Sharper Security: Day Three - Author's Notes

Warning: Thar be Spoilers Ahead!

In these notes, I discuss the content of the book and give additional information about it. These are intended to be read after you've read the book, or at least after you've read each Chapter. Otherwise, you're likely to learn information about what happens in the book that may spoil your enjoyment while reading it for the first time.

You have been warned!

Cowtown Road

Most people who know me personally will immediately notice that Sam's style and fashion sense is very similar to mine. Hey, at least I can laugh at myself over it. It's really a matter of priorities. I could spend lots of time making sure I dressed better, but then I wouldn't have as much time for writing Author's Notes. You see the trade-off there?

You can also see trade-offs in this scene. Pierre has to subconciously weigh his pride in one of his son's first solo arrests, against his company's reputation, against  the money he gets under the toll road contract, against the money his company saves paying Sam to house John in the Sharper Security Prison, etc...

"Calling a cat a cat" is similar in French to calling a "spade a spade". Literally, "Tu m'étonnes" means "you amaze me", which is the Frenchly sarcastic way of saying the American English "No, Duh!". Hopefully I've told you something you didn't already know with this language lesson so you aren't thinking that right now.

Hidden Valley Road

Ship bored. No, that's not a typo. Yeah, it's a pun. Yeah, it's a bad pun, since I'm sure I wasn't the first to think of it. So sue me. John and Sam like them, one of the things they have in common.

The spider robot's name isn't literally Robbie. Just in case you were wondering.

Blaming yourself for everything bad that happens to you and around you and wanting to punish yourself for those events can be one of the effects of PTSD. Still, it also reveals John's streak of personal responsibility, which serves as a foil for another character's complete lack of the same.

Future Warrior Suit

I prefer the version in black, with the optional powered lower-body exoskeleton and bonus cooling features.

Nanotechnologies aren't all about nanobots. It turns out that it's quite useful to be able to manage materials at scales of less than 100 nanometers. You can make all sorts of cool stuff, like built-in reactive armor, muscle augmentation, etc..., if you happen to work at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT.

Porter Road

The hospital is where see medicine potentially going... less human interaction, more specialists available remotely to be able to see more patients, mechanical devices replacing the nastier sides of patient care with actual nurses only used where necessary. On the other hand, people willing to pay for higher touch care would still be able to get it, but that's probably not for most people.

View Larger Map

They're planning to build a hospital here on Porter Road, near shopping, a charter school and a college campus. The hospital in the book bears no actual resemblence.

Evie's still not clear here on the whole sovereign security company concept, coming from a completely different style of society. Hence the excuse for explaining it all to her along with the reader.

For some more background on Medieval Iceland's society, you can read David D. Friedman's PRIVATE CREATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF LAW: A HISTORICAL CASE or Roderich T. Long's Privatization, Viking Style.

Something not explicitly stated in the book, but implied, is the cost of actually killing someone. There are psychological costs, which are discussed and have a big impact on some characters, but in the setting of the book there are also very large monetary costs for killing someone, especially if you are at fault. You'll notice that the sovereign security companies tend to go out of their way to avoid incurring that cost, even when they may be able to argue successfully against being held responsible.

Most of the series is about some of the "subtle Special Forces style" conflicts Sam refers to in this scene, although there will be at least one larger battle in this trilogy covering Sharper Security and Policía La Raza.

At least one reader wondered about the etiqutte of "Aye, Aye, Sir" vs "Yes, Sir". John was in the Marine Corps and uses some nautical terms as a habit from his background. This specific habit is more particular to Camp Pendleton, as opposed to Paris Island, where "Aye, Sir" is more commonly learned.

From a Navy perspective, the expression "Aye, Aye, Sir" is used when acknowledging a verbal order. "Yes, Sir" and "No, Sir" are used in answer to direct questions. "Aye, Aye, Sir" is not used in answer to questions as this expression is reserved solely for acknowledgement of orders. These types of military speech habits can become so engrained that they give away former military acting as undercover spies.

Many will recognize Wireshark as the tool technical folks have been using since the turn of the century to capture and view network packets. It just keeps improving over time and I see no reason to think that some iteration of it won't be still in use in a few decades.

The first step in a successful network takeover is controlling of a device that is part of the network. Physical access tends to make that fairly easy with sophisticated tools. Taking over a switch or router is ideal. The next step is to capture the network traffic and see what's out there. FInally, you can inject your own traffic to either change or simulate legitimate traffic, or to takeover additional devices. This is the basic process followed in the book.

Sand Tank Mountains

Always send scouts out instead of proceeding blind. Just sayin'.

Cartegna Lane

Hopefully you noticed the still not emptied trash bin that is the result of Evie's trash service being canceled early in the book.

I know you can theoretically tell the velocity of a vehicle by how deep the ruts get when turning in a soft substance like dirt, but I'm not sure how practical it would be unless you also have a reference database, details on the soil type and moisture content and and expert system to take measurements from a video of the ruts and parse all the data. Happily, Sam is supplied with all three.

On the one hand, I think that if people actual tampered with autocabs in this way, the cab companies would develop enough security that you couldn't feasibly do so. On the other hand, I've seen how insecure most real world companies are, especially to knowledgeable insiders. I've compromised between these views in the book by providing inside access to the autocab company's security and control systems.

Porter Road

It was interesting to look up what all the various mentioned drugs do to people while trying to decide what exactly would get used on Evie.

Even very good perimiter security isn't going to provide a benefit if an attacker has already penetrated that perimiter.  Defense in depth is a very useful concept in physical and electronic security. One of Sam's failures in this scene was to rely too much on the hospital's security and simply augment it with John, rather than provide their own defense in depth under the control of Sharper Security. That left lots of weak points for an attacker to use.

A similar mistake is made later at Evie's house while sorting through the rubble. Sam is very, very good, but these mistakes indicate he still has issues with arrogance leaving him unprepared and thus vulnerable. Fortunately for his clients, he's generally good enough that he's able to recover the situation after his mistakes. We'll see how that works out in the next book when he comes up against some more difficult opponents.

It should be telling that Evie views her new home (which is actually a few decades old) as a giant mansion, while Sam views it as a stick tract house that should be replaced by a modern build. Sometimes we don't realize how much our view of things is constrained by what is "normal" where we are from.

Despite the list of drugs in the beginning of the scene, all that happened to Evie was having her pain medication completely cut off. The "special delivery" was to have have much worse side-effects, but John averts that at the last moment.

Hidden Valley Road

Maria has a bit part in this book, mostly just background for Sam and setting up a couple of things for later in the overall series story arc. She's a more important character in Hitchhiking Killer For Hire, although not present until near the end. She certainly has plenty of attitude and no fear of Sam, although he's nominally her rescuer and long time employer. She has a well-developed sense of how things should be. The track and field reference actually provides some background for the prequel short story.

View Larger Map

Hidden Valley Road is the vertical line in the middle of this map. The darker circle on the west side of the road near the top is the hill where the Sharper Security Prison is built. The long black rock ridgeline running diagnally from the northwest to southwest is the area Pedro observes the prison from. The orphanage and Sam's home are located on the top of the ridge near Hidden Valley Road. If you zoom in there, you can see the driveway. I don't actually know the person who presently owns the estate on the ridge (email me if you are that person, or know them), but it was for sale for a long time in 2010.