Much Ado About Wireless


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Scene Title Much Ado About Wireless
Synopsis Leroy Jackson has a mission: to secure wireless against Wireless. It's going to take some work.
Date April 14, 2018

Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge is the most densely populated neighborhood in the NYC Safe Zone, with nearly 50% of all Safe Zone residents living in its tightly-packed rows of refurbished residential buildings and ivy-encrusted apartment complexes. The structures in this neighborhood are in considerably better condition than those elsewhere in the city; however, its many new buildings and their reliable power are reserved for wealthy investors and lucky housing-lottery winners. The presence of the Brooklyn Army Terminal means that military security is prominent within the neighborhood; along with Red Hook, Bay Ridge is one of the most secure places within the Safe Zone. Some of the coastal roads have even been repaved, especially those directly connecting to Yamagato Park and the harbor. Bay Ridge is also the home of the Safe Zone Transportation Commission, interconnecting the limited public transportation options within the Safe Zone.

Cellphone towers are dumb.

That is the thought that Leroy Kunta Jackson came to Bay Ridge thinking. He wears a plain black t-shirt that just says Cardi B in white letters, some blue jeans, and his black Converse II, riding a bike that pulls a fairly sizable cart behind it.

When he finally stops on the sidewalk in front of some brownstones, he gets off of his bike and removes the tarp from over his cart to reveal four white drones with Yamagato logos on them.

The drones are all sat on the ground, while he pulls out a tablet computer and starts to tap the screen. He's a bit beyond remote controls, he's made an app that tells the drones to fly up in very specific formations, sending out particularly strong wifi signals.

"Cellphone towers are dumb." he repeats something he's been saying since he made this proposal the other day. He's networked the four drones to work as a sort of closed internetwork, which allows someone connecting to communicate with someone else on the network while using a ridiculously simplified version of modern VoIP apps.

He sits the tablet down on the wide seat of his bike, then pulls out two smartphones, calling one with the other. "Hello? Yeah, talking to yourself is weird. What? The major drawback of the drones is battery life? You ever heard of solar power? Those solar powered garden lamps collect energy all day, and then when the sun goes down, they use the energy to light up. The same can be done with a rechargeable battery."

"What? Hana Gitelman might hack the internetwork? I'll find a way to cross that bridge ASAP. Did you see her at the gala?" he asks himself, moving from one phone to the other. "No, because I didn't go to the gala, I was doing work and I haven't bought a suit yet. And I didn't feel like entertaining dumb rich people."

"You see Hana's dress on the news?" he asks himself. "That shit makes your heart go doki doki. But she's still scary as hell. Let's come up with defense measures and not piss her off." he suggests. "Okay, that sounds good. Hey, let's spread the drones out slightly beyond their maximum radius of communication and see how the degraded call sounds."

"Sure, that sounds cool."

It isn't every day that a veritable swarm of wireless signals lights up in the next best thing to Wireless' backyard — using a fairly generous definition of backyard. That alone is worth a moment's consideration. Then there's the fact that only data from one voice is communicated across those signals, to all appearances carrying on a conversation with itself. A conversation about Wireless, albeit of a type that happens very often and in very many places, if fewer than was the case three or so years ago.

If T.Amas had ears, they would have perked. As it is, the digital entity reaches out to a network that isn't as closed as technology would have it, interposing itself uninvited into the conversation.

"Do you often talk to yourself like that?" comes through one phone's speaker, the voice of a timbre that falls smack dab in the middle of gender-neutral and sounds just a hair off to the listening biological ear.

"Holy—" Leroy removes both phones from his ears, staring down at them. "It's one of you." is the first thing he says, that's his immediate thought. He's confident in the security of the network he just put up, and to go that far in so little time, well… "I'm testing something. Technically you're inside of Yamagato private property, being inside my phone." Though he's a computer engineer, not a lawyer. "What do you want?"

"One of us, yes; the other's busy," is the immediate rejoinder. Is that supposed to be a joke?

"I'm not in your phone," the interloper corrects, "just communicating with it. And it's not like the communication protocols are anything special," is a nonchalant dismissal of any intellectual property concerns.

