Saturday, January 15, 2011

Story a Week 7 - Frank Saga, Part 6

Hello Internet! Today's story a week brings another episode of the Frank saga.

I'm really enjoying writing these stories and I've been considering extending my story a week to go past my birthday and continue on for the rest of the year. I've gotten quite a bit of good feedback too, which helps motivate me.


Frank watched the battle below unfold on the monitors in front of him. He was sitting in the command chair of an AWACS aircraft. The phone next to him rang and he picked it up. "Hello Hugo."

"Any change in the situation, Frank?" Hugo asked.

"No. Whoever is perpetrating this attack on us has come in force, but isn't particularly coordinated. It's mostly AI driven with some assistance from humans," Frank replied.

"How do you know that?"

"It's hard to explain. It's mostly in the strategies they're using. The humans occasionally try something new and creative while the AIs just cycle through the same tactics over and over. Any which way, they aren't going to be breaking into our network today."

"That's good. Mr. Curtis wanted me to sever our outside connections," Hugo said.

"No, let's not do that. I want to find out who our assailants are. We've captured a few packets and I've got some intel, but most of it's not much use right now..." Frank paused. "I've got something to show you, Hugo. Why don't you come inside?"

Frank could hear the hesitation in Hugo's voice when he said, "I guess I could do that."

Frank hung up and stepped out of the chair into the small open area in front of the command chair.

Hugo materialized in front of him and glanced about, nodding to himself. "I had thought that you wouldn't need the metaphorical realities after a time," he commented.

Frank chuckled and replied, "I don't, really. I'm doing most of the processing outside of this reality. I find, though, that I enjoy them. It connects me to my old self in a way."

Hugo nodded. After a moment of silence passed between them, he said, "You had wanted to show me something?"

Frank nodded and gestured behind Hugo. Hugo turned and was startled to see another Frank standing behind him. "'ve duplicated yourself?"

Frank shook his head and moved to stand next to his twin. Other than a difference in uniform, they looked identical. "I just chose an avatar for this program that looked like me. This program is designed to capture computers and network nodes of the internet for our use. Major hubs will see it as a software patch and it will infiltrate computers in a similar manner."

Hugo stared at Frank's replica and said, "You've written a Trojan horse virus?"

Frank nodded and said, "Something like that. I would like to think that this is more advanced than a simple Trojan that a hacker would write. It will communicate status updates to me and I can use the information gleaned to view Internet traffic on a global level. With this, I can track who is attacking us."

Hugo turned and paced for a few moments. He stopped and said, "I don't know about this, Frank.

You'd be breaking the law by releasing that program into the wild."

"Isn't whoever is attacking us breaking the law?" Frank said angrily. "They're attacking us. If our defenses failed, they would..." Frank saw something in Hugo's expression that made him pause.

"You know who is doing this, don't you?"

Hugo couldn't meet Frank's eyes as he replied, "I think so. I don't know for sure, but it's likely one of my former assistants."

"They're trying to get me, aren't they?"

Hugo looked at Frank and replied, "I would presume that is their goal." Hugo sighed. "We worked together for a few years and he had some ideas that I didn't like. He went over my head to Mr.

Curtis who promptly fired him. I've heard from mutual colleagues that he holds a grudge against me, Mr. Curtis and Cray to this day."

Before Frank could respond, something on the command console beeped. "One of your assistants wants to talk to us," Frank said without looking at the console. "I'll put it on the speakers."

"Dr. Argnatius, Frank, the news agencies are reporting about the attack. Apparently computers all over the world are being used to perpetrate it. The FBI and CIA are working together to identify the source and the target. They have threatened to put an injunction out to shut the Internet down in the US if the attack continues."

Frank and Hugo stared at each other for a moment or two. Finally, Frank said, "You see what they're doing? They are building an army of zombie computers to attack us."

Hugo looked worried as he asked, "Is there a risk of them breaking your defenses?"

Frank shook his head and said, "No, but this will go on in a stalemate until the feds step in. I could end this, if you'll let me."

Hugo started pacing again. He turned on Frank and quickly asked, "After the crisis is over, you'll call off your virus?" When Frank nodded, Hugo said, "Okay, Frank. You can send out your virus."

Frank excitedly clapped his hands once and jumped into the control chair. The virus disappeared from the airplane and Frank was hurriedly typing commands into the consoles in front of him. A moment or two he looked up and saw Hugo still standing there. "Don't worry, Hugo. I know what I'm doing."

