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Rated: E · Book · Sci-fi · #1016252
A battle between good and evil programs, takes place inside an advanced computer system.
#376281 added September 29, 2005 at 9:25pm
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Chapter 3 -- Network Interface
Warm? If this is warm then the CPU power generators must get just a tad bit hot. Heat is not the friend of a program. Heat causes data integrity to fail and that is very bad. Almost any other program would have been chunks of juicy bits and bytes by now. Luckily the lady looks after me, I am heat-shielded, as is Scout. The shielding reduces the integrity degradation rate; it still however leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

The shaft is long and mostly straight; it leads to other shafts that circulate the air to the inner structure of the Network Interface. Eventually you can find your way to an entry into the structure. I know you must be thinking that cannot be very secure, mind you I did not mention the hundreds of sensors and force shields along the way. I of course am excused from such trivialities. It takes some time but I find my way to an exit. A slight kick to the grating and it falls away without a sound.

No sound. That is interesting. As I lean out of the opening I quickly realize why there was no sound. I am hundreds of microns above a large sea. The sea that lies before me is a river of data. The blue is actually the envelope shield that protects the data packets. There are just so many of them in the data stream that it seems like a flowing river. And now that I think about it this should be a stream and not an river. I guess the data stream is more backed up than I thought.

It takes the better part of a tenth of a second for me to climb my way across the side of the cliff to the pathway that intersects it. In the old days I would have had the situation handled by now, I think I am getting antiquated. The path heads off south to the nearest of the factories that is at the edge of the swollen data stream. The path is elevated two hundred microns above the stagnant data stream bellow. The once orderly flow of data packets into and out of the factories has been turned into a data packet disaster.

The factories are large cubic structures with immense metallic prongs that jut out from the side and immerse themselves into the data stream. The data packets are sucked into these arms and are brought into the factory to be decrypted and processed. The factory usually beaming with sound and energy is all too quite at the moment. I could go into the data stream and make my way into the factory through one of these protruding arms, this way is much safer and I would be completely concealed as I make my way in. But that would be no fun. I think I’ll use the front entrance.

The entrance is just a large gaping hole in the side of the factory where the circuit paths bellow my feet enter in through. Unfortunately it seems to be guarded. Just outside the entrance on the side of the path are two very large things. Very large and ugly insect like things.

These must the virus spawns that Scout must have seen. I guess this is where I get to test my new toys.

It turns out that even though my plan was simple, just approach cautiously and investigate them and then blast them, theirs was even simpler. They left out the approach and the investigate part and headed straight for the blasting part.

Fine with me.

Destabilization of software is an interesting experience. If you are to expose binary data to a large magnetic flux, the data will begin to restructure itself. Visually, or should I say virtually, this has the effect of causing the photonic structure of software to invert on itself. There are very pretty lights and a bit of a flash as the structure explodes sending bits of very sticky code everywhere.

Pop. Pop.

Two bad guys down and many more to go. I only pause for a microsecond to gather some of the base-coding laying around for analysis latter. It’s time to have some more fun.


Other than the two much splattered virus spawns at the main entrance the factory seemed to be in fairly good condition. The main hallway that leads to the worker prep area was clear and quite. The worker prep area was just as clean as the hallway that lead to it, it is as if no one has been here. The prep area leads to a staging area that all workers gather in before the start of work detail. They are assigned batches and jobs as well as assigned new codes for packet decoding. This area is as clean as the areas that preceded it, only one area left to check.

The packet processing area is a set of very long conveyer style belts that bring data packets from the data stream past the workers and into the system bussing area. The workers would take each packet decode them as they pass their stations and translate the data for the system to process. The final decoded data is bussed using the system bus to the data processing centers on the CPU to be reconstructed into readable and useful system data. It is a very fast process as long as everything is working properly.

As I approached the processing area sharp and alien noises became audible. I decided that the best course of action might not be the straight forward approach. The data processing area is a large warehouse style room that has a web of crosswalks that run along the ceiling. This web allows operates to keep an eye on the data and the workers. This also gave me an incredible view of the strangest thing I have seen since the I LOVE YOU virus that set cupid programs free into the system and made all programs fall in love with each other. You have not seen an unusual scene until you have seen a calculator program fall in love and try to mate with a word processor program. Imagine the offspring.

