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Knighthawk Foundry

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The Knighthawk Foundry is probably the most enigmatic organization mentioned so far; it gets relatively little discussion, and there are some things conspiciously absent from what mentions it gets.

 

We know only three things besides the name:

1. They make the mobiles. Everyone, absolutely everyone, uses mobiles in Newcago and presumably they've got a virtual monopoly on communications elsewhere. I do not recall even one mention of any other personal communications device.

2. They're neutral. No one ever gives even the slightest consideration of the possibility of them allowing anyone else to tap into the calls.

3. They have a central server of some form which is not quite as trusted.

 

The mobiles can apparently transmit through anything and link either to the central server or to another mobile directly with substantial range. Steelheart did not demonstrate the capacity to jam them; not even in the room he wired with explosives more powerful than the Reckoners used in an attempt to demolish the entire building.

 

The mobiles are also considered absolutely secure. When Davis says to stop using the link, the other Reckoners flatly refuse to believe it might have been breached until he says that Enforcement has Megan's mobile, which is in their network. Now, apparently they're using some form of encryption that might not have been generated on the mobiles themselves, but they establish a new link remotely, so they couldn't have picked a new one. Well, okay, apparently there are some methods of pulling that off, but the resulting encryption is considerably weaker and also involves large enough numbers the mobiles would need to do the math, so it's still dependent on their built-in security.

 

Their level of neutrality implies that the Foundry cannot be easily overpowered by any given other group. This power is almost certainly intrinsic to the Foundry, since Epics control most military power and would collectively oppose the Reckoners, who are apparently confident in the Foundry's neutrality. That is where things get weird, because there are two possibilities:

 

1. Knighthawk is a powerful Epic who runs a fortress-factory producing the world's most advanced technology, possibly using his powers in the manufacturing process. In this scenario, it is odd that the Reckoners would implicitly trust his creations when their offical policy calls for his death. Sure, they don't route through the central server, but Knighthawk provides both the software and hardware. They cannot be sure the mobiles are not transmitting back to Knighthawk in secret. But if he is a trustworthy Epic, why does no one ever append "Except Knighthawk" to statements about the behavior of Epics in general?

 

 

2. The Knighthawk Foundry is not controlled by an Epic at all. This would then mean there is a technologically advanced faction operating openly on a large scale with sufficent power to stand up to all the Epics who have set themselves up as emperors and totally under the control of normal humans. That, uh, seems like it might have come up. Repeatedly. Also, if it doesn't depend on an Epic, people could make knock-offs of the mobiles. I would expect the Reckoners to use their own design if possible no matter how trustworthy the organization.

 

I'm not entirely sure why the Reckoners do trust the mobiles but not the servers, but maybe they assume that the designers don't know any method of hacking the mobiles and are worried someone will manage to conquer the Foundry and access call records.

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That is a very astute observation name_here.

 

I hope we hear more info on the foundry in Firefight. If Nighthawk is an Epic, maybe he is a friend of Prof and there are more epics secretly being good, prove the Faithful contingent right. if the foundry is in human control, maybe is based on the black market epic dna technology...though if it is, i'm not sure Steelheart would have let it into Newcago

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1. Knighthawk is a powerful Epic who runs a fortress-factory producing the world's most advanced technology, possibly using his powers in the manufacturing process. In this scenario, it is odd that the Reckoners would implicitly trust his creations when their offical policy calls for his death. Sure, they don't route through the central server, but Knighthawk provides both the software and hardware. They cannot be sure the mobiles are not transmitting back to Knighthawk in secret. But if he is a trustworthy Epic, why does no one ever append "Except Knighthawk" to statements about the behavior of Epics in general?

 

I suppose that at some point they just have to take a chance.  When you are fighting an enemy that can break laws of science then there is really no completely safe action.

 

The Reckoners take as many precautions as possible, and I am sure that any information that gets to the transmitter in the phone is encrypted.  At that point what else can they do?  They need to communicate and information couriers are just as likely to get intercepted as any other form of communication.

 

The Knighthawk Foundry on the other hand has put itself in a very stable position.  Any person that takes a shot at Knighthawk, Reckoner or Epic, is going to loose a valuable service.  Therefore nobody attacks Knighthawk.

