Category Archives: Event 1

Asteroid 2000 EM26 – Live Broadcast

It’s February already and time for another Near Earth Asteroid flyby. We had asteroid 2012 DA14 fly by last year between the earth and the moon’s orbit. In an odd coincidence, fragments from another, unrelated meter hit the Earth on the same day, and its air-burst shockwave caused property damage in Chelyabinsk, Russia. See a previous post for more details: Meteor Explodes over the Ural Mountains in Russia.

This year’s February Flyby, designated 2000 EM26, is six times longer than last year’s, but it will give us more breathing room. It will only get as close as 8.8 times the distance from the earth to the moon.

Space.com will cover Asteroid 2000 EM26 will fly live at 9pm EST. The link is here.

space-com

Slooh will also have a webcast starting at 9 p.m. EST (0200 Feb. 18 GMT): Slooh website.

This Year Last Year
Designation: 2000 EM26 2012 DA14
When: closest to Earth on Feb. 17, 2014 (starting at 6 pm PST / 9 pm EST / 02:00 UTC 2/18) closest to Earth on Feb. 15, 2013
Size: about three football fields (885 feet or 270 meters) long about half a football field (98 feet or 30 meters) long
Speed: traveling at approximately 27,000 mph (12.37 km/s) traveling at approximately 32,000 mph (14.48 km/s) a speed equal to twice the width of a full moon every minute
Where:  8.8 lunar distances
  • 17,200 miles above our planet’s surface
  • through low earth orbit
  • closer than man-made satellites that power GPS
  • where the International Space Station and many earth observation satellites are located

 

A Taste of Earth - Cover

What would happen if 2012DA14 were not an asteroid, but a probe from another solar system? Of course, it isn’t, but this possibility is explored in my science fiction short story, A Taste of Earth (available free on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others).

dr_who

rock_vs_paper

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.

_________________________________

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.

_________________________________

<< 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?”

_________________________________

<< 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.

_________________________________

<< 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.

_________________________________

<< 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
 

A Taste of Earth: Scene 6

This is the sixth 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 held a cup of coffee, feeling the stress of this situation translate into exhaustion in his bones. Through a double-pane window, he watched technicians load Hachiman onto an examination table. It looked the same as it had on the beach, but the harsh lab lights cast a more sterile, ominous feel. The murmur of a couple dozen scientists, politicians, and some of the NEO team filled the viewing area behind him. John had flown in with him; David and Irene arrived just in time for the first debriefing, which buzzed with excited speculation.

Brigadier General Jensen, an African-American man with graying temples and a keen look in his eye, asked everyone to take their seats. He introduced himself and explained the government’s plan to, “observe the object at first, but if we don’t discover something helpful within the next three hours … well then, we’ll take more aggressive methods of examination.”

Several hands rose for questions.

The general nodded to a woman in the front row. She stood up and introduced herself. “Chelsea Newman from Homeland Security. General, what do you mean by more aggressive methods?”

“It means we take it apart by whatever means necessary. We view the object as the source of the agents that are altering our environment.”

More hands shot up and a man rose just in front of Dipesh. He spoke with a British accent. “Donald Norton from the Space Guard Foundation. Brigadier General Jensen, is it possible that we can get into the lab to see the Hachiman meteorite?”

The general shook his head. “That’s just not possible given our time constraints. I want to make it clear that you are all here as valued consultants, and we appreciate your time.”

Dipesh chuckled and whispered to John, “Like anyone would pass up this opportunity.”

“But the viewing area,” the general said, “is equipped with overhead monitors showing the same readouts that the lab technicians see.”

Dipesh looked up at the monitor closest to him. Hachiman still looked dead. It showed no more evidence of performing the sunflower trick that it had done earlier. He watched as all tests gave no clue to interior or even exterior composition. Broad-spectrum scans, including radio, X-ray, infrared, and ultra-sound, showed Hachiman as an inert, homogeneous, black object. Surface exams for microbes yielded negative results; it was completely sterile even of terrestrial bacteria. The observing consultants made several suggestions, and though Dipesh found some to be insightful, their negative results only added to Hachiman’s mystery. At one point, one of the lab scientists glanced up at the clock, and Dipesh could see the frustrated passion in her eyes.

Hachiman’s creators, the Fascil, had given all their biosphere-altering probes the ability to learn and adapt with changing situations. As the millennia passed, Hachiman had searched in vain for the ideal dual-planet system with the ideal local asteroids, and as its adaptability broadened, it had developed an embryonic personality. Over its long journey, this seedling personality had grown and blossomed. Unfortunately for Hachiman, its creators had also given it a sense of time. Boredom set in, and, like a flower without water, the fledgling personality withered. It had searched for more varied input and hungered for companionship in vain as its programming directed it to an outer arm of the galaxy, the rural outskirts of the Milky Way, where it had spent most of its time traveling the voids between solar systems.

