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Thread: Dark side of the Mirror Redux II
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Old 09-21-2013, 10:54 AM   #1
machievelli
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Dark side of the Mirror Redux II

Let's hope third time is the charm. The first has been locked because I didn't want everyone who had read the original to go by it when I edited and reposted. The second was deleted accidentally, so let's try this again

Dark side of the Mirror

Shaheel

Final Log Entry:

Must concentrate, must not think of... that.

I know some before me have done this, gone into senesence without bearing young. Mainly males, from what I have learned. But some females have. Flying-

No. Must not think of it. Must not even dream of what I will be missing.

Think of Don, of how he helped me. Saved me.

We would not even have the word flying if it were not for his race. So many things about our world were just there. The oceans we swam in, we did not even have a word for 'swim', let alone fly or glide. It was something our bodies did to survive; to move through our oceans gathering materials we needed, and food for most of our lives, then to fly so briefly, to pass on our genes to the new generation.

That makes it better somehow. I can look at what we gained from his race, what I gained from his race. Including another first. My egg-bearer was a famous poet, did you know that? She was renowned for the lyric verse that described our home world from beyond our atmosphere by those who had not yet gone into old age and death. She recorded the memories of those who went beyond first just to look and record that last phase of our lives, then to mine the small worlds that are out there, who witnessed the lights, who went from our world to His for the last twenty-three of our years. She was the only one of us who ever made the trip to Don's world who was not trained for it.

No one else can say that even now. To step beyond the calling you are assigned, to do something no one else has who does your duty. She was a master at creating the crystals that are fed to the Rull, that are later ingested by our young at their first molt to teach us our craft. She recorded the thoughts of all who voyaged first above the clouds, then away from our world itself, but those thoughts became part of her soul. Before her last molting she had gone to Those That Direct, and asked a boon; a trip to that other world we have studied for so long.

She was such a great poet that they allowed it, and she went. She recorded two crystals of that voyage. Only I knew at first that there had been two, because she did something none of our Recorders had ever done. She had created one she hid, with instructions that it not be fed to a Rull until she had made her mating flight.

That was before my birth, of course. We had learned of the lights beyond our world from those who came down to tell us before they died. What is that word Don used?

Stars.

All previous generations grew up knowing of the lights from our legends, whispered accounts from those who finally fell from the sky, whispering of it before the gravity killed them. Most through our history thought it was just a final senile madness. Most who delivered the message were males after all; males that had failed their final duty to our race, not passed on their genes. But some later thought them the bravest; ones who instead had braved the heights of our atmosphere, held themselves back from that final bliss, who then flew back down, even more fragile than the egg bearers to plop into the oceans. Hoping that someone would reach them before the Great Mouths could swallow them or Swift Swimmers shredding to deliver this final mystery to us.

All to sing of what they saw, a place where our atmosphere ends, where the depths beyond are more clear than any ocean ever was.

And lights, oh so far away.

Of course any youngling of my world knows of the brutal facts of mating. Not every male finds a female that allows him that last rite of passage. For long millennia stories of the lights were considered only lies. Just a last misdirection from a frustrated male who had failed in the most important duty we have to our race. Failed to breed. A male must be strong enough, brave enough, to reach the heights where the females go, answer their last song with their own-

I must pause. I can almost feel the hormones flowing through my body. If I give in to them there will be nothing on this crystal I record but my final song. What has happened to my crew, my ship, must reach my people. What I endured in the company of one of the, what was that word Don said was their name?

Human.

I was the first child in living memory to know my egg-bearer, even at one remove. Our mating cycle is so complex compared to Don's! We live in the oceans of our world until our final metamorphosis, when we go from ocean dwelling to drifting into the deep clouds to fly above them. To pass on our genes to future generations, then die.

She who bore my egg knew her time would come to see the stars for herself. Any of us who lived that long would see the stars, though we still had no name for what they were back then. Yet she had deduced something from the records we had from our race's voyages to his distant world, from the transmissions that first drew us to it. She had come to believe that that odd race on that ball with a transparent atmosphere had a closer bond to those that bore them, gave them their seed.

Yet she also knew that until we began to travel into the beyond, seeing the stars also meant you were soon to die, and that time would be spent not merely seeing them, but in the frantic attempt to fertilize her eggs. Even if she were one of the lucky ones who landed without being killed by it to deliver her eggs, she would no longer write poems of it, and her last view of them would never be recorded.

She had done then what I am doing now. Recording her thoughts and beliefs on a crystal to feed to a Rull. But I hoped this would not be just for one of my offspring for I shall have none. This one was for our entire race.

No one knows now how the first of our kind discovered that gift of the Rull, to accept the crystal, and become not merely food, but a storage vessel for the thoughts of one who went before us. But it was that discovery that made us a society rather than primitive animals.

They are our way to pass our thoughts on to those who will live after, for those memories are recorded within the Rull's bodies, and when they divide, that memory is recorded in every Rull descendant from them, so one can feed upon it and remember those thoughts as if they were our own, generations in the future. All of us who survive to the first molt are selected to feed on marked Rull, the memories of those that had gone before to learn our skills, and take our place in our society.

Some of the memories are ancient even now; how to build a nest to protect the younglings. How to avoid the Great Mouth, and to watch for the Stingers that kill so many of our nested young to feed themselves, and to defend against the Swift Swimmers that would feed on those out of the nest. How to nurture the Rull near their undersea vents, and which vents feed the most succulent ones not yet marked by one of us for our daily diet, and, of course, to use to record our modern thoughts.

When our people discovered this, we began to use specific vents for storage of the memories of different castes of our society. So all of the knowledge of the nest Guardians is stored in one vent area, another for how to hunt, and so on and finally, all of the knowledge of those who have traveled beyond our world, and even those who have traveled to that other world.

And the specialty my mother held, to take all of the memories of any specific skill set, then combine them into a Rull any might eat, and learn of our past. I was appalled to discover that to Don this made her not a poet, but a librarian or historian. But after my first molt, I journeyed to the vent where the Rull of all of those her caste had compiled were kept, and fed upon two there; one before her time, and one of her own. She was clear and precise in her recording as any Recorder must. But hers could pass on the longing for the beyond, to reach out and touch one of those people of Don's world.

A yearning shared by all who travel there now, except for Those That Direct. The ones who determine how many of the younglings will fill out which caste.

That last secret crystal, it was meant for one of her own brood. Her instructions were simple; to save it, hide it, until before our first molting. So great was she to our people that her wish was granted. The Guardians who watch our young before that were to watch those who survived the hatching of her eggs, who were not killed by Stingers or eaten by Swift Swimmers or Great Mouths during their first year.

It was to be saved for only one of us. The one who swam fastest, who was the most reckless and adventurous. That one would receive her last gift to her children.

That one was me. And now, I will have my last first... I will die here, alone, far from home.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 09-21-2013, 07:40 PM   #2
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Preparations

Hickam Field: Pearl Harbor Hawaii: 1300 hours.

Colonel Simon 'Rocky' Rockford snapped to attention before the Wing Commander's desk. Brigadier General Paul 'Wraith' McConahey had been a premier pilot flying the F105F Thunderchief during Vietnam, flying first 'Wild Weasel' then 'Iron Hand' missions. He'd earned three Silver Stars during that war. Up until his removal from flight status six years earlier, he had also made a name flying the F15, which is why he was now the Wing commander here.

“Rocky, the DOD has decided to have a test of the newly upgraded ASM 135 ASAT, and as someone who worked on that project, you are assigned.”

“Yes sir.” Rockford replied. “When is it due?”

“Two hours from now. You'll have to go Buster to get into position. But I've already detailed tanker support at the location. There is a small meteor, about five meters across that will be passing inside LEO. You will fire the missile as profiled, and report a hit if you get one.”

“Sir,” Rockford looked puzzled. “I know that NASA had considered using an ASAT to nudge a rock away from a strike on earth. But I thought they decided it wasn't enough bang to guarantee it.”

McConahey merely looked at him. “We aren't assuming it will do that, Rocky. They just decided that since the rock was there, it wouldn't waste someone's money by killing a functioning satellite.”

“But the TirMat satellite launched back in the 70s is not operating, and is at the same altitude-”

“Rocky.” McConahey leaned forward. “DOD chose the target, not me.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Preflight your aircraft, and get her in the air. Dismissed.”

McConahey watched the man leave his office. Then he picked up his encrypted phone, and dialed a number. The person on the other end answered by repeating the number back. “Operation Icarus is go in two hours.” He reported. Maybe in the future, history would record the young man's name.

After all, how many people would be able to claim shooting down the first verified alien spacecraft in history?


First Warning

Washington D.C. 2000 hours

The president was not amused. His reelection campaign wasn't going well, and he was not only running barely ahead of the other candidates in his own party, but almost neck in neck with two of the other party's. He did not have time for this! He glared at the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Marcus Anston, and at the colorless little man in an Air Force Colonel's uniform. That lackluster man had invoked Minos. An urban legend if you will, for Presidents Eyes Only.

A secret project so concealed, that no one had ever been able to tell him what it was for. But the instructions that went with the code word had been specific. One day a man would come to his office, tell him he represented Operation Minos, and only then could he be briefed in on it.

He wanted to snort in disgust. Conspiracy theories abounded with everyone from the Illuminati to the Oil companies even to the Church (Pick which one you hated the most) either controlling the world, reading every scrap of electronic media, or concealing things from the people; always to their detriment. Hell, conspiracy theories sold more books and movies than any other type of fiction combined!

When he had taken the office, his predecessor had told him about the codeword and how even a President must obey any instructions, no matter who was giving them. That the person would prove he was the actual bearer of any messages, and that it was important, but had finally admitted he didn't even have a clue what it was all about. No military or intelligence officer in the service had ever been able to tell him any more, for he had been given the same instruction when he took the office. A search ordered by him hadn't turned up any plans, emergency situations or military operations connected to it. He found later that he wasn't the only president to try that, either.

Yet it had been removed from the Code Word registry in early 1948 at the order of then President Truman, meaning there had to be something connected to it. Though what could have been kept secret for almost seventy years? And why?

When the Freedom of Information act had been signed, one of his predecessors had seen his best chance to find out what it was. While he had not wanted to sign it, Lyndon Johnson had turned around once he had, and demanded answers, now!

No one came forward.

“You have five minutes.” He said coolly. He should have been sitting down to the 200 dollar a plate campaign funding dinner, not sitting in his office dealing with this... bull.

“We will need more, Mr. President. Several hours, in fact.” The colonel spoke. “We also need to move down into the Hole, and shut off all recording devices, sir.”

“Who the hell do you think you are, Colonel, damn it what's your name? I'll break you for demanding-”

“Crispin, sir. Nathaniel Crispin. Under Codename Minos, everything I suggest is an order from President Truman. It must be done as I direct until I feel it is safe to brief you in on the project.” He shrugged. “Frankly sir, you will be the only president since Truman to even know what Codename Minos is for.” He didn't look away. Considering the President had his career in his hands, Crispin did not even blink as he said this.

“And why should I care what some dead president had to say about this?”

“I am authorized by the Codename to give you only two further pieces of information, sir.” Crispin said, then leaned forward. “You know, as does every president, that the Government has what are called FEO, or Future Eyes Only files. They have been sealed by Presidential Executive Orders by previous administrations, and all records of every code name used for them have been stricken, and either incorporated into them, or destroyed. Nothing, including the code words associated with them has ever been recorded since, except for word of mouth passed on by the president signing it. Those codenames are still here, on projects still considered active, sir. They are marked on the files themselves with a future date when they can be opened.

