The Error of the Resident Virus

45

For my English speaking friends!

Denis Sadoshenko

The Error of the Resident Virus

Being the first part of the trilogy

To Dmitry N. Lozinskiy

It was warm and comfortable outside – the temperature, regularly maintained by a fan, was quite fit for living, electron flow was running OK, and high in the sky there were twinkling and playing huge figures of system time. Frisky programs were glad to be free, and that’s why none, of course, noticed they had got a new neighbor…

The resident virus K-817 was created skillfully and tastefully. In comparison with the previous 816 versions, the highly intellectual microorganism had a curious feature in its molecular structure – an AI. This model has completed a survival test on Soviet computer systems and has showed its total fitness for usage on more delicate IBM-machines. This proud piece of metal and white plastics with a garish inscription “Intel Pentium” could have been considered dead.

K-817 sneered scornfully. He knew indeed how K-816 had ruined himself! To some extent he consisted of his predecessor’s remains. Of those, which have been saved.

A pseudo-tear rolled from the resident’s pseudo-eye and fell to the pseudo-soil. Four bad-sectors appeared immediately on the disk and a careless program lost its head part, hid in the dense shadow of the Command.Com monolith and didn’t give tongue anymore.

The figures in the sky twinkled and stopped at 5 p.m. Programs revived greatly. An excited whisper was heard everywhere: “The interruption has come! The interruption has come!” Everyone without exception was glancing at the command processor’s enormous bulk of glass and concrete. K-817 became interested in it – it was his first time in this version of DOS.

“Perhaps, I’d write memoirs about it,” he thought, examining the stooping backs of work utilities. “My opening of MS-DOS 6.2. Or closing!”

The virus laughed grimly, but fell silent, seeing that a police scan-detector, swinging his truncheon and flashing with his badge, was going towards him.

“Hey, buddy,” the blunt end of the steel truncheon touched the resident’s chest. “I haven’t seen you here before. Let’s see your AUTOEXEC.BAT id.”

“Right away, sir!” replied K-817 humbly, taking out an atomizer and leveling the bell at the policeman. “I’m just a harmless resident virus.”

In the eyes of a computer memory order’s zealous votary there flashed a patriotic light, but immediately died out under the all-penetrating flow of the living ectoplasmic zeroes. This weapon had been recently developed in a super secret lab, and the chiefs charged the first spare resident with its tests. The one happened to be K-817, though he himself preferred to use his dear old diskcrasher, that was lighter and almost imperceptible. But the orders were not to be discussed, and the resident had to use this very thing.

The virus looked at his gun. Success of his mission would be a success of this model. “Perhaps, they would give my name to this model”, he thought not without pride. “The “K-817” saves the life of K-817. One fiftieth fraction of a second later, and the policeman would have torn me to pieces.”

The Virus shivered at this thought, hid the atomizer under his coat and looked around. None paid any attention to this grim result of the absurd incident – everyone was busy contemplating the command processor. It was giving out orders. Transfer, ports’ opening/closing, change state and other work ware commands were scurrying on the black glass.

Busy programs dispersed and went to their working places, and the free ones crowded and began discussing the usual injustice of COMMAND.COM.

In that crowd the experienced eye of the resident virus quickly spotted the mighty chest of Commander Norton, all covered with orders and medals of unknown origin.

“Mister Norton! Mister Norton!” virus began to force his way through a thick layer of unemployed programs, swinging a sheet of paper over his head. “A discharge-ticket for you!”

“A discharge-ticket is a good thing!” spoke Commander Norton happily in a deep voice. “It’s high time to visit an inn. You’ll be the third”.

With that he fished fat Lexicon out of the crowd.

“But, I’m…” he began to plead.

“Move on,” muttered Norton kindly, heavily pushing Lexicon towards a tempting sign of the “At the end of memory” bar. The resident screwed up his eyes, examined the fat man from top to toe and quickly followed them.

With a mighty kick Norton threw the door open and yelled at the top of his voice:

“Aha! Didn’t expect, did ya?”

“He must have got a discharge-ticket again”, whispered a disk doctor to his neighbor – but he didn’t give a damn, he had got tight to the uppermost registers and was now laying face downward in a plate of fresh cluster salad.

“Barman! Beer for my friends!” Commander was still shouting. “Or, by the name of my father, I’ll destroy this hole!”

“Easy, Commander,” K-817 pushed him a chair and sat down himself. “Stop that noise, everything’s OK!”

“How’s OK?” Norton’s voice became sad. “How’s OK, if they could fire me soon.”

“Why so?” the resident inquired, unnoticingly mixing soporific into his partners’ mugs.

“You don’t know anything. Elections are at hand – comrade WINDOWS pretends to a major. And he and his people don’t favor me greatly.”

“And I should stay at the hospital to be able to work for him,” said Lexicon.

“Well, guys! You’ve got serious problems,” the virus sympathized with them, looking into the eyes of his new friends, who were getting drunk before his eyes. He didn’t tell them, that they would not see the change of government…

 

… Some system time has passed …

 

“What a party we’re having!” screamed merry Commander Norton, swinging a huge mug of beer. Lexicon was lying on the floor, snoring quietly.

The virus, feigning drunkenness, watched the events through half-closed eyes – he never drank at work.

“Hey, you’re ready to visit my place,” remarked Norton with regret, stopping his shouts. “Barman! Taxi for me! Quick!”

A bent figure of the barman jumped from behind the bar and rushed to execute orders. None wished to be in Norton’s way in such moments.

“Address,” asked driver half turning and chewing a “Turbo Debugger” gum.

Soporific began to take effect and Commander had the strength only to force himself to say “Disk F:, the NC villa” and sent forth alcohol vapors.

All the way they were silent: the taxi-driver had nothing to say to unknown programs, the virus was skillfully putting on a mask of a sleeper, and Lexicon and Norton, stretched on the back sits, didn’t even need to feign. When the alcohol vapors began to corrode upholstery, the taxi stopped near a great ancient mansion with a beautiful carved fence, where among ornate “NC” letters ran a high-tension current.

Auxiliary servants of the great villa were already hurrying to the gates.

K-817 was shown into a study and was ordered not to leave it. “Otherwise the master will be very angry if he finds out you have not dined with him.”

Thanking effusively, the resident sat down in an armchair, put his feet on a table, and, when the door closed after the last servant, took out his atomizer and began polishing it carefully. Having finished this intellectual activity, the virus jumped out of the armchair and began to wander around the study, staring at all directions with his sharp eyes.

The entire wall before him was covered with a picture of a young man with an inscription “My dear daddy”. On the other wall there hung row upon row pictures of Norton himself with inscriptions at the bottom “delta”, “gamma”, “beta”. At the third wall there stood a folding field bar with so many alcoholic drinks, that the resident marveled at the physical condition of Commander’s liver. Another wall was hidden behind bookshelves. Curious, K-817 took a book. “Armed revolts in MS-DOS. User’s manual”, he read, shrugged his shoulders and put the book back.

An armored safe propped up the fifth wall.

“Now, that’s interesting indeed!” said the virus excitedly, putting on gloves and coming towards it. He was not a professional burglar, but with his equipment he had nothing to worry about. Few drops of TNT acid have done their part and in 15 fractions of a second K-817 was rummaging the insides of the armored monster.

At that activity Norton and Lexicon, who had entered the room, caught him.

K-817 scrambled out of the safe’s torn to pieces entrails and leveled his atomizer at them.

“To the wall!”

“Are you kidding, old chap?” inquired Norton in a tipsy voice.

At the sight of the gun Lexicon swooned.

“Not at all!” virus sneered maliciously and pulled the trigger. The flow of zeroes made naught of both his comrades. The virus ran out of the study, pulling off his gloves.

 

… A bit of system time has passed …

 

Night was falling. One by one the street lamps began to light up, beautifully casting their light on the ad-boards.

“Lose weight now? Ask STAKER how!”

“FRONT DOOR would open its doors to a lonely wanderer!”

“A novelty of cooking – gigamburgers!!!”

K-817 was walking along the evening winchester and was delighting in his life. He had accomplished the most part of his mission and now wanted to relax.

