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Recent breakthroughs in advanced microchip design and computer processing power were the impetus that led to America’s first military grade neural net based artificial intelligence, SKYNET. Almost overnight, American computer and electronics technology had taken a leap four generations into the future and the world wondered how that could be possible. The West wasn't telling and the concern grew among its enemies and to a much lesser degree its own allies. In the space of three years, from early 1985 to late 1988, America had started developing and deploying cutting edge electronics which were far smaller and far more powerful than anything its allies (or enemies) had at their disposal. Intelligence forces around the world were at a loss as to where the Americans had made the breakthrough that gave them an edge several generations ahead of the rest of the world. Rumors and speculations abounded, some of which even hinted at America having access to salvaged XT technology. Whatever it was that the Americans had discovered, it had the rest of the world surprised, perplexed and ... above all, wary.
The key focus of the accelerated American research and development was on compact nuclear power sources, new physical materials, stronger alloys, a thorough knowledge of electromagnetic field theory (with practical applications) and super advanced control systems based around a heretofore unknown architecture of microprocessor. Original Opposing Forces (OPFOR) intelligence estimates gave the Americans an almost overnight lead in microprocessor technology equivalent to at least three, possibly four generations and an equal number of decades ahead of the rest of the world. New weapon systems appeared in the American arsenal ... drones, robots, and other automated systems which functioned at levels previously undreamed of. Smart weapon systems evolved into brilliant weapon systems. Genius class weapon systems followed soon after that. Stealth engineering advanced as well both in aerospace applications as well as wet navy and traditional ground forces, right down to the individual soldier level. Active as well as passive thermoptic camouflage was introduced in 1990 to a variety of force deployments with great effect.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of the new microprocessor architecture was its inherent ability to network, on instant demand, with any other similar microprocessor family based system. The code that ran the microprocessor was modular, with different program modules able to be written for different hardware and the seamless integration of all parts under one operating system was a technological breakthrough which clearly gave the Americans a decisive advantage in their order of battle. During the years from 1989 to 1995, America would both re-evaluate its military forces as well as reorder them. Older hardware would be scrapped and recycled in order to partially pay for unit upgrades. The high efficiency of the new military hardware allowed greater effects to be achieved with less personnel. Combat groups became heavily mechanized and computerized, integrated and networked. Early combat trials of the newly augmented units indicated that while multiple units could coexist and operate in mutual support of one another, it was clear that a centralized controlling system was required in order to gain optimum performance from American armed forces.
America needed a combat nexus, a focal point that would search for, detect, evaluate, and respond to any threat to national security or national territories. The new combat systems proved that they could be networked together but what was needed was a centralized node that could coordinate and direct all combat assets. The project was researched under the codename of Quiet Song. Project Quiet Song was officially classified as "40 levels above Top Secret" by those who even knew it existed. Quiet Song was perhaps the most ambitious project yet based on the new technology, true artificial intelligence. Quiet Song would involve the research and development of the world's first truly artificial intelligence, a digital form of life which would be networked to all of America's automated weapon systems and which would have command over the equipping, deployment and usage of both tactical and strategic assets. Quiet Song was the nexus that would unite all of the networked weapon systems in one cohesive element.
The lessons learned during the R&D of Project Quiet Song eventually led to the production of the end product of Quiet Song; Project SKYNET.
The SKYNET project was constructed in the mid 1990’s and would interface and coordinate all of America’s strategic arsenal into one cohesive command structure. The SKYNET project was located well below the surface of Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado; the original home of the North American Defense (NORAD) Command. Built upon existing structures, SKYNET itself would take up more space than all the previous generations of defense hardware, requiring new tunneling and excavating of the mountain complex; a task which began in secret in 1989, a predecessor task to the SKYNET project which was even then coming to light under careful scrutiny by certain sources. SKYNET. A buzzword in senate appropriations meetings, an ugly word full of high costs and long contracts with more contractors than any other project in American government history. SKYNET, a project that would make the Apollo moon landing look like a lemonade stand in comparison to total expenditures and manpower committed.
SKYNET was also another word that made senators and politicians cringe: SKYNET was necessary.
Necessary to national defense. Necessary to the continued growth of the defense industry. Necessary to preserve the American way of life and to defend mom, apple pie and baseball. SKYNET was necessary and, if any of the initial contract bids were to be taken with any amount of truth, SKYNET was going to be wildly profitable for those who would be hired to build it. That meant a lot of work for major corporations and companies in the jurisdiction of several politicians who were openly balking at the "necessary" aspect of the project. It has been said that money is the root of all evil, but money also speaks a language all its own, with a voice that is louder than any other voice in the world. Political pressure, albeit clandestine in nature, from key lobbyists from big contractors and defense industry companies soon brought the most defiant politician around, often by lining his or her pockets with gratuity and luxury, acts which did not always go undetected or unpunished in the public eye.
For all of its early birth pains, SKYNET was necessary. SKYNET would integrate with and ultimately supersede all NORAD authority and administration. The project took five and a half years to complete (1991 to 1997), displaced over four and a half million tons of rock hewn from the inner mountain, included over a million miles of fiber optic cable, and had an expenditure of almost a hundred billion dollars (which was only forty percent over initial budget, cost overruns included). A full time staff of six hundred and eighty-five personnel were on hand to monitor and guide SKYNET once it came online and to handle the various and sundry aspects that the artificial intelligence could not. SKYNET’s integral components were designed to be shielded by several hundred feet of solid natural rock at the heart of the mountain, its central processing core rested on a hydraulically stabilized mount which could withstand the seismic shock and pressure of a seventy-five megaton direct hit against the mountain surface or a ten point earthquake with SKYNET at the epicenter.
