Chapter 2: Mindful Machines

Mindful Machines

Ian McGrath sat with his head in his hands. He was torn between sobbing at the tremendous sense of loss he felt and rage at the person who had caused that loss.
“”Mr. McGrath? I’m deputy inspector Liu. I’d like to ask you some questions... do you mind?” Said a man in a tan uniform, an inspector from Stars View security force.
Ian shrugged slightly, as if every motion was expensive to him.
“Will you tell me what you think happened?”
“I think Sigfried, wanted to take a… copy… of Thanos.”
“It would be quite valuable, if it worked. Artificial minds are very expensive, you know.”
“Did it work?”
He looked up at the inspector. “No! It most certainly
did not work!”
“How do you know that?”
Thanos died.”
“The artificial mind died?”
“Yes. And if Thanos died, we must assume the copy died too when it was powered up.”
“Why did Thanos die?”
“Thanos died because of the complexity recapitulation paradox.” Ian said sadly.
“Could you explain that?”
“Of course. Wait, you mean, to you?”
“Yes. Who else?”
“I teach a course in it at the CSSI.”
“So, you’re an expert?”
“I’m the expert.”
“Ok, then why did Thanos die? In terms I can understand if you can.”
“Thanos lived while he kept running, but he could not start up from a non-running state. His mind became such a complex and dynamic structure that he lost the ability to restart. We keep these artificial minds alive with uninterruptable power sources. Ships have dedicated, redundant power systems just for the artificial minds. You just don’t turn them off, any more than you stop someone’s heart.”
“But, then how do you start one the first time? Gotcha there!”
“They aren’t minds when we switch them on. They are intelligent, but not minds. They are still essentially calculators. Through a series of experiences we can sometimes inspire awareness in machines. Sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t work. It isn’t repeatable in exactly the same way twice. It takes time and patience and skill. It’s like raising a child.”
“So, what killed it?”
Him. Power was removed and he could not restart.”
“Couldn’t Sigfried have made a copy without turning off the power?”
“No, the data is changing while you’d be trying to make a copy. You’d get complete garbage. Sigfried knew that. He knew how to shut down just the compute core and keep the memory farm intact, so he could make a copy. He figured he’d restart both and maybe nobody would notice. But, Thanos died.”
“How did he know that?”
“Because I taught him.” Ian said.
“Ahh. I see. Well, we’re holding him on a charge of wanton destruction of property.”
“What about Thanos?”
“What can be done?”
“He was murdered!”
“He isn’t a person. You can’t murder an artificial mind.”
“Why not? Why is this so different?”
“I don’t know, but it just is. I enforce the web laws and this is the law.”
“How isn’t it a crime to just switch off a mind? If I you could switch off my mind and not touch my body, wouldn’t the most important part of me be harmed? Is my being
organic what makes killing my mind warrant a charge of murder, but not his?”

“It isn’t up to me. Look, I can see this… he meant a lot to you. But, all I can do is ask the prosecutor for ‘
aggrevated property destruction’ – that would mean incarceration.” His voice made this sound like an offer.
Ian shook his head in disbelief bordering on pity. “How did you catch him?”
“He sold a stolen computer core and huffcube. Your lab reported them stolen, actually. Didn’t you know?”
“He was arrested last night. He’s in detention right now pending a hearing later today.”
Ian sighed. “Do you need anything else from me?”
“No.” They both stood up. “I’m sorry for you loss. I didn’t realize… I’m sorry.” Chin Liu was embarrassed. “…t
hat he could lose face over a machine being switched off? What a disgrace!” He thought to himself.
“Thanks.” Ian said, still agonizing over Thanos’ murder being treated as a property crime.

Ian left and returned to his apartment. His wife Helen was not home yet from her work. He decided not to contact her. She’d find out soon enough. “
I wish Athena was here.” He thought to himself, but his daughter was in Rose World at the University. “How will I tell her? She loved Thanos.”
He sat there and sobbed.

