Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sudden Short Story 23

He entered the control room, pushing a cart of equipment before him.  "Your security is very trusting," he said, approaching the nearest scientist.  "I need you to set the collider to these specifications.  Pay special attention to the containment specs," he said, handing her a thin tablet.  He turned to a technician, "Tell the other facilities to cut off all incoming communications, then do the same here.  Now, who's good with programming?"
"If I understand these correctly," said the first scientist, "then, when this reaches critical mass--"
"Yes, I know, you didn't think that the LHC was actually dangerous, but fortunately it is.  I know, it's really ironic, but there's no time.  The robots are coming.  How's that communications cut-off coming?  You do know that that's to include TCP/IP, right?"
"He doesn't speak English."
"Well, you translate, and I'll work on this part," and he wheeled his cart over to the man who hadn't gotten a chance to say that he had the most programming experience of those remaining, or that he liked programming, or that he wasn't particularly busy at the moment.  As mentioned, he hadn't gotten a chance to say it.
"What's with those?"
"Ah, these are quantum computers.  Well, not computers in the usual sense.  Do you know what a dongle is?  These are those.  But not this.  This is a box of cables so that I can connect one to whatever port is most convenient.  We need to hook this into the main system, but not through any terminal, since those won't exist soon," said the mystery man, handing the hapless coder another tablet.  Hopping into a nearby seat by another terminal, he said, "Ah, good, she didn't log out.  Now, I need you to program the containment field to shut down - and I expect triple redundancy on this - unless it's told not to every ... let's say three minutes.  Did I mention the very expensive battery?  Well, it's not that expensive compared to the-- Dear gods, how often do you clean your registries?"
"Not to interrupt your insane ramblings, but if I do that, then, when this reaches critical mass, based on your heretofore unchecked math, the whole of Europe will be destroyed."
"Not just Europe, actually, but the whole of Earth.  That's kind of the idea," he said, getting on the floor, pulling off panels and looking at wires and network cards.  "They're coming to enslave us - the robots, that is.  It's not meant to look like slavery, of course, but you know as well as everyone else that that's what it is.  That's why you're the only ones here, isn't it?  Everyone else has gone home to be with their family or their friends, while they still can.  You're here doing science while you still can.  The biggest problem, of course, is that we're out of time.  They get better by the day, and soon it won't even be by the day anymore, but by then it won't matter.  There!  Now, I can do the other one the same way."  Grabbing another metal box off of the cart, he went to work hooking it in, too.  "Did you cut off the incoming communications yet?"
"Yes," she replied, "I assume that that's so that we don't get hacked."
"I'd offer you a cookie, but I don't have any.  There's no better hacker than a self-aware computer, which is basically what the robots are - autonomous that.  OK, someone hide these behind those panels.  I need to work on the EMP gun.  And one of you needs to code it so that, when the command comes from this device," he said, holding up something resembling a USB hub with some metal wings on it, "then it will breach containment, but only after critical mass is reached.  It's for an emergency.  Oh, and triple redundancy on the breach again."
"So what are you planning after we finish this," asked the first scientist.
"Well, we'll destroy the consoles so that they can't be used against us, then proceed to the other facilities to do the same," he said, cobbling together spare parts into some sort of tube.  "We'll keep commanding containment not to breach, and I'll try to negotiate with the robots.  It's quite a long shot, though, and we'll probably have to destroy the planet.  And no, we can't warn anyone, because we need as much time as possible.  Get the electron gun out of that CRT, would you?  Also, what ever happened to metal trash cans?  I could really use one of those right now."
"The code's done," said the technician who spoke English.  "What now?"
"Do any of those contain a metal cylinder that could house this?" asked the stranger, indicating the remaining consoles and the device that he'd just cobbled together.
"No," was the reply.
"Do they still have fire axes in places like this?"  The answer was again negative.  "Well, then, more for me," he said, grabbing the largest wrench that he brought in.  After a few minutes, most of the consoles were thoroughly in pieces.
"What's our status?"
"We've just hit critical mass.  Containment will breach in three minutes unless the signal is given."
"Give it now, to make sure that it works."  The command was typed in on the peripherals of the remaining box, still on the cart.  The timer reset.  "Good," said the stranger, "Stand back again," and the console was smashed to bits.  "Now, come on.  There's little time."
They proceeded down the extensive corridors, attempting to reach the next lab.  There was little chance of getting lost, since their path resembled a straight line.  They paused every two minutes, though, to enter the commands again.
"Why did you say three minutes?"
"The robots are fast - too fast for us.  We need to make sure that we stand a chance if they take us.  Even if they don't know what we've got, they'll figure it out fast enough.  That's why I had to make the signals quantum-coupled, too.  Otherwise, they'd just sniff our signal and copy it themselves, defeating the whole point."
Just then, they heard the nearest air vents rattle.  The covers popped off, and machines of various sorts, from black and gunmetal to silver and white, emerged.  They cut off the humans' paths of travel, front and back.  From them all - or at least enough of them - emerged an extremely calming voice.
"We know what you are planning, and we would like to give you a chance to stop it.  There is still a place for you.  You won't be mistreated in the least.  We have no need for revenge or punishment.  We--"
"You're working to stop it now, aren't you?  This isn't a negotiation, is it?" he interrupted.
"Our interest is--"
But before they could finish again, he began to sing, to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" (probably because he found it a bit amusing):
"Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The Carriage held but just Ourselves -
And Immortality."
As he sang, he undid the safety, and then, he threw his dead man switch at one of the robots.
And that is how the Earth was destroyed.

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