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Egalitarian Deceit by ************

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  • Egalitarian Deceit by ************

    Egalitarian Deceit
    by ************

    0: 'Who do you trust? Why?'

    'Begin the world,as a child,lies are what we know.'
    'The Tooth Fairy,or Santa Claus -- lies; I told you so.'
    'From a smaller,take a larger,you cannot subtract.'
    'Less than zero,a square root,cannot take -- a fact.'

    'Deception. Lies. Disinformed. For grades,agree,we must.'
    'From teachers,parents,history; how can we now trust?'
    'Here exist the greatest lessons,by now we should have learned:'
    'Question claims,keep some doubt,*my* trust must be earned.'

    "Do you see it? You can graph this. Yes. Factor the polynomials in the numerator and denominator and you can cancel common factors. However,you must remember what values for 'x' would lead to a zero in the denominator,as these are discontinuities,and should be documented like this...",continues the professor.

    "Another lecture. Another class. Another lie unfolds today. Last semester,we were told we could not solve these,and now,once again,we see that wasn't quite true," thinks Tom.

    This disinformation is not new to Tom. After years of being stuck in an educational system that encourages tunnel vision,and discourages dissension,he falls to a new low of melancholic apathy. Tom is extraordinary in his appearance,as he looks,'average.' Neither attractive,nor ugly,neither too tall,nor too short. He stands out with his ability to blend in,and is remarkable in not being remarked about by his classmates. If you were 'average' and happened to sit next to Tom in Philosophy,you might run the risk of ceasing to exist as you first doubt he is sitting next to you and move on to consider,'if that guy isn't really there,then how can I be sure that I am even here.' Suddenly there is an empty seat in the class,and you are no longer reading this...

    But you aren't normal,are you? You are still reading this. You are the person that questions claims. You are the one burdened by a curiosity that brings doubt. You never lost your imagination,and you still include,"what-if," in your daily thoughts as if it is not even hyphenated,but a single-word. You are like Tom,or maybe Tom is like you.

    Class ends. Tom heads to the campus bathrooms on the first floor of the Math building. He waits in one of the stalls until the between-class rush ends,and the room is empty. Pulling out a tension wrench and a pick,he heads for what appears to be a supply closet in the bathroom,picks the lock,enters,then closes and locks the door behind him. He is in a janitorial closet with a sink,mop bucket,and many rolls of toilet paper on shelves. However,unlike most other similar closets,this closet has a ladder with roof access. He climbs the ladder to the roof and opens the latch to exit onto the roof. He closes the lid,and heads across the roof to another lid,opens it and then climbs down another ladder. Now he is in another janitorial closet. He listens through the door until the room behind it is silent. Next,he exits this janitorial closet into the Information Technology and Administration Men's bathroom. Tom spots one of the campus SysAdmin heading towards the machine room. Now Tom pulls out his phone and pretends to speak on the phone as though someone else is listening at the other end. The SysAdmin uses their card-key to open the door to the Server Room & NOC,and heads in to work. Tom catches the door,and follows the SysAdmin into the room. Tom quickly spots an available keyboard and mouse hooked up to a KVM,and proceeds to login to the system. He is in!

    "Hey Tom! Oh. you're on the phone. Sorry," said Murry. Murry was Tom's boss in IT,and had been trying to diagnose trouble with the card key system. It seems the system recorded Tom entering the building to go to work yesterday,but had no record of him ever leaving. Murry was hoping that Tom could show how he uses his cardkey and what entrance and exit he uses,to possibly identify a failing card,card reader,service,or network. Tom pretends to finish his phone call and hung up his phone.

    "Hey boss."

    "Yeah,Tom. Our card key system shows you entered the building yesterday,but never left,and you are here now. Did you sleep here?"

    "No. I went out to dinner with a local user group last night. I gave a presentation on,'the value of validating user submitted data.' Do you want to see it? We put it on the web for people that missed the meeting. I'd like your feedback," starts Tom. Tom knew that Murry's ego prevents him from saying the three beautiful words that drive greater mortals to learn something new: "I don't know." Murry would rather change the subject than appear uninformed or ignorant.

    "Ah. Well,never mind. I'll let you get back to work," ends Murry as he walks out of the machine room.

    Tom enjoys confounding his boss. Tom knew that his boss would fixate on inconsistencies like a sexual deviant might be fascinated by pudding and hotdogs,and while Murry was busy trying to figure out a riddle placed in his path by Tom,Tom was free to work without being micro-managed.

    BANG! -RUMBLE-

    An explosion rocks the building outside. Without the sound,the effect is similar to an earthquake,but with more smoke. Smoke? This is bad. Tom knew the explosion had to be loud and close-by to shake the building so violently and be heard over the noise of the server room.

    "What was that?" Tom thinks. Fire alarms were now screeching their warning. More smoke drifts into the room from the plenum. The server room CO(2) alarm warns of death to humans that remain inside the data center server room. As Tom heads out of the server room,he can see smoke gathering at the top 2 feet of the hallways,and people anxiously leaving through an emergency exit. Tom heads toward the emergency exit as he sees two men in police uniform talking to his boss Murry in a side-hallway,heading towards another exit from the building.

    "Bomb? No. Nobody here. Well,Tom was reported by the cardkey system as being in the building last night,but he wasn't really here... he was at a usergroup meeting talking about trusting users with word processors or something like that," began Murry,but the conversation trails away as the three men walk down the side hallway.

    Tom's heart sinks. What happened? Will I be implicated? Should I get a lawyer now? Tom pulls out his phone as he continues to move toward to exit. He tries to get news only to find no news yet,and other people have the same idea,as the phone's data service slows to a crawl.

    Outside,Tom observes people in business suits with radios,one with a handgun in a side-holster. Fire trucks can be heard in the distance,their sirens growing louder indicating their approach.

    The radio crackles and hisses,then belches out some words. Tom can only make out a few of the words over the sound of the approaching sirens: "Person of Interest..... Tom ... IT ... bomb ... possible terrorists."

    "F*ck! Now what do I do?" thinks Tom.

    1: 'I spy with my eye...'

    'You are here'
    'But you're not'
    'Are you?'

    Instead of going home,Tom visits a bagel shop that provides free WiFi access,and of-course,bagel sandwiches. He buys his lunch,and eats at a corner table. Local and national news are now covering the explosion. Tom examines current news and social messages about events.

    "Police and investigators from the FBI are on-site. The diesel generator that provides backup electrical power to university servers exploded,causing damage to the Mathematics building and university data center. No deaths or injuries have been reported,but two questions remain -- is this an accident or an act of terrorism,and if it isn't a terrorist attack,why were people from the FBI on-site during the explosion?"

    Tom starts his VPN client with hopes the university network is still available. Success! He now takes remote control of the session he started with the KVM in the data center,and searches for the network storage used by University Public Safety to store video from the campus cameras. If he can find files from the camera that covers the generator and fuel tank,maybe he can see who is involved. Looking for the most recently saved video files,he finds a directory for each days recording for the past 3 days. He copies the folder to his remote server desktop,and then starts to transfer them to his laptop so he can watch them. 30 minutes to wait,and now his interactive remote desktop session is too slow to use. While he waits,Tom turns his attention back to the online news feeds.

    "Investigators say Tom,the person of interest,is not a suspect,but he is wanted for questioning. Tom ....",said the reporter as Tom saw a picture from his Student ID appear in the video feed. Tom feels sick and stops eating,but continues viewing the story.

    The progress meter for file transfer stops advancing. A dialog appears on his screen: “the VPN session has closed,” and his remote desktop session along with it. Tom tries to reconnect to the VPN Hub without success. Inspection of the VPN log shows his VPN key has been revoked. Looking at his disconnected remote desktop,the last frame transmitted by the remote desktop shows someone deleted the source video files and the copies on his remote server desktop using Tom's active session.

    "What the hell?",Tom yells. There are only a few patrons eating their bagel sandwiches at tables in the shop. Until now,they did not notice Tom or his laptop in the corner. Now they stare at Tom,interrupting their previous activities with silence and staring. Silence and staring quickly bore these patrons and they go back to silence and eating.

    Someone with access to the data center used Tom's remote session to purge the video files that covered the diesel generator for the past 3 days,and they used his account to do it,and maybe the same person revoked his VPN key at the same time. This was bad news. This suggests someone else is interested in not only destroying evidence,but might be implicating Tom as a person responsible.

    If someone had access to the data center and enough knowledge and access to revoke my VPN key,they will also have enough knowledge to find the IP Address I connected from,and with a little more effort,track it down to the static IP Address shared by this bagel shop and its customers.

    Tom had to leave. He had to leave now,but where would he go?

    Where would you go?

    2: 'the sum of the parts,but correlation is not causation'

    'Humans will find patterns; selections hit and miss'
    'Humans find them oh so well,when they don't exist.'

    “We have a lawyer in our usergroup,” Tom thinks as he enters the library. I've helped her out with professional forensic review on data stored on hard drives from her cases in the past. She always paid in cash,and paid well for his services. She might have some advice for him,even if the cash would have to flow the other way."

