Page 269


Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   Trying the load-module bug again, he got root on the system and

   installed his own login patch. The company's system looked far more

   normal than System X. A few hundred users. Lots of email, far too much

   to read. He ran a few key word searches on all the email, trying to

   piece together a better picture of the project being developed on

   System X.

  

   The company did plenty of defence work, mostly in telecommunications.

   Different divisions of the company seemed to be working on different

   segments of the project. Anthrax searched through people's home

   directories, but nothing looked very interesting because he couldn't

   get a handle on the whole project. People were all developing

   different modules of the project and, without a centralised overview,

   the pieces didn't mean much.

  

   He did find a group of binary files--types of programs--but he had no

   idea what they were for. The only real way to find out what they did

   was to take them for a test drive. He ran a few binaries. They didn't

   appear to do anything. He ran a few more. Again, nothing. He kept

   running them, one after another. Still no results. All he received was

   error messages.

  

   The binaries seemed to need a monitor which could display graphics.

   They used XII, a graphical display common on Unix systems. Anthrax's

   inexpensive home computer didn't have that sort of graphical display

   operating system. He could still run the binaries by telling System X

   to run them on one of its local terminals, but he wouldn't be able to

   see the output on his home computer. More importantly, it was a risky

   course of action. What if someone happened to be sitting at the

   terminal where he chose to run the binary? The game would be up.

  

   He leaned away from his keyboard and stretched. Exhaustion was

   beginning to set in. He hadn't slept in almost 48 hours. Occasionally,

   he had left his computer terminal to eat, though he always brought the

   food back to the screen. His mother popped her head in the doorway

   once in a while and shook her head silently. When he noticed her

   there, he tried to ease her concerns. `But I'm learning lots of

   things,' he pleaded. She was not convinced.

  

   He also broke his long hacking session to pray. It was important for a

   devout Muslim to practice salat--to pray at least five times a day

   depending on the branch of Islam followed by the devotee. Islam allows

   followers to group some of their prayers, so Anthrax usually grouped

   two in the morning, prayed once at midday as normal, and grouped two

   more at night. An efficient way to meet religious obligations.

  

   Sometimes the time just slipped away, hacking all night. When the

   first hint of dawn snuck up on him, he was invariably in the middle of

   some exciting journey. But duty was duty, and it had to be done. So he

   pressed control S to freeze his screen, unfurled the prayer mat with

   its built-in compass, faced Mecca, knelt down and did two sets of

   prayers before sunrise. Ten minutes later he rolled the prayer mat up,

   slid back into his chair, typed control Q to release the pause on his

   computer and picked up where he left off.

  

   This company's computer system seemed to confirm what he had begun to

   suspect. System X was the first stage of a project, the rest of which

   was under development. He found a number of tables and reports in

   System X's files. The reports carried headers like `Traffic Analysis',

   `calls in' and `calls out', `failure rate'. It all began to make sense