|The Story||The Authors|
|Back in the office overlooking the assembly floor Vigo, Kleg and Omar were busy carrying out their grand scheme to free themselves and their kind from the opressive threat posed by the lobsters. Vigo hated the lobsters even though he knew virtually nothing about them. Unlike many of the other creatures in his surroundings he felt no sense of empathy for them. They were spiny and red and very odd looking. They smelled bad and had enormous spiky claws. They looked absolutely evil to his beady little eyes. They may as well have been humans. Although humans weren't that bad, after all, his entire existence depended on humans and the food they dropped or carelessly left lying around. They seemed to fall into two classes, those who would try to chase him and smash him with a shoe, and those who would simply stare at him quietly with a look of fascination on their face and throw chunks of bread or cheese at him as if they wanted him to come out from whatever hiding place he scrambled into upon being seen. Even then he didn't know if it was a trap, but at least they weren't yelling or screaming. Something in his gut told him the lobsters meant him harm, transforming them from the happy shelled pre-packaged dinner creatures they were into simply "foreigner!" in his tiny mousy mind. He'd never been to a restaurant or market to see the creatures stacked unlobsterly on top of each other in small tanks, their claws bound with restrictive rubber bands. They were no brothers of oppression to him. They were unsightly, unwelcome aliens. He had a plan for their demise. If only mouse were a culinary delicacy, perhaps he would have seen things differently.|
But then from the corner of his eye, Vigo saw a small figure fly in through an
upper story window of the factory. It circled the the salt water tank teaming
with frantic lobsters and landed on a nearby platform. Vigo was astonished and
looked to Kleg and Omar for answers.
"Did anyone just see," asked Vigo,
" a dog dyed dark green?
'bout two inches tall,
with a strawberry blonde paw.
Sunglasses and a bonnet.
Designer jeans with appliques on it."
Kleg and Omar nodded, yes they had seen it and were just as astonished as Vigo. It was the famed Quiche Lorraine and if there was anyone in this world who could rid the factory of that stinky corpse of a mutt, Muffy, it was Quiche. Unfortunately for the crustacean prejudiced rodents, Quiche Lorraine had a special affection for lobsters and would not see them come to any harm.
Vigo looked excitedly at the command prompt flashing on the screen before him.
It was time to try the buffer overflow.
"Ok Omar, type in the command TaffyWorks and then a space, and then sit on the x key until it makes a string of more than 256 x's."
Omar, happy to participate, gave a perplexed look as if Vigo had just told him that he could do his part to save the world if he rubbed his belly and patted his head at the same time. Under Kleg's direction Omar jumped on all the appropriate keys to spell out TaffyWorks and then sat on the x key until x's poured across the screen over and over again, four lines worth. In the interim Vigo tried explaining that under the TaffySystems operating system programs were invoked by typing their names. And that programs could be called, or started up, with various parameters, also called arguments or options. The arguments could be specified or handed to the program by typing them just after the program name. The TaffySystems operating system was loosely modelled on another operating system called UNIX. However TaffySystems and the associated factory control software, TaffyWorks were poorly written and contained a bug that allowed them to use an extra long argument to crash the program and then restart it in a mode with special permissions. Normally only the factory engineers had permission to issue control commands, while other users like mary could only run the software in passive mode. But the bug would allow them to execute commands in control mode, also called superuser mode. MicroSloth had gained popularity by providing superior software in the past but in recent years it's CEO had degenerated into a money hungry tyrant and the corporation had shifted it's talents from providing excellent software to copying the inovations of it's competitors, doing everything in it's power to eliminate their competition, and strong arming people and corporations into getting stuck with it's products, in many cases whether they like it or not. And so it was with TaffySystems and the TaffyWorks factory control software. Hastily written products full of bugs. Well, it was good for the mice, if not for the average consumer.
No sooner had Vigo finished explaining how the system worked when Omar asked him, "Why would you want to start a program written by a bunch of Eunichs and then have an argument with it over executing bugs?" Vigo realized his efforts were lost on poor Omar. He chuckled. Omar was a good guy. The x's had poured across the screen and it was ready to it the return key and see the result
1 TaffySystems[mary]:~$TaffyWorks -xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx// Segmentation Fault Core Dumped restarting in control mode... ----------------------------------------------- | | | | WaterTanks | Taffy Pullers | | | | |-----------------------+---------------------| | | | | Exhaust Fans | Wrappers | | | | ----------------- Control Panel----------------
The computer began cranking away, they could hear the internal screaming of the
disk drive being accessed. Then it choked, the program crashed, the system
reported the error messages, and the program restarted itself in control mode.
