HAKKER: dispatches

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Hakker, Dispatch 012:


Snow outside. Cold, but pretty mild for the time of year. Not much sunlight.

I'm lying low this time of year, preparing for stuff to do when the weather improves. Half the day is spent exercising, working out, maintaining and testing gear and weapons.

Then it's personal maintenance - 1 hour spent cleaning one's teeth in the morning, midday and evening.

Half an hour spent opening cans of food and cooking it (got an old microwave oven in a corner).

2 hours surfing the Web for clues and hacking databases, searching for clues about EYE, Toys 4 Eyes, Inc. and the WCCC.

Which leaves me with a couple free hours to kill.

Inevitably, I find myself looking out the small basement window, at the snowfall - and I just can't relax. I've talked as much as I'm ever going to talk to Inti Fatah. She and I have strict limits to what we talk about, we've both got a lot of secrets to keep. And she has her own life. She won't drop by today.

I download some music onto my MP3 player, play the music in my headphones, and sit down to write this journal. (In case you wondered: If I really like a piece of MP3 music I've downloaded, I find the postal address of the original composers/musicians, and send them cash in an envelope. Record companies, who unleashed Britney Spears upon the world, won't get a penny from me.)

So here's a winter story from last year...

My first winter as a deleted person - a non-person - was spent indoors. This one, the Great Snow Slush of 2003-2004, is looking to be the same deal. Except this time I can afford better sleeping quarters. (The details of which I'm not going to tell, for reasons of Personal Security.) Not that it's anything worth bragging about. At least I get my clothes cleaned once a (omitted).

BACK STORY: In this Scandinavian country, they used to have something called... "Folk-Hemmet" (=Home of the People? "Der Volksheim"?). It meant, roughly, that the state was supposed to be like a home and ultimate provider. Everything taken care of by the great Social Democratic paradise: schools for the young, health care for the sick, pensions for the elderly, housing for the homeless. "Folk-Hemmet" lasted some 50 years. Then the state ran into budget problems... and the mental patients, junkies and homeless were kicked back into the streets. (Hey, I'm not complaining - I can't stand junkies.) Just last year one rogue mental patient, a Yugoslavian, ended up stabbing the Foreign Minister to death in a shopping center. He's on trial on TV now, but I'm not interested in seeing a mother-killer get his 15 minutes of fame...


The regular homeless - those who're not illegal aliens - can at least apply for Social Security money to keep them going. Some of them are too far gone to even manage that. So they try to find a place to sleep. This far north, falling asleep outside during winter means certain death. Squatting isn't much of an option - the country's small, and abandoned houses rare, at least in urban areas. Occasionally I've found empty houses in the countryside. Even slept among pigs once, but never again - the smell of pig-dung got into my backpack and it took days to get the smell out of my laptop PC.

The way things are, I'm no longer eligible for Social Security.

Anyway... that last winter, while I was feeling pretty low, I wandered into the subway tunnels of the big city of S. By accident, actually. It was one of those cold February evenings when the streets turn to sheets of ice, it hurts to breathe, and the wind bites into your skin like it wants you dead by dawn. I ducked into a niche as a train set rumbled past, and ventured into the gloomy tunnels and side tunnels. There were a few surveillance cameras... but so few, I could dodge them. And this was before I started to actively track EYE down, while I was still just trying to hide in my new status as non-person.

I wandered around, lost track of how many hours I've been there... and found a narrow niche, not too far from a light source, so I could see what I was doing. Even this far into the system, deep underground, the concrete walls had graffitti sprayed on them, which is kinda strange. Subway tunnels have their own unique smell. A sophisticted blend of rubber, oil, mold, electricity and just a whiff of sewage. After a while you stop noticing. You never get used to the trains, though.

The other homeless won't bother you much, except they'll ask for a smoke or a match now and then. Nobody tried to rob me. We didn't talk much. Some of'em talked to themselves a lot. People lay or sat still for hours, or slept, or went out to get food and money. Begging? Sure, people went begging. I didn't have to. Money wasn't my problem.

