Rudis – A small wooden sword given to a Gladiator as proof of his achieved freedom. It signifies his ascent from being a slave to becoming a free man.
One thing is certain – anything that runs on electricity can be connected to the internet. The only obstacle is cost. And as costs come down, the reality of The Internet of Things will be upon us. Everything from cars to curling irons will be connected to the Internet. With this newly connected world will come a new breed of hacker. The Black Hats will move out from behind their keyboards and spill into the streets, only to be met by the White Hats as they battle for control over our endlessly connected world.
And such was the case on the morning of October 16, 2029. The air was cool and breezy when Randall C. Tubbs, a senior police officer at the Bronx 49th precinct, received a call over his radio to check out a tripped alarm at a nearby cell tower. Barely a minute had passed by when he pulled in to the Tower Road cul-de-sac on the day our story begins. The cell tower dominated the horizon, and was silhouetted against a cloudless blue sky. The trees of the forest surrounding the area were just starting to show their colors, with the yellow oak leaves being most vibrant. A narrow gravel driveway led to a small, brown, nondescript building at the base of the tower. At first glance, Officer Tubbs could see no sign of anything unusual. There was no service truck in sight, and the gate to the ten-foot-tall chain link fence surrounding the tower was latched shut and securely locked.
It wasn’t until he unlocked the gate that he first noticed something odd. A security camera on the right corner of the building was pointing toward the forest. He glanced around and quickly spotted two other cameras, each of them pointing away from the tower building. Clearly, they should have been pointing toward the tower and the door to the building… a door that Officer Tubbs now realized was slightly open. He could barely make out shadows moving around from the small sliver of light that was peeking ominously through the opening, suggesting someone was inside. Suddenly, the sound of his footsteps on the gravel seemed to become amplified, and his breathing so loud that for a split second he held his breath. He reached down and turned the volume of his radio to silent, and slowly began making his way to the open door.
It was now impossible for him to hear the desperate calls from the dispatcher warning him not to approach the facility on Tower Road for any reason. Calls that would have told him “people from the government” were on their way, and that the person inside was armed and extremely dangerous. It was impossible for Officer Tubbs to know that he was moments away from coming face to face with the most dangerous black hat hacker the world has ever known.
He slowly pushed open the door and entered the building. The inside was poorly lit, and the loud hum of fans filled the dark, musty air. The flickering lights from various LEDs filled his peripheral vision as he focused on the back of a man kneeling down in front of a large repeater station. He was wearing a small backpack, a laptop to his right glowed dimly with the mostly black of a Linux console. A pair of wire strippers and an RJ-45 crimper lay to his left, along with a roll of red 22-gauge wire and a soldering iron.
“Hey!” barked Tubbs.
The man turned around instantly, his eyes wide and focused.
“What are you do…..”
Tubbs was cut off as the man snapped to his feet and pointed what at first glance looked like a flashlight at him.
“How did you know I was here,” said the man in a young, pale voice.
Tubbs briefly surveyed the man, or kid rather. Judging from his voice and stature, he was a teenager….maybe 16. He had jet black hair that matched his large 3D-printed black square framed glasses. He was dressed in black, from head to toe.
“What are you doing kid… you can’t be messin’ round with this stuff. This is expensive stuff in here. Private property.”
“How did you know I was here. I will not ask again.” The young man responded slow and deliberately. His fingers flexed around the flashlight device, drawing the officer’s attention to it once again. It appeared to be made out of aluminum, or some other dull silvery metal, and had what looked like several toggle switches and various colored 1206 surface mount LEDs along its length. Where there should have resided a light bulb in what Tubbs thought was a flashlight, was instead a small coiled high gain UHF antenna.
“What the hell is that thing…stop pointing it….”
“ENOUGH!” shouted the young man, and he slashed the flashlight device through the air like a knife. Almost instantly, Officer Tubbs felt incredibly weak. A sharp pain stabbed into his chest, and he fell to his knees.
“You have a programmable pacemaker. Its receiver operates at 2.45 gigahertz with FSK modulation.”
The young man swooped down and put his face just inches from Tubbs…their noses touching.
“And I have complete control over it. I just stopped your heart….old man.”
