Chad was an unhappy guy.
His friends could have confirmed how unhappy Chad was, but one of the reasons he was so unhappy was that he didn't have any friends. He never actually had acquaintances, much less someone he could call a friend. And Chad pretty much was sure he never would.
He certainly had tried to make friends. At the local meeting of the Astronomy Club the prior month, he found out how unpopular he truly was. They held elections for the various offices that shaped and created the dynamic and popular club, and Chad put his name up on the list for secretary. Nobody even ran against him during the elections. They posted the new board, and the day after the elections were held, he eagerly keyed in to see the club's site online, so he would know when the next meeting was to install him in an office!
To his horror, and confirming everything his mother had ever said about him -- he lost. They left the position mockingly vacant, and his email further harmed his already fragile psyche by asking him to please desist and cease bothering the club with his unwanted presence.
That pretty much hammered the final nail in his coffin. And since he was going down he was determined to take a few folks with him.
Which led him to his other favorite pastime -- he collected worms, viruses, and any manner of assorted hostile bits of pirated computer code. He had collected them for many years, and was quite famous on the Undernet for his paying cash online to buy anything out there that was malicious or just plain old mean.
With the email printed out in his hand, he firmly put in place his master plan. He was going to pirate the entire net. Unfortunately for the world at large, the vastly unliked, soon to be universally hated man had all the necessary skills and brilliance to accomplish the impossible. Chad decided, when he got the final cut-off notice from the electric company, that he deserved to change the face of the world. Life never had been very nice to Chad, and he saw this as his opportunity to even up the playing field.
Fortunately for Chad, the closest market delivered food when he called, even though his credit card company said he was over his limit. Of course, a few key strokes later he had a higher credit rating, and with that he decided his course. And he started flooding the electronic airways with his poisons.
Sipping at the soda he had fraudulently purchased and munching on the crunchy sugar-filled snacks nestled in the large plastic bowl in his lap, he launched his warez-ska-punker code.
But he hadn't thought much beyond taking over the world. He certainly hadn't thought about the fact his cholesterol was in the high triple digits, and his blood pressure a record two hundred over a hundred or so give or take a few points. He definitely hadn't planned on the fatal heart attack that struck seconds after he finished his coding. Sweat pouring off his body, he fell beneath his desk and died.
Chad would have not succeeded had various other factors not been in play on that fateful day. There were many folks in the world that monitored such actions. There were also some lovely distractions happening in their lives. Margo in Des Moines had a migraine and instead of calling in sick she went to work and zonked out in her office on major drugs, missing some of the early signs. Craig over in North Dakota had a hangover and a serious drinking problem. He drank his breakfast and was in the bathroom most of the same day, missing his piece of the puzzle. Sinead was plain old oversexed and her exploits in the closet caused her to miss her desktop bells and whistles from an early warning system for online invasions because she was tag teaming two other folks who also should have caught the activities happening. Tomás in Mexico had taken the day off, leaving Jorge in charge, and Jorge had a new mistress to keep pleased and he forgot to show up for work. Serge was busy buying a lovely fur for his mom online and had minimized his disaster awareness screens to make sure he didn't miss the E-Bay bidding process. And so it went on from every corner of the globe. The impossible alignment of the stars or what-have-you happened.
When Chad was twitching out his final moments, he was unaware that he had actually done it. The next step would have been going to the airwaves, where he would have launched his demands and the account number to wire the monies, to return the net to its rightful place. Since that didn't happen, nobody was aware of what was happening. IT guys all briskly kicked their servers and tried to find where someone had loaded the slime that overtook their systems like kudzu. (Anyone in the living in the South can attest to that vine's tenacity and ability to entwine and choke the life out of anything not kudzu.) And so it went on and on, flipping this and that ever so closer to the end of the known internet universe. And so it spread.
Naturally ATM devices were some of the first things that failed. Folks shrugged and tried to use their credit cards in stores, but it was useless as too many institutions had been infected. Surprisingly, merchants were okay with it, and took down names of local folks to collect from later. Everyone was very cheerful and fine with it at first. Because after all the net was a way of life. They had all avoided various malicious worms and virulent viruses with minor damage, and figured it would work out sooner or later. The IT guys always were sending out notices they casually discarded without reading ... and this was probably just one they should have read. Then the night came and the lights began to flicker out in the cities. The water stopped flowing to most of the major towns and cities from the automated systems that ran the water through pipes and into the houses, and by dawn it was apparent that something was wrong -- not just in a corner of their world but as far as they could see. Generators were quickly employed and rudimentary systems of communications reengaged, soon to find that it was not just a local problem, but world wide. This was troubling.
Chad had really done it right. Nobody knew who Chad Alexander was, but his actions were cursed and he was universally hated. And even though his corpse was rotting and smelly, and flies had actively used all the available surfaces as grounds for breeding and other assorted fly activity best left to the science books, Chad had backed up his attacks with more and more code and a generator that ran primed to slime for a month or more if the proper keystrokes weren't entered. Since those were lost the activity went on and on, attacking and damaging anything and everything.
The power grid had long faded before Chad's hacking was done. But it didn't matter. Part of what he had so carefully crafted into his code was a brand new and absolutely brilliant intelligence of a sort, that created a self-sustaining monster hungry for more systems to invade and ruin. And it did a real good job.
Have to say that humanity really tried to rally around, but too many factors were in place that failed. Nobody ever plans enough for a disaster of such magnitude. Most folks were pleasantly surprised when their numerous bills didn't arrive. They found out that their credit ratings were lost, as well as most of the systems that generated bills and payments. That pretty much made folks grin. Wall Street was dark, but they didn't have stocks and bonds so they couldn't have cared less.
But then their jobs started disappearing. Nobody could work without the internet in the major companies, and since production lines had ceased, they couldn't even package things to ship out. But with the gas stations unable to pump the gas, cars soon became residences and hindrances. Farmers had become dependent on their government stipends and most of the land was no longer worked by hand, but by machines that ran on gas and electricity. Watering systems couldn't water and crops began to dry up in the field.
Yeah, someone could have fixed the problem, but nobody knew what the real trouble was, and there were fights about who was going to fix it all. Any disaster brings heroes -- and fools -- to the front, and the piracy of the net had more than its fair share of fools lining up to be seen and heard. Well, sort of heard. Granted communications were difficult, but there were still ham radios up and running and while some folks had overtaken some channels for chat and others to play music -- the music was live and unedited and pretty good -- there were channels with talking heads trying to make sense of all the chaos. Mostly their news programs went unheard.
Black Plague, World War Two, The Spanish Inquisition and other assorted horrors have visited the world and slowly humanity emerged. Maybe not wiser, but definitely emerged. That did not happen very quickly this time. The feeding frenzy kept on until anything ever connected to a computer failed and shut down. All the support systems in place weren't capable of supporting the net's failure and everyone kept trying to punch in new numbers and code new things to no avail.
Life had to change. And it did. Humanity was not pleased but the piracy Chad Alexander visited upon the world was total. Sticks and stones were the new weapons of choice as lasers and nasty blogs were gone. People no longer could do the jobs they knew. Bartering was the new currency, and jobs were manual and labor intensive.
Reality bites but that was what they had.
Originally appeared 2005-09-19