Friday, May 7, 2021

Remnant: Super connectors

The mayor said, “May I look at that?”

Jarrell expanded the signature block to make the names legible and handed his phone to the Mayor.

The mayor read them off from the top.

“Some joker named ‘G. Fulsum’ is Acting Governor. I never heard of him.”

“Harley Smoots is next. Never heard of him, either. But with a name like that he can’t be too hard to find and likely there won’t be very many ‘Harley Smoots’ in Michigan.”

“I recognize ‘Boris Dragnov’. He is the Markle Township clerk. Can’t be too many ‘Boris Dragnovs’ out there, either so its gotta be him.” Mayor Wagner speculated with a grunt.

“So you say we should just start shooting these people?” the Mayor asked with just a glint of humor shining through. Even a crappy plan is better than no plan.

“Nope. Not at all” Jarrell said. “Unless you want to get caught. Too many bread crumbs leading back to us if we start, ummm, disciplining traitors as quickly as we figure out who they are.”

“It would be a lot better if we could get copies of these letters from the five counties around Lansing. Then pick random days and take out one traitor from each county on a given day” Jarrell said.

“If they broke down each county by township, then there are about 16 “Dragnovs” per county” the Mayor opined.

“Then we better start collecting copies of those letters before we start pulling triggers. It might get a whole lot harder to collect this information after they figure out how we got a hold of it” Dar suggested.

Then Dar called the “kid” he left in charge of the Easter Egg honeypot. “Hey, I gotta favor to ask” he said.

“Whazzat?” the kid drawled back.

“Can you look through the trucks of the raiders and see if you can find any, and I quote ‘Memorandum of Authorization’ in them. I need pictures of the signature blocks.”

“Is it a big rush?” the kid asked.

“Not really. If you take a few minutes when your relief comes, that will be soon enough” Dar said. "You might have to look through their pockets but most of them ought to have one."

The Mayor raised an eyebrow in an unspoken question.

“They trade-off every four hours” Dar said. “They have extra people when they do the hand-off.”

Jarrell cleared his throat.

“Yes, young man” the Mayor sighed. “What now?”

“About those bread-crumbs leading back to us” Jarrell said.

The mayor nodded.

“Is there any way you can cloud-source the job of collecting copies of those Memorandum of Authorization?” Jarrell asked.

“Can you just talk plain English for a few minutes?” the Mayor asked.

“Is there somebody you can delegate the job of collecting those letters to. Even better, is there a group of people you can delegate it to so it isn’t an arrow pointing straight back to us?” Jarrell said. It was a lot more words than jargon but he could appreciate that there were only 48 states when Wagner was born.

It only took Wagner a few seconds to remember his “phone chain” of sixty-and-seventy year-old women.

The events of the previous night and the following day had done far more to convince local farmers to request help in protecting their assets than all of their previous phone calls.

The phone calls had not been a waste of time, however. As the farmers wrapped their minds around the new reality, they only had to tap the “Recent Calls” icon on their smartphones to call the phone-chain back.

Requests rapidly outran resources.

The women of the phone-chain could have easily managed the D-Day invasion in their spare time.

They dynamically shuffled defensive resources. They biased them to be closest to M-99 and favored farms with large animals like cattle and horses.

Frankly, they had never felt more needed and appreciated. And they were begging for more work.

“Hello, Alice? This is Mayor Wagner” the Mayor said into his phone.

“What can I do for you today?” Alice boomed back. Alice was convinced that Ed, her husband was deaf and she compensated by increasing the volume. Habits, don’t you know.

Ed's friends noticed that Ed's hearing improved markedly the farther he was from Alice.

“You were asking if there was anything else you or the phone-chain could do. Well, something came up” the Mayor said.

“Spit it out. You have me on pins-and-needles” Alice boomed.

The Mayor wondered why she bothered to pay for a phone. He swore he could hear her without it.

“I need to have the phone-chain reach out to people they know in Ingham, Clinton, Ionia and Shiawasee counties and get pictures of the letters the people stealing the food are carrying” they Mayor said. "In fact, I need them for the rest of Eaton County, too."

“What?” Alice said.

“The raiders are showing people a letter that authorizes them to seize food. I need pictures of those letters, specifically the signature block” the Mayor said.

“Why?” Alice asked.

The mayor temporized. “We need to know who is taking the food so we can get paid when things return to normal”

“Ah-huh” Alice said, clearly not believing him.

“Don’t worry. I will see what I can do” Alice said.

It has been suggested that the forces holding quarks together might be more tenacious than the force of grandmothers seeking to protect their grandchildren’s futures, but no viable experiment has ever been proposed to test the heresy.

After thinking for a minute or two, Alice started scratching out notes on a piece of paper. She found it helped her to think.

  • 4-H
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Baseball
  • Volleyball
  • Scouting
  • Bingo

After tapping the eraser of the pencil against her teeth for a minute she added

  • Robotics Club
  • Work
  • Church
  • Family
  • School

Then she started dialing.

A typical person has between 2000 and 3000 acquaintances.

Overlap is an issue. Of those 2500, any one acquaintance is likely to share about 3/4 of them.

Nevertheless, a typical person, plus their acquaintances-one-orbit out are likely to encompass 600^2 people or a third-of-a-million souls.

That would be a typical person.

Alice was a super-connector. She knew 10,000 people by face, name and association.

The only difficulty Alice would have in collecting digital images of 99% of the Memorandum of Authorizations would be in her friends' ability to generate plausible reasons why they needed to take a photo.


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