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Friday, November 04, 2011

#FridayFlash: Antibodies

This is another story idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a long time. I originally intended to make it a brief screenplay. It may happen yet.


The waitress departed, and something nudged Jan’s foot.

“You said you need gym clothes, da? For your health?” The bulky blonde man across the table smiled at him.

There would be no cheating, but all the same Jan pulled the gym bag into his lap, keeping it out of sight as he peeked inside. As agreed, it was stuffed with zlotys and euros. He reached inside and felt the four gold bars at the bottom.

“Just my size!” he grinned, slipping the bag under the table. “Any company logo?”

Nyet. No. No markings of any kind. I saw to it myself.”

“Ah, good. Are they made in China?”

“Likely. Or perhaps Pakistan.”

The waitress brought their supper, pierogies and borscht, and they were quiet for a while. Jan lived in a decaying industrial town in the Polish heartland, but this café was quiet and served good food. And if Jan often dined with strangers in suits? He did computer work for a firm in Warsaw, and on occasion, they needed to visit him here.

“A question, if I may,” said the visitor. “Only personal curiosity.” At Jan’s nod, he continued: “You use the alias Vector for your work. Does it indicate the mathematical meaning, or some other?”

Jan grinned. “English is a wonderful language. So ambiguous. Many words have the same meaning, yet other words have more than one meaning. In your maths, a vector has direction. Purpose, even. And in English, it may also mean the path a infectious agent takes to invade a living body.”

The other man — Jan was sure he was Russian, perhaps KGB — looked amused. “An almost poetic layering of meanings, my friend! But beware, living bodies often develop antibodies to resist such invasions.”

“Of course. Discretion is survival.”

“Very good.” The visitor rose. “Well then, you have your project and goals. I should leave you to it.” He looked at his Rolex. “I have plenty of time to catch the train back to Warsaw, but I like to arrive early. I can call the office and let them know everything is well in hand.”

At home in his flat, Jan got to work. Two wide displays, side by side, showed him the locations of thousands of computers around the world under his control. He’d come a long way in the years since he found a shabby old computer in a dumpster and brought it home, his first step to becoming Vector. He had direction, although the organisms he invaded thought he came from a different direction. Moscow wanted control of America’s satellite fleet, while making it look like a Chinese hack? A worthy challenge to be sure, but a challenge he was more than equal to.

(A relay clicks over, opening a valve. Gas hisses, pouring into the basement.)

Vector considered. His client wanted some blame to fall on Pakistan? That could be arranged. He had access to systems in Lahore and Islamabad; some were active. With a few keystrokes, his servers in China uploaded necessary software components.

(Through the apartment building, phones ring. People leave in haste, carrying what they can.)

Ignoring the commotion outside his door, he worked on. His viruses continued to infect more computers around the world. Cracking military networks was tough, but his infections gained him a toehold and opened a tunnel. What his client planned was not important —

(A surge through the power lines causes a switch to arc over in the basement, igniting the gas.)

Jan heard a thump, then the floor collapsed beneath him, dropping him and his tools into the inferno beneath. What few remains there were, were fused together in death as they never could be in life.

Living organisms develop antibodies.


  1. Aw crap, ya killed him? I was liking Mr. Vector and was looking forward to him taking over the world! (cue evil laugh)
    But, whoa, loved the way you used brackets to show what was going on behind the scenes.

    And your first line was a doozy. Grabbed me from the get-go.
    Good one!!!!!!

  2. Ohhh! Sinister, all around. I like the slightly open ending. I love a good techno-spy thriller.

  3. The name made me think of Vector in Despicable Me but this was really dark. Interesting direction for you!

  4. I enjoyed but as already said, almost felt like our hacker character met his demise too soon - I wanted to find out more about him!

  5. I really liked this character, and his abilities, like one or two others, I was sad to see him get wasted.

  6. Hey all!

    Cathy, actually the 'net killed him. Immune system response. ;-) I'm glad the bracketed parts worked, I tried several ways to represent that before settling on the centered parenthetical lines.

    Thanks, Chuck. Now I know what genre this is! ;-)

    Thanks Deb, and welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    Icy, I'd clean forgot that they used that name in Despicable Me! I do like to mix things up.

    Aweeadventure, he did start chattering about his life when I was writing. I thought I was running over when writing it out at lunch, but this only ran 700 words. I guess I could have included more backstory.

    Steve, just remember: he (or someone like him) is responsible for some of the stuff infesting your (or your neighbor's/friend's/relative's) PC. Something like Downadup.

  7. This is why good hackers should never meet face-to-face with their clients. Hack the planet!

  8. Excellent and intriguing, though like an earlier commenter, I was starting to like the character Vector,

  9. Gripping. I love everything about this. Smart and dark, just the way I like it.

  10. I liked this, but then again I love spy stories.

    The net is us. The biological angle is an excellent observation.

  11. You had me caught right from the beginning, this was deck and yet so intriguing. I really liked the ending.

    Good story! I think it has the potential to go on and be much longer.


  12. Oh dear my computer is spelling things wrong again! deck should be dark ^__^

    I'll give my puter a talking to okay ;)

  13. Raven, sometimes the planet hacks back! ;-)

    Thanks, Crafty! How did CGB like the ghost story?

    LynnCee, welcome to the free-range insane asylum! Your profile says you're stranded on the same planet as I am? That's cool.

    Katherine, thanks much. I have the feeling the Singularity won't quite be what was envisioned!

    Helen, I'm glad you checked in about "deck" — I thought it might be some slang I hadn't heard before. ;-) Also very glad you liked it. This could be the end of a novella, perhaps? Or maybe the beginning of The Net Awakens…

  14. A very shady story. It makes wonder if it's a good thing or bad thing Mr. Vector has been eliminated...

  15. Ah, Vector has met yet another play on his name. Nice.

  16. Craig, I guess that depends on how the awakening net reacts…

    Thanks, Tim!

  17. Owwww you got me! Nice work, I too was starting to warm to the main character before his sharp departure

  18. Heh, this guys should know that the people he's dealing with are nasty, bad men. And nasty, bad men have an ugly way of dealing with the things they don't like.

    Good one.

  19. I'd like to join the 'use of brackets was very effective' bandwagon.

    Oh and the 'great first line' bandwagon.

    And let's not forget the 'Vector is a cool name' bandwagon.

    Unlike quite a few folks though, I'm glad he's dead!

  20. Good evening!

    Thanks, Brainhaze. Vector was brilliant, to be sure. Maybe too brilliant for his own good?

    Tony, indeed. I leave open the question though, whether it was the nasty dudes or the net itself that got rid of its infection…

    Peter, thanks a lot — maybe I made the bad guy a little *too* sympathetic though!

  21. I figured the waitress would off Jan. Good deviation from expectations, Larry.

  22. She might have, JohnW — you never know, he might have been a lousy tipper! :-D

  23. Marvellous: part 70's spy thriller ('Tinker, Tailor....), part twenty-first century cyber crime. Loved it. I blame the shoddy builders: Soviet-era concrete: ugly AND unstable.

  24. Hi Scribbler, haven't seen you around in a while!

    Yup, it's almost certain Jan lived in a Soviet-era apartment building. It pleased me to make him Polish, just because nobody expects a Polish hacker!

  25. Well, now I'm feeling even more paranoid about the Internet. *Sigh* Nice flash!

  26. Thanks Li, and welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    I wonder how many people who expect the "Singularity" consider the possibility it may happen without us. ;-)


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