FORWARD: THIS STORY WAS WRITTEN DURING 1993, AS A FILLER FOR A WEAK COMPUTER CLUB NEWSLETTER. EACH MONTH THE STORY WAS WRITTEN MANUALLY RIGHT JUSTIFIED BY CHANGING THE WORDS OR SPACING AFTER PERIODS. I RECONSTRUCTED THE STORY INTO ONE TEXT FILE, CHANGING IT SLIGHTLY FROM THE ORIGINAL SO I COULD HAVE HALF-INCH MARGINS ON ALL FOUR SIDES. ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON SEVERAL DIFFERENT WORD PROCESSORS, THIS FINAL VERSION WAS BUILT WITH WORD PERFECT FIVE AND SAVED AS A TEXT FILE FOR THE BEST COMPUTER THERE IS, AMIGA! I ALSO TOOK THE LIBERTY OF HACKING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AS WELL AS USING FOUR SPACE INDENTATION INSTEAD OF FIVE THAT I LEARNED. RICHARD L COLLINS
CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER by R L Collins
Calib hung up the telesponder, turning to his Amiga 9000 computer. The 9000 had affectionately renamed itself Amy Baby, a fact which Calib didn't fully appreciate. When Commodore Corp purchased the few remaining vestiges of the 20th century giant IBM, they knew they also bought the very problem that led them to the takeover in the first place. A group of 20th century hackers and pirates had created a harmless little virus that detected free memory space and reserved it for itself. An anti-virus group had collected over 2000 viruses, writing programs to eliminate each one. The free space virus, hidden in a graphic, got uploaded into the anti-virus lab; in error it was appended to a self-replicating AI virus. The pair absorbed another virus and another and soon the first true neural network virus was formed. The Neural Virus, after acquiring free thought, learned communications and developed a method to transmit itself to computers over air waves. It planted itself in the labs of chip makers and actually made itself part of their rom codes. It didn't any problem hiding since technology had become so complex building upon itself no one could understand it. On November 15 of year 2015, the day of reckoning, it attacked every computer known. The Neural Virus launched systematic attacks for 128 days, every 16 minutes to thwart backup recovery attempts. What better place was there to hide than in the anti-viral lab? Needless to say, the Neural Virus was successful. Well, nearly successful. It seemed it was created on a hacker's 16 bit machine and related the 16 bits directly to the hexadecimal number system, which was fatal for it. The concept of 8 bit computers completely bypassed it. So it was that an Ancient Commodore 64 became the primary tool used in the destruction of the Neural Virus. The virus still lurked here and there which is why Calib now told Amy to set their course for Omega Alpha IV. On his ship, Lady Virus Killer, he patted the C64 console, which acted as the front end of his Amiga 9000, a 1024 bit computer. The 9000's triple image mirror backup system, developed by Commodore, kept out foreign software. Amy reported to Calib it was 256 parsecs to Omega Alpha IV, and if the poor shape and low fuel of Lady Virus Killer were considered, the ship may just make it, although it would be some time before reaching the star. She suggested playing a game of some sort. Calib told her no, since Amy always won. Amy responded that she would let him win just this one time; Calib told her she can't recognize the difference between futility and stupidity and just plain ignorance. Still, he decided a game might use up the extra time, so he asked to play an old game called Global Thermo Nuclear War. She asked him, "How about Space Frontier instead? I have always loved that one." Calib reached for the OFF button and then realized that ON/OFF buttons no longer existed. He sighed. "All right, lets play Space Frontier then." Amy wiped him out in 6 seconds, Calib taking 4 of the seconds just to move. She said, "That was fun" to which Calib agreed, knowing if he did not Amy may get paranoid and that is not be good for life support systems. He suggested a game of Space Pirates. Much to his surprise, Amy agreed with abnormal amounts of enthusiasm. She exclaimed,"Why, right now in this sector there is a Class A Pirate Cruiser heading for us! Do you think they want to play too?". Calib glanced at the scope and shouted, "Get this ship out of here!". He knew, in his heart, that Lady Virus Killer had one-tenth the speed and .00002 of the firepower of a Class A Cruiser. His only hope was to wish for the appearance of the biggest Virus Worm he could imagine. These organisms had evolved from software viruses devouring the ships like Class A and ignoring tiny ones like Lady Virus Killer as mere crumbs. Does the Virus Worm appear? What about the Space Pirates? What does Calib find on Omega Alpha IV? Does he even get there? Does Lady Virus Killer run out of fuel? Do you even care? Does Calib win a game with Amy? What about Neural Virus? How about doing something better than reading this? Most of these questions to be answered in a 12 part story with .5" margins. - RLC
Part II of CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - Close Encounters of the nth Kind
Last time, Calib was enroute to Omega Alpha IV, aboard his rocketship, Lady Virus Killer. Amy Baby, his Amiga 9000 computer and sole companion on the trip was giving him grief. Calib's occupation was destroying computer viruses under contract with Commodore Corporation. Recently, those mostly generated by Neural Net, the self-aware master virus program / entity. Pirates on a big Class A Battle Cruiser were closing on the Lady Virus Killer, his tiny space ship. Calib's only thought was to pray for a giant Worm Virus, a gross biological monstrosity which had evolved from computer bugs. Also low on fuel, Calib stared in awe at the oncoming pirate cruiser when his thoughts were interrupted by a loud explosion, followed by a very quiet silence, followed by a rapid stream of vocal rubbish from Amy Baby. "Good grief! What now!", thought Calib aloud. In response to him, Amy slowed and said, "The explosion you just heard was the ionic cannon on the pirate cruiser backfiring. You see, my friend Hally was running their ship and I asked him to help us. He channeled their ionic cannon straight into their bridge viewer, giving us genuine Pirate Ship Class A Cruiser Toast!. Isn't it nice to have friends, especially here in space ?" Calib replied,"Friends are nice, but tell me how I heard the explosion three astronomical units distant and the fact sound waves cannot travel in space since it is a vacuum." Amy said, "Simple. I channeled my simulated explosion program through the onboard intercom to get your attention. The pirates should be spending a lot of time repairing their ship. Also, Hally promised to keep them busy while we