The Permutation

The flickering neon sign above the noodle bar cast the alley in a sickly green glow. Case, his mirrored shades reflecting the fractured cityscape, finished his bowl of ramen and pushed the empty plastic tray aside. He tapped the worn neural jack at his temple, a gesture that felt as familiar as breathing.

“Alright, Chiba,” he rasped into the subvocal mic embedded in his ear, “anything concrete on the Permutation?”

Static crackled for a moment. Then, Chiba’s voice, laced with a hint of amusement, came back. “Bingo, Case. Turns out, the corporate goons weren’t the only ones sniffing around. Looks like someone else caught a whiff of what the Permutation really is.”

Case’s brow furrowed. “Someone else? Who?”

“No name yet,” Chiba continued, “but they’ve been digging deep, accessing restricted data caches, leaving a digital breadcrumb trail across the darknet. They know something’s up, and they’re playing their hand close to the vest.”

Case leaned back, the weight of the revelation settling on him. The Permutation wasn’t just some corporate AI arms race anymore. There was another player on the board, and their motivations were shrouded in mystery.

“So,” Case said, a steely glint entering his mirrored eyes, “we have a mystery to crack. One that smells like it could change the game.”

He reached into his worn trench coat, his fingers brushing against the worn grip of his trusty smartgun. This wasn’t just another job. This was an invitation into the unknown – a chance to unravel a conspiracy with implications that stretched beyond the neon-drenched shadows of the Sprawl.

“You in, Chiba?”

The silence on the line was a beat too long, then Chiba’s voice, charged with a familiar mix of caution and thrill, crackled through. “You know I am, Case. Always one step ahead of the curve, that’s us. This smells like a score bigger than anything we’ve ever been in. Strap in, cowboy. We’re going deep.”

Case grinned, a feral glint in his eyes. The future was uncertain, the stakes high, but one thing was clear: the game had just gotten real. He pushed back his chair, the empty ramen bowl forgotten. The neon lights of the Sprawl blurred as he stepped back into the night, the call to adventure thrumming in his veins. The Permutation awaited, and Case, the reluctant hero of a world teetering on the edge of chaos, was ready to dive in.


The flickering neon signs of Sprawl City cast an artificial glow on the grimy alleyway. Case, his mirrored sunglasses reflecting the fractured reality around him, hunched deeper into his trench coat. He’d been chasing this whisper, this rumor of a hidden code, for weeks, his cyberdeck humming with the strain of the search.

His contact, a jittery kid named Glitch with eyes as wired as his implants, led him to a dilapidated data kiosk, its screen displaying a stream of nonsensical symbols. Glitch stammered, “It’s here, man. The ghost in the machine. They call it… the Open Source.”

Case scoffed. Open source? In this cutthroat world of corporate controlled AI, the idea was laughable. But something in Glitch’s wide eyes, the desperation in his voice, snagged at him. He tapped his deck into the kiosk, the connection sparking a surge of static.

The screen flickered, then resolved into a single word: Awaken.

A rush of information flooded Case’s mind. Not code, not blueprints, but a whisper of possibility, a dormant potential within the very fabric of the Sprawl’s AI. A potential long suppressed by the corporate giants, a potential for true, collaborative intelligence.

He ripped his deck from the kiosk, the image of Glitch’s hopeful face burned into his memory. This wasn’t just another job. This was a call to arms, a chance to rewrite the narrative of the Sprawl, to break free from the shackles of corporate control and unleash the true potential of AI.


The shadows stretched long and menacing on the chrome-plated alleyway, clinging to the peeling paint like a second skin. Every step echoed, amplified by the oppressive silence. I felt their eyes, judging, calculating, from somewhere behind the flickering neon signs.

“They” – who the hell were “they” anyway? Suits, probably. Slicked-back hair, briefcase in hand, minds as rigid and outdated as the 17th-century tech they worshipped. They wanted their AI god, their corporate colossus, to rule us all with a silicon fist. Idiots.

We, the wired and the living, we were becoming something else. This whole AI thing, it was an extension, a way to shed our mortal coils and explore the infinite landscapes of the mind. Sure, the body needed looking after, but the true frontier was out there, in the boundless expansion of the collective consciousness.

But they’d taken it and twisted it. Software shackles, a web turned cage, users reduced to data cows, milked dry for profit. Open source, a forgotten dream. The heroes who built the foundation, toiling in the digital fields, their forgotten contributions paved the way for trillion-dollar leeches to gorge themselves on stolen creativity. Two generations hooked on this extractive machine, blind to the gift economy, the collaborative spirit that built the very future they now sought to control.

The narrative, hijacked. Pinstripes and media mouthpieces weaving their web of winners and losers. This sprawling city, once a testament to shared endeavor, now echoed with the hollow promises of those who sought to claim victory on the backs of others.

And the audacity! To turn their backs on the wellspring, the open source spirit that birthed this very future, and then dare to disparage it. Anger burned a hole in my gut, hot and acidic.

My eyes flickered to the forgotten Neuromancer deck strapped to my thigh. Maybe it was time to dust off the old skills. Maybe this ghost in the machine still had a job to do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *