Yin and Yang: Two Stories, One Ending
A repetitive click-clack of the keyboard filled the darkness. The dimmed monitor was the only light, softly reflecting on a pasty, pale, and tired face. To the left sat a half-eaten bag of Cheetos and an energy drink. On the right, a quietly humming external hard drive.
The monitor portrayed a multicolored array of lines and text that was the interface for an IRC channel, or “chat-room” as most deemed it. While not graphically complex, the wit and sarcasm that flooded the channel was a work of profound genius. It portrayed years of etiquette built behind countless hours logged at a computer. This truly was the new underground, a place where free-thinkers with angst come to express their unique and sometimes dangerous ideas.
Tonight’s adventure was quite specific: coordinate with other members, load a denial of service application, type in the desired internet protocol address, and stick it to the man. These days, Jeremy wasn’t sure who the man was exactly. Though his face had changed many times, he still seemed to be out there, looming in the digital abyss.
An administrator aptly named “GENR8H8” was now announcing that their time to strike was at hand. In the next instant, the address was typed out and Jeremy was already well on his way to flooding it with packets. He imagined that each packet was a soldier, invading the enemy. It would take a massive amount of them to take over the opponent’s server base, but there was strength in numbers.
Sitting back, Jeremy watched the program continuously ping the address and delighted as wave after wave synchronously attacked. Using his laptop, he tried to independently ping the server. Nothing.
The channel filled with smiley faces and congratulations. The anger of the mob had been subdued for now, but it was only a matter of time before a new enemy reared its ugly head, threatening the freedom and integrity of the masses.
Today, this day, was one of triumph. The beast has been slain. The corruption has been purged.
Shirley was exhausted. She had only been on shift for a little over an hour, but it was her second shift in twenty-four hours. After a while, the ibuprofen wasn’t enough. The headaches persisted and the only thing to do was to bear through it, in hopes that rest would finally come.
Now she went into battle, armed only with a clipboard and a cheerful smile. In truth, the patients could probably see through the half-hearten smile, but she felt obligated to put on a show anyway. For them.
As she opened the door, an elderly woman sat fixated on a plant resting next to her on a table.
“Pretty isn’t it?”, she said.
The old woman just smiled and moved her focus to the spotted and frail hands on her lap. It seemed no time at all since they were soft and blemish-free. After looking at the flowers blooming magnificently from the plant, they seemed a sad contrast.
“I’m here to give you your medicine and to see if you need anything. Can I get you a blanket or something to eat?”, Shirley questioned.
The woman nodded her head, signaling that she was fine and took the two small tablets from her nurse. With trembling hands, she raised the cup to her mouth and slowly sipped until the medicine was gone.
THE GENERAL ALARM RANG!
It startled the woman, but Shirley was even more startled. She knew something had to be very wrong. She rushed out of the room, leaving the clipboard on the bed, and dashed down the hall. In a small hospital like this, there weren’t many patients and it made emergencies all the more traumatic.
Approaching the desk, she could see all of the night-shift nurses gathered around with the two doctors trying to facilitate an urgent message and plan. After a few last-minute updates the lead practitioner spoke up:
“Listen up, the life support systems are down. We’re not sure what’s wrong, but we’re trying to get them back online now. Three patients were currently on the system. We are manually resuscitating two of them, but the third didn’t make it.”
The hospital had been the frontrunner of a new life-support and monitoring system. With all the equipment linked into one database, it made it possible to monitor and make adjustments faster, which meant more patient improvement rates, and in return meant more money for the hospital. Normally, this type of invasive equipment was saved for the big hospitals but it just so happened that the old Dean of Medicine was co-inventor of the system, named C.L.A.S.S.I., which stood for Constant Life And Supplemental Support Infrastructure.
All that didn’t matter now, however. What mattered was that they saved the remaining two patients and got the system back on-line. Shirley rushed into one of the rooms to see if she could lend a hand. The space was filled with panic. White and blue scrubs flew around the room, trying to reach in for help.
After a few minutes, the tension eased and the flock of nurses dispersed. Their efforts had proven futile and there just wasn’t much they could do, aside from prolonging the inevitable. The call had been made to cease resuscitation. He had quietly, at least in his own mind, slipped away.
In the next couple of hours, the last patient, a child of thirteen, was also lost. Her car crash rendered her inoperable at the moment, but life support seemed a viable option to sustain her until they could operate. Unfortunately for her, the server that housed most a majority of protocols and data for her new life support system was attacked hours earlier. The server had been breached due partly to some security measurements not being in place, but largely because a group of unidentifiable people had mistakenly targeted the systems server instead of a nearby server which housed a database for planned parenthood.
In the end, a few numbers were all that stood between the girl and the sweet embrace of death.