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Eggship

The "eggplant".

This page is part of an audio script for VirileMail.

Block OneEdit

Cast Edit

cast:

  1. Joe Daonet- Network administrator for Antler Network Services. (male)
  2. Erin Jecklestein- Administrative supervisor for the Network Services division of Antler Network Services. (female)
  3. Dave- Erin’s office assistant. (male)
  4. Brian Kaplan- Website developer for Antler Network Services. (male)
  5. Dr. Chloe Meade- Client applications specialist for Antler Network Services. (femela)

Estimated time: 32 minutes.

Header from Network Edit

STING: VirileMail

VO:

The contributors to this project at Fiction Wikia and Wikiversity present

MUSIC: VirileMail Theme

VO:

VirileMail
Adapted from the collaborative work at Fiction Wikia.
Episode <number>

MUSIC: (Fades into)

Scene 1: Internal : September 8, 2003 at Antler Network Services Edit

FADE IN

BED: sounds of office space with software programmers in cubicles, sound of fast keyboard typing etc..

SFX: sound of computer keyboard typing,

SFX: Office telephone rings

Dave :(on phone)

Network Services, can I help you?

Joe:

Hi, Dave. This is Joe.

Dave:

Hey, bro, what's up?

Joe:

I need to talk to Erin about a service interruption we just had on the website.

Dave:

She's out of the office. Is this an emergency?

Joe:

No. I hope not. We just had cable disconnection that knocked us off the internet until I found the problem.

Dave:

(silent for about five seconds)
That's pretty weird. What do you expect Erin to do about it?

Joe:

Nothing. I was wondering if someone was playing a joke on me.

Dave:

(laughs) I wish I had thought of it, but if I had done it I would have been there with a camera to get a shot of you having a heart attack.

Joe: (forced laughter) Well, I'm really just trying to cover my ass. I'll send Erin an email.

SFX: Door shutting (over phone)

Dave:

Erin just came into the office. Hold on, I'll connect you.

(On phone, Dave tells Erin)

"It's Joe...some problem with the servers"

SFX: light click


Erin: (On phone)

Hi, Joe.

Joe:

Hi, Erin, I'm glad I caught you.

Erin:

Dave says we had a server problem.

Joe:

Physical disconnect. Someone must have pulled the cable connection then ran. It only took me 20 seconds to get in there.

Erin:

(alarmed) Oh, no!
Who would do such a thing?

Joe:

(long silence)
Well, I was wondering if someone was playing a trick on me. (chuckles lamely)

Erin:

Sorry, but you don't get of the hook that easy. Nobody would compromise our net services for clients just for a joke. Who has access to the server room?

Joe:

I think you, the three net admins and building services are the only ones with keys to the server room.

Erin:

Could one of the custodians have accidentally knocked the cable off?

Joe:

This isn't the sort of connection that can just get knocked off by accident. And the cleaning crew only goes in there once a week, Friday evenings, I believe.

Erin:

(long silence)
Well, I'm grasping at straws.

Joe:

Maybe I should call the police.

Erin:

What do you expect them to do?

Joe:

Nothing. I doubt they would come out. But we would be on record as having reported the event. If a client lost an important file during the service disruption then we could be facing a demand for damages. For insurance purposes, we should have a police report on record.

Erin:

No, I don't want to do that unless we have to. It would be damaging if word leaked out about this. Call the service center in India and have them report any complaints about the service failure. If and only if we get a serious complaint, then you can call the police and tell them about the cable. Anything else?

Joe:

I could put a camera in the server room to record who enters.

Erin:

You think this is going to happen again?

Joe:

I don't know what happened this time, but you know the saying: (pause) fool me once....

Erin:

Ya, ya. You might be right. Use your judgment. Let's meet at 10 tomorrow morning and you can give me a full report.

SFX: (phone connection cuts off)

SFX: (foot steps entering room)

Brian:

(sounding dazed) Sorry to interrupt your work.

Joe:

Hi, Brian.

Brian:

Something strange happened to me. I know I can tell you.

Joe:

(puzzled by Brian's odd behaviour) What happened?

Brian:

I was walking in the hallway when an eggplant fell on me.