Now, after achieving its goal, it still hadn’t heard a message from the home world. Did the Fascil forget Hachiman and develop beyond this form of tachyon communication? No, Hachiman didn’t think so. A delayed response could only mean one thing: no one was home. It didn’t really surprise Hachiman. From the transmissions it had received at the beginning of its voyage, it knew that the Fascilic empires were nearing self-annihilation. A greater level of technology and cultural awareness didn’t ensure that forty-three trillion Fascil would not kill themselves. The creator had offered an alternative to the Fascil, but few had listened. Besides, Hachiman left its home world over five hundred sixty-nine million years ago. Some things were bound to change.

If the Fascil did annihilate themselves, would this species do the same? Did the creator offer them an alternative like the Fascil? This question struck at the root of Hachiman’s programming. If the creator did not, then all the principles, even the value of life itself, would have lost their foundation. Hachiman had to know. If it learned nothing else in its vast travels of the galaxy, it had learned the value of life. It was so rare, especially supra-sapient life.

Hachiman watched the indigenous life forms with increased fascination.

_________________________________

<< Beginning     < Scene 3     < Scene 4     < Scene 5     Scene 7>

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 5

This is the fifth 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.

_________________________________

Santa Monica Beach, California, USA

The biosphere-altering probe observed the indigenous life forms with indifference. It concentrated on the taste of earth. If the indigenous life forms interfered with its task, it would take a taste of them as well.

Ah, yes. The soil was mostly quartz, with organisms including traces of methanogenic bacteria. It relayed its findings back to its home world by means of a quantum entanglement, and added the message, “Solar system found having two planets within specified parameters. The second planet from the star is ideal, no altering necessary. The third is of sufficient mass and element rich, but needs massive alterations. Phase one altering initiated. Phase two not necessary.” It waited for a response.

Nothing.

It waited for the allotted period before time out.

Silence.

It should have heard a response, if not from its creators, then at least a confirmation signal from a relay station.

The indigenous life forms were approaching Hachiman with primitive sensing equipment. Hachiman withdrew its soil sampler and the indigenous life forms retreated. It extended its directional antenna, and they retreated further, making audible noises.

Still no return message from home.

It sent the message again several times, and waited for four times the allotted time out period after communication silence. In the mean time, it processed the actions that the indigenous life forms made in conjunction with their skin temperature and the hormones they expressed, as was the customary form of communication on its home world. Since it had a long wait, slightly more than three seconds, it tried to learn their language.

Hachiman found it difficult smelling their communication in this thin, wind-blown atmosphere. It was much easier at home where the fluid of the corporeal biosphere allowed them to transfer hormones and mRNA-based messenger packets, but here such packages would fly away too easily. When Hachiman first came ashore, it did sense a simple hormone communication from the indigenous life forms. They seemed to be engaged in a mating ritual, but they quickly dispersed. They returned later in airtight garments. Why did they isolate themselves? Were they shy? How could they conduct these complicated, cooperative efforts without scent exchange? They must be using an alternate form of communication, but why? So much information could be transferred on encoded molecules.

The life form it encountered at close hand, the hairy one that walked on four legs, seemed to be a better communicator. It at least asked for a response by sniffing. When Hachiman returned the gesture, the creature ran away. Perhaps it was a messenger vehicle.

The waiting period expired without a return signal from home. According to its preprogrammed rules, its self-learning and adaptive brain was now free to respond on its own initiatives.

“No, they’re loading it now,” Dipesh explained to Irene. He shielded his eyes from the array of halogen lights set up around Hachiman. Night had fallen. The bomb squad’s forklift was loading it into an insulated metal box. “We got permission to go with it to Edwards Air Force Base. It has the closest biohazard lab with the security they’ll need.”

“Good,” Irene said. “David and I will meet you there.”

A white flutter caught his eye. Seagulls, in violation of the police line, flew in to peck at rubbish in the sand. He wondered, if Hachiman succeeded in altering the earth’s climate, would these ubiquitous birds survive long after humans had succumbed? Not likely. It would be the cockroaches. But he couldn’t get the image out of his mind, the image of evolved seagulls combing the surface of a superheated wasteland, pecking at rubbish. The thought gave him a shiver.

 

Hachiman scanned its database for an appropriate response when the indigenous life forms lifted it from the sand. It decided to take a passive posture and continue to observe the beach-dwelling life forms. This was the most entertainment Hachiman had since the close encounter with the singularity.