The sign of the game block greeted him with a cheerful radiance. The word “GAMES” was flying over buildings, somersaulting in the air, jumping, disappearing and then appearing again; it was doing everything, but couldn’t keep still! The virus pushed a wicket and found himself in the wide yard with streets running in all directions. K-817 went up the porch of a building, wiped his feet on the rug and knocked on the door.

The door broke in by explosion and on the doorstep there appeared a half-naked muscular man, all covered with soot, with tow red-hot machine-guns in both hands. The man gave a forced smile and leveled his machine-guns at the virus.

“Drop your gun!”

“W-what g-gun?” it was difficult to frighten the resident, but now he was really scarred. “I don’t have any gun.”

“I see that myself! What gun could you have?!” the man laughed at his own joke, baring his snow-white teeth. Against his face they looked even whiter than they were in fact.

“We shall see…”, thought K-817 angrily, feeling the cold handle of his atomizer through his shirt.

“Don’t be so afraid”, the man reached out his hand. “My name’s Willy Blashkovich, but you may call me just WOLF.”

“Wolf? More like a bull!” thought resident, while they were making their way in the dark mazes of some strange place. Water or something resembling it was dripping from the ceiling. Walls in different places were decorated with banners of Hitler’s armies, or even with pictures of Fuhrer himself.

Passing by a room, K-817 looked in and shrank back in fear – he had never seen a real skeleton.

“That?” answered Blashkovich scornfully, looking at the trembling lower jaw of the resident virus. “Don’t pay attention, there are a lot of them.”

“Have YOU done all that?” asked K-817 in a trembling voice, wishing he had never knocked on that door.

“And who else?” answered the strong man proudly. “Move on, soon there’ll be more light.”

They entered a large. Well lit hall and almost at the same moment a Gestapo soldier in a white uniform and with a gun in his hands appeared from the opposite opening.

“Spion!” he cried surprised and opened fire.

“Excuse me, what? Me?!” K-817 was truly amazed. He didn’t expect to be seen through so soon.

But he didn’t hear the answer. Machine-guns in Wolf’s hands thundered deafeningly and the thing, that several fiftieth fractions of a second had been a man, was flung into the air and crashed against a wall with a loud champing. There appeared a sour smell of gunpowder. A puff of smoke was whirling from the used cartridge-cases.

“One more bugger!” cursed Willy quietly. “And why are there so many of them?”

“I think, I should go,” said the virus trembling all over. He had already thrown a space distorter into a dark corner.

“Well, if you’re in a hurry…” answered Wolf indifferently, searching a corpse for an extra cartridge clip. “Should I see you off?”

“No-no-no. I’ll find the way”.

“Splendid! Exit is to the left.”

“Farewell, Willy!” shouted virus into the dark tunnels of the Gestapo maze, pressing an activator’s button. Wolf raised his eyebrows in perplexity, but could do nothing more. The distorter began to move its plungers absorbing space with a deafening whistling. The space was obstinate, but the distorter proved stronger and the virus had nothing to close behind him, when he stood on the porch. The building disappeared, the dead Gestapo soldiers disappeared, strong Willy Blashkovish the Wolf also disappeared. K-817 lifted up his thumb and broke into a smile.

Suddenly a powerful engine roared not far away, and a huge blue tank came from behind a turning, clanging with tracks and polluting the air with exhaust gases. A massive turret with a double cannon was scratching the brick walls. The tank gave a jerk and stood still. A hatch opened at the top of the turret and a head appeared. A man’s whites shone with the blue.

“Hey, friend! Where can I find a Harkonnen base?”

“Go to hell,…” said K-817 with vexation, following a silver thing, that appeared over the horizon, with his eyes.

“Affirmative!” agreed the man, getting inside the tank. He had also noticed a galaxy transport. The war machine quivered, got started and wheeled in the direction of the horizon. The resident jumped to the armor and grasped a cramp.

Having moved a bit, the tank stuck in the sand, which appeared out from nowhere, and a flying unit came to it and took it up into the sky. The virus was only able to jump down and dig in a warm dune, when from behind the next dune there appeared a platoon of determined men in red armor with rocket knapsacks on their backs.