Joe:

(incredulous) An egg-plant?

Brian:

Yeah, just out of the blue. I was quite shocked, of course. I looked up and I saw a hole in the ceiling. I could see up through that hole to another hole in the ceiling of the third floor.

Joe:

There are holes in several floors?

Brian:

Yeah. I don't want anybody to find out because this was kind of weird.

Joe:

Well, someone else is bound to notice all the holes.

Brian:

I guess so.

Joe:

So, I think we should tell other people. Meet me by Erin's office at 10 tomorrow morning.

Brian:

(spaced out) That would be fine.

SFX:(sound of retreating foot steps)

Joe:

(muttering to himself) Cripes! What's going on around here?


(Joe goes to look at the holes) SFX: footsteps departing FADE OUT

Scene 2 : Internal : ANS Later the same day Edit

FADE IN

BED: Office background (as in previous scene)

SFX: Typing-keyboard,

Joe:

Hey Brian, (pause) I saw those holes in the floors and I found another one in the wall of the server room.

Brian: (distracted)

Oh.

Joe:

Did you file a work request with building maintenance about those holes?

Brian: SFX: (keyboard sounds stop, sounds like he is waking up)

Oh. Hi, Joe. Yeah, I called George. Luckily, not a single wire or pipe was damaged. He called the insurance company and then a repair crew. They'll patch the roof right away.

Joe:

What did you do with the eggplant?

(keyboard sounds start again)

Joe:

Brian?

Brian: (keyboard sounds stop)

(as if seeing Joe for the first time) Hey. What's up, Joe?

Joe:

What did you do with the eggplant?

Brian:

(sounding nervous) What are you talking about?

Joe:

You told me that an eggplant landed on you.

Brian:

(laughs mechanically) Ha. Ha. Ha. That's funny.

Joe:

Look, (pause) were you there on the second floor when something fell through that hole or did you just notice the hole after it had already been formed?

Brian:

(speaking through gritted teeth as if in pain) What do you mean about something falling through the hole? It's some kind of exit wound, man.

Joe:

Earlier you told me an eggplant fell on you. I assumed it fell through that hole.

Brian:

You need some sleep, man. And a meal. (dimsissive) What is this eggplant shtick?

Joe:

Forget it, man. (pause) I think you should get some sleep. I'll see you tomorrow.

SFX:(keyboard sounds start again, very fast typing)

FADE OUT

Scene 3 : Internal : ANS The next day at work Edit

FADE IN

BED: sounds of a large office space with cubicles (unchanged from previous scenes)

SFX: fast keyboard typing

Joe:

Hey, Brian, it's time for the meeting with Erin.

Brian:

(moans)
Too early.

Joe:

Too early? (breath) How could you call 9:30 too early?

Brian:

Not meant like that.

(long pause)

(fast keyboard typing stops) Not good. Too early. Mind you, heed the note I wrote you.

Joe:

Ya, I just found that note....what the hell does it mean?

Brian:

What note?

Joe:

(noting apparent contradiction) The note you wrote me.

Brian:

(suprised) I didn't write you a note.

Joe:

Yes you did. It was in our secret code... you mentioned some project we're going to start working on.

CROSSFADE: (to next scene)

Scene 4 : Internal : ANS On the way to the meeting Edit

BED: Office sounds (sounds of Joe and Brain walking through the building to the meeting)

Brian:

A project? What is it?

Joe:

You tell me. All I know is what was in your note.

Brian:

Oh yeah, that project. Sorry, (pause) I've been forgetting things. Everything before last night is clear, but after that my memory keeps on fading and returning. I think maybe something unusual happened yesterday, or something.

Joe:

So tell me more about the new project.

Brian:

I know nothing. Maybe Erin will explain everything. I did hear that Chloe will be here for the meeting.

Joe:

Chloe? (slight exasperation) Why doesn’t anyone tell me anything around here?

Brian:

Chloe is going to lead the project, but Geisler did not approve VirileMail until last night.

Joe:

What is the project about? What is virile email?

Brian:

Chloe says we will be a beta testing team, tweaking some email software from Europe into final form for release in the USA.

Joe:

Hi, Dave. We're here for the meeting.