“Who….who are you….” muttered the officer, falling onto his side.
“You can call me Kalabrax,” said the man casually.
Kalabrax stood up, turned his back to the dying officer and took a few steps forward. He lazily waved the flashlight device in the air as if he were dismissing a poorly told joke, which then transmitted the appropriate signal to start Officer Tubb’s heart back up. He did a military style about-face, and brought the device up to his face, the tip pointing toward the ceiling.
“What is this, you asked… this is a new type of computer of my own invention. The input is made from accelerometers and voice command. The output is had via various RF transceivers and as text to a small display embedded in my glasses. I’m rather proud of it…” he went on, admiring the device. “I call it a Rudis.”
He pointed the Rudis at Officer Tubb’s heart.
“I will ask you again, Randell Tubbs,” he said in a slow, deadly tone. “How did you know I was here?”
The door blasted open as though it were struck by a freight train, and in rushed two black suited figures.
Two gunshots rang out. The spray of shattered concrete stung the cheek of Officer Tubbs as a bullet hit the wall a few feet away. Kalabrax darted out of a back door, followed by two more gunshots, one of them striking a power supply which gave out an almighty BANG and showered the area with sparks.
“Stay with the cop!” yelled one of the FBI agents as they gave chase.
“Are you OK?” asked a petite woman with short, blond hair.
Agent Kerry kneeled down by Tubbs, who was laying on his side and quickly surveyed him. Tubbs looked up, fear still etched onto his face.
“Are you hurt…does anything hurt?” she said while brushing away small drops of blood from his cheek.
She assisted Tubbs in sitting up-right.
“He….he stopped my…..my heart…I almost…I thought I was going to die.”
“You heart is beating fine…” she said while taking his pulse. “Have you been shot anywhere?”
“He has a….a weapon.”
“What?” asked Agent Kerry, looking up. “What kind of weapon?”
“It was… it looked like a flashlight. But it had a bunch of knobs and stuff on it… I thought it was a toy… But he used it to stop my heart I think… he knew I had a pacemaker… he hacked into it with that thing I think…I don’t understand… how did he know I had a pacemaker?”
The FBI agent surveyed Tubbs, her green eyes darting back and forth from his eyes to his heart.
“Give me all of your electronic devices,” she said quickly. She took his radio from his belt and removed the battery.
“Do you have a phone?”
Tubbs removed an iPhone from his front shirt pocket and handed it to her. She pressed the main button and saw a console terminal appear, text was streaming down at an unreadable rate.
“Shit.” She threw the phone onto the concrete floor and began to smash it with the bottom of the radio. She then reached up and pressed against her ear.
“Sam, he has some kind of weapon. I think he can use it to take control of other devices…he no longer needs his computer.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Agent Sam responded as he leaped over an out of control riding lawnmower. No less than three quad-copters were chasing him, one of which had nicked his left ear, which was bleeding profusely.
“He was able to access the police officer’s iPhone. I think he rooted it or something.”
“Really?” said Agent Sam as he darted across a busy street, drawing several angry horn bursts from taxis. He pulled his Android phone from his belt and tossed it into a storm drain without missing a step. The quad-copters veered off his tail and followed the phone into the drain, with one of them crashing into the concrete and breaking into several pieces.
“Nice! Any other tips?” he said while taking a quick glance over his shoulder and seeing the diverted quad-copters.
“Where are you?”
“Hell if I know. I think he’s headed for the subway,” he panted.
Kalabrax was still several yards ahead, but was unable to shake the FBI agent. He darted down an alley and came out near a busy intersection. He waved his Rudis in a modified figure-eight pattern, causing all of the lights in the intersection to turn green.
Agent Sam was close behind, and exited the alley into the coming calamity. WHAM! A speeding cab smashed into a small truck carrying flowers, strewing pots and crates of various colored plants across the intersection. The Agent did a quick check to make sure everyone was okay, and then continued pursuit. The pause gave Kalabrax a sizeable lead, which he used to his advantage. He stopped and climbed a small section of scaffolding in an effort to see the FBI agent. He then performed a complicated series of motions with his Rudis while speaking various voice commands. His eyes were unable to focus on the green lines of text streaming down the embedded display within his glasses as he aimed the Rudis at a small compact car. Within seconds, he had taken complete control of it. The tail of his black trench coat whipped in the wind as he cackled maniacally while steering the car directly toward Agent Sam. The car’s elderly driver screamed in terror as her car lurched forward out of her control, knocking over several trash containers and a few bicycles. She stood on the brakes with both feet, but the car ignored her efforts.
