Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Taste of Earth: Scene 10

This is the tenth and final scene from A Taste of Earth,
a science fiction short story.
I hope you have enjoyed it, and I would love to hear from you.

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Lab 14, Edwards Air Force Base, California

“Will you comply?” Brigadier General Jensen shouted in a command voice that would make a drill sergeant flinch.

“Yes,” Hachiman answered.

As the general issued instructions to the now compliant alien, Dipesh fidgeted with anticipation. This is actually an extra-terrestrial, or at least the next best thing: an automaton driven by an artificial intelligence designed by an advanced alien race. He wanted nothing more than to talk with it. Where are you from? What are your people like? Did you have the same problems we do, or did you overcome them and have new problems?

Lost in his thoughts and focused on Hachiman, Dipesh didn’t realize the guards were herding the scientists towards the exit. Several scientists were protesting, and he quickly joined them. “We are part of the international observation group. We are required to be here.”

The guard who was guiding them, answered with growing agitation, “You will be taken to the remote viewing site. It is for your own protection.”

Someone behind Dipesh pushed him into the guardsman. The guardsman’s grimace turned to a scowl, and he pushed back harder with the assault rifle in his gloved hands. Behind the guard, Dipesh saw Hachiman, who was walking with a limp, lean forward and run for the emergency exit. The guards opened fire, wounding two scientists but downing Hachiman. It lay on the floor, unmoving. The guards and officers yelled at the scientists, “Stand back!” Aid was called for the screaming, wounded scientists. Their weapons still on Hachiman, two guards approached it.

It twitched.

They fired.

It shattered. From the fragments hundreds of beetles scurried out towards the exit. A few remaining beetles skittered between Dipesh’s legs and out of the building. Gunfire destroyed only a handful. Within seconds, no sign of Hachiman remained in the lab except the damaged beetles.

Dipesh ran with the others to the exit. Outside, he had to suppress a sneeze from the bright daylight. Several ambulances and other emergency vehicles surrounded the building. Paramedics assisted the wounded and a few spectators apparently overcome by shock. Almost everyone was looking up. Four small, dark clouds and three helicopters were the only things he saw in the pale blue sky. Then he noticed that the dark clouds were not natural, but moved quickly against the wind. They were swarms of beetles.

A roar of jet engines came from behind. Four combat craft flew low overhead toward the swarms, and Dipesh thought he heard their cannons release their ordnance at the clouds.

The clouds dispersed, and he watched as the fighters circled in vain in search of prey.

JPL – Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Pasadena, California, USA

The wall-mounted display flicked between news channels. John sat slumped in his chair, remote hanging limply from his hand, like a Cleveland Browns fan watching his team yet again snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Each station reported a half-truth: the American administration claimed that “losing the specimen was beyond our control;” China claimed they contained and then reversed the climatic process without foreign aid – but were unable to tell how they did it. Flip channel. Spin. Flip channel. Speculation. Flip channel. Ah, a commercial.

Dipesh walked into the lab and looked down at John. “The climate is back to its normal human-repressed state. Why the long face?”

John chuckled, a dry, humorless expression. “Oh yeah. The good guys win.” He slapped the remote on his thigh. “We had it, Dipesh. Right here in our hands. An intelligent alien … that spoke English. Who knows what it could have told us.” He sank back in his chair, mindlessly absorbing the news.

“Do you want to watch their endless speculation all day,” Dipesh asked, “or get back to work?”

“Why? Our careers have hit their zenith. This was it, buddy. You might as well write your memoirs now. We are has-beens ‘cause nothing’s going to top tracking alien transformers.”

Dipesh withdrew a glass container from his pocket and held it out for John to see. Inside was one of the damaged alien beetles. “Oh, I think our careers are just beginning.”

The Sea of Tranquility

The Moon

It took Hachiman three months to reverse phase one, gather all its fragments, get to the moon, and alter its form into a configuration best suited for distance observation. It formed a solar radiation collecting-array in hopes of collecting enough energy over the next thousand years to journey back home. It would observe the indigenous life forms until then, to see if they were ready for its technology. It sat in the dust next to its solar array, watching earth and listening to its weak radio transmissions.

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<< Beginning    < Scene 7     < Scene 8     < Scene 9

The entire text is currently discounted: Free.
If you would like the entire story as a PDF, click here: A Taste of Earth – Justin Tyme.
For ebook format Amazon, visit: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others.
 
Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme
 

A Taste of Earth: Scene 9

This is the ninth scene from A Taste of Earth,
a science fiction short story in ten scenes.
I will post the entire story one scene at a time each Friday.
I hope you enjoy A Taste of Earth, and I would love to hear from you.

_________________________________

Lab 14, Edwards Air Force Base, California

Dipesh felt a little relief drain out of him as soon as he realized that the beetles were not biting anyone, just interested in leaving. Why? His tension redoubled when he considered the further ecological damage Hachiman could wreak. Great. He knew cockroaches would take over the world one day, but he didn’t think they would be alien cockroaches.

He paused at the lab window. The two lab guards tried wrestling Hachiman to the ground. Hachiman’s claws grasped at the table surface, but the polished stainless steel finish offered no purchase. The claws grew longer, and the guards backed off.

Several guards wearing lightweight Hazmat suits flanked a door marked “Emergency Exit” next to the viewing window. One of them swiped an identification badge through a card reader and a light on it switched from red to green. The door opened, and they poured through. As soon as it closed behind them, a second door opened inside the lab and they rushed out of it, spreading through the lab, guns pointed at Hachiman.

But Hachiman hadn’t been waiting for them to take position. Its claws had elongated and grown white hot, almost too bright to look at. It lunged at the viewing window, slicing through it. The glass melted before them and Dipesh instantly felt heat on his face. He jumped back and stumbled to the ground.

When the shots rang out, the remaining glass crumbled and Hachiman tumbled through the window and fell at Dipesh’s feet. Its claws singed the linoleum, and its fingers twitched. Several oddly-shaped indentations covered its back. Several spectators that had been calmly walking to an exit forfeited all pretence of propriety and rushed the doors, trampling anyone in the way, but Dipesh, John and a handful of other scientists remained. The dents on Hachiman’s back filled in, and the finger trembling stopped. Dipesh felt his heart race and he scrambled to his feet.

The guards jumped through the window casing even as the last few chunks of glass fell to the floor. They surrounded Hachiman, assault rifles held to their shoulders and their eyes looking down the sights. One of the scientists was screaming in French. Dipesh’s two years of rusty high school French could only make out a few words, “No, he’s talking to us.”

General Jensen and two officers crowded around the fallen alien probe. The General held up his hand and the guards held their fire, but kept their barrels in line with the subject.

Hachiman moved its fingers, now cooled and with the claws retracted. It pulled itself up to a sitting position, slowly as if nursing internal damage.

“Let it speak,” the French man said in English.

Hachiman’s head – its eyes were the same copper marbled color as the rest of it – turned towards the general. An opening appeared where the mouth should be, and sounds came out, but it didn’t sound like it was produced by a flesh and blood larynx or an electro-mechanical speaker. It had the timbre of air rushing through dozens of small pipes, opening and shutting and even lengthening in order to mimic a human voice. “General Jensen, I must get out.” It spoke in a clear tone with a Midwest American accent.

The general’s eyes narrowed. “Haven’t you done enough damage?”

“Yes. That is my … my mistake,” Hachiman said. “I did not understand your species. I did not know you were,” Hachiman cocked its head to one side, “capable of moral decision.”

“Aware of what?” Dipesh asked.

The general ignored him. “Why did you do this to our planet?” he asked.

“It is the service to my people. But they need it no longer. They do not answer my call.”

No one said anything.

Hachiman spoke again. “I believe they are dead. Release me so that I might repair the damage.”

“I cannot do that,” the general replied. “You have proven yourself to be a clear threat to this nation and this world. You will be escorted to another lab where you will be examined. You may tell us then what you intend to do, and we will do it, if we deem it to be in our best interests. Is that clear?”

“That will not be quick enough.”

“Will you comply?”

Silence.

“Will you comply?”

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<< Beginning     < Scene 6     < Scene 7     < Scene 8     Scene 10 (in next week’s blog)

The entire text is currently discounted: Free.
If you would like the entire story as a PDF, click here: A Taste of Earth – Justin Tyme.
For ebook format Amazon, visit: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others.
 
Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme
Photo by aroid on Flickr
 

A Taste of Earth: Scene 8

This is the eighth scene from A Taste of Earth,
a science fiction short story in ten scenes.
I will post the entire story one scene at a time each Friday.
I hope you enjoy A Taste of Earth, and I would love to hear from you.

_________________________________

Lab 14, Edwards Air Force Base, California

    “The passive scans have revealed no new data,” General Jensen announced to the observers who had just taken their seats. “The current damage to our climate does not allow for leisure, so we are forced to commence with more intrusive tests….”

As the general continued, Irene tapped Dipesh’s arm and pointed towards the monitor. It showed a temperature spike in Hachiman.

“Since this exposes us to a higher level of potential danger,” the general continued, “we are asking all but the most essential personnel to relocate to our remote observation facility. We have a bus for you outside, so if you will come with me.”

Only half of the observers were watching the general; the other half murmured about the temperature change. Two of the scientists still in the lab grabbed extra sensors to localize the change. Several people stood in front of Dipesh and he lost view of the lab. When he stood, he thought he saw Hachiman move. He jumped out of his seat and over to the window for a better look. The general had stopped speaking, and a rumble of confusion filled the viewing area.

Hachiman’s two cone-shaped appendages seemed to droop as if melting. A second later, they froze in the form of insect legs. They tapped the floor several times rapidly, and with each tap it left a large drop of metallic liquid that reformed into inch-long beetle shapes that scurried across the floor. In terror, the lab technicians flattened themselves against the wall or jumped up on tables, not trusting the safety of their bio-suits. One lab guard activated the security alarm, and they both aimed what looked like M16s at Hachiman.

Then several things happened at once. An ear-splitting siren screeched overhead. Halogen emergency lamps flooded all rooms with brilliant blue-white light. At the other end of the observation area, security guards were yelling evacuation orders. Dipesh and John took a step closer to the lab window, while Irene and David shuffled off with the other observers towards the main exit. Two other scientists rushed into the lab from the chemical showers, still dripping with disinfectant. Several beetles scurried over their feet, through the open doors, and into the showers. Other beetles scattered throughout the lab along corners as if trying to find a way out. They climbed the walls and viewing window, and at least two of these started boring into the glass right in front of Dipesh. They secreted a gelatin that gave their claw-like legs purchase on the smooth glass. The ends of the legs spun like drill bits and the gelatin acted like acid. It took less than a second for them to punch a hole in the tempered glass. Pressurized air streamed through around the beetles from the cavity of the double paned glass. Dipesh didn’t realize until then that the lab was kept at a lower air pressure to keep contamination in. The legs slid through and unfolded like a flower blossom, carrying the beetles’ body through with them.

John grabbed his arm and said, “Now’s a good time to run.”

Dipesh started to follow the crowd, but they had already jammed the main exit. He turned and noticed an emergency exit down the hall to his left that no one had taken. He urged John to follow. They gave the lab a final glance and saw a humanoid form where Hachiman had lain. It had long, spidery fingers and a sloped-back forehead, but retained its marbled copper-brass color.

The image disappeared from his view as he ran down the hall. He almost reached the exit when, through a door to their right marked “Outer Dressing Room,” scurried several beetles.

Dipesh hated cockroaches. He always had, ever since he lived in a small apartment in Los Angeles infested with them. He would find them in his cereal box in the morning, under the bathroom sink when he needed to fetch a new roll of toilet paper, and in his bedroom one day when he forgot he had stashed snacks under his bed. They even snuck into his nightmares, every one of his nightmares. He hated them, and was convinced that hell was infested with them.

Dipesh and John turned back the way they came.

The crowd at the main exit had thinned but still blocked it. David was one of the last in line. Several beetles threaded between idle feet, prompting screams. At least two people tried to do the most sensible thing, squash them. As soon as they lifted their feet, they realized it was not so sensible because the beetles moved on undamaged, and a few of them opened their wings and flew out the door.

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<< Beginning     < Scene 5     < Scene 6     < Scene 7     Scene 9 >

The entire text is currently discounted: Free.
If you would like the entire story as a PDF, click here: A Taste of Earth – Justin Tyme.
For ebook format Amazon, visit: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others.
 
Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme
 

A Taste of Earth: Scene 7

This is the seventh scene from A Taste of Earth,
a science fiction short story in ten scenes.
I will post the entire story one scene at a time each Friday.
I hope you enjoy A Taste of Earth, and I would love to hear from you.

_________________________________

Lab 14, Edwards Air Force Base, California

After two hours without learning any more about the probe, Dipesh and John walked down the hall to refresh their coffee. Irene soon joined them, and gave them details on the latest global developments. It looked grim. All the other impact sites had undergone the irreversible beginnings of massive environmental changes. “As for the cause,” she said, “it’s unique to each location, and nobody has a successful method of containment, yet.”