Like clockwork, just as it was reported in the hacker rag.
"Smoked Provolone!", yelled Vigo.
"Blue D'auvergne!", cried Kleg.
Omar, not one to miss a cue shouted "Havarti!".
"We're in business!." Vigo was begining to feel frantic. Two dogs flying around the factory, and a tank full of wierd creatures, not knowing how much time they had left before the Dr. Evelyn Phibes would return, all spelled out doom like the white Hollywood letters standing tall across his world view.
He began squeeking out orders. "Choose the Water Tanks option!"
Kleg directed Omar on where to jump.
+-------------------------------+ | | | Water Tanks | | Temperature Control | | | | | | --- | | Steam 110 + | | --- | | Boil 100 + | | --- | | 80 + | | + | | 60 + | | + | | 40 + | | + | | 20 + <--*** | | + | | 0 + | | --- | | Ice -10 + | | | +-------------------------------+
Up popped the water tank temperature control panel. The current temperature was set to room temp. "Gruyere!" said Vigo. "What shall we do? We can either freeze them into crustacean popsicles or boil them into oblivion." So polarized into demonizing the unknown creatures, the atrocity of the what he was considering doing to a bunch of fellow creatures escaped him.
"Let's cook 'em up." belowed Omar. They all agreed. Under Kleg's direction Omar jumped on the appropriate keys to escalate the water temperature. From deep underneath the tanks there was a rumble and a clanking as valves opened and pipes creaked to accomodate the commands from the control computer. Within the tanks, the temerature began to rise, if ever so slowly. "Chevre de Bellay." muttered Vigo.
As eluded to earlier the lobsters had regained a semblance of activity and had
risen towards the surface of the water tank, all in unison swimming in a
circular motion following their canine conductor round and round. They began to
impart momentum to the water such that it too began to circle with them forming
a whirlpool of current, and in so doing they began to create a vortex in which
the water at the sides of the tank began to creep up the sides, and the the
center of the round tank became shallower in keeping with conservation of
Vigo and the other mice could see none of this. However as Omar pogoed up and down on the up arrow key, pushing the water temperature setting higher and higher, Vigo stared at the water tank with excited anticipation feeling that he was about to orchestrate the exorcism of demons from his tiny existence. In fact he was about to have an epiphany.
|It was at that moment that they heard the rumbling of footsteps. The three mice frantically scrambled behind the CRT. Dr. Evelyn Phibes had re-entered the room and was walking towards the desk where she had left her bag, and upon which the mice had carried out their hack attack against the lobsters. As she approached the desk she slowed and gave a cautious look around as she noticed that her copy of 2600 was laying open by the computer screen. How could that be? No one was around so she scooped it up, stuffed it into her bag, and as she began to turn back towards the direction from which she had come, she noticed a little tail sticking out from behind the monitor of the computer. She smiled and stooped carefully and slowly down just a little to see Omar's butt, and two other pairs of mousy feet crunched into a little space behind a stack of zip disks back by some cables behind the monitor. She smiled. She was prepared for such situations, and reached into her bag to find a 50 ml screw cap tube from which she removed a peanut, placing it just next to the keyboard before turning and walking back towards the stairs that led down to the factory floor. She had a habit of carrying peanuts for the squirrels that regularly befriended her as she walked across campus.|
|As mice are prone to do, as soon as the sound of Evelyn's exit faded they sauntered out and upon smelling the peanut pounced on it dragging it back to a safe place. All traces of the previous events involving self preservation which had so captivated them wiped from their consiousness by the presence of a prime morsel of food. As they worked their way across the desk Vigo glanced at the huge monolithic billboard that was the spine of a paperback book. The words "Annie Hall" emblazened in a smug cheesy font wafted across his meager frontal lobes and with the tinny snap of a peapod freezing in liquid nitrogen, it came to him.|
|Vigo owed his entire existence to a lobster. When he was young his grandmother had told him the story of how she had met his grandfather. Next to the factory there was a small house. And in that small house there was a fridge. And behind that fridge lived Vigo's grandmother, her brother and sister, and their parents, (his great grandparents). It was a whole in the wall but it was enough for them and they had a happy humble existence. Across the way (well it was practically the other side of town as far as she was concerned), near the pantry lived another family. One of the boys in that family was extremely cute and at night she would watch him rummaging around along the baseboards of the kitchen. She would have gone out to play with the other mice and made his acquaintance but her father forbade her. For between their home behind the fridge and the playground of baseboards was a giant chasm of glue. Her father had warned her about the glue and told atrocious stories of his friends being caught in the see of sludge never to be seen alive again.|
|During one such tail her father was brought to tears as he recounted inviting some friends over for dinner. When they didn't show up he sent his buddy Ed to look for them. Ed disappeared as well. He organized a search party to looke for his missing friends and eventually they were found stuck in a sea of glue. Some of the other macho male mice jumped in to try to pull them out but found themselves stuck as well. As the days passed and some of the stuck mice began to die he watched his friends resort to cannibalism, eating the freshly dead bodies of whatever mouse they found themselves stuck next to. It was a horrible sight, and something he would never forget. She didn't like to see her father cry. He was a good mouse, working hard to raise his family and impart good mouse values unto them. Imagine his horror when one day they woke up to find a fresh glue trap placed just outside their front door! Her father squeaked loudly, "Would it never end?!" and began to pace nervously back and forth stroking his whiskers. It was just around that time that she had begun to notice the cute boy across the way playing by the pantry. But the glue trap kept them prisoner. Her father forbade all the children from going outside. He alone would go out to forage for food. She worried that someday he go out out and not return, and they would find him stuck in the trap. Then one day, the people of the house came home and were very busy in the kitchen making lots of noise and laughing. From within their hole behind the fridge the mousy family sat and listened. There was a big pot of water boiling on the stove making a rumbling noise. Then they heard a bunch of commotion and a scream by the woman who lived in the house. The family ran to the edge of their hole and looked outside. They could see the glue trap, and just beyond that, the back corner of the refrigerator. Suddenly a huge beast, like a giant insect with prickly spiny legs and enormous voracious looking claws came into focus. It was crawling towards them. It was a very awkward looking beast with a smooth hard shell, it had whiskers but no hair, and tiny little black eyes. They were paralized in fear as it crawled towards their hole. But then the beast suddenly lifted up one of it's claws and appeared to throw itself into the glue trap that stood between the mice and the back corner of the fridge. The beast struggled and wiggled getting itself more and more stuck in the glue. A giant human hand came down form above and lifted the giant beast, glue trap and all, up and away. They could see the legs of the creature wiggling as it disappeared from view. The glue trap gone, they raced to the edge of the fridge and peeked around the corner to see one of the humans prying the glue trap off the beast and complaining loudly. "Blah blah, blah blah, haha ha haha, blah Annie Hall!" The glue trap was good and stuck to the beast's giant claw and with that last statement the human simply pulled off the beast's arm, rinsed the beast off with some water, and then lifted the lid of the pot of boiling water and threw the beast inside! The mice were horrified. From that point on the beast achieved martyr status and was refered to as Le Grande Langouste d'affranchissement (the great spiny lobster of liberation) for having thrown itself into the glue trap to give liberty to Vigo's family. Spirits were high around the back of the fridge that night and the mice celebrated with dancing and a feast of sunflower seeds that father had found by the lazy boy recliner in the living room. Vigo's grandmother was free to venture out and by and by she made the aquaintance of the the handsome young mouse who made his home by the pantry. They hit it off instantly and began to spend all their time together, frollicking and exploring. Life was good. It all came crashing down one day when while coming back from a particularly exhausting and yet invigorating day of afternoon delight she came upon a horrific sight. Where the glue trap once stood were two wooden platforms with springy looking metal wires and bars. On the platforms were the bodies of her brother and sister, (Vigo's great aunt and uncle), both dead, necks cleanly broken by the great wood and metal traps which had been baited with a tasty morsel of cheese. She ran home crying. She feared her father would become a broken man. She was right. He took the news very hard, burying his head in his paws. He rarely squeaked after that. It was the last straw in an ongoing pattern of persecution and so they decided to flee and in so doing had found the Factory. Vigo had heard the story of his family's emigration to the factory long ago but lately he'd been so wrapped up in his own life that he'd forgotten it.|