Across the school, bursts of letters and numbers fired across the network. To the uninitiated that stumbled across it, they were mere glitches in the software. But to the elite of the curriculum, it was their language. In classes where they were trooped down to the IT rooms, they made use of programs (which they were never told about by the higher authority of the teacher) to talk when speech was prohibited.

They were the <|23m3 |>3 14 <|23m3. Where in the physical playground of concrete and sunlight they were the hunted, in the digital realm they were the #|_|n73r5. Their language was obfuscated, their personae hidden in layers of code.

They toiled on their assigned tasks in the foreground, the work easy. But they did not mind that so much. It provided the smokescreen to their extra-curricular activities. Letters and numbers, symbols and pictographic fonts. These formed their lingua franca, and through it they worked on what they wished, calling on others knowledge in their informal network where theirs lacked, and repaying this in kind with their own skill and knowledge.

Through hours and days of stolen CPU cycles and time spent working, the collective carved out their own micro-nation amidst the tangle of data. Their argot had become second nature, and in time leaked into the real word. When they left the wired confines of the computer labs, they switched to the wireless model of understanding glances, gestures, and codewords. It was invisible, and each member was their own node, able to relay through each other to the intended recipient and back again.

In their own world of pixels and bytes, they were gods of the machines. In the school, they were called by all manner of names, but that did not matter so much any more.

For the IT tutors and administrators though? Those kids, who pushed beyond the boundaries of what was expected of them and learned for the sake of learning? They were the future, and under their guises in the cipher, they fed in information where the collective lacked, nurturing it when needed.


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