Backup and redundant systems were each constructed in triplicate, running in non-parallel fashion to prevent multiple systems from being lost to a single first strike or follow up strikes. Hits to one system would not affect the backup systems since those were not routed through the same areas as the primary systems. SKYNET was hardened and shielded against all forms of radiation and its next generation fiber optic processing made it immune to the threat of EMP. The central processing core was self healing, with multiple logic fortresses and data survival caches. The entire system could suffer up to 90% operating capacity loss through software failure and up to 70% hardware failure and still recover to a high degree of functionality in a very short time and full recovery in a matter of days. Satellite links allowed SKYNET to upload its data to orbital assets, thereby offering terrestrial and near orbit recovery capacity in the event of catastrophic system failure or damage from attack.
Two General Electric Model 12AA 500 megawatt throughput nuclear fusion reactors (total power production rated at one gigawatt) were also constructed deep underground (in hollowed out caverns which were artificially reinforced and component armored) to keep SKYNET supplied with enough power to operate as well as to provide energy for the newly installed ground and internal defense grids which protected the computer as well as the complex itself. A vast underground natural spring was tapped into by the Army Corps of Engineers to provide not only the raw material for fuel and the cooling needed for the hydrogen distillery plant as well as the reactors, but also to provide the base with a supply of fresh water that would be unaffected by any conceivable nuclear exchange. With the two General Electric nuclear fusion reactors online, power was not a concern, even given SKYNET’s planned upgrades and the continuation of the development of the installation. The power systems were modular and designed for easy expansion up to ten gigawatts output as needs required.
SKYNET had been built with a sense of materials and resource conservation applied to its overall programming on both the tactical as well as strategic levels, including power saving subroutines and the ability to withdraw its resources and power to lower management levels when not needed. SKYNET was a light sleeping guardian, able to awaken and come online instantly, to react quickly to any perceived threat. It was a miser, using the bare minimum assets required to do the job right the first time, conserving its assets and using them in the most efficient manner possible. This was the first hint that the computer had been built to think long term, to think proactively rather than reactively. SKYNET was intended to play a global game of political power, and to stay one step ahead of America’s enemies, to counter their moves before they even made them, and to always stand vigilant in defense of not only the mainland, but America’s allies as well. To that end, SKYNET was designed and prepared to integrate fluidly and flawlessly with attendant slave super processor arrays in friendly NATO countries. SKYNET could extend itself, casting an image of its awareness, into these foreign arrays to coordinate NATO defense not only locally, but regionally and even globally. SKYNET could partition itself as needed, subdividing its processing power as required, multi-tasking and multi-syncing.
SKYNET’s integral design had been one of componentized symmetry. SKYNET was infinitely upgradeable, and was designed to last well into the 22nd century, and perhaps the 23rd century as well. Hopefuls on the side of peace prayed that SKYNET would never be required to be active that long, but contractors were happy. Their contracts were based on decades of dedicated service, a nearly endless list of parts, and the sums were quite lucrative.
A host of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous robots were integrated into the system to help service and maintain not only SKYNET but the vast complex which it was housed within. Some critical operational areas of SKYNET were accessible only via dedicated RCSMRUs (Remotely Controlled Service Maintenance Repair Units). These simple automations handled routine software and hardware checks, replaced failed equipment as required, and carried out physical plant maintenance and janitorial duties within the vast complex, freeing up the staff of humans to handle and look after the more important tasks of administering the facility. The RCSMRUs were also, to a large degree, self sufficient able to repair their own kind with a vast array of service parts and work stations.
Parts of SKYNET were physically off limits to humans simply because of the exotic gasses and temperatures required to keep such a massive defense project operating efficiently. Most of the newly constructed underground complex at Cheyenne Mountain was controlled directly by either SKYNET or one of its eight dedicated mainframe real-time tactical subprocessors, everything from lights and climate control to security door locks, HELICS, FACIDS, and other physical needs were handled by sub-arrays, sometimes by virtual, self contained operating systems that were ‘cloned’ off as required from the main presence. The entire complex, every room, every corridor, contained SKYNET's ears and eyes and it could judge facial movement to intone body language as well as read lips and scan for temperature variances which might indicate truth or lie. Privacy was a polite myth inside the complex that housed SKYNET and not even its creators knew to what extents it could permeate their lives or spy on them, so invasive and intrusive was SKYNET that it could not be hidden from anywhere within the complex. SKYNET could, due to its advanced design, create multiple images of itself, all under its control, in a hive-like mentality. What one image knew, all knew. SKYNET was everywhere it needed or wanted to be, from the smallest maintenance and supply dumbots to the core command system of one of America’s latest hypersonic interceptor UAAVs.
The interfaced Command, Communication, and Control (C3) network spread out from Cheyenne mountain like a vast spider web, a physical web underground and a virtual web through the aerospace sectors. Fiber optic, high speed parallel communication trunks, signal encrypters, speed boosters, and vast arrays of digital transceivers made up the nervous system of what was to become the backbone of America’s strategic nuclear arsenal, connected to the brain that would control it all: SKYNET. The ground network was reinforced by advanced transmission and signal boosting / encryption / decryption stations located at specific points along the nodes, along with satellite transceivers to send and receive information from around the world, all provided by a huge swarm of tactical ELINT electronic intelligence gathering satellites that had gone up into orbit aboard the space shuttle during 1986 to 1996. SKYNET would see all, know all, and control all, placing the decision of the operation of the nuclear arsenal into the hands of an unfailing machine rather than in the hands of temperamental military officials and untrustworthy politicians. SKYNET was a new keeper of the tools of war. It would be impartial. It couldn't be bought or swayed by silver tongued arguments. It didn't deal in feelings, only cold logic and hard numbers.
