Sea-Serpent -> About this software

This is an explanation for the existence and use of a graph database plus set of algorithmic tools named Sea-Serpent.

They call me Lama. I’m either depicted as a weapon or a demon. These last five years, in which I’ve been hunting Captain, I consider myself a prey. Yes, a prey beset on all sides like a deer, no not the Kasturi - I’m not searching for something that was inside me all along. There is no hidden good inside of me, or inside any other person. Perhaps in childhood there is some good in man. When I was small, I saw a voiceless man being beaten to a pulp by a merchant, with some excuse or another, while all the onlookers averted their gazes and walked on. This was one of my first encounters with this truth. I surmise that when a child has to come out of their fanciful world and has to integrate into society, the slippery slope begins. And a person on a slope cares about nothing except survival. And it’s not survival of the fittest, but of the cruelest and cunning.

But I digress. I was talking about Captain. Before that, I’d have to regale you with my mission, probably. If asked at gunpoint, I’d call myself a sociologist. However, I differ from the academic variety. They like making noise at conventions and launching retorts in Facebook and Twitter. I am more practical than that. The current dichotomic blindfold of the law would put me behind bars. Which is why I cannot be nominated for any social worker award. But you’d be impressed at the amount of good I do to society at large.

I got into this business through a college friend, Gore. Gore was a social butterfly of the underground, a networking genius, which is where his value lay. An influential person had needed a phone network that could not be traced or broken into. I was quite good with technology, and Gore established a working agreement between us. I needed some money at the time because of my entanglement with a girl. Three lakhs had seemed like an enormous amount. Because of my prudent nature, I had kept some overrides into the network as a safeguard. Four months later, in which Gore went missing after a gang quarrel, another influential person contacted me with an offer. I traded my safeguard for two crores. Thus began my niche occupation.

This has eventually led to my mission; my magnum opus. At the start of my career, I kept close records of people, their behaviors and interactions. I was valuable to the unpleasant people of society: politicians, businessmen, mafia, lawyers for this reason. I like to think of them less like crabs and more like children playing poke the butt. If anyone was vulnerable, bitter rivals would team up together to deliver a potent poking. I was the force pulling down loose pants in this game. By now, I have this gigantic database, it’s called Sea-Serpent, a graph depicting power in the nation.

Let’s talk about the specifics of database management for a while. Finding dirt on incumbent leaders and public figures is simple enough. You chart out their history, and start at the beginnings, try to find threads of debauchery and unpleasantness. Some technical hacking skills come in handy, but social engineering is the real deal. People love to talk, and often don’t guard their mouths from what might come out. You have to keep an open mind, give yourself permission to believe that even the most impeccable-looking persons might have a dark trail of blood and money behind them. An interesting pattern is, the more some people in power look clean and preach cleanliness, the harder they have scrubbed.

It is more difficult to tease out some hidden puppeteers. They’re shrewd; use proxies and indirect moves nearly as much as me. They keep their hands away from the knife and on the phone. But no one can keep a close guard all the time. Unless you’re me. People slip, are lazy, trust too easily sometimes. And when they do, a record is added to Sea-Serpent. When someone cross their quotas, seem to be accelerating their misdeeds, I intervene. Sea-Serpent picks out the nastiest apples of the bunch, and I tweak the situation ever so slightly against them. A targeted decimation. This is why I chose to call myself Lama - I expel the corrupt spirits from society. It also helps that most people, for some reason, imagine a bald and heavy man when they hear Lama - an added redundancy to all my proxies.

The system works. Or seemed to work, before Captain came into the scene.

I first noticed her when she ran for the mayor of Budhanilkantha. I took a special interest when she won - the youngest mayor ever in the country. She didn’t seem particularly adept at gathering power. Insider political pundits labeled her dumb and arrogant. She was offered positions in the inner cabinet of three big parties simultaneously, all of which she turned down. I racked my brain trying to figure out her strategy. Was she mocking the old guard to prepare a coup with the younger figures? Was she trying to unite disparate powers, or divide them? Did she have international help?

For a couple of years, Captain sat still. Which made her an anomaly. There were no news waves, no accolades, no public debates, no drama. The powers in the shallower levels of planning simply pretended she did not exist. The few masterminds, however, were spooked. They watched her every move, obviously I did too, like some foreign organism in a Petri dish. She talked about reform, and transparency, and fixing the culture. And she seemed to act that way too. She was utterly clean, and the weird part is, people in contact with her seemed to slowly start getting cleaner. It looked like a virus in the early stages spreading through my database. Some finally labeled her as one of the rare idealistic fools who stumbled upon any levels of power, and thought this was where her journey ended. I disagreed. Captain had to be hiding something deeper and darker, machinations even I could not see, a long-term gotcha.

