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.”