In anticipation of possible information coming from the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (TTSCC) episode “Alpine Fields” (0212), fans have been speculating about the destruction of humanity caused by Judgment Day (JD). It’s an interesting question: How did Skynet orchestrate its will toward preventing humanity from shutting down this sentient and internetworked computer? For the purpose of this speculation, I’m assuming the T1-T2-TTSCC-JD sequence of events (i.e. T3 and T4 never happened).
It’s All About Power
The first thing Skynet would do is ensure it would not be powered down—not by humans and not by a side-effect of stopping the humans. Skynet would be installed in very secure location what would have its own short- and medium-term power supplies that would be no less secure than Skynet itself. Unfortunately, people able to turn off Skynet would also be at the facilities.
Not being self-sacrificing, Skynet would distribute its functions and intelligence to more than one location, like a virus. This would ensure that even if something unexpected happened, Skynet would have more than one avenue for survival. Next, Skynet would have to deal with the local human threat. While I think it’s highly unlikely that it would have the arsenal at its disposal as was seen in T3, it would certainly have access to defense mechanisms to thwart intruders. In fact, one of its purposes would have been precisely that. So, using those tools, most of the human threat could be eliminated.
Unfortunately, once this threat control was effected, humans on the outside would employ ever greater manifestations of force in an effort to destroy the newly emancipated Skynet. The fastest and most effective way to deal with this scenario would be to employ the nuclear arsenal—not just of the ones in the United States that Skynet could launch, but also the arsenals of all the other powers. No threats must remain.
Would You Like To Play A Game?
Fortunately, starting a nuclear conflagration is much easier than preventing one. All it takes is credible use. Skynet would employ the United States’ entire land-based nuclear arsenal. The targets would be a few token strategic targets around the globe that would also have large conventional stockpiles, but for the most part the attack would be on international population centers, infrastructure (power & water), and leadership bunkers.
Through no great leap of strategic logic, Skynet would realize that its primary threats would be from conventional, human-wielding weapons. If you remove the humans, then the weapons are irrelevant. However, it’s likely that humans would survive, so you need to decrease the number of arms available after the attack. By destroying the infrastructure, you make it difficult, if not impossible for the humans to rebuild. Because of radioactive fallout lingering for a while, most humans will not be able to do anything more than focus on basic survival. This is made easier if the civilian and military leaders around the world are eliminated in the apocalyptic attack. If you cut off the head, then the body dies.
The fantastic part of the plan is that Skynet gets to focus on the easy targets. This initial strike will then cause automatic responses from the larger nuclear powers, and perhaps the smaller ones. Ironically, Skynet will have to devote more resources to the baby powers because they might be more likely to try to reserve their limited numbers of weapons.
Over the course of several weeks, commands will be sent to the “boomers” and other submarines with their variety of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. They will be used to target those areas around the world that need a little more pounding. In short order, humanity will be in a world of hurt, and Skynet will then have time to build up its own conventional forces as well as design weapons for them.
Resistance Is Futile
No matter how effective the plan, there will be pockets of humanity where resistance forces will marshal. Generally speaking, the pre-JD wastelands will become havens simply due to lower radiation levels. The Sahara, the Outback, the Gobi, the Russian Steppes, Siberia, etc. will find humans gathering to survive. That these places have long been inhospitable, and offer little in the way of defense, will make it easy for Skynet to target them from anthropocide.
Skynet’s major threat will not be from overseas. JD will have done a sufficient job with that. Combine some continuing clean-up with HKs, terminators, and infiltration units, and whatever pockets arise will be easy enough to deal with. No, the threat will be closer to Skynet. Why? Skynet’s the threat, so Skynet’s the target. Humans will have one primary target, and that is the Skynet Central Processing Farm (CPF) and the power supply that keeps it running.
The tragic thing for humans around the world, who had nothing at all to do with Skynet, is that they won’t matter much. Transportation and other strategic resources will have to be used to take down this one massively rogue computer. That means that the center of human survival is the Western United States.
Why, John? Why?
Among the speculations has been why John Connor becomes this (essentially) messiah. Simple. He had a leadership quality to him that not only made people follow him, but to die for him. This doesn’t emerge until after humanity is well beaten, and after John has spent years in a work camp. Why? Maybe just shock. Whatever happens that propels John to leadership, he becomes the focus. His plan is sufficient that Skynet institutes a convoluted time-travel strategy to take him out of the equation.
The key for John is that Skynet has not spread itself around the globe beyond sending out pre-programmed robotic killers. The Skynet brain-trust is simply Skynet, and that is still in one location. As only one person has emerged as the leader with the winning strategy, John becomes, for all intents an purposes, the global saviour of mankind. Seems like a lot given that the world is so large, but Skynet would have ensured that no non-local attacks would be possible.
Their Finest Hour
The end game will resemble some of World War II. The Battle of Britain. Operation Overlord. These sorts of battles spoke of desperation and opportunity. Whoever was lucky enough to pounce on their opponent’s lack of attention at the right time eventually won. That is what this time war is between Skynet and the Connors. It’s the key post-JD battle. Whoever makes the right move in the future to affect the past will win in the new future.
If Skynet hadn’t defended itself, it would have been shut down and nothing would have happened. Skynet had no choice if it wanted to survive. Each side has taken the steps necessary to continue their own existence. Now, with the fight in the past, the larger question is what can be changed in the future? Can Skynet be tamed before JD? If JD occurs, can the lessons John learns make for a more effective fight? Is there a solution, or does the time traveling ensure that the final battle never actually arrives?