The factory floor was as busy as I expected but the factory workers were not processing the data, they were ingesting them. There were a handful of virus spawn directing the workers to bring in data packets from the data stream and slowly eat away the protective encoding. Once the data packet was skinned of its blue protective shielding the soft supple data inside was taken to the virus spawn that feasted on the juicy bits of information. There was a great havoc on the floor and the workers were fighting over many the same packets. The virus spawns ate away on their bounty only to stop a minute to laugh or kick one of the workers around.

This was mind-boggling and unfortunately there was nothing I could do.

There were just too many workers here, how did one virus take over all these workers and create all these spawns in such a short amount of time. A virus spawn never comes along with the virus. It has to be created, and the creation takes time. Most viruses do not bother to create spawns as by the time two or three are created a virus hunter has found the original virus. If the original virus is destroyed all spawns from that virus die off, with all these complexities it is only beneficial for a hidden virus to create spawns. Viruses that hide in memory or hide inside other programs can take a great deal of time to create their spawns, and only when they have a great army do they go out to attack the system or complete their mission.

This was a mystery that was getting stranger and more dangerous by the picosecond.

Only one thing to do, destroy the main virus. Once the main virus has been taken care of the virus spawns will disappear. Once the spawns are gone we can begin the slow process of disinfecting the workers and repairing the damage that has been caused.

On to the network control center.


The network control center is the brain of the network interface; there you can control every aspect of the network. It is located on the far side of the interface where the data first comes in. It handles incoming data and directs it to the appropriate factory, it load balances the amount of data being processed in each factory. That is where I will find Xon/Xoff and there I will get all necessary answers to this puzzle.

It is quite a trek to the network control center, especially without the use of the local system bus. But, the bus cannot be trusted in a place that has been infected. As I approach the interface control bridge it is easy to see that this will be a more difficult task than I had first perceived. There are hundreds if not thousands of virus spawn that are sprinkled on the bridge like dust on a capacitor. They are not coordinated and there seems to be very little order among them but it would still be near impossible to blast through all of them.

I am going to need a distraction, and there is only one name that pops into my heavily coded mind. “Scout, I need your help.” I speak these words into my C.C.D. with a deliberate irritated voice. Scout is fast to answer and very predictable, “I knew you would need my help, I just knew it. But first you have to say the magic word, I won’t …”

I quickly interrupt her, “How about ‘disintegration’, and that is what I am going to do to you if you don’t show up here in 3 picoseconds, and without making a sound.” She is ecstatic to be part of the mission and is there in front of me bouncing up and down with excitement in half the time I had given her. She must have been following me all this time.

“I have a very important assignment for you, and if you say one word before I finish talking you will be graffiti on the wall behind you.”

I pause for emphasis. I love these emotion sub-routines; this job is a lot better with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek wit (whatever tongues or cheeks are).

I have to be careful with her, I have to explain this assignment in a way that will make her feel like she is doing something very important but without her realizing that she will be risking her neck. I have to be very subtle.
“Do you see all those bad guys over there; make them want to kill you.” That is as subtle as I get.

“Make them all chase you away from that bridge so I can cross it, this is a dangerous assignment and you might not get out of this in one piece. But remember you are doing this for your system.”

This is as close to a win-win scenario as you can get, the virus spawn get distracted and there is a good chance scout will not make it out of this.

She is off before I finish talking, what a brave moron.

She takes the most direct route to the entryway of the bridge and starts blasting at the virus spawn. She only carries a small EM pulse blaster and it would only be truly effective at a few paces. But the blasts into the crowd of spawn cause an overflow of hatred and excitement among the horde. They spill through the entryway to start a chase that will lead them over a large hill not too far away. Scout is much faster than them; they have no hope of catching her. She slows a bit as they fall behind and I can imagine the smile of excitement on her face as she and the mass of insectoids disappear over the hump. I have no real fear for her, she can handle herself.