“In late 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered Project Sky Blue be sealed in that manner, though he mentioned it to Vice President Truman, and gave him a precis of it in December of 1944; more as an example of how and why FEOs were chosen. That file is marked as not to be opened until December of 2050.” He leaned back.

“There is no way I would know the codename or when it is to be opened, without being told, sir, because except for you, no one except for President Roosevelt has even seen it since then. That is because until the Nuclear age, there was a locked file cabinet down in the White House vault, and only the President had the key. When the Hole was initially built it was moved into it, in a sealed casement.

“The second is what I come to you for today, sir. Alien life forms have been watching us since the early forties. there is physical proof from a crash in 1947; and we believe they are going to invade soon.”


Explanations

The Hole: 2030

Crispin looked at the President as he ordered the recorders shut off, then ordered the massive vault door sealed with only him, General Anston and Crispin inside. Once that had been done, the man took out a manila envelope, and removed a laminated form half the size of an average sheet of paper. “First I have to show you this, sir.” He slid it across the desk. The president picked it up.


The White House

Washington D.C.

“The bearer of this document is the sole source for information regarding Operation Minos and all subsidiary operational names.

“No officer of any rank subordinate to this office has the authority to demand information from him regarding this Codeword, including any future holder of the office at my personal direction. No future law later passed nor Executive order signed can be used to demand that he comply.

“In the event of an attempt to coerce or command such information from him, the bearer has the sole authority to terminate the one demanding such, using such force as he alone deems fit, and no government agency or court has the authority to arrest or try him for that act. He is deemed to be acting with all authority of this office if he is required to act to keep this operation secret.

“At times he may require assistance from superiors or members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or future intelligence agencies to carry out his assigned duties and officers of the Armed Forces and Civilian agencies are required by their oaths of office to obey regardless of Military or Civilian rank or office. He is allowed to command such assistance, and refusal to comply is defined as treason not only to our nation, but to the Human Race Itself. He is also allowed to command any officers who supply such assistance to silence regarding any orders given by him, on pain of execution as aforementioned.

“At a time of his own choosing and need, he may brief in his superiors as to the exact nature of his assignment. All information about Minos given to any other person of whatever rank comes at his sole discretion.

“The only one with the permission to remove him from his office is the bearer himself, and he alone has the authority to choose his replacement, though in the event of his accidental death or incapacity, the five officers directly beneath him will, by majority vote, choose that successor.

“Under my instructions, none of those men will be named by him in any future briefing, so that the project will continue as needed.

“Signed 10 February 1948

“Harry S Truman.”


“My god.” The president looked at Crispin in horror. “If I read this right, you could theoretically walk in and shoot me at my desk, and the Secret Service would not only have to allow you to walk free, but could be ordered to say they didn't even see you!”

The colonel smiled gently. “It goes far beyond that, Mr. President. I could theoretically order any nation's capitol, including D.C., nuked with no other authority needed, something no one else on Earth can do.” He shrugged. “One thing the original director had in abundance was the lack of an empire building mentality. He was chosen for that very attribute. All of his replacements have been chosen because we also shared that trait. We are men given supreme power to protect our world by the Authority of President Truman, that uniformly do not want to even consider using it, but will at need.”

“Since you have decided to brief us in, then I suggest you be about it.”

“Sir, on 7 July, 1947, a ship from an alien planet crash landed on a ranch near the town of Roswell New Mexico.”

“Oh please, give me a bre-”

The Colonel was setting down a small box about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and the President's comment died as a holographic projection flashed upward, showing a scene of several humans standing around a metal shape. “We have salvaged some of the devices from the ship. Most are still beyond our technology, but three of the machines, this one, what we believe is their main computer, and one that creates an anti-gravity field, are at least partially operational. May I continue?”

At the president's nod, Crispin touched a control, and the hologram moved. It looked as if someone had taken an old 8mm film, then converted it to a 3D format, so a frame of action hung in midair. “As you probably know from the stories of what happened, something crashed on the ranch, and the owner called the local Army Air Force base. This was months before the creation by Truman of the Air Force.

“The Public Information officer on the base reported a disc shaped vessel. However when the ship was opened, and they saw what was inside, the cover up began.” The film moved around the shape. It actually looked like a giant butterfly, the wings rounded and meeting all around so that from a distance, it probably did look disc shaped. “This wasn't the first report of a landing or sighting. Public records show that UFO sightings began not long before World War II, and for a time were almost a daily occurrence. But this has been the only actual verified incident.

“The cover up story, that it was the remains of an experimental high altitude weather balloon, was pathetic, since you had a hundred or so men moving a ship weighing about fifty tons, using a crane and lowboy trailer. Before cleaning up the debris.” In the film, they had recreated (probably by accident) the scene in the Original movie the Thing, men standing outlining the shape of the alien ship in the ice. Yet this was out in the open, and only about the size of a small house. “That is why there were two initial cover ups; one internal, the other external. The internal one was that it was a new design for a reconnaissance aircraft that had been launched out of Nevada, hit unsuspected winds in the stratosphere, and fell out of control.

“This mollified all but about ten or fifteen of the men. The third cover up story was created then, that it was a test created by our own military; an 'alien' ship.” he made quotes in the air, “and the entire crew of the base was being tested to see how we would really act in such a case.”

“We could fake a ship like that back then?”

Crispin gave Anston a sad smile “We couldn't fake that ship today!” He opened his briefcase, and took out a shard of metal passing it across. “Part of the hull that broke off on impact. It was tested then, and consists of metals in the Platinum Group, primarily iridium and osmium. The metal group is the rarest on the planet, and the main source of them is from ancient meteor strikes in Russia, Canada and South Africa.”

“So we could have faked it, then and now.” The President said.

“Sir, Iridium is the third rarest metal on the planet. Total production world wide per year is around three tons, and Osmium the rarest, less than a ton per year. They are also the densest metals ever discovered, with osmium first. The ship that crashed contained ten years worth of Iridium, and twenty years worth of Osmium. There is no way the government then or now could have bought that much without it being noticed.”

He sighed. “Back in 1967, there was a movie named Five Million Years to Earth. In the movie a crashed ship was found made of an alloy no one had seen before, with insectile bodies found inside it. The British government of that time in the movie asked the military, who claimed it was a Buzz Bomb; a V1 flying bomb made of this super alloy by the Nazis, to terrorize the British people with their superior technology or the idea that 'alien invaders' had arrived, and we should all be working together rather than fighting amongst ourselves.

“One of my predecessor explained the cost of faking it now. Considering the technology we still don't understand, and what little we have worked out, it would cost as much as a modern Aegis cruiser from extracting the materials, transporting them, and construction to all the electronics, weapons, fuel and crew combined!

“And all supposedly for a 'test'?” He shook his head. “Titanium, which didn't really have a use before the 50s would have been cheaper and just as unidentifiable. May I continue?”

“One question before you do.” Anston broke in. “We've, or rather you and this-” he waved his hand as if clearing smoke, “-shadow organization of yours has had this...thing in your hands, and we still don't have anything real to show for it?”

Crispin gave him a long measuring look. “Sir, take this as an example, using nothing but Earth based technology.

“Imagine that in 1945, one of the atomic bombs we dropped on Japan accidentally causes a break like a theoretical subspace wormhole throwing a Japanese destroyer of that time into the past, and it comes down near a Caribbean island in 1793 where it is discovered by a British warship of that time. They are looking at a ship 367 feet long; twice the size of HMS Victory, made entirely of metal which is impossible then, sitting on a reef, and slowly sinking.

“Upon boarding they find a few of the crew, but most have been horribly burned or suffer from some wasting sickness they cannot identify.” He smiled. “Blast damage from a nuclear weapon, and radiation exposure. They speak in a language no one can identify, because the Japanese had barred all access to their empire except for a few merchants coming in through Chinese ports almost two centuries earlier. It is unlikely anyone aboard would have heard of the language or seen it's written form, though the Chinese loan symbols might be identified with luck.

“So our fictional explorers look the ship over. They do have some knowledge of the technology of their world, so someone can point at the boilers for the engines and identify them, though the turbines would be a mystery. The steering wheel is obvious, though the engine repeaters would only tell them that somehow movement of the lever on the bridge sets off an alarm in the engine room, and by moving a lever there, an arrow moves on the bridge. Electricity was not yet understood beyond simple lead-acid batteries.

“Their gunners can identify the ship's guns, and with a little work, they can even fire them, though except for the smaller anti-aircraft cannon, moving them and aiming them correctly is beyond their knowledge. All they know for sure is that you take this combined steel and brass object, insert it into this breech mechanism, pull this trigger, and it fires. And with the smaller ones, 25mm say, they can load sheaves of rounds, so they also know that they fire more rapidly than any gun they have ever seen.

“Finally the ship begins to break up, and they grab what they can, some of the cannon shells, what papers they can along with some of the bodies, and watch it sink away. What they have is a mystery within a mystery.”

He looked at his now attentive audience. “But what they do have is proof that somewhere in their world there is a nation as far above theirs in military capability as they are above the primitive nations they are still subjugating. And the fear that they might meet this nation in the future with fully operational warships that could destroy their entire fleet in an afternoon.” Now they were ashen. “Because with all of our modern technology, that is where we found ourselves in 1947, but picture us instead as a bunch of stone age natives on a south seas island. That, gentlemen is why Project Minos was created.”


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 09-23-2013, 10:52 PM   #3
machievelli
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Attack

50,000 feet altitude over the Pacific 1,400 miles west-northwest of Hawaii, 1450 hours

“Rampart One, you are cleared to engage.” Hickam ordered.

“Roger control, beginning zoom climb once detached from the tanker.” Rockford saw the boom pull back and lift away from him, and he waited until it was clear. It had been a thrill ride from Base, flying at the full Mach 2.5 of the plane's capability. Now he was going to have to do it again. He pulled back on the stick, and as his plane climbed steeply, he hit the afterburners. Fuel slammed into the engine, and he felt the kick as he went through first mach one, then mach two. He brought up the missile control panel that had been installed.

The ASM-135 was designed to be launched from an F-15 in a supersonic zoom climb, the mission computer and heads-up display had been modified to provide steering directions for the pilot. He checked the screen as he shot past 80,000 feet. He hadn't noticed any new systems on the missile that hung from the right side pylon, balanced by the FLIR on the left, but looking at a missile from the outside, you wouldn't. Passing 90,000, his speed had dropped below mach 2, and was dropping like a sand castle when the waves hit it.

The original project specs had been to use nothing but OTS material; everything Off the Shelf. Anything usable from another project that could be socketted in and would do the job was used, primarily to avoid extra R&D expenses.

It had started with a modified Boeing AGM-69 SRAM missile with the SR75-LP-1 two stage solid-fuel rocket motor replaced by an LPC-415 solid propellant two pulse rocket engine used as the first stage, tacking on an Altair 3 created for the Scout rocket, and finally the warhead, called the Miniature Homing Vehicle (MHV) interceptor. The only part not off the shelf in the whole bird.

Rocky knew there had been only two tests back when it was designed. One had been a failure. Then the project had been canceled. But they had still modified the F15s to carry them, and the other unused birds had been stored until now.

