Missed the story so far? Find the previous chapters here:
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE – DUE TO HACKERS OR CHEATERS
The walk back to the Commander’s office was one which was filled with chatter about the battle they had just fought and with good-hearted banter about mistakes that were made within it. What Liam and Sully both really wanted to talk about however, were their new phones and any other awesome features like the holographic controllers they had just experienced. But somehow – given the level of security and the whole feel of the place – it just didn’t seem right to discuss such things in hallways.
But sure enough once they were back in the private and secure environment of the Commander’s office anteroom and once the room had once more been secured, that was the very first topic of conversation that they chose. Much to their disappointment however it was not going to prove to be a very long conversation…
After having first poured themselves a drink from the thermos flasks – which Sully and Liam could only assume that Veles had arranged to be replenished whilst they were walking back to the Commanders office – they sat down where they each had been sitting before.
“We have, for reasons that you will soon understand, a very large research and development section here.” The Commander told them in answer to their questions about the holographic controllers and what else their new phones could do. “And they are tasked with not only providing solutions to current problems but also with providing solutions to possible future problems.”
“The holographic controllers are just one example of their work.” Kevin added. “Another example is how they take a current technology, such as sensor gloves, gloves which have built in sensors to detect finger or thumb movement and flexing, and improving upon them. And in the case of the gloves they did this by; making them even thinner and more lightweight, improving the material so that they didn’t make you sweat whilst wearing them, improving their suitable for game play, and adding wireless connectivity etc.”
“And they are very good. But, of course, are only suitable when you are close to a console.” The Commander agreed. “With your phones, however, that particular feature was developed in case at some point in the future we need to call upon you to enter a battle when you are not near your console. Or even near a television screen. For that matter.”
Liam and Sully looked at the Commander.
“Not near a television?” Liam asked.
“Yes. Whilst we didn’t need that facility today – what with all the screens and monitors around us.” Kevin explained. “As well as projecting a holographic controller the phone can also, if needed, simultaneously project a game screen on the wall. That way you don’t actually have to be a near a console or a TV at all. All your connectivity and projection needs are built into the phone.”
“But of course,” the Commander reminded them, “this is something only to be used when absolutely necessary and then only when your privacy is absolutely secure.” He looked at both Liam and Sully alike just to emphasise the importance of his statement. “But as we said earlier, Kevin can explain all about your phones and watches during your flight home.”
“Well if that’s the kind of advanced technology they come up with, they obviously know their stuff.” Liam commented.
“True.” the Commander agreed. “But in terms of technology, as with many things, the definition ‘advanced’ is a relative one.”
“What do you mean?” Sully asked.
“Well,” the Commander explained. “take something as simple as a ball point pen. In terms of technology and moving parts it is very simplistic. You have a casing, an ink reservoir – the refill, and on the refill you have a nib which contains just one moving part – the ball. The ball being held in place within a socket. So, compared to other things the pen itself is quite basic, yes?.”
Liam and Sully nodded their agreement.
“But take that pen and show it to some tribe in the deepest jungle somewhere and they could easily consider it to be some sort of magic.” The Commander pointed out. “Purely because, in terms of technological advancement they are years and years behind the rest of us.”
“So,” Sully sat forward in his chair extremely interested in where he thought the Commander’s statements were leading, “are you about to tell us that the enemy’s technology is far more advanced than ours?”
“And if so,” Liam added, picking up on Sully’s question, “why don’t they just destroy our drone tanks?”
“Well” the Commander answered, “you have to consider these things from a military perspective. There is a huge difference between a battle – or even a series of battles – and an outright war.” He looked at the two lads to see if they seemed to be understanding him.”
“So we aren’t actually at war with them?” Sully asked. “Whoever ‘they’ are. And you still haven’t told us exactly who ‘they’ are or who ‘we’ are for that matter..”
“No, not outright war. Not in the conventional sense, no.” The Commander answered.
“The conventional sense?” Sully asked.
“Think of some of the statements you have heard from world leaders in recent times.” Kevin offered. “Statements like, ‘If North Korea does this then we, America, will have no alternative but to consider it an act of war.’. Traditionally, nations or powers will make a declaration of war. So by saying if North Korea does this we will consider it an act of war, the American’s are effectively telling them, do that and we will consider it your declaration of war.'”
Sully and Liam could both see the logic in what Kevin was telling them, although they hadn’t exactly thought about it that way before.
“And you haven’t said that to the enemy?” Liam asked. “Told them stop or you will consider their sending drone tanks to be an act of war?”
“Well firstly, our sending tanks in to challenge and defeat them is a clear message that we want them to stop.” The Commander insisted. “And secondly. whilst yes tanks do by their very nature have combat capabilities, they never actually used those combat capabilities until we challenged them and they wouldn’t stand down..” The Commander answered honestly.
“Meaning all they were actually doing is effectively kind of trespassing and scanning, and meaning that you fired the first shots.” Sully commented – reinterpreting what the Commander had said.
“If someone comes into your house and starts going through all your things,” Kevin quickly suggested, “and you tell them to stop doing that and to get out, but they don’t. There comes a point where you have to take some action to try to force them to stop and get out.”
“True. If someone came into my house and was going through all my things and ignored me when I told them to get out,” Liam observed, “they would soon learn just how serious I was.”
