By Mike Carroll Jr. 1985-2001 All rights reserved.

Cindy buys a computer

It was a cold day in January of 1984. San Francisco tends to be that way. On the lower level of the Harding Shopping Mall, a busy Jay's gift shop was filled with novelty items, posters and high school kids. Owner of a Lonely Heart, by Yes, could be heard over the chatter of shoppers.

Some of the seniors from Bridgebay High were out window shopping in their usual hangout. Heather, Rachel and Theresa were parked at the vertical poster rack, scrolling through posters of their favorite rock bands. When Heather came across a picture of Van Halen, all three of the teenagers let out a shrill scream.

"I just love them", Heather sighed catching her breath.

"I wanna, like faint everytime I see Michael Anthony, even though he's gonna turn thirty this year!" Rachel replied.

"Personally, I like Michael J. Fox", Theresa countered, "I hear he's Canadian!"

"By the way", asked Theresa, "Where did Cindy go?"

"Ah common", Rachel laughed, "you know where the technos can usually be found!"

In the Radio Shack store on the other side of the center, the usual tech enthusiasts browsed for electronic gadgets.

Hazel-green eyes as big as a full blown computer mainframe, the five-feet six-inch tall, 17-year-old Cindy Taylor looked in awe at a TRS-80 computer that was on a display. Cindy's curly brunette hair draped over the back of her wide shoulders as she gazed. Under the soft light-brown eyebrows, Cindy's eyes fixated on a machine that only a few years ago was available to an elite few.

Because of her intrigue for technology and enchantment of mythology, Cindy was noted in her click as The Teckie. Two years ago, she won first prize in the Northern California Pacman Contest. After determining that the original game followed a predefined path, she invented an algorithm to make the game more random. It's likely that she had attained her high degree of intelligence estimated at around 150 from her father who owned a private investigative firm in Burlingame.

"Excuse me", Cindy politely asked the young salesman as she pointed to the computer, "How does this device store data?"

"By a portable cassette recorder", the young male clerk proudly declared, his braces sparkling under the neon light.

"Actually", Cindy whispered in her familiar Marilyn Monroe emulation, "I was also wondering if you carried something that could dial this into network systems."

"A network?" the boy asked in bewilderment as his voice cracked. "I'll have to ask my manager". He shook his head as he walked toward the back.

"Cindy", Heather shouted from behind "I would have thought you'd be here."

Cindy turned around to see her friends at the store entrance.

"Were you trying to get a date with that guy?" Rachel pried.

Cindy didn't answer. Several minutes later, the boy came back with a shrink wrapped box.

"We have something that works with a touch-tone phone", he said. "You just put the receiver down on this and it will translate the audio signal into ones and zeros."

"Clever", Cindy responded with a slight smile as she held the box in fascination. Her friends were preoccupied outside the store watching the mall traffic.

"I will take it!" Cindy declared"

"Isn't that kinda expensive, Cindy?" asked Rachel. "Like, you only make minimum wage with your part time job at this silly mall."

"Yes", Cindy whispered, as if there was no further need to elucidate.

"Look", the young man said, as his freckled face turned more red, "Ah, if you need any help setting it up, I'm a straight A student in electronics and ... I get off at five."

Cindy turned around with her hand on her hip. She put her head up, batted her pale green eyes and just looked at him. Her friends giggled. They've seen this played out many times with their technical friend.

On the way back to Cindy's house, Cindy was at the wheel with her friends in the family stationwagon.

"What do you plan to do with a computer, Cindy?" Heather asked, as the car slowly drove up the street.

"Do you think your brother is going to want to play with it?" asked Rachel.

"No", Cindy replied as she stayed focused on the road, "He's too busy with stereos and such."

Cindy's brother was several years younger and had just entered high school.

"Will it talk?" Theresa added. Heather and Rachel laughed. Cindy didn't respond as she failed to see the humor.

A change in Cindy's life

The large car pulled up to Cindy's house with the four girls. The Taylor's two story home was in a well groomed suburban neighborhood. Located in the hills, it overlooked much of the San Francisco Peninsula.

Smoking his favorite pipe, Rex Taylor opened the curtain. His wife, Nancy, stood in the entry way, her back to him with watering eyes. The front door swung open with a peppery Cindy and her three friends in tow.