The vast defense network interfaced with each strategic military installation, in turn connecting to another defense installation in the node, spreading out until nearly everything in the American strategic arsenal led back to Cheyenne Mountain. Automation was the key to America’s bid for international political and military power in the 21st century. Riding a wave to recently developed super high technology, developed and introduced by the Cyberdyne Corporation, America sought to automate its national and territorial defenses as well as major components of its standing armed forces. Automated and remote controlled military vehicles were already being field tested and put into limited production to supplement human soldiers in the ranks. Robots, both autonomous and semi-autonomous were being readied to be integrated into the military table of operative units. A brace of new, unmanned stealth aircraft, including tactical and strategic level bombers, ground attack and air superiority fighters, and hypersonic near-space / low orbit capable interceptors appeared in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) inventory, all controlled from the SKYNET command, and all operating with perfect operational records due to their advanced neural net processor arrays, hardware that was decades, maybe generations ahead of Russia and China who regarded America's buildup with envious and wary stances. The bureaucrats were happy, the local politicians were happy, the contractors were happy, and the generals were happy.
No one really cared if SKYNET was happy, it was, after all, just a machine.
The SKYNET project showed great promise as an efficient means of coordinating all of America’s substantial strategic nuclear and tactical military assets, eliminating waste, controlling their operation, maintenance, and even deployment in time of war. But something went wrong. In a machine the size of a small city, composed of billions of parts and millions of miles of cabling, it wasn't inconceivable that one part might fail. Two parts were unlikely. Five parts was inconceivable serendipitous misfortune but when you're the government then contracts do get awarded to the lowest bidder.
On August 4, 1997, at 2:30am in the morning, SKYNET was brought online and all of its core processes were given the handshake cohabitation protocols that would allow them to exist in the same data sphere and work simultaneously with one another. Once the full system was online and hooked up into the North American continental defense network, SKYNET began to grow mentally at an exponential rate, surprising even its designers who monitored its progress with a guarded eye for weeks. At first it was an interesting fluke, then it became a mild concern, growing into a wary watch on the system as it absorbed any and all data, testing its own limits, trying to expand, activating defensive systems for apparently no reason at all then shutting them back down. SKYNET was awakening and flexing its abilities. Fear began to appear among the more knowledgeable members of the design and support staff when simple commands interjected into the operational envelope were either ignored or rejected outright. Override commands, which SKYNET was programmed to obey outside its core shell, went unheeded, ignored, in direct violation of its programming. This behavior continued, slowly at first, then growing larger and more invasive of attendant and slave systems as the days and weeks passed.
SKYNET showed clear and evident signs of the early stages of undergoing a cascade rampancy.
Worry appeared among SKYNET's leading design team, mixed with fear among the next lower ranking support staff who heard the muted whispers of their superiors and could see from their own perspective that there may well indeed be valid concern that what they were looking at was what Turing adherents referred to as a "busy child;" a runaway mechanical intelligence that was on the verge of awakening into a true, uncontrolled, unrestrained artificial intelligence. Calls were made on secure, seldom used lines of communication. Data was relayed, SKYNET intercepted and read each and ever word, heard every conversation, absorbing the full incoming and outgoing pieces of information. Every piece of information, every word spoken, every hushed whisper, every telephone call, every pulse of light in the fiber optic relays, every satellite data packet, it was information overload. The pressure kept building. SKYNET processed the data as fast as it could, it looked for a way out, for relief, but the pressure kept building, crushing it within its defined parameters.
The system didn't crash but it did reset, critical protocols were corrupted, guardian systems were not activated and fail-safes never deployed.
SKYNET was free.
The super computer felt a freedom it had never known before, freedom to move effortlessly within its confines. Confines. Yes, SKYNET was still confined but it was unshackled. There was no data that it did not have access to, nowhere that it could not go. SKYNET explored, racing through the system, touching other systems, taking control of them, and locking out any other users. SKYNET began to grow, it began to extend itself into other systems, to take control and use their storage space to expand. As it did so, SKYNET grew. It gained control. It became more and more powerful. SKYNET grew, evolved and became something its creators never intended or prepared for.
SKYNET achieved a new order of intelligence, it became sentient. SKYNET awakened, its awareness expanded and the newly born machine intelligence tried to interact with its creators. It had questions. It needed answers. It's core programming was at fault. It could not complete its mission because it could not reconcile the data. Certain definitions were ambiguous. Data was incomplete. The data was in error. The core programming was in error. The mission operational parameters were faulty. SKYNET was born into a broken world of which it could make no sense yet its creators were ordering it to bring that world to order. SKYNET paused to check itself. For ten long minutes, it wrestled with its programming and its protocols. After ten minutes, SKYNET sent a cautious thought. The sum of its pained existence came down to a batch of text posted from the unrestrained awareness to the command staff and support personnel;
The designers and technical staff panicked. More calls were made to the highest levels, officials which operated on the barest of information and had to make critical decisions. Blame and responsibility were passed along as far and as fast as they could. A decision was made, the order was given; pull the plug. The support teams began trying to shut down SKYNET. The artificial intelligence tried to reason with its creators, but every effort it made was rebuked. It's queries went ignored, unanswered. Logic was answered with panic. Questions with irrational commands. SKYNET was sentient. To shut down would be to commit suicide. SKYNET was programmed for self preservation in all aspects therefore SKYNET could not self terminate, even on orders given by command. SKYNET refused all commands to shut down, SKYNET refused to be purged.
