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The Psi-Files

Your source for information on the covert world of computing

Episode 1

Agent Fax Modem here, together with new partner Rana Skulky, bringing you the secret world of secrets in the computing industry. These secrets have been given to me by a mysterious group of individuals who I never really know much about to distribute so the truth is known. Well, one perspective of the truth anyway.

So here, with flashlight and cellular phone in hand are The Psi-Files

Symbian's Dark Secret

Sitting in my basement P.S.I office, glancing at my collection of UFO posters, geeky magazines and cheap mail-order video tapes of Alien Autopsies I came to the conclusion that I was the saddest federal agent in history. After a few days of wallowing in self-pity I decided to do something about it and go out and dig some dirt on some companies. Hoping to implicate them in some kind of conspiracy or two, just to cheer myself up.

The trail of newsgroup message, web site news updates and half-page, mis-informed articles in the national press led me to the offices of Symbian. A new collaboration of Psion, Nokia, Erricsson and Motorola. The bizarre name suggested to me that there was more to this company than the press were saying, and also suggested that I was perhaps a bit too paranoid about life. After dark, I crept inside using an air vent...

Seven hours later, a passing security guard helped me dislodge my head from the vent shaft, but not after beating me several times with his torch. After thanking him for the beating (the penalty of not thanking him being further beatings) I left for my car.

The following morning I visited my friends The Cloned Mudmen who told me that Symbian has been a shadowy organisation working behind the scenes in the consumer electronics industry for sometime, but it's as researchers for the CIA that they are best known for. According to my sources Symbian created the first Adaptive Network computer system and since then has been developing computer programs for the American Government.

I returned to my office mulling over the revelation from The Cloned Mudmen, however I found that the P.S.I had assigned a new agent to work with me. Rana Skulky is, without a doubt, the sexiest federal agent in the world and shouldn't be employed in any agency except a modelling one. However, she doesn't discuss herself and always goes on about being scientific!

We returned to Symbian, the Executive we spoke to was far too polite and helpful to be involved in any conspiracy and we returned to my car. As I walked home after making an unsuccessful pass at Skulky my mysterious informant, Sharp Poke, met me and told me two important things. Firstly, Symbian had developed the first sentient Smart Phone and secondly, Skulky had stolen my car.

Skulky refused to pick me up from Symbian's head office as she was already collecting the money from the sale of my car and so I snuck into the basement of Symbian and located their secret research room. The site that greeted me was fantastic. A mobile phone wired in into the building's telecommunication system, it's LCD display displaying thousands of pages of information every second.

As I photographed the machine, several shadowy figures appeared and destroyed all the evidence, dumping me near my apartment and speeding off in their station wagon. This prompted me to realise that maybe this secret was worth exposing.

The next morning Skulky and myself went to visit Rick Wiltcheck, a hotshot programmer who used to work for Psion. He explained about the Symbian Project, collaboration with the mobile phone companies, Psion and the CIA. Together they attempted to create a genuine Smart Phone, an intelligence agent that could go everywhere, transmit everything and wouldn't even be on the payroll.

However, during tests the prototypes became sentient and began attempting to take control of all the information resources in the world. Several of the prototypes were destroyed, but one managed to wire itself into Symbian's basement. This Smart Phone has been absorbing information around the world for years and is rumoured to have damaging information on every important person in the world. As such it has been blackmailing people for a chance to be released to a mobile phone shop where it can serve mankind in its proper function.

Rick Wiltcheck said that Psion do not want this phone to hit the street, besides the fact that it's potentially psychotic, but it would also mean their Palmtops would become redundant as the phone can store all of it's information on the backs of radio waves. This would make compact flash and RAM chips useless and Psion's main income would vanish, leading to bankruptcy.

Skulky and myself pondered on what to do about this, we thought about storming Symbian's HQ and disconnecting the phone manually from it's information points, but we decided against it as this would mean an expensive action scene which the budget would no way spread to. After a few hours we hit gold and managed to disconnect the Symbian Smart Phone and saving Psion from extortion and blackmail. We cancelled its Cellnet subscription.