On his HUD he saw a flicker. The bird he flew now was an F15D, not one of the originally modified F15As from the project, so they had reprogrammed the computer, and tacked on the FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) pod and camera, and he checked the tiny video screen to his right. With it set as high as he could zoom it, he saw something. Wasn't as small as he'd been told, closer to ten meters instead of five. Wait, there were two of them. The larger was the one he had sighted. The other about half that size. He decided to aim at the larger one.

The flicker on the screen became a hard caret, and he eased into a slight turn to center it on the target. “Target sighted.” He looked back at the caret. It turned red. “Target locked.” He passed through 100,000 feet, the plane now sluggish. He thumbed the trigger an instant before the stall horn sounded. “Missile away!” He held his attitude. The missile shot away from him, and he watched. The plane was in what is called a ballistic climb. Until his speed dropped off enough to drop him toward Earth again, only gravity affected him. Then, just as the dust rose from the floorboards as she began to fall, he saw the flash. “Hit!”


Damage Control

The Hole 2050 hours

“But if Roswell is true, the alien autopsy video is too!”

“No, sir. My first predecessor faked it. As far as we know, there are no 'grays' as they call those aliens. This is what we're facing.” He touched the button, and a form appeared in midair. The President felt himself pressed against the wall, trying to push himself further away from that horrible sight. It was obviously dead, but the men who stood guard in that aged picture, dwarfed by the body, didn't seem so sure. It had six legs, the most forward set had what looked like gloves for human hands made of some kind of hard chitin. The head extended forward of the huge abdomen, and mandibles curved forward and slightly up. Narrow feathery antennae stood from that head, which lay on the cement as if it had merely fallen asleep there.

“This is a photograph of the largest of the four we recovered from the alien ship. It is male, six feet seven inches in length, standing he would be almost three feet tall, four wide, and weighs three hundred pounds.”

“It looks like... I'd say an Antlion.” Anston hadn't moved, but if the way he clasped his hands in front of him was any indication, he would have been pressed against the wall too.

“That is the closest earthly analog to these aliens, sir. And they feed the same way according to the doctors that did the autopsies.” Crispin pointed. “The mandibles are hollow, and it uses these spines on them to penetrate the flesh or chitin of it's natural prey, and inject enzymes that rapidly dissolve soft tissue, which is then sucked into their stomachs.

“The original crash and autopsy was covered under Operation Cardsharp.” Crispin continued. “If you look it up, that is a proposed test exactly as I described. The autopsies were completed and all analysis of what was found was completed by July 1st of 1947. The ship itself, however took much longer. We discovered two obviously different forms of tech aboard the ship. This,” he motioned at the projector, “is one kind. We have been able, as I said, to get some of it to work, but it has all been of this design. The other is a chemically based form that has somehow been attached to it.”

He fingered the control. The same projector appeared in the air, but atop it was a bulbous cylinder of some smooth material. “We were able to deduce that this is how the aliens we discovered were able to interface and use the other design of tech. It is a made of a secreted resin filled with a liquid that has some of the properties of RNA, which is used in the brain to record memories, and there is a section that is slightly altered where the alien's antennae would lay.” He touched another control, and a wire diagram view of the alien stood, head close, the antennae laying against the top of the cylinder.

“We were able to work out that vision is not their primary sense, it is smell, like a dog, or considering what they look like, an insect. So this is just their way of using this other tech, and being able to 'see' what they are doing with it.

“But if they are using technology from another race, and we can use that technology even as little as we can, it means they have met, and most likely slaughtered off another race. That was what our first director, at that time still not assigned to that post, reported to President Truman in January of 1948.”

“But he could have told the world.” Anston suggested, let them know of the danger...”

Crispin shook his head sadly. “Sir, when the Second World War ended two years earlier, the US was the most powerful and only solvent nation on the planet. A lot of pundits at the time said we should just annex everyone else. Even our allies feared that we would do just that. When we forced the creation of the UN, they assumed we'd just say, 'all right, this is how we are going to do it' from that point on.

“They could look at the defeated; Japan, Germany, Hungary and Romania under occupation, and our own actions at the time were even more frightening. Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau wanted to turn all of Germany into an agrarian society with no technology beyond some simple mining tools, even if it meant half of the population would die of starvation! We'd literally ripped up their industry to divide among the allies, and taken every piece of land held by the hereditary nobles and parceled it out to the people. In Japan, we forced them to sign a Constitution we wrote for them, with their article 9 denying them any military at all.

“When Truman suggested that nuclear weapons technology be given to the UN alone, we not only offered to take anyone from the US with the knowledge into custody, turning them all over to end up in a concentration camp; we said we'd force everyone else to comply if the UN accepted. Russia, who we could now see was an enemy, was not the only nation to protest.

“They would have taken this information, judged it with our past in mind, and thought it was just the first excuse to take them all over.”

“So he concealed it.”

“Yes, Mr. President. But he also feared our own politicians. Party politics had been bad in the 19th century, and they had gotten more acrimonious as time went on. He could not guarantee who would be in charge when the aliens finally made their move, and with one side chopping up the Defense budget for more 'important things' like social programs, and the other pushing for bigger and better bangs?” He motioned toward the world beyond the walls.

“And just think of the use some corrupt politician could make of it. If you were Nixon right after the Watergate cover up, you could trumpet it to the world, and use it to make the people ignore what you might have done.

“So Truman started the project.” He touched a button, and words appeared in mid air.

“Minos was chosen as the overall project codename, named after the King that ruled Crete that had the Labyrinth built. A 'just' monarch with secret problems. He assigned the lieutenant colonel who briefed him as the man in charge, but again, he chose someone that was apolitical as humanly possible for a reason.

“In our military, you can reach Lieutenant colonel, or Commander in the Navy, simply by seniority. Stay in the service long enough, and you will reach that rank. But above it, or for command slots, such as command of a ship or a battalion of troops, you have a review board who selects them, and that is a political process.

“Senior officers decide who gets those posts, and they judge your ability not only by how they view your past exploits, but on patronage as well. As an example, George Marshall, who was Commander of the Army through WWII and later Secretary of State was judged to be incompetent as a leader by Douglas MacArthur when they were going to offer him his first real command slot.

“For the next real step up from that, General or Admiral, you, Mr. President, are supposed to hand the names over to the Senate for 'advice and consent'. Will they vote for someone who they feel isn't politically correct? Think of some politically correct light colonel who can go to a seated president and use this,” he motioned toward the hologram, 'as his ticket to his first star!”

After a moment, the president nodded. “All right, I can see this would be the political football from hell in the wrong hands.”

“That is why President Truman wrote that document, and worded it as he did. If a seated president decided to use this beyond what the stated mission is, the first thing he would do is place someone he trusts in command of it. Worse yet, can you see the Joint committee for Intelligence or Defense blurting it out on CNN? Knowing that there are aliens, that we know are hostile, would cause a world wide panic that would pretty much end us as a race before the enemy has a chance to do it-” The phone at the President's side rang, and the colonel looked at it, annoyed.

The President picked it up. As he answered, he thought sourly that if it were Kennedy or Johnson's time, this would be the phone he used to launch nuclear warheads at the enemy of the day. “I told you no one was to... Icarus? What the hell is-”

Crispin waved, motioning to the speaker attachment. The President hit the button. “Identify yourself, and repeat your entire statement, General.”

“General McConahey at Hickam Air Force Base, Mr. President. Under Project Minos orders, I initiated an attack codenamed Icarus with an ASAT missile against the specified target. However the pilot reported that right before he launched, another, larger object was there along side that target. That larger object was struck by his missile, and is now deorbiting.”

“So they're back again.” Was all Crispin had to say. Then he spoke up. “General, ETA on the landing, and location?”

“Three hours, sir. Wait. We have an update. It will be on the ground in two hours.” The General just assumed that same voice that had commanded the attack was senior. “We believe it will be in Texas.”

“Thank you.” Crispin moved around the desk. “Mr. President, I have to put forces in motion. Then I can get back to this briefing.”


Shaheel:

“Personal Log: The others think I am being silly that I have used this as my way of describing the recordings I do. Since we have only about 5,000 words of one of the languages of those who live on this world, these struck me because they are used so often in some of the visual representations that we recorded years before I was hatched.

“It is so calm in orbit. We are at the end of our mission, and due to head home in less than one of our days. Our days, their days. So confusing.

“Like their planet, ours is in orbit of a sun; ours just has one further away from it. When we first discovered that fact about five hundred of our years ago, we had merely called it an orbital revolution. They call it a year. To us on our world there had been periods of greater and lesser light. Those had been just light cycles. Our planet we later discovered also rotated on it's axis, though only those who had been to the edge of beyond realized it at first. We now know they call it a day.

“It amuses me to use their terms, for me to call it that. One of the words of the language of those below we have finally understood on this voyage, and We That Travel decided to use ourselves, since we don't have it in our own language.

“I have been part of the Traveling missions almost from the egg. The youngest ever to be chosen for a mission, literally after my first molt. I have been on three previous flights, and this is the first where I am the One Who Directs.

“My crew calls me the Egg-Layer; as if I had already made my flight and somehow survived. I am the oldest, a year and a half older than Cooral and Saanaa. Over two years older than our youngest, Reeno. I had almost not made this voyage. Those Who Direct In the Beyond had worried that I would go into my final metamorphosis before we arrived here, or before we returned. I was lucky, it is perhaps two of our weeks (Another term they use below to split their years into slight larger measurements than mere day, seven days) before I should begin, so hopefully I will be on time.

“I have Directed that before we return home, we will drop lower to retrieve one of our recorder arrays that had been seeded about the planet on a mission before my birth. They record the messages sent out from this world, and since our people had discovered them twenty odd years in the past, they have multiplied like Rull near a very active thermal vent. There is so much to learn from them, and most would be missed as the signals spread away from the planet below due just to it's own daily rotations.

“We do not know why this array has fallen so close, only that it has and that it will leave a gap in our recordings if it is not returned to it's place beyond their moon. We had not been given any new ones of this voyage, so I have Directed that it be returned it to its place.

“I had found on my last voyage that as She Who Directs, I am only needed for that decision; everything else is done by the others. Saanaa, as I had been on my second flight, is She Who pursues (Or who flies, as we will be calling it from now on) had more than enough experience in how to chase it, just as Cooral who is He Who Thrusts Forward knew how much speed to add, and Reeno has enough experience to be our Catcher Of Prey; the one who would catch our wayward machine.

“So I Who Direct merely sit in the area with the clear portion that no ship before had, and watch the planet as I reflect on my last view of it. I have brought my Rull with me; the one I began to record this in, since all of the marked ones remaining are our records of this flight. I have allowed the others to create the crystals to insert into all of them. After all this is my last voyage, and I have so many I had fed to the Rull before, back to that very first flight. Let them teach younglings about this after I am gone. I have created what I think will be my last crystal after reporting our intent to repair the machine we approach. I have also sent a message to the array to keep as a record and for further transmission in case I do enter my last metamorphosis before we return. All of what we had seen and heard had been sent out as well. Another first for me.

“I will carry it in my sac until either we arrive, or I begin the metamorphosis. Hopefully I will inspire others with my thoughts to perhaps finally contact them below.

“These voyages have almost become common to our people. But ours was the first to understand what these people below were saying. There will be another in half of one of our years. When it departs, hopefully my thoughts will have been heard and a new Decision will be made.

“I had almost considered talking to them below myself, and only the Direction not to speak to them from here has held me from doing so. I understand why they made that decision; the one mission where two of them were saved from drowning and their reaction to our form suggested it would be hard to talk with them face to face.

