Dystoparx — Part 15

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Jack is outside her apartment. He slipped into the building behind someone else so that he wouldn’t have to push the buzzer. Now he’s just standing here.

He left the datacentre mostly under control. One of the ops came in and got a run-down of what’s going on. Just keep the place running, that’s all the op has to do. The attack should be basically harmless at this point.

Well, harmless to the datacentre.

Jack’s name is now directly associated with the attack as “the guy who first reported it.” Not good if his suspicions are correct. Maybe Nicnus is right, maybe he should—

Her door opens. It’s her. Of course, who else would it be?

She seems a bit surprised, “You came?”

“Uh…” He’s not sure he was being expected, but, “Yes?”

She smiles a sort of sad smile, then, “Come in.”

He comes in. Not sure where this is going. Maybe her friend told her something? Maybe he’s caught in some sort of unclear set-up? Best to just wait it out for now. So far she’s not unhappy with him.

Now he’s sitting in her living room. She’s in the kitchen. Probably preparing beverages. As ridiculous as it sounds, in this particular case he likes it. It’s a welcome form of procrastination.

He feels his phone vibrate. No. His attention is on her now. It vibrates again. No.

She is back with the beverages. On the coffee table. Now she is across from him, sipping. Looking expectant. Crap. He probably should have had a plan. Or… he thinks back over his conversation with her friend and decides to try something.

“So… I have absolutely no plan here.”

She says nothing, but at least she does not exhibit any signs of being upset by this. He decides to sip his drink and wait. The mug contains some sort of tea he could never get the name right for. It’s her favourite, and really not his sort of thing. He sips anyway.

His phone vibrates again. He is still ignoring it. Sipping. Willing his mind not to drift elsewhere. Here is where he needs to be right now. All of him.

“I’ve missed you.” She says it like it should be obvious.

“I thought you didn’t want to see me.”

She shakes her head in disgust, “That’s always been your problem.”

He raises an eyebrow at her and says nothing. Either an explanation is coming, or else he’s going to have to make it more obvious that he needs one.

“Why did you think I didn’t want to see you?”

He sips for a few moments, as if he is thinking. She needs to see him thinking. Finally, “You said as much.”

“Did I?”

He nods.

“Probably. Sounds like something I might have said. Your problem is that you take everything at face value.” She tosses her hair and continues to sip her tea.

He’s quite impressed. They’re having what is effectively a mostly-rational discussion about what happened. He never would have expected this. As he takes his next sip he realises something: this is his problem. He doesn’t give her enough credit. That she should be discussing the situation with him in a rational manner should not be impressive.


Nor should it be expected. Huh.

“Because you didn’t want to see me then.” He says this slowly, as it comes to him, “But you didn’t want to have to tell me when that changed. Didn’t want to, because it seemed obvious that it would change somewhat quickly. You thought I should know that you would eventually want to see me.”

She is saying nothing, but her eyes say all he needs to know. His phone vibrates again.

“I know I can be hard to handle,” he pays his phone no mind, “I mean, I don’t take the world lying down. I expect clarity in communication. I want to correct errors wherever I see them—” He cuts himself off, a list of his faults is not going to help here. She knows what her problem is. “I can relax all that,” He’s sure that he can, “I mean, I can be more understanding. I can try to read into what you’re saying just a little more. Let trivialities be trivial a little bit more often…”

He doesn’t want to say what he has to say next. Things are going so well. He is realising, though, that as much as he wants this to work, it is not his whole world. So he says it. “I’m not going to change who I am, though. I’m not going to stop analysing the world. I’m not going to instantly know your every wish. You still have to tell me things. More than once. More clearly. Maybe even more than you would normally have to with other guys. Because I’m not them.”

His phone is vibrating constantly now, as though a phone call is coming in.

She finally sets her tea down and speaks, “You’re right. This isn’t all your fault, and I can try harder. Your willingness to take the first step is all I really needed.” She pauses for a moment, then shakes her head, “Now answer your phone before you go insane.”

Bill is not sure how he feels. The operation was completely successful, and yet it had been a colossal failure. Every single person they had set out to question had been easily found and questioned. None had evaded them, none of their information had led them to a dead-end. By operational standards, a resounding success.

Not a single person they had questioned, however, had ties to child pornography groups. At least, not so far as they could discern. Not a one. Well, except for the teenagers they had caught with pictures of girlfriends and boyfriends. Hardly the sort of contraband they were after.

What had gone wrong? The FBI had nailed a guy based on their surveillance, how could a large-scale operation here fail to be at least a little successful?

The techies told him it was the nature of the surveillance. People with MusicBox knew it was tapped. They were unlikely to store their pornography on the same machine. Bill knew something, however, that the techies did not know. Data was also being piped in from email and web histories in other ways. Ways which Bill did not himself understand. Then again, some of the techies knew some of these things.

Bill is now looking over the data he has on the successful FBI operation. The one that convinced him that this could work. The pervert had sent an email to his mother, that’s how they had found him. They had picked up the email on his mother’s machine.

Suddenly, Bill has an insight. They had been looking for suspicious material, and tracking that material to the machines it had passed through. Those machine were accessed who knows how, or maybe the wifi connections associated with the machines were compromised, whatever. The success with the FBI had been tracking activity from someone suspicious to a known connection, then back-tracing the activity to the real source somehow. The technical details don’t matter. Bill doesn’t really understand them. The strategy matters. Stop spying only on suspicious data, and start trying to correlate it with otherwise innocent data!

This is great. This can work. He cannot task anyone to do it, however, until the politics gets sorted out. To ask anyone to do this would be to admit that they were not only interested in raw MusicBox data. With the right spin, the operation could still provide the media bomb they need.

He dials his supervisor.

Acklas hangs up as soon as Jack answers. Soon Jack has caught up on the messages they’ve been sending him and begins to reply.

14:00 <acklas> So, I just quit my job.

14:02 <nicnus> Awesome?

14:02 <acklas> nicnus: I’ll let you know. I don’t suppose there are openings at your startup?

14:03 <nicnus> We’re “always hiring”, so maybe.

14:05 <nicnus> Woah! Have you seen this thing about the kiddie porn arrests?

14:06 <acklas> Just a sec…

14:10 <acklas> Woah. That is not how it seemed to be going down at all…

14:12 <nicnus> You mean the part about how this shows there is “more of this problem than we, as a society, want to admit”?

14:12 <acklas> Yeah. From what I understood, it was mostly a junk operation. Scaring old ladies and single mothers, instead of doing their jobs.

14:13 <nicnus> Apparently, they’d rather not remember it that way.

14:15 <acklas> Apparently, they’d rather ask for sweeping surveillance provisions. Because, you know, this proves they can totally handle it.

14:15 <nicnus> No, this proves they might be able to scare people into thinking we need it.

14:15 <acklas> Suresure. Man, I found one article that says the USA “has been doing something similar for some time”

14:16 <nicnus> First I’ve heard of it. I think it’s more that they’re also *trying* to get something in place.

14:16 <acklas> Yeah. The security community would have seen something by now if they were doing it before the laws were in place.

14:20 <nicnus> Jack!

14:20 <acklas> What?

14:20 <nicnus> jjdavis: What, exactly, did you stumble on again? The US gov’t snooping emails?

14:21 <acklas> Woah, when did this happen?

14:21 <nicnus> During your meeting.

14:22 <acklas> jjdavis: is this true?

14:23 <nicnus> jjdavis? This is a big deal, man. You can’t stay down there.

14:24 <acklas> Yeah, if they’re spying semi-illigally…

14:24 <nicnus> If it’s not even legal… yeaah

14:35 <nicnus> jjdavis?

14:40 <nicnus> Oh my goodness, they’ve got him.

14:45 <acklas> dan’t be silly. he’s at his girl’s, remember?

14:50 <acklas> Ok, I’ll call him. You know. He should at least know about this.

** jjdavis reads

14:57 <jjdavis> nicnus: like I said, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be ok

14:58 <acklas> Sure, I mean, nicnus is a bit paranoid. Still, though…

14:59 <jjdavis> From the way that article reads, it’s about to get hot up there as well.

15:00 <nicnus> maybe, but you didn’t *find* them up here.

15:01 <jjdavis> We’ll see

15:03 <acklas> How did it go with your SO, anyway?

15:05 <jjdavis> I’m still here. We’ve sort of patched things up in principle.

15:06 <acklas> I guess that’s good, then.

15:07 <nicnus> jjdavis: I’m overnighting you one of our devices, set with a key I’ll give to acklas as well.

15:09 <jjdavis> nicnus: sure

15:16 <acklas> nicnus: how hard would it be to modify your MusicBox blocker to instead spam the crap out of the RCMP?

15:18 <nicnus> Pretty easy. I think someone already did it in principle. why?

15:20 <acklas> I’ll get back to you on that.

Acklas is thinking. If the States is already on it, then Canada might not be so far behind. There needs to be resistance to the surveillance before it becomes law. After that, everything just gets harder. Even Nicnus’ magic crypto doesn’t stop spyware. Doesn’t stop email snooping. At least, not by itself.

If they were going to use their failure to tell the media why they needed more power (“they” in this case being some nameless force Acklas paints as being behind the whole mess), then Acklas could maybe use something else to sway the media another way. A battle in the media might be a battle that could be won.

Why has he not thought of this before? Man. Half a day out of the cubicle and already his creative problem-solving juices are flowing again. He has nothing else that he needs to be doing, and money is not going to be an issue for awhile.

If this is what’s necessary to keep from living in fear, then Acklas will bring the fight.

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