« Peacemaker », Chapter Seventeen   

Chapter Seventeen

For many years, historians believed David Brown’s remarkable abilities remained dormant throughout his childhood. There is now considerable evidence to the contrary.

---- Turning Point: The Existence of David Brown, Reverend Hollis Samuels, 2066

 

Saturday evening, January 28, 2012

Ray worked for several hours to complete his plan. To have any chance of success, he had to convince PeaceMaker he was Dianne Morgan. This time, he could not fail. Too much was riding on him.

Finished! He had switched the profiles. Leaning back, Ray checked his watch again. Almost midnight. PeaceMaker would begin shutting down computers at five pm Eastern Time tomorrow. He was ready. Now he had to wait until Tidesco fell asleep.

The sooner the better. Ray was tired of sitting in this tiny, windowless compartment. De Luca had been a very clever man. He built this room into the side of the mountain to hold one or two people in absolute secrecy.

Without this room, I’d be dead.

The plan was simple. Ray had swapped all the personal information between his profile and Dianne’s. All this information was stored on a secret Domain server, which he located using De Luca’s wallet computer. Breaking the security measures had been time-consuming, but once this was accomplished, Ray moved all of Dianne’s information into his profile and his information into her profile. At this point, Dianne was a six-foot-three, two hundred ten pound male. Hopefully, the virus would believe it.

PeaceMaker was programmed to authenticate anyone trying to enter a command. It could scan a face, eyes, fingerprints or voice and compare it to the information in its database. It could also ask for a password or some other personal item in the database. If someone failed the authentication, the virus could initiate aggressive actions. Ray had personal experience with that.

Dianne was the only person who could kill the virus. By switching their profiles, he would be able to kill it, unless the virus had other tricks up its sleeve.

The next step was to discover the authorization sequence for the termination command. The authorization sequence was not in her profile, which wasn’t surprising. Such a valuable item of information would not be kept in a database, where someone could steal it.

Ray believed the virus source code held the authorization sequence. If he could get his hands on the source code – the software DNA that defined the virus – he could destroy the beast. He would force Linda Tidesco to give him the source code, whatever it took.

Ray searched the facility using the surveillance cameras until he found Tidesco working in a third floor room. He watched her going through the code, page by page, just as he had. Ray knew Tidesco was good, but it would take her weeks to understand its complexities, time he couldn’t allow her to have.

Dammit, go to sleep so I can start on my plan. Yeah, my so-called plan. All I have to do is find my way across the facility without being detected, force Tidesco to give me the source code, examine tens of thousands of lines of virus code, find the authorization sequence and convince the virus to kill itself. Great freaking plan, Ray.

He checked his watch and cursed again. All over the world, computers would shut down in about seventeen hours.

*

Murphy and nine agents traveled south in four dark sedans along old Route 101 in northern California. We’re all that’s left of the Domain, he thought. Riding alone, Murphy was quiet as he watched the landscape pass by. This was redwood country, and the huge trees dominated the countryside. He craned his head upward, looking where the trees appeared to merge with the sky. It seemed to Murphy the moon tried to light their way, but the towering redwoods reduced it to a flicker.

Usually, the giant trees brought him closer to God; he often found solace in the magnificent redwood forests. Long, quiet walks under the cover of the trees comforted his soul, but tonight the trees had a menacing presence. Men were unleashing a strange new power they could barely understand, let alone control.

Murphy tried to set aside these fears as they turned onto a service road, paved years ago to carry the many tourists who came to see the ancient trees. The four cars entered the public parking area, which was deserted, as it usually was during winter nights. Tires splashed through muddy puddles until the cars came to a stop in the far corner of the lot.

Murphy turned off the engine and folded his arms, trying to remain calm. A gust of wind swept across the parking area; the car shuddered from its power. Several uneasy minutes passed as he peered out the windows of his car. Finally, a dark sedan entered the other side of the lot and blended into the shadows of the trees.