“Soon enough we will have to speak to them, and hopefully Those Who Plan are wrong. For as curious as we were about them, that step is what they feared most... For they believe the entire race is mad.”

I watched the array as we approached it. I tucked the last crystal I had just made into the Rull, seeing the long chain molecules sink into it, the organism changing color yet again. Then looked back toward the planet. The others were busy, so I was the only one to see the streak of light shooting upward. The people down there had gotten into the beyond before my life began, and landed on their own moon back then. I thought perhaps it were just another spacecraft. Then it ripped into us like a Swift Swimmer, and the ship lurched.

I pushed away from the deck, shouting for a report. But all I got back was an incoherent scream. Cooral was at his panel, the screens before him flashing. Saanaa was fighting her controls. Reeno rolled on the deck, holding his right foreleg, the true-hand amputated by something as the water we swam in flowed outward in a stream until our internal systems stopped it.

“An object hit us” Saanaa reported. “Our engine drive field was down so Reeno could pull the array out of the planet's gravity well. We are damaged.”

“How bad?” I asked.

She worked her controls, then gave a negative response. “We are falling into their atmosphere.”

As Saanaa was guiding us toward the ground, I went to the Recorder. “Damage analysis.” I asked. We had only found what the words meant by observing those below. To examine and report of what had caused injury to our ship.

“Partial failure of gravity repulsion system. Unable to maintain orbit.”

“Recorder, what must be done to repair the ship?”

“Gravity repulsion system must be shut down to begin repair. Hull must be thinned to cover damaged area. This must be done on a planetary surface. We also require more water for your environment. Question, what struck us?”

“The beings below hit us accidentally with one of their small vehicles.”

“Negative. Scanning record of event. Course correction before impact suggests that is was intentional. Hull punctured by what appears to be a weapon.”

I worried at that. We did not use weapons, and the 'wars' they fought below made no sense to us. Even the ones they portrayed with enemies from space made no sense to us. Why would such as we come here to take what is theirs? If it were anything but the planet itself, it made no sense; every possible resource was more plentiful here beyond their world. Why fight them when they did not yet have the ability to stop one of those created enemies from taking it?

“This suggests that they know of our presence, and see us as an enemy.”

“Correct.”

I was alarmed. We knew they had a proclivity, almost a racial hunger for conflicts, from mere games to full scale slaughter. Even their broadcasts seemed to glory in them. We had never had such on our world because we had learned to work together to exist. Everything from protecting the eggs and our young to going beyond to fuel the technology we had been given belonged to us all.

This meant that they knew we were here, and considered us an enemy.

We had seen how they treated their enemies.

“Determine the chance that we can land, repair, and escape?”

“There is little chance that you can. Less than 10 percent. However the only major repair is to the hull itself, and that can be patched quickly. The Gravity repulsion system can be thinned enough to repair the damage.”

“Is there any other option?”

“Negative.”

“Scan for an area that is as far from them as possible down below. We must hope for that chance you say we have. Pass it to Saanaa.”

“Understood. Will comply.”

It was bad. We had rarely come this close to the planet before; not since the Arrays were created. Part of it was problems with those earlier missions. That first horrible meeting on our very first voyage to this world. One time a ship had been caught in a massive explosion of some kind. They had survived, but only because they had their drive field up. And there was a possibility that our fourth ship might have crashed there as well.

Considering their virulent hatred of anything they saw as an enemy, it had been Decided that we would no longer get this close when their first tentative missions went into space. And as much as I had always wanted to land and meet one of them below, crashing was the problem. My crew could survive, if they were willing to use extreme measures. But I could not order them to do what they might have to do. I wasn't sure I would be willing to do that to survive.

“Prepare for emergency landing.”


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 09-24-2013, 10:50 PM   #4
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All right. Everyone who has read this, I'm asking you to do something for me. Any way you think I can make this better, any scenes you want to see, let me know here or by PM


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 09-28-2013, 03:13 PM   #5
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Further explanation

The Hole: H Hour

As much as he wanted to snarl, the president moved aside. Crispin picked up the phone, pushing a button, setting the phone to the Secure setting; then covering the keypad, typed in a code. He dialed and waited patiently, suddenly he spoke. “Operation Minos. Activate Theseus team for mission in Texas. Contact SDOC, tell them we're running a Cardsharp drill, and track an object approaching the California coast that is deorbiting. Find a locus, and have Theseus moved to the closest base to go operational when it touches down.

“Orders are to locate target and secure the area. If any of the crew is injured, do not, I repeat, do not terminate. If they are physically able to escape, the order is to terminate them with extreme prejudice. Have a flight of F-15Es prepped with cluster bombs and one mod 10 B61 per aircraft set for full yield. In the event the enemy attempts to escape, the flight commander is authorized to deploy as many as are needed if the team reports unable to complete their mission. Repeat that back.” He listened nodding to himself, then said, “Initiate now.” Then hung up.

While the president was confused, Aniston was not. “Did I just hear you order one of our pilots to drop an 80 kiloton nuclear weapon on Texas?

“I ordered that in the worse case, they were to deploy four bombs.” Crispin replied as if that kind of order was given every day.

“What's this SDOC?” The President finally asked.

“US Space Defense Operations Center.” Aniston said. “All of our space surveillance is split between the Navy and the Air Force. Space Surveillance System Command is run by the Navy, and covers space from lunar orbit to 300 miles altitude, while SDOC which covers lower is run by the Air Force.”

“Who came up with that? Why isn't it all under one command?”

“Interservice rivalry, sir. Back when the Air Force first formed, the first thing they did was try to convince the Secretary of Defense and President that all aircraft beyond scouting aircraft should be under their control. The Navy had carriers, and didn't like that at all, and the Army got into it because they had been in control of the Air Force before, and didn't want to have someone else deciding what they needed. And the Air Force's idea of 'tactical' air was a joke and always has been, so we Marines didn't like it either.

“When we finally got into space, it happened again, so the seated president divided it up as it is now. The last tier, the 'final line' you might say, has the Army in charge of all missiles fired in defense of the US, whoever owns them.”

“I see we need to reorganize this mess.” He glared at Aniston's chuckle.

“Sir, the reason we have this mess is because someone earlier 'reorganized' it.”

“If I may continue, sir?” Crispin asked as if he were a teacher dealing with recalcitrant students. The brief bit of levity had calmed the President down, and he motioned for the Colonel to continue.

“Codename Minos actually means only one individual, the man in charge of it all. That is, at the moment, me. In fact, if this had happened two months from now, my successor would be here.”

“With all your power you can't assign yourself for life?” Aniston asked sharply.

“Sir, what would you do if you found out via personnel that a light colonel had been reviewed for promotion more than two times, and not retired or been Riffed?” He looked at the president. “The rule for active service personnel has always been up or out. If you are passed for promotion twice, you are supposed to take the hint and retire. Since the Vietnam war, if you don't take the hint, you get a Reduction in Forces letter, and are forcibly retired. The only reason I'm not on civvie street right now is because my successor is not fully up to speed, and I needed to assure that this Project Icarus mission went as planned.”

“Which it obviously hasn't from your reaction.” The President sneered.

“My replacement wouldn't have known what to do for another month at least, sir. So you get me instead of her.”

“Her?”

“Yes, General. When the military removed sexual restrictions, we adapted. I choose the one to replace me, and she was the best suited. After all, everyone of us have been what you might call 'tech-weenies'. Standard training given at the Academies doesn't cover what we might have to do. All I will tell you both is that she's the best in her field.

“Now, when the Original Minos was activated, the director at that time chose the code names used. He was classically educated, so he chose the legend that goes with the codename for all of the lower echelon requirements. Icarus was chosen for the most dangerous part of that assignment, the attempt, if possible, to down one of their spacecraft for analysis. Named after the son of Daedalus, who designed the Cretan Labyrinth as a cage for the Minotaur. Last year, when we detected a network of alien satellites beyond our moon, we used a prototype high orbital transport to send two men out, and they nudged one of them down into low Earth orbit. However, it stabilized, unable to move higher. But able to maintain LEO, so I ordered it shot down.”

The hologram spang back to life with words floating in mid air.

“The first thing we needed, obviously, was a place to store the ship and the remains of the crew. That was codenamed Crete.”

“Area 51.” The President put in.

“Actually, no, sir. There were already rumors of the ship and her crew, so that director decided to pull his own little shell game with it. It was shipped first to Nellis Air Force Base, where Area 51 was reactivated, and security was created to stop anyone from getting in. But the train didn't drop the contents there. It did drop off a lot of crates and even a mock up of the ship built using 2X4s covered in laths and plaster, which was later destroyed.

“The ship, and her crew were kept on the train until they reached Riverside County California. A secret base was installed below what was then Rice Army Airfield in the old World War II Desert training center. It was shipped in under almost non existent guard as a new design radar array. Once delivered, it was moved inside the secret installation, and to maintain the fiction that the field is not operational, we have almost no security.”

“What!”

“Mr. President, the field has been pretty much abandoned since 1944. It was briefly reactivated as a civilian emergency airfield in 1949, but we were later able to buy it, and it now stands abandoned again. The only people who come out there now are people who ride dune biggies or dirt bikes. Our own personnel ride out there in SUVs dressed like those enthusiasts, and wait until they are out of sight to enter the base.

“Next came Project Minotaur, the codename for the aliens, with Project Ariadne, the code for the autopsy and analysis of the first crew. She was the daughter of Minos and Pasipha, half sister of the Minotaur, who provided Theseus with the clue to entering the Labyrinth and escaping.

“Then came Project Icarus. In fact this is not the first time Icarus was activated. The first was in July 1962, when one of their ships made a close approach over the Pacific. The director at the time had been informed of the resumed nuclear tests under Operation Fishbowl, and felt that we might have a chance to 'accidentally' shoot it down. So he passed instructions that changed the parameters of the test named Starfish Prime. Instead of being set off a bit over one hundred miles up, it was set to detonate 250 miles up.

“But it failed. Their ship shrugged off a 1.4 megaton bomb as if it were a spitball. Worse yet, we decided that future nuclear weapons were not our best option if we had to fight back.”

“EMP.” Aniston said before the President could. “The test was the largest manmade electromagnetic pulse ever recorded. It knocked out electronics from New Zealand to Hawaii, causing power transformers to explode in Honolulu.”

“Correct sir. If we have to use nukes in defense, we will destroy our own electronics and modern means of any possible defense in the process.

“Then came Pasipha which covers all we have had to do to maintain secrecy. The duplicitous wife of Minos who gave birth to Minotaur, followed by Daedalus, which is tasked with reverse engineering alien tech. Then Labyrinth which is to use what we can of that combined technology to discover methods of dealing with a full scale invasion.

“Finally Theseus, the teams used to search for possible aliens on Earth to capture or kill them. Named after the Greek hero/demigod who defeated the Minotaur. But if Theseus and Labyrinth fail, we have Ragnarok.”

The President's head cocked. “Considering I know what the legend of Ragnarok means, I am worried.”

“You should be. The director that followed the one who tried the nuclear attack was an avid science fiction reader. In the seventies there was a think tank where they worked on space based weaponry that could be used against an attacker there, but also could be used against Earth based areas. One of the products, at least on the theoretical level, was what was later called THOR for Tactical High Orbital Response.

“Primarily it was supposed to be a series of hundreds of satellites each carrying say about fifty or so depleted uranium or lead rods with basic seeker heads and fins. If you were to deploy it, all you do is program the target into it, one of the satellites in position changes it's orbit, and deploys the rods. They fall to earth, and hit the target like an instant artillery barrage.

“It has obvious advantages over any other kind of mission. You don't need to deploy aircraft or ground artillery, can hit anywhere on the planet, and not even our own defenses can stop such a strike.”

“So they didn't create it because of the cost. So what?”

“Back when you had castles, the men on the walls would drop rocks, hot sand, boiling oil or lead, and the attackers had to hope they weren't underneath it. But they are already in space. They don't need to lift anything into orbit; there are literally thousands of rocks already there, and we are those attackers under the castle wall unable to protect themselves. They control the orbitals, and our best missiles take time to get into orbit, and are easy to dodge, even if mere nuclear warheads could damage them.”

“But you just did! With an ASAT!” Aniston roared.

“That was luck. The pilot was supposed to be aiming at the array, but aimed at the larger target; the ship instead. Of course we do know that the alien ship in our possession was hit by a meteor about the size of a medicine ball traveling at about seventy kilometers per second-”

“How do you know that?” The President had been a lawyer, and he seized on the remark like he would have in a witness' statement in a trial.

“Because the ship's computer told us.”


The Loner

Van Horn Texas; 1900 hours

I froze at the buzzer from the gate, my hand reaching for the old Colt 1911 .45 that had been my truest friend for more years than I wanted to think about. I wiped my face. West Texas could get hot, and this year it was a scorcher. Then I reached across to the intercom. “Yeah.”

“Grocery delivery.” A bright cheerful voice replied.

Instead of replying, I just hit the button, and the gate half a mile away opened. I stood, feeling the twinges from stiff knees. Getting old wasn't the worst of it. Getting old and completely alone was. I buttoned my shirt, walked out of the bedroom to the living room, and lifted down the Remington 700 bolt action rifle, flipped up the covers on the scope, and aimed it down the road. I could see old Murph's truck, and some kid driving it, didn't recognize him. No one else, and I relaxed a bit at that. I racked the rifle again, and went into the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee.

The truck pulled up outside, and I heard the boy grumbling to himself. “Old faggot hermit can't just drive into town for his own groceries. If I don't hurry, Sue will have gone to the movie without me. I'll learn him.”

I heard him lower his zipper, took down the Winchester Trench gun, and jacked the slide as I threw open the door, stepping out onto the porch. The kid looked familiar, standing there reaching into his open fly, and staring at me. One way to end an argument fast is to bring a 12 gauge with you. I saw a wet spot appear and run down his pants legs. I just looked at him, and after a moment, I swung the barrel away from him. “Jase Trumbull.”

The boy started to get some more color, but didn't move. “Yeah, Mr. Fairchild. Haven't seen you in a long time.”

“Not since you were ten, maybe eleven.” I replied. “Wanna do up your pants before you embarrass yourself more?” He flushed, fumbling for the zipper.

“I was jus-”

“Boy, I maybe a hermit, but I'm not a faggot, and I damn sure aren't deaf. I heard ya loud and clear.” I motioned with the gun, making him flinch. “Pick it up and bring it in.”

He bent after I again moved the gun away from him, hefting the peach crate full of my goods, and when I moved aside, carried it in to sit on the kitchen counter. I racked the gun after first unloading it, dry fired it, and slid the shells back in. I checked to make sure it was all there, then the receipt. Damn, the prices had gone up again. “Tell Murph I'll be in to settle up in about an hour.”

“I was supposed to get a check...” He stopped talking as I just looked at him.

“Was you also supposed to piss on my goods, boy?” He shook his head. “Then unless I get over my mad before I go into town, I might just have to tell Murph about it, ya-think?” His face fell. “Shoot boy, I done the same to your poppa and grandpa back in their day. Didn't report them either. I just need t'see what might be new that I might want to try next time. Tell him that for me.” I moved my head toward the door. “Scoot.”

The kid took off running, and I picked up my coffee. That family was three generations of pure dumb to my mind. But they were people I'd known all my life. I drained the cup, rinsed it, then put it in the strainer.

The sun was just about to set. I walked out, shooing the guinea fowl into their little hen house. Have to have them or ticks and chiggers will eat you alive. But I couldn't leave them out cause the coyotes will eat them. I got in my old Jeep pick up truck, cranking the engine. Once it was nice and warm, I flicked on the headlights, and drove down the hill.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 09-29-2013, 06:35 PM   #6
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Future Plans

The Hole H-hour Plus 15 minutes.

“The computer...told you?” The president asked, as if it were a normal question.

“When we found the ship, there were several small robots of some kind, though we didn't know what to call them back then.” Again the hologram flashed to life. They looked like slugs, but were pretty big; about a foot and a half long made out of some silvery material. On the film they were moving along the hull of the alien ship, heading for the ripped metal where the meteor had burst through exiting. “They appeared harmless, so instead of smashing them, they were gathered up and packed in one of the trucks.

“Have you ever seen the Stephen King movie Christine?” Aniston nodded, but the President looked confused. “Star Trek the Next Generation when they met the Borg?” This time the expressions were reversed.

“That first evening, one of the guards outside the hanger the ship was in heard a noise. When he investigated, he found they had broken out of the crates used, and were back on the hull of the ship.” He brought up a picture of the seared field where the craft had crashed. There was a hole the size of a man's chest with the metal of the hull bent outward. Then he brought up another. This one showed the same hole, but the bent edges had been flattened out, and only a chunk about ten inches across was missing. “The slugs somehow had been repairing the ship.

“When they removed the slugs again, the damage was as you see it here, but the metal was cool to the touch. We would need an oxyacetylene torch to do this because Iridium melts at 4471 and Osmium at 5480 degrees. But there was no sign of heating on the edges. It was like they just folded it back and joined the breaks as if they had never been.”

He bought up another video. One of the slugs had been placed on an examination table, and the skin was laid back. The interior was displayed even as it writhed around, trying to escape. The inside was a mass of some kind of wiring, and it moved until one solid piece the size of a man's hand was removed. “We still don't know what this wiring is. It seems to be circuitry like you see in a modern computer, but miniaturized. Under electron microscopes, we know it is circuitry, but on the molecular level.

“They finally had to destroy the slugs because whatever container they put them in they would escape. Wood would fall to rot within minutes, metal, even armor steel taken off a heavy cruiser was bent out of their way with the same process they used on the hull. Then, in January of 1948, a voice spoke inside the ship.”

The video now showed someone walking into the ship. There were some kind of stands with the same resinous nodules attached to them. The camera jerked to the side, focusing on one about half the size of a man, made of some kind of metal. “The voice was coming from that box.” He keyed in a sequence, and sound filled the room. It might have been words, or a song. Melodic, rising and falling, something like the songs of the humpbacked whale. Crispin let them hear it for almost three minutes before shutting the sound off.

“It was at this point that the President was notified. He came personally to see it. But he probably decided to seal the project because of this, which happened just a few hours before he arrived.”

Another recording. This one had a couple of men talking, pretty much the idle chatter two men might have uttered sitting at home or a bar. Then...

“So I was telling her-”

“So I was telling her-” his voice repeated.

“Is there an echo in here?”

“Is there an echo in here?”

“I don't know.” The second man said.

“I don't know.” Again, it sounded like the same man repeating himself.

“It's coming from there.” The first man said.

“It's coming from there.” The voice repeated.

Crispin looked at them silently. “What we now know was the ship's computer was trying to communicate with us.”

“Why did you say 'what we know now'?”

Crispin sighed. “Sir, in 1947, a mainframe computer had vacuum tubes and was less efficient than the average digital watch let alone the cell phone you carry now. We are still dealing with a technology as far ahead of what we have now as we are above that time. They are so far beyond microchips it's not funny.

“Once they understood the computer was trying to communicate, they brought in films. We didn't know what might be in the computer, but they decided to teach it our language. Between the films, the crew would continue talking. After about five years, it began responding to questions.”

He touched the control again.

“That was a bad one.” Someone said.

“Was it?” His own replied.

“What?”

“You... commented on the last. Explain why it was bad.” This time it jumped back and forth between other voices, as if it needed words this man had not used.

“It responds like an AI; an artificial intelligence.” Crispin told them.

The president laughed. “It's an impossible dream! I remember reading that a computer capable of pretending to be a man would need to be the size of the Empire State Building, would need Niagara falls to cool it, and the Niagara power station for the necessary power.”

“That statement was made in 1947, sir. A modern laptop computer has more capability than a mainframe at that time; for that matter more capable than the semiconductor models of the sixties. An AI is within our capability, but that is due to the sheer mass of computers in the US. The Sun Microsystem mainframes; what used to be called Crays, are just a few steps away from one. We could have a fully functional AI within the next two or three decades.

“Back in the 1950s, Professor Alan Turing suggested that a machine could one day imitate human behavior. He suggested what is called the Turing Test; standard human responses are encoded, then you connect a keyboard to the system, and on one side you have a person sending responses, on the other the computer of the spacecraft. The computer itself suggested modifications, passed by us to IBM which led to the first computer keyboards monitors, and hard drives. It knows more about data usage and storage than we use even today, We still have those older machines at the storage facility. In 1955, when we had built then activated the systems, we tested Turing's theory. It not only passed, but succeeded brilliantly. At one point, a man who was typing questions was replaced so the first man could get some coffee. Two answers into the session, it told new man that he was new, asked where the other had gone and why, then asked him what coffee tasted like.

“When the first man returned, the computer asked him if he had enjoyed his 'coffee break', a term only used because the second man had used it in his reply.

“The computer has been very helpful in a number of ways. We know their home world is about 100 light years away. They live on a planet not unlike Jupiter, with a comparable gravity. Their atmosphere is a lot like ours, but because of the gravity, it would be lethal to a human if we stood on the surface; the oxygen concentration would be too high for us to survive. Also due to that gravity, and the distance from their sun, there are high concentrations of ammonia and methane in the upper atmosphere.

“We know that at least two humans were captured by them-”

Abductees?” The president stood in shock.

“We wish, sir. Back on the second of July in 1937, two people were taken off an aircraft. Those people, according to the time and location where it occurred, were Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. They both died on that ship.” He tapped the control. A pair of human sprawled on the metallic floor of the alien craft. Noonan rolled to his stomach, standing, then shrieked in terror at the sight of one of the aliens. He pulled out a .38 caliber revolver, and emptied it into the being, which rolled around in agony. The man bravely reloaded, but when he saw there were three more aliens, he turned to Earhart who had awakened at the sound of the gunshots. Before she could react, he shot her in the forehead, then, facing his enemy, he stuck the weapon in his own mouth, and pulled the trigger.

Crispin gave them time to digest this. “What it has not been forthcoming about is other technology. It has explained how the anti gravity field works, but will not tell us how to manufacture more of them. It has not been willing to explain how a phase drive, their faster than light drive works. In fact we have asked about theoretical equations put forth by Micheo Kako and Stephen Hawking, and the only reply we have gotten is, and I quote, 'My creators will not put a loaded gun into the hands of a child'. As for weapons, it has replied that they have none. We believe all such data has been deleted.”

“Why?” Aniston asked.

“We believe the enemy sent this ship, and all before it, as scouts. In a wartime situation, if you can, you would sanitize your scouts as much as possible. No personal data, only uniforms and dog tags. That way you give your enemy as little information as possible. We believe they deleted everything that might help us except for the location they come from.

