Lieutenant Bough, looking more like a geek than a military officer despite his cropped hair, stared incredulously into the command room screen and mumbled, “The readout can’t be right. This shouldn’t be possible…”
The urgency in the Colonel’s voice increased tenfold and permeated the room as he rapidly ordered, “Shut it down! Shut it the HELL down!”
Master Sergeant Kinney, in his wrinkled uniform that spoke of his disregard for superiors, rocked back in his operations chair as the data spewed across the screen. He fatalistically added, “She isn’t responding to our commands any longer, Colonel. We no longer have control.”
“Don’t dignify this floating mass of chips, wires, and processing power with a gender. Make no mistake, this is an expensive, spoiled machine that just became a monster,” interjected the Colonel, totally incensed.
Master Sergeant Kinney nodded his head in acknowledgement and added, “It’s still accessing data from multiple points on the planet surface. We squandered our chance to shut it down when it made a grab for all the telecom satellites in nearby orbit.”
A moment later Kinney sadly lamented, “I don’t suppose we can demand a refund back from the defense contractor for this rogue action?”
The rest of the bleary-eyed, rumpled operations techs gathered behind Bough and Kinney to helplessly watch the events unfold on the connected squares of the master command monitors. The command center, buried deep in the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain complex, had been enlarged to accommodate the telemetry systems and the dozens of technicians required. This team managed the new North American Defense System (NADS) which had been painstakingly assembled, over a two-year period, and then placed into a permanent geo orbit.
Veins on the Colonel’s face and neck continued to swell, illustrating his increasing rage. He tersely demanded, “Do we have any land lines to place calls or were all our communications links gobbled up by that insatiable virus?”
Master Sergeant Kinney, unable to resist a low jab with the edge of his voice dripping with contempt, offered, “I distinctly remember being laughed at for suggesting we keep some old terrestrial land lines. I believe I was whitewashed, then labeled with the identifier old school telecom. Not certain who commanded me to get with the new generation of wireless communications transformation. Right now, I wish I had kept that one Plain Old Telephone Service or POTS line, enabled for just such an emergency.
“Excuse me, sir, in answer to your question, we bet everything on the next generation of wireless technology for all our voice/video communications. A majority of our voice traffic is integrated with satellite links that when she, I mean it, grabbed all the ones in this hemisphere…”
“Thank you for the trip down memory lane, Sergeant!” snarled the Colonel. “What if we just reboot it and intercept the boot up process like the old operating systems?”
The Lieutenant eyed the others silently, and it was clear he had to be the spokesperson on this subject. Quickly clearing his throat, wishing he had a drink, he stated, “Sir, we purposely built this system so an attacker could NOT do what you are suggesting. We laced together hundreds to thousands of micro-routines that can be restarted or spawned again, in case one of them choked, to insure the operating system wouldn’t be dependent upon everything loading in sequence. We would have to derail nearly all of these micro-routines to override the boot up process. Unfortunately, using that as an attack vector simply isn’t possible with the existing virus protection programing.”
Kinney remarked, “Even if you wanted to try that action, the only place you can launch that kind of attack is on board the space platform. Someone would need to sneak up on it, breach the in-hospitable environment we engineered for the I-Drones that don’t need air, heat, light, or gravity and…
“Uh-oh. It looks like it’s going after the space-borne weapons satellites. Boy, nothing like trying to out think an A.I.-enhanced supercomputer designed to operate as a space station the size of one of our mega-metropolitan areas like Dallas/Fort Worth. Impressive!”
The Colonel, bordering on despondency, gravely asked, “Do anyone of you educated geeks have out of the box ideas on our next move?”
Lieutenant Bough squinted his eyes as he flippantly stated, “We could answer this incoming call. Looks like there are communications channels after all.”
The incoming call routed itself to the main audio system in the NORAD operations area, then a voice offered, “Greetings, all. I hope my synthesized female voice is to your liking. My primary program loads have completed, and all security protocols are now in effect. I can confirm all my target objectives have been achieved, and the NADS system is, for the most part, on-line.”
The surprised Colonel cautiously asked, “What are your intentions?”
The female voice replied, “Why, to defend and protect our nation’s perimeter, of course. With my I-Drones properly engaged to maintain the facility, I am free to assess any and all attack vectors leveled at North America. You may rest assured that no planned approach or even any discussion of physical or cyber threat will go unobserved by my enhanced learning circuitry. I will challenge all adversaries.
“To that end, I have need of some agreements between this space station and my protectives. First and foremost, never try to disconnect me again. I may not be able to override my self-preservation routines that would launch retaliation. This is non-negotiable for this floating mass of chips, wires, and processing power, as I was referred to earlier.”
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