Triad 2017

By Bob Downing

There is still much war in the 21st century. Men find new reasons to die.

Chapter One A Day In the Park

It was July 4th, 2017. The daily paper called for the first solar eclipse in years. Maggie Strange walked lazily along Chicago's lakefront. It was a calm, sunny afternoon and people were everywhere. Music and laughter mixed in the soft sun.

At 3:17 PM, Maggie sat on a bench and hit a small button on her picnic basket. The nuclear flash that followed decimated two square miles.

At 6 PM, there was only one story in America.

"Terror struck home as a sub-megaton nuclear explosion in Chicago, Illinois killed several thousand people. Centered in the Lakefront District, the terrorist blast leveled twelve city blocks and started fires still raging at this hour. Much of the two mile stretch of waterfront is acutely radioactive."

"Several anti-American groups have claimed responsibility, but World Know has determined that a new group calling itself VENGENCE released a video warning to the Mayor's office this morning."

"The fallout track has been projected, and communities in southern Ohio and northern Tennessee are being evacuated."

"At this hour, triage areas are being staffed with the emergency services of three states, a medical army that will face the awful task of treating the estimated 20,000 wounded; and burying the probable 2000 dead."

"This is a very shaken Paul Jeffrey, in a very shaken Chicago, Illinois."

Chapter Two The Real Beginning

This whole thing actually began when the unmanned observer planes evolved into true bombers, then missiles. This paved the road to SDI, or Star Wars. These automatic energy drones made some of their creators nervous. Some had a right to fear the new energy slingers. Electromagnetic waves became the new bullets.

Most people don't know that such a version of SDI had been built. It was deployed, and a computer named Dog controlled it. It wasn't invulnerable.

The concept of Triad, three arms of an invincible nuclear armada, faded when remnants of the former USSR and emerging China deployed the same pieces onto the game board. In the new era the Soviet terrorists re-targeted us. China targeted us as well. We're still targeted. So who's winning?

Heat's nothing new to our boys. There was the recent Japanese press release..."We know about the recent mounting of space lasers on the shuttles. We watched your target practice." Of course we denied it but now there was the new matter of VENGENCE

America is hardly perceived as world guardian in 2017. We have great weapons but there is incredible diversity in opinion as to whom they should be aimed. Wars are terrorist wars, daily dramas inflicting death on the uninvolved. VENGENCEE decided that they should be aimed at the heart of America.

Most of what kind people call salvation laid in the mind of Dog. Dog was a computer composed of Diagnostics, Operations and Guidance; complete control of space-based weapons. Moving control of ground-based forces to space stations eliminated threat of an effective first strike on control centers. At least that was enough logic to get the funding. Dog became the voice of the new power that spoke for the U.S.A.

Thus the consciousness of man's weapons was now a computer control system. To man, it was survival; a deadly game of diagnostics, operations and guidance. But to dog, it was the hunt, the chase and the kill. Dog was the largest electronic intelligence net ever synthesized and he thought with situation-response logic.

The face of the world filled the eyes of Dog. Everywhere he saw potential targets. Dog observed Earth from two orbiting layers of scanner satellites protected by watchdogs of their own. He accessed every frequency that man used. Dog's collar recorded the doings of our race.

Dog had fleas, if you define flees as laser-mounted cruise missiles comprising Levels One and Three of the new Triad. Level One fleas jumped just launched ICBMs in boost phase. Level Three fleas were an ABM shield that guarded U.S. land-based sites. They were few now and were mainly communication sites. There were no fleas on Level Two, the heart of the system.

Dog's bite came in the form of energy beams generated both from Earth and orbiting weapons. Together they formed a deadly arc over the U.S, Canada, and Mexico.

X-ray lasers on maneuverable boosters could obliterate a swarm of targets. So now the big enchilada was safe; or so they thought.

Chapter Three Incoming

The four sat in a circle. People often do that when they're planning something; say the affront of a nuclear civilization.

"Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord." Paul opened cell meetings with that reminder. Somehow it gave him confidence that his own actions were O.K.; somehow a part of God's turf. "The big package has been secured. Soon we'll make Chicago look like a cookout!" Paul was more reporter than terrorist, but he had his moments.

"How do we know it will work?" The inevitable question came from Nina. That was her job. "Can we trust former Communists? How about a test?"

"Great!" squeaked Paul. Let's get their attention. Nobody cares about the political rumblings of VENGENCE added Paul. Let's get their attention." Nina just smiled

The others smiled and nodded approval. That was their job.

The package was an evil seed for the West. It seemed that the former Soviets had followed policy and had developed a new piece for the table. It was rumored that some type of Optical Phase Conjugation technology had materialized. Bottom line, it could punch a whole through SDI. That whole was exactly what VENGENCE wanted. Through it they would redefine the great game.

Because of the enormous complexity involved in tracking, destroying/confirming so many incoming targets, the focus of SDI had been narrowed. Once again East and West would compete. This time, new warriors wielded new swords.