"Hi all!" Cindy announced cheerfully, "Guess what I bought today?"

Rex and Nancy Taylor just stood dismal and bleak. Cindy put the box on the floor next to the stairs. Her friends put the accessories on top.

"What's that, Cindy?" Rex answered quietly. His eyes were unusually red.

"A comp..u..ter", answered Cindy slowly as she sensed something wasn't quite right."

"Cindy", Rex said, "There's something very important your Mum and I have to tell you."

Cindy's eyes closed. She just realized what happened. Two years ago, she was rushed into the emergency room with a ruptured appendix. A lack of adequate health insurance put a strain on the family finances. Since then, her parents were having problems with the marriage.

To make matters worse, her mother had a drinking problem. For this reason, Cindy didn't want to be anything like her. She didn't so much as smoke cigarettes, and avoided any kind of drugs. Although Cindy was distant with her mother and resented her vices, she still cared about her deeply. Moreover, she prayed her mother and father would stay together. But down deep, Cindy knew that things could not continue along the same path. She knew that a divorce was inevitable.

"No!" Cindy cried as she ran up the stairs. Rachel, Heather and Theresa just looked at each other and left.

Later that night, Cindy was setting up the new computer in her bedroom. The room was colored in pink. One wall was filled with various posters of the NASA Space Shuttle fleet. On the opposite side, there were pictures of the 42-year-old Professor Steven Hawking, a world-renowned theoretical physicist who was afflicted at a young age with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). This motor neurone disease had gradually left the professor completely paralyzed. The young brunette technogeek became intrigued with Hawking's ability to prevail, despite his disability. On her bed, there were two teddy bears with eyeglasses.

A knock came at the door. Cindy turned around to see her father standing at the doorway.

"Can I come in, Cindy?"

"As you wish, Father", Cindy replied, as her attention remained on her computer.

Rex Taylor came in and sat in a small chair in the corner of the room.

"You know that your mother and I have had our differences for several..."

"Since my emergency operation?" Cindy interrupted.

"Cindy, that wasn't your fault." He looked around the room with watering eyes.

"Your mother", he said as his voice cracked, "I just can no longer deal with it."

"I don't want you to leave, Daddy!" Cindy cried.

"Sweetheart, please don't cry", he said, holding the sobbing teen as tears ran down his face.

As Cindy's Dad moves out, her responsibilities increase

Rex Taylor soon found a two bedroom apartment in San Jose.

Cindy and Jeff stayed with their mother. As time wore on, Cindy's mother began to drink more. Being supported completely her husband's generous income, she began hanging out all night at a tavern on the San Carlos strip. And Cindy began to take more of a role as head of the household. Not only was she disparately trying to deal with her younger brother's adolescence, but also her child/mother, who was sliding deeper into addiction.

One afternoon, Cindy was sitting at the kitchen table forging checks in her mom's name to pay the bills. As usual, her mother was nowhere to be found. All the sudden, the front door slammed closed. As Cindy looked up, she saw Jeff, his face marked with bruises. As they made brief eye contact, he rushed up the stairs. Jeff was always a defiant lad.

Cindy put down the pen and ran up the stairs. Her brother's bedroom door was locked.

"Jeffrey", Cindy ordered, "Come out here now!"

"Get out of here!" Jeff screamed back. "You're not my father!"

Cindy reeled back, leaned against the wall and closed hers eyes. This was just too much for a girl her age to handle.

Later on, Cindy was propped in front of the TV watching The A Team, trying to take a mental break from the situation. The sound of the refrigerator closed. She looked up and saw Jeff standing in the door way holding a glass of orange juice.

"Where's Mum?"

"Where do you think?" Cindy answered without turning her head to look at him.

"Sis", Jeff said walking into the living room, "I got into a fight today, Okay?"

Cindy didn't respond. Her watering eyes were still glued to the set. He walked over and made her look at him.

"They called Mum an 'alchy', damn it", Jeff cried out, "I had to make them take it back!"

As tears streamed from Cindy's eyes, she reached over and held her younger brother.

"We're going to get through this, Jeffrey", she softly said, "But you must be strong."

They continued to cry in each other's arms.

