Old Friends Conquered
“I knew An33$a,” Ket said.
They were riding through town in the back of an old, blacked out delivery truck. It’d been upgraded to run on electric engines, rigged to roll out at a moment’s notice. More a thing of convenience rather than malice though– however intimidating.
Ket had learned to keep lines running through various, networked connections. Connections that included black-market contacts and rendezvous-points; first-name, former-Darknet associations; right down to local restaurateurs.
These were exclusive clubs, even for the excluding.
Playing the part of eye-candy, even for a single, proper night, meant making connections to webs most thought myth. It was the realm of doorways; a nexus point of paths she frequented, was traversing one-by-one, had been her entire life.
Fact was, born there or not, it was as close to predestined for her as was possible. The black-market, eye-candy burlesque-headliner: that was her niche. Her element. Force that she was, she was drawn to it; as water to a whirlpool or air to a cyclone. She dazzled…
And N1T3 he reveled, as allowed his momentary fascinations as any could be.
They emerged from one and he spoke on cue, “You were saying?”
She let a small, warm blink acknowledge his poise. “I knew her. Most did. We didn’t know it was her.”
He knew then whom she meant. The local hacker-ring was small, always had been.
“These days, it’s smaller.” She lit a cigarette, offering him one. He took it, lit hers with a flip-top, then his own.
He slipped the lighter back into his pocket, “Making it more so only makes it more dangerous.”
She batted smoke toward the cracked, blacked-out windows hidden beneath dark, heavy curtains. They let in the sound of traffic riding bump-and-wave asphalt like oldschool surfers on low-crests. Their passing Doppler punctuated an already-humming soundtrack.
“The nature of a system dictates its likelihood to continue producing output, regardless of function. In essence, a system threatened with power cutoff continues to act as it does, regardless of its impending doom. It continues trying to revise itself or prolong itself.
“It’s not a thing of emotion,” she reminded. “But the culmination of successive revisions converging to another point of reference. That reference-point’s anything the observer of the system deigns when designing it.”
She took another, long drag, fingers near the window. They gave a delicate flick, disintegrating ash into a moving air-current before reeling back. N1T3 ashed beside his seat, in a tray velcro’d to a tabletop.
“You’re speaking of context; the purpose for any system’s use.”
“Precisely,” she said with another flick, keeping her ash in the wind.
Now that he fully understood her actions, he was curious why she cared to help. It was an earnest question. One he was equally entitled to, at least now and in said-context. He’d not been the most gracious loser or indeed, the most reliable partner, business or otherwise. It only made some sense to wonder what she saw in helping him.
He knew her well enough to know, but wished it clarified for posterity. In writing, so to speak– if only to the extent it could be, and if only for he alone to better understand.
“I care now for the same reason I cared then; potential.” She met his eye carefully. “Martin Black had potential. He did not live up to it. N1T3 has that potential now. And more.”
He said nothing. Their thoughts were aligned: other matters to attend to.
“I’m open to suggestions,” he said placidly.
“That’s not how this works. Not yet.”
He understood, “You want me to prove it.”
She didn’t need to nod. He saw it anyhow, suddenly understood where they were going, why.
“Anywhere I know?”
“No. Old storage unit. Meat-packing. City-Hub infrastructure.”
He nodded, knowing where she was headed, “Public. Relatively speaking.”
She smiled, “Rome conquered the public. They did it through toilets and water fountains.”
“I can do it with data-servers as aquifers,” he assured her.
There was no reason not to. Data was now a thing without existence. It had transcended time. Could not be lost. Not really. Only forgotten, then rediscovered. In a way perhaps, it had always been like that, because it couldn’t exist. Not physically. It was a realm without manifestation.
There were no digital borders.
Without a border, data was more than a single resource. It was every resource through its links to them. It was information. Vital. Equally powerful. Necessary; like water. Both a thing and a force. Like Ket.
Digital paradise was the next evolution of man’s social yearnings. One you could indulge regardless of reality’s shortcomings or luxuries. But it was absolutely out of reach in a world of Corporations. Especially, when those Corps owned the only true data-hubs and information infrastructure, were responsible for them.
If the Empire had done to Rome’s waterlines what Telecomms were doing to the Net, people would’ve lined up to punch holes and install taps without fear of reprisal. Not after the flow had been so obviously narrowed just to gouge people already working– or paying— to upkeep it.
Because of data’s reality too, every drop became as important as the next or last.
