by Richard Tornello
"Hon, we received another notice from the, as you call them, 'HOME OWNERS ASSOCIATION' down the street about cleaning up the mess we keep making. It states that we are not in compliance and they will take major action against all of us that are in that situation. There is a part here that says we have been warned previously. Do you recall?"
From the shower, Dick replied, "Fran, Don't bother. It's our place and it's just fine. Who do they think they are? Where the hell do they get off? They are not even a constitutionally elected group at this point"
"Ahh, Dick dear, this looks a bit different, something about Eminent Domain, and I think..."
As he toweled himself dry, shaking his head, Dick said, "Ignore it damn it. Just because we don't behave in quite the same manner that has been 'ordained' and do as they want it doesn't mean they can do anything except send those stupid insipid messages. If we respond with nice words we can put them off and cool their jets. What a pain in the ass. I have more important things to attend to. I will never live in a place with covenants and restrictions again. Do this, don't do that, ask to place a bush there and wipe your ass just so, blah blah blah."
"Besides, I really don't have to pay attention to that stuff. I run the place. That shit is for the others. The nerve!"
"Dick dear, this is different. It states..."
Interrupting, toothpaste in his mouth, Dick spluttered, "Forget it! I'm going to go hunting tomorrow. I need to get my guns ready and call the boys."
A MONTH OR TWO LATER:
The VP snarled to his aide-de-camp, "What do you mean thrown out?" Why are you telling me about a joke those idiots sent?"
"Sir, what I said is, this notice came over the internet. We are being asked politely to vacate the premises within 30 days. The point is that they have access to our systems!"
The VP, ignoring the last statement, growled, "These people who ever they are, are going to remove us? By what authority?"
The aide stammered, "Eminent Domain is claimed, Sir".
"Excuse me?" Dick's face had turned a dangerous shade of red for a man with a history of cardiac problems. "There has been no hearing, no convening of the chambers...When did we get this notice? I don't remember any official letter, do you?"
Cringing, the aide said, "Well Sir, no, but...according to this we have been given notice a number of times. It appears as if we ignored them."
"I neverignorereallegalnotices," Dick hissed as fast as he could, his eyes now as red as his face. Then slowly, enunciating each word for emphasis, he concluded, "I. Squash. Them."
AT HOME THAT EVENING:
Well dear, it seems that a good number of us have been given this notice. Look at today's news," Fran calmly stated.
"Are you on drugs?" Dick howled. "This is insane! How can you sit there like that?"
"Valium, 20 mg as a matter of fact, every 4 hours," Fran said serenely. "You should try it before you have another heart attack."
To himself, Dick muttered, "I hate it when she gets all reasonable like that..."
The VP stared at the screen, where the usual plastic-haired talking head anchors were sharing screen time with reporters in the field. The main story; the only story, concerned the eviction notices received by almost everyone in the country and beyond. Self-appointed experts were interviewed "live"; most claimed that the notices -- mailed, e-mailed, even text-messaged -- were part of a massive joke/hacker attack/denial of service all in one.
Representatives of government cyberwarfare divisions claimed that someone or some organization had hacked into the main USDA computer systems that handled most government based data outside the DoD and Intel agencies. The reports from Europe, Asia, and other regions indicated that the same kind of notices had been delivered in most other countries and systems throughout the planet. What made the joke -- or attack -- frightening was that each notice was addressed to a particular person or family, and contained detailed and supposedly confidential information.
Dick mused to himself, "Is this another government test that got out of hand? Are all our leaks and screw-ups coming home to roost?"
To his self-medicated wife, "You see this can't be real hon. You know I would have responded to any official notice of removal from this lovely place in my usual manner."
Drugged but intelligent she responds, "Yes dear I know you would have. Only, I seem to recall somewhere that there were some clauses in our association, oops, I mean our constitutional contract, that if I'm not mistaken, that we, as you are wont to put it, really fucked up!"
"What the hell are you talking about? I don't see anything wrong anywhere. The place looks good, things are in order, and we have maintained control. It's not like there is a by-pass coming through. As I read it, we were within our god-given rights to act as we did."
Sarcastically, Fran cooed, "You know, Dick dear, you are funny."
"This has to be a very elaborate joke. What's the date?"
"March 30th, why?"
Fran laughed so hard, she started to cough and peed in her pants. "This has got to be Kim's idea. Oh my god, this is good."
But if it's just a joke, how did the jokers get everybody's personal and financial data? Dick wondered. And how did they pay for all those stamps?
The Secretary of State raised his arms in an exaggerated shrug. "Whether these eviction notices are real, or some new kind of terrorist attack, Mr. President, we can't track down the source. There are no known leads anywhere. The Russians, Chinese, United Europeans and others have no clue as to the origin of the letters and how they are so specific to each individual. Someone has breached all our systems. The Koreans and Japanese are quiet as usual -- except the Japanese have launched a large number of freighters to their moon base. There is some unusual activity there. They have been up to something for a few years now with deep space exploration and colonization. This can't have anything to do with the security breach. And we don't have the resources to deal with both things right now."
The Deputy to the Commerce Secretary said, "I think is a ploy to manipulate the markets. Or possibly to stir up the populace for the upcoming elections. The markets are beginning to show signs of panic."
The Secretary of State snorted. "Sheep, that's all they are, following the herd. Is anyone making large purchases?"
An aide consulted the screen of his tablet computer and said, "Only the usual buyers and short sellers -- mainly fund managers, pension plans, no new players."
