Kurt returns! But he's hardly returning in triumph - it looks like he's about to get fired for the apparent flimsiness of the data link's firewall and the infiltration of the Library of Babel site.
With all that, he doesn't feel much like going to the Academy Ball tonight.
I've begun to clear out my room in the Academy. Packing has never been a difficult task for me, so I've left it to the last minute to decide which of my commemorative mugs, puzzle toys and postcards I'll take back home and which I'll shove into the filing cabinet. More tricky will be the task of revoking my privileges on the Academy network, but somehow I doubt that's something they'll want me doing, with everything that's happened lately.
Whatever the Sentinel might say, the reason the link's been opened again is because it's been compromised by the Third Power - twice. During a very thorough scan of the link a couple of weeks ago, we picked up some anomalies; packets being dropped at odd times, odd patterns of latencies. Looking closer, it became clear that information was being transmitted. Messages.
What's disturbing is that it looks like the Third Power is responsible. Since the entire point of the firewall was to prevent this sort of thing from happening, everyone involved was alarmed. Earlywine immediately ordered us to stop the Third Power's messages, which I found to be pretty easy from a technical point of view, given that it was pretty fragile and subtle to begin with. Despite myself, I was very impressed with the Third Power's work. When constructing the firewall, I'd briefly considered the possibility that someone might try to send information through the firewall in this sort of way, but I concluded that it would just be too noisy and would require computing power of a kind unavailable to most.
From a political point of view, the situation was extremely sensitive. I'm guessing that no-one wanted to tell the public that the firewall had been compromised - that would seriously damage both the Academy and the Council. Equally, Earlywine won the election on a promise of openness, so if the news ever leaked out that he was trying to cover it up, it would be even more damaging.
In the end, Garnet and Henrik Tanner decided to force the issue by talking to the Sentinel directly. From the Academy point of view, this was the least worst of all possible solutions - it made them look honest (well, more honest than Earlywine, at least) and it prevented any accusations of a cover-up.
That's where things would have settled, if you guys hadn't discovered that the Third Power had managed to compromise the link again, through this mysterious Babel site. I appreciate you guys telling me, although I'm not so pleased that you also emailed Garnet. This time around, he and Earlywine moved immediately to limit its spread - if the news of this got out, it would be disastrous for everyone involved.
Looking back, I'm pretty sure it was at this point that the people at the top were searching for a suitable scapegoat.
My priority, though, was to try and figure out what was going on with Babel. See, the reason I called the site 'mysterious' is not because of the question of who this Babel is, but because it's completely invisible to anyone in Perplex City. It's like it exists inside the gap between the two worlds. That's a metaphor, by the way - it only looks that way.
A Digression on Babel
Obviously I can't see the Babel site, but I have read extracts of their writings that you've emailed to me. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what they mean, other than being some sort of clues to the Cube's location. The worrying thing is that if the Third Power have access to Babel's clues, then they might be able to find the Cube that way as well. The only hope is that because you are more familiar with Earth - since you live there - you have a better chance at decoding the clues than the 3P. But it could be a close-run thing...
End of digression
The way the Babel site works - the only way it could work - is through bypassing my firewall and sending data to Earth at some later point. My suspicion is that it's connected to the link at a hardware level, somewhere in the Centre for Reality Research.
It's only a suspicion because I haven't been able to follow it up. It would be perfectly easy for me to take a trip down there and inspect their hardware, but there are two reasons why I can't do that.
The first is that Earlywine and Garnet have lost confidence in the firewall. Even if I can track down this new infiltration, they believe that the Third Power will just find another way. I can't blame them for thinking this, after two infiltrations. Consequently, they've reasoned that the next best thing to shutting down the Third Power's communications is being able to listen in. So, no-one's allowed to do anything that might tip off the Third Power that we might be listening in, and that includes snooping around the CRR.
Given that the firewall just isn't working, Earlywine has agreed to lift it, particularly because the only way Perplex City can get intelligence about what's on the Babel site is through you guys on Earth. Having a huge firewall in the way doesn't make communicating that intelligence very easy. That's the real reason why the link is back up.
I said there's another reason why I can't follow up on this new Babel site infiltration. It's because I have a meeting with Garnet in half an hour where I expect to be suspended from work.
Everyone, from Nathan Earlywine down, is looking for a scapegoat to blame for this. I'm the person who set up the firewall, so it's my fault. I did point out that no firewall is 100% reliable, especially against an attacker who has access to the physical hardware, but I don't think they were listening any more. Garnet is sympathetic, but he doesn't really have a choice, and Earlywine certainly doesn't care.
The funny thing is that I still have an invitation to the Academy ball tonight. I doubt I'll be in the right mood to go though. It'll just be another reminder of the theft of the Cube.