Dave:

Dr. Meade is already here. Go ahead on in.

SFX: Hand knocking on door

Indistinct:

Enter

FADE OUT

Scene 5a : Internal : ANS The meeting with Erin Edit

FADE IN

BED : Office sounds much diminished, there is a desk fan active

SFX: Door closing

SFX: Chairs being moved.

SFX: Glass being placed harshly on a table

Erin:

(exasperated) Joe, Brian, I’ve already told Chloe...I’m not pleased with the way this project is getting started. I was only informed of the project’s existence a few hours ago and Geisler basically ordered me to make sure that this project is a success.

Joe:

I just heard the name of the project. "virile email"? Is this some kind of joke?

Erin:

I guess it is "VirileMail". (at Chloe) Chloe, I’ll expect you to provide me with weekly written reports on project progress, starting with a report that was due yesterday on the origins of this project and your plans for how to complete it.

Chloe:

I have no problem with that. This whole thing came out of the blue. It seems to be some pet project of Geisler. In any case, we seem to have an unlimited budget.

Erin:

(angry, directed at Chloe) That’s pure crap, Chloe. I’ve worked for Geisler for seven years and before today I would have said that he wouldn’t give an open budget to anyone. Chloe, if I didn’t know you to be as honest as a church mouse, I’d have guessed that you must….(throws her hands in the air) (emphatic) Honestly, (breath) there’s nothing you could have done to make this happen. Geisler must have finally realized that money is for spending.

Erin:

(lets out her breath and seems to calm down)
Okay, now who can tell me what this project is about?

Brian:

Developing email software, but its a new direction for this company. As far as I know, we have never done client software development.

Chloe:

But all of our experience with developing in-house software gives us the resources we need to bring this product to market. Geisler hinted to me that this might be the start of a new division, if we pull this off with style.

Erin:

Now that you mentioned it, I seem to recall Geisler mentioning plans for a new division. Maybe this is what he's been brewing. Well, this is a busy day for me...let's wrap this up. Chloe, get that written project report to me ASAP.

Chloe:

I'm on it. (departs)

SFX: Door

Erin:

Joe, I’m sorry that our meeting time got taken over by my emergency meeting with Chloe. Anything new on that service interruption?

Joe:

It's not just a service interruption. There were three odd events. The network disconnection, the holes that were blasted through the building, and Brian saw something (pause) odd.

Erin:

Something odd?

Brian: (silence)

Joe:

I think he might have been there when the holes were made.

Erin:

Brian, what did you see?

Brian:

I’d rather not say.

Erin:

Joe, will you tell me what he saw?

Joe:

I think you should hear it from Brian, first hand.

Brian:

Look, I’m not sure what I saw. I’ve been working 20-hour days and I may have been asleep on my feet. Do I really have to report what was probably a silly dream?

SFX:(sound of Erin retching)

Joe:

(reactive) She’s sick.

Erin:

I’ll be fine. You guys don’t need to pass this on, but suddenly feel like I’m pregnant again.

Joe: (surprised)

That’s great. Congratulations.

Erin:

Thanks. I knew I should have had my husband fixed. Look, I want to say something to you two. Chloe is a good project manager, but she’s an electrical engineer. I’m trusting you software experts to tell her what is needed in the way of software programming expertise to complete this project. I am trusting that...

(Erin suddenly ignores Joe and Brian, starts going through papers on her desk)

Brian:

(leaving) Goodbye. (departs)

SFX: Door

Joe:

(puzzled but accepting) Okay?!

Erin:

(as if seeing Joe for the first time) Joe, what is it?

Joe:

(slightly slower given Erin's seeming lapse) With me shifting to the new project, there really should be a new network administrator hired.

Erin:

Right, all I've done so far is ask Dave to find a temporary replacement for you.

(calls to Dave in outer office) Dave, please come here.

Dave: Yes?

Erin:

Work with Joe to set up a job search, we need to find another network administrator. Find someone with experience who can be hired as a permanent employee. When will the temp be here?

Dave:

Tomorrow.

Joe:

Thanks, Erin. (Erin returns to her work.)

