Friday, August 16, 2019

TO START FROM THE BEGINNING

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20. We Meet a Super Hacker (Marco)

20

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Marco Indaca – Super Hacker

It’s 3am – I must be lonely - no, I’m not. I am alone, but not lonely. I’m on the computer working through a bunch of message boards trying to find out everything I can about these alien invaders and their technology. I figure in my line of work I’m going to need to know this shit. People call me a hacker, and I guess that’s the technical definition of what I do, but I like to think of myself as a spy. I spy shit out. Sometimes on the computer, many more times over the phone or even face to face. I broker information, and sometimes I’m asked to “alter” the information. I’ve never been caught and I don’t plan to start now, despite the dire warnings about failing to maintain a data linkup to the network that allows the aliens and everyone else to track you. I’ve always lived in the dark, under the radar, and I plan on continuing to do so.
There has been a lot of action against the so-called 0004’s as they are being called - people like myself who aren’t connected to the alien web. A lot of people I know have been caught and sent to correctional facilities where, rumor has it, their brains get scrambled back into good, law abiding robot citizens. Some 0004’s have been killed outright, if the message boards are to be believed.
I’m pretty sure I’m safe because I’ve never had any level of connection between my actual identity and ANYTHING on the web. For all intents and purposes, I don’t exist. I knew early in my life that this is what I was going to do, and I made sure to never leave a trace, I don’t even have a birth certificate or Social Security Card. There are several different personas of myself out there, but none can be connected to the real Marco, because I don’t exist. Most people know me on the dark web as Double-T, which sounds like it means something, but it doesn’t. If it meant something, it could provide a clue to my identity, and that’s not how I work.
I live and work in a supposedly empty apartment building on the top (7th) floor in downtown Detroit. The economic conditions in the city made a move here several years ago ideal, as an empty building that’s for sale for years is nothing to take notice of. The first two floors I’ve abandoned to the homeless and drug addicts, making it even more plausible that it remains empty. The third and fourth floor are a maze of junk furniture and trash that make accessing the fifth floor and above impossible. The fifth and sixth floor are where I store everything I need to live and work, including servers and power supplies. I could go weeks without leaving the building, and, when I do, I leave via the fire escape, which, to the untrained eye looks completely non-functional. The seventh floor is pretty nice, if a bit spartan. It was tough enough getting equipment up here unnoticed, furniture was just too much trouble. Power comes from solar panels, massive batteries, and pirated power from the neighbors. Water and sewer are paid for by the building’s owners, a Limited Liability Company based in Michigan that pretty much doesn’t do anything. I don’t use much water, so the amount is indistinguishable from what might be used in an empty, for sale building.
Yeah, I have everything pretty well squared away…
“Watcha, Watcha, Watcha Want?” is suddenly blaring over and over again from my computer’s speakers. That’s the motion detectors on the fourth floor – probably rats again. I silence the alarm and move to check the cameras…
Before I can see anything there’s the sound of breaking glass, a bright flash of light, a boom and tons of smoke! Blinded and almost deaf I hear screams, “Get down on the ground!”
Seconds later I feel consciousness slipping, and everything goes dark…

Thursday, August 15, 2019

19. Mike Learns to Mine Asteroids (Mike)

19

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Mike Cohn, mining laborer:

               So, training to be a miner is repetitive, boring, fun and highly effective. We had about 6 weeks of travel to get to the asteroid mining site in a system that they never disclosed to us. For the entire time they put us into a shift rotation and stuffed us into simulators that basically mimicked what we would be doing. As far as I can tell, when inside the simulator there was no difference in what we would feel like we were doing compared to the real thing. Our mining units would be an oval shaped pod with six “legs” that were equipped with grapplers, drills, lasers and occasionally unique tools if the situation required it. The pods were about 18 feet long, 6 feet wide and had a hump on the top that held explosives, propulsion units and anything else we might need. We laid flat on our stomachs inside and managed the controls following a myriad of displays that were projected over the window that covered the entire front end of the pod.
               In mining, we didn’t actually “mine” the asteroids. Our job was to break them up and direct the pieces to an automated processing facility that was located centrally to the area we were working. This was where we would initially be dropped off – it was another oval, about a half mile long and quarter mile wide. It had large protrusions where ships could dock – transports, shipping units and our smaller ship that would take two teams of eight of us to our remote site. There was a large opening on one end where the pieces of asteroids would be fed and processed. Shipping units were huge cubes that were loaded and then pushed away from the station to be picked up by giant haulers that could tow literally thousands of them at a time. All this was a huge dance where the velocities of full and empty containers were coordinated so an empty container would be close just as a full one was sent away from the mother station, and all the full ones sent from the mother station would arrive at roughly the same time at an empty spot in space to link up and be grabbed by the hauler. Since a cube was launched about every 15 minutes, anything that caused the dance to break down was a BIG deal.
The mother station, as we called it, could be thousands of miles from where we were working, so we were sending 100-ton chunks of rock hurtling towards it at hundreds of miles an hour (relative to each other). Precision was important, but adjustments could be made, though these were costly, so we would be rated on our ability to transport a chunk that could be caught and slowed down without having to travel far from the mother station. One important note: the mother station was where the replicator we were slaved to was located, so dying was not encouraged.
So, my team for training was the same team I would work with at the site. There were eight of us and we would work three at a time, each in our own pod, for eight-hour shifts. Eight hours was for humans, and other aliens worked different lengths based on their physiology. The alien in charge of training called us by assigned numbers 1 through 8. I was number 6. Our shifts ran continuously: 1,2,3 for 8 hours, 4,5,6 for eight hours, 7,8,1 for eight hours and so on. This meant we were 8 on, 8, off, 8 on, 16 off, 8 on, 16 off and repeat. An hour to prepare for shift (suit up, get on site, etc.) and an hour at the end meant they were really 10 hours long, and the 8-hour turnaround sucked. We would cycle back to the mother station for 1 week out of 8 for recharging.
Mining an asteroid was an exercise in following instructions from a computer that analyzed the content and structural stability of the asteroid. We drilled, cut and exploded as recommended, and then attached a small booster to the asteroid piece to send it on a pre-determined course to arrive at its appointed place and time. I wondered why they didn’t just automate the process, and was told that people are cheaper than robots. We also might be more expendable, or at least cheaper to replicate. Our trainer was another “Three” – the blocky, humanoid alien species that trained us for spaceflight; the one’s with the second thumb instead of a pinky. Apparently, these aliens were really good at training particularly stupid species – his words, not mine.
My team of eight were:
               1. Sam from Texas who was a big former college football player with dark hair and who was everything a stereotypical Texan would be. He was about thirty and a bit thick for a college graduate.
               2. Pete from New York City, another stereotype, loud-mouthed, brash, but also funny and adventurous. About 25, and seemed pretty smart.
               3. Sally from Montana, a redhead who was NOT a stereotypical redhead. She was whip smart, moody and full of teenage angst, which was weird because she was easily in her forties.
               4. George from LA. He had actually been homeless for about a month before the aliens arrived, a victim of drugs and crime. He was even a High School dropout but the aliens gave him a shot for his addiction and brought him on because apparently the magic machine said he would be good. He was a bit hyper and totally excited to do this, even compared to me. He was super thin, very young and had a shaved head.
               5. Steve was a 6-foot-tall, middle-aged, shaved headed African American who hated the term, “African American”. “I’m Black”, he would say, “not that it should fucking matter.” I liked him from the start, especially as he joked about humans and aliens all the time: “You Crackers are about to get educated on what being a minority is like by these alien assholes. Equal opportunity shit-treatment!”. He was from the San Francisco area and had been working for a tech firm that was going to shut down due to alien technology supplanting their business. He might be one of the smartest people I would end up knowing.
               6. Me.
               7. Karen, also from New York City, a blonde, in her twenties, but wicked smart and funny as fuck. She was highly competitive and we ended up competing at everything we did. She was good looking; so was Sally, if I didn’t mention it – in fact, none of us were bad looking – maybe the aliens were going to have a beauty contest.
               8. Art from East Bumfuck Northern Maine. Seriously, he might as well have been Canadian. Hell, I couldn’t tell if his accent was Maine or Canuck! He was quiet and shy, short and just a bit pudgy. He was the oldest human I saw on our entire trip, maybe sixty or older. I really can’t say if he was smart, because he never talked unless he had to.
All the above names have been changed from their real ones. I assume WIW can figure out who they really are, but we all agreed to change the names in the reports we were filing.


Monday, August 12, 2019

18. The 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution (proposed)

18

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The 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution (proposed)

Section 1:

The Compact (as maintained in the Federal register by the United States Archivist) is adopted as a part of the United States Code of Federal Regulations and is applicable to all states and territories.

Section 2:

In instances where The Compact conflicts with Articles or Amendments to this Constitution, The Compact is considered to have supremacy. All unaffected portions of the Constitution remain in force.

