CM2.02 - Punter in Cognito


It's clammy at first. Punter hadn't expected that. The environmental controls should use a finer calibration--he can make it too cold or too damp, and he finally resigns himself to an uncomfortable compromise.

Flip. Rez.

The Cognito unit, along with several other bits of exotic hardware, had been an impulsive buy in a cash-rich moment. Mr. Underwood had warned him that it was a prototype, but Punter had been feeling magnanimous.

He had also been infatuated by the general principle of the thing, which was, simply, to hide.

Flip. Search.

From the outside, when freestanding, it looked like a cross between an aerodynamic coffin and a torpedo tube. You had to slide yourself feet-first into one end and close the hatch after yourself. Inside you had a wraparound vidpanel and a two-glove input device. There was a pair of pedals you could use, if you wanted to take the time to configure them (Punter hadn't).

And there was a very small pantry that Punter had filled with more taste than nutrition. He realizes now that he'll be sorry for that in a couple of days.

Flip. Rez.

You might be interested in what he's doing. I hope it's not too difficult for you to appreciate. Perhaps it will help you to know that Punter had spent some time customizing Cognito. He knew Mr. Underwood's work well, from past experience. And Habeas Punter has his own specialties. He started his career as a sysop for Mach X, coding low-level software interfaces for new equipment. Even now, I'm sure he has some difficulty thinking of himself as a "cowboy."

It was because of his gifts in this area that he went so long undetected at Roar-Sol. Computers only do what you tell them to, and Punter had been telling them to do wicked, wicked things. He worked there for a full three years before anyone suspected him of tampering. And then he disappeared, as though extracted--which is what, at the time, I thought had occurred. However, he'd simply vanished the moment his extracurricular activities became evident.

Flip. Search.

These extracurricular activities, it seemed, consisted of the entire range of security hacks and tricks: bombs buried in spaghetti code, timed viruses, holographic illusions, video re-routes, shadow log-ins, automatic de-activations, moldy fruit, unlicensed installations, mutant messaging, backdoors, and some things that I suspect not even Habeas Punter himself has a name for yet.

Oh, yes. That's right. They found, behind a dusty access panel, a banana he'd left to rot over one of the motherboards in Central Processing. Of course, they didn't find it until a month after he'd gone. And he left a raw egg under a console in Security. I don't know when they found that.

There was quite a bit of discussion at Roar-Sol about how to proceed. In the end, there were really only two choices: they could wipe the system and start again clean, which would set them back far more than the three years he'd been sysoperational; or they could try to find and eradicate all of his deviant influence.

Flip. Rez.

In the end, they decided to leave the system intact and try to track down everything he'd introduced and neutralize it. The reason was simple, really. RSC is in the business of network security, and Punter had just given them a free obstacle course. The mandate provided a simple incentive. If RSC employees wanted to keep their jobs, they would have to find Punter's work and counter it.

(Do you know that, a year later, the main campus was bombarded by an overhead drop of approximately one ton of jelly beans? The order had been placed three years prior, and several employees were sacked as a result--three in Corporate Services and one in Accounts Payable. All for the sake of a silly literary allusion lost on most everyone, including, I'm sure, you.)

Flip. Search.

But that's neither here nor there. I was trying to explain what Punter is doing. Just give me a moment to check the dialysis readout first. Everything's got to be perfect.

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