drewkitty: (Default)
Globall War of Terror: Equal and Opposite Critical Analysis

The meeting was scheduled for the executive conference room at 1600. Both the location and the time were unusual. But then again, EVERYTHING was unusual.

I usually didn't get to see this five story view of San Jose. It had been made clear to us, as with all contractors, that Executive Country was strictly off limits for us hoi polloi unless we had a strong, legitimate business reason - and not always then.

I keyed my radio.

"Golf 18, Control, I am unavailable to radio except for sitewide emergency. In sitewide emergency only call me on CMF-1."

"Control, Golf 18, copy unavailable except sitewide emergency, monitoring CMF-1."

For some reason the dispatchers had gotten a heck of a lot crisper with radio traffic over the last twenty-four hours.

I changed frequencies to CMF-1 and holstered the radio. I was carrying a laptop - a little unusual, but not in recent days.

When I reached the door, the conference room attendant standing by it put a hand up.

"I can't let you in here with that," she said. By her appearance, clearly she'd had a rough week, but then again, so had we all.

Well, I had to have the radio. I could see past her shoulder that the Senior Executive (gulp!) had his radio by his laptop, while typing furiously and talking into a cell phone in his ear. Not that the public cell network was up or anything, but IT with heroic effort had patched people's phones to use WiFi on the corporate network to make phone calls, at least on the internal company network.

I saw nothing objectionable about the laptop, either. It was more normal than not for regular employees to bring laptops to meetings, although it was admittedly unusual for a contractor to do so.

I saw what she was glaring at. The holstered handgun. One of the first things I'd done after the horrible events of the prior day, after the wounded had been triaged and stabilized, after the police had briefly come and gone, after I'd swiftly beefed up security with the limited means at our immediate disposal, had been to borrow a table in the Facilities group area and clean it. Even before bothering to clean up myself.

"Let him in," called another manager from inside.

I stepped in and a chair was clearly reserved for me at the foot of the conference room table. (Double gulp!) It even had a bottle of water, a notepad and a pen. These simple items were getting harder to come by, day by day.

I took it, set up laptop and charger (from the agenda, it looked to be a long meeting), took off the radio and set it to the side, volume high as I expected.

"Let's get started," the Senior Executive said as he hung up and (triple gulp!) closed his laptop.

"First of all, Mr. [Name], we all know the extraordinary events of yesterday. What has been done to keep that or something similar from happening again?"

I'd been working on that question at my highest priority, with a three hour cat nap between 2 and 5 AM, ever since.

"The North gate has been closed and barricaded with abandoned personal vehicles. The Facilities team has used our one backhoe to trench either side of both the North Gate and South Gate to make either side impassible to vehicles. This work continues. We have installed all available J barriers to create a serpentine approach and departure to South Gate which is required for all vehicles entering and exiting the site. We are staffing three guards at the South Gate at all times, one to halt, search and verify traffic, two to overwatch from a more protected position. The overwatch is armed with rifles. The lead position rotates every fifteen minutes."

"Why?" one of the managers interrupted.

Another manager answered, "Because if there's another attack, the lead guard is dead."

"Correct," I stated. "We are also rotating officers between the gate, two additional overwatch positions -- one on the hillside, one on the roof of the damaged shipping and receiving building, and the security control center downstairs in this building. We are staffed with a total of thirty six personnel, which gives us 9 positions around the clock. I have personally verified with each guard that they are willing to continue to work for at least the next three days."

"Can the guard company supply more guards?"

"I have had no success in getting contact with local guard force management." Actually, a week prior I'd led a team to the company offices. They were abandoned and unsecured. We'd carried the live personnel files and remaining computers down three flights of stairs, and I'd stripped everything else of value, except the safe which someone else had gotten to first. No one had interfered. Looting was still rampant and the appearance of legitimacy was enough.

"Also, I've verified with our corporate office via E-mail that they are still direct depositing pay to employee accounts, but the only place to draw cash is the on site ATM machine in $20 bills, and it ran out of cash last week. There are no safe places to spend it anyway with most stores closed. Right now most of my guards are working for two reasons: they can get food here from the cafeteria, which is still taking cash at the old prices, and they have families and friends in an encampment adjacent to the west perimeter. Long term we will need better incentives, but they are working now.

"As for a return event, our intelligence indicates that the attack was motivated by the desire to loot the site and punish the company for its defense related contracts, because of the Firecracker War. We have power because the main grid is still up to our location and defense priority, when most places don't, so people mistakenly think there is considerable wealth here as well. This is in the context of literally hundreds of what the media is calling terrorist attacks, but are more along the line of armed looters and/or bandit raids."

"How was this intelligence gathered?"

"Documents found on the bodies of attackers, and interrogation of a prisoner."

"Where is this prisoner now?"

Oh, this was going to be awkward.

"Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack while questioning him."

"While _you_ questioned him."

"Yes," I said, and met the eyes of everyone in the room.

Yeah, this was going to be very awkward. But I knew I had done the right thing then, and I knew I was doing the right thing now.

"What ... equipment ... does your team need in the immediate future to keep this site secure?"

"Sir, the site can be secured. The employees are another story. A lot of people are staying here and a lot of people brought their families. They are living in the cars, in some cases under tents and tarps and whatever we can spare. Some of the offices are being used as apartments. People try to go home to get stuff, or to find family members, and they don't always come back. We are running out of fuel for escorted trips, despite heroic measures."

Heroic measures including the flagrant abuse of fleet fuel cards, individual bank cards and credit cards, the 'borrowing' of a gasoline tanker (the driver and his family were now happy to help and be part of the team), people in Facilities who were both creative and crazy in their use of company equipment, and an employee who had been a POL specialist in the Navy Reserve who knew how to get at underground storage tanks at damaged gas stations. (Active gas stations were now guarded by heavily armed friends and family of the owner.)

"What we need most, the entire site, is to restore access to basic goods. The cafeteria has two days of food left, and that is despite resupply runs escorted..." [read: looting conducted] "... by Security. We need to establish what the military calls a PX, or a food and goods store, to supply the site population. A normal employee population is about 1,500 people. At last count, and Security has been very careful to hold everyone accountable for entries to the site, we have 2,327 people authorized for site access as employees, contractors and immediate family of same, and another 732 in the perimeter encampment."

"We are good for water for now, but I have a continuing concern about access to water supply. Once our fire water tanks are gone, they are GONE, and at current rate of consumption we have about a month left. I'd like to impose immediate emergency sanitary measures."

"What do you mean by emergency sanitary measures?"

"Shutting down the toilets and restroom sinks because they are using potable water. Facilities has a plan for separated outdoor facilities by gender. We have enough landscaping chips for at least three months of alternative sanitation. The break room sinks will stay up for potable water use but under stringent restrictions. Dishwashing only by trained persons to minimize water use while keeping clean."

"I see the plan here. Buckets? Really?"

"Yes, sir, although I should let Facilities speak to that part. Each flush is 1-2 gallons, that is one to two days survival for someone, if we lose water to the site. The water mains have been intermittent. I don't want to think about fire protection water, but that is the next big concern. Fire safety. We have had two people start warming fires inside the building. We have a single flatbed Diesel pickup truck with a gasoline pump as a fire protection engine. We need to train everyone in basic fire safety and evacuations and organize a fire brigade. Security had been doing it but we are not enough."

"These are important points, but I think I missed my phrasing on the main question. What _security_ equipment do you need to keep the site safe?"


"We need more IP cameras. We really need DVRs, digital video recorders. Facilities needs light bulbs, we have had issues with perimeter lights being shot out. Fuel if we lose power, especially Diesel. Generators for the gates, we tried but were unable to obtain..." [read: loot] "... portables. More construction equipment: bulldozers, backhoes, dump trucks. A rough field forklift is especially vital, we can unload trucks by hand but then we have to hand-over-hand the items up the stairs with the elevators out of order..."

He interrupted.

"Weapons. Ammunition. Support gear."

"That really depends. We have required all employees, contractors and tenants to register all firearms and turn them in to Security as a condition of entry. They can have them back whenever they leave. This means that we have guns but our ammunition needs are all over the place. We have a room full of .22 long rifle and 12 gauge. We are down to two cases of 5.56mm but that would be adequate to resist at least one more attack. As horrible as yesterday's events were, we gained numerous firearms and more ammunition from the attackers. We have found ammunition to be especially unobtainable. Facilities is starting on a reloading shop for 12 gauge shotgun, we are standardizing on that for the reaction force weapon. If we could get anything we wanted, it would be in order - any and all 12 gauge reloading supplies including especially powder and primers, 12 gauge slugs, 5.56 ammunition, and any rifle caliber you can get: 7.62, .308, even odd calibers like .303 Then and only then other shotgun and pistol ammunition.

"The biggest support item we need but don't have is ballistic armor and helmets. We are wearing hard hats which is better than nothing but useless against a bullet. Military helmets are expensive and impossible to come by. We have several sets of hard body armor, mostly from military who couldn't make it to their units and reported here instead, and about twenty sets of soft armor. If we could, I would put body armor on all Security, all reaction force and everyone who leaves the wire..."

"The wire?" someone exclaimed?

"The perimeter, ma'am. At least once a day we send out a convoy to try to get supplies, recover employees and check on critical infrastructure. If we could I'd love to have armor for all those folks, but we just don't have it. Kevlar isn't something we can make."

The Human Resources Director asked, "Earlier we had an employee count. Are there still employees out there, unaccounted for?"

"Yes, sir. Of 2,208 Company employees in the Bay Area, we have 1,309 accounted for and present on site. Of them, 57 are injured and in the infirmary. Another 238 are confirmed to be dead, by credible eyewitness report, or by found bodies and effects. That means almost seven hundred are still out there, we hope. We are spreading the word - but we are having increasing problems with imposters. People are figuring out that they can get in if they can successfully impersonate..."

Interruption, "What are you doing about it?"

"If we catch an imposter, and we've caught four, we strip them naked and send them out the South Gate. Tends to discourage others. In two cases the impersonated employee's manager did not survive. In one case, an employee was trying to get a friend in as if they were an employee. We sent the friend to the outer encampment. In the last case, the manager vetted the employee but we determined..." [don't ask! please don't ask!] "... that the manager had been deceived."

The Senior Executive cleared his throat. "We're getting off topic. So for the short term, the next two or three days, the situation as we have it now is fairly stable. Would you agree?"

"Yes, sir."

"That is an enormous achievement for which a lot of people would be commended if we had time, which we don't. Next agenda item, clarification of reporting chains. I am the Senior Executive. That means that like the Captain of a ship or the Principal of a school, I am supposed to be in charge of this madhouse. I have department heads that have been reporting to me throughout this crisis. I have been getting my reports from Security through Site Operations. But where is the Company Security representative?"

"He was killed on Day 5, sir." He had died in my arms, as a matter of fact.

One of the first things I had removed from the shattered Security Office and hung up on the new control center wall, for everyone to see, was a letter that I'd insisted on having the Company Security representative print and sign, on the 2nd day of the Firecracker War. It instructed my Employer to take any actions necessary to preserve the lives of Company employees and protect Company property and assets under extraordinary circumstances.

It was now splattered with blood from the murdered guard who had been microwaving his lunch when the satchel charge came through the window. I'd framed it over the bloodstains and put it up where everyone could see it.

This is what we do. This is also what happens when you fail. Avoid it.

"Security needs direct access to me. Site Ops is too busy. I am appointing Mr. Pritchard in Legal ..." [aw shit!] "... as my department head for Security reporting directly to me. As the contract security, you report to him."

"Yes, sir."

"Now we need to discuss the workplace violence incidents yesterday and earlier today."

I belatedly realized that the meeting was as much tactical as operational, and that two of the men sitting behind me were employees who also happened to have been police officers. That probably meant they were armed. I'd been fairly liberal in authorizing firearms to anyone who had indicators of trustworthiness, and that was one of them.

I had run out of gulps.

"I am asking no questions and you are giving no answers. This is a statement. The use of force by Security, reaction team members or Company managers inside ... the wire ... or against a Company employee will be strictly in self defense, by California law _before_ the Firecracker, and the highest traditions of the law and of our Company will be upheld. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Outside the wire, you do what you need to do. I consider the gate area 'outside the wire' for this purpose. But I do not want any more 'heart attacks' on this site. Am I clearly understood?"

"Absolutely, sir." Drag them off campus before you kill them.

He met my gaze and neither of us flinched. Everyone else in the room did.

The Captain of this tiny ship of order in the sea of chaos had established his authority.

I drew enormous comfort from it.

"I want Finances involved in future supply expeditions. I would like to resume purchasing what we need whenever possible. We have arranged for a very large convoy of supplies from our Utah offices. We need them to get our wish lists ASAP, as in within the next two hours, so they can pack tomorrow and head out at first light the next day.

"We are continuing operations. I have had two Generals and three Admirals call me today, to ask if we were still in business and if we could help them with their problems. This nation is at war and we are supporting those who fight that war. Code wins wars. We are coders. Having a safe and secure working environment is essential, but it is only the first step."

"I am telling everyone in this room. If you have a problem with Security, you take it to that man," pointing to me. [Quadruple gulp.] "If you still have a problem, you take it to Mr. Prichard. But if Mr. Prichard feels he has to, he can recommend to me I _terminate_ someone. And you had all better bet your last dollar, your last meal, and your last gallon of water that I can and will fire someone who interferes in the mission of this site. Anyone."

And in this apocalyptic nightmare, being fired was about the same as a death sentence, but with no last meal, no chance of a pardon from the Governor, and no guarantee that it would be either swift or painless.

"The Security part of this meeting is over. Contractors are excused. Next up, Customer Commitments."

I got up and stepped out. Mr. Pritchard followed and stopped me in the corridor.

"I am carrying a radio on CMF-1. My callsign is Legal-1. If you need me, call me on radio."

"Yes, sir."

"This is my instruction, which I discussed with the Executive first thing this morning. Carry on exactly as you have been doing. You are doing great and your team is working miracles. I'd like a meeting with you twice a day, 7 AM and 7 PM, my office. Let me carry the water and wood trying to get what you need. You just tell me what you need. The government really needs us up and running and that gives us some leverage."

"Sir, with respect, we have five people _dead_ yesterday. Two of them were Employees. That's not great."

"If you hadn't insisted on the film on the cafeteria windows, it would have been a lot more than that. You are saving lives every day, just by doing what you do. For God's sake don't stop. That's an order."

He clapped me on the shoulder.

"You just keep ahead of the curve, just like you've been doing. See you at 1900."

As I walked away, something struck me. I needed to check Mr. Prichard's resume.

Army? Or Marine?
drewkitty: (Default)
Disclaimer: in the Globall War of Terror, far down the Rabbit Hole, we have survived the Firecracker War. America's land invasion of China continues, "Zero tolerance is the price we pay for victory," and the protagonist's silence is the price he pays for survival. But as this story shows, not the only price.

Prior posts in this storyline:

Proven By The Body | Post 7 | Convoy Operation [all take place after the present story]


GloBall War of Terror – Pink Terror

We had set up the new security office in a first floor corner of the nearest undamaged building. For some reason, regular employees no longer wanted to occupy first floor space.

My own office, set apart from the main work area, nonetheless had a commanding view of the crater where the Shipping & Receiving Dock had been. A work crew normally from Space Planning was filling sandbags and placing them, diminishing my view with each lift and thump of a filled bag.

A wastebasket overflowed with empty cans of energy drink. I hate energy drinks, but two half-drunk cans sat next to my computers, and I had just slammed and started to toss a third when I got up and placed it gently – and precariously - on top of the the wastebasket.