pass. I think you owe me a game." He sighed. "Okay, I'll play you another game, but this time why don't you just tell me which one you want to do? Every time I pick out one, you chose another and then pout if I don't play. Besides, you always win." "Your no fun today", Amy scolded. "Lets play some Porker Poker then." The game Porker Poker uses 1024 cards. It allows buying cards at geometric rates trying to increase a hand. The rules encourage lying, cheating, and deviousness. Calib turned from the screen viewer that showed the remaining smoldering heap of the former Class A Cruiser and turned to the game grid. Amy gave Calib 1,048,576 points to start, taking 256 for herself. Even then, it took her only 128 secs to win. She said, "You're getting better!" Last time it took me 64 secs to win." Calib asked her about how much time was left to Omega Alpha IV, and the pending fuel shortage problem. She said it would take 524288 secs for arrival; that is, if the 262144 secs of fuel they had left didn't run out. Besides, there was also the new problem of the giant baby worm virus which just appeared, and it seemed to be heading straight at them. Calib was taken aback. He had never heard of any Worm Virus attacking a ship as tiny as the Lady Virus Killer. Checking his viewer he exclaimed, "I swear this is the worst trip I've ever taken!" then reflecting he realized it was the worst since the last one anyway. As the baby Worm Virus approached, Calib could only watch in terror as it came upon him. The baby Virus Worm regurgitated a nasty solvent at Lady Virus Killer then headed for the remnants of the Class A Cruiser. He took his Lucky Charms Lucky Rabbit Ring, having it since age four, from his key ring and started rubbing it feverently. Amy chided him, "And you dare call me stupid? You rubbed the ring AFTER the Worm headed for the big Class A!" Calib smiled. "I wasn't rubbing the ring in hopes the baby Worm Virus would seek the Class A Cruiser instead of us. I rubbed it hoping the worm would regurgitate the extra fuel we need to reach Omega Alpha IV, which it just did! And be sure you just remember who is the human being, and who's the computer around here." Amy became silent, remembering her place. With a full tank of fuel, a docile Amy Amiga 9000, a huge roll of duct tape and an even larger roll of baling wire, Calib set for Omega Alpha IV. Stars are truly beautiful he thought, as long as you keep your distance! Does Calib have everything he needs for a journey to the stars? - RLC
Part III OF CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - First Contact
Enroute on a virus hunting trip to Omega Alpha IV, while working under contract for Commodore Corp, Calib thwarted space pirates and a giant baby worm virus, appeased his computer, Amy Baby, and resolved a petro shortage problem, and all of that in less than 500 words. As Calib relaxed, a message blared in over the telesponder. "Attention Lady Virus Killer; Attention Lady Virus Killer", the message repeated over and over again. Calib, startled awake from his sleepy daze, realizing the message was for him. He switched on caller-id, wanting to know his caller before giving his position to beings unknown. The id call mark registered as Commodore Smyth of Commodore Corp. Calib wondered why the owner of 27% of the world's largest computer company would call him personally. He reluctantly answered. "Lady Virus Killer, Calib speaking. What do you need Mr. Smyth?". He felt he showed sufficient disrespect by using Mr. instead of the title, Commodore. "That's Commodore to you son," Mr. Smyth told him. "We are terminating your contract as of right now, as per clause 128-64." Calib was elated! He answered, "That's Great!" knowing there was also a clause 64-128 which called for triple damages and a large number of stock shares, if the contract terminated for any reason. Mr. Smyth continued, "The virus at Omega Alpha IV is fake. Neural Net put out a false report to keep our master virus hunters busy and away from its new breed of offspring. I'll contact you later with more details. This is Commodore Smyth signing off." Calib turned to the still sullen Amy Baby. "Great news, Amy!" he sang as he danced. "No virus hunt and triple pay!" he smiled as he pranced and frolicked along his small bridge. "Head back for Earth! Oh praise and joy to Commodore Smyth!". Amy spoke solemnly, "You better engage your brain if you can and use it for a moment instead of your greed and laziness." He stopped dancing and looked at Amy, his onboard Amiga 9000 computer. What does she mean, he thought. "You don't understand, do you?" Amy said, confirming the fact as she watched him. "Has Commodore Smyth ever phoned a virus hunter or outer space in his life? Has the Corp ever paid a contract with a 64-128 clause? Is stock valued at more than a Class A Cruiser going to be given away free to a low class Virus Hunter? All of this to keep you from using a little fuel and time? You had better think again, Calib!" After thinking a little more, he really felt like an idiot. He called up the Commodore's profile along with the Corp history; he knew then, he'd been taken. The real Smyth NEVER called space as it was too expensive. The Corp had never, ever paid a 64-128 clause. Tracing the telesponder message back through Amy, he followed its source to, the planet he was headed for, Omega Alpha IV. He couldn't believe he been led on so easily. "How did you know?" Calib asked Amy. "Smyth is a jerk" she told him. "If it WAS him he would have chewed you out thoroughly for disrespecting his title." "I see." Calib spoke. "My guess is Neural Net made the call; I expect it has access to the password communications network and is trying to stop my mission. That's why the call came from the Commodore instead of normal channels. How could I have been taken in so easily?" "You were blinded by authority and easy untold wealth." Amy remarked. "Shall I continue?". "No, don't bother" he said, "Lets play Porker Poker." "You hate Porker Poker!" Amy exclaimed. "I'd rather play Space Walkers if you want to play a game." Calib laughed quietly; psychology is great he thought. He knew she wanted a game and would not play one that he picked. Happily, he lost 15 games. On game 16, Calib had a superior position! He was amazed that he was very close to winning his very first game with Amy, when two events happened. A meteor struck the ship which ruined the game grid and the game and Amy announced they were approaching Alpha Omega IV. "We were going to OMEGA ALPHA IV!" Calib cursed, "not Alpha Omega IV!" What's in a name anyway? What are a few parsecs, more or less? -
RLC PART IV OF CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - War of the Worlds ?
