The Revenge of the Resident Virus

33

The first part – The Error of the Resident Virus – is here.

Denis Sadoshenko

The Revenge of the Resident Virus

Being the second part of the trilogy

To Dmitriy Yurievich Mostovoy

Turbines of the top-secret supersonic single-seated automated unmanned aerocar were roaring rhythmically, transforming the air behind them into a scorching mixture. Cockpit canopy made of solid armored glass gave protection against all odds. The life of the resident virus K-818 was out of danger…

… When the ingeniously devised operation to destroy the 586th computer, led by the resident with the tabel number K-817, failed, the heads could not recover for a long time. To make such an elementary error! This was inexcusable. And so, with the help of a bestial genetic engineering, a virus of the new generation was created – resident, incorruptible and cruel. Even more invulnerable and insidious than the previous versions. Without much thinking directors dubbed it K-818 – they had no strength left to devise a name for their new child. The operation, in principle, could not fail – they have envisaged all the possible and impossible attacks and withdrawals. All the errors have been taken into account and eliminated. The virus could have been called a zetta-version with pride, had he not been a simple program. Unfortunately, he had not…

K-818 loudly sucked in the last drops of the ersatz-“Pepsi-Cola” from the emergency life-support pack and settled back in his chair. There was a lot of time till the “Y” hour, so the resident allowed himself a little relaxation.

At 2.37 (local system time) sharp the board computer woke up from solving a very intricate problem and played via the out audio unit a cavalcade of deafening chords of its favorite hard rock. It didn’t take long for the music to get ready and it sounded in stereo earphones, resting on the head of the saboteur. The virus didn’t share the music tastes of the board computer and had to wake up.

In disappointment the resident kicked the grey box with an iron-shod troop boot to silence it and looked at the display. He didn’t like what he saw there!

A bit away, some hundred kilometers from his location, an unidentified flying object was moving towards him, but when a voice sounded in aerocar’s loudspeakers, the object became identified:

– Unknown flight! Roger! Immediate landing – you have violated the air boundary of our state! Unknown flight! This is the antiaircraft defense. In case of disobedience we have an order to shoot! Land immediately!

– Indeed! – K-818 sneered into the mike, tapping an order to the rocket bay.

– Base! This is flight 3729! The enemy refuses to land! – the voice of the young AD service officer trembled with alarm.

– Well? Base speaking. What’s up?

– The enemy refuses to land. Awaiting permission to destroy!

– Do whatever you want, and don’t bother us! We’ve Doom here! – shoots and roar of dying mutants were clearly heard from the loudspeakers.

“They’ve hell on earth there!” – thought the officer, and said aloud: – Well, you decide, the unknown one, it’s your choice after all. Shall we play?

The plane turned left sharply and disappeared from the direct sight.

“Let’s play”, – thought K-818, listening to the clamour of guides bringing rockets to the storm bay.

– Target detected, – reported the impassive voice of the board computer. “FIRE!” began to flash on the display. Together with the word a red button with white scull and crossed bones was twinkling there. Chuckling maliciously, the virus pressed it at once.

The aerocar shook appreciably and it immediately became 250 kilograms lighter. Two winged Viper Diamonds detected the enemy plane with their thermal sensors at once and rushed on its contrail to their own death.

K-818, his smile frozen on his lips, watched on the board computer display the vain attempts of the AD officer to break away from two silver harbingers of death on the prowl. It didn’t last long. At the same time both “Vipers” cut into the armored vehicle that exploded with horrible crash. Pieces of metal, pilot, plating, beer cans and porno pictures, that a while ago had decorated the cockpit, flew to all directions of space. The black smoke covered the sky and poured down acid rains right on the crops. And the city thought – “It’s exercises”…

The virus was rubbing his hands watching the flow of scores that the computer was giving him, when it woke up again and showed a huge writing “The “Y” hour! Get ready for catapultation!!! For disobedience – execution at sight!!!” And at the same time presented a forcible argument to its words – from a chink it produced a cannon without barrel recoil and clicked the lock in the most unambiguous manner.

– My God, we are so terrible! – resident growled an evil laughter and in the blink of an eye was in the chair with a backpack on the back, a helmet on the head and a can of ersatz-“Pepsi-Cola” in his hand. The other hand was busy clasping the safety belt on his mighty chest.

– Back reading! – the board computer drew away the canopy and the temperature in the cockpit fell to –49.5 C.

“Pepsi” began to freeze and the virus was lucky enough to fling it into the setup board.

– 10…

Helm goggles froze.

– 9…

Hoarfrost covered the display, and the computer stopped showing its figures.

– 8…

Oxygen began to hiss in the airline of the helm.

– 7…

Liquid crystals in the saboteur’s watches froze and the time stopped for him.

– 6…

The air began to freeze and fall down in small pieces.

– 5…

The virus fainted. The computer was still counting.

– 4…

An intravenous injection with a considerable amount of alcohol was made to the resident, and he felt much better.

– 3…

The virus missed this number.

– 2…

The logical block of the computer froze off, so it gave the number in the binary code.

– 1…

Fuel froze in the fuel line and the engines stopped. Silence fell.

– 0…

The virus started, raised his head, looked about with drunken eyes, hiccupped and made himself ready for the worst.

– I wish you luck, pal… – the phrase cost the computer all its energy, and it turned off, but was able to release the trigger of a mighty spring right under the pilot’s seat.

– Thanks, I’ll try… – said the dumb lips of the virus to the dead electronic brains. But he didn’t have time to say anything more. A terrible blow from below filled all his body with pain. The resident was able to notice the swooping aerocar approaching the ground. Then he swooned.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

The saboteur was mightily hit by his fall on the ground – for more secrecy the parachute would open at a relatively small height – and woke up. The worried dwellers of the city were coming to him from all directions – of the city that should be destroyed. The virus wondered about this close attention to himself, but having glanced about, he understood – the absurd fate has thrown him to the main square, where his predecessor perished. Indeed, it was here, in front of this 16-storeyed monolith of the command.com that was still scraping the sky. Now it was encircled in mountains of barbed wire, various military vehicles with lots of barrels stood about, and on top of the building a mighty antiaircraft complex towered. Armoured to the teeth patrol personnel carriers stuffed with grim-faced soldiers were moving in all directions. One of them, turning sharply, drove to the virus almost running over him.

With a clang a door opened on the green side of the machine, and a sinister looking-man in a khaki uniform jumped out. His bulbous small eyes looked suspiciously at the resident who was a head lower.

– I’m called Dos Navigator. Colonel Navigator. I’m the major of this city. What’s your name?!!

With a groan K-818 smoothed the unruly hair, took an id from his chest pocket and handed it to the city major.

– I’m your new night-man and I beg you to be kind and gracious to me.

– Aha! – Navigator’s joy seemed real. – At last, they’ve sent someone at last. There’s no life in this city without a good night-man! – then he stopped and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. – So! Why did they choose such an exotic way to get you here?!!

The virus glanced at the half-packed parachute, shook his shoulders and answered in an indifferent tone:

– Such a task…

– I see! – the major smiled contentedly. – Well, if such is the task, let me show You to Your house. But there is a little problem…

– What’s that? – the virus involuntarily grew cold and began to grope for a knuckle-duster in his pocket.

– Well, just a simple check, nothing of interest, not far from here, welcome aboard!

The virus threw his backpack inside the armoured personnel carrier, got in himself and shut the door.

“Is it not the door of the crypt, that I’m shutting?” – thought he involuntarily. Such thoughts decreased his mood by 19% and the resident became sad.

The trip was indeed a short one, and before the virus became completely depressed, the trip was over.

– Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! – Navigator’s loud voice echoed in the armoured insides of the military machine. The soldiers with automatic rifles poured out and took the door in the strong half-ring.

– You are welcome, dear guest! – mischievous lights were dancing in the eyes of the city major.

– And this is my new house? – the saboteur nodded in the direction of a huge ancient-looking building with a beautiful garden in the depths of the yard.

– Well, not really. This is the house of a friend of mine, I’ll introduce You to him.

Not to provoke soldiers to considerable actions, the virus decided to submit to his fate and get out of the armoured personnel carrier.

– Follow me, – uttered the colonel in the deep voice and stepped on the paved road leading to the porch. K-818 toiled along, camouflaging the interrupts as he went. (As the events showed, it was not in vain. – Author)

Dos Navigator pulled the string, a melodic bell sounded in the depths of the huge house, the door opened with a squeak and an emaciated face looked out. A man was wearing a four-piece tuxedo suit, he was shaved, had a bow tie on his collar and a kerosene lamp in his hand.

– Are you alone? – asked the colonel and sniffed.

– Yes, alone! And again in the dark! – the man showed a tired smile.

– And again drunk! Watch out, or I’ll put you in the jail, and you will get it hot.

– And what am I to do?.. – the man gurgled the kerosene in the lamp at the face of the Navigator. – Damned electricians! Can’t fix the light for several years! Isn’t it an electrician by chance?

– I’m a night-man, – the virus woke up and now was following the conversation with merriment. – The new one.

– Well, that’s ok, a useful profession, – the man staggered and had to lean on the colonel to remain stable. The colonel pushed him away with disgust.

– Stop it, is tester at home?

– Yes, yes, at home, where else could he be… Need a guide?

– For this young man. Please. Report upon fulfillment!

– I will… Let’s go, – he nodded to the resident.

– Well, good luck! I hope, You like our city! – the colonel shouted from behind the closed door.

“I hope so as well. I really do!” – thought the virus with a smile, following the man with the lantern up an old squeaking staircase.

Commands were shouted outside, the engine snorted and in a minute the armoured personnel carrier rode away leaving several crushed rose bushes and a bluish smoke in the air. Silence fell. Only the creaks of the old parquet could be heard.

The man pushed a door open and they found themselves in a vast hall with a huge table. In the middle of the table, among overturned glasses, plates with leftovers and candlesticks was a weather-beaten gramophone, and the “Blue Danube” was pouring out of its bent bell, mercilessly played by a crooked needle. The record was cracked in seven places, but this didn’t affect the quality of the reproduction – it was bad enough.

At the table, savagely champing something red from the large rusty cauldron, three half-decayed dead men in half-rotten rags sat on half-broken chairs. One of them turned his face to the newcomers and grinned heartily.

The man put his lantern on the table, turned down the wick and, groaning heavily, sank into a chair. Then he spooned out the reddish mass with a ladle and flopped it into the virus’ plate.

– Help yourself, pal. I’ll smoke a bit.

K-818 gallantly tasted the meal with a spoon and moved it aside with disgust.

– Didn’t like it? – the man in the suit puffed the tobacco smoke. The rings rose to the ceiling, but didn’t want to dissolve in the air, as it seemed.

– Well… the food… seems to be human meat cooked in its own blood…

– And this is human meat cooked in its own blood. You are welcome to all we have. Don’t judge too severely.

– I believe, you had to guide me somewhere, – the resident showed impatience – he had so much to do in this city.

– Don’t be hasty, we’re going now, – from under the table the man with the bow tie took a flat bottle full of amber liquid with an inscription “the bottle is full”. Shaking it a bit, the man tippled it over his gullet and a broad torrent of alcohol flowed into him. When he put the flask back on the table, the inscription read “the bottle is empty”. The smoke rings began to dance in a round under the ceiling. All by itself a fire blazed up in the black fireplace. The gramophone hiccupped and fell silent. The dead men finished eating their comrade, licked their spoons and looked at the saboteur together. He didn’t feel quite himself.

– Are you ready? – the man with the shaved face looked soberly at the virus.

– It depends… – K-818 finally was able to grope for knuckle-duster and felt more confident.

– Are you ready for checking, I mean?

“I don’t feel like checking today” – thought the resident.

– I don’t feel like checking today, – he said aloud.

– You’ll have to. This is the law – every newcomer should be tested for infection.

– I’m all right, I’m fine…

– And that’s what we’re gonna check now, – said the man, rising sharply from the chair. – Follow me.

The dead men mumbled their toothless jaws, while they were crossing the hall, a corridor, going up the stairs and moving over thick moth-eaten carpets. A rusty knight in the corner looked at them aslant, saluted them with his sword horribly squeaking with his armour and froze as he stood. A considerable piece of iron fell from the sword.

The man, reaching another door, kicked it and it flung open, and the virus saw another hall. A small person in white robe with a hand stretched out was approaching. Small spectacles could be seen on the wise face of the person. The eyes behind the glass narrowed cunningly.

– I must admit, I’m worn with waiting for you!

The man in the suit with the bow tie and the shaved face amicably pushed the resident into the room, winked at him, closed the door and went away.

– I am your new night-man, – said the virus.

– I am aware, I’ve been informed. And I’m – version 2134. Widely known as the Aidstest…

K-818 clenched and grit his teeth. In fact it was one of the programs of his adventures, the first mission of which included total annihilation of antiviruses he could encounter.

– Let’s sit and talk, – said the Aidstest, looking searchingly at the guest.

– We have nothing to talk about! – the saboteur was rapping out every word. Suddenly his fist with the knuckle-duster clenched sped out of the pocket and hit the wise face of the Antivirus, breaking his spectacles. – This is for my brother!

Another blow followed. The knuckle-duster, the fist, the face and the floor reddened with blood. – And this is for all my previous brothers!

Another blow was made by the iron-shod troop boot and was aimed at the stomach. – And this is for no particular reason!

The Aidstest rose from the blood-covered floor, spat out three front and two back teeth, coughed a little, took a new pair of spectacles from the shelf, put them on triumphantly and smiled broadly. One more tooth fell out.

– You don’t understand anything, program! – he lisped. – They will still find and kill you.

– And who would that be? You, old man? – the resident was eyeing his opponent with a jeer.

– And why not! – with this the antivirus produced a terrible weapon from behind his back – the Sound Blaster AWE 32, with the fire rate of 256 shots per second from all the 22 twin barrels. – I hate viruses!!!

– And would you simply shoot me like this here, in this beautiful house? – K-818 made a frightened look and stepped back.

– Indeed! You’re not the first – nor are you the last! Here you are!!! – the Aidstest pulled the trigger. The barrels began to revolve on their axis, sending 256 shots every second. The rays were flying exactly to the virus, and with the same exactness disappeared halfway.

– My creators have eliminated all the errors, – the resident reported joyfully to the antivirus. The latter slowly lowered the Blaster. The rays burned a large hole in the floor and went deep down. Somebody’s death-rattle was heard from below.

– But… How? Why?.. – the antivirus was looking puzzled at the saboteur, gradually becoming whiter than his robe.

– That’s how! – K-818 smiled mischievously. – Look closely!

Putting his hand in his backpack, he drew out a white goose, with a soldier tack on his neck and a serial license number and a “MAX” inscription.

– Go for it, Maxy! – the virus gave it a loving flick on the beak. The goose looked sideways at his master, then at the antivirus and gaggled in a low voice.

First, all the windows burst and the room became lighter. Then all the furniture became dust and began to whirl around.

And then with a loud champing sound the head of the 2134 version burst asunder, covering the headless body with the greyish brains. The body stood still for some moments, began to lean to the left, until it fell on the floor with a hollow rumble. Convulsed fingers strongly clenched the Sound Blaster with the empty energy magazine. The dust was slowly accumulating.

The virus gave a rusk to the goose and put it back into the pack. He set his suit straight, snapped his fingers, closed the door and went to the exit. The paintings watched him from the walls. The dead men, sensing the fresh meat, followed each other upstairs in a disordered line. The man with the lamp was lying shaved face downwards in a plate with an inscription “the plate is half full”. The vaunted bow tie was completely soaked in alcohol. Lingering on the doorstep, the virus heard the broken gramophone thunder the “Dance of Death”. Then he again closed one more entrance door. He was terribly fed up with doing this lately.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

The night city was beautiful. The sea, sighing languorously, rolled its waves on the granite of the embankment. Comas were swimming on the water wagging their tails in an amusing way. A snow-white liner departed from the perpendicular com-port and sailed into the distance. There a parallel port was vaguely visible. No one paid attention to it.

The virus was sitting by the water and rummaging in his backpack. Gurgling, clanking and low hissing could be heard from there. In a while the gurgling and clanking sounds stopped, and the hissing changed its register. K-818 took out a small flat box with side bolts, worked a bit with the setup panel and put the device into the water. Touching the surface of the sea, the box came to life, blinked with lights and, rolling its bolts with an air of importance, disappeared in the depth. Only an acid-green cloud of poisonous substances reminded of its presence. If nothing interrupts the process, all the reservoirs in the city, including the sea, would be poisoned.

The resident smiled, cast a farewell glance at the calm water surface, stood up and slowly went along the embankment leading to the city. Suddenly, out of the dark gateway a creature with wheels instead of paws and two drilling mechanisms in place of a snout rushed towards him. “Popcorn” was thundering from its ears-loudspeakers.

– Poor soul! – the saboteur pitied it, squatted at it and scratched it behind its ears. – Looks like, you’ve fallen behind the tracklayers.

– 010100111010101101010! – said the creature.

– So, you’re on your own?

– 1! – was the proud reply.

– And what’s your name?

– 110110000111110110110011010011001, – answered the creature and muffled the music a bit.

– And I’m K-818, Digger! I’m the resident virus came to destroy your city.

– 110101101101101110101010010101001010110100111001010!!! – the digger gritted its drills.

– Neither do I give a damn about it! Come, my friend, I’ll buy you some coal. Hard coal.

So they went side by side – the saboteur and Digger. The latter was clicking its relays in a business-like manner and braked on turns.

The central part of the city was blazing with lights. The annual movie festival was taking place, that’s why people were out, enjoying the latest hits. There were “Scanners-4”, and “The Return of the Living Disks”, and “Theodore Driver saves the Universe!”. So to say, to every man’s taste and liking. Every corner had a huge mobile telemonitor where any movie could be shown upon request.

K-818 curiously watched for a while, but the aching head reminded of its existence, and together with the digger they went in search of the nearest pub, where one could have a glass or two of beer and while away a short summer night.

It didn’t take them long to find a pub – a bright sign “At the End of the Memory” caught their eyes. The virus pushed the door making way for the digger and entered the room.

The half-dark hall was half-lighted. The bar was crowded, almost all tables, though, were free. The resident plumped into an armchair and wavered to the waitress. The digger climbed the opposite armchair and slightly opened the reservoir filler.

A blond waitress in a short skirt approached, alluringly wagging her hips.

– Two beer, please! – the saboteur tried to behave properly and to ignore the two tempting roundings, swaying just at his face. Every passing system second made it more and more difficult.

– Two beer or not two beer? – repeated the waitress thoughtfully, flirting with the saboteur. – That is the question!

– !!! 10100010111100101!!! – cried Digger, menacingly grinding its drills, brown of brown dust.

– Ah! Two beer! Right away! – the waitress gave Digger an indignant look.

– Three beer, – K-818 winked at the waitress skittishly. – And something to eat…

She winked back understandingly and went to execute the order. The resident followed her with hungry eyes. A short-circuit happened to the digger’s wiring and it turned off for a while. The saboteur began to survey the society, into which he was thrown by a merciless life.

The nearby table was occupied by the Rev. Father Windows savouring a three-liter can of orange juice. Icons, lying around him, shone with their own “divine” light. On his right, a man with scar-covered face was devouring the can of the same size, but with the “Bloody Mary” instead. The “blood” seemed to be a real one. All around him was covered with blood.

– Bloody Mars! – the man was speaking and drinking with set teeth. – I hate Mars! – A faint smoke was curling out of the frequently used black barrels of “Avenger». Just opposite the warrior, a guy in black armour with the red eagle engraved on his chest and a badge with an inscription “Visit Arrakis!” was sipping aerated water and suspiciously poking his grey eyes with blue whites all around. A battery of empty bottles stood nearby.

Near the saboteur a strange pair sat at the bar. A creature with the cat face, all in golden chains, expensive clothes of unearthly manufacture and diamonds, was shaking a huge clawed paw at the face of a moustached man in a full-dress pilot uniform. By the “wings” on his service cap, one could clearly see that he was a commander of the battleship squadron wing.

Bits of their conversation could be heard:

– Argh! Hertz exchange rate has dropped again! I won’t get enough for the asteroid!

– Yep! – the man wet his moustache in beer.

– And your lads have spoiled my business a bit! Why, I ask, have they blown up a rocket mount on Alfa Pavonis?

– Aha! – the man sipped loudly from the mug. The guy with the badge gave them a quick look and opened another bottle.

Digger woke up screeching with servomotors. It rolled its eyes, listened to “Popcorn” and moved restlessly in the armchair waiting for beer.

The cat-man was steadily burning.

– That’s it, enough! I’m going to the base at once. Good plasma to you, Wanderer! – he pushed away his chair and went staggering to the exit.

– Eh! – answered Wanderer. Beer was dripping from his moustache.

Unnoticed the waitress came with three beers and three gigahamburgers, and K-818 switched his attention to her. Beer was poured into the digger and it began to process it inside. The process was accompanied by a loud gurgling, and the guy with the badge almost got a nervous fit. To gain a little consciousness, he drank off a bottle in one draught, and poured the contents of another bottle into a shoulder joint of his steel suit.

– He’s weird, – beautiful eyes pointed at him. – Always orders water, nothing, but water.

– And where are you from, beauty? – the resident felt the temperature of the lower part of his body slowly rising.

– From jungle, – was the shy answer.

Digger choked over beer and began to snort. The saboteur questioningly raised his left eyebrow.

– My name is Jill, and I’m…

At this moment the rays of blinding white light and marines gushed from the windows. A voice, amplified by the mike, sounded, as it seemed, inside the head:

– All stay where you are! This is the city major! Please, no panic!

But panic occurred.

– No, you won’t get me! – cried the man with the “Avenger”, jumped up the table and opened fire for effect. Marines hid under the bar and replied him in the same manner.

The guy in black armour drew a snow-white blade and charged the opponents crying: – Death to the treacherous Harkonnens! – Whining bullets bounced off his exotic suit without much harm to it.

The mustached Wanderer was still devouring his beer, paying no attention to the events.

Scared Father Windows, muttering prayers, was crossing soldiers. They answered him with vile abuse from the field of system variables.

Digger has terribly drilled the table asunder and stood on the floor covered with sawdust. The virus, taking at first the knuckle-duster, was now rummaging his backpack for the goose.

Tracks gnashed outside, engines roared and a huge red tank with brown stains of camouflage on the armoured sides drove into the bar. The guy in the armour gave a cry and fainted.

A grinning face of Dos Navigator showed itself out of the hatch.

– You have violated the curfew! – he said with gloating. – My curfew! Now all are coming with me.

Soldiers scurried among the tables; clanging of handcuffs, constrained moans and curses could be heard.

– And you, – he pointed at the virus, who was getting up, – please, stay.

– Any problem? – beer was gurgling in the saboteur’s stomach.

– There are some, – said the colonel getting out of the tank. He was carrying a picture in his hand. The canvas was covered with scenes of after life, and on the foreground there stood a man with an axe and a grinning face. His evil eyes were burning the resident through.

– This one? – Navigator asked the picture. The image nodded assent and grinned even more fiercely.

– I see… Well, my dear night-man, You have proven Yourself a murderer as well.

The resident refused to utter a word. Digger with swaddled legs-wheels was lying on its side and humming “Popcorn”.

– Hit him on the head, – said the major limply, throwing the picture inside the tank.

The virus tried to turn around, but a heavy butt blow on the back of his head made him sway and fall face downwards on the remains of the table. Then a black cloud covered his consciousness.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

The ”0-device” concentration camp named after Bill Gates was in itself a unique institution that was never empty. Poor programs that would get there never returned. 586 days a year clouds covered the camp, and the sun would come out only when the heads arrived to watch the demonstrative Olympic performances of the prisoners. The camp was protected from the air by patrol laser discs that would destroy a potential prison-breaker without thinking, burning him to the ground with energy outbursts from their nuclear units. So, it was impossible to break from there.

… The resident virus K-818 woke up on a hard plank-bed in a one-man cell with a latticed window facing west. His head was full of thunder, lightning and drums. He was wearing a striped, already used prison robe.

– Get up, bastards! – a warder was banging with his steel club on the titanium door of every cell. In response he got vulgar utterances, spits and suspenders, given out by the foreseeing local authorities, so that prisoners could hang themselves. – Parade!!!

Automatic locks clicked and all the doors flung open automatically and at the same time. The prisoners got off without spirit and took a stand that could hardly be recognized as “Attention”.

– Tell off!!! – whispered the warder loudly, kicking number one. It happened to be Digger.

– 1! – it answered and turned its right drill by 720 degrees.

– Second! – said the second in the line. The process became merrier and soon reached the saboteur.

– 75th! – said someone before him, and all looked at the resident waiting for his words.

– 818th, – he muttered with a bad smile. – Letter “K”.

– Now stop this! Keep silence, when you are asked! I’ll teach you to break disorder! – screamed the warder, intending to give a club blow to the white teeth of the resident virus. Looking at his eyes, though, the warder read something there and decided not to do this.

– Ok, freaks, to work! And with you, – he pointed at the saboteur, – we’ll have a talk later.

With a loud clang the massive gates leading to the prison yard were opened, and the prisoners shuffled in that direction.

The leaden sky hung low over the uranium pits. The sound of clicking pickaxes was heard everywhere – a chopped off lump of uranium ore should be carried to a special receiver, that would take into consideration a partial fulfillment of the daily work quota. A prisoner not fulfilling the plan would be left without food, shelter and a portion of an antiradiation chewing gum. A couple of days without this gum and a corpse, emanating radiation in all bands, is burnt in a nearby crematorium – they also had a work quota there.

The resident was given a pickaxe and was appointed to a company of three weird creatures with big ears, shaved heads, stupid eyes and travelling-caps on bare feet.

“Goblins”, – thought the saboteur.

“The saboteur”, – thought the goblins.

One of them was vigilantly eyeing around, tossing up a considerable stone. The other with an unhappy face was digging for ore. And the third one with a grey beard reaching to his belt was trying to reprogram the receiver so as to fulfill the daily work quota. The receiver was no fool and didn’t want to be reprogrammed.

– Hey, fellas! – K-818 threw up his pickaxe in greeting. – Haven’t seen my friends by chance?

The first goblin stopped tossing up the stone and stared at the new brother in mind.

– That depends upon who your friends are… – he uttered philosophically after a long meditation.

– Well, deathers, and things like that…

– Ah, we know them, – the goblin knitted his brow with annoyance. – They dwell there. – He pointed at the long barracks, where grim deathers were peacefully grinding their axes.

– And there dwell punks, – a mob of young men with odd haircuts and sour looks were wheeling huge lumps of uranium on barrows.

– There live techno-rappers… – “Come on!” and “Yeagh!” shouts could be heard from the barracks. The nearby trashers were tiding up their barracks for the tenth time this day. They liked to take away sweepings very much. A blue narcotic smoke was rising from the barracks of the hippies. Clanging of a guitar and a mournful singing could be heard. All the walls were covered with pacific signs.

– But there are no more goblins! – the resident’s interlocutor suddenly burst into tears. – Only the three of us…

– Don’t cry, fellow, – K-818 calmed the goblin and he put his snotty nose to the resident’s shoulder and began to sob without restrain. His tears fell on the uranium, reacted with it and soon the saboteur disappeared in the puffs of yellow stinking smoke. The evening came. The sky in the east turned pink.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

The resident still laboured at the uranium pit, but the thought of escape was always with him. During the first 30 minutes Digger fulfilled a five-year work quota, so the heads began to respect it and behind its back call it Herr-Digger. The saboteur watched all this, bursted with envy and wished to have some drills. And so, one of such days a man approached him.

– Hi, – he said thoughtfully. – I’ve been watching you for quite a while and understood, that I need you to fulfill my plan.

– What plan? – the virus didn’t feel like talking – his quota was only 60% fulfilled. – Don’t know anything.

– Seriously? – said the man, taking off a dirty greasy turban, and wiped his forehead of radioactive sweat. – We have to break out from here!

The resident pricked up his ears. There were enough sneaks in the camp: if anything – a poor prisoner would meet a hungry death in the dessert, bitten by mad robot-mutants. He didn’t want to take a risk.

– Look, – he said, cutting off another portion of uranium ore into his personal wheelbarrow. – I like it here…

– Like it?!! – the man gasped in amazement. – I used to be the Prince of sunny Persia. And what am I now? I really have to get back and retake my throne from the clutches of my archnemesis – Jafar the Vizier. I’m breaking off tomorrow. Are you with me?

K-818 shook his shoulders uncertainly and got back to his work. The prince watched him for some time, turned around and went to his barracks.

– At 3 o’clock near the 19th mine, – he flung. – Don’t forget to take your belongings.

 

…The resident could not sleep this night…

 

And it was a rarely good one in all respects – acid was raining cats and dogs, already drunk in the evening, the warders couldn’t differentiate up from down in the morning, and to spare energy, they turned off huge searchlights, that used to light a torture room, a football field and a control-pass point.

K-818 turned on Digger, packed all his belongings and together they went out into the rain. The ex-prince of Persia was already waiting for them.

– Hurry up, there, – he pointed at the water-processing station. – There’s a trapdoor there.

It was warmer inside, water was falling down silently, and the first thing the breakers saw was a huge inscription carved into the rock: “Sid Meyer’s Canalization. Welcome!”

– Well, gentlemen, let us begin, – the cheered-up prince produced a self-pneumatic raft.

Soon the raft inflated itself, everyone boarded it, Digger’s driving motor was switched to the propeller screw for 4 Mb per second, and having nothing more but the antiradiation gum, they ate it for the road and then set out.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

The rubber side of the pneumatic raft softly hit the gentle shore of the sandy beach. The prince took out his turban from under his head and woke up the saboteur.

– Already? – he muttered grimly, rubbing his swelled eyes. – It’s hot today.

The sun was scorching cats and dogs. Water was evaporating before their eyes, creating dirty clouds in the sky. From time to time, conches, fish and torn boots would fall down.

Digger drilled a nearby dune, found a huge diamond and sucked it into its tank. Eyes of the prince sparkled greedily, and to digress from it, he went to spy the surroundings.

The surroundings were a large dessert with a dried up riverbed of a sewer stream. Distant mountains covered with blue mist loomed in the north. The cemetery of the metal mutants was to the south. In the east there was nothing, and to the west of the prison breakers, awfully howling with sirens, blinking with lights and shooting in all directions, an UFO was landing. “Silicoids” was written on its metal side.

