Just Another Day at the Office
By: Brian W. Antoine
July 29, 2011
It was going to be several months yet before the Tipkatz had the Sunbeam 5 repaired and ready for our first exploration flight. While I’d thought being retired was going to give me a chance to actually relax for a change, and it had, I’d also found myself actually bored a time or two. Bored, yeah, having gone from fighting interstellar wars, to sitting on the deck of our mountain home, trying to teach myself how to sketch the mountains around us. I’d finally given up one day and used the WorldGate network to return to Earth, and the company offices we’d setup in Geneva.
That had certainly cured the boredom.
The first weeks after we’d published the existence of the interconnect between the World Wide Web and the Velan Central Library, we'd seen an average of one attack against our network a minute. Most has been compromised residential or business computers all over the world, but there were more than a few attacks from various governments as well. As per the security guidelines we’d published right from the beginning, we’d responded to each attack, usually while it was occurring.
More than one industry magazine made note of the increase in sales for new computers and the reduction of spam and other computer intrusions. None of them though connected those trends to the fact that we were converting so many compromised computers into scrap as they got used in attacking us.
It wasn’t just computers either, the networks they were connected to were also blocked from accessing the Velan Interconnect, and that did get public attention. It also launched a slowly increasing number of calls from ISP’s all over the world, all of who demanded to know why their customers were unable to access us. Most didn’t like being held accountable for the actions of the people they sold access to, even fewer liked the fact they weren’t in the position of being able to dictate our policy. To be sure, a few tried, usually arguing that we couldn’t possible block them, they had million customers, and that somehow entitled them to make demands of us.
Our reply was always the same. "Your business model and business practices are yours to define. Ours are published on our website, as are the standards required for any network that wishes access to the Velan Interconnect. Have a nice day."
The whole thing had come to a head when one of the major US ISP’s that happened to provide service to a large percentage of Colleges and Research Organizations, decided to lie to us about having instituted stronger security measures. We’d unblocked a few segments of their network, the attacks had resumed, per our guidelines we’d then banned their entire network. Their support organization had melted down from the number of calls, then they’d began loosing customers who switched to ISP’s who hadn’t been caught lying to us.
They’d filed a lawsuit within 24 hours, which instantly made the banning of their network, permanent. When that fact had finally rippled all up and down their chain of command, they’d withdrawn the lawsuit, but it was too late. I’d personally gotten involved at that point and told their CEO how screwed they were. The last I’d checked, they’d dropped two places in the ranking of global ISP’s and were having problems getting government contracts, all because they couldn’t provide access to us.
And on the topic of lawsuits, they occurred only slightly less often than network attacks. Your computer crashes, sue Nas Kan. You can’t make an international phone call because all the geosync satellites are gone, sue Nas Kan. You weren’t able to write a news article or photograph us because we called bullshit on your argument about you having a right to intrude on our privacy, sue Nas Kan. It was becoming a new global game almost, as far as I could tell.
Anybody suing Kalindra or the family, got told that the person they needed to serve was 1200 lightyears "that direction". Anybody suing me got asked which venue they were suing me in, because only one country on Earth had jurisdiction, and that was under review because I’d been informed that there was an attempt to revoke my US Citizenship being circulated in Congress. I’d sort of known this kind of crap could happen, but being the target of a legal system being used strictly to harass and distract me, really pissed me off more than once.
Stepping into my office this morning, I’d checked the scoreboard in the hallway. Somebody had started keeping track of how many lawsuits had been filed against me, which country they’d been filed from, and how many of these countries had issued arrest warrants for me because I’d ignored the lawsuit. The count was getting impressive for some countries, especially the US, and I occasionally wondered just how much longer I’d find myself thinking of Earth as my home, when the whole damn planet seemed to want to be rid of me.
It wasn’t just me they wanted gone though, it was Jean and every other Mage, though because I was the public target, most of the existing Terran Mages were still anonymous. That bit of good luck was one of the reasons why Jean was actually cutting me some slack now. With me taking the heat, she had the chance to obscure the trail to everybody else. Sure, she was known, but she still had more breathing room than I did with our race, because she wasn’t the one seen in public, standing next to an alien, calling her his wife.
Not everything going on was bad though, and as I sat down at my desk, there was a stack of paperwork waiting for me. Letters from people all over the world who wanted to thank me, the Velans, and everybody else that had fought the Meenzai. I made it a point to respond to every one of them.
"Boss, I sorted through your messages and queued them to your terminal. There were only five that appeared important enough that you might want to look them over."
I looked up from the letter I was reading and nodded to my secretary. "Thanks. Any word from 931 by chance?"
"Nope, nothing yet."
I mumbled under my breath for a moment, but then went back to reading the letter. I’d gotten a message from 931 a week ago where he told me that the Tipkatz crews who were clearing the debris from Earth orbit had been contacted by a small craft. The pilot had tried to get them to look the other way while he collected some advanced tech from one of the wrecked Meenzai ships they were dealing with. They’d refused and then told the pilot he had 60 seconds to clear the area before then began cutting up the wreck with plasma beams. Because they’d been working through a translator, they hadn’t known what Earth language the pilot was speaking, though 931 thought the translator might still have the conversation stored in raw form if they could locate it.
I had my suspicions, but I was hoping 931 would provide actual proof, because that kind of nonsense would get the country in question banned from access to Tycho Base and the Trade Embassies that were slowly springing up there.
By the time I had worked through all the letters, and dictated replies, it was well past lunch time according to my stomach so I ordered up something from the company cafeteria. Sandwich in hand, I started going through the messages waiting for me on my terminal. Only one of them was something I needed to respond to, it was from the Swiss. They were concerned about the presence of the company, the aliens that worked for it, and me, in their country. We’d had this conversation more than once, I wanted them to recognize our location as the Velan Embassy, they couldn’t quite bring themselves to officially recognize Velar’s existence, or Kalindra as the Velan Ambassador. The message made it clear that yet another round of soothing ruffled feathers was needed.
When the last of the messages had been dealt with, I grabbed the last sandwich from the plate and headed my office to make what had come to be known as "The Rounds". I tried to get to everybody working for us, to talk with them, listen to concerns they had, answer questions where I could. I even made a point to check in with Zorac, though the last time he’d had a question for me, it had turned into company legend. I dare you, think about how you’d explain to an AI why so much email spam he had to deal with concerned pharmaceuticals used to enhance male sexual performance. He’d asked me, during a security team shift change that meant even more people got to hear him ask me, if he should be forwarding those kinds of emails on to me instead of targeting the sender as a security problem.
There were no questions like that this time, fortunately. As I walked from area to area, I found out how many new lawsuits had been received that day, how many network intrusions had been dealt with and which ones had required serious responses. We were also getting inquiries about trade now as well, and one person had gotten a request concerning whether we could provide launch and orbital insertion for a replacement communications satellite that was ready to go up. I had that one forwarded to Jean, it might be something she wanted to actually promote to get a bit of positive publicity for all of us. We could certainly do it, providing the orbital slot had been cleared of debris.
Last, but not least, I checked in with a small team I’d recently tasked with tracking what had felt like a growing number of religious based attacks on Mages, which I’d noticed seemed to be intertwined with a growing number of xenophobic publications. They didn’t have much yet, but they had managed to confirm that in at least two cases, the same organization was the source of funds behind what looked like two different publications, each advocating against either Mages or Aliens, but never both in the same publication. "Forward what you’ve got to me at home, I think I’ll have Penny give you a hand."
I’d read way to many books in my life to not be worrying about what kind of trouble something like this kind of activity could lead to …