cat /dev/hdb | grep -a DeCiro
rating: 0+x

Arthur stared at the steam rising from his coffee, waiting for the night shift to relieve him. His role in Technical Support at Site-19, as exciting as it may sound, mainly comprised of patiently explaining the nuances of the database to confused researchers and sifting through complaints regarding performance. His eyes shifted focus from the steam to the car park beyond the window where he spotted his colleague, Tracy, hunting for a space.

Not long now, he thought.

He rose from his chair and put on his jacket and then, as he reached for his coffee, the phone rang.

"What?" he snapped, picking it up.

"Hey, I'm wondering why port 29750's been blocked," said the voice on the other end.

"29750 has always been blocked."

"I'm on the LAN though."

"What do you need it for?"

"Doesn't matter," said the voice, hastily, before hanging up.

Arthur sighed, sat back down, and connected to the VoIP server. He found that the call had originated from a server room in an adjacent building. He walked to the server room where he was met by a rush of cold air and a group of junior researchers, having appropriated high-refresh rate monitors and graphics workstations, attempting to host a game of Quake III on the Local Network.

"What the fuck are you doing?" bellowed Arthur, grabbing their attention.

"W-we were setting up a….. rendering cluster!" replied a familiar voice.

"We were trying to LAN Quake III," said a dejected researcher from the corner.

"Listen, this isn't going to end well for you. If you don't co-operate with me, I could make it an awful lot worse," replied Arthur.

The nervous researcher nodded.

"Have you played Quake III on the LAN before?" asked Arthur.

"Y-yeah," replied the nervous researcher.

"When did 27950 first seem to be blocked?"

"Today!"

"Show me what you're trying to do," said Arthur, suspecting incompetence on their part.

Arthur crouched beside a monitor and observed the nervous researcher. He soon saw that the researcher was connecting to "57.84.197.4" rather than an address in the local block as he had been led to expect.

"That's not the right IP," said Arthur, frustrated.

"Y-yes it is, we can use SSH with it, right guys?"

Arthur's eyes widened upon hearing a spate positive replies. Without uttering a word, he returned to his office, from which he remotely shut down every network switch on Site-19. When questioned by Tracy as to why he was crippling Site-19, he simply responded with "Leaked database login credentials." Tracy knew better than to press him.

Once he was certain that no data would escape the bounds of Site-19, he made his way to the office of the Site Administrator, only to find it vacant. Her assistant, however, was still at the door.

"When did she leave?" asked a breathless Arthur.

"Do you have an appointment?" asked the assistant.

"Some junior researchers have just given away the login credentials for the database."

"Run and we might be able to catch her in the car park!" quivered the assistant.

Already exhausted following a long day, Arthur ran off with the assistant in pursuit of the Administrator. Rather than combing through the car park, they opted to wait at the exit barrier. Fortunately, the Administrator arrived a mere minute after them.

"John, what are you doing?" inquired the Administrator as her assistant threw himself in front of his car.

"You need to talk to this guy before you go, it's serious," replied John in a grave tone.

"What?" asked the Administrator, visibly frustrated.

"A group of junior researchers have given their login credentials to an outside party," replied Arthur, panting, "I've had to shut down our network infrastructure."

The administrator looked down, shook her head, and beckoned the pair into her Cressida.

"My shift was due to end nearly half an hour ago, where are we going?"

The Administrator responded by turning around and returning to her designated space beneath the monolithic brutalist box that houses Site-19's administrative staff.

"Follow," she snapped impatiently, slamming the car door.

She led Arthur up two flights of stairs and through a labyrinth of corridors before halting suddenly and rapping on a door labelled "Peter Clarke: Administrator of Information Technology".

No way is he still here, thought Arthur.

"He went home," said a porter from the end of the corridor, "Ms. Basara handles requests overnight, she's two doors down in JL8."

The trio found JL8 unlocked and occupied.

"Tell her what you told me," snapped the Administrator.

"Some Junior Researchers have given away the SSH credentials," said Arthur in response.

"To whom?" asked Ms. Basara.

"Someone in Somalia, going off the IP address."

"Why?"

"Th- they all connected to an external IP address rather than a local one, I didn't ask why."

"This… sounds like the product of a… congnitohazard," she said, contemplatively, "have you done anything to prevent any incursions?"

"I've killed every network switch on the Site, even VoIP; I'd have thought you'd be getting reports!"

