Days later, Chess sat before the renovated computers, tapping away at an ancient keyboard, while Ileana perched lightly on the edge of the table. “So, your family really thinks you’re dead?”
“No.” Ileana shrugged. “They have just… I guess you could say they decided to forget about me. I can’t blame them,” she added quickly. “I made trouble for them, being such a rebel and all.” She rolled her eyes. “And when you live in civ and you think it’s the only safe place in the world…”
“You don’t want to make any trouble or even get noticed at all,” Chess finished for her.
“And your family?” Ileana ventured, raising her eyebrows. “Do they know where you are?”
Chess looked down at the keyboard. Many times, he had thought about contacting his family from here. But should he? Would it cause trouble for them? “I don’t know,” he shrugged.
He wondered if it was possible that Ileana was actually interested in anything about him -- or if he could really trust her. But, after so many days on his own, he appreciated her company.
He even, at some point in their conversation, found himself mentioning samiz transmission: the technology that allowed his old G. A. in civ to receive the game information from Lodestar.
Ileana squinted at him. “Who’s Sammy?” she asked with a laugh.
“Uh…” Chess felt the usual shyness, the hesitation he always had about expressing his ideas to people. But Ileana was so easy to talk with, for some reason. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it, actually: it’s supposed to be the thing that all the dissidents are using. It sort of bypasses the regular internet and avoids government interference. It’s not very fast, though. It needs development.”
“Oh?” she said, looking intrigued. “Avoiding the government sounds good. Tell me more.”
In a few minutes, he managed to explain the basics of samiz, as he understood it: the clandestine and fragmented transmission of information along a constantly-changing network of computers.
He told her that the dissidents installed specialized receivers and transmitters that converted each computer into a rudimentary router, which could relay the information to other computers. And, the larger the number of willing participants, the more powerful the network became. Right now, that population was small: it included dissidents, game players, and other scattered groups with their own agendas. But -- or so he had heard -- the popularity of samiz was growing.
And, as he talked, Chess studied the girl in front of him. She was fairly average-looking, with shoulder-length brown hair that framed a small-featured face -- but she had looked like an angel on Chess’s first day there, when Razor had swung her up into his arms and, mercifully, left Chess alone.
And she had come here from civ, Chess pondered, because she had been attracted by Razor’s clumsy online talk of rebellion against the government. And now, she was trying to recruit dissidents.
When Ileana spoke, her earnest expression and her carefully-chosen words reminded Chess, somewhat, of his sister. And Chess just could not stop wondering how she fit into the rest of Razor’s world: the drug trafficking, the arms dealing, the prostitutes?
Chess let his voice trail off as he stared at the computers before him on the table.
“Hey,” Ileana laughed, startling him. “You still with me? I can see the gears turning in there.”
Chess felt his face reddening and opened his mouth to reply. Just then, Razor came charging in.
Ileana jumped up, looking surprised. “You’re back!” she exclaimed, with a broader smile than any she had ever bestowed on Chess. “I thought you were off doing some deal for a few days.”
“Business… concluded quickly,” Razor answered, focusing on her with an intense look. He reached out ungently and twisted Ileana’s hair in his massive fist. “Got time for me?” he growled.
Ileana turned toward Chess, but he knew she wasn’t really seeing him anymore. “Please excuse us,” she murmured. Razor, thankfully, did not seem to notice Chess at all.
For a while after they left, Chess just sat there, thinking. Because, in the midst of their whole rambling conversation, Ileana had got him wondering something that he could not get out of his mind.
Continued next page...
“When all else fails, we get through.”
…the club’s expertise is most vital during emergencies… when phones and computers don’t work due to power outages and other infrastructure breakdowns.
-Amateur Radio Club Marks 35 Years, The Sun Chronicle (2013)
In addition to what Chess is actively working on for Razor’s business, I was even more interested in researching the very thing that Chess starts researching in the story: the mechanics of samiz tech. How would it be possible to create an internet separate from the mainstream internet that everyone uses. We would need a way to connect computers that is different from the way the mainstream internet connects. Well, the first thing I thought of was ham radio, which is really pretty cool in itself. I did not even realize that it was still so popular. I wanted to know if we could use radio waves to transmit short range from one person or station to the next, thus creating a short-range network that would get longer range as more stations got involved and widened the net, so to speak.
I also tried researching something that I thought was entirely separate from ham radio: the BitTorrent method of transferring electronic files by breaking them up into small pieces, or packets, which allows for efficient downloading and sharing of files through the efforts of multiple computers, or peers. What I found was a sort of connection between BitTorrent and ham radio that I didn’t even know existed: packet radio, which can definitely be used to assemble wireless computer networks.
Packet radio is a particular digital mode of Amateur Radio ("Ham" Radio) communications which corresponds to computer telecommunications… Packet radio takes any data stream sent from a computer and sends that via radio to another amateur radio station similarly equipped. Packet radio is so named because it sends the data in small bursts, or packets.
Introduction to Packet Radio
Okay, so I won’t be creating my own “GZnet” to subvert the NSA anytime soon, but I am surprised at what’s possible. Of course, for a better understanding of how to build a network outside of what I keep referring to as the mainstream internet, I figured that I probably needed to know how the internet itself was connected. And, of course, I found a great book…
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