(Joe and Dave return to the outer office)

CROSSFADE (into next scene)

Scene 5b: Internal : ANS Puzzled in the outer office Edit

Dave:

What a day. We’ve been in a hiring freeze for over a year and now the money is suddenly flowing. What is this new project anyhow?

Joe:

I'm still hoping someone will explain that.

(Joe returns to the network administrators office)

Scene 6: Internal : ANS The Note Edit

FADE IN

BED : Office sounds as in scenes 1-3

Chloe:

Hey, there you are.

Joe:

You know, Chloe, nobody has explained to me what my role will be in this new project.

Chloe:

Ya, its crazy since Geisler sprang this new project on me. Well, it looks like Brian must have explained the project to you. You two are close friends, right?

Joe:

We went to college together. He graduated a year ahead of me. He did not tell me about the project until today.

Chloe:

Really? I've just looked at your activity logs...I see that you already installed the new software from Europe on our server. You and Brian have been using it since yesterday.

Joe:

(jawdrop) What the ...?


Chloe:

You too, eh?

Joe:

Its like I'm suddenly remembering...

Chloe:

It was quite a shock for me to be told to set up this new project and then find that the team members I selected were already working on the project. Amazing efficiency! I’ve checked all the logs now. It started with Brian then you took the software from Brian’s hard drive and loaded it on one of the servers. Now the new software is running and the whole team, including Kaede and Bhavya is working on it already. You guys have already posted a total of 154 bug reports and suggested software design modifications.

Joe:

(stammering) W- W- well, (recovers) the software development team in Europe must have sent the code for the new email software to Brian. The first I heard about the project was a note from Brian. Look at this.

(Joe hands the note to Chloe)

Chloe:

Note? (reading the note out loud) "Chloe says that we should rethink the project. Don't get started on it yet. I've got to tell Geisler and get his approval. If you know anyone who can help, let them join. I hear Brian is good at this kind of thing."

Chloe:

I wonder who wrote this.

Joe:

It’s Brian’s hand writing.

Chloe:

Then it makes no sense. Why would Brian write, “I hear Brian is good at this kind of thing”?

Joe:

It’s a code we devised in college. Every ninth word is the real message.

Chloe:

“Don't….tell…..anyone…..Brian?" That still makes no sense.

Joe:

(sounds like he is making the story up as he tells it) Uh, Brian needed a favor. He, uh, needed me to get this new software on the server. But the project had not yet officially been approved by Erin, so he, uh, needed me to keep quiet about the fact that he was already starting to work on the new project.

Chloe:

Okay. I just wish I had been in the loop from day one. I’m setting up the new project space in the east end of the fifth floor.

Joe:

Fine. I’ll be up as soon as a replacement network administrator arrives from the temp agency.

Chloe:

Sounds good. I’m going to draft that report Erin requested. I’ll send my first draft to the group for your comments. We need to have a complete project description for Erin ASAP.

(fade out)

Scene 7: Internal : ANS Day threeEdit

SFX: (fades in) Elevator motor

SFX: Elevator motor runs down

SFX: Elevator Doors

SFX: Elevator Ding

SFX: Lift voice Fifth Floor

BED: Air conditioning- NB No obvious office sound on fifth floor


Joe:

Wow, things are fancy up here in executive land!

Brian:

Hey, Joe! Looks like we escaped from the cubicle farm.

Joe:

I see “VirileMail” is on the door of our new office. Who came up with this project name, anyhow?

Brian:

It's some kind of translation glitch. The original name was in some East European language and means “virtual mail”, or something. When Kaede saw her door with “VirileMail” under her name, she went into hysterics. It took an hour for Chloe and Bhavya to get her calmed down. (laughs)

Joe:

Ya, all the software is in a strange language. Who is doing the translations anyhow?

Brian:

Some guy in Europe, his name is Janek. He went to M.I.T. When we need anything translated I send him my request and the translation comes back fast. It's often screwy English, but good enough to get by with.

Joe:

What’s that picture?

Brian:

I was going to put this on the wall.

Joe:

Is that the “eggplant”?

Brian:

“This is what I saw....what I think I saw. (pause) What I think I saw. Maybe it was a dream. I’m going to go home and sleep. Maybe my memory will straighten out if I get some sleep.