"Over a VoIP telephone?" snapped Basara. "I need you to investigate this while I build a team to investigate the foreign IP."

"I've just finished a ten hour shift!" replied Arthur.

"You'll be compensated for your lost time. Refusal will lead to demotion. Now take this."

Arthur accepted the key card, nodded, and left for his office in a rush, he had heard rumours of insubordinate staff finding themselves in the D-class block and he was not prepared to test their authenticity. Upon arriving in his cramped office, he sat at his PC and opened a spreadsheet containing a list of network switches and their physical locations.

The words of Peter Clarke echoed through Arthur's mind: Every single packet transmitted to or from the internet from the Foundation's internal network travels through one of four gigabit Ethernet switches. Each switch logs each incoming and outgoing packet on a tape drive in the same cabinet at great cost to performance; a necessary expense in the eyes of the 05s.

It was not long before he found the switches. He slugged off the cold coffee on his desk, donned a set of headphones in an effort to remain awake, and, struggling to hold his eyes open, began his trek down the unplastered cinder block corridors to the cabinets deep in the bowels of Site-19 carrying a compartmented canvas bag.

The room in which the switches were housed was normally inaccessible to Arthur. However, these were extraordinary circumstances. As he suspected, his new key card granted him access, despite the reader lacking a network connection. The four switches were, fortunately, in adjacent cabinets. He gripped each tape as though it were a Fabergé Egg and placed them gently in separate compartments. Upon returning to his office, he inserted a tape into his Parallel Port tape drive and attempted to mount it. He was met with "LTFS11009E"; an error normally reserved for entirely corrupt media.

Arthur began to panic, have they tried to cover their asses?

Said panic subsided when he executed "cat /dev/rct0" and was met with "the packets are after this message. fields are seprated by comma. packets are seprated by newlines. happy grepping!" followed by a long string of IPv4 packet fields separated by commas. Arthur let out a sigh of relief at the sight of intact data. The developer of the logging system had merely decided to forgo the usual Linear Tape File System.

He entered "cat /dev/rct0 | grep 57.84.197.4 > tape1.txt" into a terminal window and allowed his eyelids to fall shut as the dissonant opening bars of How to Disappear Completely filled his ears.

Arthur awoke to the dulcet tones of his chain-smoking colleague barking "my shift's over, see ya'."

He jolted forward to find tens, if not hundreds of thousands of results awaiting him in tape1.txt. Knowing that he would never be able to manually sort them, Arthur opened EMACS and authored a short script to scrape the dates from tape1.txt and insert them into their own file, which he then proceeded to sort chronologically using the aptly named 'sort' command.

After re-iterating the process for the three remaining tapes, he found that the earliest record of a packet bound for 57.84.197.4 dated to the eleventh of December, 1999, at 0935. He then cross-referenced said date and time with the initial dump of the tape's data and found that it had originated at 173.46.67.172. Every device permitted to access Site-19's LAN was assigned a static IP address and the location of 173.46.67.172 proved trivial to acquire: it was a desktop PC behind the front desk in the D-class detention block.

Arthur decided that, with a potential cognitohazard in play, it would be irresponsible to investigate the address independently and opted to check in with his superior. He left his office to find Site-19 in disarray, with no phone system or I.T infrastructure, hundreds of Junior Researchers had flocked to the corridors to act as porters for their overseers. As he made his way to Peter Clarke's office, he overheard a myriad of troubling reports ranging from a rapidly lengthening experiment backlog, to the shutdown of the entire Foundation network, to shortages of staff, to occurrences on other sites, and to physical security issues stemming from the inoperable key card readers. I'd be rightly fucked without that master key, he thought.

Clarke addressed Arthur before he had fully opened the door.

"Have you made any progress? I've just been briefed by Ms. Basara."

"I've found the first PC to connect to that foreign IP. I di–"

"Why aren't you tearing into that office?" interjected a frustrated and impatient Clarke.

"According to Ms. Basara, it's could be harbouring a cognitohazard."

The frustration faded from Clarke's face.

"What… kind… of cognitohazard?"

"The address seems to be substituted for another in the mind of the reader."

"That sounds memetic, I'd get the memetics people in here but we've got no phones," replied Clarke, sighing and slicking back his hair.

He produced a key from his breast pocket, unlocked a drawer in his desk, and produced a box of pills.

"I'm going to need you to take some of these."

