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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Weekend Haunting and the Space Center's Ghostbusters

I knew something was wrong at 1:17 P.M. Friday. I was directing “Supernova” for the Voyager crew from Deerfield Elementary School. I tried to move my mouse to change the Sensors and found it frozen. My entire computer was frozen. Metta confirmed the fact when her computer at 2FX also seized up. Restarting didn’t help. I could hear the crew commenting on their frozen computers over the PA system. I knew then and there someone had released the last of the Titans!

The final scene was yet to be played out. The star was about to supernova. With the computer’s frozen the story had to be played out verbally. Tex yelled to the crew from the engine room telling them the damage to the ship was so severe all access to the bridge was cut off. The bridge was useless.
“Tex, What do We Do!?” the Captain shouted back.
“I’ll do my best to run the ship from down here!” Tex answered. With that said, I ran the ship from Engineering. The crew was along for the ride. The star exploded, the ship narrowly missed a certain death by fire and all was well. We got the desired cheer when they learned they survived the blast.

The last scene was the formation of the black hole and the ship’s rescue by the Romulans, all played out without any crew input. I was in pure story telling mode. Thanks to Metta and Jon’s fine work we pulled it off. The kids were none the wiser, thinking the damage was caused by them.

Jon and I rebooted the Voyager after the field trip. Everything froze again. I checked the network hubs. They were all blinking. Something else was wrong. Something dreadful had come this way and stopped to pay us a visit.

Whatcha Gonna Do? There is only one thing you can do in a situation like this. Call the Ghostbusters! I picked up the phone and called Todd Hadley. He was returning to home base in Lindon after dispensing a particularly gruesome Class 4 Poltergeist at Forbes Elementary.

“Describe the problem,” he asked over the phone. I started to explain, then the phone delivered a nasty shock. I dropped it. Swirling blue ectoplasmatic light swirled around the receiver. A moment later it dissipated into thin air. That was all the proof I needed. We were slimed by something out of sync with our dimension of time/space.

“Jon, we’ve got a ghost to bust,” I said to Jon Parker when he emerged from the ship looking like he’d seen a ghost himself.

The Ghostbusters at Work Trying to Salvage the Voyager

Twenty minutes later Todd walked through the doorway. The race was on. Could the ship be exorcised before the 4:30 P.M. mission arrived from Nephi? I had an uneasy feeling about this haunting. It was similar to the ones we used to get in the early 90’s when the ship was networked on Appletalk using daisy chained phone lines. Bach then the network would go down in the middle of a mission leaving us no choice but to voice prompt the control room.

“Left Wing, Warp 1,” the Captain would say. I was in the control room, unable to see for myself whether or not the command was obeyed. The Bridge Staff walked to the station given the order, watched the student carry it out and send a voice prompt.
“Good Job on going Warp 1!” I’d hear over the microphone. That was my cue to start the sound effect and move the story along.

I called the 4:30 P.M. Voyager crew in Nephi and explained the situation. It was someone’s 18th birthday party. The young man was understanding and decided to reschedule rather than drive one hour to the Center only to discovered the repair wasn’t successful.

He made the right decision. The spirits haunting the Voyager were nasty indeed and didn’t give up their secrets easily. Todd, Jon and Matt Long used every tool at their disposal but even our professional Ghostbusters seemed perplexed. Luckily our overnight numbers were short. Thirty-five students were coming to the camp instead of the normal 45, meaning I could close the Voyager. I called Bradyn and gave him the bad news. This was to be Bradyn’s last overnight camp before entering he MTC.

At 6:00 P.M. the three Ghostbusters made their final report. They had successfully captured the illusive wandering, mischievous spirit.
“This ship is Clean,” Todd pronounced with arms folded across his chest. Ectoplasmic slime dripped from the tip of his nose to the carpet.

I reopened the Voyager, giving Bradyn his last overnight camp. The Voyager was indeed ‘clean’.


8:17 A.M. I was informed the Voyager’s computers were seizing again in some form of paralyzing curse just as they had the previous day. Our Poltergeist had returned with a vengeance. All attempts to free our network failed. All counter curses, potions and spells failed. In addition to the Voyager, the school’s computer lab network was down. Our programmer’s couldn’t access the internet. Once again, something wicked this way had come. The Ghostbusters were called.

10:17 A.M. Todd reported the Computer Lab was ‘clean’. He arrived just as the Overnight Camp ended. We survived the final two hours of the camp thanks to the mission we were running (Shadows) which had the ship’s computer’s blacked out for much of the last two hours of the mission anyway. Bradyn, Brock and Spenser, along with their fine staff, did a marvelous job faking their way to the end without their crew knowing their ship wasn’t working at all.
“What caused the network outage in the Computer Lab?” I asked. Todd produced a small strand of ethernet cable.
“This,” he said. “Someone created a feedback loop using this bit of cable on one of the servers in the lab. The feedback was sending so much information through the network it overloaded the systems.”

Todd thought for a moment and realized that loop might also be the cause of the Voyager’s problems. The Voyager was connected to the network through the VOIP phone system, therefore a problem in the school’s computer lab could affect the ship itself.

We restarted the Voyager. The computers ran perfectly. There were no problems.
I wanted to pronounce the ship ‘clean‘ but remembered the ship was running fine at the start of the Camp yet failed the following day.

I’ll restart the Voyager on Monday. We will try overloading the ship with commands to see if it freezes up. If it doesn’t then I’ll reopen with fingers crossed that whatever demon saw fit to roost in our networks would find better hunting grounds elsewhere, perhaps in a neighbor’s toaster or can opener.

I want to thank Todd Hadley, Jon Parker, Matt Long and his wife for dropping everything and coming to our aide. The Space Center's friends are awesome. Without them we wouldn't be here today. My job would drive me to drink and insanity were it not for these awesome folks.


And as Always, I'm hoping for brighter, uneventful days ahead,

Mr. Williamson
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