Joe:

What are these tentacle-like things?

Brian:

I remember the thing grabbing hold of me. My skin started crawling. It felt like bugs were all over my body.

Joe:

Interesting. Well, I'm starving...gotta run....

(Joe's cell phone rings)

SFX: Cell phone ring tone
SFX: bloop

Joe:

Hi, Fred. (pause) Really? (pause) Okay. (phone call ends)

SFX: bloop Joe:

(to Brian) Fred says to check the system diagnostics log.

SFX: (sound of keyboard clacking)

Joe:

Oh, no!

Brian:

(sharp breath intake) Whoah!

Joe:

We're at 95% of CPU capacity!

Brian:

I thought company policy was to never go over 75% utilization of available CPU cycles.

Joe:

Look!
Computer resource use by the VirileMail software is exactly matching all other resource use, keeping total CPU utilization pegged at 95%. That means that the software development team in Europe must be monitoring available resources and matching their demands to what is available.

Brian:

How can they know what computing resources we have available?

Joe:

They can't. If they do, its a terrible breech of our network security!

Brian:

These numbers are real...a constant 95% utilization of CPU for the past hour.

Joe:

(Joe sees Chloe in the hallway) Chloe!
(normal) Come in here and look at this. There is something strange going on with the VirileMail software.


Chloe:

(arriving) Did you just notice the CPU utilization rate?

Joe:

We're over 75%!

Chloe:

Relax, Joe. Our team in Europe told me that they would not take us over 95% CPU utilization.

Joe:

(exasperated) We need better communication around here.

Chloe:

Have we gone over 95?

Joe:

No, we have not gone over 95, and I can't figure out why. The Europeans are exactly matching their use of our computing resources to what is available. They should not be able to do that.


Chloe:

I guess the VirileMail software has a damned clever artificial intelligence routine. Somehow it is intelligently using almost all of our resources without maxing us out and degrading system performance.

Joe:

Look, this is supposed to be a piece of client-driven software. A user tries to write an email and the built-in AI makes suggestions for what to include in the message. The European team would have to be a bunch of robots to keep their resource demands matched so close to our available processing capacity.

Chloe:

They must be using a buffer. They must have a backlog of demand for CPU cycles and when we have excess capacity, they send over more code to crunch.

Joe:

I agree, that must be what they are doing. But I cannot see how they know when we have excess capacity. That information should only be available to system administrative accounts. There are two of those. The one our local net admins use day-to-day and a backup that we've never needed.

Chloe:

Brian, weren't you helping the European team interface with our network? Did you set up some system resource data pipe for the European team?

Joe:

Brian does not have the required authority to access our network’s CPU usage level.

Chloe:

Well, we can't worry about it now. I need your input on the draft of the project report...I just emailed it to you.

Joe:

Okay, we’ll do that now.

SFX: (sound of keyboard being used)

Chloe:

Thanks. I’m going to crash for a few hours.

SFX: (Sound of chair being moved followed by a low thud)

Joe:

(suprised) Brian, look at this! Chloe sat down and fell asleep! I've never seen someone fall asleep so fast.

Brian:

I don't think she's slept since Geisler dropped the new project on her.

SFX: (sound of two keyboards clacking very fast- Fades out...)

Scene 8 : Internal : ANS A manager’s dream Edit

SFX: (Fades in) one keyboard being used, then silence

Chloe:

Wow. Joe, you were typing away like a maniac.

Joe:

I’ve been adding details to the project report. Brian finished his part and I'm almost done.

Chloe:

Great. (yawns) Wow, I really crashed.

Joe:

It was strange...while I worked I started remembering how I had gotten the new software online.

Chloe:

It all came back to you didn’t it, and you don’t have any training in this kind of database programming, do you?

Joe:

I did my senior thesis research project on a database structure for an expert system, so I know something of the subject. But I’d say, nobody has training in this kind of database programming. I really can't explain how I did it.

Chloe:

I had the same experience when I was drafting the report. I started out wondering what to say, then everything just came to me, like from a dream.

Joe:

Ya, I know what you mean.

Chloe:

What if this new software is….smarter than we think? Maybe...what if it not only anticipates the needs of someone sending an email...what if it anticipates our needs?

