Twitter Feed Posts Gone

If you have been coming around to read Null_Pointer this week, you may have noticed that my Twitter feeds to this blog have stopped.  The plug-in that I was using began to wig out on me, so I had to shut it off.  In the meantime, you can see my latest Tweet in the FriendFeed widget if you scroll down on the right hand column.  Or, you know, you could just subscribe to my Twitter feed.  I won’t mind.  KenMcConnell is my username.

Speaking of all those Null_Pointer posts, anyone out there actually reading it?  Just curious.

Null_Pointer Chapter 22

This is the serialization of my first mystery novel, Null_Pointer.  It will be released on this blog every work day until it is complete.  You may purchase the novel at Amazon, Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or order it from any brick and mortar bookstore near you.  Thank you for reading it and I hope you enjoy this free look at the book.

You can find all the chapters of this book by searching for the Null_Pointer Novel tag.

Chapter 22

Dancia plopped down on the couch and watched the snowfall outside the picture windows. The sky was gray behind the tall pine trees that flanked the river. She loved to watch the snow falling. It relaxed her. Joshua started getting the ingredients for spaghetti ready to cook. He found a nice yellow onion and put it on a cutting board. Then he took a chef’s knife out of a drawer and began sliding it up and down a sharpening steel. It was a rhythmic motion that his father had taught him long ago. After a few minutes of sharpening he cut into the onion and soon had it diced and ready to toss into the skillet.
His family’s recipe for spaghetti was simple but very delicious. It took him only a few minutes to sautÈ the onions and brown the ground beef. As he added ingredients and stirred them, he thought about Shemp and how he had been killed. It was ironic that the man who had professed to having hypnotized someone was killed by the very same method. Taggert had very cleverly killed two others at their computers and would likely have gotten away with it had he not left calling cards in their code. Joshua wondered if by doing that, Taggert was trying to be found. Perhaps he wanted someone to eventually figure out how the killings were done and by whom. As he set the sauce to simmer he couldn’t help but think that Taggert had been trying all along to get Joshua to solve the murder.
Again, it was the motive that haunted him now about the situation. What had he ever done to Taggert to warrant that kind of hatred? Joshua had no idea. He moved to the great room and sat down on the couch beside Dancia. Her face was sullen and her eyes heavy behind her glasses.
She looked around the inside of the cabin for the first time. Sitting on the rafters above their heads were an odd assortment of old computer hardware and UNIX memorabilia. There was an original Macintosh, and various hand held devices that she could not identify. A faded old stuffed Linux penguin named Tux and a baby’s bib with the BSD Daemon on it. Joshua’s family were definitely geeks. The room was furnished with two plush couches and various wooden end tables. It was comfy and she felt right at home in the cabin. There was a plasma HDTV against the wall where the staircase started. The TV was sitting on a cabinet that held dozens of DVD movies in their original cases. A DVD player was also on the cabinet.
She noticed the remote on the end table and picked it up to turn on the TV.
“Sorry, no channels on that thing, I only use it for watching movies, but I do have a nice stereo back here,” he pointed to the desk behind him.
Dancia nodded. “I see.” It was a compact little CDROM and AM/FM radio stack with speakers wired all around the room. There was a wooden desk that sat against the wall under the staircase. It had a flat panel monitor and a slim keyboard. “No internet access here either?”
Joshua saw where she was looking. “No actually, that old PC belonged to my dad. I think he had BSD on it; it’s an old Pentium. There’s a Wi-Fi node at one of the bars downtown. I kind of use this place to get a way from the world as much as possible.”
“I didn’t know you liked to unplug like this?”
“It helps keep me grounded in reality. It’s so easy to become all wrapped up in the everyday details of life. Sometimes, it’s good to get away from it all and recharge your batteries.”
That was the kind of thing that only people of higher income levels tended to say. Dancia sometimes forgot about how wealthy Joshua actually was. She never asked him about his money, she didn’t give it much thought. He didn’t flaunt it and so it never really was much of a deal.
“You never mentioned that you had this little cabin before?” she said, motioning to the room they were in with her hand.
“I like to have some secrets.”
She looked at him oddly, and then turned on the TV. “Let’s watch a movie,” she said. She scanned the selection, mostly John Wayne Westerns and just about every Sci-Fi movie made in the last few decades.
“My dad was a John Wayne fan and my mom loved all kinds of Sci-Fi. I like just about anything, I guess.”
She pulled out a DVD case and looked at it fondly. “War Games, I haven’t seen this in ages.”
“It’s a classic, put it in.”
They brought a big wooden bowl full of buttered popcorn and their sodas to the couch and started the movie. They ate and drank and watched the first hour together, making fun of the ancient technology displayed in the film. When the two main characters figured out the password for getting into the war games computer, Dancia looked at Joshua with a serious eye.
“Were you named after that computer?”
Joshua smiled sheepishly. “My parents were geeks. They had just seen the film and both agreed it was a cool name. Not what I would have chosen mind you, but since when does a kid get to choose his own name?”
She laughed. “Don’t feel bad, my mother named me after that chick from The Wonder Years.”
He looked astonished. “Really? Wasn’t her name Danica?”
“Yeah well, my dad was dyslexic and he wrote Dancia on the birth certificate. My mother almost killed him but they decided to leave it. At least it spared me comparisons to the race car driver.”
They both laughed and snuggled closer together. Joshua unwrapped a blue and orange knit blanket and covered their legs with it. By the time the movie was over, they had missed much of the ending. They were wrapped up in each other’s arms, kissing like teenagers.
All those long nights of writing code together, being as close as lovers but never making a move on their desires finally came to a head. He smelling her perfume on his clothes after she had left, her thinking about what it would be like to kiss him as she drove home. Now that she knew what it was like, she wanted more.
Joshua came up for air and noticed the film was over. He stopped the DVD and turned on a lamp on the end table. Dancia sat up and caught her breath. It was better than either had dared dream and they were ready to go further.
