*first appeared on Wattpad
Mateus Fiel knew of the fierce territorialism between rival scanbob gangs in the area. He chose to ignore it, the score proving too lucrative to pass up. Venturing outside of his home exurb constituted a risk. Many did so to engage in leisure activities, and many more did so for business opportunities. Mateus did it for both reasons, so he considered the risk he took this time around as absolutely justified.
Scanbobs walk the crowded streets scanning people’s body area networks. They use the target’s own magnetic near-field system as a portal into their lives. A good scanbob can reverse social-engineer a person in five minutes. Others work in teams of two. One searches for a potential target from afar using a powerful telescope, immediately diving into their cyber footprint. Their associate on the ground airhacks the target’s BAN from close range, establishing a handshake with all available devices. By making a copy of the data packet received by these handshakes, the scanbobbers can combine the social data with brute force cracking and gain access to any passer-by on a whim, then steal their wallets, establish botnets, create havoc… Mateus looked past the mindject icons floating in front of his eyes and studied his surroundings with renewed vigor.
Not a soul moved nor occupied the Westbury Metrostop. The twilight commuters had yet to invade the platforms. He reached out and adjusted the virtual control icon, reducing the brightness level to the graphical user interface being fed to his brain by the mindjector.
— DDS@fonta65718, 0.3545m/SSW.
He struggled to find the dead drop location, directions supplied by the Dead Drop Society proved vague and inadequate. This is why he braved his weekly venture out into the suburbs.
These wireless data storage devices were planted randomly around public spaces. Powered by magnetic fields, they only became active when any near-field device got within range. They can remain active indefinitely, embedded within walls, underneath paths, inside statues, park benches, anywhere.
Loaded with every malicious virus and cyber spawn known and unknown to man, these dead drops are cesspools of information, commonly positioned in surveillance blind spots around the suburbs, away from prying electronic eyes, yet accessible to those who knew where to look.
Scanbobbers use these frequently.
So do terrorists, anarchists, and criminals.
Loitering under the fluorescent lights along the Westbury concourse, scanning for any signs of the elusive near-field networks, Mateus poked about unassumingly, hoping to avoid scrutiny from the mobile judges and scanbob cliques as much as possible.
Why the risk? The Dead Drop run he administered was an eclectic treasure trove of information and content. He lobbied the DDS hard to gain stewardship over this chain of public dead drops and this had proved fruitful ever since.
— DDS@fonta65718, 0.3337m/SW.
This particular dead drop he had yet to visit nor update. The location coordinates were sketchy at best. Train stations were obvious surveillance zones, so Mateus doubted such a drop would be located in a public space. But according to the run schedule, it was there.
Dead drops have been around for decades, persistently and perpetually maintained by a dedicated group calling themselves the Dead Drop Society: students and insurgent street artists mostly. Mateus knew millions of these existed and remembered why. Over two decades ago the price of internet access soared, reaching almost $53,000 per terabyte. Many suspected, including his parents, that the government and corporations had colluded to bring about this cyberflation. By limiting investment they overloaded the system, only so they could force average people out of the education loop, limit, and silence subversives, cause public disorder, and justify security laws.
With subscription rates plummeting, the privileged elite was left carrying the burden of funding the world’s communication infrastructure, hence the cost. An underground group of students, ones who could afford an education, set out to create dead drops in public spaces where individuals could upload a copy of the current internet making it available for others to download information and share.
Users built local networks, and these were linked to each other by Dead Drops, updated daily at the time, sometimes hourly.
A truly free ad-hoc internet.
Mateus exited the train station, guessing that if he were tasked to set up a dead drop in that area, in other words, semi-hide a wireless access data storage device in a public space, where would he place it?
In a surveillance blind spot, for starters.
After snooping around like a vagrant, he found an ideal location, an electromagnetically dark underpass between the Metrostop’s entrance and a small plaza, shadowed by an ancient leafless jacaranda. Mateus saw no visible evidence of any concealed device. A green flashing icon from his mindjector indicated a weak, directional but definite signal.
Probably under the pavement.
The dead drop drives, once embedded remain dormant and can remain that way indefinitely until another device with magnetic-field power entered within its short range. Most devices have this facility, so anyone can stand in that spot and look unassuming whilst engaging in a data swap.
Mateus first checked for malicious files. Then he perused the multifarious data on offer. A quick search and Mateus found his treasure. He uploaded the current ICO48EM version of the internet and then walked across to the barren plaza, sat on a bench, and with the cool night air against the back of his neck, perused through all the data packets he had pillaged, going through the metadata in sequential order.
He turned the brightness back up, blotting out the physical world, his augmented reality becoming a purely virtual one.
Dead drops were like abandoned storage lockers. He felt no different to a junk recycler who had found a rare collectible coin, or a hundred-year-old chocolate bar. Or a rare sword. Or a lost laserdisc.
He, on the other hand, scavenged for cryptocurrencies, identity stashes, and vast media libraries, but in this case, it was the illicit content that grabbed his attention.
[The Flavor of Blood] _S0.E6_(Dogman328).dmf
A story about a self-absorbed, narcissistic girl. A girl’s obsession with autoeroticism. A girl fated to die at the hands of a deranged mad ‘person’ who also produced the forty-eight-minute snuff film and countless others. Mateus knew a rare, unseen work of snuff when he came across it and knew its value.
Mateus jumped out of augmented reality, his anxiety and instincts proved correct when he spotted, one, two, three figures moving towards the plaza.
A trio of scanbobs?
Mateus Fiel knew how a group of three operated, but this trio was brazen, overt… and wearing VR recorder goggles. Relying on less subtle, more violent techniques, this crew was not out to steal his data, they were creating their own data. Not wanting to end up a victim of snuff, he stood up and dashed, heart in throat, towards the Metrostop, hoping to lose them on the other side of the tracks, hoping his lucrative forage along this dead drop run had not been cut short.