An Arrow for an Olive Branch: Sci-Fi Short Story, Pt. 8
Link to Chapter One
Link to chapter nine. See links to other chapters at the immediate upper right.
Ruth and Toshu stepped into the AI lab where Bari was gathering materials he and Ruth would need to find a way to destroy Ghar.
"Before you get started, we have a couple of questions," said Toshu.
Bari rolled his chair away from the desk.
"After the Rhonites became infected with prions, why didn't the Rhonks take over navigation?" said Toshu.
"And why didn't the Rhonks use the radio to communicate?" Ruth pulled up another office chair and sat down.
"This is where our people become the heroes of the story." Bari stood and stretched. "The concept was put together on this ark. Some engineers and scientists, who were in the early stages of prion infection, devised a plan to hinder Ghar's efforts to take over Earth. They would compromise the communication and propulsion systems on all the arks, with the exception of this one, in a way that was nearly beyond repair. The only thing that entailed was jettisoning certain parts into space."
"If this ark had navigation systems that were intact, why did it hit the moon and almost make La Luna pate´ out of my pilot and me?" said Ruth.
"That would be my fault," said Bari. "Since Earth was the destination, and we had virtually arrived, I carried out the same sabotage on this ark as had been done on the others. I'm sorry my actions put you in danger, Ruth."
Toshu excused herself to return to the Rhonites. She wanted to make them as comfortable as possible. Bari and Ruth turned to the task of plotting Ghar's end.
"Here is what I have so far." Bari went to a large transparent screen which descended from the ceiling. He held up a disc the size of a dime. "This is a cesium off-resonant atomic quantum memory chamber. We just call it a CORAQ disc. It is filled with cesium vapor. Information is embedded on photons. I have placed only one bit of information on this disc; the code for a virus that could erase everything that is Ghar.” Bari revealed the code on the screen. “It opens and installs itself. Once the process begins, it is irreversible.”
"How would you install it?"
"Each Rhonk has one way of uploading new information. It is built into their structure and does not interface with the larger network." Bari posted a Rhonk graphic on the screen. "Each Robot is provided with the information disc and is bound by protocol to complete the critical step of scanning it for viruses. The Rhonk can then load the disc into a slot on his chest, here.”
"The procedure looks seamless," said Ruth. "The only way we can wipe out Ghar's AI is if he agrees to install the disc and breaks protocol by failing to scan for a virus."
"Exactly.” Bari shut down the monitor and sank into his office chair. “That's what stops me every time. What would ever cause Ghar not to scan a disc for the presence of a virus?"
Ruth recalled the story about Toshu drying herself after bathing, with Ghar watching. That wasn't flawless robot behavior. It was Biological behavior, a seed of desire that might be exploited. "Forget about him scanning the disc. Just have it ready. All your sister's efforts at gaining Ghar's trust are about to be put to the test. But she's going to have to put on a show worthy of an Oscar."
"Never mind. Just make sure that disc will do what you said it would do. Your sister’s life depends on it."
It was time for Ruth and Toshu to leave Rhall's ark. Bari would stay and continue caring for the prion-infected Rhonites until assistance could be sent.
During the flight, Ruth grabbed another opportunity to learn about Rhonite technology. “I wish we could use light speed for even a few seconds. But I know we’d overshoot Earth by a million miles. Instead of experiencing it, why don’t you give me your shortest possible answer for light speed? What do you use for thrusters and what kind of fuel? Even the transport pod had light speed. By the way, the Rhonks you sent to the sun are already toast."
"Solar powered electric propulsion engines provide half the equation. For thrust, there is fuel everywhere in space. No need to carry it on board." Toshu smiled at the blank look on Ruth's face. "Small, quantum level particles are constantly appearing and disappearing . We use them as we need them. The particles are converted to plasma and put through the propulsion engines for thrust."
Ruth shook her head and snapped out of the dream world of quantum energy. “There it is.” she said, pointing to the monitor.
“Yes, Ghar’s ark. And look! The Rhonks are deploying right now. The battle is about to begin.”
The sky above the whole Washington, D.C. area was overcast. A series of white globes flew out from Ghar’s ark and penetrated the atmosphere. Instantly, bright flashes illuminated the clouds.
“Photon charges!” said Toshu. “It is a new technology. I thought it was still in the research stage. This could change everything.”
One thousand Rhonks, each encased in a rocket shaped capsule, gathered in a tight formation and descended as a unit.
“A blitz.” said Ruth.
“I hope our scientist friends are ready with something unexpected.” Toshu guided her ark toward a small opening in the side of the larger sphere and entered.
National Mall, Washington, D.C.
By evening on the fourth day, the time for war had come. President Golden met with certain key members of the Security Council in a secret facility outside Washington, D.C. Special advisors were Dr. Smith, Dr. Ferris, Dr. Raiman and Dr. Pike. Noticeably absent were Ruth and the alien defector, Toshu.
On the wall at the end of the room, opposite the President's chair, a ten foot by four-foot monitor displayed a wide angle view of the National Mall and surrounding area. This would be Ground Zero, the battlefield. Since the day Ghar had moved his ark over the nation’s capital, the National Guard had been steadily evacuating the entire area inside the Capital Beltway.
Twilight further darkened the overcast sky. The military had fitted airplanes with cloaking armor made of small glass prisms which would bend light around the planes making them invisible to the naked eye and radar. If Ghar had technology that enabled him to see the planes, he did not retaliate. The planes seeded one hundred square miles with dry ice to lower the temperature of the clouds as much as possible. Ionized gas was also sprayed liberally throughout the clouds. They were creating a field of electrical conductivity that had worked great in the lab and looked promising on paper. But would it work here?
The field cameraman zoomed in on Union Square between 3rd Street SW and the two-thousand-foot-long National Reflecting Pool, the location of the President’s weapon of choice for the battle. The entire Council had voted against the unproven technology in favor of a conventional and nuclear response. In the end, it was President Alec Golden's call. He looked at the contingent of four scientists seated at the table. It was their genius, their knowledge and their proven ability to take the theoretical and make it work in the real world that had won the President's support for the weapon they had so quickly envisioned. The fact that the equipment had already been built and was waiting in a storage building, turned a good idea into the ultimate weapon for this situation.
Capital Beltway, US495, Ground Zero
A weather and climate research company had devised a method of generating a highly active electrical field and controlling the flow of energy across that field in laboratory tests. They had built the devices needed to conduct the same experiments outdoors, but their funding ran out. The researchers had packed the instruments away in storage, until this very day, when the United States Government expropriated two specialized lasers and placed them in the hands of the military.
Soldiers checked and rechecked the equipment. Radar continuously scanned the sky.
The initial attack was unforeseen. Rather than Rhonks, glowing spheres pierced the atmosphere at such a speed no missiles from the U.S. forces could lock on. The orbs exploded with intense heat. Soldiers that didn't die in the blasts, scattered over the battlefield in their desperate efforts to escape the onslaught. Soldiers rescued their injured brothers and carried them to the cover of the Smithsonian buildings and the National Museum of Art.
Into the chaos, Ghar launched the second stage of his attack. Hundreds of rocket-propelled tubes penetrated the atmosphere at the same time in a blitz on the dispersed ground troops. The Rhonks were coming.