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FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH

Part I

Written by Adrian Cushman

 

"It's just like the fun is gone, Nick," Jack said. "I can't even say that it pays the bills; I have money in 14 accounts to pay double whatever the hell the rest of my family is making for the rest of my life."


"Hmm. Yeah," Nick mumbled, popping open another can of some god-forsaken carbonated beverage Jack didn't want to know the contents of.


"Twice," Jack said dryly, staring into the lake. "But it's like the only thing I know. And I have to do something." He sighed, pulled his jacket up around his knees. "Gotta stay sane."


"Go outside, dude. Feed the birds." Nick held out a small brown paper bag, which Jack grudgingly accepted.


"There used to be adrenaline," he said.


"There still is. If you know where to look."


Jack grunted and halfheartedly chucked a handful of seed onto the bank. "If you're referring to the whole Revelation thing, you are clearly insane."


"Hey, it was fun, right?" Nick tried to put on his most agreeable face.


"Look, Nick, you pull another one of those and you can code Faith yourself."


"Jeeze. Don't look at me like it was my idea."


Jack stared at him.


"I mean, just because it was; It's no reason to go pointing fingers. It's been five years. Lay it to rest."


Jack sighed again.


"Well, man, gotta go. See you tomarrow, maybe?" He sat up, hefted his nondescript blue backpack, swung it around his shoulder.


"Yep. You know where to look."


Jack walked off into the mist. "I mean, it's just lost the thrill." he said softly as a parting gesture.


"Try bondage," Nick called after him.

Jack got off the bus at his apartment, took a slide to the 6th floor.


*The problem with slides,* he thought, *is the way they work so damn well.*


He landed on the bounce pad and came to his feet in front of the lobby, took a mover to his doorstep.

*Stairs weren't so bad. They took time. You could walk up them.

What does everyone have against walking these days?*


"It's not me that's bored."


"What?" asked some yuppie riding on the mover with a briefcase clutched in pudgy fingers.


"Thinking out loud," Jack mumbled absently, fumbling for his key.


*It's the world that's boring.*


He opened the door, chucked his bag on the couch. It landed with a clunk.

Jack's apartment was, frankly put, a mess. The basic idea was to have one living room/kitchen, one bedroom, and one bathroom. In Jack's apartment, the bedroom was dedicated to computer hardware, the living room one big filing cabinet for printouts and drives, and the bathroom; well, it was a bathroom, yes. Jack slept wherever he could find space.


But it wasn't a very clean one.


Jack shoved a sheaf of assembly code off a table by the couch; Clean it up later, he reasoned. The floor was littered with assorted documents thanks to this reasoning.


He opened his backpack, pulled out his slimtop.


*Damn,* he thought, as he always did.


Jack was very proud of his slimtop. Nick had made it for him. Free of charge. A gift. For being a friend.


*And a bribe,* he thought wryly. *A bribe. For Faith.*

Nick had done amazing work with Revelation. Nick considered himself the third best hardware man on the great state of Earth. He was actually the sixth, but no one wanted to tell him. Everyone who could have had -- and liked -- a computer.


He who thinks a hardware man cannot code a virulent virus has another think coming.


Revelation was written in 1500 lines of assembly. While executing, only 7 of those actually ran. It was pretty messy. But no one else could have done it. And one could always employ Uplink agents to clean it up. Using Andromeda Research had been genius. Nick had thought so, at least.


Faith had been... Jack winced... Hard. Very hard. Because, for the life of him, Nick could not explain the concept behind Revelation in software terms.


"It uses the space that's *normally* devoted to TRAM -- included in every processor built -- to slave the processor to itself. The output of the processor is fed into the single-state drive. So now, the processor is receiving no input, and broadcasting one signal: Itself.


If it happens to be a patch-in gateway, like every server is using these days, the virus will transmit itself on every port until it is shut down. Lo and behold, the server is infected. Within seconds every remote connection to the server that isn't running good security software is infected. If they're using patch-in gateways -- nowadays, that means they're a server -- security software won't matter."


"Cool way to spread the return of Christ. 'Your computer is dead now! Christ is returning! Behold the revelation!'"


"Revelation... yeah..."


"Wait- Don't Uplink agents use patch-in gateways?" Jack had asked warily.


"I think that's different. I think. They should be safe."


"Should?"


"It's unpredictable. It's just a theory right now."

That night Jack had nuked his gateway -- A trinity something-or-other -- and refused a replacement. Just in case.

A sharp crack brought Jack back to the present. He blinked twice, then stared at the offending ice cube in his frosty cup of tea. Where had that come from? He opened his slimtop.


*Damn,* he thought again.


At first glance it seemed like your usual slimtop.1" thick, 17" fold out panoramic CDR screen, three stacked keyboards that folded out staggered nicely; one for alphanumeric, one for extended keyset -- 512 characters at the time, really neccessary -- and one, programmable, your own macros.


That was where this slimtop differed; your standard model had sixteen easy access buttons for opening programs and the like. Jack's custom built model had 255 keys, each one triggering it's own personal shell scripts, which had a bank of solid-state memory dedicated to it.


And of course, this was the only slimtop Jack had seen -- heard of, even -- that could pack a six processor array into the remaining space.


4200 GHz.


Jack was simply amazed when Nick had told him.

"4200 GHz? Are you kidding me?"


"Also static AT 3d mouse. 232 gigaquads of storage, should hold everything."


"Sorry, I don't have a calendar with me right now. Did April 1st sneak up on me again?"


"Listen, Jack. You said you would need a mobile supercomputer with an untraceable connection to stop Revelation, right?"


"Yeah..."


"Now you have one."

He snapped out of it again.


*Maybe it is you, Jack... Nostalgia is bad. Twice in as many minutes? Get on it. Find something to do. Stop wasting your life remembering.*


Jack patched into the Uplink ISM, entered his username and pass; he no longer had a Gateway, but he could check the news. A tap of a script button, he was at the news. Nothing.


Absolutely nothing. Damn.


Not surprising, really. Now all the good hackers were working for services like L-Net. More expensive, yes, but subtle.

He remembered people calling Uplink Co subtle.


Yeah, subtle. Like not having account registration two clicks away from a public IP and then putting it in your academic record. Jack scoffed. They hadn't even had a front.


He dropped out of uplink, connected to L-Net mainframe- Legally, the CGB Computing website's dedicated server.


Interesting news. Some hacker decides to analyze Faith -- determines that it utilizes software drivers only available for recent processor upgrades. If the Revelation had come as little as 10 years earlier than it did, around the start of Uplink Corporation, it would have been unstoppable.


Jack allowed himself a quick laugh. Ten years earlier, the Revelation could not have come.


Ten years earlier than that, and Nick would not have been alive.

 

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