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STARWARES by Ed Dejesus

(Copied from Data Communications Magazine, April 1999)

Darth Vader took two giant strides toward the immense visiscreen that occupied the forward wall of the bridge of his flagship Imperial star destroyer. "We've got them now," he rumbled. Whirling on the technicians cowering at their consoles, Vader snapped, "Tractor Beam!"

"Yes, Lord Vader," replied one, bending attentively to his task. Then he looked up hesitantly.

Vader gestured dramatically at the screen, indicating the fleeing spacecraft. "I want a tractor beam on that ship," he declared. "Now!"

The technician busied himself with switches and dials.

"Where's that tractor beam?" roared Vader, his voice dark with menace.

The other technicians turned frightened eyes on their peer. They knew what happened when Darth Vader's instructions weren't executed instantly.

"The tractor beam seems to be down, sir," quavered the technician.

"What do you mean 'down'?" Vader inquired with a disturbing silkiness to his voice.

"It's not accepting commands, sir," the technician explained. Another technician leaned over and examined the console. "That's odd. The beam itself is showing green," he pointed out.

"Yes, I know," agreed the first, "but I'm not getting any acknowledgement to my 'Engage' command." He pressed a button several times to demonstrate.

"Maybe the network's down again," suggested a third technician. "I'll call tech support."

"The network might be down, Lord Vader," the first technician informed the large black figure.

"What network?" Vader asked ominously.

The second technician jumped in. "Since we've moved to a distributed architecture on the Imperial star destroyers, everything is on a network. It was felt that the direct connections were too unreliable." The third technician added, "The tractor beam is on one of the peripheral subnetworks, with the printers and the scanners. It's not on the main weapons network."

"Why isn't the tractor beam on the weapons network?" asked Vader, now more puzzled than angry.

The technicians exchanged sheepish looks. It was embarrassing to have to point out something so obvious to a superior. The second technician cleared his throat. "Well, sir, the weapons network is a higher priority. It makes more sense to put the less commonly used systems on a separate subnetwork that has lower QOS."

"QOS?" Vader queried.

"Say," said the first technician. "How about if we ping the tractor beam? Let me bring up a telnet window."

"Telnet?" asked Vader, now obviously confused. "Ping?"

The first technician glanced briefly at Vader, a little annoyed at the interruptions. Why couldn't this guy keep up with the service bulletins?

"The system runs Unix, but the consoles run NT 5000," he replied with exaggerated patience. "You need a telnet window to ping the element." He turned his attention back to the screen. "That's strange. It comes back 'active'. Listen, when you get tech support tell them we can't engage the tractor but we can ping it."

"Right," said the third technician. "I'm still on hold."

"What if we just call the guys down at tractor control and have them engage the beam manually?" asks the second technician. Vader seemed to brighten up at this, and swiveled his head from one to another.

"Good idea," said the first technician. He lifted his communicator and tapped the switch. "Nothing," he said. The second technician shook his head. "Didn't we tell them we couldn't handle voice and data with that little bandwidth?"

Suddenly Vader noticed the visiscreen and let out a bellow of anger. "They're gone!" he boomed.

The third technician looked up. "I got tech support!"

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