As Graham reached the third floor, the smoke grew so thick he could scarcely see anything. Angry flames licked the blackened Battery Station walls, and the heat from the fire was almost unbearable. He covered his mouth with his shirt, ducked down low, and kept going. When he got as close as he could to the fire, he squeezed the handle of the fire extinguisher. A powerful stream of white powder shot onto the flames and eventually killed the majority of the fire.
Once some of the smoke had cleared, he dug through a pile of frayed, broken, and blackened wires, smoldering memory boards, and melted silicon plates. All that was really left of the central console was a black, gaping hole. Charred pieces of plastic, some still aflame, lay strewn about his feet. A thick power cord snaked by his feet, spewing sparks and dancing wildly a few feet away. The spilled electricity had already started to melt the metal grating under the cord. The sparks rained down through the smoky air all the way to the ground floor. There was nothing salvageable here. The battery system for the region had been completely disabled.
And then he noticed an odd component in the rubble. It was too hot to hold. He used his shirt sleeve to protect his fingers and picked it up.
The alarm continued to whine overhead as he turned to leave. When he stepped toward the stairs, he saw that the heat from the electrical cord had already melted a hole in the metal floor. The cord fell through the hole and began to swing lazily from side to side. Hundreds of kilowatts spilled out of the wire, dissipating into thin air. It will take months – maybe years – to fix this, Graham despaired.
He jumped over the hole and ran down the stairs. As he descended, he noticed three other soldiers talking with Charley on the ground floor.
“Sir,” Charley shouted as he saw Graham approaching. “All soldiers have taken up their attack-ready positions. We think that the terrorists are probably heading for the Brain Room.”
“I think it’s safe to guess that they’re already there. Look, I found this in the debris upstairs.” Graham showed the soldiers the burn component in his hand.
“What is it?” Charley asked.
“It’s part of a remote detonator. They probably waited until they were already in the Brain Room before detonating this explosion by remote control. That way, they tripped the alarms only after they had gained entrance to the Brain Room. We’re in a lot of trouble, boys.”
“What do you mean?” one of the soldiers asked.
“With the central alarm activated, the Brain Room doors will be jammed shut,” Graham explained. “We set it up that way years ago so that no attackers could access the Brain Room once the central alarm was tripped. The doors are on a timer and will only open after three hours. We figured that would be enough time for us to regain control of the Platform through reinforcements from headquarters. There is no override code because we were afraid that terrorists might try to torture it out of us. We never counted on the attackers gaining access to the Brain Room before tripping the alarm. Now we are locked out, and they are safe and sound inside, behind those thick, titanium reinforced, security doors, with three hours to rig their bombs and blow the place to smithereens.
“Soldier,” Graham continued, “who do we have on duty in the Brain Room?”
“The Brain Room is manned by a couple of rookies tonight,” a baby-faced soldier responded. “Private Adams and Private Peterson. I don’t think that they’ve been trained in any attack scenarios. They are both techies and were planning to fix some of the bugs that have crept into the system over the past few months. We scheduled them to have their shifts at the same time so that they could help each other out. Neither of them is much of a fighter – as far as I know anyway.”
“So we can’t count on them for much,” Graham said. “So here’s the plan. I want you three to go and see if you can break through the main entry portal to the Brain Room. Gather everyone. All hands on deck for this one. Those doors are heavy duty, so it will take some time to get through. Get the blow torch, blast the door open, do whatever it takes. Just don’t hurt our guys inside or the Brain Room computers in the process.
“In the meantime, Charley and I are going to try to get in through the air ducts. I remember that there was a vent behind the main server racks, and I think I know how we can get to it. If we are lucky, we can surprise the attackers and gain the upper hand. Does everyone understand?”
“Yes, sir,” the three soldiers replied in unison.
“Yeah, Graham, let’s do it,” Charley answered.