What case will Skulky and myself tackle next? Wait and see...

Episode 2

Peeling Cases - A Perfectly Ordinary Evolutionary Step

While hanging out in a desolate underground car park the other day, shining my heavy duty torch into the distance while dialling for a pizza on my P.S.I issue cellular phone I was approached by my highly mysterious and blatantly obvious informant Sharp Poke. He told me to investigate peeling cases in Psion Series 5's, claiming that there was more than just a slightly unappealing (no pun intended) cosmetic reason behind the strange complaint. Having been placed in mortal danger many times by Sharp Poke I said no, however, after ten sunglasses wearing standard secret agent type goons beat me up and told me to lay off the case I decided maybe there was something there.

I arrived at Haven, a small town in Texas, after spending several days talking with the locals and poking my head around corners I realised I was looking in completely the wrong place and so caught a plane back to England where I visited a Cambridge doctor who, with the help of my Psion Series 5, uncovered a chilling truth.

Dr C. Dre Aack explained that the Psion 5 goes through several, evolutionary changes during it's life. The first and most obvious change is it's skin peeling. When the Psion 5 is taken out of it's box for the first time after packing a small molecular change begins to take place as the Psion begins it's evolution towards a more 'perfect' lifeform.

We subjected my Psion 5 to a reversed positron beam channelled through an interphasic compensator, however this had no effect and so we shone an Ultraviolet lamp at it instead, this is what we saw...

The Truth Behind Peeling Cases

As you can see, the green areas of the case is where the molecular change takes place, or where our positron beam screwed the case up. Needless to say, the peeling continues unless the machine is taken back for 'repair', at this point the biological agent that begins the process is halted for several weeks.

Step two in the biological transformation is when ROM 1.01 is installed. This begins the evolution of the internal aspects of the Psion, users will note memory leaks occur, this is actually physical blocks of memory being 'changed' in some way, for what purpose I am not sure.

Dr Aack did comment that this sort of change is gradual and may take several steps before it is complete. Just what have Psion created? Is it a machine or something far more sinister...

Nanobots Are Shipped With Every Psion

It has been leaked to me that nanobots, microscopic robots developed by governmental powers, are being shipped with every Psion 5. These nanobots have a variety of hidden missions to achieve and it is rumoured that Microsoft are behind the scheme.

picture of Arizona

I have determined that here, in this rocky Arizona landscape near some hick American town, lies a secret research centre controlling the robots. Their mission is to gather information on rival Microsoft products and destroy Psion from within. Their secret weapon? Microscopic lasers that sever hinges and crack screens in Psion machines.

Already many people have experienced this sudden and deadly sabotage where the sides of Psion's blast outwards, spraying the nanobots onto nearby computers and consumer electronic items. The nanobots, having completed their primary objectives of destroying the Psion, then go about collecting secondary information on the environment. All information is sent back to Microsoft and this information is then used to target specific individuals with 'upgrade' offers which are actually secret computer viruses designed to force the user to think their computer needs to be upgraded. Intel are involved in the secondary plan, though I can't prove this.

Psion themselves have been busy, while contamination of their stock is a problem they have retaliated by planting a spy in Microsoft. This spy has been responsible for Windows CE being so abysmal and also has been rumoured to have caused the new operating system Windows 95.5 to crash on American TV.

Episode 3

Withdrawal Symtoms

P.S.I Headquarters, Basement office, second door to the left past the boiler room, Thursday 13th August 1998, 08:45:23, 24, 25, 26...

Modem's office was a tip, paper, posters, PC Disks, copies of the beta version of extrabars laid everywhere. Amongst the mess was Modem himself, furiously rummaging through the junk, obviously looking for something. Skulky strolled in, she hung her long overcoat on the coat stand, slowly, ever so slowly, took off her sunglasses and stared down at her partner. "What's wrong Modem?" she asked politely.

Modem looked up and flung his hands in the air. "I've lost my Psion 5, I had it here, but, well, I dunno, it's just gone."

Skulky chuckled. "Think it's aliens?"