A close call with mother

It was a Friday afternoon. Having the whole weekend ahead of her, she was in a very good mood. But as Cindy opened the front door to the quiet house, something was unusual.

As she entered the living room, she saw her mother spread out on the floor in a contorted position. On the table was a jar of pills and an empty martini glass. She immediately ran over to her and checked her pulse. There was nothing, but her mother still had some color. As Cindy's CPR training began to kick in, she brought up both arms in a fist. Trying to hold back the tears, she strategically came down on her mother's abdomen. Her mother's body sprung up from the force of the blow. Cindy put her head to the woman's chest, but there wasn't a sound. She repeated the procedure, but this time with more force. Suddenly, Nancy began to cough. Cindy gently put her hand on her mother's head.

"Stay still, Mother", Cindy whispered.

"What happened?" asked Nancy, as she laid flat. The woman began looking around the room as she slowly became aware of her surroundings.

Nancy spent the next few days in the hospital under observation. Fortunately, there wasn't any brain damage and her prognosis looked good. If Cindy had arrived only minutes later, the outcome could have been alot worse.

Cindy moves in with Dad

Cindy needed to make a serious decision. She loved her mother, but felt helpless. At seventeen, she lacked the maturity to deal with the pressure of being the family mentor. Her father decided that it was best that she and her brother move in with him. After pulling some strings with his friends in the legal profession, Mr. Taylor was able to get full custody of both Cindy and Jeff. He also arranged to have a full time nurse assigned to the house to watch his wife.

Cindy was allowed to attend the remainder of the Senior year at her school, Bridgebay High. This was a special high school, specifically catering to teens with accelerated IQs.

Relieved by no longer being required to maintain a mother role, Cindy began to spend more time playing with the computer in her new bedroom. Using the modem device, she found it easy to access other mainframe networks in large companies and government agencies, including the San Mateo Police Department. She discovered that clerical personnel who used these systems yielded little imagination when it came to inventing user passwords.

"Let's see", the curious young brunette said to herself in a devious voice, "What has Mr. Kevin Bronstene been up to lately?"

Kevin Bronstene, her high school principle, was one of the most respected men of her community.

The screen displayed began to read out:

San Mateo Police Archives.

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

SUSPECT:

Cindy typed "B-R-O-N-S-T-E-N-E-,-K-E-V-I-N" on her keyboard and pushed ENTER.

A moment later, the screen started downloading data:

Kevin Steven Bronstene

Male/White

Height: 5'11

Brown eyes

Born: 7-18-35

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

Priors:

Date of arrest: 4-12-80;

LEWD BEHAVIOR WITH A MINOR CHILD UNDER 14;

CHARGES DROPPED

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

"Oh ma god!" Cindy gulped. She quickly covered her mouth, hoping her father didn't hear the sudden outburst. If that bit of information got out, the man would be history.

"Let's just see what we can do here", Cindy thought as she looked about her room. Her eyes focused on posters of the Space Shuttles. As she studied the orbiters, Cindy broke into a devilish laugh.

She knew that access into the NASA mainframe could be some serious fun. But this would be a difficult challenge, even for one as bright as Cindy Taylor. Their complex mainframe system was extremely secure against potential hackers.

A NASA representative comes to Cindy's high school

As luck had it, Bridgebay High had a special guest, Thomas Rother a 32-year-old Chief Systems Administrator for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He was standing on the stage in the school auditorium explaining his job at NASA. Quite a few found his description of daily routines boring except Cindy.

"Most of time, the center isn't as exciting as you might think", Rother said, "My job is to maintain the network system, see that data is backed up nightly and to issue passwords. Think of me as a traffic cop on a mainframe network "

At this point, Cindy's ears perked up. Wanting to ask something, she put up her hand.

"Yes", Rother said, "the girl with the brown hair."

"Mr. Rother", Cindy asked, as her voice reverberated throughout the room "What operating system do the Shuttle's onboard computers use?"

"They run on Machine Language", he answered, slightly perplexed that she was knowledgeable enough to ask such a question.

After the presentation, Cindy was getting something out of her locker in the outdoor area.

"Excuse me, Miss?" Rother asked from behind.

She turned around with a cute grin.

"Why hello, Mr. Rother", Cindy replied, innocently batting her green eyes.