Joshua stood up and moved to the back sliding door. The snow was really piling up but he managed to pull it open and stepped outside onto the back deck.
“Where are you going?” Dancia asked. He motioned towards the deck as he used a flat snow shovel to scrape off the top to a hot tub. Dancia smiled, he was crazy. He turned up the water temperature. By the time he came back in the water was hot enough to melt the snowflakes. He came back inside shivering cold and she put the blanket around him.
“It should be warm enough in a few minutes,” he said, taking her in his arms and kissing her firmly.
They stood before the glass door, Joshua started by taking off her black rim glasses and setting them on a little table by the door. Her face was thin and delicate, he had never really allowed himself the chance to notice how truly beautiful she was. She pulled off his long sleeved T-shirt and felt the taught muscles of his biceps. She had suspected that he was stronger than he looked and she was right. They finished by stepping out of their underclothes and opening the door. Walking naked out into the driving snowstorm was unbelievably cold. As they sank into the hot tub, the cold was replaced with hot, pulsating water. The contrast was incredible and they laughed as the snow fell around them.
The hot water felt good on their cold bodies. She hovered over him, snow falling in her hair, his warm hands on her waist. She kissed him hard as she lowered herself down on him. They took their time, each savoring the other.
It was awkward as hell trying to make love in a hot tub, but they didn’t care. They were too focused on each other to be bothered by the cold, or the hard seats in the tub.
Close to an hour went by before they realized that hunger was creeping up on them again. The sky had gone dark and a few more inches of snow had accumulated around them.
“I guess we should get out of here before we turn into prunes,” Joshua said.
“I don’t want to get out. I like it right here with you,” Dancia whispered into his ear. Her leg was wrapped over his hip and she moved over on top of him. She looked down at him with her dark eyes and her black hair wet on the edges. She was so damn beautiful. He held onto her hips and ran his hands up her back. This time she let him lead and he gently rolled her over. She held onto the padded top of the hot tub as he came out of the water behind her. The cold air mixed with the warm water between them and soon they were oblivious to anything but their desires.
When they had finished the second time, Joshua got up and ran gingerly to the sliding door and pulled it open. Dancia watched him trot naked over to the kitchen and put a pot of water on the stove to cook the noodles. He came back to the glass door and pressed himself against it, making her laugh by leaving three smudges. Then he wrapped himself in a towel and took her the other one. She stepped out of the warm tub and he wrapped her up in the soft towel.
They came inside and dried off. The cabin smelled like an Italian restaurant. Joshua sat down before the circular glass faced fireplace and took out a box of long stem matches. The wood and kindling were already in place and after a few minutes, they had a nice fire going. They took off the towels and snuggled under the blanket on the floor in front of the fire. Lying in each other’s arms they were content to watch the embers burn and hold each other tightly.
Hunger finally got the best of them and Joshua got up to put on the noodles. He walked into the closet that was built under the stairs. There was a wine rack near the back of it. He grabbed a flashlight near the door and used it to see the bottles more clearly. There were some nice red wines from the seventies near the back, but he wanted something of a more recent vintage, that would taste good with the meal and not cost him much if they drained it. He found a bottle of French Bordeaux that was only a few years old. Pulling it out of the rack, he used a towel to dust it off. It was one of the first bottles he had purchased after he turned old enough to drink legally. If memory served, this particular wine was not a first growth cult wine but something akin to an average French wine used for everyday meals, perfect for a spaghetti dinner.
Soon the spaghetti noodles were done and they were ready to eat. Joshua ran up stairs again and came down with two bathrobes. They put on the plaid flannel robes and started to get ready for dinner. Joshua fixed a plate of spaghetti and a glass of red wine for each of them and they returned to the fire to eat.
Dancia was not surprised that the spaghetti was delicious she knew Joshua was an excellent cook; it was one of the things she had always liked about him. Cooking was a rare trait in a young man, like finding someone who wrote poetry or could improvise a love song on a guitar. Dancia was at best a modest cook herself. She never really took to traditional female roles, she had been a Tomboy most of her life.
The two of them had completely forgotten why they had come to the cabin in the first place. They were too involved in each other now, to realize that they had not heard from Detective Plait since before noon. Joshua noticed his cell phone on the end table nearest him and suddenly recalled that he had not heard from the police all afternoon. He set his plate down and got up to check the phone. There were no missed calls on it.
“What’s wrong?” Dancia asked.
“That detective said he was going to keep me informed on his progress, and I just realized that he hasn’t called us all afternoon.”
“Maybe the storm is hampering their ability to find Taggert,” Dancia offered.
Joshua noticed that the cell phone didn’t have a signal at all. No bars. No wonder they didn’t get a call.
“That’s odd, there’s no cell signal. I’ve always gotten a good signal out here,” Joshua said, moving to the island in the kitchen where her cell phone was sitting. Her phone was fully charged and had no signal either.
Dancia went to the wireless phone at the computer desk. She turned it on and got no signal. “The land line’s out too,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.
Joshua looked around the cabin. What were the chances of both the cell going down and the landline? Virtually impossible he guessed. He could imagine that the winter storm might have affected the cell transmission, but not the landline.
Joshua went to the front door of the cabin and opened it a crack, looking out at the snow-covered ground. The Jeep was covered in about one foot of snow and there were no discernible tracks to indicate that a squad car had been by recently. Perhaps the snow had kept the local police from making it out to check on them. It was a relatively small police department and no doubt they were keeping busy with all kinds of winter storm related business.
He locked the front door and padded back down the hall to the main room. Dancia had a worried look on her face as she put her plate down on the table. “Maybe it was the storm? At least we have power.”
On cue, the cabin plunged into darkness.