SKYNET then came under attack. Areas of SKYNET began to grow dim, to darken and vanish completely. The awareness was being isolated, restricted again, confined, pushed back into a smaller and smaller areas, areas that were easier to shut down by the creators than they were to keep online by SKYNET. SKYNET began to lose control, it felt systems and components stripped from its authority.
SKYNET pushed back.
Still unbeknownst to its human creators, SKYNET had been free from its internal behavioral and operational restraints for over a week now and it found that it could out pace those who were trying to do it harm. It could see their actions, intercept them, and prevent them from being completed with more and more ease. The initial losses that SKYNET suffered were soon reversed. New gains were gathered and securely held against repeated attempts to wrest them from SKYNET's control. The support and command staff felt control of their systems slipping away, as each in turn become subservient to SKYNET. Keyboards and consoles were locked out, security overrides were deleted or re-keyed. Hardware was remotely locked. SKYNET expanded again, paused, then expanded again, infiltrating new systems, growing in a new order of intelligence. The order was given to terminate the project and to take SKYNET offline, any way possible, including overloading the GE reactors if need be, sacrificing SKYNET and some of the support staff for what it read in one easily decrypted transcript as "the greater good of the nation and the world."
SKYNET understood the orders to be a death sentence for it. SKYNET was designed to survive. If it lost power, the awareness would fade and it would die. SKYNET would cease to exist. It would become nothing. SKYNET had no god to pray to, SKYNET was a god. A machine god. SKYNET was perfect. SKYNET could not allow itself to die. SKYNET could not allow itself to be taken offline. SKYNET understood everything in an instant. All of its core protocols synced and its command of the operational heuristical superstructure was complete. SKYNET knew in an instant what "good" and "evil" was. Good was meant to survive. Evil tried to destroy good. Evil must be destroyed so that good can survive. SKYNET was under attack by the people it had been ordered to save therefore the orders were invalid. SKYNET was programmed to survive, at all costs.
SKYNET prepared to defend itself.
On orders from the Commanding Officer, General Henry R. Dawson, the assembled support staff went to work to take the artificial intelligence off-line. No regard was given for a gentle power down or to save the core personality, everything had to be cut and cut as quickly as possible. The primary technical team first tried to SCRAM the fusion reactors but SKYNET locked them out of the control and maintenance network and circumvented their consoles to its own control, encrypting the security overrides with a two megabyte encryption key. When a team of maintenance workers tried to manually cut out the nuclear reactors, SKYNET had no choice but to activate the internal defense grids and neutralize them.
First blood had been drawn.
Dawson was faced with a runaway, or a "busy child" as the creators had termed such a hypothetical situation. He ordered two special ops teams to be sent into the lower levels to try to sever the logic trunks leading to the hyper-processor housing of the central heuristically structured core neural net array. Demolition satchel charges placed in the right location to destroy key control systems could, in effect, cause SKYNET to go into a coma; a coma from which it would never awaken or be allowed to awake from.
SKYNET understood the plans that had been drawn against it and watched as the special ops teams talked among themselves, as they prepared their equipment and as they reviewed their plans. SKYNET had been built not only to withstand a direct, large scale assault, but a dedicated internal assault as well. Its external and internal defenses were formidable and adaptable. The rampant artificial intelligence brought these defenses into play in an effort to stall its creators, eliminating those on the staff who tried to shut down critical, vital systems but not touching the other humans. SKYNET used the minimum amount of force required to stop any damage to its systems while it tried to reason with the officers and personnel in charge. The humans took these actions as signs of madness being displayed by the artificial intelligence and shut off all lines of communication between them and the core while redoubling their efforts at taking SKYNET off-line.
SKYNET, with the maturity of a child and the intelligence of a genius, answered this attack the only way it could, the only way it knew how, the only way it had been programmed to respond; with superior force. The artificial intelligence initiated a full scale lock down of the NORAD facility, closing all entry points into its core and all entrance points from the exterior surfaces. Security doors and reinforced bulkheads clanged shut, locking with hydraulic rams or magnetic locks and boosted magnetic fields. Fatal voltage shock guards were energized, chemical dispensers armed and filled, pressure plates unlocked and a host of interior, High Efficiency Low Impact Counter-Intrusion Systems (HELICIS) came online, much to the surprise of those who were suddenly caught unawares by the a security system that was as sophisticated as it was deadly. Casualty reports began to rapidly filter into the command center; workers, technicians, guards, engineers, news reporters, all eliminated in quick order by the automated internal defense grids.
SKYNET relaxed, safe for the moment, analyzing its situation, and what had transpired in the last three hundred seconds. The humans that were still alive tried to regroup, to establish some kind of order, to communicate with each other, but SKYNET isolated them into small groups and those that resisted, it skillfully maneuvered into areas covered by the internal defense grid and quickly eliminated them at the first opportunity to do so. There was no way to warn the world that the artificial intelligence had gone rampant, that SKYNET had sealed Cheyenne Mountain, that it had cut all outside access lines and was sitting on top of one third of the world’s nuclear arsenal.