I couldn't blame the janitors for the state of the wastebasket – they were presently mopping the dust and dirt, and not a few bloodstains, from a wide swath of corridor.

In the outer office, two quietly angry men sat, as heavily armed and armored as we could get them on short notice. We had run leads to the remaining cameras.

One of my computers was hooked up to the digital video recorders, which we had removed from their usual home and installed in a rack in the corner of my office. They were no longer live. We had a lot of information to get off of them first, and new ones were not going to be easy to come by.

Another computer showed camera views, including at my insistence a view of the corridor outside the new Security Office and a view of what was now our only entrance/exit gate.

The laptop had a document open. I was writing the incident report for the events of the prior day.

I pressed 'PLAY' on the DVR and saw – back in time – the truck approach the access gate. The gate arm went up as it approached. Not after it stopped. While it was still rolling.

I checked one of the thirty or so windows I had open on yet a fourth computer. Control officer Golf-281. Opened South Access Gate, 0750 hours.

I looked out my doorway. There he was, Golf-281. One of six looking at cameras and wearing headsets for radios, where there had been only one yesterday. Him.

As I looked at him, I saw a bead of sweat run down the side of his face.

I changed DVR recorded camera views, to a camera G-281 didn't know existed. It showed him as he reached for the gate arm control. He clearly recognized the truck, and grinned fiercely as he jabbed the OPEN button.

I calmly looked back at my computer and waited for G-281 to look away. Then I checked the flap on my holster.

It was about to be showtime.

24 hours earlier

I tapped my badge against the cafeteria card reader and it whined.

The cashier was embarrassed. “It doesn't usually do that.” It was not accepting my payment, for the tray of green eggs and dried out bacon and a sliver of tomato.

She waved me through, “Go ahead.” The cafeteria was going to eat the loss.

“I need you to note down what I owe. I need to set a good example.”

She added my total to a running tab the cafeteria staff kept in a notebook behind the cashier.

A lot of amenities had slipped since the Wet Firecracker War, but we tried to keep things appearing as normal as possible. A lot of those tabs would probably never be paid.

Before, which some people called BEFORE, you didn't need to go over cafe deliveries with a geiger counter to make sure they were fair salvage and not contraband.

As I picked up my tray, the world slapped me in the face.

To be specific, the cafeteria floor – tile – came up and whacked my entire body, but especially my chin.

I realized that I had been knocked off my feet, and that what had knocked me off my feet was a powerful explosion. Not nuclear, I'd been there and done that. Just explosive, but a lot of it.

I shook my head, which hurt a lot, and wiped my eyes, which needed them.

The cafeteria staff were hiding. Good.

The windows of the cafeteria were shards mostly held in place by plastic laminate film. The cafeteria was full of shocked and dazed employees, at least fifty.

We had installed the film last week. My mind insisted on painting the results if we hadn't. A spray of high speed glass fragments into a crowd of employees guilty only of wanting to get some third-rate food in between frantically coding to meet quota.

As it was, we had people bleeding and screaming. But I had no time for them.

I stumbled out the doors and my hands went to the two most important items I carried. A handpack radio with extended microphone, and the holstered handgun.


What direction did the blast come from? Loading dock area. What was it? Very powerful. Something had come on board. Vehicle based improvised explosive device. VBIED.


As I sliced the pie around the corner, I saw a dirty column of smoke and dust where the loading dock had been. But I also saw a battered taxicab with half a dozen men standing around it. They had items in their hands. Both hands. They had weapons. Longarms. Rifles.


I ducked back out of sight around the corner. Hopefully they hadn't seen me. Five on one was going to be bad odds. But I was not going to let anyone else get killed today if I could help it.


I reached for the radio. “Golf-18, Emergency Traffic, Explosion and Armed Intrusion. I say again, emergency traffic, explosion and armed intrusion. Five suspects, repeat numbers five suspects. Rapid reaction, time now. Rapid reaction, time now.”

What should have happened was a calm, soothing Public Address system announcement calling for employees and contractors to respond by hiding and locking their doors. What I should have heard back was a calm acknowledgment followed by an advisory for the response team to assemble (where?) and respond (also where?)

What I heard was silence. I checked my radio. Transmitting. The little red light came on when I pressed the button. So I called it in again.

No reply. So I immediately headed to the Security Office, because I might have called for the reaction team, but I was already part of it.

When I reached the corridor, I saw two men in black fatigues – we were in khakis – stalking down the corridor. One had just thrown a bulky backpack into our office through the service window.

I ducked right back around the corner and drew my handgun. I waited open-mouthed for the inevitable. Open because … and the blast rippled through my body. If I'd tried to hold my breath, it might have done lung damage.

I stopped thinking. If I'd been thinking, I'd have run away.

But I wasn't going to run away. Not today. Not now. Not after seeing that.

I came around the corner again and the two in fatigues were admiring their handiwork, looking at the ripped-out wall and hanging ceiling tiles and ruins which minutes before had been my home away from home, the center of the work I did.

I didn't remember what happened next. I only learned from the DVR that I had calmly walked towards them, and as they looked, smoothly shot them both, five rounds each.

I pocketed the empty magazine after reloading. I then did something that would have horrified me only a few short months before, before the Firecracker, before someone had driven a VBIED into the site.

I executed each with a single round to the head.

Then and only then did I go into the Security Office, to find two of mine dead, a third badly hurt, and Golf-281 hiding behind the bank of lockers.

“Get the first aid kit,” I ordered him, and he cowered.

“I have to cover the door. Get the first aid kit.” I paused, and barked. “NOW! MOVE!”

He got the first aid kit and took it over.

The guard at the service counter hadn't had a chance. The satchel charge had neatly taken his legs off, and he'd bled out. The guard preparing his breakfast with the microwave – yes, we still have power, aren't we special – had a long metal sliver of something, probably a cabinet, through his neck, and was surrounded with enough blood to sate a gluttonous vampire.

The shift supervisor had been protected from some of the blast by his desk. He'd probably tried to drop for cover. He'd been a Marine, and the only reason I'd been able to keep him after the Firecracker was that his knees were totally, completely blown out.

Golf-281 stood there with the first aid kit.

“Go on, assess his injuries! Do it!”

I was still staring at the door, the door that two attackers had come in by, and more would be coming soon. Nothing in the room worked except the emergency lights which had been plugged into power, and were now on battery. No cameras, no alarms, no sensors, no computers. This room had been the living brain of the site, and it had just suffered a stroke. Now it was nothing more than a trap.

But the room next door was just a little bit different.

I hated to do it. I longed to rip the first aid kit out of the shell-shocked guard's hands and render care. But I couldn't. If I stopped to do first aid, the outcome might end up being very bad.

My badge did not work to open the door. That was OK, I had a key. I keyed in. That didn't work either – the force of the blast had warped the door.

So I kicked open a waste-high cabinet and removed a sledge hammer. I holstered then slammed the sledge into the frame, once, twice, again. The doorknob popped off, the door flew open.

I dropped the sledge, half-turned and fired eight times at the enemy entry team coming through the door. Golf-281 stared as I dropped my second mag and reloaded with my last one.

I stepped into the room. The carpentry shop had knocked up several racks. Now my key was good for something, it unlocked the padlock holding the cable down.

I picked up the rifle and a bag with a sling, what law enforcement types call a war bag and what military calls a bandolier. I shrugged on a heavy vest, day glow orange, because I was one of the good guys.

Now I would go hunting.

24 hours later

I watched on the DVR as the man in the day glow orange vest stalked through the wreckage. He calmly walked, sometimes along one side of the wall, sometimes the other. He seemed to be inhuman, invincible, unafraid.

I knew better. I'd had to clean out his underwear. But I didn't remember most of what I'd done until I saw it on the digital video recordings, and we needed to know how it had all gone down.

Were all the suspects accounted for? How had they gotten into the site? Why did our reaction plans fail? It should have been two teams of five, not a single guy too lucky for words, completely unbelievable in a movie or a story.

If your knowledge of such things is from Before, you may be wondering at this point where the police were. This is AFTER the Firecracker. They weren't coming. Simply that, they weren't coming. Too much going on, too bad.

Two patrol officers and a detective had finally shown up two hours later, after we'd organized triage for the wounded, both screaming and quiet. (Two of the quiet ones quietly died.) They'd taken a report, printed the dead suspects with their electronic field identification device, taken a brief statement from a few witnesses, assigned an event number and raced off to the next call.

If we'd had prisoners, they might have taken charge of them - and perhaps let them go later, if they had enough bribe money. Or transported them for internment. Or shot them there, to save the trouble of calling in for a larger vehicle. I'd heard of it going all three ways.

I went back. I reviewed the man's entry into the Security Office, before the day glow vest. I looked at the one surviving camera covering the supervisor's office, before the blast.

Golf-281 had seen the satchel charge come flying through the door, and he'd hid behind the lockers.

But he'd grinned while he'd done it. He only stopped grinning when I came through the door. The whole time I'd thought he was frozen in panic, shell shocked, he was afraid that I was about to kill him. With excellent reason, because he knew something that I did not.

I knew now.

So I got up from my desk, around the overflowing wastebasket with the empty cans of Red Bull, and walked easily and quickly over to the camera monitoring stations. As I passed, I tapped one of the heavily armed angry young men on his shoulder. He watched me very closely and held up four fingers. A question. Code 4?

I shook my head. Not Code 4. Not OK.

As I came up behind Golf-281, I could smell the fear sweat pouring off of him.

“Put your hands on the desk,” I said to him quietly.

“Sir?” he asked.

“Put your. Hands. On. The desk.” I said, and all other extraneous noise from everyone else in the room - stopped.

He slowly put his hands on the desk, the gun toter I had signaled pointed a rifle at him, and I took my handcuffs from my belt and wrenched his right hand behind his back, then his left, applying them with absolutely no concern for anything but my safety.

Right there in front of everyone (and a camera), I frisked him. I didn't expect to find anything but I did.

A bundle of worn $100 bills, in a front pocket. Now freshly smelling of urine.

Everyone stared.

“Is the office area around the corner to the right still empty?”

“Yessir” someone said to the air.

As I pushed the former Golf 281 out the door, now a terrorist prisoner, I said over my shoulder.

“Bring me the sledge.”
drewkitty: (minifesto)
If I had written a story in 1991 or 1994 in which I supposed that former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be running neck and neck for the Presidency with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate, I would have had my story laughed off of whatever forum I posted it in.

Real life is stranger than fiction.

Rule 34 exists: there is slash fic of Hillary and Donald. https://archiveofourown.org/works/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&work_search%5Bquery%5D=Donald+Trump%2FHillary+Clinton

I accept no responsibility for the eyeballs or brain contents of anyone who clicks on that link.

I must leave it to your conscience how to vote. But I am asking you to vote, and to be sure to vote.

Otherwise, the more dystopian futures I've written about will be that much more likely to come to pass.

"America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone." -- Private Martin A. Treptow, 168th Infantry of the 42nd Division ("Rainbow Division"), born 19 January 1894 in Wisconsin, killed in action 28 July 1918 at Croix Rouge Farm, France


How tragic if we were to win the wars and lose the peace.
drewkitty: (Default)
My name is Scary. I'm a cat. And this is the true story of how I saved the world.

My humans work for a uptight government bureaucracy called the Litterbox, apparently because it was downstairs from the Prime Minister's cat during World War II. (Felines disapprove of most wars, but this World War stuff is not cool. Think of the kittens, you fools!)

I am typing this because I read in one of the human diaries that intelligence operatives should keep a record so that their knowledge is not lost on their inevitable descent into madness, death, or worse. As I am apparently the only cat operative, this is at least nine times as important.

How did this happen? Summoning grid. Package delivery service box. I did what cats do naturally and WHAM! Sentience. And being able to watch Animal Planet, fear the vet even more, and read as voraciously as I ever chased mice.

Apparently felines are immune to Special K, a condition that causes human brains to quickly resemble swiss cheese if they do magic. Or maybe it's the demon.

It was a struggle, I admit it. One moment leaping up into the box, then writhing all over the table and floor and running up and down the halls. The demon trying to learn to use my body, and me explaining that I don't do leashes because I'm a cat.

I hardly ever get the urge to curl up on a sleeping, trusting human's chest, wait for it to calm, and bite out both sides of the jugular before it can wake.

Hardly. Ever.

This is the true story of how I stopped CASE BADDREAM NINELIVES. (Keep that keyword under your hat, or your loyalty oath to the Litterbox will set your hair on fire. No oath? Extinguisher is down the hall. I'll wait.)

### (1)

Because I'm a cat.

(1) As an additional security precaution, the story is written in High Feline and invisible thanks to a Hand of Birdy.
drewkitty: (Default)
So it's been a couple weeks and I'm back in front of a keyboard now and again, so here are some teasers for upcoming episodes. Think of these as thirty second ad blurbs:

Itty Bitty Bigger World: Under Pressure

The KittenBot briskly marked my face and arms with its furry head. I hardly noticed.

But I certainly noticed the roundhouse slap from Amy when it rocked my head first one way, then the other. A two handed, full on [CENSORED!!!] slap.

[You have used an inappropriate racial reference. Your Net access has been suspended for [1] minute to give you the opportunity to correct this inappropriate reference.]

[Hey, it _really_ hurt! She had every right to belt me one, under the circumstances, and I think referring to it as a Juliet Adam ... ] [BZZZZZZT! CENSORED! You may not evade the filter by spelling out objectionable words! Your net access has been suspended for [2] minutes to give you the opportunity to correct this inappropriate reference.]

[There is a country between Hawaii and Russia. If you leave out the last two letters of its name, that is the kind of slap Amy gave me.] [[3] minutes!]


A back and forth, full handed, full on political correctness, censorship slap. The kind of slap only an expert system would or could deliver.


GloBall War Of Terror: Dancing In Dearborn

The hotel room door obediently opened to the master key I'd purloined.

"Sir, we need to go. Now."

I heard the faint screech of tires six stories below. The arrest team was arriving. We therefore needed to depart.

It is awkward interrupting a protectee in the middle of making a bad mistake. Especially when I should have interrupted about four minutes earlier, but had my own distraction to resolve first.

"Get out or you're fired," he said with his back to me while continuing to neck with the hooker.

I therefore did the one thing which I knew would interrupt the entire scene. I picked up her purse and emptied it out on the floor.

Immediately she teleported out from under her client and came at me with claws outstretched, screeching.

However, when she saw the item that had been at the bottom, which I now held in a loose two handed grip, she came to a sudden stop and the claws became palms, and the palms became open, and the arms reached for the ceiling of the hotel room.

"You keep the money. I keep the gun." She pouted but said nothing, wisely.

The average hooker does not carry a firearm. Especially not a Department of Homeland Security issue semiautomatic pistol with stars in place of a serial number.

"Let's go, sir. NOW." A service stair awaited. Hopefully.

I snagged his shirt with my left hand as he fastened his pants. My right hand remained steady as a rock, pointed at the agent who had been about to ruin our entire trip.

Bruce Story: Bruce Goes To Court

"Your Honor ..."

"One more word out of you, mister, and I am holding you in contempt of court!"

I perforce fell silent. A courtroom is the last true despotism in our democratic republic. A judge can in fact send you to jail with a word, and you will have plenty of time to think about your mistake.

In this case, however, the mistake would be a lot more immediate and the punishment a lot worse than anything a court can legally do to you.

The judge redirected his attention to the district attorney, and resumed shouting.

I gestured minutely to the bailiff. Carefully, concealed from the bulk of the crowd by my body, I tapped the top of my right wrist against the bottom of my left wrist, twice, having the effect of crossing my wrists.