 

If Knighthawk is an evil Epic then I am sure the Reckoners wouldn't mind taking him/her down.  However, the Reckoners know better then most that they need to pick their battles carefully.  In a world filled with Fortuitys, Steelhearts, and Nightwielders the guy who builds your cell phone gets low priority.

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I suppose that at some point they just have to take a chance.  When you are fighting an enemy that can break laws of science then there is really no completely safe action.

 

The thing is, though, they and everyone else trust Knighthawk implicitly. At no point does anyone even consider the possibility information is being leaked to unauthorized devices. Also, they could at least theoretically create their own phones, even if they aren't as good as Knighthawk's; Tia has plenty of technical skill.

Apparently the Dowser is not based on gift transferrence, because Prof explains they deliberately programmed it to give a false negative when pointed at him instead of simply cutting the link when pointed his way

 

I am sure that any information that gets to the transmitter in the phone is encrypted

 

I am sure the Reckoners have instructed the phone to only transmit encrypted data. That is not the same thing at all. Short of an exhaustive and complicated test of every single possible state the phone can be in or using an electron microscope to compare the unit to a known safe design, there is no way of telling if the hardware is doing what you think it is, a fact that is presently costing the US military a rather large amount of money.

 

It is in Knighthawk's interest to appear neutral, but it's also in his interest to spy on as much as he possibly can without getting caught, and since no one else appears to be able to create the mobiles, no one can really tell if they are actually secure, just that no one except Knighthawk can hack them at present. Essentially, people cannot be certain Knighthawk is incapable of spying on them, so their confidence they are not being spied on implies they believe he won't.

 

Here's the quote that's probably most dramatic, from pg 366 of the hardcover:

"Guys," I cut in. "Be careful what you say in the general link. I think our lines might be hacked."

"Impossible," Tia said. "Mobile networks are secure."

Note that by this point it's pretty clear that Steelheart knows what they've been planning, but Tia rejects the possibility of the link being hacked out of hand, and not by saying, "Knighthawk wouldn't share information with Steelheart."

Edited by name_here
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I think the issue might possibly be literary.

 

From more-or-less the start this whole Knighthawk thing struck me as something Sanderson would do, something that will be important eventually but we're only getting teased. I think it's a combination of two things.

 

1. They need to use phones. Maybe however good Tia is with technology, she literally CANNOT whip something up that can walkie-talkie past miles of steel. So, it becomes a necessity. A calculated risk. There's no other way to do it, so you give it a go. Plus, this isn't their first mission. Maybe five years ago they jumped at every little snag in their plan and worried they might be the mobiles, but presumably sometime during all that time they've gotten complacent. I'm sure they were all as paranoid as all get-out way back when the mobiles first came out, but they did what testing they could, and took the risk. Years later, they've had more than enough time to be betrayed, and they haven't. It might not be logical, it might not be something that can be proved with scientific accuracy, and it might be a tautology, but the proof that the mobile network is secure is that for years the mobile network has always been secure.

 

2. The Foundry strikes me as something that will come up in a later book. Sanderson wants to tease us, but he doesn't want to give it away, and that's exactly what he's done. Everyone in-story knows the reason you can trust the mobiles, they just aren't telling us. He's gotten us to notice it, which is good, and now we're all dying to know what the Foundry is, which is exactly what he wants.

 

((Let me be clear, I don't think that last point is a bad thing, in case I came across that way. Mr. Sanderson's capacity to tantalize us is one of my favorite things about his writing style. I'm already anticipating the day, years from now, when I finish Calamity, and re-read Steelheart with the perspective of everything I now know. The first time I read the first Mistborn book I saw a number of things that didn't make a lot of sense, and I just assumed it was yet another lazy fantasy writer. By the time I'd finished Hero of Ages, he'd revealed that, if not every, then almost every inconsistency was a case of the in-story characters being mistaken about something. It blew my mind.))

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I can't help but wonder if the Knighthawk Foundry is maybe being powered by a gifter like Conflux, not someone running the operation but literally a foundry that is using Knighthawk as the fuel.

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Well, the mobiles aren't themselves powered by gifting;

Epics use them just fine.