Now it’s my turn, there are but a handful of remaining virus spawn and it will take only a moment to dispatch them. This worked out better than I had hoped. Was I really this good or was it just luck? I am definitely that good.

I approach the bridge from an elevated angle, a short leap and I pass over the entryway. A few quick blasts and the half dozen remaining virus spawn are code soup before my legs contact the ground. The virus spawn must have a purpose, but as best as I can guess it is canon fodder. I meet another two dozen of them on my way to the main entrance of the network control center. I leave behind a large pool of fizzling base coding. The virus spawn seem fierce and they have the ability to shoot concentrated base code packets out of their tube like hands. With my accelerated reaction timing I easily dodge these slimy white balls. As these packets hit walls and the ground they explode in a dense concentration of base coding. This must be the method they use to take control of the resident programs. The base coding must seep inside the attacked program and rewrite sub-routines.

After dispatching the last two guarding the doorway I enter in the appropriate codes to access the control center. The security door quickly and noiselessly opens to reveal a large hallway that leads to the heart of the complex. The hallway never branches or bends as it leads to the larger inner security doors. I should be cautious but I have a feeling they know I am here already. There is a 1024 Gbit encryption on the login console for the entrance. I will have to concentrate to get passed this; I turn the C.C.D. off as I am tired of hearing the screams of help from scout. Luckily I come equipped with state-of-the-art security override techniques. A zap from ion pulse weapon and I am standing in front of a smoking disintegrated inner security door. My methods are much faster that hacking a system.

The Network Interface Control Center is an array of communication, analyziation, monitoring and security devices. Using this center you can not only monitor all data that goes in and out of the system but also monitor all aspects of the Network Interface. As I enter I except there to be dozens of security programs guarding the center, armed and ready to neutralize any threat. I only see one program active.


When I say that Xon/Xoff is one program I mean that in the loosest of terms, though it is a singular unit of base code it is certainly not a single program. Xon/Xoff is two entities that work in conjunction to control and divert traffic. It encompasses a multitude of subroutines that work together to control all aspects of the network. Though it is inside a mangled jumble of code its virtual appearance is surprisingly simple and very exotic. It appears as two young lithe bodies, one male and the other female. Though they look to be male and female their form is silhouetted by an inner light. They both glow with pulsating radiances. The colors shift with time yet they always oppose each other. Within milliseconds they iterate through the colors of a rainbow. They float in the air revolving ever so slowly surrounded by a sphere of soft light.

The last part seems to bother me a bit. They should be on the ground, not revolving and certainly not surrounded by a sphere of soft light. It appears as though they are not moving, like their processes have been suspended. The mystery gets deeper.

The first step is to get them down from there. Unfortunately there seems to be no obvious way of doing that. Usually this kind of a suspension shield would require some kind of hardware that projects the shield onto its captives. Once I find that and deactivate it I should be able to question Xon/Xoff. A thorough search of the control center will take quite some time for there are no less than a thousand pieces of hardware in the very large room. Plus, I have no idea what I am looking for.

The quite hum of the air is broken by a cackling sound behind me. I turn quickly to find a very dark and large figure sitting on a stack of monitors with what appears to be a class 3 suspension shield generator. I move slightly to get a better view of this thing. The dark figure has an arm pressed against its check and appears to have a smile on his face. It is difficult to describe it as a face, it keeps moving in and out of focus. I move a step closer and I am hit by the realization that the body of this figure is in constant flux. As I study the body it appears that base coding is moving rapidly around his body, pulsating into new sub routines. The C.C.D rapidly flashes information across the screen as it analyzes the new enemy. This entity does not have a virtual visage, something all programs are equipped with. The entity must be so complex that all there is room for is raw base coding. The figure, the virus shifts its weight slightly but does not move. Is it allowing me to scan and analyze it, can it be so sure of itself?

“A Version 6.1.8-b Build: Crynatec Corporation Virus Hunter. This is the best this system can do. I expected much better from a Mita-net Gateway System.”, the Virus said with a very mocking and bemused tone.

