They kept several bottles of Saurian brandy in the ship's bar, but most of it was delivered to a contact at their next destination. Jax and Jacen asked if they might sample the brandy they were keeping aboard, and each was allowed a sip or two, but not a full drink. Which was fine with them, because one sip was enough for them to admit they weren't ready for a full drink of stuff this strong.
They were a bit surprised that the next stop was Bynaus.
"I wouldn't have thought Bynars would drink," said Jax.
"Well, generally, they don't, lad," said Sean. "But a few of 'em like ta indulge now an' again. It is somewhat frowned upon, o' course. Some areas e'en illegal. But if they know how ta drink, it isn't too dangerous. They have ta store more data in their BMU's than usual when they do, but..."
"Is the area we're deliverin' to illegal?" asked Jacen.
"Uh, well, yeah. Friend o' mine name o' 1001111101 runs a luvly li'l speakeasy style o' place I like ta stop inta whene'er I'm around. So, I'm sure you'll enjoy this stop. Feel jus' like home, eh? You're used ta spendin' lotsa time at th' Fourth, hmmm?"
"Sure," said Jax and Jacen in unison; Jacen, of course, lived at the Fourth O' March.
"But," added Jax, "I think I'd like to spend a bit of time with computers, here."
"Ah, yes," said Christie, "you're an aspiring hacker, ain'tcha?"
"Well, I don't like to brag, but, I'd say 'aspiring' doesn't begin to do my talents justice. Oh, I've got a long way to go yet, but I'm far ahead of most kids my age. Anyway, I'd like to meet some Bynar hackers."
"Sure, sure," said Sean. "Well, Jithro's the best one on th' Dog with computers, an' he knows some folks aroun' here he could maybe intraduce ya to."
"I'll be happy to help you out, Jax," said Jithro. "Perhaps you can help me out, too. You may probably guess what we're picking up here, besides a little latinum for the brandy."
"Information, I'd say."
"Exactly. And you could help me get it."
"Sure. What sort of information?"
Before Jithro could answer, Christie said, "Orbit established. Ten-K-Eleven is on the comm for ya, Sean."
"Open," he said, and immediately his friend's face appeared on the viewscreen. "Greetin's, Tenk, how's business?"
"Same as ever, Sean. I see you have guests with you."
"Jax DeSabel an' Jacen Monihan."
"Greetings, children. Your uncle has mentioned you."
"Greetings," said the boys.
"Well," said the Bynar, looking again to Sean, "come by when you like."
"We'll be down soon enough." And that was the end of the conversation. A few minutes later, Sean, Jithro, Jax, and Jacen were down in the speakeasy.
It took only a few minutes for Sean to conduct his business with his friend, then they went off to talk a lot and drink a little. (Or was that the other way around?) Jithro, meanwhile, took the boys to a room below the bar where there were computers set up. They weren't often used by the Bynars who worked here or patronized the place, as most computer work could be done easily enough through their mental link to the planet's central computer complex. But non-Bynars who occasionally stopped by sometimes used them. Jithro was himself very familiar with these computers, and took some time to teach Jax and Jacen how to use them, as they were somewhat different from most Federation computers, and generally more advanced.
Jacen learned the basics, and went off to use a corner computer for basic things- looking up information about the planet, chatting with people on the planet, and checking his s-mail. Jax took a little extra time to figure the computers out completely. Jithro was amazed how quickly he took to them.
"Took me most of a day to learn all this," he said, "and longer still to get quite used to it and comfortable with it. You've learned it all in..." he glanced at his wrist chronometer, "...it's almost an hour now. Well, let's give you a test run. Hmmm. See how much you can find out about the Hacker's Guild in ten minutes."
Jax logged on to the Net, and eight minutes later had a full report. "You should know, I've known a bit about the Guild for a year or so now, heard passing references to it occasionally. Never could find out too much. So this was fun. Okay. Established on a planetary scale on Terra, 2045. Organization barely survived World War III, which began nearly a decade later. The Guild went interstellar in 2158, in the middle of the Romulan Wars. When the Federation formed a few years later, it got organized a bit better. The next major improvement came in 2243 with the invention of duotronics. In 2329, isolinear chips replaced duotronic technology. For over two decades, the Guild had been petitioning Bynaus' hackers to join, but they didn't accept the invitation until this enhancement in Federation standard technology. Before, they had apparently found the Guild's computer technology somewhat antiquated and beneath them. Of course, some members of the Guild had had such technology before it was officially introduced in '29, but it wasn't common enough, even among the hacker community, for the Bynars' tastes. Once the Bynars began joining the Guild, and sharing their technology and skills, things improved exponentially. It was in 2332 that a subgroup, the Hacker Elite, was created, recognizing the best of the Guild. By 2350, the majority of Guild members were Bynar, especially in the Elite. Over the years, various planetary and Federation law enforcement groups have attempted to infiltrate the Guild, gather evidence against its members, with extremely limited success. Most members of the Guild have been successful independent hackers for several years at least before approaching the Guild for membership. Most of those who apply are rejected, although it is a major first step even to be capable of contacting the Guild. Very, very few hackers are approached for membership by the Guild itself, and only three people have ever rejected such an invitation. I couldn't find their names. This is in fact, all I can find on the Guild. I know I had two minutes left, but I didn't bother with them. I spent the last two minutes of the eight I did use in trying to find more, and in that time I determined definitely that anything further is beyond my current abilities."
"I'm impressed you managed that much. Perhaps I could tell you, I do know one of the names of the three people who rejected membership."
"Really? Say, you're not a member yourself are you?"
"No, I'm not that good. But I do know some people who are. They guard most of their top secrets rather well, but the Guild does have a few... minor... secrets which are at members' discretion whether or not to divulge to outsiders they trust. I only know one of the three names in question, although I do know that the other two declined for different reasons than the one whose name I know. The first two declined because they felt that if they were approached by the Guild, rather than the other way around, obviously that meant they were good enough for the Elite. Which of course was true, they were indeed preapproved for the Elite. However, there is a standard period of not less than one year of Guild membership before one is allowed to join the Elite, and even that is remarkably fast. Most of the few people who are approached by the Guild are content to wait the one year before joining the Elite, but these two found the notion insulting, and refused to join the Guild at all unless they were instantly granted membership in the Elite. The Guild refused to bend its rules. ...The third person to decline did so because she felt it was inappropriate for a Starfleet officer such as herself to join an organization of that type. She did, however, offer her sincere apologies, told them she had nothing against them personally, and has even maintained friendships with a number of Guild members over the years."
"So, I suppose you think it's important I know her name?"
"Well, I don't know if I'd say important. But certainly I'd say it would be of interest."
"Okay... wait. She was in Starfleet?"
"And she didn't want to join the Guild?"
"But she must have been a hacker already if they approached her."
"Yes... well, it's complicated, ethics. Everyone will see things differently, and it can be hard to explain certain distinctions one might see to one who sees things differently. Very grey area you know. But at least this much is understandable: if she were a member of the Guild, she'd be in a compromising position. She'd know things she'd be obligated to report to the authorities, but wouldn't want to."
"I suppose that's true. Anyway, what was her name?"
"Carol Tiberius Marcus-DeSabel."
Jax smiled. "Hmmm, now there's something Mom never mentioned...." He paused, then sighed. "Anyway, so what was the information we're here to get...?"
Destiny Dog part 9