Article: 261430 of talk.bizarre
From: pv@MCS.COM (Paul Vader)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: A place to get away from it all, Part One
Date: 1 Dec 1995 18:41:24 -0600
Organization: Inline Software Creations
Lines: 185
Message-ID: <49o7bk$>
Keywords: fick, shin, skiffy
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Status: O

NOTE: This is a *prelude* to a story that I'm not going to get done in time
for FTSD. You can blame Bungie for shipping me a copy of Marathon II ahead
of their release date, and my singular lack of self-control.

22:38:43UT      I N T E R R O F F I C E   M E M O R A N D U M          UNSOLV

TO:   Director Ronald Skilling
FROM: Special agents Daniel Sterns and Francine Miller
RE:   Final disposition on missing persons case #25A36FA1L2-X
CC:   Renee Egling, data forensics
LINK: [Data forensics report], [Personal Journal of Eric Summers]

Case summary:
NABI received an anonymous voice message on 16 July 2017 reporting the
unexplained disappearance of a Mr. Eric Summers, a US citizen. Attempts to
locate him have proven unsuccessful, and no new leads seem likely at this
time. Given the highly irregular nature of the only evidence uncovered to
date (the subject's journal), it is suggested that the matter be turned over
to Department 24 for possible correlation to other unsolved cases.

Investigative notes: [Full casebook] [precis]
>precis< CommerceNet traces showed no consumer activity by the subject since
01 June 2017. That record was a credit from Solitude, Inc. The subject has
been receiving large payments somewhat regularly from this corporation for a
number of years, so lacking an employer of record, the public relations
officer of Solitude Inc, Julian Larson, was interviewed on 31 July 2017.

[Interview transcript] [precis]
>precis< Mr. Larson explained that Solitude, Inc. is an organizer of
vacations to 'far away and nearly unknown places.' The subject was retained
to find locales that 'fit the traveller's customized specifications' and to
arrange accommodations. When inquired about the subject's current
whereabouts, Mr. Larson said that he was an independent contractor, and that
several referrals sent to the subject's mailbox over the past month have
gone unanswered. Apparently mail message is the only means of communication
between Solitude Inc. and its 'independent contractors.' They have no
address on file, and CommerceNet lists the subject as [ONFA] >Of No Fixed
Address<. Mr. Larson refused to provide a list of recent customers served by
the subject when same was requested.

>Back<  Attempts to place an investigator in the Solitude, Inc.
organization, either as an employee or a customer, have failed. Prospective
customers are exhaustively screened and require multiple referrals. The data
forensics team was called in to perform a full CommerceNet audit of
Solitude, to find probable cause for a search warrant of their premises and
computer records.

[Audit detail] [Analysis] [Data forensics report]
>Data forensics report<

14:30:10UT      I N T E R R O F F I C E   M E M O R A N D U M            OPEN

TO:   Special Agent Francine Miller
FROM: Senior data forensics analyst Renee Egling
RE:   CommerceNet audit of Solitude, Inc.
LINK: [Audit detail] [Analysis]

This is one slippery company. It's quite obvious that transactions between
Solitude Inc. and its customers are heavily anonymized. Unfortunately, it
was mostly done using EBanks outside of the [NAFTO] >North American Free
Trade Organization< data extradition charter, so I couldn't simply ask nice,
threaten to cut their bandwidth to T1 speed, or similar fates worse than

On the other hand, arrangements like this are tricky to set up, and by doing
a match between minor edit errors in the establishment of new transfer
accounts and deposits to Solitude, I've managed to run up a list of about a
dozen people who are almost definitely customers. The results are, to put it
in technical terms, creepy.

None of these people have recorded any CommerceNet activity since shortly
after they did business with Solitude. Their residences of record have been
abandoned, and asset inquiries show the minimum allowable balance that can
be carried without automatic flagging. However, no record exists of travel
outside of the North American Free Trade Zone, and mailboxes are promptly
emptied, presumably by a secure message forwarding service. I haven't
managed to crack one of those yet - I'll get back to you next century when
the strangeloves at No Such Agency [1] find a way to decrypt [EGP 12.0]
>Extraordinarily Good Privacy, version 12.0, a once-popular data encryption
package, declared illegal for North American use by the Data Security Act of
2008< packets.

