Category: Culture & Society

Human rights hackers find support

Anarchy & Government: Human Rights & Liberty — a beginning

The earliest known declaration of human rights.
Interpreted from Akkadian cuneiform on a cylinder dating from 583 BC, during the reign of Cyrus The Great Liberator.
1. I declare I will respect the tradition, customs and religion of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors look down or insult inhabitants of my nations.
2. I hereby abolish slavery; my governors are ordered to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their ruling domains. Such a tradition should be exterminated the world over.
3. If anyone oppresses others, I will reassert their rights and penalize the oppressors.
4. Today I declare Freedom of Religion. All are free to choose any religion, live in all regions, and take up any job provided they never violate other’s rights.

The Federation Of Liberated Cantons (FLC)

“The basic building block of society is the individual. The basic building block of governance is extortion. Unintrusive support that upholds individual rights is the quiddity of good government.” – Introduction to the FLC Charter

Hacktivisim End Game – Chapter 7: lets get dangerous

All three have messages waiting the next morning, and soon they have messages darting back and fourth between themselves. The messages to our favored triptych request participation in a short ceremony at the FLC Natural Enterprise Cooperative, followed by a deep sea fishing trip. The purpose is recognition of their civic virtue in helping remove the Fagin gang.

After breakfast discussions arise during a saunter through the hotel gardens. Mose leads the deliberations toward his favorite subject, “The freedom we share within the Federation of Liberated Cantons is perhaps the first stable liberty in history. Stable, yes that’s what it is, but growing freedom too — as it is embraced by all those pursuing a better future.

Mercenary freelances are bringing their prosperity generating creativity to the FLC. Our societies are aggressive at providing a biodiverse economic ecosystem for natural enterprise. The citizens create this biodiversity by seeking out opportunity in new or poorly served markets, and there is no regulation, tax, and pillage bureaucracy to stop them. Privacy and well rewarded innovation thwart oppression and inspire individual efforts that keep humankind ahead of extinction.”

Jon adds his bit. “The people are better protected than those with over regulating governments, because the people know it is their responsibility to make the right choice. Instead of using political mandates procured through bribery, enterprise increases their sales by transparency and satisfying customers. No consumer that believes it important to be aware, buys from obtuse or opaque merchants. Caveat emptor is a promise, not a threat. When the buyer is aware, markets provide information for buyers.”

As they meander, Gloria decides they should attend the ceremony and make further decisions then. Knowing Gloria’s reputation for strategic analysis, the other two readily agree. All three are looking forward to a day of recreation, and life can be pleasant in the FLC.

Gloria makes an observation, “As a young child I knew the good guys from the bad guys, the good guys were on my side. By the time I was a teen I realized that security forces, police and army, are on their own side first. They are on the side of other enforcement organizations second. If they are told to be aligned with me I am acceptable, but also expendable. If they are told I have become suspect, I instantly became their enemy. What I do is of no effect compared to what they are told, or believe. The larger the force, the more it identifies with itself and the less it is concerned with those outside its ranks.”

Mose catches her point. “We are a force of three, backed by a larger force of free people. We are not dedicated to a leaders orders, but to a cause. Regardless of influences, we must stay true to the cause of freedom.”

Jon’s most notable event at the Natural Enterprise Cooperative was not the awards, it is realizing he understands Gloria at the same unspoken level he had communicated with her sister — his wife. Neither Gloria nor Mose shows any outward sign of recognition when the captain of the sport boat enters, but Jon feels the confirmation Gloria makes about wanting them to take the trip.

He even feels like saying “yes dear,” but his voice would have been too strained by emotion.

It isn’t quite that smooth, but a quick agreement within the foursome has them dressing for relaxation and heading for a yacht. On spying the ship Jon smiles at the yacht’s name “Another Golden Sunset.” Gloria was right about the trip, and Jon knows the team is already starting to functioning well.

They power out of range of easy surveillance, set up a couple of fishing poles, and Midas turns on extra ‘tronics. They slip into the downladder conversation well with their drinks, and smiles explode.

They had all worked for the NEC before, in fact the project Jon just finished was financed with NEC as a (secret) sponsor. Citizens of FLC member states have a much higher per capita income than in centrally controlled states like Elldee, but FLC governments are purposely kept poor. The NEC is supported by those that appreciate the value it provides. In the FLC it is their unity, their willingness to stand together for liberty, and their increasing numbers that underlay sustainable strength.

FLC members also are much further advanced technologically than committee run or autocratic states. Nothing is as inventive or productive as a free man that benefits from his own efforts. In restricted principalities little of quality is produced, all work is being done by poorly rewarded labor. An old saying is they pretend to work, and their bosses pretend to pay them.

Politics involves coercion seeking to increase the power of government to mandate ends. Without willing citizens those ends must constrict. Within a free environment individuals seek to protect and improve their lives and the lives of those they love, so by extension other’s futures also expand.

The Natural Enterprise Cooperative provides leadership and arbitration if requested — and is run as a profitable venture. Free people become members of the NEC because it works to make their lives and wealth more secure. It is a self-selecting arrangement, if someone wants the NEC’s help, they support its actions. They could support or start another group for the same purpose if they wish – competition helps keep the Natural Enterprise Cooperative sharp. Voluntary association for mutual benefit — free people supporting their own liberty, their own way.

Gloria starts the ball rolling, “we know each other by reputation, but I think this is the first time Jon and Midas have a chance to meet – gentlemen.” They exchange pleasantries and smiles, and in fact have a short laugh at how well the ethical hacker team is forming. Gloria adds, “Time and tide wait for no man, for me occasionally, but for no man. I call this meeting of the Complicit Team to order – there are no rules – let’s get to work.”

Midas turns just a bit formal. “Jon, the best cover I can have as head of FLC liberty operations is working as a minor functionary in the NEC. But so you know, I have access to all the financing and intelligence information you need for the new project – whatever we decide that will be. You may know how thoroughly you have disrupted Pahl’s operations, but we know he and Scar think your efforts have stopped. One more hard push and something evil may start falling.”

Jon smiles, “I’m glad my farewell present worked so well, Pahl’s princedom is one of the darkest spots on this continent, I will keep opening windows and doors, letting in light and fresh air.”

Midas returns the smile, “The Liberated Cantons would love to help you free another populace. We will let Gloria decide what to do once you enter Elldee, but if you three agree we think we can get you through the eastern border with no difficulty. Your initial travel will be through Liberated Cantons, so there is no need for passports, approvals, or IDs. You will probably want to enter Elldee separately and then join together, but Gloria may develop other plans. In fact, knowing Gloria, she probably will.”

Mose speaks for the first time. “I think we can all go in together, as a business group trying to set up a new territory. With a software business we will have an excuse for a high speed network and for traveling around. Jon and Gloria will have freedom because it will take me time to get approvals from the bureaucrats.”

Gloria looks thoughtful. “That will work. That also gives us a backup purpose, open trade decreases chances of war and increases prosperity. For this venture, Jon will be a proposed area manager, I’ll be a management trainee so I can have maximum freedom and excuses.”

Jon looks at Mose and asks how much time such cover will give them.

“It takes three weeks to get the paperwork through, and it is always turned down the first time. There are three levels of appeals if we want to draw things out. We can give bribes if we want to hurry, but that might paint us as too ambitious. I have another trick – after three weeks to do the paperwork, we can delay past the time to submit an appeal – one week from our rejection. If we start the whole process over again the bureaucrats will be so frustrated at having to jump once again through their own hoops they will approve us to get rid of us.”

