Brian W. Antoine

November 2, 1992

God, what a night. I should know better than to drink and spellcast.

Well, time to see what today will bring. Feeling like I could drink a gallon of juice to wash the fuzzyness out of my mouth, I walked into the den and plunked myself down in front of my computer.

"Good morning, sleepy head. About time you came to life."

"Oh Lord, have pity on a poor Mage. The last thing I need this morning is a smartass AI giving me shit." I got back a chuckle from the speaker. The only pity I was likely to get was a comment about how pitiful I looked.

"Anything that I need to take a look at right away?" I asked, hoping that the world hadn't decided to come to an end while Iíd slept.

"Nothing important. The news feed on tau-ceti is still inactive. It looks like isc-br has gone comatose again. Other than that, all's quiet."

Having Penny monitor the various systems I was responsible for sure made life easier. AI's are handy things to have around, I just wish I could reproduce the accident that had created her. "Good, I don't think I'd be very effective this morning." Keeping an illusion active, even a small one, is a pain during the best of times. Being just a little drunk makes it several times worse and I'd had to maintain a small illusion during the entire Halloween party the night before.

"So, how was the party last night? No riots or anything?"

"Not bad considering. Which reminds me, Kal says thank you very much for the dress. I think it was love at first sight." The dress had made quite a hit at the party, above and beyond the impression Kal herself had made. "I don't know how you picked that particular shade of green, but it sure went well with the red highlights in her fur. Most of the guys at the party couldn't decide whether to have heart failure or just stand there in shock."

"That was the general idea, wasn't it? I take it no one tried to check out her 'costume' this year?"

"Oh Lord, don't remind me. I thought I was going to have to do a mind wipe on the entire crowd last year. The illusion I used this year seemed to make things much easier than last time."

The year before Kalindra had wanted to visit and meet some of the people of my world. After a lot of thought, I'd given in and had decided to schedule her visit on Halloween night. I figured that was about the only time that someone who looked like a 5' anthropomorphic fox stood a chance of mixing with the crowd. Unfortunately the party had included someone who worked in the costume department of one of the local theater companies. He'd been determined to find out just who had made and helped her put on her 'costume'. It was the best work he'd ever seen, and he was not going to let her get away without telling him who had done it. He had even tried to remove her tail to see how the mechanism that made it wave worked. One good snarl had sobered him up fast, and almost started a riot. Thank God nothing like that had happened this year. This time, we had had the foresight to make it look as if she was actually wearing a costume, more or less.

"Anyway, she had a good time and went back through the gate without a hitch. Although when some of her friends see that dress, you're going to be kept busy with requests."

"No problem, I've got the time and I enjoy doing it. Did you leave the gate open so we can exchange messages?"

"Yeah, I closed it down to bare minimum. It's big enough to be self maintaining and pass messages through, but not big enough to let anything wander through it by accident. So, anything else on the schedule for today?"

"Well, you wanted to do some more design work on the power plant, and we have that H-link to Bob's system to check out and activate."

"That's right, hmmm ... Okay, letís save the design session for this afternoon, I still have to clean the holotank off so we can poke around in the design. Let me get something to drink, and we'll start on the H-link."

I walked into the kitchen to throw some breakfast together while Penny occupied herself with something, and began humming softly to herself. When I got back, she had several dress designs printed and she was tinkering with another on the screen.

"Getting a head start, huh?"

The screen began to display the entire series using virtual models. "Yep, what do you think?"

"Not bad, but then. I'm not the one who will be judging them. You ready to begin the testing?"

"Yes, just give me a second to save these ... Okay, ready."

"Ok. I installed a micro H-link into a disk drive that I helped Bob install into his new system last Thursday. When I talked to him yesterday, he had gotten everything back together and running, so we should be able to bring up the link and get the security stuff installed. Here is the code sequence for the link." I began typing the security code for the link receiver. "Ok, that's it. Try to send the activation signal."

"Transmitting ..." She began humming to herself again.

"What is that from? It sounds familiar, I just can't place it."

"It's the theme to Buckaroo Bonzai-- Okay I've contacted the link receiver and ran the initial diagnostics. Everything checks out fine."

"Ok, I don't want to have his power bill go through the roof so keep the data rate low. Bob doesn't have the resources you have to power the link. Remember that copy of Linux that I gave you to examine awhile back?"

"Yep, I've got the security interface stuff all coded up and ready to insert. Whoever designed that system sure wasn't thinking about security."

"Well itís a hackers O/S, what did you expect? Go ahead and begin the download, and I'll dig out the backup link." Out of a case in the closet I removed a small crystal about a quarter of an inch square. It looked like a small diamond, but no diamond could do what this artificial construct could.

"Download completed. I've inserted the code into the microcode on the main CPU and the microcontrollers of the various peripherals. Bob is going to have a secure system even if he never knows why."

"Ok, last step. Here is the primary H-link. I'll activate it and you get the digitizer ready." I held the link in my hand and closed my eyes to concentrate. After a few seconds the link began to feel warm in my hand, and when I opened my eyes I could see it was glowing faintly.

On my work desk a small cage, made out of another kind of crystal and connected to the computer, began to hum. "The digitizer is all ready."

I placed the link into the cage and closed the top. "Ready to transmit?"

"All set."

"Let her rip!" The hum increased, the link began to shimmer, and finally vanished as it was converted into energy.

"Ok, I've got the pattern. Where did you want it to be placed in Bob's system?"

"Well, since it has that faint glow, I think the best place would be inside the power supply of his computer. Iíve seen one of his older systems after heís owned it for awhile, the insides of the power supply are covered in tar from all the cigarettes he smokes. Give him a week, and heíll never be able to see the glow from the link.

"Ok, it's on its way. Anything else?"

The digitizer went quiet as it was shutdown. "Not for now. I'll clean off the holotank, and we can get to the power plant design later on."

"Ok. Give me a holler when you're ready. I'll be right here."

"Yeah," I chuckled. "I know."