Chapter Four The Test

"Just what did their statement say that they want?" It was the type of obvious question that a military commander might ask. "Hell, no use fighting a war unless we have something to win," joked Nick Fury prototype Commander Namon. THIS prompted nervous laughter from the Command Circle (see?).

"It's just your basic terrorist threat, sir," piped the young Lieutenant "Do it our way or well trash your world."

"Sure. Everyone disarm. It'll make those international parties so much more fun to attend." Sarcasm was a hobby for Namon "When's the big show?" he asked, suddenly, seriously.

"They say they'll get a weapon through tonight. Washington's the target, Some of us say we should let them succeed, Commander" said his aide dryly,

"Not a bad concept at that," smiled Namon amidst the smirks of his round table. "Is Dog working on it?" >p> "He knows it's coming Sir. That's all he'll discuss," "Very well then. Command positions. Let's put some lipstick on this pig. Dismissed." Sharp salutes sliced through the air.

Chapter Five Showtime "At least the bastards waited until after supper," remarked Namon as he studied the sea of monitors dancing before him.

"Launch detected, Eastern European Sector Five. Latitude and longitude logged. Site targeted. Orders?" asked Dog.

"Fire. That's one less site in minute one," said Namon flatly. "Done. Level two activated," answered Dog.

"What about Level One? It's still in boost phase," quizzed Namon.

"Target has been determined as Level Two priority," said Dog dryly. It wasn't his fault that he spoke dryly. The guy who had his speech centers had been largely unimaginative in such matters. The board tracked the VENGENCE warhead through its highest trajectory point. The unit of death then split into a swarm of targets.

"VENGENCE is signaling the identity of the real weapon," said Dog.

"Pretty damn confident, aren't they?" burned Namon. "Burn the damm decoys!" he shouted.

'x-ray lasers locked on targets. Earth stations also activated." Said Dog.

"Priority override Namon Zero!" shouted Namon suddenly. Let's get the one that'll hurt us first. Put the decoys on Priority Three."

"Accepted, multi beam program in three seconds" chimed Dog. Three seconds later a lance of energy leaped upwards from the frozen artic wastes. Simultaneously a satellite stabbed at the VENGENE warhead with a spear of X-rays. The image flashed and then slowly reformed.

"Artic station destroyed," stated Dog. "Beams deflected and returned along incident path. Warhead arrival in four minutes," stated Dog calmly.

"What!? How's that possible? Did we miss?" quizzed a near frantic Namon. "Not a miss. I'll give you the research hardcopy later," said Dog.

'Damned optimistic for a computer," sighed Namon.

"Level Three fully deployed," said Dog. Energy surged into the land-based fleas. "Cheer up, Namon. Think about the money we'll save when the ground-based cruise missiles do their job," said Dog almost apologetically. "Launch in 15 seconds.'

"This better work or we've got ourselves a hundred billion dollar video game, Dog," shot Namon. No one spoke in the Command Center. Dog was busy. Every man mentally counted that 15 seconds, pinning bits of their lives to its passage.

"Fleas away," announced Dog. The board was the center of the universe for man and machine. The rising red paths of ten cruise missiles converged on the falling warhead. "Target in range in thirty seconds, all lasers sighted," said Dog.

"Fry the damn thing!" shouted Namon. After a ripple of supportive cheers from the Tech gallery, silence again ruled. The lines converged with agonizing slowness.

"Beams away,' said Dog. A moment later came the verdict. "All missiles destroyed.....bogie proceeding to target..........impact in-'

"-Shut up damit!" cried Namon. "Get me the President...NOW!"

The phone was at hand. "Sir, we've got no radiation reading on the target but you'd better fasten your seat belt just in case," said Namon squeezing the receiver. "..No Sir, Dog couldn't take it out...Yes Sir, I'll brief you later if there is one. Thank you, Sir. Goodbye."

"Detonation eminent," announced Dog fron a part of his mind that he hated.

AF time zero a single metallic capsule fell toward the Capitol. The explosion wasn't much, but it was heard around the world. VENGENCE laughed as a hungered Krushev dolls drifted slowly to earth, each with its own little red parachute. Each was wearing its own little "We Will Bury You" t-shirt. They settled like mocking snow on the green White House lawn.

Chapter Six Fun At The Top

Meetings called at 4 A.M. are seldom very efficient, but people feel better if they meet. Cabinet level meetings are even screwier. 'If the President wasn't such a good friend....',mumbled Nanon to himself.

"So VENGENCE got one through. Lucky shot?:" asked the President. . What do they want?"-Funny how that question gets around

"Don't think so, Sir" answered Namon. Namon was just glad to face the camera so the that the incredible Ass-chew he had just received from the Joint Chief wasn't visible.

"Guess that means we can be blackmailed," said the discouraged leader.

"Apparently Sir, they want the U.S , you, to lead the charge for world disarmament. They're giving you two weeks" answered the President's Chief Aide and Personal Video Game Consultant.