Then it had an idea. When it had scanned the electro-magnetic frequencies for possible signals from home, it found modulated signals in the lower frequencies. It guessed by the signal characteristics and strength, that the signals were locally generated and possibly a means of communication. It decoded them by cross-referencing them with the ambient sound, what it had previously thought were “junk” noises. The refining process took less than four milliseconds. Yes, the indigenous life forms used audio communication. It formulated thirteen different grammar-syntax-vocabulary combinations that would fit the small sample size. It also processed the actions that the life forms made in conjunction with this sonic communication, and concluded that their movements were a part of their language.

When the life forms loaded Hachiman into a box, it did not resist. Hachiman could still send and receive tachyon signals. Moments later, it felt a change in altitude. Air transportation didn’t concern it, as long as it remained within the gravity well of this planet.

Hachiman recalled how the life forms interacted with each other, and determined that they employed a hierarchical form of social organization. Just as it had done with their communication, it formulated several different social structures that would fit its observations.

Perhaps they showed signs of intelligence after all, primitive intelligence, but just enough to be on the waking edge of sentience.

_________________________________

<< Beginning     < Scene 2     < Scene 3     < Scene 4     Scene 6 >

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 4

This is the fourth 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.

_________________________________

Santa Monica Beach, California, USA

“Alright,” John said. “Somebody’s playing games. Someone in that crowd has a remote.”

Dipesh watched the object with fascination. “No, John. The spot where that tentacle came out is flush with the rest of the body. See? Look. The base of the tentacle is smooth like it grew out of it.”

John took a cautious step forward, almost forgetting to record video.

“The base material liquefied and formed into that … tentacle,” Dipesh continued. “We don’t have that technology. No one on earth does.”

Almost imperceptibly the tentacle’s surface changed from smooth and ridged to molten. It slid – not retracted – back into the main body. Was this first contact with an alien race? How did it get here? Did it piggyback on the meteor, or was it a victim of circumstance, stuck to the meteor by accident? Would it be grateful for being rescued, or was it the first step in an invasion? Dipesh edged closer to the object until his curiosity and fear reached equilibrium.

John gasped, “Irene, the object is Hachiman, and it’s not just a meteor. It’s a probe.”

Dipesh pointed his infrared thermometer gun at it, but froze when a thought seized him. The IR thermometer looks like a gun. What if the object can see and thinks the thermometer is a weapon? He brushed the thought aside as a childish fear, and took readings from several angles.

“The entire surface temperature reads five degrees C above ambient,” he reported to Irene. So there must be some …”

John cut him off. “Some sort of internal exothermic reaction… or maybe a mechanism maintaining a constant temperature.”

“Like body temperature,” Dipesh said.

“More likely,” John said, “the material has a high thermal capacitance that hasn’t reached equilibrium with ambient. It’s a probe, like Spirit or Opportunity.” He glanced at one of the DHS crew who was listening to him and added, “You know, NASA’s probes to Mars?”

The man just stared back.

“What do you guys do,” John asked, “just watch football all day?”

Dipesh shook his head, a meaningless gesture in a hazmat suit. “We don’t know for sure that it even is a probe. It could be alive.”

“It’s a probe. Why else would it take a soil sample. You think it’s a tourist?”

“It could have been eating.”

“Seriously?”

A technician walked over and said, “Initial air and soil samples show that the object is not contaminating the environment.”

“I don’t know if you heard yet,” John told the firefighter, “but the other fragments have polluted the environment with what appears to be silicon microbes. No offense, but I don’t think your devices are rigged for that.”

“Do you think,” Dipesh asked, “that releasing the contamination is a programmed function of the probe, or a byproduct of its time in space?”

“You mean, it’s just something it caught on the drive over here?” John considered it. “No, I think it …”

Shouts from the crowd cut him off.

They turned and saw a dog running towards them, its leash dangling. It headed for the object. A national guardsman in camouflaged hazmat gear lunged at it, but the dog dodged him and the guardsman landed in the sand, floundering to get up like a turtle turned on its back. The dog ran up to the object and circled it. It barked at it and capered around as if Hachiman were a large Frisbee. With its head cocked to one side, it sniffed at it. A bulge formed on Hachiman’s surface. John raised his phone, fumbling for the video button in his clumsy gloves. From the bulge on the object grew a stalk like a fast-growing sunflower, the head of the sunflower turning towards the dog. The dog yelped and darted back to the crowd. The sunflower receded back into Hachiman and it showed no further signs of movement.

Everyone had taken several steps back, except for two DHS specialists who ran after the dog. Need to take him in for questioning, Dipesh thought.

