Deep Six: Opening Shots

Soo what have we here. A 'hacker war' involving a scene I couldn't describe so kinda punted since it either had to be an exacting set of commands and screen readouts that would've been glossed over, or a summary of reactions that pretty much make no sense even in context.


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Part 6
Opening Shots
“My new friends tell me that Legion is in the middle of a war with itself, which is actually expected considering how emotional and attached people get to their pet causes and perspectives.” I kept my voice calm when I talked to mom. We had been close, and I would not lie to her as I explained the situation I had gotten myself into. Sure telling her legion was tearing itself apart instead of them squaring off a multi-national secret organization was a bit of a fib, but both groups had people in both camps, so it wasn’t too much a stretch and it made explaining things simpler.
“Are you sure you don’t want me or your father pulling some strings?” I knew my parents had some connections. How else had John managed to get the sort of stuff that came in and out of his hands?
I shook my head at the camera attached to ‘Six. “Mom I don’t know how high up these people are, so if you called for help, that might be a tip-off for-”
“-The wrong sort of people.” Her facial expression looked somewhat concerned, but it had ever since I called to give my parents the full story, now that I had it myself. “How bout journalists? You’ll want whatever you find spread around as fast as possible, and the more credible the press the better right?” That made sense, so I agreed and told her I would get a copy of everything I found in her hands as soon as possible. That left the final question. “Why you? By everything you’ve told me and I’ve seen from the news these people you’re with are more experienced than you.”
“’Six can do what no other machine ‘our’ side has, and I have the most experience using it.” I couldn’t tell if mom was letting me go out of spite, out of recognition that I was my own person, or out of recognition that this was something I had to do because nobody else was around that could. “So once more into the breach I go.”
“Call me.”
“I will Mom.” Close connection. Take a few deep breaths. This was one of those moments in my life that I felt like everything had gone loopy, but I was too far committed to do anything other than what I had prepared for.
Miko watched me prepare. On other runs I had considered important I had a ritual I preformed. This was one such run, and though there was no scientific evidence in any of it the act itself it’s just one of those things. Eyes closed. Touch the midpoints on each side of ‘Six’s case while praying to the spirits that made up the machine. This wasn’t based on anything really outside of maybe a half-hearted attempt to play at Shintoism, or is it Shamanism? Beats me. Once I had touched the case I had touched three points on my body; Head, Heart, Sternum. Clap twice, close hands. Inhale. Bring both hands, thumbs folded in, to my lips. Exhale. Open Eyes. I was ready.
My machine booted up. My comrades had given me a set of addresses that different paper trails had led to. Each site was backed by the latest in security services and further protected by companies who made it their business to keep their clients safe.

SCAN

My screen lit up like a Christmas tree. Each site was connected to all others, and going off what the info-window was giving me if I popped one the rest would call home before shutting down.
It got worse. Several of the services it looked like they were running could only be run from within that home network or, as with the sledgehammer method I’d been using, they would all shut down then likely reboot with different security settings.
Clever if you’re paranoid. Mind bindingly crappy if you wanted your site to maintain any sort of up time. I watched traffic in and out of these sites for a time. I speak of that like it’s easy to do, but considering I had nothing on the boxes themselves and couldn’t connect directly I had to use other methods to get a sense of how the packets moved.
“Raj, make a pass. I want to see how they react.” Rajorin. No idea what the name meant, if anything, but he was on hand and I was told anyone watching me would have working knowledge.
“Alright. Making a pass... Now.”
From my vantage point I saw Raj’s probe. Like the probes ‘Six sent out to check security and ports the target system ignored it, or at least it looked like it had. When it started probing deeper the target box disappeared.
I heard Raj making concerned noises and ran over to see what was going on. Seemed that the box made a pass of it’s own at anything that went deeper than a surface lookieloo. Raj was fuming because not only was his box crashing, but when he tried to reboot the thing had eaten through his windows partition. I was curious that it hadn’t bothered touching either the boot record, or the Linux partitions.
When Raj left Miko raised an eyebrow. “So they just assume anyone making a run at them is going to use windows? Why not have something that’ll just screw with your boot record?”
I shrugged. There were viruses written for the different Unix derivatives, but I had seen none ‘in the wild’. Still, if they were able to trace back and run commands on anyone’s box that even briefly connected, especially someone who actually bothered keeping security running and up to date, I wouldn’t put it past them to figure out how to make Linux explode, or at the very least force a complete system reinstall. Crude and inelegant if managed, but it would be effective assuming that whatever was being downloaded wasn’t immediately being reuploaded somewhere else. I told Miko to get everyone on site to start making calls.