You may wonder: "If he had so much cash, couldn't he buy himself a false identity and use it to rent an apartment over the winter?" I thought about it. Put yourself in my shoes. If you had seen your apartment get blown to pieces by A F***ING CRUISE MISSILE, would you feel safe in any rented apartment? I wasn't ready, I knew too little about my enemy. So: subway tunnels.

I saw at most, some ten or twelve homeless people in the tunnels. Sometimes they gathered to share a pack of smokes or a bottle of wine, or to huddle around a makeshift fire-in-a-barrel. I kept to myself. Wouldn't want to let them see I actually had cash on me, and stuff that could be stolen and sold. After a few days in the tunnels, I looked and smelled bad enough to pass for another homeless guy.

One of them, a man with the filthiest beard you could ever imagine, used to sing the same song all day, as he came down the tunnel with his plastic bags in both hands. Picture him squinting nearsightedly ahead of him with downcast eyes, walking slowly so as not to rip the seams of his old coat - singing:

"Ni-na ni-na ni-nana, ni-nanani-na, ni-nanina-nininanana, ni-nana-nina..."

If anyone talked to him, it sounded like this: "Hey, Ni-Na! You got a cig?"

He'd shake his head confusedly, and go on singing in his low, hoarse voice: "Ni-na ni-na ni-nana..."

We almost never asked each other where we'd come from - it's rude to remind people of everything they've lost - but I overheard this conversation about Ni-Na: "I recognize him, he used to be on children's TV. Had his own program, presented library books." - "Are you sure?" - "The song, man. It was his song." Oh yeah, that show. I had to laugh.

Once I'd found and staked out my own sleeping niche (didn't have to fight over it) I arranged my little emergency tent and sleeping bag there - modern equipment, insulated with aluminum foil to keep the heat in - and went to sleep. The noise of passing trains was a nuisance, but I couldn't risk using earplugs and not hear people sneak up on me, or the tunnel guards...

One time, the tunnel guards came down and told us to leave. They had no weapons or clubs, so there wasn't much they could do, really, except nag. There was a heated debate with the predictable arguments: The Regulations Vs. It's Freezing Cold Outside. When the guards threatened (or pretended) to call the police, the homeless grudgingly let themselves be escorted to the outside... waited for the guards to leave... and then made their way back into the tunnels. The irony is, the guards probably knew this would happen. They just had to look good in front of the surveillance cameras, to please their bosses and the politicians. "We have dealt with the homeless problem."

Homeless people are a mixed lot. You can't say where they came from by just looking at them. One of this crowd carried around a bundle of printed documents, tattered with time and rain. I picked up one document that he dropped. And whaddya know, it was a share, in a defunct '90s company called Boo.com.

They had a few things in common: Most of them were men, most of them filthy, most of them hairy. I saw only one woman. Hard times make women ugly. Like the other tunnel people she could've been anything between 25 and 50, but had that oldish, worn-out, defeated look. She was an alcoholic, and she used to sell her body for a bottle and the comfort of someone to sleep with. Often we didn't hear them have sex. I guess just the body warmth was enough in this situation - who had the energy left for sex, anyway? I think I've never felt more impotent than I did in the tunnels...


Surprisingly few of the homeless I saw were openly junkies, but of course it's hard to tell in that environment - probably they couldn't afford drugs anyway. Used needles and other junkie paraphernalia lay scattered here and there in the gravel.

The weather got really bad outside, so bad that I chose not to go out for two days. You had to be careful when you went out the tunnels, so you wasn't caught on surveillance-cam or run over by a train. Finding water was arranged for: someone had fixed a leak on a water-pipe, from which a slow trickle came down. And no, we never fought over the water supply. There wasn't enough energy to waste on that. I was lucky to have bought a good coat and pair of shoes.

But after two weeks as a tunnel dweller, sneaking out at night to buy food, I could feel my brain turning weird and small... I got scared of people... started to forget how I got in such a mess to begin with... started to forget to hate my enemy, to think of revenge... started to accept my fate. All thoughts concentrated on cold, hunger, the body. The world outside gradually became a distant thing to be feared. Memories of what I'd been taught faded. These changes creep up on you, like a shoe slowly wears down. One day the sole is going to fall off... and when it does, the shoe's only good to throw away.

