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Same Time Tomorrow

by The Scholar

Part 1: Oddsox

Allan Hunter sat back in his chair, removed his spectacles by the arm with his right hand, rubbed his eyes with the back of the same hand and then replaced the spectacles on his face. Raising his arms upwards he stretched, yawned, outstretched his arms and then moved his shoulders in a circular movement. A glance to the right-hand corner of his computer screen told him that it was almost four pm and taking hold of the mouse, he moved it towards the top right of the screen until the cursor became a white arrow and then he clicked the small black cross.

Do you want to save changes you made to... Allan clicked the 'yes' button and the page disappeared from the screen. He quickly went through the motions of shutting down the computer and when the machine had obeyed his command, he picked up his jacket and briefcase and made his way out of the building in which he worked. He had been sat in front of that computer screen since 8.30 that morning with no lunch break and he'd had enough. He was going home.

Home to Allan was a small apartment on the east side of town and he manoeuvred his way through the traffic in record time. Leaving work early had its advantages; at least he beat the rush hour traffic.

Closing the door behind him as he walked into the place he had still to come to think of as a home, he discarded his briefcase, removed his jacket and headed to the kitchen to retrieve a cold beer from the refrigerator. Deftly removing the metal cap, he took a long drink from the bottle's neck and took a deep breath as he walked into the living area and picked up the TV sets remote control. Aiming it, a picture flickered to life and Allan began the ritual of channel hopping, finally settling on a movie channel, though the movie on screen was not something he recognized.

Placing the remote back where he had found it and his bottle of beer on a nearby table, he headed to the bathroom, where he undressed turned on the shower and stepped in, the warm water pricking at his body as he reached for the bar of soap.

Allan wasn't a native of this town; he had moved there due to the demands of his job as a computer analyst for one of the country's newer firms. It was a move he had not wanted to make, as he liked the area in which he had lived, but the company was expanding and needed a small team to help get things moving. Along with Harry Mackintosh, Pete Harper, Geoff Walters and Mick Gallagher, Allan was one of that team, relocation and expenses all paid for.

The one thing Allan promised himself every day was at least two hours at home before turning on his personal computer. Working on them all day made his eyes tired and he knew he should take more breaks than he did, however, a glance at the TV screen as he walked back to the living area wearing a pair of shorts and pulling a t-shirt over his head, he noticed that Will Smith was animatedly and loudly having some kind of confrontation with Tommy Lee Jones and guessed that the earlier film had ended and, what looked like, Men in Black had started. He reached for the remote and hit the off button and the picture disappeared at almost the same time the computer whirred into life as he hit the base unit's on button.

Picking up his beer, he waited for the machine to go through its set up procedure and as the command to enter his password appeared he did so quickly, enabling the machine to complete its task.

Faced with a desktop full of icons, Allan clicked the one that would connect him to the Internet and in no time at all he was searching for information about a new 'super bug' he had been hearing murmurings about. His search was not in vain, as a list was presented to him from which to make his choice, one of which caught his eye immediately and he clicked to enter what appeared to be a question and answer site, but in reality turned out to be a chatroom for people with equal concerns.

Blizzard: I have no idea.

Whizzer: I'm outta here.

Harvester: I tried that already.

Jackal: Me, too. Bye.

Blizzard: Did it work?

Harvester: Bye, Whiz, bye, Jackal.

Anchorman: Did it work?

Harvester: No

Anchorman: Shit.

Blizzard: It seems to have a life of its own.

Harvester: I know.

Anchorman: I've tried everything I can think of.

Oddsox: Me, too and it's making me feel ill.

Harvester: I'm gonna have to reboot, brb.

Anchorman: k.

Blizzard: k.

Oddsox: It's costing me a bloody fortune, I'm sure of it.

Blizzard: Why?

Oddsox: Because it keeps connecting to the blasted thing.

Anchorman: Why don't you just pull the plug?

Oddsox: I do.

Blizzard: I have to go.

Anchorman: Later, bud.

Blizzard: Bye.

Oddsox: Later.

Oddsox: I timed it.

Anchorman: Timed it?

Oddsox: Yeah.

Harvester: Back.

Oddsox: 59 minutes and 30 seconds exactly.

Anchorman: Wow!

Harvester: What is?

Oddsox: How long the bloody thing lies dormant before popping up. I've been online 45 minutes already and I'm starting to panic.

Anchorman: You better log off, then.

Oddsox: I guess so. I don't know whether I even want to log on again.

Harvester: Don't be beaten. Someone must know how to get rid of it.

Oddsox: I wish they'd tell me, then.

Anchorman: I'm thinking of calling someone out to have a go.

Harvester: Sounds like a plan.

Oddsox: I can't afford to do that, as I haven't any money.

Harvester: I can appreciate that.

Oddsox: I would if I could, but I wouldn't know whom I should call anyway.

Anchorman: LOL!

Oddsox: It's true. What I need is a computer expert who'd help because he wanted to.

Anchorman: Someone will beat it. Listen, I have to go, k.

Oddsox: k

Oddsox: Later.

Allan had followed this conversation with a vague interest and fascination and as a smiley face was the only thing to appear next to 'Anchorman's' ID he suddenly realized that 'Oddsox' had been left all alone and, without thinking, he typed in a two letter greeting.

Tracker: Hi

Oddsox: Hi

Allan didn't know why he'd decided to make contact. Maybe it was something to do with the desperation he felt 'Oddsox' was voicing.

Oddsox: How are you?

Tracker: Fine. You?

Oddsox: Pissed off. I know the bloody thing is coming back and I can't stop it happening.

Tracker: What is it, exactly?

Oddsox: Dunno. Some kind of virus, I guess.

Tracker: You got an anti-virus program.

Oddsox: Yeah, but it ain't doin' nothing.

Tracker: Hmm.

Oddsox: I gotta go before it comes back.

Tracker: Okay.

Oddsox: I'll try and reboot and see what happens.

Tracker: Okay.

Oddsox: You gonna be around?

Tracker: I'll be here.

A smiley face appeared next to the other's ID and Allan smiled.

Normally, he wouldn't get involved in conversations, but he was curious. If this was the 'super bug' he'd heard about, he wanted to know how it was affecting people. If it wasn't then at least he'd get to chat with someone. Life in this town wasn't particularly vibrant and he didn't see much of the other people he worked with outside of work unless it was at a hastily planned after hours meeting, so it made a change. Besides, there was nothing on TV.

During 'Oddsox's' absence, he took the opportunity to go get another beer from the refrigerator and make a quick sandwich. Hunger pangs had suddenly hit him and he decided that later he'd call out for a pizza.

Oddsox: You there?

Oddsox: Hello?

Oddsox: Anyone? Tracker?

Allan hadn't seen or heard 'Oddsox' return and quickly ran his fingers across the keyboard.

Tracker: I'm here.

Oddsox: smile

Tracker: You were quicker than I expected. I was just making a sandwich.

Oddsox: Am I keeping you from dinner, or something?

Tracker: No, I just got home and was hungry.

Oddsox: k. smile

Whoever this 'Oddsox' was he certainly liked to use the smiley face and Allan found that it was making him smile, too.

Oddsox: You got this problem, too?

Tracker: No.

Oddsox: You got rid of it?

Tracker: I never had it to get rid of.

Oddsox: Oh.

Tracker: What is it, exactly? Maybe I can help.

Oddsox: A virus, I think. You think you can?

Tracker: I can't promise.

Oddsox: I'll try anything.

Tracker: LOL!

Oddsox: Honestly. It's really pissing me off and it's gonna be costing me a fortune, I know it is.

Tracker: Okay. You said you had an anti-virus program?

Oddsox: Yeah, there's a programme built into the computer.

Tracker: Okay.

Oddsox: But it ain't finding nothing.

Tracker: You got Ice-It?

Oddsox: No. I got Harley Anti-Virus.

Tracker: Okay.

Oddsox: Should I have that one, too?

Tracker: I don't know, let me think.

Oddsox: k.

There was no further communication from 'Oddsox' as Allan tried to gather is thoughts. He wasn't really sure how he could help, but there was something about this person, the way he seemed to automatically trust him that he felt a sudden responsibility to at least try. After all, he had made the first contact when he could, so easily, have just slipped away.

Tracker: Okay. I need to know exactly what happens.

Oddsox: You can fix it?

Tracker: Not yet, I need to know exactly what happens before I can get an angle on it.

Oddsox: k.

Oddsox: Well, I dunno. It sort of comes up every hour, this thing pops up on my screen and then disappears and then an icon thing appears on my desktop and a thing on the bottom, but I can click that and uninstall it and then they disappear.

Allan read twice what 'Oddsox' had said trying to picture what he was talking about.

Tracker: Okay. What kind of icon is it?

Oddsox: Just an icon. Like a shortcut, though cause it has an arrow in the bottom left corner.

Tracker: Okay. Does that disappear when you click the one to uninstall?

Oddsox: Yeah, but it also disconnects me.

Tracker: Disconnects you?

Oddsox: From the Internet. When I try to reconnect it won't let me and there's an extra server on the list and I think it tries to connect to that and I know it's an 09 number.

Tracker: 09 number?

Oddsox: Premium rate. You know, the ones that cost a lot of money.

Tracker: k.

Oddsox: I can't afford it. They cost too much and I'd sooner not be on here if that keeps happening.

Tracker: Don't worry. We'll get it sorted.

Oddsox: Yeah? smile

Tracker: Yeah.

Oddsox: Thanks.

The conversation between them continued, with 'Oddsox' answering the questions that Allan threw at him and Allan trying his best to figure out just what was happening until an exclamation from 'Oddsox' made Allan jump.

Tracker: What happened?

Oddsox: I wasn't watching the time and it came back.

Tracker: Okay, did you uninstall it?

Oddsox: Yeah, but I'm gonna have to go in case it's connected me somewhere else. And besides, it's time I was in bed.

Tracker: Oh?

Oddsox: I'm in England.

Tracker: Yeah?

Oddsox: You?

Tracker: America.

Oddsox: Okay, I guess there's a time difference.

Tracker: I'll work on this.

Oddsox: Thanks. I'll be online again.

Tracker: Okay.

Oddsox: Same time tomorrow?

Tracker: Same time tomorrow.

Oddsox: Great. Thanks. Bye. smile

Tracker: Goodnight. smile

With that, 'Oddsox' was gone.

Allan glanced at the clock in the corner of the screen and stood up. Walking to where he had placed his cell phone, he hit the button that would automatically connect him to the one place from where he knew he could get a pizza delivered.

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