For the last few weeks, my friend and I have been regularly calling each other just to see what's going on. He was a great buddy in high school, and got me through some hard times. We don't live in walking distance anymore, as he moved to an apartment complex downtown, while I stayed in the suburbs with my girlfriend. I've been training to become a cop, because I've always wanted to serve the community, but not anymore. The community is in unrest due to an anarchy movement growing in the town, armed rebels, and I want to stop them myself, as I have seen first hand the effects of these people. They came around after the economical recession a few years back, complaining that the government didn't do enough to get people jobs, and have done violent things to get their point across.
My friend on the other hand, wanted to become a game developer. Unfortunately, the economy for him hadn't been very merciful, and he's been unemployed for a while now. He's living off crumbs, but he's making the best off of it. He can't purchase a computer powerful enough to keep ahead with the CPU intensive programs he need to develop, such as rendering and compiling, so he goes to an 24-hour internet cafe everyday, and sharpens his skills.
The internet cafe doesn't let you download stuff onto the computers, but the geek he is, he found a way. He bought a USB, I was generous and handed him my laptop for the day a month or so back, and he installed Ubuntu onto a Live Boot USB. Being the clever bastard he is, he installed the Windows 7 background over the Ubuntu one, and a whole lot of things, to keep it from looking suspicious. With Ubutnu instead of Windows installed, he was free to do what he pleased, and anonymously as well.
You might of noticed I'm refraining from using either of our names. By the time you're reading this, I've quit my training as a police officer, and vowed not to share personal info of those involved.
My girlfriend was out for the day, running errands and shopping at the mall, which I just can't stand to do, so I stayed home. After a few hours of nothing to do, I decided to pick up my cell and call my friend, because my girlfriend was probably neck deep in shoes by then. I was dialing his number when I realized around this time he's at the cafe giving himself carpel tunnel browsing around, or coding. I dialed anyway, and he picked up.
"Oh hey! How you been doing, dude?"
"Really well, the police training is paying off, and I could be on the job sooner then I thought. I wanna take on these rebels, let me at them! How about you?"
"You're gonna be a great cop. As for me, this cafe saved my ass from losing my touch."
"So, how's your week bee-"
"Someone's staring at me."
"I said something and he shot his eyes at me. Dude, what the hell..."
"Uhm, look at him?"
"Never mind, he looked away. So, how was cop training yesterday?"
"Pretty well actually, I got a good score in the-"
"He's looking again."
"I don't know, I'm getting a bit creeped out. Why don't we change the subject? Like, how is your girlfriend doing?"
"Fine, she's really fun to have around-"
"He's fucking smiling now."
"Ok, uhm, talk about your games!"
"Oh- oh yeah! I have an idea. It's a 3D story game where you have to stop a evil cloud from taking over the city you live in, and you play as a- *gasp*"
"What? What is it?!"
"He got up and flew out the door. Just startled me."
"Well, ok, keep going on about your game"
The conversation went like that, just everyday casual chatter about our days, our week, and other unimportant things. We talked for an hour, when he said he was packing up. I could tell he was rushing, he stayed a bit too long and didn't want to have to pay extra. He asked me if I was doing anything tonight, and after saying no, offered me to come to the bar later tonight, so we could get a drink. I never liked the idea of getting drunk, but I liked the idea of a beer right now. I accepted the offer, and after a hurried thank you and goodbye, the call was over.
I called my girlfriend, telling her I was heading out to the bar with an old friend, and she wasn't very happy about me being home tonight, but she understood. She came home at around five, we had dinner and watched a movie, and I headed out to the bar at 8. Me and him chatted for hours, with each other, other people, and we had loads of fun. My girlfriend called, saying if that I was doing "Boy's Night Out", she was going to with her friends as well, and going back to the mall, and shop around at Macy's. I said "Go for it, we're gonna be a while." and chuckled.
Nothing important happened until about 11PM. At around 11PM, the bar started emptying, and I could of sworn we were being watched. I could feel it. I tried to shake it off, and kept talking. All of a sudden, my buddies face went white and he slapped his pocket.
"Shit!", he exclaimed as thrust his hand into his pocket, and sweeped around each side. "The stick!"