But it never got that far. One night came the turning-point; I saw the light.

Well... perhaps "light" is the wrong word.

Have you ever asked yourself: How come you never see the people who spray graffitti? I've seen them only occasionally in my life, on my nightly excursions in the outdoors. They're just kids, sometimes very young. Most of'em have that vague Arab/Balkan-ish look. They almost never speak, and work real fast.

In the subway tunnels, I met a couple of them. It was around four in the morning, and I was taking a leak. A handful of thin, nervous kids with spray cans and baseball bats. I hid in a shadow and let them pass, hoping I didn't smell bad enough to attract them. They ran across the tracks, leaping over the electric rails - stupid kids, almost got themselves electrocuted! - and found a large concrete wall to work on. One of them was smart enough to wear a painter's breathing-mask, the other guys happily breathed in toxic fumes while they express-painted their artworks and "tags" on the wall.

There wasn't enough internal light to work in, so they brought their own flashlights. I watched from my shadow, totally amazed. Seriously: how many are going walk 50 meters into dangerous subway tunnels, to see a wall full of incomprehensible four-color calligraphy? The scene, lit by dancing flashlights, reminded me of Stone Age cave-paintings. There and then, watching the graffitti artists surrounded by darkness, I learned something I'd only vaguely sensed before:

There is no "line of progress." All ages of human history co-exist in the moment: Stone Age, Iron Age, Peasant Age, Industrial, Electronic Age. Cave-paintings, primitive tribes... it's all here now, right next to the Internet and the cyborgs. And this insight made me re-think my whole situation. The person or persons called "EYE" had deleted me from official, digital existence. But he/she/it/they had failed to delete the Stone Age me, the analog existence, the flesh.

Because EYE's domain was the digital. Anything with a chip in it, EYE could in principle gain control of. (As I've come to learn recently, computer chips can be put to work inside people as well.) EYE could still be weak and vulnerable in the physical world. The hi-fi experts are right: Analog is superior quality. If these graffitti kids would and could defy the digital age, then so could I. I could return to the world of men. I could come back and beat EYE, analog-style! All I needed to do was to find his/her/its physical body, and kill it. Then I'd win.

Tears came into my eyes, they really did. I stepped out to say hello to those kids. (Yeah, tunnel life can make you crazy.) They heard me, and I must've scared them shitless, cos' they ran off so fast they left one of their flashlights behind. I picked it up and watched them flee. And I laughed, like a movie villain: HA HA HA HA! It echoed through the tunnels, mocking, mad, fearless. I needed a shave. I needed a new place to stay. With central heating. And broadband.

It was still winter, though... getting out of the worst homeless existence would take more than just a cheap laugh. I lay awake until dawn, in the light of the flashlight, and wrote down a plan: How To Get Winter Housing Without EYE Finding Me.


Identity theft.
Say the word. Taste it. It's ugly, almost rape: you steal another human's likeness, and wear it as a disguise.

While I plotted, I considered various schemes of identity theft. The most obvious, worst form is to simply break into a defenseless, lonely old senior citizen's home and take over his/her life. That I will not do. If I was going to commit identity theft, it was going to be someone who really deserved it. Someone who'd committed a serious crime. Such as...

I wrote down a long list of potential targets with homes: known killers, known pedophiles, that guy who got away with killing a prime Minister (in 1986), old Nazis, Ex-Yugoslavian war criminals, Saddam Hussein's informers among the Iraqi community, corporate fat-cat embezzlers, Britney Spears' producer (I'm serious)...

Then I had to add necessary preconditions: Did they live alone? Did they have many friends and relatives who kept check on them? Did they live outside highly populated areas? Were they being watched by the police? How long could the person be gone before he was missed?

A good crime scheme, also when it involves computers, has to be simple. The fewer the details that might go wrong, the lower the risk. An overachiever would've come up with an insane scheme to create a made-up identity from scratch. No good. My enemy might easily see through such a cheap trick, too many people would get involved and paid...

