Geriatrix: A Cyberpunk Novel for Old People

Chapter 5: Do I Have a Virus?

“So why are you here?”

“I hear… I hear you know computers. I’ve got electronic mail to send to my grandson. But I’m scared and confused.”

“Say no more.”

Walter powered up the desktop of his gleaming new Apple II. As if cured suddenly of arthritis, his fingers flew across the keyboard, effortlessly opening the icons. He was double, even triple-clicking. Soon the internet  command prompt screen was in view, ready for the street address of the website.

“You got onto the Internet without a password?” asked Edith, wowed by the technical wizardry before her.

Walter took a drag from his Meerschaum pipe. “That’s right. I’m a hacker. Folks in the cyber-land call me MetaMucil.”

Just then, Edith realized what she was getting into.

“You’re not worried they’ll catch you?”

“There’s no way. I’m running on five operating systems.”

Walter then dragged the “cursor” over Edith’s poem about Jesus onto the web’s page and quickly pressed a combination of buttons on the computer’s typewriter.

“You weren’t followed here, were you?” he said suddenly, affixing her with eyes that had seen so much.

“No. I took back routes, deserted ones. Accidentally drove very slowly past the place a couple times.”

Opening up a second “window,” Walter tapped a second combination, causing the exact poem to appear once again.

“What else can you do on the Interface?” she asked, her eyes betraying her increasing nervousness and rheumatism.

“Whatever you want, dearie. MIDI of Camptown Races? Two clicks, and bam, it’s there. Pictures of the cutest cats you’ve ever seen? Just six URLs away.”

Suddenly, another window popped up on the screen with the mysterious and foreboding title of “ AIM Conversation – ~BaBy-gUrL-819~ 10:19 AM.

Damn, thought Walter, we’ve been counter-hacked.

“We got trouble, Edith. Someone’s on to us…and they don’t like what we’re doing.” Sweat trickled down Walter’s normally cool brow as he read the window’s cryptic message:

~BaBy-gUrL-819~ (10:19:20): Hey there stud. Wanna chat some time? Check out my page here. I’ll be waiting...;)

Edith was visibly shaken. “What does it mean, Walter? What does it mean?”

“It’s code. Probably the feds. There’s no time to build a firewall, I’m just going to have to fight this virus head on.”

As the clock rushed, Walter typed as hard as he could, hitting every possible combination of the control key and a letter in a matter of minutes. The window finally disappeared behind another window informing him that updates were available for his computer.

“We’re in the clear,” he sighed.

After Walter finished typing Edith’s grandson’s full name into the “Send To” form on the e-mailing website and hit the enter key, he turned to her.

“Now. There’s the little matter of payment.”

Edith, eager to escape Walter’s den of inter-crime, plunked down the jar of pennies and headed for the door.