RSi: The Unspeakables
By Azfarul Islam and Sabrina F Ahmad
"When you said you were attending a Grammar Nazi rally, I wasn't aware that everyone would be stamping on signs that had no apostrophes where they should have been. Isn't that a bit, y'know, harsh?" Sabs asked a sweaty-faced yet jubilant Az. He gave her a noncommittal shrug since he had just stood with her and sniggered uncontrollably. "Also, what books were they burning over there to the left? They looked kind of familiar..." continued Sabs.
"Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer"
Both halves of the RSi nodded at each other in agreement. 'There should be more of these Grammar Nazi rallies' was the unsaid conclusion.
Back at the awkwardly-shaped, dingy room artistically cluttered with nondescript odds and ends that Sabs called 'HQ' and Az called 'Ow! What did I just step on this time?', there was a mysteriously silhouetted figure waiting on the desk. Well, against the desk since there hadn't been space to put anything on the desk for the last four years. Said figure gave a delicate cough as they approached and in a level,
long-suffering voice said: "It's about my son, you see. I, I don't know what to do with him anymore. Just read it". A petite woman had walked forward and handed them a piece of paper.
Az read the contents aloud to everyone in the room, his speech an untenable mixture of pronunciations and enunciation. "Oh my..." Sabs clapped a hand to her mouth, looking from Az to the mother and then back again. "Will you please help me?" whispered their their client. The Rising Investigators nodded vehemently, as Sabs placed a caring hand on the mother's shoulder. "In my day..." she began and then hushed up. Az went over to the desk, actually pushed off a pile of... things... and gingerly placed the paper there, facing upwards.
This was serious business.
pH34R /\/\'/ L337 $|<1LL$
"So one of the tricks is to pronounce the namesake of the number and then continue as if were like part of the word? That's pretty clever, no?" Sabs playfully baited Az, who was looking somewhat dejected.
"Bugger. That woman forgot to leave any contact details. So how do we find the son?" "Let's have a look at that again and... urgh. I know I shouldn't be surprised but 'firstname.lastname@example.org' is our man. Or d00d, as it were" sighed Az wearily.
"Woah. I could almost make out the 0's when you said... dood was it?" Sabs looked impressed.
Sabs scanned the letter one more time, eyes narrowing at the utter - for the lack of a more apt word - pwnage of the English language, perpetrated by the suspect.
"So basically, this is supposed to be hacker-speak, that somehow made it into the parlance of gamers since Doom II went online, and has somehow made it into everyday speech?" The ominous glint in her eye suggested that the lack of a laser beam mechanism in those accusing orbs was the only thing standing between Az and pakora status. The coolness of his reaction was spoiled just a little by the ever-so-surreptitious way he backed away.
"Saaaabs, I may a gamer be, but have you ever seen me use that kind of language?"
The silence that followed ambled past 'comfortable', slithered right by 'awkward' and paused for breath at 'accusing'.
"Hey! that insufferable slanguage thief we caught last week earned the n00b title!"
"Touché" she relented, picturing the shameless copycat that had hounded them for the past few weeks, absorbing 'Az-isms' like a sponge, only to maul the pet phrases with his odd enunciation.
"Right. I think we have a lead. Let's follow it."
tHe ToGgLe CaSe
The search engines pointed to a page on a social networking site. The display name had the visual equivalent of the kind of histrionics one indulges in after stubbing one's toe against the bedpost first thing in the morning, the resultant flapping about being enacted with bare feet on a cold floor. Az opened his mouth, closed it again, sat down, and then stood up again.
"Yeah. No. I'm speechless at this point."
"I think I need an aspirin. Is that a shout? Am I supposed to sound excited? Like GAGA...no, that doesn't sound right"
"I know! You're supposed to warble. You know, like when you're brushing your teeth and singing at the same time, you feel like belting out 'Figaro! Figaro!' while you gargle?"
"That solution does not, in any way, inspire confidence..."
Da tym of ma lyf
The first real break came through an IM chat window that popped up mid-search.
gAgAfReAk says: um Tush!!
"Is that a first name? A peer group contraction of her first name? Hesitation? Portuguese for 'one'? Maybe a..." rattled off Az, looking increasingly flustered.
"Okay. Calm down. Just breathe. Breathe. And think: what would Zachary Quinto do?" Sabs mused, a little too dreamily.
"What, eat their brains? As pleasant as that thought is, what would we gain? The power of stupid? The ability to dumbfound people?"
"As he said in Star Trek: 'Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth'."
"We're not going there, are we Sabs?"
"Can we have a moment of silence after this?"
"That's 'I am' isn't it?"
The silence that followed wasn't normal by any means. People speak of a silence before a storm. Now, have they ever experienced the silence before the proverbial serial killer edges towards his victim? That's not silence. That's known as screaming, hitting every octave starting from "ear splitting" and not even ending at "I think some of my organs have failed me". Theirs was the silence in the absence of this particular scream.
"Okay, okay. Think happy thoughts. We're going to pull through" whispered Az hoarsely. "This is going to hurt like a cricket ball to the nads..." Az paused, noting present company, "...and if you lack aforementioned nads, you'll have the privilege of finding out how that feels."
“Yay?" "Okay, here goes nothing..." Az took a shuddering breath and laid his fingers gingerly on the keyboard; Sabs uttered a soft prayer.
RSi says: Oh hai. U no whr d4rk_g0thik_d00d go? 4 eng coaching??? gAgAfReAk says: Yea! dat's ma frnd :D! Adz n I tok all d tym! Try Pl@bon Sr's plc!!11! lol!
RSi says: Yeah, sure. Laugh out loud while you can, you pleb.
gAgAfReAk says: ???
<RSi has disconnected>
"You meant 'Thank you', right Az?" Sabs looked a little disapproving, a little amused. "Either way, we got him"
Evening: Tweet me right
"Arre, bhaiya, thenks for the halp with coursework!"
"Do we know you?"
The whirring of all the mental gears was audible in the ensuing pause.
"Okay, I've got nothing... besides a strange desire to smash something over his head. Wait... we have met him before then, haven't we?"
"You liked my haavy metaal collection, remember?" the greasy-haired, lavender-clad lad indicated his collection of Miley Cyrus mp3's.
"No, you see, that's known as an 'assumption'" countered Az.
In the time it took for Az to get a decent twitch in, g0thik_d00d found himself collared and shoved against the wall, where his pimply face made uncharacteristically unwilling contact with the Ke$ha pin-up hanging there. Sabs' eyes were a baleful gleam of red, uncomfortably close to his face.
"I've lost count of how many times I've seen unspeakable crimes being committed against the English language, and I haven't even started grading exam papers yet! You do not want to try me, so you're going to pay attention to every word I say right now. Is that understood?"
Az raised a finger to intervene, then thought better of it. Sabs in teacher mode was a force only a fool would mess with. Doubly so since she hadn't begun grading the exam papers. Triply so, he shuddered a correction to himself, recalling the last time.
Back at HQ, the two agents shared a quiet moment of celebration after Az finished nursing his stubbed toe.
"Think I was too hard on him?"
"Well, I thought hitting him with the Enid Blyton was a little risky. You could have ruined the hard cover" grinned Az.
"Well, you can't make an omelette without breaking an egg, eh? I think he'd enjoy the adventures of Famous Five, though. I wanted to sic Sandman on him, but I figured we should go with baby steps..."
Sabs broke off as she realised that Az was staring aghast at the computer screen.
A closer look revealed the profile page of the boy they had just left behind.
"3n1d BlYt0n roxx!!11!"