"I just couldn't help but notice the scope of your question, Miss..."

"Cindy", she smiled as she eagerly shook his hand, "Cindy Taylor."

Rother looked a little embarrassed but went on, "Are you interested in the Space Program, Cindy?

"I find your job most interesting", Cindy said, "How do you manage such a complex system?"

"Well", he said as hey walked through the crowded area, "I have my own password that gives me privileges throughout."

"I see", she answered, moving a little closer to the older man. Passing students were taking notice of the couple.

"For instance", he said, "My user name is t-r-o-t-h-e-r." After a moment of silence, he laughed. "I can tell you that because it's useless without a password." Rother looked down. "Unfortunately, there's a bug in the system that I've been trying to iron out?"

"What is that, sir?" Cindy asked.

"Normally, if one enters an incorrect password for more than three tries, the user will be kicked off the system for 30 minutes."

Cindy looked at him with intense interest.

"But that function has somehow been disabled?" He added, "I've been at it for several weeks and haven't been able to find the line of code that causes this. Fortunately, however, passwords are secure. Nobody has broken into our system yet", he proudly declared.

"Look", Cindy stumbled, "I know this sounds forward, but I was wondering..." She paused, trying to find the right words. "There's a coffee house across the school."

"You're a little young for coffee, aren't you?"

"Actually, I'm a tea connoisseur", Cindy whispered, looking up with her left hand on her hip.

Rother gave an embarrassing smile. He knew that hanging out a 17-year-old girl even for just a cup of coffee at a cafe would be highly frowned upon by the school. Moreover, if his wife found out, she would kill him. Fortunately, however, she was 3000 miles away at their home in Florida.

Rother found Cindy so likable that he couldn't resist his temptations for the coffee encounter.

The cafe was located in a rustic looking shopping center across from the school. It was a quaint complex with an array of small mom and pop type stores.

The two sat in the outdoor seating area. While Rother held his cup of hot coffee and Cindy sipped at her cup of tea, he was just amazed how interested she seemed in him. He was able to speak to her at his level, almost forgetting that she was just a teenager. It made him feel like a kid again to see this pretty young thing looking into his eyes, even laughing at his silly jokes. Rother began to unload onto his new friend, telling her about how he came to NASA, about his family about his feelings as she listened intensively.

A little white lie

To elevate her status with the older man, Cindy told Rother that she had been contracted by the San Mateo Press to do some freelance writing. She wrote the date of the article and handed it to him. Telling Rother that the articles were published about a year ago, she knew it would be too difficult for him to verify it. He thought it strange that this young girl would land such a job with the media.

Meanwhile, hidden down deep in Cindy's backpack, a small device was recording their conversation.

Finding the password

That night, Cindy sat at her computer with the recording device. As the man was spilling his life story out to Cindy, she knew it was likely that the key into the NASA mainframe computer his user password was imbedded somewhere within their hour long conversation.

As Cindy played back their lunchtime encounter, she transcribed his words into her computer. After four hours of typing and arranging the words into a list, she was ready to give it a try.

Cindy dialed the number into the mainframe computer. A readout began to unfold on her monitor:

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

Welcome to Kennedy Space Center, FL.

This system is run by Pro-line Software Systems, Palo Alto, CA

1972-1984 All rights reserved.

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

The word USER? then popped up followed by the flashing cursor. Cindy looked at her screen and knew her key into the system was in her list. She typed T-R-O-T-H-E-R, then pressed ENTER. Seconds elapsed, and the word PASSWORD? flashed. She brought up the file that contained the list and instructed her computer to run the words at the password request. Normally, she would have been quickly cut off after the third try. But due to the bug that Rother mentioned, she was able to run its entirely until she got a hit. As Cindy proudly watched her computer run the script, she began to realize this process would take several hours. She left the room and decided to check back later.

When Cindy returned, she noticed the PASSWORD icon was still flashing. None of the words matched. This didn't make sense. Upon her encounter with Rother, she made an observation that he was very predictable. An obscure password just would not match his personality.

Another thought was that she could have misspelled a word, but that was out of the question with a girl of Cindy's intelligence. Some say that her brain was like a digital calculator.

"I spent an hour with that old fart and he gave me nothing", Cindy thought to herself.

