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Contemporary Science Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Compu-Net Telecommunications Systems Time : 6/30 4:26 p.m. To : All my personal friends and their personal computers From : The Bug Subject : Floppy birthday, America Hi there, PC freaks. Here I am on-line again to remind you I’ll be coming at you with the Freedom Virus on July 4th, just in time for barbecue. Call it my Declaration of Independence, because I intend to liberate every PC on both sides of the Mississippi, ya-hoo! I’ve taken my inspiration from the best virus writers out there, Rabid, Nuke, Friday the 13th, Michelangelo, the Maltese Amoeba, Chernobol, The Love Bug, et al. Now if all of you would kindly step aside, it’s time to cache in your microchips while I park in your cyberspace. The Bug will take it from here, thank you very much. Who’d-a-thunk it? Such a simple operation, really, once you know the ropes. But there are so many of those ropes, right folks? So I thought I’d give my pals a demo of just what a little bug can do. I’m sending this first one out to the boys over at New York Tech. Let’s say tonight, around sevenish? Dress casual. Gentlemen, hide your floppy disks, ladies, guard your software. And Mother Earth, prepare yourself for The Silence of the RAMs, because The Bug will soon be playing in a PC near you. I intend to give this planet one electronic boot up the old kazoo. As a famous comedian once said, "Thanks for the memory." The Bug ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- FAX To : Dr. Robert Packer, Director of National Computer Security Association/Datafact, Washington D.C. Date : June 30 7: 33 p.m. From : James Donwood, Asst. Director New York Institute of Technology Re : Computer Shutdown at NYTI Bob, I just got off the phone with Harry Murdock’s secretary over at the comptroller’s office, and she confirmed we had a computer virus erase most of our data there thirty minutes ago. Three hundred of our IBM’s crashed at 7:00 p.m., just like the guy on Compu-Net said. Their memory is as empty as the day we bought them, and we’re talking something like thirty-thousand NYTI transcripts erased covering the last three years. We had our programs virus-proofed, but they went down anyway without our even detecting the presence of a virus in our files. It appears we’re dealing with some unknown variables here. This past week my office took the precaution of transferring as much data as we could onto soft disks, but we had too little time to save more than a few thousand records. With most of the students on summer vacation our downloading was minimal, but because office personnel was limited to our summer staff, maybe someone broke in to boot a new virus. We have a real problem here, Bob. This guy seems to know what he’s doing, and we may not have seen the worst. It may be possible that he somehow spread the virus through our telecommunications network. He’s tapped into just about every interpersonal computer network in the country with some sort of override we can’t crack and we still haven’t a clue who he is. My staff will be on vacation until after the 4th, but we can’t afford to sit on our hands much longer. Sincerely, Jim ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Compu-Net Telecommunications Systems Time : 7/1 9:07 a.m. To : The fun-loving gang at NYTI, and Dr. Robert Packer, Director NCSA Datafact From : The Bug Subject : Waiter, menu please Good morning, vacationing NYTI students. Remember those term papers you turned in a few weeks ago? And all those final exams? I hope so, because your friendly campus IBM’s seem to have forgotten all about them. In fact, they seem to have forgotten that several thousand of you had ever set foot in the halls of good old New York Tech. It’s almost like each of you has become an Orwellian unperson overnight, isn’t it? Hope I haven’t caused you to hurl your Special K. We’ll talk later. Let me say howdy to my good friend Professor Robert Packer over at Datafact, the Washington computer police who see to it that we citizens have us our PC on Earth. Bob, as you can see I got in some batting practice last night for our little upcoming holiday game of database ball over the 4th, and I believe I’ve just hit one out of the park. Of course, compared to the fun and games I have planned in three days for this planet, last night’s mild diversion was strictly Peewee League. Are you a betting man, Professor? Care to put your money where your mouse is? This Bug will strike again, that’s one bet I can definitely cover. July 4th approaches, pal. Let the games begin. And speaking of baseball, I hear there’s a good sandlot in Peoria. The Bug ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- FAX To : Dr. Robert Packer, Director of National Computer Security Association/Datafact, Washington D.C. Date : July 1 10:37 p.m. From : Dr. Donald P. Linke, Dr. of Pharmacology Peoria Medical College, Peoria Illinois Concerning : Viral Outbreak of 1 July Dear Dr. Packer, In response to your call this morning, we experienced a major power surge at 7:15 p.m. tonight. Our hospital computers shut down until we restored emergency power at approximately 7:20. We have had difficulty since then retrieving data from virtually every computer in the building, and a similar loss of