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Copyright (c) Peter Devlin
The growth in the use of information technology in the 1990s has made dissemination of information very easy. However, there is a price to pay for such easy access to information. On the Internet there are a growing number of computer users falling prey to a new computer virus called BURN. This virus is so new that most anti-virus software companies do not yet know of it. It is also unlikely that anyone will survive to tell the story of its most unusual effects. However, astute students of Fortean lore may note an increasing "unusual death" rate amongst Net surfers, and there are always going to be upset parents. Media types, always hungry for a new angle on the Internet, will also make much of the rising tide of bodies, linking them to Internet pornography etc.
Eventually the BURN virus can be traced (via assembly language code headers) to a compiler belonging to the Arkham Sanitarium. Howard Barker is a deranged hebephrenic psychology postgraduate from Miskatonic University who works as a ward assistant. Lately, he has been spending a lot of time with the computers in the building.
Howard Barker is currently preparing his doctorial thesis on human psychological impulses and is testing a few of his assumptions before he submits his final paper.
2.) The two BURN virus variants target sound card drivers, not video drivers. They cause the computer to produce an odd agglutinous chanting from the attached speakers. If the timing is correct (i.e. it is night and Fomalhaut is visible) the user will suddenly feel cold and tired, and a glowing ball will appear from the smoking remains of his computer. The chant is a summoning spell for a Fire Vampire and the user has just lost the requisite magical energy to summon the beast. There are a large number of recent cases of people burnt to a cinder alongside their melted computers, causing the major PC companies to suspect hardware faults; none have been found so far.
After killing their unfortunate victims, the Fire Vampires, being balls of plasma, then run around the electrical circuits in the building causing major fires. In big computer installations, the sprinklers/halon/CO2 extinguishers go off and the Fire Vampires usually get snuffed. Surviving security video footage from a nearby college campus may prove illuminating.
Howard Barker is a mad genius who got a number of such spells piecemeal from one of the inmates. Said inmate is John Doe #23 and has an unusual case history.
3.) The BURN virus is slow and insidious. It subliminally flashes unpronouncable text messages on screen, forming a Contact Nyarlathotep spell. It also adds a bookmark to Netscape and Explorer Web browsers for www.starry-wisdom/welcome.html. The address is for the home page of the Starry Wisdom Brotherhood, a quasi-religious group which holds all kinds of odd beliefs. Nyarlathotep contacts the unfortunate victim via dreams or e-mail messages from DARKHAUNTER@AOL.COM, an apparently non-existent mail address. The net result is that the victim is seduced by the Mythos and joins the Brotherhood. Eventually the sendings (dream or electronic) command the victim to ready himself for a journey to the throne of the Ruler of the Universe and to prepare "offerings".
Howard Barker maintains the Web site and there is much circumstantial evidence pointing to him as the leader of the Brotherhood. Actually, he is a front man and scapegoat for Dr. Eloise Whateley, a recent addition to the staff roster at the Sanitarium.