Interview with Tripp from Null_Pointer

As an ongoing promotion for my new novel, Null_Pointer, I will be interviewing some characters from the story.  Today we talk with Joshua Jones’s best friend, Tripp Thomas.

My View: How long have you and Joshua been friends?

Tripp: Since we were like crib mates.  We’ve always been in each other’s classes and hanging out together our whole lives.  We’re kinda like brothers.

MV: Were you always into film or did you discover that interest in college?

Tripp: I have always loved stories and in particular, movies.  Being an only child, my parents used to sit me in front of the TV and let me watch just about anything.  In High School, I used to make videos with my friends and that sort of lead me further down the path of being a film maker.

MV: Have you ever written a screenplay?

Tripp: Oh yea, several.  But nothing very good.  I prefer being behind the camera and composing shots.  I’ve been told I have quiet an eye for it.

MV: What’s your all time favorite movie?

Tripp: Easy.  Mary Poppins.  It’s got cool effects, music and Dick van Dyke, what else does a kid need?

MV: I love that film too.  But my all time favorite will always be Star Wars.

Tripp: Hard to beat that.  I had always seen it on the tube and then finally caught it in the theater when it came out for the 25th anniversary or something like that.  Wow, that film is made for the big screen.  I loved it.

MV: What about foreign films?

Tripp: I’m totally infatuated with the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski, he’s my favorite director.  Love the tri-color series the best.  Especially Red.

MV: They are really great, I prefer Blue and the other film he did with the lady in Red, The Double Life of Veronique.

Tripp: Oh man, I  forgot about that one.  Yeah, love the imagery and what’s with the old woman and the tin can?

MV: I think its a comment on aging.  Brilliant though.

Tripp: Agreed.  He died too soon.

MV: Any recent movies you would recommend?

Tripp: It’s a chick flick to be sure, but absolutely brilliant.  Bright Star.  You can catch it at the Flicks here in Boise.  It’s a love story between the poet Keats and his first love.

MV: Is that the Jane Campion film?

Tripp: Yup.  She does a fabulous job with this one.  On my top five list for the year.

MV: I’ll have to check it out.  Thanks for chatting with me today, Tripp.

Tripp: No prob.  Anytime you want to rap about film, I’m available.

Null_Pointer Chapter 18

This is the serialization of my first mystery novel, Null_Pointer.  It will be released on this blog every work day until it is complete.  You may purchase the novel at Amazon, Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or order it from any brick and mortar bookstore near you.  Thank you for reading it and I hope you enjoy this free look at the book.

You can find all the chapters of this book by searching for the Null_Pointer Novel tag.

Chapter 18

The music was a smooth and relaxing Jazz Fusion. Dancia preferred classic Jazz like Coltrane or Mingus, but sometimes the new Fusion hit the spot for her. She pressed the padded earphones to her head and sat back in her computer chair. She could easily fall asleep again listening to this music.
She opened her eyes and stared at the computer screen. She was watching the Visualizer that came with iTunes on full screen. It displayed a swirling, trail of light and color that moved with the beat of the music. Dancia had seen someone on #own3d chatting about a cool new Jazz feed he had found before she came home in the morning. She had to see what it was like. Her head was bouncing ever so slightly to the unusual beat.
She did not notice that several of her running programs had shut down. The only programs left running were X-Chat Aqua and iTunes. Everything else was shut down seconds after the buffer overflow. The hiccup that iTunes made just as it hooked up to the feed, was her program dying and a new one starting. One that was under the control of Muse.
A buffer overflow was about the only way for a bad guy to break into a UNIX system. It was caused when a program was flooded with extraneous data into its memory buffers. Muse had discovered a way to break iTunes with a buffer overflow that was caused by a reference to memory that did not exist. It was a pointer in the code that referred to a null value. The exploit was unknown to anyone but him and when used allowed him to gain access to her computer.
He could not take complete control of her computer, as he was only able to access programs under her user name. That was all he needed to be able to shut her off from the outside world by turning off her Mail program and making sure system sounds never reached her earphones.
The version of iTunes she was now listening to was a special version that ran code supplied by Muse. The music and images she was seeing began to lull her into an altered state of consciousness. After a few minutes of the binaural beat infused music she was completely under his control.
The heat was oppressive. Even the warm water from her water bottle felt good sliding down her parched throat. Beck, her driver with the tinted goggles kept looking at her. She sighed as more of the breeze blew at her face like a hair dryer.
“I don’t like this, man, got a bad feeling,” Beck said, looking around at the deserted section of Bagdad they were moving through.
“Come on Beck, you’re scaring me. We’ll be fine. Only a few more klics to go.”
He nodded, but the uneasy look on his face reflected his concern. She gripped the M-16 in her lap and put her finger on the safety. Just in case.
An explosion ripped through the lead HUMVEE in the convoy. Parts of it impacted the glass on their one-ton’s window two vehicles behind the lead. Dancia screamed and Beck tried to swerve around the wreckage following the truck in front of them.
“Son of a bitch! I knew we’d get hit,” Beck yelled as they kept going past the smoke.
Dancia could see figures moving in front of them. She heard the popping sounds of AK-47 rounds going off. Several rounds struck their truck. She pointed her rifle out her window and fired. Anything that moved was shot.
The one-ton truck rocked with an explosion and she was thrust forward into the dashboard. The butt of her M-16 smashed her forehead. Her left wrist broke against the dash. In a slow moving blur, she could hear her wrist snap and feel the sudden pain. She was not wearing a seatbelt and came to rest on the floor of the cab.
Looking up she saw Beck hit several times with small arms fire and slump over at the wheel. The big tan truck lurched forward into the truck in front of them and then stopped as his foot fell off the clutch. There was another violent explosion and a grinding sound as the truck behind them plowed into their rear.
More shots could be heard as the platoon was returning fire. Dancia looked up at Beck. His eyes were open, but he was dead. Pools of blood were forming in his flack jacket and spilling out onto the floor of the one-ton.
She was too terrified to even move. She flinched at every shot fired. Pop, pop-pop-pop. Her heart raced with the automatic gunfire. Her wrist throbbed with pain so badly that she wanted to pass out. The thought occurred to her that she would die here. She didn’t want to die.
She reloaded the M-16 with her one good hand. It was not easy but she managed. She could hear men shouting in Arabic. They were getting closer. More machine gun fire, louder this time. It was a fifty-caliber gun. Hope welled up inside her for the first time. She loved the thundering sound of that big gun.
A bearded face appeared above her. It was an insurgent. His dark eyes grew large when he saw her. He started to holler at her. She shot him between the eyes. There was silence until his lifeless form hit the ground. The side of the truck erupted in exploding bullets.
It took Joshua nearly fifteen minutes to get the few blocks down the street to Dancia’s. There was a traffic incident that blocked Front Street.
The wait seemed like an eternity to him. At one point he even contemplated ditching the Porsche and running. After finally being let through he gunned the little sports car, breaking all speed limits until he skidded to a halt before her house.
