They're Random, Baby!

Fan Fiction

Hawk Chronicles: Chapter 2a, Part 2
Posted By: Vector40<brandon@berkeleyhigh.org>
Date: 15 August 2001, 9:41 PM

Read/Post Comments

    The meeting broke up. Individual members drifted off, to organize their gear, make preparations, or as Carson put it, "fuckin' put my prayers in for this shit." He was certainly not religious, but the feeling appeared general.
    Wilder was wandering with the crowd, mumbling something that sounded urgent but that be apparently wasn't bothering to actually say; he mouthed gibberish, hiding in the general commotion. Banning walked up behind him and snagged his collar, dragging him back in mid-step.
    "Hold up, Wild. I need to talk to you."
    Banning made sure he wasn't leaving, then went back to speak with Felton quietly. A few moments later, he returned, grabbed Wilder by the scruff, and walked off.
    "What's up, boss?"
    "Your office."
    They arrived there several minutes later, and Wilder unlocked the door.
    "Why do you lock that, anyway? You think Hail's gonna break in and steal your porn collection?"
    "You can never, EVER be too careful, cap. Computers are like bathrooms- you never think they're too valuable, until you haven't got one, and it's an awful temptation to use the nearest."
    They stepped into the computer lab. A semi-circle of glowing tri-displays, more than half a dozen, was arranged around a wide, rounded desk; piles of papers, small indecipherable devices, and old disks, drives, and receptors enough to choke an army were stacked all around the room; but the desk itself sparkled clean. Wild slid into the chair, ruffling up his hair and yawning.
    "So, what's the story?"
    Banning looked around. "Are you scrambled?"
    "Fuckin' A. You know better, boss."
    "Good. Now, we're going to do this, then you're going to forget that it ever happened. Completely. For your sake and mine. Got it?"
    "No problem."
    "All right." Banning sat down on the edge of the desk, earned a horrified look from Wilder, and found a chair.
    "Tell me what you think of our friend Felton and that little song-and-dance we just got."
    Wilder looked at him, making sure of his aim. Then, he said, "It wasn't all."
    "That wasn't everything, what he told us."
    "Well, very good, Wild. As it happens, I agree. And I'm certain most of our comrades would agree, except maybe Raynor, who needs a clue to bite him on the ass before he'll get it. Storm's probably shoved Felton in the closet now and is interrogating him with the tip of a knife."
    "So, here's the deal."
    "I want to know more."
    Wilder frowned, nonplused. "More?"
    "You said it yourself. He isn't telling us everything. He seems like a decent bastard, but I'm sure he's getting orders passed down from high up- as in, stratosphere- to feed us shit. What I want to know- for our safety, and the completion of their mission- is what he's hiding from us."
    "That doesn't seem like a very specific request, Bird. You want me to log on and search the data tree for "Big Secret Honchos are Hiding from Hawks?"
    "That's your end. Have you still got that back-door access? The one you used to get your hands on our personnel files?"
    "Sure. As long as no one's snaffed it. No reason to. The old programmer logs are fricking coal mines; digital graveyards. Nobody's sniffed in their for years, and probably won't, unless they go on a cleanup run."
    "Okay, then. Let's do it."
    Wilder turned to the screens, pushed his chair in, and cracked his knuckles ritually.
    "Let's do it."

[ERROR. level 9 administrator override]

    "What the fuck?" Wilder said, pissed.
    "I- christ, I don't know. One of the system admins has placed a sniffer on the file."
    "One of the guys at the other end?"
    "Yeah. Probably some Marine net tech. My safeguards warned me off from grabbing the trojan, because it'd set off a packet of alarms.
    "Who the hell did this? I thought you said nobody ever goes around there."
    "I did. Something happened."
    "Can you get around it?"
    He sighed. "I'll try."

[displaying resu
{-silarm active. system break-}

    "Okay," said Wilder. "I've just activated the silent alarm system. It activates all of the security precautions, but without ringing bells all over people's desks. Since I broke into a data query on a file, the case is still open, but the protection is tighter than a noose."
    "Hold on. You just made the security stronger?"
    "Bird, Bird, Bird. You're thinking in real-world terms. This is cyber-security. The rules are all different."

[data restricted]

12LEV7 termin
4LEV9 admin
72LEV4 maint


    "All right," Wilder said. "I think I have what I need. I'm pretty sure my trojan is a lost cause; maybe I'll be able to recover it later, but it'll be a bitch. I'm letting it go. Pre-coded back-doors are just conveniences, anyway. Any hacker worth his salt shouldn't need one."
    "The systop is online. That's the head cheese, the mover, the shaker, the guy who basically runs the net. My guess, also the guy who SNAFUed my trojan, but that's another story. I'm going to try to hijack his packet feed; that's his sort of housekeeping train, the constant stream of data that's flowing back and forth between him and the system, keeping tabs on everything, keeping everything straight. It's stepped up because of the alert. I'm playing with fire here- systops are generally not the sort of people you want to mess with. I'll have to dance it pretty fine, to stay in without alerting him."
    "But, hell, I'm Wild the fuckin' Netsaber. If I can't do it..."
    Banning smiled.

[read-only systop]
[packet destination false]
[accepted. delivering packet]
[accessed. change?]

