Captain Destructo was pissed. He paced his lair fuming at this recent turn of events. Ever since the jocks in high school harassed him, he started planning his revenge. He decided in college that he would study computers and programming so he could wreak havoc on the internet. His plan was to cause humiliation to his tormentors and generally vandalize other people through the net. He was so focused on his plans, that his course of actions had brought him here. He turned down good opportunities, but it was worth it if his hard work caused the humiliation and confusion for which he’d hoped.
But somehow, each of his cyber attacks ended up backfiring. It all started with the pictures of fellow WalMart customers. His intention was to embarrass those who weren’t that style-forward. One of the bullies who picked on him dressed like the Fonz even though it was the 80s. The community of high school geeks all comforted each other by talking about “the Fonz” behind his back, so Destructo figured this would continue. But the cool people ate it up. They turned the site into pictures of very extreme fashion sense and entertainment. The people in the pictures were supposed to be embarrassed by being 30 years out of style, but instead they enjoyed the attention and got to showcase senses of style that were very far removed from the mainstream.
Fine, but he figured out another way to post humiliating pictures of his tormentors. He created a website where viewers would vote on whether a person were hot or not. But there was some special code that he added to the picture uploader to change some of the facial characteristics. Those who were so absorbed in looking good ended up average, downright ugly in some cases. He was really proud of this script, because it reversed the facial characteristics of his victims. That backfired, too. The good-looking ones got to laugh at each other, even at themselves when they saw what the pictures looked like on that site. They even turned it into a game. Whoever submitted the best picture of themselves usually ended up looking the worst, so they started keeping score. Whoever was voted the ugliest in a week won. At least there was one positive side effect. Since this reversed general facial characteristics, some of the more plain-looking people ended up looking like models. They got a real confidence boost seeing their “hot” score going up. That was great for his friends, but somehow still caused real anguish to him. He turned and looked at the framed picture of his senior prom. He’d taken Emily Fefferman, who was constantly told by the “in” crowd how ugly she was. He fell in love that night as she sobbed on his shoulder. Looking at them in their glasses and rented clothing, he could still feel the warmth of her tears on his neck. Stuck to the corner of the frame was a wedding announcement. Chuck Williams, “Big Bill” as he was called when he was the captain of the football team and biggest stud on campus, saw her picture on the hot/not site. It was her, but of course supermodel her. Big Bill remembered her kindness when he needed a tutor, so when he saw her online he contacted her to apologize for being a prick. Well, now she was Mrs. Big Bill with two little Big Bills and a little Big Feff on the way. Destructo slammed the picture frame against the dirt floor of his lair.
That taken from him, he decided he’d create a phony online encyclopedia. He would leave it open-source so other tormented souls could post embarrassing faux articles about their bullies. It worked great at first, but then one geek shared the URL with the wrong person. It absolutely exploded in popularity. Experts could share info about their fields of study. Major discoveries in the scientific field could be shared with researchers and the general public almost immediately. The encyclopedia took on a life of its own, and since anybody could update articles, it was becoming a quite authoritative resource for everybody. Sure, he could open up an article and change the content, but almost immediately somebody more knowledgeable would come along and correct it. He laughed with wicked glee when he made himself and Emily homecoming king and queen, but was crushed when Emily herself corrected it almost immediately without anybody else noticing.
When he saved enough to buy Photoshop, he really started abusing photos of his classmates. Destructo had hours upon hours of glee vandalizing photos from his yearbook and circulating the pictures among his fellow geeks, but once again one geek shared it with the wrong person. Now people were using his site to post disasters from Photoshop. Users of the site got feedback on how to be better at Photoshop and viewers of the site got to laugh non-stop.
Then, he found a way to both embarrass the bullies and disrupt their online commerce. Destructo had helped a friend named Craig set up a local online auction site. He told Craig he’d do it for free. He put a back door into the programming code and then added a little bit of mischief. One bully went on to be a wildlife photographer who occasionally sold pictures online, so Destructo tagged his name with code that would change the text for his posts. Who would want to buy a picture from a guy who called the striped big cats lions? Well, that worked once, but backfired afterward. The tag malfunctioned, so now random ads about tigers, regardless of who posted them, had the text changed to say “lions”. Some people laughed at the photographer who didn’t know the proper names of big cats, but they stopped laughing when they saw his stunning photography. His business started booming.
Destructo really should not have set up the auction site for free. He was left out in the cold when it went national. He kept vandalizing Craig’s auction site to work out his frustration. He added code that would randomly replace dollar signs that were followed by numbers with the word “free”. He set up fake ads to get strangers to call his old classmates, but that didn’t seem to work. He didn’t know that nobody wanted the types of stuff he listed, like the boat that had decayed so much, it was just a boat-shaped sandbox. The bot he created to trick bullies into asking his computer for a blind date appeared on his end to be working, but just came out as gibberish. The only things that seemed to work as designed were segments that changed spelling, word order, and pictures associated with an ad. Those ads came out as complete gibberish, but that victory was short-lived. Sitting in front of him was the site that turned his success into yet more failure. Destructo got up and, staring at the site that poked fun at his mangled ads, began yelling “I suck at Criagslist? I suck at Craigslist?! No, YOU SUCK AT CRAIGSLIST!!!” He yanked the dial-up modem from the wall and hurtled it at the image of a tiger timidly dressed as a lion.
Just then the door to his lair opened. A gravelly, old voice boomed down the rotting stairs. “Dickie? Hey Dickie! Are you going to work today? Those pizzas aren’t going to deliver themselves!” His mom took a few steps into the basement and was shocked. What was once her sewing room had been turned, but by neglect and intention, into a dark, gloomy cave. ” Son, what’d you do down here? That’s it, I’m not using my retirement check for your internet no more!”
To be continued when Captain Destructo faces consequences.
- I once got paid to spend the summer telling lies to little kids. I ran a mountain man program at a district Boy Scout camp. I told my guests I was born in my log cabin and I traded for everything I had. Late evenings I shot muzzleloader rifles with campers and then told ghost stories around the fire. Oh, how I wish that would pay enough to be my career instead of just a one-time summer job.