Conclusion of the Netcromancer by M.J.Miello
There was silence as I climbed the stairs of the Fleetfoot. I expected to find the place empty, but they were there. Zee. Alanna. Billy. All of them. Even members I had never met. Nicholas knocked an empty mug against the wood of the table. So there would be no small talk.
“Attention members of the collective, Christopher Salvatore comes before us. Christopher, have you fulfilled your duties?”
“I have.” This was true. I accepted that I would be banished but I saw no reason to make this easy for them.
“Have you mastered the art of the code?”
“Have you learned the principles of the collective?”
“And to you my brothers and sister I ask now, has Christopher demonstrated the requisite hatred for inelegance?”
There was a pause.
“He has,” Zee said.
“Shall we consider Christopher for the exalted rank of Magnus?”
“We shall,” several of the Magi said tentatively, but this only opened the debate. “What is the consensus of the collective. Has Christopher served the Order or the Chaos?” Again there was silence.
“The Chaos,” Billy said.
“The Chaos,” others agreed.
No one had ever been said to serve the Chaos. The BAC as an organization was meant to serve the Order. We never called ourselves hackers. We were not black hats. We were computer scientists, servants to Zee’s vision of the future. I had broken the rules. I had created, and unleashed a virus. This, I knew, was immoral. It was forbidden.
“He should never be one of the Magi,” Nicholas said. This drew protests. Some were not happy about this proposal. Alanna’s eyes were fixed on me as if she was waiting for me to say something. Did she think I would defend myself?
“So be it,” Zee said, interrupting the debate. “Christopher is not to be a Magnus. His powers are greater than that. He has gone further than others have dared. And who is to say that the Order shall not benefit from his labors.”
“Benefit?” Billy asked, “He made a damned virus!”
“I finished his virus,” I said more to give credit where it was due than to defend myself.
“It was like he was back,” one of the graduate students said from the back of the room. “He was always tricking us into playing that damn song he wrote.”
“If you left your computer open for a second,” someone else added, “He would get into whatever you were working on and write a poem right in the middle of your code.”
“Now we know what he was working on at the end,” a recent graduate who I had never interacted with before said. I looked at him, he was African American and he wore a familiar earring and black hat. I recognized him. He, more than anyone else was in Christopher’s photographs.
“I thought,” he went on, “I thought his mind was gone and he was just filling his last hours with an empty task. He couldn’t speak in the last few months. And then yesterday he was there. His words were there. He called me his beloved noob again.” A tear fell down the man’s face. “I felt like you brought him back from the dead.”
“He did. He brought our brother back from the dead!” The sentiment echoed around the room.
Zee banged his mug on the wood table and lifted it out to me. “Then let it be known that henceforth Christopher is a master. He is adeptus. He is a re-worker. He is a worker of Chaos but a servant of the Great Order nonetheless. He is…”
“The Necromancer,” Alanna said, referring to the dark wizards that haunt the corners of fantasy novels—the ones with the power to summon the dead.
“Whoa!” several members yelled in approval. Others protested loudly, one decreeing that an undergraduate, of any skill, was unworthy of such a badass name.
“More like the Net-cromancer,” Billy said, earning something of a reluctant laugh. And this name, perhaps because it was sufficiently ridiculous, was acceptable.
“To the Netcromancer,” Zee said. They raised their cups and drank.
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No 1995 Windows-based computers were harmed in the making of this story.
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