Dr. Ivan Zubkov was very, very cold. He was riding in a snowplow from a train station on the Trans-Siberian railroad to a government laboratory. His job and his place of employment were classified, he couldn't even tell his wife. He didn't particularly like the job; he stayed in an isolated lab for half the year eating borsht and stroganoff and typed on a keyboard. There was also a factory of sorts, but he wasn't too sure what they did in that section of the lab, the Tech Division was purposely kept separate from the Manufacturing Division. Either way, the lab also housed the most powerful supercomputer in Asia.
He got off the snowplow and walked into the lab. It had been shut down since September, when they closed it due to the extreme cold. Now it was March, and after six months he was back to work. He flipped the switch and the lights slowly warmed up and began to cast a stark light on the lab. What Ivan saw astonished him.
He didn't often go to the Manufacturing Sector, but he was pretty sure it wasn't supposed to look the way it did. There were strange robots all over, on the conveyor belts and on the floor and pretty much everywhere else. They had been there for a while, it would seem, because ice covered their exteriors, rendering them useless. Judging by the looks on the other's faces, this wasn't normal for Manufacturing. He walked to a computer terminal, stepping over frozen robots, and logged on to a computer terminal.
Login: Zubkov, Ivan V. 303815-4-2286903
MAIN SYSTEM DOWN. MAIN COMPUTER DOWN. LOGGING INTO AUXILLARY SYSTEM.
Ivan gasped. There was no way the Main Computer could be down, simply no way. The auxiliary system was next to useless, it ran on ancient, 5 year old servers, completely useless for what he needed the Main Computer for. "Someone, call someone important. We have been sabotaged," he said, desperately trying to access the system logs.
A few hours later, the President of the Russian Federation was on the phone with Ivan Zubkov. "Please, explain to me exactly what is going on."
"Certainly, Mr. President. When we got to the lab just a few hours ago, we found the main manufacturing room littered with strange robots. I don't work in that division, but I am told that robots are definitely not supposed to be made here. Also, the Main Computer, which was the most powerful supercomputer in Asia, is completely destroyed. Luckily, the system logs are backed up on our auxiliary system. Apparently, some kind of multi-agent system remotely accessed it through the Internet. From what we can tell, it appears to originate in the United States. And that is about it, sir," Dr. Zubkov explained.
There was a silence on the other end of the line. "I… see. I'll call you if anything arises." The line went dead.
"Politicians," grumbled Zubkov.
The Russian President sat in his chair, in a daze. Someone in the United States hacked the most powerful supercomputer in Asia? As he saw it, it could have only been their government. Would anyone else in the US care about Russian computers? The governments of Russia and the US weren't on exceptionally good terms at the moment, with Kosovo and all. He picked up his telephone and dialed the US Embassy in Moscow. He had a message to pass on to America.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in the exact opposite of Siberia, a group of natives walked through the jungle. Clutching spears and on the look out for animals they made their trek through their jungle home. The leader noticed a lack of sound, besides their feet on the jungle floor. No bird calls, no insects, no occasional growl from any animal. He and his comrades pushed through the jungle until they reached something that astonished them.
There was a chain-link fence, with a sign in the language of the Ones who Destroyed The Jungle. None of them could read it, but it didn't matter. They had no desire to enter, for it was not the building in the middle of their jungle that scared them. What scared them were the strange spiders, made of metal. They seemed to radiate hatred and evil. The hunting party's shaman knelt and uttered a prayer to the gods for the group to live. One in the group spoke. "We must go to them, and tell them of this. Certainly they know nothing of this. If we did not know, with our senses attuned to our home, they must not have known either." The leader nodded, and led them in a direction they hardly ever ventured- toward the end of the jungle, toward the home of the Ones who Destroyed.
Less than an hour later, a government team entered the jungle, following the group of natives. Clad in hiking boots and lab coats, the team slowly made its way to the laboratory. "What do you think happened?" One asked.