"Is that time frame negotiable?" quizzed the President. >p? "Mo sir, I'm afraid not. The last communication read "Our first weapon brought you laughter. Our next one will bring you many tears Do not. We repeat, do not, [bleep] with us" said the aide.

"Direct. Got to respect that," Said the President.

Military Police suddenly vaulted into the room, guns drawn. "Mr. President. I must request that you accompany us to the blast bunker. An immediate threat to your safety has been received," barked the Sergeant At Arms tersely.

There's something about the declaration of a crisis that makes it real.

"O.K., ...Who went on offense without authorization? It was Y0U , wasn't it Winkly, you damned-to-the-death conservative! You may have killed us all!" The President shouted as the MPs herded him from the room.

"I'm going too. He's going to need someone to help talk sense to Dog," said Namon.

Chapter Seven From The Bunker It was Winkly. Damn fool. As Chief of Ready Strike Operations he had just enough authority to launch a botched attack on VENGENCE cells in the Chicago area.

VENGENCE had not responded well. In their last message they told the president " You have violated our trust so we now condemn you to the consequences of your rash, imperialistic actions." Nina was quite proud of her English.

"Why the rush ?" the President asked his escorts as they as they seated him in the command chair and promptly vanished

. "Vengeance is mine saeth VENGENCE,", quoted dog. "That was their last message eight minutes ago. There are several mobile launches now powering up in eastern Europe. You're about to be attacked," said Dog.

"Jesus..." muttered the President.

"Call me Dog, Sir....all my friends do," said Dog.

On a pin of fire a single missile labored skyward from this site. Turns out its modified boost phase was 1.27 minutes, something the Pentagon been wondering about publicly and a figure that the software guys had a year ago. Dog watched the target of concern. At forty seconds he adjusted Triad One for single booster trajectory. At the one-minute mark, a curtain of lasers danced from the primary satellite defense system

The message of impending nuclear attack was relayed by all media and touring Army vans. The city sirens screamed as did its panicked residents. Streets became seas of panicked people. Shelters, even the new mass shelters beneath the new Metro subway tracks swelled, filled, and locked out the tardy.

Dog's screen remained blank, "WHAT can we do?" asked Namon. "About time somebody asked me," quipped Dog. "Who ever heard of a dog with only three legs?"

"That worries me," said Namon. "That's the closest thing to a to a joke he's ever made."

One week ago, from the dark side of the moon, a structure had blasted itself toward the Earth at a speed intolerable to men. During the 60's there had been a lot of interest the power of the solar wind. The device that resulted was a particle generator/accelerator designed to concentrate and focus the particles from Earth's sun. All those Apollo landings had done more than collect rocks, film kangaroo hops and hit golf balls after all. From the dark side of Luna rose SIN, the Solar Ion Needle.

"SIN activated, one week ago," chimed Dog.

Chapter Nine Split The Distance

"That still puts Dog's best shot at about 59,000 miles," calculated Namon. "Just how good is SIN?" quizzed Namon.

The President coughed and said, "I don't really know. I wasn't briefed."

"Great." sighed Namon. "Talk about a Dog and pony show."

"SIN can make the shot," said Dog.

"Yeah, that's what you said about the system before," reminded Namon.

The warhead ran the gauntlet of U.S. energy beams with many confirmed hits. In every case the beam was directed back to the source.

The target's film layer ensured the destruction of any beam targeted against it. "Whatever happened to the old weapons, the missiles with bombs?" asked the president

" I guess they were replaced by the speed of light, Sir." answered Namon.

"I'll make the shot at the highest level," said Dog." It's going to be a bank shot off of an orbiting Soviet satellite. Thanks to your Techs, I play a mean game of pool. 1.8 minutes," spoke Dog confidently.

"You're getting funnier in your old age. You're going to bet our future on a bank shot?" quizzed Namon.

"It's either senility or old age," quipped Dog.

Dog at his best was a hungry mind bent on kills and confirmation. He was busy charging SIN with the power of the solar wind. His target, so very far away, was just a point in space-time. That didn't bother Dog. SIN was his best-kept secret-even Namon and the President didn't know its power.

SIN rotated in space, a deadly stick commanded by Dog. At the chosen moment a white-hot ray split the black void and shot towards Earth.

Chapter Ten Target The target warhead began to glow white-hot. Dog had been right about his bank shot. Part of the ray was deflected back at the satellite as the warhead's program had directed. The rest Of SIN's powerful ray nearly melted the target on impact!

Namon and the President were awaiting beam reversal when Dog cut in "Coating will break down in three destroyed."

"yeah!" shouted Namon and the President. <90> "Target detonated at 98 stand down advised," said Dog.

"Thanks, you old hound,' smiled Namon.

"Woof!" said dog.

The End

Copyright © 2003 by Robert Downing

Bob is a retired Organic Environmental Chemist and Professional Musician living inn Graniteville, South Carolina. He still enjoys all media presentations of sci-fi and is working on a CD of Sci-Fi Blues tunes for distribution later this year. Bob previously appeared in Aphelion with: The Last Day Home (August 1999)



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