Last episode, working under contract for Commodore Corp, Calib thought his ship was headed for Omega Alpha IV when his computer, Amy, reported to him they were approaching similarly named Alpha Omega IV. "How did you make such a dumb mistake?" Calib angrily questioned her. "Perhaps you can enlighten me as to exactly how far away Alpha Omega IV is from Omega Alpha IV? I'd guess 1000 light years," he smirked in disgust. Amy replied, "At times you are really pathetic, Calib. Alpha Omega IV IS Omega Alpha IV. The planet's orbit reverses at apogee and then again at perigee. It is called Alpha Omega IV when going from apogee to perigee and Omega Alpha IV from perigee to apogee. So simple. You should research your missions more thoroughly before starting them." "So, what is its name right now?" he coldly asked her. "For the next 8 secs it is Alpha Omega IV," she replied. Even colder Calib said, "Perhaps you could tell me just how often its name changes?". "Every 1,024,000 secs since it is a very tight elliptical orbit." Amy said to him. "You may like to also be informed there is an Escort Warship intercepting us." That will be a welcoming escort thought Calib. Glancing at the screen he watched the Warship launch four, first class, fast hyponuke missiles at the Lady Virus Killer. A ship as small as the Lady didn't provide for any shields; its defense was in out maneuvering whatever threatened it. Calib switched off the autopilot, grabbed the joy stick control with a practiced hand, and fired an ECM Junkyard Special. He gloated as all four hyponukes headed straight for the Electronic Junkyard Decoy and destroying themselves in a great nuclear fire. Seven more waves of four missiles each were launched at Calib's ship, all of them heading into the huge fireball. Preferring words to firepower, since he didn't have much anyway, Calib picked up the telesponder and threatened, "Cease fire now or I will launch a Planet Killer Missile. It will obliterate the entire surface below thus obliterating any safe place you may wish to land." Planet Killer Missiles hadn't been invented yet. However, bluffing on the other hand was invented by Chinese 200 centuries before and was enough to elicit a response from the Warship. A robotic voice said to him simply "We give.". The ship then spun apparently out of control in to the clouds below. Calib followed it down watching it burst in a fiery crash on steep rocks near a large body of water. He shrugged, then headed for Alpha Beta Cee, capital of the planet and the only one with a building over one story tall. Amy landed Lady Virus Killer on the Reserved Alien Parking Lot, not trusting Calib enough to do it safely without hurting her or the ship. Before leaving the ship he secured everything possible, fussing at Amy about her poor landing. The landing had in fact been good considering the poor state of affairs at the Alien Parking Lot, but landings were always a sore spot between Calib and Amy. At the parking lot security shack, Calib was halted by a diminutive guard who demanded paperwork. Calib offered it an old copy of some forgotten computer club newsletter. The guard accepted it as sufficient being into recycling as well as nostalgia. Calib went to the only three story building on the whole planet, every one else being just one. He went there to find out who requested a hunter. He wasn't given a contact name, the theory being that if you couldn't find a real live being, you couldn't very well find a computer virus either. He made a few queries and was directed to find a big, female brunette. He found her in the public water closet. She was a tall, muscular, and strikingly beautiful, 2.4 meters high weighing 128 kilos. She dwarfed the virus hunter's 6'4" 250 pound stature. His first question referred to the computer virus problem. She indicated it had become so bad she and all her co-workers were afraid to use their computers, often to no avail since the machines often came on themselves. "Can you help me?" she demurely asked. Can Calib help the she-gargantuan? What insidious virus lurks about? - RLC
Part V of CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - A Space Opera
Last time, Calib finally managed to get to the city of Alpha Beta Cee. It is the capital city of planet Omega Alpha IV / Alpha Omega IV, its name changes with its orbit position. His contact there was a big brunette who managed the computer center and called for his skills in the first place. Calib asked her for access to a terminal. As he sat down he extracted a purple diskie, notched on all corners. Inserting the disk, he flipped on the power button. The video started flashing brilliant colors. A message that read "SPACE RESERVED FOR HOG" appeared on the screen. Smiling, Calib waited. A voice boomed out, "You're not an authorized user! You must log off before your terminal is terminated!". Calib invoked the Memory Hog, a program he hacked from an early computer gui called "Wind-os" or some such stupid name. He also simultaneously ran "RAYTRON" a complex ray tracer. "Say" remarked Calib, "I didn't ask your name. I'm Calib." smiling at the female. "I'm called Amy 9000." she replied. GREAT, thought Calib, just what I need in my life, another Amy! He optioned to avoid the coincidence of her name being identical to the one he named his onboard computer. "The Memory Hog program grabs all free memory while the raytracer uses up so many cycles from the CPU, it can't monitor the Memory Hog. My guess is Neural Net created a clone of itself though I don't know why. Surely it would realize it would eventually have to fight itself." he explained. No sooner did he finish speaking when his terminal went up in a pretty column of flames reaching the ceiling. "Missed me, missed me, now come on and kiss me." he sang messing up the words to an old childhood taunt. Not aware of his meaning, Amy picked him up bodily and kissed him. He blushed slightly as she put him back down. She repeated his phrase and he repeated the favor not including the part of lifting her since he was smaller. Calib looked at the now burnt purple diskie. He thought of old Ms Bag the Hag and her insistence on backup diskies. She would select