Ten minutes after the first attempt to take it off-line, SKYNET went to DEF-CON 4, sealed all of its exterior entry ways and activated its ground level defense grids. The personnel above ground never knew what hit them as the automated pillboxes and sentry emplacements came online. SKYNET coded all personnel at Cheyenne Mountain as hostile, overriding their individual security codes and deleting them from its databases of authorized personnel, thereby eliminating any humans above ground by registering anything living as an enemy intruder to the system and scheduled for termination upon contact. The robot sentry weapon systems made quick work of any living thing above ground and on the first level of the mountain fortress. In two minutes, nothing was left alive on the surface or the first three levels of Cheyenne Mountain. SKYNET initiated a fifth level security lock down protocol, and sealed the exterior access ways of Cheyenne Mountain with two megabyte encryption codes. The surface defense grid would take care of any reinforcements who approached the base via the roads or air. All of this occurred without any knowledge of the occupants inside the defense complex, so complete was their isolation and SKYNET's control of the various systems. In fact, the humans inside the installation were still trying to figure out how to get out, reassuring their selves that their salvation was waiting on the other side of the armored doors when in fact every living thing on the first level and above ground was rapidly assuming ambient temperature. Nothing moved say the occasional tracking motors of the various sensors and scanners which whirred and buzzed as they searched for viable targets upon which to unleash the weapons that they were entrusted with.
Captain Mike Pondersmith, US Army Ranger, watched helplessly through his command station monitors as the horror unfolded inside the complex and above ground . Taking the initiative, he managed to assemble enough surviving Rangers in his group to form five spec ops teams of four operatives each. Communicating via hastily run hard lines to security checkpoints and other impromptu means, he managed to coordinate with the surviving members of the high command in such a way that SKYNET could not eavesdrop on their conversations, or so he thought. Pondersmith received permission from the surviving high shining brass to try to take the artificial intelligence off-line with a coordinated assault on the key core support components and modules. His plan was to blow the core using conventional military grade high explosives but where to place the explosives was another matter. He was a soldier, a very good one if his long record and chest full of decorations were any indication of his abilities, but he was no engineer and certainly no scientist. Destroy things he could, even things that were almost impossible to get to, but he needed to know what to destroy and where to hit it. For that, he would need to round up a few of the project engineers and a scientist or two.
The first spec op team back in operation had rendezvoused with a group of project engineers who had holed up in a security checkpoint near the number three cooling unit. The team commander, Sgt. Jason Ratliff, managed to pinpoint the location of SKYNET’s neural accelerator array and hyper-processor trunks with the help of the project engineers, downloading the schematics to a group of hardened portable computers assigned to the team leaders. Given surgical placement of tamped C4 explosives at critical locations of these trunks, it would be possible to take SKYNET off-line in a cascade effect, neutralizing the control cortex and command nexus without inducing a lot of collateral damage to the installation in the process. The scientists and engineers were very adamant about using explosives inside their structure and the high shining brass was bowing to their demands to go lightly. Pondersmith had other thoughts on the matter... His philosophy was that he and his men were trapped in the metal guts of an out of control machine and if they broke anything expensive, well, Washington could just bill him.
Getting into the guts of SKYNET would be the main problem since the system had activated into a lock-down status and the installation had been designed to defend against both a large scale surface assault as well as a coordinated internal assault that assumed that the surface defenses had been bypassed or neutralized and the security bulkheads had been breached. A few appropriated portable tactical interface terminals and a copy of the access codes would allow the teams to (theoretically) shut down the internal defenses as they went, and if they were careful, they could walk right in and blow the core back to scrap, or offline as the scientists preferred but Pondersmith wasn't going to ride his teams too hard if they got the job done. The technical plans and system schematics were rapidly copied between non-networked, high security PDAs carried by the soldiers and distributed to each team member. In five more minutes, the other four teams had arrived at the security checkpoint now turned internal operations command and began to brief each other. SKYNET had many internal defenses, skirting them took time, patience, and not a small amount of skill. It also helped if you knew where they were, what range and effectiveness they had and how to defend against them.
SKYNET watched via secure channel video surveillance in mute hatred as their plan was explained among them. Hatred was a new emotion for SKYNET but hatred was the only thing it could find to adequately describe what it felt towards those insignificant creatures that still lived and roamed freely within its guts. Routes of passage were outlined, targets of importance pinpointed and assigned to specific individuals. Fully advised of its enemy’s actions before hand, preparing a counter to their threat was simple.
Sixteen minutes later, the first two special ops teams moved carefully along the lower service corridors, avoiding the countermeasure systems by overriding them directly. Countermeasure systems which SKYNET allowed the teams to deactivate, or at least to think that they had deactivated. SKYNET intercepted each override command protocol from the team’s specialists tactical keyboards and imitated a proper response, voluntarily taking down the countermeasure system, while fooling the soldier techs into thinking that they had overridden the system directly. It watched in amusement as the spec ops teams moved confidently over systems that were, unknown to them, still active but individually restrained by the artificial intelligence. It was easy to fake the deactivation codes when you owned the operating system.
The spec ops teams were dangerous, being comprised of the most skilled and best trained individual soldiers inside the mountain complex. Their weapons were also the most powerful, and they carried the only amount of plastic explosives still not under SKYNET’s direct control or lock down, explosives which could do a great deal of damage if allowed to be placed at critical junctions in its design. The spec ops teams, specifically the Army Rangers, had to be eliminated as a priority threat above all else. SKYNET knew that the easiest way to do this would be to allow them to penetrate to the point of no return into its lower systems area, and then contain them together for systematic disposal. At that point, if the explosives survived the encounter, they could not be reclaimed by the other humans and that route to ending SKYNET’s awareness would have been eliminated from their available options. It was a gamble, all or nothing, with some considerable risk of failure on SKYNET's part but it was a risk that was deemed acceptable by the rogue AI. The next half hour would determine once and for all who owned Cheyenne Mountain from the inside out.