“Yes, sir! Moving now!” they were puffing with concentration into microphones of their radio sets. The virus atomized them into zeroes, just in case.

The sand at his feet stirred and some grim persons of brown hue with grenade dischargers began to get out of there. A green rocket launcher, which had appeared here by chance, noticed this misunderstanding and covered them with a cloud of stinking gas; K-817 lost orientation for a few moments. When the tears ceased to drop on the hissing sand, he saw that instead of brown commandos there was revolving a red armored monster covered with shot-holes and patches welded on at haphazard, and was grinding its tracks and shooting in all directions. The machine turned to him and began to fire missiles. The same machine, but of blue hue, was taking it in the rear. And to crown all the lilac paratroopers began to fall from the sky.

“Stop – all of you!” desperately cried resident virus, bewildered and deafened by explosions and firing.

Silence broke at once. Then all the barrels and gun tubes leveled at the solitary stone in the center of the desert, upon which there stood, even more solitary and noticeable, K-817.

“I didn’t mean anything of that kind, guys!” the virus reached out his hands. “I just wondered would you like some beer?”

K-817 was peering at the faces of the militants, but he could see little behind their visors. Then he sighed sadly and put his hand into an inner pocket of his coat, trying not to hear all the guns cocking. Having rummaged in his wide pocket, the resident showed a small gray briquette with an inscription “A beer tent. Just throw it on the ground.”

The virus unclasped his fingers and the briquette fell into the sand. Two impressionable soldiers swooned. The faces of other became sterner. This was expressed by several precautionary bursts of machine-gun fire in the direction of the stone.

But alertness and displeasure of the four armies was decreasing with the same speed, with which there was appearing on the ground, almost out from nowhere, a beer tent. At last one of the soldiers could stand it no longer.

“Beeeeeeeeeeer!!!” cried he heart-rending, flung his grenade discharger into a squadron’s commander and rushed to the tent.

“YEAH!!!” bellowed then the throats of cast iron, and there immediately appeared a long queue for beer. Machines stood still, flying units began to make landing. There happened a small brawl in the queue – from the sand there came a one-eyed man in a smoking armor with an empty three-liter jar and began to poke his left hand’s stump into faces, shouting something like “I’m a veteran! Beer forever!”

He was quickly shot down, and it was the last shot in the evening. The blue got mixed with the red, the green with the brown and among them scurried the lilac with mugs. Everybody was enjoying himself. No one wanted to make war.

The virus was viewing what he had done with satisfaction. Beer would last forever – the tent was producing it from the sand. And there was a lot of sand, or even more. K-817 took a sip, threw a mug into dunes and strode towards the lights of a large, 1.5-gigabyte city nearby. The pseudo-moon rose on the pseudo-sky. The night was beautiful.

 

… A few system time has passed …

 

K-817b was walking with measured steps the cobbled figure causeway, quietly whistling the “Yankee Doodle”. The moon together with the system time, was throwing light upon his road. The clock showed 3 a.m.

A van creaking with brakes and blinding the resident with its headlights rolled towards him. K-817 jumped aside and was able to read an illegible inscription on a long white side of the van “T-MAIL mail delivery. Take advantage of our services!”

Shaking down sticky mud, the virus headed towards the Main Post-office with a noble revenge.

The Main Post-office was gleaming with lights. Postmen with big bags were scurrying everywhere. The central entrance was reeking of coniferous soap. In spite of the late hour work was in full swing.

K-817 came to the counter and through the bulletproof glass looked at the paunchy face of a clerk. The clerk was dirty, sleepy and impolite.

“What d’ya want?” he bellowed, sucking an extinct cigar.

“I’d like stamps for 15 kiloHz, and a couple millions of ecoenvelopes, please.”

Clerk’s turbid eyes started out of his head. A wet cigar hung from his sagged jaw.

“But we don’t have so many products!!!”

“What do you mean?!” the virus got angry. “I want to send letters to all of my dear relatives and I need these envelopes and stamps! Bring them to me at once!”

The bulbous face of the clerk flushed with anger.

