Digiphage III – Happy Cat

AJ: Unsurprisingly, I wrote this when I was staying in a hotel. This one I’m particularly pleased with.


 

It’s a quiet night.

I can see the flicker of distant lightning from the chinese tropics, roiling black clouds in the dusk, giving the sky the colour of dark static. There is only the steady quiet continuous breath in the background of the aircon to disturb the zen of the moment as I look out on the neon chipped skyline of casinos looming above the slums.

Macau. A calm moment before a storm, when the grass and leaves rustle in the unknowing breeze of armies pretending that the other doesn’t even exist.

But then, there’s not going to be a battle, more a small fracas.

Ten hours ago, the plane came down with a lurch, and I felt my fingers flex with involuntary anxiety. Long hauls really aren’t my style. I could see the distant neon of the city in the distance, through the windows across the aisle, and through my own window, the china seas a few scant metres away before the plane turned towards the terminal.

Always travel light when you go international. Don’t pack anything you couldn’t bear to be without, and don’t pack anything which customs would look twice at, like a high end laptop, or the latest shiny from the mac brigade. Pack a low end junker, and the cheapest pay-as-you-go you can find, or rather, what looks like the cheapest pay-as-you-go you can find. There’s plenty of semi-smart phones that can carry digital payloads which could take out whatever bureaucratic nightmare that NORAD became after they stripped Cheyenne Mountain to the bedrock. Hell, I could cut a gram of bolivian marching dust with enough storage to carry human history several times over. Make it look interesting, but not too interesting. Make it look dull, mundane, boring, but reasonably expensive, the shiny toy of a reasonably wealthy idiot. Carry a copy of the New York times too, maybe the FT too. Slide down the middle between the gamblers and the conference attendees, blend in and be no-one.

A sikh taxi driver with what I am convinced is an eastern european accent picks me up, and I get it over to him as simply as possible that I need a cheap electronics shop, so I can pick up a video camera. Instead of the quick route over to the northern island, we take the long way round, and come in through the suburbs, apartments, the real city, and not the tourist sector. The kind of wall to wall combined electronics shop that I’ll end up in should have enough basic kit for my purposes, and behold, he drops me and keeps the motor running in front of a store the width of his taxi, with so much random neon signage that I have to consider very carefully where the fuck the door is.

I’m back in the taxi in exactly seven minutes. The only thing I hadn’t initially planned on buying which the guy behind the till (another sikh, I have to wonder if i’ve not accidentally landed a few significant degrees longitude off) managed to convince me I needed; a smiling, waving gold lucky cat. Significant only because of the wideband jammer built in, transmitting the sound of snow from its tiny recursive paw.

***

I stare at it’s little smiling face as I lie on the hotel bed, enjoying the silence as it stares back at me, wishing me luck. I try and wonder what it must have been like, over the centuries, looking out over the waters, with only the lapping of the waves, and the wind, knowing that for hundreds of miles there wasn’t a living soul, only a slow, quiet monotony of simple people leading simple existences. Primitive governments and civilisations. I try and blot out the mental image of lying in a bed twenty stories above a brightly lit street, a dot in a endless sea of electromagnetic shimmer, data going this way and that in a cloud so thick you could cut it with a blade, knowing that only just over the horizon are a multitude of complex webworks of companies, governments, hackers, helpless addicts to an ever changing flux of news, finance, feelings and opinions, blurring into an analog of life, but never quite reproducing it.

I dream of desert islands on a newly formed earth, white sands and palm trees.

***

“I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.” – Revelations 19:11

Dawn, and i’m walking along a deserted beach, looking from an island standing for the extreme end of capitalist decadence, across a narrow stretch of water into a land of control and containment. The water represents both an ideological and technical wall; a legion of electronic sentinels protecting its borders. I take a moment to light a cigarette, carefully and calmly. There isn’t too much garbage along the tideline, but enough to gently lay a foil lined cardboard snack container on the sand, pointed roughly toward the opposing shore. Carefully taped inside the tube at the bottom, one of the cheap smartphones I bought the day before, with a small signal amplifier soldered to it’s guts, and a crude homebrew server loaded into the tiny memory. Enough to run a quiet dead letter drop just as far as the softly crashing waves a mile away. Just as crudely, the functional guts of a military magnesium flare, a few grains of cordite, a nine volt battery and whats left of a childs first wristwatch, with an alarm for a few hours hence.

And thus, I throw the digital equivalent of a tactical nuclear weapon over the garden fence.

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