After appreciative chuckles, all three hackers listen as Midas opines. “Pahl of course will view your covert efforts as an act of war, but not having a defined enemy to attack or assets to extort he will just bluster. For Scar even diplomacy is war with only a lone victor to be left standing — just because he is paranoid does not mean he won’t try to kill his illusions before they can kill him. Scar views everyone competent or ambitious as an enemy, he tends to kill first to avoid the need for questions.”

Midas continues: “You have our full support until you enter Elldee, and as much help as we can manage, short of war, once you are inside. With all of your actions we will deny knowledge of your intent – so you didn’t tell me your goals. To us you are just business people hoping to open trade relations with a neighbor. The NEC was formed to encourage natural and free enterprise.

We have contacts with the Los Diego underground, but you run the risk of Scar’s secret police moles if you meet with them. I would save that tool for desperate times.”

Much more is discussed on board, they even catch a large barracuda. Fine eating, if its meat isn’t poisonous with cigua toxin at the moment, and it doesn’t eat part of you first.

Change The Future

“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.” – Voltaire

When pursued most generics attempt to blend into an always present poor quarter. It is at the borders between income levels that the greatest risks, and the greatest freedoms, can occur. Once safely ensconced within the center of poverty, every official eye is self-protectively turned away. Reference to the poor may be made in manipulative and pious terms by ruling elites; but politicos ignore their dependent tools, trapped in poverty by their policies.

Pretending to love humanity, those with transient power hate individuals, reminders of their ephemeris delusions. Maneuvering human emotions like game pieces toward devious end games, they disregard their own imminent end. There are rich and powerful in every society. The more free a society the more they have reason to be proud; the less free, the greater the stench.

This time Jon will not embrace lady poverty. After his sojourn in Thought Castle, Jon simply changes his prior styles and habits, for instance becoming a tea drinker instead of a beer sipper. Jon has moved up ladder so high he is sure to be out of sight. Hiding by being obvious; an ignored repeat resident in the luxury of a sprawling 5 star hotel campus on the coast.

Even the hotel’s official Paparazzi ignore Jon sitting quietly in a conversation pit, by an empty fireplace, alone with his tea. After all, records show he has occasionally been a long term guest. Never has there been a profitable or official request for his information.

Jon does not silently reminisce for long, his remaining tea still hot as his Friends Of Hacker Jon contact approaches. She knows he used FHJ to seek a team to assist him in Elldee, but there are several filters for each to pass through before specifics will be discussed.

The leaks have been discovered and patched, but there is yet little confidence in the FHJ retaining wall. It is bleak days. Many have been tortured and killed. The question has been asked, can hacktivism endure? He shakes his head as if to throw these thoughts off his mind. He looks up.

He of course recognizes her; even with her long brown hair piled loosely on her head, wearing makeup that deemphasizes her face’s distinctive features, her presentation complete in a simple beige suit that hides curves. Not knowing her current name, or if she wants to be close, he knows the conversation will start benign.

Her ‘tronics are automatically checking the area as his had done. Noting the location of the pinhole camera, she sits with her back to it, passing the first interview filters, casual competence and control.

For a moment Jon is lost in memories. The joy of those few years washes through him, even as the sudden destruction of love and life threatens to overwhelm him. All that shows externally is a slight sigh, a blurring of the eyes as they focus elsewhere. Inside he slams shut a door, blocking a grief he feels inadequate to confront. His calm returns.

“Are you a speaker at the convention?” She asks, “I think I heard your talk.”

“No,” Jon replies evenly, “Just a business owner playing by the sea after a product launch. Is it a business convention? I attend those occasionally. I enjoy the learning and community, I guess it’s time to attend another.” She now knows he still needs a hacking team, and it is for an ongoing project. He is sure she knows why he is acting so restrained.

She sits down across from Jon, “May I?” she asks. At Jon’s nod she injects an excuse into their incipient conversation. “I’ve had some mashers pursuing me, if they think I fell for your big sincere eyes maybe they’ll leave me alone. It’s a micro-learning convention, hosted by the Natural Enterprise Cooperative. I’m to meet a fellow conventioneer here, waiting with you should keep those others from intruding.”

So she is ready for a project, and she represents part of a team. Jon knows Brenda well; she is the older sister of Janice, one of the most creative ethical hackers he had known. Brenda had been maid of honor at his and Jan’s wedding. She had also been a good friend. She has to have know he will be the one she is meeting, but he detects conflicting emotions within her also.

Brenda was not a generic at the time of the wedding, but had her own business in international travel. She only knew Jon by the persona he wore at the time, Billy Goodman. Billy and Jan met when Hacker School was raided. During their ‘working’ honeymoon, they became widely know as travel writers. The Goodmans’ articles inspired envy as they journeyed in widely followed rapture around the world. (Her hacker handle was Aurora Phoenix, his hacker handle Knight Watchman.)

The world thinks The Joyful Travelers died in one of the separatist revolutions that dissolved most nation states. Jan died an unsung heroine of freedom; the carefree joys of life died for Billy at the same time. Billy/Jon has worked at segmenting their hacking attributes since her death. He has performed software hacks under the Aurora Phoenix handle, continuing her legacy, and as Knight Watchman he has taken credit when hacking into hardware.

Jon’s split personality hacking started as a memorial, but morphed into a protective delusion. Under questioning Jon intends only to eventually admit to being be a Knight Watchman disciple, describing Knight Watchman as he saw himself when he was Billy, not as other’s see him now. If he is peeled deeper his torturers might be satisfied to discover he is fully Knight Watchman. His software, and the freedom fighters he protects with it, might remain undiscovered in a separate and disconnected file folder of his mind.

The pain of his wife’s passing was part of what had turned Jon from a talented generic to a dedicated one. That relationship was now several personas ago, on another coast, on another continent. He has not seen Brenda since. Jon once again shuts and now locks that same mental door. He does not want memories of Janice clouding his reasoning, his emotions, or his eyes.

“Oh,” she says. “I don’t have my convention name tag on,” showing the corner of one in her clutch, “I’m Gloria.”

“I’m Jon. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Well worn phrases will sound authentic to any unknown listeners. Gloria has her sister’s empathetic eyes, their depth and sincerity stir up memories within him. Jon witnesses himself quickly constructing an entire barrier wall to the searing emotions that threatening to disgorge a forbidden trespass of unrelieved sorrows. This could get serious.

Brenda hesitates, then continues as if she doesn’t observe his inner conflicts. “My friend should be here soon, Mose and I are going to walk up the beach and find a good omelet, do you know of a decent restaurant?” Gloria rambles a bit – nice cover for a sharp wit. “It’s an education convention, I sell accelerated technical learning, self paced of course.” She pretends to gush, “as a business person you have probably taken a XeMax intense study course.”

Great work, Jon thought as he once again wins control. An efficient educator had now bored any listener – they have heard sales talk before. Labels are important, fall into a generic folder and you will be mentally sorted, filed, and ignored. “I’ve taken a few XeMax overnight language courses, and used your specialist tutoring services,” he responds.

Gloria already knows Jon has a project, she also understands he wants to learn the parameters of her prior generic ventures. Jon knows her approach was due to the strings of reputation he is pulling; trying to drag closer hackers and crackers to counter forces opposing him. It is time to quit fighting alone. Forming a team for exploiting vulnerabilities is reasonable. Especially when unrestrained violence offered by Pahl’s internal police promises opportunities to bring down his evil government.

Since Gloria knows Jon, she knows any project will be challenging, helping others as much or more than it rewards them. They both know his favorite quote: “Challenges that exceeded my understanding,” he reminds himself often, “are how I chose to grow; embracing and managing risks rather than trying to avoid danger.”

Gloria’s next words might seem full of promise, or devoid of meaning. “Business is a satisfying pleasure for me, a chess game where any of the pieces can move themselves at any time. Some pieces may be removed from this board to another, but remaining pieces can offer support to those still in play.” Looking away from Jon she nods her head and comments: “Here comes my friend Mose, perhaps you would like to join us for brunch.”

*happy hunting hacker*

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.” – Frederick Douglass

There is no going back.

In earlier centuries, insightful individuals might mature past limiting coherence. By the twenty third century, entire societies reorganized as their constituent’s interests fragmented — coherence lost.

Courage empowers. To become valuable you must advance yourself.

Mankind entered adolescence, a time of confusion. Untethered, personal identity drifted away from familial tribe and national allegiance toward tribes of similar interests. And beyond. Technology awakened awareness of unlimited choice, options in the trillions. Where shackles were successfully broken new relationships were sought. Not as children needing direction, but as discrete adults considering map and compass, setting their own course.

The Federation Of Liberated Cantons is not a nation, nor does it govern. The FLC is an optional assemblage of adults agreeing to mind their own business.

Jon, Mose, and Gloria are apparently sauntering casually down the boardwalk. Three nondescript business people blending with those in beach attire and similar casual wear. In the subtext of their discussion they are exchanging references to be used for establishing their reputations.

Their conversation has a rather stream-of-consciousness pattern, one topic seemingly leading to another by free association. No need to parse their words and phrases, all can be explained at the level they understand, not what those listening in with sound probes might hear. Woven in are mutual contacts for generic hackers like themselves; hacktivist fundraisers and organizers like Midas; projects and principalities they have worked; and related hacking teams usually referenced by names of historic hacking innovators like Condor and Pandora.

When they return to their individual privacy they will each check the illumination provided before any further information will be exchanged. they can do this immediately, but transmissions from all three while they are just chatting will draw the wrong type of attention to themselves.

The opportunity to draw the right sort of attention presents itself in a surprising way.

Gloria uses her eyes to get the others of the troika to look ahead and to the right. A lady in a dress of quiet colors with a couple kids and some shopping bags is on a bench carefully watching passerby. Her position is just before the boardwalk widens into a park, pier, and restaurant row. Close to the lady, and stridently ignoring her are three teenagers, but they are stationed so one can always notice her.

“We have a Fagin working the boardwalk.” Gloria murmurs, “If we want those kids to grow up to be responsible hackers, we should intervene.” Gloria glances again, and tests the boundaries of her proposed leadership. “How shall we handle her?”

“Nice spot, you call it” says Jon as if he is talking about which restaurant to select.

At that point a child of nine or ten leaves a small store and sits by the woman – he drops something into one of her bags. “Clever,” says Mose, “she can claim she knows nothing, and I imagine the teenagers set up distractions so the kids can grab a purse or wallet that will also go into her bags.”

The teens start doing stunts on their flip boards. As if to prove Mose right the woman whispers to the children, who then move off to claim purses and small shopping bags that aren’t tightly clutched.

Gloria chooses to act quickly “I don’t think a confrontation is necessary, I’ll drop into this shell shop and have the owner contact their mercenary security center – they can tape and correlate the gang’s actions and put together a nice package. We will be caught on camera too; but it will re-enforce our current personas of being on the side of good – another piece of positive data rounding our generic constructs. ‘Gloria’ is a private security agent trying to become a business woman.”

“Protecting business,” smiles Jon, “that’s a nice blend, and ‘Fagin’ provides a good play. It will be nice to give those kids a chance at something better. Not all criminals worth stopping are in government, its just that government provides a more cohesive racket.”

Mose can’t keep the surprise from his voice “I thought you would wade in and subdue the teens and the Fagin, holding them for security while you comforted the children.”

“In the past I might have, but I’m no longer a business owner; and I don’t have time to ensure the adults get the treatment justice requires, or the children a mercy that hope inspires. I’ll let the locals build their own nests, raise their own young. This is a reasonable canton – they will handle this fairly well without my fighting battles for them.”

“How are you so sure?” Jon asks.

“The shopkeepers have their own security, not distant police. These yellow signs say they use arbitration or mediation if possible, not courts. The shops are well maintained. They have added mosaics, fountains, and sidewalk art in front of their stores and restaurants to encourage potential customers. Shopkeepers step out and greet passers by, not in a perfunctory hello to every third person, but as friendly people seeking interaction. There is every indication these are natural enterprises that know how to mind their businesses.”

Before she turns into the shop Gloria adds. “I wouldn’t do this in Elldee. The woman and teenagers would be tortured and killed, and the children would have short lives as forced laborers. Injustice makes for difficult choices. In Elldee we might be forced into slavery too, just for reporting this crime – bad governments hate people that think, speak out, and act.”

Mose asks, ” what could be done in Eldee?”

“We could act like undercover cops, and scare away a theft ring, if we found one in Eldee. Thieves are more likely to be robbers there, using decisive violence to achieve ends, reflecting their educated concept of justice.”

As Gloria exits the shell shop Mose catches her eye and inclines his head toward some outdoor tables. “That seafood place looks good, and not too stuffy, let’s try there. I like the waterfall screen they’ve added. The water offers a pleasant sound, discourages reading our lips, and lets us unobtrusively people watch. We can keep an eye on your little gang, I want to see how good the herd mistress is at picking out fodder for her grazing children.”

“Sounds good, we will have our chowder started before security has enough video and audio footage to round them up.”

The trio settles at their table as Mose takes great pleasure in pointing out the professionalism of the ring-leader. The young thieves’ mentor does not pick victims by simple keys such as clothing, jewelry, watches or hair styles, she is obviously a graduated student of the streets. She has her prots steal from well selected victims based on their lack of awareness and potential for aggression.

When security closes in Fagin recognizes them and has the fledglings scatter. Security is also well trained, ignoring the feints they pick up Fagin and the teens. The younger children will be found later wandering in the area. There is still hope for the kids to avoid what their elders have earned.

The three privateers return their attention to their meal, and to a general conversation that has many layers of meaning. Despite their experience, there is always excitement at the start of a risky venture. Jon, Gloria, and Mose are immersing themselves in concious awareness of what might be their last days of freedom, or life.

After the meal and intricate conversation our threesome quietly sits, watching unscripted pierfront surges and interludes. Jon’s comment counterpoises the dangerous journey ahead. “Life is meant to be art. As artists we observe, gather, and craft our lives.”

Gloria smiles, “This is good art.”

Hackers Tools & Hacker Toys

Hacksters Anticipation

If you have a goal, don’t be diverted from paths that lead toward it.

The rendezvous point is about twenty miles from the border, in an active manufacturing zone. Jon pilots their rental car, Gloria is in the navigator/copilot spot, Mose is sitting comfortably in the rocking chair of the back seat.

“Next block,” Gloria instructs, “second warehouse on the right – pull up to the guard shack.”

Jon follows her instructions, and slides down his window to talk to the guard. The guard just waves them in with a smile and a nod. Jon parks close to the office, next to the loading docks.

They chat quietly as they walk by a patch of grass and flowers, with picnic tables, where workers are taking a break. The office door is up a wide ramp. Once inside everything is business, lots of clerks and stock pickers are scurrying about filling orders. A clerk receptionist looks up and nods his head toward a door leading further into the warehouse – this place is big.

As they step out of the office a forklift appears driven by a young, rebellious looking teen. On the forks rides a platform with poles and chains at the corners. “Hop in, Put up the safety chains, and lets take a ride.”

The smiling long hair takes them down a two way isle toward the back, then scoots behind a tall stack of pallets to another office nestled against the back wall. Jumping from his seat as the lift slows to a stop, he leads them into the office. “Pops” he declares, “they’re here.”

Th office is large and very quiet compared to the hustle of the warehouse itself. Inside are a couple of desks, several tables for sorting or auditing, and an older window van next to a rolling door at the back wall. Midas is rising from behind one of the desks as they enter, a big smile on his face.

“Welcome, we have a bit of equipment here if you want to pick through it, but of course what you carry into La-La-Dee is up to you. We also have a four passenger business van set up for you. Company name, lots of storage already full of sales materials and samples, and several hidden goodies. Some tools of your other trade are included also.”

Each already had tools and secrets not shared with their compatriots. Facing the specters that haunt Elldee, determination alone will not keep other’s secrets safe from systematic mind invasion. They understand if they are captured they will not be abandoned by their co-hackers — but following any abduction they can not disclose unknown tricks while hoping for deliverance. When the phrase “I don’t know” is a truth, no torture can discover a truth beyond it.

Everyone walks over to a table Midas indicates covered with an equipment display. Sonic drills, belts with saw wire stitching, and a bunch of clever miniaturized and disguised weapons. “Everything you see is not yet on the market, Elldee security won’t even know this stuff exists. Take what you will, but you will find the multifunction watches with the XeMax Software name look like specialty advertising giveaways, except yours have personalized engraving on the back. Yours also have some special extras, let me demonstrate.”

The next half hour passes pleasantly, and each decides to wear their watch, so another case of similar looking gift watches is loaded into the van. There are other items, clever and useful; as backups in case their plan to depend on their wits needs some special support.

At Midas’ suggestion they also choose heavy personal weapons, “You will need to dispose of these once you are out of the forest, but you may need them for protection from gangs. Just across the border, while still in the forest areas; gangs have killed, raped, and looted entire villages, taking away children as slaves and recruits.

Midas walks them to the van. “It looks a bit worn, but everything is top notch and better than new – it can stand a lot of abuse and keep running. The sound deadening is excellent, and it will negate most listening devices. Notice the blaster ports under the front windows. There is a film on the outside that dissipates energy weapons, anything hand held, from puke rays to heavy blasters. The film will spread the energy around the vehicle while it grounds it harmlessly. The van may glow a bit – but nothing dangerous should get through.

There are few heavier weapons on the other side of the border until you hit the big cities, there they are mainly used for crowd suppression. If you encounter heavy mounted weapons, they will be official; your id, travel permits, check point verifications, rationing cards, and other paperwork should mollify them. Its all in the glove box for you to sort and carry.

Don’t try to bribe mobile national troops inland, there are many moles in the outfits and everyone is wary. You can leave a couple of packs of cigarettes on your luggage as you cross the border or reach permanent check points. The cigarettes will disappear; and you should be moved through quickly.

There are plenty of gangs preying on the people in Elldee, but they will be poorly armed compared to you. You should be able to ignore, outrun, or defeat them as you feel necessary. It will probably not pay to display any public heroics, Scar will consider notoriety a challenge.

On this side of the border there is no telling what you will encounter, but there are no gangs. The citizens can have any weaponry they want, and most of them seek out the most powerful. If the van breaks down, stick to the roads and walk openly and slowly toward any farm house. Loving folks here, but cautious. Last year we lost seven cows, and one farmer that tried to slip into a neighbors Mellon patch – the farmer knew better.

We are like the Hoplites of ancient Greece, each citizen warrior supplying his own top quality military arms. No warrior will short change himself when going into battle. When your own life is at risk: you get the best training available, pick the wisest leaders, and you don’t consider poor quality munitions from the lowest bidder.

Everyone in the FLC is part of the militia. If you don’t want to squeeze a trigger, that’s fine, somebody has to drive support trucks and cook. We have occasionally been attacked by despotic nations thinking since we don’t attack others we must be weak. Tyrants can’t understand our advantages: leaders chosen by those they lead rather than politics, the productivity and innovation of free people, neighbors fighting together for their local good, and desertion by invading troops wanting to share our liberty and prosperity — these lead to rapid victories for the FLC.

There is something tribal about liberty. We sometimes coordinate in larger groups, but ten is around the basic number that fight together, and ten of these teams is about the most that might regularly meet together for training. Sometimes neighbors or towns go together to field armored units, artillery, or aircraft. A list is kept of suggested arms if someone new is looking to contribute. The larger cities have their own air or armored platoons. But our strength is the trust and support small groups willingly offer each other.

That is why Elldee’s gangs don’t cross our border. The criminals have weapons over there, and they prefer to terrorize folks that aren’t allowed arms to protect themselves or their property. Pahl’s police troops always show up too late to do anything except investigate and write reports. Sadly, good kids that joined the police to help people have found themselves trained to act like occupying troops of a foreign army. Their reports seldom do any good for dead or abused villagers.

The FLC welcomes refugees, and we are happy to help immigrants get settled, but Pahl’s border guards have been trained to kill border jumpers. The poor people of Elldee are living in a duck press, and can’t get official permission to move from the border. We try to help them reach freedom.

FLC interests are served with each additional freed individual. Increasing freedom enriches all free men; some more, some less, but still all. A new movement of liberty in Elldee will build substantially on the foundations of freedom we have already laid elsewhere. By helping you help them, FLC is helping them and each of our citizens, it’s win-win-win.

Once you are past the border we may be able to get occasional reports to you, but realistically you are on your own. If someone comes up to Gloria and calls her Maria, she can say “no, that is my cousin.” Or Gloria can say nothing, our operations there are always at risk of infiltration. Use your own judgment, based on circumstances.

Enough of warnings, you are professionals, you know there is danger. Let’s have something to eat, then you are on your own. Pick your own time table and activities – God Bless you.

If you don’t mind I’ll have my son say a prayer over our meal. Zack isn’t sure he wants to enter the family business, so when he’s not driving a forklift he is studying programs from BFU seminary. Next year this warehouse will be fully automated with autonomous machines, freeing workers for more fulfilling tasks — Zack is currently helping those workers that want to transition into their own businesses. Whatever he does, he has assured me he will keep encouraging an honest and open marketplace for ideas. He will not grow old with regrets of failing to experiment and experience opportunities of his own choice.

Midas wears a proud smile, and slips his arm around the boy’s shoulders as Zack begins to pray.

comic book heroes* meet a Punkk Kidd

Hacking Handles of Heroes

Punkk Kidd is impressive, but so are all kids. Don’t force children into boxes. Give them some freedom and get out of their way.

“Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.” Voltaire

comic book heroes meet a Punkk Kidd
True reality is whatever we believe is real. Don’t hide from uncertainty by pretending to know. – Allan Wallace
Awake to your new PT lifestyle
As they prepare to leave their table at the restaurant, Mose waves to a planter on his left, and encourages a hidden refugee to approach. “Come over here, don’t be afraid, I think we can help you.”

A young boy slowly pokes his head out from behind the plant. Mose tries again, “I know you were part of the theft ring, but we can help you. My handle is Mose, what’s yours?”

“Is Mose a gang handle or a hacker handle?”

“To some it wouldn’t matter, you can call me Mr. Mose if you wish. Since you know the difference, what’s your hacker handle?”

“I know that’s not your real handle, so I won’t give you mine.”

“All right, I’ll call you Moonlit Knight, or Moon for short. What do you know about hacking?”

“Cool, that’s kinda like Knight Watchman’s handle. I read his comic books.”

Gloria and Mose look at Jon.

Jon smiles, “I’m sure he won’t mind. In fact he would probably enjoy knowing a young hacker is wearing a t-shirt with his comic book art drawn across the front. But back to what Mr. Mose said, what do you hack?”

I code well in five ‘puter languages, and I can script in more; writing scripts, not just using them. I’m the punk kid that fixes broken things at school.”

At that point a security officer walks up behind the child. “Thank you for detaining him, The cameras were tracking him. I’ll take him now.”

Mose stands and walks slowly to the guard. “Let me show you my ID, I’ll handle the child.”

The guard signals him to stop, “I’m told you were the ones that spotted the Fagin. Do you know this kid?”

“Just met him, but he talks a good game. If I find out he’s not for real, we’ll let you have him. I think I can help him.”

“That seldom works, but we don’t have his face on file as a prior perp. This is his first known offense. I’ll scan your ID and talk to the Chief, If he objects I’ll come back and you can talk to the Chief.”


Moon had nervously stood listening. As the guard walks out of earshot he says, “I ain’t agreed to nothing.”

Gloria looks at Moon. “First off, stop trying to talk ignorant, you’re not good at it. Second, It’s your life, not ours — you can run off if you wish. The cops are probably waiting outside. If not, their cameras are. Finally, we can help you, and perhaps the future of hacking, if we think you may be worth the effort — It will make us feel good if it works.”

“So you will help me because it will make you feel good. That’s pretty selfish.”

Mose smiles, “Thanks for losing the sloppy speech. Real coding is precise. Hackers may instigate linguistic bathos, but its not based on ignorance.”

“Hey, I’m just seven years old. Talk slowly if you use big words.”

“What’s the most complex Hack you can do?”

“Hardware, firmware, or software?”

“Good answer. You didn’t get that from a comic book.”

The three tested the limits of Moon’s knowledge. They then share their table with him. Like most kids he eats well. At Gloria’s insistence; they each write notes on napkins, share them between themselves, then hand them to Moon.

I like that you’ve read outside of technology texts and HackNet. A well rounded hacker can be more creative. Ms. Gloria
Nice depth in software. You need to study recent trends in hardware. Mr. Jon
We will try to trace your parents. I too am from Elldee. My mom and dad died there. You show potential to help free the people of Elldee, even if we can’t locate your parents. Mr. Mose

Moon is struggling to stop crying as he silently reads the notes.

Once Moon is done reading, Gloria speaks first; “The officer left, you can leave now if you wish, or stay and let us help you.”

“I won’t even finish formal school reading, reasoning, and rhetoric until I’m eight. Then I’m supposed to do open learning about things that interest me, for the rest of my life. What kind of help am I worth?”

“The best,” said Jon. “Have you heard of Hacker School?”

“Well Duh, That’s where Knight Watchman teaches. That I did learn from comic books. What do comic books mean to me?”

“If Hacker School exists, would you want to go?”

“Hacking is what interests me. I love solving problems. Hacking is what I’d mostly study and do in open-learning, if I could find enough info. But hacking schools are fairy tales, I need something real or I’ll end up arrested like the older kids. I need reality”

Jon laughs, he likes being lectured about responsibility by a seven year old. “You are about to enter a comic book if you wish; a graphic novel filled with hacking information. I know the Dean of Hacker School. Ms. Gladis will accept you into a local branch at my say so. I’ll say so: If once you graduate you find Mr. Mose, who will be well hidden, and agree to intern under him.”

“I can’t make a legal promise until I’m twelve and an adult. But I promise.”

Mose looks at Jon and shakes his head, “I thought we were free, and you make this choice for me?”

“Your wet eyes made the choice. I just echoed them.”

“You’re right; but next time ask so I can pretend to think about it. You owe me, I’ll expect an introduction to Dean Gladis when you get the chance.” Mose turns to look Moon directly in his eyes, “I promise too. I’ll be there for you.”

Following His Gut: Chapter 6B
Mose keeps his imagination working.
Mose works at observing hidden messages in other’s actions; indications of intent that might be crucial to his survival.

Once the effort of training perceptions is established, continued monitoring is automatic, even when not overtly concentrating. Mose knows his mind is constantly compiling data; sorting and aligning until a hunch is formed, a touch of intuition, an explainable gut feeling.

Mose wakes as a dream broaches the surface of his cognizance — a completed puzzle. Recent dream events shine with clarity, even as early scenes of his dream fade.

Gloria, Jon, and himself; sitting on a balcony of a secluded compound overlooking a bay. They are relaxed, and older. They toast an event that Mose does not recognize – but each seems pleasantly satisfied with accomplishment.

Mose savors the peace, contentment, and pleasurable anticipation his compatriots share with him. Even as the joy remains, the majority of the dream continues to fade. Something does not fade, what Jon was saying as Mose woke.

Mose will write it down later, but it was simple enough he will not forget — ever. “The basis of our success is trust.”

He mentally scripts responses as he continues the dream within awakening awareness. “The most important trust of all. We trust each other to remain true to ourselves — even if we are forced to oppose each other.”

Mose knows the dream is not a mysterious omen. It was his subconscious clearing an attic of unused memories, blending them with current perceptions from below the conscious level. It is true. All three hackers have the basic requirements for success — integrity, intelligence, energy. Without integrity the other two attributes are traps, not structural materials for ethical hacking. With integrity, each team member will be true to their authentic natures, and hence dependable.

Mose knows the truth of what Jon said in the dream, he knows based on accumulated facts and research found while drilling for understanding. The trust exists – it is time for a commitment meeting between the three privateers and Midas.

Mose smile tightens in determination. “There is work to be done, my people to be liberated.”

They will remain true to their selves, each working in his own way to achieve. Their odds of success are not good, but they are professionals, understanding the risks. They will continue in doing what is necessary, unless they are permanently stopped.

Mourning is optional, and for later.

The Lion and The Hyenas

“Lydia has no king. Lydia wants no king. I’ll rule my own life without any king.” – from FLC children’s chant

The lion says to the hyena, “You and what army?”

The hyena replies, “Just wait ’til I’m king. I won’t have to eat carrion with vultures. I’ll have my subjects kill for me. Maybe you.”

Hackers Wanted
A lion is prowling.
Chapter 5

“Scar, you mean that hacker not only escaped, but left no scent for your wolfhounds to track?”

“I’m sad to report such a thing Your Majesty, but yes. Remember how I said we eliminated most of those who have spoken out against your valiant leadership, but a few escaped through our fences to live in less efficient realms? The lion has apparently crawled under a fence and escaped.”

“Are our agents in other countries after him?”

“And our assassins, but we have no reliable vidfeeds or even still shots of him. Our data set consists only of renderings from recent memories by non professionals. Everything relating to him on any network has been corrupted. When we tried to get a description from an offline database, it triggered a worm that devoured his and related information.”

“How was he able to do this?”

“Hemlock thinks this lion somehow attached a custom script to biometrics queued for inclusion in our data bases. It may have been timed, or was keyed to release if a search or update touched it. For our offline systems he would have accessed them locally. It’s just a guess for now, It’s immensely harder and slower to build something, than to destroy it. The advantage is with distributed hackers and crackers, there is no one place to focus our counter attacks. Like roaches or bureaucrats, eliminate one and three seem to replace him.”

Prince Pahl is now clinching his fists in frustration. “But he ran. Are we through with him then, has Hemlock cleared this hacker’s subterfuge from our computers?”

“Yes I believe he is gone for good, his actions complete; his efforts are now likely directed toward other decisive kingdoms. But he has damaged our systems, and even a great and loyal hacker like Hemlock has been overwhelmed by Knight Watchman’s audacity. We had to shut down our remaining offline systems until we can debug. repair, and re-engineer all of our security networks. If we ask help from other nations they will know our weakness, and their searches on our behalf might trigger an attack on them. They might blame us for any damage. We may need to attack them sometime, we certainly don’t want them wary.”

“Tell me Scar, how can you be so sure Hemlock is loyal?”

“He is very loyal your highness. He is not only well paid, but we have his parents and family in one of your guarded compounds to ensure their safety. He sees security as a game, our close protection of his family ensures he plays to win.”

“I assume then that the efforts of this hacker will be cleared from our computers and no longer a problem.”

“Unfortunately not so Sire, the mischief played with our systems may well be permanent, many of our projects will need to be re-started on clean systems. It seems we underestimated his skills; the lion’s response to our initial attacks was a counter attack that corrupted our records of internal affairs in what he must have thought amusing ways. We no longer have lists and profiles of our potential enemies, their names and profiles have been replaced with courtiers and foreign dignitaries.”

“We have other copies don’t we?”

“As you say sire, but we can not bring in new data for comparison without risking more worms or time bombs that would destroy even the existing data. We can’t afford physical printouts of such huge files – we don’t have enough populace to search them.”

Scar seems to consider the difficulties. “We will keep those segregated systems apart, and use them for running unrelated searches – but we can’t upgrade them without undue risk. Any value they had is ephemeral, time is rapidly eroding any profitable use.”

“Scar, I’m quite upset.” Yet even as Pahl says this his fists have unclenched, and he looks a bit confused by the complexity of the situation.

Scar bows to hide his unpleasant smile. “The Interior Department’s National Police are seeking accomplices your highness, they will happen to be those most willing to ascend to your throne. Our tech systems will be repaired, your kingdom’s future is still bright. This is but a brief setback in a minor works program.”

Scarlettia continues in the same breath, only shifting his weight and smiling: “The foreign minister said you were in for a treat tonight.”

“Too right Scar, it would be easy to forget it is only tech we are talking about. Tell my foreign minister I will let that rather grand looking emissary from EllVee entertain me tonight, have him send her sister also. You are dismissed.”

As he leaves the royal chambers Minister Scarlettia signals to one of his officers.

The officer approaches and bounces to attention. “Yes Sir.”

“Select our top assassins and have them eliminate exiled aristocrats we do not control. Judge their efficiency, then send the top three out once again. Make sure they are of pre-Pahl stock, the best may be called upon to create a post-Pahl era.”

Multi-Front Battles

When a virtual life is threatened by the physical world.

Their first assault was foiled by his wariness.

Jon’s CyberDefense is battling Prince Pahl’s virtual destruct bots before he reaches street level. CD was triggered for assault as well as defense, taking out a first wall of encroaching scanner bots before they report his realworld bugout.

His second virtual wave passes the first wave action, trailing replacement scanner bots toward their sources. It is expensive and unexpected, but the sheer violence with which he reciprocates, the cyclic speed with which each wave rises behind fallen bots builds a trace on the attack. A combined code set cuts off data centers that had been dedicated to discovering and predicting his actions. At Thought Castle a report will be waiting on his cyberdefense and their attack. He will be able to discover source and system. But the virtual battle has already won a most important strategic goal, his temporary physical safety.

The doorman’s attitude had warned him of an ambush, helping him discover one real world trap. A quick glance around was enough. The indifferent illumination dropping from indecisive street lamps left the contours of the government goon’s faces looking like lumpy mud pulled from a mold.

Three are waiting to the doorman’s right, not aware of Jon’s approach, poorly situated for blending in during surveillance. Reliance on their networks has given them default training to disregard professionalism until warned. They are ill prepared for action: eyes distractedly glancing at passing females, hands cupping cigarettes or thrust into pockets. Rude laughs escape their lips.

Time seems to slow down for Jon as an adrenalin rush harnesses normally quiescent portions of his brain; observation and computation start operating at many multiples of their normal speeds. Time available for action seems to expand. Jon understands such involuntary mental exercises will permanently expand the flexibility of his thinking — if he survives this encounter.

These particular goons are obviously back up crew. The first string will be assigned to a trap he is supposed to have entered around sunset. This lurking assault crew is relaxed, standing at the corner as a group, bragging to each other. They would have missed him entirely if the doorman did not suddenly make frantic gestures while pretending to adjust his uniform.

Putting the doorman between himself and the thugs momentarily confuses their actions. As they draw Smithian arcblasters Jon is already stunfiring in the order they act, getting the smartest and fastest first. Jon also Stunfires the doorman who is still struggling to draw a hidden weapon.

Jon looks into the active eyes of the stunned doorman, “They never would have paid you for betraying me, when it was easier and cheaper to kill you too. Their type always eliminates traitors and expenses — you are both. You are a minor threat, easily eliminated.” Jon turns and stunfires the three henchmen again. “You should be active before them, I would suggest a trip to the country for your health. Another country is even better.” Jon smiles goodbye as he tosses a fiver coin on the doorman’s heaving chest as a tip, “I’ll hail my own taxi.”

Jon ignores the curb side taxi line, and grabs a taxi slowed in traffic by the action. “Hotel 360, and a big tip if we get there untraced.” The driver knows his business and does not drop the flag. One look at the golden Krugerrand between Jon’s fingers is enough to motivate the driver to jump the curb, dodge any pedestrians that hadn’t hidden from the action, and squeal his taxi around the corner and away from the bay.

Jon’s mind slows from high speed action mode. He sees the driver is chewing an unlit cigar. Smoking being illegal in the principality, he seemed to have found his own solution for his habits. The driver is unshaved, his short dark hair a mess, and his red and yellow shirt rumpled with part of the collar sticking up.

A typical driver for the area, except for the knife scar that winds around the back of his neck at the collar line. Once Jon has removed his tie and donned a jacket and cap, he exits the taxi, tossing the Krugerrand into the tray. Private gold is currently scorned by principality economists; the driver will probably try to save this coin against his own emergencies — telling no one of this fare. Cabbies may hold to some strange ideas, but they all seem to be stark realists when it comes to money.

Jon hears sirens responding to his residence hotel – a bit more useful confusion. He knows his technology and records are now a harmless slag heap on the concrete balcony where he watched sunsets.

Jon seeks out a quiet corner. My first requirement is a disguise that will fool surveillance keys. A padded scull cap with kinky, thinning hair, cheek and nose inserts to further reshape my face will get me overlooked by human searchers. I’m not known to wear casual loafers; so I slide into a pair that have strange elevations built in, altering my proportions and walk. A few other tricks to fool biometrics, some of which I just finished hacking into Pahl’s systems, and I am altered or invisible.

Governments like Elldee’s are not practical when executing their intentions; they concentrate on short term effects and ignore longer term consequences. They have to expect with my enforced bugout I’d release snippets of code from prior projects, a warning that my elimination would trigger a bequest of technology in the ultimate defensive stance – open source. But they want me dead, the damage my software might cause to their depredations is secondary.

Assassination is seldom of value, and usually counterproductive. Many bureaucracies can be improved by the removal of their leaders. One purpose of leadership succession planning is to find successors that are more heinous to your enemies than yourself: it’s cheap insurance. In dispersed organizations such as unstructured hacking communities, there is expense and risk in physically eliminating a hacker, with dozens of talented hackers available to replace them. One hacker can be a nuisance – dozens of hackers and crackers united by martyrdom will bring down a kingdom.


From here Jon will muddy the trail. Various outfits and conveyances later he will be safely ensconced in Thought Castle with one thought prominent as he seeks to focus his mind. They were drawing military issue arcblasters, not stunners. The way they were drawing them, and clicking off the safeties, indicated they were not worried about wounding or killing bystanders around a possible suspect. “Hang the crowded streets and sidewalks — we’ve been ordered to kill,” seemed to be their primary motivation. Prince Pahl’s lackeys are a fine representation of his concern for his subjects.

It’s good I am seen leaving. Innocents may have otherwise died as my hotel was destroyed. The destruction’s blame would have been shifted to state enemies, the guilt would belong to Prince Pahl, but many would share my sorrows.

Escape To Thought Castle

“Even a pack rat has two exits from its nest.” – Louis L’Amour

I created Thought Castle back when my life was simple.

I could have skipped college, but what college age kid is wise enough to realize that what everyone knows to be true probably isn’t. I had been sold the story since preschool that education was something that came in a school shaped box. I thought you entered at one end, fumbled your way through a maze, and exited at the other end of the box – certifiably schooled.

It wasn’t until after my first college degree that a real life lesson hit home. All I had learned in school was how to quietly obey rules and how to use networks. I had encountered the truth before, but had ignored the hints that were dropped. I got a B in Biology by challenging the final – I took one multiple choice test and earned three class credits and two lab credits. I passed an English course by talking to the head of the department, sitting down in his office, and writing a two page paper. I learned more about conversing with computers from an online tutorial, on one Saturday morning, than in several college courses. The worst, I was caused to study many things that were wrong, or that no one would ever use.

I wasn’t the first to discover that all education is self education, my rediscovery started with Plato “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.” I Wish I had learned that sooner. I dropped out for a while and traveled. Wandered is more accurate, an Uncommercial Traveler’s grand tour.

I found a home that fit, not always, but at need. I purposely moved inland, away from preferred sauntering along the ocean; waves crashing ashore and then subsiding in a soothing shushing. The silences and tweetings of alternating forest and glen were an environment where I would not be sought. There as a youth, and occasionally still in self-enforced semi solitude, I find myself.

I built my own little house, in this quiet little village, with the help of my neighbors. There is no government; a single policeman that scams occasional back packers and tourists for his pay is the only visible authority – all he provides for us locals is arbitration and an appearance of official order. To ease my entrance into society I had picked a local sounding name – I’m still known there by that name. I am a respected elder, not because of degrees they know nothing about, but because I started a small business that employs a few locals part time, bringing a bit of currency into my village. My neighbors are also my friends, I try to return at least once a year.

I have added a few buildings to my home. I have a quiet studio hidden in the trees, by the stream, equipped with hidden satellite networking connections. Next to my cottage is a free library with books I’ve carried in each time I arrive; the entire village rejoices with each new edition. Everyone reads and discusses the new arrivals, the depth of wisdom in such a small village always reveals to me much I had missed.

Do you want to delve into the teachings of Plutarch, Machiavelli, Jesus, or Sun Tzu? Find your own village, provide a small library, and get out of the way. With good books, good people need a brilliant, well educated teacher to misunderstand wisdom. On their own they know how to weigh and embrace truth. As Leonardo da Vinci said “The desire to know is natural to good men.” – These supposedly simple villagers will become your instructors.

This is Thought Castle. On every project this is one of my bug-out options, especially if violence threatens. I’ll soon be carefully (every change of status risks exposure) crossing a few borders, donning a different appearance in each new local. Every step has a premeditated goal. Eventually I am a peasant trudging home up a dirt road wearing sandals and pushing a small cart.

When small men cast long shadows

 “When small men cast long shadows – the sun is setting.” – Lin Yutang

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? – Thomas Jefferson

As the door opens, Prince Pahl slowly turns from the shield widow. “My own reflection distorts the view through the window,” he thinks, “but it is my royal self my people love, everything else is just bureaucracy.” The prince doesn’t consider why shield glass and a fortified compound are needed to protect him from loving subjects; or how they can’t protect him from military coup or noble inspired regicide.

“What is it Scar,” Prince Pahl asks as the tall, slightly-disfigured, professor type enters the room. Pahl smiles with pleasure in using the pejorative favored by the people as he addresses his advisor. Pahl would be less pleased if he knew the secretary also enjoys the disparaging nick name, despite his apparent indifference. The small facial wounds had been received when a coup had chased him from the kingdom. Scarlettia, had not had them removed, they were too valuable as a warning, except to his vain but useful puppet.

“There is a need for your imperial presence in the video room. We had to destroy a northern village when a woman was caught gathering herbs in your royal hunting preserve. We had village survivors plant trees where their village had stood, and then scattered the people to various cities as laborers. To quell rumors, a video script of a royal news conference has been written for your approval; to be broadcast as soon as possible.”

the princeling whined a reply. “just last week we celebrated the fact this sort of thing no longer happens. It is times like this I miss my father most, he was always so sure of himself. I can’t see why we don’t show a kinder face to our subjects.”

“What matters is your acting today, yours is the face of our country. Emotions, not facts, convince. The sheep can be counted on to bleat and repeat your words, refusing to consider any contradictions – they are your party – you own them. A controlled opposition will shout protests of provided words. Official forbearance of reaction reflecting well on your reputation for tolerance.

The remaining mass of people are your cows: branded by their educations, then penned to be milked. They will loyally bear whatever fate your wisdom instigates on their behalf.”

Pahl considers this, then nods his head. “I feel their subservience, yet am somehow aware that dangerous change lurks in unpierced shadows.

Scar scoffs “Your barnyard is pacified and watched by lethal mastiffs. Who would dare oppose you?”

“What of elk, and others of undomesticated mind?”

“Elk fight or flee because of your usurping their hollow & self-hallowed rights. They never consider your right to do as you wish with their lives. We have eliminated many of these elk, others have been allowed to escape through our fences and enter less efficient principalities. The elk remainder are hiding themselves from your well deserved wrath, all that is left are a few complaining goats.”

“I am uncomfortable that you seem to enjoy these goat purges a bit too much, especially since you have already eliminated the most dangerous animals.”

“Your best interests are my chief concern excellency. The people have been educated to follow authority, they expect any semblance of defiance to be crushed. They know those we crush are evil — because we crush them.”

After a moment to compose a proper reply, Prince Pahl stated grandly; “We of course must protect our loyal herds from interbreeding with feral goats.”

Scar nods as if at Pahl’s wisdom, and the counselor now further directs the conversation. “To continue our play with your excellent beasts analogy, there is a lion loose in the kingdom.”

“What’s this, a pretender after my throne and you have not apprehended him?”