A dozen different people were gathered in the room with me. Dozens, if not hundreds waited across the world. It had taken two days since that initial pass to get people on the same page and ready. When we started all they needed to do was sacrifice their boxes tripping those traceback routines I’d seen pulled on Raj’s rig. There was much grumbling over this. What would it accomplish to send wave after wave with the express purpose of letting themselves get nuked?
I needed them to be my foot in the door so when I started the other servers couldn’t just fade out. If they were continually going after everyone else they had to maintain a connection, which meant they couldn’t just shut down. Of course it could be that their security had ‘hide’ being more important than ‘retaliate.’ If so then this gathering wouldn’t be wasted, for it would be an educational experience. Red Queen would probably still believe it’s security uncompromised and uncompromisable. If it worked though... Well I wanted there to be more people on hand than I would need since it would be better than not having enough live bodies to hold the door open.
‘What about police? They trace us back they have enough to get warrens?’ Nobody said it in exactly that way, but that was the question on most of their minds. The only reply I could give was that if I could get through I could get their records and make it look like what they’d suffered was a spambot triggered attack. That’s oversimplifying things to rather gross degrees, but what am I supposed to say?
It was risky and stupid and in hindsight it shouldn’t have worked. Still. We had already burnt enough time. While I’d been sitting pretty friends mine as well as others, and allies were separated from family and home. I said as much, which shut everyone up. What followed was hectic and insane. This is the only way I can come close to portraying it without dozen’s of session logs, timestamps, and a whole load of stuff maybe five people would care about. What follows is very loose, fast and intentionally hectic. Deal With It.

CONNECT
PING! Mother of- WHAT?! “I’ve got it man.” Hello. “What about using-” Go! “I’m out!”
I’m still up. You aren’t supposed to be here. “I’m blocked” INCOMMING! “Doesn’t matter?” He’s in! Keep going guys!” Why are you here? Never- BOTTLENECK -give up! KILLTRACE “Guys keep going! He’s got the lists!” PATHFINDER BAAAANZAAAAIIIIIII!!!!
What do you want? “Frak I’ve been made!” “This is madness.”
I want to talk. “Second box cracked!” It’s working! “Don’t let us down!” PING! “Come. Let’s dance!” Who are you? “Files uploading now!” FFFFFUUUUU!
I’ve been infected!
“Holy mother what was that?” They say you’re-
“Half our network’s toast.” -a bad man. WOOO! RUN We have only just begun to fight! Are you a bad man?
You’re looking for someone. PING! Why won’t you talk to me? KILLTRACE
“Skippy get out of there!” Just talk, nothing else. “Skippy!”
VOODOO DOLL Almost done Miko. Did we do it? “Never seen this kind of security.” Got it!
Please?
DISCONNECT

I had the lists. Mom worked her magic. Don’t know how, but she managed to take what I’d given her and get everyone out. I don’t believe it worked. My friends, Their friends, and lots of other people had been freed. It worked. My God Almighty it Worked.
Through all the noise, confusion, and adrenaline I saw something out there. Probably a lonely sysadmin, but shades of AI and Ghosts in the Machine tickled at the back of my mind as I lay in bed that night while everyone else was high-fiving and celebrating. Only in movies and badly written stories were wars won in a single engagement. We had the intelligence we came for and showed them that their best wasn’t good enough. I’m sure others were also thinking along these lines. I’m not the smartest guy in the room, just the one with the biggest virtual guns.
Later I tried figuring out how I would fare in a head to head ‘fight’ against someone else with a quantum processor in case Red Queen got a clue and got one of ‘Six’s sibling machines and decided to level the playing field. Maybe that voice I ‘heard’ in the dark and confusion of that run was another such as myself. If so who’s side were they on? I couldn’t exactly risk dismissing it as nothing, but worry would get me nowhere.
So, with that on my mind I pulled Deep Six out and browsed the web awhile. If whoever it was had been able to talk to me they knew my address. Granted the thing shifted enough so that it wouldn’t have done much good, but, I don’t know. Actually I suppose I do, but I can’t put it into words that make sense to anyone not fascinated by how the Internet is structured and addresses handed out.
I was in the middle of working on my mailbox when it happened. Black window with green text opened on top of what I was doing.

