Chapter 11 – DarkNet Follies (Part I)

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Achievement Unlocked: Darknet Mission Accepted

Warning: Mission dispenser device is tamper resistant; attempts to breach internal firewall will result in destruction and mission failure.

“Really?” Elaine said. She withdrew a Firewire connector from a recess in her goggles and poked at the tablet with her fingers looking for another port. “Challenge accepted!”

Zane’s hand flashed out like a cobra and caught her a moment before she plugged it into the tablet. “Hold up there, sis,” he said.

“It’s taunting me,” she said.

“You can play with the toy as much as you want after the missions,” he said. “Not that I don’t think you couldn’t competently bypass anything they put on it without them knowing—it’d rather keep the cheating to a minimum.”

“Looks like this one’s for the math brains,” Benjamin Miller staring at the alphanumeric code being projected by the tablet onto the screen.

4040B532 D6ECE13F 405BFBA7 8F25A251

#B233

4040B587 50C1B973 405BFBE8 101F31F4

Hints Remaining (x3)

A waving field of green undulated beneath the brilliant white letters and numbers with motes of light that exploded time to time into firework displays of more numbers. Elaine surmised that the background animation had nothing to do with the foreground; it made much more sense as decoration than it did a clue of any sort. The entire design of this page directed the eyes towards the “#B233” in the center and suggested that it had some relation to the numbers above and below.

“Alright people,” Zane said. “Ideas?”

“It’s hexadecimal,” Elaine said.

“I can see that…” Zane said.

“Okay. There’s one 128 bit number per row, or two 64 bit numbers, or—” She paused for a moment when Zane made face, pulled out a piece of raspberry pocky and munched on the tip for a moment. “The 4040B5 and 405BFB each repeat in alternation; therefore it is most likely four 64 bit numbers concatenated.”

“I get it,” Zane said. “I’ll render it into decimal and see what falls out of the sieve at each level of resolution.”

Susan Pilgrim tapped at one of the computers nearby for a moment. “Well, if we convert the 64 bit hexadecimal to decimal the first number is…extremely large.”

She walked over to one of the dozens of whiteboards that wallpapered the room, popped the cap off a Magic Marker and began to write. After a bit of tapping at the board with the marker she managed: 4629899646895710527.

“That doesn’t mean anything to me,” Adam Roach said.

“Google it?” Zane suggested.

Frog slid into Susan’s seat and after a bit of typing she shook her head. “Nothing,” she said.

Benjamin squinted at the board, then back at the glowing hexadecimal numbers on the projection screen.

“Maybe it’s just me, but to us computer science geeks, couldn’t a 64-bit hexadecimal number be used to express a double precision floating point number?”

“Yes. IEEE-754.” Elaine said. She hadn’t forgotten he was in fact a computer science major like her; his dismal attitude simply tended to cover it up. Zane didn’t construct his team with dullards. She pulled out the Enoch and twiddled the numbers into a converter switching it into the proper mode. “Going on IEEE-754 and 32 bits, we get: 33.415614, 111.932102, 33.418192, and 111.936039.”

The numbers went up on the whiteboard with rapid strokes of the marker as she spoke them aloud.

“That still doesn’t make much sense,” Benjamin said, looking dejected.

“Perhaps we can move to a simpler solution? We haven’t addressed the B233 part yet,” Susan said, tapping the Magic Marker against her cheek. “We might be overthinking this. I mean, look at our team. We’re a bunch of scholastic overachievers looking for high tech careers—well, except for maybe Russell.” She winked at Russell Murphy who’s chosen major put him in the School of Culinary Arts—but one would have to ignore his Bachelors of Chemistry to think he wasn’t an overachiever.

He just smiled at her. He’d been silent for most of the presentation so far, sitting with his arms folded in his chair with one leg crossed over the other. Normally he saw fit to let Zane run the show. As old friends, Zane often invited him onto his teams because he was a level headed, clear thinker who let him get the last word on everything.

“Wait,” Adam Roach said, he pressed on his Bluetooth headset—extinguishing the blue light that lit his ear for the first time Elaine has ever seen—and his fingers ran along the four numbers written on the keyboard. “They’re GPS coordinates! I’ve been seeing this a lot on a product my Information Systems class is doing in mock development.”

The entire group crowded around Frog as she tapped the coordinates into a mapping website and—

“What the hell?” she said. “No, I don’t think they’re GPS coordinates… Unless we’re going to the middle of China.”

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