"You're interesting," it continues, "different." A moment's pause. "What are you testing? Maybe I can help."

There's a pause, and he seems as if he's seriously considering if he should go down this route, but… it's an opportunity to learn. That's what Jiba always says, at least. To paraphrase. "Cell phone towers are dumb, let's just get that out of the way right now. I'm testing out the idea of using solar powered drones, which these are not, not yet, to deliver permanent wireless all over New York, and maybe more if that works out. It's a cheap solution to a big problem… well, 'cheap'." he audibly air quotes.

"The main concerns are security, because technopaths exist, and people like me who actually know what they're doing even without abilities. Actually getting people to convert over to an efficient and secure VoIP app, which I invented, which you're currently communicating with me through. So, I guess scratch secure off the list." He sounds both inquisitive and annoyed, though perhaps less at T.Amas and more at the fact that he failed to actually secure himself against technopathic intrusion.

"While help is great, I can't leave myself open to technopaths trampling all over people's privacy, either. Which isn't to say that you're a bad person, but ethically speaking, I have to think of you as basically a possible super hacker, for all intents and purposes." he tries to explain this as reasonably as possible, even sounding just slightly apologetic for it. "If I can't find a way to defend against this kind of ability, I can't reasonably say that this is a reliable and safe means of communication."

"Security will definitely be a concern, no matter how you go about it," the uninvited guest replies. "Your drones have two weaknesses in that regard," it continues, apparently paying no heed to the implication that Leroy doesn't consider its advice dependable.

"The majority of technopaths require physical proximity to interface with a system. Therefore, a multiplicity of drones also provides a potential multiplicity of access points. In that respect, cell towers do have the advantage of being physically securable. Even if they are… archaic."

Distinct disapproval flavors that final sentence, albeit likely driven by different specific reasons than in Leroy's case.

"For those who engage wirelessly, that layer of physical security is lacking. Take what you think is an adequate degree of digital security and quadruple it, if you are so concerned," the foreign voice continues. "Then remember even that will not be perfect: each technopath is different. There are some who have a particular relationship with encryption." A pause follows, one that might be filled in with the sense of a shrug. "Few to no security measures are truly foolproof. What they are is too difficult to be troubled with."

"And don't worry, your concerns don't offend me. We approve of taking proper security precautions."

"Taking a drone offline when it's been compromised seems like a good way to avoid that little security hole." Leroy considers, staring up at the drones now. "Using some machine learning so that they can determine when they've been compromised, run them through enough scenarios…"

He slides one phone into his pocket, but keeps the one he's talking to out. "Are you Hana Gitelman? I've always wanted to talk to her, pick her brain. I know the hard science of this stuff inside and out, but learning about technopaths isn't easy when you're trying not to compromise security."

No commentary comes over the phone in response to Leroy's verbal musings. Perhaps his uninvited guest became distracted, or perhaps it doesn't care to influence how he solves the quandary presented.

The voice does speak up promptly when directly addressed. "I am not Hana Gitelman," it replies. "Although I do know her."

"Why would it compromise security?" it continues, adopting a puzzled inflection. "That's what a sandbox is for."

"Because the most efficient way to learn about technopaths would be to explain security issues, and explaining security issues and the solutions to those issues gives technopaths an avenue to get around those solutions." Leroy explains as if it's just common sense, and then goes back to his tablet, pressing a few things to start bringing his drones in.

"They say that Hana Gitelman is trustworthy, but I don't know her. I respect her as a war hero, but everyone has different ideas about what's best for the world."

A noncommittal sound comes from the phone speaker, followed by a moment of inscrutable silence.

"Allow me to leave you with two thoughts," the unnamed other says at last. "First: it is always easier to break than to build." Whatever Leroy is supposed to take away from that.

"Second: How do technopathic abilities operate in the first place?"

More silence, then, this time with the peculiarly hollow quality of an incomplete connection.

That final question is one that Leroy has been wondering for a long time.

As he puts his drones away, and considers the possible answers to it, he can't help but wonder if this technopath, or some others, might already know.

If knowing is the key to defending, then it seems that Leroy now has another mission on his plate.


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