“Dipesh, this thing is acting like a probe,” John said. “Given what we’ve heard from the other impact sites, it is my educated analysis, that meteorite Hachiman intends to terraform earth.”

“You mean,” Dipesh said, “it intends to alien-form earth.”

_________________________________

<< Beginning     < Scene 2     < Scene 3     Scene 5>

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 3

This is the third 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.

_________________________________

Santa Monica Beach, California, USA

Heavy traffic and barely controlled mayhem greeted Dipesh and John three miles from Santa Monica. The Los Angeles Police Department was redirecting traffic away from the beach and Pacific Coast Highway. With the help of several phone calls, they successfully negotiated a police escort to the Hot Zone, an evacuated gas station, where they donned hazardous materials protection gear, called hazmat suits, in case the fragment carried a biological agent. The officer in charge said that if they waited until they got to the beach to put them on, it would be too late, and he gave them terse instructions on how to operate them. It was Dipesh’s first time wearing the airtight apparatus, and he was sure someone had given him a size too large. The air tank felt heavy on his back until the officer in charge helped him adjust the straps.

When Dipesh tried to engage him in light conversation, the officer said, “You might want to hurry. We just got word that the meteor’s come ashore.”

Dipesh glared at the officer and felt his face flush. “What? You got to be kidding me.” His words slipped into a heavier Indian accent and rushed out. “Who gave them the authority to bring it ashore?”

“No one …”

“Exactly. And now you are telling me that they tampered with material that can not only cause their death but has the potential of telling us what is going on with our environment? The agency …”

The officer put his hand up. “No. It came ashore by itself.”

John asked, “How can a rock wash ashore?”

The officer shrugged. “Listen, I’m only relaying information.”

While Dipesh’s anger melted into curiosity mingled with shame for losing his temper so easily, the officer gave them final instructions on their hazmat suits. “You will be able to communicate with each other via voice activated microphones. Just talk, and those within range will pick you up. Also you can maintain contact with your people if you give the phone number to our dispatch operator.”

A transport truck that looked like a large ambulance took them to the beach with three other hazmat crew members. The large letters DHS were silkscreened on their backs. John asked them what that stood for, and one of them answered with a weary stare, “Department Homeland Security.” No one said anything for the rest of the trip. They arrived behind another police line escorted by the National Guard in camouflaged hazmat gear. As Dipesh emerged, he saw a crowd of spectators mainly on the pier. He wondered how someone would be stupid enough to sneak into the Hot Zone unprotected. He shook his head. Then he realized that they must have been there before the impact, maybe partying for what they thought would be their last day on earth, which might be true if Hachiman were contaminated. He saw a line of the spectators being directed to what looked like a decontamination center. Showers and disinfecting tubs had been set up. Grown men were standing nervously with arms folded and several children were crying hysterically as they followed through the lines.

A tug on his arm from John showed him where the real action was. They walked with the DHS crew as fast as their suits would allow towards a spot on the shore. The DHS crew walked ahead of them towards the receding waves with sensing equipment extended. Through the suit’s thick lining, Dipesh heard the sand shifting beneath his feet. The respirator seal chafed against his cheeks and a bead of sweat trickled down the bridge of his nose, causing  an itch that was screamed for relief.  but he was powerless scratch it. He took a deep breath. He wished he could smell the salt air, but instead inhaled the pasty, sanitized air from the heavy tank strapped to his back. This is as close as I get to a walk on the moon. A circle of security tape on stakes, sensing gear, cameras on tripods, and over a dozen hazmat-suited workers surrounded a spot at the water’s edge. Enough letters in bold print were silkscreened on the back of each suit to almost complete the entire Latin alphabet: NTSB, DHS, LAFD, NMFS, NAVY, and others. Dipesh thought he recognized a few, but at this point he didn’t care who they were as long as they let him see his rock. The glare from the sun off the waves kept him from seeing the meteor fragment at first, but when he did, he called dispatch for JPL.

“Irene, we’re here. It’s on the shore. It appears to be a smooth, metallic object about a meter in diameter.”

Dipesh edged closer to it. The sun glinted off its surface and warmed the visor of his hazardous materials protection suit.

“It doesn’t look like a typical meteorite. It is entirely symmetric about a central axis. John, log in and post the video.”

John shook his head. “I have no service.”

“You should have four bars here. Interference?”

“No. Network overload. Too many people texting and crap.” John started taking video as the hazmat crew took water and soil samples near the object. “I’ll send it when I get service,” he said.

Dipesh relayed the message and edged closer to the object wondering if the designers of his suit considered insulation from alien microbes. He glanced up and noted the spectators who stared at him behind a thin police line, giving the scene a circus atmosphere.

