Saturday, May 1, 2010

[Mythos XVIII] Not Capped, but Recapped

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

So you're shopping. There's a shopping center. There are cars in the parking lot. There are staff in the stores. You're here to shop, so you try to do some shopping.

You can barely find a clerk, when you find one, they're rude, and there's one other customer in the whole well-lit, clean, and fully-stocked store. The clerk had been on one side of the store and the customer on the other side of the store. When you finally get the clerk up to the counter, the second you fall into line, so does the one other customer, where they get right up behind you and jingle keys, clear their throat, rattle the wretched knickknacks in their basket, and generally annoy. The clerk scowls and rings you up with a studied insolence.

Finally, it's done. If you are like most people, you will leave that store wondering how the hell they stay in business, vowing to never shop there again.

Most people expect merchants to want to make sales, and to want to have a store packed full of bustling people cheerfully waiting in long lines as the cashiers hustle to ring up sale after sale of realy good deals. Most people don't expect merchants to annoy people so much that they lose immense sums of money presiding over a centrally-located and handicapped-accessible store packed full of inventory and almost no customers.

Most people would just take their business elsewhere.

And that's just what these guys want.

Defense-in-depth strategies are nothing novel or unheard-of; most people live inside one or another defense-in-depth system. It is so very fundamental a game that most people never think about it much, it's just how things are. Indeed, it's so fundamental a game that most of the organized games that people play are interesting because they are not defense in depth strategies. Rather, they are confrontational.

Defense-in-depth is exemplified thus: You're trying to defend the king in his palace and the treasury in the palace basement.

The palace has a castle hidden within it, and within the castle is the keep, the last place of retreat. But outside the keep are the battlements, beyond the battlements are the palace walls, beyond the wall is the moat, beyond the moat are the approaches, beyond the approaches are the estate walls and their gate, beyond that is a ring of garrisons and beyond that there are towns most loyal to his majesty; beyond those towns are lands and counties and eventually there are the bounds of the State itself. The very first thing any foreigner has to do in order to get to the king is to get past the guards at the border. At every stage of the approach, a new layer of defense is encountered, with most of those defenses becoming increasingly difficult to surmount.

Yet in such a situation, the goal is known, and that goal is the king; the king is known as is his location, somewhere within the palace. To capture the king will require only a superior force attacking a known location.

So, if confronted by a superior force intent on capturing the king -- or merely getting to him to kill him -- one has few choices in strategy. Either you can surrender the king, or you can hide him.

The astute opponent may ask themselves how they may find the king. He's not going to be at the castle, but it's kind of difficult to imagine that the king will be camped in a tent in the back woods and brewing his own tea. No, the character of kings requires a retinue, and the retinue requires defense, and the defense group requires a billet and logistics. All of these are components of a mobile defense-in-depth. So really there's no need to search high and low for the king... just keep your eye out for elements of defense-in-depth. Considering that for every king, or secret palace, there will be probably a staff of a thousand, doing their real jobs as they must, and pretending to be other than they are, mostly be pretending to do a job that's actually far from their real profession.

Of course, you don't have to be a spy or a spymaster to step into the wasps' nest, as it were, just a bumbler.

So, you've bumbled into one of the close-in elements of a defense-in-depth strategy? You finally figure that out? You think that just not shopping at the store that's just a cover will keep you out of trouble?

That depends. If you come through exactly one time, chances are the staff think that their strategy is working. If you come through more than once, they start to keep an eye out for you. If you actually start shopping there like a "loyal customer", you are sure to be trouble, simply because if you are there often enough or long enough, pure chance will assure that you witness something amiss. And that's the thing about the strategy of attempting a secret or deceptive defense-in-depth strategy. All it takes is one person talking about weirdness and word gets around. Sooner or later that weird word will get back to the ears of the enemy's strategists, and pretty soon what you planned as a secret-deceptive defense-in-depth strategy starts to be surrounded and interpenetrated.

Usually what happens in such a situation is this: as secretly as possible, the object of defense is removed while leaving in place the defenses. The idea is that the enemy tries to keep working on finding the core, the object of all of this defense, which clearly must be valuable indeed to have all of this expense and deception.

Defense-in-depth strategies are usually hugely expensive because they are expensively huge. Thus, while the inner ring of defense may relocate, the king moving about between his winter and summer palaces and various vacation villas, so to speak, the borders remain where they were, the cities remain where they were, the garrison forts remain where they were, and only the temporary digs are moved about.

Yet in almost all of those "alternative palaces", so to speak, there will be battlements, and the sanctum sanctorum, the keep. And in all cases, whether or not the king is in it, what must be kept at all costs, is the keep.

So, let's rehash the situation so far:

  • Very secret defense contractor and even more secret "continuity of government" bunker are decommissioned. The final stage of the decommissioning is actually a sort of probation and return to society of people who accidentally got locked underground and left to think that they were likely the sole survivors of a nuclear war, left underground for about 20 years.

  • Even more deeply secret researches into things people really aren't meant to know are also decommissioned, but not before some of those secrets get out, some by way of a tunnel-through-the-walls heist, and some of them under their own power.

  • Some of what gets out under its own powers gets into a mass demonstration of protest.

  • Most of the mass demonstration of protest gets severely out of hand when the escaped secrets -- malevolent alien software downloaded from incomprehensible dimensions beyond time and space -- effectively play a not so nice game of demonic possession and turn most of the protesters into zombies.

  • A fail-safe system designed to wipe the alien software off of the human-built hardware storing it -- for future use in weapons research -- puts the global telecom networks out of reach of the alien software, but also removes all technical advantages using electricity from anyone trying to fight the zombies, via an immense but localized electromagnetic pulse.

  • The zombies are driven indoors, into the now-decommissioned and untenanted surface building formerly occupied by the defense contractors.

  • The "probationers" -- folks being returned to normal society after having either lived for 20 years of total isolatoin in an underground bunker, or raised in that bunker for 20 years -- decide that they'd like to go back to their bunker rather than remain on the surface.

  • These "probationers" abandon their make-work jobs at a Potemkin Village shopping mall on top of their bunker, and flood into the network of tunnels leading between almost all of the local buildings.

  • The surface shops are abandoned but the tunnels are not; the tunnels are full of zombies, and if they get out into the shops, they'll be outside of the SWAT cordon and there will be nothing between them and a world full of unsuspecting tasty brains, and eventually a working telecom network, in which case the alien software replicates itself into everything and everyone everywhere, and we're all pretty much fucked.

Hey, don't sweat it. Could be worse: