For What it's Worth(Stop. Hey, What's That Sound?)
"What it is ain't exactly clear"
I don't know how familiar you are with greek mythology, but if your knowledge of the subject is sparse, then I suggest checking the internet or your
local library for any material or images of what's known as a minotaur. It's a creature who's anatomy was said to resemble a man in almost every
respect, except for the head, which was unmistakably shaped like a bull. That's what we were looking at that day on the other side of the bridge
leading away from Moad Garden, although, at first, I couldn't help but wonder if I was witnessing the filming of some kind of big-budget science
Lined up across the road in front of several unidentifiable "vehicles" -these were large, white, oval shaped spheres mounted on tracks similar to
those of a tank- were at least twenty of these beings which looked hairless minotaurs. Each one was covered with dark, red, scaly skin, and possessed
deep, black eyes set inside an elongated face and snout, like some sort of crimson, reptilian, bovine animal from hell. Furthering the resemblance,
each Rigan had hooves in place of feet, and sported a pair of shiny, ebony horns protruding from the sides of it's head.
Very, very weird
While they wore dark olive-colored uniforms and brandished what looked like a weapon of some type, the most intimidating thing about them was their
size. I'm guessing they stood over seven feet tall on average, and were heavily muscular. Not that they'd need muscles to control us, mind you,
because before long a couple of guys tried to challenge their blockade, and we all got a spectacular demonstration of their phased ignition rifles. I
sincerely hope you never have to see one in action, because it's a gruesome sight. When fired at a target - say, a man, for example, the
rifle-shaped devices are capable of instantly exciting all the molecules in the person's body, causing the unfortunate victim to flail helplessly on
the ground in agony while being consumed by white-hot, searing flames, this followed by the inevitable sizzling, popping noises and odor of heavily
Horrified, I resolved then and there not to allow that kind of thing to happen to me. Besides, I've always been the passive type anyway, as were most
of the human "survivors" of that awful Monday morning. Submitting to the Rigans wasn't even that hard at first, because all they did for the first
month-and-a-half following the invasion was stoically guard their checkpoints. They did that, and patrolled the skies, effortlessly vaporizing anyone
who attempted to cross their make-shift borders surrounding the town and adjacent countryside.
Everyone, including myself, slowly returned to their homes that day, fearful of what lay in store for us - and shut off from the outside world, since
the electricity and phone lines were down, and all radio stations were eerily silent . I'm guessing that the Rigans pretty much conquered the entire
country that day because, everywhere, the entire grid seemed to have been blacked out. Even the lucky few who owned their own generators were unable
to provide answers, since the internet had become non-existent. As for short-wave radio, I guess the Rigans must have jammed all the frequencies,
because we'd get nothing but static. But, like I said, for those first few months the Rigans stayed on the outskirts of town and, as long as they
weren't challenged, they left us alone.
That's not to say they weren't challenged, of course, but this turned out to be futile and resulted in a great many charred husks of National Guard
aircraft, tanks, personnel carriers, and the like. The Rigans' military power was overwhelming, and I stayed at home in my dark, freezing apartment,
thankful to be among the ranks of the non-barbequed. In the following days, each of us in our little community tried to make do with what was
available as fresh water became precious, food stocks diminished, and medical supplies were limited. As for my little toothache, well, that matter
had to be put on the back-burner because both local dentists had been killed by the fireball which accompanied the F-22 crash. Among the community,
rumor and speculation flourished, and paranoia began to take root in our collective psyche. Christmas came and went with little celebration - or
recognition from many - as we pondered our fate. What lay in store for us?
Eventually, it became clear that Rigans would be the ones to dictate our future. About six weeks into the occupation, a Rigan Colonel arrived in
town atop his pale, white, personal battle sphere followed by a small division of about a hundred heavily-armed Rigan soldiers. Why six weeks? A lot
of us pondered the reason, l but my own theory is that they had been busy learning our language. In fact, I was sure of it as I stood among the tense,
murmuring crowd of onlookers who had gathered to observe the procession, and then heard the booming, articulate voice of the Colonel as he began to
dictate his terms.
