Safe Mode by Richard Dickson

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SUMMARY: A trip into cyberspace doesn't go exactly as planned.

Chips Ahoy was beginning to think Microsoft's new one-touch CTRL/ALT/DEL key was the single most useful thing they'd ever created – Windows Utopia be damned – as he pounded his way to another reboot.

"If it's a fatal exception, then why the hell aren't you dead?" he screamed in frustration. The run was in twenty minutes and here he was screwing around with the goddamn op-sys! Even if he got the base protes working now, he'd barely have time to calibrate the I/Os in his temples, run the test dampers, and boot up the cerebral faces. He thought briefly about skipping the virus scan, but the last thing he needed was to be late and hung over for a week afterwards – someone had gotten cute with the Three Wise Men and re-coded it to simulate the buzz from some old twentieth century liqs made back before they started splicing the pain suppressors and the motor anti-inhibitors into them, and from what Epiphany had told him, the ride was sweet but the ticket had one hell of a price the next morning.

Of course, none of this mattered if he couldn't get the system running at all. This new one was a real piece of work. Half of his perphs wouldn't work with it, and the half that did ran slower than the Trans-Atlantic Surface Shuttle during hurricane season. It had wiped most of the older versions from the manilas on his hardy on the pretense of being "better and faster," and while Chips could certainly take issue with the first part, he had to admit it had monked his system faster than any version before it. He had half a mind to submit a formal complaint – once this version went public and he could update the copy ‘Trixster had napstered for him, that is. But that didn't do him any good for the run that night.

"You're gonna make me run in same-old same-old, aren't you? You bastard," he muttered.

Safe mode. "Goddamn safe mode" they should have called it. Most of his friends called it the Schwinn Trans-Jupiter, since they knew of no finer simulation of the experience of traveling to the Outer Colonies via bicycle. But with no other options and the run now less than fifteen minutes away, it looked like it was time to start pedaling to Io. He clicked the option, gritted his teeth, and sat back and waited.

Through his goggles, it looked like blue mud. It took him a couple of seconds to even find the webspinner to get him onto the network, and the diags dragged on for ten more before he was ready to fly. His virt-hand gently plucked one strand of the web, and as the spider rushed to mend it, he felt that familiar tug, and then he was In.

The structs weren't as sharp, and he still felt like he was swimming in paste, but it would have to do. He saw Epiphany had already arrived, the winged halo of her con fluttering around the neon Fuji that was the Chase Osaka datanode. A couple of dollar signs clung to the halo – apparently she hadn't been content with just chewing bandwidth while waiting for the gang to arrive.
"You sure you want to mess with the Choke?" Chips said as he steered his con over to Epiphany.

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