    As Tom leaves the bagel shop,he pulls the battery from his cell phone,and then proceeds to pull the SIM Card. Tom visits a local mega-chain store to buy a pre-paid phone with a SIM card. Now at the city library,he finds a table in the microfilm projection room. Few visit this room except for the occasional middle-aged and elderly housewives working on their family trees. Here he had some privacy. He powers his laptop,and while it boots,he inserts the battery back into his phone and powers it. He disables his social-network based apps and email accounts,and clears the cookies from his web browsers. Next he powers down his phone,switches the SIM Card from the pre-paid phone into his own phone,and powers his phone once again. Now,his laptop is teasing him with a login screen,and he gives-in to its taunts. Like with his phone,he now disables email accounts,clears his cookies,and social network related services on his laptop including Instant Messaging clients,and then changes the hostname,purges his dhcp cache,and reboots. This time he would put it on the network. Looking through his phone's list of contacts,he spots the number for the Lawyer,Sharon. He enters an SMS,“Hello. Did you pay me for data recovery on the HD,re: Bram case,last week?” He knew quite well,that he was paid,but needed a way to establish his identity from a new phone number to Sharon without giving his name. Within minutes,he receives a reply,“talk at my office @ 4:00pm,” which was the best news he had read today.

    Tom has about one hour before he must head over to Sharon's office,so he spends time reviewing news stories online. The latest news stories are carrying his name and picture from his student ID. He is still referenced as a,“person of interest,” and not a,“suspect,” but being labeled as either with his picture up for everyone to see makes him feel uneasy. No new information is provided in any of the news stories.

    Tom reluctantly starts a review of the parts of the video files that were partly downloaded,and likely truncated. Even if whole files are not present,perhaps he will get lucky and extract some video frames from the incomplete files. He'd be even luckier if he can spot people near the generator doing anything out of the ordinary.

    “What could be the motivation behind someone choosing to blow up the diesel generator and then try to cover-up their work,” Tom thinks. “Maybe someone botched generator maintenance,and wanted to purge the evidence of their failure,but how would maintenance have access to the data center? They do monitor the CO(2) system,and would be called in to check it out after the building was cleared for re-entry,but who in maintenance would be so skilled with a shell and desktop,but horribly deficient with generator maintenance? Also,diesel fuel tanks don't generally explode like gasoline tanks can under the wrong circumstances unless they get a little,'help.' And why was the FBI there during the explosion? This is probably not accidental,but intentional. That does not rule-out inside help,or inside planning” Tom continues to think as he uses his tools to examine the files to see what images he can yank from of these partially downloaded video files. After more work with little progress,Tom sees it is time to visit Sharon. He packs up his stuff,and leaves for his 4:00pm appointment.

    3: 'Established Trust'

    'The word "murder" doesn't exist for defense attorneys,'
    'Maybe they prefer,"unauthorized release of the soul from the body."'

    Sharon's office could use a secretary or a paralegal assistant. The office resembles a burglary crime scene more than a lawyer's office,but Sharon knows where to find everything she needs. Tom can see Sharon behind her desk fiercely typing through her computer keyboard. When she was in college,typewriters were the only choice,and the 'hi value' community college she attended before finishing her four year degree and law school,had only non-electric,mechanical typewriters. Though it had been decades since she used a mechanical typewriter,she continued to pound her keys as though each character had emphatic meaning.

    "If it isn't Mr. Famous himself,or should I say,infamous?" Sharon asks. Though she is in her sixties,she was a born multi-tasker before the word multitasker was invented,or hyphenated. "I did receive your text,from a new number. Could you be,'on the run,' as they say?" Sharon smiles and looks up at Tom. "How do you know I didn't contact the authorities after you sent me this text?" she asked as she points to her phone.

    "You suffer from the same weakness as me." said Tom with a smirk.

    "Curiosity?"

    "Right."

    "They say it kills cats,you know. Good thing we aren't cats."

    Tom relays events of the day to Sharon,including his use of lock-picking tools to play a prank on his boss and the truncated video files.

    "Sure,I can help you with my time,but it will cost you,your services for
    mine: Hour-for-hour."

    "Deal."

    And everyone lives happily ever after,or do they? Do you really need to
    know,or are you too a victim of curiosity,too? Do I need to submit another short story to continue where this ends? You tell me. :-)
    "Haters, gonna hate"

  • #2
    Re: Egalitarian Deceit by ************

    And everyone lives happily ever after,or do they? Do you really need to
    know,or are you too a victim of curiosity,too? Do I need to submit another short story to continue where this ends?
    i, personally, would love to see a continuation of this tale. i like the writing style and curious as to how the plot might twist. it'd be best if it could wrap up in the next session, of course.

    "Sure,I can help you with my time,but it will cost you,your services for mine: Hour-for-hour."
    if the contest wasn't stipulated as being family-friendly, i'd say that looked like the opening for a rather kickass porno moment. anyone else hear the bass line of a little brown chicken brown cow in the background when they read that?
    "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
    - Trent Reznor

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    • #3
      Re: Egalitarian Deceit by ************

      Gotta say I'm hooked.

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