Now, forgive me for not saying sooner how much that stick meant to him. The Ubuntu Live USB comes with a handy feature that allows you to save stuff onto it. It has it's own version of the C drive, the slash, or root drive, and all sessions are saved on there. Pretty much every file he has downloaded, compiled, or created is on that stick, and we needed it fast if he was going to have a resume.
We downed our beers and briskly walked to the cafe. The rebels in the community prowled at this hour, and who knows what they had. The thrill quickly turned to fear as we quickened our pace, and entire time my friend was complaining, but this stick meant so much.
"Those assholes probably did like they do at the Apple Store and set the background to a selfie of the staff."
"What if someone stole it?"
"What if it's broken?"
This went on for five minutes as we finally arrived. I could see the relief on his face as the computer screen still illuminated the mock Windows screen and the stick was still in. We walked over to pull it out, when a new file was on the desktop. "RUNME.deb"
"Sweet, a Debian and not a tarball." he said, almost trying to confuse me. He opened up the file and waited for it to load. In my opinion, I would of just deleted it, but maybe he knew what it did.
All the screens in the room went black. The man at the back counter gave us a death stare as he walked around trying to see what happened.
"What did you boys do?!" he yelled from the other side of the cafe.
"Someone put a file on his stick, and we opened it" I blurted. Now my friend was giving me the death stare. Apparently you're not supposed to tell people you just broke thousands of dollars of equipment.
But we hadn't.
The computers sat in silence, and we were stumped, then at once, they all shut down. Dead silence. We had no idea what happened. Did we activate a virus? Was there an outage? No, it couldn't be, the lights were still on.
The lights cut with a zap, and the only lights were shining from the outside.
"Looks like it was just an outage, maybe that Debbie file wasn't so bad after all." I said
"Debian," my friend corrected, "and we need to find the breakers. Maybe the circuits overloaded.".
"The breakers are computerized." the man at the desk said. For a moment, I was going to scream. Why the hell would you computerize breakers?! "They ran off generators, and are controlled by the city so the anarchists couldn't blow out a building complex. We're just going to have to wait until they notice. They don't want people playing with them."
So we sat for a minute or so, and then out of no where, the computers all booted up. The power supply to the outlets were up, but the lights were still cut. The man, who turned out to be a supervisor taking the night shift, sighed in relief when the computers were on. Tensions eased as Dell flashed across the screens, but things got very confusing when instead of loading into sky blue, it loaded a purple-orange gradient. I looked to my friend in dismay. That's the Ubuntu startup, not Windows. Did that program install Ubuntu on all of them? The computers didn't ask for a password, like they normally do, and skipped straight to the desktop.
My friend inched towards the computer with the stick, and the RUNME.deb now said A.deb. The supervisor jogged to the computer to see what was happening on the computer. A.deb was highlighted without the mouse being touched, and the program opened to a black screen with a glowing red dot in the middle with a white A, and all of the computers in the cafe followed.
For a brief second I swear I saw a white ring around the A, but I payed no attention to it. Oh boy, I really should have. The computer with the stick in displayed "Would You Like To Play A Game?" and my friend burst out laughing. I, myself was terrified, and didn't move. My friend, on the other hand, walked over to the computer, and tapped the mouse. The glowing circle stayed, and a player select game up.
"It's a game!" he laughed. "Just a silly game."
I don't know what got into him, but he went on with the game. It basically said four things, stacked on each other. You could have one, two, three, or four players. My friend looked at me and highighted two. The supervisor hurried away in a rush. As he walked, he said with a defeated tone,
"Three players, please."
Maybe it really just was a game, I assured myself. I mean, the supervisor was up for it, it can't be that bad, right? My friend scrolled over to three players and tapped enter, and I told him we should probably head back to the bar, or maybe even go home. We'd been here for a good five minutes, at the least, and we probably shouldn't be doing this at night. He told me to relax, and nothing bad could happen. Whoa boy he was wrong.