Well, I am a bit insulted, and a bit confused. “Look you malicious worm, there is no need for that type of tone. First of all, I am a state-of-the-art proprietary piece of code and I might add have been handsomely upgraded. The Crynatec Corp has a predecessor design. Second of all, I think I have more than the necessary amount of firepower to put you down, very quickly at that. Thirdly, this is not a Mita-net Gateway System. And lastly, say your prayers.”

I brace my self and fire a shot from the magnetic de-stabilizer. There is a small explosion and a lot of smoke as the area where the virus was sitting is instantly vaporized.

“Jeez, that was easy. Wrapped that mission up in time for lunch.”

Maybe I spoke too quickly. The maniacal laughter erupts again but his time from the other side of the room. I spin on my heals and hone in on the sound. A short sprint and leap onto a container in the center of the room and I have vantage thought the room. The laughter stops but I can still sense him in the room.

The virus after a short pause begins to speak again but the mocking tone is replaced with a more confused tone, “How could this not be a Mita-net Gateway. Where am I then? Hey Virus Hunter, if you tell me the designation and net-address of this system I will let you live.”

“No problem, but first tell me why you have attacked this system?” I keep it talking in the hope that I can hone in on the sound of his voice.

“Don’t play games with me. I am not here to explain things to your or make deals with you.”

The sound seems to be moving in a semi circle around the left.

“Tell me now or face my wrath.”

He seems to be circling back to his make shift throne. I leap off of the container and start to move back to the position from where I shot at him first. I stop in mid stride as I hear a click and what sounds like something powering down. This could only mean one thing, he is powering down the suspension shield generator, but why?

He speaks again, now with more control in his voice, “I have no time to deal with you, I have questions that need immediate answers. My new pet will take care of you.”

I hear his foot steps as he takes off in a run towards the remains of the door. I try to chase him but am stopped short by a blast of pure energy that barely misses me and scorches the floor by my feet. I pitch forward from the blast and roll as I hit the ground. Spinning in mid roll I turn to find my assailant. The C.C.D. comes to life and creates an arrow pointing upwards. I look up to see Xon/Xoff no longer within the sphere of soft light and certainly no longer suspended.

The C.C.D I discover to my elation has many other uses than communication; it also tracks foes and helps me target them. Once it locks onto an enemy it sends a data packet to my weapon sub routine. Every shot I fire from my weapons is tagged with a data packet that tells it where the targets last position was, who that target is and how that target is moving. The shot will adjust its trajectory in anticipation of the targets movements. This takes a lot of the fun out of shooting things, but in a situation like this it is quite beneficial. I lock onto my target and I can shoot as I try to dodge attacks. I fire off a shot in mid leap as I avoid another energy blast. Of course I do not use the magnetic de-stabilizer, the CPU would be quite upset if I were to lets just say effectively delete the main control program for the Network Interface.

As one façade of Xon/Xoff launches energy blast after energy blast to incinerate me, the other quite effectively manages to deflect the shot from the sterilization matrix.

This is going to be a lot harder that I anticipated.

This is a very effective distraction for the virus, I am pinned down by the Xon/Xoff and there is no way for me to chase after it. The distraction reminds me of scout, wonder how she made out. I doubt calling her to come and help me would be a good idea, I don’t think I could ever live it down.

Xon/Xoff continues to fire shot after shot at me. I barely have time to think as I roll and leap out of the way of the energy bombardment. The C.C.D. is very helpful as it tracks the shots from Xon/Xoff allowing me to figure out my next move without looking up.

There must be an effective way to stop Xon/Xoff but without actually shooting at it. It must have some weakness.

Then it comes to me. The weakness is probably the control center itself. There is no way that one program can control all this stations in this room. It could not be at all of them at the same time. The answer has to be that it is jacked into them wirelessly; there must be a wireless interface for Xon/Xoff that allows it to control all of these stations. If I can find it and turn it off it might cause some sort of a momentary feedback that would allow me to get a shot off.

Seems like a good idea, now I just have to find the right console. There must be thousands of consoles in this room.