I guess it's possible that the assembly is done using gifted powers, though. It would be rather difficult, but not impossible, for ordinary people to force an Epic to empower them, and that would explain why the Reckoners trust them. Or maybe Knighthawk is of above-average sanity because he mostly uses his powers by proxy.

 

Also, nothing says the Epic who makes the mobiles has to be the one in charge even if it is run by an Epic.

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I thought the foundry worked alot like Diamond(the weapons merchant), whose neutral to both sides because both sides need the equipment and cant carry on without it.

“No, no,” Abraham said. He seemed amused, as if I were asking questions about

something incredibly simple, like the rules to hide-and-seek.
“Weapons merchants don’t talk about other clients,” Megan said. “As long as those clients
live, at least.”

 

I assumed this rule also applied to the foundry, so they don't discuss information about clients and are therefore thought to be reliable.

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I think that Knighthawk is a corporation that took advantage of the annexation act to set itself up as a service provider. It would hypothesize that it's in a rural area that has little of real value to offer epics outside of the corporation itself. I would also hypothesize that they offered their services to all high epics either free of charge on the basis they are left to run the business without interference. I would further hypothesize that they have pretty heavy security measures in place to deter ambitious idiots who happen to be lesser epics but feel the need for fame.

 

So, a rep from Knighthawk stops by Newcago and informs SH that they have a phone that can transmit without signal loss in any environment and is unhackable. They will provide SH with enough devices to operate his government free of charge so long as they are allowed to do business in Newcago. Then they inform SH that Knighthawk industries is located in the middle of nowhere, and that the entire complex is rigged with multiple types of explosives and other fail-safes. Should anyone decide they want to control Knighthawk, then they will deprive everyone of the capacity to use their tech by destroying it completely right after they broadcast the identity of the epic that deprived the rest of the country of this priceless new technology.

 

This creates a zero gain scenario for any epic that wants complete control of the communications industry. But also paints them as a target for everyone who is now deprived of that same technology. Even with epic psychology this could work.

 

I would also hypothesize that Knighthawk industries is one of the locations that buy the DNA of dead epics for research purposes, and utilize weapons created from this research in it's own defense.

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I expect that their strict neutrality provides them with some level of protection, but that's not enough by itself. Dealing with all sides is only going to protect them as long as no one decides they'd rather no one have top-end secure communications instead of everyone having top-end secure communications. And it should be noted that various power blocks could potentially produce their own communications devices while others can't, so removing the Foundry would hurt some people more than others. Someone needs to provide the threat of enough force to make removing the Foundry as a factor too expensive for the benefits. And if that's an external group, inevitably they'll gain some measure of control over the Foundry. Granted, it's only been ten years, and structurally inevitable things can take generations to come back to haunt people, plus Gloom's suggestion would help divorce providing protection from influence so long as the Epics genuinely believe the Foundry would commit mass suicide, at least until a particular Epic or group gains enough power no one else feels like being stuck with providing a vengence strike against them.

 

I'm still somewhat dubious the Foundry is (openly) run by non-Epics. Regardless of what provides it with neutrality, it's apparently essentially a technologically advanced soveregien nation. People flock to Newcago because Steelheart provides them with food, clean water, power, and the like, even though he runs a brutal dictatorship where Epics kill without consequence, which implies no one provides the same services without the attached dictatorship. It's admittedly not impossible for normal people to be just as bad, though.

 

What generally protects arms dealers is two factors:

 

1. They're middlemen.

2. There are a lot of arms dealers.

 

What this means is that, first, often the groups that would benefit from getting rid of arms dealers or gaining exclusive control can't hurt the actual infastructure that produces high-end weaponry, and secondly getting rid of one of them means none of the others will deal with you unless you persuade them it was for a reason that doesn't apply to them.

 

Diamond is somewhat protected by his value, but bear in mind that Nightwielder did consider killing everyone in the shop when Davis used the UV light. Also, his benefits aren't exactly zero-sum; he arms both the Reckoners and Newcago, but Steelheart wants his weaponry to fight threats other than the Reckoners, and even without him Steelheart could obtain weaponry that would make life seriously difficult for the Reckoners. Plus, I doubt taking out his factories would be an easy proposition; remember, he did record the demonstration shot from the gauss gun, which means he has a static power source capable of fueling it and therefore could potentially use it defensively.