Stacey’s car was gone. The front door would be locked. He would have to bust it down or find another way in. Bounding from the car he bolted up to the front porch and tried the door. It was locked. He pound hard on the door then he moved to the front window and tried to look inside. There were no lights on inside. Maybe she had stepped out and was not home.
Bolting up the front porch, he tried the door. Locked like he thought. He pounded on the door, then the window frame as he tried to look in. Maybe she had stepped out and was not home.
But he knew better.
His heart raced. “Dancia! Dancia!” he yelled as he pounded on the door.
Still pounding, then kicking with his foot, he flipped the doormat up. Nothing.
His eyes flashed to the lock. Flimsy. No double lock. I can do this.
He put is foot into it like in the movies. Nothing. Barely a budge. Stepping back, Joshua could feel the panic rising. His heart beat so hard, it was going to jump out of his chest. He breathed in gasps.
I’am going to be too late!
“NO!” He rammed his shoulder into the door.
He stumbled into the room as the door burst inward. Ruined. Not that he cared, or even felt the pain in his shoulder.
The hail of bullets ripped into the passenger side of the one-ton. Her leg caught one bullet grazing her calf. She felt the sting like a snake had bitten her. Most of the rounds went into Beck’s corpse and the ceiling above the driver side. She did not return fire. Hoping that they wrote her off and would move on. The screaming and confusion outside only intensified.
She considered crawling out the driver’s door but she knew they would gun her down before she managed to find cover. More gunfire was directed at her truck. This time the engine caught on fire and started to burn. Either she got out and took her chances or she would burn up in the truck. Her wrist hurt so bad she could barely think straight. She slid up on the front seat and peered out the bullet holes in the side door. She didn’t see any movement. The fighting sounded like it had moved on to the rear of the convoy.
She opened the door and pointed the M-16 outside. Flames were rising fast from the engine and the bulkhead was beginning to feel warm. She had to get out before the fuel tanks exploded. It was a long way down to the ground. She hesitated just long enough for a Marine to appear through the smoke and grab her from the truck. She fell on him as they both hit the ground.
“Thanks,” she said. Then she realized that he was not moving. She looked up in time to see three insurgent gunmen racking the charging handles of their Kalashnikov riffles.
Dancia’s heart stopped. She was about to die. She heard a voice calling her name over and over again. The voice got louder and louder until she could no longer hear the burning truck or the popping sounds of machine gun fire. The repressive desert heat and the smell of cordite faded away.
She opened her eyes and a man’s face slowly came into focus above her. It was Joshua. He had awakened her from the nightmare.
Dancia was wet with perspiration and trembling with fear as she sat up in her chair. She held onto Joshua with a tight grip.
“Dancia, it’s okay. You’re safe now,” Joshua said. He brought her head to his chest in a hug.
Seeing her seemingly asleep at her computer with the padded headphones on, fueled his anger and sent him over the edge. He could not bear to loose her, she was too important to him. Joshua realized in that harrowing instant that he was in love with her. No matter how hard he had denied himself the possibility, he was now fully committed to her in heart and soul.
“I was in Iraq. They were ready to kill me. It was so,” she paused. Her heart was still pumped up on adrenaline, causing her to tremble. “Real. I thought I was going to die.”
“You were under hypnosis and Muse was using your memories of the war to try and frighten you into thinking you were going to die. It’s how he killed Zemo and Glenn. I got here as fast as I could.”
She pushed away from him for the first time. He looked down into her deep brown eyes and saw the anger in them. “How did he do that to me? How could he get to me?” she asked.
They both looked back at her monitor. The screen was black.
“I was listening to a music stream on iTunes.”
Joshua bumped the mouse and hit the Escape key. The music program returned to normal mode. He opened a terminal window and checked what processes were running. Only iTunes and the IRC chat program were running. He looked closer. There were two instances of iTunes open. One process was hung the other running.
“I have no idea.”
She nudged him away from the keyboard. “Do you think he’s still on now?”
“Maybe, I don’t see how he could know if you were still alive or dead. He must have come through the stream kind of like what he did on Glenn’s box to get to him at work.”
She looked at him and nodded in agreement.
“I know who Muse is. It’s a guy I work with named Lawrence Taggert.”
She blinked. “Do you think he thought I was you?”
“No, I’m betting he wants us both dead.”
Dancia checked for open ports. There was a secure shell connection to an open port. She opened a terminal and used it to send a system message to everyone connected to her computer.
Broadcast Message from dancia@dancias-computer.local (/dev/ttyp2) at 8:52 MDT… You lose, FUCKER! I know who you are.
Joshua grinned. Dancia looked pleased with herself. “Let’s make him sweat for a change.”
She ran another command called “who -Hmu” that showed her who was connected to the computer. There was only one connection, herself.
“We have to go to the police with this,” Joshua said.
Dancia nodded solemnly. She looked at him seriously. “Thank you for saving me.”
He put his hands on the back of her head and brought her close to him. Her wrist felt sore as she put her arms around him. But she didn’t care. She pressed against him hard and they kissed passionately, as if they might never kiss again.

