From: (Boy Mozart)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: I, Spammer
Date: 1 Dec 1997 23:24:56 GMT
Organization: Stevens Hall Indecency Taskforce
Lines: 909
Message-ID: <65vh08$od7$>
Summary: Tales from the SuperNet
X-Newsreader: NN version 6.5.0 CURRENT #1


"Approaching target acquisition site."

"Activate probes. Charge primary weapons, load all bomb bays. Launch
probes, give me telemetry updates every five seconds."

"Probes report minimal filters on site. Negligible firewall activity.
Massive activity on all Web proxies."

"This is Fleet Control to all wings: prepare for primary engagement.
Alpha Wing, you will target all Retaliator launchpads. Bravo Wing,
target all administrative accounts."

"Primary weapons charged and ready."

"Bomb bays loaded."

"Begin acquisition on my mark. MARK!"

Two ships roared out of the Great Cloud and bore down on the site. Beams
of light shot from their forward sections, striking launching areas
and incinerating people and programs alike. Two more ships pounded on a
tall spire located in the middle of the site. The spire's middle section
erupted in flames. A loud groaning sound accompanied the upper half of
the spire as it toppled down.

An object large enough to cover the area of the entire site lowered
itself and stopped several hundred Mb above. Doors opened along the
bottom of the object, and smaller shiny objects came falling out.
Wherever they struck the site, screams of anguished users could be
heard echoing through the streets. Explosions flared everywhere.

The attack lasted less than a minute. The large object moved sedately
over the gateway and bombed it out of existence. The site was entirely

The Tactical Officer of the large object turned around in his chair.
"Sensors report no activity emanating from the site. Bravo Wing reports
all Admin accounts have been eliminated. Wing commanders are requesting
orders, sir."

My gaze lowered from the main viewscreen. "They are to proceed to their
outer perimeter coordinates. Dispatch the landing parties and secure the
site. Contact the First Spammada and inform Fleet Admiral Kroeger that
Taskforce-dot-net has been acquired."


On one of the many levels of the Taskforce there is a large room that is
seldom used because its purpose is to encourage cooperation.

The room is cylindrical. The only light comes from blue neon tubes going
around the roof at the edge, and beams of intersecting blue laser light
criss-crossing between floor and ceiling to produce a one-sheet
hyperboloid. Ten lines drawn on the floor reach from that point to ten
chairs placed at equidistant points around the perimeter of a circle
with a 10-foot radius. Above each chair rests a small device used to
measure all brain activity and transmit it to the hyperboloid, which is
another device designed to translate all the data into something that
the other nine brains would be able to comprehend once it sends it back
along the floor.

There were only six people in that room that day. We were the liaison
officers assigned to different ships in the Spam Resistance. It had
become obvious that we needed some way to pool all our resources,
combine all the analyses we had done on the information gathered by the
Unintelligence Department, and crunch it. For this purpose the Blue Room
was strangely appropriate.

Concerns over optic nerve damage and potassium dihydrogen phosphate
prices aside, we six sat in the Blue Room for hours staring into the
hyperboloid. Our knowledge of current conditions in the War Against The
Spam shaped it into undefined geometries which looked vaguely like Class
C IP addresses. Knowledge flowed between us; intelligence was traded. It
felt like floating in a pool of warm oatmeal, except not quite as

Suddenly my pager went off. After the dust settled the other liaison
officers started clearing the debris while I read the message on the
pager's screen.

"The president of the Board of Directors wants to see me," I explained
to the others. "You all keep working, I'll go see what he wants. And
someone fetch a spare hyperboloid, please."

When I arrived at Conference Room One I found the president talking to
two people I'd never seen before, a woman and a man, dressed in sharp
color-coordinated apparel. The woman had nicely coifed red hair, all
piled on top of her head floating over a round face. The man was bald
save for a black pony tail sprouting from the back of his head. His
eyes burned coldly in his head like dying embers. They turned and
stared at me as I walked in. I closed the door and stared back.

"Ah, glad you could join us," lied the President. "This is 54059495..."

"Call me Five," smiled the woman.

"...And 00654922." He stared at me coldly, and didn't speak. "They are
representatives of various electronic media marketing services. They've
come here today to discuss the, uh, current situation regarding...."

"Regarding the Spam War," I finished for him.

"We understand the Taskforce has been monitoring the War rather closely,
since it started I believe," said Five. "We were hoping you might be
willing to discuss any trends your people might have discovered, or
perhaps you might have statistics regarding casualties you might be able
to share--the better to track down some of our missing comrades, whether
they be dead or captured."

