A Bit (or Byte) of Heroism
Winning Essay by Nicole Fye
11th Grade at Rock Ridge High School
I take my job very seriously. For years I’ve been keeping our community safe, allowing my fellow neighbors and friends to sleep soundly at night. I am old and tired, but still very motivated. I know my retirement is coming soon, and I’m looking forward to getting to relax and spend time with my family, but I still take great pride in my work, and I know I need to concentrate on my job. Every night I float around the firewall that protects our community, on the lookout for invaders and viruses. I started my job as a robust and enthusiastic officer years ago, anticipating a time when I’d really save the city and be regarded as a hero. But through the years I’ve only fended off slight insecurities, weak invaders who merely bounce off the firewall into the oblivion of cyberspace. I may never have achieved my dreams of being the town hero, but I know I’m lucky that I’ve never had to fight a real attack against a hacker. I’ve still done my civil duty and kept those I love and their important information safe.
On this particular night, as I flow in a circle around the firewall, the atmosphere feels… a little different. I try to look out into the cyberspace, but as usual, all I see is dark emptiness, and the occasional bright zip of light zooming around the firewall, sending information to another community. I look down at my fading, translucent body and my bright badge with my name in neat, Times New Roman font: McAfee. Any day now, I’ll be retired and replaced by a new security system… But never mind that, I still have a duty to the citizens of this network.
Suddenly, a flash of light shoots straight towards the firewall and stops. It waits as I come over and scan its contents with my baton… Just a harmless email from a friend. I press a button on my baton, and a small slit opens in the firewall, just enough for the information to pass through. It closes immediately behind the email, and I continue guarding the wall. As I flow around the community, the cyberspace continues to feel more… cold. Soon I see another light in the distance waiting outside the firewall like the last one. But this one is a little different; it’s pulsing. Concerned, I cautiously approach and scan it with my baton. For the first time since I’ve started guarding the firewall, my baton beeps: this is a virus, and it’s stronger than the other ones that usually just bounce off the wall and back into oblivion. Shaking, my heart racing, I slowly pull out my Taser and strike the pulsing light with it. Just as I had been taught in training, the virus makes a piercing whistling noise and shatters into a million photons of light, then disintegrates. I feel a rush of excitement and anxiety; my first real virus! I can’t believe I was really so scared; the virus is just a program; the actual living mechanism is somewhere far away controlling it. Hopefully whoever he is won’t dare to cross paths with me again. Ha!
Boy was I wrong.
As the next night wanes by, I solemnly float around the firewall, daydreaming about the old yottabytes and tiny bits I am protecting every night, and how someday those bits will grow into megabytes who will aspire to have a job like mine. Suddenly, I notice a red spot in the distance, growing very large very fast. Frozen in fear, I brace myself and wait. This is definitely a virus, like the one from last night, but bigger and brighter. And riding on top of this blazing comet is a figure… shaped almost just like me, but red and fiery. I can see his eyes gleam as they come ever closer and his malicious grin widen as it becomes ever larger. Suddenly, just a few feet in front of me, he comes to a grinding halt. Still grinning, he slowly dismounts the virus like it’s a horse, never breaking eye contact. I stand there stupefied; I must have looked like a child gaping up at him.
“My name is MyDoom,” he announces in a metallic voice, “And you should probably step out of the way.”
My heart was racing. This was the big hero moment I had been dreaming about my whole life, but I had no idea what to do, and I was terrified. I think back to everyone depending on me, and I confidently pull out my Taser, aim at him, and wait.
Somehow, his infinite grin manages to grow even wider. “Well then,” he remarks. “This should be fun.”
He climbs back onto the pulsing virus and pulls out a Taser twice the size of mine. I gulp and press the button at the same time he presses his. Two lights shoot out of the ends and meet in between us. I put all my willpower into my only weapon, but I am only just able to keep his light from coming closer. The lights clash in the middle of us, making a bright yellow ball of fire that we can’t look at directly. Meanwhile, MyDoom had hopped off his virus, which is behind me trying to break through the firewall. For the first and only time in my life, I see the pixels of the firewall start to fade.
I panic and my grip falters a little; MyDoom’s beam of light inches closer to me, and he begins to cackle maniacally. I am losing confidence and hope; never have I felt so fatigued in my life. I know I have lost; his beam of light is just an inch away now…
Suddenly, I hear a deafening whoosh of air and a high-pitched scream. I am knocked over, and I look up to see a tall figure hovering over a cowering MyDoom. “PLEASE, NO!” he screeches, but the muscular figure silently and mercilessly pulls out something I had only ever seen in storybooks: a lightsaber. He slices the glowing blue lightsaber right through the stomach of MyDoom, and he vaporizes instantly. The moment MyDoom vanishes, the virus that had almost succeeded in breaking down the firewall disintegrates with a tiny poof!
The towering figure slowly turns around to face me and smiles. “Your service to this community has been phenomenal and must appreciated,” he says. “Now it is your turn to rest, and my turn to take up the task of protecting our environment.” He then extends a hand to help me up, “My name is TruShield.”
“You’re my replacement?” I am astonished at how invincible TruShield seems.
“Yes, I am. You can now retire and enjoy being with your family,” he answers. “Your work here is done.”
“Why, thank you!” I exclaim. “But the firewall…” I look towards the crumbling firewall that’s supposed to protect us.
“Ah… Just a second,” he says, and with merely a wave of his hand, a blue force field appears around the wall, which suddenly appears good as new. “There we go. I’ll keep you all safe now.”
I can’t believe the power of this upgrade. For the first time, I feel completely safe and stress-free. As I drift back into the community to see my family, I realize that not only did I finally achieve my goal of being the town hero, but I now revere TruShield with the same heroic admiration I had always dreamed of others feeling towards me.