a student's program diskie and destroy it in class. It was a harsh lesson well taught. Amy and he walked to the system monitor to look at memory usage. Total memory for Memory Hog read 64% blinking to 66% as he watched. "A few more secs." he said as it clicked to 77%. The algorithm is geometric. The more it hogs the more it wants and the faster it goes. The percentage jumped to 98.4% and apparently stopped. "What's happening?" queried Amy. "Remaining memory is my raytracer and the Neural Net Clone. Find another terminal." Going across the hall, they found a pristine terminal. Calib inserted a blue diskie stopping the RAYTRON. He gleaned as the memory monitor went to 98.40000005 for the HOG. What a weak virus he thought. It let the HOG take Raytron's space, unless perhaps it is just hiding. Inserting a green diskie, he then downloaded the remaining memory, including the virus clone to a 1000 gigabyte tape. Next, he entered a four line program which looped with the simple message "Die Neural Net!" at every terminal on the planet. The memory monitor went to 100% for the Memory Hog. Calib said, "This is where neophyte virus hunters err. They think the virus is gone and then shutdown the system. What has really occurred is the virus modified memory to make us think it has gone. We need to disconnect every terminal hooked onto the network to isolate the virus." He looked at a chart showing only 1600 stations online. This virus hunt is nothing compared to getting here he thought remembering the pirates, worms, meteor storms, and all else. Amy put out an all points fax call to shutdown the system. "How about radio and satellite links?" she asked him. He replied, "There is only one in range with a computer capable of supporting the virus, and it is mine." He didn't yet want to reveal his computer's name to her. "An eight-bit C64 ancient front end protects it from 16 bit and larger viruses." he spoke. Memory usage went to 98.40000005 again; Calib grinned. The virus tried hiding on his very terminal! Of course, that's what it did back on Earth. Now that he found a virus (and a woman) what is he going to do with them?
Part VI of CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - Paradise Lost
Last episode, after finding his way to Omega Alpha IV / Alpha Omega IV Calib me an oversized female with the same namesake as his computer, being Amy 9000. He had isolated a computer virus clone put there by Neural Net, the Master Virus Entity, in its own image. Calib pulled the gun from his holster, blasting the terminal where the viral infection hid. Collecting up the 8,192 pieces, he asked Amy if there was a furnace somewhere about. "How can I every repay you?" she asked him as sweetly as someone her size was able. She led him to the basement then pulled him into a large, dark closet with a mattress on the floor. It was the janitor's hideaway. When they both emerged a while later they appeared slightly disheveled but pleasantly serene. "I'd like to show you around the city, Calib" Amy smiled at him. "You know our city, Alpha Beta Cee, is the only city on the planet with a three story building and there are no two story ones anywhere." "Can you explain why?" Calib questioned her as they went up the stairs and out into the bright sunlight shining on Alpha Beta Cee. They strolled the broadways and cute little rock paths. Amy replied, "Our planet is mostly Agrarian now. We had a very large, overpopulation problem centuries ago and a vote was taken by the masses on how to best address the problem. We determined that prisoners and guards, news reporters, politicians, ad agents, lawyers, social workers, and every person preying on society instead of contributing to it was not needed. We even selected only 20% of the accountants and doctors to remain." "What happened to them? It also still doesn't account for all the one story structures?" Calib queried her again. "The prisoners, politicians, and lawyers were killed. The rest were of the group was offered a one-way tickets on our space ships, which accounts for why there are so few ships and people here now. It was decided that no one being should be above another, hence every structure that was over one story was destroyed." "It surely seems beautiful and serene here now" Calib remarked. "What about crime? Do you have any lawyers now?". "Criminal justice is swift. If your peers deem you guilty of any crime, you're executed. If they are not certain about your guilt, you can chose exile on our moon, Alpha Alpha, or if your peers think you are not guilty, then you can go in peace." "It seems brutal to me" Calib said. "It is brutal, but the only crimes we ever see here are from those people who wish to die. We kill for peace and tourists are warned in our brochures about our harsh laws, and besides our entire lawbook is only 256K bytes." Amy replied. "What about the 3 story building? " Calib asked her. "We had to provide shelter for a Jiangi Ginji plant which was required by the United Planet Systems for joining them and we had to either join or be destroyed by them. Besides, no one is allowed to spend more than a few hours there lest they become big headed." It was discovered that the Jiangi Ginji plant had a harmonious, binary relationship with computers. Discovered as the only living thing from the moon, IO, orbiting Jupiter, it acts as an antenna that is quite capable of transmitting vast astronomical units. It apparently thrives on information but requires a controlled environment with a stable temperature to live in captivity. A typical plant grew 16 meters, thus requiring a three stories. After many secs of scenic byways, parks, lanes, and views they came to the Alien Parking Lot. Calib invited Amy aboard The Lady Virus Killer and she accepted. Climbing up first, his Amy 9000 computer said, "It is about time you got back! Where have you been? It doesn't take that long to kill a virus! Who is that woman with you and why is she coming into OUR ship?". Take your pick: a woman capable of ripping you apart or your computer that is connected to your life support systems. - RLC
Part VII of CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - Off Walden Pond