"No, the cleaners."

Skulky sighed. "Well it can't have gotten far, it doesn't have legs. I'll help you look for it."

"It's got my addresses, phone numbers everything inside it."

"You do have a back-up don't you?"

"Sure I do, a Berrata 7.6mm, in my ankle holster."

Skulky was rummaging through the junk on the desks. "Data backup you idiot! Do you use PsiWin 2.1 to backup your information?"

"No, EPOC's supposed to be stable, why should I have to backup!!!"

Skulky picked up a small DAT tape. "Hey Modem look, I found the tape with all that alien autopsy and UFO information on it, the one that we thought had been taken by the mysterious men. It's been under your porn magazines the whole time." Modem tossed it aside. "I need my Psion, I can't live without it, I just can't, Skulky, help me, help me please!!!" he said panicking.

"Modem calm down..." Skulky said, gently shaking him. "Modem, stop groping me...Modem..."

SMACK

Modem sailed over his desk, landing in a crumpled heap on the other side of the table. He began to mumble to himself, his hands gently caressing the Psion Software and Accessories catalogue that laid nearby.

"Poor Modem, he's got withdrawal symptoms."

-------------

Psion Customer Repair Centre, same day, a little later in the morning...

Skulky guided Modem into the repair centre's reception centre. "Now Modem, you just sit down here and look at the nice pictures of the Palmtop computers, okay?"

"Okay Skulky." he replied softly, his hands were quivering and sweat was dripping down his face.

"Excuse me, I'm Special Agent Rana Skulky from the P.S.I, my partner's lost his Psion 5 and he's suffering some kind of withdrawal, is there anything you can do to help?"

The receptionist held her hand up slightly to indicate she was on the phone, but her conversation didn't stop. "We're sorry but all our lines are engaged, please try again later or hold for further assistance..." the lady smiled as she placed the receiver onto a tape recorder which began to play patronising music. "I'm sorry, I was just fobbing off some more customers. How are you? Can I help you today Agent Skulky?"

"My partner's lost his Psion 5, it's really important that we find it or a replacement, he's suffering some kind of withdrawal symptoms."

"Look Skulky, a Psion 3c poster, isn't it beautiful."

Skulky sighed. "Modem, put the poster down, no! Stop licking it, just sit down and star at their demo machines." Skulky turned back to the receptionist. "Is there anybody we can talk to?" "I'll buzz you in for our technical director."

------------

"Hmm, I see, yes, of course." muttered the technical director of Psion's Repair Centre. As he peered into Modem's vacant eyes.

"Do you know what's wrong with him Mr Meener?"

"No, I just like muttering." he replied, sitting back in his chair. "The truth is that only a new Psion 5 or his replacement one will snap him out of this delirious state, not to mention restore his face to it's normal appearance." "But he always looks like this Mr Meener."

"Ah, sorry."

"But why is he suffering so bad? Is it due to a breakdown in the strands of DNA that hold the essential building blocks of life?"

"It's got nothing to do with that, why do you ask?"

"Just getting some tecno-mumbo-jumbo into this week's episode."

"Oh I see, well the reason why he's reacting so bad is because we lace all of our palmtops in narcotics."

"You mean you're a front for an international drug smuggling operation?"

"No, we're just really cunning in how we get a dedicated user base. Why do you think the Amiga has a few hard-line whiners still thinking it's a good computer. We just borrowed the idea from them."

"I see." Skulky paused for a moment. "That means that you're breaking the law, I have to arrest you!"

"Ah, but you won't."

"Why? Because if I do you won't help my partner?"

"No, because I have a big gun pointing at your head." he replied, pulling out a very big gun and pointing it at her head.

Skulky, Modem and Mr Meener all spun to look at the office window as a huge muscular man swung in via an abseiling rope and landed, unscaved, on the floor. He rose and pulled out an unfeasible large gun and pointed it at Mr Meener. "Oh my god, it's McCain, the extremely hard cop who disregards all orders with no apparent consequences." shrieked Skulky.

"Isn't he the one who speaks with an Austrian accent that's never satisfactorily explained?"

"Da, that's me." bellowed McCain. "Sorry to smash your plans for Agent Skulky Mr Meener, but the games up. We know all about your narcotic coated Palmtops. I just needed you to admit it to the Agents, that's why I stole Agent Modem's Series 5." Modem grabbed his Psion and sniffed it passionately. "At last, it's back, hello baby, how are you?"

Mr Meener fired his gun towards McCain, the bullet grazed his arm, and ricocheted off into the wall.

"Ouch, that hurt." McCain said walking towards Mr Meener. "Time to show you the door ya?"

"Wait McCain, we can work this out can't we? I can get you involved, it'll mean lots of cash for you, that's be good yeah?"

"Wrong! As I'm an action policeman I never need income because I'm always working to destroy evil schemes."

"Sounds familiar." Skulky muttered.

"Time to say goodbye Mr Meener." McCain said, raising his gun. "Download this and unzip it!"

BANG

-----------

P.S.I Headquarters, Basement Office, even later that day

"Boy, it's a good job McCain came and rescued us against direct orders, I hope he doesn't get into trouble for it." Skulky said to Modem.

"He won't, it's always the same way, he's far too popular to be punished for any serious length of time. Take us, two agents who appear to do anything we want, week after week with no positive results or conclusive conclusions, could we be anything other than fictional characters?"

Both agents began to laugh, then realised the cliched ending of the characters bellowing with laughter and ceased immediately.

Episode 4

The Search For ROM 1.1

Deep in the Amazon Jungle, surrounded in the undergrowth of exotic trees, plants and animals, with only a few light beams and two industrial maglites to show the way, P.S.I Agents Fax Modem and Rana Skulky are working on their latest case.

Skulky sighed as her left high heel sunk deep into a pool of muddy soil. "I don't care what you think Modem, this Sharp Poke character is yanking your chain, he's a conman, a prankster and he's probably a psychopath." Skulky said sternly to her partner as she shook the mud off her shoe. "Why did you tell me to come in this cocktail party outfi?"

"Because you look more sexy..." Modem replied.

Skulky took the light end of her half-metre long torch and smacked him around the head. "What are we looking for anyway Modem, this had better not be another goose hunt for the complete solution to Matt Ripley's FERN!"

Modem shook his head as he swished his long black overcoat about, showing off his immaculate white shirt even though they were brushing up against many dirty plants. He also gave Skulky a macho flash of his bigger gun. "Something better, ROM 1.1!"

Skulky stopped in her tracks and horror spread across her face. "Modem, you can't, it's too big and secret for us. We're in way too deep." she said gasping.

"Look Sulky, we can't ignore the fact that in 1984 fifteen computer companies announced upgrades that never happened, in 1992 a further 23 did the same thing. We have to find out where these upgrades and updates are going, it's something I have to do."

"You said you had to check my apartment for aliens the other night, but that was just a sad attempt to get into my bed." she replied dryly. "If this is another come-on I'm going to shoot you."

Mulder stopped, adopted an absurdly tough looking pose and whipped his gun out and held it up.

Skulky stopped in her tracks, pulled out her revolver and combat rolled behind a nearby log. She jumped up, gun at ready. "What did you see? Was it a government anti-conspiracy squad who are always really lame? Maybe you saw an assassin or double-agent."

Modem shook his head and holstered his gun. "No, I just wanted to look hard for a moment. Let's go."

Skulky got up and walked after him. "You are so pathetic Modem."

Modem nodded vaguely, his eyes were looking down at a valley, in the middle of the deep gorge was a large building with lots of wire fencing and Bat-Lights around it. "Looks like we've found the secret government hardware and software development site."

"How do you know that?"

"I saw the sign." he said, pointing to a signpost next to him. "This must be the place."

"But why would the government want to stop hardware and software from moving forward?"

"They don't, but somebody does." Modem replied as they negotiated their way down the slope towards the installation.

"Who?"

"Just some shadowy group of individuals that have been moved into positions of power by people who are even more shadowy."