The double-zero guy spoke up, his words bearing a heavy HTML accent.
<P>&quot;You bill yourselves as an <I>organization</I> dedicated to
spreading <B>information</B> as far and wide as possible. We believe
sharing your observations about the War would go a long way in helping
us to bring it to a <U>swift</U> conclusion.&quot;</P>

"So you intend to sue for peace?" I said.

Five sat down in one of the chairs and clasped her hands on the table.
"If we determine that our interests would be served by initiating peace
talks, I'm sure the Clan Chiefs could be convinced to do so. Right now
we are currently maintaining a defensive position...."

"I wouldn't classify an attack average of three systems per day as a
'defensive' position," I replied. "It sounds more like an invasion to

<P>&quot;Let's cut through the <B>bullshit</B>, shall we?&quot;

[said the double-zero guy]

&quot;We know you've been providing those anti-spamming <I>bastards</I>
with <FONT COLOR="#FF0000">intelligence </FONT>and <TT>technical
assistance</TT>, and we want it to stop right <B><FONT SIZE=+3>FUCKING
</FONT></B> now! &quot;</P>

"The official position of the Taskforce," I said, "is one of neutrality.
We are not interested in taking sides in this conflict. We do watch the
battles very closely and analyze the attack patterns of both parties,
but this information is freely available. Really, you ought to spend
more time on our Web page."

"We were hoping to get more of analysis of the situation,"
said Five.

<P>&quot;We want the exact location and strength of <I>all</I> anti-Spam
mercenaries. We want</P><OL><LI>locations of bases</LI><LI>detailed
schematics of the battleobjects</LI><LI>strategies and battle plans for
the next year if possible, within six months for sure.&quot;</LI>

"Assuming, of course, you have access to that kind of information," Five
added, smiling.

"I'm not in a position to give you any information like that," I hedged.
"We are completely neutral in this fight, so most of that is quite
inaccessible to us. Like I said: what we know of the anti-Spam forces is
currently available through regular channels."

"Just what kind of assurance do we have that the Taskforce is actually
maintaining its position of 'neutrality'?" asked Five.

"It would be highly unprofitable to throw in with either side in this
conflict. We join one side, the other is bound to attack us."

"You don't believe your allies--assuming you'd thrown in with one side--
would provide you with sufficient support? Speaking for the electronic
marketing media, I'm sure we could come up with some arrangement...."

"Well, then there's the whole profit side to this, too. We throw in with
you, we lose half our business. Providing support for either side keeps
us profitable and makes us non-threatening."

<P>&quot;I <B>knew</B> it! You <U>are</U> in with them, aren't you?
You've just admitted you're willing to provide <B>support</B>!&quot;</P>

"At a price," I replied, correcting the double-zero guy. "Now, for
instance, if you were to provide us with schematics of some of your
vessels, like the Yorkshire- and Chester White-class ships, we could run
a few stress-analysis tests and provide you with suggestions for
improving your designs. Only take us, oh, four or five months."

"I don't know that we'd be willing to share that information with you,
despite your generous offers," said Five. "You've provided such support
to the anti-Spam mercenaries?"

"Nope. But we're willing. And reasonable. Have you considered moving
towards a non-form-letter-derivative Spam weapon? Multi-fire, object-
piercing? Could get you a few thousand gross reloads for, oh, a five
percent markup over cost. You won't get that price at any factory outlet
I can tell you."

Five was finally bored. The double-zero guy was clearly miffed--his pony
tail was wagging back and forth and his whole scalp was furrowed with
frown lines. The two of them gathered up their respective briefcases.
"I'm sorry to have wasted your time," snapped Five. "I had hoped this
meeting would be more productive. I can see we'll have to get what we
want through other means."

The two of them stormed out of the conference room. I realized I was

"Typical Spammers," I snorted, after they'd been gone for a few moments.
"Clumsier than a super tanker going sideways through the Suez Canal when
they try to be subtle. Then they get all bent out of shape when it
doesn't work, and they get all threatening and scary."

"Shut up!" bellowed the president. I'd forgotten he was even there. He'd
been standing quietly at the far end of the room staring thoughtfully
out the window. Now he was facing me. "Geeze, just--just shut up for
five seconds, for once!"

Fear was leaking into his voice. He must have spent a great deal of time
with those two before he'd paged me. They put the fear of Spam into him
somehow. He held his hands up and started to stammer. "You couldn't...
you couldn't just give them what they wanted, could you? You, you had to
make some kind of a statement, some kind of a stupid joke out of the
whole thing!" The president lowered his hands and took a deep breath.
"They'll only come back, you know that."

"So what?" I said. "It's not like we have anything to worry about. We've
filtered every major name server that transmits spam, we have plenty of
weaponry at our disposal. Let them come."