“We know almost nothing about it's operating system, but what we can understand has been passed on to computer manufacturers. A lot of our own people have been able to use some of it, and the space program helped a lot. Having to build computers small enough to run the Moon expeditions led to the present tech explosion in civilian electronics, and the use gallium arsenide in military computers was due to us.”

“How did a secret organization pass on classified information?”

“By suggesting it to manufacturers and professors in College computer courses. Some of our people would attend lectures and suggest alternatives to modern systems. So solid state circuitry, learning systems such as are used in modern spam filters, hexadecimal, a lot of other things too.” He touched the small holo-projector, and the box went silent.

“That concludes my briefing, Mr. President, General.”

“One last thing, Colonel.” The President asked softly. “Operation Ragnarok?”

Crispin sighed. “That is a plan to kill everything on the planet in the event the enemy arrives before we can develop a counter to their technology.”

The President stood, shocked. “Are you insane?”

“Pragmatic, sir. If they arrive with thousands or millions of them aboard a larger ship, our race is collectively dead already. If they succeed in landing, we can fight them, provided they don't just seed a few hundred THOR type satellites to beat our defenses down. Oh, we'll fight; we'll die fighting. But the two female bodies we examined carried hundreds of eggs, and if they are like Terrestrial insects, they will lay them all in one massive clutch. Since they are amphibious, they would probably do it in our oceans and lakes, and no matter how hard we try, we can't guarantee we'd kill them all before they have a population explosion, and each of those young will be eating everything they can catch in the oceans before they finally decide to go on land and do the same. There aren't enough people under arms on the planet to post guards just on our own coastlines, rivers, and lakes.

“So if there is a verified landing that can be contained, we planned on dusting the area with Plutonium dust. In the event of a full scale invasion, we're ready to do the same to the entire planet.”

“But that would take tons of plutonium!”

“Five point seven tons, to be precise.” He shook his head again. “Even there we're short of what we need. If you check with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, they will tell you that there is over two tons of plutonium missing from US sources alone. We have almost all of it already deployed in some of the satellites launched by the space shuttle missions in mid-Earth orbit. In the event of our being invaded, those satellites will be deorbited as widely spread as possible.

“If that happens, just about everything will be dead or dying in a matter of a few years, and the planet will be uninhabitable for the next few million years.”

“That's... monstrous.”

“It is better than seeing our race die like that other one they met before.” Crispin replied. “And I am lucky at least in that, sir. Because I cannot give that order.” He looked at the President. “If it must be given, you will have to give it.”


Preparations

SDOC: Peterson AFB Colorado Springs Colorado. H-hour plus 45 minutes

Unlike the old Cheyenne Mountain bunker, SDOC is in a large building on the busy Air Force Base. Though the inside matched that older location with dozens of desks and people manning them, and on the walls large displays to show the smaller radar screens on command. Colonel William Tyler looked up from his desk as the large screen came up with Hawaii and the West coast displayed. One return was highlighted in red. He looked down at his own computer, bringing up the specific station reading it. Altitude 104 miles and descending. So what if a sat-

He looked closer. There was a reading on the speed of the object, just under seven miles a second. But as he watched, it slowed down. He slid on his headset, and tapped the button that would connect to that station. “Report.”

“Object, reading is near 11 meters in diameter. Falling out of orbit, but it just started maneuvering.”

Another drill, he sighed. 11 meters would make it larger than anything but a space shuttle or a satellite with fully deployed solar cells. There was no shuttle up, and no one put one of the larger communications or surveillance satellites in LEO. Besides, no one would be trying to maneuver that close; any attempt to avoid falling into the atmosphere would have been seen hours ago. But even if it was a drill, he had his duty. Honor the threat, even if you know it's bull.

“Aspect change! Target is dropping faster than originally reported. Will be on the ground in three five minutes.” A station reported.

What most people don't realize is that a radar screen does not show the actual aircraft, it shows what is called a 'skin paint', the reflection of radar waves from the target. Everything else on the screen is data from the transponder, and even then it is all processed by computers, so you 'see' what the computer wants you to see. This target had no transponder, and several different radars were lashing it so there was a readout that merely read UNKNOWN with a speed and a direction arrow.

“Determine impact area.” He ordered, pressing the button for the Major General commanding the base, and for NORAD. On the screen, a red circle appeared in Central Texas. But as the speed dropped off more, the circle drifted west. Now lines appeared, the routes of aircraft that it would have to pass through. Still the speed dropped, now it was adjusting it's course again, moving to be fifty miles or more from any dedicated lane.

He had to admit whoever had written this program had done a very good job. It looked like a real 'alien' spacecraft closing in, avoiding air traffic as it did. There were lower aircraft, two reading as helicopters out of Fort Bliss in El Paso, one, a C130 out of Cannon AFB in Clovis New Mexico, and four that were reading as F15E Strike Eagles out of Hollman AFB in Alamagordo New Mexico. All of them had taken off in the last few minutes, so either half the Air Force in the Southwest were part of this drill, or maybe they had been added as merely more faked returns, because they had all altered course toward the interdiction circle.

The circle now covered El Paso in a hundred mile red mark. Then it shifted east as if the 'alien' didn't want to get too close to the city. “Contact Fort Bliss. They have Patriot Pac-3s. They might be able to get a piece of this guy.”

“Already contacted by NORAD.” One of his operators reported. “National Command Authority said no. They're going to take it on the ground.”

He snorted. “Then why are those fast movers aiming for it?” Tyler asked. He put his caret on the planes, and snorted. Definitely a drill. No one in their right minds was going to put armed nukes in fighters bound for West Texas. The circle was now only about fifty miles across, and well south of El Paso. As the target dropped to only 35,000 feet, the circle became a solid dot now only about twenty miles across.

Now only 10,000 feet up, it shifted, becoming smaller. It looked like it was coming down just north and west of Van Horn. The fast movers were already there, and split into two elements. He noticed a new addition to the birds. MARSA. The acronym meant Military Accepts Responsibility for Separation of Aircraft. Boy, they were pulling out all the stops on this drill.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:52 AM   #7
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Theseus

Master Sergeant David Chee snapped awake as the airman tapped him. “The pilot wants you.” The kid shouted over the drone of the engines. Chee unbuckled, and stood. He was a large man, built like a defensive lineman, tipping the scales at 220, six foot three, with black hair cut high and tight. He looked at the others of his team, then moved forward.

The pilot handed him a headset, and waited for him to put it on. “Change of plans, sergeant. Original orders said central Texas, but the latest is it's coming down near a small town named Van Horn, about a hundred miles southeast of El Paso. No airport there, you'll be parachuting in.”

“Understood, sir. ETA?”

“Fast movers report it's going to be about ten before it's on the ground. We'll be overhead in thirty, right after it lands. Fort Bliss is sending out a Blackhawk and an Apache that will arrive in forty-five, so at least you're not catching a bus home.”

“This is truly good.” Chee commented. “What about some kind of marker on the ground?”

“The Strike Eagles have Pave Tack pods, so they can laze the LZ suggested, five miles away beyond some hills. Your goggles show passive infrared, right?” Chee nodded. “Then you're green.”

Chee went back to the cargo area, nudging feet as he passed. He had been in charge of this team for almost three years now, and they were good, even if the jobs they had been sent on were off the wall. So far they had been deployed fifteen times to American locations, seven times into Mexico, and twice to the Philippines. He snorted in disgust. The American ones had been cattle mutilation reports. They'd been sent into Mexico to check up on of all things, Chupacabra sightings. There was supposed to be something like it called a Sigbin in the Philippines, which was why they went there.

Those were hairy, because they had to send in weapons via the embassy in Philippines and into Mexico in secret compartments. It was like the old Mission Impossible show. If they had been caught the government would have had to disavow them. Hell when they carried their full load out, no one was stupid enough to think they were anything but a military hit squad.

Teine Manaia Or (Maile) Parker hadn't woke up, and grunted when Chee picked up the parachute pack, and hit her in the stomach with it. “Damn it, Sarge, I was in the middle of a good dream.” A woman with a Samoan mother and an American Father, she was easily the second largest of the team. Her nickname, Maile, meant shark in the Samoan language, which she had earned because right before she hit someone, she would have a predatory grin.

“Break time's over. We're leaving early.”

Topol, a Russian Immigrant merely began to put his on. The Slav was the oldest man in the unit, and if they had to deal with something out of Russia, he would be team lead, since none of the others spoke Russian. Trevor MacKenzie pulled out the weapons bags, tossing them to the others, then zipped up the bag around his Barrett M107A.

Each of them had only one other thing in common; the so called Tower of Power on their chests; Combat Infantryman's Badge, Airborne Wings, and Air Assault wings. Chee at 45 had the second version on his lower shoulder as well; Airborne, Ranger, and Special Forces tabs.

They worked silently, and Chee checked each chute, and knew they had packed them personally to bring along. The only man he had lost so far had been on a night jump for one of those damn fool exercises when his chute hadn't opened. The officer in charge had been furious because he had to replace him rather than because a man was dead.

When he'd been asked to volunteer, he had only been told that his team was for stopping enemies that were not as well defined as a Terrorist team. He'd volunteered before the man was even finished telling him where they might have to go. But very few of their field exercises had been against what he would have expected. Usually it was against some kind of robotic insects. The explanations didn't make a lot of sense. Where some raggedy terrs would have gotten giant monsters was never explained.

“Drop in five.” The loadmaster shouted, going to the rear of the plane. He hooked up a safety line, then dropped the ramp. Chee motioned to his people, then faced the ramp. “Goggles on!” he shouted over the roar of the engines. Every hand went up, the whine of the cooling units could be felt through their bones.

The red light came on, and they tensed. Then suddenly it flashed green, the loadmaster shouting “go!” and Chee led his troop at a sprint right out into the open air.


Landing

As we approached the surface, I was excited, terrified, and sad. Excited because I would be the first of my people to ever stand on this planet; their oceans had a lot of salts that were injurious and even lethal in concentration to our race, so we would never land there. Terrified because if the people here reacted swiftly enough, we might not escape with our lives. But I was also sad because this would probably be the last time any of my people visited this world.

The servitors that worked under the Recorder's commands were moving along our backs, settling in the emergency breathing apparatus we would need. In their ocean we would have had almost as much of the needed portions of our needs for breathing, but only those who went to Breed and Die would have enough in their atmosphere. So the devices would pressurize their atmosphere to what we needed even as it filtered out what might be harmful.

Other servitors delicately threaded my antennae through the speaking boxes the Recorder had made for us this trip. It would take my own signals, and translate them into the language the natives used. How well they would work we did not know. Too much of their language depended on other parts of their means of speaking, so words would mean little or nothing without that. If we met any of them, we just had to hope they would work.

I could hear the device that created the Gravity drive laboring, not as a sound, more as a deep vibration through my antennae. Then there was a crunching sound from outside our hull, and the Gravity drive shut down.

“Cooral, Saanaa, have the servitors begin working on the repairs. Reeno, you and I will look at the water source.” I pointed with my truehand in the proper direction. If it was large enough, we would move the ship over, and immerse it, letting the water flow in on it's own. If not, we would have to land again in a deeper body of water. The ramp went down, and I went first. Reeno held his shattered truearm up out of the way as he followed. It was not far to the water.

*****

Chee scanned, seeing the LZ, and also the large metal object just beyond the hills from it. The machine looked like a stylized UFO, but it had what looked like wings etched into it. He sighed in frustration. Another damn drill. His team was supposed to be on stand down, not participating in another damn drill!

“Yob Tvoyu Mat!”