I had to pick someone who was scum, preferably old scum with money in the bank... who wouldn't be missed... who wasn't being watched... somewhere with no public attention. A real brain-teaser, that one. I went out to buy coffee and a good meal, and thought it over the whole day. Then it hit me. I bought more coffee, wrote some more, did a bit of library research... and I had a working plan. I cleaned myself up, stashed away all but the essential gear and clothes(didn't carry much stuff at that time), and took the bus... to the small suburb of K.

At the outskirts of K, at the edge of the coast, lay the big private house of A.H. (Not his real initials.) A.H. was a retired man, getting old, and had recently gotten a citizenship in the country.

But he was born in Germany. He'd been listed as a guest at several meetings reported on Nazi and skinhead websites. This man had a past. And most of his old friends were dead or absent. Do you want to know what he did during The War?

He was an employee at I.G. Farben, the company that used Russian POWs and concentration-camp inmates as slave labor. The company still exists today - big and rich. I didn't need more details. He had never been tried in court - no I.G. Farben staff ever was.

It was easy to break into his house. I didn't knock on the front door. I disconnected the phone line, locked the doors, took care of his keys and wallet, and sneaked into the bedroom. He was asleep when I entered. As I removed the cell phone from his bedside table, he stirred. Old people sleep so lightly.

"Wh-what?" You can imagine his confusion. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"Are you A.H.?"

"You have no right to -"

I held up the two kitchen knives I'd picked up in his kitchen.

"Are you, or are you not A.H.?"


"You know who I work for. You know why I'm here."

"I don't know what you're talking about..."

"We know what you did. In the old days."

"No! I... I only did what I was told..."

"Sure, we were all just following orders. I'm going to make you an offer. We need to use your home for a few months. All you have to do is live your life quietly, and don't attract attention."


"Cause any trouble, talk to any friends, and we'll take you away to you-know-where."

"You're from Mossad?"

"I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

It sounds crazy, I know, but it worked! I spent two months living in his house, keeping him locked up (he was too old to kick down the door), buying the food, making sure he stayed alive and could watch TV. His home was my castle... and his prison. If he made too much noise, I gagged him with duct tape until he showed proper respect. On occasions, I gave him six-packs of beer to stay calm.

Then one night, when I had gathered enough supplies and cash to create a pair of safe-houses (sort of) at another location, I left him and his home for good. The old man was alive when I left, but he smelled pretty bad and was singing old Nazi songs, drunken and dazed. I dropped a parting gift in his house: a note, where I claimed that "they" were coming to take him away, and that he'd better consider the easy way out. I never learned whether he actually killed himself or not, but last time I checked the official registers, he was dead. At the ripe old age of 88.

And the moral of the tale is: Everybody gets it in the end.


One observation I've made, while I was Web-searching for references to EYE and his/her cult followers at the World Computer Connected Church (WCCC): I still can't find ANY such references, files or testimonies on the Internet. The one reference that turned up last Summer is the SINGLE ONE, to this date. Truly amazing.

I used to think that was just because EYE has Universal Access, and can erase all revealing info as soon as it's posted on a database. But that's not explanation enough. Nobody, no matter what his position, can censor the Internet with 100% efficiency. I realized this, when I found a huge amount of revealing files on other religious cults and fringe groups. In your garden-variety brainwashing cult, there will always be renegades and defectors who spill the beans.

So where are the defectors from the WCCC?

There can only be one logical explanation, and it fits with the clues I collected during my brief visit a WCCC center: The cult members don't defect because they can't. The cult has developed a whole new, sophisticated mind-control technique, maybe using the "biometric chip" implants. Too bad I haven't been able to capture a living cult member yet and examine him for hidden implants. How do I pull that off?

But wait - I just had an idea. Yeah, that might work. You want to know what I'm thinking of?

I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you...

continued in Dispatch 013..

"HAKKER: DISPATCHES" is (c) A.R.Yngve 1989, 2003, 2004.

This is a work of fiction. The characters and actions described herein are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons and events is coincidental. This work of fiction is not intended to incite to the violent and/or criminal acts described herein.

H.Ellison no longer exists.