Digger produced an aerial, listened to the broadcast and brain-crashed, not understanding a word from the lisp hissing of the extra terrestrial beings. Rusty hinges threw open a hatch and a lilac creature, resembling a toad, a kettle and an Indian at the same time, fell out. The creature carried frightful hand firearms, though, and unambiguously leveled it at the friends.

The ex-prince began to pat his left hip, trying to draw a non-existing scimitar. The digger, still receiving signals from the ship, started suddenly and, increasing its speed, rushed to the mountains. K-818 cast a glance at it, then at the creature and prepared to sell his life dearly.

At that moment a familiar face covered with scars and greyish plasters looked from behind the alien’s shoulder.

– They’re friends, – the man pointed with his “Avenger” at the saboteur and smiled broadly. – Don’t get excited.

The alien looked askance and lowered his gun. The prince sighed with relief, the saboteur picked him up and together they crossed the hot sand and went to the darkening entrance of the UFO.

– Get in, gang, – the man let the guests enter and closed the hatch with a horrible squeak. – Please, meet our navigator.

An even clumsier work of the alien nature produced an eye on a pseudopod and winked at them friendly.

K-818 muttered confusedly:

– You look good…

Sirens, betokening the take-off, howled, the vessel shook, heeled to the left, then to the right, and finally, jingling with all its metal parts, it went up by jerks, leaving the hospitable dessert.

– Where can we get you to? – the man hung his “Avenger” on a nail. – Mind that then we fly to Mars.

– To Mars… – said the prince charmed, looking at the monitor of a computer. – I’ve never been to Mars!

– Could you, please, get me to the downtown, – the virus grinned. – If it’s OK with you…

– What a question! – cried the navigator. Everyone turned to him in surprise. – Downtown it is, no problem! – and lifted one of its thumb-tentacles. The virus smiled at him.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

The unidentified flying object crashed down like a bolt from the blue in the middle of the main city square. Antiaircraft defense didn’t have time to act – the radars didn’t see the UFO.

The virus sat at the navigator and whispered something in its four ears. He was winking understandingly, at the same time looking at the displays. It was easy to do with 19 pairs of eyes. Winking again, the navigator switched a toggle switch, a holed airline hissed, and an entrance to the weapon bay opened to the left of the pilot seat.

– Help yourself, – said the man girding himself with gun belts. – These weapons have no analogues on Earth.

– I’ve noticed that. – muttered the saboteur, casting a vigilant eye at the contents of the armoury. His gaze rested on the massive barrel of a “disruptor”. – I’ll take this one and a bullet-proof cloak.

– Well, good luck to you, pal, – the Persian prince shook his hand firmly. – See you someday…

– Someday.., – the virus stepped on the ladder, turned around and waved good-bye. The vessel pulled in the ladder and rocketed upwards, where it disappeared happily, heading for Mars.

The virus was left alone. In his hand he had a dreadful weapon that had no analogues on Earth. And his grim face hid under the mask of revenge.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

With a screech a taxi braked in front of a cantonment. Driver, who was looking sideways into the rear-view mirror at the resident, sighed with relief when he got his money and sped his car in a flash. K-818 hid his “disruptor” under his cloak and went to the gates. His steps were clearly heard in the morning silence.

– Halt!!! – a sentinel leveled his hand rocket launcher at the saboteur. – Do you have a pass?!!

Those were his last words – an energy ray burned down the sentinel together with the gates he had been guarding, a sentry-box and the public rocket launcher. The virus entered the smoking gap…

… Dos Navigator must have had too much at the friendly party the day before. His head ached, his stomach felt sick, and the alcohol-saturated brains produced one hallucination after another. The colonel made a wry face, turned on a table lamp and reached out for cigarettes. Suddenly, with a low squeak a door to the city major’s closet opened, and the saboteur appeared on the doorstep.

Dos Navigator cast a cursory glance at him, lit his cigarette and uttered:

– Begone, hallucination!

The “hallucination” only grinned awry and leveled the “disruptor”. The city major looked closely at the morning guest.

– You?!! – growing sober in a flash, the colonel jumped out of his bed, groping for his tabel gun under his pillow. – You’re supposed to be in the camp!

– Say, my shift is over! – the virus clinked the bolt maliciously.

– Hey-hey-hey! Wait! Don’t get excited! – Dos Navigator’s trembling fingers put the cigarette into his mouth and he inhaled nervously. – This is a misunderstanding. Let’s sit down and discuss everything…

– We have nothing to discuss! – K-818 understood, he was repeating himself. – Game is over, my dear shell!

– NO!!! – cried the colonel in a frightful voice, snatching his pistol.

– Yes, – said the saboteur in a calm voice and pulled the trigger. The charred corpse was thrown on the remains of the wall. Sunrays came down through the gaps in the ceiling. A new day was dawning. The virus reloaded his weapon, hid it under his cloak and went outside.

The outside was clearly reeking with burnt meat. K-818 screwed his face into wrinkles and went directly to the downtown to do what he liked and used to do – make sabotages, arsons, diversions, murders, slaughters and revolutions. He was created with this purpose. It was the purpose of his life.