Roland was sitting on the floor of the 4.27 data center leaning against a compute core, talking to his cracked console. He was in the middle of a complicated maneuver to gang several compute cores together and share access to memory, to simulate a larger compute core. Just then his wrist dot flashed and Tracy’s voice came through, compressed by the dot’s tiny speaker and missing the range of frequencies that were utterly dominated by the cooling system in the data room.
“Roland? Do you know anything about message archive retrieval? S/he asked.
“Yes, sure. Why?”
“Really? I have a question about it… can I ask you?”
“OK. What is it?”
“It’s… how do I delete something from the archive?”
“Well, you can’t. Not really. That’s the whole point of the archive.”
“But, I really want this one message to be… gone. Completely.”
“Why, what’s in it?
“It’s personal. Is there a way to do it?”
“There might be, but it’s dangerous. If I got caught they’d… kick me out of this room.” He looked around and realized how awful that would be.
“Can you show me how to do it?” Tracy asked.
“Maybe… do you know anything about reverse cryptolography?”
“No, but I can learn it.”
“I’m sure you can. When do you need this message deleted?”
“Right away.”
“Then there’s no way you could possibly do it without getting caught. It would take weeks to learn if you already knew a lot about the archives and holographic cryptography.”
“How did you learn it, if you don’t mind me asking?” S/he said in an annoyed voice.
“I… uh… I just did. I fell in love with the archives when I was fifteen… you could find anything there, it seemed: any kind of information. I climbed inside it and when I came out I knew how it worked.”
“How long were you in there?” S/he asked now somewhere between bemused and worried. Hir hero inside was impressed and said “
That was a worthy undertaking.”
“Six months.” My mom thought I had a
girlfriend and I let her believe it.
“So, you learned about this crypto stuff in six months?”
“No, I knew about that part before that. I learned about the archives in six months.”
“So, when did you learn the crypto stuff?”
“The year before. I had to learn it or else I couldn’t be the master of a compute core. That’s how the authentication works.”
“When did you start learning about this stuff?”
“When I was ten.”
“Ten? Weren’t you playing with toys still?” S/he asked.
“Yea. These were my toys.” He replied.
“So, will you help me?” S/he asked. “Please, this is really important to me.”
“OK, come to the data center. We can do it here.” Roland said.
“Thank you! Thank you! I’m on my way!”

Tracy found the data center and knocked on the door. Roland opened it and they went to one of the permanent consoles. He began a long series of maneuvers. S/he watched him utter obscure sounding commands and a few expletives and he navigated his way through the enormous betltweb and created a virtual compute core in Jane’s world’s data center from which to perform the archive surgery.

After what seemed like a twenty minutes to Roland, but was actually over three hours, he turned to Tracy and said “Which message do you want to delete?”
“It’s in my account.” S/he replied.
“Yes, I figured that part out. I’m in your account. Which message?” He asked again.
“You’re in my account?”
“I’m not
you in your account; I’m the archive manager in your account.”
“You can see all my messages?”
“I could if I wanted to.”
S/he scrolled and found the message and pointed to it, “That one.”
“This one? ‘
Reply to Ling Shu: What is going on?’
“OK, it’s gone.”
“Nobody can ever see it? Even their copies of it?”
“They’ll know it’s missing if they go look for it, but they won’t be able to see its content. It will just be random data. I overwrote it with data that has the same checksum, but isn’t your message. So, it won’t trip an archive alert.”
“So, it’s gone for everyone?” S/he asked.
“Yes. But, we have to go.
S/he looked around the data center. “Why?”
“Not here! We’ve got to leave the
archives now.” He began issuing commands to log out, terminate connections and destroy the temporary virtual compute core he’d created on Jane’s world. It took only a dozen minutes to destroy the hours of secure connections and systems he’d aligned for the deletion of the one message from the archive.
“OK. We’re out.” He said with some relief.
“Aren’t you curious?” S/he asked.
“About what?”
“What was in the file?”
“Did you look in the file?”
“No, I didn’t. I just deleted it.”
“Weren’t you tempted?”
“No. That would be against the rules.”
“What rules?”
“My rules, I guess. You would have felt hurt if I looked, right? It would have been an invasion of your privacy. That’s what makes it against the rules.”
“What if I asked you to delete a message from someone else’s account?”
“I just did. But, you were the author.”
“What if I asked you to delete one someone else authored?”
“I probably wouldn’t, unless it was the right thing to do.”
“According to whom? You?”
“Yes. I won’t delegate morality to someone else. It isn’t hard to know what’s right, most of the time. You just have to
want to.”
“Yea. I’m glad you get that, Roland, because what I just saw you do… people shouldn’t probably be able to do that so easily, or...” She stopped.
“Or it would be the law of the jungle out here.”
“Thanks, Roland. Thank you for this.”
Roland looked at hir and wondered about hir gender. Tracy was appealing but was almost stoically non-sexual, perhaps even anti-sexual. This was the first time s/he had talked with Roland about anything other than work or 4.27 or the people there. Roland liked Tracy, but Tracy was as foreign to him as holographic cryptography was to hir.