> I remember you from before. You did something they thought was impossible.

My blood turned to ice in that instant. Rational thought failed me.
KILLTRACE

Show all incoming traffic. She’s got to be bouncing through to get here. I can’t get a consistent return path. Address keeps changing.

> Sorry buddy. I won’t let you get away.
LOAD PROGRAM: Manticore

Gotta be hell on her signal. Even if she’s wielding one of ‘Six’s siblings that might give me enough advantage for Manticore to work.

> Talk Then.
> In a bit.
PROGRAM Manticore Halted.
> Clever. You write that yourself?
> No.
UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS DETECTED.

Halt Process. Halt! I’m running a user account with no root level privileges and can only run system commands either by SUDO through terminal, which requires my root password, or logging out then logging back in under root account. My password is generally something lengthy and difficult to guess because it uses a garble of letters, symbols, and text. Even so she managed to wrinkle in and delete a good portion of my system. Had I either rebooted, or been forced to restart I’m pretty sure I’d have been faced with a reinstall. Thankfully I managed to kick her out before she, and I’m using that pronoun arbitrarily, could force either of these.

> Fair’s fair I guess.

Even if she were part of the loyal opposition I had to give her credit for managing that trick.

> You like it?
> It’s-

LOAD BACKUP

Always ALWAYS keep a backup handy. Make several to store both locally and elsewhere. Not everyone faces global electronic warfare, but all sorts of daily nastiness can cause months of work and records to be lost.

> -Interesting.
> We’ve traded shots and we’re both standing. Truce?
> OK fine. I just don’t like that someone I don’t know managed to find me so easily. That and if you’re who I think you are you’ve had my nerves on end all night.
> Understandable, and I’d likely be in the same state in your position. I take it they have friends of yours?
> Mine and others. Same with you?
> Something like that. Are you working with Legion?
> In a manner of speaking. I don’t trust them since they’ve been more than a bit tight lipped, but for the moment I’m still alive and they’re offering the best chance I have at getting dug out from this mess.
> Why not hand your shiny computer over? That would get them off your back wouldn’t it? 
> Maybe, maybe not. They’ve done many illegal things, enough to put people away for several lifetimes if convicted. What would another count of kidnapping and or murder be on top of everything else? They’d get what they wanted, plus assurance I wouldn’t spill the beans on them.
> Valid point. You have no reason to trust me, but even if everything goes as well as you hope; the records you pull get people freed by the dozens, and people get arrested as a result. You do realize this won’t end things.
> Never thought it would.
> I can do nothing more right now except wish you the best of luck. If things work out as I fear I will do what I can to help right matters.
> Thank you Juno.
> Juno?
> Greek Goddess of guiding, or something like that. Beats calling you Raphael.
> Sorry, theology was never my strong suit, but I suppose Juno is as good as anything else you might want to call me. Would you leave me a way of getting in touch with you, or should I have to spend hours breaking through your friend’s security again?

Sticky. Though ‘she’ did make a good point about not being able to trust her. Eh. Getting an email account at a random spot wouldn’t be hard, and if this person were able to not only find their way through Legion’s local security but also get past my box I definitely want this person on my side.

> Fine. You can find me at ancientgorilla@cheapsk8.org
> I will keep in touch. For both our sakes I hope our next meeting is social instead of business.
> Groovy. Just one question before you go.
> Only One?
> What was with the little girl act earlier? If you’re the same person that tried getting in touch mid-run that is.
> That? Oh! I thought it might have gotten your attention and separate me from general noise and traffic.

Made sense in a way. Still, the attitude shift was somewhat disconcerting in it’s own way.

> Take care of yourself Richard.
> Here’s to hoping I’m not walking into a trap.
DISCONNECT
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