Walking over to the mirror on top of her dresser, she began to study some acne on her chin. In the background, she noticed the Shuttle Challenger poster. The word CHALLENGER was spelled backwards from the mirrored image. Her face then turned into into her sinister smile.

Tired as Cindy was, she went back to the computer and changed the script to run the the words in reverse, then left to take a shower.

When she returned, the screen had changed into a configuration stating:

Kennedy Space Center

logon user: Tom Rother

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

Request?

"Hello", Cindy thought her hazel green eyes glittering in delight.

A shuttle computer malfunction?

Several weeks later, four astronauts were sitting in the space shuttle Challenger. Ron Fields was the commander. The count down was down to 20 seconds.

"Stand by for main engine start", a voice came over the earphones in their helmets.

"Roger", Fields replied.

All the sudden, the two upper computer screens in flight deck went blank and projected the interface of a Pacman game. The Pacman opening music theme proceeded.

"Eegg!" Fields yelped as he quickly pulled the emergency button.

Meanwhile, at Bekon Microdevices in Santa Clara California, Sidney Bekon, a Silicon Valley tycoon, was sitting in his office working on a report with the television on tuned to the shuttle launch. A telephoto live shot displayed the shuttle on the pad, ready to launch with the count down frozen to five seconds.

"There seems to be a problem with two of the Challenger's on board computers", an announcer stated.

Several minutes later, text on the bottom the screen read:

"Mission scrubbed indefinitely, until further notice!"

This had caught Bekon's attention. He was hired as a consultant in the late 70s to work with the computers for the Space Shuttle Columbia and found it strange that two of the three computers could go down at once.

Bekon went to the phone and dialed to a close friend of his at the Kennedy Space Center.

"This is Howard", the voice on the other end answered.

"Bekon here. What is wrong with the Challenger."

"You won't believe this, Bek. The suits here are running all over the place. They're sending a press release out that the computers had just 'malfunctioned'. What really happened is that a Pacman interface just popped up on their screens.

FBI called in to investigate

It was the following day at FBI headquarters in Washington DC.. Agent David Sanderson, a tall balding man in is late thirties, was sitting in his office typing a report. In the corner of the room sat an American flag with a picture of President Reagan hanging on the wall. Two men entered the office: Systems Administrator Thomas Rother, and Director Stacey Chandler. The shook hands and sat down.

"Welcome gentlemen", Sanderson said, "I just got through reading the report."

"Unofficially, it was just a malfunction", said Chandler, "But arcade games just don't appear on shuttle computers Mr. Sanderson."

"Is it possible one of your programmers could have tampered with the system? Those of individuals are a strange breed, aren't they Mr. Chandler?"

"I resent the implication, Sanderson", Chandler shot back. "We have a professional staff here!"

"Anything's possible", Rother added, "but we know this: The perpetrator signed in with my name and password!"

Silence hovered the room as Agent Sanderson thought of what this meant.

"First, Mr. Rother", Sanderson announced, "I want you to take a polygraph test."

"Am I a suspect?" Rother asked.

"Everyone is. But the sooner I can clear you, the easier it will be to narrow the investigation."

Rother took the polygraph test and passed. It was found through archived data that the time the code was written, Rother was on vacation in Hawaii with his wife and two children, clearing him completely as a suspect. All the other on staff programmers also took polygraph tests and passed.

As time went on, Sanderson felt that this could be the work of Moammar Kadafi of Libya. But what was disturbing was how venerable the system was.

A year later still no leads

It was May 1985. Over a year later since the break-in, there were still no suspects in the case. Sidney Bekon was driving through Sacramento to attend a programmer's conference. On his radio was local radio was a local personality, Rush Limbaugh, a 34-year-old talk show host. The subject centered around the Shuttle break-in. Many callers had their own ideas of who was responsible.

"I don't believe any of the government spin this Rush. It was the work of ZOG! The perps in our own government had a hand in the Challenger break-in. The Democrats just wanted to make President Reagan look bad."

"I'm not so eager to buy into a conspiracy theory, caller", Rush responded. "The left has been known to do some crazy things, but the FBI still believes this was the work of Kadafi's bunch!"

"You idiot!" Bekon shouted at the radio." It was the work of a high school kid, not a terrorist!"

