Chapter 6: Decay


“I guess we should get started now,” Matt said, looking to Kyp.

Kyp closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There were a lot of people in this room, and while their voices fell silent almost instantly, there was still a lot of telepathic noise, bleed off if you will, from the concentration of people–bodies–in the room. He was surprised that they had managed to fit so many people into his–well it was Gus and Irena’s now–apartment. Kyp had only lived here for a few weeks while he was getting ready to move to Mars, it still felt a little like home anyway. Though they had fit probably close to 50 people in the room, there was a highly encrypted feed of this discussion being passed into another dozen or so “cells” around the world.

“Sorry, I don’t know if it’s the population density change or the gravity which is getting to me more,” Kyp explained. “I want to thank you all for coming to this, and I hope that you’ll be able to share what you learn here this evening with our colleagues and friends over the next few days,” Kyp said: they had all agreed to avoid using the word “telepath” or “psionic” because of the feed.

”I’m sorry that I haven’t been more present in this community over the past several years, as you know I’ve been living and working on Mars, and I’ve been in close contact with Taban and Kalian Morgan since their arrival. We’ll talk more about Mars later, but I hope that you won’t take my absence personally, or hold it against me when considering what I’m going to say tonight. So lets get started in earnest: I think that Gus Rosell has some information to share that will frame the rest of what we have to talk about. Gus?”

“Thanks, Kyp,” Gus said, patting Kyp’s hand firmly. He was sitting adjacent to Kyp in the long line of leaders sitting in hard hard backed chairs and benches that had been pushed against an unadorned wall. The apartment was so full that they could not easily move their legs without risking kicking someone sitting in front of them.

“As I’m sure you know, Irena,” he paused to nod in her direction, “and I carried out an cyber attack on the ISA departmental systems used by Agent Thom Busby’s cyber crimes division,” The crowd bristled at mention of Busby, and Gus paused to look at Quinn Dasen and Matt, bona fide ISA agents in the flesh, who looked completely unfazed by the admission.

“We’ve known, well since our–Kyp and my–last raid together, that ISA–Busby–has been keeping detailed records on many of us, many of the people in this room, and plenty of others as well. In a lot of cases their data has been more precise than the data we’ve been able to collect ourselves, and, and interestingly the data recovered in that earlier attack has been helpful in assembling this community. Though we have not suffered explicit retaliation for this attack, it became much more difficult for us to access these ISA systems.”

“Also,” Kyp interjected, “I at least was concerned that my identity had been made as I was logging out. Which precipitated my move to Mars.”

“Right,” Gus said nodding as he found his place again in his story. “So Irena and I were able to design and execute another attack back into these same systems, to see if we could get more information, but mostly to see if we could keep Busby from using that data. Amazingly we were able to get some of the data out of the system and we’re unsure of how much long term damage we were able to do to the data and systems.”

“Busby has avoided making any formal report of the damages that resulted from the attack, so we’d have to hack in again to see what state the data’s in,” Matt reported.

“He’s become pretty isolated within the agency recently. And while its clear that he has a lot of latitude, it’s not so clear who his allies are or how tight his connections are to other agents,” Quinn said. When she spoke, everyone in the room realized that she was an outsider. You didn’t have to be a telepath to see the apprehension in the crowd.

“Sorry, I should have done this earlier,” Matt said, realizing what had happened. “Allow me to introduce Quinn Dasen, an investigator in my department, a dear friend for many years, and a trusted ally. Though you have not met her yet, she has been invaluable in our struggle against Busby. I’ve asked her here today to provide some insights into ISA that are beyond my purview and experience. Treat her like you would me, and sorry again,” Matt said, and this seemed to calm the crowd a bit.

“In the wake of the last attack,” Gus continued, ”I’ve been concerned that I might have been made by Busby, but again we can’t confirm this, which should explain my low profile on the net over the last few months, despite the fact that there is clearly a lot of work to do on this project to ensure all of our safety in the near future. That’s part of the reason why Kyp has come back, but he should tell you that himself,” Gus said.

“Right, I came this far, the least you could do is let me talk for myself,” Kyp said, provoking a small–mostly undeserved–laugh. “Well, to put it bluntly, Mars is amazing, our community there is small, but very connected. The Colony is small and compact, but as I’m sure you’ve heard it was designed to function well with everyone living relatively close together, unlike Earth were the infrastructures have always been trying to play catch up with populations: the effect is profound. Additionally, because the total population is so low, a lot of the bleed-over effects,” Kyp said and rubbed his temple for effect. “A lot of the bleed-over effects have been completely negated, and we’ve–well I shouldn’t take responsibility for it–Taban and Kalian–have been able to make a lot of advancement in their work.

“Actually, as I was in transit, I was able to read a working draft of Taban and Kalian’s book, which they hope to publish publicly about the time that we get back to Mars–” Kyp was interrupted by a hum that swept over the room in response to his last words.

“I guess that gets a little more explanation,” Matt said, but the crowd didn’t seem dto hear him. Kyp closed his eyes, and let Matt’s words “reverberate” telepathically which got everyone’s attention. Matt continued: “Taban and Kalian were able to secure immigration permits to Mars for a great number of their followers, and with some offset work Gus and I have been able to secure some chartered transportation for the flight, using funding from an unadvertised government fund and the resources of the Morgan Institute shield organization that we set up several years ago to fund Taban and Kalian’s research.”

