Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Your Life is in Danger
Date: January 14, 2021
Location: MicroIntel, Seattle, Washington State
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."
-- Rich Cook
"I never think of the future -- it comes soon enough."
-- Albert Einstein
As a programmer, they didn't make 'em much better than Robert Davichi. As a developer of super-intelligent computers Robert was the shit -- number one in the world. When it came to everyday life that was a different story. And when it came to his marriage, well that was a story best not discussed. To say that Robert's marriage to Susan wasn't going well was like saying the Titanic had a fender bender with an iceberg.
The funny thing was, Robert never really noticed.
Robert focused his whole life on working to make it to the top.
Robert's favorite phrase was "it's a crock of shit". When he finally made it to the head of R & D, and Time asked how it felt to be the highest ranked engineer in America, working with Gill Applebee, the richest guy in the world, Robert's answer was the same: "This job's a crock of shit".
Many said Robert had cooked his marbles making it to the top.
The world economy didn't help. Most countries could not pay they their national debt, let alone software licensing fees to MicroIntel. Everyone pirated MicroIntel software. MicroIntel could not stop the hackers on its own, so it worked with an organizationdespised by Gill Applebee, the US Government.
To stay on top, MicroIntel worked employees long and hard. A forty-hour workweek was considered a vacation.
Robert's job seemed impossible, but Robert kept his cool. He'd say stuff like: "I've seen worse than that", or "that ain't shit", or "they don't know shit," or even "it won't work, not in a million years"!
When Robert thought that things at work couldn't get any worse, an e-mail arrived that fixed Robert's life. It fixed his life as one might use a stick of dynamite to fix a clogged toilet.
Shit exploded and Robert's life changed.
This is the story of one man's struggle to fix his life and his world after discovering a dirty little secret about the Internet and computer evolution.
The Day the E-mail Came
It was a typical day at MicroIntel, people going nuts, tight schedules, and meetings about deadlines slowing everything down even more. As the top dog in the neural computing division and head of R & D, Robert cut through the shit and got everyone to work together. Right before the Friday afternoon Project Status Meeting, Robert received an encrypted e-mail. Maybe from Gill? thought Robert, though this one looked different. It was missing the MicroIntel President's return address. Impossible, thought Robert, as only MicroIntel employees or the National Security Agency had access to the special encryption system. In order to get an encrypted system login ID at MicroIntel you needed Robert's permission and his access code, which made the e-mail even stranger. Robert logged on and read the following:
>Login accepted to MicroIntel Mail System
>connect to encrypted
>> Connecting... connected
>> ENCRYPT CODE? ****************
OPENING NEW E-MAIL -- MESSAGE 1 of 1
To: Robert Davichi
YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER! TAKE TWO-WEEK VACATION STARTING TOMORROW AND GET OUT OF TOWN. IF YOU TELL ANYONE YOU WILL BE AT GREATER RISK. TRUST NO-ONE.
********END OF MESSAGE
What a crock of shit, thought Robert. He looked at the e-mail aware of things most wouldn't realize, like you could never know a return e-mail address for sure. Anyone could send regular e-mail with a phony return address. Simple shit any fifteen-year-old could cook up. And with regular e-mail there is no privacy, most of it goes on the net and gets stored on some government fish net for review at some later date, and oh, don't forget to use the right words or you'll be filtered out by some terrorist-tracking-snooper-pooper-scooper server. If you matched all the right criteria you would pop a Christmas bell in some alphabet agency's server that would require some alphabet agent to actually read your e-mail, then you might get on a government list if you were lucky. If not, someone might knock on your door. Most folks never even suspected this, but Robert knew it because he helped the government build some of those snooper systems.
What irked him most about the e-mail was that this was an encrypted and data secure company-wide network mail system. Robert had built the project. If there'd been trouble in the system they would have contacted him to fix it. An e-mail like this at MicroIntel meant the main server was hacked; that the silicon encryption CPU was changed. To do that was virtually impossible, had to be since MicroIntel marketed that server to the NSA who used the system for super sensitive work. Hacking a server like this by changing the encryption CPU in the most powerful and secure system in the world meant big trouble.
Robert tried to trace the source -- untraceable. Whoever did this was good, really good. That unnerved Robert more than the message, and the message was unnerving enough. Maybe it was time for a vacation. Susan wanted to go away and it had been almost three years since Robert had taken off two weeks. Two weeks might be nice but the message's contents started to hit home. No explanation, just: "Life in Danger"! What the fuck! Not a good situation. Tell the cops? But it said if you told someone there would be greater risk. Not a good situation -- goddamn crock of shit! Maybe a good time to take the kids and wife away for a little trip thought Robert. Yeah, get out the old fishing pole, or maybe a nice trip to the mountains. Could always bring a notebook computer and log in via wireless. Fuck! People work too goddamn much on stuff that really has no meaning. Vacation, here I come!
Two weeks later, back at the MicroIntel Campus...
MicroIntel dug its headquarters into the green woods of Seattle Washington, creating the world capital of software development. Forty-five thousand programmers crammed into cubicles at the eighty-story Quad Crystal Towers, which rose high above the two-story MicroIntel College Campus. Surrounding the campus stood Oak Forest and HeiwaZuki's meditation park next to Frog Lake. A razor wire electrified fence surrounded the compound. Fifteen feet from the razor fence stood an outside perimeter fence. The area between these two fences housed four hundred (give or take a few) slightly inbred female Doberman guard dogs that lazily circled the three hundred-acre enterprise of MicroIntel.
Robert Davichi just returned from two weeks of vacation and made his early morning walk through Oak Forest outside the perimeter fence with Buddy, his English Bull Mastiff dog. Robert and his family had spent two weeks resting in a friend's cabin in a Washington State forest with Buddy; two weeks of trying to figure out how someone could have hacked into the main server. The death threat or warning had to be a scam, but some things in life are better not tested. Life is nothing but a crock of shit too, thought Robert as he walked his best friend, Buddy. Buddy reminded Robert of a small bear he'd once seen in the mountains of Oregon.
Many dog owners felt a Bull Mastiff was too big but Robert had wanted one since childhood. He had decided that life was too short to hold back on the things he'd wanted. He saw Buddy in the local pet store and decided immediately. Susan complained about the Bull Mastiff puppy since Bull Mastiffs had potential problems. She'd read that they had difficulties like snoring, drooling, flatulence, bloat, hip dysplasia, eye problems and gastrointestinal disorders.
Robert had a tough time communicating with Susan, and only saw trouble after he said to her, "He's got the same problems as you, honey, and I didn't kick you out of the house now, did I?"
Susan shut up and continued her iceberg watch onboard her Titanic. Robert bought Buddy, and now at two years of age Buddy had eaten his way up to a hundred and twenty-five pounds.
"Go get 'em Buddy!" yelled Robert through the woods.
Yelling felt good, and the smell of fresh pine trees opened up his nasal passages. Robert scanned the woods, pretending to be calm. Funny how a death threat makes people think differently about things, like sounds in the woods.
Buddy ran through the path's undergrowth making snapping sounds. Ahead stood the MicroIntel Security Compound entrance. If anyone could fit the profile of a hit man, a guard had the right educational background, but hell, anyone smart enough to hack the main server would have a much better job. Shit, thought Robert, they must have the money to hire one of those screwballs working in security. Stop thinking of all this stupid shit. It's just a hacker fucking with you. Relax.
Ring... Ring... Ring... Ah shit!... Just the cell phone. Robert pulled out his miniature PocketPal phone from his shirt and hit the On button.
"Hello, Robert speaking."
"Hi Robert, it's Susan. Where are you?"
"I'm walking the dog, what's up? Where are you?"
"Oh, sorry to bother you, just Lisa and I are at the mall and I was wondering if you wanted anything."
"I'm fine honey."
"Well you don't have to be rude, I was just wondering if you needed anything, I was just trying to make you look nice at work. You know that the top guys are always dressing--"
"Honey, I'm fine. I appreciate the call, but I don't need anything. Look I have to go catch Buddy -- he's running away." Women -- always buying stuff -- it's a disease, he thought.
"Nice try Robert. You know Buddy has a leg problem added to all his other problems. If you don't want to talk to me just say it."
"Honey, I'm having a tough time at work, I really need some private time."