He knew this because he new the mentality of adolescent tech enthusiasts.

Rother's wife finds strange paper

While Tom Rother's wife Laura began going through Tom's old clothes, she found a small piece of paper in a shirt pocket with what appeared as female handwriting. It was the name and date of the San Mateo Press article that Cindy Taylor claimed to have written.

"What is this, Thomas?" Laura demanded with her arms crossed.

"Honey, I've been meaning to tell you." Rother answered, as he persuaded her down to the couch for a dreaded long talk.

He explained his coffee encounter with the 17-year-old girl, that she scribbled the date of her article on the paper.

"Why did this girl want to have coffee with you, Thomas?"

"I don't know, honey. I guess she found me ... ah...my lecture interesting?"

Laura's eyes rolled. She went for the phone and began to dial.

"Honey, what are you doing?"

"What do you think I'm doing?" Laura snapped. "I'm calling Agent Sanderson."

The pieces come together

Several hours later, Sanderson arrived at the Rother residence.

"What did you tell the Taylor girl, Mr. Rother.", Sanderson asked in a serious tone.

"This is quite embarrassing, Mr. Sanderson", Rother replied meekly, "I guess we just seemed to hit it off."

Laura looked down and shook her head. Her endowed intuition made it quite clear that there was more to the encounter than just a 17-year-old girl finding her over-thirty husband a hot stud.

"Did you mention anything that would have indicated your password, sir?"

"I told her alot of things, Sanderson. She was just a sweet girl who needed an older man that she felt comfortable with." Sanderson looked at Rother as if he wasn't buying into any of this, that Rother might have been conned by the teen. "I may have mentioned the password within our conversation", Rother continued, "but my password was spelled backwards. There is no way that this child could have figured it out!"

The following day, Agent Sanderson flew out to California and made a visit to the San Mateo Press. As he entered an old brick building, he found a hip twenty something at the receptionist desk. He pulled out his FBI identification and asked to speak to the managing editor. As he walked down a thin long hall, it became clear this was not a large scale operation. While large press facilities have been converting to computers over the the last year or so, they were still using conventional methods.

Sanderson entered a small office. A short fat balding man was sitting at an old wooden desk smoking a cigar. Among the clutter of papers on the desk was an old typewriter.

"Hello", Sanderson said as he extended his hand, "Agent Sanderson, FBI".

"Gibson", the man replied in a thick Manhattan accent."Tell me, Sanderson. Have you ever met Efrem Zimblist Jr.?"

Sanderson laughed to his reference of the star to the sixties FBI Television series.

"I need some information on an employee of yours." Rother said.

"This is a small operation, slick" Gibson said as he sucked his cigar, "I know everybody who goes in and out of this joint.'

"Then you know this girl", he said as he handed Gibson the picture.

"Never seen her."

"Is it possible a freelance employee may have bypassed you?" Sanderson asked.

"Look", Gibson snapped back, "This is not a fluff outfit. We're just a hole in the wall."

Just as he expected: There was no article. Cindy used Rother's trust in an awful way. In Sanderson's 20 years with the agency, he had seen the best cons in the business, but never someone so conniving as the young Cindy Taylor. The question now is how was she able to obtain Rother's password from their conversation.

Cindy gets a visit from the FBI

That night, Mr. Taylor was sitting on the couch of his apartment, smoking his pipe and watching the evening news. Cindy was in her room playing with the computer.

There was a knock at the door. It was Agent Sanderson.

"Is this the residence of Cynthia Taylor?" Sanderson asked as he pulled out his FBI identification.

"She's my daughter", Taylor answered, slowly pulling the pipe from his mouth.

Rex Taylor lightly knocked on Cindy's bedroom door.

"Cindy, there's someone out here who wants to talk with you."

A few minutes later, Cindy and Agent Sanderson sat at the kitchen table while Mr. Taylor walked outside on the balcony, impatiently puffing at his pipe.

Sanderson pulled out the small piece of paper that Cindy gave Rother in the Cafe.

"You told Mr. Rother that you wrote an article for the San Mateo Press, Cindy. There wasn't anything written by you on that date"

"Excuse me, Mr. Sanderson", Taylor intervened as he peaked into the room, "What does a little white lie about a news article have to do with your witch hunt on my daughter?"

"I'm getting to that, Mr. Taylor." Sanderson looked back at Cindy.

"Ah", Cindy responded, "Oh, I think I wrote the wrong date and I used a pen name and..."

"Cindy", Sanderson interrupted, "The owner of the San Mateo Press said they never heard of you!"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Sanderson. I didn't write the article" Cindy said as she just laid back in the chair, "Mr. Rother was so nice, I didn't want him to think that I was just another foolish little girl."

"Why would you ask a man you don't know and is twice your age to go out with you for a cup of coffee?"

"I don't know!" Cindy said as she started to cry.

The next day, Agent Sanderson obtained a search warrant and confiscated Cindy's computer. It didn't take long to find the evidence needed to indict little Cindy Taylor for the shuttle break-in.

Cindy Taylor gets her 15 minutes of fame

Meanwhile, Sidney Bekon began to relax in his hot tub with the TV on to the news.

"Hello, this is the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather."

"In Washington, 18-year-old Cindy Taylor has just been indicted for the space shuttle hacking incident last year at the Kennedy Space Center. Authorities say that she was able to access two of the Challenger's on-board computers from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area, rendering the orbiter useless for launch. NASA officials assured that holes in the system have been fixed."

Bekon just sat in amazement. Breaking into such a computer was not an easy task, but he had realized all along that this wasn't the work of a foreign terrorist group. An American adolescent person would be most likely put a Pacman game on a space shuttle computer. But a little girl??

Cindy's life turns for the worse

As bills piled up from Cindy's defense attorneys, her father found himself in financial trouble and was on the verge of claiming bankruptcy. Her mother, whom she hadn't spoken with in about a year, married the young gardener. Her alcohol problem hadn't improved since she and her new husband both drank, further draining her ex-husbands finances.

The case was on the front page of every major news publication during the trial. High school geeks around America began to see Cindy as somewhat of a folk hero. Time Magazine spotlighted young Cindy with an article titled: "Today's Youth: Smart and Dangerous".

The evidence was overwhelming. It didn't take long for a jury to find Cindy guilty on all charges. She had started her 10-year sentence in Federal lockup.

Cindy gets a break

Sidney Bekon had followed this case from the beginning and had a growing interest in Cindy's programming skills. What a waste that a girl with such talents is sent to prison. Wouldn't it be better if she was working at Bekon Microdevices, writing code and helping him develop his latest evil diabolical inventions?

For the next several months, Bekon hired a team of attorneys to do what ever it took to convince a judge to release her. A break came six months later. After extensive judge shopping, they found their break. Due to technicalities by the prosecution and suppressed evidence, the judge ordered Cindy's release.

Cindy's time behind bars was the most frightening time of her life. This was not a place for an 18-year-old girl of her small stature. On this day, she was sitting in the prison library reading a book about computer technology. An announcement came over the intercom.

"Will Cynthia Taylor, Prisoner 7473, please report to gate five?"

Cindy looked up in surprise. Gate five was the visitor's area, but she wasn't expecting anyone.

As Cindy walked toward the glass partition that separated inmates from visitors, she noticed a slight man with glasses a bow tie standing in one of the windows. It was Sidney Bekon. He motioned her to sit at one of the booths. They both sat down and picked up a receiver.

"I have some good news for you, Cindy", Bekon announced.

"Who are you?" She replied.

"Let's just say that I'm one of your biggest fans."

"I don't understand", Cindy said, "Why are you here? Are you some kind of weirdo?"

Bekon let out an evil giggled and continued, "It's not nice to talk that way to your employer!"

"Is this some kind of joke, Mr..?"

"Sidney Bekon. My friends call me Sidney. You can call me Mr. Bekon."

"What do you mean by 'empolyer', Mr. Bekon", Cindy asked defiantly, "I may be young, but I'm not stupid."

"Nobody's accusing of you being stupid. On the contrary, my dear, you are a genius." Bekon paused for a second and continued, "After all, your friends didn't nicknamed you 'The Teckie' for nothing."

"Where did you get that from?" she snapped back.

"Relax kid", Bekon answered, "I just do my homework before soliciting someone to work for my company."

"Are you saying that I may be getting out of here?"

