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(MUOC) For What it's Worth

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posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 07:02 AM
(MUOC) For What it's Worth(Stop. Hey, What's That Sound?)
-Music by Buffalo Springfield

Part 1

"There's something happening here"

Hello, my name is David Frye, and on the morning of December twenty first, 2012, I was typing an E-mail message to my girlfriend Allison while listening to the expectant drip-drip-sizzle of the coffee-maker as it prepared my ritual morning wake-up brew. Then the world suddenly came to an end.

I'd called in to my office earlier, a small-time wireless service provider to which I'd recently been hired as the new sales manager, in order to let them know I'd be sick that day. The reason for my first-time lack of attendance had to do with a sore molar that'd been bugging me for at least a week, and I'd made an appointment to get it checked out. Figuring that all I'd need were some x-rays and maybe the customary numb-drill-fill routine, I decided to e-mail Allison at work to let her know I might have some free time afterwards for a movie, or dinner if I was still up to it. Also, I was curious to know if she'd heard about the jetliner crash in Florida, as the news channels had been covering it commercial-free ever since I'd flipped on the television after stepping out of the shower.

Of course, all the blow-dried news anchors and their perky, young, golden-blonde field correspondents been speculating on the cause of the crash, but no substantial explanation had turned up, because the flight crew hadn't reported any difficulties before ground control abruptly lost all contact. It was as if the aircraft had simply dropped out of the sky, along with two-hundred and twenty condemned souls who'd done nothing to illicit their fate other than just picking the wrong airline to fly on that day. Little did I know that they were among the lucky, ignorant few who'd be spared the aftermath of what was to come. As I was typing, the first indication of real trouble came when I heard the powerful, thundering roar of what sounded like a military jet cruising in the sky over the apartment.

The growing intensity of the noise captured my attention, because it was totally unexpected. Shortly after relocating to this small, drab, suburban enclave known by the curiously eccentric name of Moad Garden, I'd become dismally aware of the annoying over-flights that originated from the airfield located a few miles away from my newly-rented one-bedroom flat. Only this was louder than what I'd been used to - and unusual, because the airfield was no longer used by the military; it'd been de-commissioned for use by commercial air-freight some time ago. Sure, the daily over-flights were noticeable, but they sounded nothing like the alarming, cacophonous rumble which was going on that morning. After slipping on my sneakers, I slid open the sliding-glass door and made my way onto the modest wooden porch outside.

Peering upwards into the cold morning sky, I couldn't see anything among the towering, white, fluffy cumulous clouds that had gathered overhead; the remnants of last night's raging thunderstorm. Then I heard it approaching again; that furious, shattering barrage of sound that I couldn't locate, even though I scanned heavens from horizon to horizon. I was just about to duck back inside when, as the ominous noise reached it's peak, I caught sight of what looked like an F-22 fighter jet screaming it's way through a high-g turn at less than three hundred feet.

For a moment I stood there pondering why a military aircraft would be pulling maneuvers so low over a populated town like Moad Garden. Could this be some rogue Air-National Guard hotshot showing off? If so, then he was gonna be a in hell of a lot of trouble for buzzing the neighborhood like that. Shrugging my shoulders, I returned to the warm, cozy, coffee-aroma filled atmosphere of my apartment, poured myself a cup, and sat down to finish my e-mail. What a crazy morning!

Before sending the message to Allison, I carefully scanned the text once again before deciding to add a couple of lines letting her know that I felt my new job was putting way too much of a strain on our relationship, and it was time to reconsider things. By "things" I meant my own priorities, and the fact that there were plenty of jobs near Portland that I could take as long as it meant I could see her more than once a friggin' week. The trouble was, as the sound of the fighter jet returned, this time louder than ever, I found myself typing the first few words and then having to go back and retype them again because my hands were shaking too much. From somewhere deep in the cellar of my mind, a sense of uneasiness had been steadily gathering the way a fire truck siren becomes ever more disconcerting as it gets closer and closer to your own neighborhood.

I stopped typing and felt my chest. No doubt about it, my heart was pounding like a jackhammer, and that's when I had to admit that something was just totally WRONG because military jets DON'T EVER FLY THAT LOW OVER THE TOWN.

Thoughts of the crashed jetliner and the possible causes(terrorism?, war?) flashed through my mind at the same instant a tremendous BOOM! from outside shook the apartment, followed a series of three or four equally loud concussions. My memory of the next couple of minutes is pretty hazy; I have a vague recollection of frantically tearing through the apartment in a blind panic to find my wallet, keys, and jacket - all while trying to think of whatever the hell else I would need before the nuclear bombs hit, and then mentally saying screw it while running terrified out the front door to the truck.

I was already inside the vehicle and using my clammy, trembling fingers to try and put the key into the ignition before I noticed that everyone else in the complex was either gawking at the sky, ducking inside their apartments, or running to their cars. I distinctly remember hearing a woman screaming, but didn't look to see who it was before gunning my way out of the parking lot and toward the front gate. Then, upon hearing a frightening, snaky, hiss overhead, I glanced upwards through the windshield and, out of the corner of my eye, saw the faint, puffy trail of an air-to-air missile ripping across the heavens. Before I could ascertain it's target, it seemed to abruptly detonate in mid-air like some sort of fiery daytime Fourth-of-July fireworks display.

Only later would I discover the eerie truth as to why that missile blew up like it did, without visibly impacting anything: millions of invisible, alien aircraft had filled our airspace since dawn, were probably the cause of the jetliner crash in Florida.

But at that moment my only concern was getting away from the battle-zone, and as I turned onto the boulevard, the F-22 fell downward out of the clouds, trailing with it a fiery column of black and red smoke, careening wildly onto the professional medical plaza across the road. So much for my dental appointment.

The plaza erupted into a bright red explosion of fire which billowed outward across the area, sending blazing debris across the road ahead of me. Determined get make it out of town as soon as possible, I simply powered my truck through the flaming detritus, and when I was through I retrieved my phone and tried to call Allison, but the LCD display read "no service". After angrily tossing the now useless device onto the passenger-side floor, I started yelling while furiously beating the gray, plastic dashboard and steering wheel in a fit of rage, tears beginning to form in my eyes. This was it, all right. It was really going down. What was I supposed to do now?

A couple of miles down the road, I forced myself to regain control, to calm down and try reasoning all of this through. Panic wouldn't do me, or Allison, any good right then, so I mentally put together a hastily formulated plan of action: I would cross the river and drive through the hills toward Emeryville, and then pick her up before trying to get some more gas and continuing south to Red Butte. My uncle owns a cabin there, and it seemed like a safe place to hole up and wait the thing out, that is, providing there would be a country left to return to when it was over.

As it turned out, I wouldn't need more than a quarter of a tank, because neither I, nor anyone else made it past the river. There, at the bridge crossing, my escape was blocked by hundreds of vehicles, all caught it a bottle-neck the way garbage backs up in front of a sewer drain during a deluge. But this blockage wasn't the result of traffic overload; the road on the other side of the bridge had been shut down, closed, all access denied to the frightened, angry masses who, like me, found themselves getting out of their cars and walking toward the head of this monstrous jam, in an effort to see exactly what authority had brought our desperate flight to a halt.

And that's where we got our first glimpse of the Rigans...(continued in part 2)

[edit on 4-4-2006 by Flatwoods]

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 07:03 AM
For What it's Worth(Stop. Hey, What's That Sound?)

Part 2

"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 fiction movie.

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 roasted flesh.

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 reset project.

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]

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 07:05 AM
For What it's Worth(Stop. Hey, What's That Sound?)

Part 3

"There's battle lines being drawn"

It was Cathy Bruner who first noticed it. Trevor and I had gotten to know Cathy pretty well because the three of us would often get together for a kind of informal poker club during the one hour per day the Rigans allowed us for lunch. One of a small number of female programmers in our team, Cathy had been a real estate salesperson who, on the side, had also moderated a popular UFO conspiracy website called Anyway, one day during lunch she quietly spilled the beans about some text she had found hidden inside one of the meta exceptions that had made it through the software buffers.

That caused us to raise our eyebrows in a big way. You see, the computers couldn't be used for any sort of online communication; the Rigans forbade it, and the software code buffers scanned everything for non-Pinball related code. Once the scenario packets had been uploaded, however, a peculiar thing sometimes happened. As the code got copied throughout the network literally millions of times, a certain number of random errors would occur, and for some reason, more often than not these collections of corrupted code, called meta exceptions, would self-replicate; kind of like a computer virus. But these computer virus weren't written by anyone, they occurred spontaneously as a result of the Pinball computation process.