Arthur was visibly apprehensive at the thought of taking tablets with a large variety of colourful and incomprehensible warnings on the bottle without a prescription.

"W- what are they?" he enquired.

"Mnestics."

"Do you mean amnestics?"

"No. I reckon if you take these, you might remember both addresses. Assuming the hazard is in that office. Now, get on with it."

Arthur took one of the tablets and began his walk through the chaotic corridors to the aforementioned office. In a stairwell, he overheard a disturbing conversation regarding the expenditure of D-class personnel required to maintain communications with Area-32 through SCP-120. When he reached the rear of the D-class detention block on the edge of the site, the drugs began to take hold.

Having taken a cursory glance at the fence behind the block, he began to recall as much as he could. The dial on the combination lock was set to thirty-three; there were three cars parked outside the D-class block, a red 1973 Toyota Corolla with a five-speed transmission, rust on the sills, and pitted chrome bumpers; a nearly-new BMW three-series, 2.0 litre engine, damage to near-side on both bumpers, and missing one hub cap; and a 1986 Chevrolet Caprice, with three alloy wheels, and one steel on the off-side at the rear.

His gleeful recollection kept him occupied until his arrival at the front desk. Struggling to concentrate in light of his massive boost in recall, he stuttered "I'll need to," the Caprice had a chip in the windscreen, "take y–" the Corolla had paint blisters on the bonnet, "your PC."

Arthur had adjusted to the mnestics by the time he had carried the PC to his office. He set up the PC with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard; and booted it up. Computers in the Foundation ran a custom build of BSD, referred to internally as "SCiPNiX". Unbeknownst to the users, it logged each and every keystroke or mouse-click to a hidden partition on the hard drive. Armed with the knowledge of exactly when the first packets bound for 54.84.197.4 departed, Arthur copied the hidden partition to a text file using "dd", opened it in a text editor, and found the timestamp at which the first request was recorded.

The builtin keylogger had registered an ominous series of keystrokes: "ssh d-class-db@54.84.197.4".

Working backwards through the log, he found that the user had checked their e-mail account immediately prior to SSH connection. After opening the e-mail client, the user clicked on two items, judging by the co-ordinates in the log file, they were likely near the top of the list. Arthur knew that the Foundation's build of Eudora, by default at least, sorted by date received, and as such, he opened the e-mail client and scrolled down the list until he reached the date in question.

He found that two e-mails had been received on that day, one from Sigma-6 requesting D-class personnel for an emergency delivery of medication to Area-32, and an e-mail with the subject line "Updated Containment Breach procedures."

The body of the e-mail contained no text and instead presented a bizarre ASCII fractal drawing. Upon viewing it, Arthur attempted to recall the local IP address. 54.84.197.4 sprung to his mind instantly, and, despite both the mnestics and the expectation of a change, it took him a number of attempts to recall the correct address. He had found the source.

He was panting when he walked through the door of Clarke's office, with the PC in his hands.

"I found the source!" he announced with glee to a room filled with serious looking task force personnel.

"Are you sure?" asked Clarke, filling in a form atop a stack of papers on his desk.

"It's an e-mail, claiming to be Containment Breach Procedures, seems to be a memetic hazard, I think, at least."

"Who sent it?"

"They've spoofed 05 Command's address, so I can't tell you."

Clarke nodded and picked up a sheet of paper from his desk, then handed it to Arthur. It was a re-assignment letter.Thanks

"You're putting me in a task force‽"

"Yes, please pack a bag, you're going to Somalia in the morning. We'll send someone to get you. When you're over there, I want you to look for documents like these," said Clarke, handing two sheets of paper to a shell-shocked Arthur.

I didn't sign up for this shit!

As his Suzuki Samurai shuddered down the interstate, Arthur felt a mixture of nervousness and excitement. Though he was fearful of what may be awaiting him in Somalia, he was glad of the increase in salary that accompanied assignment to a task force. Upon arriving at his apartment, he packed into a duffel bag his ThinkPad 600X and an assortment of peripherals along with a change of clothes. He slept soundly, in spite of what lay ahead.

Arthur was waked at six o'clock the following morning by a thunderous knock it his door. Groggy, he shuffled to his window and nodded an acknowledgement to the driver waiting below. dressed, picked up his duffel bag, descended the stairs, and departed. The driver rebuffed all attempts at small-talk.

