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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 78: Brown 133
Table of Contents
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Derek was beginning to wonder why he had been given this assignment. Two possibilities emerged. Either C had a genuinely exaggerated notion of the scope of his abilities, or he was being buried here temporarily. These ideas sprang from his consideration of the enormity of the problem.
He did not know how many people lived and worked at the embassy. He couldn’t easily just ask, and it wasn’t information they were volunteering, for security reasons. There was, of course, the ambassador, and his wife, and a couple of other diplomatic aids and half a dozen clerical workers assigned to them. Then there were about two dozen people who provided assistance to British citizens with problems in country, mostly in relation to passports and visas, or problems transferring funds or exchanging currencies, but a few of them were specifically assigned to dealing with legal entanglements. The largest group, maybe half of everyone there, was loosely identified as security, from a half dozen specifically guarding the diplomats (very like secret service agents) and roughly the same number working the electronic security systems, the video and alarm systems, to the maybe three dozen soldiers who doubled as honor guard and genuine security in the building, plus a couple of people loosely described as “investigators”, who did everything from run security checks on people to locate missing British subjects believed to be lost in the country. That did not cover the maintenance personnel, of whom about half were kitchen and waitstaff, another dozen janitorial, and a half dozen responsible for maintaining physical plant--a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, a couple of computer guys, someone else. That was easily over a hundred people working in the building, most of whom, as well as he could determine, lived there. Complicating it, job assignments were a bit fluid--the legal staff was technically part of the citizen assistance group but sometimes worked with the diplomatic section, some of the people in janitorial also assisted with maintenance tasks, and so forth, so there were extra desks in some departments that were sometimes used by people who had desks in other departments. Getting a head count was not simple--and that meant he was going to have trouble compiling a list of suspects. Even with the dossiers, he was not certain he knew who everyone was.
It struck him that it was entirely possible for there to be an infiltrator, someone in the building who did not actually work here but was thought to by everyone else. If someone could get into the building, they would best start by reporting to citizen assistance and claiming to be part of the diplomatic clerical group sent downstairs to lend a hand because there wasn’t much work at that moment. Once set up with a desk, they could probably sell their presence--if asked, they left their credentials in their desk upstairs and could go get them in a moment if necessary; at some point they could probably get someone to provide them with temporary replacement identification. Derek couldn’t see how that kind of ruse could be maintained for long, but really there were enough people here that one more would probably fall into the category of “must work in another department”, and if he managed it for a few weeks he would become a recognized entity whose presence was not questioned.
That was a long shot, of course. If embassy security was aware of the suspected leak (and Derek was pretty sure that they must be) that would be the first thing they would check: is there anyone in the building who doesn’t belong here. It would be easier for them than for him--he wasn’t going to be able to memorize all the photos and match them to all the faces and find the one that didn’t belong. No, you couldn’t last long here if you didn’t have credentials, and you couldn’t get the credentials if you weren’t in the security computer--but wait, what if--what if someone infiltrated, as he had just suggested, then managed to hack into the security system and create their identity, then claimed to have lost their employee badge? The computer would be checked, they would be matched to the file they had created, and credentials would be issued. Then they could use those credentials to report for the job they had assigned themselves as if they were new to the department, and probably no one would know--and if security checked employees against the database, the infiltrator wouldn’t show up because he was in the database before they knew to look.
That would be a tough problem--except Derek might be able to get around it. After all, he had a list of all the employees who were supposed to be here, according to the home office in London. Someone here could add himself to the list here, but couldn’t add himself to the list in London. The reverse would be easy--that is, if someone added himself to the London list he could get credentials in England and come here, much as Derek himself had, claiming that he had been assigned to the embassy. If he started here, though, he couldn’t get the London list to match.
There was a way around that, if the hacker stole the identity of someone who did work here. It would have to be someone with an ordinary name--with over a hundred people in the building, no one would be surprised to discover that there were two named Jim Smith, or Tom Jones, and if the hacker found a name like that and assumed it for himself, the fact that there was only one such person in the database would be harder to discover, and if the hacker could get the information in the database to identify him instead of the right person he would be protected when the ruse was discovered, the other person taking the fall. But maybe the infiltrator didn’t think of that.
So the first step would be to hack into the security listing personnel files and compare them to the list he brought from London, to see whether there was anyone listed in Bucharest that London did not recognize.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #243: Verser Redirects. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: