Chapter Twenty-Three – This is a Good Thing?
Chapter Twenty-Three – This is a Good Thing?
High above the system elliptic a single stealth Raider maintained vigil. Raiders by their nature were simple creatures. Birthed to a singular purpose. This Raider was created for long patrols alone through the vacuum of space. As such an emotion like boredom was not something it experienced in the way that humans did. It derived its pleasure from floating through void observing the universe.
Still, after several days of doing nothing more than maintaining a precise position in space the Raider felt a touch of excitement when it began to receive communications from the other Raiders.
There was also a feeling of satisfaction as the Raider logged the data bursts from all of its fellows. It’s positioning had been perfect. The Cylons used pinpoint communication lasers to minimize the risk of detection. Had either it or the other Raiders been even the smallest fraction of a degree off in their calculations the communications lasers would have missed their target and the intelligence would have been lost.
It took less than a second for each Raider to download their complete logs. After crosschecking the bursts and verifying no corruption in the data the Raider blinked out of existence to rendezvous with the approaching fleet.
Two other Raiders similarly positioned outside the Trowley system received the same data bursts (The Cylons left little to chance). They too jumped out to meet the oncoming Fleet.
Again, the sensitive hyper-detection equipment that constantly scanned space around the Trowley system detected the gravity distortions caused by the Cylon’s FTL engines.
It should be noted that space is in a constant state of flux. Every object, from massive stars to the smallest speck of matter, acts on every other body around it. As they move gravity shifts. These effects can be measured.
The detection stations were if anything too sensitive (being able to detect a gravity distortion from a hyperdrive out to three light years). They record literally thousands of minor anomalies every second and dozens of larger ones every minute. Obviously, the vast majority of these anomalies are simple natural events that mean nothing. Highly sophisticated programs sift through the enormous sea of data looking for anything that meets the criteria established for a transiting ship or fall far enough outside the normal patterns to warrant extra attention.
Had the Cylon Raiders been within three of four million kilometers of a detection station the system would have been able to pick up the distinct traces of an artificially created gravity distortion and thus immediately class the Raiders as ships. But these events occurred far outside the short range sensors and they were quite small. Smaller even than many of the natural events the system regularly detected and ignored.
Also, given the unique and previously unknown FTL drive system employed by the Cylons and the Colonials the League did not have the necessary data to reprogram the detection nets to track its distinctive emissions. And even if they had, the distance and size of the distortions still meant the program would have classed them as irrelevant.
So once again the system failed to flag any of its human controllers that something out of the ordinary was detected because as far as it could tell within its programming, nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
AIs would definitely have been better, Adama thought as the ‘man’ who identified himself as Colonel Anehachi took a seat on the opposite side of the table next to Admiral Sane.
Adama remembered all too well the early days of the Cylon war. The computerized traffic system killing thousands of people across the Colonies by creating thousands of ‘accidents’. Spacecraft literally crashing into satellites, each other or plunging through the atmosphere to crash into cities as Cylon AI’s took control over their auto-pilot and flight control systems. Electricity going down as power plants shut down, rerouted power or caused to overload destroying themselves (often taking large areas of land with them). Cylon servants killing their owners. The Centurions that replaced much of the infantry forces of Colony’s military suddenly turning on their human ‘masters’ and crippling critical military bases across the Colonies.
Those first few terrifying weeks of the war when nobody even knew they were fighting a war. Everyone watching as the technology they’d had grown so reliant upon, so complacent about, turned against humanity.
When it was first learned that the ‘accidents’ and ‘malfunctions’ were deliberate most blamed other Colonies. Aerelon and Leonis actually launched strikes believing the other responsible for the destruction of their largest space stations.
And now sitting a few feet away from him was a ‘man’ who apparently connected himself directly to computers.
It took enormous self-control to remain seated.
Leave it to Gaeta to find the idea of “Neural-Cybernetics’ to be fascinating. Adama could see his Tactical Officer almost bursting at the seams to ask questions. The younger generations, born after the armistice, just didn’t understand. They hadn’t lived through the horrors. Seen the bodies. Heard the screams.
They wanted the ‘convenience’ of computers and robots. They wanted the end of the labor intensive jobs that returned after most forms of automation were outlawed.
That view allowed Baltar to talk the Fleet into ‘upgrading’ its computers. That view left the Colonies wide open to the holocaust that followed.
“What does a ‘neural-interface’ do?” Gaeta asked.
“As I said,” Anahechi replied. My cybernetic circuitry enables me to directly interface with computers and other electronic systems.”
“How?” Adama pressed.
“As you can see Commander I have a number of cybernetic implants,” Anahechi replied.
“Such implants are commonplace throughout the League,” Anahechi continued. “In fact current estimates state that roughly 78 percent of all League citizens have some type of cybernetic implant.”
“78 ….” Adama was shocked. He looked over at Admiral Sane who looked entirely human. But then again so did Cylon skin jobs. “You have machines in your body.”