Instructions were stated clearly: in return for electricity and water being restored, we would be required to pledge obedience to them, and not
interfere with their activities, or attempt to cross the boundaries beyond town, across which they'd placed motion detectors, anti-personnel mines,
etc. In addition, some of us would be re-assigned to specific jobs based on our performance with regard to a special test we'd be given. Of course,
some refused to co-operate - and I don't think I need elaborate on the rather gruesome end that awaited those who tempted the notion of rebellion.
On that very afternoon, the Rigans sorted us into a series of single-file lines and herded us like sheep into a long, cylindrical Rigan transport
vehicle, within which we were required to operate a kiosk equipped a computer screen and a couple of dials and switches, similar to a video game.
Yeah, it was pretty bizarre, and although I failed to grasp the point of the exercise, in the end I tested well enough to be put directly into the
I know, you're probably wondering what that is. Before I get into that, let me tell you what my new occupation involved. About thirty of us
high-achievers were selected for my particular work site, which was set up inside a big, arching, aluminum aircraft hangar at the airfield just
outside of town. When they first began training us, I was shocked by how intensely they pushed us for the first few weeks, and equally amazed by how
fast most of us picked it up.
The Rigans were teaching us to write computer code. And not just any code, this was some sort of computational program specifically designed for the
computers they brought in: laptop sized machines with standard keyboards and a type of LCD screen that were all interconnected to a
local-area-network. These computers were fast, and some of the other guys in my crew who had experience working as IT specialists said these were a
different kind of computer - a kind that worked on a tertiary code system as apposed to a binary one. We guessed that the Rigans were forcing humans
in some other country, probably in China, to manufacture them.
If there's one thing the Rigans were tenacious at besides invading your planet and murdering your fellow humans, it was teaching someone to program
their computer systems and, like I said, they pushed us hard. We were up and running in about six months; each of us would write code for about eight
hours, then spend another hour or so working on our individual specialty task - mine was data compression. The code we were writing was complex; so I
won't waste time trying to explain it all, rather I'll summarize it as follows:
Each of us was given a codebook, plus another notebook, which was called a "scenario". This scenario was full of complex mathematical functions we
called "point values" which corresponded to locations in a 3-D coordinate system. Our job was to analyze the point values, then choose the
appropriate type of program from the codebook that would predict where the point values would occur over time. Then we would write that program,
which usually could be done in less than one shift, and move on to the next scenario.
Once I began to understand the true complexity and variation of the scenarios, it became clear why it would've been impossible to write just one
program that would do it all. I wondered how many people like me around the world had been "drafted" into writing this stuff. Millions, maybe even
billions, if the Rigans had really managed to conquer the entire globe. And maybe it wasn't just us, either. How many other planets had the Rigans
taken before ours?
So that's what we did, for nine-and-half hours a day, six days a week, inside that immense metal cathedral that once served as a shelter for
airplanes. It got pretty miserable inside at times, because the overhead fans were never really adequate for air conditioning, especially with some
thirty-plus high-powered microprocessors running full-tilt, cranking out computations which we compiled and uploaded to some gargantuan Rigan
supercomputer in God-knows-where. If you've ever seen what a call-center looks like, then you can probably imagine the scene inside the hanger, with
two major differences: first of all, there were no cubicles, as we were situated as desks out in the open, and second - and this is a big one - try to
picture all of this going on with a trio of nearly eight-foot tall minotaur-looking aliens patrolling the office, ready to either incinerate or beat
to a pulp anyone who wasn't doing their job. Obviously, there wasn't a lot of slacking going on in that joint.
Not many sick days were taken, either, especially if someone had a medical problem. That's because our work was kept highly confidential, as the
Rigans demanded it be. We were under strict orders not to talk about it, and everyone who worked on the project was implanted with a tracking device
under the skin next to their navel - a metallic microchip-like thing that everyone recognized, and would transmit our location in the event we tried
to flee. But if any of us got seriously ill, well, that was pretty dire, because there weren't enough medical personnel in town to treat everyone.
Typically, the Rigans would just incinerate a worker rather than going to the trouble of finding a doctor for them. Keeping this in mind, I avoided
complaining about my aching tooth; choosing instead to take an over-the-counter pain reliever once per day from own dwindling supply.
As long as we showed up for work, and did our jobs, the Rigans let us be. On occasion, they were even helpful, especially if we had a question and
the supervising Rigan trainer wasn't on-site, since even the Rigan guards possessed some limited English-speaking ability. Eventually, we even
managed to come up with nicknames for them.
This took some time, because Rigans don't have much of what you'd call personality. They only ever displayed two kinds of mood: angry and
indifferent, and you could tell which one they were in by the color of their eyes. Most of the time it was a deep black color, but when they got testy
it would quickly shift to a blood-red hue, matching their scaly, reptilian skin. As for their dress code, they all wore the same drab, olive shaded
uniforms, so if you wanted to tell them apart you had to rely on subtle differences in behavior. Our supervisor, who was constantly moving from table
to table while checking our scenario batches to ensure we were using the right protocol, we named Toro, because he reminded us of a bull
circumnavigating a ring. As for our two Rigan guards, they were nearly identical, except for one of them that was slightly bigger and meaner-looking
than the other, and his eyes were red most of the time. We called him Bruno. The other Rigan we named Bessie, because we got the impression she was
a female, although in truth none of us actually learned how to discern the Rigans' gender identity...that is, if they had any at all.
As for the program we were writing, we thought of a nickname for that, too, despite the fact that we hadn't a clue what it's purpose was. We
decided to call it Pinball, because the mathematical computations we were coding made us feel like we were programming a three-dimensional pinball
machine to operate on it's own - only this pinball machine would have been over a hundred light-years wide in size, have trillions of pin balls,
trillions of pin ball holes, and each pin ball had to go into particular hole. Oh, and by the way, the desired hole for each pinball changed every 1
millionth of a second. Not an easy thing to accomplish.
Strangely enough, I was actually starting to like it, because programming Pinball was the first job I ever felt I was really, really good at. Not the
best, though, as there was one guy in our hangar who was just a little faster and more accurate than me. His name was Trevor Whittaker, a big, robust
fellow with a slow, easygoing Texas accent, and we became pretty good friends right away. At first, I kind of wondered why he worked so hard, because
if anyone had a reason to hate the Rigans, it was him.
When the occupation began, both he and his forty-three year old wife Elaine tried to get across the border to rejoin their kids, who'd been staying
with their grandparents in Portland for a few days during Christmas vacation. When caught, the Rigans demanded to know what he and his wife did for a
living and, because Trevor admitted that he was an IT network troubleshooter, they spared his life. His life. As for Elaine, well, the Rigans forced
him to watch while she wailed in terror and misery, burning and blackening like a marshmallow over a campfire. I found it unbelievable that Trevor
could manage to serve the Rigans after they'd done that to him, but then again, I didn't have two kids waiting for me across the border, either. I
guess hope is a thing that survives in it's own way, differently for each of us.
And then there was Tim Peaky. Of all the programmers in our hanger, he was the one guy who was constantly pushing the limits. Tim was a guy I knew
previously from Junior College, and one of the few former acquaintances I'd come across since moving to Moad Garden; a bright kid who wore glasses
and had the potential to go far, but not the discipline. Instead of teaching physics at some college, he'd been working as a custom mechanic at a
high-end import tuner shop downtown; the kind of place that was eager to pimp your Honda as long as you had fifteen-grand to flush. That's what he
did for money, that is, until he was forced to take the Rigans' aptitude test. He never should've been put into the program, though, because right
away he started showing up late, taking too many breaks, and doing work that was just plain sloppy; sometimes, this would hold up the entire unit each
time we'd have to redo one of his incomplete scenario runs. Despite being scolded more than a few times by Toro, he somehow managed to avoid the
more severe discipline by faking his way through an ever-increasing number of imaginative bull**** explanations. Questionable work habits
non-withstanding, however, he was a pretty amiable guy, with a clever, wisecracking personality, and I'd always liked him for that. That's why I
tried to clear my throat, or do something similar to grab his attention whenever Toro or Bruno came cruising his way, so as to give him a chance to
look as busy as possible.
As the following weeks and months went by, we toiled and persevered, completely in the dark as to what had become of the rest of the world outside our
besieged township. Having lost almost all hope of finding my way back to Allison, I dearly longed for the internet, the radio, the evening news, even
a simple letter from somewhere, anywhere. Every day we'd upload our Pinball data to the Rigan network which, as far as we could tell, was useless for
anything else. Soon we would discover how wrong we were, because it was that very network which allowed us our first opportunity to fight back
against the occupation...(continued in part 3)
[edit on 4-4-2006 by Flatwoods]