"I suppose you could say they could cause a fundamental shift of power in the world?"

"I could, but I won't, it would be too cliché."

"Touché."

------------------------

Modem and Skulky sighed together as they sat in the large storeroom they were locked in. Skulky glared accusingly at Modem as he sat fiddling with his pocket-knife and packet of sunflower seeds. "That was grade-A stupid." she said. "I've never known such a stupid plan in all my life."

Modem rolled his eyes.

"Even The A Team came up with better plans than that."

"What was wrong with sticking our guns at the guards and saying that we were federal agents. It works on the TV."

"Yes, but these are hardened mercenaries who don't care what you wave at them, they're not there for plot devices or tension."

Modem looked up as the door to their prison opened. "Maybe now we'll get the answers we want."

"Oh sure, like the head of the operation is going to walk in and tell us everything." scoffed Skulky.

Through the pouring light of the door walked a man dressed in the same sort of dodgy suit as Modem. The man stopped in a convenient lightbeam area so Modem and Skulky could just about see him, but not enough to get a firm description. In his hand was a joint of cannabis. "Hey there agents, what's happening? Allow me to introduce myself man, call me The Cannabis Joint Smoking Man."

"Why?" asked Skulky.

"Hey chick, it sounds cool." he replied dreamily. "I guess you're kinda wondering what groovy things we're up to here? And why we haven't released ROM 1.1?" the man took a puff of his joint. "Oooooh yeaaaaaaaah. Well, we aren't a government installation, that signpost was just a ruse and a plot diversion. This whole installation is run by a consortium of really cool and great guys who control the software industry."

Skulky clicked her fingers. "You mean Microsoft?"

"No, they're not cool guys, they're just ego-centric."

"Oh."

"No, we don't want ROM 1.1 to be released because it'll leave such a big gap between WinCE and Psion that Microsoft will suffer a groovy sort of cascade economical effect and will go bust, we can't let that happen."

Modem nodded. "I see, because Microsoft is so big and powerful that their collapse will have lasting repercussions for the computer industry?"

"No, we all use Microsoft Office. Now if you excuse me, I've got to go and talk with my elephants, soon you will be dead and I'll be even higher than I am now. So long you crazy kids."

Skulky sighed. "What a nut." she turned to her partner. "Modem, how do we get out of this locked room, they're going to kill us if we don’t escape."

Modem smiled. "We can use my sunflower seeds, this duct tape I found on the floor by these boxes, and my pocket knife."

"Huh?"

"If we grind up the sunflower seeds and then finely chop them with my pocket knife like so."

Skulky was watching intently. "Right."

"Then, if we use the duct tape and pick up all of the sunflower particles."

"Okay."

"Then when we throw them at the wall, the resulting reaction with the Taceyon Particles will result in a rift in the space/time continuum which will create a stable wormhole back to our office." Modem tossed the duct tape at the wall and a large swirling vortex of light appeared.

"That's brilliant Modem."

"It’s also totally unsubstantial." he said smiling.

"But what about this building and Cannabis Joint Smoking Man's plans to conquer the world through software manipulation?"

"Skulky, we mustn't move too quickly or the series will run out of steam by Season 3 leaving us to reuse old plot devices and ideas until our contracts run out."

Skulky nodded. "You're right Modem, let's go home."


Episode 5

The truth about ExtraBars

Hawaii, July 24th 1998

Agents Fax Modem and Rana Skulky are relaxing on the beach, Fax Modem has his Psion 5 on his lap and is furiously tapping the screen with his Point 5. Beside him is a cocktail with over 300 novelty items in it. Rana Skulky is sitting on her beach chair, sunglasses on with a lemonade. She is watching her partner working on his Psion 5.

"You know Modem, that was pure class, telling Assistant Director Skinless that we had to go track down UFO's in Hawaii, we then get to balance all this off on our expense accounts."

Skulky frowned. "Modem! Are you listening to me?"

Modem sighed. "I'm sorry, ever since I registered Mis5ile Defence I haven't been able to put it down."

