PW #313: Young Adult Science Fiction: GHOST IN THE MACHINE
Manuscript Status: Finished
Mentor: Naomi Hughes
Mentee: Anthony Tardiff
Title: GHOST IN THE MACHINE
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Word Count: 90,000
Seventeen-year-old Jason is a master hacker. When the FBI busts him—then hires him to stress-test the world’s first true A.I.—he has the chance to carry out the perfect inside job and destroy Big Brother’s powerful new weapon. But “SPRITE” might be more like him than he ever suspected…
Jason held his breath and bent over the keyboard, and each keystroke was a soft footfall, placed as surely and carefully as a tightrope walker’s feet.
Silence was key. Not that he could be heard—he could shout if he liked, scream at the top of his lungs. His music was doing that anyway, pounding electronic rhythms through the earpieces attached to his netglasses, weaving a subconscious background tapestry that helped him concentrate. Sound was unimportant. But silence, the silence of emptiness, the silence of absence—that was crucial.
One false keystroke could mean discovery.
A whiff of something pungent made him wrinkle his nose. “Remember our agreement,” he said without looking. The odor increased briefly, then faded. If his music hadn’t been so loud he would’ve heard the sizzle of an extinguished cigar.
Good. He’d been clear about the rules for his working environment. Bruno’s disregard of them was either forgetfulness or, more likely, a test. If it were a test, Jason had passed. His clients needed to know he deserved not only the payment, but also the respect, due a professional. Age was no indicator of ability in this job, but his age did make people wonder if they’d hired the right professional.
At a touch on his shoulder Jason swiveled around, thumbing the control ring on his finger. The music muted and the computer windows floating in the air around him dissolved as his netglasses cleared. He smiled sweetly at the man towering over him. “You poked?”