Zero Node: Chapter 35: Colorado Responds
by Jeff Rand
The chapter is longer than most and describes some challenges the refugees have battling the defenses of a neural virtual reality center. The title Soylent Green is noteworthy in that it refers to a 1973 movie starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. Without divulging the plot of the movie, the term soylent green as a food source has the same meaning in Another Ten Seconds. It should be noted that the Soylent Green plot takes place in 2022, less than two years away.
There is an interesting exchange between two characters in the novel describing their differences between liberal and conservative viewpoints regarding the earth's resources. I am not sure they hold the extremes, but an underlying theme of the novel concerns limiting the need for using physical resources.
Of course, I had to include an amputation in the text. Everyone can't live happily ever after, but I guess someone can survive with just one hand, though typing this would take longer in that case.
July 19, 2020
Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter
The one called Uncas rushed to wake his friend. "We've been attacked," he shouted. "Someone or some thing broke your code!"
There was no damage to the command center deep within Cheyenne Mountain from the assault. The attack would not even register if the occupants hadn't been monitoring the outside environment. Other than a direct strike from a large comet, a progression of nuclear explosions might have some impact. Yet, the attack prompted action, and now it was time to consult with the garrison. Chingachgook went to see Moose Peterson, the garrison's commander. He decided to share some more details.
"Moose, you know that I have been rather evasive lately," began Chingachgook. "I wanted to be sure of our adversaries before making a premature accusation. Now I got their attention, and they know we exist. Yet their feeble response was no threat."
It may be true that we are safe here, but we are still trapped. If we leave, we will be attacked," replied Colonel Peterson.
Chingachgook continued, "We've been trapped here for years now. I don't want to die in this place. Perhaps we can offer a significant response. I believe I found their base. Though it makes no sense to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Maybe it is just a ship that hasn't been moving or some secret island. I was able to invade their computer network and shut down their headquarters. But I think they got it working to launch the attack. And they must know where we are. I thought the virus I sent would disable their system until we could finish the job, unless…"
"What?" asked the colonel.
"Unless they figured out the password."
"You must know that the enemy has unlimited resources and interfaces with perhaps, eight billion human brains across the globe," Peterson responded. "We must launch our own military strike."
"What can we do? Here we sit with what we believed to be the world's most sophisticated and powerful computer network controlling the arsenal of three nuclear powers, but we cannot launch a strike. The missiles are beyond our control. I fear that the enemy may now have that authority."
"You are wrong in both accounts. The enemy does not have any control over the missiles. The fear of nuclear war was so pronounced in the 80s that some of the best minds from the United States, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and China were brought together to prevent the total destruction that would result."
You said USSR. Weren't they our sworn enemy before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union?" asked Chingachgook.
"Even in America, we were sometimes shielded from the truth. But it was not a matter of some mysterious underground organization controlling the world. On December 27, 1986, three world leaders met in secret to hash out a deal to end the threat of nuclear annihilation. We do not know where they met, as there was never any record of the meeting. However, we know who they were - Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Deng Xiaoping. And we know the result - the construction of the real command center that you now inhabit deeper in this mountain. Although governments believed otherwise, no nuclear weapon could be launched from their nations except from this underground command post. Each of the leaders selected the folks to carry out the mission and maintain it. In addition, they made no attempt to share this information with future political leaders. Could you imagine what would happen if Putin or Trump knew of this place?"
Chingachgook was shocked at learning the truth, "OK. You said I was wrong in two accounts. Are you saying that we can launch a military strike?"
"I regret that we no longer can launch the missiles of the three powers from here. The system made it extremely difficult to launch a strike. And when the enemy attempted to gain control of the arsenal, the system deactivated, giving no one a chance to launch a missile. There is no way for us or the enemy to use our missiles."
"Well then how can we launch a strike?"
"I wasn't giving you the full story." Peterson continued. "When North Korea became a nuclear power, they were not part of the system. Yet they fell under Chinese control. There are two active missiles in North Korea carrying nuclear warheads and are capable of reaching the west coast of the United States. There is a small contingent of Chinese who have been living in an underground bunker for several years at the missile site. Unfortunately, we have no direct communication with them."
"Then how do you know that they are still there and could launch a missile?"
"We don't have anything as sophisticated as the internet to enable us to communicate. However, we have exchanged coded communication using shortwave radios. Since we bounce our signals off the ionosphere, it has been impossible for the enemy to determine their source."
"So, if we launch the missiles, then what? I don't think it will have much effect. There might be other ways to win this war," stated Chingachgook.
"Perhaps it is time to bring everyone together," came the colonel's abrupt response.
For the first time since it became active, no one remained in the subterranean command center. The 12 missile commanders, along with Chingachgook and Uncas, joined the military garrison in the upper chambers of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. They would take the risk and leave the stations unguarded. The small group inside the complex and their allies hidden in North Korea must be unified for the coming battle. Colonel Peterson assumed control and began the meeting.
