Monday, February 28, 2011


I'm sick.
Phlegm, sneezing, the whole bit.
No story tommorrow, can't think straight.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #91: Nate

-=fig. 594: nat3=-

“You're nat3?” Capt. Brown couldn't believe it, it was just a boy.
   “Yeah, who's asking?”
 Capt. Brown drew himself up to his considerable full height, “I am Captain James Brown, The Mayor, and this is my associate, Doctor Smith.  You are under arrest for two counts of murder, one count of malicious hacking and city-wide damages accounting to $1427.50”  Nate {the boy} blanched  “The entire house is only worth about three-hundred bucks,  And that's with all the stuff! What did I do?”
  Capt. Brown indicated Dr. Smith, who produced his sheet of data.
    “You created the 3x-TERM-1: NAT3 virus, which took hold of my production ’bots, who then went on a rampage.” Dr. Smith replaced the paper in his jacket “As one nerd to another what made you do it, kid?”
      Nate had been typing late one night, while listening to Doctor Who? a science-fiction radio-play out of Britannia.
       He had decided to see if he could de-construct the code of one of the main antagonists, the Daleks, because with the code and twelve Who-Flakes box-tops you could get a gen-u-ine bow-tie, just like The Doctor.
      “I didn't mean to publish it, sorry.”  Nate was despondent.
   Dr. Smith and Capt. Brown were touched by the boy's story.  A similar thing had happened to Dr. Smith when he was young, although the death toll was much larger,  one reason he no-longer lived in QuagmIreland.
Capt. Brown went down on one knee and put his hand on the boys shoulder, in a fatherly way.
  “You're still going to jail, kid. Sorry.”
Nate sighed.  “Damn, and it was such a good story, too.”  That should have set off our heroes radar, but it didn't. They hadn't heard him.  He looked Dr. Smith in the eyes, “So what are you, like, the nerdy sidekick?”
 Dr. Smith was surprised, “No, I'm the hero, He–” he points to Capt. Brown “–is the sidekick.”
   Nate gave a big smile, like this was a joke. “What, the tall good-looking one?  He's the sidekick?”
    “Yeah, I am. What are you doing with that remooAAHH!—”  The floor had opened up at the press of a button on Nate's remote.  Our heroes fell into the dark.

-=fig. 595: finished falling=-

“Wow!  I feel great!” 
   “James, stop talking.”
    “That must have been, what, three stories we fell?  At least because this looks like a disused Undercity tunnel.” Capt. Brown stood up.
“James, I don't want to alarm you, but you just stood up out of your body.”
 Capt. Brown looked down.
   There he was, still, with his eyes wide open. Bleeding.
     He hyperventilated, which is hard with only the memory of lungs.
       “James!” Dr. Smith yelled, standing up out of his body too, “Don't Panic!  We're only mostly dead.  It's a shock at first, but we'll have a miraculous recovery soon, just stick with me.”
  Capt. Brown's breathing slowed, “Isn't there supposed to be…angels and stuff?”
     “Do you believe in that sort of thing?”
       Capt. Brown shrugged. “Not really.”
         “Then probably not, no.”
           “How come you're so calm?”
            “I've been mostly dead more times than you can count, Death should be showing up any time now.”
A voice like the screams of a thousand souls and lead slabs falling into place over your grave  said HELLO DR. SMITH. IT IS GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.
 “Hello again, Death, It is good to see you again. Although understand that I am saying that purely sociably and it's not good to see you again at all.”

-=fig. 596: hello death my old friend i've come to talk with you again=-

  Capt. Brown Watched the exchange with interest, not only because he'd never met Death before, but because Dr. Smith was being sociable.   Dr. Smith is never sociable.
  “This is my friend, Capt. Brown.  He's not been dead before.”
 HELLO JAMES.  Death gave him a little nod, one workman to another.  They made small talk, Death and Dr. Smith, like old friends. After awhile, Dr. Smith said
  “So what's the verdict, Death, do we die from a fall in a disused Undercity tunnel?”
The world changed and the eternal pain of living returned.
 “AARGH!”  Yelled Capt. Brown.
   Dr. Smith laughed. “Hurts, dunnit?  That's all the blood running about in your veins.  Don't sit up just yet.”
   “Were we…were we dead for a minute?”
       “Yes we were, but we're fine now.  More pressingly, we are presumably underground in a small dark room with no doors or windows.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #90: 3-X TERM-1: NAT3

A man stands on top of macy's with a megaphone, “DON'T PANIC!” he yells. 
 Below him the screams of the people mix with the smell of oil.

-=fig. 589: shouted from the top of a building=-

  “STAY IN YOUR HOMES!” He suggests, but Dr. Smith corrects him.  “James, these are robots built to manufacture things, wooden doors won't stop them.”
   “Alright then, what will?” 
      Dr. Smith thinks for a moment, “They weigh roughly two thousand pounds, so…stairs.”
         Capt. James brown adjusts his megaphone “ON SECOND THOUGHT, GET TO AT LEAST THE SECOND FLOOR OF SOMEWHERE, THESE THINGS ARE TOO HEAVY FOR STAIRS.”  He turns the megaphone off. “So what have you learned from the one you captured?”
   Dr. smith had printed off his collected data, he was that sort of nerd.
     “Their motive is death to all humans, and the virus is called ‘3-X TERM-1: NAT3’ 3-X is the model number, TERM-1 is the file name, and NAT3 is the author code. Now–”  But Capt. Brown had to interrupt him “Wait, we know who made the virus?”
   “No.  We have a username.  Three letters and a number used to identify IRCS users.  I was thinking you could use your network of spies to find this…NAT3. ”
    Capt. Brown gave a nervous laugh, “Ha, I don't have a network of…um…spies.  That's…ridiculous.  Who told you that?” His eyes opened really wide, in a manner that instantly communicated that he had a secret but thought he was being sneaky.
  “James,” Dr. Smith said “I've met them. Jeeves captures them sneaking around my house at night sometimes. The point is can you use them to find NAT3?”
   “Sure. I'll get my top spy on it right away.  Ah, there you are.”  Capt. Brown said the last part into the thin air to his left.
       Dr. Smith squinted, and focused, and looked hard, until he saw the vague shape of a fedora and trenchcoat.

-=fig. 590: top spy=-

“How's he doing that?”  Dr. Smith said as he squinted.  The spy remained stubbornly out of focus.
   “That's why he's my top spy.” Capt. Brown said, smiling broadly. “Mr. Spy, I've got a job for you.”
The Spy hadn't been invisible, nor had he used teleportation.  He had just gone unnoticed, until he wanted to be.  He was that good.
   Capt. Brown rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “We should have a result within the hour.” he said. “In the meantime, how many of these robots did you make?”
   Dr. Smith shrugged, “About eight. Why?”
       Capt. Brown pointed off the starboard bow of the macy's building “Because I count twenty-two just on main street.”
    Dr. Smith paled.  Which was difficult, because he was already pretty pale to begin with.
       “They must have found a copper deposit. They can reproduce themselves from raw materials. 22?”
     “OKAY LISTEN UP YOU MUGS!” Capt. Brown shouted to his assembled team members.

-=fig. 591: preparedness=-

“DOWN THERE ARE A BUNCH O’ ROBOTS DR. SMITH MADE AND THEY'VE GONE EVIL–” No-one seemed surprised, they had all met Dr. Smith before. “–THEY ONLY WANT TO KILL PEOPLE. THEY CANNOT BE–” Capt. Brown had an impressive set of lungs on him, he could shout pretty loud. That was his training in opera showing. “–REASONED WITH AND UNLESS YOU SHOOT ’EM JUST RIGHT, BULLETS ARE USELESS. FOR THIS PURPOSE, DR. SMITH INVENTED A RAYGUN THAT’LL KILL ’EM OUTRIGHT BUT YOU ONLY GET ONE SHOT. QUESTIONS.”  Capt. Brown answered a few quick, gruff questions, and they moved out.
 The spy came back into ‘Focus’. “Found ’im.” he said.
“Are  you sure this is the right place?” asked Dr. Smith.
   “My spies are never wrong.” Answered Capt. Brown.

-=fig. 592: so normal looking=-

“But…It looks so normal.” Dr. Smith said as he rang the doorbell.
 “What D’ya Want?” Accused an unpleasant woman. 
  “Hello,” Capt. Brown responded, smiling, “Is this the home of Nathaniel ‘Nat3’ Burke?”
   “Yeah–oh. Nat3. You're more of his ‘InterBot’ friends, aren't you?” She spat the word InterBot, which was another acronym for IRCS.
      Capt. Brown and Dr. Smith shared a quick glance, as if to say ‘Are we?
         “Yes. We are.” Replied Capt. Brown, with some confidence. 
            “Well he's in his room. Top of the stairs and don't drip on my carpets.”  It wasn't raining, but Mrs. Jane Burke suspected all IRCS Nerds of having an innate drippiness.
There was only one room at the top of the stairs. 
    It contained a bed, a terminal, a Fax-O-Gram machine and a boy.
-=fig. 593: nat3=-

“We're looking for NAT3.” Said Dr. Smith. 
  “Yes?” Said the boy. 

EDIT: this last week's been so hectic I never even noticed this post went screwy.
Anyway, enjoy.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #89: The Head Is Purely Ornamental

Glenn couldn't breathe.
  The big metal…thing had snuck up behind him and was sucking his life out, at least it felt like that.  It's big metal arm was at his throat. Choking him.
   He managed to scream.
     Glenn was in town on inland leave, he was a border patrolman.  It was a pretty boring job, because most threats seemed to come from inland, somehow, but the uniform was nice, and the pay was good enough.
          The Sargent had never said anything about big metal things that sneak up behind you and choke you to death.
              Glenn tried to scream again, but he was nearly out of air, so that didn't really work.
   The Sargent, whose name was Arnold, was on inland leave too and had seen Glenn get grabbed by the big metal…thing. Arnold hadn't rose in the cut-throat ranks of border patrolmen by waiting around, so he drew his sword and charged.
He drove the sword into the MK4's head, thinking that's where the brain was. In reality, the The Head is purely ornamental and the brain {Such as it was} was in the torso.

  Arnold, like all Legopolians, had only vague notions about robots, so he couldn't have known that drawing a metal weapon and driving it into one was a terrible idea.

-=fig. 585: electrocution=-
The current traveled out of the MK4, through the sword, and made Arnold's hair stand on end. 
Unfortunately it also traveled over the exposed metal body of the MK4, along its arms, and into Glenn, who was trapped in the MK4's vice-like grip. 
 Pretty much everyone got electrocuted, except the robot, somehow.
Glenn stood up.  He felt…Good.  “I…Survived!  Sgt. Arnold! I Survived!”
-=fig. 586: dead?=-

A voice like a slab of lead said “YES, ER, ABOUT THAT…”
 Glenn went white.  “I'm Dead, aren't I?”
    DEATH was relieved, this made his job so much easier. “YES, YES YOU ARE.”
Dr. Smith Rounded the corner.

-=fig. 587: i have you now=-

   He had chased the MK4 that had gotten those poor Border Patrolmen down here, but it had disappeared. He only had the one shot, all the others were with Capt. Brown on the basis that he was a better marksman.
    In retrospect, that was the reverse of what they should have done.
      At least at this range Dr. Smith couldn't miss.

-=fig. 588: in over his head=-
The MK4's marched forward over the body of the Mk4 Dr. Smith had shot.
 Dr. Smith was out of power now, but the Mk4's didn't really seem to notice him.
  He got out of the way.
   Once they had passed by, Dr. Smith pulled a little computer out of his briefcase and plugged it into the trampled robot.  The robot was beyond repair, but the little computer allowed Dr. Smith to see the its source code, and the logs, and maybe find out what had caused all this. The logs showed that the…3-X TERM-1: NAT3 virus had deleted Program.1 and replaced the original source code with this:

Var.MK4= Status.PowerOn 
  <Open> Program.2; 
<WHILE> Var.HUMANS=1+ goto: line3;

It was only a few words different from Dr. Smith's original program,  but it was nearly twice as deadly. 
  The earthquake indicated that the MK4's had realised that Dr. Smith was human.
It was time to leave.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Discworld Black Hat Society

Otto; Photographer, Black Ribboner.
Mr. Slant; Undead Lawyer.

In case you haven't noticed, this is a Terry Pratchett's Discworld reference.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The C.W.A. of Dr. Z. Smith: Episode #88: Problem

Last Week as You Recall…   
A phone-booth rang.
        It rang again.
          Dr. Smith passed it by.
             It stopped.
                Another phone booth, a few yards away, started ringing.
                  This pattern repeated twice more before Dr. Smith figured it out and picked up the receiver.
  “Sir?” Said a nervous, faintly robotic voice on the other end, “We have a…Problem.”
     Dr. Smith hung up the phone and started running.
       Capt. Brown, who had no idea what was going on, followed at his top speed.
   He quickly overtook Dr. Smith, because his legs were longer.  “So… Where are we running to?”
      “My *pant* House *squeak* ”  Dr. Smith was surprisingly out of shape for an action hero.

-=fig. 580: forced entry=-

When they arrived, the door was in pieces.
   “It looks like somebody tried to break in.” Capt. Brown said.
      “It looks like something broke out” Dr. Smith corrected.
The house was, if not trashed, messier than Jeeves would have ever let it get. 
    Capt. Brown picked up a baseball bat that was lying in the wreckage. 
Dr. Smith saw something moving in the wreckage and held up his hand to get Capt. Brown's attention.  They snuck,
  Until Dr. Smith saw what was rolling.

-=fig. 581: getting ahead=-

Dr. Smith ran over to the head, Capt. Brown removed his hat.
  “Hello Sir,” said Jeeves. “Could you please pick me up?  I can't see a thing from down here.”

-=fig. 582: alas, poor jeeves, i knew him, james.=-

    Capt. Brown stared at the disembodied head, dumbfounded. “He's not…?”
      “Actually, I come apart into five manageable pieces, for easy transport.” Jeeves seemed to have something on his mind. “Sir, I have a feature request.”
         Dr. Smith didn't show it, but he was relieved Jeeves was okay. “And what's that, Jeeves?”
          “Secondary brains, located in each of my limbs, so that I may co-ordinate and regroup when dis-embodied by construction robots.”
             “Wait, they did this to you?” Capt. Brown asked, ditching his wooden baseball bat.  Anything wooden would be useless as a weapon against robots.
               “Actually, Their leader did.”
           Dr. Smith did a double-take, “Wait, they have a Leade– start at the beginning, and I'll see if I can find your body.”
“Alright Sir. First off, how was I to know that connecting them directly to IRCS* would be bad idea? As it turns out they don't have any virus-filtering programs.  As I'm sure you can imagine they went mad and started destroying things, and as I was trying to stop them, one or two of the others went into the supply closet. Remember where you put my old skin?”
 “Well, yeah. You never know when you might need some nearly-indestructible metal–oh no.”
      “That's right Sir.  They came out a while later with a new MK4.  A Nearly-Indestructible one.  I was ‘popped’ apart, and spent the morning trying to contact you.”
           “It was neat what you did with the pay-phones.”
            “Thank you Sir.”
“So what happened?” Capt. Brown hadn't been near enough to hear all of the explanation. 
   “The MK4's jumped Jeeves and made a leader out of that old skin.”
 Capt. Brown sat down.  “Alright, I heard you say that stuff is nearly indestructible, that's good, that means it's destructible.  What'll it take?”
    “Gamma Ray Radiation.”
       “How much?”
         “To completely destroy the leader or just shape the alloy a bit?”
           Capt. Brown put his head in his hands. Getting information out of Dr. Smith was like pulling teeth.  “Let's go with complete destruction.” he said.
              “Alright then.  You'd need quite a lot.”
                  “How Much.
                    “10,300 rads.”
That was quite a lot.  
   Enough to destroy the whole city, and then some. 
                      “How dangerous are these MK4's, anyway?”
                         “Depends on what kind of virus they contracted when Jeeves connected them to…the…IRCS. I Have an idea.” 
An hour and eight cups of coffee later they found out that the MK4's had disconnected from the network as soon as they contracted the virus.
  “Well that was a bust.” Dr. Smith said as he leaned back in his chair. 
    “I guess the only thing we can do now is to hunt them down. Which shouldn't be too hard because they're giant metal robots.
-=fig. 583: raygun=-
“So what did you say this thing was supposed to be?” Capt. Brown asked as he examined the smoking raygun in his hand,
      “Long-distance defibrillator. And you can't have it. ”
        “Aw, come on.”
          “No, you'll have to fight your wars with plain old lead bullets, just like everyone else.  That way it's fair.” Dr. Smith was big on fairness.
              “But just think, with an army armed with…LRD's we wouldn't have to be the country too small to bother with filled with things no-one wants! We could finally conquer!”
       Dr. Smith looked at him.  It wasn't even an angry look, just disappointed, which was sort of worse. “How do you think France got started?” was all he said.  France and Russia were the worlds two largest countries, they each eaten up half of Europe, and were too busy fighting each other to bother about a country no larger than a largish city, even though it was smack on their borders. 
Capt. Brown was downcast, but that wasn't going to stop him.  “Alright,” he said “Fair enough. How come I've never seen this defibrillator before?”
      “It has what you'd call a…fatal flaw.  You only get one shot per eight hour charge.”
     Capt. Brown pulled the trigger again, the LRD went *Pfzt* and beeped.
       “Eight hours?”
          “Yep.  But I brought a bunch of them so we should be good. Just don't miss, I don't have that many.”
          *Crunch* *Scream!*  Another MK4 had found been located.
Dr. Smith handed Capt. Brown a fresh raygun, “You ready?”

-=fig. 584: ready?=-
  “Of course.”

*Inter-Robotic Communication System, it's worldwide, most robots can access it.  People can too, if they have the right hardware.