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PEBCAK [P]

Postby Indigo » 11/29/2017 1:49 AM

Image

The facility was quiet at night. Ale had the sense not to host parties here outside daylight hours, the witches had finally agreed to stop turning up whenever they felt like it, and since they'd found a solid lead on the artifact everyone had been sleeping soundly. There was only the gentle hum of the refrigerator in the communal kitchen to break the silence.

And, tonight, there was rapid clicking and tapping from Zerax's room. She'd started out trying not to make any noise, in case she woke someone, but she was far enough from the other bedrooms and after a while frustration had overridden self-control.

She couldn't sleep. Technically Zerax didn't need to sleep, or at least not as frequently as an organic being, but when she'd worked for her creator she hadn't been allowed to sleep unnecessarily, to maximize work done; she relished being able to do it now. But she'd had a stressful encounter with the self-proclaimed "tech witch" Lucius earlier today, and while it had been resolved to the degree that it could be, it still tugged at her mind in unoccupied moments, keeping her awake. To ward it off she was playing a game.

Trying to play a game, anyway, but the software was working against her. She was bored and confined by the linear story path and was currently trying to glitch her way into areas she wasn't supposed to be able to reach, but this particular game seemed better designed than the last few she'd tried, and she was tired, anyway. Her last few attempts had just killed her character and, since she hadn't bothered to save, sent her back to the beginning of the boring linear path again.

After one more failed attempt, she closed the game in irritation and went to check her email, just for something else to do. She was rapidly approaching the point of insomnia at which the next day is already ruined and so staying up an hour or two more doesn't seem so bad.

There was an email from the professor. Her creator.

She'd shoved her laptop to the foot of the bed and scrambled back in the opposite direction before she even fully processed what she'd read. What did he want? How had he even found her? He couldn't make any demands of her, the nerve, she had a life and a job and friends and she didn't need—

Stop. Reality check. How could the professor have gotten her email address? Her email address which wasn't posted on the conference's website and was only known by people she trusted or people who didn't even know where she was from. She didn't trust without hard evidence, and as for the latter group, it was hard to imagine any argument that would convince a normal person to put him in contact with her. "Your contact with the Naturalist Colloquium is actually my property, and I need you to give me her contact information so I can retrieve her." Absurd.

Conclusion: it wasn't really from the professor. But then who was it from? The address was correct, the preview of the message was convincing. Who would go to this much trouble for a scam? Not to mention the amount of digging they'd have to do to even learn this about her in the first place. It was also absurd, yet it was the only explanation she could think of.

Only one way to find out what was going on. She opened the email and downloaded the attachment.

I'm not a gangster tonight
Don't wanna be a bad guy
I'm just a loner, baby
And now you've gotten in my way

I can't decide whether you should live or die
Oh you'll probably go to heaven
Please don't hang your head and cry
No wonder why my heart feels dead inside
It's cold and hard and petrified
Lock the doors and close the blinds
We're going for a ride


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Re: PEBCAK [P]

Postby zapdragon555 » 12/11/2017 1:07 AM

Image

Bingo.

Like a tiny army spilling from the back end of a trojan horse, Admin raced out of the lines of code that kept this fresh, new copy of himself bound to the email. One click was all it took, really, and Admin was off like a black, vaguely animal-shaped rocket. The computer was running a bit slowly, much to his chagrin, but that was fine and good. Seemed some sort of large .exe file had been taking up a lot of CPU up until now--a video game? Admin wasn't particularly sure what sort of person owned the computer he'd just possessed, but that was the fun part. A quick read of her--and he'd assumed she was a her, but perhaps he was wrong--emails and contacts had allowed him to find out there was some sort of professor that was talked about in correspondence, so perhaps a student? A college student? Those were particularly fun to mess with. Humans in general, especially the young adults who thought they knew so much but really knew so little, were just a delight.

Admin scuttled up chunks of code and nestled himself in the trash bin, staring up at the email with ears pinned back and a shit-eating grin on his face. The confusion, slow-dawning as it was, was always funny to him. Reading over an email that was obviously fake (and for this particular email he'd been particularly fake about it, because he wanted to goof around this time--he was fine on energy supplies and really had only left his last dwelling to have a bit of a romp, is all) always produced some good results, upon realizing they opened it--the initial confusion, and then, the concern. Paranoia. Run virus protection? Oh, no no no, Admin could stop that in a heartbeat, by now. He'd seen enough of them.

The email wrote:Ms. Zerax,

Please remember, your final exam for Underwater Basket-weaving II is on yesterday at 8:962 P.M. so please remember to bring your oxygen mask the purposes of good health and not drowning and bahahahahahahahaha no this isn't working at all, no, you're fired from school, please don't come back, get out of my class. Also, you've won six million [CURRENCY OF CHOICE] and three and a half well-bred show ponies.

Hugs and kisses,
The Professor
You're a door-without-a-key,
A field-without-a-fence.
You made a holy fool of me,
And I've thanked you ever since.
If she comes circling back,
We'll end where we'd begun,
Like two pennies on the train track
The train crushed into one,
Or if I'm a crown without a king,
If I'm a broken open seed,
If I come without a thing,
Then I come with all I need.
No boat out in the blue,
No place to rest your head
The trap I set for you seems to have
Caught my leg instead.

I do not exist. I do not exist. I do not exist.


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Re: PEBCAK [P]

Postby Indigo » 12/25/2017 10:30 PM

The email, on reading, was far less convincing than it had at first appeared. In fact it was absolute nonsense. Zerax read it twice, trying to see if there was some sort of coded message, wondering if the professor had figured out how to command her via text alone. But there was nothing. It was just gibberish.

No sender. A shame. She would have liked to ask them some questions, though she doubted they would answer. As for the attachment...well, the computer was doing something, but she couldn't figure out what. Nothing had yet popped up to mock her for her gullibility, but perhaps she had outdated notions of computer viruses—she'd never encountered any in person. Or perhaps this person was a bit more mature than the average hacker.

She reread the email—no, it was definitely her ideas being out of date.

Well, she could dig around looking for evidence of the virus's activities, but that would be time-consuming and she wanted answers fast. Maybe if she went about her normal usage habits she would notice something more obviously amiss. She pulled up a forum for the game she'd been playing, to see if anyone had succeeded where she had failed. After all, she would have done it eventually anyway.

I'm not a gangster tonight
Don't wanna be a bad guy
I'm just a loner, baby
And now you've gotten in my way

I can't decide whether you should live or die
Oh you'll probably go to heaven
Please don't hang your head and cry
No wonder why my heart feels dead inside
It's cold and hard and petrified
Lock the doors and close the blinds
We're going for a ride


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Indigo
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Joined: 08/11/2008 5:07 PM
Location: Home

Re: PEBCAK [P]

Postby zapdragon555 » 12/29/2017 4:37 PM

That was... a disappointingly calm reaction. Admin frowned, his fingers drumming on a block of code in impatience, effectively making her screen flicker slightly. Screensaver, or the beginnings of it, but not quite enough to actually start it up. He needed to get her attention more properly.

Quietly, Admin slipped into the Developer's Tools area and started wreaking havoc at a rapidfire pace. Forum background color changed to a tiled photo of a mandarin duck, check. Usernames of forum-goers changed to types of cheeses, check. Forum text changed to varying sizes, fonts, and colors. Just making a general mess of things.

Of course, all of this was impermanent, and only visible to Zerax herself, but it was fun all the same.
You're a door-without-a-key,
A field-without-a-fence.
You made a holy fool of me,
And I've thanked you ever since.
If she comes circling back,
We'll end where we'd begun,
Like two pennies on the train track
The train crushed into one,
Or if I'm a crown without a king,
If I'm a broken open seed,
If I come without a thing,
Then I come with all I need.
No boat out in the blue,
No place to rest your head
The trap I set for you seems to have
Caught my leg instead.

I do not exist. I do not exist. I do not exist.


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User avatar
zapdragon555
Will Draw For Food
Will Draw For Food
 
Keystones: 70
Donate
Joined: 02/24/2009 11:10 PM
Location: jagged vacance thick with ice
Status: and i could see for miles, miles, miles

Re: PEBCAK [P]

Postby Indigo » 01/01/2018 9:04 PM

The screen flicker was odd. Was this a program following a specific mandate in the depths of her computer, and producing strange but uninteresting side effects, or was an actual person remotely poking around in there? She wanted answers and analyzing this was getting her nowhere.

Then the forum's appearance changed. It didn't exactly startle her, but it was a lot of random nonsense to be hit with at once, and it left her staring for a few seconds, trying to find an internal logic. She opened a new tab and a different site, and found it functioning normally. Probably an actual person then. Otherwise it would have to be an extraordinarily specific program.

The nature of the changes continued to suggest that whoever was doing this was incredibly immature, possibly a bored teenager—Zerax had never personally known any teenagers, but she'd spotted enough of them on the internet and heard enough of Gyles's stories about their family to have a decent idea of what a teenager would find funny. It was really the cheeses that led her to that conclusion. Her data suggested that teenagers thought cheese was hilarious.

But if this was a person, perhaps she could communicate with them. She had no idea if they'd be able to hear her speak, so she opened up a word processor, typed Hello, and waited. Best to start things off simple.

I'm not a gangster tonight
Don't wanna be a bad guy
I'm just a loner, baby
And now you've gotten in my way

I can't decide whether you should live or die
Oh you'll probably go to heaven
Please don't hang your head and cry
No wonder why my heart feels dead inside
It's cold and hard and petrified
Lock the doors and close the blinds
We're going for a ride


User avatar
Indigo
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Joined: 08/11/2008 5:07 PM
Location: Home


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