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Chapter 1: The Dark Side

Friday, July 9, 2004

She swatted her alarm as it blared to life at 6:00am, just as it did every day. Opening her eyes, Dana stared at the ceiling, wondering what joys this day would bring. Her Aunt's bee-keeping business was booming, so Margaret recruited her - her favourite neice, with all the techno-suave skills she had - to modernize her business and "hop onto the information superhighway", as Margaret had quaintly put it. So in a matter of a month, Dana pieced together a simple, yet effective website for her Aunt. They decided on the name that would forever serve to identify Margaret's beekeeping business -

For some time now, Dana had been feeling the nibbling of exhaustion, and the desire to 'take a break' was growing in Dana's mind. With not much happening in her life, she began to feel a little bored. Hearing from old friends about trips they'd taken overseas to get away from it all, and seeing videos and documents on TLC had slowly raised the desire to get away from life as she knew it, and take a vacation. So recently, she had planned to take a trip to China; Beijing to be exact. She would take her backpack, and with nothing else but the wind at her back, go for a long needed hike across creation. Oh how she longed for that day, for July 29th. But, without the means - that is, the money - to do this, Aunt Margaret had offered to purchase for her what she needed to get off the ground. The catch - Dana would dedicate herself to 7 lucky years of being her Aunt's tech- goto-girl for whenever she needed help. Indentured tech support she called it. What the heck. Dana accepted, and in doing so, paved the way for her trip down the rabbithole to wonderland.

Slipping herself out of bed, she headed to her bathroom to finish waking up. Passing her monitor, she glanced at the homepage, and did a double take, noticing that some of the images weren't displaying correctly. Out of curiosity, she sat down at her desk and began a long journey of searching, prodding, editing, and scanning through the entire website, trying to find the cause of the bug.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Old faithful. The alarm crowed 6:00am on Dana's bedside table. After a (very) late night at the computer, Dana simply didn't have the energy to swat her alarm. She reached over and slid it off her desk, and it crashed to the floor, letting out 2 muffled rings before being forever silenced.

Back at her computer desk, and feeling as though she'd exhausted all the possibilities she could think of in her limited knowledge of the online world, Dana decided to begin a public weblog, to rally and seek help from fellow geeks, and try to solve this mystery. Maybe in the process, someone could track down whoever it might be who had been hacking into her website. After all, it's not like a virus would alter any random website in such a seemingly organized way... especially one so neutral as a bee-keeper's business. And it didn't look like any harm was being done. Just some strange text and corrupt images. But, this countdown did pose quite a mystery. Not one for which she would excitedly await the outcome, but a curious mystery none-the-less.

So, Dana began her blog...

The Damage [Tuesday, July 13, 2004]

In a flurry of wishful thinking, I imagine a huge demographic overlap between bee fans and webmonkeys.

This blog is born.

You're reading this, so I'll assume you've already witnessed the damage over on my aunt's web site. That's how you got here, right? (Unless your last Google search included the terms "honey," "SOS" and "WTF".) Hmm... now I'm actually curious to see what that turns up.)
Okay, focus, Dana.

I've been wrestling with the site bug(s?) myself since late last week. I've exhausted every strategy I can think of: scoured my code, ran virus checks, did the whole spyware Spyhunter thing, installed all the browser updates, and then finally just wiped the site and rebuilt it from scratch. Nothing helped.

In fact, although I might just be hallucinating from too much maté, I would swear it's getting worse.

I'm posting all of the original pages below, so you can see what looked like BEFORE it crossed over to the dark side. INDEX ABOUT HIVES LINKS ABOUT

Satisfied that her words would inspire a few hacker-savvy teens to offer their services, she began the mentally exhausting task of patiently waiting for a response...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A day later... Slowly a beam of sunlight positioned itself over Dana's eyelids. With a sudden flinch, Dana woke up, realizing she had slept in. She hadn't made an effort to replace her alarm clock yet. 'Gotta do that today,' she thought to herself, and fell asleep again.