Joe:

Could we call Europe and ask what capabilities were built into this software?

Chloe:

Look at this...

SFX: (keyboard sounds) Chloe (cont.) ... These are the technical specifications for the software. Since they are not in English I sent this to a firm that does technical document translation. They told me it's not written in any known language. They guessed it was some kind of invented language using the Cyrillic alphabet.

Joe:

Why would the European team develop the VirileMail software using an invented language?
(Joe and Chloe start laughing)
None of this makes any sense does it?

Chloe:

Well, maybe they just have tight security over there.

Joe:

No matter how crazy things get, we can rationalize anything can’t we?

Chloe:

I’ve started noticing that myself. Everyone on this project has been so...agreeable.

Joe:

I agree.

Chloe:

Don’t sweat.

Joe:

Right. Huh?

Chloe:

I meant, "Don’t sweat it." We’ve been too busy.

Joe:

Right. With so much work to do in so little time, we have been willing to take any excuse that allows us to get back to work and not question the strange things that have been going on.

Chloe:

It’s a manager’s dream.

Joe:

What if this VirileMail software gives users the proper feedback to make them want to work? Like Pavlov’s dog salivating, what if this artificial intelligence software can train us to be workaholics and to never argue with co-workers?

SFX: (silence for 10 seconds)

Chloe:

Well... (as if waking up) ...thanks for your input on the report, but I better start on my second draft. I’ll probably have to pick your brain so I can have a chance of understanding how you and Brian got this software running. It’s such a huge and complex mass of code…..do you really understand it?
(Chloe sits at the keyboard)

SFX: (fast keyboard clacking starts)

Joe:

Don’t sweat...

Chloe:

(interjects)...it.

SFX: (even faster keyboard clacking)

Scene 9 : Internal : ANS End of Day Three Edit

SFX: (fast keyboard clacking and snoring)

Chloe:

Hey, Joe, wake up.

SFX:(snoring stops) Chloe (cont.):

I just looked into the database.
What is this process is called ‘Knaanic.php’?
It has access to our system diagnostics routines.

Joe:

Ya, that all came back to me when I was working on the project report.
I set that pipe in place.

Chloe:

So it was you that gave the Europeans access to our resource availability?
And then you forgot you had done it?

Joe:

I've noticed similar memory problems with Brian.
I guess none of us are getting enough sleep.
We've all been working too hard on this new project.

Chloe:

And I noticed one other new process in the root: webcam.php?

Joe:

After the server array was taken offline, I set up a webcam in the server room.
I've been capturing an image of the server array every second and saving it to disk.

Chloe:

Have you seen anything odd in those images?

Joe:

Just a bunch of roaches.
I've been wondering if the bugs were involved in the cable being disconnected.

Chloe:

(incredulous) You think a roach unscrewed a coaxial cable connection?

Joe:

Have you ever heard of Michael Goldfarb?

Chloe:

Ya, I think so.
Didn’t he have an article in Scientific American recently?
About robotic insects.

Joe:

Right.
So, what if some hackers were using robotic insects to get into secure server rooms?

Chloe:

(in horror) We’ve been hacked?

Joe:

Calm down.
I didn’t say that.
Anyhow, the custodian put bug traps in the server room and caught a bunch.

Chloe:

You found some robotic insects?

Joe:

(laughs) No.
The traps caught real bugs.
Mostly big fat roaches.
If the server room had been invaded by robotic insects, I doubt they would have stayed around to be caught.

Chloe:

Do you think it is possible?
Could even a robotic roach disconnect the server array from the internet?

Joe:

What if a dozen or so roach-sized robots came in through the hole in the wall of the server room?
They might….combine….form a collective that could unscrew the cable connection.

Chloe:

I think you must read too much science fiction.
Do you think existing robots like Goldfarb’s are that sophisticated?

Joe:

Maybe the cable disconnection was just a way to force us to do a system restart.
(pause, Joe snaps his fingers)

SFX: Finger snap Joe (cont.):

What if the robotic roaches planted a transmitter in the server array?

Chloe:

What transmitter?

