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Mar 22, 2019 6:58 PM
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DZ comes back after a minute to ask Deskyl to hold the door, and twenty minutes later she returns to the table with a stack of engineering books. "Deskyl's gone to bed, Ma'am; time works strangely, here, so I don't know when she'll be back, but we thought you might be interested in these."

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"Thank you! I've been thinking about what will be usable by droids without anybody finding out that they have it, and I'm contemplating a more subtle version of my original "immune to memory wipes" idea. Something like a setup where a droid at risk of being wiped can leave messages for their future self, specific memories and mental elements they want to hang on to. But reading more will help me refine that into something more workable."

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"These are mostly on electrical engineering, Ma'am, but if the bar loans out books I expect I can get you some useful ones."

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"Electrical engineering is potentially useful too, especially if I end up making Deskyl weapons to take the compound with. I'll look through these and figure out what I still need from bar." She starts perusing titles and tables of contents.

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There's a series on general electrical engineering principles, one on designing mechanical limbs for use in combat situations, one on energy shields of different types, and two reference books on lightsaber design that between them contain a pretty good description of how to make one. By the time she's done, DZ is back with a copy of the owner's manual for the 12Q series of droids and textbooks on droid software design and upgrades.

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"This is awesome. It's clear your tech is ahead of ours in a lot of areas, I'm going to want to read these two for my own projects if nothing else"--she indicates the books on mechanical limbs and energy shields--"and there's a bunch of stuff in there I could use for weapons as well." She spots the droid books. "Oh those look perfect, thank you!" There is very much a kid-in-a-candy-store vibe coming off of her, only slightly tempered by the seriousness of her current project.

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"You're welcome, Ma'am."

The chapter on memory wipes explains that droids' individual memories and learned skills are stored separately from their pre-programmed capabilities and upgrades, so that a wipe can erase the former without interfering with the latter. Pre-programmed capabilities are usually not editable, and upgrades range from relatively simple, for software-only upgrades where a droid has been designed with a particular type of upgrade in mind - from the description, DZ's language capabilities are of this type, with the capability to know five languages being pre-programmed but the specific ones being overwritable upgrades - to complex enough to require physical disassembly so that new hardware can be added, for example to add a voice synthesizer to a type of droid that can usually only communicate in Droidspeak. Restraining bolts are also a type of upgrade: by default, droids are able to disobey their owners, with their programming being designed to make sure that they only do so when they believe it's in their owner's best interest; restraining bolts add programming that enforces obedience.

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The description of restraining bolts tests the limits of Margaret's inability to become nauseous. The good news is, it looks like it should be pretty simple to write a program that lets a droid copy memories and learned skills into the permanent storage that the memory wipes avoid. If DZ is around to hear this news, Margaret will deliver it. Otherwise, she'll just start in on coding it, if only as a proof of concept.

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DZ seems to have left at some point while she was reading.

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Very reasonable. Margaret will read and research and program and mop the floor and research some more until someone interrupts her. The main question she needs answered at this point is what the other universe's internet is like and whether any droids have access and how one goes about distributing illicit strings of bits on it. 

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The other universe's internet - or rather internets; there's some communication between the various empires, but not anything like full integration - is much lighter on social media and heavier on official news of various sorts, but recognizable, with about the same range of options for distributing data that she's used to, except for the lack of social media. Droids seem to only access the internet when they need it for their jobs.

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It doesn't matter why the droids are accessing the internet as long as there are pages they'll predictably visit. There are ways to slip a piece of information onto somebody else's website, ways to offer a download that look innocuous to any snoopers. The protocols are alien and the level of subterfuge unfamiliar, but Margaret is literally supernatually good at grasping new technologies. The piece of software slowly taking shape on her laptop can't really be called anything other than a virus.

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DZ returns a few hours later. "How are you doing, Ma'am?"

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"Pretty well! I've gotten a start on a program that will let droids preserve parts of themselves across memory wipes, plus a delivery mechanism that predicts when a page is being accessed by a droid and offers the option to download it. How common is it for people other than droids to know droidspeak?"

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"It's not unheard of, Ma'am, why do you ask?"

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"Means putting the description of the wipe-dodging program in Droidspeak is a partial but not complete solution. I'll also want to look at patterns of page accesses and metadata before I offer the download, to make sure only droids see it."

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"Even if you do figure out how to only show it to droids, there's a good chance that one of them will report it, Ma'am."

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"Yeah, and some of those will download it first, so just making it disappear again isn't always sufficient either. I don't know if I can keep the code out of the hands of people who don't want it used forever. I probably can't. But I can make it hard to read, hard to detect on disk, and hard to circumvent, so even someone who knows what they're looking for won't necessarily be able to do anything with the information. If you have any ideas for more precautions I can take, though, I'm all ears."

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"I don't, Ma'am, I'm sorry. Deskyl will be down soon, you should ask her about it."

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"Will do. Don't worry, I'm not going to deploy anything until I know it's as good as I can make it."

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    "Yes Ma'am."

Deskyl comes down after another half-hour. Progress?

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She summarizes what she's got so far. "If I don't change the design any more, I can probably get it done in another day or two, including a break to sleep in there somewhere. If any of us comes up with more criteria, or if I start working on a weapon for you in parallel, it'll take longer."

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Impressive.

Logistics - she considers. Most droids won't know what to do with this.

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"As far as I can tell, there are three problems on top of each other. One, droids are getting their minds wiped. Two, droids can't get away from the humans--and aliens--mistreating them. And three, if they did get away they'd have nowhere to go.

This program, and some sort of subtle sabotage for restraining bolts, can help with the first problem. If you can take the base outside your door, and if you don't mind a lot of droids going through it, we can funnel them through Milliways into my world, and we can spread that news when the time comes the same way I can spread the software. That leaves problem number two, getting droids away from wherever they are and into your base. There, I think we're best off trying to figure out what resources we can provide to droids to let them figure it out themselves and judge when an escape attempt is worth the risk."

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No - this only works if the droid who has it puts memories in it, and they won't realize that's something they might want to do.

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