Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Bible Marker Club - Chapter 2 - The Watchers

Chapter 2 - The Bible Marker Club: The Watchers

Copyright 2005, Support and More, LLC

Somewhere in the ether cloud which surrounded EverLand, a soft blue prompter screen began to glow.

NIMROD CONTROL CENTER
LOG OPENED

ACTIVE TARGET DISCOVERED

EVERLAND, BLUE DISTRICT
NEAREST PRINCIPALITY: POETRY VILLAGE

COORDINATES: NORTH 32 DEGREES 50.500’ WEST 96 DEGREES 15.996’
ELEVATION: 657’
ACCURACY: 31.4 %

NIMROD CONTROL CENTER
LOG CLOSED

“Looks like we’ve got a rebel oscillator on the log, sir!” The Nimrod operator pointed to the flat screen in front of the semi-circle of consoles.

“Good catch, Wisner. I’m getting real tired of these things scrolling off the log.” Lieutenant Tanger leaned over the console and scribbled some notes on a pad.

“Let’s get a crew down to that area pronto and see what we can pick up.” He smiled to himself. “Y’know, some of these folks are pretty talented but most of them aren’t aware of the backup IFR in these older CPUs. They probably think nobody’s tracking them.”

“Yep, the bad guys always lose in the end.” Wisner quipped. “You’d think their god would help them to play smarter than that since he’s supposed to be so all-powerful.”

Tanger looked at him with a blank stare. “Well, whoever is running this one has all the bells and whistles. When we catch up with them I’d like to have a closer look. Can we ping them or is the signal too weak?”

“I’ll give it a try, sir.” Wisner tapped a few keys and just had time to hit the capture button before the signal disappeared.

All I can tell you, Lieutenant, is that the login said “Jimbo” but it’s gone now.

As soon as the sun was up, Squeaky and Jimbo made a beeline for their backyard treehouse. Jimbo couldn’t wait to boot up the Reticulator and ask some more questions.

“Wait!” Squeaky said, grabbing his arm. “I think we oughta ask Vanessa to take a look at this thing first. I’ve been thinking… y’know how Robbie Smaller got in trouble at school a while back for hacking into his prompter? How did they know he was hacking? They must have ways of doing things that we aren’t s’posed to know about. What if someone knows we’re using this thing? What if Grandpa didn’t program it?”

Jimbo scratched his head, took off his baseball hat and put it back on. “You may have a point there. But if anyone’s tracking us they will have to deal with me when I catch them.”

Within the hour, the four original members of the TreeHouse Club were all present and accounted for. Vanessa was the club’s computer geek and Barney supplied the cowboy element to round out the group. As Jimbo explained what he could about the Reticulator, Vanessa was busily punching keys.

“Here, try the headset.” Jimbo plugged it in while Vanessa held it in her hand and tried speaking a few simple commands into the mic.

VOCAL PATTERN NOT RECOGNIZED
LOGGING OFF

“Wow! Pretty sophisticated for an old machine!” Vanessa handed the headset back to Jimbo with a flourish.

“Yeah, I guess you’d better let me log back in. Maybe you can take over from there on the keyboard.”

Vanessa ran her fingers over the keyboard like a concert pianist. Her face quickly turned into a frown as she typed.

Start>Settings>Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Event Viewer

“Someone’s been pinging us!” she screamed.

“What’s pinging ya’ll? How come nobody tells me anything?” asked Barney.

“It means this box has a wireless connection to the NET and an IFR chip in it. I thought your Grandpa was supposed to be a real hacker but he missed this one,” said Vanessa. “Do you know what will happen if we are caught with this thing?”

Jimbo tried to sound like he knew something about the law but all he could offer was, “I’ve always been told that were are not s’posed to use any prompters other than the ones at school. Mr. Baldwin said it was because in the old days some bad guys would do bad things to little kids using the NET.”

Barney chimed in, “Yep, and that ain’t all. My prompter told me about rebels who have their own satellite system and have an underground network of people who want to take us back to the dark ages.”

“What was it like back then?” asked Squeaky.

Vanessa looked at her condescendingly. “Well, women couldn’t vote and they had to have babies whether they wanted to or not.”

Squeaky shot back, “I read somewhere that if a kid was born with a defect they kept them alive somehow and had special hospitals for them like prisons. I’m glad there are no deformed kids nowadays.”

“Hold up a minute ya’ll. Remember how we learned that EverLand used to be split up into states instead of districts? Everybody wanted something different and nobody got anything they wanted.” Barney took a long weed out of his mouth to offer his comment and then stuck in back in with a twinkle in his eye.

Vanessa looked at each member of the group. “Since you are my best friends I’m going to tell you something. I’ve been doing some hacking of my own and I’m not sure everything we’re being told in school is honest.”

“Don’t tell anyone or I’ll be in big trouble but I’ve been on a couple of rebel sites lately. They say things about people being frozen in big machines until a cure is discovered to change their behavior. These rebels are supposed to be bad guys but who knows what to believe?”

“That’s the whole point. Who knows what to believe?” Jimbo offered.

Squeaky shuddered and rubbed her arms. “I’m scared. Whatever is going on is not good.”

Vanessa put her hand on Squeaky’s shoulder. “And from what I’ve been told about your grandfather he was just the kind of guy we need right now. Someone who could’ve told us what’s going on. This Reticulator is a goldmine. If we can just figure out how to use it without getting caught.”

“What am I saying? We’ve got to turn that thing off quick before someone triangulates our position! Anybody got a pocketknife?”

Barney flipped the sheath cover on his big cowboy belt. “Does a cowboy wear boots? Careful, that blade is slicker than a hounds tooth!”

In a minute Vanessa had the laptop apart and was tracing the chip logic with a pencil.

“It’s got an extra IFR chip disguised as an accelerator. My guess is that your Grandpa disabled the first IFR but never noticed the disguise.”

“O.K., now you’re getting too techie with us. What’s the bottom line?” Jimbo said.

“I don’t know. I’ve got to think it over. I can write a routine to disable the IFR but I’d sure like to use it to find out who is spying on us first.”

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