, nothing more. If we are better at this job than most, it’s only because we are daughters of Zeus, and have had all the eons in the world to perfect our technique and teamwork.
In the server room, lights twinkle green and blue and occasionally red from racks of identical black boxes. We stride through the room in confident movements honed by many rehearsals, stepping over the rolls of thick cables that run across the floor, held together neatly with zip ties. Individual strands weave in and out of the bundles, searching for their intended ports among the racks.
My youngest sister immediately finds the brain of the data center. In a few pithy keystrokes, Clotho sets the hard drives spinning. The humming in the room intensifies as her commands are executed. A plausible tweak to some data, a slight bias in an algorithm that creates inexplicable results, a seed of suspicion planted in a field of fertile imaginations.
“Ready,” she declares quietly.
My second sister, Lachesis, runs her fingers over the sprawling cables, feeling the secrets within as they buzz along in invisible electrons. She squeezes lightly on pin clips, unplugging connectors and replugging them elsewhere, tiny changes among millions of wires that will be difficult to notice and impossible to undo. A chance encounter, a missed connection, a fulfillment of destiny.
“Set,” she whispers. “Atropos?”
“Go.” I grasp the black power cord that is this room’s lifeline and give it a hard yank, severing the thread of fate.
Ruyi's writing has appeared in Booth, Barren Magazine, The Lowestoft Chronicle, Slackjaw, and elsewhere. She lives in Texas.