"The Royalty Agent"
An Eddie Peece story by Peter Oakley
This is the second in a series of Eddie Peece stories, tech fiction written and illustrated by Peter Oakley. The first story appeared in a comic book titled "Ersatz Peach," (Aeon/MU Press, July 1995) edited by Donna Barr.
Only your attorney would be interested in reading this paragraph, but hopefully won't need to. Eddie Peece and other characters and events in this story are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental. Use of names of actual places, businesses, organizations or products is for the purpose of believable storytelling, and should not be construed as having any basis in fact. This story and accompanying art are for your private access and enjoyment. You can save them to your disk, show them to friends, print them out and tape them to your refrigerator. What you do with them in the privacy of your own home is your business. However, as you might expect, this story and art is owned and copyrighted by Peter Oakley, ©1996, who reserves all rights to its use and licensing. No reproduction of these properties, beyond those described above, is permitted in any way, shape or form, whether for commercial or non-profit purposes, in any media, for public or private viewing, sale or exchange. And if you have made it to the end of this paragraph, you are a remarkable person indeed, and would surely find greater enjoyment in reading the story itself.
"The Royalty Agent" Part 1
It was Bernley on the vid phone, calling from
the Indy financial zone...
It was my pal Bernley who called me on the vid one day, needing some help opening this strange e-mail that had dropped in from eldorado, an anonymous remailer site I'd never heard of before. Berns and I were strong friends, even though he's in Indy and I'm in Chictown. Four years ago we were in the same psych class on the net, and both steamed over a sturdy proud and beautiful fey who was taking the same class. Her brain went to beans over another gen, an MBA, same class - and she tossed both Bernley and me. Anyway, we became good friends. Now Berns does customer profiling for this big financial risk assessment corp based in Switzerland. I think it's his only client these days. We visit a couple times a week, share jokes and stories.
We'd never met real-life, these four years, but with the everywhere vid screens, it was as good as being there. The day was to come when we'd finally meet face to face, and we'd hug like blood brothers. But that comes much later in my story, near the end of all this weird business with the anonymous e-mail; and of the risks or the strangeness or the big win we were linking into, we hadn't a clue.
"The Royalty Agent" Part 2
The e-mail was encrypted, public key. But we didn't know the key. Bernsie wanted to just reply to the mail, and ask for the key, but I didn't think that such a cool idea. Instead we conferenced with an underground code breaker I knew from comm class. She was an overeater who went by the name Aporkalypse. She read our transcript, and quickly pointed to a string of odd characters buried in the e-mail footer.
Aporkalypse - she's so good, she could hack the White House home page and leave no clue!
"See this G-I-F-87... That's the start of a picture file. Let's see what it looks like." She pasted the short sequence of code into a new text file, and saved it as "key.GIF." She opened it with her viewer tool, and put the picture up on a side-by vid channel, so we could all see it. We looked at a portrait the size of a snailmail stamp, of a pretty smiling girl face in black and white pixels, above the words "NO WEAPONS." Porky spoke up: "My guess that's your key, boys. You can probably handle it from here," and she hung off the conference call.
"She's beautiful," sighed Bernley. "Yeah, Aporkalypse she's so good, I bet she could hack the White House home page and leave no clue."
Bernley was in a love funk, staring at the anime goddess on the postage stamp pic. So I unlocked the e-mail myself and tried to read it. For a moment I thought we'd hit another code wall, because the message was a scramble of ascii that went on for pages. But the starting characters, "G-I-F," were clear enough. I spoke to Berns: "Snap out of it troll-baby. We've got another picture here, and this one is BIG."