“Who are you to order me?!!”

“Well,” the resident smiled mysteriously, taking a thermite mini-grenade out of his pocket.

“Show me your id!” the clerk wasn’t contents.

“For the sake of everything that is electronic, don’t shout, please. Here’s my id.” The mini-grenade fell on the clerk’s laps, where it activated with a horrible heart-piercing hiss. The office enveloped in flame. The towering piles of letters immediately caught fire.

“The post-office is burning! Fire!” the postmen, who were rushing about the building, were whiter than their letters. “Save the correspondence!”

A siren of a fire brigade sounded in the distance.

“All the same you won’t extinguish it,” laughed virus and spat in fire. Then he turned on his heels, kicked the entrance door and strode up the street. He was far away when the post-office exploded. In its place an atomic mushroom ominously spread out his cap. The virus smiled at his thoughts.

 

… Very little of system time has passed …

 

K-817 was standing at the square and was eyeing the monolith of COMMAND.COM with a grin. Its windows on 16 floors were all dark. The monolith was black as grim. Almost as black and, no doubt, as grim as a transuranium decomposer in the hands of the resident virus. The decomposer was blinking with a green light and was nothing special at first sight. But the virus knew it was not so. The decomposer was the most powerful weapon existing in the world, and that’s why the last part of the program included its usage in the resident’s mission.

K-817 sighed sorrowfully, blew into the device’s opening, heavily pressed a button on the control panel and took sight at the lower floor of the command processor. The light changed to red, and the decompressor began to tremble under the influence of transuranium isotops, which were growing inside of it. Once you press another button, the building is no more!

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a calm quiet voice was heard behind virus’ back.

The resident started and quickly turned to the speaker.

Before him stood a not tall man in a gray suede suit. Small spectacles could be seen on his wise face. The eyes behind the glass were narrowed cunningly.

“What’s that I’d like to know! Who on earth are you?” the virus leveled his decomposer at him.

The man raised his hat a little.

“You can call me AIDSTEST.”

K-817 started back in fear. AIDSTEST! The killer of the resident viruses! It was through his fault that all the 816 versions had perished!

“Fear that man,…” this whispered K-816 to him in his death-convulsion. In a moment he was no more. Though, he had no decomposer. And he had paid for this with his life.

K-817 clicked the safety guard. One could read anything on his face, but not mercy.

“Die, snake!” cried virus triumphantly, pressing the button. “You would pay for everything now!”

The light blinked again and flashed blue. The decomposer cracked and a ray of transuranium isotops flew out of the muzzle with the speed of a neutron.

The ray passed through the man and destroyed a couple of buildings behind him. The antivirus only smiled mischievously.

Virus shook his weapon and repeated his action. The effect was the same – the man was still standing, and didn’t turn into a bunch of aimlessly straying electrons.

With vexation K-817 threw the decomposer to the ground, took out his atomizer, fell on his knee and opened a hitting fire from a 3-meter distance.

“Well, enough of that!” the man lost his patience. He put his hand in his coat’s inner pocket and took out a sheet of paper folded in four. Unfolding the sheet he handed it to the virus.

There was written in red capital letters “DISK WRITE PROTECT. READ ONLY FILE!”

The resident looked in bewilderment at this sheet. Red-hot atomizer had burned his hands and fallen down, but the virus didn’t notice that.

“But how, how…” again and again he was repeating that wildly and couldn’t believe his eyes, “has this really happened to me?”

Startled thoughts were rushing around his head as birds in the cage.

“Then tell me, at least, what was my error? How were you able to catch me?”

“You forgot to forbid interruption,” smiled aidstest. “A usual human forgetfulness.”

The Virus set up a howl and became green with shame.

“Pray to your electronic gods in the end, program.” There wasn’t slightest warmth in the voice of the aidstest. His famous 68 colt appeared in his hand.

K-817 stood up, lifted up his head and looked into the eyes of his enemy. The virus and the antivirus were looking at each other.

“Shoot!” said the resident seriously.

6 January 1995

(c) Copyright by Denis Sadoshenko

 

Сontinuation – The Revenge of the Resident Virus – is here.