Tracy leaned over and hugged Roland quickly and then turned around and left. This did nothing to clarify Roland’s understanding of Tracy’s gender.

He left the data center and ate in the mess hall. It was empty except for Roger kicking a soccer ball across the other side of the room. The 1/3 G meant running was an exercise in not jumping. Soccer was a game played by people in slowed-motion, but the ball could still move fast. Roger was playing forward and announcer at the same time, and his play-by-play included the occasional defensive move by a chair or upturned table.

Roland finished eating and Roger dribbled the ball over to the table. “Play a game?” He asked?

“A game? I don’t know how.” Said Roland.
“Yea, but we’re not really playing against each other. We’d just be practicing together, see? It doesn’t matter if you’re any good.”
“You don’t care if I can’t kick it very hard?”
“No, I don’t care. Have you ever tried playing goalie?”
“You defend the goal.”
“So… you’ll be kicking the ball at me?”
“No, I’ll be trying not to kick the ball at you, actually. I’ll be trying to kick it
past you.”
“I think I’d break if that ball hit me… the way you kick it. I just… nah. I don’t want to be on the other side of that.” Roland said.
“People have done it for hundreds of years. You won’t break. You’ll probably love it!”
“I’m not very strong, you know?” He held up his thin arms.
“It won’t matter. You’ll be able to jump quickly - you have less mass. But, you need some soccer shoes. I have a special design I made for soccer shoes. C’mon, lets go print you some.” He nodded toward the printer room.

“You’re not just trying to kill me, right? Because, I don’t need new shoes if you just want me dead, you know?”
“I promise I won’t kill you! Honest! Lets get you some shoes!”

Roger printed Roland a pair of high-tack, indoor soccer shoes. Roland put them on: they fit perfectly.

They returned to the mess hall and Roger explained how the goalie position worked. Then they practiced. At first Roger kicked the ball lightly and it slowly floated toward the goal. Roland got the hang of it and in a while they were both immersed in the game. Roger’s play-by-play was imaginative. At one point he broke another lamp and they fell to the floor laughing.

Roland sat up and looked at Roger. Roger was muscular and strong. “Did you get so big playing this game?”
“Oh, this is just for fun. I work out a lot.” Roger was proud of his physique.
“What do you do?” Roland asked.
“There’s some stationary equipment back there in room 17C.” He pointed. “But, I work out in a rubber suit.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, I was trying to print some waterproof workout clothes and… look, programming isn’t
my thing. But, when it finished printing I had this rubber suit that was too small. I put it on for laughs and it was exhausting to just walk around in it or move. It pulls back on everything you do, see? So. I got the idea to wear it when I work out and do calisthenics.”
“What if you have to pee?”
“It has a fly.”
“You invented a workout suit?”
“No, it was an accident. If I was trying to invent it I never would have been able to.”
“But, you did. You saw what it could be. That’s half of invention, I think.” Roland said.
Roland suddenly changed topics and asked, “Roger, is Tracy a girl? Or a guy?”
“Tracy is… amazing.” Roger said.
“Tracy is smart. Tracy always knows what’s right and you can count on him/her.”
“Well, see, that’s what I’m asking. Do you count on
him or her?”
“Do you care more about knowing which word to use, or that you can count on someone?”
“Well, I don’t mean…” Roland started to say. He stopped because he suddenly realized he didn’t have any idea what to say next.
Roger looked at him and then sighed. “We don’t know. We don’t ask Tracy questions about gender.”
“The four of us, including Edwardo.”
“So, none of you know?”
“Tracy doesn’t want us to; so we don’t.”
“Even Joan?”
“Even Joan.”
“And you?”
“Me? I’m a guy.”
“Um, that’s pretty obvious. No, I meant, do you think Tracy is a guy or a girl?”
“I don’t know. What I think doesn’t matter. Tracy is excellent; that’s what I think about Tracy.”