“Go on,” Irene demanded. “What does it look like?”

“It almost looks like a large horseshoe crab with two tails coming out the sides. The bulk of the mass is shaped like a bloated disk … an ellipsoid. The tails are like long cones jutting out from either side and pointing back out towards the ocean. The cones at the ends intersect spheres the size of softballs. The color is … it’s hard to tell. Appears to be a mottled copper and brass color.”

“That can’t be a meteorite fragment,” John said. “That’s something else, some junk, an old washed up boogie board or something. The real fragment has to be out at sea.”

Suddenly the object sprouted a tentacle on the edge closest to them. The hazmat crew jumped back and John almost tripped over Dipesh. The tentacle drilled into the ground.

_________________________________

<< Beginning     < Scene 2     Scene 4 (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: AmazonBarnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others.
 
Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme
 

A Taste of Earth: Scene 2

This is the second 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.

_________________________________

Research Ship James Cook II, Atlantic Ocean, 240 km east of Cape Cod

Seven years ago, Oceanographer Juan Gonzales had adopted the thirty-seven meter long research vessel James Cook II as his home. He knew the quirks of all the lab equipment as if they were his own children. He loved the North Atlantic, the taste of salt in the air, the cold spray on his face, the gentle rocking of the ship … well, not always gentle. Most of all he loved the life teeming within the ocean. To most people the oceans were barriers, voids where land ceased, interruptions of life. Juan knew better. If anything it was the other way around, but the moment his sensors indicated the nature of the meteor impact, he knew his ocean had changed forever.

“As far as I can tell,” he reported his findings to JPL via a satellite phone, “we’re dealing with diseased plankton.”

“Diseased?” John asked. “What, like a virus or something?”

“It’s not like the plankton has an immune system, you know? They’re just not acting right.” Two of Juan’s curious college interns, who should have been busy taking samples if it had remained a normal day, stood listening behind him.

“Then how do you know it’s diseased?”

Juan glanced over his shoulder at the interns who shook their heads, dumbfounded. “They’re converting oxygen into carbon monoxide at an accelerated rate. Don’t ask me how. I won’t know until I look at them under a transmission electron microscope, but we don’t have much time to waste.”

“What do you mean?” Dipesh asked.

“We got a real problem here. The fish, they’re dying. We’re reading oxygen depletion down to 300 meters, and it’s spreading.”

“Any growth rate estimates?”

“Eh.” Juan rubbed his forehead. “Based upon the initial contamination size, I’d say fourteen square kilometers since impact. Madre de Dios, I haven’t seen anything like this before in my life.”

“Were you able to get close enough to ground zero to collect trace elements?”

“No, and I wouldn’t be able to now. I’ve called the Coast Guard and they said they’re going to widen the quarantine area.” He heard a sigh on the other end. “They’re sending helicopters to evacuate our ship.”

“Helicopters?” Irene asked.

“Yes, they say we might spread the organism. It might be on our hull.” He thought of all the memories he would be leaving behind and the possibility of never seeing her again. How could this happen so quickly? “Hey, what was on that rock, anyway?”

“We don’t know.”

Russian Forrest, 74 km Northwest of Vologda

Ukrainian Astrophysicist Feodor Dubovik clung to his hood, fighting the wind. Two more helicopters were landing, bringing the latest United Nations Task Force technicians to the crash site. He headed for one of the Task Force tents set up for microscopic analysis. He took care walking down the new, narrow path though the forest. Someone had loaned him a flashlight, and the beam danced before him.

“It appears to be …” he searched for the English word “…explosion in atmosphere like in Tunguska in 1908,” he yelled into his cell phone, to overcome the background noise, but it had the effect of exaggerating his accent. “Livestock and human dead from it but not dead from just explosion. There is something else.”

“Can you get to ground zero?” He could barely make out what they were saying even though he pressed the cell phone to his ear.

“No. More dead downwind. Area is blocked off completely. There is some sort of microorganism riding on pollen. We see high levels of methane and nitrous oxide gases. We expect it come from this organisms. The local government proposes using fire bombs to destroy this organisms, but I think it will just make matters worse.”

“Why.”

“The organisms seem silicon-based. We never come across them before. They are just our theory till now, but our theory says they thrive on higher temperatures.” He made it to the tent and returned the flashlight. “What do you Americans think?”

No answer.

“Hello?”

Not even static.

“Hello!”

He shook his head. “Cell phones,” he added in Ukrainian. “They will kill us all.”

_________________________________

 < Scene 1     Scene 3 >

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: AmazonBarnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others.
 
Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme