Monday, April 13, 2009

Creative Chunks #3: "The Software Market on Rainier"

All writers were amateurs once. This has become a great deal more obvious since the advent of INTERNET, which has provided the firmest proof of Sturgeon's Law yet by tearing down essentially all of the barriers to entry. Some beginning stuff is finer than others, but few very-early works can be called anything like "great."

This one certainly can't.

I can't recall the background in which I wrote it, whether it was part of a school assignment (OAC2 English - Writer's Craft?) or just something I wrote because I could. The final draft I have is dated May 22, 1998 - a Friday. What I do know is that it is clunky and amateurish at best and that I've hopefully improved a great deal since then. Still, while it is not all that good, neither is it worthy of Old Shame status or hiding out on my hard drive for evermore - so instead I share it with all of you, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. Please, mock it relentlessly. It deserves at least that much.

I think that I thought I could be subtle when I was fifteen.

The Software Market on Rainier
by Andrew Barton


"I guess so."

"Yes or no."

"Well, it's just... I don't know if I can do this. I mean, we're about to shut down an entire world here!" The technician pointed his arm towards the forti-plastic window, to illustrate his point.

"I realize that, but you and I both know that we don't have any other options," said the technician's boss, one William Tegas. Tegas was pushing fifty standard years, but he still retained a certain boyish charm, which was especially due to his old-style thick-rimmed glasses. "I've been CEO of this company for near thirty years. I built eSoft completely from scratch, and the damned Feds think they can just move in and eradicate everything we've built here." He promptly folded his hands behind his back and looked out the fortieth story window, watching the people of New Tacoma going about their business, totally oblivious to the fact that disaster was about to befall them.

"Jim," he said suddenly, "do you know why I originally created the virus?"

"Umm... to monopolize Rainier's software market?"

"Not at all, Jim," answered Tegas. "It started about ten years ago. The New Tacoma Picayune published an article claiming that eSoft used 'unfair business practices' in its marketing techniques. Subliminal messages on TV, so they said. We vigorously denied the charges in the public forum, but of course they all were absolutely true."

"But how could you do something like that? Subliminally advertising to the entire seems like cheating, to me."

"Well, some people would see it that way. Fortunately, I don't, and neither does the eSoft Board of Directors. I'm worth 24 billion credits, you know? But there are corporations on Earth and Mars to whom 24 billion credits is chump change. I needed to build up a solid supply of capital so that eSoft could successfully compete off Rainier."

"So that's when you designed the virus," the technician concluded.

"Not exactly, Jim. There's an old saying I know of: 'Never do something yourself if you can pay someone to do it for you.' I'm a forward-thinking man, and I knew that the truth would eventually come out. So I hired the best programmers on Rainier, hackers mostly, and they designed the bug.

"It worked even better then we could have expected. Not only did the bug destroy every eSoft product on the mainframe, but it left the computer in such a state that none of our competitors' software would work on it either, and make Deep Blue look like a genius by comparison. So we secretly installed it in Portals '56, along with every single eSoft product to come out since then. Now, it's in ninety-nine percent of households on this rock, and we've got our finger hovering over the button. Now, my friend, the time has come to push that button."

"But, that would completely destroy our customers' livelihoods!" protested the technician. "Their money made us the largest corporation on Rainier, and this is how you repay them" How do you intend to keep eSoft afloat when no one will buy anything with our name on it?"

"Jim," he sighed, "it's not about profits anymore. The Feds have found the evidence they need, the evidence I tried so hard to keep from them. They're coming to shut us down, and there's nothing can be done. All that we have left is revenge."

"Well then, I don't want any part of your vengeance game. Leave me out of this."

"Fine by me. You're fired." With that, Tegas produced a gun from a hidden pocket and promptly put a bullet in the technician's shoulder.

"Now that that's over with, my public awaits," Tegas said to no one in particular. He sat down at the terminal which the technician had most graciously vacated just seconds before, and began to input commands. When his programming prowess rewarded him by activation of the virus transmission, a timer appeared on the screen. "In ten seconds, Rainier will enter the Stone Age," he marveled to himself, and then started the countdown.

When the timer hit seven, Tegas was distracted from the screen my a whispering voice. It was Jim, the technician. "You fool..." he said, his voice raspy from the severe pain produced by his injury. "I hope you're proud of yourself. You've just destroyed Rainier's entire computer network. Even the automated defendersats. Now what's going to keep the Aliens at bay? The fifty million people on this planet... you've just signed their death warrants!"

"Dear God, no!" Tegas rushed to deactivate the countdown, but it was too late. In horror, he watched as a representation of the signal raced across the hundred thousand kilometers of space adjacent to Rainier at the speed of light, destroying every computer it came across which used eSoft.

"The Aliens should be on their way right now," continued Jim. "I hear their teleporters have ranges over two million klicks. They can send soldiers from their moon base in seconds. And you know the first place they'll come? The spot where the transmission originated. Right here."

"No! No!" But before he could belabor the point further, a squad of heavily-armed Aliens teleported into the room. Wasting no time at all, the intruders secured the room, then picked up Tegas and the technician, carrying them both to the spot where the squad had appeared. Tegas kept shouting at the insectoids the whole time he was in their custody. "Give me my gun back! I'm valuable! I'm corporate material! I'm an executive..."

As the Aliens vanished from the room, returning to the place from where they had come, all that could be heard, aside from Tegas' voice, was the sound of the technician laughing.


I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby make it available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Commercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. That means you are free to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit this work — and Remix — to adapt this work — under the following conditions.

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