Brotherhood of the Twisted Pair

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First Appearance: The Brotherhood of the Twisted Pair (November 6, 1999)

Introduction and History

Not the fastest pings in the traceroute...
The Brotherhood is an ultra-secret society of hackers and computer geeks, wholly devoted to their craft. They advocate the promotion of Linux and Open Source, as well as the denouncing of any and all things Microsoft. Bill Gates is their "Great Evil" and the RIAA is constantly in search of their members for their voracious appetite for illegal music downloads. Yet, at the same time as they seem forward-thinking, they also suffer many flaws, such as the refusal to believe in the existence of the "mythical she-geek".

The history of the Brotherhood is briefly chronicled in "Take this Job and rm -f it". During the 1960s and 1970s, loose associations of computer geeks formed at high tech companies and universities. Through BBSes, ARPANET, and ultimately the Internet, these isolated pockets of ubergeeks slowly began to coalesce. The most elite hackers (or at least those who believed themselves to be) began to find each other despite real world distances. Before long, a core group began to isolate themselves from "the noobz, script kiddies, and wannabes" and formed a secret society devoted to the purity of hacking, where only the best of the best could enter. This cabal ultimately became the Brotherhood, who claim to "hold the answer to all things geeky... hold the reins of open source... know the dark secrets of Windows..., and ... log over a million Quake frags every hour."

Although the exact power base of the Brotherhood is unknown, it has been implied that they covertly hold extensive power throughout the digital world. To quote one member:

We are the self proclaimed digerati, the hacker elite. We ... have tendrils in many if not almost of the world's digital infrastructure. Governments, banks, utilities, militaries.... Imagine how dependent we've become on technology and the Internet. If we pulled the plug today, governments and economies would fall. Then imagine what we as hackers could do, pooling all these resources into attacks against each other. It could mean a global digital collapse.

Initiation

Membership within the Brotherhood is by invitation only. Initiation begins with the administration of "the test", which typically begins when a nondescript box filled with a disassembled hard drive is shipped to or dropped off at the initiates home or office. Along with the disk is a single, type-written note that reads: "The test has begun. You have twelve hours. Failure is not an option." Obviously, an initiate worthy of membership would find such a package so curious that he would be driven to assemble the device (and thus prove his hardware hacking skill) and attach it to a computer to discover its contents. The data on the disk is often encrypted and stored in obscure or unconventional ways, such as on seldom-used or legacy file systems. Once decrypted, the data usually consists of very specific coordinates in latitude and longitude for the local Brotherhood chapter's headquarters, with no further directions provided. Still driven by curiosity, the initiate must decode the coordinates and discover the chapter's meeting place before the deadline. (Presumably, the Brothers must be aware of when the package is opened so they may know when the twelve hours have elapsed, implying anything as high tech as hacking the initiate's webcam to as low tech as peering through a window with binoculars.) If the initiate arrives at the designated location before the deadline, he is sworn in by placing his hand on a boxed Linux distribution and giving the Oath of Brotherhood:

Do you swear to slander, debase, and otherwise put down all things Microsoft at every possible opportunity? Do you swear to read "User Friendly" the comic strip religiously every day and worship Illiad, its creator? Do you swear to uphold the ideals of Open Source, GNU, and Linux superiority?

(It should be noted, of course, that although the Brotherhood shows fanatical devotion to Open Source and near religious fury against all things Microsoft, such views should not be applied to all users of Open Source software. The Brotherhood are quite obviously zealots in their cause, expressing extreme views that may not reflect the beliefs of any others than their own members.)

Fooker was once tapped to become a member, but his initiation was thwarted by Fred and he is now officially referred to as "he who shall not be named" because of his "crimes". Sharon was also tested by the Brotherhood but was rejected because of her gender. (Someone within the Brother erroneously sent her a test based on her system login name.)