Agent Sam could hear the engine rev as the car came screaming toward him. Instinctively, he drew his weapon and shot at the left tire, sending the car careening off to the side and smashing into a fire hydrant, sending a jet of water towering into the sky. Agent Sam pulled the old lady from the car and passed her to several people who seemingly came from nowhere to offer assistance. He turned back to Kalabrax, but he was gone.
“Where’s the nearest subway?” he yelled at the gathering crowd. Several people pointed toward the direction of the scaffolding, and Agent Sam once again took chase. A few seconds later, he saw an entrance to the subway a block beyond the building with the scaffolding.
Kalabrax didn’t see the Agent as he eased into the subway station. He was typing furiously into a Blackberry cell phone, when he heard Agent Sam speak.
“Don’t make me kill you. I have orders to do so, but I would rather not.”
Kalabrax looked up at the Agent, as a smile slowly traced his young, pale face.
“Ohhh you’re good; much better than the last one. No matter… it’s always nice to have an audience, Samuel.” said Kalabrax in an amused tone.
Agent Sam didn’t see the thumb of Kalabrax hit enter on the Blackberry, causing the subway lights to go out. Kalabrax and the Agent were now in complete darkness… except for a very faint green glow coming for Kalabrax’s glasses.
That was all the Agent needed….he took a single shot.
“Arggg!” There was groan of pain from Kalabrax, and the green glow disappeared.
“Where are you Kalabrax!”
There was no answer other than the sound of fast moving footsteps. Without warning, a few of the lights suddenly flickered back on. Agent Sam looked around quickly, his gun ready, but there was no sign of anyone. He walked over to where Kalabrax stood only moments ago, and saw a small trail of blood running into the subway tracks and up the other side. And then he noticed something resembling a flashlight lying on the ground…Kalabrax had dropped his Rudis.
“Gunshots?” asked Agent Kerry as she hurried into the subway station.
“How did you find me?” asked Agent Sam as he examined Kalabrax’s Rudis.
“Just followed the trail of carnage, your M.O. these days,” responded Agent Kerry as she handed him a pink Tulip. “The flower driver was not happy — he was cursing.”
Agent Sam chuckled and turned to speak, bringing his bloody ear into sight.
“Oh my God…have you been shot!” asked an alarmed Agent Kerry.
“Unlikely,” said an unknown voice.
Both agents followed the voice to a man walking toward them. He was tall with long, lanky arms. His long blond hair was pulled into a ponytail and his eyes were hidden by half mirrored aviation sunglasses. He wore a tan leather jacket that partially obscured the large Arduino infinity logo on his shirt.
“Kalabrax would never use a gun. Too primitive.”
“How do you know that name?” asked Agent Sam sternly. He had thought only the FBI knew about Kalabrax and his hacking activities.
The man chuckled while removing his sunglasses. “Oh we’ve had our eye on Kalabrax for a while now. Long before he was on your radar. The thing is…we still don’t know exactly what he’s up to.”
“What do you mean by we’ve…who are you…what agency are you with?” asked Agent Kerry.
“I think we can be of great assistance to each other. With your resources and our knowledge, we might be able to stop Kalabrax before he grows out of control,” he said while walking back towards the subway exit, turning his back to the agents.
“You can find us at 150 Varick in SoHo. The password is raspberry pi… make sure you spell it right. Bring the device he dropped. We would like to inspect it.”
“We’re with the FBI… just who do you think you are sir?” asked Agent Kerry bemusedly.
The man turned around, put his sunglasses back on and smiled ever so slightly. He made a few quick taps to his smart watch and then waved his hand through the air in a large circular swoop. After a brief pause, he snapped his fingers. At that same instant, the rest of the subway lights began to flicker back on – the sounds of the energizing ballasts reverberating with the echo of his finger snap.
“I’m the ArduinoMan.”