A song by Pete Seeger, available on Waist Deep In The Big Muddy And Other Love Songs (1993). From the album's liner notes:
..."Seek And You Shall Find," is a great old spiritual. But no verses to it are half as great as the chorus. So I interspersed a few old folk stories, and dedicated the whole to all students. And to all teachers. Locked in eternal combat. The third story, about the maggots, I got from Carl Sandburg, and the fourth, about Columbus, is from Don Sherwood, the rakish San Franciscan.

Repeat x2
Seek and you shall find
Knock and the door shall be open
Ask and it shall be given
When the love come tumblin' down

There was once a king in the olden days. He had three sons and he wanted to give them a good education. He called in his wise men. He said, "I wish you'd boil down the world's wisdom into one book, and I'm going to give it to my sons and have them learn it."

So the wise men went away. Took them a whole year, and they came back with a beautiful leather-bound volume, trimmed in gold. The king leafed through it, "Hmm... Very good. Hmm... Yes! This is it!" And he gives it to his sons and he says, "OK, learn it!"

Then he turned to the wise men and he said, "You know, you did such a good job with that, I wonder if you couldn't boil down all the world's wisdom into one sentence."

Well, the wise men went away. It took them five years. When they came back their beards must've been dragging on the ground. They said, "Your Majesty, we have decided upon the sentence."

"What is it?" says the king.

"This too shall pass."

I guess the king didn't have anything better to do with his wise men. He said, "I wonder if you couldn't boil down all the world's wisdom into one word?"

The poor men must've groaned. They went away. It took them ten years. When they came back they were all bent over. The king said, "Oh yes, what was that word?" He'd forgotten all about his little whim.

They said, "Your Majesty, the one word is: Maybe."


There was another king, in another country, in the olden days. He was sitting in his palace one day, and a messenger came:

"Your Majesty! Your Majesty! A sea captain has landed on your coast, and in the hold of his vessel is a strange animal called an elephant!"

Well, the king was busy enjoying himself. He said to his wise men, he said, "I wish you'd go down and bring me back a report."

So the wise men got in the carriages and they were all taken down to the coast, and they went on board the ship. But you know, they'd all been reading books so long they were blind as bats.

And the first wise man, he felt the leg of the elephant. And he says, "Hm."

And the next one feels the side of the elephant. "Hmm," says he.

The next one felt the ear of the elephant. "Hmmm," says he.

The next one felt the tusk of the elephant, and the next one felt the trunk, and the last one pulled on the tail.

Well, they all got back in the carriages, and they all went back to the king. And the king says, "Now, what manner of beast is this elephant?"

And the first wise man bowed low and said, "Your Majesty, this elephant is very like unto the trunk of a small tree."

"You're completely wrong!" said the next one. "I felt it myself, it's like the side of a building."

"Oh you're both wrong!" says the third. "It's like a... a big - a big leaf of a large plant!"

The third says, "No no no! You're all wrong! It's like a smooth spear."

"No no no!" says the next, "It's like a big snake."

And the last one says, "Your majesty, you know I'm right. It's like a rope hanging down from heaven. You pull on it, and the heavens open up with waste."


I got a story about two little maggots. You know, little worms. They were sitting on the handle of a shovel. The shovel was in a workshop, and early in the morning, a workman came, put the shovel on his shoulder, and started down the street to work.

Well, the two little maggots held on as long as they could, but finally they jiggled off, and one fell down into a crack in the sidewalk, and the next fell off onto the curb. And from the curb, he fell into a cat. A very dead cat.

Well the second maggot just started in eating. And he ate and he ate and he ate for three days. He couldn't eat anymore. He finally said, "*Yawn* I think I'll go hunt up my brother."

And the second maggot humped himself up over the curb, humped along the sidewalk, came to the crack. He leaned and said, "Hello! You down there, brother?"

"Yes, I'm down here all right! I've been here for three days without a bite to eat or a drop to drink. I'm nearly starved to death! But you... you're so sleek and fat. To what do you attribute your success?"

"Brains and personality brother, brains and personality."


I got one more story. It's about Columbus, Christopher Columbus. 1492 sailed the ocean blue and all that. Forty days and forty nights and they almost starved to death and almost had a mutiny. And they were ready to give up and go home, when they saw land. Green land!

