by Beeney Podd
Earth is thrust into a Galactic Catastrophe.
The Pentagon was a very easy place to get lost in, but not for Lieutenant Anderson. He knew his way round the corridors like the seasoned corridor walking veteran he was. Previously he had worked in an indoor children’s maze, before he graduated college, so the Pentagon was a very large leap up in the art of corridor walking.
From the crease on his forehead, you could tell he was in a hurry. And he was. Only a terrorist with a machine gun would slow him down, and most fortunately, this was a very rare occurrence in the Pentagon.
The corridors had less people in them during the night time, but the lights never dimmed. All the doors, or at least most of them, had little keypads next to them, key-card input machines or other technological security devices. A lock and key would not do for the secrets behind many of the doors in the nation’s security centre.
Anderson’s shadow chased him down the long corridors, and only stopped to salute the shadows of the guards that patrolled the building, to enter numbers into the keypads beside the doors or swipe a key-card.
He looked down at his watch. 9 minutes.
He entered the small cafeteria with a large single table in the middle. From here you could see out into the courtyard in the centre of the pentagon.
Anderson quickly made a coffee and headed back down the corridor. He checked his watch once more. 5 minutes. He could make it in 5 minutes. With a minute and a half to spare too.
Anderson was a calculating man. He had always worked well with mathematics and science, which is why he had been a natural choice for the Department of Defence to hire as a general scientific advisor. Who knew that this would also come with the bonus rank of Lieutenant and a free game of golf at the Pentagon City Gold Course every other day?
Anderson arrived at the door to the briefing room. Room 3A623 was printed above the door in a plain easily legible font. This was the room for all major scientific briefings in the Pentagon. He pulled out one of his many key-cards and swiped it in the slot next to the door.
“This door will automatically unlock in 10 seconds.” Said the door.
“Security, Security.” Anderson replied to the door in a mumble.
Anderson quickly tightened his tie, adjusted his cufflink, and then waited another 3 seconds.
“This door can now be opened, and will lock after closing.”
‘It’s a wonder the doors don’t have eyes,’ thought Anderson as he entered the dimly lit room.
There was a long table down the centre of the room, with room for one person at each end of the table, and 3 along each side of it.
5 of the seats were taken. The Head of Astrometrics Reports, aptly named Denise Star, sat one end of the big table. She looked slightly frustrated and was deep in conversation with her laptop, which judging by the image projected onto the wall behind her, did not intend on working any time soon.
Diagonally to her left was General Watson, who commandeered the largest amount of money from the Department of Defence budget, in support of his ICBM defence program, and most likely commandeered the largest amount of donuts from the Dunkin’ Donuts in the food court, judging by the stretch on his shirt.
Across from Watson was Dr. Harley, the top researcher for asteroids, meteors, space junk and other phenomenon of the like.
Seated at the head of the table closest to Anderson was the Secretary of Defence himself, Jonathan Carrit. Next to him was his assistant. Carrit himself was barely greying, and in his late 50s. It was said he was one of the few military minds that asked questions first before firing Tactical Nuclear Warheads, whether or not the enemy were pointing Weapons of Mass Destruction at you. So far, this theory had yet to be tested though. Appropriately, he wore a suit.
“Oh,” Denise looked up and noticed Anderson, “Please come in, Henry. Take a seat. We’re only waiting on Dr. Carmichael.”
‘Ah yes,’ thought Anderson, ‘the Great Dr. Carmichael. Inventor of the Radio-Dynamic Pulse-Rectification Capable Neutralizer. Whatever that does.’
A minute later, Dr. Berk Carmichael entered with a slightly flustered look on his face and a black briefcase held against his side by his arm. He was holding a clipboard in his hands.
“Sorry I’m late everyone” he said quickly as he foxtrotted like a drunkard to his seat.
His grey frizzy hair settled as he sat and began to unpack the diverse contents of his briefcase onto the table.
“Now that we’re all seated, do begin, Miss Star.” Said Carrit.
This meeting was showing all the signs to Anderson of being a long one, so he sat back and tried to wait for the important bits.
Just above Earth, a very secretive bit of space-junk that had been orbiting for the past 60 years continued its controlled descent down. It was rather big as space junk goes, being a metre by a metre by a metre. It was rather oddly shaped for space junk too, as the natural formation of rock is not a perfect cube. At the speed it was going, it would not be space junk for long either.
“What?” Carrit said.
“What?” Watson said, attempting to, yet failing to add the same tone of practised worry that Carrit had. Watson was just confused. He didn’t understand any of this techno-babble. His only rule of thumb was shoot first, and if the enemy was still alive, possibly ask questions if he could think of any. So a mystery asteroid didn’t have much impact on his daily life. Not a great deal many things did in fact. For instance, his wife leaving him would not have much impact, whereas the closure of Dunkin’ Donuts would. Sundays were the worst days of the week for him, aside from public holidays, because this was the day Dunkin’ Donuts was closed. And unfortunately, today was a Sunday.
“Normal space junk does not change direction autonomously, no?” Carrit ventured cautiously.
“No sir” Said Denise.
“And furthermore, as you can see from the presentation behind me,” she continued, “it does not change direction of its own accord 5 times in 2 days, and then follow a precise course and continue to descend.”
“Why is this a problem?” questioned Watson.
“Because this is not the normal behaviour of space rocks.” Denise pointed out, as if speaking to a child.
“We also noticed something else out of the ordinary.” Said Dr. Carmichael.
“Do continue please, Doctor.” Carrit said.
“Thank you. We discovered 2 very… odd… things. First of all it was… emitting… some sort of… radiation… from it.” Carmichael spoke very… hesitantly.
“Oh?” Carrit’s face was full of interest.
“Yes. Its… internal readings of… radiation were off the… scale. Leading me to… continue my… research…”
“Yes,” Denise couldn’t bear his pauses anymore, “so we did a full scan using the nearest satellite and we found out one of the most interesting things we’ve ever discovered. Inside the asteroid was some sort of singularity. A black hole possibly or some other similar thing.
“The only black hole around here is the one in this room, diverting all our time to talk about some stupid asteroid.” Watson interjected pointedly, even though his awareness of what a black hole was equalled that of a piece of butter’s awareness of what toast was.
“Thank you, Watson,” said Carrit, ignoring Watson. “A black hole would not be a good thing… no?”
“If that is what it is sir, then no sir, it would not. And at the speed it’s going, we have 3 hours till it crashes.”
“And one crashing in the middle of America would be worse, too?”
“Most certainly, if your thinking in a chronological sense of things. But if the Black Hole opens… it won’t really matter for anyone. Mr. Anderson is here with us, as he is our major black hole researcher.”
“What are your thoughts on avoiding this seemingly impending disaster?” Carrit turned to Anderson.
“Well if it is a singularity similar to a black hole sir, being the size it would be, we might be able to plug it, as such. Like one plugs a bath sir.”
“What would we need to do so?”
“Hmm… Something quickly launchable and deadly accurate; something such as the new ICBM defence that Watson here commands.”
“And that is why we invited him.” Denise finished.
“Well, you hear that Watson?! Your new program finally has a test. And it better work, otherwise I am not putting a single dollar into your budget again, Whether or not I’m dead. If it can’t stop a tiny bit of space junk, it can’t stop a Missile. Now, I have a press conference to make. Excuse me.” Carrit got up swiftly, and with the grace of a politician about to deliver news of impending doom, left. His assistant followed meekly behind him.
“Well then,” Watson announced like a real patriotic General, “time to shoot down some space-commies.”
“We’ll send the co-ordinates to all your teams.” Denise said.
Watson left the room.
“Do you really think this will work, off the record of course?” Denise asked Anderson.
“Well, off the record, it almost certainly will fail. From my understanding of black holes, anything near it will be crushed and sucked in. If you could come from behind the black hole, you could theoretically block it, but black holes have infinite density and no physical size. They have no ‘behind’.” Anderson said.
“I would have thought so too,” Denise said. Then she looked up suddenly, “An Idea just came to me. What if we could… divert its course?”
“Hmm?” Anderson hmmed.
“Say, we attach it to a space shuttle, and fly it away.”
There was a ruffling of some papers and they both turned to Carmichael, who was flicking through folders.
“I have… bad news folks.” Carmichael said after a brief moment of finger licking, page turning suspense.
Flickers of fading hope passed through the expressions of Denise and Anderson.
“Berk?” Anderson queried.
“It’s slowly falling, relative to the distance it has left to travel, but it will speed up when the closer it gets. By the time a space mission could be prepared the space-junk would have entered the atmosphere, and if it was to be taken back through the atmosphere, god knows how, it would burn up. This would unleash the supposed black hole anyway.”
“What about putting it inside the shuttle, where it wouldn’t burn up?” Anderson suggested, though he knew the futility.
“I’m sure we all know that there is no space shuttle launchable from this planet capable of catching rocks descending at such a great speed.”
“What about catching it before it entered the atmosphere.”
“Oh?” Carmichael raised an eyebrow.
“Do we have any shuttles in space?”
“Maybe at the International Space Station.” Denise ventured.
“I’ll check.” And with that, Anderson left the room to get into contact with NASA.
22 minutes later, with Carrit at his side, Anderson pressed the button on the little screen in front of him. It said, rather obtrusively ‘Initiate’.
The Communications rooms were all well lit, square, 12 X 2 metre rooms. They had one large display screen on one wall, where the person you were communicating with appeared on camera. There was also a camera at the top of the screen so that the people on the other end of the line could see who you were. At the moment, the emblem of the Department of Defence was on the screen.
About 5 steps from the doors were a row of computer systems. Anderson and Carrit stood at one, near the centre of the row, with the main camera focused on them.
On the screen, the word “Connecting” appeared and began blinking. It blinked 6 times before “Connected to NASA, Desk Room 2” appeared on the screen in its place. These words did not blink.
On the large display screen, “Commander Jason Dervish, Desk Room 2, NASA” appeared. He was a middle aged man, with short brown hair.
“Can I help you, sir?” he spoke directly to Carrit, barely recognising the existence of Anderson in the room.
“Yes, Commander. I have with me here Lieutenant Henry Anderson, who needs to ask a few very important questions.” Carrit broadcasted.
“Go ahead, Lieutenant.” The commander said.
“Do you have any space shuttles in space outside the earth’s atmosphere?” Anderson asked.
“No, we do not have any in current orbit, but the Russians have a spacecraft docked at MIR.”
“Does it have cargo storage?”
“Err, let me check.” There were some typing noises in the background. A beep. Another Beep. Typing. Longer Beep.
“No.” The commander stated.
“Are you aware of the space junk that is currently descending?”
“DC-101K is its designation, and yes we are. We’ve had our top people working on a way to turn it round. We know of the fact it may possibly contain a spatial anomaly, most likely a black hole. The best they could come up with is to knock it away.”
“Would a collision with a moving object do this?”
“Such as what?”
“General Watson’s ICBM defence program.”
“Hmm? Explain it.”
“I’m surprised you don’t know. A vehicle or base launched rocket propelled unmanned craft that is designed to collide with an ICBM at full speed, destroying it. It’s designed to destroy it in space, so I gather it can go through the atmosphere. I believe it travels at approximately the same speed as an ICBM actually.”
“I guess a collision with such a device may put it off its course, but judging from the most recent results, there is 1 hour and 15 minutes before the space junk enters the atmosphere. Are these… things ready to launch now?”
“Err… now? Umm…” Anderson glanced at Carrit.
“Give us 15 minutes, and it will launch.” Carrit said.
“That gives you an error margin of about 15 minutes. The ICBM destroyer will probably take 30 min to get through the atmosphere, at which stage, after another 15 minutes, it will collide, 15 minutes from the entrance into the atmosphere. I gather once inside the atmosphere, it wouldn’t be able to deflect it?”
“No sir, we would not be able to track it inside the atmosphere.” Said Anderson.
“Thank you, Commander.” Anderson saluted, to which the commander saluted back.
Anderson disengaged the link, and suddenly his pager went off. He looked at it. Carmichael wanted to speak to him.
Anderson explained to Carrit, and then left the room. As he was leaving he saw Watson appear on the screen, and just heard Carrit start barking out orders. Thank god he was not in there.
Dr. Carmichael’s office was very office-like. It contained a desk with paper on it - lots of paper, a simple painting of a many yachts in a race above the desk, and there was a computer in one corner of the room. And in consistency with the papers and the yachts, the computer was equal to multiple of your average home computers. He was after all, a scientist. Carmichael was at the computer when Anderson knocked at the door. He got up and opened the door and went back to the computer.
On the screen was some sort of active graph, changing as new results came in.
“What is it, Berk?” Anderson said.
“Something I should have picked earlier. The scan that we did of it was only an ‘image’. We took about 50 individual ‘images’ of the rock.”
“Well, I never thought about ‘video’ of it.”
“I don’t think I understand.”
“Well, consider when you take a normal photo of a person, you can’t see if the light is changing, or if his shadow is moving. In video however, you can. You can see it move. In this case, the ‘video’ scans are less accurate, which is why we took image scans in the first place. But in the ‘video’ I noticed something. The changes in frequency and shape of emission, all seem to be co-ordinated and swift, they’re not slow and smooth as would be natural in a normal case of signature emission.”
This was beginning to confuse Anderson slightly. He rubbed sand that wasn’t there out of his eyes.
“It’s not natural, and this prompted me to look for any other previous cases. There are none on record, but what I pulled was even more interesting. The military, at one point, was considering using difference light and radiation frequencies as a form of communication, but it was too difficult to have a mobile communicator that created powerful radio-microwaves strong enough to go a good distance.”
“You think it might be a government thing?”
“No, it’s definitely not. The gravity distortions that suggest a miniature controlled black hole inside the space junk are beyond any current human technological capability.”
“Then what are we dealing with? Just what are you saying?”
“I believe that this may be the beacon,” Carmichael took a deep breath, “of Extraterrestrials.”
“What?” Anderson cut through the silence.
“Haven’t you ever watched any of those science fiction shows, they all depict instant communication to anywhere, using “subspace” or “hyperspace” and so on. All of those communication methods involved the message being sent into some sort of extra dimension through the use of a wormhole, or a singularity or portal or something like that.”
“This is what you’ve come up with? Some story based on fiction?”
“It fits! And I have something even more startling to prove it. The Electro-Magnetic signature pattern seems remarkably familiar to me.” Carmichael looked up with a grin that profusely said ‘look at me, I just found the first signs of Extra-Terrestrial life’.
Carmichael continued, “Tell me Henry; are you any good with Morse code?”
Chapter 2 Coming Soon