I read this short story at least 20 years ago, probably in a collection. But it might well be older than that.

Two hackers, using a pirate program that one of them had obtained (I'm not sure how, but most probably illegally) break the walls protecting the money of a very dangerous criminal (a woman). They have very little time before the system recovers and finds them, and have to remove all the money, down to the last cent, otherwise she'll be able to get back at them. So they have to disperse it among many charities to accelerate the process, keeping only a "small" fraction, which is still enormous.

This looks like a shallow theme for even a short story. But I remember I was breathless when reading it, it was really were well written.

1 Answer 1


This sounds very much like Burning Chrome, a short story by Wlliam Gibson published in 1982, one of the earliest cybepunk stories, and the story where he introduced his concept of "The Sprawl".

From the Wikipedia summary:

Burning Chrome" tells the story of two freelance hackers—Automatic Jack, the narrator and a hardware specialist; and Bobby Quine, a software expert. Bobby becomes infatuated with a girl named Rikki and wants to become wealthy in order to impress her. Jack has acquired a powerful Russian "icebreaker" program that can penetrate corporate security systems. Bobby suggests that they use it to break into the system of a notorious and vicious criminal known as Chrome, who handles money transfers for organized crime, and Jack reluctantly agrees to help. The break-in is successful, and Jack and Bobby empty Chrome's bank accounts, but they discover afterward that Rikki had been working in a brothel with ties to Chrome.

The criminal, Chrome, is indeed female, and the hackers empty her bank accounts by transferring the money to charities:

We’d given the bulk of Chrome’s Zurich account to a dozen world charities. There was too much there to move, and we knew we had to break her, burn her straight down, or she might come after us. We took less than ten per cent for ourselves and shot it through the Long Hum setup in Macao.

  • 9
    I remember reading Burning Chrome when it was released and the imagery of the virtual landscape was breathtaking. I had never read anything like it before. Commented May 8 at 7:49
  • 4
    @JohnRennie I had a similar response when I read Neuromancer. I read Burning Chrome considerably later (but it's still fresh in my mind!) Commented May 8 at 8:02
  • 1
    I had totally forgotten the very existence of Rikki. But apart from her, this perfectly fits what I remember.
    – Alfred
    Commented May 8 at 8:17
  • 4
    @Alfred cherchez la femme.... Commented May 8 at 8:36
  • @ClaraDiazSanchez My latest question here scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/287976/… has also to do with "Cherchez la femme"...
    – Alfred
    Commented May 9 at 7:45

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