Columbus ordered the little boat to anchor offshore, and he got into a still smaller boat, a little lifeboat I guess, and he went in through the surf. Threw himself on his knees in the sand. Then he planted the big yellow and red flag of King Ferdinand and Isabella.

Then looking up, Columbus saw two brown faces looking at him from the bushes. Columbus says, "Buenos días, señores!"

And one Indian said to the other, "Well, there goes the neighborhood."


The lawsuits of 2006 and 2007 had almost been a disaster. It had taken all the dancing skills of several grizzled civil servants at GS scales astronomically higher than usually seen to make the threat to the Project go away, and none of the team in the lab really wanted to know what had finally been done. They liked sleeping at night. But here and now, that wasn't an issue; the last line of code had been nailed into place, the last tap had been threaded, and the last bit of fiber had been hotspliced in an AT&T switching facility a week prior over in Salt Lake City where the Pacific Cross traffic came through. The Director was here in the PuzzleBox for the ceremony.

"Er, basically, sir, we're ready." The lead tech smoothed his T-shirt nervously. The Director looked at him for a few moments, causing him to search his conscience, but before he could blurt out the actual details of that last trip to Vegas, the Director nodded and turned away to corral the few brass who were lurking near the door. The tech sighed quietly and went to gather up his own team.

When all the VIPs had been settled in chairs near the main monitoring station, the tech went over to them. "Gentlemen, ladies, thanks for coming. I'm Park, project lead, and this is the first operational test of Project Syene. The filtergrids are coming online now, and we'll be ready to take traffic into the main array in about five minutes."

The Director coughed politely. "Park, could you give my colleagues a one or two sentence explanation of how Syene will help us avoid any, er, unpleasantness like the recent legal troubles we had with the program?"

"Sure, sir. Let's see. The problem, as it was phrased by others, was that we were retaining and interpreting traffic from and to non-target individuals as well as known targets in order to perform proper traffic analysis. We had to, in order to do datamining on the contact patterns, since we couldn't do that in realtime. The call content, as well, had to be analyzed after the fact, so we were - it was argued" - he added hastily, thinking of his audience - "we were retaining intelligence on civilians illegally. Anyway. The difference here is that Syene is doing live pattern recognition and traffic analysis without data retention; it is actively eliminating traffic which it recognizes as 'normal' for the U.S. telecommunications system from the 'net' before it even begins to analyze the take. Then, it is using spintronic and quantum systems to perform nonlinear pattern analysis of the call data in realtime-"

"Okay, son, I see eyes glazing. Cut to the chase, please."

"Sorry, sir. In essence, it means we never save any data until it has been flagged as anomalous; we don't need to save it in order to analyse it. The pattern data from the call is retained in quantum state without the actual call data being available, so that its character can be compared later without the actual call information being held without warrant. This is possible because Syene has been, in essence, listening to everything our telecom system 'says' for the past year or so and knows what 'normal' sounds like, and she can filter out nearly all of that by simply ignoring what sounds familiar. What's left over - well, that's suspicious."

"Thanks, Park. You can get on with it."

"Thanks, sir." Park adjusted his earset and checked in with his team. They were watching data spool through the grid at rates that would have looked horrific if he hadn't been watching what Syene could do for six months now. "All clear, guys?"

The responses came back; all okay. The machinery was fine; the code was stable, and wonder of wonders, the qubits were deigning to remain in semi-existence.

"Okay, let's go live. Shunt the feed onto the grid."

There was a wash of green across the status board as telecom feeds poured into the dataspace of the Syene comparators. The green threads blossomed on the display, indicating trunk routings, calls, port connections; just as quickly, they blinked and vanished, indicating that Syene had identified them as familiar and blanked them from the incoming traffic. A very few threads began to appear in yellow, then even fewer in red on the second board, indicating traffic that was surviving the winnowing and being flagged as anomalous.

Park talked to his team for a half an hour, then turned to the watching officials. "It looks good. We've positively identified over 60% of the redflagged traffic as being encrypted at 2k-spin or higher levels, and not by us; of the rest, some is in clear but involving obvious nonsense sentence structures, likely code. Some few have been tagged by human analysts as likely mentally disturbed people on the telephone, and the numbers marked for greenlisting."

"Impressive, son." The Director looked pleased. "Very good. We're going to go upstairs. I'd like reports every shift, please."


* * *

It settled into a routine, punctuated only by the normal breaks of man-made machinery that broke or discovered new modes of operation that its designers hadn't intended. New procedures were hastily written up, new recovery processes devised, and the flood of chatter went on. The PuzzleBox hummed with the talking.

