The burly stranger leads me out of the Times Square crowd. We dodge people and delivery robots as we zig south and zag west. He says nothing. I’m too embarrassed to ask questions.
We pass a statue of a giant button and needle. The crowd fades, buildings get shorter and bright billboards are replaced by window posing mannequins.
He opens the door to a dilapidated building just below a strange ornament.
I follow him up the stairs until we stand before an unmarked metal door surrounded by chipped concrete. His physical key unlocks the door’s deadbolt. He quickly shuffles us in and relocks the deadbolt behind us.
A waft of stale cigarette smoke floods my nasal passages. Beams of light shine through racks of old-fashioned dresses that block the two street-facing windows.
In what appears to be an old clothing repair shop sits a desk with three large monitors, a terminal and an old school keyboard and mouse. Disheveled papers and food scraps litter most of the otherwise open desk space. An Aeron chair is swung open nearby. The room is otherwise empty besides a worn tweed couch and a dusty wooden coffee table.
“Your mess with the glassless almost compromised our operation. Avoid eye contact at all times. Even with glasses on.” are the words that break the silence. “Also, work on your gate. Your toes point in. Like a pigeon.” He plops down in the chair and lights a cigarette.
“Wait, who are you? And…how did you find me?” I ask, realizing the questions are overdue.
“You’re easy to find. We’re going to change that. Your identity will no longer exist. Call me Geist.”
Blood rushes to my cheeks. My upper lip quivers, “Won’t exist!? That’s not possible! My Metaverse ID is my…it’s my life!” I’m immediately ashamed of my choice of words.
“None of that shit matters now,” he cuts me off.
“What do you mean!? What do I need to hide? I’m not doing anything wrong!”
Visibly losing patience, Geist glares at me. “What’s considered ‘wrong’ is subjective and you’re not only trusting whatever current power in that determination but also any that could access your data in the future.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, we’re at war and the side fighting for self-sovereignty is losing.” His face is now red. “Joining it without securing your privacy is fucking dangerous.”
My frustration turns to stress. The weight of my undefined responsibility pushes me down to the crummy couch.
G-Ma’s words ring in my head, ‘this world needs people like you’. My lungs inhale a deep breath of stagnant air. “What do I need to do?” I ask, half determined, half resigned.
“I’m going to set you up with the tools you need to operate safely. Of course, you’ll need to learn how to use them. I’m transferring my ‘OPSEC’ Brainlink file to you and the apps it covers. It’ll take a few hours to consume. Get comfortable.”
A notification in my sidefeed confirms receipt.
No response comes to my defence. I lean back into the couch, download OPSEC to my Brainlink drive and let my neurons consume the content.
I’m educated in the basics of computer science and programming with Bitcoin, the importance of digital privacy, the landscape of Bitcoin and security tools and finally, how to use the tools effectively.
Cigarette smoke is the first stimulus to re-enter my consciousness. My eyes blink before staring blankly across the room as I process the impact of ‘OPSEC’ on my brain.
It’s different from the stream of epiphanies I experienced from ‘Rabbit Hole’. Instead, I feel a greater understanding of the digital world and its intersection with the physical.
As my vision comes into focus, I see notifications in my sidefeed. Geist’s OPSEC apps, mostly consisting of communication and payment tools. There’s also some sort of virtual weapon. I feel like an anime character discovering his superpower for the first time.
Geist sits upright in his chair. A cigarette dangles between his fingers as he punches the keyboard buttons. His attention is intensely focused on the code displayed on his screens.
The details are beyond my comprehension. In the code comments are terms like ‘quantum entanglement’ and ‘space-time continuum’.
“What is that? Time travel software!?”
Startled, Geist gives me a double take and quickly turns off his monitors. “Done already?” he asks with alarm.
“I guess I’m a quick learner.”
He looks at his retro-digital watch and grunts in approval.
I inspect the specs of my new virtual weapon. There seems to be more to its bow and arrow facade. “Can I use this thing in Samurai Squad?”
“Hachiman’s bow and arrow? Technically, but that would be a tragic waste.” He takes a drag from his cigarette and looks at me — differently now, with respect.
“According to Japanese Shinto, he’s the God of war and the protector of the Samurai warriors. The bow and arrow is his weapon of choice and his doves are his messengers. This NFT incorporates both.” A piece of ash falls from his cigarette to the crevice of the keyboard.
“What am I supposed to do with it?” I ask puzzled.
“Its real potential is in Faceworld,” he continues. “It exploits a bug in their software that allows data to be distributed to all avatars in a given virtual address, like a virtual mesh network.”
“So Faceworld is just going to let me go around blazing arrows with whatever data I want?”
“Well, they’ll shadowban you and patch the bug as soon as they’re aware of it so you only get one shot,” he replies emotionless.
“Shadowbanned…great. What other amazing tools do I have to ruin my life?” My nerves flair in anticipation of his response.
His eyes cut to mine. “The other tools are meant to save your life, Otto. Depending on the data you load it with, Hachiman’s bow and arrow could create powerful enemies. You can kiss Faceworld goodbye but their spies can still track you down in the Metaverse and IRL.”
He takes a long drag from his cigarette. “You have Tor, DEX, node, smart contract, encrypted messaging, and privacy wallet software. Most importantly, you now have the knowledge to use them.”
He leans toward me with a grave look. “Understand these tools do not make you invincible. Used correctly, you’ll be difficult to identify but depending on who you piss off, their value may be constrained to buying you time.”
“Marvelous,” I reply with exhaustion. “I’m tired. I need to get home.”
“You do that,” he responds sharply.
My feet shuffle towards the dead bolted door. “One last question…why’d you drag me into the city? We could have met in the Metaverse for this.”
“I couldn’t take any chances. I had to verify it was you in the flesh. I’m left with no doubt, Otto. You have Rav’s blood.” His eyes radiate a slight twinkle. I notice warmth in his character for the first time.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”Leonardo Da Vinci