During this phase, I committed myself to getting a better vantage point. I lived well below my threshold for misdeeds, of course, wanting nothing much for myself. I occupied a small flat that got water twice a week. I cooked at home, and had no friends to engage in depravity with except the few regulars at the coffee shop where I watched people. I had some money as a safeguard for my mission and protection for Sea-Serpent, but that was it. By the time the culling mandated by Sea-Serpent would reach me, society would have gotten much less corrupt than when I had started.

Two years ago, I made the first decision which, as you will see, has led to my downfall. For the first time in my career, I intentionally took on a risk and applied for a job at Budhanilkantha municipality office. I pulled some strings and was soon the IT officer there. It allowed me to stay out of sight, while allowing access to every single detail of the institution. I packed up my sparse belongings and relocated.

My quest got more derailed here, however. Captain doesn’t seem to be hiding anything - oh, she’s not stupid, she uses strong passwords everywhere - but isn’t really concerned about scrubbing her presence? Hell, she doesn’t even use a proxy to surf the web. And the things she is looking at seem so … banal. I’m not even sure if she has any weapons nearby, on her person or in her home. She roams the markets alone, and while tailing her I am amazed by how simple it would be for any thug to just kidnap her or worse. These baffling discoveries led me to take another drastic step - getting inside her inner circle.

Right off the bat, I was spooked with how friendly she was to me. Did she have some clue who I was? Was I compromised? After a week of proximity, it seemed genuine. She really was interested in everyone, asked about their hobbies, or children, or … sports. And after the gale that was Captain had blown through conversations, people seemed to hesitate complaining or making fun of her. If someone did that, the others would shrug and seem generally embarrassed for the one who had spoken. There was this unspoken rule: Captain was special.

Her friends told me about the nickname. She had gotten that name while she was working on some other government office. There was an old security guard there, a real cynical and misanthropic geezer. All guards who have spent their lives sitting around in uniform must have no option but to turn cynical. I felt some empathy with them, after all, I could be seen as a security guard for society. Anyhow, this old guard, after seeing her be the first person to arrive and last person to leave for many months straight, had finally started becoming friendly to her. He called her ‘Captain’, at first to mock but later genuinely. At least, that’s what they say. The first day she had stopped maniacally working at the office was at his funeral.

Three months after first contact, she wanted me to redesign the municipality site to make it more accessible. I found myself interested, no, even excited to work on this. Then only I noticed. Perhaps this charisma was her secret weapon, valuable in the long run. But what did she want from all this? Surely there were better ways to amass power, or money, or fame?

My discoveries were suddenly cut short by an upheaval in the Terai. I had to take leave for a few months, both to clear my head and deal with the complications swiftly. After a bit of unpleasantness and pruning some cancerous limbs, I had a good look at Sea-Serpent. I had neglected it for nearly a year by then, and it was starting to show. I had to take care of this Captain business, fast.

When I returned to Budhanilkantha, Captain took me out to coffee, and talked about all the improvements they had done while I was gone, and how I could contribute next. I found myself subtly slipping, falling into her halo again. I updated the database while maintaining her friendship, and also updated the godforsaken municipality website that was a decade old. But I could not ignore Sea-Serpent anymore.

So now, here I am, writing this memoir. I have distilled the situation down to two options. Either I am wrong, have been wrong all these years, and have been a scourge instead of a savior for society. If this is the case, either I must go away or position myself to guard Captain from all the other scourges and thus redeem myself. Or, Captain is a statistical anomaly, an idealistic ladybug who’ll be crushed by the boots of power.

Sea-Serpent is hosted remotely, with quadruple server redundancies. The spiders of the society will no doubt try to gain access to it, as they have tried relentlessly since someone got an inkling of it. Perhaps you, User, are one of them. Perhaps you are a force of good, a figurative storm god here to slay the serpent and save the public. More likely, you stumbled into these archives by accident. This software may be a powerful tool, or obsolete, if society has changed much. What you choose to do with it is your burden now (also, please update the package dependencies to stable versions before they mess everything up).

In either case, I can waste no more time. I might end up killing myself, or killing Captain. Or both. I thought about being a silent protector, but that is just a lazy excuse. She will surely not accept me in my truth. She will not accept the database. But I must show it to her.

I have my laptop, and my dagger - a reliable, old-fashioned weapon I bought in Thamel, in my bag. It is probably a fake, but sharp enough for my purposes.

No one else knows we are hiking to Shivapuri. I must go now.

Written on 27 May 2020