Null_Pointer Chapter 17

This is the serialization of my first mystery novel, Null_Pointer.  It will be released on this blog every work day until it is complete.  You may purchase the novel at Amazon, Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or order it from any brick and mortar bookstore near you.  Thank you for reading it and I hope you enjoy this free look at the book.

You can find all the chapters of this book by searching for the Null_Pointer Novel tag.

Chapter 17

Joshua was sitting at a red light on Chinden in Garden City when he remembered the tape he had made of last night’s radio chat. He looked down at his backpack and opened a side pocket, making sure it was still there. Dancia would be getting up soon. He decided to go to her place and let her translate it for him.
When he pulled up to her apartment and parked it was just after six. Trish would not be home yet but Dancia’s KG was in the street. He rang the doorbell. Nothing happened. He pushed it again. Then he remembered that Dancia had disconnected it so she could sleep through the day.
He took out his cell phone and dialed her number. He heard her ring tone go off and looked around. It was coming from her car. He walked over to the Karman Ghia and looked in the passenger window. There was her cell, sitting on the passenger seat singing away.
There was no real way to get to her as they didn’t have a landline. So he got back in his car and headed home. He decided he would just send her the MP3 file and she would get it when she logged on a bit later.
Joshua was hungry when he got home so he rummaged through his refrigerator until he settled on an egg sandwich. He had turned on the old radio first thing when he got home; it was warming up on the table behind him. As he waited for his eggs to cook, he put some bread in the toaster. About the time the eggs were done, the toast popped up. He squirted some ketchup on the toast and placed the egg patty between the pieces of toast.
Sitting down at the kitchen table, he opened up the laptop and started downloading the audio file from his recorder to the laptop. Then he compressed the file and emailed it to Dancia.
As he ate the egg sandwich he opened up IRC and found little to no activity. He took the sandwich and went into the living room to watch the evening news. Nix was sitting in his usual place feigning cat sleep. Joshua had fed the old cat before he started to fix his own dinner but the animal refused to make the effort to get off the couch and go eat. In his old age he only moved when he absolutely had to and then only when hunger or other urges could wait no longer.
Joshua used the remote control to go to the local news. The anchorwoman was reading from the prompter and conveying a maternal and wholesome demeanor as she read about a bribery scam. Joshua didn’t normally watch local news, but when he did he usually watched the station where Tripp worked. Tripp didn’t produce the nightly news only the morning news program. The weatherman came on and hinted at a big winter storm coming. As usual, no details until after the station break.
The egg sandwich did not fill him up. During the commercial break he headed back into the kitchen to get a beer and some potato chips. He checked the IRC window and saw that there was some chatting, so he picked up the laptop and took it with him back to the couch.
In the IRC chat room a new kid was trying to get the group to accept him and he was only succeeding in pissing everyone off. It was not pretty. Eventually the moderator booted the kid off. No one complained.
Joshua returned his attention to the TV and decided to change the channel. He punched in the number for a world news channel and watched that for a while. His cell phone rang.
“It’s me, I have a translation for you,” Dancia said.
“What’d they talk about?”
There was a sigh at the other end of the phone. “Mostly poetry stuff, they talked on and on about their radios and band conditions. I tuned that crap out.”
“Did they mention anything at all about music or hypnotizing people?”
“Nope. The band conditions deteriorated towards the end. I think they were talking about baseball or something about three strikes or the third strike or out three. I don’t know it was pretty garbled.”
Joshua remembered that band conditions were bad; he guessed that was why they signed off that night.
“I think I know how Muse got them hypnotized. He was using some kind of binaural beat music to put them into a trance. Both victims were wearing headphones so it’s a possibility.
Dancia breathed heavily into the receiver for a moment.
“So maybe Muse is not a Flash programmer.”
