The large window of the living room overlooked a valley where snow was falling. There was a glow from the bright light of an almost full moon shining from the snow covered ground. The pine tree branches had a light covering of snow and clumps would fall off when they got too heavy. Marie was sitting on her couch, occasionally watching the news but mostly focused on reading her book. As the snow fell outside, she paused to watch the snowy scene, her finger held in place. There was already snow on the ground, drifting against the trees and small hills as the wind blew. The volume on the television was low and the slight keen of the wind could be heard. The room was warm and air was blowing from vents while the heater ran.
She heard the furnace shut off at that moment as the temperature stayed at a very comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The insulated house had storm windows and the efficient electric furnace kept the house warm. The solar roof and batteries provided more than enough electricity in case of power outages. The latest Powerwall from Tesla could hold a charge for a month, and she had two for backup. Power outages didn’t happen as often as they did when she was younger but they could still last for several days. A small wood burning stove was in the corner, but only as a backup if for some reason the electric furnace or power failed completely.
The latest episode from the fan based Star Trek series was showing, she preferred it to the official series on CBS. She felt the fan fiction was closer to the older shows but she did catch the official version every now and then. The tablet in her lap had two status screens, monitoring primary trusted DNS and non-trusted networks. Her work had been finished weeks before but with software anything could and often did happen. She had come out of retirement three years before to help a company with their patches for their servers and desktops. Most computers and internet devices had been replaced or updated with Trusted Internet software and 2038 patches but with billions of deployed devices, it was possible to miss some critical part of the infrastructure. With her experience, she had directed the quality assurance efforts to find and patch non-trusted devices or replace them with modern equivalents. While most companies worked with Faithful Cyber Security she had chosen to work with her old firm, Cyber Instance Security. Faithful Cyber Security or Old Faithful as it was called, had a good reputation and big customers, like China, the US, Brazil and Greenland. Their security methods, software and hardware had the highest rating from the NATO Cyber Security Council and International Standards Organization but something about the company seemed off to her.
Her old company wasn’t fancy and didn’t work with countries but the companies like AmaCox or Googcast needed as much security for their customers as a country. Sometimes more security due to the world wide penalties for stolen data. They offered a billion dollar bond on all of their work and so far they had not had to pay out on any claims for stolen identities and other data. The company she helped, Okey-Dokey-Socks and Stuff, owned by an old friend, pleaded with her to help him out in making sure his company, data and manufacturing equipment was secure and ready for 2038. They had local manufacturing, computers and devices all over the world for their various lines of clothes. Like every business in 2038, they needed secure systems to protect data and keep their business running. The company had a good IT team that kept up with security updates for equipment, software and the Trusted Internet API so the job was not large. Marie shook her head thinking of some of the companies who still cut costs for IT upgrades only to find themselves rushing to update thousands of dollars of equipment and software with 2038 looming. The penalties for data loss prevented most of that behavior, unlike twenty or thirty years ago. When she was starting off in the oughts, it had been the wild, wild west in software, with companies working to outdo each other in quick releases, no matter how buggy or insecure the software. After the cold cyberwar of the teens and the hot cyberwar of the 20’s, national security had finally trumped quick profits and the internet was now considered vital and a key part of the country infrastructure.
While she monitored her tablet, read passages in her book, and watched television, her husband, Joseph, came in and sat down on the other end of the couch. “Hey there, are you working or hardly working?” he grinned while Marie sighed at his whimsy.
“Working and relaxing, tonight is the final test so I want to make sure everything rolls out okay. Although if it doesn’t, not much I can do here, I’m afraid.”
“Should’ve known, my Marie can’t relax even when the job is almost over. Welp, you won’t be much company, guess I’ll make some popcorn. Perhaps you might join me in partaking of this tasty treat, after your work is complete, of course.”
“Yes, that would be good, hmm,” she mumbled, swiping the tablet screen to the left, “what is going on in Washington?”
Joseph stood up, smiling as he watched his wife bent over the tablet, focused on the servers she had helped to patch. He knew she wouldn’t be fully here until after she knew everything worked.
As he glanced up at the television, he noticed the clock said 8:18. Not much longer, he thought as he turned to go to the kitchen. As he started to walk away, he heard his wife say “What the…”. He turned back and noticed that the television only showed static. Marie was moving her hand across the screen of her tablet, focused on something.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“Yes, I lost my stream and I can’t reconnect. I’m trying to load the search page, but I get a message of server not found.” She looked up at Joseph, frowning as she noticed that the television only showed static. “That’s odd, the show went off too.” She said “Computer, channel Hulu”
A smooth toned, female voice from their computer control said “Working” and the channel appeared to change. However, there was still no picture, just static.
“Computer, scan for any show.”
“Working.” After several seconds, the voice control said, “No shows found, play DVD?”
“Computer, turn off television.”
“Complying,” The television turned off. Marie looked around the room, thinking. She then asked, “Computer, connect to world clock.”
“Unable to comply, no external Internet connection available.”
“Computer, check alternate Internet connection, codename wifi”
“Internet connection codename wifi unavailable.”
Marie swiped her tablet again, frowning. Joseph sat down and asked again “Something wrong?”
She finally looked up, registering his presence. “Yes, I think there is. When the clock ticked over, I saw a brief blip when it looked like the DNS servers were down, and then I lost the connection. If DNS is down, that’s bad. Those systems were patched years ago for anything and everything. It’s probably just a local problem, but without Internet connection, I can’t tell. Let me try my phone to see if it can connect.”
She pulled her old smart phone out of her back pocket and swiped at it. The screen glowed but no bars showed at the top. “That’s not good, there aren’t any bars.” She swiped at some options, but the bars didn’t turn back on.
“Definitely a bad sign, cell phones are a vital utility, there should always be bars in case of emergencies.”
Joseph looked out the window, blinked, and then looked again. “Marie, look out the window. There’s no glow of lights from Boulder.”
Marie looked out and saw the night seemed darker. Usually there was a slight glow from the city and even with a full moon, some glow would shine against the clouds. Snow was still falling at their house, but the sky was clear over Boulder and the stars were clear and sharp against the very dark night sky. Marie turned off her phone and put it down on the coffee table, along with her tablet and book. She stood up, looking around, hands on her hips and a frown on her face.
“I’m going to get on the radio and see if anyone else knows what is going on.” She left the room, walking towards two bedrooms that she used as an office. Joseph followed behind her, after deciding that popcorn could wait until they found out what was going on.
The room had a large desk in the center and another room beyond the folding wall. Papers were piled on the desk and a smaller desk was on the other side, with a radio in the center of it. She walked over the small desk, pulled up a chair and sat down. The radio looked like an old teens type radio, she had assembled it herself as a hobby. She pushed the power button and was pleased when the lights came on, showing the frequency. After thinking for a moment, she decided to try a local CQ to see where power was out. The frequency was already set, so she just needed to initiate a call.
She picked up the microphone, pressed the button and said and said “CQ, CQ, CQ, This is Whiskey, 6 Mike Whiskey Victor, W6MWV, calling CQ and waiting for a call.”
She released the button and listened to the static. After a minute with no response, she tried again, “CQ, CQ, CQ, This is Whiskey, 6 Mike Whiskey Victor, W6MWV, calling CQ and waiting for a call.” The static continued but she didn’t hear anything. She moved the frequency and setup to use a repeater. Again, she pushed the microphone button and repeated her request for a conversation. After a few seconds, she could faintly hear “W6MWV, this is VA6TYU calling”
“VA6TYU, this is W6MWV, Thanks for your call your signal is 59. My name is Marie and my QTH is Boulder. So how do you copy? VA6TYU, this is W6MWV, over.
“W6MWV, this is VA6TYU, Calgary, Canada, over.”
“VA6TYU, this W6MWV. Mari Wilson, here in Boulder, Power appears to be out in the area, trying to find out information. W6MWV, over.”
“W6MWV, VA6TYU here. This is Bill, in Calgary. Power also appears to be out in the area, also trying to find out information. VA6TYU over.”
Another voice entered the conversation, “W6MWV, W0FGP, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Power also appears to be out, except for our house. Brian reporting, W0FGP from Tulsa, over.”
As Marie listened, other voices chimed in from other parts of the country and Canada and all reported power was out all around them. She also thought she heard some faint voices from outside the continent with reports of no power.
“VA6TYU, general call, does anyone have power in their area, over”
Static came out of the speaker but no one reported their area had power on. After a minute, Marie pushed the button again. “W6MWV here, will check back in 8 hours for status if power is not back on. Repeat, will report again in 8 hours if no power, over.”
The other call signs acknowledged, Marie then said “W6MWV clear for now, reporting back in eight hours.” She placed the microphone back in its holder and turned off the radio. Joseph had quietly sat down in another chair, waiting for her to finish.
“Joseph, it looks like power is off everywhere, except for some houses, like ours. I don’t get it. Most people have batteries for situations like this, why aren’t there more sites reporting power of some kind? I’m not surprised of some glitch for the 2038 bug but everyone? And 99.99% of the power systems? This doesn’t seem right.”
He nodded and asked, “Do you think it has to do with the Year 2038 bug? Or is it a coincidence?”
“I don’t know, and damn it, I can’t find anything out without the internet.” She looked at the old clock on the wall, ticking away as the hands moved around the face. “I can’t do anything about this, especially with all of the snow out there. I need to get some sleep and I can check on the radio tomorrow to see if there is more information. I suspect it’s going to be a long day tomorrow if the power isn’t back up for most people.”
“You’re right, we might want to watch our electric use too. The batteries will last for a while, but you know charging can be iffy this time of year.”
“True, another good reason to go to bed early. I’ll turn off everything in here if you’ll get the lights and TV.”
He reached over and pecked her on the cheek and said “Yes, and bet I beat you to bed! Good weather for snuggling under the covers.” He grinned at her and headed out to the living room. Marie smiled back at him, still in love with him after 40 years. She turned off the computer, printer and other electronics, then turned the room lights off as she left the room. The living room was already dark and the moonlit snow glowed outside. She shivered as she thought of the house without power this time of year and she was glad they had spent the money to keep it warm for minimal cost. They had also picked up supplies for the next month, and had a good stock of food and other things. But what had gone wrong, she wondered.
Pictures by J.T. Harpster
Wed, 07/05/2017 – 20:30