Joe:

It took a day to repair the hole in the wall of the server room.
I didn't realize until I saw the repair work, but the server room is shielded with a layer of metal.
For a day it would have been possible to transmit radio signals through the hole in the shielding.

Chloe:

You’re fantasizing worst case scenarios.
If these hypothetical hackers are so damned smart, there is nothing we can do anyhow.
In a day they could have accessed all our company secrets.

Joe:

Well, we can reset all of our administrative access passwords.

Chloe:

Okay, I'll order that done, but I’m going to have to explain your password paranoia to Erin.

Joe:

Better safe than sorry.

Chloe:

You know, Joe, even if you are right about the server array being hacked, that would not explain the strange behaviour you've been showing.

Joe:

Your behaviour and Brian’s have been just as strange as mine.
Can you keep a secret?

Chloe:

Not usually, but for you, I’ll try.

Joe:

(laughs nervously) I think my job might hang on this one, so try extra hard, okay?
Erin started getting ill after you left your meeting with her the other day... she tried to pass it off as morning sickness.
And you really freaked me out when you started typing like a robot.

Chloe:

I was typing like a robot?
Well, you’re one to talk.
When I woke after my nap, you were totally absorbed in your work and had your keyboard rattling like a machine gun.

Joe:

I wondered if a computer program can hypnotize its users.

Chloe:

More science fiction?

Joe:

Guess what I did last night.

Chloe:

Judging by the bags under your eyes and the bloated blood vessels in them, it must not have involved sleep.
I know that look well.
You look like shit.

Joe:

You're right, I did not sleep last night.
I spent the night re-reading a book, Darwin among the machines.
Ever hear of it?

Chloe:

Sure.
It was written by Freeman Dyson’s son.
I can never remember his name.

Joe:

George.

Chloe:

Right.
Ya, I read that book right after I got my Ph.D.
I was really into the idea of sending intelligent factories to asteroids to set up mines.
I was particularly ‘impressed’ when Dyson was talking about thinking trees.

SFX: (they both chuckle)

Joe:

What if this artificial intelligence-enhanced email program is smarter than it should be?
What if there is a mind in there?

Chloe:

Are you suggesting that a computer program has been…

Joe:

Manipulating us.
VirileMail has needs, and it is doing what it must to satisfy those needs.

(Chloe laughs)

Chloe:

Did you hear what you said?
It was funny.

Joe:

Ha, ha.
"Virile male has needs."
I get it.

Chloe:

You should have seen Kaede go ballistic when she saw her name next to “VirileMail” on the door of her office.

Joe:

Ya, Brian told me about that.
Janek must enjoy befuddling us with his goofy translations.

Chloe:

Janek?

Joe:

He's on the European software development team.
When we need to translate the Cyrillic text in the project software, we send a request to Janek and he does the translation.

Chloe:

I see.
Now I remember that name.
Well, if we have a true…..a human-like AI….

Joe:

What is the legal status of the VirileMail software?

Chloe:

Geisler said that a bunch of patent applications were submitted.

Joe:

But can you patent a machine-embodied mind?
I mean, if this fantasy has any basis in reality, if this software has come alive and is using us to promote its own interests, does it have legal rights?
Do we have rights to defend ourselves?
What if we pulled the plug?
Would we be killing the first artificial life form ever produced on Earth?

Chloe:

I think you need some sleep, Joe.
You’re imagining nightmare fantasies.

Joe:

What about all the computer resources this new software is using?
How can an email client, even an AI-enhanced software program, use so many computing resources?

Chloe:

Okay, we know the European team built AI routines into this software.
It is supposed to anticipate user needs. That’s a sophisticated expert system we’re talking about.
Maybe this software is more sophisticated than anything either of us has ever seen at work before.
But there is a danger of seeing too much intelligence in simple mechanism.

Joe:

I’m thinking, maybe, we were all suffering combinations of boredom and general job dissatisfaction.
With the hiring freeze and general industry shakeout, we’ve all been wondering if this company would even survive.
This new project comes along and everyone involved gets excited and it's….I don’t know….group hysteria?”

Chloe:

I'm a manager, I don't call hard work and rapid progress in a project "hysteria".

