View Full Version : Looking for Rufus the Runaway Computer

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

February 25th, 2004, 09:49 PM
In 1980 while attending London Central High School, an American Department of Defense school in England, I came across this excellent Science Fiction book.

Only I can't remember what the title was. Or who the author was.

Well, here how the story went.

Aliens are upset with all these probes we've been launching so they've decided to stop all that by making contact with us. But they don't want any mistakes so they're sending to Earth one of theirs disguised as an Human. Only he can make his eyes light up and his installed radio keeps waking him up with requests for landing instructions for commercial flights.

He's already gotten a job as an assistant Science Editor for Time Magazine and outfitted with a sports jacket with leather patches on the elbows. His spaceship has been disguised to look like a commercial rooftop air conditioner.

After he arrives and has time to settle in, his people will broadcast a two-tone message of five lines to Earth, in billboard code that reads "We come in Peace".

Only when the message arrives, SETI detects the two-toned message but doesn't do anything with it. So the agent has to fly by commercial air to push them in the right direction, inadvertantly getting a strip search when he burns out the air port metal detector by walking through it.

While he's visiting the SETI facility in California, he gets to know their computer (who is aware and wants to be called Rufus) and installs a modem so he can communicate with it from New York.

Back in New York, he is pleased to see that serious attention is being paid to the message from space but can't understand why the humans are having so much trouble interpeting the very simple code. Rufus gets hooked up to computers for the Pentagon, State Department and the CIA to translate the code and burns out a couple minor circuits, so its up to the alien science editor to explain 'draw a line through the "X's" guys' before some other assistant science editor from Newsweek beats him to it.

Only before he can do that, the other assistant Science Editor for Times Magazine, smoking some weed, manages to translate the message into "We come kill you earthling" and suggests in a memo to the head editor that if aliens are coming to destroy humanity, Times magazine should produce a stark black-boardered issue with a cynide scratch & sniff capsule on the cover so the loyal readers can die in relative comfort and avoid the horrible death rays. And signs both their names to the memo.

Both get fired.

At a party that night the alien shows his buddy how to translate the code, then wakes up the next morning to news reports that the Seti computer he knows as Rufus has been stolen - and a fleet of movers on his appartment doorstep with alot of crates to deliver. Rufus has run away to join the alien in New York, knowing the alien would be able to put him back together.

Alien manages to draft a fake memo from the Head Editor to publish the "We Come In Peace" story on the cover of the magazine, they get rehired but people are starting to figure out what's going on.

Rufus wants to leave with the alien and tells him the critical minimum of circuits he needs so the computer can be brought back to the alien's planet in a briefcase. The other editor has figured it out too and wants to come along.

Before they get to the alien's ship, the alien's people arrive - in giant version of the rooftop air conditioner ship they sent their agent in.

Now people are really starting to make the connection and are checking the air conditioners on the roof of the Times building, alien escapes back to his appartment to find the assistant science editor for Newsweek is there - only she's really a female of his own race in disguise, one he's been desperate to get close with.

As you can probably tell, I really like this book. Shame I can't remember the title....

February 26th, 2004, 04:37 PM
You can remember that much detail about a book but can't remember the title or the author? I usually have the oppposite problem.

February 27th, 2004, 06:18 AM
Hear Hear Emohawk!!When I forget a book I forget everything, including the ending:)

I would be interested to know when it was written if you ever find out any more about it, as it does sound a teeny weeny bit like the classic film, The day the earth stood still. Maybe you could watch reruns of that if you are having withdrawal symptoms?

February 27th, 2004, 06:23 AM
...the classic film, The day the earth stood still...ahhh, one of the best science fiction films ever made imo. If I could think of 9 others I might even post on the appropriate thread :)

Shame I can't remember the title....
Gallowglass, not sure how good the search engine is, but you could try this (http://www.allscifi.com/BookSearchA.asp?SubjectID=1) site.

February 27th, 2004, 08:37 PM
Actually its worse than that, I can remember the cover illustration.

Man, back leaning against an old Reel-to-reel computer drive with the hubs of the reels looking like eyes staring back at him, a very buxom young woman is pinning the man to the side of the reel-to-reel

I shall try the link! Thank you! However, this is probably an old book.

I love the classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" - great movie.

March 1st, 2004, 05:08 AM
Originally posted by Gallowglass
...an old Reel-to-reel computer drive ...However, this is probably an old book. Yep, sound pretty old to me :)

Good luck with the search...I would be interested to know what the book is if you ever find out.