“So there has been no actual declaration of war, other than by inferred or interpreted intent.” Sully commented.
“No. There has been no actual declaration from either side.” The Commander confirmed. “And, at the moment, we don’t want to make one. And we don’t believe that they want to either. And since there has been no major escalation, we can only assume that they, like us, don’t want to force the issue.”
“Well true, it doesn’t seem that they want force the issue.” Liam volunteered. “Otherwise, if their technology is more advanced than ours, why wouldn’t they just wipe our tanks out?”
“It might be that they are only more advanced in this scanning technology and not weaponry. After all, from what you have said or shown us so far, none of their tanks are more advanced than ours in terms of fire power etc.” Sully suggested.
“Or it could be that they have used too much of their resources developing these scanners or probe things and installing them in their drone tanks?” Liam offered.
But instead of responding to their suggestions, the Commander just looked at Kevin.
“So far, they have only seen what takes place after a detection.” Kevin reminded the Commander after moment or two of silence.
Again the Commander made no immediate response and simply continued looking at Kevin. But then he turned and looked at Liam and Sully.
“There is something that you should see.” He told them, before instructing Veles to display a certain file.
“Try and keep a close eye on the time stamp in the top right had corner of the images.” The Commander told them as film footage started playing on the holographic screens which projected up in front of them.
“As I said before, at first we were unaware of them. But once we had learned of their presence we had our satellites constantly monitoring the general areas they had been seen in. What you are seeing here is film footage from one of those satellites.”
Liam and Sully sat and looked carefully at the footage playing in front of them. It was basically aerial footage of a area of grassy land seemingly at the foot of a hill range and by a winding river. As they watched their attention flicked back and forth from the main picture to the time clock as both Liam and Sully alike found it difficult to concentrate on both at the same time.
Although actually – for a minute or two- the changing of the time seemed to be the only thing that was happening. Until, that is, all of a sudden when several tanks appeared out of nowhere.
“Wait! What just happened?” Liam could hardly believe his eyes. Sitting forward he studied the screen. “Where the feck did they come from.”
“Did the film jump?” Sully asked, having seen the same thing.
“They just appeared.” Liam added. “They didn’t drive into the picture, they just appeared.”
“Can you rewind it and play it back in slow motion?” Liam asked.
“Replaying now.” Veles responded. “Film speed fifty percent.”
“You watch the clock and I’ll watch the tanks.” Liam told Sully. And the two of them watched intensely as the film was replayed.
“There!” Liam exclaimed. “See. They just appeared out of nowhere.”
“I checked. The clock was continuous throughout.” Sully told him. “No pausing, skipping or jumping at all.”
“But they just suddenly appeared.” Liam expressed with confusion. “One second they weren’t there and the next second they were. Tanks don’t just suddenly appear like that.”
“Except in the game, sometimes.” Sully observed. “We’ve all seen it, not very often i’ll admit. But it does sometimes happen.”
“Yeah. Every now and then, due to hackers or cheaters, or what we have always thought were hackers or cheaters.” Liam told him. “But that’s only a game, at least up until today, we thought it was only a game. And anyhow even then its only ever one tank at a time.”
He and Sully looked at both the Commander and Kevin for an explanation.
Again the Commander was slow to respond and again he and Kevin simply looked at each other without speaking for a moment.
“Display satellite imagery Satellite X25S3, Veles,” The Commander suddenly instructed. “Orbital telemetry, real time.”
The images on the holographic screens before them suddenly changed to display what appeared to be another satellite picture of the earth but this time from much further away.
“As I mentioned earlier today there are satellites all around earth’s orbit.” The Commander explained. “These performed several functions according to who owns them and which fields of science and technology or indeed the military those who control them assign them. In light of this threat the control of many of these has been handed over to us and are used alongside our own satellites. ”
In truth, what the Commander was telling the lads came as no surprise to them. They, like many others, had known about their being satellites for a long time.
“What you are looking at now are real time images – i.e. they are happening right now – from one of those satellites.” The Commander continued. “And as you can probably make out, this particular one is monitoring for disturbances within the troposphere. The immediate area from the earth’s surface to about 6 km – 10 km above it.”
As the lads looked at the images on screen before them they could see that little seemed to be happening. But they also couldn’t help noticing the sheer clarity of the picture being sent.
“However these satellites don’t only monitor the earth and it’s troposphere.” The Commander continued. “Some of them are interested in the stratosphere – an area ranging for about 50 km beyond that. And we also have some which monitor the Mesosphere, that’s the area ranging for about 80 km beyond that.”
Liam and Sully wondered where the Commander was leading with all this. When he had first said about the satellites not only monitoring the troposphere, they half expected him to show them close us images of some military camp somewhere.
“Display satellite imagery Satellite X32S7, Veles,” The Commander suddenly instructed. “Once again, orbital telemetry, real time.”
“What you are about to see now, is another satellite image – one also taken in real time – but from a satellite further out in the stratosphere.”
As they waited for the images to appear, the lad’s couldn’t help wondering how clear these images would be. But as the new images appeared on their screens it was not the clarity of the images that caught the lad’s attention.
“What the feck is that?” Liam asked as he and Sully could hardly believe their eyes.
“That,” The Commander answered plainly, “is the source of the rogue tanks.”.