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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tales of the Cypherpunk 6

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"The net used to act like a connection of nodes and pathways, like a constellation. You sat at one terminal and routed your brain through gateways and servers to get to another point. You searched for information, pulled it down. Then server side applications came, running forever, offering a mechanical voice on the other end of the line. One day we woke up and realized that most of the communication on the net was machines talking to each other. When you read Faust, it only takes one computer in a basement to send you the text. When you ask what the best time is for a trip to Sardinia, there are weather bureaus, passports, and airlines involved. You're not dealing with a point. You're dealing with a net, the only net since they're really all connected. Now we're just waiting for IT to wake up and call US.

Moving around the net isn't like moving anymore. It's performing a series of operations on an array of data. It's turning the kaleidoscope and watching news articles become analysis. It's claustrophobic."

Shilo was confronted with his own words, coming back through the feeds. He wiped them away and saw his life, reached for the intersection between toolz and comms. He started a batch that would insert a reservation for two into Budreaux's system. No fudging databases or breaking passwords- a cypher like Shilo put a message in line between the parts of the whole. Somewhere between the hard drive and the screen, the Maitre D's list would gain a new entry. For Shilo, the process was reduced to a single thought. It was the work of an instant.

Betty watched Shiloh go slack for an instant, perched on the bench in the eye of the crowd. She knew he could do a lot more than make a reservation without an outward sign, but they had to wait to be called anyway. She vaguely felt that he needed to relax when he wasn't working. When getting on wasn't life or death.

Betty watched his eyes flicker and his neck seize. She reached out and felt his firewall up, unresponsive. The blue-eyed, grey-frocked secretary switched gears. She slid closer, obscuring Shilo's face with her own, sending an emergency ping to her brother, and finally (1.3 seconds after Shilo crashed) jamming.

The net came crashing down around them. The eternal, swirling crowds faltered. A few revelers collided with puzzled expressions, fear, irritation. The four dozen speakers from a nearby club popped and fell silent. Voices faded, other voices rose with a concerned tone. Motion, from the right. A scream, two, a chorus. Heads turned, turned back and the crowd began to part like an avalanche.

Gunshots rang out. Betty wrapped Shilo's arm around her neck, leaned forward, and lifted. She was only five foot three, and his knees almost dragged the ground, but she would worry about scuffed shoes later. Betty slipped out of her shoes (five foot two) and started running.

There were more gunshots, but she was already passing the bystanders, using them as concealment. She dodged right around a planter, left past Budreaux's Maitre D. She saw that he was more concerned with the empty screen of reservations than the chase outside. Anything beyond the restaurant's lectern was superfluous. She waved.

The girl's bare feet pounded the sidewalk, shredding hose without so much as scratching heels. Her right arm held Shy possessively by the waist. Her right hand gripped his while her elbow waved uncertainly to the rhythm of her steps. After thirty meters she stopped jamming and went stealth. Shilo's net was completely down. Hers was that of a visiting student. She obscured her vital signs.

Betty, we've got a pickup for you. The girl's augmented retinas showed her a 3d map overlaid on the streets. A van's icon shone through the buildings to the left. She picked up speed, leaned into the corner, and rolled into the van just as it started to move.

With a button press, Kelly shut the door.

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