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Alternately, Knighthawk Foundry created the anomaly known as Calamity, or has convinced all the high epics that this is so. Attack Knighthawk, and they shut Calamity down.

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Dealing with all sides is only going to protect them as long as no one decides they'd rather no one have top-end secure communications instead of everyone having top-end secure communications.

 

What about the other side of that coin?

 

There are people out there that would rather that everyone has top-end end secure communications rather than lose that communication system themselves.  Steelheart in particular does not seem to care about expanding his territory, but just wants to have a stable rule of his personal fiefdom.  I could see him pledge to help the Knighthawk Foundry if they were attacked in order to keep his own phone system working.

 

If this kind of protection came from one source it would threaten the neutrality of Knighthawk, but as long as several other epics (and perhaps even the Reckoners) pledged to protect the Foundry they could stay out of any fighting between their customers.

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Well, I have doubts about the long-term stability of that system, but I suppose it would work for a time. Eventually the Foundry would probably be dragged into conflicts between the power blocs supporting them, at the very least in the form of increasing efforts to bribe them into backing one side or another and interference in replacing leadership by inheritance or election, but if the current leader and his successor (whether son or rising star among the board of directors, depending on structure) are sufficently tough and play their cards right, that could easily be after every single current Epic is dead of old age.

 

That would leave them in a somewhat precarious but valuable position. On the one hand, they're going to need to appease all the Epics who provide them with protection, and besides a promise of vengence for destruction, the Foundry will need to bring in supplies of food and raw materials for the mobiles that must be protected somehow. It's not really a viable option to threaten to cut off anyone who doesn't provide a retalitory counterstrike for any raids, because eventually the Epics would decide it's not worth the hassle. They'll probably demand concessions of some kind for providing caravan guards, and even larger ones for forcibly re-opening rare earth mines that someone else decided to close. And then whenever one of them is hurting for cash they'll come back around to negotiate a new contract. On the other hand, they're safe from getting outright conquered unless they really mismanage their dealings, and when an Epic is in dire straits, Knighthawk can make them an offer they're in no position to refuse.

 

The historical example that's coming to mind for me is the Medieval Catholic Church. The various kingdoms of Europe held wildly variable levels of influence over the church depending on the era, ranging from one pope forcing England to beg forgiveness for interfering in church buisness to another pope having to move the Papacy to France because the king said so. However, the Foundry, at least presently, is probably safer by virtue of mattering less; the church had wide-ranging interests and powers, including substantial land holdings (often with associated military forces), the capacity to rally popular support, a pseudotax system, its own court system, and in the early days a virtual monopoly on teaching literacy. Knighthawk, at least at present in Newcago, just has phones, so their only point of dispute with the Epics is over the phone system instead of literally everything related to governance.

 

On the other hand, the Knighthawk Foundry is in the unenviable position of being replacable. Even if no one else can make something as good as the mobiles, they could make inferior telecom devices. And there are many advantages to running a local telecom monopoly, not the least of which are money and wiretapping.

 

In this case (and for that matter even if they've got some independent military might; they don't seem to be a dominant superpower) the deals probably look something like so:

1. Knighthawk provides some number of mobiles at subsidied rates or for free. Probably how many varies and is kept secret to keep Epics guessing how far they can push. The Epics might resell these to the general populace or ask Knighthawk to sell directly to their citizens at lowered rates

2. (As applicable) The Epics sell raw materials in their territory to Knighthawk at below market prices or provide a set amount as part of the deal.

3. The mobiles are not to be opened or tampered with by non-Knighthawk personel (may be rendered unnecessary by a self-destruct).

4. No interference in the sale of mobiles within the territory of the Epic, or trade through their territory regardless of destination.

5. Knighthawk likely requests some number of soldiers be loaned as guards unless they provide their own.

 

There are a number of other things Knighthawk might want, but it's hard to say exactly what without knowing more, and also hard to say what they could actually get.

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I believe the Reckoners opened and modified the phones. I also believe that Knighthawk dabbles in other things besides phones. They aren't Knighthawk telecom, they are Knighthawk Foundry.