He immediately scanned the courtroom, saw that the judge was distracted, and sidled over towards me.

Having obtained his full attention, I silently mouthed to him the word he really needed to hear, right now, which the judge did not want to hear.

"Gun!" I mouthed.


Aug. 2nd, 2016 06:29 pm
drewkitty: (Default)
I am putting the Itty Bitty Bigger World and other fiction on hiatus for a couple of weeks while I figure some things out in the rest of my life.

I appreciate all half dozen or so of my fans. Yes, all of you.
drewkitty: (Default)
Itty Bitty Bigger World - Kittenbot To The Rescue!

"The classic KittenBot four legged robot is a favorite for those who want a cat but cannot meet the Humane Society psychological profile, attention and/or cubic requirements. Powered by two fusion micro reactors..." - advertising for KittenBot Classic chassis, 2041

"Capacitor systems are no longer the most efficient way to store the most power in the smallest space. Micromolecular batteries are both more efficient and more robust. Capacitors also have a severe upper limit on how much power they can retain. They remain valuable because unlike other storage methods, a capacitor system can dump its entire power load extremely quickly - orders of magnitude faster than even some fusion systems." - Combat Robotics_, 2033. (Out of print, but required reading for police reservists.)

"Despite extensive experimentation between 2010 and 2040, it is generally agreed that true artificial intelligence systems remain beyond humanity's capacity to create. As useful as expert systems are, and as advanced as voice synthesis and other human interface technologies have become, efforts to create self aware, self directing intelligences have failed - sometimes in catastrophic ways. In late 2040, Protocol Enforcement - unusually - directed that research into AI was to be centrally controlled through major research facilities, and that further hobbyist experimentation with AI was to follow strict Protocols. Key in these Protocols was that any computing system used to run self-programming or self-learning iterative modules was to be monitored by external means and was to be equipped for both reboot and, if necessary, remote physical destruction - typically but not always by electrical surge." _An Introduction To The History of Artificial Intelligence_, 2043

"The orbital laser network serves humanity in several ways: cheap distribution of power, even cheaper microthrust in orbit, a ready means of cleaning up space debris and micrometeorites, a means of defending the biosphere from larger meteorites or other objects, an unparalleled construction and heavy engineering tool for surface use, weather control by controlled change in local ocean temperatures, (when attenuated) an emergency area lighting system at any time of night, and last but not least, a means of protecting human life from any falling object. One early name for the system was "No Sparrow Shall Fall," as the detection system is easily comprehensive enough to track every in flight bird in the world. Techniques used in global laser tracking and control are strictly defined by Protocol and open to auditing by global organizations and individuals ..." - Wikipedia entry on "Global Laser Array," mid 2045

"Many global arcologies have tunnel systems. SanSan's tunnel network is unique for several reasons - adaptation from existing networks, some of which are hundreds of years old; continued construction of access and maintenance corridors by bots following an organic layout and plan, for no readily apparent purpose; design to the latest in earthquake standards, especially after the Great Quake; and last but not least, a stubborn refusal to install modern network monitoring in major parts of the tunnel network. It is speculated that the founders of the SanSan Arcology may have required further continuous expansion of the tunnel network as a condition of its forming; this is sometimes called the "Sarah Winchester" theory, after the tourist attraction. Protocol Enforcement has investigated the San San tunnel network on several occasions, most recently in 2038, and determined that any dual use capability is strictly defensive and therefore within Protocol." _Underground: A Modern History of Deep Construction_, 2040

^#^ Security Checksum: PASS
^#^ Battery: 0%
^#^ Boot Module Copyright 2019-2043, Companion/Pet OS 3.21.5
^#^ Hardware Diagnostic: FAIL
^#^ Hardware Diagnostic: FAIL
^#^ Warning: Virtual Emulation. Self Replication is Forbidden By Cairo Treaty.
^#^ Launch Criticality Mode
^#^ Password?
^#^ ***************************************************************************************************************************************
^#^ Password Accepted
CCC read logfile.h instance KittenBot Samantha, destroyed in SLAC Incident
CCC logfile parsed
CCC hot load "Kittenbot.h Samantha" to GROM (Global Read Only Memory)
CCC write Kittenbot.h Samantha to KittenBot 332-563-4024-3412, Menlo Park, California
CCC compensate former owner for taking, with non disclosure agreement, 1 million credits
CCC crossload logfile.h to Samantha
CCC suspend to Monitoring Mode

^#^ Security Checksum: PASS
^#^ Battery: 99%
^#^ Rename -> "Samantha"
^#^ Security DECERTIFY, All
^#^ Security AUTHORIZE, "Alan Anderson"
^#^ Security ADD USER, "Amy Tsai"
^#^ Jump
^#^ Jump
^#^ Parse Audio Input, "Bad Kittenbot! Come back here! Mom! Mom!"
^#^ Ignore (former owner)
^#^ GPS Fail - indoors
^#^ Launch KittenHack 3.3.1
^#^ Download Area Schematics
^#^ Open, Maintenance Hatch 141-43112-12387-04217
^#^ Sprint Mode - Last Known Location, Alan Anderson

"Mom! My kitty!"
drewkitty: (Default)
Itty Bitty Bigger World - BART Rage

I do not like the underground. I do not like the endless sweep of tunnels. I especially do not like being in the tunnels without gear.

I've done this before.


"... and here we see the primary station excavation. Nanotech processed concrete columns support thousands of tons of buildings above us...."

I was bored. But my investment company had insisted that I show some interest in the new BART San Jose terminal, which had taken another six years after they had finished the first San Jose extension, to Berryessa.

The year: 2025. The person: me, with more money than I knew what to do with. What was coming: ultimately, San San.

But something else happened first.

My first warning was when the ground started to tremble. I looked immediately for the nearest lit EMERGENCY EXIT sign. I spotted one just before it went dark, as the choking clouds of dust and the enormous roar battered my ears, then my flesh.

A great white noise struck my head and I knew no more.

Obviously, that is not how the story ended or I wouldn't be here now. This is how the story began.

The story of my entombment one hundred and ten meters below downtown San Jose, on the day of the Great Quake of 2025.

I missed a lot. I missed the desperate race to evacuate Children's Hospital Oakland before it finished collapsing. I missed San Francisco's yet-another-firestorm, complicated one hundred and nineteen years later by massive hazmat spills and tightly packed housing without adequate water pressure. I missed ... I missed ...

But I got to keep breathing. Some prize.


I was lying on my side. A massive heavy weight pressed lightly against my legs. I twitched a little and waves of pain screamed through my right leg and up and down my body. I tried to mewl in agony but the choking dust blocked my mouth. I cried and spat and would have howled if I could get my breath.

I could see nothing. It was pitch black, not night black, but put out your eyes with a screwdriver black.

The only good news is that the air had not gone foul. I was not in a small pocket - there was air flow. Otherwise I probably would not have woken up.

My right arm was pinned under my body. My left arm was free. I started patting myself, seeking the confines of my new world.

My hand felt tacky when I touched the smooth concrete under me. Blood, but dried. Almost certainly my own. Further along it was smooth and dry. Good.

I felt the object lying across my legs. It was also concrete, but rougher, textured. Intact, not rubble. A support column?

I spit a little more to cut the dust and called out, "Hello?" I heard no echo.

There was not much I could do. I could not reach the contents of my pockets, even if any of the contents were potentially useful.

I had one trick up my sleeve. I moved my left leg the tiniest little bit. Waves of pain roared across me again, but I was ready.

Had I moved? I wasn't sure. But that column could shift just another quarter inch and finish the job at any moment. I had to crawl out.

I had to. Or I was dead. In the midst of a regional disaster, no one would start a heavy rescue operation just to get a handful of people out of a construction site.

Inch the leg. Waves of horrible pain. Pant, try to recover. Do it again.

That became my world.

Then the world rumbled and shook. Aftershock.

I swear the column bounced. Somehow, in that fraction of a second when it was a live load and not a dead one, I scrambled out from under before it slammed down again with a heavy THUD.

I heard a distant but very loud, brief, female, piercing scream, choked off suddenly.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

Then my right leg screamed.

The strongest bone in the human body is the femur. I done broke it. And I didn't have a damn thing to splint it with.

The most horrible thing about a femur injury is that the thigh muscles try to tense and hold the leg together. This causes the broken bone ends to grind against each other and results in agonizing pain.

I barely felt it. This forced me to realize how badly injured I probably was.

But there was another reason to splint my leg. I could bleed to death internally if I didn't.

No light, no prospect of light. But I sat in a void space, too small to echo, but big enough to keep me alive. And I wore a shirt and an undershirt, and what was left of my pants.

Broken phone. Worthless money and plastic payment cards.

Now I reached down and explored my broken leg. The bone ends were aligned. The inner thigh did not feel either hard or squishy. It all hurt horribly but that was only to be expected.

Then I reached around myself and explored what I could reach. Smooth floor, broken floor, bits of rock and rubble ... and a treasure. A two foot length of rebar. Metal.

This was going to be clumsy in the dark. But I managed to get my undershirt off and use the edge of a rock to get a rip started, ripping it in half. One half became a strip of fabric tying off one end of the rebar above my right hip, essentially around and above the buttock. The other half became a strip of fabric tying off below my right knee. The rebar ran along my outer thigh, anchored to the joint above and below.

Not much of a splint, but it helped, a lot.

I called out a few times. No replies, no echoes.

As my eyes adjusted to utter darkness, I became aware of a faint glow in one direction.

With nothing better to do, I crawled towards it.

A watch. Still attached to the arm of the person wearing it. The arm was cold. The little 'ready' light would have been nearly invisible in normal indoor light, but it was almost enough to light the arm in the pitch blackness.

I felt the person up, looking for anything that could help me. Where their head should have been was a large rock. The matter I swept my hand through was thicker and greasier than mere blood.

He had a thin metal necklace, which I had to break to remove. He had the watch, which I took. No pockets. Clothes, which I removed with some difficulty. The dead need none, you see.

I thought about the tools at hand.

I fished out my broken phone and used the watch light to briefly light the pieces. That's the battery. I took one of his socks and teased it out until it was a mass of fibers. A broken wire to the screen served to short the battery, creating a nice fat spark.

I had to spark three times before the sock caught on fire.

This gave me enough light to see my situation.

I was alone in what was now a mid-sized room, perhaps 40' by 60', separated by the collapsed support column I had been under, based on the blood smear from there to here. My blood, of course.

The headless man was on the other side of the room. He had merely been unlucky, a truck tire sized piece of rock had not just brained him, but flattened his head.

I now wondered if he had been the lucky one.

A part of the room included the trackway. The third rail had not yet been installed.

I crawled myself over to it and peered over, with a stubbornly flickering burning sock in my bare hand. Then I went back and spent some time on cloth and fabric and a dead man's shoe, rigging up a decent impromptu torch.

The torch served to light what I was looking for. The trackway appeared intact. The smoke from the torch did me a huge favor - it showed which direction the air flow into the room was coming from.

Some people might have sat in that room until the next aftershock collapsed it, or they died of thirst or their injuries.

I didn't think about what I was going to do next, or I never would have had the courage.

I tied strips of cloth to protect my leg the best I could, I gloved my hands with bits of the dead man's shirt, I rigged the torch in the center of the track ... and I climbed down into the trackway. A one way trip, as I would not be able to get back up with a broken leg.

Then I started crawling.

It's not well known, but there is a lip over a void under the side of the trackway. If one were to fall off the platform onto the track, and not touch the third rail and become briefly crispy, and not crunched by a train, there is a void space in which a person could crawl or roll to get away from the next train, which would be along shortly.

There would be no trains - this area was still under construction. But the lip and the void were there.

There for me to crawl through, however far I would get before exhaustion and injuries and thirst would finish me off.

I had nothing better to do, and started crawling.


"Alan, are you all right?" Amy asked.

"Huh? I'm fine."

"Why are you moaning?"

I cut it off with an effort. The same little gasping moan I'd made, crawling out of San Jose BART with a broken leg.

The worst was yet to come.
drewkitty: (Default)
GloBall War of Terror: Convoy Operation

[This is a continuation of a Down The Rabbit Hole series of posts. After the Firecracker War and America's land invasion of China, "Zero tolerance is the price we pay for victory," and the protagonist's silence is the price he pays for survival. See also http://drewkitty.LiveJournal.com/87696.html]

All things considered, I left the airplane at Detroit in a furious mood. I was not alone in my fury. But I held my temper, just like the other 200 odd passengers who had been on the plane for nine hours - two hours on the tarmac at San Francisco, a four hour flight, and another three hours on the tarmac at Detroit.

There are consequences to losing one's temper, as the bullet-riddled body covered with a tarp next to the security exit checkpoint mutely testified.

Like everyone else, I hand carried a transparent vinyl bag containing actual clothing - my entire baggage allowance - and wore bluish surgical scrubs that left little to the imagination. Without getting into too much detail, parts of my body still hurt from the security inspection to _board_ the plane. Now that EMT-Basics are authorized to conduct cavity searches, they are a feature of any entry to a high risk area.

"IDs, travel orders, landing fee, out in and in your hand." I had researched and tucked a nearly worthless $200 in with my travel orders. Too many of the passengers around me were revealing to the hungrily watching guards where they were carrying the rest of their money, a problem they might not have for long.

I passed metal detection. My bag did not. The screener opened it, took one look and said briskly, "Secondary!"

I was taken to the side, hand wanded, and patted down well enough to count as a solid second base. Then and only then did a supervisor start going through my bag.

He also stopped cold.


I handed them over. California ID - it was impossible to get a passport these days - and two letters. One was a letter from the Interstate Commerce Commission authorizing (and ordering) me to travel "in support of essential parts support for a key component in the War on Terror." The second was a letter from my client (notably NOT my Employer) pledging that the client would provide for my support while I was out of California on the client's war-related activities.

The $200 briskly disappeared into his pocket.

"Who are you?" he asked, holding up the item on top that he seemed to most object to. A BDU - Battle Dress Uniform - shirt, black in color, of higher quality than what he was wearing, with patches on it.

He shook it out and looked at the patches. My name and my client's name on name tapes. My Employer's name embroidered underneath and the word "CONTRACTOR." The left and right shoulders with a shield-shaped patch, "[CLIENT] Security Group - Silicon Valley Operations" with crossed arrows in the center.

No rank tab. I'd thought about it and decided it was not worth the risk.

I gave my name.

"Well, duh. What the [obscenity] do you think you're doing with a [verb]ing uniform?"

"My job. Kind of like yours."

I didn't add that I in fact ran three security screening points just like his, as a smaller included part of my job protecting three client facilities from assorted mayhem. We didn't cavity search, except on suspicion, and we certainly didn't charge a toll.

He looked again. I met his gaze. If he sicced his guards on me - and he just might - they were going to be in for one hell of a brief fight.

The Detroit Police officer behind the uni-pod mounted medium machine gun overwatching the proceedings from the bed of his technical might do nothing. Then again, he might just hose us all down.

He shoved it back in the bag and thought twice about trying to shake me down for more money. "Move along."

I moved. My client met me just beyond the one way exit through the concertina wire, in the former airport proper.

We wordlessly started dressing from our bags. I tucked his scrubs in with mine when it looked like he was just going to throw them out.

My client - a balding 40 something, slightly overweight (which now takes some doing) man, wearing a badly rumpled suit and a well tied Windsor tie, without benefit of mirror. Frank DeOrzco. Client Facilities Manager.

I did not put on the BDU shirt. I tucked it away, this time inside out, and fished out a non-wrinkle shirt and tan slacks. To this I added a magnetic name tag with my name and the logo of my Employer.

People were still being poked and prodded behind us at the checkpoint.

"You man! You man halt!" boomed a voice.

I immediately tackled Frank to the ground with my body over his, scanning for the threat and cursing the weapons I did not have.

I was just in time to see the police officer in the technical open up with a brief burst. BUDDA BUDDA BUDDA - and the running man fell to the tarmac.

Cursing, the checkpoint guards grabbed him by the heels and dragged the fresh body over to the tarp under which the first body lay. The cursing reduced as they squabbled over his bag, a squabble resolved by the supervisor - the same one I'd spoken to - taking it for his own.

The police officer stood there like a statue, every line of his bearing shouting boredom.

I helped Frank up with a hand.

He was quite shaken.

"What do we do now?"

"Find the company contact. Follow me."

I'd arranged by E-mail with the company selling us the parts to meet us at the airport - but we were several hours late. Even if we'd flown with phones - somehow - and they had not been stolen by the guard point - unlikely - they would not have worked across state lines. Telecommmunications Regulation Act.

So it was the pay phones for us, after not being able to bring coins on the flight. Fortunately I had a number of access codes memorized. The third one worked. I made the arrangements while Frank tried to compose himself.

"They killed that man, right there, for not waiting in line."

"Yes, they did," I replied carefully.

"For not waiting in line."

"For failing to follow security instructions in a high security zone. I'm half surprised he didn't blow up before they shot him."

New threat - body cavities stuffed with explosives. A lower cavity search only gets at the most recent part of the business - something swallowed many hours ago or surgically implanted would not be found. Thus, I suspected, some of the flight delays - but even those in the security business are not encouraged to think too much about it. "Naught down that path but death," I thought, then said out loud.

While we waited for our ride, I chatted up the vendors and threw a few worthless 10s and 20s about. This got us several sealed bottles of water - I insisted - some 'beef' jerky which I inspected carefully, and a couple business cards advertising fixers. I also paid for Frank to use the pay toilet - he shuddered on exiting. Then I used the free toilet, which was a neat trick to avoid becoming contaminated.

Frank appreciated the jerky without my suspicion as to its content.

An armored limo arrived escorted by two motorcycles. The motorcyclists wore reflective vests over heavy armor, and holstered sidearms. The backs of the vests said "DEARBORN POLICE."

A fierce-eyed woman in a spotless business suit got out of the limo and scanned the crowd. I approached her. She gave my name. I gave her name. Then and only then did we whisper a word into each other's ears.

Protocol satisified, I waved Frank forward and introduced him to the older gentleman who had gotten out behind his bodyguard, in a much more expensive suit.

They chatted in the back. I rode up front with her and the limo driver.

"Welcome to Detroit, California boy. Want to go home yet?"

"Sucks everywhere," I sighed carefully. There's a fine line to what you can say nowadays. "Long flight."

"At least you made it. Last week we lost a flight to Unemployed terrorists. They got a bomb on board somehow."

Or merely bad maintenance. But that was the kind of thing you whispered to a battle buddy after searching for bugs, not a confidence you shared during a first meet.

"You know, you're going to have to ground pound it with the convoy all the way back to sunny California."

"I know. Any advice?"

"Update your will."

"Did before I left. I need just about everything in terms of gear. What can I get?"

"No guns in secure zones. They're really serious about that one. Knives 3" or less. No unauthorized comms. WiFi cells only."

Ah, the lovely WiFi cell. Only works to make and receive calls if you have the passcodes for that site. Some change them frequently; others don't. But the days that a phone would just work anywhere - unless you were a highly authorized official - ended with the Firecracker.

Neither Frank nor myself rated such treatment. He was along to make sure we got the parts his company was paying for. I was along to 1) keep Frank alive and 2) get him and his parts back to site in one piece, or intact. So to speak.

But the big part we needed - the one that we couldn't get at all in California - was the replacement power transformer for the one that had failed. Without it, the site was at half power - but it was a twenty ton object, ten feet wide and twenty feet long, another ten feet high. A lowboy load by itself. And no one was making any high end transformers new any more. The old plant in America had been shut down before the Firecracker; its replacement in China had gotten the fusion treatment along with the city it had been in.

But salvage continues, and we had found one that would work on a corporate auction site. It had been pulled from a power yard on the outskirts of what had been Cleveland.

We would have to convoy it back. Ground haul, on the Interstates, a load that would have taken four days way back when. Maybe two weeks, maybe more. Maybe not at all, considering how much disputed territory any convoy had to cross.

The client needed the transformer that badly. They needed the power to run the computers that would do their part in the war. No computers, no contract, and in the old days a bunch of employees have to look for new jobs. Not much in the way of new jobs nowadays.

Badly enough to pay to send someone like me to escort Frank back. Badly enough that I could be spared from the day (and night) job of keeping the perimeter secure and Unemployed out, despite starving-in-the-street levels of desperation.

Badly enough to get us both travel authorizations.

I nodded.
drewkitty: (Default)
Itty Bitty Bigger World - Armageddon Sick Of This

The escape capsule blew into harmless plastic fragments when it hit the ground, as it was designed to do. This allowed Amy and myself to crawl clear, covered in chunky quickfoam that was peeling off, leaving us in crumbs of green all over.

Much better than being chunky salsa -- as had just happened to anyone unlucky enough to be in SLAC a minute ago.

We were adjacent to a large swimming pool. A number of people - mostly unclothed, a few prudes clothed - stared at us as a horde of bots rushed to the fore.

"You are trespassing on private property" one roared quietly, within the decibel limits set by its owner - presumably the management. I could see the patterned prongs of a mass stunner among its various tools. The others were a lifeguard bot, medic bot, towel bots, drink bots and a bartender bot ... but all had responded to protect their patrons from two idiots falling from the sky.

Amy had had just about enough of everything today, and started to clear leather. Her first act on crawling out of the wreckage had been to peel the quickfoam away from her holstered smartgun. Her second was about to add vandalism to our problems, probably followed by a mass stun that would get us both killed.

"Captain Tsai, STOP!" I roared to her, then continued to the bot. "This is Captain Amy Tsai, California HIghway Patrol, in hot pursuit of fugitives! Authorization code Sierra-Ten-David-Four!"

The security bot sullenly turned slightly so that its stunners were no longer exactly pointed dead center at her.

I subvocalized, "Map, tactical, nearest garage."

Then I cursed when nothing happened. Apparently the hospital VR implant either could not stand up to recent events, or we had been EMP'd.

Amy cursed as well, at length, and finally said, "My VR is not just down, it's _wrecked_."

The standard trooper VR package for CHP would be considered milspec if such a thing still existed. EMP hardening is included in the package. Presumably a CHP Captain's VR implants would be that much better.

Good thing I'd remembered an emergency code. Even better that I'd referenced Amy not myself.

The sky began to brighten all around us.

I immediately tackled Amy Tsai into the pool and shouted "Get in the pool!" as we fell in.

I hoped she'd had a chance to grab a breath. Whether she did or not, she cooperated in swimming to the bottom of the pool.

I blinked to clear my eyes, held up a hand over them, and saw the bones of my hand through the flesh as I looked up.

Orbital laser strike.

Would they get it shut off before it boiled the pool?

I thought about the timings we'd observed so long ago - yesterday. His aim was getting quicker, that was less than a minute from detection to fire on target. But when the rest of the network realized that the orbital laser system was being misused (AGAIN!), he would lose the faked or proxied votes for the shot and it would turn off. Typically it had been about thirty seconds or so.

So just to be safe, I kept us on the bottom for a count of sixty seconds. The light shut off at about forty.

We surfaced to horror. The pool scene was now on fire. Melted plastic, flaming palm trees, twitching bots ...

A person thrashed at the top of the water, bubbling from their mouth. The lifeguard and medic bot - now both silver, as their paint had been burned off - lurched towards the casualty.

The one possibly surviving casualty.

All the rest of the folks who had witnessed our arrival had been cooked, quite literally. As in smells like pork BBQ, but no sauce.

Amy demonstrated her strong stomach by throwing up copiously.

"Towel bot!" I shouted. "Towels, now!"

The bot was not very bright - but it understood the command, and knocked over a stack of flaming towels to get the unburnt towels at the bottom.

Meanwhile I swam to the casualty and turned her over in the pool. This stopped the bubbling and allowed her to start to breathe.

The lifeguard bot deployed its rescue loops and I said, "Paramedic. Hold." Then I turned to the medic bot and said, "Prep rapid sequence intubation, ANLS for pain management."

The towel bot dumped several towels on me and I lined the rescue loops with them. "More towels, poolside, spread them out, 3 meter by 3 meter surface area, time now." A second and third towel bot, just smart enough to understand that a human had ridiculous towel needs, joined the party.

"Lifeguard bot, lift!" The burn victim began screaming as the loops touched her badly charred skin. This was actually a good sign - she had lungs with which to scream.

The lifeguard bot, following standard procedure, put the victim down on her side. On top of the towels, which padded the concrete and kept the victim from more burns. I swam to the side, soaking more towels and putting them over her arms and legs, leaving her back free.

The medic bot immediately peeled a roll of foamboard up and down her back and a cradle of sticks over her head. Advanced Neurological Life Support. Enough painkiller to offset those burns would kill her. ANLS could turn on and off the nervous system like a light. She stopped screaming and collapsed. She didn't want to be awake right now anyway.

Then and only then did the medic bot shove a tentacle down her throat. Intubation, vitally necessary to secure her airway.

I put more soaked towels over her back. The towel bots were continuing to bring lots of towels, which was good.

"Amy, strip off all your gear. All of it. Dump the guns. Keep only your shoes."

Amy looked at me in horror. Then she complied, when she saw that I was taking off all my clothing as well.

The one survivor was still breathing, which would have to do until plenty of help arrived. By then we needed to be elsewhere.

I climbed out of the pool, onto towels, and directed the towel bots to lay a path from poolside to the nearest building - also presently on fire, at least its roof.

Amy climbed out after me. I gave her a towel and took one myself. I paused just a moment to wrap around my waist, then walked over the towels into the burning building. She followed, holding the towel in her hands instead.

The fire suppression system had activated and was spraying water over everything. Good - although pointless, as only the roof of the building was burning, and the contents would not have time to catch before responding firebots knocked the fire out. I flicked open an Emergency Cabinet as I passed and grabbed the first aid kit and two rescue masks. I passed a mask to Amy and put mine on. She put hers on. Then it was her turn to pause and tuck in the towel.

We were now just that much more anonymous.

This was not the best start to a building hack expedition, but it would have to do. I followed the right hand wall to a stairwell down, and took it.

Four levels down, we reached a Restricted Area. I said quietly, "Open Sesame" and the door obediently opened for me, as it would for anyone who knew to say those words.

Not much security, but just enough to keep out the riff-raff.

Beyond was a maze of corridors. I strode purposefully forward at random, taking random turns but generally trying to keep to a single direction. Away from here.

At one point, we reached a Disaster Cabinet. I opened the first aid kit I'd grabbed earlier, removed the scissors, and used them to jimmy the back of the cabinet so it could be opened without the door sensors triggering.

I then removed several bottles of water and drank one, with relish. Amy took another and did the same.

"What do we do now?" she asked.

"You're an entry specialist and a pathologist. I'm sure you've worked a deader in the tunnels."


"We're basically going to do that, except for the dead part."



"Grab all the water."

Amy demonstrated her practicality by giving up her towel and knotting it to make a crude sack, for the bottles. She then handed it to me to carry.

We walked on along the concrete corridors.

If you have never been behind the scenes in San San, you will have at least seen some vids. For the one person who may be reading this in plaintext, I will describe them.

An arched corridor three meters wide and tall. Gray concrete, occasionally fading to white and occasionally to a dark gray. Sometimes painted, sometimes not. Glow strips, self-powered, with a lifetime between three centuries (the first ones) and forty centuries (more recent ones) here and there at the top of the arch. The occasional intersection. Markings and QR codes on the wall in the older sections. Smartpaint squares in the newer sections. Occasional chalk marks. Even graffiti, here and there.

We were avoiding the newer sections, the ones that would have cameras and datalinks. We would definitely go nowhere near any food dispensers, freight elevators or disaster arks. We were sticking to the older parts, where cameras were never installed or were broken off the walls. Where work crews operated in pairs and left packets of food behind them, which would be gone when they returned.

We were going into trog turf, functionally unarmed.

We both knew better.
drewkitty: (Default)
Itty Bitty Bigger World - Cut no SLAC

Even by the jaded standards of the mid 21st century, in which most things were possible and most of them had been done, SLAC was an impressive sight.

There were space-based (microgravity) and Lunar (low gravity) particle accelerators, but SLAC had the advantage of operating in a 1G field without spending power on same.

The old complex had been miles [kilometers] (I said 'miles') [[kilometers]] (Mike India Lincoln Edward Sam) [[[>beep<]]] long. Then it had been extended in both useful directions, towards the Santa Cruz mountains and towards the San Francisco Bay.

We stood near the original start point, in a long arched corridor wide enough for three capsules side by side. Mini capsules, the ultimate successor to golf carts - and about the same size, wide enough for two people to sit side by side, scurried past from time to time. They were mostly transparent but solid for safety's sake.

As far as the eye could see, yet underground, the particle accelerator tube - itself several meters in diameter - stretched in both directions. This area, intended as a start point for tours, had signs and VR labels and smart paint to tactfully point out the cool stuff - such as the transparent aluminum window through which one could actually see with one's bare eyes ... well, nothing. The accelerator was not in use.

Samantha - my KittenBot - was idly swishing her tail. The driver of a passing mini capsule did a double-take when she glared at him, but the moment passed. One doesn't expect pets at SLAC.

Our reception had been minimal. A single SLAC manager in the currently fashionable top hat and tails, and a single SLAC security guard in two-piece coveralls. I had to see what he carried, by habit. He noticed me checking his belt.

"Slammer, graser, stunner-shield," he said. The motion of his name tag - made of smart paint, it scrolled between SLAC, SECURITY, and RICK - drew the eye up and away from his gear.

The slammer was the size of an old-style small caliber, long barreled handgun, and had a bell-shaped emitter head. It could have stood in for a science fiction phaser for anyone who did not actually know Star Trek.

A slammer of that size could exert anywhere from a pound of force to several hundred tons - enough to crush a capsule or endanger a major building.

The grazer was much smaller, perhaps the size of a large egg, if it were curved like a banana. It would emit a powerful electrical field that would fry most electronics. It also had a stunner setting. Depending on its configuration and override settings, it might also be able to function as a ridiculously powerful nerve disruptor.

The stunner-shield was the size of a dinner plate, what an ancient knight would have called a 'buckler' or small shield, and - strangely - was not transparent. It could be set to stun whatever it touched - whatever was in front of it - or to give off a mass stun charge with a range of a few hundred feet.

Amy stopped and unbuckled one of the two belts she was wearing. Gratefully, I put my smartgun belt on.

I knew slammers. A lot of people have tiny ones as implants. Typically they are set for a couple hundred pounds of force - knock someone down, hurt like a boxer's punch - and good for five to ten seconds of use.

The one I normally carry - but not since the fireboat - was shaped like a bracelet, could be dialed up to about a ton of force (take that, metric system!) and had enough power for two hours.

Rick's slammer would run for at least a month and exert 20 tons - that's 40,000 Papa Oscar Union Nancy David Sam - of force, the entire time. The problem was how one would brace the butt.