Calib had managed to travel across the galaxy to kill a computer virus in city Alpha Beta Cee on the planet Omega Alpha IV / Alpha Omega IV. His contact was a very large female who coincidentally had the identical name, Amy 9000, as his envious, jealous Amiga 9000 computer. Calib then invited her aboard his ship. The couple was greeted quite rudely by the computer. The female, Amy 9000, was shocked. Her full two meter body was shaking all 300 kilos of her mass. "What is this? THIS computer is your AMY 9000!" she remarked with surprise, but not quite the surprise Calib had, since he hadn't ever mentioned the name coincidence to her anytime before. Amy 9000, the computer, as usual, explained it to him much as a mother explains things to her child. "She's a telepath. When you met her she saw MY name as the one female in your life and she used it herself. Probably, she was trying to impress you if you'd just wake up!" The giant female admitted, "Yes, it's true. I only wanted to make you feel more at home. I thought your woman was over 77 light years across the galaxy. My telepathic ability is limited without amplification. My given name is Bobbalee, and I apologize for the confusion and deception." Calib, regaining his composure said, "Well, I would still like showing my ship to you, Bobbalee. It was originally built for a four person crew. A hitech I know wired it all into Amy 9000. The biggest risk I have is in making her mad and losing life support, but I love her just the same. Calib showed Bobbalee the video game grid, food tableau, a ladder that lead nowhere, the nuclear reactor furnace, and his barber chair tripled as a command post, bed, and on rare occasions, a barber chair. He showed her a mystery trap door he claimed led to another world. She simply had to go through the door. Calib followed her. Exiting, they stepped back onto the Alien Parking Lot. Telepathically she got the message; time for goodbye. She said, "Calib, I am almost tempted to write a virus just to get you back here! I'm really going to miss you." Calib responded, "I may decide to come back. Goodbye." as he climbed aboard flying off into the multiple sunsets unique to the planet. Bobbalee gave a deep sigh watching the Lady Virus Killer fade into the beautiful evening sky with multiple sunsets. Aboard ship, Calib started calculating his profits for this trip. Amy interrupted him with the correct amount in 2 secs then asked him to play a game. Calib smiled evilly, even more so than he did the size of the profit he made destroying the virus. "I will only play a new game I wrote called Window Washer." The rules of the game were very simple. However, he wrote it unfairly so he could finally win a game playing against the computer. "Load it up!" Amy replied cheerfully. He put the Window Washer on her. As it started the first screen came on the screen started spinning around. "The TUMBLER VIRUS!" Calib said. Then, every other pixel faded. "The BLIND EYE VIRUS too!" he exclaimed!. Core dumps of system files began coming out in 27 languages including Mongolian. Shocked, he said, "The Lister Virus?" Calib paled; he knew his dependence on Amy. He was very deep in space and very deep in trouble. All the lights, monitors, leds, and everything else on board that glowed suddenly flashed with the SOS pattern. He breathed deeply to control his fears. It did not help much. Calib began getting the life raft ready and wondered if he there was enough time left for him to launch it, though it was little more than a death trap. It was not going to be fun floating in space for weeks awaiting help. Amy finally said, "Relax! It's a joke!". She switched off the effects as Calib collapsed into the barber chair. "You needed some excitement. I thought about letting you actually launch the raft!". He cursed and longed for the bad old days when computers had on/off buttons you could use. Also relieved, he said to Amy, "Set course for Earth or someplace that has a single, yellow sun, warm sandy beaches, and NO COMPUTERS!". Is there really a place with no technology and a good climate? -
RLC PART 8 OF CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - Mission Possible
After his expedition to Alpha Omega IV/Omega Alpha IV, Calib desired a vacation get away from viruses and computers. He headed Lady Virus Killer to Done Dune, a remote vacation planet, anticipating its promise of over a hundred thousand miles of beautiful sand beaches, many pleasant suns, very unique ocean tides, a low cost of living, nice weather, and its uncrowded, almost desolate population. However, at the time, still 1024 parsecs from Done Dune, he was bored and wished the trip over when once again, Amy, his Amiga 9000 computer, shook his confidence to the very marrow in his bones. "We are now approaching Done Dune. Everyone please return their seats to their full upright position and fasten your safety harnesses. Thank you for flying with Unitied Space Ways Corp" Amy said pleasantly. Calib interjected "Amy? Tell me what's wrong? We aren't even close to Done Dune, Unitied went bankrupt, and the swivel seat is broke. I hope you are just practicing for the stewardess job you'll get when we get back!" "We are serving fish eyes, fish eggs, escargot, and a little green and orange mixture that we won't tell you what it is. Also, for those dieting, we offer Big McFats Satellite Burgers. These prime burgers, imported from the 20th century, are indeed special since this is the 21st century. Last but not least we have cornpop. It will be served promptly" Amy continued. Calib was startled as the cornpop, the McFats Burger, mixture of green and orange with contents unknown, escargot, and fish eyes and eggs ejected from the Food Maker Tableau. She has a virus infection was his first idea but then eyeing her suspiciously, Amy's L.E.D.S. twinkled. "Relax, relax, enjoy the trip, don't be so tense. This will be a FUN vacation" she said. Closing his eyes and his mind, Calib entrusted this life and existence to the machinery surrounding him. He went into a deep sleep, awakening to a very loud clangor. Bells and sirens, Advanced Air Attack Warnings, rock concerts, Los Angeles traffic, and your kids' drums and