    "Hehe." Wilder grinned. "Poor sucker. I rode in a maintenance packet, slipped in the gate, and then screeched it to a halt. It's sort of along the lines of a janitor going "whoops, I'll have to wax the floor later, this window needs cleaning." It thinks there's something to deal with here, so it's given me priority to the entire directory."
    "I'll give you a ring when I'm twenty again and have an idea what you're saying, Wild. Just break it."
    "Oh, it's broken."

[specify access levels]

    "I just cloaked us from prying eyes. Only someone with infinity level access can see us. Which is no one."


    "Okay, Bird. Now I have to actually know what I'm looking for."
    "Shit, I don't know. Something dirty. Something high."
    Wilder was the only person Banning knew that could make the word "ponder" apply to him. He pondered for several moments, then literally jumped.
    He wheeled and started pounding at keys.


    "Okay, what I'm going to do is find the highest-classified file on the entire net. If what you're looking for is what you think it is, then that'll be it. If it's not, well, you probably don't have to worry about it. Since I don't know what that file is, I've inputted a search for a Top Secret- Fleet level stamp. That's the highest possible level. There's no way that anything on the puny little Halo net is a Fleet Secret- we're talking like, the SolCore Grand Council is really composed of fish, here. But what this will do is give me the next highest level, which will be our file. It's like inputting one hundred trillion credits into your credit account to withdraw- it just gives your everything you have."

[search complete. {1} file found. classification: TOP SECRET- FLEET. name: Thor's Hammer]

    "HOLY SHIT!" Wilder jaw dropped.
    "The... FUCK! That search! It actually turned up a file!"
    "Well, great. Let's s-"
    "No, no, no, no, no... You bastard, don't you get it? A file with a Fleet Secret classification stamp.
    "Whoa, whoa, whoa. It found one?"
    "YES. There is precisely one file. Which is NOT surprising, but it's still fucking UNBELIEVABLE that there are any. I mean... Jesus, do you know what we're talking about here? This is the sort of thing that makes or breaks empires."
    "Well... Shit! Bring it up!"
    Wilder was already stamping keys.

ACCESS FILE: Thor's Hammer
[ERRORERRORERROR Level 10 Override! Level 10 Override! System Purge! System Purge! Packet Bog-SWITCH(9)(auto) DROP CARRIERFILESHREDDROPCARRIER]
[carrier dropped]

    "SON of a BITCH!"
    "What the hell happened now?"
    "Son... FUCK!" Wilder was entering commands furiously, fingers flying blur-fast, a constant stream of profanity emitting from his mouth.
    "SHITSHITSHITshitshitSHIT! Those bastards!" Wilder's fingers could no longer be seen. Suddenly, he dove off from his seat, sprinted to the wall, and brought his fist down on a large switch.
    The lights to the room shut off.
    There was a moment of silence, filled only with Wilder panting in the dark. Finally, Banning ventured to say, "Wild?"
    Seconds passed. Then, the thin voice came back. "They burned me."
    "You want to turn the lights back on?"
    "I can't. They made my signal trace. I don't want them to backtrack it. Give the system sixty seconds to cycle."
    Banning started to speak again, then decided that it could wait. He sat in the dark. He could almost hear Wilder brooding.
    Eventually, after an interminable wait, he heard Wilder shuffling around. The lights began to flicker back on, and monitors lit with beeping protestations.
    Wilder stumbled back to his seat, flopping down.
    He looked at Banning.
    "They made me, Bird. I got burned."
    "Wild? Don't do this. There's a very simple, very effective way to relate a story. Start at the beginning, go to the end, and stop."
    He glared. Then: "Fine."
    "I had the file. I was bringing it down. No problem. Like I said, I had access privileges."
    "But... there was something there, Bird. Something on the file. I- it couldn't have been a user. It must have been automated. But..." Banning got the feeling Wilder was sorting this out as much for himself as for him.
    "Some sort of sentry. It was a little bit like the sniffer they dropped on my trojan, but far, far more advanced. The sniffer was put there courtesy of some admin who wandered across it and decided to wall it up until he could get around to dealing with it. This, though... This was hidden. I didn't see it, my system didn't see it, nothing, not until I tried to access the file... and the fucking trap snapped."
    "All kinds of safeguards shot up. Emerguards- basically the system "cops"- were summoned from all over. My fucking carrier was dropped from the net, and banned from access- if I ever want to get back on there, even legitimately, I'm going to have to mask my trace."
    "Oh, and did I mention? The file self-deleted. It shredded itself all to shit. Absolutely no way to recover it."
    Banning leaned back in his chair slowly. He stared at the ceiling.
    Wilder was starting to shake ever so slightly.
    "Bird, I've never screwed you around before. You have to trust me on this."
    "There's not half a dozen hackers in the world- any world- who can play me like this. I've never met anyone who can beat me, Bird, and I'm not sure I ever will. But this guy came fucking close. Just the fact that he can run with me- that, even with the advantage of being in a castle, that he could manage to hide a code trap like this that I didn't see- that's fucking serious, Bird. The only operators who can even touch me are scattered all over the colonized territories, and I know every one of them."
    "And NONE of them are Marine net-service flunkies."
    "There's something going on here, John. It's something serious. Something... someone... who knew we would want that file... And knew we would come for it, and knew how to snare us. Do you understand? There's someone on the inside who's fucking around. Someone..."
    He rubbed his face with his hands, as if to scrub away the layers of murk and gloom and uncover the truth.
    "Someone good."