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.