"End of the line," grunted the driver as he stopped in front of an isolated windowless building located on a gravel lot. There was a semi-articulated lorry with an intermodal shipping container

Arthur alighted and walked up to the front door, which opened before he could knock.

"Arthur Schumacher?" asked a voice from within.

He nodded in reply.

"Come in."

He entered to find six men wearing urban camouflage sitting around a table.

"Sit," asked the man who had summoned him in, Arthur complied.

"Welcome to task force Rho-9, call me Captain Shepherd. You needn't know the other's names because they're my boys and they take my orders. As do you, in combat situations. For tech stuff, I take orders from you, and my boys from me."

"Combat?" blurted Arthur in dismay.

"Don't worry, we're here to keep you alive long enough to catch those bastards."

Shepherd turned to a blackboard and began to draw a crude map.

"That Basara chick told us you want to hit the national ISP, that right?"

"I– I didn't say… yeah, I guess," replied Arthur.

"Answer with 'positive' or 'negative', none of this stuttering crap."

"Positive, I suppose."

"Right, here's the compound," said Shepherd, pointing to a neat chalk square, "we're going to rush in and subdue the folks inside."

"What will I do?"

"Get coffee, I don't know, don't really give a fuck as long as you don't get in our way. Anyway, when we're done, will call you up and tell you to come in to do your shit. That alright with you?"

"Yea– I mean, positive."

"Cool, lets ship out."

Shepherd led the group into the shipping container perched on the lorry's trailer. Arthur was shocked when he was greeted by a rack containing seven AK-47s and enough ordnance to wipe the principality of Sealand off the face of the earth. For the first time, the true gravity of the situation became apparent to Arthur.

"Where's this truck dropping us off?" asked Arthur.

"Somalia," replied Shepherd.

"How long is that going to take?"

"I dunno, do I look like a logistics man to you?"

Arthur remained mostly silent for the remainder of the journey.


When the container finally reopened, they found themselves in Mogadishu. Shepherd told Arthur to keep himself occupied while the combat crew cleared the ISP. Arthur opted to go for coffee as he pondered what was to come. He received the call to re-join them before he had finished his cup.

"It's clear, come on in Arthur, we're all yours," crackled the walkie-talkie.

"Roger," he replied and started toward the door.

Arthur began to quake as he contemplated the bloodshed that he did not doubt awaited him in the office as he strode down the cracked street. He was surprised when he walked through the door to find the staff unharmed, though bound and gagged.

"What do you want us to do, boss?" asked Shepherd, with a smug undertone.

Arthur paused, thought for a moment, and replied with "Find every computer, staff member, and server that you can and stack them up for me."

Arthur sat and watched a stack of Dell PowerEdge and OptiPlex machines accrue before noticing an anomaly in the hands of an approaching operative.

"That laptop, give it to me," said Arthur.

He parted with the little IBM PS/Note while uttering "yes sir!"

It was a diminutive and ancient laptop which had likely shipped with Windows 3.1 atop MS-DOS 6.22. Rather than attempting to boot from the hard drive, he attached an external floppy drive and loaded MuLinux. While enduring the wait for a prompt to appear, Arthur looked at the two sample documents handed to him by Clarke.

The first began with a "DeCiro Catalogue Number:" with a redacted entry, the second ended with "Marshall, Carter, & Dark LLP". On that basis, he decided to search the hard drive for the terms "DeCiro" and "Dark LLP". Having pounded "cat /dev/hda | grep -a "DeCiro\|Dark LLP" into the console, Arthur was greeted by the line "DeCiro Catalogue Number: PORϟ󞏶􁄹䕴€ޥ߆񱻍Ѝ蓦". He might not have had the sense to destroy his hard drive, but at least he made an effort.

Delighted by his newfound lead, Arthur grepped the hard drive for the word "foundation" and "anomaly". This rewarded him with a line from a chat log, apparently residing in the swap partition. A modicum of creativity and the dd command garnered him the entire conversation:

<val> There on to us. my access is gone. Im pulling out. Did you get the anomaly
<keku> Nah, they've shut down the entire computer system, I can't use the card because there are no readers and I can't just walk in because they're all under guard.
<keku> You did sort out the card, right?
<val> Yeah I did
<keku> Could they… know… that you did?
* val shrugs.
<keku> I'm not pulling out. They're bound to turn the readers back on eventually, I'll just wait it out.
<val> Your funeral
<val> Actually no. Your disappearance.

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