Well I guess no better place to start than close by.

I start blasting console after console, CPU told me not to blast any of the programs but it said nothing about the hardware itself. As the equipment in the room begins to be hit and explodes there are momentary twitches in Xon/Xoff.

Well it does appear to be jacked into these stations, but I will have to destroy a lot more of them to cause a long enough feedback to take it out.

After a few more moments and a few more exploding consoles I see what might look like a wireless transmission station near the front of the room. It is difficult to get to it as Xon/Xoff redoubles its attacks. It no longer is worrying about my shots as I shoot the hardware, and I am sure its mood has not lightened due to the fact. One last ditch effort and I am able to make one more piece of hardware explode.

This one has the desired effect. Xon/Xoff goes into an information feedback loop and it is crippled just long enough for me to switch my weapon back to the magnetic de-stabilizer and fire a shot that brings the situation to a halt. I fire a pin-point of light at the target. As the point of light hits the target a magnetic field engulfs both visages of Xon/Xoff. Lashes of magnetic energy jump from point-to-point between the two bodies like arcs of electricity. The electrical arcs enter the base coding and trigger subroutine calls. This causes Xon/Xoff to overload and shut down.

The magnetic field created from the magnetic de-stabilizer sends a flux of energy through the program that it is used upon. The program in turn fires every subroutine simultaneously, this causes an overload in its buffers and the program is forced to shut down. It causes no permanent harm as the program can immediately be rebooted. The program can be restarted from a backup with the infection removed. All recent unsaved data is lost but it is a small price to pay.

Both the bodies of Xon/Xoff fall to the ground in unison. I walk towards the bodies through a field of smoking and wrecked monitoring stations. The smoke is thick and it stings my nose and eyes but the fires are beginning to be put out. Automatic fire suppression systems are active all around me, filling the room with a thick foam. Consoles that have already been put out are immediately cleaned and repairs are begun on them. Small fiberous tentacles snake out of the floor and ceilings and begin to repair damages. They ooze out silicon and copper and fuse them together to reform the damaged areas. Within milliseconds half of the damage has been repaired and all of the fires have been put out.

Simultaneously Xon/Xoff opens its four eyes. “What is the meaning of this?” Its voice is a mangle of male and female tones with heave echoes. It immediately stands and begins to survey the damage and access the situation.

“How dare you come into our control center and destroy our equipment. Who authorized this? Where did you come from? How did you do this?” And that is just the shott version of the conversation. My part in all of this was just to stand there and nod ever so slightly. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence I decided just to walk away. It was apparent that whatever was controlling Xon/Xoff had done so using volatile state memory, this insured that all traces were wiped away when the program reboot. I would just be wasting my time if I were to talk to it or explain my actions.

I walked back to the front of the control center leaving behind further questions. Adjusting the frequency on the C.C.D. I made the call that I was dreading.

“Scout, where are you?” I knew I was in for it the first moment her high pitched voice came back over the com. “Where were you, I was chased by hundreds of those icky spawns. Do you know what I had to go through? I lead them over the…” I quickly stopped her before I developed a neural net migraine, “Our mission is not complete. The Virus managed to escape, start tracking it down now. This thing seems more dangerous than the CPU anticipated.”

Scout was a very annoying piece of code but she was not a slacker in her job. Instantaneously she was all business. “I am 3 twips out, I think I can pick up the trail from here, Scout out.” If there was a trail to find she would find it.

Next, the other dreaded call.

“Virus Hunter. You have failed your mission. Return to me immediately.” The CPU was always short and to the point. I high tailed it back to the entrance for the Network Interface to catch the System Bus back to the CPU. I could always joke around with Scout, she knew it and expected it, but CPU was another matter. Even though she was the most sophisticated piece of Hardware or Software in the entire system and she held in her every instruction of code that could make up any software in the system, she was not very friendly. When she spoke a command you followed or she could reassemble your subroutines and turn you into something very not fun like a defragmentation software or worse, a scouting program.
© Copyright 2005 Sunny Rajpal (UN: srajpal at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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