All the computers went black except for the one with a stick, which simply printed "Press space in time!" in bold white lettering, and intense music began to blare from the speakers of three computers as glowing red circles pulsed a countdown of ten seconds. The three of us walked over to the computers and hit space. Nothing happened for a moment, until the dots flashed on another three screens and the same things. Maybe this isn't so bad, I thought to myself. Just a well-programmed game.
We walked to the computers again, and I could of sworn the game skipped a second. I didn't see four, five just went straight to three. Again, I wasn't very worried, maybe just a minor glitch, or just my eyes playing tricks on me. The game had the dots on three different screens again, and this time I ran. Five, seven, and four were skipped, and I saw it. I smashed space and waited for the next round.
All the computers turned white with black lettering. The sudden light was blinding, and I nearly fell over. Black lettering covered all the screens.
"Let's bend the rules."
10, 5, 4, 2, 1. Only five seconds, but the computers were dotted rather close, so I didn't have a problem. I could of sworn, however, when I looked back at the computer I just came from, it was farther away. The next round only gave us three seconds, but I had no problem getting there on time, only the occasional tripping and rebalancing. What's going on? Is the game becoming easier?
"Let's higher the stakes."
My friend lit up. He could tell this was going to be fun, but I was beginning to grow wary of this game. Something was going to happen, I could feel it in my bones. The computers all exited the program, and this time, "STREAM.deb" was in the place of RUNME. My friend opened it, and this time it was an image. The image was an empty store with shoes in the backround, and I immediatly realized the image was taken at Macy's. At least, I could of sworn it was an image, until a masked man with an A surrounded by an O on it walked into view.
He had a muscular build and a dark tan, and a leather jacket with a white t-shirt with denim jeans. My friend squinted, as if he'd seen this man before. Two more men walked into the view, both fitting the description above. The man let a bit of a smile across his face, almost foreshadowing something bad, and he let out in a low voice,
"For freedom, there must be sacrifices, Mr. 5-0"
I didn't understand what he meant, or how it correlated with the game, but my heartrate was through the roof. I couldn't see anything good coming out of this, but my friend was ready, and the supervisor didn't flinch, so I guess I'd just trust them and whatever good instinct they currently had. The man stared into the camera and muttered two words.
He pulled a struggling girl into view, and put a knife to her throat. Everyone in the room went white. I almost fainted, I've seen this girl before, somewhere. The video went to three different screens, and a timer, starting at ten seconds, and counting down. My vision was blurry, and my steps were wobbly and misplaced. What was wrong with me? I thought. Well, attempted to. My thoughts were cloudy, and everything was spinning. I heard a scream, and I was only halfway to the computer when blood spilled from the girls throat. I puked. The girl was pushed away, and another girl was pulled into view.
"No rules." The man repeated, and took a small jar full of spiders from one of the men, pulled another girl into view, and pried her mouth open. Admist all the struggle I was having with myself, , I recognized the girl again, but not from where, and I could make out what was in the jar. Those weren't spiders, they were bullet ants. I would try to explain them in detail, but all I could say right now is that their bites stimulate the worst pain known to man. The timer was on again, and I was not even starting to walk when the girl had a mouth full of ants, and dropped to the floor convulsing. I had no idea what was wrong with me, until I looked over at my friend. His steps were wobbly and uncoordinated, but the supervisor could plant his foot into the ground and walk. I still couldn't understand-
The beer! How fast did we drink it when we ran out? How much did we drink when we ran out? Thoughts raced across my mind as the final girl came across the screen. I collapsed, part fright, part alcohol, as my girlfriend was pulled in front of the screens. I couldn't move, and my friend seemed to have the drinks getting to him as well. I couldn't do anything as the rigged timers skipped nine, eight, six, four, three, and one. I couldn't do anything as the man put his hands to her temples and began to press. Nothing as the supervisor pulled out the stick, ran to the wall, and threw the stick. Stared as the stream continued without the stick in. My vision was warped, vomit foaming from my mouth, I seriously over did it with the beer. I tried to lift up my body as her skull gave in, and all I could do is scream when the man looked into the camera and said,
"No stopping us, Mr. 5-0"
I smiled. My alcohol sensitivity had given up, and I just waved at the screen like a fool as he walked off the stream.
And then I fainted.