Organization

The internal structure of the Brotherhood is largely unknown with the exception of its top most echelons of leadership. The supreme leader is given the title of "Zero One" (the two-digit binary equivalent of the number one). The second-in-command is called "One Zero" (binary two) while the third-in-command is "One One" (binary three). These positions are apparently elected democratically as the officers can be removed from their positions by a call for a vote of no confidence. (Whether this vote may be called by any member or only by another officer is unknown.)

Beyond this, it can be safely assumed that due to the disperse geographical locations of its members, the Brotherhood may be largely decentralized, with local chapters forming anywhere multiple Brothers appear near one another. Since the Brotherhood has its roots in the birth of the Internet, it is likely that the global network is their primary means of internal communication. Given their seemingly paranoid nature, it is also probable that all such communication is encrypted and digitally signed to ensure both privacy and authenticity, and that extreme measures may be taken to hide the source, path, and destination of such messages for prying eyes.

"The One"

One curious attribute of the Brotherhood is its belief in the prophecy of "the One", a hacker who will arise like none other, whose skills will be without equal. "The One" will supposedly initiate a golden age of geekdom and lead a revolution of ideas that will transform the computerized world. The prophecy of "the One" was discovered by a Brother named "thePR0PH3T" who analyzed decades of archived Usenet posts and discovered a supposedly hidden pattern buried within them. The search for "the One" has been a polarizing force within the Brotherhood, eventually leading to its self-destruction and fracturing.

The Schism

The Brotherhood as it was originally conceived was disbanded after being raided in 2003 by the RIAA and the FBI. The majority of the Brothers were scattered and subsequently disassociated themselves from the organization. However, the remaining remnant split into two factions, one lead by Scott, the "Zero One" at the time of the raid, and the other by Greg, then "One One". Because of Scott's belief that either Fooker or Sharon—two initiates previously rejected by the Brotherhood—may be "the One", the majority of the remaining Brothers chose to follow Greg and his more traditional Brotherhood views, while only a handful chose to continue following the more radical and progressive Scott.

Scott's faction infiltrated GPF Software in hopes of proving that either Fooker or Sharon might be "the One." Along with Scott was Tim, his "One Zero," and Patty, another contractor who briefly worked with Fooker at Regional Telecom and who has been unceremoniously drafted as a new "brother." When their tests for "the One" failed to resolve to a single individual, Scott concluded that it must be Fooker and Sharon's future offspring that will become "the One." All three "Brothers" currently continue to work at GPF, while Scott and Tim carefully watch those they believe to be the parents of their future geek Messiah.

Meanwhile, Greg's faction continued their own activities, largely keeping as low a profile as possible. They too continue to search for "the One", but reject Fooker and Sharon as candidates for their "sins" and gender respectively. When a hacker known as "Lord Catastro" hacked one of the Bog of Bloodbath game servers, Greg's faction watched the events unfold as closely as possible. Seeing "Catastro" equally as a potential threat or ally, Greg planned to invite him to join them as a means of "keeping your friends close and your enemies closer". "Lord Catastro" was soon revealed to be none other than Yoshi.

Patty, Tim, and Scott

Known Past and Current Members

Scott's faction:

  • Scott, former "Zero One" of the whole organization and still head of his faction
  • Tim, "One Zero" of both the whole organization and currently Scott's faction
  • Patty, reluctantly drafted into Scott's faction

Greg's faction:

  • Greg, "One One" under the whole organization and currently "Zero One" of his own faction
  • Knuth, a member of Greg's faction
  • Yoshi, Ki's brother, a member of Greg's faction and their leading candidate for "the One"

Unaffiliated:

  • "thePR0PH3T", the Brother who analyzed the Usenet archives to generate the prophesy of "the One"; his current faction affiliation is officially unknown, but it could be implied that he has remained loyal to Scott

There are, of course, numerous other Brothers besides those listed here. However, these are the Brothers mentioned specifically by name in the comic.

See Also