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The Dead Zone

The stout woman in the plaid jacket was not taking no for an answer, and it seemed as if her grandchildren were about to burst into tears. Gunther put on his most apologetic face and tried to be delicate, but there was just no escaping reality:

“Ma’am,” he said, and doubled up his efforts at reconciliation, “there really aren’t any lion tamers.”

The woman snorted, puffed out her chest.

“Nonsense!” she snapped. “This is a circus, is it not? All circuses have lion tamers!’

“No, ma’am,” said Gunther politely, “but this isn’t a regular circus. This is a hacker circus.”

The woman looked at the sign behind him, which declared in loud golden letters: “GUNTHER & HOBBINS HACKER CIRCUS.” She seemed to read it for the first time.

“I don’t know what that means,” she said, as if her ignorance were illuminating a crime against humanity. “What are hackers, and how do they fit into a circus?”

“Well, ma’am,” said Gunther, smiling particularly at the children, who seemed put off by the whole ordeal, “hackers are computer experts who can do marvellous things with all things electronical. And our travelling circus is the world’s finest collection of hacker freaks!”

“Seems to me you’re all freaks,” grunted the woman.

“Yes ma’am,” said Gunther. “Would you like to buy tickets to tonight’s show?”

The woman sneered at him, but before she could speak, he felt a tug at his jacket, and turned to find Feeble staring up at him with desperate eyes.

“Excuse me a moment, please,” he smiled, and followed Feeble to the Big Top. The little man’s bug eyes were bugging out even more than usual, and his bottom lip was trembling something fierce. “Feeble, I told you no more Coke until after the show.”

“It’s not that, boss,” said Feeble. “It’s the wi-fi.”

“What about it?”

“There isn’t any!”

Gunther took Feeble by the arm and dragged him inside. The tent was empty, while all the performers got their code into place for the evening’s festivities. The large antenna in the middle of the centre ring stood tall, proudly proclaiming their unique brand of entertainment.

“Have you checked all the cables?” Gunther asked, refusing to give in to hysteria. “It’s definitely plugged in? Not like Omaha?”

“It’s plugged in, sir, it really is,” whined Feeble. “We’ve been all over town with the signal monitors, and there doesn’t seem to be ANY wi-fi in this place at all!”

Gunther frowned, pulled his phone from his pocket and checked his reception. Nothing. He turned around, trying to prove Feeble wrong, but nothing worked.

“Master Yoyo told me to tell you his SQL Injection of Doom is doomed if we don’t get this sorted out, and… and the Great Poulinis are complaining their Magic Rootkit requires a patch before showtime, and Ajax the Amazing has taken to the bottle again and is saying something about asynchronous calls as they relate to male genitalia, I think.”

“Gods,” sighed Gunther, “What kind of town has no wi-fi hotspots? We need to go to plan B. Hook up the adapter and we’ll have to tether off my phone.”

Feeble winced, stared at his shoes.

“We can’t tether anymore, sir,” he muttered. “Our data plan was cut off.” Gunther was having a hard time coming up with the words to say. “I meant to tell you, sir… we had an issue with billing after our March overage.”

“We almost never use that plan,” Gunther said, pushing Feeble against a heavy wooden pole. “How much was the bill?”

“Um… eight thousand dollars,” said the little man. “Give or take a thousand.”

“Eight thousand dollars?” shrieked Gunther. “That’s more than we earn in half a year! How in the hell did that happen?”

“I… I was downloading some things.”

“Oh, Feeble, no…”

“I’m a Guild addict, sir, I can’t help it! Felicia Day is my goddess!”


“I want to date her avatar!”

“Oh dear god, Feeble, what are we going to do?”

“The general consensus is that we pack up quickly and run away before anyone notices, sir. With your permission. No refunds. AT&T wants their money.”

Gunther stared at his Big Top, his big, wonderful Big Top. And he looked at the rows upon rows of empty seats, and his fists clenched.

“No,” he said firmly. “No, I’m not going down without a fight. They want entertainment, they’re getting entertainment. I want you, Fitcher and Dumblin to take the pickup and drive to Minneapolis.”

“Minneapolis?” squeaked Feeble. “But why, sir?”

“You’re going to steal a lion from the zoo,” said Gunther, the spark back in his eye. “And we’re going to find out how asynchronous Ajax can be with a whip.”

This #1kStory is for brttrx ("A traveling circus of hackers reacts to a town with no wi-fi hotspots").

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