“The arrest or necessary elimination will happen this evening; we have lion traps dug along his familiar trails. But he is not a pretender to the throne, it is worse than that. He is one of those generic hacker busybodies that are interfering with legitimate and recognized governments like your own. Their effects can appear anywhere, they consider themselves individually sovereign, acting on their own or as tiny cells they call teams.”

Scar continues in a satisfied tone, “When this lion is captured we will bleed the location of his compatriots from him, If we are unable to effect our capture plan we will simply add his ashes to the nearest city’s communal grave without ceremony. I am unconcerned about his individual effect; but we do not want a pack of aggrieved crackers descending on our citizen management and control systems in retribution. This will be done without publicity, tonight the lion simply disappears.”

Changing his stance Scar adds “I’ve made arrangements for our lead hacker to join us; with your permission I’ll go to the hall and command him enter.”

“I never fully understand these hackers Scar, they bend creativity to entertain themselves, not just to obtain goals.”

“True sire, using a dismissive term like meatspace for the reality we live in is confusing. They first play with words because they live in two realities; their writing of computer code has created another world with another language, a virtual world with attributes that extend toward fantasy. Sometimes they make the fantasy real. The second reason is they are a profession and have professional words to separate themselves and exclude all others – just like diplomats and bureaucrats. There are probably more than three reasons, but the third would be they are artists. They know many ways to present their art, their code, they vary language as a mode of expression.”

“That is all very well Scar, but I still find hackers tedious. I guess I could say the same for most diplomats, doctors of any discipline, and bureaucrats. Humanity is too large and diverse to constantly embrace, maybe these specialist tribes are necessary on some emotional level. Show the man in.”

The Prince has time for another quick appreciation of his reflection in the shield glass before his minister returns leading a colorfully bedraggled character into the room, his shirt has square creases in it, like it had just been removed new from a package. “Perhaps that is the only way he can know it is clean,” Pahl thinks.

With a bow to the prince, and an elbow into the side of his companion to tell him to bow deeper, Secretary Scarlettia introduced his charge. “Your highness, this is your loyal servant ‘hemlock’, head of your data security team.”

Pahl nods in his practiced regal fashion, but can not bring himself to approach his subject any closer. “So, ah, Hemlock; how are we progressing on our projects to protect the principality?”

“‘my playmates keyed a semi-obviosity in meatspace that a new bafflegab genericist is hiding time-bombs set to munge offline data, so scar is duct-taping him’. Without a pause Hemlock changes from Hackish to English. “However, I believe this generic’s entire program is now being released; we are working to ferret it, but his capture should make detection and removal easy.”

Taken back a bit by the informality, but appreciative of this subject’s willingness to do cyber-battle, Prince Pahl thanks and dismisses him with a wave of his hand.

Prince Pahl looks at the usually talkative First Secretary. “I’m bored with this technology business, just see to it and report results. I’m off to the taping room, I wonder why they call video, taping? You are dismissed.”

Scarlettia smiles at the retreating back of his prince. Scar’s thoughts would not comfort the arrogant young ruler. As the audience chamber’s doors close, Scar’s eyes morph in color to the flat black of death’s cloak. These are eyes that watch the speaking of last requests, while his ears hear nothing. “Stay ignorant of technology you fool, and I will control your principality at my whim.”

Chapter 1: Hacker’s Sunset

Your life is a burning match. Ignite a bonfire.

The abrupt transitions of a sunset once again interrupt my daily rituals.

Vibrant colors explode across darkening sky like a flaring moth venturing too close to flame. Then, sensuality lingering, ashes of this sunset’s nova moment scatter and dim. I’m relaxed.

An encrypted message from Friends Of Hacker Jon sits on my desk. I ignored it to enjoy my sunset sabbatical. Repenting, I spend the time for decoding: delay equals death Relaxed?

I don’t remember dying. A serious error had been made by Prince Pahl’s assassins guild. The rest of the coded message will offer first steps to escape, now almost certainly a trap. I’m wedged and must get off target. Those ill fortune darts could be flying my way any second, or to make sure I join the departed sunset, a blast may level this resort.

Prince Pahl can always blame his enemies for destruction, the greater the force applied against me; the greater the supportive backlash for his government. His Brotherland Security Forces surely believe I am worth a city block. From their world view they are right. My human rights hacking will further avenge the death of Hacker Jon, now is not a time to get sloppy.

Complacency. My counter surveillance has relaxed. I’ve been too confident.

Facing unknown threats is like waking up on a clear morning, it is never too late to savor life. Life is art, every special feature of my home now stands out in enhanced clarity. I hope I haven’t subconsciously dallied in complacency, seeking stimulus. My vulnerability is real, exploiting it for thrills will shorten my life, may have already shortened it. If such subliminal desires exist, I must eradicate them.

I key escape sequence three, grab a bug-out-bag that looks like my usual brown portable office case, exit. If I am to obliquely drift through the opacity of dusk, I must first clear the flash zone. Speed. Distance. Then merging with a moonless expanse of abused citizens.

The infrastructure hacks are done, there is no need to stay close. I’ll consider how I was found after my escape attempt.

A quick dictation to ‘tronics for immediate dispatch to Friends Of Hacker Jon via HackNet: FHJ compromised by Elldee – knightwatchman

Prince Pahl’s chancellors are lethally worried by my activities. I can’t bug-out permanently now. I’ll retreat, then return. The loss of my confidential contact is cause enough to continue, a declaration of personal war. Their bureaucratic fortresses have made them overconfident. If I’m lost, an autowelfare script will soon cause an encrypted announcement to ring fourth: Notify the hacker legions; Pahl is vulnerable

My legacy may best survive as prolonged assaults on despotism. My embers may be all that remain to illuminate and inspire.

New tricks are always appearing from an aspiring magician’s hat. Dark magic is best countered by deep magic. The difficulty comes in retaining and using the glow of victory. For now, survival is enough, but if freedom is won — I must prepare for dawn’s renewed battles.

I need to plan.

Hacker School basics: Eliminating evil governments, without having viable social replacements ready, is not anarchy; it is ignorance. Vast governance vacuums quickly fill with ravenous little minds of bureaucrats, the worst of criminals. They murder both time and productivity, improving nothing. Removing dull bureaucratic zombies from governance, as the prime motivators of oppression are removed, requires adaptable strategy. I’ll need help.

Before I arrive at Thought Castle my current persona as William T. Johnson will finish distorting and disappearing from the world’s networked data bases. Already my digital signature has started to morph. Recorded biometrics twist in photos, voice and finger prints, within my DNA sequence. All are changing in interconnected digital systems toward images of a person dead for years. Before data reaches congruence with that life, they will be deleted. Any ghost of memory mined will present corrupted information leading to dark, dead end alleys where vengeful cyberpunks lurk.

Soon the last mention of Bill Johnson will be a lease on my rooms, that vanishing after my effects are picked up by charity.

While leaving the building a doorman tips his hat and relays an uncharacteristic formal goodbye to Mr. Johnson; as if he realizes it’s the last time. The big indicator is demeanor, the doorman briefly stares as if fascinated, then glances off to his right. He does not make an offer to hail a taxi. I nod to him even as I palm my keyring stunner at his unintended warning.

Creating a new life is easier and faster than transmogrifying relics of an old identity. Already, interconnected databases are filing ostensibly original data – from birth certificates to required public copies of home videos. In a short time, Billy Goodman will have always been known as Jonathon Christforth. A new life manufactured – sunrise will arrive.

Let’s see if I can keep this new Jon feller alive.