“You said it, big guy.” Parker agreed. “I had a hot date planned tonight, not a drill.”

“Zip it, people.” Chee admonished. “This is what we're paid for.”

“I want a raise.” MacKenzie growled.

The paragliders dropped them within a few meters of the laser designator target, and they punched the locks, dropping the chutes away. Each readied their weapon. As much as it looked cool for them to have come down with weapons at the ready like in a movie, you couldn't shoot down from a parachute, and landing could knock it out of your hands. Instead their weapons, with the exception of the M107 were attached to Urban Ops slings. Designed for right or left handed people, they held the MP5A2 sub machine guns three of them carried where they were easy to grab.

“Mac, over watch. Top, Maile, right and left.” The only reply he got was a series of clicks of a microphone opening and closing as he ran up the hill, followed by the other two. Mac was running off to the right where he'd set up. Chee dropped to his knees, scuttling up the last three or four meters until he could look over the ridge line.

The whatever it was supposed to be was about 500 meters away, a clout shot with a Barret that could kill you at over a mile. There was a stock pond on the other side of it, and a figure that looked like one of the robot bugs at the edge of it.

“We're going to work our way down to my left, get between the one at the pond and the ship.”

“I can see the ramp on the ship, but the pond has cover from here, Sarge. Can't see it.”

Chee snorted. “Three of us can take on one stupid robot. Just wait until we're in position.”

*****

I came up out of the water to where Reeno stood waiting. “It's deep enough for the ship to drain it. I'll tell the others.” Reeno waited until I had passed him to follow.

*****

“I got two of them coming out of the ship, headed your way.”

Chee leaned up. There was the robot, one of the forelegs lifted up so it didn't touch the ground. “Before the first one is out of sight, take it down.”

*****

I could just see Saanaa with Cooral behind her coming toward us when suddenly her head exploded. I froze as Cooral spun, looking behind him. There was a cracking sound. They had found us! I gave the cry to flee.

*****

Chee was surprised when the robot spun, faster than they had ever moved before, and charged back toward the pond at the odd wailing. He aimed, and stroked the trigger. The robot gave a keening cry like a rabbit struggling to escape from a coyote, falling on it's side and kicking trying to get back to it's feet. There was a second shot from the M107. He came to his feet, walking toward the robot which was scrabbling around in an attempt to flee. He sighted, and put a burst into it's brainbox. It dropped like it was supposed to. No movement. He keyed his mike. “Mac, talk to me.”

“Damn. That moved faster than I expected. Two down on my end.”

“One here. No movement.” He signaled, and Parker came over to him. He pulled the handset from the radio she had on her back. “Bird dog, this is ground. Targets down. I say again, Targets down.”

“Be sure to check the ship, shoot all slugs.”

“Copy. All right people, we kill the slugs

*****

I had stopped while giving the alarm call. I had reached the edge of the things that grew out of the ground right before there was a ripping series of small sharp sounds behind me, followed by the scream of one of my kind in pain. A moment later, there was another series of sharp sounds and Reeno fell silent. I could just see the ship. Beyond Saanaa, I could see Cooral. His body had been ripped open by something, and he was dead. Behind me, I heard something making a noise, and my translator told me what had been said, but it didn't mean anything beyond 'One here, no ---'. Our species learned to hide when Swift Swimmers or Great Mouths approached. Reeno had known they didn't exist here, so he had done the second thing we would have done, finding mud to burrow into.

I wanted to keen my distress. My crew were dead. Only I was alive. I cowered in terror, but then heard several of them moving past me to one side. A moment later I could see three of the creatures pausing beside the bodies of the others. Then they entered the ship, and I could hear their weapons firing inside it. I moved away from them, back to Reeno. He had been hit several times by whatever their weapons threw, and his head had burst from them. I looked around. The ground ahead rose gently, covered in more stands of this odd ground covering. They had not seen me because of it. I moved past the body of water, keeping the ground covering between me and them as much as possible. Because of the lower gravity, I was able to move fast.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 10-05-2013, 10:51 AM   #8
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Chee

During the last year the Powers that Be had added what looked like a slug a foot and a half long. Like the robots, they were slow, and if it hadn't been required to shoot the damn things, they could have just kicked them over and watched the tracked element in their bellies spin in frustration. Chee moved first, walking in the shuffle you used to move on the slick metal. He moved to the side, letting the others come up flanking him. “Low light imaging, kill 'em all.”

Each of them switched on the lights. They were small, barely the side of the tiny modern lights used on Christmas trees. But with the low light goggles, it was using klieg lights. Chee saw one, and stroked the trigger, three rounds ripping through one of them. The others watched around them, firing short bursts to chop the snails to dogmeat.

Topol had always hated this part. It was like being one of the Colonial Marines in the Alien movies, waiting for the monster to come kill you. He saw movement, and spun. Three rounds went off, and they struck at the base of one of the metal columns that rose from the deck.

“Did you get it?” Maile asked.

He stared. There wasn't anything there. He started to report when there was a glare of light. He hunkered down. Looking around a section of deck that led to another compartment below. He stared in amazement as a shaft of moonlight came through what had appeared to be a solid sheet of metal outside. “No, I didn't get anything. When did they put a window in this thing?”

“They're always changing things.” Chee turned, and fired another burst. “I count nine down. Double check, circle the cabin.”

It only took a few minutes, but there was no movement except for them. Chee motioned, and Parker moved back over to him so he could use the radio. But it didn't penetrate the hull. They moved outside, and this time got through. “Nine slugs chopped.”

“Roger that. Helos inbound.”

“Understood. We're out of here.”

Chee handed the handset back. “Top, Maile, the drinks are on me tonight.” They grinned as the sergeant led them around the scrub bushes between them and the ship.


Missing enemy

Chee popped a smoke grenade as the choppers circled above. The Blackhawk dropped toward them, and settled down almost above the smoker. Two men jumped down, then froze as they saw the 'dead' robots. “Come on, never been on a Cardsharp Drill?” Chee growled. He motioned the guys over. “Two of you on that side, two of us on this.” Topol came over, and between them, the four men carried the limp body.

“Christ, what the hell is this... thing?”

“Grade A number one robotic monster.” Chee told the man. “Two more to go.”

“Two?” The guy from the chopper looked confused. “We were told there should be four of them.”

“Help Top and Mac with the other one.” He ordered. He waved Parker over, and walked far enough away that the chopper didn't drown out the radio. He hit the second channel. “Ground to Base, come in.”

“Ground, what's your ETA in El Paso?”

“Hold that thought, Base. Why did the airdale here say you expected four robots.”

“That is correct, Ground. There should be four of them.

“We took down three. There is no fourth one.”

“Then you missed one.”

“How the hell could we miss one?”

“I don't know, Ground. Send the Blackhawk in with the bodies. You wait for the ground transport for the... mock up.”

He sighed. “Understood.” He walked back to the Blackhawk. “They said you go back with these.”

“Right.” The crew chief touched his helmet. “Switch your radio to channel seven. Cochise is going to sit top cover for you.” He motioned upward as the Apache came roaring over again.

“Wonderful.” He motioned to Top and Mac, who unassed with grumbles. Then they watched the helo lift up and head northwest.

“Sarge-”

“Zip it, Mac.” Chee watched the helicopter out of sight. “Base says there were supposed to be four.”

“We shot up three.” Parker protested.

“I know that, Maile. But they say there's four.”

“What, one went crazy like last year?” Topol asked. They chuckled at that. A year earlier, one of the robots had malfunctioned. Instead of going down like it was supposed to after a head shot, it had charged on and run over Maile and Topol like a runaway horse.

“Maybe.” Chee started to laugh, then paused. Bodies? Control had called them 'bodies'. Up until now, they'd always called the robots 'things'. Why were they suddenly bodies? They moved faster than they had ever moved before, and they had never made noises like something in pain. He lifted his hand, smelling the fluid that had leaked out of the one he'd helped move. It wasn't any kind of lubricant he'd ever smelled. In fact... He lifted his hand right up to his nose, and took a deep whiff.

Odd. It smelled like... blood.


Watching it happen

Van Horn Texas 2140

Don

I had just backed away from Murph's store when I slammed on the brakes as three lowboys came by me, DPSS squad cars screaming ahead with sirens blaring. On two of the lowboys I could see what might have been tanks, but I identified as tank recovery vehicles. Why in the hell was a military convoy blasting through the night at almost a hundred miles an hour? I looked, didn't see anyone else coming, and pulled out carefully. Ahead of me I could see the trucks slowing and following the state troopers onto the road leading to my place.

I cursed. So the Army was playing silly buggers, and I would get to listen to them acting like idiots. Great. I was moving slow; between the gravel and all of the dust they'd kicked up, I could barely see a hundred yards ahead. I was almost to the fence line when I slowed as I saw the end of one of the lowboys. A couple of men were dropping the ramps, and saw me. One headed toward me, unslinging his rifle.

“Go home, there's nothing to see here.” He snapped.

“I'm trying to.” I told him mildly. “My place is right there about three hundred yards.” I shifted, and I heard him jack the charging handle on his M16. “If you aim that at me, soldier boy, you're going to eat it butt first.” I looked up, and he was caught between whatever his orders were, and my threat. Might be old, but I would definitely give ramming it down his throat the ol' college try. “Now I'm old, tired, and trying to get home to sleep. I've been more polite than you deserve. So if you're going to shoot me for going home, just do it. Otherwise, get out of my way.”

I cranked the wheel, aiming at him, and as he jumped back continued the turn to head toward my fence line. I followed it up to the small arroyo in the other side of the hill, turning toward the back gate. I set the brake, took her out of gear, and got out. Hadn't been in this way in a few months, and as I expected, the lock was stiff. I was getting my can of WD40 when I heard something moving in the shrubbery.

“Who's out there.”

*****

Shaheel

I had moved slowly, and when I heard one of the aerial vehicles the natives used, I watched it. As it passed out of sight, I moved. There were two of them for a time, and I waited until I could not be seen. I had passed the second hill when a number of vehicles came up a path toward where the ship sat. I waited until they were busy before moving on. There was an obstacle of stretched wires ahead, and I moved along it, trying to find a way past it. Suddenly one of their ground vehicles came over the hill behind me, and I froze. It stopped, and one of them climbed out. It walked to a section of the obstacle, and worked at some construct attached to it. Then it walked back to the vehicle. I moved very slowly toward the rear of it.

Suddenly it was standing there, looking toward where I was. “-out there?” It called.

I was struck dumb with terror. I remembered one of their broadcasts. One of their people had fallen through the top of a flying vehicle, and was in the back of it when other vehicles with natives in dark bulky covering approached. It had looked at a picture of a smaller being with markings on it. “Please... Help.”

Don

What I didn't expect was a voice. “Please...Help.” I'd heard that very phrase, in that same voice a few nights ago. A movie named the Fifth Element. “What's wrong?”

For a long moment, there was nothing. Then another voice, no a slew of voices. “Visitor... here... splashed... my...ship...Alone.”

“Your plane crashed?”

Another long pause. “Killed...others... Alone.”

“Well come on up to the house.”

“Can't...afraid.”

“I won't hurt you. Come on out where I can see you.”

“No...ugly...your... people... afraid... of... me.”

“Shoot, when it rains, it pours.” I growled. I dropped the back gate of the truck, and opened the camper shell rear door. “Look. Get in. I won't see you and be afraid.”

