The Let's Play Archive

Uplink: Trust is a weakness

by Porkness

Part 4

The ancient Spartans made the mistake of asking not how many of their foe they faced, but where they were. Pyrrhus of Epirus made the mistake of not asking of the quality of the foe he faced.

Reconnaissance is like sex. When it's good, it's really good. When it sucks, it's better than nothing.

The simplest and dumbest proxy was also the easiest to disable. No subtlety was needed in this operation- I could force my way through (noisily) with cheap software.

However, the usefulness of my system was drawing to an end. Geriatric circuits, a remnant of the late 2000's, whose usefulness was drawing to an end.

My old machine had gotten me this far, unmodified, but something a little more powerful was needed:

Capable of holding an extra 2 CPUs of any design, as well as having room for memory expansion and modem upgrade, the RTech Lite was the clear choice. Though not the most powerful computer, it would last me until I could afford something better.

At the back of my mind, I felt trepidation. I had grown personally since starting my career, and as crazy as it sounds, each database and machine I hacked seemed to have a personality. The staunch Social Security Database, the lonely InterNIC, the blissfully unaware Internal Services Machine for some mom-and-pop company.

It was a good machine, but would I like the RTech Lite? It was hard to tell what thoughts were my own, and what came from the machine 'talking' to me.

I was about to proceed, when I felt a crushing blow from behind. My vision exploded into a field of stars as reality swirled and slipped away. The last thing I saw were the soft blue tones of the interface swirling together into the void.

* * * * *

I awoke to a confusing sea of sensations. My broken body lay sprawled across the floor, helpless and leaking. A man was in the distance. I tried to call out for help, I wanted to scream, but words would not come. He saw me, and approached. I did not recognize him.

He hunched down, over me, and brought out from his toolbox a vicious-looking instrument. I saw the mania in his eyes, and he surely saw the terror in mine, but I couldn't move. I couldn't even feel my limbs. My spine felt like broken gravel.

He brought his tool down, hard, cutting into my midsection. There was no blood in my form to spill, and his instrument came away almost clean, only now it was looking more like a broadsword, after he had opened me up from chin to groin. Those weren't guts he was ripping out of my body.

I saw another figure, standing just out of the light. Straining, bending all my will on him - did I recognize him? Save me! I would have screamed, but eyes alone could not conv&#*****^^U.out.load spritefll(b00) roamfx
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* * * * *

A hundred hundred thousand points of light moving at a hundred hundred thousand miles a second converged to form a grey patch in my dull vision.

Somewhere in the distance, a man shouted "Okay, you're all set."

In the black, black room this grey patch was the only way forward.

* * * * *

I felt different, colder than before.

Oh, right. The mission. I had to make someone else's life more miserable than my own. It was time to modify my computer.

My entire savings were spent, but I had septupled my processing power. I could almost feel the power humming through my fingers. I was ready to do this.

Chaos never looked so beautiful. I felt sorry for the system admin trying to pick my location out of the disordered web of connections that I bounced through, ending with the Social Security Database in Mexico.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to forcefully disable a security proxy server, all while sifting through the social security records of every person on earth using a forged administrative password and trying to avoid a trace on my connection?

It's pretty straight-forward when you are the fastest mind on the planet.

Alex Scales' record now read 'Deceased' and Benjamin Nowbati's record was resurrected. One man enters, one man leaves, and so the equilibrium is preserved.

Over a minute remaining, what seemed like a close call once was now an agonizing eternity. I had been puzzled by my record on the International Academic Database, and now it was time to see just what kind of shit I was in:

This was obviously wrong, but I knew the marks of a hacked record. This one was untouched. The sprawling, bureaucracy-laden morass of government didn't need the help of malicious hackers to foul up my records. I would have to return later, and correct their stunning incompetence.

In the mean time, mission accomplished.

Even while news of my exploits was breaking, I kept myself busy. Money was the only resource that limited my growth, and what better way to gain knowledge on the financial institutions than to break into them?

Not all jobs I've done were motivated out of malice. Sometimes nosiness employed my services. Datatek Corporation had received a large nucleotide sequencing order from an anonymous client, and wanted me to confirm the funds existed before they started the job.

This was going to be easy. A bank was one of the most secure computers on the internet. A veritable digital fortress. However, because I was only going to impersonate an existing client, and not even change anything, I didn't need to worry about the proxy and firewalls on defense.

The password was laughably easy to crack. I've seen better encryption on luggage.
Now, to view the account details.... holy shit

At the height of my wealth, I was worth a whopping 20,000 credits. To see over three-quarters of a million in one account was a humbling experience. Some day, soon, I would be in that position too.

I disconnected, wiped my logs, and reported my findings.

The client must have given me a glowing review. Later in the afternoon, I received a couple of emails from Uplink.

I would later discover that my meteoric rise through the hacker ranks was not going unnoticed.