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Short Story: "Vocal Threat" (10th & Last of a series)

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Searching for patterns in the ocean of Internet traffic flowing through the agency's peering point snooper wasn't Craig's idea of a good time, but at least it was better than sitting through yet another of Mr. Kulya's endless lectures. The life of a spook trainee, he mused, was much like that of a newbie in many other fields. The fact that his drudgery involved violating the privacy of unsuspecting citizens, rather than simply being responsible for their lives, as a medical intern would be, or their livelihood, had he been a law clerk, left a sour taste in his soul. Still, there were compensations.

"You okay, Craig?" a woman's voice said close to his left ear. "You've been staring at that IP registration for about three minutes now."

He blinked self-consciously and roused himself. "Oh. Hi, Kelly. I guess I was daydreaming."

She pulled up a chair. "About what?" After glancing at the screen, she added, "Did you just catch Congressman Fox in something?"

"I don't know. Kulya tasked me with tracking patterns in public webcam hookups, so I was sorting through the geocode mappings to isolate videoconferences with an offshore partner."

"To peg people at Internet cafes getting virtual face-time with foreigners," she translated. "What did you turn up?"

"I'm not sure. A few weeks ago, there was a bump in conferences with targets in countries we're at odds with over the current political situation. I dereferenced the businesses that had the IP addresses at each end of the hookups, and then checked the social networks for mention of those places prior to the time of each conference."

Kelly nodded. "Kulya's 'cell check' scheme. And?"

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"Well, if you accept the premise that any group of people organizing an event of some sort is potentially a terror cell, then you'd have to arrest just about everyone on suspicion. That's so ambiguous. I mean, does he think the only reason people get together any more is to plot an insurrection?"

"He is paid to be paranoid, Craig. So are we."

"Yeah. I know. But you have to draw the line somewhere."

"And if you draw it in the wrong place, and miss something important? Better to be safe than sorry."

He frowned at the name on the screen. "Even if you hurt an innocent?"

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"Innocent?" she laughed. "For crying out loud, that's a congressman. What could he possibly be innocent of?"

"It's not Arthur Fox I'm worried about. It's his daughter."

Kelly sat back. "What? Maybe you'd better back off a few steps and catch me up. What does his daughter have to do with anything, and why in the name of all that is holy would you be worried about some privileged kid?"

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)

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When I sat down to lay out the premise for "Motiva... by P. Orin Zack on Sunday, Oct 18, 2009 at 10:23:41 AM