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Monday, July 03, 2006

Year 2076: Desert Spies

Bruce and Gary lived in a pit. It was a great location. The walls of their pit were made of sand which constantly trickled down and must occasionally be heaved out again.
Bruce reflected that a pit hidden among great dunes of Saharan sand was an odd place for a couple of Navy boys like him and Gary.
Bruce and Gary had been taking turns reconnoitering for a new pit. They already had a great pit, but it was old, they worried a patrol might find them. The patrols had been coming closer and closer over the past week or so. It was time to move on if they could find a better spot to hide.
Their electronic countermeasures camouflage net had been damaged in a sand storm two nights ago; they were uncertain if it still concealed their infra-red signatures. When Bruce measured the IR level from outside, the net appeared to be only sporadically disguising Gary’s heat signature. Their camo net was no longer functioning very well in other respects as well. The camo net was their satellite receiving antenna rigged to downlink data from spy satellites when they passed by overhead; lately the transmissions they received were too garbled to understand.
If their dispatcher would drop them a new EC camo net with their next automated supply drop they might be ok, otherwise they might have to scrub their mission.
But a brand new EC camo net wasn’t likely to be risked in an automated supply drop, too much chance it might be captured before it was in range to be keyed to their dead-man burst transmitters. Their camo net would self destruct if either of them were killed. Bruce and Gary were prepared to kill themselves rather than be captured. The technology in their camo was far too sensitive to allow it to fall into enemy hands. Their camo ordinarily made them damn near invisible.
Bruce and Gary’s jobs were to confirm spy satellites’ reports. So far the reports had all been good. They had confirmed 11 missile silos buried in the sands south of their pit.
The silos were offshoots of an underground tunnel that was creeping below the desert dunes slowly budding new silos every two or three months.
No one knew what sort of payloads the missiles in these silos might carry, or even how the payloads might be delivered. Payload options ranged the gamut of Biological, Chemical or Nuclear warheads. The rockets driving the warheads might be solid or liquid chemical boosters, nuclear lifters, or the warheads might be mounted on electromagnetic rail guns. The warheads might even launched like mortar shells, using conventional explosives in titanic cannon barrels.
Saddam Hussein had been caught trying to import this sort of cannon back in the 1980’s. The cannons were manufactured in Germany and had been sunk in the Mediterranean before they could be delivered.
It would be Bruce and Gary’s job to discover which of these deadly options were being deployed here.
Bruce just hoped it wasn’t bugs. Bugs were the most dangerous weapons.
Bruce knew that the new breeds of biological weapons ranged from viruses that attacked blood vessels causing rapid internal bleed outs to microbes whose waste products ate away nerve tissues, stupefying and paralyzing its victims. It was rumored that the latest bug to be used caused the skin to slough off, the victims died of secondary infections with no skin left to protect them from the most commonplace microbes and viruses.
Bruce really did not like bugs.
Gary was out studying the security setup around the nearest silo. Bruce worried that Gary would fuck up and tip off the Arabs to their presence. Gary said he was nearly set to covertly enter the silo and they should plan to move to a new pit immediately after they learned what sort of weapons the silo housed. They should be ready to enter the silo tomorrow night or the next night at the latest.
Bruce said he would be ready to move. Bruce was their communications specialist; he was also responsible for picking up their supplies. He would try to relay their new mission time-table to their dispatcher. Their satellite uplink was a shielded laser device. It required pinpoint accuracy to focus it on a spy satellite and upload their encrypted message bursts.
The satellite uplink was a bit unwieldy; it was camouflaged in a tube that doubled as a light anti-aircraft weapon. A tripod with an automatic swivel mount could be stored inside the LAW and was deployed to aim the ultra-violet laser toward whichever spy satellite was most directly overhead.
But with the lousy feedback Bruce was getting through their camo net Bruce could not be sure he was aiming the uplink laser successfully. Their dispatcher might not know their camo net was acting flaky. If their messages were not getting through there would definitely be no new EC camo net dropped.
Instead, they may already be presumed dead.
Their next supply drop was due in just four days. If their supplies weren’t dropped on schedule Bruce and Gary would have to assume that they had been presumed to be dead. They would have to extract themselves from their mission without support.
There was a blip on the infra-red scanner in the south quadrant. Then two more blips followed by multiple blips in the eastern quadrant and more blips in the south. A patrol!
Gary was still out, but Gary was due back in only a quarter of an hour. The patrol was directly in the path that Gary would be following back to the pit. Of all the rotten luck!
Bruce could think of no safe diversion he could run on the patrol to draw them away from Gary’s return path. He would just have to hope that Gary was really on his toes tonight. They might have to move before they could thoroughly investigate the silo.
There were a number of places they might hole up for one or two nights, leaving them some time to find a more suitable place for another long-term occupancy.
Bruce studied the horizon to the north and east with his starlight amplifying monocular. He could just make out a ragged line of soldiers patrolling the desert about three clicks away. The hairs rose on the back of Bruce’s neck, he turned quickly to see a large mass of sand break away from the northern lip of the pit. Gary slid down into the pit breathing hard.
Bruce turned back to observe the patrol. The patrol had stopped and was grouping up and then spreading out in a circle. A patrol soldier in the distance waved and the patrol moved off to the east. They seemed to have found something.
Bruce new that Gary’s early return meant that he had bungled something.
Gary stood to Bruce’s left and watched the retreating patrol through his own monocular. As the last of the soldiers disappeared beyond the dunes Gary sighed with relief.
Bruce gave Gary another minute to catch his breath before debriefing him. Gary had made it past the perimeter security measures and was working on the silo door locks when a patrol appeared. He had hunkered down inside the silo door vestibule and prayed the patrol would not approach.
The patrol had moved on and Gary was left to wonder if his prayers had been answered or was it just another random act of the universe. He had opted for a random act of the universe; he really wasn’t sure if he was ready to have his prayers answered.
Their gear was mostly packed already; they were constantly prepared to move on short notice. Their spent batteries and other trash were buried. They booby trapped the pit where their trash was buried then packed the camo net.
They were mobile.
There was a reasonable site for them to hide in that was a half click closer to the silo they intended to enter. They followed the patrol to the east, and then turned south into some low hills where a large outcrop of rock stood; the rock was riddled with crevasses. They would not be able to see any distance from their new hidey-hole without climbing up to the top of the rock outcrop, potentially exposing them to unfriendly observers. At least the way in to their new camp was difficult to find.
When they reached the hidden entrance to the crevasse in which they planned to hide they set passive alarm sensors to warn them if anyone approached.
Deeper into the crevasse they set anti-personnel mines. At the box end where they would camp they climbed the walls and anchored knotted ropes, they were now prepared to climb quickly out of their camp should the need arise.
Gary reviewed his notes on his PDA as Bruce deployed the camo net. Bruce was working meticulously, inspecting the net carefully for damage, occasionally making small repairs.
Gary proposed to return to the silo tonight to crack the code key on the door. They needed to be prepared to enter the silo quickly; Gary would store the door’s code key in his PDA to prepare for the night they would enter the silo and finally determine what sort of threat it contained.
Bruce agreed, he would advise their dispatcher if he could get a good uplink to a satellite.
Gary departed to resume his interrupted mission.
The satellite uplink connection was marginally better this time. Bruce was sure the satellite could see his laser but the replies received through the broken net were still incoherent. He flashed an update to their dispatcher that re-iterated everything he had tried to upload earlier, including another request to drop a new camo net. He then advised their dispatcher about Gary’s aborted mission, their forced move, and Gary’s departure to try and complete tonight’s mission.
Gary had only two hours until dawn. He needed at least 20 minutes to reach cover after departing the silo. He would arrive at the silo in 40 minutes so he would have about an hour to crack the security code. Plenty of time, Gary expected it would take only 10 minutes or so.
As Gary approached the silo door an alert appeared on the heads up display in the brow of his helmet. The security camera on the silo door had been re-enabled. No sweat, he would sneak up on it as he had before, but instead of inducing static interference, he would loop its output so that it sent a steady image of an empty approach to the silo door.
Most likely an engineer monitoring the security systems had discovered the problem with the camera and rebooted it. That would clear the static charge; the engineer would be unlikely to suspect sabotage. It would appear to be just another routine system failure.
When Gary’s video loop began its replay he moved to the door and deployed sensors to monitor the door circuits and then began to hack his way in to the server where the door authentication processes were running.
The gear here was top-notch, manufactured by The Bizgov in the former USA. Gary had several back-door options he could try. It was unlikely that the Arabs would have found them all.
The Bizgov ‘leaked’ information on its first level back doors to black market customers to divert them from discovering the real back doors. Gary soon got a response indicating which back doors remained open. He examined each open door carefully.
The Arabs had closed the primary back doors. They had also found several of the second and third level back doors. On the fourth level there appeared to be no problems with the back doors. However, as Gary tried to authenticate to one of the fourth level back doors he discovered a trap.
The engineers that had reworked this software were good. But they would have left their own back door. Gary went back to the primary back doors and took another look. Yep, these back doors only appeared to be disabled. They remained functional. Gary browsed to the authentication routines and began looking for the encryption algorithms. He copied the encryption keys to his PDA and then went looking for the door tables. He found the security code for his silo’s door in the tables and cracked it with his stolen encryption algorithm.
The red LED on the keypad turned to green. He was done. Only 8 minutes, not bad at all. He secured the door, edited the door’s security log file to hide his recent authorization, then went after the camera logs and erased the maintenance report for the static glitch he had introduced earlier.
Nearly every trace of his visit was now erased or obfuscated. He moved behind the door camera and removed the output loop, restoring the genuine output from the camera. They would have to be very alert to notice the tiny change in light level and star positions between the present moment and the time when he had recorded the loop images.
Gary stole away into the desert and was soon clambering down one of the knotted ropes into their camp. Bruce uploaded Gary’s surveillance report and they played a quick round of paper-scissors-rock to see who would take the first watch. Gary won, and he was soon sound asleep.
In Gary’s dreams there was a terrible roar, the silos were launching! Gary awoke instantly. Everything was quiet. Bruce’s placid look re-assured him that the frightening launch had only been a dream.

When Gary returned to sleep he might have had an unusual dream in which he was hacking the ancient files from the time before public access to the internet had been shut down. In those files he might have read a strange Blog like the one you are reading now in which he found himself reliving tonight’s events through the medium of a 70 year old post.