Episode 37: Bridges


“It’s not as fun as it sounds,” Rullorrg said, standing in the grated the hallway behind the bridge. He leaned against the bulkhead, casually observing his techies install the Ballerrg. He produced a small spray bottle and misted his nose tentacles, and cocked a slightly clever, slightly weary eye at the gigantic Megladyte. “Roughly 45,000 encrypted messages are sent every day from Qualvana alone. Her moons and other worlds of the system quintuple that. Most of it is financial data. Then there’s legal business chatter, the crime business, privacy matters, family affairs, and old women sending love letters to their Zuma Cats. It’s like finding a spine in a Draekle grove. In you know the sender’s address you can isolate that transmission hub, but organized crime tends to have more than one, and we can’t know about all of them.”

Gator nodded. “Is there anything you can’t see?” His deep voice gurgled in his throat.

“Not really,” Chief Police Inspector Rullorrg said, once again wryly amused.

Gator suddenly had another thought. He scratched his head. “Is that legal?”

Rullorrg shifted his weight. “Well… it’s not illegal! No one knows we have this tech. But as you know, we’re short-handed, and have a tough regulations restricting our activities. This is one of the only advantages we have. It took eleven of the brightest hackers in the system to program Ballerrg to crack the encryptions. Now they all live in other galaxies, with a happy retirement package and a vow to never return. I tell my boys to sift out all the crap, and only target the big boys. Everybody deserves their privacy. But if we can isolate a drug movement or contraband shipment, and set up an old fashioned bust to catch them red-handed… it’s one less crime lord or lacky.”

Gator blew a long breath out his snout. He liked the tired, old Chief Police Inspector; and he liked fancy gizmos and gadgets. Deceiving people rubbed his scales wrong though. He’d left his home world because of the Megladyte Code of Deception. Tapping voicechips was one thing, but catching everybody’s personal business in a giant net… somehow that was different.

Rullorrg saw Gator’s uncomfortable shift. The Chief Police Inspector sighed. He shook his head. “It’s not pretty. But it’s the only edge we’ve got. You wanted one. But if you want my piece of advice, it’s this: don’t stare into other peoples’ souls—you’ll lose your own. Stick to your business, and don’t stick your nose-tentacles in anybody else’s.”

“Yeah…” Gator said, suddenly not able to find a comfortable position for his heavy tail in the little hallway.

“You’ll develop and eye for skipping the useless stuff,” Rullorrg said, paternally comforting. The techies were done and filed out of the Archive. Rullorrg slapped them on the shoulders as they passed, and nodded to Gator as he turned to follow them back down the half-a-kilometer seedship.