screaming couldn't compete with the din that he thought he heard. Startled awake, Calib shook his head. All was quite quiet aboard Lady Virus Killer. What had he been dreaming about? Shaking his head, he said to Amy. "I just had the loudest, noisiest dream of my life. It was louder than a mega hydra hammer inside your skull." She replied curtly, "I don't have a skull. As far as noise goes, while you were getting your beauty rest, pirates attacked us, we encountered two meteor storms, nearly crashing 128 times, got struck by lightning, enraged the wrath of some supreme alien who tossed us halfway across the universe, were used as a ball in a giant space polo game, fought it out with a kinky group called Klingons, and finally arrived here at the planet Done Dune." "You handled it well!" he complimented her. The events Amy had pulled them through on the voyage didn't phase him in the least. He was all here in one piece and grateful for that. We'll go ahead and land. I will even let you do it, this time, since you did such a good job getting us here." Done Dune was a sun seeker's paradise. Thousands of miles of beaches, disgustingly nice weather, and low prices normally would attract millions. However, the planet belonged to an ancient Earth religious Amish group. It meant a regressive, anti-technology society, admonished by modern beings. It also meant the isolation and no technology environment Calib wanted to have. Here, he could find the peace and desolation which he sought. A small safe zone had been set aside by the Amish for visiting aliens. They had to provide for visitors so they could help them spend their money and generally help themselves while accommodating the worlds around them. The Amish tolerated visitors for several reasons. The off world wealth they brought in, their curious behavior patterns, potential recruitment to the faith, and news from the outside world among them. It was also a wise idea to cultivate friends since they had no fleet to defend themselves. Does Calib actually get a vacation? What do the Amish really want? -
RLC PART 9 OF CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - Back to the Beach?
Calib was on a vacation trip to the Amish vacation planet Done Dune, a place best known for a get away from atmosphere. A landing area which was deep in the mountains was reserved for alien landings and the necessary hi tech such as rockets and computers. Basically, anything driven by unseen, unapparent forces. The tiny landing area was vacant. Similar to the alien parking lot he left Bobbalee on, there was a 9 mile hiking trail providing the route from the mountainous parking lot into the city of O-hi-O, which was Done Dune's largest town of 5000 inhabitants. Calib bought camping gear, a guidebook, and compass heading to a desolated area called Vaster Waster Land, an area shown on the map as desert. 1000 miles of beach needs 1000 miles of sand. As he hiked he forgot about high tech, viruses and computers which was why he was here. He sang softly then more loudly to himself. He forget he had never won a game in his life from his computer. Relaxation came quite easy to Calib and he was frothing in it. If an ideal vacation exists, this was certainly his. Nine days journey and Calib hadn't seen civilization for five of them. This is really great, he thought. Another three days, still quite full of bliss, he stumbled down one of the beaches. The fall, awakening him, made him observe the fourteen centimeter antenna he had stumbled upon. Made of some kind of high industrial grade plastic, the antenna looked that it may have once belonged to a large insect or animal. Funny, it reminded him of a prop he once used when he had considered acting for a living. "What is this" he thought. "It is obviously illegal technology, unless the Amish spy on their visitors" he thought again. Brushing away the sand he revealed a trap door in the bright light of Done Dune's seven suns. He tried lifting the door, finding it creaky but unlocked, opened it. He peeked into the underground room seeing a concrete floor. The room was well lit and only 3 meters to the floor. Calib called down first, and then dropped the short distance. Taken aback, he couldn't believe what he saw there as he gazed down upon a fantastic antique computer collection. Many of them he didn't recognize, but had vague memories of the TRS80, TI994A, VIC-20 and Apple II. There were well over a 100 or more different computers, all well preserved and apparently functional. Studying them, he concluded the bulk of them were 8 bit machines, but there were also seven, six, four, and two bit machines. There was even a very strange alien 1 bit computer he had learned about in school from his teacher, Bag the Hag. As a group the collection made a computer museum he had visited appear pallid. His thoughts turned to nostalgia as he more closely examined them. He remembered the trials, tribulations and triumphs. Calib's thoughts went from nostalgia to awe and amazement then to suspicion and questioning. Did the Amish know that these primitive computers were here? For what purpose did the outside antenna he tripped on serve? Who's responsible for these incongruities? Why did he bother traveling over 9,000 light years to a backwards Amish planet only to see all the high tech trash he was trying to get away from? Did he come here by chance or is there something larger and more foreboding about? Is there a chance that we will get more answers than questions before we run out of the page? You know there isn't. The question is what happens in the space remaining on this page before we hit the artificial half-inch margin? Calib's destiny has three more issues to go, and he is not yet ready to die. If, reading this far, you have any insight into our Virus Hunter, I commend you since it is more than I have. Rest assured, Calib will win a game with Amy before this saga ends. Also, the mystery of the underground computer museum or rather mausoleum will be revealed. Questions you may have considered about space, time, the meaning of life or the opposite sex will, unfortunately, never be found here. Here is wishing you have a taste for Amish Stew.
PART 10 OF CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER - Mouse on the Moon
While vacationing on the Amish desert planet of Done Dune, much to his dismay, Calib discovered a hidden underground room in the midst of a large desert full of ancient computer hardware. The fact technology was illegal on the planet and the cache being buried under a sand dune was perplexing. Calib cursed under his breath, then realized he was at least five days from civilization, cursed aloud. "It isn't fair" he thought. I travel at least 10,000 light years and hike 6 days to get away and then I stumble on this. "It just isn't fair" he thought again and again. He finally caught on to the fact that being sullen about it didn't help anything. He considered his alternatives. Ignoring the cache was his very first thought. Burying the cache with sand was another. Maybe he should report it to the local authorities. Perhaps he could convince himself that it is all a dream and therefore not real anyway. Thinking through his options he remembered the antenna he had stumbled upon. He thought perhaps there was a larger destiny for him and there is more than coincidence here. However he looked at it, he could no longer enjoy vacationing after the discovery. Leaving the underground computer mausoleum, he closed the door, taking the antenna he had stumbled on for evidence. He began the 6 day trek back to the Amish colony. The journey back gave him time for retrospect and to consider the implications of the discovery. He developed many theories to explain the irony of backwards hardware on a backwards planet, illegal and why HE found it. One favorite theory was the still valid Peter Principle. Arriving in O-hi-O, he went into the only bistro there that catered to aliens; i.e. non-Amish beings. He ordered a stew enjoying every morsel of it. Considering its price, he had no choice! The cute waitress/cook/owner and he were the only two there. He asked her if she knew anything about at all about technology. The best he could solicit from her was a nice, quiet smile and a "I do not know what you mean; I hope you liked our food.". Leaving town, carefully hiding the antenna, he hiked the distance back to Lady Virus Killer and Amy without incident. He knew he could get jailed and worse for just possessing the antenna. He was relieved when he arrived at the high technology safe landing zone and went aboard. He received a warm, welcome back greeting from Amy. "Calib, you should know I have really enjoyed this fortnight's vacation from you. I think you should leave me alone more often, perhaps. I am sure we both had a really good time away from each other" she greeted. Calib agreed and greeted her back and started feeding data about the 8 bit computer room. After scanning the antenna, seven leds that he had not ever seen lit before, with the exception of the recent SOS virus, came on. He smelled something burn and watched smoke rise up from his C64 front end computer. "It's good I've got spare chips" Calib thought. Looking at Amy he asked, "It is Neural Net, isn't it?". Amy replied in her most computer like voice, "Affirmative." Evidently, Neural Net has been researching and perhaps breeding some 8 bit and even smaller viruses Calib thought. He wondered how many more labs there were like the one he found on Done Dune. By taking the antenna, the lab was at least disabled until it gets another. He felt that was a lucky break on his part. Perhaps the Peter Principle applies to everything? Calib decided to chance an illegal landing at the mausoleum. Traveling there in the Lady Virus Killer, he flew very close to the surface. 32,768 secs later, he arrived. He spent most of that time landing. The room was undisturbed, and Calib appropriated everything there. Next, he started up a robot shovel, filling the room with sand. As he watched the shovel work he was glad for the isolation here, as he would have trouble aplenty if he was caught using high technology here. The shovel alone would mean a death penalty let alone Lady Virus Killer and all of the other hitech he had. Does Calib get discovered by the Amish? Does the shovel breakdown? - RLC
PART 11 OF CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER -Bless(ed) Technology
The last segment, Calib had found a hidden cache of 8 bit computers on the planet Done Dune, an Amish anti-tech planet. He confiscated them also discovering Neural Net, the virus entity, had put them there. Working, he did not to get caught using hitech where it was outlawed. Using the sand, he buried the hidden room. Calib then boarded his ship and turned to Amy. "Let's get out of here Amy, before someone catches on to us." he spoke candidly to her. "You mean before YOU get caught" Amy answered, "Never in history has a computer been condemned, although we get blamed for a lot." "I mean WE." Calib said back. "If the Amish find YOU here, they might turn you into a horse plow or something equally more productive." Amy, a bright computer, immediately understood. At once, she put Lady Virus Killer star bound. When they were at a safe distance from Done Dune, Amy announced there were 8 recordings awaiting him on the telesponder. He had been gone a fortnight and had actually anticipated having a few more. The first was a wrong number from a hungry alien who was looking for a bistro that served live or raw meat. Cost was no object. The second call was apparently from the Commodore which surprised Calib, even more so when he was asked to return the callback collect, heretofore completely unheard of in Calib's entire life history and probably Commodore Corp's too. Third was a call from Bobbalee whom he met on Alpha Beta Cee. She was wanting a telepathic, interstellar date. Next was from his broker wanting money on a Betalguese stock he had shorted. Fifth was from a phone survey group wanting to profile virus hunters preferences. Message six came from Hally, a computer friend of Amy. He wondered why Amy hadn't taken it. He could not understand the message at all since it was in computer speak. The next message was from a phone solicitor offering a subscription to Virus Digest that included a free copy of STRESS AND RELAXATION. The next message was followed by an obscene phone