If a search is approved, please consider me for the on-site team. It would
be great to work together closely again. Renee

>back< Based on the data forensics report, a search warrant was executed on
08 September 2017. Solitude's systems were commercially encrypted, and the
keys were obtained by court order 3 days later. It didn't turn out to be
very helpful, because the records are almost totally decentralized. [INLINE:
memo from data forensics]

15:03:37UT      I N T E R R O F F I C E   M E M O R A N D U M            OPEN

TO:   Special Agent Francine Miller
FROM: Senior data forensics analyst Renee Egling
RE:   On site Analysis - computer systems of Solitude, Inc.

Aiiighh! Remember how much I anticipated working this case? Forget it.
Solitude appears to be a law-abiding corporate citizen in one way - all of
their data is stored domestically.

But. I've been chasing locators to information storehouses all over the damn
continent! Everything uses standard encryption yes, but there's so many
keys! I'll be shipping the list to you shortly - have fun applying for over
10,000 of them from the escrow agency. I'm at square one until then. I can't
even get at the indexes, wherever they are.

Chewing my fingernails to the armpits, Renee

The North American Key Escrow Agency has no procedures set up for mass key
requests. In fact, each request had to be entered by hand. It took more than
a month to decrypt all the retrieved material so that searches could begin.
The file indexes still haven't been found. [INLINE: final report from data

19:42:15UT      I N T E R R O F F I C E   M E M O R A N D U M          CLOSED

TO:   Special Agent Francine Miller
FROM: Senior data forensics analyst Renee Egling
RE:   Final report on Solitude, Inc.

Solitude's datastores total in the dozens of terabytes. All but a handful of
files came into clear when I got my pile of keys. Among that handful, which
appear to be EGP under the commercial encryption, must be the index, because
nothing has any names or searchable abstracts. Still, in many cases size and
checksum matched files in the public domain or classified documents
registries, so I could identify most of it. Here's a small excerpt:
- LANDSAT 1-9 images, in full.
- Marconi project deep radar scans, again in full.
- Just about every file in NOAA's pub and arch directories.
- A complete CommerceNet coverage map. This one will land someone in jail.

A lot of the rest of the space is taken up by various matches and merges of
this information. And I neglected to mention one small item - The personal
journal of a certain Mr. Eric Summers, the lightning rod for this entire
case. Don't be surprised that I know that; it's pretty damn near impossible
to compartmentalize when your partner was regularly walking all over the
records stored on *my machines* <--HINT looking for references to that name.
Using *grep* no less! Next time, he should learn to use the * metacharacter
properly. If it wasn't so pitifully cute I'd be hurt.

The journal sort of explains what the big databases were for. Apparently
Solitude's employees are looking for areas outside of CommerceNet's coverage
area. I didn't even know there were any of those.

Don't expect to get any further leads from the journal. It's mostly in
clear, but all of the location references have been EGPed. Apparently Mr.
Summers (but you can call him - The Subject) didn't trust his bosses very
much. I'm not going to even try to make a guess at the location from
context. There's mountains. There, that should limit it to a few hundred
thousand square miles. Renee.

P.S. Assuming the guy's not totally crackers, and that's not an assumption
     I'm willing to make after reading the journal.


Solitude, Inc.'s officers and employees should be indicted for possession of
classified material, obstruction of justice through usage of unlicensed
cryptography, thirteen counts of impairment of free commerce, and possibly
aid and abetment in the commission of a kidnapping, also thirteen counts. In
the matter of Mr. Eric Summers, the case remains unsolved. Submitted this
day of December the first, 2017, Special agents Daniel Sterns and Francine
Miller, investigating.

>personal journal of Eric Summers<


See, I told you you should have waited.

[1] AD: Rick Cook, _The Wizardry Consulted_
* PV   something like badgers--something like lizards--and something
       like corkscrews.