ZIP Beep #37
THE DECLINE OF A NOBLE SPORT
by Chuck Strinz

Over two years ago in ZIP Beep issue #9, reporter Gary Finseth first reviewed a harmless attraction that looked like it would sweep the nation. But like so many good things, it's beginning to get a bad name because of a few people who insist on spoiling it for the rest of us.

The article by Mr. Finseth was titled "Hot Micro Interfaceoffs." It gave us an overview of the events at a typical meet. Hot Micro Interfaceoffs were similar to the popular power car events featuring pickups with oversized wheels competing in tug-of-war, mud wrestling and other macho exhibitions. However, instead of using internal combustion engines, contestants pitted computer against computer.

The relatively mild RS-232 Interfaceoff event required cunning and ingenuity to outguess your opponent's computer by terminating serial pins in a way that would break down its defenses while blocking its attempts to wipe out your CPU. While the RS-232 event was like a chess game with sparks, the Parallel Port competition required nothing but power as two massive water-cooled computers connected via Centronics parallel cables burned thousands of watts until one blew to bits.

But it is the Anything Goes event that has brought on the bad image. Its unstructured framework should have sent up red flags at once. Now it may be too late to save the sport.

Here's how it happened. First, the wrong element became involved. Instead of attracting families and young couples working toward their degrees in electrical engineering, the games began to draw the attention of renegade technical students and dropouts from industrial design schools. Next, the mob moved in. Vito and his boys quickly sized up the situation, and saw that the nihilistic nature of the wildest Interfaceoff event was the kind of action that could make a big guy dig deep into his pocket for large sums of cash. Who cared where it came from! As long as the big guy was willing to lay it on the table and bet against the odds, nobody would ask any questions.

The tamer attractions dropped from the schedule. Marie Osmond was paid to skip her last seven appearances on the 1986 tour. Management changed hands and moved this once proud sport into the backyards and junkyards of the nation.

The future of Hot Micro Interfaceoffs doesn't look good. And there's more bad news around the corner.

The bad news is in the form of a short, squat, tough-skinned little creature that looks not unlike a trusted member of many a family. But while some may mistake it for a loyal friend to its master, it is not just another robot.

It is bred to maim. It is bred to kill. It is the Bit Pull.

As the name might suggest, bit pull robots were first developed for tug-of- war competition. Early models were cute, compact Timex/Sinclair computers mounted on erector set frameworks. Experiments with larger models proved structurally unsound. In all, they represented a small category in the Anything Goes event.

That was before Raoul Morganstern unleashed his bit pull. Raoul listed "motorcycle mechanic" as his occupation, but everyone on the west coast knew he and his gang of Cal Tech dropouts were the terror of Highway 1 in the late '60s. After a while, most drifted to regular jobs as gas station attendants and photocopier repairmen. But Raoul went on to harder stuff.

Raoul's baby was "Beelzebub," an old tan-cased Osborne 1 he had completely rebored and upgraded. It is said to have concentrated the power of a Cray 1 into 64K. How this was possible is something no one can answer. But everyone knew Beelzebub was tough. And mean. With its front legs of chromium-encased steel, its driveshaft made of the molten remains of the Huey Raoul was said to jave flown in the 'Nam, and a solid rear roller from the only Zamboni machine known to have taken on Raoul's gang, well, it's no wonder Beelzebub sent chills of horror down the spines of all the lowbrow trash who considered themselves lucky enough to have seen it.

Beelzebub was a wonder. But more than anything else, Beelzebub was mean. Too mean. One night in Memphis, after wiping out every other bit pull it had taken on in a five month tour of cheap county fair blowouts, Beelzebub crossed the line. When Raoul's back was turned, and while hundreds watched, Beelzebub went for his creator's neck.

Little was left after the battle. The city became the first to ban Interfaceoffs. They brought out a county road grader, it in black, and pushed the remains of Raoul and Beelzebub into the crater they had augered by what was left of the fair grounds bleachers.

Raoul and Beelzebub are dead. But not gone. Like a virus spreading across the land, punks dressed in black leather and chains fight vicarious battles through customized killing robots in dimly-lit basements and backroad pastures in every state. The legends have grown. Was Raoul really the only man to have walked across Cambodia carrying his dead brother's body? Did Beelzebub actually glow white hot each time it was released on its opponents?

One thing's clear. This has gone far enough. Bit pulls have become status symbols for individuals who are too unstable to handle them.

And there's more. Killer bit pulls guard illegal stashes of microchips destined for Soviet block countries. Some have escaped to maim innocent victims who can't tell an IEEE port from a key west harbor. People with innocent robots are beginning to suffer. (One harmless family robot in Marin was recently set upon by a mob of angry neighbors as it tried to make its way to the hot tub with a fresh pitcher of gin and tonics.)

The sport needs regulation if it is to be saved, and it needs it now.

Please. Lend your support. Take a moment, right now, to drop a note to Interfaceoff Resource Council, Kill The Bit Pull Division, in care of this BBS's system operator.

Thank you for your concern.

ZIP Beep #37
PLUGGING INTO THE LIFESTYLE
by Dennis Wallaker

It was a hot and steamy night in the most dangerous part of town, which wouldn't have bothered me except that's where my apartment is and I was trying to get some sleep. Also, this girl I've known for a while assured me that it would be okay if I stayed in there until Hell froze over as far as she was concerned. I felt this was a little drastic, but if you can't trust somebody you've slept with on a regular basis, who can you trust?

Spike, my cat, realizing it was 3:30 in the morning and that I was snoozing through a Lum and Abner movie on the old Zenith, did her "Watch out, Tarzan" bit, setting her claws into my neck real good and shuddering from head to tail as if it was her first time on the legitimate stage. I awoke with a start.

I hate waking up with a start because I usually knock something over, which reminds me that I'd better wash those dishes so there'll be something to eat off of. Then I start thinking about cleaning the entire apartment which leads me to thoughts of getting married again and if I start acting on that kind of thinking I eventually wind up alone in my apartment trying to get some sleep, if you get my 1980's balsa wood Bachelor drift!

I always thought the neat thing about living alone was that you wouldn't have to answer to anyone except Alexander Graham Bell. But people selling magazine subscriptions have made that impossible.

If it's a woman calling me and asking, "Hello, is this Mr. ______ ? How are you Mr. ______ ? Have you ever considered subscribing to the FACIST DIGEST at its new, new, low, low price?" I usually answer that I'm doing okay except I'm right in the middle of a sexual act with a pocket calculator, but if she can come over in a half hour with a sample copy, I'd love to discuss

it. I'd say the same thing to the guys, but too many of your male telemarketers have the hots for a guy that owns a pocket calculator. And if ever I ever decide to sleep with a man, it will be on the condition that he brings his own pocket calculator into the relationship. I know that sounds pretty butch, but that's the kind of guy I am.

But before I get any further into my drab personal life, I'd better back up and tell you how I knocked out all the electric power on this block for a good bit of time.

First of all, I'm not so hot at fixing things and nobody told me that if you have your TV, your stereo and your blender going on at the same time while a bunch of geeks throughout your building are running their air conditioners, well, you SHOULD NOT, REPEAT, SHOULD NOT TRY TO FIX YOUR POLYPHONIC SYNTHESISER.

I thought I had the problem licked until I hit the power switch and the lights went out all over.

Soon there was the sound of economically depressed people swearing and trying to knock my door down with what I assume was either a baseball bat or a gallon wine jug (as they are both used for the same purpose in this neighborhood).

"It's got to be the white dude in apartment eleven with all his electric stuff."

I stood still and quiet, the cat didn't budge an inch, the room was moving a bit but I was hoping nobody would notice. I was thinking of going for my gun when I realized I'd loaned it to George Raft while watching him in a movie that neither of us cared for much. I was alone except for Spike the cat, who was over in the litterbox doing something I don't want to talk about right now.

When you're a white guy living in this neighborhood, people often want to know a little bit about you; your likes and dislikes, hopes and aspirations, basically what makes you tick. After that and only then do they feel comfortable robbing you. These were them and they were mad.

Again there was a pounding on the door which I thought I recognized as the gentle rapping of a rather large guy I kind of knew but peeking through the keyhole I could see it was several other neighbors' foreheads banging against my door frame as they chewed on the wood. One guy spotted me and said, "I'm going to kick your butt."

Appreciating what I felt was a very sincere sentiment on his part, I shoved the electric piano in front of the door and wedged myself behind the couch.

Suddenly, I heard the cavalry approaching. Now, I don't know how you feel about Viet Nam Vets and I know they're surfacing faster than broccoli in your soup du jour, but my neighbor is the real thing: two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, a "I didn't really mind killing them" attitude and, oddly enough, one of the few people I get along with these days.

In a voice that did not play Monkey Time with his military background, he said, "What the @#$#%&^%$# is going on here."

When things get tense, you'll find that Greek choruses and ghetto tenants are both able to speak in unison.

"The white guy in apartment eleven. He killed the power all over the block."

"Are you sure it was him?"

"Who else, man, it was him in there, man, doing his Dr. Frankenstein bit!"

There was a silence and then he spoke.

"Hey, Slick, you in there?"

"Yep," I answered.

"Did you, by any chance, knock out all the power?"

"I'm pretty sure I did," I said.

"Bet you feel real bad about it, huh?"

"Haven't felt this bad since Ike Turner shot his mailman."

Just then the power slammed on and I started pulling cords like crazy, wanting to keep it on. The mob started to disperse, some realizing they'd left their doors unlocked, others realizing their neighbors had left their doors unlocked. And me thinking if it's going to cause this much trouble, maybe I should get rid of the blender.

This story is begging for some kind of moral. Maybe I can dig up something before I finish.

The other day I was taking a shower when somebody knocked on the door and asked, "Is there anybody in there?" While I didn't want to overstate my case, I felt the only suitable answer was "yes."

"Well, do you know when you're going to be out?"

Now, I felt in my heart of hearts, it would only be a matter of minutes. But with the way things happen around here, you hate to set up someone for fall. So I said, "I'll be out when I get out," and that's the last I heard of it.

What's interesting is that everything was locked up. How he got in, I'll never know. Besides that, I haven't the faintest idea who it was.

But I think this has led me to the moral of the story.

It's very possible that what you don't know can't hurt you, but that doesn't mean it can't bother you when you are taking a shower.

ZIP Beep #37
UNDER OUR NOSES
by Sue Aubey

Here in North America and throughout the western world, the use of one drug has insidiously crept into many lives. Dealers openly sell the product and related paraphernalia necessary to prepare the drug. It is openly consumed in public eating and drinking establishments.

The dealers import the raw material from romantic, exotic lands: Colombia, Java, Sumatra, Jamaica, Ethiopia and Nicaragua among them. The raw material is toasted or burned, then crushed to make an infusion for the user's consumption. Some prepare the drug by simply boiling it. Others subject it to a variety of straining, distilling and pressurizing processes. The increased use among people with upwardly mobile incomes has caused a proliferation of complex, high tech preparation systems which are prominently displayed as status symbols in homes and offices.

Recent interviews indicate that moderate users experience a mild stimulant effect that's quite appealing at first. As use becomes heavier, the euphoria is harder to achieve, leading to increased consumption. All users mentioned difficulty rising each morning without a dose (this has led to the development of systems which are timed to have a freshly-prepared dose of the drug waiting in the morning). One medical researcher indicated the heaviest addicts no longer seem affected by the stimulant properties and are said to need "one to calm down at bedtime."

This drug also has a mixed effect on the workplace. Addicts admit time lost periodically throughout the day to obtain additional doses. An equal amount of time is lost in frequent voiding of the inert ingredients that are left when the drug itself has been absorbed from the preparation.

Despite all this, many businesses sanction the drug's use by dispensing individual doses from preparation equipment kept at the office space. Often, it's all written off as a tax deduction. Other businesses promote the drug's consumption through a system of work breaks. Some businesses even offer this mind-altering substance to incoming clients, making each potential client more receptive to any sales pitch.

In homes, offices and social meeting places, people are being drawn into daily consumption of the drug. Alone or in combination with other drugs such as nicotine and alcohol, its use increases.

The exportation of the raw drug has greatly boosted the economies of many nations with the climate and soil neccessary to grow it. The economic impact in those nations where its use is prevalent is strongly felt when growing conditions falter and demand continues to increase. Individual users will go to great lengths and expense to obtain daily supplies and to hoard against future needs. This creates an upward price spiral which, eventually, could lead many to take drastic measures to support their habits.

Wise religious and politcal leaders throughout the centuries have controlled or banned this substance (at least as used by anyone without power). King George III once attempted to close down the houses of consumption in England, but riots forced him to rescind the order in less than two weeks.

But we can't give up. And just saying "no" is not enough. The time has once again come for someone to speak out against the extensive use of any product made of or associated with Coffea arabica and its many mind-altering relatives. The future is in our hands. Let's make sure it's not a shaky one.

ZIP Beep #37
INTERSTELLAR FOLLIES
by Don Fitzwater

PROLOG:

 Light is fast.

 Really fast.

 You just can't imagine how incredibly, mind numbingly fast it is.

 Naturally, Man wants to go faster than Light.

 Man always wants to go faster than the speed limit.

 Just ask the Highway Patrol.

 

 To this end Man, has usually resorted to machines.

 Very fast machines.

 Very, very complicated machines.

 Very, very, very EXPENSIVE machines.

 Machines like the Lightship Mariner.

 

 The Mariner, besides being Man's first attempt to exceed the

speed of light, is a Brainship.  Brainships are the melding of

ship's computers and technology with a living human brain.  Some

have postulated that this unique pairing of Man and Machine was

done to guarantee that no matter how bad the government's

contractors screw up, the company's engineers could still lay the

blame on "human error."

 

 Most readers, however, will recognize it as a well known (and

over used) device in Speculative Fiction.

 

 The ship's brain and its crew of three humans couldn't help but

register excitement as they prepared to attempt the theoretically

impossible -- passing the speed of light.

 

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 In our last episode (ZIP Beep #36) the crew of the Mariner found

themselves under attack by a rather unlikely space biker.  Will

they escape?  Can they possibly survive?  Find out in the second

installment of --

 

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 I N T E R S T E L L A R  F O L L I E S

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 .           Episode Two              .

 .          "WILD THINGS"             .

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .

 

 Just then the Doctor broke in.  "Look out!  There's a chain

encircling the ship!"

 

 The ship reverbrated from the chain's impact on the force field.

 

 "Aw, they're using a void-damned force field or I would've flicked

off their rudder for sure!"  The alien sounded annoyed.  "Damn.

I would cruise a bunch of space pansies...I'm surprised ya don't

use training jets!"  Things were turning ugly.

 

 "He's taunting us for the sheer pleasure of it!"  Now the Doctor

was angry.

 

 "Wait a minute," said the Captain, "Why didn't I think of this

before?"

 

 "What Captain?"

 

 "Put it all together - hyper-masculinity, psychopathic

tendencies, chain weapon -- Crew!  We're dealing with a space

biker!"

 

 "But a space biker, out here in space?" asked Tools.

 

 "We have no reason to suspect that space bikers are peculiar to

our own system," explained Brain.  "Besides nobody knows where

they come from..."

 

 [Space bikers, in fact, come from the rather limited imaginations

of underpaid and unoriginal writers.  The first cinematic

occurance of space bikers was in the much lamented (and very

lamentable) TV program "LOST IN SPACE".  This was followed closely

(just like in real life) by the first appearance of space hippies

on the TV program "STAR TREK."  I don't know about you, but I

prefer the space bikers.]

 

 "Prepare a limited pulsar, we're not just going to sit by and let

this alien dismantle the ship!"

 

 "Pulsar armed and locked on target, Captain," Tools reported.

 

 "Fire pulsar!"

 

 The pulsar beam flicked out and managed to vaporize the last 1,000

meters of the space biker's chain.  As you can imagine, this rather

annoyed the biker.

 

 "Well it looks like our space pansies have some guts after all," the

speaker crackled.  "Looks like I'm in for a cosmic rumble.  I hope you

can breathe in a vacuum -- 'cuz you're about to taste chain!"

 

 "The pulsar didn't affect him!" the Doctor exclaimed.

 

 "He's preparing for another run --"

 

 "Alright, full pulsar power, we'll get him after he makes his next

pass."

 

 The alien craft bore down on the Mariner, its still-formidable chain

trailing behind.  The Mariner's hull rang from the impact.

 

 "Fire pulsar!"

 

 The beam lanced out.

 

 "Ya missed," the biker taunted.  "Would it help if I flew backwards

with no hands?"

 

 "This isn't going to work, Captain.  He can dodge our pulsars.  Maybe

we can pursue him?"

 

 "Use your head Tools -- if he can dodge our pulsars, he can dodge us.

Our advantage is in our intelligence, so let's use it.  Prepare for

evasive maneuver #7 on my command."

 

 The alien craft had turned and was bearing down on the Mariner in yet

another attack.  The chain glittered with the light of a thousand suns.

If the Mariner should fail to avoid this weapon it would be all over.

[Right, how many heroes in serials get offed in the second episode,

huh?]

 

 "Here he comes again, Captain."

 

 "Evasion maneuver #7!"

 

 "Hey where did you pansies go?" the biker sounded puzzled, "Oh no!

MY CHAIN!!!"

 

 The alien, thinking he'd overshot the Mariner, had applied full retros.

