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Story - DEF CON - The Beginning of the End, by Siobhan Morrison

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  • Story - DEF CON - The Beginning of the End, by Siobhan Morrison

    DEF CON - The Beginning of the End
    By Siobhan Morrison

    Taking a deep breath of cool air conditioned air; I stepped through the airport doors out into the oven that is Las Vegas. Looking around I spotted the shuttles lined off to the side and hitching my carry-on back onto my shoulder, I headed over to stand in line with everyone else. My heart rate accelerated a little in excitement. I love this time of year! DEF CON, at last. With a large grin on, I boarded the shuttle and sank down in my seat knowing this year was going to be the best ever. The contests were better, and I could already picture myself winning.

    After checking into the Rio, I headed over to the elevators and up to my room. Looking around at the two bed suite, I could tell that my roommate hadn't arrived yet. I dumped my two bags down on the bed and pulled out my work laptop. Quickly SSHing into my work computer, I glanced over the code that had been giving me fits. Five whole days with no nanoTECH emails, was going to be refreshing. But I needed to make sure that my current experiment (nanites programmed to destroy only a specific target on a cellular level) was still on track. When I saw another batch of dead cells, I wanted to take the laptop and chuck it out the damn window. Seven failed attempts in the last week. Taking a deep breath, I resisted the need to read back through the code and try to figure out where I went wrong. It was vacation, no more work.

    I logged back off, and put away the work laptop, taking out my personal one instead. Signing onto the DEF CON website, I navigated through the forums to the contest pages. Looking for any updates, I spent the next two hours reading posts and checking the schedule again even though I'd already mapped out which talks I'd be attending the day after the program came out. I glanced at the clock, 8 pm. That gave me enough time to go pick up the package I'd had shipped to the hotel and get started on my project. I was definitely going to win the "Beverage" Cooling Contraption Contest; no one could come close to the awesomeness that was my project.

    Grabbing my room card, I headed back down to the lobby to get my package. Jack, my friend from back home, had hooked me up with a new cooling liquid prototype his company had been working on. The new liquid could cool faster than liquid nitrogen and was easier to handle at room temperature. I called it, "XX". I was going to blow the competition away.

    I checked back at the concierge stand and picked up the box. The red biohazard stickers on the side and the caution flammable stickers were going to look badass on the final product. I stepped back on the elevator and barely contained my impatience as a few more guys jumped in. I wanted to hide the box behind me, not letting anyone get even a glimpse at my secret weapon but there wasn't enough room with everyone and their luggage. I settled for clutching it tightly to my stomach and spreading my fingers as wide as possible to hide the labels.

    Safely back in my room, I hurried over to the table and cut open the box. Gently lifting out the bottle, I was speechless at its glowing beauty. It kind of reminded me of purple POWERADE, especially in the bottle that Jack had managed to smuggle it out in. The glow would look awesome in the glass container and streaming through the tubing of my design. I gently laid it on the table and grabbed my bag. Pulling out my kit, I started to assemble the main container for the liquid. The twisting tubes circled the main chamber, creating a DC20 design, before circling back through to the main holding container for the liquid.

    I wasn't sure how long I worked, but before I knew it, the door was opening and my roommate was walking in. Quickly I grabbed a towel off the chair where I'd thrown it earlier, pulling it over my design. Can't be too careful I decided. After all, I'd only met this guy on the forums, each of us looking for someone to split the room costs.

    "Hey," I nodded.


    I reached over and held out my hand, "I'm Mike."


    I stood there with my hand out for a few more seconds before pulling it back. Douche. Apparently his mom hadn't taught him manners. I looked over at the clock and realized that it was a lot later than I had thought. My stomach rumbled in protest of the missed dinner.

    "Well, I'll just leave you to unpack I guess. I took the left bed, hope that's cool. I'm going to run down to get some food."

    I turned and grabbed my bag. Hesitating, I glanced over at the desk covered with a towel.

    "So, yeah, I'm working on some stuff so don't touch anything okay?"

    Chad nodded, not looking up from his tablet and where he laid on the bed.

    Okay… Guy was weird. I checked to make sure that the towel covered my project, then grabbed my room card and headed down to get some food.

    Two hours, a burger, fries, and milkshake later I headed back to my room. In one hand was a six pack of Club-Mate, and in the other a bag filled with snacks. I walked back through the casino lobby, and whoever said that New York was the city that never sleeps has obviously never been to Vegas. Even at 3:30 in the morning, there were people all over the slot machines and tables. I wound my way back to the elevators and pushed the button for my floor. Two other guys jumped on this ride with me, and I could tell they were tech junkies too just by the EFF shirts they were wearing.

    I eavesdropped on their conversation about the upcoming speakers, contests, and other awesomeness that is DEF CON. When I heard them mention the "Beverage" Cooling Contraption Contest, I leaned a little closer. It never hurt to get an edge on the competition.

    "I heard they brought some crazy stuff for this," the taller guy said.

    "I heard that some people had to get licenses for some of it," the short one said.

    "I think it's going to be one of the craziest contests this year," I jumped in.

    The two guys looked back at me and nodded.

    The elevator stopped on my floor and I walked out. "Later."

    I slid the key card into my door and hit the lights since it was dark. As the lights flickered on, I noticed that the towel I placed over my project was slightly skewed. Damn Chad.

    I rushed over and pulled off the towel. Everything looked like it was still where I had left it. I glanced over to the bed; Chad was just a blob with the covers over his head. I lifted up the POWERADE bottle and checked the liquid. Did it look low? Nah, Chad wouldn't be stupid enough to drink it, would he?

    Settling the towel back in place I pulled off my shirt and hopped onto the bed. Time to call it a day, registration was tomorrow and I wanted to make sure I was one of the first in line before they ran out of badges.

    Red eyes stared at me from across the room. I quickly blinked again and looked at the clock. 5:30am. Shit, I'd barely gotten any sleep, I looked back at the red eyes. I had to be dreaming, satisfied I closed my eyes again. The feel of a hand on my hip had me bolting right back out of bed.

    "What the fuck!?" I scrambled back against the headboard. Chad stood over me, drool dripping from his lips, teeth bared and scary red eyes focused on me. He reached for me again, but I smacked his hands away.

    "What the hell is your problem, dude?"

    He didn't say anything, just started to shuffle more towards me reaching again. I dodged his hands and jumped out of bed, keeping it between him and me.

    "Seriously, dude, I don't know what the fuck your problem is but this is not funny, and not cool." I glanced over at the counter again. The clock displayed 5:35 am now. I reached behind me and flipped the light switch. Chad hissed as the lights came on, actually fucking hissed!

    That was when I noticed that my towel covered project was scattered across the floor and the POWERADE bottle, empty and discarded by the trash. Holy Shit! Chad was stupid enough to drink it.

    I turned back toward him, "Listen dude, I don't know what you thought you were drinking but we need to get you some help. That wasn't POWERADE, it was ... shit never mind, let's just get you some help."

    I reached out and grabbed the shirt I was wearing yesterday and sniffed. I know the 3-2-1 daily rule, but hard times and all that.

    Pulling on my shoes, I opened the door and turned back to Chad.

    "Come on dude," I grabbed his arm and pulled him out the door behind me. I walked down to the elevators and pressed the button. Unfortunately there must have been early flights departing Vegas today, because the first two elevators were full, but the third time the doors opened, there was enough room for both Chad and myself.

    I ignored the early morning scowls from the other people and just tried to figure out what I was going to do with Chad. I turned around to make sure he was ok, just as he lunged at me. Jumping back, I pushed him away.

    "What the hell?!"

    Instead of trying to get at me again, Chad turned to one of the other people in the elevator, an older couple. The man shuffled the woman behind him, but Chad just reached out and bit him! Fucking bit him! The woman started screaming, the other people started screaming, and all I could think was I needed to get the hell out of this elevator.

    I think someone upstairs was watching over me, because the doors opened, and I bolted out. Behind me the other people were scrambling over their luggage, the man was lying on the floor bleeding from his throat, which was pretty much torn out. The woman was struggling under Chad, who had her pinned to the floor on the back of the elevator.

    I started backing away getting ready to run for it, when the man slowly stood up. His throat was still a gaping mess, blood spilling out everywhere, but when he turned to face me, his red eyes practically glowed. One of the concierges from the hotel ran over to the elevator to help, but the old guy grabbed him and started biting him. The concierge started screaming, and by this time, other people started looking to see what the commotion was. The old woman was now up and both she and Chad were starting after people who were just staring at them in horror.

    Holy shit, I just started the apocalypse.

    I ran for the doors before I realized I left all my stuff back up in my room. With the end of the world, I was going to need supplies. Elevators were out, but there were still the stairs and I was only on the 8th floor. Running for the stairs, I huffed and puffed my way up eight flights, with only two breaks to catch my breath. I rushed out of the stairwell and fumbled for my room card in my back pocket. The green light flashed and I pushed the door open so hard it banged back against the wall.

    I grabbed my laptop and cell phone charger from the floor, tossed them onto the bed. Ran to the mini fridge and grabbed out the Club-Mate. I snatched my bag off the chair and started to toss it on the bed when I froze. nanoTECH. If I could fix the code I'd been working on, I could execute the program with the intention of removing the purple liquid from the infected. First though, I needed to get somewhere the infected were not.

    I pushed everything into the backpack and grabbed the empty POWERADE bottle that started it all. I made it all the way down to the first level and out the side door without seeing any infected. I stopped dead in my tracks as I got my first look at the front of the casino. There were cars crashed everywhere, people lying in the street, infected stumbling around, and the few people not infected running as far and as fast as they could away from the casino.

    I hitched my backpack up on my shoulders more and started running for my life. I ran around the building and headed back toward the strip. I needed Wi-Fi, and somewhere secure long enough to SSH into my work computer and try to fix the code. As I was running, a few others managed to catch up with me. I could tell they were survivors from DEF CON too, laptops clutched against their chests as they ran. I recognized one of them from the previous year; he was a genius with code. I grabbed his arm and pulled him over behind a building.

    "What the fuck?" He pulled his arm away from me and started to run, only to be stopped when I grabbed him again.

    "Listen, Raider24, right?" He nodded.

    "I think I can find a way to fix this," I explained my plan and how I needed help figuring out where I was missing something in the code. He agreed to help and suggested we go to this café place he knew a few blocks away.

    "It has doors that lock and Wi-Fi. It should give us enough time to get this done."

    We started running again, really pushing it when the infected started to chase after us. We managed to lose a few of them by ducking behind dumpsters, buildings and taking back alleys across the city. By the time we reached the café, I was tired, sweaty, and ready to pass out from lack of oxygen. Raider pulled open the door and I quickly followed, locking it behind me. We headed to the back corner of the now empty café and quickly pulled out my work laptop and logged in.

    I pulled up the current code I was working on and explained exactly what I was trying to accomplish. While he started reading over the code, I pulled out a few more things from my backpack, including the bottle that had started it all.

    "I think in order to correctly remove the liquid from the infected, I need to identify the chemical composition of it. That way when we have the code ready I can input the composition and it will directly target only that specific molecule makeup."

    Raider nodded, not looking up from the laptop where he was already working on the code. I pulled out my phone and quickly looked up Frank's number.

    "Frank? Hey man, listen its Mike. I need to know exactly what that liquid was. I don't care if it's classified. Yeah, have you been watching the freaking news? It's because my roommate was stupid enough to drink the shit. No, I need to know the specific chemical composition now! I think we've figured out a way to stop it. Fuck, hurry up."

    A loud bang echoed through the café. We both looked up at the infected starting to press against the glass of the café front.

    "Frank, you need to hurry. They're here."

    I listened while Frank gave me the exact makeup of the liquid. "Thanks." I hung up without waiting for his reply. Rushing over I watched over Raider's shoulder as his fingers flew over the keyboard. Shit, it was right there in front of me. Five months of working on this and Raider had figured out the answer in like ten minutes. When he got to the values needed to execute, I read him the makeup of the liquid.

    The glass on the café front exploded inward in a shower of pieces as the infected climbed over the windowsill. Raider grabbed up the laptop and we both ran to the back exit. The emergency exit alarm sounded as we pushed out the door and ran into the back alley.

    "Quick, we need to find a ride."

    I pointed over at an abandoned taxi parked a block away. We both started running toward it, the infected right on our heels. The taxi was getting closer, but the infected were gaining on us. How the hell they were running so fast was a mystery, but we needed to get into that taxi now. Raider must have been thinking the same thing because he turned to face me as we were running.

    "Take the laptop, send out the code, fix this." He stopped running.

    "Shit," I glanced back over my shoulder as the infected swarmed over him en masse. His sacrifice let me reach the taxi in time. I locked the doors and searched for the key. Nothing. Fuck. A bloody hand on the window made me scream. The infected had surrounded the car. I wish I had learned how to hot wire a car, or attended more of the lock picking demos.

    I leaned my head back against the headrest. Now what? I pulled out my cell phone and set up my hot spot. If I couldn't get out, at least I could get the code out. I started up the laptop and logged back into my work computer. Out of curiosity, I pulled up the news, and watched as every news station covered the mass infection that had claimed Las Vegas. Holy mother of God, I could not believe that one bottle of stupid purple liquid and one dumbass had caused all this.

    I wrote up a quick email to everyone, explained how to run the code, which nanites I had used and who in my company to contact. I re-read it to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. PS. Mom, I love you. There, ready.

    Just as I was reaching to hit send, the door of the car was ripped off, and a hundred hands pulled me out of the car.


    I only remember screaming as teeth and nails tore into me. Then I knew nothing more.

    Last edited by Nikita; June 1, 2012, 02:48. Reason: Fixed Format errors.