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Two Halvenings Into the Future

 

:/// The Steganosaurs / one

 
Suddenly it's 'Whoops!' Too many seats.

So I say, "You don't wanna do this."
So he says, "I don't wanna do what?"

And I don't wanna, y'know suggest anything, so I just look around and shit. I've been rudely awakened right? Seems prudent then to take stock of the situation. I've been sleeping in here for exactly 15 nights at this point. Not by the calendar: I just know I had to move the piece-of-shit a few hours ago because city responders classify a vehicle as 'abandoned' after it's been parked where it isn't registered for more than 14 days.

My wheeled, soft-sided carry-on appears to have been disturbed. It was already somewhat deflated without the cheap, bulky sleeping bag now unrolled around me in the driver's seat, and it's still where I left it, telescopic handle collapsed, thermos and hot water bottle peeking from its inner folds. I can still feel the other set of each inside the bag with me, next to the monkey wrench with the rubber grip. These are cold nights in Van, mid-December of '22, and my piece-of-shit's HVAC's been busted since last winter.

It's the outer pockets. They've been slashed and rifled through, the contents of the top one spilled onto the seat: my drinking thermos, a blister pack of LED flashlights; a first aid kit; a balaclava; and an orgy of gloves — knit gloves, work gloves, ski gloves. My Helly Hansens are pulled half out: the 'rain pants', even the heavy rain jacket I was advised to buy at great expense in the short interval between getting hired and then fired as a ditch digger by a concrete pouring company last spring.

When I'm not wheeling it around behind me, I keep the carry-on next to me on the passenger seat. So when the driver side is reclined, as it is right now, there is one back seat unoccupied. That's the trouble with sleeping in your car. Too many seats. Oh, you can 'get lost' well enough on a random residential street with locals parked all around. But once you've been found, you're found, and there's only a cheap manual lock, or maybe a wireless RollBack hack, between you and instant bedmates. Way too many seats.

I prefer to choose my bedmates in advance, thanks.

Disappear into some shopping centre. Walk in with all the buyers. Charm any one of them (and the opportunities are endless: you can even make appointments and book up your days for weeks), and then walk out as their newest purchase. Oh, they will buy what you're selling. It's why they are there. Just make yourself into a real bargain, and you can drive off as a passenger in a random car from a lot of thousands. Needle your way out of the haystack to where the actual grass is grown, and you will never be found, except by field mice.

It's a particularly effective exit in outlying areas, the frequent examples being Burquitlam and Coquitlam — the Quitlams, I like to call them, because when you're quit and on the lam, you can get into a car out in the Quitlams, and never get out. You can follow the Fraser all the way to the Rockies. If you could describe your escape plan to your pursuers and they still probably couldn't find you with it, then that's a pretty good plan I'd say.

And I've got several likelies on a string already by this point — you can always count on me for that — but I've been giving the yanking a rest for a day. There is always credit to be had out of not being pushy about things, and anyway, I'm enjoying the life, which is always a mistake. And that's exactly what he says.

He says, "This was a mistake."

And I don't know if he means him or me, but it's like he's reading my mind, and if that's the case, then he doesn't need an update. So I just say, "Good morning."

So he says, "I assume you're not stupid enough to have protected yourself."

And the way he phrases this, it's a test. The idea that some clueless fish might be hiding a fortune in crypto behind a simple secret you can just beat out of him and then type into his hot wallet, is mainly the stuff of thuggish fantasy these days. In reality, people tend toward both sloppiness and an overcompensating paranoia, and so the complexity of their crypto usage outstrips their tolerance for personal security measures very quickly. Surprisingly often, you discover people have quietly resorted to old school, analogue security measures that no one wants to cop to — like storing the keys with which to 'be your own bank' in a safety deposit box at somebody else's bank. (Just call it a 'cold wallet' — sounds cooler, that way.)

So I say, "Of course." (Not, "Of course not," which would not have passed his little test.)

And he gives me a tight little smile — a mere hint of professional courtesy, no more — rolling a quarter coolly back and forth along his knuckles as if needing diversion from a boring routine.

Back when 'the life' was just a thought experiment in the mind of a madman, there was a bit of JavaScript dumped anonymously on the dark web for anyone to find, but somewhat deceptively labelled 'labelmaker'. It could split 12 cryptographic seed words into 9 phony 'mailing labels' that undetectably encrypted 4 seed words each, with two redundancy layers. You could then use these steganographic addresses to register for private accounts, preferably in person. It would take at least 3 and as many as 7 out of the 9 'labelmade' addresses to be preserved or leaked in order to reconstruct or expose an entire private key from them, but an attacker would first have to detect that the leaked addresses are associated.

Everything that has happened since 'labelmaker' was devised has been wrting in the margins, as far as the spread of secrets goes. Literally anything you see or hear, online or off, could be simultaneously transmitting somebody's secrets — maybe even yours — that are only detectable with some custom app. In fact, it's entirely possible for multiple entities to encode separate, even opposing 'stego' messages into the same group document (such as a forum thread), without ever generating a noticeable conflict. And no, there is nothing 'intelligence' agencies can do even to detect the extent of the 'stego' threat. Like some great underground river, stegano currents are constantly flowing under and around our informational land masses, supporting who-knows-what decrepit wildlife, for whom 'stego' apps operate undetectably in unknowable quantities.

