Chess hurried to keep up with Razor’s brisk stride as they charged through the hallways. The familiar chaos that had engulfed Chess in his earlier wanderings melted away as he accompanied Razor down the passage. Even the noise level suddenly lowered as they passed through, conversations trailing off as Razor, seemingly oblivious, kept up a shouted near-monologue directed at his audience of one.
“I mean,” he expounded, apparently continuing his earlier thoughts, “we really are the truth here. We show civ just how much of a lie they really are. You know what I mean?”
Chess quickly edged around a gas grill layered with cooking meat. “Uh, no, not really.”
“Well!” Razor exclaimed. “I mean, take my girls, for one thing. I grew up in civ, like you did, Goldfish. I lived there plenty long enough to know that they just don’t allow that sort of thing. It’s illegal,” he proclaimed, stretching out the word in a mocking tone. “But…” He paused dramatically. “Who are our best customers? Who are the ones that keep us in business?”
Chess’s eyes widened. He tried not to think about Razor’s business ventures too much. He hardly ever saw the girls out and around. And when they did appear, they always seemed drunk or maybe drugged. “Uh, I don’t know. Who?”
“Civ!” Razor stopped walking abruptly, almost causing Chess to run into him. “All the power-brokers from civ. Some politicians, too, but mostly big businessmen.” He clapped Chess heavily on the shoulder. “You know, the ones who lobby for all the laws that say ‘you can’t’: well, they sure do!”
Chess, absorbing this information, started to ask a question, but Razor went on without a pause.
“And, I mean, where would these girls be, if not for my good business sense?” Razor asked, gesturing animatedly as he walked. “This is good, honest work that they do here. In their villages, they were just barely scraping by. I mean, a lot of them have brought their families here with them. And then there’s my men,” he added, referring to his small army of guards, of which Tez was the captain. “They look to me for their living, too. And they come from all over: civ, the villages, everywhere! Yeah, they’re a motley bunch, my men.” He shook his head like a doting father. Loping along beside him, Chess wondered if the guy was ever going to take a breath.
“You know, the hardest thing I had to do, at least in the beginning, was to get my men in line. Absolute barbarians, they are, sometimes. And you see them running around with the guns, yeah, but I don’t give them a lot of ammo. They’d just be using it all up, shooting all the time: the citizens here… each other… and that’s money down the drain. And there goes my whole budget for operating expenses!” He threw back his head and laughed animatedly as Chess gaped at him.
“But Tez, there, I can really count on him,” Razor continued. “He keeps inventory of everything for me, all the books: income, outgo, and, of course, the schedules. Oh, I know he’s got ambitions of taking over, too. He’s a smart guy -- gotta watch out for the smart ones, especially, right? Smart ones like you, Goldfish.” He laughed again, a loud, harsh sound. “For instance, last year, when we were first considering expanding into arms dealing, Tez did a brilliant market analysis of -- ”
Razor stopped talking suddenly, making the low background noise seem like near silence.
Chess peered around in surprise, wondering what could have had such an effect on Razor. But everyone, as usual, had disappeared from the hallway. Everyone except a tall, slim girl with long dark hair who had just stepped through the doorway at the end of the hall. She moved toward them with a languid saunter, and her skirt, which was made of some gauzy fabric, hugged her curvy hips at every movement.
Puzzled, Chess stood next to Razor and the two of them quietly watched the girl approach. As she passed by them, she lifted her dark eyes to meet Razor’s scowl and her lips curved in a smile. “I wish you a fine afternoon, sir,” she intoned brightly. “And to your friend, as well.”
As Chess’s gaze met hers, he gaped involuntarily: her face was strikingly beautiful.
The spices of her perfume flowed and faded along with her. Razor shook his head, frowning darkly at the girl’s retreating form. “Goldfish, do not go there,” he warned ominously. “Witch…”
Continued next page...
“Came for the drugs, stayed for the revolution.”
The Deep Web (article about the Silk Road / Dread Pirate Roberts)
Time Magazine, Nov 11, 2013
So, thus far we have established that I don’t know much about computing. However, the area of “computers” that Chess is really concerned with is not so much the workings of the machines themselves, but rather the mechanics of the internet and all the things, good and bad, that can be done within cyberspace. We have heard a lot of news lately -- between stories about Bitcoin and Silk Road-type of anonymous marketplaces -- about what the media calls the Deep Web.
This is the place where Razor finds his business clients, and I am sure that it has existed in digital forms at least since the beginning of the mainstream, now Google-indexed internet, and probably long before that.
As we will see in a little while, Chess goes somewhat out of his element to get into the data mining and targeted marketing that seems to be the backbone of every successful business operation these days. It’s funny, actually, that in one person, Chess is sort of embodying the diverse team that both created the voter targeting models that were so influential in the 2012 presidential election and also had the hard-science knowledge to fix the technical failings of the website healthcare.gov The two types of skill sets are quite different, but both seem to be necessary these days to accomplish anything online -- anything, whether legal or illegal… or that shady area in-between where corporations sit, quietly learning everything about us. And Razor, however warped his own beliefs might be, is at least straightforward about what he does and what his goals are.
"Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do,
But I’ll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King!"
-The Pirate King’s Song, Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan
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