1 Prologue - A New Life

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Austin, Texas. October 2021.

It was near midnight in an office, yet a bright light continued to glow throughout the room and towards his tired eyes.

The young man named Vince Dalton wearily thought, [How did my life end up like this?]

Vince was instructed to undertake a time-sensitive task due to recent mistakes made by his consultation company's upper management.

They provided Vince with excuses like wrong budget estimations and impossible deadlines. He was, again, expected to bail them out and succeed as the technical lead of his department.

This contract wasn't the first time the company had to rely on Vince to accomplish a tall task, and it wouldn't be the last.

Vince stared at the proprietary API software, noting all the milestone metrics he had to fulfill by the end of the night, and sarcastically pondered, [What an honor! I get to carry the company on my back while you spend time with your families.]

Unfortunately, Vince had no family to speak of and was bitter about how his personal life had panned out.

The clicking and clacking hushed as he stopped typing lines of code and thought, [Two years as a full-time tech lead, four years as sub-lead, and I'm still picking up the slack. Is it even worth it anymore?]

As a younger man, Vince had plenty of hope and determination in his heart, even when his widowed mother died before graduating high school in Greater Austin, leaving him with no family.

Being alone pushed him to achieve the highest marks as an undergraduate at the University of Texas. He earned a position in a local technology solutions company and worked while studying to pay his undergrad and master's degree student loans.

Vince relished in the rush of learning something new and excelled in university. Still, it was totally different now, and he thought, [Life was no walk-in-the-park having to work while pursuing degrees in both business and computer science, yet I felt more inspired then.]

A stable job would never be an issue for Vince, but superficial worries like that were replaced with a sense of emptiness and exhaustion, probably due to upper management.

It was a top software and network infrastructure consultation firm in Austin, but Vince knew it would be the same scene anywhere he worked.

Vince fondly reminisced, [It was the rush with meeting new people and learning the unexplored that was fun. Gaining experience and being given more responsibilities was a welcome challenge to thrive, but I would never have thought it would come to this. Fucking pandemic!]

The increase in Vince's annual salary was pretty good but wasn't worth his sanity; he couldn't even play video games anymore because of how busy it had been for him the past years.

Vince remembered a fond childhood moment and pondered, [My first computer. I worked months cutting grass and mowing lawns to buy that piece of junk, but it was my baby. Built it from scratch, instead of purchasing those shitty IBM or Dell computers.]

Vince's initial exposure to computers and software was the sole reason he had anything going for his life at this point and would be nothing without it.

Vince lost his cool and said aloud, "If I have the chance to go about my life differently, in a more exciting way, then I would gladly sacrifice my current life. Screw my bosses! I want a life worth living, one with fulfillment and progress. Unlike this shithole, having to bail out my department with blood, sweat, and tears, over and over again. I swear!"

Vince found himself talking with nobody else in the empty office and embarrassingly thought, [I'm going crazy right now. Good thing no one was around to watch my mental breakdown.]

He chose to focus on the task at hand and stared at his computer screen as usual, but it was odd.

Vince started to hear a deep and loud humming like a sine wave coming from the depths of the ocean.

He placed one hand over each ear to stop the noise from wrecking his mind, but then the computer screen light began flashing random patterns rapidly that also blinded him.

The ominous sounds and the blinding lights ceased a few seconds later, freeing Vince from a nightmare situation he didn't expect.

Vince was still sitting on an office chair with a computer screen right in front of him, but he noticed a few differences.

A browser on the YouTube homepage replaced the proprietary software he used to write code, and the computer on the desk wasn't company-issued and yet familiar.

Vince glanced at the bottom right of the Windows desktop operating system and suddenly stood up in disbelief and shockingly pondered, [It's 2011?!]



(Excerpt from a later chapter. Very Minor Spoilers)

Inside the secure Data Access Node room at the basement level of a key communications hub, Two Korean hackers were working on breaking into Future Tech cyber defenses.

They each had modified laptops physically connected to the Node.

"What's taking so long?" one of the armed private soldiers asked the hackers.

"We're running into some mad interference in the Node network. I think we've been compromised. I estimate it will take another 30 minutes for us to penetrate the Node's defenses." one of the hackers replied.

Meanwhile, at the Austin Future Tech Headquarters, Anthony and a team of nethunters were supporting in helping defend the Node remotely.

Anthony opened a channel in the company's secure comlink and called the FS Squad leader, who was in charge of the particular communication hub.

"We're making good progress at stopping their intrusion attempts. However, the enemies are undoubtedly inside the Data Access Node room already. Surround the area, and clear the space. Try not to destroy their computer equipment." Anthony said over the comlink.


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