data has occurred in computers located throughout the immediate downtown Peoria area. To my knowledge, there is no precedent for a computer virus of this nature having been launched through a power surge. My greater concern, however, has been the sudden influx of patients since the surge. At last count my staff has reported over one hundred new admissions complaining of fever, and each has been diagnosed as suffering from some form of acute viral infection. Almost as many staff members have also complained of dizziness and nausea, and virtually everyone, including myself, is running a temperature. I am faxing specific details to you with this communication. At this point the coinciding events of the computer shut-down and the spread of virus among tonight’s admitted patients has me completely baffled, and without computer analysis at our disposal specific verification of what we are dealing with has been impossible. If you will permit me to place medical logic aside for the moment, there seems some sort of cause-effect relationship, however tentative, between our local computer failures and the sudden viral outbreak in this region. At this time I cannot begin to guess just what that relationship might be. However, from what I know of computer viruses, an ‘infected’ disk is required to boot a computer’s own infection. Is it possible that whoever is responsible for this virus is someone who might have access to both the computers at NYTI and Peoria Medical College? Is this possibly some sort of national prank that has gotten out of hand? A notably more pressing consideration, however, concerns the feasibility of a computer virus that can spread to human beings. My office will keep you informed when we have more information. Sincerely, Dr. D. Linke -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Compu-Net Telecommunications Systems Time : 7/2 9:33 a.m. To : Dr. Robert Packer, Director NCSA Datafact, and the late citizenry of Peoria, Illinois From : The Bug Subject : The Bug takes another byte Hello again, Professor Packer, Are we having fun yet? We will be once the news hits the streets that no one from out of town will be reaching their Aunt Harriet in Peoria today. It must put a whole new Bug up your behind to see an entire town go like that. Like some hacker just went in and erased the entire population as if it were one big human spreadsheet. Isn’t it ironic that this town has found a Bug that squashes people? Tomorrow will require one hell of a clean-up, assuming there’s anyone in the city limits left to do the cleaning up. Ain’t data kick in the pants? I had to laugh when I tapped into that fax from Dr. Linke at Peoria Medical. The late doctor was way off about that infected disk stuff. That’s so Nintendo to a pro like the Bugmeister. When this Bug is in ROM, he does not necessarily do as the other Romulans do. I’ve got to give that little Illinois town credit, though. We finally know the answer to that age-old question : Will it play in Peoria? Oh, I just kill me. ‘Kill’ does seem the operative word here, doesn’t it Professor? You might want to keep that in mind while you’re planning that July 4th picnic. The Bug ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Compu-Net Telecommunications Systems Time : 7/2 1:55 p.m. To : Computer writer responsible for NYTI and Peorian viruses From : Dr. Robert Packer, NCSA Datafact Division Subject : ‘Freedom’ Virus Threatened for July 4th I have no idea why you perceive me as a Keeper of the Keys, nor why you have monitored my personal Datafact communications. Datafact is not the computer swat team you imply, unless you consider its market research as some sort of surveyor of the public trust. However, your public Compu-Net messages to me force me to reply by open letter through the public telecommunications network by which you have addressed me. So I will be brief. . . Datafact will call for a global computer shut-down on July 4th. This ‘Freedom Virus’ madness you have unleashed will stop. I won’t ask how you managed to do the damage you have done. Nor will I humor you with the show of fear you seem to crave. As far as I am concerned, you’re only a graffiti artist with a college degree. I don’t intend to give you another public forum for your threats of pandemic infections, computer or otherwise, while you play Hide-and-Seek. That game is between you and the authorities, and in time they will uncover how you pulled off this sabotage and who you are. I won’t ask questions I know you won’t answer. You will receive no further communications from this office. Robert Packer --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Compu-Net Telecommunications Systems Time : 7/4 12:05 a.m. To : Dr. Robert Packer, NCSA Datafact Division From : William Reiter/The Bug Subject : The ‘Freedom’ Virus Dr. Packer, I don’t know how to explain this. It’s gotten so out of hand and I don’t know what to do. I’m hoping writing this may provide the answer. I’ll start at the beginning. You probably don’t remember me, but I was your student in Advanced Data Processing at New York Tech about fifteen years ago. My name is Billy Reiter, but they used to call me Billy the Bug because I was so short. You failed me in that course, Professor, and because of that I lost my scholarship. But that isn’t what this is about. You know that