He forgot about the several kilometers of chain trailing behind.  The

chain, unfortunately for the biker, hadn't forgotten.

 

 "He's wrapped up in his own chain and tumbling into drive spin!"

Tools shouted.

 

 "Brilliant, Captain."  chimed in the Doctor.

 

 "I knew if he got angry enough, he'd get careless.  Besides, it was

our only hope."

 

 "Let's get back on course and blow this quandrant."

 

 "Captain," Brain said gently.

 

 "What!"

 

 "You're forgetting the Lightship code."

 

 "But he just tried to kill us!"  Tools exclaimed.

 

 The captain just sighed.  "Brain's right, Tools.  His ship is

disabled.  As much as I hate it, the Lightship code requires

that we aid any ship in distress.  His ship is helpless, we'll just

have to put a tractor beam on it and bring him aboard."

 

 "Alright, Captain, if you say so.  Marking the linkup.  Locked in. 

His ship is in traction and headed for the docking bay."

 

 "Okay, Crew, let's go see what we've caught."

 

 Outside the door to the docking bay, the Mariner's crew waited for

the dock to pressurize.

 

 Tools peered through the observation port.  "Jeez, will you look at

that machine!  How can something that small put out so much power?"

 

 The hatch powered open slowly.

 

 "Okay, whoever you are, come on out of there.  Nobody is going to hurt

you."

 

 "Nobody's going to hurt me!  Ya already done the damage!  Ya made me

spin out!  I ain't never spun out before!"

 

 "Made you spin out," the Captain was incensed, "You damned near

destroyed our entire ship!"

 

 "Aw, I was just havin' a little fun."

 

 "Fun, huh?  Okay, smartass, you're going into hibernation.  Tools,

repair his ship and get rid of him."

 

 "I don't know, Captain, I'm not too familiar with the propulsion

system he's got on that craft."

 

 The biker grinned half impishly.  "I designed the ultra-drive

myself."

 

 "Captain, don't get too upset," interjected the Doctor, "my scans

reveal he's only an adolescent."

 

 "Yeah, the chick's right.  I'm just a kid.  I'm not responsible.

 

 "An adolescent, huh?  That hairy neanderthal?  You must be kidding."

 

 "Well regardless, Captain, I'm going to need his help if I'm going

to repair his ship."

 

 "Tools, damnit!  Do you realize what this beast could do to the

Mariner from the inside?"

  

 "Captain," the Doctor tried to sound soothing, "I would suggest

therapy coupled with some visits to the Pleasure Room, that would

certainly reduce his hostilities."

 

 Brain's amplified voice broke in, "I agree with the Doctor. He's at

a trainable age."

 

 "Alright, have it your way, I'm just the Captain.  I'm going to put

myself into hibernation until his ship is repaired and this creature

is off of the Mariner."  The Captain stalked off.

 

 "Jeez, what's he so hot about?"

 

 "Tools, remember the Captain is sworn to protect the ship and its

crew.  That biker did attack us."

 

 "Yeah, I guess you're right, Brain."  Tools sighed and glanced at

the Doctor, who took the cue.

 

 "Right.  I'm Dr. Allure and this is engineer McTavish."

 

 "You can call me Tools."

 

 "Tools, huh?  Everybody calls me Sonny."

 

 "Well, Sonny, I'd be interested in learning more about your ship."

 

 "You mean my hog here?  Sure, any time.  Say, uh, Doctor, where's this

Pleasure Room you was talking about?"

 

 "Two doors down on the left."

 

 "I think I'm gonna go work out my hostilities or something."  Sonny

whistled as he trotted down the corridor.  "See ya later," he called

over his shoulder.

 

 Tools' eyes followed the biker.  "You know Doc, I hope we're not

making a big mistake."

 

 "Only time will tell, Tools, only time will tell."

 
HAS THE CREW OF THE MARINER MADE A MISTAKE?

WHAT SURPRISES DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR SONNY AND HIS NEW FRIENDS?
DOES SONNY REALLY HAVE ANY FRIENDS?
WILL TOOLS FALL IN LOVE WITH SONNY'S PROPULSION SYSTEM?
WHAT'S THE CAPITAL OF KENTUCKY?
WHO WAS THE 23RD PRESIDENT?
IF JOHNNY HAS FOUR APPLES AND GIVES THREE TO BETTY, HOW MANY DOES HE HAVE LEFT?
Be sure to watch the coming issues of ZIP Beep for the continuing adventures of the crew of the Lightship Mariner in -

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