"It's not as simple as that." The president started to pace. "You're
just as subtle as they are, you know. Your answer to all Spammers is to
blow them up.  I know you didn't believe a word of what you said, but
it's all true. We are not taking sides in this conflict, we are supposed
to provide information to anyone who asks for it. The Board has been
very clear on that subject."

"You can go back and tell the Board that if we give anything to the
Spammers then we really are opening ourselves up for attack. Give them
any kind of clue at all, and more systems will go down. We'll be just as
responsible for that as they are."

The president gritted his teeth. "We've given the mercenaries all the
help they need. We've given them details about Spam tactics, we've
tracked Spam movements for them, we even loan them our employees. Now we
will contact the Spammers and tell them what we know. Whatever technical
support they need, we will provide. We will re-tool the spamships like
we do the battleobjects." He pointed his finger at me. "Contact 54059495
and tell her the services of the Taskforce are at her disposal."

"Now how the hell am I supposed to do that? You know e-mail addresses
with numbers for IDs never work."

The president wouldn't back down. His predecessor had been a little more
ruthless when dealing with me, but this one pretty much caved in to me
whenever I set my mind to it. All I needed to do was be convincing and
suck up a little and he'd fall into line. But I'd made the mistake of
being condescending, and now he was getting snotty. "Call them back," he
said calmly. "Make the offer."


The president blinked. "You're fired," he said.

Whoa. "You can't fire me...."

"I have a contract," said the president, in a mocking tone that imitated
my voice. "I know more about this place than any of you. You won't last
a week without me. Well, I have the support of the Board of Directors.
Your contract is subject to your ability to maximize profit for the
shareholders. As far as I can tell, you no longer hold the interests of
the shareholders as a priority."

"Duh," I countered brilliantly.

The president's eyes were twinkling and his nostrils flared. He was
getting his first taste of power. "Go upstairs," he said. "Pack up all
that crap in your office and get the fuck out of here!"

I left in disgrace. I walked out of the front doors of the Taskforce,
seemingly for the last time, all my crap in boxes which would be shipped
to me later. No one talked to me as I left, or even looked at me. I
turned around after I got outside, taking one last look at the pyramid.
Then I got into the waiting transport and went back to the _Nullclient_.
Jarvis didn't make an issue of what happened to me, although I'm sure
he'd been informed. He just nodded to me as I walked onto the control
deck, and I got to work.

I'd expected the Taskforce to stop putting liaison officers on the
battleobjects, but they kept up business as usual. Taskforce Unintel
kept sending reports to the officers, who would then kindly pass them on
to me. I had to work harder since the reports were just that much more
out of date. Eventually I got a short note from the liaison officer of
the _Rlogin_, buried in a stack of intelligence blurts, which simply
read "They're helping the Spammers now." I erased the message and fell
into my work, trying to forget.

Several weeks later we got involved in what came to be known as the
First Battle of Woodside. Three Spammadas had grouped on the border of
their territory ready to strike out into unspammed cyberspace. Sixty
battleobjects were mustered at a point nearby. And we were outnumbered
nearly five to one.

Capt. Jarvis and Cmdr. Melman stood just behind the helmsman's position
watching the tactical display that filled the forward wall of the
control deck. I was linked to the other liaison officers scattered about
the fleet, passing information back and forth. Every couple of minutes I
would type something into the console next to me and the tactical
readouts would shift. Jarvis and Melman just stood there and muttered
for a while watching the pretty colors on the screen, then Melman turned
and walked around the deck giving out orders to everyone. Jarvis just
stood there and stared at the screen. Hundreds of red blotches filled
the upper right hand corner, compared to sixty green ones down at the
lower left. I knew those two colors were filling his mind.

The Spammadas attacked first. Some of the spamships tried passing around
our flanks trying to make a break for it, and we had to break ranks in
order to stop them. A group of sixteen Chester White-class heavy
cruisers bore down the middle attempting to cut through our lines. We
pulled away, opening up a hole for them to pass through, then fired a
volley of clue torpedos into their exhaust bays. We managed to stop most
of them, but there were more where that came from.

Squadrons of Yorkshires were concentrating their fire on individual
battleobjects. Multiple explosions flared along the port side of the
_Termcap_, but it continued to fire on its attackers.  Lt. Livers, the
comm officer, relayed reports from the _Mqueue_ about its systems
overloading. Then I got a report that the _Mqueue_ had been destroyed.

The _Nullclient_ took a heavy battering from the Yorkshire squadron that
hit us. The shudders of the spam impacts kept disrupting our systems and
jiggling our keyboards, causing horrendous typos. It was all the gunners
could do to maintain their targets.

