Scumhackers

An excerpt from the book “The Blood Ring.”

“Did ya reset that last pango before you sold it to the girl?” asked Martin while urinating, standing upright behind a mound of garbage. She finished, pulled up her pants and strolled over to where Rico sat.

Rico surveyed the lane way situated adjacent to the B line train tracks and intersecting South Valley Road. The thoroughfare was nothing more than an illegal dumping ground among a forest of weeds. “Why the fuck would I wanna do that?” responded Rico, sitting down on the broken pavement picking at a hole in his dirty pants. “Fuck, I’m hungry.

Martin grabbed Rico by the mane and whacked his face against his knee. “What da fuck ya do dat for?” yelped Rico.

Martin turned to face the silent traffic. Thousands of multicoloured vehicles crawled along like electric bugs, “Go get it back.”

“What? Fuck no. Why?”

“Cause I fucking said so,” answered Martin, her short cropped hair, neck tattoo and bodytech adding to her masculinity, her authority, her brutishness. “The pango needs to be reset. I told you to sell the data, not the whole thing.”

“But the Bitrodog cajero needs the actual pango to unscramble the rootkeys. Without it the data is inaccessible.”

“Did you use that pango to access the DEN?”

“Well, yeah.”

“So you used your own private rootkey. Now anyone with that rootkey can access everything you’ve ever posted on the dendrome. All it takes is two or more interactions to link you to the outside world and Yellowcop finds you in a heartbeat. Go get that fucking pango back, and destroy it.”

Rico climbed to his feet, ready to demonstrate his defiance. “How?”

“How?”

“How is Yellowcop gonna find me?”

For a brief moment, Martin looked like she could attack him once again, instead, she explained. “The dendrome is the blockchain algorithm that runs the entire Dendros ecosystem, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And nests are public communication threads embedded within the dendrome. So, if you’ve interacted with two or more twiddlers who’ve been compromised, Yellowcop will scour the GIoT until it found it’s way to you. You getting this?”

“But there’s no geo-stamp or time-stamp on the dendrome. How’s it gonna get me?”

“Yellowcop has mapped out the entire Dendro ecosystem. Interlinking DEN activities with real-world activities, it can feasibly work out who you are just by using your twiddle or your private rootkey. So did you use the pango or not?”

Rico decided to back down. For Martin, he would do anything she wanted.

“You should know better, fuckhead,” she said and walked away.

Rico strutted in the opposite direction, heading for the main road. His usual goal,would have been to scanpocket as many pangos from passing pedestrians and motorist as possible. Those unfortunate enough to have been left vulnerable by the Dendro were his prey. Stealing dash and private data was Rico’s only objective. To him, cars were simply moving wallets; toll wallets, drive-thru wallets, and those were only the add-ons. Big prizes were the propriety wallets that paid for services such as charge-ups, repairs and even car washes. Some of these often came in the form of cash accounts.

Cash or dash — made no difference to Rico.

Sensitive and compromising data — made all the difference between a bad score and a good one.

The pango in question he stole from a woman at the Solaria Recharge Station. She’d been sitting in the eatery, most likely waiting for her recharge. Rico had a hunch about her. Her fish tattoo, her nervous eyes, her demeanour, each attributed to his interest in her. People this intriguing always had some sordid story behind them and stealing their data usually paid well. So, Rico pounced, the old-fashioned way. Bumping into her. Pick-pocketing her personal-area-network-gadget-organiser. He found it already jailbroken and full of home-made guttersnuff. It was content he could sell, but that required they transfer the Dendros rootkeys. Keeping them in the original pango would compromise the holder, so that is where Bitrodog fits in. If one knew a good cajero, they could print a new pango, jailbroken and without the standard GIoT tracking features

Rico lumbered towards the Aurora Shopping Plaza, the last oasis of civilisation before the desolation known as the Salamander Highway. He struggled to see the point in going back, especially a whole day later.

Or was it two days?

No, one day, he corrected,

Rico had long ago given up arguing with Martin, having grown tired of her macho stubbornness. He found it easier to appease her, enjoying her fun moods, and savouring the occasional dash that flew his way. The amount of money that went through their collective hands would cause an average middle-class, white-collar stooge to salivate. The amount they burned would depress most homeless folk to lower, undiscovered levels.

Homelessness.

Rico never understood the stigma. He has lived in cardboard boxes all his adult life, yet lived a life most social frolickers envy.

As long as there was access to dash.

He thanked the Great Divinity for the Dendros. Sometimes Rico found himself praying to this munificent algorithm. The Dendros had opened up a brave new world for the underclass; impervious to government control, unstoppable, untameable, a scumhacker’s paradise.

Rico found Ailee manning the local vendor, the Bitrodog kiosk making an ideal subterfuge for jailbreaking pangos and anti-Yellowcop activities. When asked about the device, the girl’s eyes widened.

Rico knew right then and there he was fucked.

Upsetting Martin was not an option.

“How did the Bitrodog mix up the pangos?”

“I don’t know. Glitches happen.”

Rico had never heard of such a thing. Electronics printers never made mistakes like that. Human error was one thing, but glitches?

“Think he’ll come back wid it?”

“Maybe,” said the cajero, “Unless he reset it himself.”

“Did he look like the type who knows how to reset one?”

Ailee shook her head and scrunched up her lips, “Na.”

“So he could be back?” Euphoria allowed him to breathe again. It also prompted his hunger to re-manifest. He could not remember the last time he fed on something. “Twig me when he comes back in.”

Rico prowled the mall looking for easy targets, noting which fast food outlets accepted dash. He had access to point two of a figi, half a nanji, 213 cryptiums and a dash worth of other miscellaneous cryptocurrencies. All up, he could not even afford to buy a small packet hot chips.

Maybe a potato roll.

He loitered around the dash exchange terminal, scanning the personal area networks of passing shoppers, looking for vulnerabilities, for security clefts, any which way to snatch some dash. Within five minutes, enduring intense stomach grumblings, he resorted to scavenging for more traditional forms of currency, scoping the ground for lost fiat coins, sniffing out pickpocketing opportunities and engaging in a time old favourite, begging.

Rico knew he smelled like shit and looked the part. In good times, when the dash flowed, he would shower at various gymnasiums and spas, buy new clothes, toss the old ones in-store and walk out. He would get his hair groomed by his fave stylist. He lived like an urban prince; no home, no possessions apart from his jailbroken pango. He slept anywhere, in hotels, bus shelters, stormwater tunnels, underneath park benches, inside cars, stolen or otherwise.

When the dash flowed.

Rico exited the mall and stood in front of a coffee vendor located facing the highway, where the spare change in patron’s pockets jingled loudest. He scored a fiver first go, and had to struggle to earn the next two five dollar coins, falling short three bucks to buy a short black. He spotted an angry, unhinged looking man jostling his way through the crowd, hurrying along glancing wildly over his shoulder. When he passed the coffee vendor, Rico held out his hand, “Spare us a coin?”

Punters were punters, angry or not.

The angry-unhinged-man didn’t even acknowledge him.

“Arrogant prick,” grumbled Rico as he paced in front of the service counter. He tripped over his own foot and the fivers in his sweaty hand slipped out and bounced on the concrete. He gave chase but the renegade coins rolled into the gutter. Rico fell on his knees, failing to stop them escaping via the stormwater drain.

“Shit!” Rico stood up, empty-handed. Someone blocked his path. A woman. Petite. Short flower dress. Blonde curly hair. She raised her hand and offered him a coin.

Rico took the coin, a fiver, unsure of how to react, “Thanks.”

The woman smiled and went on her way.

His pango chimed.

~rem0050: customer spotted. came in-store. ask buncha question. still got pango. tall. white shirt and tie. black pants. ErstKlassige shopping bags. cheers.

Rico hastened back towards the mini-mall’s main entry, his stomach protesting violently, eating away at his insides. He could ignore the lightheadedness, but the sharp chewing sensation inside his belly drove him insane. He found and sat on a bench just outside the slide doors.

Rico’s eye caught a glimpse of the blue shopping bags.

ErstKlassige.

Man in the white shirt.

A big guy.

That’s him.

Rico spotted him leaving the complex and rushed ahead of him, noting how solid the man looked. He watched the man walk past him and head across to the Solaria charging bays and on towards the car park.

~scumhacker32: i found the pango.

~scumhacker14: get fucked.

Rico focusing on his plan of attack, playing it out inside his head. To roll a much heavier man he needed to pay special consideration to the element of surprise and to the level of force he needed to apply. Rico changed direction, heading to a small children’s park. He waited for the big guy to pass, then going from tree to tree, he stalked the man. Rico moved from a swing set to slippery dip, then from a parked van to robot charity bin, tracking his prey all way to a dark emerald sedan waiting to pick him up, a Senator.

It struck Rico as weird that the man would rather be picked up in the carpark than from the front entrance. What’s the point of having a smartcar? he wondered.

Spying from behind the bright red Kreasi Charity Bin, Rico could make out each item inside the two large blue grocery bags.

He’s got Chillihoney chips.

The savoury distraction scattered his already fickle concentration, his hunger stifling all the focus he had mustered. The Senator opened the boot. The man loaded the groceries, and then pulled out another large bag. He walked over to the nearby charity collection bin and tossed the bag into it.

Without thinking, animal-like, and with the distinct taste of Chillihoney on his tongue, Rico pounced on the burly man, crash-tackling him in the manner similar to that of a torpedo. His head smashed into the man’s rib cage, knocking him off his feet. They both hit the ground, rolling over hips and shoulders. The man arrested his momentum and scrambled to get back up to his feet. Rico’s eyes locked onto his prey. Surprise survived only fleetingly across the man’s face, who then unleashed a stare that could frighten the living shit out of any person. Rico knew right then and there that he had fucked up and prepared for the worse. He’d been beaten up to a pulp many times so he knew what to expect.

Fuck me.

Movement caught Rico’s eye. Martin, lethargic and irate, appeared from behind the man weighing a half-brick in her hand. “Hi,” she said. The man had little time to react. The hard, jagged block of ceramic struck the man on the side of the head, knocking him down like a sack of potatoes.