Looker.exe (Part 1)

I drifted along lazily, watching little chunks of data speed by. Each packet traveled at exactly the same rate – one of the few perks of having such a highly interconnected system. Not one seemed to deviate – or did they? As I looked closer, I noticed one little bundle chugging along just slightly slower than the rest. As it passed by, I reached out towards it. A slender strand shot from my palm towards the packet, ensnaring it. The packet disappeared, popping back into existence inches from my hand. I popped open the “lid” of the packet.

With the lid opened, the data on the inside popped out, floating around my entire self. I took note of the origin IP, and then began to inspect the chunks of code. Nothing looked terribly out of place. However, something here – or was it something back at the source? – was causing this packet to slow down. This wasn’t the first case, either. I had gotten a handful of warnings from the system monitors about reduced upload speeds the past few hours, and it was starting to get obnoxious. No one else had noticed (yet), but it was only a matter of time before a formal complaint was raised. I ran a custom diagnosis on the packet, trying to glean whatever I could on the cause of the slowdown.

<External Stimulus Alert> The green text flashed briefly above my head. I copied all of the data from the packet, and handed it off to a tracer. Destination – the IP of origin. It would look for copies of any of the code in this packet being sent or received, and record the source, destination, and packet speed. “I’ll check up on you in a bit,” I said to it as it sped off.

<External Stimulus Alert> I looked at the text again. “Disengage haptic control.” Everything went dark for a few moments. A whirring sound could be heard as the visor retracted back into the headset. I blinked a few times, my eyes readjusting to the stations artificial light. My sister was staring at me from in front of my desk. “Good morning, Ari.”

“Morning, Q. Playing games on the job?” She asked, sitting in a chair.

“Hardly,” I replied. I removed the helmet and datagloves, placing them on a table behind my desk. “There’s potentially a piece of malware swimming about the servers. Packet speeds are down at several nodes.”

“Wouldn’t it be faster to have the computers look for it?”

“Not if they don’t know what to look for. Plus, the speed drops might not be significant enough for the computer to notice, It was a slow morning, so I thought I’d look into it personally.”

“So, you are playing games on the job, then,” Ari replied, smiling. I started to protest, but she cut me off, “How’s your other search going?”

I looked at her for a moment. “One, how do you know about that? Two, it’s going about as well as expected.” I folded my arms. Was she fishing for information, or did she actually know?

“James told me, when I went to request the search myself. He said that he had already asked you to look into it.” She continued. “What does ‘as well as expected’ mean, Q?”

“It means exactly what it sounds like. I have several routines in place, continually checking for cred usage, ID checks, and everything else that I can legally look for. I don’t know what he’s hoping for, in all possible cases-” barring incompetence “- there would most likely be nothing to find. I’ll inform James the moment that something comes up, I assure you.”

“I hope so. Shouldn’t you be searching for this personally, instead of chasing down some malware?”

“You know the old adage, ‘a needle in a haystack’? Well, manually searching for that is finding a needle in one of a billion bales waiting to be loaded onto a conveyor belt. If random chance gets the correct bale, then I can find the needle, no problem. Until then, I fix the problems that I can.” I looked at my tablet. It was blinking a green message at me. “Is there anything else?”

“No.” Ari said, standing up to leave. “Just…let me know if you find anything, okay?”

“You’ll be the third person to know,” I said, reaching for the helmet and gloves. As I put the equipment back on, the notification – results from the tracer – filled my vision. Although Ari seemed to be worried, my hands were tied. If Miss Greene didn’t want to be found, nothing I could do would speed up the process. Instead, I bought up a node grid, and began to look for a point of origin of the code plaguing my network.

((Read Part 2 here))

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