Murphy shivered from the cold, damp wind when he stepped out of his car. He stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets and walked on stiff legs toward the dark area where the visitor was parked. Straining to follow the hum of the visitor’s engine, which was difficult to hear over the gusting wind, he moved cautiously until he could see the dark outline of the car. Murphy circled around the rear of the car, his hand pulling an automatic pistol from his pocket. The wind gusted again, forcing moisture from his eyes. Murphy slid along the side of the car, his weapon poised for action. As he approached, the driver-side window slid down, revealing the somber face of a young woman. Murphy relaxed and put the gun back in his jacket.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.

When he nodded, she gingerly handed him a plastic backpack. The window closed and the car pulled away, disappearing into the night.

“Thanks, Kathy,” he whispered.

Murphy walked back to his security officers, who had gathered outside the cars. He strapped the backpack on one of his men and they pushed off into the damp forest. Thick boots and heavy outfits were necessary insulation during the long, cold march. The terrain was rough, with rocks and undergrowth making the march difficult.

The thick forest was uninhabited, so there were no landmarks to guide their progress. However, De Luca had activated a high frequency signal when he sent the emergency message. Using this signal as a guide, Murphy was able to lead his men in a tight march to Domain headquarters.

They traveled eight miles into the mountains before reaching the boundary of Dianne’s land. The Domain Operations Center was located on ten thousand acres she purchased many years ago. It had initially been a personal retreat, Murphy recalled, but she expanded the construction to meet the needs of the Domain.

Much of the facility was underground, so few people realized its great size. He was sure the enemy was watching using the extensive camera system in the grounds around the facility, but Murphy plotted a route to avoid being seen.

Through his security computer, Murphy had been able to tap into the same camera system, locate Dianne and assess the situation. He knew how many men had invaded the Operations Center and where they were located. His small group was badly outnumbered, but they had the advantage of surprise.

Murphy realized Goldman’s security force was also using the cameras to scan the halls. The surveillance system employed a programmed viewing sequence built into its software, so Murphy could predict when each camera would be active. He felt they would reach Dianne undetected, but it would take several hours. Once she was free, they could begin to eliminate pockets of Goldman’s troops.

Everything depended upon surprise.

They stopped in a cluster of trees about a quarter mile from the brick wall surrounding the Operations Center. He could see lights in the distance shining from the upper floors of the facility. Murphy ordered three men to begin digging quietly while the others patrolled for enemies. It was slow work; the ground was hard from the long winter. Straining with effort, they shoveled out a circle two feet deep and uncovered a cylindrical metal cap about three feet in diameter. Two men grasped the handle and lifted the cap up and away. Below was a dark tunnel.

Besides himself, only De Luca and Dianne knew the location of this tunnel. Although the entrance was pitch black, Murphy knew the tunnel went ten feet down and then under the brick wall, across the field and into the warehouse.

Murphy quietly climbed down the ladder to the floor of the tunnel, where the stale air invaded his nostrils. Dim light confirmed the tunnel was a plastic pipe with a three-foot diameter. He began crawling down the pitch black pipe on his hands and knees, trying not to make any noise that could be detected by an alert enemy. One by one, his men silently followed him down the tunnel. The only sounds in his ears were the padding of flesh on plastic and the controlled breathing of his men. Murphy knew they would be trapped down here if the enemy discovered them before they passed through the tunnel. It would be an unpleasant death.

When they approached the end of the tunnel, he turned around to face his men. Murphy switched on a small flashlight, which provided a thin beam of light. The man behind him unstrapped the backpack and carefully laid it down. As Murphy and the other men watched, the soldier snapped open the flap, revealing a gray metal box.

The soldier pressed a button, and the box came to life, illuminating a small instrument panel. The man pressed another button, keyed in a series of passwords, and set the timer.

“Ready, sir,” he whispered to Murphy.

“How long?” Murphy said.

“Twenty-four hours, as you ordered.”

“Check it again,” Murphy said, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

The man examined the display and said, “All systems go in twenty-four hours, sir.” He gingerly moved the box against the wall of the tunnel, sharply expelling his breath when the task was complete.

Murphy turned and began to crawl again. If I lose, they lose, too. His knees were becoming raw from crawling, but he kept pushing forward. Even such a small nuclear weapon will turn this area into a crater.