Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

The subject of this image has a real name, but by custom, he uses a ‘messenger-name’: Jay. He’s moving on foot. The ground is broken and rough: with no road, he had to leave his vehicle behind. It’ll be one more day before he has the first in a series of syndications at mining enclaves and towns nestled amongst the mountains.

He’s wearing a bag over a long coat. The resolution of the image is just good enough to make out the individual characters of the public encryption key stitched into the material of the bag. The view from the electronic eye-in-the-sky shows Jay surrounded by a light haze: a mess of wireless signals and RF echoes. Bright panels on his coat betray the slabs of solid-state memory where his primary archive is stored.

He’s just one of a whole series of messengers: they tie together the continent, ferrying the all-important message archives from one isolated region to the next, through territories that are too dangerous or too unpredictable to lay cable. Message latency is generally measured in days, but security is absolute.

We return to the subject just after one of his syndications. Apparently at ease, relaxing with an intoxicant on the terrace of a guesthouse on a mountainside. As well as the syndication, he has also taken on more than the usual number of personal messages from the miners and farmers of the area, and is seeking solitude. Many messengers exhibit these behaviours, including the intoxicant dependence. Some are far more severe than others. Jay has a relatively mild habit, which is one of the reasons he was chosen for this experiment.

Messengers are interesting because there is statistically significant factor of difference between them and all other social groups under study. They display certain shocking similarities to one another, with no reflection on their region of origin. Messengers display a wholly unnatural obsession with security and authenticity. This is harnessed for the public image of their syndicate, a fact that they trade on, but this obsession invariably extends beyone a purely professional interest.

The second subject is one of our operatives, teleoperating a shell. Naturally, we have chosen an attractive female shell for this test, as we have judged that it will significantly increase the stress factor. Naturally, the shell is not a real messenger, but is merely a good fake. Her equipment is of the same specification as Jay’s, and her public key has a forged signature. We call her ‘Clara’.

Other combinations of this scenario have been carried out. When a non-messenger is introduced to ‘Clara’ (or the male equivalent, Cal), interaction is normal. They don’t question the identity of this person, but attempt to ‘get to know’ our operative, intrigued by the exotic persona and the popular romanticisation of the messenger lifestyle. When a messenger is introduced to our non-messenger version of Clara/Cal, the reaction of the messenger varies wildly: some express disinterest, others actively attempt to exploit the mythos of their position for personal gain.

Upon introduction, Jay and ‘Clara’ exchanged pleasantries, and some superficial comments about their syndication routes. ‘Clara’ left the terrace, in order to buy Jay a drink: she left her bag, and therefore the forged signature on her public key, with him. Immediately she was out of sight, he scanned the key. His eyes went wide with panic.

Hidden under his jacket was an edition of the famous ‘messenger gun’.

As ‘Clara’ stepped back on to the terrace, Jay shot her.

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