"Well, I don't speak their language, but apparently there are strange metal spiders in that lab in the jungle. We abandoned it a few months ago; it was too hard to get power to it. I don't see how there could be… oh, my God. Spiders."
They all stopped dead in their tracks. There were indeed robotic spiders all around the laboratory. The lead scientist unlocked the gate with his key and they walked in, stepping over and around the strange machines. They were all branded with the same symbol, a bulls-eye looking image with four prongs coming out of it. They entered the lab and all paled. The natives ran and fled, back to their homes. The hallway was almost literally crawling with apparently dead robot spiders. A few of them poked the spiders to affirm they were inactive, and then walked to the main chamber of the laboratory.
There was then a collective gasp. They walked into the main manufacturing chamber and saw that the spiders had been made at their own lab. "How… how can this be?" The lead scientist, Pedro Alvarez, asked. He walked over to the mainframe access, and logged in, or rather attempted to. He tried several times, but with no luck. "The whole mainframe is down! Literally! The hard drive has been physically destroyed. From what I can tell, some program remotely hacked us. It seems to have originated from… the United States?" Another collective gasp. "This is definitely going on the report."
Within a few hours, the news had made it up to the President of Brazil. "Let me get this straight. An abandoned government lab in the Amazon was hacked by the United States to produce… robotic spiders?" He asked the person who had given him possibly the strangest news of his life.
The advisor nodded. "Yes, sir. At least, that's what the report says."
"What on Earth does the US want with us? Especially with robot spiders in the Amazon?" The President replied. The advisor shrugged. "Well, I know one way to find out." He walked over to the desk and called his secretary. "Connect me to the US Embassy, please."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had recently been informed that her country was at the brink of war with Russia and Brazil. Within hours of each other, ambassadors from both nations had called her office with the news that the American government had apparently hacked secret government labs in Siberia and the Amazon. She was up to her neck in a diplomatic crisis, and had no clue where it had all come from. She was now on her way to a meeting with the ambassadors from Brazil and Russia, a clipboard in hand, full of scrawled notes.
She walked in the room, a standard diplomatic smile on her face. "Ambassadors. I'm glad you could make it here on such short notice," she said, shaking their hands.
"Oh, we made time for this, Secretary Rice," the Russian said, shaking her hand perhaps a little too firmly. The three ambassadors sat down at a small table, and the Secretary spoke first.
"As I understand it, laboratories in both of your countries have been hacked, and destroyed? And according to your logs, the hacker originated in America?"
"Yes. As far as I have been informed, a remote signal traced to a United States-regulated area of the Internet. My Russian colleague has said that his government did a more thorough search, and it originated from an Internet Protocol address owned by your government," explained the ambassador from Brazil.
His Russian counterpart nodded. "Yes. Our lab was found to contain strange robots. In Brazil, there were spiders, ours were not. Also, both robots had this symbol." He held up a piece of paper with a strange symbol on it, an eye of sorts, a dot surrounded by two rings, and four lines coming out of it. "Do you have any idea what it could mean?"
Condoleezza shook her head. "I can assure you that-" she began, but was interrupted by her cell phone. The Star-Spangled banner played. "I am very sorry, but it is one of my top advisors. Perhaps she can spread some light on the issue. Yes?"
There was a pause. "What do you mean, hacked? Are you- are you telling me that one ofour laboratories has been hacked into? There are computer parts all over, and the mainframe has been destroyed? Have you figured out who is behind it?" There was another pause. "I… I see. Yes, thank you, Mary." She turned to face the ambassadors.
"Gentlemen, apparently one of our own labs, one run by the US National Security Agency, has also been hacked and used to manufacture robotic parts. The mainframe has been destroyed, but, like you, our backups remained safe. A remote program hacked our computers, and then from there went on to Brazil and Russia," she explained.
"Well isn't that convenient! In the middle of the meeting about hacked computers, you get a call that takes all the blame off you and puts it on someone else! Isn't that the typical American attitude?" The Russian said, angrily.
"Calm down," the Brazilian said. "Tell me, who were you hacked by?"
"Our sources say that the program seems to originate in France," the Secretary said.
"France? France? What problems would they have with us?" The Russian replied. "You must be making this up."
"Mr. Ambassador, there are robots in Russia, metal spiders in the Amazon and motherboards in New Mexico, and none of them should be there. I think that there is something going on that is definitely not normal. We need to figure out what is going on, and we are not enemies here. It would appear we have a common enemy, though, in France," said the Secretary.
Meanwhile, in a prestigious junior high school in France, a science teacher's phone rang. "Hello? This is Suzanne Hertz." There was a pause and her eyes lit up, to the surprise of her students, who were all watching. "Pedro! How nice to hear from you! I miss you so. How are things at that lab of yours, back home in Brazil? What… what do you mean, sabotaged? Robotic spiders? Are you… OK, Pedro?" At the mention of "robotic spiders", a student named Jeremie Belpois turned back and looked grimly at his friends.
"And… and you're telling me that the United States is behind it? Oh, oh you thought they were. Who was it then? Fr-France? Someone in France hacked government labs in Brazil? And Russia and the United States? This is incredible! But Pedro, I understand you are upset, but I do have a class to teach, my darling. Yes, I love you, and I will see you soon," Mrs. Hertz.
Just then, Jeremie raised his hand and asked "Mrs. Hertz? My stomach really, really hurts. I can barely walk. Can I go to the infirmary?" Frowning, the teacher nodded.
"Can we take him?" Asked his friends, Ulrich Stern, Odd Della Robbia, and Aelita Hopper, in unison.
"Yes, fine, fine. But be back quickly, if you can," Mrs. Hertz said, as a hobbling Jeremie was escorted out of the room by his friends, clutching his stomach. Of course, they had no intention of seeing the nurse. They instead ran to the classroom of their friends, William and Yumi and waved through the window. Yumi all of a sudden had a headache, and William had to take her to see the nurse. However, they actually met up with their friends in the park.
"What's up, Jeremie? You haven't had to get us out of class like that for three weeks! Please, please, please don't say it's XANA," Yumi said.
"In a way, it is. You see, the Americans, Russians and Brazilians have discovered the labs that controlled the Replikas. They found out that something from France hacked into their systems, according to Mrs. Hertz's Brazilian boyfriend," explained Jeremie.
"You mean… Russia, America and Brazil all think that the French government hacked them? That could start a war! Especially when it's America we're talking about!" William said. "Figures. The worst thing XANA has ever done happens after he's gone."
"Jeremie… this is bigger than us. We can't stop a war by deactivating a tower, or using a multi-agent system. There is simply no way we can stop a conflict between countries. What are we supposed to do? Say that wedestroyed the computers to stop a megalomaniac multi-agent system? We'd be in prison, juvenile or otherwise, for the rest of our lives! This is out of our hands," Aelita said somberly.
"It's not a war yet, Aelita. All we have to do is… well… we have to let them know that it wasn't the French government at all. It was just… the remnants of a secret French governmental project…" Jeremie said. "Well, not the current French government. But my point is that we have to anonymously prove that XANA did it," Jeremie said.
"And how, Einstein, are we going to do that? Odd asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, we… I don't know. But I'll figure something out. I always do," Jeremie said. Aelita wrapped an arm around his shoulder.
"I'm sure you will. But now we need to come up with an excuse for why we came back," she said.
A few minutes later, they all walked into the classroom. Mrs. Hertz, however, did not notice. The television was on, and everyone's eyes were locked on it. The President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was giving an address to the people of France.
"Good afternoon, citizens of France. I have recently been informed that the United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the Federative Republic of Brazil have discovered that laboratories belonging to their governments have been hacked, used to create robots, and then their computers destroyed. They have found, in their backup logs, information that is leading them to France.
Let me tell you that France is in no way responsible for these events, in any way." He would have gone on, but he was interrupted by the television going to static. Just then, something came in on the channel…