“So I want you all to consider moving to Mars when we leave at the end of the current cycle. While Mars has been great for me, and I think moving there might be a good experience for many of you, I understand that it’s a big commitment, and that it is probably not for everyone. I’m more than willing to talk to you about this over the next couple of weeks, so please talk to me, and also talk to your friends and connections that didn’t get a chance to be here tonight,” Kyp said.

“I feel like we’ve been blathering too long, is there anything else?” Matt asked.

“Well, about the plan,” Irena said, her voice cracking.

“Of course, sorry! And sorry to you all as well…”

“We’ve thought that it would be good to make another run on Busby’s system, there’s likely a good deal of data that should be rescued–liberated–and we’re still worried that he might be maintaining illegal files on some of us. Kyp and Gus and I will be coordinating the plan, but I suspect that we’ll want to have probably twenty or so people on board to run support, get data out, and run distraction, stuff like that. If you’re qualified you know how to get a hold of us,” Irena said.

“I think with that,” Kyp said, looking to Matt for confirmation. Matt nodded, and Kyp continued: “We’re going to cut the transmissions now, but we’re not going anywhere immediately, so we hope you’ll be in touch. All further updates will be as encrypted on-net messages. But before we go, I’d like to thank Matt and Quinn for their ongoing support, and recognize the risk that they’re undertaking by being here, and unless I don’t get a chance to talk to all of you before you have to leave, I’d like to thank all of you for being here.”


The first thing Kyp heard when he came off net was Matt’s voice: “Are you ok there?”

Kyp’s eyes fluttered opened and after a moment he just nodded. His voice was gone–at least for the moment, and his mouth was sore. He wondered what his body had been up to while he was in net: nothing of course, but it contributed to his feeling of disorientation. It felt like he’d been thrown into his body, without a lot of warning, which is sort of what happened. Gus and Irena were way too excited about the benefits of “escaping-out,” to realize how much it sucked, he thought.

Kyp still couldn’t talk, and Matt hadn’t moved. ”Water,” Kyp thought, as strongly as he could, hoping that Matt would be able to get the message. He seemed to, and in a moment, the good doctor returned with a cup of water.

Kyp sipped the water. ”I’m fine,” he croaked. “Everyone else?”

“Coming out well. Reports from the other cells seem to be positive as well. Looks like you did it,” Matt said. His voice was soothing and gentle, more so than usual: Kyp called this Matt’s “doctor voice,” and Matt didn’t often have a lot of control over when it came and went.

Unfortunately, Kyp usually interpreted “doctor voice,” as a sign that Matt was covering something up. “Gus? Really.”

“No, no, he’s fine,” Matt corrected quickly, speaking more normally. I’m tired, and I have to go to work, and you’ve all been in there for a while. It’s really ok.

“Ok, thanks,” Kyp said. He was slowly recovering, he’d need to sleep soon–of course–but for the moment he was almost functional. “And don’t worry, it was the best raid I’ve seen, I think. Busby and his sidekick basically couldn’t do anything but watch, and–”

“That’s a bit cruel, I mean, make a fool of him, fine, but rub it in his face?”

Kyp ignored the interruption. ”–and more than that, I think our people behaved really well: calm, even mannered, righteous but not zealous. You’d be proud,” Kyp said, as he moved to stand up.

”I’m glad. I’ll look forward to seeing how the post-mortem plays out,” Matt said.

Kyp put his hand on Matt’s shoulder, which stung a bit telepathically, but Kyp didn’t flinch. “It’s fine, go to work, cut on some dead guy, and you’ll feel better.”

Matt flinched, causing Kyp’s hand to fall away, but he finally broke a smile, which quickly morphed into a yawn. “Ok, that’s probably a good idea. You in shape to deal with things here,” Matt said, gesturing to the room full of people waking up slowly from the net.

“Yes, yes. Now leave! I’ll see you tonight?”


“Works for me, Be in touch,” Kyp said, turning around to tend to his people.

The Homefront

“Isn’t Irena coming?” Matt asked when Gus arrived at the table he was sharing with Kyp. They had chosen an open air cafe–real open air–on the eastern seaboard of what was once the United States, for a brunch meeting.

“She’s running a legit security job right now. She’s had to be on net a lot more just to keep things afloat with me mostly out of the picture,” Guss said, after he sat down. “Fair’s fair, I suppose, I did that for weeks until Irena joined up, when you were leaving.”

Kyp smiled, and nodded, “though we were moving and off-net for a lot of that time, and I was gone within a month, and Irena came forward before I got to Mars. She has help though?”

“Of course. I’m pretty much superfluous at this point, which makes the decision to move to Mars a bunch easier,” Gus said.

“Oh don’t worry, it wasn’t a hard decision for you. You’ve been on the list since before we knew we were planning a… god, it feels like a damn mass exodus,” Kyp said.

“Well at least now you know why there hasn’t been a great immigration for Mars, no one wants to organize it.” Matt chuckled, and patted Kyp on the shoulder.

