Monday, January 25, 2016

The Long Way Around, 1

The wind was pushing me almost straight sideways before I decided it was time to call the madness to rest. Behind me, my bicycle trailer kept being buffeted to one side or the other a couple of inches, contrary to the direction of the wheels, and my exhaustively meager pace was doing me in. Unfortunately, I was deep into the flatlands of central Kansas, so there was no sign of a valley between two bumps in the land barely high enough to be called hills. The largest shelter was the drainage ditch running along the side of the road, with an inch of murky water at the bottom. I had no desire to test my luck on its cleanliness.

Fortunately, my luck was not completely absent: ahead on one side of the road sat a dark, squat building, anonymous in the distance and lack of streetlights. As I drew closer, it turned out to be a boarded up gas station with an attached garage, closed in the unseasonably turbulent weather. As I walked around it, looking for an entrance, my cell phone klaxoned, providing an unnecessary warning of the vicious storm. Multiple tornado touchdowns. Wonderful.

The front door, normally glass but now coated in wood, was locked and deadbolted, but I rattled it regardless, and to no effect. Continuing my perimeter, I got lucky once more: a side door with a one-way handle and no deadbolt rattled reassuringly in its frame. I pulled one of the longer, narrow-bladed knives from my camping pack, and set to work leveraging it open. Once the bolt popped, it was a simple matter of wrestling my gear into the narrow space between tool-stations and a partially disassembled car.

I set my camp up as best as I could in a small empty corner, my tent sagging without the tension of earth-grounded stakes, disturbing none of the garage around me. I unrolled my bedroll, laid back, and drifted into an uncomfortable doze.


"That's admission of guilt right there! We've got all we've need."

"Hold on now. All I've admitted to was breaking and entering, a fact I already established. I haven't said a word about any of the other charges you're trying to press on me, and if you keep interrupting, you're never going to. Do you want my complete confession or not?"

"Alright, fine. Fine. Keep going. I won't interrupt again."

"I rather doubt that. Anyway, I didn't sleep soundly. Between the lack of soil beneath my back and the wind screaming up above, there was no chance of that..."

Monday, January 18, 2016

Constructive Criticism

"I'm sorry, but that's just not realistic."

"What isn't?"

"Sending one email, and having it spreading through the internet like that. Unless you know about some zero-day that you're keeping under wraps--"


"--then there's no way for that to happen. What genre is this supposed to be, science fiction?"

"It's actually fictional realism."

"Then you're limited to what you can actually do, here, now, today."


"No. I can see sending out an email to a mailing list that contacts your friends and family, forwards the message on, asks them to pass it along, get the press involved, post it on their social media accounts... but from email to trending in.... how long did you say?"

"Under an hour."

"But didn't it happen a few hours later?"

"Well, my laywer had to get a copy of my handwritten statement, drive home, type it up, type in the exact address that I provided, and then send it, so from hitting the send button to it going viral, under an hour, but from leaving my company to it going viral, a couple of hours."

"Okay, that's logical, but not the rest of it."

"Can I defend myself?"

"You can try, but I don't think it will do you much good."

"Okay, I know it sounds out there, but it's possible."

"Sorry, bud, but the internet just doesn't work like that. Unless you're professing to have major hacking skills or some knowledge of a massive security hole that no-one else knows of--"

"You said I could try to defend myself, so let me. Please."

"Fine. Go ahead."

"Now, I've never actually set the whole system off all at once before, but I've tested out all the stages individually, and they're all essentially the same module, just repeated and daisy chained together. So hypothetically, in theory, there's no reason why it wouldn't work; but it would probably only work once before someone clamped a lid down on it, which is why I haven't taken the whole gigi for a full dress-rehearsal test run."


"It's coupled together over a bunch of free servers, each of them pretty robust, and I convinced a few other strangers out in the world wide wilderness to create their own relays and chained them into mine. Plus, I've been creating dummy accounts for a few years that have been collecting their own followers. The first wave, consisting of all my dummy accounts triggers, though not simultaneously, and then the second wave, those followers that somehow decided of their own will to subscribe to my dummy account reposting the message, and then the third wave is everyone else, and suddenly it's trending."

"You... you... wait, how many dummy accounts?"

"That I created? Couple hundred, plus all my personal accounts for my blogs and such that I've created through the years."

"Why would someone follow a dummy account?"

"Each is tethered to an RSS feed, so they have regular activity. Come on, I'm not that stupid. It'd be obvious if a few hundred previously inactive accounts all starting posting the same message within a few minutes of each other. Besides, who'd follow an inactive account, except for those poor fools who try to get popular by getting more followers instead of being actually interesting?"

"So you... this... this is real?"

"Um, yeah."

"What about the name?"

"Sorry, which name?"

"Nothing Illegal Productions/"

"Oh, yeah. It's one of my relays."


"Okay, so I started a blog, set it up to allow posting via email, memorized that email, and connected a bunch of social media accounts to the RSS feed of that blog. That's one relay. I set up a second relay, set the submission email of the second blog, took the email and used it to subscribe to the first relay, then attached a bunch more social media accounts to the second one. Rinse and repeat, and the short delay as each relay triggers the next gives a half-second-or-so deviation between each relay, so the first wave doesn't happen all at once."

"How many relays do you have?"

"Among my own accounts? Four. Of people I know personally? At least one more. Of total strangers? I have no idea."

"But it works?"

"As far as I can tell."

"So what are you saving it for?"

"Something like this just as unfair and disastrous to happen to me."

"What if it never does?"

"Then I never find out if it actually works as intended, or if it breaks the internet."

"But you could do so much... good.. with this."

"It's a limited use gig. Use it once, and everybody knows it's there. Use it twice, and the whole thing could be taken away from me. So many man-hours wasted. No, I'm not going to do that. It's best lying in the shadows while everyone who reads this manuscript wonders if I'm joking, wonders what accounts are real and which ones are dummies. And if I or any other the top-end servers die before I need to use it? Well, I can live with that."

"So what are you going to call the story?"

"I have no idea."