 

… A bit of system time has passed…

 

The resident was walking across the city market, when someone called to him from behind.

– Young man! Wait, don’t rush! Young man!

K-818 turned around and saw a little feeble old man with a nasty yelping lap-dog approaching him.

– Ugh! Wait! – the old man couldn’t recover his breath. The lap-dog suspiciously sniffed at the saboteur’s boots, raised its paw and made a puddle.

– Please, excuse my Cure, he’s small, doesn’t understand many things… – the old man produced an eyeglass, put it into his left eye and inquisitively examined the saboteur from top to toe.

– What do you want, old fellow? – the virus felt a vague uneasiness.

The old man knocked at the road-way with his stick and said:

– You are our new night-man, aren’t you?

– I am! –answered K-818. He has almost forgotten this.

– Could you help me? A pipe broke at my house, and I’d like it fixed.

– But I don’t have my tools with me, – the virus didn’t want to busy himself in the sewage.

– That’s OK, I do, – prattled the old man, letting his eyeglass fall down and treading on it accidentally.

– Let me see you home, – the virus took his arm. The lap-dog was hopping around, looking askance at cats. – Where to?

– That’s not far from here, we could get there by taxi.

As if overhearing their words, a yellow cab stopped nearby. A grim driver produced twin barrels of a hand howitzer out of the window and grumbled:

– Got money?

– Yes, yes, we’ve got, – the old man clanged coins in his pocket.

– Then, get in, – the driver didn’t even smile. As soon as they got in, the armoured doors were shut and the car rushed sharply. To say the driver was driving fast is to say nothing. The taxi-driver didn’t give a damn about peaceful pedestrians crossing the street. He recognized neither traffic signs, nor police, nor traffic lights. On the main road the car was leaving run-down corpses. Windscreen wipers didn’t have time to clean the windscreen of blood.

– There’s quarantine in the city, – he explained to the puzzled passengers. – Someone’s poisoned the reservoirs and the water’s mutated. Reserves would only last for three days.

– And I have water pouring at home without end! Please, hurry up! – fussed the old man, but at that moment they reached their destination.

– It will be 300 Hertz, – the driver didn’t even look at the broken meter. – If you don’t pay me, I’m not letting you out.

Getting the money, the driver shut the door sharply and joined up with a truck. There was shooting, and the truck disappeared in the flame and clouds of smoke. The yellow car crossed the smoking carcass and disappeared at the turn.

– So, where is your pipe? – said K-818 examining a small room.

– Well, here it is! – the old man behind the virus gave a jolly cry. Something in his voice made the saboteur turn around and look into the muzzle of the stick that was the stick no more.

– I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you my name. I am Adinf. And this is my Cure. Cure-module. – he pointed at the lap-dog. It was lying on the rug chewing a bone.

– Nice to meet you Adinf! And I’m the night-man. Show me the path to Your pipe and, please, take away Your plasma gun.

– I’m afraid, You didn’t’ understand me, young man. I kill resident viruses. And don’t think that I’m so old. There’s life in the old boy yet. – the old man fell to thinking. – Or plasma in the old plasma gun…

– So you think, I am a resident virus? – the resident virus snatched the “disruptor” from under his cloak. – And you’re right! Now we’ll have a duel.

– I was warned about your insidiousness, – the old man firmly grasped the crooked end of his stick.

– In such a case You get the first shot! – answered the generous saboteur.

– Do you hope to live up till the second one?

– We’ll see… – and the resident smiled with his irresistible smile.

– Let’s do it! – Adinf produced an extra eyeglass, put it into his eye and carefully aimed at the resident.

– Now then!

The old man pulled the trigger. The stick produced a sound of a bursting football and spat out a piece of plasma that disappeared halfway without reaching its target.

Adinf rubbed his eyeglass and repeated the operation. This time plasma didn’t even found time for flying out.

– What’s wrong? – the puzzled old man cast a quick glance at the saboteur. He was amusing himself greatly.

– Don’t even try, you pathetic parody of an antivirus program! Watch and learn!

K-818 activated his “disruptor” and the feeble old man burst asunder with loud champing, splashing antique carpets on the walls with his entrails.

– Another bloody killer, – the virus moved a piece of lungs of the ex-antivirus aside with disgust. – I’m fed up with them…

Suddenly a low roar sounded behind him. The saboteur reloaded his gun and turned around.

– I hate dogs! – he said with his teeth set tightly. – The stupidest of animals!

In response a stupidest of animals showed sharp fangs and stepped closer. Hair at the back of its neck rolled up.

– You dare! – the virus shook his finger at the dog. It roared and came two steps closer.

– Well, you become insolent, creature! – K-818 inclined the muzzle over the animal and activated his gun. At once the foundation of the house sank with a long drawn-out sigh. The dog didn’t turn an ear. Its eyes began to shine with a red devilish light. The teeth sharpened to the maximum. Viscous threads of saliva were dripping from them.

Suddenly the virus felt scared and uncomfortable. While he was realizing this, the thing that several system moments ago had been a dog, threw itself on his neck.

And the sharp fangs dipping into his carotid artery were the last what he felt in this merciless life. Then he fell into darkness. Forever. For good. But, who knows…

27.10.1995

(c) Copyright by Denis Sadoshenko