My implant requested that it be allowed to present my identification as a Xiniti representative. I gave it my approval and added that I’d need to keep a connection to the ship’s AI as it was my assistant. Cassie must have had the same conversation because the door opened and we were both allowed to enter. A small glowing representation of the ship followed me just as a representation of the gun floated on her hip.
As we floated through the door, Cassie glanced over at me. “For a second I thought it wouldn’t let the gun in. Abominator tech sets off alarms for these peo… Uh… things.”
I didn’t reply as I was looking at the room we’d stepped into.
It wasn’t really a room, of course. It was actually a representation generated by my implant to help me feel comfortable.
If it was supposed to help me feel comfortable though, I wasn’t sure how well my implant was interfacing with my brain because this place was at best weird. I can only assume that my brain contains more Steampunk than I remember reading because the room was somebody’s Steampunk dream.
We stood in front of a wooden counter. On top of the counter was an unidentifiable brass machine that looked like a combination of a cash register and a typewriter. It had a flat, glass surrounded area at the top where letters and numbers appeared. For example, at that moment, the letters said, “WELCOME.” While the side that faced us was flat, the keys from a typewriter filled the other side.
No one stood there to press them, though.
Behind the counter, several bins lay on the floor, all of them filled with envelopes. New envelopes poured out of one glass tube. Another glass tube pulled them in with brass gears, flashing each envelope with a light before letting the wind in the tube pull it away, turning it into a small white blur that shot down the tube to the outside.
Leaning toward Cassie, I asked, “Are you seeing some kind of steampunk post office, too?”
She looked around, staring at the brass machine on the counter for a little while before saying, “If that’s what all the old timey tubes and gears mean, then yes.”
Well, at least we were seeing the same thing. That would make communicating easier.
I stepped closer to the counter. “Cool. That’ll be less confusing.”
Cassie stepped in front of the machine and said, “I guess. So, what’s your plan?”
“I’m working on that.” I checked the brass machine. It still said “WELCOME.”
What did I know? I knew that local admin accounts were hidden from the operating system running the ansible, that no local admins’ accounts but the default one had their actions logged, and that there was unexplained bandwidth usage before and after Jadzen Akri’s trips into Human Ascendancy space. Plus, I knew that Rinson, their ansible tech, had created the modifications to allow this and then conveniently died—becoming tiger/terrier food.
Finally, whatever I did, it couldn’t turn off the hidden accounts or the lack of logging or I risked exposing the colony’s existence and location to everyone using the ansible network.
Whoever the mole was had either manipulated or forced Rinson to create an account and then arranged for a force shield malfunction. While that wasn’t a good thing, it did have one good side effect—it meant that the mole probably wasn’t technically competent too.
That meant they might not be thinking about all the possible reporting options an ansible had—which meant that rather than use the ansible personally at a different time than their admin account, they might use one after the other, assuming that the admin account was hidden and nothing it did would be logged.
Not sure what to talk to, I decided to address the device on the counter. “I’d like a log of all the communications made before, after, or during the periods where there is unaccounted bandwidth use, starting three days ago. This should include accounts of those communicating.”
Cassie leaned in. “And I’d like a list of any calls made to the Human Ascendancy along with times during that period. Send it to his AI.”
The counter device made a clunking noise and the word “WELCOME” was replaced by “SEARCHING.”
I thought about it. It was a good idea. I came up with a few variations on the idea which basically amounted to the same search before the trip and also a search based on unaccounted bandwidth use in general, even outside of the periods when Iolan noticed it.
It seamed like a good start anyhow. It would probably take us hours to go through it or, alternately, seconds for HAL to go through it.
Then the counter device made a series of clunking noises and the word “DELIVERED” appeared. Hal confirmed that he’d received the data.
With that, we left, coming back to our senses in the cockpit of the ship, and realizing as I did, that someone’s was knocking on the ship’s door.
I looked out the window to see Maru, Jadzen’s assistant. He was alone, so it probably wasn’t an emergency. Clicking on the door release, I decided to find out what he wanted.