a global shut-down of computers in this age would be virtually impossible. Hospitals couldn’t function, and turbojets would drop from the sky. It can’t be done on any realistic level, and even most personal computer users would probably laugh at the suggestion. The Freedom Virus is a virtual certainty, Professor, and we’re not talking about computers anymore. You used to tell your students how you were among the first architects of the System HV-1000 computer back in the 1960’s. You said you had programmed it to recognize new strains of infectious bacterial viruses that might render the earlier infections harmless before they had the chance to spread. The computer could create its own immunity, warding off bacterial attack. You told your students that the HV-1000 was ahead of its time back then because it learned from its own programs and could create new and better ones without further input from you. But because of the potential danger, you told your classes the Feds had the HV-1000 locked away in The Smithsonian in the early ‘70’s. I remember you used that time-worn phrase, “For the national security.” Most of your students thought you were yanking their chain. But I knew you weren’t. Last year I got a job as a computer programmer at The Smithsonian, and while programing the Masters 6000-GK series I remembered what you had said. So I requested some information from it about your HV-1000. The read-out led me to Room 101 in some corner of the museum’s basement the cleaning staff didn’t even know about. Your computer was covered with dust, Professor, and looked like it hadn’t been touched in over twenty years. I spent three months getting the damned thing functional, sometimes working through the night. I even used my own power supply from a dozen car batteries. The HV-1000 stored the battery power, so that when I went to turn it off, nothing happened. Professor Packer, this Freedom Virus thing started out as a joke, a way to get you back. But last week the HV-1000 began to write its own program. It misunderstood what I meant by ‘virus’, because I guess in the 60’s there was no such thing as a computer virus. It must have assumed I meant a human virus. It remembered my Compu-Net telecommunications to you, and wrote to you without my even knowing about it. It even simulated my writing style. When I heard about what had happened at Peoria Medical Hospital, I realized the catastrophe the HV-1000 could unleash. But I also knew it could not have created a new viral strain unless it had somehow been programmed to write a human virus. So three hours ago I asked it to scan its own memory for any human virus that had been programmed into it. It found a virus, Professor, one that had been programmed into it maybe thirty years ago . . . by you, Dr. Packer. The virus Dr. Donald Linke developed as a failed experiment to help you destroy all other viruses with the help of the HV-1000, your technological guardian of the public health. The virus you accidentally unleashed on the world almost twenty years ago, shortly before the government locked up your computer and tried to forget about it. That was the HIV virus, wasn’t it Professor? And now the HV-1000 has created a better virus, one that’s as efficient as it is deadly because it’s one fast acting little sucker. Your computer has taught itself to do it, and today it is going to deliver it. A few hours ago I thought maybe I’d go home to get the old baseball bat, and come back here to smash this bastard bucket of bolts into microchips. But, you know something? I’m no hero, and considering the damage already done, they’d probably put me in a room like this one and throw away the key. Maybe it’s better this way for all of us. Hell, look what we had in the palm of our hands, and look what we did with it. Maybe this Freedom Virus will liberate us after all. Maybe I do know what to do. My digital tells me it’s already five minutes past midnight. It’s July 4th, Independence Day, Dr. Packer. I’m feeling a bit unwell at the moment. Fever and chills, a bit weak. But I guess during these next few hours you’ll know all about that too. In a few hours everyone will know about that. So I’m going to sign off now and lie down for just a little while...

June 11, 2022 16:37

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4 comments

Kenneth Goldman
16:56 Jun 11, 2022

This story got me started on my writing career a few years ago. (I won't say how many.) It came in second place in the second annual Rod Serling Memorial Writing Contest. (You know that guy. TWILIGHT ZONE, remember?) The formatting isn't as fancy here as it was in the original entry. But read it and enjoy it anyway -- and remember, it's just a fiction story, right?

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Michael Typist
00:33 Jun 23, 2022

I like the format of the story, electronic communications that slowly unfold the drama. But I think I'd need to research computer and human viruses more to understand the details. Interesting and thought-provoking

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Ash Cr
08:23 Jun 18, 2022

cool as

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Ashley Smith
06:18 Jun 18, 2022

Wow!! 😳 Well now, I am definitely impressed! You Sir, are definitely a genius!

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