“So much for ET being friendly,” Dipesh said.

John let out a sigh. “You’re jumping to conclusions. Hachiman’s motives could be benign. How do you know it doesn’t view us as we would mice?”

“You know,” David said with a raised eyebrow, “this thing might not be the only one. We should prepare for an invasion.”

John grimaced. “Do you really think we have any hope for survival against an alien race as advanced as this?”

“God help us,” Dipesh said.

“God?” John chuckled. “Do you think Hachiman’s race believes in your anthropomorphic god?

“God is creative,” Dipesh said, “and it’s very likely He’s created life elsewhere even if they don’t look or act like us.”

“Talking about how extraterrestrials might view God,” John said, “is like mice speculating about how dolphins might like pasta.”

“Not if the basics of communication and relationship are universal.”

Hachiman watched with fascination as the indigenous life forms examined it. It remembered happier days when it communicated freely with other probes with which it had since lost contact. The other probes either found ideal planet systems to transform, ran out of energy, or were destroyed. Hachiman, like a senior citizen, had outlived all its peers, and now, only late in life, did it achieve its goal in a lonely section of the galaxy.

At the heart of Hachiman’s neural net system lay the core principles: ten philosophical guidelines that aided the probe in its decision-making process. The Fascil computer scientists who invented the brain paradigm in Hachiman believed in these principles more than the politicians did. And now, in the light of what it saw in the indigenous life forms, Hachiman questioned these principles for the first time.

The principle it struggled with the most was, “The methods used in planet-morphing must discriminate between supra-sapiens and non-supra-sapiens. Planets upon which supra-sapiens dwell are never permissible targets of planet-morphing, and every effort must be taken to discover if supra-sapiens inhabit the planet. The deaths of supra-sapiens are never justified, and if it’s discovered that they do dwell on a planet after planet-morphing has begun, the process must be reversed.”

The term supra-sapiens disturbed Hachiman the most. It described a level of self-aware intelligence and ability at or above the level of the Fascil. He had considered human beings below supra-sapiens, primarily because of the primitive communication skills and lack of cybernetic integration. But this seemed somewhat arbitrary, as if the Fascil needed to carefully select a criterion that differentiated them from all other living things in order to retain their superiority. They used three guidelines: language, cultural development, and the Breath.

No other creature of any kind had the Fascil ability to communicate using complex, high-level language in the form of hormone packets and cybernetics. As for culture, these creatures only had a few thousand years of collective knowledge passed down through generations. And as for the Breath … that was perhaps the most difficult to observe. Did they have a potential for deep communion with their creator?

Hachiman deduced that a human being was a neural network attached to a number of life-sustaining input and output devices allowing it to communicate and interact with the physical world. This level of communication was far more complicated than Hachiman originally thought, though not complicated enough to demonstrate supra-sapience.

The same was true for their culture. Hachiman deduced that human culture was upside-down or bent. It was based upon an inverted priority structure, was not true to itself, and would ultimately lead to self-annihilation. Nevertheless, it was complicated in ways that Hachiman had not even imagined.

It listened to the life forms next to it. It understood their speech, but they gave no indication that they transferred information packets with their creator. A few of their radio transmissions spoke of a creator, but their speech was confused. Hachiman listened to those talking on the other side of the transparent wall. Yes, one of them was talking about their creator. It heard and understood their speech, and determined that they had a unique relationship with the creator. It realized the indigenous life forms were a cross-breed of corporeal and incorporeal beings, although Hachiman’s sensors could not detect this.

It reexamined the Fascil definition of supra-sapience, and found it insufficient for this species. It now viewed the indigenous life forms as peers to an infant Fascil. Didn’t the Fascil consider their infants precious, perhaps even considering their infant’s lives more precious than their own as adults? In that case, shouldn’t these infantile humans be considered precious? If so, the humans qualified as low-level supra-sapiens. Hachiman concluded that morphing this planet, was in violation of one of its core principles. It must reverse phase one.

Hachiman initiated its own transformation process and started generating the counter-viruses.

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<< Beginning     < Scene 4     < Scene 5     < Scene 6     Scene 8 >

The entire text is currently discounted: Free.
If you would like the entire story as a PDF, click here: A Taste of Earth – Justin Tyme.
For ebook format Amazon, visit: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others.
 
Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme