Thursday, April 17, 2008

Horatio At The Diner.

There was no place to jack-in.

There was no crowd. In fact, he was completely alone in the dining room of the local Good Eats[TM]. The cooks and waitresses huddled near the coffee machine behind the counter, eager to leave or get ready for the day. The manager sat in his office, oblivious to the haranguing the staffers were giving each other. Occasionally a new face would appear, uniformed for the shift, sifting through the automatic doors, groggy-eyed and needing coffee and making a beeline for The Bunn.

Usually there were cops in the restaurant, but eerily none were anywhere to be found. No gamers, no coffee geeks, no drunks, no whores. No bums looking for a free cup, no suits conspiring in the corner. No late night dates that were just getting started or just winding down. Nobody but him.

And no place to jack-in.

Pissed him off, is what it did. Downright outraged him - appalled, aghast, and various and sundry other adjectives to describe his general behavior at 5 A.M. He sat at his table halfway back on the left, a laptop under his palms, typing reflexively and not caring to look at the screen - instead focusing on the oxygen pumping in through a vent above the front counter. It should have calmed him to know it was there, to feel at ease that some diner franchise should care so much about his well-being; but there was no joy in his heart for anything a corporation did, no matter how big or small. He inhaled deeply, reminding himself that if he at any time felt nauseated, he would send a form letter C&D and begin suing the pants off of them.

The waitress hag brought his food, gracefully sidestepping the coffee carafe, cup, laptop, and ketchup, and continued her morning saunter.

He took his mind off the oxygen and current conspiracy theory and settled down for breakfast. It was 5:22am.

Ahh, the morning gentlemen - five, nonsmoking; a table, please. Then another three-top, with someone he didn't expect to see … No, wait, never mind. It’s wasn’t her.

Halfway through, he had to take a break. His cold sore was acting up, and he needed to digest for a few minutes. He resumed moments later with the same shoveling action that made him the fastest eater he knew (Not that that was a good thing.). He stopped with several bites to go, surrendering at last to his overfull stomach.

He couldn't jack in. so he kept typing.

At least there was wireless. Not much of a signal, but it was there on the edge, both intermittently out of range and connected, but neither state for long. He grabbed what packets he could, while he could, and continued tapping away. Every site he visited he would read its source and copy what he liked. Any forum he found with one or two lines of object code he would take. He searched archives for strings and delimiters. He pirated bits from every Zombienet he could think of. Line 3095, line 3096 ... line 3195 ... line 3595 ... line 4595.

It happened on line 7127.

What happened was this: the cops came in around line 5000 and started asking questions to the wait staff. Around 6000 they came around to him, at which point he turned his wireless off (just in case of sniffers) and answered their questions. Most of the mini-interrogation had to do with a stolen car in the parking lot, and nothing to do with him or his laptop, which was just seconds ago chewing on the firewall at the building next to the restaurant. He pointed out his piece of shit car on the other side of the parking lot from the stolen vehicle, shook hands with the nice officers, and reopened the lid on his rig, watching them walk out the door.

He resumed typing, and with no other interruptions, contentedly sent a spybot to scan the wall. Shortly after the bot returned its report, only politely chiming in, he slowed his fingers from ludicrous speed to light speed. He switched focus to the bot report and glanced very intently on a few lines in the middle of the statistical model. A quick mumble about stupid honeycomb nets, and he sped his fingers enough to push out the final tweaks on his code. Line 7127.

He ran a quick compiler test, which passed flawlessly. Unflinching, he ran a stress test and vulnerability test on the pile of code at the same time. The rig made a yawning sound, but finished both anal examinations with a green checkmark.

Finally, he compiled the code. It took shape on the screen, a 3D representation of a simple grey stick figure arose from the swirling map of processed code. It stepped from the window of the compiler, and onto his desktop. Blue orbs shone on the topmost sphere on the creature, and then they blinked. The orbs focused at something beyond the screen.

“Thanks for bringing me back, Horatio. I sure have missed the jobs.” said the script through the rig's speakers. “And I see you've been hard at work upgrading my hardening and bruteforce.”

“Among other things,” Horatio said to no one.

“So what's the job?” said the code.

“What's the 'wall you're scanning say?”

“Blitten Bail Bonds. ECM --”

“Skip it,” interrupted Horatio. “What's two nodes over and lit like Chernobyl?”

“ECM 258e0f12a, unregistered with ICANN.” sputtered the stick figure, and with a flourish, added “Security ring at least level 7.” if a faceless stick figure with blue lightbulbs for eyes could give an evil grin, this code was doing it.

“Can you crack it?”

“Will there be a hardline?”

“Eventually. You’ll be stuck on this wireless band for at least 36 hours.”

“Yes. Maximum 17 days.”

“Get to work.”

And the code was gone, disappeared from the laptop entirely. The traces were being overwritten with 1s and 0s in alternating patterns 25 times, the processor busy purging access point logs of any mention of a computer being on or near the Bondsman's firewall.

Horatio shut the lid on his laptop and stood warily. He dug in his pocket for a few bucks for a tip, drank the last swig of cold coffee, lit a cigarette, took two puffs before securing it between lips, picked up the laptop, and left the restaurant.

Upon exiting to the parking lot, Horatio launched the notebook 30 feet straight into the air.

After it landed, he patiently searched for and collected the memory and hard drive, walked at a normal pace to his car, and drove away.

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This work by Michael W. Hyde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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