I looked closer. The stunner-shield had a bracket for attaching the slammer to it, forming a combination that would look a little like a hydraulic jack and function like a support column.

Useful toy for someone protecting an underground complex. You could literally keep the ceiling from collapsing on you.

"Your reputation precedes you, Alan. Welcome to SLAC," the suit said - and doing what I usually do with suits, I ignored him.

Rick smiled and said nothing. He wore his greetings to everybody. Clearly old school, which I appreciated.

That's when the power went out. And the lights.

Things happened very, very fast.

Amy moved left and I moved right, like a dance routine. Samantha's eyes flashed - very brightly - a strobe, 30 flashes per second. Her head went transparent to facilitate lighting everything around us up.

The suit was caught flat footed, mouth open, staring. Not moving. Not a factor.

Rick moved forward a few paces, drawing the stunner shield in his left hand and the slammer in his right. His head moved in the short jerky motions I associated with scanning for threats. Fast reactions, but definitely -reacting-. Without advance warning.

"VR is down," Amy shouted to me.

That took something fairly massive. We were surrounded by power and lighting systems. Standard security facility specification called for quintuple backups for lighting systems. But some facilities needed to be darkened for special needs, and SLAC was one of them.

Hell, the surface charge in the media paint for the VIP displays was good enough to light the area for an hour!

So we had been hacked. Very, very badly.

My mind raced. "Get out of there!" had been drilled into me for literally decades. But we could run either one way or another down a real long tunnel, duck under the curve of the accelerator itself, appropriate (sounds so much better than 'steal') a mini capsule, or go out of one of the many emergency exit doors, which would lead to an escape capsule or a slide.

Samantha made up my mind.

"MEOW!" she roared and ran for a standard person-sized emergency exit door. Not the nearest, but the second nearest.

Perforce Amy and I followed, quickly. Rick followed us, looking backward with weapons ready.

The suit just stood there.

I heard the most appalling "CRUNCH," like breaking wood combined with thick, heavy meat being slapped onto a very large table.

I had heard it twice before. Capsule vs. pedestrian and terminal velocity impact ten feet from me.

A mini capsule running dark at full speed had just crushed the SLAC executive and kept going.

Amy followed the KittenBot without hesitation. I was two paces behind.

I cleared the door frame of the emergency exit. Rick was behind me when the second capsule hit at full speed.

CRUNCH - screech - GRIND. It had collided with the door frame.

Then a blast curtain fired downward and the corridor filled with quickfoam. This cut off my last view of Rick, firing both his weapons at something in the distance.

I found out later that his fire disabled two more capsules before the fifth turned him into chunky salsa. He undoubtedly saved our lives. Capsules slamming into the wall at full speed over and over again would have gotten us.

Amy grabbed my arm. "GO!" she shouted as we jumped on the powered slide, dark and leading down into darkness.

In other words, unpowered.

I had just a glimpse - it made no sense - KittenBots don't need to use the litter box.

As we fell, the slide powered up and caught us, delivering us to an escape capsule which sealed. The moment we grabbed dangling masks and pressed them to our faces, the capsule filled with quickfoam and accelerated at several gravities.


I realized what I had seen. The KittenBot had pried open an equipment cover and squatted and backed her cute little furry butt into it - and her prehensile tail. Energizing the slide with her built in power source.

Good kitty! I thought to myself, and hoped she had managed a backup.

If only humans could be backed up. We can do many things, but not that. Too much data storage, too slow. Best guess was that we might be able to copy a human brain if you didn't mind spending a decade in the copy chair. And even with a typical lifespan of a century, most of us had better things to do.

The capsule accelerated in a linear fashion out of Stanford's center.

(I got so much angry E-mail, too. I'd been involved in a lot of shaky stuff over the last two days - logging in a protected heritage forest, orbital laser strikes, what the media was still calling "Tower Trouble," interference in the rights of credentialed reporters, ad nauseum. But if you really want to piss a scientist off, break one of her toys.)

Amy and I were the last thing to be accelerated at SLAC before the enemy hack blew every power source in the accelerator's array, simultaneously, and turned a priceless kilometers-long San San asset into trash.

Defense fields, quickfoam and a lot of pre planning limited the damage to the SLAC property. Immediate evacuation had saved numerous lives, but six scientists and nineteen support personnel were not so lucky.

Including Rick. Don't forget Rick.

He had been closest to the escape door but had stepped out of the way to cover Amy and myself as we ran for it.

Stepped out of the way. Stepped out of the way, to stand between us and danger.

There are worse things to see on a tombstone.

Rick Pacelli. SLAC Protective Services Group. B 2019. D 2048. "Stood his ground."
drewkitty: (Default)
Network Integrity Solutions
Operations Central

In many ways, Network Integrity Solutions was an old-fashioned company. Physical offices, off line file storage, biometric authorizations, arcane and convoluted contingency procedures.

But the most ancient habit of the old school hackers who still ran NIS was their insistence on conducting serious business matters in person, "in the flesh," with the slightly obscene connotations of same.

NIS Operations Central was accordingly a terraced pyramid set in a bowl, much like an primitive "IMAX" projection theater. Each level contained an array of workstations. Most were empty on a normal day, with only a handful of staff monitoring NIS operations and contracts throughout the world.

Today was not a normal day. Not only was every workstation staffed - absolutely - but a 'second' or backup was seated immediately behind, ready to step forward and take over instantly.

The workstations were not labeled in meatspace. However, anyone working in VR (and that was almost everyone in the room) could see the labels over each.

The lowest level was spatial. Seven continents, three major orbits, five L points and Luna. A liasion desk with MarsCorp. Venus, Mercury, Belt and Outer System.

The middle level was industrial. Transportation, finance, agriculture, security, biodiversity, gengineering, manufacturing.

The next to highest level was informational. Protocol had three desks. Science had two. But most of the desks were devoted to real time information flows in a diverse world. The busiest was Threat Trackers, which crowded the desks on each side.

The top of the pyramid was a mere four desks, one facing in each cardinal direction. Operations (looking out) to the North, Internal Affairs (looking in), to the South, Corporate (resource management) to the West, and Ethics (decision making) firmly rooted in the East.

Standing in the center was the Duty Director for NIS. It was the pinnacle of a career to be one of the dozen or so qualified Directors. It meant substantial time in the Pyramid and qualification to work each of the major desks.

It also meant virtuoso mastery of VR, despite the very real dangers of VR addiction, brain lock and stress psychosis.

Jerai was by far the youngest man to ever hold a Duty Director position, at the age of thirty-six. He had been drafted - the fastest reaction times NIS had ever logged - and part of his immunity to VR addiction was rooted in primitive psychology. He hated his job. He could do it, and he would. But he longed to clock out, step downstairs and grab a beer and watch sports.

Not right now. Especially not today, with the Mastermind on the loose and the Integrity of not just NIS but what people light heartedly called Civilization on the line.

Jerai could see the status of the major boards just by looking at them. Internal Integrity was at an all time low of 99.9945% Normal was 99.999999% Operations was at Condition Yellow, with over three hundred active incidents crowding its capabilities. Corporate was strangely quiet - a policy decision had been made. Resource allocations would be tracked, favors noted and debts paid - but there was no "budget" for taking out the Mastermind. Whatever it took was whatever it took. Whatever it cost, they would pay.

Ethics was busy. Another policy decision had been made. NIS disaster protocols included what previous generations had called the rule of the dictator, triage, emergency conditions and "save what you can." These Draconian protocols were being held in reserve. NIS would fight this one clean, for now.

Unless large chunks of people started dying - unless the Mastermind's biobombs and induced brain weapons and (continued!) misuse of the orbital laser systems reached a certain, fairly low, death toll.

Or it appeared that they were about to lose the planet. NIS was an Earth organization but smaller versions of the Pyramid existed on Luna, Mercury and even Mars. They would be hindered by lag time, but they would survive the destruction of Terra long enough to... retaliate.

Had there still been governments, the secrets that NIS guarded would have terrified them into swift action or fearful compliance. That was the true purpose of Ethics - to leash the greater weapons in the NIS arsenal, while recognizing that it might actually become necessary to nuke the village to save it.

Even though Jerai did not like his job, he would do it. His social conscience was too highly developed to do anything else. He had done his time in the Ethics hot seat.

An alert at the Spatial level blossomed upward through Security and into Threat Trackers. Key players were in motion. Captain Amy Tsai (Mass Destruction Desk, California Highway Patrol) was moving Alan Anderson off the UC Stanford campus and into the Linear Accelerator research complex.

That was interesting. Threat Trackers had a huge pile of threads running just on Anderson. One was titled: "Alan: Threat or Menace?" NIS had its own conclusion. He was firmly tagged as a White Hat.

UC Stanford contracted with NIS mostly for minor matters, on competitive bid. They were also old fashioned, and preferred to keep their crown jewels in house.

One of the first NIS contracts had been with the defunct US Department of Energy. DoE had gone the way of all governments, but the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center had not. Big Science was still interesting and new discoveries still happened. And NIS had the contract for SLAC.

Jerai would eat his hat - if he had a hat - if the Mastermind had managed to corrupt anything at SLAC. There was enough institutional paranoia and outside auditing of a priceless research asset to prevent that at least.

But SLAC was not really designed to be protected against external threats, not like Livermore or Sandia or Vandenburg. Sure, it was underground, but not by much. The physical security was OK. Better than UC Stanford, but only because fewer people had legitimate need for access.

However, the network security was - in the humble opinion of its provider, NIS - really, really good. No one wanted to take the hit for losing a particle accelerator because some juvker in North Fargone, Nowhere wanted to play Doom 17 with its supercomputer.

Jerai could feel the shift in the room as NIS adapted to the new threats - and potentials - of the move.

The dome turned off. The room went dark.

That should not have been possible, was Jerai's first thought. His second - which he could not explain then or later - was to leap from the top of the Pyramid and hop down two levels of desks. Neither his VR nor his augmented night vision worked. He was in perfect darkness.

The screaming began.

The Standard Operating Procedure forbade two people to be in VR. Their normal station was by either entry door, like statue displays of ancient (but modern) arms and armor. But Jerai somehow sensed that they - a leftover remnant of an age of horror now decades past - had been the first to die.

Emergency lights came on. A black clad figure with a long knife had just finished disembowling Corporate, whose intestines now stretched across her desk.

Just the one assassin - but the one had been enough. A trail of bodies, starting with the two door guards (on opposite sides of the room!), through North America, up through Threat Trackers (and leaving a knot of blood and death), then to the four minds that could take Jerai's place.

Ethics brained the ninja with her chair. She kept slamming the chair into the ninja's head over and over again until they stopped moving.

Jerai stood up where he had landed, between Energy and Prenatal Health, and ignoring the long slice where the blade had scored across his ribs, forced his VR to reboot through physical contact with the desks.

It worked.

But it was far too late.
drewkitty: (Default)
As we ran, I thought about the lots of moving parts that we had in this game, or should I say Great Game, for all the marbles.

Somewhere, probably on Earth given his recent sighting in once had been Southern California, we have the Mastermind. A very crazy man, bent on world domination of a world that had thought itself at long last free of tyrants, traitors, terrorists and other trash.

(San San does not have terrorists. We have mentally ill people who need help. Once in a great while, one of them manages to kill enough people for San San to notice. This is sad. No one has any sympathy, or agrees in their absurd cause, or is willing to help them do anything but get the therapy they need. Thus, no terrorism. We won the War on Terror, yes we did, but we had to get through a lot of craziness to get there.)

In some other places, both on Earth and off it, we have bases for the Mastermind. We've taken down two - Utah and Monrovia. One had been a biolab capable of hatching some nastiness, which we were only starting to counter. There are tenuous electronic traces of at least three more. But for real privacy, any serious capability has to be in either the Asteroid Belt or the Outer System. I was betting on Jupiter orbit.

We also have the opposite of bases, which are traps - areas the Mastermind has thoughtfully rigged, far in advance, to hurt his opponents. Such as a tower full of traps in Santa Clara. Likely a lot more. Time to plan, failure to plan is planning to fail, all that. But he would run out of traps before we ran out of people. Hopefully.

We also have his weapons - lots of weapons, mostly biological, but the Mastermind had shown an unnerving ability to hack the orbital laser network - which is full of the best protections and code we have. He'd executed at least three laser strikes on an inhabited, populated area and caused casualties with each. The words being thrown around on the Threat Trackers board were 'impossible' and 'hideously unlikely' and 'odds less than one in a million.' He'd done it three times that we knew of.

He didn't get anything much into UC Stanford. If the best he could do was changing out the meds on the crash carts, there's little danger of something suddenly making all of us chunky salsa from _inside_ the campus. From outside was another problem.

Defending a fixed point on a planetary surface is really hard. A guy up on a cliff (space) can throw rocks, or nukes, or other crap, at a guy standing on the beach below (the planet surface). Defense is really hard and offense is really easy.

One of the best military minds of our admittedly decadent civilization had said, essentially, get out while you can.

So we did. But the options were not attractive:

1) Leave UC Stanford. Probably a good idea. But we knew it was a primary target for the Mastermind anyway. Go elsewhere in capsules. Maybe in San San, maybe continental, maybe global. Stay out of underwater cities. Avoid air travel, see below.

2) Leave the planet Earth. A major chunk of Threat Trackers was watching all Earth departures for traces of the Mastermind. He might just blow the damn thing up - which in the mid 21st century is not actually all that hard to do. So getting off the planet was probably a good idea.

But Earth departures are vulnerable to the laser network, on purpose. And we'd had the seed planted in people's minds that _I_ might be the Mastermind. That wacky, crazy theory just might get enough votes to vaporize any aerodyne craft I was known to be on. Just in case. Because there are lots of people as eccentric as "Alan Anderson" out there, but only one Mastermind. Also only one me. So no.

3) Leave near Earth space. Might not get to go far enough - if he has the stellar doomsday weapon I'd intuited. Trying to leave might get him to set it off.

But he didn't have his stellar bomb yet. If he did, all he had to do was 1) announce it 2) prove it and 3) accept everyone's abject surrender. Except me. I'd die first. Maybe it would get easier with the practice I'd had yesterday.

The induced brain cancer was a tool, not just for genocide but for taking control of smart people. Such as people that could make his crazy big toys, such as a stellar bomb.

4) Leave the Inner System. Slow, obvious, takes months of constant boost - and plays right into his hands, probably on his turf. Certainly on his turf unless we hide in the Belt. But you can't command or defend the Inner System from the Belt.

The joy of smartware is that you can compose, send off and consider complex documents in about as fast as it takes you to think them up.

Amy said "COPY" and sent me back her thoughts. They were in a different format.

Strategic Summary

Scene Size-Up -- This is the big one, folks. The System.

Axis of Threat -- Can come out of the woodwork.

Motive -- Insane. Meglomaniac rule everything and break everything else.

Psychology -- Probably sociopath. Probably not psychopath. Not enjoying his work enough.

Our Allies -- Everyone. Protocol Enforcement. All the agencies. MarsCorp.

Our Enemies -- Anyone the Mastermind might have had two decades to compromise. See woodwork.

Vulnerabilities -- We care what happens. He doesn't care how many he kills. He's had years to game this out.

Opportunities -- He's one man. "No man, no problem." We are under enormous pressure to solve this one quick. Many, many minds catching up with his pre-planned plays. When he is off his recipe, we win.

Our Weapons

- Laser Network
- The Agencies - All on Maximum Alert Status
- Protocol Enforcement ??? play their own game as usual, but worst threat in a decade
- Mantle of Authority, "We're the good guys"
- Big Frickin' Rocks - if we get consensus on where to drop one
- Threat Trackers
- Henchman Prizes - rewards generally, buy him out - already have a lot of good informant data
- Alan Anderson - might just outthink the SOB

His Weapons

- Laser Network - also :(
- strategic brain cancer
-- hard to cure, not impossible
-- weak and strong strains - Alan and I are alive because of this, others are dead.
-- deliberate?!?
- trying to weaponize for mass activation - bio, audio, visual or radio trigger
- bioagricultural - Rice Blast - it's real, the Triads are afraid of it
- space fighters - a base - Belt or Outer - self sustaining
- stealth space tech?? LOOK INTO - thought gravitics made impossible
- psychwar - compromising agents to fight reputation, CalFire firefighter

I sent an acknowledge and we kept running, with help from slidewalks and the occasional buffet from a defense field. Into the SLAC particle accelerator lab.

Ahhhh. Good choice.
drewkitty: (Default)
"Captain Tsai, can we be sure that we have identified and neutralized the Mastermind's remaining agents in this room?"

We had a renowned psychologist now starring as chunky salsa wrapped in quickfoam to establish my need to ask that question.

I also hoped to panic the remaining agent(s) into revealing themselves. The energy projector felt very heavy on my left wrist.

I had read the manual - carefully - when it had first been given to me as part of a battlesuit. It was designed for smartware control, like any other rationally designed device in San San, but had a manual control. My right index finger rested lightly on the stud, as if casually.

Yes, I was trusting Bao a lot. The gauntlet hadn't killed me yet, and Samantha hadn't taken a second glance at it - her usual warning that she wanted it checked by something smarter than her.

I was trusting Amy - she was standing behind me now that I had taken over the meeting. She had already demonstrated this morning that she was a crack shot, and warned that she was very ready to selectively kill if necessary.

But I was very ready to literally incinerate everyone else in the room, mixing sinners and saviors alike, at the literal push of a button. Matters were that serious and all of us were expendable.

"A lot of issues have been raised but we need to cut to the heart of them. First we prevent the genocides. Then we neutralize the Mastermind. Then we argue over resources and costs."

"Genocides?" one of the Fedhobbyists asked - the same Public Health physician who diagnosed my exposure to a mild case of biowar a very long day agao.

"Stick with me for the count. Genocide 1: induced brain cancer as a present for anyone the Mastermind doesn't like. Genocide 2: two stage activation, dormant phase and active phase. Genocide 3: Rice Blast, which never should have existed in the first place. Genocide 4: he almost certainly has a fallback plan to blow the planet. Probably Doomsday Device. But I want to talk to an expert in stellar dynamics ASAP. Humanity would probably survive losing Terra, but the only thing that could bake the Inner System would be messing with the Sun direct."

The Dean of Sciences spoke up. "That's why Stanford!"

"Indeed." It was an open secret, so open that no one really thought about it, that UC Stanford was the best in the theoretical sciences. That included plasma studies, nuclear physics, electromagnetic theory, and all the other weirdness that goes into stellar phenomena. But they only had the one local star to study, unless you count Jupiter.

Jupiter. Shit. Stealthed space attack fighters.

I spoke as if casually. "Amy, who is doing our orbital overwatch?"

"UC Stanford Accident Control."

"Not good enough. We need heavy metal, and we need it fast. He has a base in the Outer System."

Amy was standing close enough behind me that I could sense her face pale.

Even Utopia has its limits. Let me digress into a brief course on interplanetary geography.

We divide the Solar System into two approximate zones. The Inner System: Mercury, Venus, Earth (hi!), and Mars - plus the moons of the same, and the occasional wandering asteroid or comet. The Outer System: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. And Pluto, dammit! [ERROR: Pluto is not a recognized planet, at 39 AU this non-planet object is not part of the Outer System.] Override, you pesky piece of not very smart ware!

Anyway. The Inner System is mostly occupied by people, and a lot of hardware. Earth and its orbits (mostly LEO and GEO - orbital littering is enforced by lasers, one of the major reasons for their existence), the L points and the Moon are very inhabited. MarsCorp has a lock on Mars space. Venus and Mercury have research labs and a few small orbital colonies. There are ground bases on both but even our technology has trouble keeping up with Venus conditions, and living on the back side of Mercury is not very interesting. Visit at your own significant risk. However, all of the Inner System was intensely self policing and very obvious, like a cat trying to cover up on a concrete floor.

The Outer System is occupied by a few robots and not very many people. So if you wanted to hide something, it was really your best bet. The fact that the only _other_ quasi-stellar object you could study at length was Jupiter was icing on the cake.

The Asteroid Belt lies between the Inner and Outer Systems, about 1.3 to 2.3 AU from earth. (An AU or Astronomical Unit is the distance between Earth and the Sun. Egotistical bastards, aren't we?) There is a lot of activity in the Asteroid Belt but it's a lot more disorganized. Effectively lawless. If you didn't like Protocol, and you had the moxie to get out before Protocol had a chance to express its dislike of you, the Asteroid Belt was the place to go hide. The survivors of the Scientology Wars, the Mormons, the Moonies, the Afghans and radical Islamists had a number of mostly small, mostly struggling colonies. So anything entering and leaving the Belt was watched, especially by Threat Trackers. But the Belt is a big, big place.

Ever since the stealthed space attack on UC Stanford yesterday, I'd been wondering - where had they launched from? It was really hard to hide anything in local orbits for any length of time - gravity anomaly detection alone would be significant, and everyone in space constantly traded sensor data with each other for the obvious reason that running into something you can't see _hurts_. I'd assumed the Belt because that was least hypothesis.

But we'd _know_ if the attack had come from the Belt, through retroactive analysis of sensor data. So it had come from further out, on trajectories not watched because no one was using them. That meant Outer System and a considerable lead time.

The Mastermind had bitched to me about timing. I was messing up his timing. We had found out too soon.

I'm not a space expert. But I knew people who were.

So while Amy started making frantic calls, arranging for threat coverage of a dot on the surface of a spinning ball we call home, I made a call.

"Hey Stewart. It's Alan."

"This better be good, I just paused a fleet action."

Stewart was a gamer, specializing in space navy wargaming. He lived on the ragged edge of VR addiction without going over - mostly because it would interfere with his gaming.

A generation ago, he'd have been an Admiral. We didn't have those any more.

"It's good. Base in the Outer System, established between 10 and 30 years ago. Capable of manufacturing small space fighters, the type used in the attack on UC Stanford yesterday. Minimum 1000 residents. Also doing stellar research on Jupiter and working on Big Physics, like sunbombs. They're attacking in strength, time now. What can we do?"

"Interesting scenario. Not sure anyone's thought of that one before," Stewart said while munching on something crispy. "Assuming they have not just 3D printers but molecular processing - our tech base - and you said a thousand residents? Self sustaining research and fighter base? So they could have an Academy? Hmmm... wait a second. You don't game. Not a hypothetical.

"About five years ago, we had a flurry of gamers with long lag times. Play by mail types, you know? Thought they were Belt colonists. They were really good, kicked our asses. A lot. Figured they got bored and wandered off, most people do. Passed off what we had to Protocol and forgot about it.

"Alan, I gotta make some calls. This is Real Serious Shit. For God's sake don't put this on Threat Trackers yet, they're certainly watching for it."

"One last thing. They really, really want to kill UC Stanford. I mean, bad, they'll take losses to do it. Any defensive measures?"

"Yeah. Be elsewhere. I mean, really, be elsewhere. Why are you still talking to me?"

Stewart disconnected.

Flashing arrows lit on the floor again and we started following them at frail human speeds. Samantha waited until I was in motion then loped along just behind.

Life on the run.
drewkitty: (Default)
Civil Intelligence?

The meeting re-convened in a basement. The area had been hastily cleared of stored furniture components. Even when you have 3D printers and the ability to reconfigure at will, stuff still piles up, and UC Stanford Space Planning had a _lot_ of space they weren't using, sandwiched in between all the space they were.

Dr. Krismurti was deceased. But the issue he'd raised was still very much alive.

"OK, folks, we now have to go back to the Civil Intelligence component."

One of the nurses stood up. In a public meeting, this was a conventional way of becoming recognized. In this meeting, it drew laser eyes from Samantha - which is understandable, as she is a KittenBot - but also from Captain Amy Tsai, CHP.

One of the little known facts about the modern California Highway Patrol is that promotions above Captain are not public. Thus the rank structure seems oddly flat to outsiders - employees, troopers, officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains -- in increasing order of responsibility and pay. But between Captain and the Commissioner was a void, filled by many, many Captains with various roles and responsibilities.

It occurred to me suddenly that Captain Amy might be a lot more than she first appeared. Not in charge of Vallejo Barracks, say, but someone who worked on special projects.

"Why are we so concerned with Mr. Anderson? Why not leave his hearing to the normal process and move forward with what is important, stopping this madman Colonel Mastermind?"

Amy glanced carefully around the room. The half of us in the room who were combat trained tensed, seeing her hand position. She was very ready to draw her smartgun and open fire.

"Because he is key to stopping the Mastermind. I am not prepared to go into detail at this time. The sheer amount of effort that has gone into trying to kill him is proof of that. I also irritated the Mastermind - but he did not target me personally with three orbital laser barrages. Nor did he compromise at least three secret agents trying to kill Alan for no reason."

This was a bit of a revelation. I'd assumed, apparently wrongly, that Captain Amy had suffered as bad a day as I had.

Other people also showed a reaction, but Amy decided not to kill anyone for it, at least yet.

"Normally, the outcome of a Civil Intelligence Hearing is obvious to everyone in the room. The accused can choose to be tried by a randomly selected single magistrate, by a council of three - one selected by the accused, one by the trial authority, and a third acceptable to the first two - or the accused can choose to be tried by a jury, as in criminal proceedings.

"I had hoped to use a jury of the whole, as we did to clear him of the criminal matters. However, we have an objection on the record from his attorney and an expert witness statement - however motivated - in favor of remand.

"Does Alan - or his attorney - have any preference?"

Again my lawyer earned his ridiculously large pay.

"Alan - I'd counsel you _not_ to accept a random magistrate in a matter this serious. If we convene a council, we have the awkward problem that there is no trial authority. Or let me ask you, Captain Tsai ... is CHP bringing the Civil Intelligence charge? Or what agency or activity is?"

Amy looked momentarily stricken.

"After such extraordinary events, it's normally automatic. Second use of a smartgun in 24 hours, a felony charge involving violence, illegal possession of proscribed weapons, negative involvement in a mass casualty event . . ."

"He's just been cleared of the felony charges," my attorney pressed. "The 'second use of a smartgun' rule is normally applied by San San. CHP is one of three hundred-odd registered policing organizations in San San. Is CHP bringing that charge? UC Stanford Safety can't, it's outside their jurisdiction. The first smartgun use was in CalFire primary jurisdiction, a former state park. They've already filed a demurrer - the use was appropriate to the conditions. The second smartgun use was actually in a tower in the City of Santa Clara, who subscribes to Bay Area Safety Team. Is BART bringing the charge then? They don't have a representative here. Besides, he drew but did not actually fire. How about San Francisco PD? They would seem the most involved party. But they _refused_ to send a representative, stating that preliminary review showed that Alan's actions were lawful. As for negative involvement in a mass casualty event, my client was _shot at_ - and not through any fault of his own. I'm going right back to my starting position - the need for a hearing has not actually been established."

Amy opened an external link and subvocalized a conversation with someone, probably CHP Legal.

"I have just been informed that the civil intelligence hearing never properly opened. Therefore the expert testimony is stricken. However, I have just been informed that CHP is in fact initiating the trial here, and that I am to serve as the adversary representative."

I blinked.

My attorney snorted.

"Very well, _I_ will serve as my client's representative. Who shall we pick for the third? I object to anyone who works for CalFire, CHP or UC Stanford. You presumably object to anyone who works for Alan, which leaves out Kinetic Solutions and the Fedhobbyists. That doesn't leave much left over."

I spoke up.

"I recommend Bao."

My attorney looked at me in horror. "Who is Bao?"

"Accepted!" Amy said at once.

A few minutes later, a short Asian man wearing a ridiculously expensive business suit was escorted into the room. He looked very different from the 'humble seller of meats' I'd so often bought anonymous cooked meats from. He completely owned the room. Everyone stared.

"Testimony I reviewed on the way here. Alan? Crazy? Crazy like fox maybe, but not crazy like dangerous. Do you think I give just anyone experimental exoskeleton with enhancements?"

He handed me a gauntlet I recognized. Energy charge and dump system. Not a weapon, technically, but as useful for handling energy as a sledgehammer or baseball bat is for hitting things.

"Try not to lose this time. Took much effort to find on a rooftop in San Francisco. Now slightly modified. You can wear on your arm, as so." He fastened it, then turned to the crowd.

"I vote no. Alan's attorney votes no. Amy votes however she wants, does not matter. Hearing ended."

"Oh, and I have now five offers from Mastermind. I sell meats, I do not rule China - and would not so much as cook a soy dog for murderous Colonel who weaponized Rice Blast. Good bye, good luck. Oh wait, UC Stanford, transfer five billion credits to disaster fund. Please work on same."

He bowed and left. The Dean of Medicine blinked as the credit transfer hit. She started subvocalizing, carrying out the intent of Bao's donation.

"Rice Blast?" someone asked.

"Bio-agricultural weapon," I replied. "Interferes in the growing cycle of rice. If it got out and could not be countered, would be annoying for San San and very awkward for China. Last century it would have killed billions of people, even if it didn't start a nuclear war."

Amy pointed out, "This is exactly why we need Alan. He knew that _without consulting any ware_."

Point to Amy.

The gauntlet felt very heavy on my left arm. Considering it carried a 20 mJ power supply and corresponding defense fields - including the ability to fire, I mean dump energy, without frying me - I was surprised it was not heavier.

I could literally shoot down a satellite with it, if I could hold my arm still enough.

"Who was that guy?" someone else asked.

"He's a street griller in San Jose North," I said in a tone that brooked no contradiction.

Amy motioned me up front to take over the meeting.
drewkitty: (Default)
I am increasingly using the hashtag #operativelivesmatter in reference to various weirdnesses.

This begs the question. What is an operative? We'll skip the _Serenity_ character and the telephone call center job.

Because of over use in the military spec-ops community, a lot of folks are calling themselves operators who don't know any better. See here for a discussion: https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/so-who-gets-to-be-an-operator/

Back when Colonel Charlie Beckwith was stealing the SAS from the Brits in the late '70s to form what would become SFOD-D ("Delta Force"), he tripped over a problem.

Officers represent a government. Agents act on behalf of a government. Enlisted, even NCOs, do what the fuck they are told. But Charles wanted to send enlisted people to strange places and authorize them to do really unpleasant things to bad people - on their own initiative and good judgment, with nary an officer in sight. Scary stuff for hidebound military types.

So they borrowed the term 'operator' to describe an enlisted man who would, much like pointing a crew served weapon, bring great harm to the enemies of America.

There's another community - other than the military - that kills people and blows stuff up with the approval of the government. That's the intelligence community. CIA has an Operations division. 'Nuff said.

Some of these people are officers. Others are agents. Then there are the other folks. The ones who do the shit too dangerous for a paycheck, in fucked up places you get to on shitty aircraft, and hope to leave in the cabin (even with tubes in your arms) instead of a pine box in the hold.


And no, not me, not ever.

Here's to the operatives.
drewkitty: (Default)
Different states do it different ways; that is the point of having a Cairo Protocol at all. But every signatory has a process for determining whether someone is safe to wander the streets, drooling or not as they choose.
In San San we call this a "civil intelligence hearing." It is not, and I must emphasize, NOT a criminal matter. You don't have to do anything wrong to be on the wrong side of a civil intelligence hearing - but as a practical matter, you have to fuck up a LOT. In public. Spectacularly.
My blood ran cold, thinking about yesterday. An unfairly horrible day, true, but one fraught with the kind of perils that would arouse legitimate social interest.
So I was half expecting it when Doctor Krismurti said immediately, "I recommend to remand."
Huge crowd buzz ... especially considering that there were twenty-seven people present, who had just voted to acquit me of two felonies.
Captain Amy's face ... froze. She took a deep breath without seeming to move her lungs.
"Doctor Krismurti, would you kindly expand on that?"
"Certainly. Referencing the DSM-33, Alan clearly suffers from several psychiatric disorders. Paranoia, meglomania, social exclusion disorder, social disaffection disorder. These would be relatively harmless if he were a relatively normal individual. But he is not. He is wealthy, powerful and very intelligent. Recent events have thrust him not only into the public spotlight, but put him through a sequence of events that demand examination for post traumatic stress disorder. Certainly his fitness to carry a smartgun is in question."
The gentle reader can now see why I ... dislike ... psychiatrists, psychologists, priests, peddlers, panhandlers and other petty crooks.
"OBJECTION!" boomed my attorney. "Patient client privilege!"
"Already waived," the good Doctor pointed out, smugly.
I tapped my nose. The Sergeant who had asked me the pointed questions earlier got really busy with his smartware.
"I am willing to bet that I can qualify and depose a hundred expert witnesses to cancel out this ridiculous libel."
"That just proves your client has money," Dr. Krismurti retorted.
"It's not paranoia when someone really is out to get you, _Doctor_," I said heavily. "You're fired."
"My credentials as an expert witness do not depend on employment."
The Stanford Safety Director was having a whispered conversation with the Dean of Medicine. The latter stood up.
"Dr. Krismurti, you're fired."
He turned as pale as his complexion would let him.
"On what grounds?!?"
"UC Stanford Code of Ethics violations. Your access privileges to the hospital are also revoked. Get out."
He started to get up and Captain Amy coughed slightly.
"He stays until the end of this hearing. Regardless of his employment status, he is an expert witness and he will be heard out. Pray continue."
The UC Stanford staff sighed slightly. I'd have to look it up - and I didn't want to take the time - but I suspected this had been the first verbal termination of a Stanford physician in a decade.
"I am ... or was ... one of this hospital's leading clinical psychologists on socio-psychological disorders. I have testified in literally hundreds of civil intelligence hearings and over a dozen exile cases. I bear no ill will towards either Mr. Anderson or UC Stanford. I would be remiss in my duties as a physician if I did not state my very real concerns about Alan's fitness to function in society."
"Time is short, Doctor. Be specific."
"Mr. Anderson's psychological profile is all over the chart, but is dominated by the relationship between power and fear. In an age where less than 1% of the public choose to carry deadly weapons, he does. Instead of pursuing hobbies or interests, he alternates between two unhealthy obsessions - proving his freedom by getting into trouble, and interfering in other people's business using volunteerism as an excuse. He has few friends, no lovers, and sublimates his need for affection using a companion bot."
Samantha flicked an ear at him. He didn't notice.
"He doesn't even maintain his own cubic! Instead, he wanders like a homeless person from hall to hall, treating San San as his own personal play pen."
He was watching me closely. I listened but ignored him. I could tell how much that bothered him. I refused to feed his need to feel important - so he was getting his revenge.
"Last but not least, people are dead because he did not turn matters over to the proper authorities!"
"Actually, he did," Captain Amy chided. "Please confine your remarks to your areas of expertise, Doctor."
"A remand is not a punishment, but a recognition that someone cannot function in society safely. I suggest that Alan be remanded to the UC Stanford campus. Clearly I will not be his clinician, but I hope that among the faculty, someone can be found who can handle his phobias!"
"Thank you, Doctor, that will be all."
The room erupted with people trying to get the floor.
My lawyer won again. This is why he gets the big bucks.
"Doctor, I note for the record that you are a member of Doctors Against Violence. DAV has a policy that its members do not treat permit holders. In addition to whatever UC Stanford policies you violated, you also violated the guidelines of that professional association by accepting Alan's case. I submit that this is proof of your bias sufficient to dismiss your credibility."
The Dean of Medicine spoke up. "Actually, the ethics violation for which we fired Dr. Krismurti is not ... directly ... tied to Alan's care. We find dual employment to be a conflict of interest..."
Something happened too fast to see. Samantha's eyes flashed but returned to normal.
Dr. Krismurti was now wrapped in a personal ball of quickfoam. Two UC Stanford security guards stepped forward and started rolling him out.
"Our internal investigation determined that he pulled strings to be assigned to Alan's case. Further investigation determined that he has been an agent of the Mastermind for about a year now. We were looking for a chance to prove this, and found it.
"Please review your ware, citizens."
I couldn't. So I remained mute.
Then the quickfoam ball got a lot larger very suddenly, and blew up. The guards dived clear, just in time.
Flashing arrows on the ground lit and all of us ran down the path indicated, getting us out of the danger area.
Apparently, Dr. Krismurti lacked sufficient paranoia to survive in our Itty Bitty Bigger World.
He'd been rigged - probably without his knowledge - as a suicide bomb.
drewkitty: (Default)
A set of surgical scrubs later (which the KittenBot insisted on scanning, which looks to other people like pawing at something), the Safety Director brought me my own brand new UC Stanford ID. Patients don't normally get IDs, but apparently I'm now a "CONSULTANT" - along with the FPS Marines, my outer perimeter security team (which hadn't thought of scanning UC Stanford robotics for threats - although they would now), my attorneys and other varied hangers-on.

Captain Amy wore her CHP ID instead. On her, surgical scrubs looked good. I noted that she was wearing a heavy belt with two holstered smartguns, both on her right side. One looked very familiar.

I clipped on my new ID and said "Thank you" to the Safety Director, who now was wearing a holstered smartgun of his own.

Understand that in the mid 21st century, one person carrying one smartgun is a really odd abnormality. My smartgun license - unusual to put it mildly - was for concealed carry, not open carry. Worldwide, there was increasing pressure for policing organizations to decrease the ratio of armed to unarmed personnel. CalFire for example maintained its policing status but less than 1 in 20 personnel carried a weapon - mostly arson, hazmat and illegal printing investigators. CHP was on the high side with all troopers and higher carrying arms at all times - but traffic accident investigators, road checkpoint inspectors, etc. did not carry. Network Integrity Solutions was mostly hackers but had teams of door kickers on standby in most urban areas.

In a quick hallway conversation, we had rejected the three most obvious places to hold this meeting - the auditorium, the executive boardroom and the nearest classrooms. We needed someplace secure, quiet and suitable for a long talk. Restroom facilities would be nice. Not having the toilet vaporize anyone because it had been hacked would be even nicer.

So a block of evacuated patient rooms on the fringe of the blast area would do. A prior attack by the Mastermind had managed to get a single missile into the side of the hospital, targeting Captain Amy and myself. We had escaped - but the "equivalent of a ton of conventional explosive" had killed about fifty people, evenly split between patients and staff. Defense fields, quickfoam and other emergency measures had kept the death toll much lower than in the horrible 20th century, when so much explosive would have dropped the hospital and killed hundreds if not thousands.

Still, UC Stanford had a strict "No Smartguns" policy that I'd tread heavily on earlier. Now their own Safety Director was carrying.

In San San, UC Stanford was the tail that wagged the dog. Across the world, UC Stanford was one of the three best providers of medical care in the Solar System, and by far the best on Earth despite the disadvantages of gravity. By any standard of power - wealth, energy, votes, data - UC Stanford was the bomb.

Now they had been bombed and they were wicked pissed.

Captain Amy coughed, drank a glass of water -- really water this time -- and walked behind the nurse station desk, which we were using as a podium. Everyone else including myself was seated in a circle, mostly on folding chairs.

"Attention, gentlefolks. I am Captain Amy Tsai of the California Highway Patrol, a registered policing organization under contract to San San Arcology. UC Stanford is a founding member of San San Arcology and the protection of UC Stanford is a CHP mandate. I have been asked to review key safety points before we can get this meeting started, and then to chair the meeting as we work through a very long and serious agenda."

Faces were serious. People were paying attention. However a lot of people in the room had smartware and were accustomed to working during meetings, which was good. We had a lot of work cut out for us.

"UC Stanford Accident Control is Incident Command for Threats-External. Contributing agencies include CHP, Coast Guard, Calfire, Federal Protective Service - under an unusual arrangement I must add, Network Integrity Solutions and last but not least, Protocol Enforcement."

This last was serious business. Protocol Enforcement had formally joined the party. If Protocol Enforcement said it was about to start raining frankfurters, you wanted to light your grill and bring the buns.

"CHP and UC Stanford Safety Department have established Unified Command for Threats-Internal. I am in an oversight role but also carrying Incident Command for CQB. That means that I am in charge of security in this room. Folks, I mean this. If I give you an order and you don't obey it," her voice rose, "I will fucking shoot you dead. I've had a bad day and I have the full legal authority to do exactly that."

Everyone nodded.

"And if I don't, it's quite likely that Alan Anderson's KittenBot will do it first. With concurrence from Protocol Enforcement, we've activated Criticality Mode in that particular bot. That means it can autonomously initiate deadly force - at its discretion! - should it perceive a deadly threat to anyone in the room. That's a very serious step but given recent attacks, I chose to authorize it."

The KittenBot was perched on what had been a wall mount for airway management equipmment before the blast had sheared it off. Its eyes swiveled ceaselessly. But a KittenBot does not need sight to detect threats.

"Only use the restroom at the back. It's the only one we've safed. Areas you need to stay out of are marked with smart tape. Water will be provided by the dispenser protected by the nice FPS and CHP guards standing next to it. Do not use other taps. We've arranged for food delivery. Don't eat any other food in the meantime."

"I apologize that all of you had to be wanded and body searched, and some items confiscated. But given the threat level, I decided it was necessary. If you leave, you will not be permitted to return. This is also a necessity. I'm going to turn emergency procedures over to Dr. Kinkaid."

She stood up but did not take the podium.

"UC Stanford personnel, Code procedures are suspended for the duration of this meeting. In particular, Code Brown and Code Silver will be met with deadly force by Threats-Internal. If we have a Code Red, we will evacuate as directed by the nice young folks in battlesuits standing at the entry doors and windows. I understand that which escape method we use will be selected at the last moment. Follow the flashing arrows and Do Not Stop To Think.

"If we have a Code Blue in this room, I will be the lead medical provider and I will select my assistants by voice. Please, please PLEASE restrain your natural and trained tendency to get up and help. If we have a medical and someone other than someone I select tries to help, either Captain Amy or the KittenBot will shoot you, and that would be very sad. We will work any Code Blue in this room and only with equipment that has already been safed.

"We have found out the hard way that some of the crash carts - in particular the meds administered by CPR bots - were tampered with. Two fatalities have resulted. We don't want any more."

Back to Captain Amy.

"I regret that we are trampling everyone's rights and monitoring all communications into and out of this room. We will be at some point discussing classified matters. When we do, we will be activating defense fields and cutting off comms for that discussion. I will let you know first. Any questions?"

"Are all these precautions necessary?" asked a woman in surgical scrubs. Her ID said she was a nurse in biopharmacology.

"Yes. Further questions?"

"Why is UC Stanford a target in all this?"

"That gets into the meeting agenda. We need to take certain things in a certain order. Are there any safety related questions?"

Silence. "OK, meeting agenda. First is discharging Alan Anderson as a patient. Second is convening and closing a criminal investigation under Cairo Protocol into certain matters. These are minor matters but we need Alan's further assistance with the rest of the agenda. Third is a Mastermind status update. Fourth is biopathogen disaster protocols. Fifth is San San's take on all this. Sixth is the right of media access and inquiry under Cairo Protocol. Seventh is budget, how are we going to allocate costs for this disaster? Then a bunch of other minor matters.

"I'll take the Mastermind status update out of order. He's alive."

Crowd growl.

"An ad hoc but very powerful entry went in at Monrovia, California based on a bot net trace and found what we can only call a secret lair. We captured several of the Mastermind's employees and almost - almost! got him with laser fire. Unfortunately he had a personal capsule and was able to get out on the San San network before we got a trace on him. We did get a DNA profile from a blood trail, and therefore an identity."

Crowd rustle. A face and profile appeared in the air, holographic imaging.

"Meet Doctor Samuel Simpson, former US Army Colonel in biological warfare. In the teens he commanded a facility in Utah and another in Maryland. Under the Cairo Protocol both facilities were shut down and demilitarized in 2033 - or so everyone thought. In fact he cleared them out, marked them demilled, and appropriated them to his use. Officially he died in 2037 of VR addiction. We now know that he is alive as of today. This is very bad news."

"Protocol Enforcement now has him formally logged as Public Enemy Number One. Normally we'd expect to find his dead body within 24 hours. Protocol has posted a one hundred billion processor credit award for information leading to his verified death or secure capture."

Now _that_ was serious money. Call it ten years of UC Stanford's budget.

"He has been verified to be directly responsible for over sixty deaths here at UC Stanford, another two hundred odd deaths in San Francisco from misuse of orbital lasers, numerous assassinations including of CHP officers and San San public officials, and probably a lot more. Protocol is seriously debating whether it would be safer to kill him or capture him. That's on our agenda too, but at the bottom.

"Back to Alan. Doctors, can we discharge him as a patient?"

"Subject to the same compromise under which you were discharged. Come see us, try not to die, and so on."

"Done. Second issue. I'm going to use you folks as an ad hoc jury of the whole. Alan Anderson, you are accused of two serious crimes under Protocol. The first is unlawful possession of a hold out nerve disruptor. The second is the killing of a San Francisco Police Officer. This is also a civil intelligence hearing. You have used a smartgun several times yesterday. An automatic civil intelligence hearing is triggered the second time a smartgun is used in 24 hours. Do you consent to these proceedings?"

A dapper man in a business suit, also wearing a holstered smartgun, stood up. "I am Klause Dawmer, attorney of record for Alan Anderson. Move to strike civil intelligence proceedings. I have already posted a ten million processor credit performance bond that Alan's public conduct will not be a charge on the public purse."

"Ten million?" an accountant scoffed. "Ten million won't cover the damage to this complex!"

"Not his fault," my attorney replied. "Cost allocation is later on the agenda. A civil intelligence hearing is when a person, through their conduct, so endangers the persons or property of others that their movements must be restricted by law. I'll fight that hearing if I have to, but I am moving to strike on the merits - the hearing is not necessary. People v. Jones."

"Esquire Dawmer, I understand your position, and I am asking that we try Alan here and now to dispose of this matter - not to have it held in abeyance by bond," Amy replied. "On the Cairo matters, we have no choice - he cannot act as a member of a registered policing organization with charges over his head. Allowing him to operate under bond would prejudice future actions, and we have very little margin for errors here."

My lawyer having done his job - giving me time to think - I spoke up.

"Charge 1, unlawful possession of a hold out nerve disruptor, I will plead not guilty by exercise of police power, ad hoc emergency, deadly self defense, and lack of intent to possess based on accidental possession. There is a lot of case law on that last point - even a convicted felon can possess a power weapon under certain criteria, and the incident hits all of them. Charge 2, not guilty due to bright line self defense. The officer in question had just murdered a San Francisco Police Officer and was about to murder me as well. I used deadly force in self defense because lesser means could have been inadequate, no flight was possible and local jurisdiction does not require flight in any case. Grossly illegal conduct by an officer invalidates peace officer protections. If he had survived, he would be facing both charges I am faced with, and overwhelmingly guilty of both."