The next week, Park came in to see two threads on the status board that were purple. He frowned and called over the chief ontologist. "Hayward, what the hell are those?"

The other scratched his head. "We dunno. Syene tagged 'em. We've had a listen, and it sounds like some sort of analog encoding system, but it's not one we know."

"Unknown encoding systems should be red."

"Yeah, I know. We're confused too. But it's definitely an unknown encoding system. We're pretty sure that it's just because it's an analog signal mod as opposed to a digital hash that's making it purple. There's a couple of signal proc gurus beating on it in their spare time."

"Okay. Let me know if anything breaks."


* * *

Another week passed.

* * *

There were nine purple threads, now. Park had given in and reported them to the Director, who had become intensely interested in them and asked Park for a source. Park had demurred, since all they knew so far was that the calls contained undecipherable noises, which (as far as he was concerned) wasn't really a crime. But he did work at the NSA, and he passed on the phone numbers. Because he worked at the NSA, nobody told him anything about the result, but the purple threads continued to accumulate.

"I bet it's an own goal." The Syene team had started bandying hypotheses about the purple people eaters back and forth over lunch in the lab. So far, an own goal - detection of a friendly intelligence agent's communications - was on top of the betting pool by a comfortable margin.

Park shook his head. "Nah. It's analog, man."

The other tech retorted "Yeah, but we can't crack it. It's sweet. Why couldn't that be Upstairs?" (Upstairs being the active crypto division).

"Look, Upstairs wouldn't go analog. It's too kludgey for them. Besides, can you imagine a U.S. agent being told he's taking analog tech into the field?" There were titters around the break room table. "Yeah. They'd quit on the spot. If it doesn't look slicker than a fucking iPod, they won't have anything to do with it."

"So what do you think it is?"

Park finished his coffee. "I think it's a little guy who's got Ops over here who's been extremely clever with limited resources. Maybe it's a Shack Special." Shack Specials were another intel community in-joke, the crypto and communications version of a 'MacGyver' - a functional modern cryptodevice that could be put together with parts available at Radio Shack.

In the ensuing laughter, they drifted back to work.

* * *

By week three, there were twenty-eight threads on the board, and Park had gotten a little obsessive. He had taken to listening to samples of the traffic on his iPod when wandering the building (since it couldn't leave the SCF) and twice his team had had to hunt him down only to find him sitting meditatively on the john, three thousand dollar government issue noise-cancelling analysis headphones on his ears and his building pager screaming in his shirt pocket.

Finally, the Director called him Upstairs. He went, half guilty and half indignant.

"Come in, son."


"Have a seat."

Park sat.

"Fine job on Syene, first of all. Thing's working a treat. Very low false positive rate; much much lower than the old Echelon take."

"Thank you, sir. Sir-"

"I know. I want to talk to you about the purple threads."

Park stared at his boss's boss's boss's boss, trying not to look as defiant as he felt. "Sir, what the hell is going on?"

"You're right, by the way. They are traffic."

"Well, of course they are, or Syene wouldn't flag them, sir."

"Of course. D'you know what purple signifies?"

"Analog signal, sir."

"Heh. Nope. You should've checked the code."


"The display routines weren't written in your department. You made an assumption, son. Bad habit for an analyst. Purple means unknown."

"Of course it's unknown-"

"You're not getting it. Start over."

Park stopped, looked at the Director, and tried to think harder. Unknown. Syene had been listening to the U.S. telecom system for a year. Before that, it had been fed every single specification, every single frequency, every single linguistic text, every single voice sample, and every single tonal sample that the NSA owned from all its years of intercepting voice and data traffic.


"Oh, shit."

The director grinned, unexpectedly. "See? They told me you were smart."

Park had paled. "You're telling me those signals are...are..."

"You can say it."


"Give that boy a prize."

"But they're coming from our own telecom system!"

"So? So do the signals the Iranian agents send. So do the signals the fucking British agents send. They're illegal aliens too."

"But who are they? And who are they calling? But most of all, what are we going to do about it?"

"I'm glad you asked." The director reached behind his back and pulled a folder out of a stack of precariously balanced similar folders, placed it on the desk, and opened it. "Welcome to Project Simon Says."

SciFiQuest 2107!
...and part of The BENTHIC Wars!

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