Starting to get back on track again. Here we go with the 2nd installment of The Nothing’s Child. As we work through the story sections the links below will be our guides to where we have been and allow easy access to catch up with the whole mess.
Easy Peasy Hit
You can break into a place without the proper codes. Sure, I’ve done it, but it lacks finesse. Most of the time it ends up a bull doze through the front door. Obvious, amateur hour, I don’t play that way.
If you can hook up with a good group, a group that does their homework, you don’t have those issues. If they have the passcodes, all someone like me needs to do is run through the system and shut things down and erase any surveillance. But, that’s in a perfect world. We don’t live in a perfect world.
Not that I am trying to say I am all that, but ya, I have mad skills. It pays to know how to code on the fly, it pays well. This is why Greybunny35 comes to me with jobs like this. I deliver the goods and get the job done.
She sent me the packet earlier today. It was encrypted, you don’t send anything without encryption. That is the ploy. Most of the apps sniffing for the encryption are concerned with what’s in the package. The beauty of the encryption we have been using, the message is in the encryption itself. If the bots break the encryption the actual message is lost to the ether.
She didn’t give me all the details, “need to know.” But she sent me the where and when. That would be why I claimed a spot in the local coffee shop. These places are everywhere. Jacking in is cheap, and you can stay for hours.
The coffee shops are a strange anomaly. Cyber cafes were a passing fad. You might not remember them. They were places you could take your lap top or what have you and jack in to the cafes feed. They ran rates by the hour or something like that.
People just didn’t buy into them. And then wireless became common place. People patched into free wireless everywhere they went. You know who got smart? The people with the coffee shops. People would sit in them for hours doing whatever it was they did with the old school internet on the free wireless, all for the cost of a cup of flavored coffee.
And the coffee shops were everywhere, still are. Meeting places in the real world where you can jack in and do all the virtual work you need to get done. The price is steeper than a cup of coffee but not by much. I love ’em. Their trace encryption is easy to scramble. I run anonymous, a virtual ghost.
A cold snap and the physical world slipped away. I have some time but better that than rushing through unprepared. Universal Controls, they were hitting the R & D department. I haven’t made a run through their net before but I’ve heard some stories.
Most of their defense apps are pretty straight forward. Word on the street though, they hired a new security goon, old time runner. I like a challenge. I haven’t heard about anyone going up against him yet. We got us a learning moment.
In the old world it was pretty easy to find a place. You signed on with a web browser and typed in an address. If it existed you could explore a “web page.” Things change. The power of the net turned everything on its head. The world follows physical laws similar to the outside. You need to have a way of getting around.
Navigation is the easy part. Even a prefab deck has mapping apps. They show the pathways you need to take to get where you want to go. The drawback of travel, it isn’t instantaneous. You have to spend time traveling from your current network to where you want to go.
You had to know I travel in a Cadillac El Dorado. How could I not. When you dig down to the 1s and 0s the appearance means nothing. But in my personal virtual vision of the world, style is everything. Black El Dorado with mahogany interior, a classic is a classic. With tweaks to the app, it eats virtual pavement.
I have some time, but I still need to be inside before they make their initial strike. The El Dorado makes its presence known when I pull into the fast lane on the super highway. You wanna talk about hitting the highway? This thing is a tank with a super charged engine.
I parked the El Dorado half a block away from the Universal Controls building. Tends to be a matter of memory really. How much can you leave running without cashing your resources? Better to have a way out if things turn to shit. The car is far enough away to avoid suspicion but close enough for an escape.
You would never expect something like this. The UC building renders as an old brown stone, plain, unassuming. The big things they have been doing lately, I expected a bit more.
Goons covered the front entrance, scanners to check incoming ID signatures. If I had the passcodes, I would have no problem going in this way. Again, perfect world scenario, like I could be so lucky. I need a back door. I could ping the place, but that just ruffles feathers and puts them on alert. I need to slip past the first layer encryption without drawing attention.
A few quick taps on my deck and my phantom apps pop up. These apps are great, as long as all you want to do is get inside. Basically what happens is, I cease to exist. At least as far as the gate keepers are concerned. I can walk right by them and they won’t even know I’m there. The drawback, I can’t do anything to pick up any information from the nodes I am passing through.
The front door guardians have little information anyway. Though in a case like this, it would be good to get some information about what’s inside the security system. I can figure that out when I get inside.
I love this part. You ever watch a magician with a smoke bomb? They throw it at their feet and when the smoke clears they’re gone. That’s how this screen looks when I use it. Coded it myself.
When you make it inside the security is a bit more relaxed. Unless you run across a poseur mucking around in the system, the whole place is pretty quiet. If you stick to low level access nodes you could spend all day inside the system. But that isn’t what we’re here for.
You might not expect this with what I am doing, but the nodes at the entrance are the friendliest. As long as I stick to general information I can get quite a bit without setting off any alarms. The most important item is a site map. When push comes to shove it pays to know what connects where.
Personal ping from Kim Su, the team leader for operation, comes across my HUD. They are in position, waiting on word from me to proceed. I send him a note back, “Bout to hit security.”
Unlike the greater Net, the world inside a personal or company’s site is pretty small. You might run across firewalls covering different nodes but for the most part travel from node to node is quick.
I have a path through three unprotected nodes to reach the security node I need. Everything changes at the security node. These nodes have their own gate keepers. And I can’t use a screen to sneak past.
With a few quick taps I have my bluff files up. Nothing like a little fast talk to sneak past a stubborn guard, right?
The guard at the desk is pretty big. You might know the type. Six foot, military flat top, Might have served in Special Forces or thought they were Special Forces. Yeah, not the kinda guard you want to play around with.
He snapped to attention when I approached the desk. No words but he still blocked the entrance to the room. I dig through the inner pocket of my overcoat and pull out a badge. As I pass the badge over to him to scan, it races through different combinations of numbers looking for a viable security code.
The guard passed the card back then waved me through, easy peasy. Wasn’t even my best bluffer app.
As I gain access to different nodes my map updates. Information of available services is a handy tidbit to have on hand, especially when you are there to change out security measures.
Like the giant building this site represents, each node is a separate room within the building. Aside from the security bots you find checking passcodes, the only time you run across other bots (or mobs if you want to use old world gaming terms) happens when you find a node being actively used.
Most systems are actively used outside in the physical world. But the operators are represented by an active character, their user ID. Runners, like me, are our own characters. We exist within the system when we are running, the inside looking out as it were.
The security node looks like a security station. There is a desk with monitors displaying visual information throughout the physical building. All I need to do is interface with the command center and I can reroute the video feeds and switch off the alarms for the group on the outside.
This is another reason why I use scripted apps. I can concentrate on the video feeds while the scripts take care of the nitty gritty. To break it down a little, I have an app that sets up an out to lunch protocol for the node. Instead of rerouting the node, this app sends a smoke screen image of all clear. Every system request to the node now runs through my deck. Without setting off alarms or breaking anything down, I have set up camp and can stick around all day.
The video feed is an interesting item. It would be simple to cut it out. But that leaves a trace, let’s the system know that someone was here. I don’t like that game. It takes a bit more work but I sponge the feed, blotting out anything pertaining to my team on the outside. They simply don’t exist.
A quick note to Kim Su, “I’m in place.” Now to bide my time. You ever play Sudoku?
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.