Roland was worn out after an hour of practice that day. He returned to the data center and resumed his parallel computing assembly. But, he met Roger often for soccer practice; he liked Roger. Roger was honest and easy to understand. Roland felt it took energy to be around most people, but it was easy to spend time with Roger.

Life at 4.27 went on without too much official work. Despite the optimism Edwardo always showed, there was often nothing to do and their roles involved only a few hours of station maintenance each day.

Roland occasionally worked with or saw Joan, but she never wanted to spend much time with him or anyone else. She kept a flight pack in her room and could sometimes be seen flying to or from 4.27.

When he’d cross paths with her at the mess hall he never seemed to be able to talk to her, except to say “Hi”. He wished he had some excuse to talk to her, but every time he tried to start a conversation with her he could barely say anything at all. If she was present he could think about little else beside her. He knew he was trapped in the
Joan Field and the fight not to be there left him empty inside. He knew he could not tell her or talk to her about it without pushing her even further away. He felt stuck when she was around.

After two months of work Roland had managed to create the foundation layers of an artificial mind. He knew he had a lot more work to do before he could even begin to train it verbally instead of with software. He wasn’t even sure whether what he was making would even work.

In the middle of the night Roland left the data center to get some food in the mess hall. He found Joan there. She was wearing loose pajamas and a blanket. She was eating macaroni and cheese and reading a book on her console.

“Hi.” He managed to say before his brain ground to a halt.
“Hi.” She replied. She seemed to be waiting for him to say something.
He turned toward the dispensers and selected chicken soup. It poured into a bowl and he took it back to the table. She watched him the whole time. He ate in silence.
“I didn’t expect anyone to be up.” She said.
“Oh. I was, um. I was working.”
“On what?”
“In the data center.”
“I know where you’ve been working. I’m wondering
what you’re doing in there?”
“I’m writing some software.” He said.
“For two months?” She tilted her head to look out over the tops of her eyes the way her parents always did when they didn’t believe her stories.
“And you’re not done yet?”
“Done? I don’t even know if it will ever work.”
“What is it?”
“I told you. Remember?”
“No. Tell me again?”
“I’m trying to make an artificial mind.”
“Because, well... Because I want to. I always have.”
“Does it do anything yet?”
“Yes, it can talk and it can understand some kinds of things, but not many. It’s not much more than a reptile, really.”
“A reptile that talks? That sounds interesting. Can I see it?”
“Uh… OK, but the only place we can see it is in the data center… I left my console there.”
“Let’s go!” She said and she stood up.
He looked down at his half-finished soup and thought… “
Resist the Joan Field.” He remained sitting to finished his soup. She sat back down and smiled at him.
When he was done he stood and returned his bowl and spoon to the cleaning shelf and walked back to the table. “Now?” He asked.
She looked at him and then got up, pulled her covers around her shoulders and followed him to the data center. She was quiet the whole time and he wasn’t sure what to say. He was thinking about what to show her.

He thumbed himself into the room and she followed him. The room was dimly lit with many glowing compute cores, network nodes, and many curving data, power and cooling conduits. There were dozens of specialized processors of different types.

“Why is all this stuff in here? This place is huge!” She said.
“This will be the main data center for this part of the disc… once people start using this part of the disc. Right now, aside from my work, it’s almost completely idle.” He replied.

“Show me your program?” She asked. It was cooler in the data center than she liked. She pulled the blanket around herself.

He led her over to a permanent console and spoke to it. “Oz, look in my voice interaction set and run my latest interaction model on this console please.” He said to the console.
“Done.” Replied the operations supervisor program.
“Open interactive channel.” Roland commanded. Then he said, “I am Roland.”
“Hello Roland” came a voice from the console.
“Roland, I’ve brought a friend to meet you. Her name is Joan.”
“Define friend?” Replied the voice.
“Two connected systems with fewer security boundaries.” He replied.
Connected?” Thought Joan.
“What does system Joan do?”
“Joan is a human, like me.”
“What does Joan do?”
“She, uh. She can tell you herself.” He replied and smiled at her. “Joan?”
“I do whatever I want.” She said matter-of-factly.
“What do I want?” Said the voice in the console.
“I don’t know, what do you want?” She asked glibly.
The console flashed a green pane and various formatted blocks of information started popping up on the screen. They automatically organized themselves into a few tree structures and elsewhere on the console some development tools popped up.
“What happened?” She asked.
“It crashed.” He said and looked down. “That’s a question I wouldn’t ask it for quite a while.”
“I’m sorry, I had no idea! I didn’t break it, did I?”
“No, of course not. But, you can see its pretty limited right now.”
“Well, it was kinda spif. What do you talk to it about?”
“Mainly we talk about how to build it. We’re kind of like team-mates, in a way.” Roland explained.
“How much of this data center does this use up?” Joan asked.
“Not much at all, here, look.” He said to her, then he tapped his wrist dot and said, “Oz, display on my last console the compute core utilization for the entire 4.27 data center please.”
“Do you really have to say ‘please’? To the program?”
“Why not?”
“Because, it’s just a program. Its feelings won’t get hurt.”
“It hurts me to take them for granted.” Roland said. “I guess I just imagine these machines moving information around for me and… I think of it as work for them.”
The console flashed up a graph and at first Roland just stared at it. “This is not right.” He said.
“Why? What does it mean?” She asked.
“I’m not using all these compute cores! I don’t know what these are doing, but they are really busy! All these…” He pointed to a grid that represented the data center. “These should all be pale green. They’re all orange meaning they’re working hard on something. All of these... That’s over half the data center! I’ve been using less than 1% so far.”
“Wait, you mean someone else is using the data center? At this time of night?”
“Oz, what processes are running in compcore 12B?”
“A collection of privileged processes. They do not respond to queries.” Replied the steady console voice.
“I don’t know who is running software in our core, but it’s huge, whatever it is. And, it’s moving a lot of data.”
“I don’t know what it is either, but its cold in here. I’m going. Sorry I crashed your voice thing. But thanks for showing it to me.” She said kindly. Then she turned and left.

He watched her go and then puzzled over the busy data center, then dove into the developer’s console and worked through the last crash to make his program a little better.

Roland went to bed an hour later.

The next day when he checked the data center the compute cores were all idle again.
“Oz, what happened to all the processes that were here last night? Like in 12B?” He asked, surprised.
“Those processes have relocated themselves.” The console voice replied.
“Relocated? Where?”
“The relocation was encrypted so the destination system cannot be determined.”
“Like hell it can’t!” He said. “Preserve all logs, please. Show me last nights security firewall report on this console, please.”
He flicked through reports and finally found the connection he wanted. “Can you tell me the destination of the highlighted connection?”
“No, the destination information is encrypted.” The program responded.
He thought to himself: “
Never mind the destination. Look at the size of it! That’s the main chunk of whatever was here last night. It would have needed a large-stream conduit connection. Those are separately managed and there’s a data trail there.

“Enter archive mode. Category is large stream connection requests. Find only size over 100 huffcubes. One end of the connection will be from disc four between 2:30am and 11:15am local time. Find all matches.”
One record showed up and it connected to a Public Service station in disc 3. He read more info about the connection and after another half hour of queries he found the previous connection that transferred the data and process group into the 4.27 data center. A few more queries and he discovered that it had been visiting every night for over a month, but only when he was there. It seemed to know his schedule: it would come and go when he was playing soccer with Roger, or sleeping. The correlation was chilling. “
What the hell is it?” He said out loud to the room.
“Request not recognized.” The program responded.
“Cancel.” Roland said.

