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         Through the dusty windows, Chess gazed at the bright sun in the sky, and suddenly decided that he just had to get out, go for a walk.  He strode down the hall and crossed the window-lined walkway to the adjoining building.
         Here, the halls were still filled with people, as cooking vessels flamed and the various odors of grilling warred for smoky dominance over Chess’s suddenly burning eyes.  As he walked, Chess’s emotions vacillated wildly between elation over the new knowledge that he had managed to give his family some amount of security… and remorse over possibly just destroying that security.
         But, no, he thought for the millionth time, his sister would keep her thoughts to herself.  And, as for the government: he seriously doubted if any of the wire-tappers would pick up on that scrap of chatter.  And, even if they did, forms had already been filled out and approved.  Who, now, would go to the trouble and risk of suggesting that the great and honorable military had a deserter among its ranks?
         Yeah, Chess sighed to himself, rounding a corner and pushing through a squeaking door, he should probably stop thinking about this now.  He paused on the other side of the door and swallowed hard.  Yeah, he had done all that he could do, and that part of his life was over.  It had to be.

         To distract himself, Chess tried to pick up the story of his search for the indigo priestess.  She was out there, somewhere, he thought.  He wondered if she was thinking of him, too?  Unbidden, his sister’s face swam into his mind.  He had no doubt that she was thinking of him right now.  He shook his head.  The old story would not help him tonight.  Switch to some other subject, he commanded himself.
         He walked on, climbing a flight of stairs, intending to get up to floors where the halls were not so busy and the smells of cooking were not so thick.  For a while, he let his mind wander freely, remembering things that had happened in basic camp, remembering Mal.  He thought about how lonely he was right now, and how good it felt to talk to Ileana, if only briefly and rather guardedly.
         Ileana…  He shook his head, wondering how such a bright, gentle girl from civ could have ended up with Razor and his gang.  And how she could possibly – or so it seemed – actually be in love with Razor?  And, as for Razor: now there was a subject that could overwhelm the terror centers of Chess’s brain.  How long before his luck ran out with that guy? he wondered.  At least Razor seemed pleased with his work on the computers.  Yeah, that was probably keeping him alive, Chess concluded.  And there were, of course, always more useful things that he could do with the computers, to assist Razor.
         And then, there was the samiz tech.  Chess wandered down an unfamiliar hallway and let his brain return to the idea.  In theory, it could be done.  And it had always seemed like just a theory when he was in college.  But the G. A. had said that Lodestar was actually using samiz as their mode of outbound transmission for the game.  Also, there was that captured transmitter that he had carried to the military base.  Chess wondered if that been using samiz tech?  Now he really wished he had paid some attention to the thing, but his mind had been on other stuff, then.
         But it could be done, and the information was out there.  So why, Chess mused, couldn’t he set up something like that here?  If he could develop it – improve it, even – then Lodestar might work with him.  He had a few ideas and a lot of time on his hands.  Maybe…  His thoughts turned back to Razor, who would probably not like the idea of Chess working on something that was not directly helpful to his businesses.  But maybe samiz could help Razor, too.  Chess sighed.  Well, he could do it, or die trying.

         Chess opened a door onto another glass-walled walkway, but this one was different from the other connectors: it was several stories above the ground.  Glancing around, he realized that, in all his wanderings, he had never been in that area before.  He was about halfway down the hall when several men charged out of the opposite door and were on him before his brain could fully register their presence.  One of them grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him against the wall.  Chess could hear the glass cracking behind him as the man shoved the barrel of a handgun into his face.

Continued next page...


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Sometimes I'm sad
I wander the streets covered with mice
And licking a tiny piece of wood I found in the gutter
And I say, "Hey, this wood is good wood!
Good wood to lick!"
-REMember (MADTV Version) by Corky and the Juice Pigs

         Within this country (and other countries, especially in the EU) networks connect to each other by renting space and installing networking equipment at major points of “Internet Exchange” (IX). You might have heard of the Palo-Alto Internet exchange (PAIX) or the Equinix buildings in Ashburn, VA --where my former employer recently paid quite a lot of money to move their servers so our connections could be faster.  This excerpt from Tubes provides a good visual, where the author describes the situation in Ashburn:
I could see the physical embodiment of all those connections above us, where the rivers of cables obscured the ceiling.  When two customers want to connect with each other, they’ll request a “cross-connect,” and an Equinix technician will climb a ladder and unspool a yellow fiber-optic cable from one cage to the other.  With the connection in place, the two networks will have eliminated a “hop” between them, making the passage of data between them cheaper and more efficient.

         However, before a connection can be made, the two networks must negotiate with each other.  And they apparently do this at regularly scheduled conventions, where service providers like Comcast, content providers like Facebook or YouTube, and the owners of buildings that house those above-mentioned cables and caged machines all meet to negotiate new connections.  When a connection between two networks is made, it’s called “peering.”  That sounds nice: as if the internet were really a level playing field where everyone is equal and friendly.  But I have to remind myself that it’s composed of for-profit businesses.
         The idea of a bunch of conventioneers shaking hands and exchanging business cards to spur the continuing evolution of the internet sounds far-removed from the internet of my imagination.  But, just like all the wires tangled in buildings and snaking across the globe, the business deals remind us that the internet is a tangible thing, built and maintained by purposeful effort.  It is not a diaphanous cloud.

Sometimes I'm sad and I'm lying in my bed
And I look over out of the window, And I see the sad faces
The miserable faces of the lonely people walking by
Thousands, millions, of lonely people
And I realize… I should move.
-REMember (MADTV Version) by Corky and the Juice Pigs



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