Amendment to The Charter of the United Nations (proposed)

The Compact is adopted as universal law binding all nations of The Earth regardless of their membership in The United Nations. The United Nations Security Council permanent member nations are responsible for enforcement of The Compact.



Wednesday, August 7, 2019

17. Stan and Mary Talk Politics and Replication (Stan)

17

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Stan Arbogast, principle assistant to Grand Admiral Byron Richards:

It took me a while to get through to Mary…apparently her job kept her pretty busy. We got email updates from her daily, but they didn’t have the level of detail we needed. They mostly covered the work against what we called the “Triple-0 4’s”, the people who weren’t maintaining access to their PCon or cell phone data.
She did give us a comprehensive set of details on the PCon units and their capabilities. Properly attuned to a human body with appropriate, yet almost completely unobtrusive body-installed hardware, they became an integral part of everything you did. They monitored your health and well-being, alerting medical or emergency authorities if you needed them almost before you realized you did. They provided everything a cell phone could do but almost intuitively and automatically. If you were talking to someone in person or using your PCon and set a date or a plan, it would automatically update your calendar and warn you about any conflicts. You could set it up so that you could enter data or access the internet on the screen that was on your wrist, or with a 3D projection, or even vocalize or “sub-vocalize” using shorthand to have it do a variety of things. With advanced attachments, it could even administer drugs as needed for diabetes, heart disease, mental illness or even just to regulate your mood or heart rate. And the drugs were WAAAAY better than what we were using. In many cases a PCon could be used to essentially eliminate the symptoms of most mental illnesses. Of course, these attachments had a cost, and you needed CMU’s to get them. Or you had to pay someone in Earth currency who had CMU’s. Still, a basic PCon was made very affordable, and could be bought on credit, presumably to make it easier to monitor the populace. Governments made a lot of promises about funding medical attachments, and this made going to Space more popular than it might have been, especially because…
Mary pointed out that the disruption from the aliens was likely to cause a global recession. Whole industries were being eliminated in swaths, and many of the replacements for them were provided by aliens, with little opportunity for humans to participate. The Compact severely restricted our ability to provide homegrown versions of alien technology. This HAD to be by design, to make us dependent on The Compact, and to provide incentives for us to provide the only thing we had in quantity that they wanted – labor. The only way to mitigate the effects of the recession was to participate in the Space Labor programs, and have the government provide more social welfare which required higher taxes, especially on CMU’s, and for government to have more power. This dovetailed pretty nicely with most politician’s desires, so governments were putting a lot of effort into selling the alien’s as a great benefit, when, in reality, it was basically 17th century mercantilism without the actual colonization.
Mary also provided a daily update as to what her Level 3 library access provided, passing on terabytes of data for inclusion in the WIW alien database. Most of it wasn’t a ton of use, but it did give WIW, and the United States, a leg up in the new alien-based economy.
When I finally got Mary on the phone, it turned out she was just about as excited about the replicators as I was, but for different reasons: “All five alien representative nations received a replicator for ‘continuity of government’ purposes!” she exclaimed. “It’s a big secret, but they are compiling a list of people to be slaved to the replicator and you, me and Mr. Richards are on it!”
I was stunned. “I think I’m on board with being effectively immortal, but there’s no way in hell Mr. Richards is going to get the PCon that would be needed to be slaved to the device. I guarantee he’s going to get his own replicator that won’t be slaved by a possibly monitored PCon. He’s not going to give up his anonymity from monitoring.”
Mary was well aware of his independence psycho-ness, “Well, the initial list is going to be 50,000 people slaved to the device. Based on the math this is hyper conservative for a low risk of death group. They expect to add some high risk, high powered military people to the list and leave some room for expansion.”
“Hmmm…”, I mused, “Obviously, this is going to be about consolidating power and protecting cronies…”
“Oh yeah. It’s a shitstorm of infighting. Everyone wants their entire family, spouse and various mistresses (or misters – or whatever the dude term is). Here’s the kicker: the representative has final authority, and the Medi’s will only add someone I approve!”
“Holy crap! Don’t let the power go to your head!”
“Don’t worry, I’m working with The President and Congress – all of whom obviously make the list. My big worry is when the replicator’s existence leaks, or, when the Medi’s finally finish training our people to run the machines. We’re paying them a fortune to run the machines and do the training.”
This got my attention and reminded me why I was calling, “Mr. Richards wants a machine, AND he wants some of our people trained on it.”
I could here Mary’s smugness, “Oh, don’t worry…I’ve got mostly our people assigned to the machine training, though through a ton of intermediaries to mask their source. But getting a machine is his problem. He should be able to afford one in about 50 years.”
That put a damper on the conversation…
“Oh,” she said, “That reminds me. I have two documents for your review…”


