The honeypot

I'm distracted during the last hour and a half of the meeting, and my boss notices.  Shortly after 21:00, when we've finally broken for the day and I'm shuffling papers back into my briefcase, he slips into the chair beside me and says quietly,

"What happened at half past seven?"

I start, and a handful of papers jerks into the air and pitter patter down across the table.  The two Korean diplomats on the other side of the table look up from their own conversation with polite, owlish expressions on their faces.

"Don't say nothing now," cautions Sandy, my boss.  He sweeps his arm across the table dragging most of my papers with him, and I duck down below the table to pick up the ones that fell to the floor.  When I resurface, I've had time to realise that he must have noticed that I kept checking my watch.

"Joel." I say, hoping it'll be enough.

"Joel what?"  Sandy's not making this easy for me, so he must be annoyed about me not concentrating.  Damn.

"Joel's had an... assessment today," I say, dragging out the word assessment to suggest that it's more than I can talk about.  "It should have finished at seven."

"You're expecting a call?"

"Hoping for, more than expecting."  I'm being honest: I'm hoping that Red 5 will call the Rebel Voice when he gets away from the Mayor's meeting, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the first I find out about what's gone on is when the pictures of a new piece of art get mailed in to us.  And I'm being selfish too.  I don't want to think that I might have sent Red 5 into something over his head.  I don't want him to have -- no, there's no room in this world for that thought.

"Look," says Sandy, and I can see the concern in his eyes now.  He's a pretty good boss.  "I'm sure he'll let you know as soon as he can.  But you need to forget about things like that in here.  You're up for review in three months, and it's incidents like this that can mess up your promotions.  You've got to concentrate.  All the time."

I almost laugh in relief, if only he knew how much concentration I do, all the time.

My phone rings while I'm in the car, and I answer it, putting it onto speakerphone and laying it on the dash.  At first there's silence, and then there's a sequence of bleeps, long and short, that I recognise as Morse code.  My grandfather taught me it one summer and we spent weeks tapping messages against everything until my grandmother threatened to make him sleep out in the back garden.  The Morse code identifies the sysadmin of the Rebel Voice.  I call him Q which keeps him happy, he definitely wants to live in a James Bond film.

"Q?" I say, checking the road ahead.  It's clear.

"MacKenzie, where are you?"


"That's good, harder to track your cell.  That's good, Mac."

"Q, why are you calling me?  Is everything ok?"

"Our honeypot's catching us some flies, Mac, thought you oughtta know."

I don't know the details, but I know that we have a honeypot, a server that pretends to be the Rebel Voice server but has a number of security holes left open.  It lets us know something about who our enemies might be at any given time: they break in thinking they're being clever and Q traces them back to where they came from.  Most of the time.

"Anyone I should know?" I have my suspicions of course.

"No names, Mac, but three recent attacks have come from City Hall.  No finesse, no attempt to hide what they're doing, pretty much a brute force assault.  They came in, took your address and contact details, and left again.  I could have tracked them back even if you'd tied my hands and poked my eyes out."

"Which details?"  I'm a little nervous, though I've no reason to be.  There are fourteen different details for me in the honeypot, and none of them are remotely accurate.

"They're going to think that you're a seventy year old man with supremacist tendencies living up in Quebec, Mac.  Reckon you're still safe."

I sigh softly, and brake for a red light.

"You stopped there, Mac?"

"It's just a red light, Q."  But he's hung up already before I can ask him if they were just after my details, or if they were interested in anyone else.  Oh well, I'm not far from home now anyway.  I can spend my evening wondering what Red 5 is learning from the Mayor.

The End

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