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ONE BAD APPLE
A Mystery Mini
BY DEVORAH FOX
When a virus is unleashed on the Department of Defense’s computers, programmer Marshall “The Worm” Fenwick is certain he’ll be blamed. After all, it’s an act of cyber-vandalism worthy of a man with a history of hacking, a false accusation that Marshall’s never been able to live down. Marshall knows he didn’t do it. It had to be someone else at ApplCart, the virus protection company he works for. Marshall can arrest the damage and escape going down for the crime himself if he can find—and find it in time—the One Bad Apple among the company’s employees.
The minute he read about it, the Worm knew they would try to pin the crime on him. This time, though, it might in fact be his fault.
“Defense Computers Under Attack!” screamed the headline over one article among the hundreds that had been downloaded to the Worm’s computer by the various RSS feeds, LISTSERVs, and Internet newsgroups he subscribed to. The Worm stopped in his cybertracks. The article was short enough that the Worm read it in two eye-blinks. An unnamed source alleged that the Department of Defense’s computers had been infected by a virus. A DOD spokesman denied there was a problem but the Worm suspected he was wrong. That an anonymous someone suspected the Department had suffered a virulent new infection was too much of a coincidence.
Only yesterday, ApplCart, Inc.—“One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, so use ApplCart’s virus protection programs”—had demo’d a new “vaccine” for the military. The vaccine didn’t actually work. However, FYRBLITE, the virulent virus that was supposed to exhibit the AV’s power, did work. The Worm knew it did because he had written it. That’s what he did at ApplCart, a small company whose phenomenal growth astounded industry experts. The Worm created viruses, prototypes that tested and inspired the company’s protection programs. He got paid to do what mischievous or malevolent hackers did in secret for twisted pleasure or out of sheer malice. Although it wasn’t true, his co-workers believed that beneath his light blue Oxford buttoned-down beat a heart just as diabolical, which was why they called him the Worm, the Worm in the ApplCart. They wouldn’t doubt that he had deliberately infected the DOD’s computers.
And this time, Marshall Fenwick, the Worm, wasn’t certain he hadn’t.
Marshall reread the article. The FYRBLITE virus couldn’t have activated or the DOD couldn’t have so blatantly denied that they had a problem. Still, something or someone at DOD knew their system had been inoculated. But what, or who? It couldn’t be a something. The ApplCart programs currently installed at DOD could never have detected FYRBLITE; it was too new. Nor could any other vendor’s AV program. FYRBLITE was carefully confined at ApplCart and no one else knew about it much less developed a defense against it. It had to be a someone.
Marshall leaned back in his mid-back office chair and wished he hadn’t removed the armrests which got in the way of the keyboard tray. He settled for folding his hands in his lap.
Who could have released the virus? More importantly, could he stop FYRBLITE before it did any damage? He had to think. Marshall reached into his pocket, withdrew a pink wooden yo-yo, and began walking the dog.
Had he screwed up? Given his utter exhaustion, it was possible.
Yesterday when the Captain summoned all program developers to an early morning meeting in the Pippin Room they had already worked all night. The emergency muster was bad news; either she was going to berate them for some graunch or exhort them to meet some impossible deadline. Marshall replaced the contact lenses he had removed four hours earlier when it seemed safe to grab a cat-nap at his desk, risked another precious minute to run a cordless shaver over his face and slap on some Brut.
Brian “Juicy” Gillette and his team of coders were already seated when Marshall arrived. Like the other men, Juicy had that ragged all-nighter look: shadowed eyes, stubbled face, and finger-combed hair. The women fared somewhat better. Those who wore make-up had freshened it up. Marshall took the last empty chair at the light green laminate conference table. His butt had barely made contact with the seat when Captain Sable Gunner strode in. Chairs scraped back and the staff got to their feet, not so much to offer her a chair as to come to attention, which her height, bearing, and ex-military status seemed to command. She carried her rank proudly. Why she had left the service in mid-career was anyone’s guess.
Links to Devorah’s website, blog, books, #ad etc.:
Amazon ONLY $.99: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01F7K633A/
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/DevorahFoxAuthor
Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/devorahfox http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B006L9BJAO
Smashwords profile page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/mbapub
barnesandnoble author page: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/devorah%20fox/_/N-8q8
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