This is a short piece of fiction which was originally aired on 600 Second Saga on April 1st, 2016.
“He scores – never had we seen such dedication in a glide-kickball carrier.” announced the commentator as the curved screen of my wrist-comm replayed the scene from last night’s game.
A mechanical buzzing brought me back to the real world. Pausing the game, I shifted my focus to the antiquated panel as my access was granted, and the large protective locks withdrawn. Because I was used to the speed of the modern world, having to wait for these ancient locks made me impatient.
The large, rusty door slowly rotated open, revealing a dark corridor. I stepped in, wrinkling my nose at the musty air. Immediately the radiation sensors in my wrist-comm started clicking, but not at a dangerous level. Not yet. The sleeping carrier of death had not broken in its torpor.
Activating my suit light, I entered the building, following the indicator on the map. The clean crisp lines on the display had very little bearing on the debris-strewn, paint-peeling, musty hall. Ducking to avoid the wires and broken parts of the ceiling, I walked deeper into the belly of the sleeping leviathan.
The noxious air grew stronger so I raised my breather; the soft formed plastic cupped my face to let me breathe fresh, purified air. Good thing, as my wrist flashed ‘Toxins detected. Please put your breather on.’
“I already have, buddy.” I said to my computer. The computer didn’t respond. Most people used their AI as a constant companion; however, I prefered the solitude. I prefered when my computer didn’t talk back to me.
The winding passageways lead to another door. After powering up the electronics with a by-pass, the old-fashioned access card was accepted.
As the door started to open, the faint ticks of the radiation spiked upwards. Lit only by the glow of my suit, was the final target.
“Look at you, old boy. Time to put you to sleep.” I said to the ancient phallic symbol of paranoia.
I looked over the edge, but the glow of my suit only extended a few meters. Carefully picking my way to the side-keeping a firm grip on the railing-I made my way down to the sleeping harbinger of death. At the bottom another secured door, even more rusted, permitted me access.
The air was hazy and still. I imagined I could smell the decades old air through the filters of the respirator. I stepped down into the hallway, and my boots disappeared into the reflective still pool of what I hoped was only water and not some toxic or corrosive chemical. Following the glowing map, I picked my way down the hallways, leaving wakes in the water as I walked. Doorways on either side lead to unused bunks and dark kitchens, their doors long rusted to pieces. I presumed the source of the moisture would be the water storage and treatment tanks – long since rusted through.
Nearly at my destination, but the last door wouldn’t open. Picking up a nearby pipe, I managed to pry the door open.
Inside I was impressed that some of the indicators were still faintly glowing. The launch code-manuals were strewn about – ink long bled into unintelligibility.
I removed my wrist-comm and set it down. I threaded a power lead into the panel. Power flowed through the ancient hardware, bringing the panels and old screens to life. Ancient redundancy logic-banks – precursors to the digital intelligences I carried in my wrist-comm – started running their decades long routines.
Leaving my wrist-comm to interface with the mainframe, I turned my attention to the launch keys. I fished out some nanoforge keys from my equipment belt. While the programmable metal started to reshape the keys into a set which would work in the locks, I had time to catch the end of my kickball game.
Ancient routines came to operational life.
Initial authentications codes accepted.
Permission to launch required additional validation from central command.
The mainframe reached out through the archaic telephone wires for NORAD Command.
The computer had no way to know that NORAD had been decommissioned decades earlier.
Ancient subroutines started to search for alternate solutions. It reached out for SatComm Command.
Naval Intelligence Central.
The mainframe was required to launch if it did not get a response – searching for any branch of the military which could authenticate the launch codes.
Strategic Overland Nexus. No answer.
The Pentagon. No answer.
The White House. No answer.
No answer. No answer. No answer.
The mainframe concluded its algorithm. There was only one final step.
The mainframe was alone. It could only rely on its internal programming.
I typed in commands to disable the launch circuits, I said to myself “Okay, I need just to unlock the silo, and then the teams can get to work removing your little prize.” I took the nanoforge keys and pressed them into the locks. The keys fit the locks perfectly, and signalled my wrist-comm their ready-state.
“And I earn my pay.” I activated the keys using my comm. Outside, the large blast doors spread like a flower.
I moved to type in the final commands, but something was wrong. The computer screen was now working on its own.
Safety Interlock Disabled.
I pressed the large Abort button. My heart was racing.
Abort locked out came the reply on the computer.
I pulled out the nanokeys, and yanked the power cord. As the screen flickered off, the last message displayed was Changes Locked Out.
I stepped back, aghast at what I had done. The thick walls reduced the launch to a low rumble which shook the walls. I fell to my knees.
“I couldn’t stop it.” I looked at my hands which had triggered the end of the world we once knew.