“A standard military grade nano-pack,” Sane replied. “It boosts my immune system, accelerates the healing process and provides minor enhancements to strength, stamina and senses. Two of my ribs have been replaced as well. In addition I also have a Com-net.”
“Command-Network Implant,” Sane said.
Adama watched as he touched his wrist band, a gesture he had seen many Terrans employ. Several holoscreens appeared above the conference table. The images switched between various images. Mostly external images of the Colonial Fleet.
“My finger tips are coated with a specialized set of nano-cells. They are tied directly into my nervous system and from there to my brain. The wrist band is tied to the Agamemnon’s network. By touching the wrist-band I can send commands directly to the network. The implants also interface with control panels throughout the ship. Such systems cut response times to compared switches, typing or even vocal commands.”
“I understand,” Gaeta said. “You skip the whole keyboard or flipping switches and just give the command mentally.”
“Precisely,” Sane said. “In my case and in most people’s cases such implants are hardwired for one way communication only. I can not receive information back over my implants.”
“But why the need for physical contact?” Gaeta asked. “Can’t you rig up a wireless system directly to your nervous system?”
“Some do,” Sane replied. “But this system is more secure and accurate.”
“How so?” Adama asked.
“Less risk of random thoughts confusing the data stream,” Anahechi said. “The human mind is quite complex. And human thought processes even more so. Even the best interface system can be confused by an errant firing of a neuron. If one is thinking of a command and is distracted it can cause errors in entry. Or, with a fully wireless system one can accidentally trigger a response with an uncontrolled thought. Much like a typo on a traditional keyboard. This system is localized and with proper training and calibration is over 99.999 percent accurate. And that accuracy increases as the system ‘learns’ a particular person’s mental processes.”
“And the people with a wireless implants?” Gaeta asked.
“Possess the genetic predisposition and training that enables them to control their thoughts clearly enough to maintain an equivalent level of accuracy,” Anahechi replied.
“These are one-way systems,” Gaeta noted. “I take it in your case the connection is two-way.”
“Correct Lt,” Anehachi began. “As I said, the human mind is complex. Evolved over millions of years to process certain types of data. For most people that data set is relatively limited. When cybernetics are used, they enhance existing functions. Rarely do they add functions, particularly when it comes to sensory input. Direct interface with the mind is usually restricted to what the mind is able to process naturally. Most people, psychologically and physically, are not able to process information at the rates their cybernetic implants function at. As such there are a number of hardware and software limiters built into the implants that prevent them from damaging a person’s nervous system.”
“But there are people who can … handle such an interface,” Adama was not certain he liked where this was going.
“People such as myself,” Anehachi said. “I possess a series of implants that enable my biologic mind to interface with the neural microchips imbedded in the cybernetic circuitry of my body. Essentially the computers in my body act as an extension of my own mind. Expanding my memory, processing capability and allowing me to interface directly with any computer throughout the fleet. Hence the term Neural-Cybernetic. The colloquial term is ‘Jack’.”
“You’re a machine,” Adama said flatly.
“I am human Commander,” Anehachi said. “I have parents, four siblings, a lovely wife, a child, three grandchildren and one great grandchild. Cybernetics do not change that fact. Your people’s experience with the Cylons has understandably clouded your judgment regarding such matters.”
“Why?” Adama asked. “Why do this to yourself?”
“Why not Commander,” Anehachi countered.
“You’ve turned your mind into a computer,” Adama said.
“No,” Anahechi said. “My mind is still my own. There are still things a sentient mind can do that a computer, however advanced, can not do.”
“Intuition,” Anahechi replied. “The ability to leap beyond logic. Or at least logic as limited by a binary program. Creativity. Adaptation. Emotion.”
“You were the one who stopped Biers,” Adama said.
“Members of my team yes,” Anehachi replied. “Ms Biers was remarkably capable. Had she been facing a standard static defense she might have gained significant access to the local systems before she was detected and stopped. I understand now how the Firebird’s defenses fell so quickly. There were no Jacks on board. Although the bulk the penetration there was limited to the sensory nets and through them the fire control systems. We were able, in this instance, to quickly locate, trace and stop her infiltration into our computers.”
“’In this instance?’” Adama noted.
“Yes, in this instance,” Anehachi said. “Ms Biers was able to breach our defenses completely cold with no knowledge or our operating systems or basic computer languages and remain undetected for nearly three minutes. That indicates a remarkable ability to adapt. By itself that almost constitutes prove that the Cylons are sentient. And while a cyber attack from a Cylon fleet will not have the advantage of being directly tied into our network as Ms Biers was it could still prove most formidable. Even with our improved understanding of how their programming works.”
“Then how will you stop them?” Adama demanded.
“As I explained, we have an understanding of the mechanism the Cylons used to gain access to the Firebird’s network,” Anehachi said. “And we have established defenses and possible means of counterattack against such an approach. What I require Commander is information on how the Cylons function. How their programming and networks interact and most importantly, how they were able to penetrate Colonial systems so completely.”
“I brought along a disk containing our best firewall programs,” Gaeta said. “The longest any of them has ever held is around two and half minutes. The only way to keep the Cylons out of computer is to keep it a completely isolated dedicated machine. The moment any kind of network link is established with another computer system the Cylons always find a way in.”
“Even if it is a closed network?” Anehachi said.
“Pretty much,” Gaeta replied. “We had a navigational failure and I was forced to network the damage control, fire control and navigation computers together to quickly compute our course. The Cylons were able to breach the network in minutes.”
“You did not link any communications systems into the network,” Anehachi noted. “How were they able to penetrate it?”
Gaeta shrugged. “We don’t know.”
“It must have been a variant of the method they employed against the Firebird,” Anehachi said. “Somehow the Cylons are able to download information directly through the sensors. Commander Adama, I would like Lt Gaeta to work with my people. We require a thorough understanding of how the Cylon infiltration programs work.”
“I can tell you everything I know,” Gaeta said. “But the truth is, there is only one ….”
“Lt,” Adama cut him off.
“Sir,” Gaeta responded. “He’s a traitor. But he does know more than any of us about how the Cylons work.”
“Who are you referring to?” Sane asked.
Adama took a breath. “Dr. Gaius Baltar. One of the Colony’s top scientists. An expert in computers and a half dozen other fields.”
“You referred to him as a traitor,” Sane prompted.
“He claims that he was fooled by one of the human form Cylons,” Adama explained. “He was a special advisor to the military and his company won a contract to ‘upgrade’ all of our navigation and flight control systems. He provided the Cylons with detailed information on how the systems worked.”
“The Cylon who co-opted him, a woman,” Gaeta continued, “was able to modify the program so the Cylons could shut down all of our ships. The upgrade was implemented across the board in every Colonial unit from Battlestars to vipers. It was a slaughter. With one command the Cylons shut down almost every ship in the Fleet. The only ships that could fight back were ships that didn’t get the new upgrades or ships like the Galactica where there was no network connecting the navigation computer to any other system.”
“And you have this Baltar in custody now,” Sane noted.
“Yes,” Adama said. “Up until a few months ago he served as President Roslin’s Vice President. There was an … incident and we learned of his treachery. We have him locked up the Galatica’s brig,” Adama took another breath. “He was still working with some of the … Cylon’s in the Fleet. The man is insane. The only reason he is still alive is because he’s been able to provide us intelligence about how the Cylon’s function.”
“His information has proven accurate thus far?” Sane asked.
“Yes,” Gaeta replied. “He was the one who figured out how to repair our computers when the Cylons got into my network. Looking back on it now, he probably had the help of one of the Cylons who infiltrated the Fleet. It’s the only thing that explains how he was able to rewrite the software so quickly.”
“Did he leave any back doors?” Anehachi said.
“None that I can find,” Gaeta said.
“Unlikely,” Adama said. “It was about that time I began to suspect the Cylons were letting us get away. Driving us forward to find Earth. To find you. They knew our computers were compromised and they knew how to find us. They gave us nearly a day to repair the damage,” Adama shook his head. “Our escape was too perfect. Jumping out just as Cylons launched their attack.”
“Any information could prove critical,” Anehachi said. “And we have the means to verify and test what he provides.”
Adama pondered the situation. It was obvious he was not going to be able to convince the Admiral that there was no way to defend against a Cylon computer attack. Rather than seeing the Cylon’s abilities as a threat they seemed to take them as a challenge.
Adama had few doubts about the ability of Eighth Fleet to handle a Cylon attack force if it came down to just guns. He and Colonel Tigh had come up with some good guesses as to what the Terran ships were capable of based on what they’ve seen so far and the battle plans Captain Tetesomi.
But their belief that they could fight the Cylons computer to computer was disturbing and dangerous.
While it would be good to finally see the Cylons be on the receiving end for once the consequences of failure were far to grave for both the Colonials and the Terrans. Especially if the Terrans were committing a large segment of their fleet to defend what was clearly an outpost system.
Still if the Admiral was determined than Adama needed to make certain that the Terrans had every possible advantage. Besides it was quite possible that once the Colonel reviewed the information he would realize what an impossible position they were in and convince the Admiral to retreat.
“Mr. Gaeta,” Adama said. “You are temporarily reassigned as the Galactica’s liaison to Eighth Fleet. I will inform Colonel Tigh and Master Sergeant Travers that Dr. Baltar is to be made available to the Terrans for interrogation. Is that acceptable?”
“Quite,” Anehachi replied. “Mr. Gaeta we can begin now if you wish.”
“Sir,” Gaeta said nodding to Commander Adama.
The two men quickly made their exit. Leaving Admiral Sane and Commander Adama to stare at one another over the conference table.
Adama watched as a light blinked on the table. The Admiral touched his wrist band again and a holoscreen appeared over the table. Adama was unable to read the text message that quickly flashed across the screen. Adama noted the Admiral’s reaction.
“Commander Adama,” Sane said. “Would you mind accompanying me to my day cabin? I believe there are some issues that would be best discussed in a more comfortable setting.”
Adama nodded at the suggestion wondering what information the Admiral received that so obviously important.