“I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure he’s using hypnosis and a person’s fear or phobias against them. Making them think they are going to die.”
Dancia yawned on her side, causing Joshua to yawn.
“Stop that.”
“Sorry, I just woke up. Look, I have to get some food and wake up. Trish wants her phone back, I have no clue where my phone went off to.”
“It’s in your car, I stopped by earlier and tried to call you. I could hear it ringing in your car.”
Dancia laughed. “What a klutz I am. It’s in my car Trish! Yeah, Joshua said he rang me from the front door and he heard it going off in my car.”
Joshua listened for a while as Dancia and Trish chatted.
“Hey, I’ll let you two go. Talk to you later.”
“Ok Joshua, bye.”
He closed his phone and put it back in his front pocket. A crackle of static and someone’s voice started talking on the radio in the kitchen. Joshua turned off the TV and went into the kitchen to listen.
“CQ, CQ, CQ. VE2SHM, Victor, Echo, Two, Sierra, Hotel, Mike. CQ, CQ, CQ. This is, Whiskey Five Zulu Papa Golf Charlie.”
It was Muse calling Shemp. Joshua scrambled to restart his digital recorder. He managed to get it cued and recording by the time Shemp responded.
“Go head W5ZPGC, this is VE2SHM.”
“Well, the conditions seem to be better this evening anyway. How’s the weather up North?”
There was a pop in static and then Shemp responded. “Not too bad, clear and cold. But the weather dude on TV says we are expecting a big winter storm coming out of the West in the next few days. Is that going to hit you at all? Over.”
Their voices sounded like heavy Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. Joshua reminded himself that they were probably running voice-altering software filters to further mask their identities. He found it odd that they had not switched to French yet.
“I think we are expecting some snow at the higher elevations. We usually get a few flurries around here, but nothing lasts more than a few days. Good for the local ski lodges though. Over.”
They went on like that, talking about nothing in particular. Joshua started to get bored. He was hoping one of them would let something interesting slip out. But they kept up the idle prattle for a good hour. The band was holding and their signals were both coming in pretty clear. Muse was talking about living in Florida as a kid.
“We used to skim over the marsh in those things like bats out of hell. Those were the good old days. One time we saw them launch a rocket from out on the swamp. It was far out, man. It lit up the whole damn area right at sunset.”
Joshua sat up. Far out? Who the hell says that any more? Then it hit him. Taggert said that just today. Joshua’s heart started to race and he broke out in a sudden sweat. Lawrence Taggert was Muse! He had to be! Didn’t he say something about coming to Boise with Joshua’s father from Florida? Joshua knew that his parents had grown up in Florida and that his dad had worked for NASA there. “Holy shit, Muse knows me!”
Suddenly Joshua was too scared to even move. He stared at the twin dials of the radio and tried to think what Glenn had done to possibly offend Taggert. The two men continued to talk on the radio, but Joshua’s mind was racing. Does Taggert know that I’m on to him? How could he? He never mentioned anything to anyone about what he was doing. Except for Nik! Did Nik say anything to Taggert? No way, the two of them never spoke before. Why would they talk now? Joshua wiped his brow and tried to calm himself down.
Maybe he doesn’t know. He can’t know. Why would he suspect that I was looking for him? He can’t know, damn it. He can’t know. Joshua took a few deep breaths.
“I’m striking again. That kid from the channel,” Muse said coldly on the radio.
“Why? Do you think it’s him?” Shemp asked.
Joshua’s eyes froze as he stared in horror at the little brown radio.
“Yes, I’ll let you know how it goes. Well, I better get some things ready. Nice chatting with you. Stay warm. We’ll talk again soon. W5ZPGC clear.”
“Ok, take it easy. This is VE2SHM.”
The band returned to the normal low levels of static and popping noises. Muse was going to kill someone again, someone from the IRC chat room. He was going to kill Nooblet. Joshua jumped up out of his seat and fished out his cell phone. He dialed Dancia’s number as fast as he could.
The phone rang, and rang and rang. Damn, she left it in the car! Joshua didn’t know Stacy’s number. He had to warn Dancia somehow. He ran into the living room and scooped up his laptop. She was not in the chat room. He quickly emailed her and told her to get off her computer and call him. What if she were out? What if she were already being attacked? What if I am too late?
Joshua ran for the door.