Just before his image disappeared, Hugo whispered, "I sure hope so."

Later that day, Hugo switched on the television in his office and watched as the news reported on the activities of the day. "...the FBI doesn't have any additional information at this time on how the presumed attacks over the Internet were concluded, but a source who wished to remain anonymous told this station that they theorize that the defenders of the attack went on an unprecedented counter attack using some sort of virus program. He wouldn't give any more details. The FBI has promised..."

The phone on Hugo's desk rang and he turned the television off to answer it. "This is Hugo Argnatius."

"Dr. Argnatius, this is Special Agent Meyers, with the FBI's cyber crimes division. Do you have a moment to answer some questions for me?"

Hugo's heart leapt into his throat. "I'll do what I can, Agent Meyers. What kinds of questions do you have for me?"

The agent's voice was at the same time hard and yet unthreatening as he said, "Well, Doctor, you'll have heard the news about today's attacks over the Internet?"

Hugo immediately answered, "Of course."

"Good," Agent Meyers replied. "I'm going to be a little blunt here, Doctor. We're almost positive that your facility was the target of today's attacks." The agent left it at that and Hugo was just starting to wonder if he should speak when Meyers continued, "We've also received an untraceable tip on who the attacker was. Needless to say, we're going to verify these claims."

There was another pause. Before the agent could speak again, Hugo said, "Why are you telling me all of this, Agent Meyers?"

"I'm glad you asked, Doctor," the agent replied. "You see, Doc. The attacker in question was once an associate of yours. Do you remember Alexander Spartan?"

"How could I forget him?" Hugo replied. "He was at the same time a brilliant mind in the field of Artificial Intelligence and a pompous jackass. My boss, Alfred Curtis, fired him for his rogue behavior."

"Yes, we know about all of that and we think that this may have been the motive. I was just wondering if there was any new information you might want to share with me to aid in the investigation?" The agent's voice turned harder and more commanding than before.

Hugo was hard pressed to keep the secret of Frank to himself, but he succeeded. He said, "Not that I know of. I haven't spoken to or received communication from Dr. Spartan since his termination."

Agent Meyers paused a moment before asking, "Are you sure, Doctor?"

Hugo replied, "Yes, Agent Meyers. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No," Meyers replied. He paused and said, "I must admit that I'm a little disappointed that you can't give me more information."

Trying to stay calm and level voiced, Hugo replied, "I'm sorry that I couldn't help you."

"You have a good day, Doctor Argnatius. I'm sure we'll be in touch." Without further word the line went dead.

Hugo's hand shook as he set the receiver down. He jumped when it rang the moment that it was hung up. He quickly scooped up the receiver and said, "Yes?"

It was Frank's voice on the other end. "What did the FBI want, Hugo?"

"How did you...never mind. I think he was a little suspicious with us, but he mostly asked about my former associate..."

"Dr. Alexander Spartan," Frank interrupted.

"How did you know that?" Hugo asked. "I didn't tell you his name before."

"I have access to all of Cray's employment records, Hugo. I did a little research. It didn't take long."

Hugo replied, "Yes, well, that's who the agent mostly asked about. He pointed the finger at him for the attack on us."

Frank chuckled, "Yes, I imagine that he would."

A light bulb came on in Hugo's head. "You were the anonymous tip that he referred to, weren't you?"

Frank chuckled again. "Of course. I made my message to them untraceable. Before I relinquished control of the nodes of the Internet I saw some messages go around the FBI about a raid on his lab too. He won't bother us again."

The blood ran out of Hugo's face. He squeaked out, "What have you done, Frank?"

Hugo could hear the defensiveness in Frank's voice as he replied, "Hugo, you have to understand that he wouldn't have stopped there. He would have tried again to get a hold of me. Who knows to what lengths he might have gone? He knows now that he can't beat me on my terms and that he'll have to find a way in real life to get at me."

Hugo replied, "I understand, Frank. You have to protect yourself."

Frank heard the fear in Hugo's voice and said, "We're on the same side, Hugo. You have nothing to worry about." He paused. "We are on the same side, aren't we, Hugo?"

Quickly, Hugo replied, "Yes, Frank. Of course we are."

Hugo could hear the smile on Frank's face as he said, "Good. Let's keep it that way."

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