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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 80: Brown 134
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Derek was not terribly happy about the computer sweep. He found only one anomaly: his Kyler Bryant identity had been added to the system locally but was not on the London list. Although it was probably not a good thing to say, he hoped that the security investigators here were not sharp enough to catch that--it would make him the prime suspect--although it was certainly plausible that his list was copied from the London system before his name was added to it. They had no reason to give him a dossier on himself other than so that he would know what it said about him, and that was a mixed bag. On the one hand he ought to know all about himself, and he had worked on the details of the cover identity so he knew a fair amount about it; on the other hand, he probably shouldn’t know the details of a classified report about himself, and so it would be better that he be genuinely surprised if confronted by details it contained. In any case, there was no other name in either file that was not in the other.
He could look deeper; he would have to do so. He could run image comparisons, whether the pictures and fingerprints in his copies of the dossiers matched those in the local files. That would take longer, and he had to give some thought to how to approach it. It had been relatively simple to compare the two lists; he had simply asked their computer to compare their list with the one he uploaded, provide a report of discrepancies, and then delete his copy. With the images, though, it would use a bit more processing time. If he got their computer to do the comparison, he would have to install the image recognition software and run it, which would use enough of their computer resources that someone in the department might notice it; if he did it on his system, he could do it faster, but he would have to download extensive personnel records, which also might be noticed. He did not know whether C would back him up if he were caught--what was the old television line? If captured or killed, the secretary will disavow all knowledge? He didn’t know how expendable versus how valuable he was, but he didn’t think C was going to blow the cover on a top secret corps of spies simply to pull him out of trouble. This was going to require some thought.
On the other hand, it wasn’t really much fun. Back at the beginning, back when he had to hack into those computers in that compound in order to open the doors and then continued working with them to see what else he could do, there was a challenge to it that was exciting, fun. Every time he managed to get past the security in another system he was pleased with himself. It was the same on Terranova Habitat, and again when he was working with Lauren to open the domes over the vampire-infested cities of the future. There was a bit of a thrill, a self-congratulatory feeling, whenever he got past the security in one of those systems. Here, though, it was too easy. It was like solving one-digit addition after learning calculus. There wasn’t any fun in it. He wasn’t doing it for fun, but having fun was certainly one of the motivations in being a spy.
He should probably set up some system by which he downloaded the image files one at a time. If he picked up one every fifteen minutes--no, make it twenty, and set it for five minutes off from the hour and half-hour marks, because they’re more likely to notice activity that occurs regularly on the quarter hours. That’s three images per hour, but it’s also two images per employee, a file photo and a fingerprint set. Run all the photos first, but with over a hundred employees it will take over thirty hours to do just the photos, another thirty for the fingerprints. (It crossed his mind that all his studies had made him much better at math than he ever imagined being, but he did not stay with the thought.) There was a risk that someone would notice in that time.
Hey, risk was part of the excitement, right? The trick is to minimize the risk. Set it up for random spacing between the downloads, something like four hundred to sixteen hundred seconds would mean they were never closer together than just under seven minutes and never farther apart than almost twenty-seven minutes, and on average about seventeen minutes apart, between three and four per hour. Critically, the downloads would happen not only at random minutes but at random seconds within the minute, making it much more difficult to notice and impossible to predict. A single download on the internal network wouldn’t take long enough to be as much as a blip in the diagnostics, attributable to any one of the thousands of processes running at any given moment. That would be the way to do it. If they weren’t catching whoever was leaking information, they probably wouldn’t be able to catch him. He didn’t want to underestimate them, but he was pretty sure he had a way to do this that they wouldn’t see.
He hadn’t thought of that.
No, his idea was good. What he’d missed was a possible motivation for his spy. Money, blackmail, idealism, accident--he thought he’d cover all the logical possibilities. This, though, was perhaps an illogical possibility. Perhaps the spy was doing it simply for the thrill, simply because it made him feel superior, successful, excited, like he was outsmarting the people in security. What kind of person would that be? Derek wanted to think that it required a kind of arrogance, but then, he got that feeling from getting past security systems, and he did not think of himself as terribly arrogant. How might he recognize him? It was possible that such a person would get careless, that having succeeded he would start to think it was easy and not take as many precautions. Indeed, precautions themselves are a possible indicator--someone who is being careful about little violations might be trying to stay off the radar for bigger ones.
Well, it was a possibility he should consider, if his computer efforts came up empty.
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: