A Byte out of Time – (Hacker’s Tale)

By Veronica Haylee McKenzie

Another MORFS Universe story


Things have changed a lot in the past 35 years, every since that fateful night in December, 2008.  The night the pandemic began, and our world, as we knew it changed forever…  It seems some terrorist organization, bent on world domination or some other foolishness, released a viral toxin onto the minions of this unsuspecting hunk of space rock.  MORFS, they called it… Massive Ontogenetic Regulation Failure Syndrome.  And we are its survivors…


 I’m Josh Porter, computer genius and all-around cyber-sleuth.   And this is my story…


It was just another typical summer day in Nowheresville, USA.  The eagoxes were eagoxing, the sky was its usual sickening amber-puce color, and I was bored.  Bored, bored, bored, bored, BORED!!!  I hated summer vacation.  Nothing to do, nowhere to go, no friends to talk to, nothing…  Being a computer geek sucked!  I did have one respite, however.  The local dump was practically in my own backyard.  Why Dad ever decided to purchase the abandoned Microsoft Corporation, I’ll never know.  Things were going fine with it, until the release of Windows Vista in 2007, or as I like to say, the last year of sanity.


I was playing in the abandoned factory, scrounging around for parts for my homebrew computer.  I’d found some older quad-core motherboards, and some hard drives and stuff, but nothing that interested me… much.  Then I saw IT.  The biggest supercomputer I’d ever seen.  The tag read Quantum Utilitarian Electronic Space-Time Energy Rectifier (QUESTER for short).  As I gazed upon this monstrosity of a machine, I noticed a manual in a pocket in the corner of the machine.  ‘Operating Instructions’ was printed on the side.

I opened the manual, briefly thumbing through the tome, until I saw “Time Manipulation via Virtual Displacement.’  Now THIS… this sounded interesting…

As I read the instructions, I began to understand.  QUESTER was an early attempt at virtual reality.  By carefully manipulating the quantum density of the matter surrounding the inner chamber, a ‘time distortion’ field could be generated, thereby temporarily shifting the occupant out of phase with the time stream, and projecting him, albeit briefly, into a virtual world on an alternate timeline. (A virtual reality time machine, as it were.) ** I’ve just GOT to try this! ** I thought.


The instruction manual insisted that the machine was safe, if operated within the defined parameters, and advised the Al-Rad-Chron suit be worn at all times while in the chamber, to prevent any damage to the occupant’s DNA due to cosmic radiation buildup as the quanta were ‘manipulated’.  I’d never seen such a garish, chiffon pink/baby blue/ puke green monstrosity in my life.  The suit looked like they had taken the ugliest pastel colors they could find, added a bad acid trip, and blended it until the designer became nauseous.  I mean it was hideous!


Grudgingly, I donned the suit.  Safety first, right?  I prayed silently that no one found me dressed in this ugly thing…


I powered up QUESTER, and took my place in the chamber.  When I toggled the starter, the room began to spin, and the machine emitted a pea-green light and a high-pitched hum.  Everything around me began to shimmer, and then stop.  I was in a limbo, and everything was in sepia tones, like in the old, old movies.  I stepped cautiously out of the chamber and into WHAT, exactly?  I wasn’t sure.  Time seemed to be in slow motion, and although I could interact with the environment around me, no one and nothing interacted with me.

As I gradually shifted into phase with this new environ, I began to notice things here were a tad different.  The air was crisp and clean, the sky a pale blue, and the sun was shining!  Trees were hued in greens, oranges, reds and browns, and the flowers had the most delectable aroma.  Surely, this was a little slice of Heaven.  I noticed the date on a billboard: December 24th, 2008.  The billboard flashed a “Welcome to ‘Sunny San Diego’” on it, and started showing Macy’s Christmas ads.  People were buzzing with excitement over the new PlayStation Mental, touted as the world’s first biochip embedded gaming system.  “Don’t just play the game, BE THE GAME!  Jack into the next revolution in gaming today! $699.95, only at Macy’s…”


About that time, the chronosphere in the suit began to chime, and the images began to fade.  I saw an iridescent flash of light, and I was back in the chamber in the factory.  I had been in VR stasis for 15 minutes, but no time at all had passed in the real world.  **This is so cool!!!** I thought.  The 2k’s were the bomb…


I quickly left the inner chamber, and hurriedly removed the garish Al-Rad suit.  About that time, the power began to flicker, and I heard a distant peal of thunder.  **Time to get indoors** I thought.  **They’ve started the nightly brown-out, and in 10 minutes, the deluge begins. ** (Perfect weather control is cool sometimes, but damn inconvenient at others…)

I hurried home and ran up the stairs to my bedroom, completely unaware of the arcing sparks trailing behind me…


As I straddled the bed, I reached to turn on my lamp, and heard a faint POP as the light burned out.  I went to the drawer to get another one, and was surprised to hear a low-pitched hum and crackling sound all around me.  I felt light-headed and nauseous, but did manage to just reach the foot of my bed.  I remember screaming for Dad as everything went dark…

I couldn’t deny the sensations of being burned and feeling like every fiber of my being was on fire, super-charged with raw energy.  In my mind, I was traveling faster than electrons, traversing oceans in split seconds, and journeying to vast solar systems in moments.  I was everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  I suddenly had access to all knowledge and more…  No longer was I bound by Earth’s pull, I was one with the Universe!


As I slowly came back from the beyond, I heard Dad’s still voice calling to me.  I began to regain focus, and as I shielded my eyes to the brightness, I heard Dad and Dr. Adams talking quietly.


“The worst has passed now, I think,” Doc said to Dad.  “Just keep him hydrated, add MORF packs to the IV as needed, no more than 3 every 24 hours, and call me if anything else develops.  I’ll see myself out…”


“Thanks, Doc,” Dad whispered.  “I don’t know what I would have done without you…”


“As if I could have ignored your call, Volox.  I keep telling you to use inside voices when you thought project…  You know what that does to my sense of balance and equilibrium… I’ll be phased for days now…”


With that, Doc Adams bid good night and floated down the stairs to his carriage.  Must be rough to be an ectopathic phantasm…


I groggily said hi to Dad as he switched the IV.  I ached all over, and just wanted the world to go away.  “How long…” I croaked, barely able to get the words out.


“Six days, Son.  The worst has passed, though, and you should be up and around by tomorrow afternoon.  Try to get some rest, now, and call me if anything happens or if you feel worse.”


“Thanks, Dad,” I croaked, and turned to go back to the ‘Land of Nod’.


“I’ll come back to check up on you later, Son.  Try to rest.”


And with that, he turned out the light, shut the door slightly, and left me alone with my jumbled thoughts.  **Welcome to life as a MORF…* I thought.


As I began to fade off, I noticed an eerie glow coming from the wall socket.  I tried to focus on the glow, to determine from whence it came.  The longer I focused, the brighter the glow became.  If I could just reach out and touch it…


As I thought that, I saw a flash of light, felt the burning sensation once again, and I was gone!!!


I remembered having a pulling sensation, but I couldn’t tell whether I was being pulled to or away from something.  Also, I didn’t know if I was pulling or if I was the one being pulled…  All I did know was that I ended up at the computer lab at school, staring at a blank screen, with echoes of my last conscious thought ringing in my head: ** I wonder if the computer lab’s still open… **


It was weird to actually be standing, in the nude, in complete darkness (save the screen savers on the mem com's), IN THE ONE PLACE I DETESTED WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING - Wakari Junior High.


Trust me when I say this:  there is NO place you'd rather NOT be in the dead of night that a deserted school.  CREEEEEPPY.  I knew I wasn't dreaming.  My nightmares usually involved more severed limbs and blood and gore and junk.  Just to check, though, I pinched myself.  "Damn, that hurt!"  Well, at least I'm awake, even if I am in Hell (or the next best thing...)


I sat at a terminal, drained.  I still couldn't figure out how in the Nine Hells I ended up here, when I was in my bed just a few seconds ago.  I do remember the flash of light, though, and the brilliance of colors before my eyes went to sensory overload and I momentarily blacked out.  It wasn't long before I felt the tingling in my fingertips as the terminal screens began to explode around me with a very audible *POP*.  *This is NOT good,* I thought to myself.  I saw a faint trail of light (electricity?) streaking towards me from the wall socket, and closed my eyes tight as I braced for the impact.


Suddenly, I was floating again, as the bright hues surrounded me, distorting and altering my perception of reality.  I could 'see' the electrons flowing around me, 'hear' the whine of the data bits whizzing by, and smell the acrid ozone-plasticine of the wires.  I was INSIDE the wall, INSIDE the wire itself, zipping along on the electricity as if surfing a mondo wave.  I don't know how fast I was going, but in just a few seconds, I saw a blue flash, and was back in my darkened room, alone, with nothing but a faint glow against the wall receptacle to indicate anything unusual had happened at all.  *Damn! that was a rush!* I thought to myself.


I almost jumped out of my skin when I heard a loud baying sound downstairs.  It took me a few moments before I realized it was only Dad, snoring again.  That's what I get for having a supersonic, telepathic werewolf for a father.  And tonight IS a full moon, too.  DAMN! He'll be on the prowl soon, and I wanted to test out these 'powers'.  *Well, maybe I can sneak out to visit QUESTER...* I thought, as the blue fog enveloped me again...


No sooner had I finished the thought than I was in the old factory, staring at QUESTER.  *I LOVE these powers,* I thought to myself.


I quickly donned the garish Al-Chron suit again, and actually SET the timer this time.  Wonder how Edison will react to an 'Electric Man'?


To be continued...