The 'Steganosaurs' are out there, and massive, and striding in their numberless hordes through the forgotten canyons of our data. They don't leave their tools sitting on the usual darknets for wandering dupelords to find anymore, but there is nothing even to limit the software category's rate of hidden growth. How you gonna intercept what you can't even see is happening? To those in the life, the apparent innocence of any object or data is quite disconnected from whether it's harbouring or even currently transmitting a secret, and it's best to keep it that way. Letting the general public know exactly how much info they've been unwittingly caretaking for those in the life would be considered harmful to the life, by those in the life. Going as far as keeping our own secrets and leaving others out of it would seem almost quaint by comparison.

So I know what he doesn't think, which still leaves a rather large question mark with which to amuse myself. The most important things about any such encounter have usually been communicated before it starts, and this one is no exception. There is no way that my pursuer, whom I have been expecting, if he really is in the life and not just some poser, wouldn't have already come to the conclusion that I am in the life and thus aware of all of the above before allowing his ass to come anywhere near the back seat of my car — especially with me in the driver's seat and his backup not even in the vehicle.

A man is never more dangerous than when he genuinely believes he is at risk. 'And that goes both ways,' I remind myself, keeping my limbs loose and ready but only detectably at rest. And then I spot him rolling again. That quarter. Effortlessly, from knuckle to knuckle, without looking like he's trying, as if to upstage the mere utilitarianism of my silent ambiguity. Awaiting my next move with all the patience inherent in the situation. Perceiving it accurately. Watching me watch him.

He is cool as concrete, this one. Nothing needs to move him, ever. And I'm just thinking, look at him there, operating that little coin like a pro. Like a pro. And that's when it hits me, what all the coin play is about.

It means something. Doesn't matter what. He thinks it makes him gangsta or something. It doesn't matter.

He's enjoying the life. Which is always a mistake.

And that's when I know I've got him.

FAREWELL, READERS! NOTHING FURTHER HAS YET BEEN WRITTEN BY THIS WRITER. THAT MIGHT BE BEST: YOU WOULDN'T WANT US TO CONTINUE EDIFYING YOU, WOULD YOU?

YOU CAN, HOWEVER, HELP CROWDFUND THE NEXT CHAPTER, IF YOU WISH. NOT THAT YOU'D EVER ENCOURAGE MANTHINKING. MAYBE IT'S ABOUT SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. THAT'S THE TICKET.

REGARDLESS, WE ARE ON IT BUT WE NEED SOME EXPENSES COVERED OR WE'LL JUST BE FORCED TO GO BACK TO OUR FORMER JOBS AS FULL-TIME JACKANAPES. TOUGH BUSINESS! THE LEAD ON THIS CASE HAS ASKED FOR A CONTINUATION ANTE OF TWENTY MO DIMES (2.00 XMR), OR EIGHTY BCH NICKELS (4.00 BCH), OR 32 LITE QUARTERS (8.00 LTC), OR ONE THOUSAND MEGANEX (1000 MNEX), OR TWO THOUSAND CARDS (2000 ADA), OR WHATEVER PERCENTAGES OF EACH ADD UP TO A HUNDRED.

AS OF LAST UPDATE, THE ANTE TO CONTINUE THIS CHAPTER IS 0% FILLED. IF THE REST HAS NOT BEEN SENT TO ONE OR MORE ADDRESSES BELOW, BY THE ANTE DEADLINE, FEBRUARY 14, 2023, WE WILL PUT THIS PAGE 'ON ICE' FOR A TWELVE-WEEK EMBARGO PERIOD, MINUS ONE WEEK FOR EVERY 10% OF THE ANTE FILLED. SO IF THE ANTE DEADLINE WERE TO ARRIVE ONLY 59% FILLED, FOR EXAMPLE, THE RESULTING EMBARGO WOULD LAST SEVEN WEEKS, AFTER WHICH TIME, THE AUTHOR MAY RE-OFFER THE CHAPTER, WITH A POSSIBLE RE-EDIT (AND THE FUNDS ALREADY DONATED TOWARD IT, PRE-EMBARGO, WOULD STILL APPLY TOWARD THE NEW ANTE). IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, THE ANTE DEADLINE ARRIVES AND IT'S 100% FILLED OR MORE, THE AUTHOR WILL BE EXPECTED TO POST THE NEXT CHAPTER WITHIN TWO WEEKS AFTER THE COMPLETION OF THE SAME AUTHOR'S MOST RECENTLY PREVIOUSLY FULLY FUNDED GOAL AT bitcoinmars.org or cryptonoir.org, AND THEN WE'LL RESTART THE NEXT CONTINUATION ANTE (IF ANY) AT 0% FILLED, SO THAT EACH CHAPTER WILL BE CONTINUED (OR NOT) BASED ON ITS OWN MERITS. THESE ARE THE RULES OF cryptonoir.org

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/freeside