Meta exceptions were a nuisance, and we'd often catch them inside scenario packets which had been sent back to us via the network for re-editing. Then, sometime within the past month, another draftee Pinball programmer - a former engineering software code-writer in Boston who identified himself by the codename BUILDER - discovered that the code could be "altered" to carry non-random specific meta exceptions with text. Essentially, he had figured out a way to secretly communicate with the other programmers within the network and, in the very first message, he explained how to do it.

That's how it started; after some heated discussion about the risks that were involved, Trevor, Cathy, and I decided that we would do whatever we could to relay the messages on throughout the network; basically keeping the information flowing as much as possible. Whatever the consequences, we had to know what was going on. Was it dangerous? You bet it was. That's how we came up with the name for our little group; not so much after the breakfast cereal, but as a somewhat morbid recognition of what would happen if we got caught. We called ourselves the Rice Crispy Gang. I was Snap, Cathy was Crackle, and Trevor was Pop. Before long, we found it necessary to incorporate another female techie, Martina Delgado, who we nicknamed Fizzle, into our privileged circle, because she happened to be in charge of both the scanner software and the silver-toned, portable, stereo CD player which the Rigans allowed us to listen to.

Without Martina's help, it would've been impossible for us to send out the corrupted packets with any reliability, because the ever-vigilant code filtering scanners would catch 90% of them. The only time this didn't occur was when Martina changed the software, but she was required her to do this confidentially. To our good fortune, Cathy suggested that Martina "signal" us by playing something specific on the CD player, and this arrangement worked out nicely. When updating the scanning software, all Martina had to do was play one of Trevor's favorite songs: the seventies classic titled "For What it's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield. That was our signal to upload the packets, and Martina varied the time she performed this action in order to divert suspicion.

As for Tim, we kept him strictly out of the loop, since we couldn't trust him to be careful enough to keep the whole thing a secret. He'd get awfully suspicious, though, and started nosing around Trevor's desk like a hungry raccoon, quietly whispering questions that Trevor carefully dodged. This frustrated him to no end, but for the rest of us it got to be kind of fun, like a little game, or joke, that our private club was secretly engaged in.

Sending the corrupted scenario packets was pretty exciting, too, and it gave all of us a much needed emotional lift, especially Trevor. For the first time in months, I began to see him show a little wry humor on occasion. It was as if part of his soul had been raised from the dead, a resurrection of sorts, and I wondered if what we were doing might be the start of something remarkable; maybe even the beginning of a new world-wide human independence movement. We continued to relay messages in secret and, before long, we started to get a great deal of much-longed-for information on the state of the world beyond our own little sector.

The Rigans had indeed taken it all; every army, navy, and air-force on the planet had been annihilated, and no organized resistance remained save for a few pockets of bloodthirsty guerrillas in Afghanistan. Before long, we found ourselves relaying messages that contained info on Rigan troops movements, the locations of their bases, fighting tactics, etc., to the network - a brand new worldwide top-secret bulletin board through which the human race was planning a new rebellion - and BUILDER had emerged as it's leader. Our Rice Crispy Gang was slowly becoming somewhat famous as well, because we'd add our telltale abbreviated signature, RCG, to the end of every coded text transmission we'd send.

All this had invigorated my sense of hope and optimism so much that I stopped taking any breaks, for lunch or otherwise. All I wanted to do was program and send those meta exceptions, cranking them out as fast as my nimble, cramped fingers would accommodate. I got so full of zeal that, one day, while we were casually listening to Martina's Buffalo Springfield single and firing off secret text-encrypted meta relays, I forgot to warn Tim that Toro was standing directly behind him. Only then did I become aware of the impending danger, once my ears began to detect the low, frightening, guttural growl emanating from Toro...and I noticed his eyes were turning red...(continued in part 4)

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 07:06 AM
For What it's Worth(Stop. Hey, What's That Sound?)

Part 4

"What a field-day for the heat"

Having lost track of time while playing with his handheld video game unit and listening to his MP3 player, Tim had wasted a good half hour's worth of programming effort, until Toro slammed his fist loudly onto the edge of the table, jolting him out of his state of digital amusement. When Toro asked him why he hadn't finished his upload, Tim tried to lie about it, claiming he was working on a new one. I started to intercede with a lie of my own: I was going to say I'd borrowed Tim's codebook because I thought mine was missing a page, but Trevor quickly stopped me by making eye contact and slowly shaking his head - warning me not to get involved.

After taking a close look at Tim's scenario book and seeing that it was in fact the same one he'd received yesterday afternoon, the Rigan supervisor roared in anger, and cleared Tim's desk off with one great swiping motion of his hand, sending notebooks, pencils, paperclips, and paper cups flying and fluttering across the room. Then he motioned for Bruno and Bessie to come forward. Everyone in the hanger looked on in shock as Toro and Bruno lifted Tim out of his chair by his shoulders and forcibly carried him outside.

For the next ten minutes we winced at the noises that followed: Tim's screams of pain and terror intermixed with the loud metallic bangs of what sounded like his body being hurled against the aluminum siding of the aircraft hangar. Casting glances of concern amongst ourselves, we all just sat there, unable to do anything as long as Bessie stood guard with her weapon at the ready; her eyes scanning the hangar for any sign of a potential challenge. No one presented so much as a protest, and suddenly our attention turned to the door as Toro and Bruno stormed in again, hoisting Tim between them like a limp, one-hundred-and-fifty pound sack of red, bloody laundry. For a minute, I thought he was dead; that is, until Bruno literally dropped him into his chair and grasped his head with his enormous, clawed hand; forcing Tim to look at his computer monitor.

The two Rigans had worked him over, and good. Blood was dripping steadily from his mouth and misshapen nose, several of his teeth were missing, and his face was quickly turning a ugly shade of purple, but amazingly, Tim displayed a sort of inner strength that neither I, nor anyone else who knew him, thought he possessed. Slowly, with trembling hands, he opened his scenario book and began entering the data. Once in a while, I noticed he would begin to sway ever so slightly, seemingly losing his grip on consciousness, but each time this happened Bruno would give him a swift knock to the head, which brought him back into focus. Tim continued this way for the rest of the afternoon, nearly finishing the scenario packet despite the fact that his face was horribly swollen and pretty much un-recognizable. It was only when Toro realized that Tim's eyelids were so swollen that he was effectively blind that he ordered Bruno to throw him out of the hangar.

At that moment, I was sure Tim was going to get purged, that is, if he didn't die from the wounds he received during the battering. I, like every other human being, had been terrified of the Rigans since they first arrived on that terrible, brisk, cloudy day in December, but on that day my emotions took a critical turn. For the first time since the invasion, I felt a kind of deep, black fury welling up within me; a hatred for the Rigans' that would persist until the very end. Tim wasn't the most admirable guy I'd ever met, by far, and should've had the sense to look out for himself, but he didn't deserve what he got. No one deserved that.

Destiny, however, often takes a more unpredictable course, and for Tim it had turned in his favor after that day, because the following morning he actually showed up for work on time. He was never late again.

As summer turned to fall, we all sensed that things were going to change, and not for the better. The project had been building toward something, a zenith, a pinnacle of some kind, but we had no idea what that was. Eventually, someone presented a decent theory. By late October, BUILDER relayed a text packet from a couple of former CERN researchers in Switzerland who had come up with a pretty good theory on the function of Pinball. It had to do with a set of equations they'd been working on just before the invasion happened; a set of equations that - theoretically - could be used to trace the path of every elementary particle in the universe, going all the way back to the big bang. This idea was fundamentally awesome in it's ramifications because, in theory, it could make time travel possible. Not time travel the way most people think of it, though. You see, if one could harness an anti-matter field strong enough, and if one could correctly calculate the exact position of every neutron, photon, graviton, etc. in the entire universe at a given point in time - say, a hundred thousand years ago or so, then it just might be possible to physically "send" those particles back to that position and energy state. Not exactly time travel, but it would accomplish the same thing.

That's what Pinball was designed to do, and it would mean the end for us and every living thing in the universe; except, of course, for the Rigans. By analyzing the Pinball network, The CERN researchers had already identified a set of scenarios which the Rigans had already worked out that would allow them - and only them - to remain unnafected by the universal reset. This was about resetting history itself to suit their ends, and unless action was taken it meant disaster for our timeline, our universe, and our planet. Something had to be done, and soon, because the project was nearing completion - but what?

Again, the answer to that came from the CERN team, who devised a way to modify the meta exceptions toward the purpose of shutting down the anti-matter field before it got beyond the Rigans' home system. The equations for this procedure would be immense, however, and we, the Rice Crispy Gang, were among the precious handful of code-writers within the network who had enough experience with Pinball to do it. The problem, however, was that it was going to require an enormous number of meta corruptions, and if our sabotage was to be successful we'd need to nearly double our pace. I shook my head when I saw that one, because during the past three weeks the Rigans had already increased our workload by at least fifty-percent. Trevor, Cathy, and I just couldn't see how we could possibly accomplish more, given our set working hours.

So I floated the idea of bringing Tim into our team. This was met with skepticism at first, but once I pointed out how much his accuracy had improved and how much more careful he'd become after his beating, the others reluctantly agreed. There was just no way we could upload enough corrupted scenario packets without extra help. He turned out to be fine addition to our team, and eventually earned the nickname of Sizzle. He loved it, and considered it a badge of honor. Yet, even with Tim's assistance, it seemed there weren't enough hours in the day to get it all done.

As it turned out, that wouldn't be an issue, because the lack of food, medical care, and basic services worldwide were finally beginning to take it's toll on everyone's patience, and more people started to resist. Flooding the network were messages regarding uprisings in Europe, Australia, Africa, and the Americas. Just like that, the rebellion had taken wing. And just like that, it was crushed within a few days. A small, brief, and desperate insurgency even sprang up here in town, and I for a while I actually entertained notions of liberation, but this was short-lived. The first serious guerilla bombings of Rigan strongholds got the attention of the local command, and within a week they'd commenced a series of brutal purges of the local populace. This was carried out with nauseating efficiency, and the stench of burning corpses began to hang over the town like the hide of some dead, decaying animal.

For safety's sake, everyone associated with the reset project was relocated to the airport. All this was pretty uncomfortable because we had to use the limited facilities inside the terminal, and there weren't enough sleeping cots to go around, but at least we were provided with decent rations, and the showers were hot. The best part of this arrangement was that we no longer had any restrictions on our work hours, and were able to program corrupted scenarios 'round the clock. Toro and Bruno now took shifts; alternating days and nights, which lessened the oppressive atmosphere at work to some degree as well. One less Rigan patrolling your workspace made it just a little easier to breathe, and we needed that, because we all knew that the Rigan's project seemed to be approaching a sort of climax - they'd been steadily upping hour workload on what seemed like a daily basis. The enemy was getting ready for their final blow, and I guess I would've been out of my mind with worry, had I not been secretly aware that we were going to be ready just a little bit sooner...(continued in part 5)

[edit on 4-4-2006 by Flatwoods]

posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 07:07 AM
For What it's Worth(Stop. Hey, What's That Sound?)

Part 5

"You step out of line, the man come and take you away"

Finally, it came. The day arrived for us to upload the last of our corrupted scenarios which, once the anti-matter field put them into motion, would bring the entire process to a crashing halt. The whole gang was clearly apprehensive, because even though we had resolved to carry out this cyber-rebellion in order to save earth, there was a good chance we'd all get purged once our plan went into effect. Of course, that could've happened all along, so I should've been relieved to be uploading my final meta exceptions.

But on that day I found myself unable to concentrate on any of it, because my jaw was in severe agony; my decayed tooth had now become infected and abscessed. The endless, throbbing pain had been throwing off my focus all morning, and slowed me down considerably to the point where Trevor, after casting careful glances around the room to make sure no Rigans were listening, asked me if I was going to make it through the day. If not, he suggested I should put in a request to go on the night shift, as that would give me several hours to put ice on it; whatever would help. I told him I would think about it.

In the end, I blew off his suggestion, instead deciding it would be better to "bear down" and finish this thing off for good, but I failed to foresee the consequences of my stubborn-headedness. It didn't occur to me that my habit of constantly massaging my tormented jaw was noticeable to others outside of my close-knit band of collaborators, that is, until I felt the cool reptilian skin of Bruno's claws around my neck.

Suddenly, I was being lifted out of my chair and, at the same time, was straining with effort to support myself by gripping his arm, in order to avoid having my upper vertebrae snapped. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him I was fine, but when Bruno used the fingers of his other hand to pry open my mouth and look inside, my bleeding molar betrayed me. Clearly seeing what the problem was, Bruno glanced toward Toro and, although none of us were fluent in the Rigan language, there was one word that we'd all become frightfully familiar with; a single phrase which Bruno articulated in Rigan with his booming, terrifying voice:


Trevor and Cathy exchanged glances of alarm, then looked in my direction with expressions of shock of as they watched Bruno haul me out of the work area and toward the doors of the hangar. Frightened as I was at that moment, I narrowed my eyes in an effort to make sure that my own expression telegraphed nothing but sheer defiance. Although Cathy continued to display a look of wide-eyed horror combined with the first eye-wellings of tearful emotion, Trevor seemed to understand; looking me in the eye while nodding his head slightly to signify that he'd carry out the plan regardless of my fate. Stopping the Rigans was more important than any one of us.

I'd often wondered how it would feel to be on the very threshold of death's door, and remembering stories retold by others who'd found themselves in similar survival-related situations, I'd always expected some sort of calm to settle over me at such a moment; a kind of serene acceptance of un-changeable destiny. In reality, I experienced nothing of the kind, as my instincts of self-preservation suddenly took command of my actions. Bruno carried me outside the hangar and around to the side - this was the spot where he preferred to carry out executions when needed - but at that moment I reached my arm out and gripped one of Bruno's horns while frantically punching and clawing at his face. Bruno bared his teeth in frustration and began to sling his phased ignition rifle into position. In an act of desperation, I gripped his weapon with both hands, trying to prevent him from aiming it toward me. This caused him to roar with fury, and he angrily flung me toward the ground like I was a tiny action figure being abused by an eight-year old during a tantrum.

Laying there with the knocked the wind out of me, I suddenly heard the terrifying electric whine of Bruno's rifle charging. Face-flat in the dirt, I reached out for some sand, or a stick, or anything that might serve as a weapon of my own. My hand came in contact with something else - a rock. I peered above and behind me, but I couldn't see the Rigan guard clearly, as the sun was directly above him, blinding my vision and giving me nothing but a menacing, shadowy figure as a target. With all my might, I hurled the rock toward the blackness and heard a sickening thud, followed by a deafening roar of pain and fury.

Acting on pure animal instinct, I took the initiative and threw myself toward him using all of my strength, knocking him off balance and into the side of the hangar. At the same time, I gripped the weapon once again, and this time I put all of my weight onto it, trying to rip it from his grasp. Once again, Bruno attempted to throw me off, but my directed weight paired with added strength from surging adrenaline caused him to lose balance, and we both went tumbling to the dirt, screaming and kicking like a pair of rabid wolves.

Then the weapon discharged.

At first, I was sure that I'd been hit, because my chest flared with pain as my shirt instantly caught fire. In sheer panic, I let go of the weapon and rolled on the ground in an attempt to douse the flames and, as the fire on my shirt went out, I gazed in awe at the sight of Bruno's writhing, flailing body being consumed by white-hot, searing flames. In an instant, he was gone, the only remaining artifact of his existence: a smoking, smoldering pile of gray ashes beside a pair of blackened, charred horns.

Slowly, like a stunned deer coming back to life after being hit by a truck, I regained my senses and tore off toward the bushes, stumbling as I went. I half expected Toro to come rushing out of the hangar after me at that point, but I made it into the trees within seconds. From there I continued through the woods on my way toward town, not having any particular destination in mind, as the Rigans would undoubtedly track me down before long. My fate hadn't been averted, only postponed. I spent that night huddled inside a damp, mossy drainage pipe next to the river, shivering with cold and wondering what the hell I was going to do.

The following morning, while making my way through a brush-covered ravine on the outskirts of town, I found a rusty pocketknife half buried in the dirt. Using the water from the small creek nearby, I cleaned it off as much as I could before attempting to surgically cut the Rigan implant out of the skin of my abdomen. The implant, which consisted of three tiny, concentric, interlocking metal rings planted just under the skin, proved painfully impossible to dislodge, because each ring had some sort of anchoring wire which curved deep into my flesh, like a set of three overlapping sixes anchored to my belly. Thinking my only chance to get it out was to find a local doctor, I decided to risk a late-night foray into town.

A Rigan sentry patrol caught me as I was entering the parking lot behind the RoadWay Tire store. I was quickly shackled and transported back to the airport, the whole time thinking I'd be incinerated the minute I arrived there. As I was being lead toward the doors, however, I caught sight of something which sent shivers through my soul, and soon brought tears to my eyes as well. There on the tarmac in front of the hanger I could clearly discern the ashen, chalky-white impressions from dozens of executions. To my horror, I was told that the Rigans had uncovered the reset-sabotage operation; reacting with fury and brutal retribution. Within our unit, nearly the entire programming staff had been liquidated, and I was among the precious few, including Tim, who had escaped suspicion. To make matters worse, the Rigans had already begun fixing the Pinball errors that we'd spent weeks putting in place.

Because of the manpower shortage, and because I was the only remaining data compiler in the region, my life was mercifully spared. Not only that, but the Rigans' treatment of me improved considerably. My workload was reduced, and they even flew in a dentist from Eugene in order to get my tooth repaired. Physically, I was improving nicely. Emotionally, however, I was dying from hopelessness and despair. Trevor, Cathy, and Martina were all gone, and a part of my soul died with them. What had I been living for this whole time if not for the one chance to strike a blow for Allison, my friends, and the rest of humanity? What purpose did I have for going on, now that everything I cared about was either dead or about to be annihilated, once the Rigans carried out their initiative?

Over the following days and weeks, the tempo at work increased as new trainees were hired, and the project surged forward in an ever heightening frenzy of activity. The new programmers, as well as myself, were tasked with duty of inputting hundreds of backlogged scenarios left unprocessed as a result of the Rigans' purge, and the new conscripts obediently worked themselves to the bone. In stark contrast, my own motivation waned to the point of downtrodden apathy, and I found myself entertaining thoughts of rushing one of the Rigan guards in hopes that they'd simply put me out my misery quickly and efficiently: a short escort out the door followed by a sudden, blinding flash from one of their weapons and I would be dispensed into non-existence, neither caring, nor suffering any concern for the fate of this sad, broken place I used to call the world. I nearly carried out my suicidal resolution, but my self-pitying surrender to oblivion ended when a large manila envelope containing Cathy's scenario book landed on my desk.

While morosely leafing through her pages of carefully formulated point value calculations, I came across several pages of hastily penciled code and text hidden between a couple of cardboard dividers; these had been cleverly taped together so no one would find them. On the day of her tragic demise, Cathy had been corresponding directly with the physicists from the CERN team, and they'd given her a sort of last-ditch communication protocol, only this was unlike any other meta exception program I'd seen before.

In the event that our sabotage of the reset was unsuccessful, the CERN team had put together a special meta corruption that was designed to do something completely different. When sent, it could - if properly coded - implant itself in within the reset matrix in such a way as to render the Rigans' immunity to the process completely null. In other words, the subversive program would cause the Rigans to be destroyed along with everyone else; that is, in the event that our plan failed and the reset was successful. If it worked, it meant that everything in the universe would return to it's original position, direction, and energy state. Only this plan had a downside; history would, in all probability, play out in exactly the same way it had before. Nevertheless, the meta-exception relay had been sent, and now, at the very least, the Rigans would be denied the benefits of their universal catastrophe.

In addition, the team had found a way to apply what would have been part of the Rigans' immunity scenario toward our own ends. Unfortunately, they hadn't had time to figure out a way to render humans immune to the process, but they had found a way to send basic coded information back through the reset - and they'd shared the knowledge of how to this with Cathy. Using their protocol, Cathy had worked out a meta corruption she hoped would show up as text in her own e-mail, and on the very website that she'd moderated before the occupation began.

She was going to send a warning back through the dark, infinite void of space and time - a warning that would arrive in among the postings of

Sadly, Cathy never got the chance to relay her message; but tonight, as the whirring sound of the electric fans overhead mixes with the clattering noise of computer keyboards, all being played by dozens of diligent code-writers steadfastly composing a symphony of destruction, I finish this letter in hopes of contributing to the salvation of those in another time, another world, and, hopefully, a future that will be far different from this. With Tim's help,(he now monitors the software buffers in place of Martina) I'll be transmitting this testament inside my final meta-corrupted scenario as soon as the harsh melodies of Buffalo Springfield's poignant, terse guitar chords reach my waiting ears.

Should you read this, please accept my apologies, as I would've liked to have served you with a happier ending to my tale. But happiness belongs to your realm, not mine, and your future is unwritten. It's fate may well depend on your vigilance, so for what it's worth, remain strong, remain alert, watch the skies, and deny ignorance.


*Author's Note: The first few paragraphs of this story, in part 1, are essentially true. A few weeks ago I was sitting in front of the computer at home, writing an e-mail, when I began to hear the thunderous roar of military jets making multiple passes overheard at unusually low altitude. This had me a little freaked out, so I went outside to investigate. To my surprise, it turned out to be none other than the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, who were practicing maneuvers for an air-show taking place at the nearby airfield that very weekend! Anyway, it was that experience which inspired me to begin writing this story.

[edit on 4-4-2006 by Flatwoods]


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