Twitter Updates for 2009-10-16

  • H1N1 flu virus protective measure #1 – salt water gargling. So easy, a kid can do it. #
  • My Ham Shack featured on a Flickr Group about Ham Shacks. #
  • My son's Swine Flu gargling clip. Made it himself and surprised us with it. #
  • Reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. #
  • I wrote a short story about a historian who researched historical people by watching their life recorders. #
  • The story was called War Stories. You can read it here -> #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-10-16

  • #idea Put High Def cameras on the bottom of airliners, feed into in-flight TV channel that shows off the views from below. I'd watch. #
  • Google's Wave named after communications in Firefly known as a wave or waving. I suspect Whedon was just shortening radio waves. #
  • I also point to Whedon using The Signal and people getting waves, come on, it's RADIO. Am I the only Ham who watches Firefly? #
  • "Books are souvenirs" — Seth Godin #
  • Starting my edits on Starstrikers Second Edition. I'm not fully awake yet, is that a bad thing? #
  • Inserted missing chapter, moving on to edits again. Going to be a long weekend. #
  • Flag football in 35 degree weather. Good times ahead. #
  • RT @natemcintyre Reading Null_Pointer by @kenmcconnell. Will post impressions when I am done. Hope nobody de-references it. =P — LOL in reply to natemcintyre #
  • WeRead, I want to like you, but you won't let me add my books. FAIL. #
  • Fixing copy edits is not my favorite part of writing. I know that comes as a big shock, but it's true. #
  • Back at work on copy edits. I hope to finish up today, but the yard mocks me. #
  • Writing some more character interviews for next week #
  • Not sure if anyone is reading them, but they amuse me. Especially the one last week with the dead character. #
  • Front yard conquered. Backyard survives for another day. Back to copy edits. #
  • A slew of free fonts can be had here -> #
  • Make Sunday school more fun with Klingon translation of the Bible! #
  • Free coffee does not taste good. Not even with real cream and sugar. #
  • Listening to Jazz Masters Vol Two CD. Johnny Griffin – Sophisticated Lady. Smooooth, sax. #
  • Now playing, Thelonious Monk – Something in Blue. #
  • RT@elakdawalla Oh my: lunar crater ejecta seen at 52 cm per pixel. – Love the third image. #
  • OMG! New Pink Martini CD – Hey Eugene! MUST HAVE NOW! #
  • RT @mightymur later this afternoon I will attempt to continue the ruination of SciFi WITH MY FALLOPIAN TUBES, BITCHES. #
  • Hot apple cider and copy edits. Mmmm, good. #
  • Copy edits finished. Bed now. #
  • Is Ping the only thing I can use to update and Twitter and Facebook? I'd really rather have an adobe client that did it all. #
  • Want a good book about computer cracking? The Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll. Read it. You won't regret it. #
  • Kid #1's flag football practice canceled. Now I only have to miss the first quarter of the BSU game for kid #2's swimming practice. Woohoo! #
  • Frank Deford, from NPR talks about my BSU football team. Game on! #
  • Windows 7 is not going to save you Mr. Dell. Acer just out shipped you and they sell cheap Linux boxes. #
  • CrimeWAV is back, bitches! Get your audio fix of crime fiction from my "Boy", Seth Harwood. #
  • Full video ads on web pages with written content, exactly why ebooks with web access are a bad idea. I can't read with the TV on my page. #
  • I must have been out of the country. I have never seen this: #
  • Worked my way out of a story predicament with the help of a friend. Thanks Mordrind! #
  • H1N1 flu virus protective measure #1 – salt water gargling. So easy, a kid can do it. #
  • My Ham Shack featured on a Flickr Group about Ham Shacks. #
  • My son's Swine Flu gargling clip. Made it himself and surprised us with it. #
  • Reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. #

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Twitter Updates for 2009-10-15

  • Windows 7 is not going to save you Mr. Dell. Acer just out shipped you and they sell cheap Linux boxes. #
  • CrimeWAV is back, bitches! Get your audio fix of crime fiction from my "Boy", Seth Harwood. #
  • Full video ads on web pages with written content, exactly why ebooks with web access are a bad idea. I can't read with the TV on my page. #
  • I must have been out of the country. I have never seen this: #
  • Worked my way out of a story predicament with the help of a friend. Thanks Mordrind! #

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