Checking her email and her new blog, Dana found nothing of much help yet. A few spam replies; a couple of people who thought she was playing a joke; a couple of people genuinely curious, but offering no help; and some people saying they're "working on it". 'Well, at least the ball has started to roll,' thought Dana as she stretched in her seat.

Dana's thoughts returned to her ever-drawing-nearer retreat. Now she was in a quandry. Just over 2 weeks left until her trip to China, and things weren't yet looking up for her aunt's website. But she swore her aid, and just wouldn't be able to leave with the website in this condition. What would she do? If she went to China, with no specific return time, who would be able to get the website working? Margaret maybe be able to hire someone else, but she's family. After all her aunt did for her, would that be her thanks? No, Dana decided to stick around until the situation was resolved. Her feelings on the matter - her feelings of dryness, unimportance, her simplistic lifestyle - in this case weren't as important as her loyalty, and her word.

'Well hey,' thought Dana, 'now that I have a blog, I may as well share my thoughts while I have the time. Maybe someone out there could help me, or at least encourage me.'

Delinquent [Wednesday, July 14, 2004]

Best case scenario: the delinquent site gets fixed before the 29th, when I'm flying to Beijing. There's no way I'm just going to bail and leave Aunt Margaret to deal with this until who knows when. (She bought me my All-Asia air pass in exchange for 7 years of indentured tech support, and ... I'm not going to let her get the raw end of the deal here. Not an option.)

(The trip is hard to defend. Beijing is the first stop on an open-ended backpacking trip through East/Southeast Asia, a trip I have no good reason to be taking (as my parents like to remind me), except (as I point out to them, though sometimes kind of quietly and maybe even after they've left the room) I've been "home" — in one way or another — for 22 years now, and absolutely everywhere I go is already drenched with my own history.

I'm tired of being so...known.

So I guess you could say that the point of this trip is to make the stone stony. And I'm the stone. And I'll come back whenever I'm unfamiliar enough that it won't feel anymore like home has reached its saturation point of me.)

Anyway: I really don't want to leave my aunt in the lurch. All suggestions (obvious, off-the-wall, whatever) are welcome, I've tried everything I can think of, am completely out of ideas.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Off went Dana's newly purchased alarm, taking up the daily task of displaying the annoyingly blocky 6:00 digits. This morning, Dana woke up and decided she'd take a look at the traffic report for the website. After 7 days of the strange issues with the website, you'd think someone might have found a solution, or at least a cause. But, sadly, there were no informative emails in her inbox, no worthwhile replies to her blog entries, no complaints, no concerns; just an idle website with strangely messed up images. After typing in the website's address, she left it to load while she went to freshen up. On coming back to her computer, the blood drained from her face. Printed in bold text on the front page of, she saw this text:


Control has been yielded to the

This medium is classified, and has a

In 14 days, network throttling will erode.

In 28 days, this medium will metastasize.


Make your decisions accordingly.

Particularly, it was the running, active countdown, to 'wide awake and physical' that registered first. It looked like... yes, 42 days. '42 days would be... August 24th,' she thought to herself. 'What happens on August 24th?'. Her hopes of being able to go away with a clean conscience dwindled. Fighting off tears of frustration, she tried to get a hold of herself. Maybe she could just call up the ISP and temporarily remove the website? Maybe she could set up a temporary alternate location for the original website? But, what would she do about then? That's where people would still be going. Who knows what effect this 'bug' could have on other systems. And this website is what Aunt Margaret would expect to have working. On top of that, what exactly does network throttling and metastasize mean? With a deep breath, Dana looked at her keyboard and sat deep in thought before entering her next blog.

Counting down to WHAT? [Friday, July 16, 2004]

So the bug — or virus, or spyware, or, whatever it is — is now apparently counting down to something, and that something looks like it's going to happen while I am somewhere in Szechuan province and I can't fix it and yeah it's creeping me out and yeah I'm not happy about this. (The recent appearance of words like "mayday", "metastasize", "hemorrhage," and "classified" isn't cheering me up, either.)

What the hell is this thing. And why would a site as harmless, I mean utterly and completely harmless, as attract its attention?

Hold up. What's this? Someone did find another aspect to this problem... a problem quite interesting...

Read on -- Chapter 2 >>