The Director of Central Intelligence said, "Sir, we have no idea. There are no leads for the communication we've received. The whole planet, or at least the modern interconnected world has received this Eviction Notice, if you will.""
The VP slammed his fist down on the table. "It has to be a joke. Where is everybody supposed to go? To Mars? I mean we could, the essential members of government and associated support systems, but whole population? This is crazy."
"How do we keep everyone calm?" the Secretary of State asked. "Joke or not, enough people are taking it seriously to make mass protests -- riots -- very likely."
When no one else volunteered an answer, she said, "Mr. President, you and the other world leaders must go on screen together and inform the people that this is a very sophisticated cyber attack. You shoot as straight as possible, lay it out and ask for time to locate and destroy the culprits. Ask them to please ignore it as much as possible and assure the people that their governments are doing everything possible to to straighten things out."
The President's Chief of Staff handed a tabletcomp to his boss and said, "Sir, the other leaders are standing by for the joint broadcast. Each one has just been briefed like you."
The President glanced at the tablet screen, verifying that he had the main points of the joint address straight, and nodded.
"You are live in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 -- now! "
The leaders of the major powers began to speak in turn, as per the protocols each had agreed to. Their images were broadcast over all television channels and internet news feeds as a grid of squares surrounding a larger central square, with each man or woman displayed in that larger square as he or she spoke. In each country, a simultaneous translation into the local languages was provided, so that it would be clear that they all had the same message: the Notices are a hoax. Remain calm. We are working together to find the source of the Notices and deal with it.
That was the plan.
But instead of the expected calm series of reassuring messages, every screen on the planet was occupied by an abstract pattern of swirling colored light and shadows, and a voice that spoke every language at once (or at least was understood by all who heard it. "Why are you ignoring Our warning and commands to remove yourselves from Our place? You have fouled this beautiful nest and We are disgusted by your careless treatment of Our property and by your foolish refusal to comply with our Notices. You have the technology to leave, most of you any how, so go. You have 20 days to remove yourselves. You have been warned!"
"Sir, Mr. Vice President? I know you're busy but NASA has an urgent call to you."
Dick sighed. This sort of thing was seriously interfering with his insider trading of stocks in his blind trust accounts.
"Give it to the Cowboy. He handles that stuff. I have enough shit on my plate with all that stuff about getting off the planet."
"Yes sir. I will pass it on."
The President walked into the VP's room, the spurs on his cowboy boots jingling as they gouged the hundred-year-old hardwood floor. "Dick? What's this NASA message supposed to mean?"
Dick gave him a look of exasperation. "How am I supposed to know? Do I look like an astrophysicist? Go get someone at NASA to explain it to you and then you can tell me. We have a situation here."
The President frowned and pouted. "I did, but them NASA eggheads can't explain worth a damn. It still doesn't make sense."
The VP rolled his eyes. "Please, I'll call them later. I'm dealing with this hacker, and a crazy citizenry. This hacker's fucking up the whole communication grid. This has to be Kim in North Korea, or the Assatollah in Iran. They're still pissed at us for nuking them a ways back, but they brought it upon themselves. I warned them after the elections were postponed due to a "National Emergency" issued under Presidential Directive 51. If we can prove those idiots are behind this, maybe we'll nuke 'em again. Or maybe even if we can't prove it."
"Okay, okay. I'll get ready for our broadcast tonight. Daddy was right. I know you have things in control, as usual. I just love this stuff"
"Yes, you do that. Call the French, Russian and Chinese Ambassadors. Make sure they are here early for dinner and discussions. Remember to emphasize early."
No sooner had the President jingle-scraped his way out of the room than the VP's personal aide sidled back in.
"Sir, Mr. Vice President, we have a new communication coming through. It's addressed to all. All machines are coming on line. The electrical grid shouldn't be able to handle the load, but it is--"
A calm soft voice, one of authority, began to speak:
"We have sent messengers to you. You ignored them. We have sent you a good number of notices in various languages throughout the ages. This is not a joke, and we are not putting a bypass through you solar system either.
"Let us list some examples of messengers: Martin Luther King; Gandhi; Buddha; Jesus; Mohammed; Kung Fu-Tse, or Confucius; Chuang Tse; Lao Tse; Socrates; Plato; Spinoza; and dear Pythagoras.
"Did you listen? No. All Our guidance on how to live together and treat Our world with respect has been ignored.
"It's time to go. We will take action, since you will not."
The VP's aide stammered, "Sir, Is this real?"
The VP paced around his office, swatting antique lamps and figurines off the desktops as he went, his face gray except for his cheeks (red) and his lips (alarmingly blue). "It can't be, it's too far out. I mean getting thrown off the planet, being evicted. What bullshit. And who the hell is 'We', anyway?"
At NSA headquarters, alarms sounded as the eavesdropping satellites in geosynchronous orbit went silent one by one. Cell phones and mobile communications devices squawked once as they received one last burst of random digital noise, then displayed "No signal" messages. Vidscreens and computer monitors flared briefly to life (even if they were turned off) with a swirling pattern of colored light and shadow, then faded to black.
But there was no one left to observe any of these things...
© 2008 Richard Tornello
Bio: Richard Tornello is a business owner/consultant/technical recruiter with 28+ years experience, married and kept by one very neurotic cat Stella. He has a degree from Rutgers University in Asian Studies. Richard's poetry and fiction has appeared a number of times in Aphelion (with one or more poems almost every month!); his most recent short story was Time Lies, October 2008.
E-mail: Richard Tornello
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.