While researching for his job recently Steve Kilian came across a tech website describing standards for data center rack layout. "Nobody on Earth should read this stuff," says Steve. In it, he discovered a cool term that could be used as the title of a high-tech mystery/thriller. The term refers to optical cable that is unused: dark fiber.
"The funny thing is, I'm getting low-level readings from the dark fibers. There's even some old un-energized copper back here – but it's also giving me some funny readings."
"Copper? I'm surprised the scrappers didn't tear it out long ago."
"They would have if they'd known about it. This whole section of the datacenter isn't logged. This goes back to Unix days – they must never have incorporated it into the field manual. Anyway, the whole thing is sparking along at a tenth of a percent of capacity."
"That's what I thought – maybe some shielding went and it was spitting back environmental interference. But no, it's coherent."
"So what's being sent?"
"That's the funny thing. It's not getting recognized. But there's repeated chunks of code, and syntax. It's meaningful, just not to me."
Doctor Voorslanger cleared his throat and asked, "Can I see that data?"
"Sure. But we've run it through every diagnostic and translator that's out there."
"Hmm. You're not going to get any hits. This is a bit older than what you're used to."
"But it's active data – this isn't archival. This is being produced right now."
"That's what I feared. You need to get your team out of here."
"You've got to be kidding. What we need to do is clear out these cages for the new install. This is an important contract –"
"Never mind your contract, you fool! You have no conception of what you're dealing with. This is the work of one of the most gifted systems engineers I've ever come across. It has Chesterton written all over it."
"What are you talking about?"
"Not 'what.' 'Who.' Laurence Chesterton, born La Jolla, California, in 1946. Hired by IBM in 1956, yes, at the age of 10. Pivotal in the development of early programming languages as well as several hardware patents. A genius. Exercised his stock options and dropped out of sight in 1968."
"And you know this from some gibberish coming through old wires?"
""Not gibberish. Code. A variant of Fortran 66, to be precise. Chesterton's variant, which was never published."
Nearby, the sound of metal scraping on metal rang out through the warehouse. Doctor Voorslanger sighed. "Maybe you were right. Maybe it's not 'who.' Maybe it is 'what.'" The metallic sound resolved into a rhythmic pounding. Soon they recognized the pattern of footsteps. They were approaching at an alarming rate.