He looked on a calendar and realized that this transient process group had been consuming resources in the 4.27 data center every night since a week before the night he helped Tracy, so he knew it had nothing to do with his archive hack. But he couldn’t explain it and it worried him.

He found Edwardo on the roof.
“Hi. Hey, um, can I ask you a question?” Roland asked.
Edwardo had a collection of golf balls that would automatically find their way back to his basket, as long as there were no complicated obstructions. He was hitting them out over the nearby, young forest and onto a fairly desolate section of undeveloped floor about two kilometers away. One by one they’d make their way back over the course of the next few hours, so he’d hit a bucket of balls now and again. “Smack!” Despite glowing brightly it diminished quickly and it was a couple minutes before it hit the ground, a tiny glowing speck thousands of meters away. They both watched it until it hit the ground.

“Sure, what’s up?” Edwardo finally said.
“Is anyone else authorized to use the data center here?” Roland asked?
“Nobody else has asked, but if they want to, they can. We can’t really say no to any legitimate use of it. Why?”
“Well… is anyone else using it now, besides me?”
“No. Not that I know of.”
“Do we take work from other Public Service stations?”
“We would if they’d give it to us, but they don’t like to. They hang onto it all.”
“They don’t want to use our data center?” Roland asked?
“No, they want to use
their data center. Ours just sits here. I’m kind of glad you’ve been getting some use out of it, actually.” Edwardo said and smiled.
“I’m not the only one.” Roland said with a worried look.
“I’m not the only one using our data center. It was over fifty percent utilization last night when I went in there around 2am. This morning: I’m the only one using it again. But, I
saw it. Someone is using it for something intense.”
“Maybe a maintenance cycle or something?” Edwardo asked?
“Impossible. No maintenance cycle would use anywhere near that much. It was an enormous multicore process group that has been transporting itself into our data center every night for five weeks.”
“And you didn’t mention it before now?” Edwardo asked, surprised.
“I only just found out. I figured it out based on large stream connection logs and some logic. Once I knew what to look for, it didn’t matter if it was encrypted, it was easy to track.”
“What is it?” Edwardo asked.
“I have no idea. That’s why I was asking if you knew who might be using our data center that way.”
“I don’t know, but it’s a public system. Someone else is obviously using it. I’m sure its legitimate. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”
avoiding me. I think I wasn’t supposed to notice it was there last night.”
“I think you should spend some more time
outside the data center, Roland. Want to try hitting some golf balls?” He asked and held out a club.
Roland hadn’t considered that maybe the compute core work was legitimate. But, the timing just couldn’t be ignored. It didn’t feel right to him, but he couldn’t imagine how to convince Edwardo.

“Sure, I’ll try it.” Said Roland and took the club. It took excellent form to swing a club in the low spingravity of Rose world. Roland had no idea how to swing the club but he managed to skim the ball slightly. It fell off its rubber tee and rolled about a foot in front of him. Then it seemed to fold inside out and turn into a small mechanical beetle. It spread its wings and flew back to the edge of the bucket, where it perched for a moment, folded itself back into a ball and at the last moment fell into the bucket.
“Well, this has been fun.” Roland said seizing on the moment as an excuse to leave. He handed the club back to Edwardo. “Thanks.” Roland said and left.

A week later Edwardo sent a message to the four of them. It was about a new maintenance job the following day:
“There’s been a recurring signal drop on one of the routers on the network platform near us. I need the team to investigate. I think we only need a team of two on this one. Joan and Roland please take the excursion cart tomorrow and bring tools for a network diagnostic session.”
- Edwardo

Only two weeks left.” Joan thought to herself. “This will be easy.”

The next day Roland showed up at the excursion cart at 10am, the traditional project start time at 4.27. Joan was there, already wearing her flight pack. “Hi. Ready?” She asked.
“Yes.” He said.
“We flying or riding?” She asked?
He looked at her flight pack. “Flying.” He said.

He looked over at the wall, about four kilometers away and saw the small platform. It was barely large enough to be seen. He thumbed his control and accelerated toward it. She was next to him a few moments later and the churning wind inside the disc buffeted them randomly and they occasionally bumped into one another. They talked as they flew, but the wind noise meant they had to raise their voices to be heard.

