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First Black Moment

 

This is the security cam footage outside my apartment the last moment we all had connections. That’s me center, jeans, black long sleeve t-shirt and having a knockdown fight with my girlfriend…

Blackness.

I was hurrying to my apartment, it was the end of a long week (I worked in cybersecurity at the time, that’s how I know things) and my girlfriend was already pissed about my lack of Friday night dinner/entertainment planning. And…

That group of people, in the photo, we all stopped where we were standing and looked up at each other. A moment happened. From our faces you could tell everyone had the same result. What once was a helpful phone/camera/map tool was now a finely designed brick of glass. It seemed like everyone was busy, heading towards their weekend, and poof, we’re all standing there, in a group, looking for clues. It took about 15 minutes before the entire planet’s electronic grid (everything connected) rebooted. It felt a bit like freefall to me (if you’ve ever jumped out of a plane or ridden a roller coaster) standing there, anxiously trying to gather food and movie ideas for my girlfriend. Blip. Black glass brick in my hand. A moment of elation (Oh, I don’t have to figure dinner out) before the panic registering on the faces of the crowd around me caused my vertigo to kick in. I sat down in the middle of the open square in front of my apartment building.

Everything mechanical had stopped. It was quiet. I could hear birds somewhere, probably Central Park. (setting is NYC or Austin, Texas?) People just beginning to chatter around me. I was ready for someone (maybe me) to scream, “What the fuck is going on.” But, I just sat there, looking at my black mirror and wondering if this was going to fuck up the weekend.

Now, I’ll remind you I’m in tech, cybersecurity to be specific, and there were no contingency plans for what happened. Of course, we didn’t know what happened for … Well, we’ve been given ideas about what happened and why, but we really don’t know. It’s what happened next that really changed things.

In the moments of the rebooting (we had no idea the AIs had gotten so interconnected or cooperative, even. The First Black Moment was a gift, really. It took the world by surprise, but it started a counter-attack that is still going on today, that’s where I come in. I stood up, after a two-minute freakout, and shouted, “Who knows how to code?” I yelled.

I went into some sort of hyper-geek mode. Even before anyone knew what had taken the global electric grid and all devices down in the same second, my anxiety and training presented me with a plan. Assemble coders. Get ready for war. What or whom we were going to fight had yet to be determined.

Five people standing around in the various groups raised their hands.

“If you’d like to help interrupt this event, come with me,” I shouted, waving my hand over my head like a general leading troops out of a water landing vehicle. Four of the five people, two women and two men, followed me towards the front gate of my building. It was locked down without power. I turned to my crew.

“None of us know what’s going on. Is this a foreign cyber attack? Terrorism? All we know is that everything is dark. Power is out in New York City. Why our phones are bricked, that has more a more catastrophic explanation, so I’m going to skip that one. My name is Json and I’m a cybersecurity expert from GAA and we had no warning for something like this. We also have no contingency plans. If technology is useless, we’re going to need some skills to survive. Weapons. Food. Shelter. I’m a bit of a survivalist, so I’ve got some ideas and supplies if we can figure out how to get in my apartment, it’s in the basement of this building.

Around us people were beginning to freak out about their dead phones and the dead quiet world around us. More people were yelling, crying, laughing. Basically, from where I was at that moment, New York City seemed to be having a party and a meltdown at the same time. We didn’t know yet, that the party was more of a rave with bad LSD. And, even though the power did begin to come on about 15 minutes after The Black Moment, things began rebooting in odd sequences, like something was being orchestrated. For example, the gates to my building came online and the building seemed to be powered up again, but our phones were still useless.

I had no idea other than get gear, get smart “code saavy” people, and find a safe space to regroup against this unknown menace. I led the group into my bunker below the 347 Bowery Towers building. “Let’s focus on the computers and the food people,” I said. The emergency lighting was flickering underpowered fluorescent tubes on the ceiling. (Not much of an interior decorator.) “There are backpacks and duffle bags in the closet, if we can grab laptops. In the kitchen I’ll round up my supplies in a wagon, I’ve been preparing some something like this.”

“What is going on?” said Sherry, a 6 foot 2-inch Asian woman.

“None of us know, yet. But let’s get some gear and find a place to hide while we figure out how our phones are still dead. Someone is working to keep us offline. I want to know who we’re dealing with.”

But we needed juice, we needed internet connections, and we needed a different place to hide. My mind was whirling. Just under the bravado, the vertigo was making me feel like I was standing on a ledge of a tall tower.

Like another blow to my anxiety, I realized suddenly, that my girlfriend was not there. I thought I was texting her from home. But she wasn’t here. I nearly sat down on the floor again.

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