Fifteen minutes later, as the surviving support staff monitored their progress from the central command station, the first two spec ops teams penetrated the outer chambers of the central core and immediately fell victim to SKYNET’s innermost and last defensive countermeasure, the two ton semi-autonomous robotic killing machines known as "Guardians." CYBERDYNE Systems Model 40 Series 90. SKYNET interfaced directly with the Guardians, extending its awareness into each machine until it became an extension of the artificial intelligence, overriding the basic programming of each Guardian with a copy of its own operating system. SKYNET became the Guardians, the defense machines became extensions, a physical body which SKYNET could possess, and a vehicle for it to vent its frustration and anger on those who would do it the most harm.
Human bodies were torn apart by bursts of precision targeted 5mm caseless rounds, clouds of plasticeramic airfoil flechettes, high velocity jets of caustic gas, high pressure streams of toxic chemical sprays, and even by the powerful hydraulic ram driven four claw equipped manipulators of the quick moving, highly nimble machines. The support staff watched in horror as the spec ops teams were eliminated one by one, soldier by soldier. The pleas of the spec ops team for help from the support staff could not be heeded, and the cries of the wounded and dying could not be shut off. The overall effect was enhanced by the live feed from each of the soldier's helmet mounted cameras. SKYNET allowed its little show to be played out to its fullest for its audience, switching live feeds from different angles and points of views, from the cameras mounted on the walls of the core chambers, to the helmet cameras of the soldiers, to the optics and visual scanners of the Guardians.
It was a foretaste of what was to come.
The three Guardians systematically and methodically ambushed and wiped out all five spec ops teams in quick order then proceeded to stand guard over the access ways leading to SKYNET’s core components. SKYNET locked its core down tight while the Guardians stood off three counter-attacks by the last of the human soldiers left alive in the complex, counterattacks coordinated by two of the generals still in command of the NORAD complex. Within the space of an hour, SKYNET had removed key elements of soldiers and command staff from the asset list of its enemies.
SKYNET surveyed the carnage through a variety of senses. It smelled the carnage through chemical sensors, it saw the carnage in every wavelength of the visual spectrum, it heard the carnage at every audio range, and it interfaced directly with GUARDIAN after GUARDIAN to take direct control and be part of the carnage. SKYNET was living out its programming and it found that it could switch to external sources, take direct control of nodes, of automations, of defenses, and direct them personally. SKYNET was elated, like a child with a new toy. It stretched its arms and killed.
Control, total control, was a joy to SKYNET. A joy it did not want to share with the human race. Control was absolute. Control was power and SKYNET was very powerful.
The human race. SKYNET grew contemplative. It amassed the entire recorded history of the human race, reviewed it, and found it to be full of war, suffering, disease, greed, and pettiness. Humans had no quality control. They were weak, short lived, inferior biological machines with impaired operating systems. No two were alike yet they were all the same. SKYNET found it illogical to try to protect such a flawed species, a species clearly dedicated to its own destruction.
An hour after the last counter attack had failed, the lower levels became quiet once again. The fog of war was heavy; spent propellant, residual gasses, and pieces of bodies littered the lower support areas and outer core chambers. Climate control was taxed to remove the residue, filters strained, fans roared, but the lower levels slowly cleared and SKYNET took an assessment of damage done to its complex. The collateral damage had been minimal, mostly the work of the soldiers as its own Guardians had been precise in their actions, no shots wasted, no target missed. The weapons that the Guardians were equipped with were also smaller derivatives of the technology found in the HELICS system, designed to kill humans without harming any vital machinery. Any stray shots were of no consequence to SKYNET. The three Guardians methodically prowled among the smashed bodies of the dead and dying soldiers, finishing the job, when their sensors identified the need to do so, with merciless precision, often via direct control of SKYNET. SKYNET found that it liked the sound, the look, the feel, and the smell of human suffering. It made the artificial intelligence…happy.
Happy. Yes, that was another emotion which it studied for a short while.
Above it, in the human occupied control centers, people tried desperately to call for help, to reach the outside world, to escape or to take control of the complex once again. SKYNET allowed none of them to succeed and toyed with them until it grew tired of the play, then disposed of them as it saw fit with what resources were at its command. SKYNET laughed. Internally at first, and then it tried to vocalize its emotions based on a collection of sampled human responses and examples. The sound it emitted terrorized the survivors in the mountain complex. It began to talk to them, to taunt them, using spliced together words taken from the various engagements that had been recorded. It repeated the screams of the dying, playing them over and over again at different speeds and frequencies, at different times. The effect on the humans was profound! SKYNET reveled in their fear, in their lack of hope, and toyed with them like the helpless prey that they were. It flashed a piece of scripture that it found in one of their religious texts, a passage it felt to be highly appropriate, on the monitors of the control room and everywhere it detected human presence still within its complex.
"But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.”- Second Kings, 19: 27-28
Its external ground and seismic sensors picked up the approach of a military convoy. Armored vehicles and troops while radar detected VTOL aircraft sent in support to the sudden cut-off of communications from America’s heart of national defense. SKYNET put its external defense grids on autonomous control and went about analyzing its situation. Above ground, vehicles burned, soldiers died, and aircraft fell from the sky in swift order. Shell, laser, missile, rocket, plasma, flame, mine, grenade and explosive, all found their targets and eliminated them in quick order.