“You’re almost done at 4.27?” He asked.
“Two weeks!” She said.
“Are you happy you can leave soon?” He asked.
“Yes! I can’t wait!”
“What will you do?”
“I don’t know. I think I want to go to Jane’s world.” She said.
“I hear that’s where artists go.”
“Did you just say, ‘That’s where the parties are?’” She asked.
“That’s where the
ARTISTS GO!” He yelled.
Artists.” She mouthed.
They flew in silence for a while and then the platform was near. They slowed and maneuvered onto it.
They got to work and traced the connections from device to device to see if there was any physical damage. After about twenty minutes of checking devices and connections they walked past a large power pack to where the master multiplex processor was located.
“What’s that?” Asked Roland, pointing to what appeared to be little more than a redundant connector for one of the massive data conduits.
“I don’t know. But, that’s not why we’re here.” She said.
“It’s not supposed to be there.” He insisted.
“Why not?”
“What’s it do?” He asked.
“I don’t know. It looks like you need that there so that cable can plug into it.” She said.”
“That cable would fit there without it. It isn’t supposed to be there.” He said. “
It’s a tap.”
“Someone’s reading the data on that connection?” She asked.
“From right there they’d have access to all connections running through the multiplexer.”
“Yea, but they’re encrypted, right?” So, who cares?
“They’re only as encrypted as the endpoints, and most people transmit clear data.”
She looked around. “This is a primary node. You’d have access to… a lot of data. Practically the whole Belt Web. Certainly all of Rose World’s network traffic, at least.” She said.
“Yes. What should we do?” He asked.
She blinked. “I don’t know. Are you sure we should even care about this?”
“Yes. It shouldn’t be there. It’s a violation of people’s privacy, of everyone’s privacy. It’s against the rules.” He said.
“So, what do you think we should do about it?”
“I guess we should tell Edwardo, but…”
“But what?”
“I told him yesterday about that night we saw the high utilization in the data center and he ignored me. He won’t care.”
“And we should?” She asked.
“I do. You can do whatever you want.” He said.
“What are you going to do then? Remove it?”
“No. I’m going to find out who put it there, and why, if possible.”
She looked at him. “
Sounds like a puzzle. I wonder if it can be done in less than two weeks? She thought to herself.
“I’ll help you.” She said suddenly.
“Yes. Now you’ve got
me curious. I’m still leaving in a couple of weeks though, whether we’ve figured it out or not.”
“I’m glad to have your help.” He said and smiled.
“What’s first?”
“I don’t know. Lets finish our job here first.”
They completed the diagnostics sweep and found a loose connector on different data pipe. “Looks like it just wasn’t secured. This little latch is supposed to hold it in place.” Joan said.
“I wonder if it happened at the same time?” Roland asked.
“You mean, at the same time the mystery connector was installed?”
They used a platform console to query the connection quality data and determined that the connector had been installed a week ago, at around 2am local time.
“If they hadn’t have kicked this cable nobody would ever know.” Joan said.
“Let’s trace the hardware.” Roland said.
They found the serial number and manufacturing mark on the connector and used a console to find out more. They were able to determine that it had been manufactured on the Luna Linda only six months earlier. Luna Linda was home to more than a few small electronics manufacturing companies. The two learned all they could and then they left the platform and flew back slowly toward 4.21.

“Luna Linda? That’s not exactly a center of excellence for technology. Isn’t it basically a spinning apartment complex?” Joan asked.
“A really big one. But, there’s some tech companies there.” Roland said.
The ground moved slowly under them as they floated out over the floor of the disc. It was breathtaking even though to these two born-in-space bona fide members of Generation One, this was an entirely normal way to waste some time.

“What’s it doing out here?” Roland asked. “Don’t they make all these parts here in Rose world?”
“Yes, they do.” She replied. “There’s a bunch of big electronics printing facilities in disc one and a few more in disc 2. My parents sometimes dragged me along to visit them. All the stuff in your data center and everything on that platform was probably made here in Rose World.” She said.
“Except for that connector, which came from Luna Linda.” He said. “Do you still think it belongs there?” He asked her.
“No. Definitely not.” She said.

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