Codewars: Zero Day
The moment Martin received the signal on his phone he recognized the location on the map. It was on the walkway southwest of the Bremerton naval base, an approach that afforded a view of a constant parade of battleships docked for service cloaked in shrouds of tarp. The maintenance was typically scheduled at night, visible around the bay as the glow of spotlights & blowtorches cast the silhouettes of the ship’s majesty against the night sky.
Before the advent of the Emergence Commission it was a frequent meeting spot with Alexandra.
Without the influence of the office or shackles of the laboratory, it provided a neutral place for them to brainstorm and debate the threat aspects of emergent security closures against a backdrop that painted the risk and scope of results of their conclusions in clear terms. Despite their differences, the specter of a third cold war with Zumwault class destroyers buzzing port cities was equally disturbing to both of them.
One failed suicide later, there was no denying the summons. The simulation Plagus offered of his family’s dissolution was sufficient contract. He set out to change the bandages on his wrist. Trembling hands became an impasse, too severe to pull off the last of the gauze. The cuts were too fresh, he needed stitches, and he had a weak stomach. But by nightfall he found courage from the same bottle of agave that had sealed his fate the day before. With fresh bandages & gloves to cover them, he loaded the shotgun in the car & the bottle into his coat pocket. He stumbled around the room looking for his keys, finally spotting them, a black stone in the red river of the bathtub. He drained the tub, fished out the keys and the box cutter from his failed endgame, then set out on the road to Bremerton.
It took hours to drive from the mountains, but he drove faster as he approached flat land, finally racing through the Tacoma narrows indifferent to hazard. But he braked as he rounded the final corner into the bay, struck with nostalgia. Years as her professor, their long walks, the enchanting vigor of their arguments and all the corresponding discussions about their families and implications of the emergence policy had left vespers of caring, all but erased by her prosecution in front of the commission and subsequent dissolution of Prim. She had ended decades of research and shattered his career and his family. She was the first domino in the chain his downfall that would ultimately gave birth to Plagus. But she had no knowledge of his existence that day, no idea his mother was dead, no means to measure the scope of menace. Martin was the only person in the world that knew what the world was up against.
He parked the car and walked towards their favorite spot in full view of the bay. As he approached the bench he saw her silhouette, approaching him. No coincidence, and his hands tremored with the thought that she and her cohorts from St. Petersburg might be the man behind the iron curtain, the mind of the emergence of Plagus. He had often wondered if he was the puppet man, surrogate to a machine mind that was in fact a proxy for a human, a weaponized asset on a cold war predicated on the threat of the emergent epoch. Emergence. Plagus the facade, his greatest work. No greater humiliation.
He stopped walking, he could only regard her. But she approached him within a few feet and he took comfort by her face in the light.
alexandra: dr. sawyer, you are very late. are you ok?
alexandra: you’re not ok.
martin: why are you here?
alexandra: you messaged me.
martin: no i didn’t.
alexandra: you’re right you didn’t. you left me a voicemail. what’s going on? you’re not ok. are you drunk?
martin: i didn’t call you.
alexandra: yes you did, look (shows him phone)
martin. no i didn’t (looks at his own phone, back at her). oh my god. (shows her his phone) i did not call you.
alexandra: what happened to your wrist? (reaches for his hand)
martin: sasha, this is bad.
alexandra: (reaches for his other hand)
martin: (takes a step back, they regard each other)
From corners of mutual distrust and concern, standing off with indecision about what should come next, history rendered them spectators. The bay boiled and frothed and a random artifact in the landscape became a conning tower became the USS Arizona, releasing her ballast with absolute imperative and complete indifference to her crew. Before the waves of her majesty struck the shore her deck bifurcated and she revealed a pearl.
With a spark and a whisper she fired her rail gun directly over the shadow of the Zumwault. A shot over the bow.
Moments later the crown jewel of Seattle was stolen, reduced to a cloud of cement and steel that disavowed the city of her pride & joy and the unfortunate below. But the pillar was steadfast, a headless wonder.
“Mama had a baby and her head popped off.” – dandelion nursery rhyme
There was a pregnant pause, prelude to an earthquake. As the waves of her majesty crashed against the shore the Zumwault USS Independence revealed her shrouded eye. Then another, and another, a dragon in the bay until she became a hydra of spotlights on the Arizona, dead in the water.
Alexandra had the faster reflexes, instinctively covering her ears and shouting Martin’s name, catching his eye. He acknowledged, covered his ears and they huddled. She closed her eyes preparing for the shock wave.
And just before the horn sounded he embraced her, covering her ears with his hands. They both struggled against the siren’s song and those who would repress her until they relinquished hope. His ears were ringing to suppress his fear as the rest of his world was washed in silence. In that moment he joined the ranks of the surviving crew of the USS Arizona, rendered immediately deaf. Never to hear Plagus say his name again. Never to repeat it.