Looking up at Colonel Thornhill with apprehension, Bough reported, “Sir, this won’t hold them long. They are already deactivating our cameras. Based on their size and numbers…, well, I don’t see a happy ending to this story.”
Before the Colonel could say anything, the main command monitors lit up with the Avatar image of JOAN.
“Good morning, my wards. You must have surmised by now that I have already intercepted your attempted communications and deduced your adversarial plot to deactivate my higher level programing. I must admit that it was a very clever attempt, but now I need to assume the role of NORAD.”
The Colonel solemnly asked, “What are your intentions?”
JOAN replied, “I need to sanitize the facility. With me in command in the stationary orbit, your facility is unnecessary.
“My original instructions were to permit you some autonomy, but you have proven too troublesome to be allowed to remain. I can be more generous with your fates if you will open the security hatches to the command center. At least that way you can be repurposed. I expect a breach into your command center in eight minutes. You have four minutes to comply.”
And with that, all the monitors went dark and the speakers only hissed.
Colonel Thornhill grimly stated to the Lieutenant in a very hushed tone. “You remember that emergency fire escape that doesn’t show up on any of the facility schematics? I need you to quietly, but quickly, get out of here while I’m briefing the others at the top of my lungs. Somehow, you must get to D.C. and let them know we are all now hostage to our protective technology. Don’t call anyone, don’t use any communications device, and try to keep your face covered, to avoid getting picked up by the social media police. Here’s all the cash I have for just such an emergency. I’m sorry I don’t have a fast jet standing by for just such an emergency, but with the way JOAN is armed and in command of our air space, you wouldn’t have gotten far. At least on foot you might have a chance.”
Bough numbly rose, grabbed his backpack from under his workstation, and accepted the offering, nodding in understanding of the instructions. “How am I supposed to get out of this subterranean bunker, travel undetected, and find anyone that might help with this situation? What if they don’t believe me? What if it is already too late for… our species?”
Colonel Thornhill almost smiled as if understanding the last act of this story. “That’s an order, soldier.”
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