Rick was driving north on I-95, he had to find an uplink or this whole trip had been for nothing. “Rose, scan the vehicles ahead.” His onboard computer sprang into action attempting to connect to internal networks of each and every car on the road around him. “No joy” she responded. All the cars either were too outdated to allow wireless access or detected their connection attempt and shut it down before they could get in. Rick sped past the cars in front of him, he had to find what he was looking for and these cars weren’t going to help.
It had been three long weeks since he had access to the ‘hub. Way too long for any self respecting keyboard cowboy. Back in 2017 when the loss of net neutrality caused the global collapse the Internet, all of the east coast had lost their uplinks to the Internet. The Silicon Valley was the only place where you could get a reliable public connection and nobody dared to go there anymore. The Internet wasn’t dead, but it was hard to get to. The large corporations had the only uplinks around and they provided their own cell and wifi coverage to only their most elite customers. Having cast off the chains of debt and credit cards Rick was not considered an “Elite” customer. So it was hard to get online, and he had code to push.
Three quick “BEEP BEEP BEEP” sounded over the music. Rose flashed the HUD to get Rick’s attention. His modified peer to peer radio had picked up packets from a speed trap up ahead. He toggled on his transponder and slowed down to the regulation 75 MPH. Peer to peer was supposed to be the savior of the net. It let us put all our devices online in distributed low power mesh networks. And it worked too, at one point you could send packets from New York to Boston via the mesh. But the powers that be had different plans. Private security had taken over the spectrum and civilians quickly lost access to their private low power networks. These days if you ran your own network you were accused of interfering with national security and shut down in the worst ways.
Once he was he was clear of the trap Rick switched off the transponder and increased to hunting speed. This made him invisible to the EZPass checkpoints that littered the highway. They’d have no idea how fast he was going or who he was. Modified transponders were highly illegal but absolutely necessary in this line of work. When the transponder was on, it randomized his UUID whenever and Rose appeared to be just another vehicle on the road. This got them past most tolls and checkpoints. Even in this day and age it took the government a few weeks to even notice the bad transponder data, and any tickets they’d issue ended up in someone else’s account.
“Pay Dirt!” Rose exclaimed. A Fung Wah bus was up ahead and it had a connection to the net! Fung Wah the company had long since been shut down, but their buses still drove the roads. Their drivers were able to purchase the buses on the cheap after the company went bankrupt. They had organized their own routes and drove free of corporate oversight and regulation. It was pretty lucrative. Luckily their bus’s uplink hardware was too valuable to shut down and remained in service. If you rode the bus you could use it to connect. And someone on this bus had it paid up and was using it right now!
Rick pulled up alongside the bus in the driver’s blind spot. If the driver or the passenger noticed him, either in real life or cyberspace, he’d be toast. The connection would be shutdown, his hardware reported to IC3 and Rick would be locked out from all uplinks until he could cycle his hardware address. And that took forever. Rose started the connection attempt. It was almost too easy. He had his 128 bit address in no time at all, and routes to all the backbones populated almost instantly. It was never this easy. The passenger on the bus either had no security or had seen him coming miles away. “Fuck it, git push.. wha!?” Rick was cut off by a squeal of sound. The whole car shuddered and the smell of magic blue smoke sifted into his nostrils. The safety circuits kicked in and the car drifted slowly to the side of the highway. It stopped, dead. What happened! Had been back hacked? “Rose!”
After more than an hour Rick was able to get the car to spring back to life. It took flashing the firmware in his starter circuits twice to get the engine running. Rose had detected the hack and shut everything down before the hacker employed by the Fung Wah bus could cause too much damage. The navigation and scanning circuits were complete toast however. Not only were they hacked but the hacker had decided to pump all the emergency current into the subsystems and destroy at least $30,000 worth of equipment. Rose and the drivetrain survived. So he could drive. Thank god because pretty soon private security would show up to see why he stopped.
That was close but you don’t just give up.
“You wont believe this” Rose piped up. It had been two hours and they had almost reached their destination. Rick had feared they wouldn’t be able to push any code tonight. “It’s a MEGABUS”. MEGABUS had been one of the few companies to survive the collapse. Every bus had power and material hookups at every luxury leather seat, and most importantly a corporate uplink connection active 24/7 for use by all passengers. Rick wasn’t going to mess around this time. He killed his lights and activated stealth mode. Rose picked up and identified packets from all 36 of the passengers on the MEGABUS. Most were encrypted but one was downloading a ton of data. Mostly facebook, twitter and netflix. Streaming video on the east coast!? Gluttonous. This guy wouldn’t notice a little extra bandwidth. Rose cloned his MAC and carefully connected to the bus. Connections to twitter and the hub were successful. “I’m in” she reported. “Alright, easy now. cd johnny-five, git push origin master.” Rose connected via SSH to github and started pushing binary blobs of robot control data. “Eta 137 seconds” she reported. Rick decided to tweet.
I just connected to megabus free wifi, from my car, on the highway. rick waldron (@rwaldron) December 15, 2044
There was only 30 seconds left when the MEGABUS driver pulled hard to the right narrowly missing Rose as Rick slammed on the breaks. “We’re losing signal!” Rose yelled out as the bus sped away. 25 Seconds! Rick sped up, this time right on the buss’s bumper. It slammed on it’s breaks, and broke off towards an exit. Inside the passengers crash harnesses must be getting tight. Rose quickly deduced the situation “The Fung Wah hacker must have reported us to all uplinks in the area, they knew who we were from the second they saw us!” Rick yanked on the wheel and slammed the pedal. Even if it meant leaving the safety of the highway he wasn’t going to drop this connection. 15 seconds left! He pulled ahead of the bus and slammed on his breaks. Time for some of your own medicine! The buses safety circuits kicked in and the bus slammed on it’s brakes skidding to a halt before tapping Rose’s bumper. Thank god the bus had safety circuits. It would need a visual inspection before it was allowed to drive again. “Git push complete.” chimed Rose. “Lets get out of here.”
Rick and Rose sped off into the night.
Photo by Richard Cox