Bekon just smiled, his buck teeth sparkling.

A week later, the paperwork was completed for Cindy's release. It seemed too good to be true that this nightmare would soon come to an end.

After an hour of signing papers, Cindy gathered her belongings and headed for the exit door. Her father and brother were waiting outside. She ran over to them and gave them both a big hug.

Meanwhile, a black limousine with heavily tinted windows pulled up to the curb. As the rear window rolled down, the shadowy face of Sidney Bekon became visible. He motioned to Cindy.

"Who is that man, Cindy?" asked Rex Taylor.

"I have to go with him, Father!" she said as she ran over to the limo, blowing both her father and brother a kiss.

As the large black car whisked Cindy away, Mr. Taylor and Jeff just looked at each other in confusion.

Cindy was assigned a desk next to Sidney Bekon's office with an IBM PC-AT, loaded with a state-of-the-art Intel 80286 chip. She was instructed to come up with an algorithm to an equation. Unfamiliar with the new DOS operating system, Cindy had it figured out in about an hour.

Sidney Bekon was an elusive boss. He would spend hours in his office talking to an electronic robot he had developed called Marcey. Cindy had no idea that the code she was typing would be used for a small microchip to be planted in the human brain giving the recipient deadly strengths.

One day, Cindy was at her desk typing code when a gorgeous blond woman in her early twenties approached. She reeked of tobacco.

"May I help you?" Cindy cordially asked.

"What's a sweet thing like you working for that freak?" asked the blond.

"Excuse me?"

"Jean Seigfried", the blond replied as she extended her hand with ultra long glowing red fingernails, "I'm Mr. Bekon's prize guinea pig."

Jean walked into Bekon's office, shaking her rear end. Cindy smelled her fingers with that awful tobacco smell and wrinkled face in disgust. What did she mean by guinea pig? Moreover, that woman just didn't seem like Sidney Bekon's type. Little did she know, the woman would be nicknamed "The Corvette Killer", sought after by every police agency in the San Francisco Bay Area in connection to a string of murders,

Challenger disaster

It was the morning of January 28, 1986 in the Silicon Valley. Cindy had been working at Bekon Microdevices for several months. Living with her father, she used her salary as lead programmer to help with the finances.

Bekon was on his way back from a meeting with the facility manager of the chip processing plant in Fremont California. They hired him as a consultant for further automating their factory. At 12:45 PM, he was driving south on Warm Springs Boulevard, wipers working furiously to clear the heavy rain.

An announcement came over the radio.

"This is ABC News. We have just received information that there has been an explosion aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. Stay tuned for further developments."

When he got back to the office, Cindy was sitting at her desk typing code into her computer.

"Cindy", Bekon asked. "Did you hear about what happened to the Space Shuttle?"

"Yes", Cindy whispered sarcastically as her attention remained on the monitor, "It happened after they gave the command 'Throttle up' ".

"How could you know all of this, Cindy?!" Bekon asked in bewilderment. "It just happened several hours ago."

The young brunette didn't answer, as she contined stare at the white numbers being typed against the dark green background. Did Cindy have had something to do with this? After all, she did once pay an unexpected visit to the space plane with a Pacman game.

Of course, six months later, it was determined by a specially appointed committee, the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, that O-rings from one of the Solid Rocket Boosters had leaked during the launch, causing the Main Fuel Tank to explode. This cleared any suspicion the government may have had with Cindy Taylor.

Cindy continued to work at Bekon Microdevices until the fateful day that Police Officer Penny Cest unraveled Sidney Bekon's wrong doings.

What they are doing now

Still slender but with a short hairdo, Cindy Taylor has become quite a personality in the San Francisco Bay Area. She hosts her own radio call in show and website: ASK CINDY ANYTHING ABOUT COMPUTERS". Although the show mostly focuses around computer related issues, Cindy will occasionally go on a rant over her ultra conservative views.

Her brother Jeff hosts a talk show and website in Los Angeles, which is all about stereo related equipment.

Their mother died several years ago of siroccos of the liver.

Rex Taylor retired about ten years ago and is enjoying his senior years in a retirement home in Monterey California.

Sidney Bekon was just released from prison after serving a fifteen year sentence. His where abouts are unknown.

A Travel Through Time

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