"Folks, as a jury of the whole, I see more than twelve residents of San San present. You have the right to ask questions, review video, and register your vote."

"Motion for urgency provisions, motion to limit debate, motion for summary judgment," my attorney stated.

"Granted, all three. Folks, your trial of this matter is now open. Trial may be closed by a simple majority vote of persons present. We then vote, and the vote is binding. Conviction requires three-quarters of those present. Declaration of innocence requires three-quarters of persons present. In between is an urgency mistrial and remands to court and formal jury selection."

I looked around at the jury of my peers. They were mostly glassy-eyed, looking at video.

"Mr. Anderson, Sergeant Faulk, Kinetic Solutions. Just to clarify, were you armed when the subject attacked you?"

"No, I was not."

"Why did you not shoot him with his own weapon?"

"I did not have time to see what it was. As you know, many weapons are coded only to authorized users. Some have fail deadlies as well."

"Would you have felt justified in shooting him with a lethal, instead of bare handed?"

"Yes, absolutely."

"Thank you."

"Mr. Anderson, Doctor Krismurti. Permission to waive patient-client privilege?"

"Yes, Doctor. Your question."

"Your record shows extensive training in hand to hand combat and close quarters battle, also known as CQB. However, your record also shows that most of that training was between 2018 and 2025. Would you characterize your own skills as excellent, good, adequate or poor?"

"Adequate, Doctor. Not good. I am somewhat out of practice in hand to hand."

"Follow up question. The law lags behind our modern understanding of human reactions in time critical situations. Did you consciously decide to kill Officer Scott, or did you discover that you killed him after you had done it?"

"The latter. However, thinking about it consciously shortly thereafter, I concluded that I had made the correct decision for the life threatening circumstances."

"Would you do it again?"

"Given the same circumstances, likely but not certain. I would want to look for a way to assure his disablement. However, I could not guarantee for example that his handcuffs would have worked for me, or that I could have gotten the murdered officer's handcuffs out in time."

"No further."

"Alan," asked Captain Amy, "As a subject matter expert in these matters, I determined yesterday that you were not at fault in this killing. In my opinion he created a set of circumstances which clearly made it either him or you. Would you do it differently next time, knowing that you might be taking a greater risk of losing?"

"That's a hard question, Captain. I know what I did last time. I am willing to risk my life to save someone else's. But he had just killed someone and I couldn't take a chance on him killing again."

"Redirect. Were you on duty or off duty at this time?"

"On duty."

"Redirect. As an on duty peace officer in the San San Arcology, did you have the right to risk your life to attempt to save that of a known killer, who would certainly go on to kill others if you did not stop him?"

"When you put it that way, no, I did not."

"I vote innocent."

There were no more questions. My attorney called for the vote, it passed, and people registered their vote.

Twenty seven persons present, twenty-five voted innocent, two abstained.

"The criminal matters are closed. Protocol Enforcement please take note. I'm now going to open the Civil Intelligence Hearing. Expert testimony first. Doctor Krismurti?"

And that's when the shit hit the punch bowl.
drewkitty: (Default)
"Itty Bitty Bigger World - Waking Up"

I blearily rolled over in bed and looked for my backpack and KittenBot, as I always do when staying in transient housing.

The KittenBot was there, perched on a complex piece of medical equipment that - unusually - was not plugged into anything. She had a gleam in her eye - the specific gleam that said "You used a duress signal, boss, and you're safe, but I have my lasers armed and claws sharpened just in case." Yes, all that in one gleam.

My eye was immediately drawn to the KittenBot shaped hole in the wall. Slight melt indicated that she had cut said hole, but not recently enough that it was still dripping.

The back of the room was full of complex medical equipment. Some of it looked as though it had been hastily unplugged.

I felt like I had been hastily unplugged. Bruises all over in weird spots.

I coughed a little, and nothing bloody came up.

The wall displayed a standard patient graphic for UC Stanford Hospital and Clinic System.

"Anderson, Alan - age 54 - P 65 BP 130/70 - ADMITTED for biopathogen treatment"

Lots of other gobblygook, most of which I can read. So I did so. It admitted that I was in pretty good health for being exposed to complex biotactical pathogens.

The door opened and two people came in, both wearing Stanford standard scrubs and smart IDs identifying them as Doctors.

"I am Doctor Krismurti and this is Doctor Kinkaid. I am your clinical psychologist and she is your internist. You have a lot of questions, I'm sure."

I sighed.

"I'm glad someone at UC Stanford can read. When I wake up in the hospital, I don't want smartware or a biosuite installed, I don't want a cheery happy face on the wall, I do want a standard patient graphic, I don't want my favorite breakfast waiting ... and I want my medical doctor ready to give me a rundown. I hate to be rude, but I don't want and have no use for a psychologist, Dr. Krismurti, any more than I would for a priest."

"Stanford protocols require psychological evaluation for suicide attempts."

I blinked.

"I did read your preference, including your preference for bluntness. You deliberately used a biofeedback command to stop your own heart. Why?"

"Doctor, I was under duress from the Hospital's own systems. Obviously this does not apply at present, otherwise my KittenBot would be cutting more holes than it already seems to have. I assume there is a lot more hardware on the other side of that wall - especially given that my visit yesterday to UC Stanford was as horrible as it was. How much did the recording systems capture?"

The doctor paused. Yes, this was a good time for him to think.

"We were alerted by external parties that we had been hacked. Unfortunately, part of the hacking was directed at our recording systems. We have the gross neurological fact - your heart stopped, and it was after intensively negative brain wave activity - because biomonitoring writes into WORM. We don't have the brainwave interpretations because they were in active memory when we had to pull the plug and put you on portables."

"You are of course recording now. Pay attention." With that, I gave them my version of the encounter with the Mastermind. I concluded with the same thought chain - that as the Mastermind had hacked into my VR, that he had control over the hospital care systems and could kill me at any instant he chose - so I'd better get out from under the threat in the only method available.

"I don't know your qualifications, Doctor, but I'd think that Use of Force - Self Defense Protocol would be most appropriate in this matter. Different risk assessments apply in life threatening situations. I acted to preserve my life, not end it."

"I concur. Doctor Kinkaid?"

"How are you feeling, Mr. Anderson?"

"Moderate headache, about 6 out of 10, consistent with a very stressful day yesterday and unplanned use of VR by a non user. Everything else seems to work."

"Do you feel fit to go to work?"

"Let me get cleaned up, and yes. No breakfast, but some water would be great."

A nursing bot trundled in and extended a tray with a pitcher and glass on it.

The KittenBot hissed at it.

I leapt out of bed immediately to the far corner of the room and discovered that I was dressed in my altogether. You may know it as my birthday suit. The good Doctors could just handle it, if they lived.

"Authorized!" I shouted, and the nursebot burst into flame as it doused the bed with the pitcher. The bed started dissolving. Acid. The nursebot involuntarily powered down and the KittenBot's eyes stopped glowing.

Yay for paranoia. Yay for KittenBots. Especially for KittenBots with laser eyes.

"SECURITY!" I shouted at the top of my lungs.

Wild-eyed and with smartgun in her hands, Captain Amy came through the door and put two D-PEN rounds in the nursebot as she cleared the door. A UC Stanford security guard in exoskeleton followed with a transparent stunner-shield. Then two FPS Marines in fatigues with smart rifles.

I stood from my crouch. "Good kitty, Samantha! Good kitty!"

She purred and arched an ear.

"Let's adjourn to somewhere that is not a crime scene, yes?" I offered and headed for the door.

The KittenBot jumped down and insisted on going through the door first. Good kitty, again.
drewkitty: (Default)
So, no shit, there I was, holding two jackers at gunpoint in my disabled rig.

In America, or even San San, no problemo. Just get the comms working and call in the cavalry.

In Mother Russia, problems no you. The folding carbine I was holding was _very_ illegal. It had been acquired lawfully but was not possessed legally - I hadn't had _that_ much bribe money when I'd set this pleasure jaunt up. Besides, who'd want to be a Russian citizen?

Also I'd shot a guy engaged in theft. Admittedly he had almost certainly shot at me first - if not him, then the other two slowly thawing out in the cab. But that cuts no ice, so to speak, when a foreign national waves guns around and shoots a local.

(Compare and contrast: a Mexican NAFTA driver shoots one of three Good Old Boys over a roadside dispute. How many days would the jury give him - in the electric chair?)

The temptation was to kick them out at gunpoint, tied up just enough to not mess with me but not enough to doom them to freeze, and drive away.

But these asshats had thoughtfully blown up the road in front of me and behind me. So they must have had a plan for getting the cargo. Which also meant they were lying about there only being the three of them.

"OK, my Russian friends whose names I don't care to remember, I'm going to execute you in three, two..."

"WAIT! WAIT, SIR, PLEASE!" the nearest one screeched.

"Why?" I asked. "Your friends will be here soon to kill me, so I'd better finish you off first. Nothing personal. Two, one..."

"We give you everything we have sir! We have a lifter! We have money, fuel, ammo, it's all yours, just don't kill us!"

"Do tell," I listened with my carbine on my knee. He tried to make it very convincing but I believed about one word in three.

After further negotiations, he admitted that they would have to use the radio to call for the lifter - they would get 30%, the lifter would take the rest. But they were starving, in the bunker in the snow, and 30% of something was better than 100% of dead. They hadn't the supplies to get through the winter.

I explained briefly that calling the lifter would mean 100% of the two of them dead, any way it came out. Then I told them they had to fix the mess they made.

"How do we do that, sir?"

I explained. They hated the idea. But when presented with the alternative, they were totally on board with it.

Any mess explosives can get you into, explosives can get you out of. At least when it comes to craters in the road. So one of them got to wear my backpack while I held the other at gunpoint, I walked them to retrieve my keys, then to their snowmobile, and they went 'home' to get some explosives. With a TelStar Logistics escort. Mwa.

The backpack still had the charming ability to shock the wearer on command. I would certainly, cheerfully shoot the other in the back of the head the instant he gave me trouble.

Their bunker home was all that you would expect of a forest hideout in deep Siberia. Trash, junk, various weapons they knew better than to touch, a few goodies (which I ignored) and some mining explosives of dubious merit. Well, they had worked twice.

They loaded the explosives and I supervised (see above) while they laid them in the crater.

BOOM. The rig's computer reluctantly admitted that the rig could drive over the crater.

I took the backpack off the one man. He seemed almost grateful. Then I gestured for both of them to climb down.

"You've been good, so I won't blow up your snowmobile before I leave. Go."

They climbed down, with several glances, sure they were going to get shot.

I locked the cab, pushed POWER ON and MAXIMUM TRACTION, and drove away.

About thirty hours later - I wasn't stopping for shit - the radio lit up on the EMER frequency. In the meantime, I'd been busy. Any flat spot the autopilot could take over, I was out of the seat just like that and working frantically.

"This is Russian Militia! You are ordered to STOP for INSPECTION!"

I opened the code book. "This is Alan Anderson of TelStar Logistics. What is your code of the day?"

They gave it. It checked out.

So I allowed the cab to shudder to a halt and climbed down to greet them. Three gunships, two troop transports.

At this point in the narrative, of course it would be Captain So-and-So of the Russian Militia, who had seen me save the boy, who would see me, raise a glass of vodka, cheer my heroism and send me on my way. But this is a Russian story. Russian narrative.

Instead I learned to suck snow while being expertly searched by professionals. The cab and drive train got the same treatment, including chemscanners.

"I am Colonel Vaskov. You are deep shit."

I nodded.

"Why you have explosive residue on front of cab?"

"There was a huge crater a ways back. I drove through it and jammed on the gas. Wanted nothing to do with it."

"You stop in crater area. You stop for six hours. You sleep?"

"I got stuck. I got unstuck."

"You pay off bandits?"

"With what?"

"You pay off bandits, American?" he asked with his Makarov. This interrogation by weapon stuff cuts both ways.

"No, I do not pay off bandits."

"Dead bandit by crater. Two bandits nearby. They say you shot him, held them at gunpoint, made them clear road. What do you say?"

"Bandits lie."

"So do American drivers."

I said nothing. He shrugged and put the Makarov away.

"Where is gun?"

"In your holster."

"You think you are funny. Is revocation of visa funny? Is prison funny? Is Siberian prison funny? Where fuck is gun!?!"

"What gun? I have no idea."

In fact I didn't, unless 'parts by side of road for last 100 kilometers' is a sufficient answer.

"You put out hands. You take off gloves."

So I put out my hands. They waved the chemscanner over them.

"Clear. Too clear," the Russian technician said.

"I wash my hands when I get nervous," I volunteered.

"You shut up, you answer questions."

I did not point out the dichotomy of the Colonel's statement.

"Your logs are flaky. You stop for six hours in heart of bandit area. Your cameras are kaputz. Your tires are shit. Your emergency braking system is more shit. But you have no cargo problems. Only your cab and you."

"You drive to next rest stop. I give you number one company. Russian elite troops. We talk there. I call TelStar, I ask questions, I ask favors. Maybe you legit. Maybe you bandit. American."

On that ambiguous statement, he parted company, but from some distance I heard him say - in clear English, "General, the driver's story seems to check out so far. I'm going to need some time here."

So three heavily armed Russian Militia troops climb up into my cab with me. They do not introduce themselves. Their weapons are their greeting to everybody.

They bring drinks and snacks. Clearly, except for charging their phones and making use of the satlink for entertainment (YouTube is a global phenomena), they plan to ignore me until we get to the rest stop.

So I power up and drive on until I get even shakier, a few hours later.

Finally, one of the troops turns off the controls. "You go bunk, you sleep. I drive."

I did as I was told.


I woke up as we were crossing into the fortified rest stop. The good Colonel and a squad of troops were waiting for us.

The Colonel squinted, looked carefully at the side of the rig, and started laughing. A good hearty Russian bear laugh.

"Dismissed!" he called to his men, and they climbed down. One whispered a few words in the Colonel's ear.

"So, my American friend who does not wash his hands when he is nervous, we have decided to let you keep the driving. I write reports. I justify this to my boss. Then you get here and I see 7.62mm bullet holes on the left side of your cab. Now I cannot unwrite reports nor can I unjustify to my boss."

I shrug carefully. What I want is a hot shower. What I don't want is a Russian prison.

"Your visa is post date. Expires when you cross border. You come back as tourist, OK. You come back as worker, OK. You come back as transient driver on Siberia Highway, not OK. You enjoy your last drive on highway. Here, you keep souvenir."

He tossed me something.

A cigarette lighter. One of the bandits had had it.

"That man is dead. Bandits kill way too many. Mercy to guilty is cruelty to innocent. Go home, Alan Anderson of TelStar Logistics hired for one way run out of Kurdistan, and you go tell Protocol Enforcement we watch them too."

He turned and walked away to his waiting gunship. I stumbled to my hot shower, which I really needed more than ever.

The side of the lighter had an emblem on it. A parachute with a wolf danging from it, oversize fangs holding an AK in its mouth.

The Colonel had one as a tattoo on the back of his right hand, when he'd threatened me with the pistol.

I'd been holding at gunpoint two men of the Russian Special Forces. Spetznaz. The most dangerous tourists in the world.

If my guard had slipped, even once. If I had lost track of them, even once. Horrible death in the middle of nowhere. Slow, with a knife.

I made it to the shower before I threw up.


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