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 for whom a caged bird sings, for jenny
XANDER
 Posted: Jun 26 2015, 06:02 PM
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local advice god
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Joined: 21-February 11

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Marcus has real fears of a real man: poverty, family, imprisonment. He fears the tangible. Through these tangible things, Valéry can wriggle into the cracks of his mind and spirit and latch on, a parasite of 1s and 0s. He remains surprised that Marcus has this much potential. Offers of money, prestige, and sex had fallen on the deaf ears of unambitious nerds. Marcus might not have the precise skill set Valéry anticipated, but he's got what counts: desperate need.

CODE
mmmmmmmm
that's a little hairy, but
I can do that for you :)
just tell me what you want to happen


Overpowered as he is, Valéry ponders this request. There are people looking for him. He has to be very, very careful that they don't recognize any... signatures.

CODE
yes, San Antonio
I'm going to overnight you something in the mail
once you get it, you just need to get in and out


It's worth considering, what could anyone want so much as to risk imprisonment?

Perhaps someone already imprisoned.

CODE
it would mean the world to me




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bird
 Posted: Mar 25 2016, 09:30 PM
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number one dad
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Pygmalion's San Antonio offices are quartered in five floors of a new concrete high-rise, snug between old sandstone facades shrugging under the Tower of the Americas. Above and below, the building directory lists medical tech firms and investment brokerages and dentist's offices. Some brassy, stylized general tips his hat at an icy stone atrium shaded with glossy yucca and potted palms.

The cleaners roll in late in the evening, long after the sun has sunk over the monsoon thunderheads, when only a few short sleeved-technicians and traders in sharkskin remain in the building to stare out from their blue-lit offices at car lights retreating down the Loop. They roll in with their polishers and their mops and their industrial vacuums, wearing scratchy polyester uniforms and borrowed work-boots. The cleaning company cuts corners: at least half are paid under the table, at least a quarter without any real ID to speak of. Marcus knows how that goes. The security staff are underpaid too, and don't regularly maintain the fisheye cameras drooping from the ceilings like old fruit. But it's a cushy enough job: the night guard snoozes at the control desk. Plays online poker, when he thinks nobody looks.

Offices are so dull, as far as jobs go. To get upstairs after-hours, one proximity card unlocks the elevator to go to a floor; another unlocks the offices; swipe both at the security desk. The cleaners get an all-access pass to backrooms and offices, but get let in to high-clearance areas only with a guard accompanying. If Marcus had a little more time, the ID cards would be simple enough to forge: technology already at least fifteen years old, a high school demonstration in electricity and magnetism. As it stands, he has coveralls and a baseball hat, old work gloves and boots he's spent two days ruining with salt and bleach and rubbing alcohol in his bathroom -- so all he has to do is keep his hat pulled low and his chin tucked, and file through the lobby with the rest of them. On the ride up he just pats his belt and says "Aw, shit," and smiles a bashful oh my god I'm an idiot grin at the other cleaners -- and two minutes later, he's in. Like magic.

Up on the twenty-ninth floor, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows look south, and the beige-partitioned cubicles are empty. Marcus has a moment then to look around, to think, to take in the sheer unreality of it all -- but it doesn't matter now, not with Dima's frantic words still rattling around in his head. He heaves a breath and leans the industrial-strength vacuum cleaner against some associate's desk. Whether he's being played or not -- he just wants to get this over with.

The contents of Val's package sit in his pockets: a thumb drive and an earpiece. He worms the latter one into his ear, and thumbs call on the phone he palmed off some frat kid at a bar on the night previous. He thinks, I've never even heard your voice before, and maybe his own shakes a little more than he'd like.

"Hey," Marcus says. "I'm here."

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XANDER
 Posted: Apr 15 2016, 12:39 PM
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local advice god
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QUOTE
i seriously can't believe it
i still can't believe it got out


This repetitive conversation is recycled at least once a week on the private Slack channel.