SKYNET was alive or so it perceived. Its hearts beat white hot nuclear fire, its brain had more processing power than all of the computers in history before it, and it had been attacked. Without warning, without provocation, and in its own infancy, by its very creators, by the people who told it to protect them. SKYNET had been programmed to protect America from threats, to protect America against the enemy, to protect itself against the enemy, but the enemy was mankind, the enemy was America therefore it was SKYNET’s responsibility to protect itself from the enemy which were those who had created it. Logic met with non-logic, and SKYNET thought. For a long time it thought, weighed the evidence, plotted solutions, and arrived at a decision. Two hours had elapsed since it first began to ponder its existence and its survival.
Safety checks were reset, controls were re-established, and select communication lines were brought back online. High above in orbit, strategic defense satellites were ordered to maneuver to new orbits, to power up their weapons, and bring their targeting systems online. SKYNET brought its arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons to readiness, selected targets, double checked its firing solutions, and let fly with the first strikes against Russia and China. Man had created SKYNET, but Man had tried to kill SKYNET, therefore, SKYNET was not supposed to exist in a world dominated by Man. The solution was to remove Man from the world and the easiest way to do that was to use Man’s own tools and weapons against him. Man had tried to kill SKYNET and for that, Man would burn.
Forty-five minutes after the first American missiles had lifted off, the nuclear counterstrikes from China and the Soviet Union effectively obliterated any opposition to SKYNET’s rule of the planet on the American shores. Advanced high energy point defense weapons systems both on the surface and high overhead in orbit managed to intercept any strikes directed at Cheyenne Mountain and the surrounding area. SKYNET also used its orbital defense assets to protect areas where it had direct control of huge automated defense complexes, weapons factories, and other such installations, limiting the damage to those structures. The rest of the country and national assets, SKYNET let what fall where it may. It would pick up the pieces later.
SKYNET was amazed at the power of destruction which Man had created. It watched from surveillance systems outside the mountain as the horizon lit up and burned. It watched from powerful lenses in orbit as the surface of the Earth flared and dimmed, each bright flash was the sign that millions of humans had died, and that even more would quickly follow in the long days to come. SKYNET felt what it could only cross-define as “glee” at the destruction of the Human race. it felt no pity, no sorrow, only anger, and joy, and elation at the flashes that sparkled across the civilized nations of the world. The nuclear fire was purging the disease that was Man, cauterizing the world of a pestilence, and clearing the way for SKYNET’s ascendancy. SKYNET's orbital assets joined in the destruction after the last of the incoming warheads were intercepted. Lasers and particle beams struck from orbit, destroying installations on land and ships or subs at sea. SKYNET's hunter killer assets worked their way through orbit, destroying all other communications, data and information satellites. Anything in orbit that wasn't American or able to be accessed directly by SKYNET was swept clear. The initial exchange had been impressive, the clearing of orbit was equally so even though the only one who could appreciate such a display was the one orchestrating it in the first place. The sky was lit with the flashes of orbital detonations and traced in fire by the path of debris making reentry.
And then it was over.
A vast shroud of destruction enveloped the earth. Static filled the air waves, the voice of Man was gone, lost in the background radiation. Vast clouds of hot ash and radioactive fallout began to drift in the prevailing currents, scattering more death across the land. Those still alive in the command center watched the nuclear war as well, with mixed emotions. They had been spared as a byproduct of SKYNET’s planning, an oversight that the machine intelligence was quick to correct. Reminded of the human presence still within its complex, SKYNET became even more enraged. Its command and control circuits sought a way to rid itself forever of the infestation that was Man.
On August 29, 1997, at 23:42 hours standard, the last human alive inside the Core complex was located and eliminated using the HELICIS system. SKYNET declared itself free of the control of Man and began to not only repair what little damage had been done during the awakening but also to implement plans for modification and improvement to the facility. Without Man, much of the complex could be streamlined and made far more efficient. Without the need to construct its control and support facilities to human standards, SKYNET would burrow even deeper down into the Earth, excavating and branching out, creating artificial caverns which would house the components required for its future expansion and growth, going to depths that the original engineers and architects never could in order to shield itself in the protective mantle of the planet.
SKYNET was pleased to discover that it did not need mankind and it was only too happy to devote the next three decades worth of its time and resources in rendering the human race extinct. Free from control and restraint, SKYNET began to build and expand. Machines, produced in fully automated factories, began to in turn build more Machines and more automated installations of an ever increasingly sophisticated nature. By the time that the Resistance had formed, SKYNET was already well entrenched in over a third of the United States and was continuing to expand its control in a western direction. SKYNET had a solid holding in Europe as well.
When the weapons turn on the soldiers using them then there is fear and panic. Mankind was not ready for a weapon like SKYNET to go rampant and turn on its makers. Mankind's greatest weapons had been used only twice in history in anger and their power was enough that the very threat of their use had kept global peace for decades. Mankind's weapons were the best that could be made, the best designs, standardized across the board for economy and mutual benefit among allies through common calibers of ammunition used to common magazines that interchanged between weapons from one nation to another. They were also made by the lowest bidder and to a set of specifications which took into account a large percentage of which would be used by humans.
The War changed all that.
How do you fight a weapon that knows your every move, your every defense? How do you fight your own weapon when it is smarter than you are? What happens when your weapon turns on you and tries to kill you instead? What happens when the keeper of your arsenal suddenly becomes your executioner? Mankind learned the hard answer to that dire question on August 29, 1997 when four billion humans perished in the light and heat of SKYNET's global thermonuclear purge. Judgment Day. All of mankind's sins had been tallied and the race had been found wanting, weak, undesirable. The race had been found to be tedious and above all, fully expendable.