"Well, what do you call the two weeks with me and the kids? That wasn't good enough? It's fine you don't want to talk to me. You never want to talk! It's always you or your job! Don't worry about Lisa and me. We'll be fine." CLICK.
Robert looked at his cell phone as if he was holding a miniature nagging wife. He dropped it on the ground and crushed it to pieces with his Chippewa steel-tipped boots. Goddamn thing's a fucking electronic leash, he thought. Never liked them, and I don't care anymore. This new attitude toward the hacker's e-mail was like a breath of fresh air. After years at the helm of software development, Robert wanted something besides the corporate life, and he was slowly realizing it.
Buddy ran proudly toward a black crow encroaching on his path. The bird flew to the safety of an oak tree. Buddy turned back, wagged his tail, and farted. He had a gastrointestinal disorder. Robert had one too. Buddy passed gas as often as he ate and Robert passed gas whenever he had to work with Gill, the President of MicroIntel.
"It's OK Buddy boy! Get it all out. If you can't catch them, gas them." Robert petted Buddy. Robert knew that Buddy's chances of catching a bird were the same as those of Robert getting a better boss.
Robert and Buddy walked past security guards dressed in phony police type uniforms. The guards reminded Robert of Nazi soldiers. That was MicroIntel: a worker's concentration camp, but Robert had new plans and a new mindset, and he didn't give a shit anymore.
Buddy ran toward the guard named Fred Junket. Fred petted Buddy as the dog wagged his tail, jumping around Fred's feet.
"Hi Fred, how are you doing?" asked Robert.
"Hey, my man, Robert, doing fine, doing fine. I just got my stitches out last week -- only a small scar. I think I'll just put a tattoo on it, it'll match the one on the other arm. Have you seen the one on my right arm?"
"Yeah, the one with the mermaid and 'Mary' on top, yeah that's a nice one."
Fred pulled a stick from Buddy's mouth. "Yeah, I'm having Mary's name covered over though. We broke up on Sunday."
Why the fuck would you put somebody's name on your arm? "Don't do that just yet Fred, maybe your next will be named Mary too. Or, maybe you'll get back together."
"Hey Robert -- that's right! No wonder everyone says you are the smartest guy in the company."
"I'm sure that's not all they say. Hey, sorry about the trouble the other week."
"No trouble, just those nasty Dobies -- you know they can sense any amount of fear. The arm is healing fine."
Though Robert had heard Fred had once shot himself in the balls going frog hunting, he'd finally given in to Fred's relentless requests, and allowed the guard to watch Buddy for a day. Fred's partner Jimbo, another Seattle frog hunter, let Buddy into "Doberman Run" during a lunch break but couldn't get him back out. Fred tried retrieving Buddy who was easy to spot as an overgrown brown Bull Mastiff with half an ear missing mixed in with smaller black Doberman females.
Fred never trusted the dogs as some were in heat. Fred knew not to fear dogs, because he'd been told as a kid that if they sensed fear they would eat his balls. With one shot off, this axiom became more relevant. Fred got Buddy out of the pen, but not before a Doberman took a chunk out of his arm.
Robert walked over to Buddy and grabbed his leash. "Gotta get back to work Fred."
"Take care Robert, and be careful next week. It's hunting season here and a few of my buddies will be looking for deer. I might join 'em."
"Hunting? Ah... sure... thanks Fred, I'll keep that in mind -- good luck with the deer and the new tattoo." Well if he shoots off his other nut, he'll remove himself from the gene pool, thought Robert, maybe even save a few deer by shooting his partner Jimbo.
Robert walked around a MicroIntel compound that included company housing, shopping malls, and even a movie theater. The three hundred-acre private enclave was unofficially nicknamed MacVille, like the hamburger empire. No-one would be caught alive saying that to Gill. The nickname drove Gill nuts.
As Robert passed his home he saw a billboard of the MicroIntel President smiling, wearing bookish horn-rimmed eyeglasses. The poster said: "Remember that the world trusts MicroIntel and MicroIntel trusts you."
Another crock of shit, thought Robert. Trust me? Was Gill taking drugs? The damn world was filled with too much bullshit. I wonder what that lying motherfucker is doing right now -- wonder if I can trust him to tell him about the hacker in the main server... wonder... fucking wonder.
Copyright © 2003 by Tony Teora