Cut deep into the base of a mountain range was an impregnable concrete labyrinth sitting on several tons of cold steel springs that could absorb the tremors of five megaton blast. One of the caverns housed a control room that gave a small team of technicians and analysts a panoramic view of every mile of the sky over the continent. Every day they vigilantly scanned the horizons for an approaching nuclear storm. Even with their vast network of sensors and collective knowledge and experience it was determined to relegate most of the duties of the watchmen of the apocalypse to an automated system that could comprehend the implications of the constant stream of data constantly flowing through the fiber optic neurons.
A job where only one day in your whole career that probably will never come will be the only day that's any different, even when that thing was Armageddon manages to leave those assigned to it at times bored and apathetic.
Lt Commander Lewis Simmons had locked himself away in the only place in the entire sprawling complex where anyone could find a good's moment solitude, the bathroom. He had been the base commander for over three years. When he took on the job, it was explained again and again just how remote a massive nuclear exchange would be on any given day. The point was he should remain vigilant at all times because any chance that a salvo of warheads might kill everyone you know and love is not something to take at al lightly. But the monotony was enough to remind Simmons that he was less likely than just about anyone else on the planet to have to take any kind of initiative and make an important decision at work.
The commander had enjoyed some particular greasy bbq the night before and was the using the resulting digestive disturbance as a justification to spend more time away from his post. He was finishing up the last article in the newest edition of “Popular Mechanics” when the lights faded out, and the room went dark.
“Ah-dammit” Simmons huffed lamenting the missed opportunity to read an issue of his favorite magazine cover to cover over the course of an afternoon. The wall mounted emergency lights switched on and flooded the white tile room in their pale blue twilight. None of this seemed ominous until the intercom crackled and an announcement that this was not a drill began blaring from the intercom system.
“Shit!” hissed Simmons leaping from the flesh warmed porcelain seat.
The system entrusted with the control of the largest doomsday arsenal in the word had a foundational directive to do everything possible It wasn't a drill, even worse it was a false alarm. There was no impending attack, but that was hardly even good news. to prevent America's nuclear arsenal from being destroyed in a surprise attack. Sint it was nearly impossible to anticipate an unexpected event the hive of interconnected silicone processors bound into a collective by an operating system decided the only way to accomplish this with any degree of certainty was to strike first.
Fortunately for the terrified soldiers automating the process hadn't made them obsolete just redundant. There was a 3-minute window to manually shut down the launch. Simmon's was the only one with the password. He raced back to his command post.
“Don't worry everyone it's just a glitch! I'm going to shut it down now!” He announced to his relieved squad. His touchscreen HUD was taken up by countdown with the same red segmented numbers as an alarm clock. Underneath the countdown was a button that read “ABORT?” Simmons pressed the button, the display dimmed, a standard keyboard layout appeared, and a prompt for his username and password.
“Lew_sim_on12” he typed in the username field.
The anxious crew looking over his shoulder only saw
************* in the password box.
Simmons hit enter. The prompt on the screen trembled.
A new message appeared on the screen“The username or password you entered is incorrect. Please try again.”
“Goddamit,” Simmons muttered as he re-typed his password. Again the failure message returned.
“Son of a bitch!” He hissed punching in the password and yet again getting the error message.
The clock was down to 1:59
Simmons gritted his teeth, cursed under his breath and tried yet again. The result was the same.
His noticeably anxious subordinates were standing over him now trying to assess what might be happening. Finally, a young Lieutenant finally worked up the courage to ask his superior officer;
“Is there a problem sir?”
“This this goddamn keyboard! I keep hitting the wrong letter somewhere!” Barked Simmons.
“Oh,” mumbled the young junior officer before looking down at his feet ashamed for talking out of term. They quietly watched their commander fumble with the login; The clock hit 1:28, then 1:27, 1:26....
“Sir I would like to request a chance to try the password.” The same young officer finally blurted out.
Simmons furrowed his brow at the brash young man. “Sure get over here,” he ordered. The NCO raced over to the counsel.
“What's the password, sir?” Simmons shot a wide-eyed glance at the rest of his subordinates who immediately took a big step back out of listening range. Simmons whispered in the young officer's ear. He quickly typed out what he heard. Again they were informed the attempt had failed. The timer now read
“What was your special character, sir?” Asked the panicked soldier.
“You know the one that's the same as a pound key on a phone!” Simmons said in a tone of mingling panic and irritation.
“Pound sir?” The officer repeated.
“The hashtag symbol!” Someone yelled from the back
The lieutenant breathed as sigh of relief "Oh," me said. No one knew it, but this was their absolute last chance to avert nuclear war.
“You have reached the maximum number of login attempts please contact your administrator.”
The countdown was now four seconds. The lieutenant furiously tapped the enter key in a futile attempt to get the system to change it;s mind. The countdown hit zero, and the missiles left their silos. The world was going to end that afternoon.