Where do I begin… to write down my misadventure. I would have never picked up a pen and began had it not been for my host. He’s the type of fellow who tells you what to do and his partners (soldiers) make sure you did just as your told. This hideout, this fortress has more weapons than I’ve seen in months. There is a guard at my door this minute, put there for my protection so I was told. Yeh right! He’s got a mean looking revolver with a huge bore. That’s bad enough but he points it directly at my chest and waves it around when he addresses me. I can’t describe the look in his eyes.
I truly believe he would love to do me in. He thinks I’m an enemy and a threat to my host. I am a guest of the leader of this organization. I sit here and think of what has happened to bring me here. My mind wanders back to when I was an innocent eight year old kid. I worried more about what games to play than anything else. My mom brought us to the Mile High City after she and my dad started fighting. She thought it would be good to grow up near relatives. She never knew what was in store for us all. No one knew except the scientist and interfering generals who were developing project “UnderNet”.
The national/global computer network that was going to make our lives simpler by linking the regional infrastructure management computers. It made sense to have a system where electricity was diverted from one grid to another were it was needed more. Same with all the other resources of man.. fuel, water, food, and even surplus peoplepower in the form of the ten year old National Civilian Corp. If only the military hadn’t been involved. They think everything has to be a part of the defense plans for our country. When the system went on-line, their supercomputers were blamed for the cold, heartless decision of the system.
They were designed to keep on working through any natural or man-made disaster, including this Civil War of 2009. Most people think that the “UnderNet” planned and orchestrated the civil war. The first outbreaks were over resources. Fuel and water that was going to the big cities at the expense of the rural communities. ‘The greatest good for the greatest amount of people’ we were all told. Now, after three years of civil war, life is very hard. This brings us up to a week ago. My story, in my opinion, is about a kid trying to stay alive in the streets of the Mile High City.
Each day a struggle for food and a safe place to sleep at night. I lost my mom at the disaster relief center set up in the city park. She was killed for the contents of her small backpack. Most of it was family keepsakes like old pictures of my grandparents and of me as a buck-naked baby. I haven’t seen a relative for months. I was searching the rubble of the government buildings in the federal center on Alameda Blvd. when I found the doorway. It was buried under the exploded four-story building but I wiggled my way down to it. If I was ten pounds heavier, I would have never gotten in, but I did.
The door was solid metal at least three inches thick but the explosion had split part of the door frame and I could squeeze through. I was giddy with the thought of what I might find. Nowadays, you traded for what you needed. I found a room that I was sure no others had looted. I wasn’t worried about getting things out because all I would take was small items I could hide in my clothes. The street gangs would take anything larger they saw me carrying. When I got my shoulders through the split in the door frame, I crawled through into the dusty floor.
It was black as coal in the room and I hadn’t thought of bringing a light. That black is why the glowing red switch was so noticeable. After a minute my eyes adjusted to the dark and the dim glow of the switch lit up the area around it. I could see that it was a power control panel, a lot like the one we had at home for our old 786 computer. I felt my way over to the light. That’s when I noticed the sound. A very low hum you felt as much as heard. I was surprised that this room had electricity since the building above it didn’t even exist.
Some parts of the city still had electricity but it was getting to be less all the time. I reached for the switch and without knowing what I was getting myself into, turned it on. Just to the left, a small computer monitor screen began to glow blue. One small word appeared in the top left. It said “Ready”. Growing up in the computer age made all of this very comforting. I hadn’t seen a working computer in long time. I hadn’t played a computer game in at least a year. I wondered if this computer had any games. The glow of the screen helped to light the room. My eyes didn’t need too much light.
I looked around. In the center of the room were what seemed to be four padded columns with a seat going around each. The back wall was lined with electronic equipment and six large cases about as big as a washing machine. I recognized the columns. I had seen a special on super computers on TV. This room had four of them. The large electronic cases in the back were data storage. Huge hard drives. The wall I was at had a long counter. Above it was one shelf lined with notebooks, stacks of paper, and boxes of computer disks. I knew that these might be valuable and easy to carry.
There were two other computer terminals like the one I had started. Except for the low hum and the active terminal, everything seem to be dead. I turned toward the terminal but I didn’t see a keyboard. That seemed strange. I looked closer and saw that the keyboard was hidden underneath the counter on a sliding tray. I pulled it out and pushed the enter key. A textured window appeared in the center of the screen. It had a dozen icons underneath the title. The title read “Regional UnderNet” in large letters. I didn’t see anything that looked like a game icon.
One of the icons said System Status with a picture of a small desktop computer. I used the mouseball on the keyboard to move the arrow to this icon and clicked it on. The screen cleared and began to scroll written text showing the status of different functions. Most showed that they were not available. When the screen stopped, it read “Ready” again. I hit the enter key and got the icons back. One other icon said “Vocal Interface”. That sounded interesting and I clicked it on. I heard a loud “hum” from a small speaker on the shelf above me and it spoke to me. The computer thought I was someone else.
It said, “It’s nice to talk to you again, it’s been five hundred and thirty five days, eighteen hours, and thirty two minutes since our last visit. ” I cringed with fear. What had I started and would it cause trouble? I stood silent for a minute before I spoke. “Who do you think I am? “, I stuttered. “How would you like me to address you? “, it spoke. I had heard electronic speech before. At school, most of the CD Rom disks we used in computer lab had a lot of speech but this seemed different. It came clear and smooth from the speaker. “You can call me Vanessa, everyone else does.
What do I call you? I spoke toward the terminal thinking that the microphone must be hidden somewhere there. “Some called me “Fast Eddie” or sometimes just Eddie. You are welcome to address me however you wish. I will do my best to respond as you desire. ” I wasn’t as worried now. It seemed that this computer would help me when I needed it and I could always turn off the red switch. One thing that all mankind learned in the last few years, you can’t trust a computer too much. This one was a very advanced computer and a part of the enemy… the UnderNet. For all I knew, this could be monitored somewhere else.
In some room, somewhere, the UnderNet could be aware that I just turned on the red switch. I wasn’t afraid of someone showing up. I knew only someone of my small size could fit into the rubble and then find this basement room. I would hear anyone bigger trying to get in. They could trap me but I have been trapped before, and always seem to get out. I spoke out to the terminal. “What is your function, Eddie? ” The speaker began to tell me about it’s part in a highly classified project to monitor the activities in the western region of the UnderNet system for the National Security Administration.
It was to record, analyze, and report activities of the UnderNet. The reports were to emphasize activities that seemed extraordinary and tracked anything that was related to the Department of Defense. I could see that the stories of the UnderNet were true. The government was watching parts of itself because they didn’t trust each other. I was curious about the UnderNet system and why it went wrong. I spoke out loud one word, “Report! ” The padded columns behind me began to softly click and clatter. It sounded like our old home computer reading the hard drive. No other lights were visible in the room.
I waited for a full minute and still no response from Fast Eddie. I walked over to the boxes of software and opened them up. Inside were standard Write Once Read Many (WORM) storage disks like we used in school. They all had fancy printed labels but they weren’t store-bought software. Since most had dates on them as their title, I assumed that they were reports from that date. I put the boxes back and walked around the padded columns. In the low light of the glowing monitor, I could see that this room was very clean. Not much in the way of small items that I could salvage. The speaker began to talk again.