 

I believe that Knighthawk is also a specialty arms manufacturer. The mobile phone is just their best known breakthrough. They may keep their arms research low key and only trade through arms dealers to appear less threatening. Someone puts a lot of time and money into researching epic tech. The Gauze Rifle isn't likely to have come out of some low budget secret laboratory. It takes a lot of money to properly develop a high tech fire arm. Then their is the douzer, and I'm sure there are other devices we haven't seen yet.

 

I won't say Knighthawk is the only company that could have created the Gauze Rifle, but I doubt that their are all that many industries that have remained profitable and free of epic oversight.

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I won't say Knighthawk is the only company that could have created the Gauze Rifle,

 

The weapon used in the book was a Gauss Rifle, and omg now I wanna see someone fire a Gauze Rifle. Anyone else thinking of the Medic from TF2? I like the idea of snipe-healz.

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LOL, oops! I could totally see that being used in a video game. Instead of having your sniper shoot enemy troops, he shoots his teammates when they get injured.

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Consider the amount of mobiles. How to know who got wich? How to know wich mobile to listen in to?

 

The tinkering Tia/Abraham was to do to the mobiles was likely to make them nameless, or with a random name, so even if there is a major listen operation, listening to specifik words simular to what some goverments are almost certainly doing, they wouldent know where to find the cellphone the next time.

 

A smaller version of this is the current paymobiles one can buy(not sure what their called in english ;)). Its not registered to you, you fill them up by bying "notes" in a shop, so while you could trace the phone, you can´t link it to a person. So finding what phone to listen in to among millions... well, thats rather impossible.

Edited by dyring
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The thing is, any method of making the mobiles secure assumes, essentially, that the mobile actually does what it is supposed to. This is not a safe assumption, because it would seem that no one else knows how to make a mobile and therefore no one knows what the hardware should look like, so even if they crack it open and diagram it with an electron microscope they won't be able to tell if it's designed to send cleartext directly to the Foundry, associated with the serial number. It's a black box and the transmissions are apparently undetectable except by mobiles.

 

The only way to be reasonably certain the Foundry can't listen in on your communications is to encrypt and decrypt them outside the mobile.

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The thing is, any method of making the mobiles secure assumes, essentially, that the mobile actually does what it is supposed to. This is not a safe assumption, because it would seem that no one else knows how to make a mobile and therefore no one knows what the hardware should look like, so even if they crack it open and diagram it with an electron microscope they won't be able to tell if it's designed to send cleartext directly to the Foundry, associated with the serial number. It's a black box and the transmissions are apparently undetectable except by mobiles.

 

The only way to be reasonably certain the Foundry can't listen in on your communications is to encrypt and decrypt them outside the mobile.

You can do it backwards. Give someone skilled in it some time to study it, and theyll be able to find out exaktely what it does. Sure, its not something you do quickly, but it needs only be done once, then you know. Surely someone, somewhere would have done so, electroengineers(Im not a native englishspeaker, might be giving the wrong title there;)) are rather common. Epics are paranoid. Someone like steelheart would most certainly have had it examined.

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We've been talking about how Knighthawk might be an Epic. I would bet that his powers are the powers of nearby Epics, and the Epic-based tech is like what Regalia did with Obliteration's power, simply in a more versatile manner using Knighthawk's powers.

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I think it's safe to assume that the mobiles have some epic-induced functionality. Every other time we have seen something as awesome as the knighthawk mobiles (infinite battery, reception under 50ft of steel, etc.) it's had something to do with an epic. 

 

My personal theory is that Knighthawk is an "agent of Calamity," basically an Epic that gives out this amazing service that is so unique and useful that nobody can go without it and that collects information for Calamity. Kind of like Knighthawk was handpicked by Calamity and his "Contract of Epicness" had a clause that said you can only be epic if you do this for me. 

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I recently modeled what I imagined was the modified mobile mizzy built for david after obliteration, uh Obliterated it. its is a bit imaginative and isn't great but might be worth taking a peek at. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF28fA_m8JQ

Edited by mfhscoobydoo
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I am still wondering at what the kind of epic powers knighthawk used to make his mobiles, and to be honest I really kind of want to make a story just about that.

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Good to see this thread outlasted the asker

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