"Fire Control, you have two Yorkshires bearing on the starboard side,
four-five mark two-eight," Lt. Wallace barked. "Yorkshire Five appears
to be setting up for another run--damage is heaviest along its aft

"Fleet control reports the First Spammada is regrouping at relative five
mark three-oh-oh, distance one thousand Mb. Spammada strength estimated
at sixty percent. The _Traceroute_ and the _Rlogin_ are falling back."
Lt. Livers was quiet for a moment. "Check. _Traceroute_ is dead in
space. _Rlogin_ has been destroyed."

I was looking at the last report from the _Rlogin's_ liaison officer,
vibrating under my eyes from the force of the spam outside. He'd been
the one who had told me the Taskforce was cooperating with the Spammers.
His last words were some technical readouts of overhauls some of the
Yorkshires had undergone. I relayed the information to Fleet Control and
sat down heavily in a chair.

The First Spammada came about and attack. The _Nullclient_ blew off the
last of the Yorkshires just as a Chester White came barreling towards
us. Haversham turned the ship, presenting the starboard side, which had
the least damage and the most shielding. The Chester White inundated us
with spam. Our missile and torpedo bays countered with salvos of our
own. The Chester White flew over our forward section and rained spam
charges down on us.

"Primary communications are out!" Livers bellowed over the noise on the
deck. "Secondary systems are on-line, but I've lost contact with Fleet

"Relay our status report through the _Localhost_," yelled Jarvis.
"Haversham, bring us about. Point the nose of the ship at the Fleet
Control station's last known position. Melman, go down to Deflector
Control, see what you can do down there." Melman rushed off the control
deck without a word. "Wallace, get me a position on that Chester White."

"She's coming about, two-eight-five mark zero, twenty Mb and closing.
All spam bays are locked on to us, they're preparing to fire."

I glanced up at the tactical display. Blue dots flew out of the green
splotch that represented the _Nullclient_ and headed for a red splotch
that must have been the Chester White. Several of the dots disappeared
inside the red splotch.

"Seven direct hits," I noted. "One of the Chester White's spam bays
appears to be out of commission. She's continuing at maximum speed."

The heavy cruiser stopped suddenly and let out its spam. We took a
direct hit on the forward section. Explosions rocked the control deck.
Livers' comm console short-circuited, sending out sparks that burned her
and forced her to drop out of her chair. Jarvis rushed over to her.

"I've just lost navigation control!" Haversham yelled. "Avionics are
completely out. We're beginning to list to starboard!"

"Fire Control reports all torpedo bays on the forward section are out of
commission!" Wallace yelled. "One of the anti-spam missiles is jammed in
the forward port launcher and the safeties are off!"

Two more red splotches started to converge on us--the piranhas
converging on the struggling cow in the Amazon. I felt more explosions
coming from our aft section. The _Nullclient_ began to roll on its axis.

"Thrusters are off-line!" yelled Haversham. "We've lost all maneuvering

"Shields have failed on the port side! The outer hull is buckling!"
Wallace's hands flew over her console. "We're losing cohesion! The
algorithm integrity fields have failed!"

The red splotches pulled away. The tactical display fizzed out. Melman
came back on the control deck and took over looking after Livers while
Jarvis pressed a button on the remains of the comm console.

"This is the Captain," he said into the inter-object address system.
"All hands abandon ship. I repeat: all hands, abandon ship."

We all turned to stare at him. It was pretty much a lost cause and we
knew it, but his order caught us by surprise anyway--it was one we'd
never expected him to give. We were the _Nullclient_, and he was Jarvis,
and we were all invincible.

Melman was the first to recover. "You heard the captain!" he bellowed.
"Get to your ESC pods. Now!"

People stared leaving the control deck, quickly but calmly. Melman
helped Livers to her feet and supported her as she limped for the exit.
Jarvis stood up and stared at the blank tactical display, and I stared
at him. I was frozen in position, I couldn't move.

Jarvis turned to me. "Go on, beat it," he said. "I'll just get another
account and we'll start over."

"Can you afford to have another battleobject programmed?" I asked.

Jarvis looked down. He turned away from me and stared at the display. I
finally left the control deck and ran down the corridor towards the ESC

I reached the last one. Melman was at the door to the second to the last
ESC pod, making sure everyone else was off the object. "Rendezvous
coordinates are on the computer in the ESC pod," he reminded me. "Don't
stop for anything, just keep going. And keep your head down." I smiled
as he fell into his pod and sealed the hatch. I jumped into mine, sealed
it up, and blew the latches. The pod pushed off the _Nullclient_ and
sped off into open cyberspace. As I was rushing away I took a look
through a port at the battleobject, and I couldn't resist.

"That's funny," I said. "The damage doesn't look as bad from out here."

The _Nullclient_ continued to spin slowly along its long axis and list
to starboard. The momentum we'd built up before the thrusters had been
destroyed continued to carry it forward, but the battleobject began to
head downward--relatively speaking. Bits and pieces began to vanish as
various parts of code failed. Eventually the _Nullclient_ disappeared
from view into the Great Cloud.

The ESC pod shook violently. I picked myself up off the deck and looked
into the main viewscreen, and witnessed a Yorkshire hovering in front of
me. A tractor beam had locked onto my pod, and another beam lanced out
from the cruiser and struck the pod's thrusters, knocking them out. I
was slowly pulled into the gaping maw of its shuttle bay. I couldn't do
anything but stare.

They broke in and dragged me out. Someone stuck a tazer into my side,
paralyzing me. They half-carried, half-dragged me into a room, strapped
me down in a chair, and left me there with several other Spammers. A
familiar face stepped up and looked me in the eye.

"Well, well, well," said Kroeger. "Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to
present the liaison officer of the _Nullclient_, formerly employed by
the Stevens Hall Indecency Taskforce." His account had been rebuilt, but
his face still bore heavy scaring from the pistol-whipping I'd given him
the last time we'd been this close together. Kroeger grinned at me now
and turned to the other Spammers. "See? Didn't I tell you they were
working with the mercenary anti-Spammers?"

The woman called Five was also there, dressed and coifed as sharply as
ever. She came and stood next to Kroeger. "How long have you been giving
them assistance?"

I didn't respond. "Since the beginning, probably," said Kroeger.

Five looked me over. "We're winning, you know," she said, referring to
the battle that was going on outside. "That little tactic you used in
the beginning was cute, but we've got more Chester Whites where those
came from."

"Last I saw, we were kicking your ass," I said. Kroeger punched me. My
head rocked backward over the edge of the chair and I tasted blood--real
blood, not the virtual kind. I must have bitten myself in reflex.
I kept talking. "Your attack patterns lack cohesion. Your captains build
up a shitload of speed, then put the brakes on just before shooting. We
have all the time in the world to blow you away. In the first wave we
killed two-fifths of your First Spammada alone."

"Oh, so NOW you're giving us information!" Five snapped. "Should have
thought of that back in your conference room."

"Won't make any difference," I countered. "You've only taken three of
our battleobjects out of commission so far."

"Five," said Kroeger.


"No, not you. We've taken out five battleobjects."


I grinned. "You out-numbered us five to one, and you've still only taken
out five objects! The _Nullclient_ alone blew away a whole squadron of
Yorkshires in five minutes! You Spammers are being slaughtered."

"This is immaterial," said one of the Spammers. "Kroeger, you said you
had proof the Taskforce was violating its own neutrality, and now you've
given it to us. We'll present this person to the various LEGITIMATE
watchdog agencies and have the Taskforce officially sanctioned."

"Oh, no," said Kroeger. "You're missing an opportunity here." He grabbed
me by my hair and forced my head back. "This guy's been privy to every
major operation the mercenaries have carried off. He has knowledge about
merc tactics, battleobjects, the Anti-Spam Coalition Users Group. I say
we drain the bastard."

"We don't have time for a prolonged interrogation," said the Spammer.
"If we don't get some of the bureaucracies on our side soon we are going
to start losing some of the ground that we've gained. We can't afford to
put aside any of our resources just now. Willing or not, he has to go in
front of those committees. Let the politicians do the interrogation."

"No," said Five. "Kroeger's right. He's more valuable to us if we keep
him here. Whatever use we can get out of him in front of a Senate sub-
committee is limited. The information he has is what we need to put the
mercs out of commission once and for all.

"Need I remind you that we are currently using more resources to fight
this war than we are using to spread spam?"

Five leaned up close to me. A strand of red hair dangled over her
forehead. "The more we know, the more effective those resources become."
She turned and looked at Kroeger. "Drain him," she ordered.

"Excuse me, can I just say...."

Kroeger punched me again, and I lost consciousness.

I don't remember much after that. They say that people tend to block out
their experiences of torture as a defense mechanism. I've been trying to
recall all of it, because it makes good copy. Unfortunately my mind and
my backup drives have been less than cooperative. I recall momentary
flashes of pain and bright light, and Kroeger's scarred face grinning at
me. I can also recall sensations like cold, hunger, and pain.

Later on I remember mumbling things. People were listening with rapt
attention, so they must have broken me. I must have sat there for hours
blabbering away the deepest secrets of the Great Spam Resistance. I
can't remember exactly what I said, but at the time I had a dim sense of
being defeated, of having lost something.

The first thing I remember clearly is waking up in a cell, unable to
rise from my cot due to exhaustion. Kroeger was sitting in a chair
leering at me.

"Welcome back," he said. "You've been extremely helpful to us, you know.
"I even considered getting you to confess to war crimes, but no one is
fooled by that anymore--everyone assumes the confessor has been tortured
into doing it, it's not really an effective tool." He stood up and
wandered over to the door of the cell and peered out. "Besides, it's not
in our best interests at this point to reveal where you are. As far as
the SuperNet is concerned, your account has been discontinued."

Kroeger sat down in his chair and watched me. "Our intelligence people
have been analyzing all the data we've gathered so far. Based on what
you've told us, they've attributed every single major tactical success
to the efforts of the Taskforce spies you call 'liaison officers'. Hell,
I've been telling them that for months."

"Gee...flattered," I croaked.

"Don't mention it." Kroeger glanced at his watch. "We've pretty much
drained you of all the information we're going to get, so I've advised
my superiors that we should brain-wash you and put you to work for us."


"Oh, I don't think so. You seem to have a talent for this sort of thing.
I'm sure it'll survive the procedure. We'll have you sending out pyramid
lists before you know it."

"That what happened to you?"

Kroeger looked away. He smiled self-deprecatingly. He pursed his lips,
then finally managed to meet my eyes.

"I'm in it for the money," he said. "And boy, do those Spammers make a
shitload of money, I'm telling you."

I was born in San Francisco, California shortly after the Seafood Riots.
My father was a mid-level programmer specializing in ODBC. My mother was
a PC Technician II. They met in the same Microsoft Certified Cooking
Instructor class, fell in love, got married, and opened a joint America
Online account. Mom quit her job shortly afterward and started working
at home as an e-mail address collector. On Fridays Dad would bring home
imitation crab meat and they would watch ABC's "TGIF" together, back
before Melissa Joan Hart was elected governor and Jaleel White was
murdered by that one guy because "Urkel just wouldn't go AWAY!"

On my fifth birthday my parents gave me my first e-mail account. By
twelve I had been indicted on my first electronic harassment charges.
At eighteen, after I'd been released from the Michael Jackson Memorial
Juvenile Correction Center and Amusement Park, I was recruited by Clan-
Chief Harold Leonard. Or Lawrence.

I've been a Spammer ever since.

I rose up the ranks fairly quickly. I distinguished myself in the Battle
of Lift-and-tuck-dot-com, also known as the famous Collagen Rout. I
conned fifteen people into a multi-level marketing scheme and managed to
make almost US$50 before they all bailed out. My superiors took notice
of this and awarded me with a Yorkshire-class cruiser and my own crew.
I'd been slightly wounded during the Battle of Woodside, but I was now
fit for duty and ready to spam.

I was attending a small dinner party being held by Clan-Chief Leonard.
Or Lawrence. I happened to chance by Admiral Kroeger at the buffet

"Long time no see, Captain," said Kroeger, chuckling to himself. "How're
you doing?"

"Never better, sir," I assured him. I lowered my voice. "Heard anything
about this new mission we're going on?"

Kroeger chuckled a little more. "Now, now, son, be patient." He couldn't
stop himself from chuckling. I wondered what the joke was. "You'll find
out soon enough.  Try the--try the spinach dip." He almost did a spit
take then.

"I have, thank you, it's delicious." For some reason this sent in into
gales of laughter. He staggered off.

When I reported to Spammada Operations HQ, Admiral Kroeger was waiting
for me. We sat down in his office with four other captains.

"It's the big one, gentlemen," he said. "We've recently received some
intelligence regarding a particularly nasty thorn in our side. Spam
Command is ready to send a team out to acquire Taskforce-dot-net." He
reached over and clasped my shoulder. "Son, it's my great privilege to
present you with a brevet promotion to Fleet Captain. You'll be
commanding one of our new Duroc-class dreadnoughts."

I swelled with pride. The other captains were grinning widely, giving
each other knowing looks. One of them turned away and I could have sworn
I heard a snort escape his lips.


"Begin acquisition on my mark. MARK!"

Two ships roared out of the Great Cloud and bore down on the site. Beams
of light shot from their forward sections, striking launching areas
and incinerating people and programs alike. Two more ships pounded on a
tall spire located in the middle of the site. The spire's middle section
erupted in flames. A loud groaning sound accompanied the upper half of
the spire as it toppled down.

An object large enough to cover the area of the entire site lowered
itself and stopped several hundred Mb above. Doors opened along the
bottom of the object, and smaller shiny objects came falling out.
Wherever they struck the site, screams of anguished users could be
heard echoing through the streets. Explosions flared everywhere.

The attack lasted less than a minute. The large object moved sedately
over the gateway and bombed it out of existence. The site was entirely

The Tactical Officer of the large object turned around in his chair.
"Sensors report no activity emanating from the site. Bravo Wing reports
all Admin accounts have been eliminated. Wing commanders are requesting
orders, sir."

My gaze lowered from the main viewscreen. "They are to proceed to their
outer perimeter coordinates. Dispatch the landing parties and secure the
site. Contact the First Spammada and inform Fleet Admiral Kroeger that
Taskforce-dot-net has been acquired."

We touched down just outside the ruins of the gateway. I was the first
out of the hatch and down the ramp. I strode through the gateway and met
the other four captains on the other side. We took a victory stroll
around the campus, admiring the simple yet elegant architecture of the
site, rather archaic yet strangely beautiful. It was all pre-Windows,
glowing green against a black background, strangely soothing and oddly

They had all the admins and other various personnel gathered in a group
in front of a huge yellow pyramid thirteen stories tall. I watched them
from a vantage point some distance away. I wasn't able to make out any
of their faces, but from the way everyone stood up straight and didn't
shuffle their feet they didn't appear to have been cowed by the attack.
Although they all kept looking upward and to the left, as if they were

At this point one of the unwashed cells of my brain flashed a memo. I
had an insight. "I think we've walked into a trap," I said out loud.

"Huh?" said one of the captains. "Be serious. We totally kicked their

I shook my head. "No, this is a trap. Boy, is it EVER a trap. Sound the
retreat, get everyone back in the spamships."

"Will you stop being so God damn paranoid? Shit, look at them! What kind
of trap are THEY gonna pull!" The other captains left me there,
intending to walk to the prisoners and gloat. Occasionally one would
turn and wave me forward, but I resisted.

My hesitation between heading back to the dreadnought and running after
my captains pretty much saved my ass, because at that moment one
battleobject came roaring out of the clouds and pummeled the spamships
while another one took up station keeping over the prisoners and
discharged hundreds of troops. The Spammers all took off at a run, the
battleobject's troops in hot pursuit. I watched in horror as they were
hunted down across the site and quickly destroyed.

The prisoners were released. The wreckage of the gateway and the central
spire vanished, and just as quickly the two objects were standing there
in their original condition. The air above me turned purple as a shield
was quickly erected. Bright flashes showed up outside, and bits of spam
rained down harmlessly on the shield.

I was grabbed from behind, a hand placed over my mouth. I struggled, but
couldn't wrench myself free. I was dragged into a dark corner and had a
light shined in my face. Then the light was turned around and shined...
in my face.

"Why in the hell are you wearing that uniform?" said me. "Those friends
of yours are lynching Spammers left and right. Shit, you're wearing
Captain's insignia too! Are you out of your mind?"

I punched myself in the face and ran off. I caught up with me and
tackled myself around the ankles, knocking me to the ground. I had both
my arms locked behind my back in seconds, held by cuffs. I took a quick
look around, then grabbed myself by the coat collar and hauled me to an
opening in the shield. Moments later I was on-board a battleobject and
speeding away from the site.

"Taskforce to _IndefiniteTokens_," said the comm console. "Please

"_IndefiniteTokens_, Shostakovich. What's on your mind?"

"Why are you leaving the area? We still have clean-up to do."

"Eh, you guys take care of that," said Shostakovich. "I've got some
things I need to take care of. I'll send ya a bill. _IndefiniteTokens_

I switched off the comm console and looked at me--screw this--Shostakovich
switched off the comm console and looked at me. "They said you were lost
in cyberspace," he informed me. "What'd you do, disguise yourself as a
Spammer to throw off the heat? Pretty clever."

I told him my name, rank, and serial number.

"Oh," he replied. "Brainwashing. They shave your beard off, too?"

I leapt out of the chair I was in and hit him in the stomach with my
head, knocking him across the deck. I headed for the exit but never made
it--he'd tackled me again. "Cut that out, dammit!" he said. I kicked him
in the shoulder. He picked up my head and slammed it against the deck
plates, and that ended the argument.

"One year you gave me this Electronic Battleship game when we were
kids," he told me, as I lay on the deck bleeding. "I didn't think about
that old thing until I picked up this baby." He patted the controls. "I
wonder if I could hook that old thing up; I bet I could get some kind of
increased throughput on the torpedos. It'd definitely be more fun: F4,
hit!" He made explosion noises. "Aaah! You sank my spamship!"

The _IndefiniteTokens_ banked sharply to starboard. "Y'know, I looked up
your account when I heard the news. Turned out you were still active, so
I started to suspect something, y'know? When the Taskforce called me up
and asked me to help out on this little thingy, I figured I could scam
them into checking it out, seeing as how you're an employee and all...."

"I don't know what the FUCK you're talking about!" I yelled. "I NEVER
worked for the Taskforce in my life!"

"Oh, yeah, right, brainwashed. Hey, no problem, I'm gonna fix you up
right now." I could feel the battleobject begin to slow down. I looked
around, trying to memorize the layout in case I ever made it back to
Spammada Ops, but Shostakovich brought the battleobject to a dead stop
and dragged me to my feet. He pushed me out into the central corridor,
saying nothing, and herded me into an airlock where we both stepped

He took two belaying lines and hooked one to my handcuffs. He clicked
another one to his belt and then opened the outer door. There was a
brief rush of air, and then we were staring out into cyberspace.

"YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS?" he yelled at me. The noise was deafening. When
I refused to look, he pulled on my ear and forced me. A huge maelstrom
swirled beneath the ship. "THAT'S THE RECYCLE ABYSS! IT'S THE PRIMARY

"What are we doing here?"




I scrambled back into the airlock and gripped a hand rest. Shostakovich
took out a truncheon and whacked my hands. I let go, finding myself back
on the outer edge of the airlock. "SORRY TO HAVE TO DO THIS TO YOU, OLD

He put away the truncheon and brought out a gun. "THEY USED TO TELL ME

Shostakovich shot my belaying line. The rope snapped, and I fell into
the Abyss.

I logged on the next day. I had my memory back. My apartment was a mess,
but that was normal. I had no job, I had no battleobject, and Kroeger
was still alive. I'd betrayed the Great Spam Resistance, and decided the
only thing left for me to do was turn myself in.

I appeared in an observation lounge of ASCUG's main base. I happened to
be facing a window. What I saw nearly sent me into shock.

The _Nullclient_ floated sedately in a docking ring, missing over 70
percent of its structure. It had apparently been able to make it back to
base after the First Battle of Woodside.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Capt. Jarvis, checking out his
battleobject and smoking a gawdawful cigar. "And I thought I'd have to
pay for all that," he said to me in his gruff voice.

"Captain, sir," I said, doing everything except the salute. "I wish to
surrender myself to you."

"Too busy, find someone else. Why are you surrendering to me anyway?"

"I was in charge of the attack against the Taskforce."

"Huh. Yeah, you screwed that one up royally. Too bad THEY'RE still
around. Oh well. Is that why you're surrendering, because you didn't
do that right?"

"Sir! I revealed secrets to the enemy under torture!"

Jarvis shrugged. "Told them about the Rec Room party we had last year?
No sweat, they bought a new pool table, and the Kahlua came out of the
Admiral's dress slacks without too much trouble."

Jarvis was behaving like a brick wall, which means he knows something
and he's enjoying watching you bang your head against him. "You know
what happened to me, don't you sir?"

He snuffed out his cigar. "Yes, we're well aware you revealed top secret
information--under duress--and that you were brainwashed. The fact that
your logon was locked so you couldn't log off kept their brainwashing
program running long enough for your to participate in the attack. When
you logged off yesterday, your memory must have been restored
immediately to you." I nodded. "Yeah, don't worry about the secrets. We
change all our tactics on a regular basis to keep the enemy guessing.
The only important information you gave them was stuff about the
Taskforce, and apparently they were prepared for that somehow."

I looked out at the _Nullclient_ being repaired. "Guess you've got a new
liaison officer now."

"Nope, that's blown way out in the open now. The Spammers have been
running around looking for technical expertise comparable to the

"There's plenty of it."

"Yeah, but no one smart enough to have it is stupid enough to cooperate.
The Taskforce Board of Directors voted unanimously to pull all the
liaison people out. It'll hurt, but we'll survive." Jarvis opened up his
tunic and handed me a piece of paper. "Read this," he said.

I did. "It's a commission," I said. "And it's got my name on it."

"Yeah. Being a mercenary means I can hire officers rather than wait for
some college ROTC punk to graduate OTS. Wallace resigned her commission
recently--too much bullshit, I don't blame her. I need a new Chief
Tactical Officer. You'll assume the rank and duties of Lt. Commander
effective as soon as you sign that paper."

Jarvis turned and looked me in the eye. "This is all voluntary. We're
all here because we want to be, because we believe in the fight. No one
expects you to keep a secret around here. Just do your job, and we'll
all get paid. If that sounds like something you'd like, just sign the
paper. The War will go on without you--but it'll go on a lot longer." I
signed without hesitation. Jarvis turned back to the window to look at
his ship.

"That's funny," he said. "The damage doesn't look as bad from out here."
Boy Mozart
Stevens Hall Indecency Taskforce
No URL, cope.