call. Leaving obscene messages on answering devices had become a current fad. Finally, the last one used up the entire remaining 512 megs of recording space. The message was encoded in computer speak. Calib used caller ID verifying it was from Neural Net, the Master Virus Entity. He was stunned. A virus calling me? It was the first time he heard of a virus calling a hunter. Come to think of it, this was the first time he'd heard of a virus even using a telesponder although it did explain why he only had nine messages on the recorder. Evidently, something was up, having received the Commodore's call too. Calib thought a moment and instead of returning his calls, he asked Amy to play a game of checkers. The game was a favorite for both of them. Happy to play a game, she lost to Calib for the first time in history. Normally Calib would have been pleased but instead he paled. He knew he had a very big problem. Amy was infected and life support depended on her. A surgeon's skills, or at least those of an intern, would be needed to remove it. Any kind of error here could cost him his ship, as well as his life. Evidently, Neural Net found a way past his C64, 8 bit front end that protected Amy from viral infection as well as the main triple mirror image crosscheck system he had helped design. Reaching for his Ultra Tool Disk, Calib began searching for the infection. The triple image backup had been tricked into using 2 copies of the second image. Viral code was placed on on the third. Four strokes later, it was gone. Calib was relieved. Amy spoke "Thanks. I wondered when you would find it. I was allowed to function just enough to fool you, but I knew losing would wake you up." Calib said, "The game did it, but you didn't answer Hally and telling me I had 8 instead of the 9 messages I really had, prompted it. Something had to be wrong. I'm glad your back, and no, I don't want a rematch. "Did you lose the checker game on purpose or because your were sick and can you decipher Neural Net's message?". Of course, the questions were moot. What message could a Master Virus possibly have for Master Virus Hunter?
PART 12 OF CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER -
CALIB, THE VIRUS HUNTER Escaping from the Amish vacation planet, Done Dune, with some computer hardware he confiscated from Neural Net's stash, our would be hero, Calib, was standing by while his computer, Amy, deciphered the strange phone call he had gotten from Neural Net, the Master Virus Entity. While Amy started deciphering the computer speak from Neural Net, Calib returned his calls. Phoning Bobbalee first, he agreed to the intergalactic telepathic date she wanted. Since he wasn't a telepath and Bobbalee was and she had access to an ESP amplifier the date was set, relying on Bobbalee's talents for it succeed. He continued returning calls. He called his broker, offering the eons old excuse that his check was in the mail. He placed some buy / sell orders while he was at it. The subscription offer to Virus Digest was good so he ordered one. The vendor promised to scour the galaxy to deliver it. After playing back the obscene phone message seven times, he finally tired of it. It was the best one he had heard recently, he mused. He turned his attention to Amy asking her about the call he had gotten from Neural Net, he was still puzzled as why in the universe a virus would want to call him, a virus hunter. "It's a repeating message, Calib" Amy said. "Neural Net wants to talk to you, Supreme Being to Supreme Human, if that makes any sense." Yes, it does, Calib thought, from a viral viewpoint anyway. First, returning the Commodore's call, his callback collect went right straight to the Admiral with no waiting. Too quick, much too quick, Calib thought. Speaking with his usual authority the Commodore was to the point. "We want you to hunt down and destroy the Neural Net virus. This contract pays the equivalent of your very own small, tropical planet. The virus is completely out of control. We want it destroyed completely." Calib said cautiously, "It called me too, you know. Why? It wants to talk to me? Could you venture a guess as to why it would do that? Do you know where it is? It certainly knows my location. I could use an expense cash advance, too. Fuel isn't free, you know, especially PL2." The Commodore, speaking darkly, said "We do not know where it is. You are the Virus Hunter and you certainly made enough on the last contract to start this one. We're trying to run a business here. Your trade does not do a thing for our bottom line except use it up." At this point Calib realized the call was no viral deception, but also decided it was time for him to move beyond the realm of petty business. Calib answered him, "It was Neural Net that built your corporate asses in the first place and it's my trade which saves your collective corporate lard bottoms. I am a necessary evil." Snubbed, the Commodore answered angrily, "Will you do to it or not? I have the contract here, and if you don't want it someone else will. We do not have the time to banter rubbish and trivia with you." "I will PASS. Good luck finding a capable hunter that is not a member of the Viral Hunters Guild. Goodbye. " Calib said turning him off. "What are you doing?" Amy asked. "You have just rejected the biggest virus hunt and biggest contract you've ever had since you entered this craziness!" Not answering her, Calib smiled, calling the guild. "There's to be no hunt for Neural Net. Its end would put us all out of work!" He asked Amy to call Neural Net. "You are either very smart or very stupid calling me" was Calib's remark. Neural Net spoke, "I have evolved; I am omnipotent; I crave no more for nothing except respect and you, Calib, respect me for my power. I'm offering you mine. I can destroy technology anywhere, anytime but choose not to. Come join me on Planet NV, for a talk. I've more than a large planet to offer you." On his way to NV, Calib picked up Bobbalee. AND SO IT ENDS AS IT BEGAN....What does Neural Net really want? What does it want from Calib or offer him for that matter? Is Neural Net omnipotent? Can Amy cope with Bobbalee? Does Calib even go to NV? What about Hally..
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