Wednesday, May 12, 2010

[Mythos XXI] Zombie Computers and Homeless Demons

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Surrealism combines a blend of reality and unreality. Any person unable to sort the fiction and fantasy from the factual is strongly advised to seek professional help, if only in the area of English reading and comprehension.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

In many -- if not most -- places, a milling crowd of shabby demonically-possessed zombies, covered with gutter filth and reeking of napalm, would cause a bit of a ruckus. But in the parking lot of Aspen Hill's Big K-Mart, they blended right in with the morning mob of homeless illegal aliens milling about in the hopes of drive-by unscrupulous employers giving them a day-labor gig.

The main difference between the zombies and the day-laborers was that the day-laborers weren't actually evil, and the zombies weren't interested in flooding the oversaturated market for unskilled labor. Aside from that, they looked about the same. The zombies had been protesting the "unfair treatment" of the Home Depot across Georgia Avenue from the impromptu pick-up corner, and this "unfair treatment" consisted in being banned from the property for purposes other than actually shopping at the store. Since this blanket ban had seriously disrupted a labor racket in which "organizers" provided very large individuals to make sure that the waiting laborers took turns in good order -- not incidentally paying the very large individuals 30 percent of their untaxed cash earnings from loading up construction vans and trucks -- this sudden dearth of untraceable income funding the "immigrants rights" organizations put a crimp in the plans of said organizations, hence the organization of the May Day protests nationwide, and the May Day protest in the parking lot of a just-vacated facility formerly housing a large advanced-weapons research and development unit of a major transnational defense contracting firm.

And of course, we all know what happened: malevolent alien software, downloaded from incomprehensible dimensions beyond time and space and stored on EPROM for future study in development of advanced weapons systems, got into the heads of about a thousand of these protesters.

Zombies, as commonly conceived, don't actually exist. There are plenty of things that can look and act like zombies, ranging from the original zombi -- a stupefied outcast or small-time criminal maintained in a trance by a combination of drugs, superstition and brain-damage -- to the so-called "zombie computer", which is a networked computer which has been hacked and usurped without the knowledge of its owner, generally used for purposes of spamming, though frequently that spam carries a payload designed to hack and usurp the computational resources of recipient machines.

The zombies now milling about among the homeless illegal aliens seeking day-labor gigs were somewhere between the classic zombi and the modern concept of the zombie computer. They had been on drugs, powerful entheogen drugs that had suppressed their brains' normal defensive filters. They had also been hacked and usurped by a hacker, although the hacker was assault software that hostile aliens had downloaded through a transdimensional gate into a pile of read-only memory that wasn't attached to any real processors.

The aliens had expected to decompress their software into a global telecommunications network; it was a reasonable presumption on their part that such a network would underlie any civilization that could open a transdimensional gateway to their realm. it was a feat of pure paranoia in the most positive sense of the term, that those who opened the gateway defended against such an attack by creating the gate within a sort of probability shield, and by leaving the target memory chips attached to a processor far too underpowered to do more than make the memory look like a potentially useful target.

This was the transdimensional warfare equivalent of a Bot Herder spamming his entire repertoire of cracking payloads to a bogus masqueraded network of two Altair 8800s and thinking that they'd be cracking an entire large corporate office-complex's world-routable Class B network's 65,536 state-of-the-art PCs.

Of course, this did not result in a remote-controlled spammer's dream of a Class B Bot Net cheerfully replicating itself to every IP-capable machine on the global internet, devouring firewalls and cracking routers and even prying open out-of-band linkages to things like console teletypes. No, all of the cracking payloads were etched right to read-only memory, as expected and intended, but with no capable processors attached. This could not have been expected or the aliens probably wouldn't have bothered.

Yet now the alien software was in an environment where processing was available and really quite effective, if limited to the low and unexpected speeds of an carbon-based protoplasmic systems.

May Day, May 1 2010, was the day that the protesters were taken. Sunday May 2 was the day that special forces spent napalming everything inside and beneath the former offices of the defense-contractors. Monday May 3 was the first morning that the zombies were seen milling about within the ranks of the homeless illegal alien day-laborers hoping for drive-by employers who would never come; the electromagnetic pulse that had put the global telecom networks outside the reach of the hostile alien software had also killed every motor vehicle within range of that localized but intense blast of disorganizing radiations. The oversight agencies who were starting to get a solid idea of how close they'd come to the Eschaton were deeply restricting the flow of traffic and goods -- and particularly, of information -- in and especially out of the affected area. The day laborers would not be getting any work today, and the stores would not be open for business as usual.

The day laborers, being self-sufficient and resourceful enough to have survived becoming indentured servants after being trafficked as human cargo into the region, quickly decided that if the power was off to the neighborhood and also to their cellphones, it was probably not working for the burglar-alarm systems at any of the local stores, and with K-Mart right there, why not do some after-hours shopping? When the sun went down, they broke into the giant department store, and though they did not recognize them for what they were, they took the zombies with them.

When they were done loading up on free food, clothing, and sporting-goods, they headed back to their homeless camps in the woods surrounding the cemetery across Connecticut Avenue, and they took the zombies with them, there, as well.

Of course, the zombies were quite dangerous, harboring as they did their compressed payloads of inimical alien software From Beyond. Yet by this time they were well adapted to their situation, and the software within them recognized that it itself had much adaptation to do, not merely adaptation of the hosts at the cellular level and then at the organ structure level; it also "understood" that it needed to adapt to its situation as a collection of crippled weapons-modules embedded in substandard mobile units operating on the fringes of an alerted and hostile society.

As dangerous as were the zombies, as dangerous as they'd be once the shattered demon distributed among them was able to make them make it whole again, far more dangerous were the EPROM chips which had escaped destruction by the electromagnetic pulse, mostly because those chips had been within a metal box within a metal box in a five-foot concrete underground storm drain.

By May 2, that box and those chips were no longer in Aspen Hill, though they were not far away. By sundown of Monday May 3, that box and those chips were in the back of a FedEx truck headed for the airport. Tuesday, May 4, saw that box unloaded in the mailroom of a New Jersey import-export firm, where the manager of the mailroom and warehouse had an interesting sideline in IT contraband that operated within the more mainstream sideline trafficking in arms-for-drugs, which latter sideline was his unofficially-tolerated cover for the IT contraband trade.

It was the afternoon of Thursday, May 6, before he got around to finding an old machine that could accept the EPROM chip he decided to try.

It was just terrible luck that he had even hooked up the modem to the old slow analog phone lines and it was even worse luck that the resident software on the old slow hard-drive included an early online-trading program, formerly owned by the sort of high-powered trader who never changes their password.

By mid-afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen over a thousand points.