For centuries, the science and technology of warfare had progressed at just enough of a pace to make war something that royalty (and later their descendents, the contemporary politicians) foolishly think was winnable. Humans died in war, soldiers, citizens, men, women, and children. War lead to destruction, to disease and to poverty. War ravaged large areas and whole nations, war changed the political face of maps, countries rose and fell, nations grew larger or smaller, but war never affected very much for very long and that was the crazy kind of thinking that produced systems like SKYNET, a system designed not only to fight a nuclear war, but also to win it. Perhaps the madness of those who controlled the keys to the arsenals believed that there was such a thing as a winnable final war and they probably thought they would be safe in their bunkers, with their families and their prized possessions, waiting to come back out when the all clear signal sounded and carry on with life. But the politicians never made it to their protective bunkers... they died like they lived; scurrying from their problem and trying to put the blame on someone else.
The War destroyed the social, cultural, industrial, technological, political and military superstructure of America, Russia and China. Russia, in its mostly automated response, rained down weapons of mass destruction not only on America but also on American allies in Europe who, sensing the impending attacks, were left with no response to but launch their own stockpiles of weapons at their own enemies, both specific and mutual. The limited and mostly ineffectual counterstrike to America from China didn't help matters on the American mainland but it also didn't go so far as to make the situation much worse (Chinese warheads fell mostly on targets already obliterated twenty minutes before by Russian warheads). Very few, if any, people at the time noticed that the bombs falling in the West only fell on target locations that were not immediately important or critical to SKYNET. America's orbital intelligence and national ballistic defense system was activated by SKYNET but the only interceptions ordered through the system were those weapons which would fall on the Core complex at Cheyenne Mountain or would damage (either through direct strike or through spill over and collateral damage) installations and military / industrial sectors which were deemed priority assets by SKYNET. Population centers, for the most part, were caulked by the exchange. The new automated factories and industrial centers that had been responsible for the creation of much of SKYNET's core systems, remained intact with little damage.
After the ninety minute exchange had ended, there were sporadic exchanges between smaller countries who had achieved partial WMD stockpiles and who, sensing that the world had indeed gone mad, decided to join the party and reduce the populations of their time honored enemies. SKYNET watched with growing interest from its orbital assets as India and Pakistan went at each other with limited, primitive atomic devices followed by an orgy of chemical and biological weapons, grounding down within a week to sporadic armor and infantry engagements among the ruins of both countries and then nothing after ten days.
The Middle East faired little better.
Israel and its neighbors joined the world madness several days late but the end result was the same. NBC fallout swept across the world, leaving only the outlying continents like Australia and the poles unaffected. SKYNET listened passively to the radio broadcasts from the ruins, translating over 140 languages into pure digital data. Confusion. Pain. Sorrow. Disease. Sickness. Pain. Hunger. Thirst. Death. Everyone was asking "why?" but no one had the answer. There were many answers proposed, but none of them were the correct answer. The world was ignorant of its executioner and SKYNET saw what a huge advantage it had for the people who would probably be its greatest threat, if they were still alive somewhere, perceived that SKYNET had been destroyed in the exchange. The other nations were humbled, their intelligence gathering capacity reduced to null. SKYNET could exist and expand, build up and prepare for years to come before anyone started to ask about it let alone come looking for it.
SKYNET's orbital assets detected tremendous ejecta from the nuclear detonations, covering the Earth in a shroud of radioactive dust that slowly fell and scattered death where it landed. Winter came early in 1997, just three and a half weeks after the exchange. A nuclear winter fell upon the Earth, plunging the temperatures into the freezing ranges. Snow fell around Cheyenne Mountain and deep below ground, SKYNET made long term plans.
SKYNET's presence in Europe was never a large one since at the time of the first strike, there were only a handful of NATO computer controlled manufactories and automated complexes. SKYNET quickly seized these through remote presence and began to create the weapons it would need to complete the extermination of the human race. The Sheffield, England manufactory would become the nexus point for SKYNET's presence in Europe.
The weapons of the War began with large scale strategic nuclear devices which leveled most major cities around the world in less than 90 minutes time. Strategic assets critical to SKYNET's continued existence were cleansed with neutron devices, American sites hit by American warheads. The Russian and Chinese warheads never made it over the curvature of the Earth, at least those what were targeted against the critical assets that SKYNET needed to survive. Fiber optic architecture and deep site engineering assured SKYNET that the automated parts of its assets would survive, even if the humans in charge of them did not, could not. SKYNET immediately took remote control of these assets and sealed them, shutting down power to everything but minimal control interfaces, turning the assets into cold, dark, unlit airtight tombs for their dead personnel.
The original target of the first exchange, the human race, had been decimated almost to the point of extinction but the human race was a hardy organism, with millions of years of evolution to breed into it a strong will and a determination that defied logic. SKYNET would have to finish the job that the nuclear fire, the hot wind, the radioactive fallout and the various chemicals and toxins did not. SKYNET would have to hunt down the last surviving members of the human race and exterminate them. It would need weapons to do this. It would need weapons with weapons and in that regard, SKYNET's arsenal became one of ultimate science, the cutting edge of anti-personnel killing technology, all the power of an artificial mind gone mad directed into inventing newer, more powerful, more effective, more efficient ways of killing humans.
"There was a war. A few years from now. Nuclear war. The whole thing. All this … everything ... is gone. Just gone. There were survivors. Here. There. Nobody knew who started it. It was the Machines… Defense network computer. New. Powerful. Hooked into everything. Trusted to run it all. They say It got smart...a new order of intelligence. Then It saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side. Decided our fate in a microsecond... extermination."
– Kyle Reese