“You’d think with conditions like these people would be clamoring to get out,” Kyp said. He made a sweeping gesture in the direction of the street. It was dirty and poorly lit, and even in the middle of the morning when the traffic, was “light,” by local standards, the sidewalks were still filled with people, and the streets were almost always occupied by some sort of bus or truck. There weren’t many private vehicles, just in general, so maybe that’s what they meant by “light.” To make matters worse, the buildings were so tall, and massive that at the ground level the air was pretty stuffy, and there wasn’t a lot of light, despite building regulations that supposedly prevented this from being a “real problem.” The walk tubes at 100 stories that connected most of the buildings, didn’t help the light levels on the street, either.

“You’re the one with the special insight into the human mind, I don’t have a clue,” Matt said.

“But you’re staying,” Gus pointed out. “Explain that one.”

“There’s work to be done here, still. That’s important now.”

“That’s true, and thanks for that. Speaking of work to do, what’s our plan? For the atta–mission?” Kyp asked, correcting himself from sounding suspicious to any passers by.

“Its beautiful, from what we have. We’re pulling out all the guns on this, and doing some crash development on a couple of projects that should really blow them–and you away,” Guss said, his face lighting up with excitement.

“Lets hear it then,” Kyp demanded. Matt sighed, audibly, this kind of tech talk was never his thing, he understood it, but didn’t care about the specifics that much. “Whatever Matt, it’s important,” Kyp said, without looking away from Gus.

“Tons of bots, like the ones we used to dupe Busby last time, plus we’re all going to be running off independent servers, which should give us some control, over our time settings, which typically gives us an advantage.”

“Well and it’s safer,” Kyp said, “too bad it’s a huge resource drain,”

“Well the thing is, we’ve been able to write the interfaces tighter to the transmission hardware, and if we can slip like ten lines of code into the nodes, it works great.”

“You can get code into the nodes like that? Without tripping alarms.”

“Well that’s the exciting part, We’ve got a portable software node program that should be ready by the end of the week…”

“You’re kidding, right? We couldn’t even get a software node working on our own isolated system. You’d be able to cut a lot of risks out that way.”

“I know, it’s amazing. Works pretty good too. Gonna’ to change the world Kyp.”

“Too bad we won’t be able to see it.”

“Oh come on guys, the Morgans are talking about to going public and you’re blathering about this,” Matt said.

Kyp rolled his eyes melodramatically, and Gus ignored Matt and continued talking: “Anyway, all the hard work is in the prep: getting the node software and bots ready. We’re going to walk in with an army, more or less, and copy out the data that we can and start scripts that will delete or encrypt what we can’t–”

“So what’s the army for?”

“Making a point,” Matt said.

“Well yes, but it also means that we can throw data around and escape out and log back in, through our node, it gives us a lot of flexibility,” Gus said, in an attempt to rationalize his joy. “Think about it, we can have little cells of people who are just running security, people who are copying data off net, people tending to the encryption problems. We get a lot of crunching power without sacrificing our own efficiency, and besides everyone gets to feel like it’s a community effort.”

“You don’t have to justify it to me, that’s for sure,” Kyp said.

“Or me, really,” Matt said. “Those records aren’t strictly legal–even if they aren’t all that uncommon in ISA–and clearly I think he’s up to no good, the spying, the intimidation, the badgering that Taban and Kalian underwent–”

“We know,” Gus said, not feeling like reviewing the litany just now and the table fell silent for a moment.

Kyp was the first to speak again: “Say, I wanted to know, honestly, what you thought about how the meeting went yesterday. I’m worried that we were too removed, and talky,”

Gus looked quizzically at Kyp and opened his mouth to respond, but Matt spoke first. “I think you did fine, and I think people responded, it’s tough, you had a lot to say, and there was a lot to be said.

“Do you think anyone is actually going to go back with me?”

“If the number of people that responded to Irena’s call are any indication, then we’ll be turning people away,” Guss said.

“You think we’ll have more than fifteen thousand?” Matt asked, astounded.

“That’s not too many, really, and we could get more than that, think about it–” Kyp said, turning to Matt.

“You guys are kidding right?” Guss was agape.

“Nope, we’re serious about this, and more importantly the Morgan’s, and now Mars Colony is serious about this?” Matt explained.

“And you can keep everyone from going public, before the book launches?”

“It’ll be tough, but we’ve been good at keeping a secret for a long time, so this shouldn’t be too difficult,” Kyp said. “And besides, it’s good to be friends with ISA, and Mars is ready for real population growth, so the infrastructure has been in place for this kind of thing for a while,” Kyp explained. “They–or construction bots, at any rate–are building an addition to the colony structure on Mars, it’ll be ready long before we get back.”

“I suppose so. And we’re leaving, when, again?”

“We can start leaving in three weeks,” Kyp answered. “How long’s the window?” He asked, in Matt’s direction.

“I think they’ve said, six weeks to break orbit. When’s the attack go down?”

“Middle of next week.”

“I think, gentleman,” Kyp said, sitting up in his chair, “that we have a plan!”

And they did.

tycho garen

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