Thus, it became infinitely more important the pipelines were properly tapped and regulated. For now, N1T3 and Ket knew, they couldn’t be. The only pumps and lines in existence were locked behind fortresses, buried in Earth, and owned by sniveling heirs former Kings and Titans of Industry. Those old-timers had learned money-games played by different rules from a different world. However newer, more subtle their approaches, there were always the same strategies.
The fundamentally dissimilar nature of the old and new games though, dictated they were fucking up the boards. Irreparably.
In the end, who wouldn’t do it, with the skill and know how? Sure. It cost money, but money was a resource. Like with every flourishing resource, you stock-piled for leaner-times and drew down later.
There was no leaner time like one’s possible death-bed.
Why not try it? If it were crazy, he wouldn’t be here. Or at least, Ket wouldn’t be too. More than that, he had a plan for success far more powerful than any chances of failure. Even then, if he died before he completing his mission, he might at least succeed through others.
And it began here.
She led him into the warehouse, the truck still idling outside. Cheaper to let it run than start and stop it– long term, anyway. That was an electronic reality. Standby modes were easier than power switching. More stable too. Postdigital thoughts from postdigital children; the technological equivalent of sleep; the reason to never power down, but rather mete-out power into flowing or being stored for when needed.
But never did the power get cut. Powerlessness was not an option.
That was one thing imparted from Humanity’s rise from the muck: the reasons rape and molestation were capital crimes even in shadow societies. More-so, often, because of their need for discretion, to discourage future violation of its sanctity therein.
Shadows thrived on Honor Codes.
Making one powerless un-leveled the playing field everyone needed to be level. Otherwise, turbulence was felt. It was the reason the Mafia families put aside their differences after prohibition to fight the system– even if while still killing one another– the reason corps forced laws to change, made police obsolete; people needed each other even if they didn’t need other people.
Eternally, the problem was of relatability, familiarity.
Datum transcended that. It was a byproduct of Human existence. One Humans mistakenly thought of as passing– like waste, or semi-renewable, like water. It was needed, but what could be done of its properties? Their inherent corruptibility or susceptibility to manipulations?
In truth, Datum was Rome’s plumbing on a scale unseen since its literal era. Worse, that it was being ignored was sending humanity back to that time in history with its utterly-obvious and ignored toxicity.
Way N1T3 saw it, the bloodiest revolts had happened for less. One would happen for this, but it had to happen right. Otherwise, it would only restart the cycle.
History was a system, out of control in all but retrospect. Therefore, to correctly distinguish the causes of historical errors required examination, breakdown, and reverse-engineering. Only by then applying the learned information to the roots of historical errors’ manifests could history be engineered.
As it was, History was a complex record of Human social-interaction boiled down to its simplest form. That boiling meant reducing it to a series of reference-events, each with listed variables and constants– 0s or 1s– that retold its story the simplest way possible: in concepts at a time.
At its essence, History was a program eternally live, and always running in debug-mode. Therein, it was only ever possible to anticipate or react to problems, never prevent them entirely. Only a post-digital child could have understood that while Existence was binary– either you did or did not exist, people were not.
People had more states than Power/no-power. In/out. Off/on.
N1T3 once believed himself alone in the knowledge of this complimentary duality, its yin-yang of Human existence and their contrived reality. The truth though, was that everyone saw it, felt as he did. Some simply had not realized it yet or made the connection of what it was they saw. Some, never would.
That became dangerously apparent during the maturation of his generation– and thus, N1T3 with it– proving the collective consciousness had manifested.
Like all networked entities, it communicated as a group, as well as an individual. Another sign of its inherent binary-duality in its systemic redundancies. Difference was, these groups were cells, commands in code; comprised of people, individuals, their links through others whether personal or social.
That, N1T3 knew, required one thing above all else; datum. Information. Exchange of bits, or bytes; 0s and 1s; the essence of every measurable item in existence. More than that too, because of Human Nature, it needed to be nomadic.
In other words, Rome’s water needed public controls and access for anyone in need of, or willing to fix it or maintain it. Tampering with it was never a question because it rose above the need of even a great many to become universal. Ensuring it flowed right was the only thing that mattered. It was a human duty, an obligation, because one expected the same respect against powerlessness– and thus contributed too.
That the taps in this respect were digital simply meant anyone could learn to use and install them, regardless of status. So long as the interface were properly prepared and presented, it would function.
Like a public water-fountain.
In the end, that meant all anyone needed to ensure fountains caught on was a well-executed opportunity to prove their worth. After that, and if only in a niche, they would catch on. Even if Ket had planned to murder him immediately after, she would help N1T3 ensure it happened.
It was that important.