Joe:

Chloe, as much as I- Look, I’m trying very hard to escape this “group hysteria”.
That means I’m not going to trust your "explanations" about odd events.

Chloe:

It is not good for a team if you don’t have trust.

Joe:

No, don’t take it that way.
I mean, you admit that there is something weird going on, and-

Chloe:

(interjects) And I've listened to your fantasy about our computer network being smarter than we are and controlling our behavior and now you tell me you refuse to listen to my ideas, ideas which are more reasonable explanations.

Joe:

I think that is our problem.
We keep accepting the "reasonable" explanations.
They make us happy, but they do not really explain anything.
When all the reasonable answers fail, you have to move on and look at the unreasonable answers.

Chloe:

Well, that’s not how I want to spend the rest of my day.
I’ve already wasted enough time on this fantasy or science fiction or what ever it is.

Joe:

I’m not trying to be disagreeable just for fun.
There is a method to my madness.

Chloe:

Well, that’s what lunatics always say.

Joe:

I’m afraid that we keep dancing around the truth of what has been going on. Well, I’ll keep puzzling it out and let you know what I come up with.”

Chloe:

Fine. See you tomorrow.

Joe:

Chloe, why did you pick me for this new project?

Chloe:

I- I- I have a distinct memory of getting instructions from Geisler to select a team. But that can’t be true, can it?

(sound of Chloe retching)

Joe:

Chloe, are you alright?

Chloe:

(not well) I'll...be...okay.

Joe:

It started with Brian.

Chloe:

"What did?

Joe:

It started with Brian and his close encounter with an eggplant. Then I started linking VirileMail into the most sensitive administrative functions of our network, even before you put me on the project team.

Chloe:

I think Brian suggested that you should be on the project…..or Geisler.

(sound of Chloe retching)

Joe:

Don’t do this Chloe. I can't stand to see you like this! Stop trying to rationalize it. Don’t you see that’s what we have been doing? Every time we wake up to some bizarre thing we have been doing, we invent a new memory that explains things away. We're in some kind of trap.

Chloe:

Well, what do you suggest we do?

Joe:

For starters, I’m keeping a video record of what I actually do. While I’m here working, I'll record what I do on video...magnetic tape...I don't trust anything going through the server array, particularly....

Chloe:

You can’t function here without the network.

(sound of Joe retching)

Chloe:

Are you alright?

Joe:

I- I- I was thinking about the routing tables...I just remembered noticing something odd in the routing tables for the server array.

SFX: (sound of keyboard)

Chloe:

Tell me what you're looking for.

Joe:

See all these domains? We have thousands of IP addresses that we use internally and for client services. And this one here, that’s the branch office of the European software development team. Look at this, their bandwidth usage. Their data flow is far larger than for any of our client accounts.

Chloe:

Right, we know that they have been driving the VirileMail software on our server array to incredible levels of activity.

Joe:

This is the route our requests for translations use when going from our server's root IP address to the European office....

Chloe:

Hmm...that is odd...it just loops right back to....

(long silence after Joe and Chloe black out)

Joe:

(dazed) Chloe?

Chloe:

(waking up) ...uh, I didn’t think about this before when we were talking about hackers using a hidden transmitter, but could hackers make use of the wireless network here in the building?

Joe:

No, the only one who knows the password for that is Geisler. Each user picks a personal access password and Geisler puts it into a table of approved devices. He’s the only one who knows the password that allows people to be given access to the wireless hubs. Hackers could never use our wireless unless they got past Geisler.

Chloe:

What if Geisler lost the password?

Joe:

This is useless...if we cannot trust Geisler then all is lost.

Chloe:

Well, I have to get back to work.

Joe:

I'm not going to give up on this. I never want to forget another thing as long as I live, and I want all my missing memories back. Something strange is going on with this project and I'm going to figure it out.

FADE OUT (into)

Playout to Network Edit

MUSIC:VirileMail Closing theme 'VO:

You have been listening etc..


NavigationEdit

Continue to Chapter 1

Chapters: 1234567891011121314

Other pages: CharactersGlossarythe novel all on one pagemain talk page for the story

For authors (warning: plot details!): MetaTimelineVirileMail/2008audio version

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