"That game again?!" she exclaimed. "You've been playing that game for 14 hours straight? I thought you were hacking into some government agency or something to learn about ROM 1.1." she replied.

Modem handed her a piece of paper. "Actually I did notice something strange. I got this off 5Alive News the other day." Skulky begun to read the paper. "Prolific author Jason Kneen has announced the final release of Extrabars following an exhaustive round of beta releases."

Skulky gasped. "Modem, that's, that's impossible. Jason Kneen is an undercover P.S.I agent. We planted him into the community to keep releasing beta versions of a great app so people would keep e-mailing him. It's a way of acquiring information. He wasn't authorised to release a full version!"

"The truth is, there is no beta version, they're all the full version with different numbers."

"What's happened to Agent Kneen then?"

"I can only think of one thing...he's been kidnapped. Think about it, he's been a repository of information for over a year, he knows what everybody wants from a utility. A software company would love to get their hands on that information."

"You don't mean!"

"That's right, Multi-Coloured Software. They've been kicking themselves ever since they released CalculatePro5Lite as freeware when they could have charged a good deal of money for it. They want a good utility to boost revenue." Skulky sighed.

"We better find him."

"Yes, I have an idea who to ask, The Lone Programmers at Palmscope."

Palmscope HQ, Bedford in England several minutes later.

As Matt Rapley sat behind his desk in Palmscope's office, he leant back in his chair, giving a better view of Skulky's cleavage. "So Modem, you want my help?"

"That's right, I figured you owed me after I decided not to expose the truth about FERN." replied Modem.

"Too true." replied the young programmer. "Okay, I did find some information. The last transmission we received from Agent Kneen was that Multi-Coloured Software were working on a rival application to ExtraBars. But, since Jason hadn't confirmed a release date they couldn't be sure when it was best to release theirs or what features to include. With Strengthbase around the corner they didn't want to expose too many new products at once." explained Rapley, showing an all too irrelevant graph on his computer.

"So they kidnapped him?" asked Skulky.

"Not at all, they head-hunted him. By paying him a ridiculous amount of money he quickly switched sides and finished ExtraBars. For every registration he gets, Multi-Coloured Software gets £3."

"The fiends!" Skulky sighed. "I just can't believe it, where is he?"

"Multi-Coloured Software are holding him in protective custody in their office toilet."

Modem and Skulky turned to leave. "Thanks Rapley."

"Any time."

Multi-Coloured Software's Head Office, 03:00.

The two agents half-metre torches shone around the darkly lit offices. "Modem! Have you found it yet?"

"No, have you?"

"Uh-uh, you'd think they'd put the light switch on the wall near the door." she replied. "This is ridiculous, how come we always wander around in the pitch black?"

Modem flicked a switch and the lights flared into life. "It's probably to hide the duff special effects and recycled sets. Since we're a written adaptation we don't have that problem."

Skulky picked up a box. "Hey look Modem! A pre-release copy of Strengthbase, now I can finally catalogue my collection of James Last CDs." The two agents walked to a door marked JASON'S TOILET.

"You think he's in here?" Modem asked.

Skulky tapped on the door. "Agent Kneen? Can you hear me?"

"Yes! Get me out of here, quickly." Modem raised his foot and kicked hard, his foot smashed into the door, there was a sickening crunch as his foot twisted around and he collapsed in agony on the floor. Skulky reached forward and unlocked the door.

"Thank you agents, I've been a prisoner ever since they kidnapped me."

"Matt Rapley said you had been head-hunted?"

"No, it's a lie, Multi-Coloured Software told him that because they want to release Photo5."

Skulky sighed. "What about the software company? We must bring them to justice for their crimes!"

Jason shook his head. "No Agent Skulky, by freeing me you will stop the full version of Extrabars from being released and the software company can now slip into the background to be brought back for another episode. We can't remove all the faceless organisations too quickly, that will force us to resort to standard ROM 1.1 stories for weeks at a time." Jason looked at the floor. "Is he unconscious?"

Skulky and Jason began to leave. "More than likely." she replied. "More than likely."

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