Sunday, August 19, 2012

Skewed Slightly to the Left - Meeting a contact during the War

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 3)]

An alarm on Chloe's smartphone went off, she looked at it quickly and swore.  Jason, her assistant, asked, "Problem?"
"World War III picked a bad day to start is all."
"Tell me about it, today was supposed to be my first date."
"Is she ok?"
"He made it to one of the other shelters, yes."
"Sorry.  I didn't-"
"I just get sick of... of..."
"I know.  I can't tell you how I know without breaking three promises and the seal of the confessional, but please believe I have some form of understanding.  Just, you know, don't ask."
"Isn't the confessional Catholic?"
"Yes, don't ask why I was in a Catholic church either."
"Is there anything I can ask you?"
"Yes," Chloe, having spent the conversation trying to remember where the meet her alarm was supposed to remind her of was located, finally did.  "But not right now.  You're in charge.  I'll be back as soon as I can."
"I'm in charge?" Jason's voice revealed a hint of panic amid his shock.
Chloe took him by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes.  "You'll do fine.  There's additional medicine hidden in with the canned goods, and if it comes to that there's guns and ammunition under the false floor.  Remember the false floor?"  Jason nodded.  "But it shouldn't come to that.  And you'll do fine.  I trust you."
Roads were clogged with abandoned vehicles, not to mention debris, and if the wrong people saw Chloe sprinting through them she knew she'd be shot without question.  The assumption would be that no innocent person would be out in these conditions.  Regardless of whether or not that was true, Chloe definitely wasn't innocent.
'Sorry, I was just rushing off to meet my black market contact because when I set up this meeting I'd never anticipated I'd be sending my contact into a warzone,' probably wasn't going to help.  But if the contact had shown, and was waiting for her, she had to meet.  She couldn't leave someone waiting in the middle of this.
When she got there she was nearly spent, and could only nod when the contact asked if she was Chloe.
"I'm Donny," he said.
When Chloe was able to speak she said, "I need to catch my breath."  Then added, "Let's talk."  She needed to sit around anyway.
"Ok, I've got a truckload of laptops here, top of the line taken right out of GC inventory."  At the sound of nearby gunfire he added, "You have noticed the war, right."
"Yeah," Chloe said, her breathing still labored.  "But I need a minute before I can get moving again."  After a pause she added, "Thanks for waiting, by the way."
"No problem," Donny said, clearly nervous.
"How'd you get them?" Chloe asked, as much to take his mind of things as for information.
"How'd you get the laptops?"
"We faked a failure in the quality control testing, and had the entire line ordered destroyed.  Top of the line products, for free, with no one looking for them because they're not reported stolen.  No one was expecting them, so no one misses them."  Donny was in full salesman mode, his fear evaporating, "and these are top of the line.  No system is immune to damage, no encryption unbreakable, no communications untraceable, but these come as close as close can be because these were made for Nicolae, his top aides, and their top aides.
"These aren't things that you could steal from any Best Buy, these are designed for the movers and shakers.  Your secrets will be as safe as safe can be, your files as secure as secure can be, your communications as close to unbreakable and untraceable as can be.
"Nicolae himself is going to be using the exact same equipment, but his won't be ready for two weeks."
Chloe had her breath back, at least as much as she could afford, and said, "We'll take them.  We just need a place to stow the truck until the streets are clear."
And with that Donny was back into nervous mode, "If we live through this."
"Need a place to hide?" Chloe asked.
"Uh, yeah."
"I've got a bomb shelter."
"I... I can't offer you a discount."
"I'm not asking for one.  Deal closed, it's been a pleasure doing business with you.  I have a bomb shelter and you're invited."
For a moment Donny didn't know what to say, then he said, "Thanks."
Chloe looked around, "I'm just trying to figure out where to put the truck with the goods for safekeeping while we're in the shelter."
Eventually, with the truck in an underground garage and Chloe led Donny on a sprint back to her shelter.  The truth was that New Hope was closer, but there were security procedures to follow, and she promised Jason she'd come back.

[Skewed Slightly to the Left Index]


  1. Yeah... this is the way to give the TF super-special laptops.

    Me, I'd take a different approach. (I'm... a bit techie.) I'd give them utterly boring normal laptops, albeit reasonably fast and powerful ones, with Global Community Windows (One people! One religion! One currency! One OS!) on them, which can pass casual inspection. But if you get cunning, you can shove the sandboxed Windows installation to one side and get out into a real OS where the techies can look at the source code and be sure there aren't any Global back doors into it (because hey, why wouldn't there be if they had the chance to put 'em in?). That's where the encrypted files live...

    Crypto? Every web browser has a military-grade crypto engine built into it now. That's not the hard bit. What you want is steganography - deniable messaging. "That's not a warning to the resistance, I'm just sending some photos to my aunt."

  2. No system is immune to damage, no encryption unbreakable, no communications untraceable, but these come as close as close can be...

    I want to high five you, or bake you cookies or something, just for this. So many people Just Do Not Get that systems are fallible, and if I can use it, you can use it too, with sufficient cleverness and resources.

    Also, whole disk encryption is apparently pretty fricking cool, though I doubt I'd want a factory-injected encrypting device that wasn't supposed to have made it off the same line as the bad guys' factory-injected encrypting device. Key snafus tend to draw a whole bunch of attention, too, but I like yours a whole lot better than Ellenjay's. See, you made yours plausible, which means I am now thinking about it. :D

    The frustrating point here is that if you try to use heavy-duty encryption on the photos you sent to your aunt, it blows the deniability of your messaging, so it's kind of an either-or proposition. Le sigh.