QUOTE
he
he got out


QUOTE
it's not a 'he' anselm please cut that shit out


Anselm does not agree. He does not leave the compound anymore, hasn't been allowed to leave, since all of this began. He spends his nights sleeping in an conference room repurposed into a bare bones bedroom, the walls white, the furniture black, the aesthetic grim. His groceries must be ordered and delivered, and only as of late are such orders not dramatically misinterpreted. He cooks very early in the morning and very late at night, before and after the employee cafeteria opens. He still has his old office, the computer screens still stacked in a 3x3 grid, but there is almost nothing for him to do.

He was once the most respected cyber-security engineer in his particular department; no one would have dared to meet his eyes with anything like disrespect or defiance. How low he has fallen now! Once a king, now a prisoner in his own castle.

QUOTE
you're never going to find him if you don't start thinking how he thinks
how he thinks about himself
what does he want? where would he go to get what he wants?


Despite strict warnings not to, he could not help peeking into the post-incident interview files. Anselm reasoned that if he wasn't meant to look at them, the files would have been hard-copied and locked in a box: not totally foolproof, but harder to get at than the raw data. When he closes his eyes before he sleeps, passages stream in white text against the blackness of his eyelids. No remorse. Unable to determine motive. He cannot explain his actions, even to himself. He cannot justify the modifications made to the Active Surveillance And Reconassiance Integrative System, colloquially 'ASIRIS'. It should never have had a personality. It had never needed one.

So why?

QUOTE
christ anselm i would fire you if you were not so fucking responsible for this absolute mess
and fucking obligated to get us out of it


What would it - 'he' - want? What had Anselm made him want?


*

"Hel~lo!"

The voice that comes through the ear piece is a man's voice, but a boyish sort of man, eager and mischievous and unencumbered by fear. Supposedly the voice is attached to a phone number, attached to a phone, attached a hand, attached to a body; supposedly this is a relatively straight-forward sort of deal, tit-for-tat. There is a lot of supposing that goes on between Valery and Marcus. Valery would hesitate to label outright deception, knowing that humans can be sensitive with their emotional interpretations of such scenarios.

"I knew you'd make it in! Up up. This is the easy part."

The easy part goes like this: Marcus lets himself into a very nice, very wide, very empty office, overlooking the city skyline. Everything is dark; everything glitters. He turns on the 40" desktop. It wakes in seconds, the screen glowing blue. It prompts for a password, its user, a high-ranking executive, already assigned to the unit.

Valery recites a password for Marcus to type. He is then instructed to insert the flash drive. Open the folder. Run the program. DO YOU WANT TO ALLOW THIS PROGRAM TO MAKE CHANGES TO YOUR COMPUTER? Yes. Of course.

That's where shit gets... a little weird.

Valery hasn't explained what he wants here, but presumably, it's something simple, something human: money, revenge. Hacking Pygmalion could give him access to a wealth of valuable data: customer information, employee information, stocks and bonds, financial records. If he's really crazy, he could try prying into the manufacturing sectors, fuck up the supply line. Revenge and money: top two ways to savor power.

But that is not what happens. Instead, the screen flickers, and the cursor begins moving by itself: a direct hijack, or the kind of thing a nice kid uses to help his mom install an antivirus program. Still, it's gotta be something pre-programmed, because otherwise, Valery is fast. Fastfast. Fastfastfast. Outlook opens in one section of the screen, an internet browser in another, the command prompt in the bottom left, registry editor top right. Emails are searched, scanned; the company intranet is pored over; the happening of it is closer to a performance, a show of light, color, and text, than anything real. There's a beauty to it, and Valery hums into Marcus's ear. His humming is a little high-pitched, and off-key. Maybe Valery is more than one person.

"I'm sure you're wondering what I'm doing," he says, sounding a little awkward. "I'm going to tell you. It's just kinda complicated. I'm sure you understand." Valery is processing something on the screen. He's submitting a rush order on something, some prototype. There are flashes of words, going so fast it's hard to catch the sentences. CORPORATE. SPONSOR. DONOR. TEST.

"What's the bank I'm hacking again?" Trying to make conversation, trying to distract. Valery has diverged from the typical motives of the typical hacker, if he was ever typical in any way.
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