"We have now been here more than four years," he explained. "We are effectively trapped, and we can assume that no one else is free on the outside, except the enemy. I say enemy, because we have been deliberately attacked. Our previous encounters with this enemy were not attacks specifically directed towards us. Rather, we believe, they were directed to eliminate any humans roaming outside the neural virtual reality centers."
Peterson continued, purposefully not mentioning that Chingachgook may have started the war, "We have now been trapped here more than four years. We have been beneficiaries of plentiful supplies, but our food will run out in a couple years. During these past years, we have maintained a defensive posture, perhaps waiting for some good news. That good news has not come and now we are under attack. While the enemy is not yet a real threat, it is time for us to take the offensive."
"Shouldn't we wait for the United Nations to intervene," asked Alexandria, one of the Russians.
"United Nations? What governments still exist? As far as we know, we are the United Nations," replied the Colonel.
"What damage can we do to the enemy? We have no control over the nuclear missiles. Thankfully, no one else does - at least as far as we know," said John, one of the American missile commanders.
"That is not quite true," declared Jin, a Chinese commander. "We have some people hidden in North Korea, where there are two active missiles."
"OK. What damage can be done by two North Korean missiles? I bet they don't have sufficient range or accuracy." John responded.
"I am not sure if two will have any major effect, but they are capable of reaching the United States. One was programmed to hit the Port of Long Beach, California, and the other intended for the Boeing Factory in Everett, Washington," Jin said.
John still responded, "Again, what is the point of having just two missiles? We don't even have a target."
"If I might offer some insight?" interrupted Lieutenant Fujimoto, one of the flight instructors. "You might assume that I am pure military, but I have a broader background. I hold a master's degree in sociology. And while I have a Japanese surname, my ancestry includes at least four generations of American citizens. It was my paternal grandparents that prompted my interest in sociology. They were both born during World War II in separate relocation centers in Arkansas. When it came time to propose a thesis in pursuing my master's degree, I chose the title 'Effects of the Second World War on Japanese Culture.' I suspect you know of the kamikaze attitudes that prevailed at the start of the war. Yet as tragic as they were, the nuclear detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a profound effect on this culture. Though the US had no more bombs to deliver, the belief that it had enough power to annihilate the entire nation was sufficient to end the war and change cultural attitudes. I submit that this same opportunity now exists against our current foe."
Chingachgook felt obliged to enter the conversation, "We were not attacked by accident. I am responsible. You should know that I have been monitoring the activity of the NVR centers since their inception. Although I had no control over them and their inhabitants, I was finally able to break into their master control center three days ago. I was able to disrupt the power there but only had a momentary effect on the NVR centers throughout the world. Somehow, they neutralized the virus I planted and launched the counterattack. I still believe it possible to assume control of the vast NVR network. Afterall, except for perhaps this unknown enemy, we have the most powerful computer systems the world has ever known."
Uncas, who had been an uninvited guest for the past four years, shouted a comment, "We can't simply destroy this enemy. We could kill eight billion people!"
"Point well taken," countered Peterson. "We will proceed with caution, but we will have a plan to take the offensive."
Plans for the response to the unknown enemy progressed quickly on two fronts. Jin would contact his colleagues in North Korea to launch the missiles, and Chingachgook would pursue the takeover of the enemy's vast computer network.
Use of the ham radio involved taking a special escape route. It would not work inside the complex, and Jin could not simply exit through the blast doors. He would be attacked from the ever-present hovercraft now watching. Yet, there was another way through a series of tunnels for pedestrian escape. These, too, had blast doors and were designed for one-way travel. The final exit was hidden in a rock overhang higher on the mountain with no visible sign. The door itself was covered with a rock facing. Fortunately, during the years spent unable to leave the complex, the Chinese modified the passages to allow return trips after using the shortwave radio. There was a daily schedule for communication with North Korea, but it was successful less than half the time. It took three days for it to work this time. Using coded transmissions, the Chinese present in North Korea were instructed to launch a missile at dawn on December 16, 2031.
Chingachgook frantically worked to re-enter the network, which he identified as the enemy's command center. He did not believe that the nuclear blast would destroy the enemy's command post. He doubted both the accuracy of the missile and really couldn't be sure that the enemy base was there. Yet, he hoped a nuclear explosion would get their attention, and he would be ready for the next move.
As the sun reached the horizon at the W?nsan Missile Base in the land typically referred to as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a large concrete slab moved to expose an underground missile armed with a nuclear warhead. Once the missile launched, it took just 66 minutes to reach its target on the surface of the Pacific Ocean at the point where the Equator was crossed by the International Dateline.
The nuclear detonation was detected in Zero Node, but it had no effect on the Node itself, some four miles below the surface. However, the shockwave disrupted the electronics in the submarine parked just above Zero Node.