Monday, August 5, 2019

16. Mike does a Deep Dive into Replication (Mike)

16

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Mike Cohn, mining laborer:

               Turns out the Medi aliens were a talkative bunch. They wanted a lot of detailed information from me so I kinda manipulated them into a tit for tat of information where I would answer one of their questions and finish my response with a question. They bit pretty quickly and I learned a bunch about the replication process…some disturbing, some fascinating and some just plain gross. I think the intellect boost kicked in because I understood a hell of a lot more than I expected to.
               Seems like replication is one of the most highly regulated things in the entire Compact. Machines were expensive, tightly controlled, and violations of protocols would provoke intense response from The Compact members. Basically, the replicator was a cloning machine but you were absolutely, positively, NEVER allowed to use it unless the subject was verifiably dead. If someone disappeared, or was obliterated in a way that their presence couldn’t be verified, you couldn’t replicate them. They told the story of a transport ship explosion where the passenger manifest wasn’t properly logged before the ship had a massive drive failure and blew up. Only the pilot and crew could be revived because they were the only ones that could be absolutely certain were on board. A very powerful member of The Compact who had used replication to live for thousands of years was permanently dead as a result and no one batted an eye. It’s that big of a deal.
               Basically, the replicator rebuilds your body based on the latest information provided from your PCon. If your PCon is slaved to a replicator, as is the case when assigned to a ship or facility that has one, it continuously updates your memory to a central processing unit. Physical information is updated less frequently, and usually they stop doing it when you reach full maturity, so that replication replaces your body with an older version that is younger, essentially providing endless youth. This is how they can guarantee our health at the end of the contract. We get killed and recycled into a younger version of ourselves. In fact, they plan on snuffing us here, and replicating us back in Earth orbit to save space on the ship. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but gaining two years of youth is a pretty good deal. If you aren’t slaved to a machine, you can still do periodic updates when the opportunity arises, and they can also use your PCon, if it survives, to do a full replication.
               The ultra-rich use replicators to basically become immortal. The icky part is that they need a supply of cells to do the rebuilding, and the easiest place to get them is from bodies. So, my old body got “recycled” into my new body, with the addition of some material from stock cells. You don’t have to have the original body, any supply of cells, like bodies of other creatures, or vat grown cells can be used to rebuild a body.
               It takes a couple hours to recycle a body, so, you could generally replace 12 people a day on one machine, and militaries and dangerous industries would invest a lot into the machines. They defrayed the costs by doing contract replication at a steep price for aliens who weren’t quite rich enough to own their own machine.
               Replicators could be used to tweak the bodies and brains they worked on. The more that was known about a species, the more they could do. Some of the older alien races could do some pretty dramatic things to improve their appearance, physique and intellect – though they couldn’t grow a second head or multiple arms and such.
               Machines and their internal records were subject to inspection by auditors from The Compact without notice. Violations of protocols would result in the machine being “repossessed” and the person responsible for the machine would be subjected to the death penalty, which included whipping their data from all machines. This meant permanent death.
               I tried to pick their brains about non-replication subjects, but they were only interested in talking about replicators.
               After a couple of hours, I was released to return to my team and begin my training. Apparently, we were already on our way to our destination….

Sunday, August 4, 2019

15. A Brief Break from Mike (Stan)

15

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Stan Arbogast, principle assistant to Grand Admiral Byron Richards:

“STAN!” I heard yelled from the direction of Mr. Richard’s office, “Get in here!”
I entered his understated office in WIW headquarters in Burlington, VT. From behind the desk he waved his tablet, “Have you seen the reports from the mining candidates?”
I had just begun going through them, pulling the details and arranging them into a coherent whole. The idea of fatal drills was my focus at the moment, but I still had a long way to go. “I’m just getting started. I assume this is about drills that kill people?”
“Keep reading…” he tossed the tablet to me, “They bring the dead back through some sort of cloning…and they can improve them when they do so!”
I took a moment to read the report from Mike Cohn…
I looked at Mr. Richards, “I need to talk to Mary.”
“Figure out how to get one of those machines.” He thought a moment, “Make it four.”

TO START FROM THE BEGINNING

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