I walked back to the lock, sprayed the cylinder with the lubricant, and finally got the key to work. There was a scuttling sound, and the back of the truck bounced. I walked back, tossed the can on the passenger seat, pulled inside, and locked the gate again. Whatever had gotten into the truck moved backwards. All I could see was a pair of black eyes and some gently waving feathery things.

I drove up to the house, backing the truck up to the porch. “If you're afraid of me, or think I might be afraid of you, you can hide under the porch.” I bent and pointed. “I'll get a drink and be right back.” I walked up, unlocked the door, flipped on the porch light, and grabbed a bottle of Jack and a glass. When I came back, I could see the truck was empty. I sat on the edge of the porch, my feet on the step. “Better?”

“Better.”

I poured, sipping the fine bourbon. “Why did your plane crash?”

“Not... crash.” A long pause. “Something...hit us... far up above.” Again it was a hodgepodge. I remembered a bad old TV show called the Greatest American Hero where an alien race used the radios in cars to talk to the main characters. The voice sounded like that. Except when it had said 'better' and 'crash', it had been my voice.

They shot you down?”

“Shot down?”

“Someone here shot you down?”

“Shot down... Means... using... weapon to... hit us. Yes.”

“Why did they do that?”

“Don't know.”

“Where you from?”

“Beyond... other... light... in... sky.”

I paused, then poured another drink. “Well at least you're not a wetback.”

“Wetback?”

“We call people from the next country over wetbacks because they have to cross the river.” I chuckled. “But damned if you're not an alien anyways.”

Shaheel:

I was catching more of his words. But still not all. “Alien?”

“Yeah. Means not from here.” Finally, a full sentence!

“Yeah. Not from here.”

“What planet? Mars?”

“Planet? Mars?”

He reached his appendage down to thump on the ground. “We call this a planet. Mars is a - - -. Closest planet to us.”

“No. Not that close.”

“How far?”

“Long way. I do not know distance.”

I knew all of what I had said had not been understood.

“Where are my -. You hungry?”

I was. But the only food I had was that one Rull in my sac. If I ate it, all the records I had remaining would be gone forever. “Yes.”

“Can you eat our food?”

“Yes... won't.”

“Why not?”

“Your people... afraid of mine. We look... ugly.”

“How do you know?”

I dreaded telling this being of that first encounter. It had shocked the crew of the ship that had tried to help to the core. It had almost ended any future trips. “First ship... long ago... took...two people... from... flying... machine. It crashed... we...tried... help. One of your people... killed... one of us...with...a device. Then... he killed...other one... of your people... and self.”

“So he saw you, and killed himself and the other person?”

“Yes. Decided... not to...help... again.”

“- because he did that?”

“Yes.”

“Why can't you eat?”

“Not young...one... any more. Young eat...swimmers. We eat Rull.”

“What is a Rull?”

Carefully, I extended my truehands, holding the Rull out where he could see it. “Rull.”

Don

I saw a pair of hands that looked like someone wearing armored gloves, holding a rounded form into the light. As I watched it, the thing moved, like it was trying to get away. “So eat it.”

“No... -...saved in it.”

I repeated the sound it had made. “What does that mean?”

“Used for...saving...records.”

“So they are like a book?”

“Book. What does that mean?”

I got up, went inside, and brought out a book, holding it down where it could see it. “We call this a book. We write down what we want to remember in books.”

“Write. What does that mean?”

“Mark paper to store it.”

“Remember. What does that mean?”

“So others can see and know.”

“Yes. We write in -, insert in Rull. Others...eat, remember.”

“So that's the log, the book of your voyage?”

There was a long pause. “Yes.”

Can't eat that then. How do your young eat?”

“Catch swimmers. Suck life from them.”

“How?”

“Do... not... be afraid?”

“I can't guarantee it, but I'll try.

“Guarantee. What does that mean?”

“Not sure. But will try.”

Slowly a pair of mandibles eight inches long slid into view. It paused, waiting for me to run screaming, and I have to admit, I considered it. They closed. “Hold... drain...life.”

“So you're a vampire?”

“Vampire. What does that mean?”

“You drain blood.”

“Blood. What does that mean?”

“Things have...fluids inside them. If you drain that, you kill them.”

“Fluids. What does that mean?”

I poured out just a touch of the Jack. “That is fluid.”
The mandibles lowered, and the feathery things dropped, then recoiled. “You have this...fluid... inside you?” I laughed. “That noise. What does that mean?”

“It's called a laugh. We do it when we are amused.”

“Amused. What does that mean?”

“You know. Happy.”

“Do not... know.” There was a long pause. “Our young – fluid into swimmer. Wait... suck out more fluid.”

“Ah. Like a spider.”

“Spider. What does that mean?”

“A spider.” I pointed at a tarantula running across the sand. The mandibles turned as if it were watching the spider.

“Not... spider.”

“Spiders bite, inject venom into their prey. It liquifies the insides, and they suck it out.”

“Venom. What does that mean?”

“fluid.”

“Liquifies. What does that mean?”

“Turns the inside to fluid.”

“Yes. Like a spider.”

“Give me a minute.”

“Minute. What does that mean?”

“A short time.”

“Give... minute.”

I went inside, looking in the refrigerator. I had a package of liver, and another one with beef kidneys. How to feed it without the food just falling in liquid on the ground... I took down a plastic sports bottle. Now how to put it inside...

Shaheel

I heard the being moving around, then a series of words, some that made no sense. Then a humming sound, followed by a musical note. More words, then he came back out, sitting above me. He lowered an odd container in front of me. “Try that on for size.” I didn't understand, but try probably meant I could eat it.

Don

The hands came out, picking up the sports bottle, and held it as the mandibles closed, spines puncturing the plastic. Something spurted into the bottle, and the meat I'd sliced up began to run into liquid. When it had been liquified, it was sucked out by the same spines.

Shaheel

I had not fed like this since I was a youngling, but the fluid tasted so good! Soon it was gone, I set down the container. “Better.”

“Don't your people say thank you?”

“Thank you. What does that mean?”

“When someone helps, you say thank you.”

“Thank you. Why...amused?”

I was still alone, and afraid. But as long as he wasn't trying to kill me, I settled down.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 10-07-2013, 10:41 AM   #9
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Chee watched as the two state patrol cars came up, sirens wailing, followed by a trio of lowboys. The first was empty, and pulled up beside the ship. The other two stopped, and men jumped out to unload M88 tank recovery vehicles. Other men jumped out of the trucks, moving to man the heavy vehicles. Another vehicle pulled in behind them, then turned driving up the next hill away from the road.

“Sergeant Chee!” Someone shouted.

“Here.”

He turned. A captain walked toward him. “We're here to tow that thing onto our truck.”

“Go right ahead, sir.”

“I had a radio call, someone who wanted to talk to you. Back in the truck.” He pointed at the one he'd been in.

Chee walked over to it, and grabbed the handset from the driver. “Ground here.”

“Chee. You are to find that other robot.”

“Sir, I don't know where the hell you happen to be, but here it's dark and we can't track something we can't see. Whatever these things are, they don't show up on infrared or my sniper and the Apache would have seen it. So until it gets light, we can't do a thing.”

“Talk to Dolan, one of the state troopers. He'll get you back to town. Find a hotel, have the manager call me at this number.” He waited as Chee got a pen, and wrote it down. “We'll pay for the rooms.”

“We don't carry cash into the field. We'd like a drink too, sir.”

“Fine. I'll have the hotel manager hand you a twenty. Knock yourself out. But I want you up at dawn to start tracking.”

“Understood.” He handed the handset back, then walked over to the state patrol car and found Dolan. He offered to drive them into town.

Chee signaled his team over. Maile looked thoughtful. “Hey, Sarge, the time one of the robots went off the rez, it headed for a farmhouse, remember?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, that light wasn't on earlier.” She motioned toward a house on the next hill over. “Maybe it went there?”

“Maybe.” Chee thought about it. “Officer Dolan, we're going to check that farm out. There was supposed to be another robot in this drill, and sometimes they head toward the lights.”

The officer shrugged. “Hell, I'm paid by the hour. Go ahead.”

Chee led the team toward it. “Mac, take top cover just in case.”

*****

Don

I noticed someone moving on the next hill over. “Move back further under the house, and don't say nothing.”

“I do not...understand.”

“Company's coming. So hide.” I heard the alien moving further back. I could hear some people walking up my driveway, and resisted the urge to grab my Remington. Instead, I sipped my whiskey, and poured another shot.

“Hello the house!” Someone shouted.

“You're already trespassing. Might as well come on up and disturb me further.”

Three people came toward me. One was tall, blonde, looked like a Russian. The second was a full figured woman, long black hair with slanted black eyes, and kinda cute. The guy in the middle... I took him for a bad customer. Sorta like a wolf in human form. His eyes were neutral, like a wolf in the wild. If you wanted to fight, he'd oblige you. If you wanted to walk away, he'd let you. But it didn't matter which you chose, he'd be ready.

They stopped about twenty yards away. “Evening, sir.”

“Evening. Might as well come close enough for me to see.” They came closer.

“We're with the military exercise over there.” The leader jerked his head toward the hill. “Have you seen anything odd tonight?”

“Depends on what you consider odd. Having the Army hold an exercise on old Muldoon's property without askin' him, I call that odd.”

The man chuckled. “You know how the government is. They put it down in the
wrong place, and they'll make it right with a load of taxpayer dollars. No, I meant did you see anything odd moving around out there.”

“Can't say I did, Sergeant.” I looked at his face. “Apache?”

“Comanche, actually, sir.”

“Knew a few from my time in the Nam. And back when I hunted. You a hunter?”

“I bag my share, sir.”

“I bet.” I pulled out my smokes, and lit one. “Be in the area long?”

“Just a couple of days.”

“I hope.” The woman commented. The leader's eyes cut to her in disapproval.

“Not much to hunt here this time of year.”

“We just have to recover some government property, then we're back off to base.” He looked around as if expecting something. “I'm trying to remember.”

“Remember what?”

“Is this a dry county or a wet one?”

“Technically, you can't get anything but beer, less you belong to a private club here.” I replied. The woman's face fell. “Wait a minute.” I stood, walking back into the house, and got another bottle of Jack. I came back out, walked over, and handed it to the leader. “Can't stand people telling me what I can and can't do. Share it with the other one when you meet up.”

He held the fifth, looking at me. “The other one?”

I motioned toward the hill. “Your sniper. Tell him he is good, but old Sergeant Phan was good to, afore I killed him in the Au Shau Valley back in '66. I don't take kindly to people aiming long guns at me. So take him with you.”

The man watched me, and I could see the considering look in his eyes as he touched his earpiece. “Mac? Pack it up, and be obvious about it.” He paused, head cocked as if listening. “Because the old guy spotted you.” He shook his head. “Just stand up, and walk away. Now.”

I noticed the man on the hill standing up. “Thanks. Anything else you need?”

“How long have you been home?” The woman asked. The leader's eyes cut to her for a second, but he didn't shush her.

“Came in right behind those fellers.” I motioned toward the hill. “Right behind the tank retriever.”

“So that was your truck that cut up the hill?” The leader asked.

“Yep. That one right there.” I motioned.

They all looked at it, and I could almost see them memorizing it. Then they all looked back at me. “Thank you Mr...”

“Don Fairchild.”

“Good evening then.” They turned and walked off down the hill

I sipped the Jack, and put the cap back on.

“Don't say anything yet. But we're going on a road trip.”


Escape

“He saw me?” Mac asked. For the ninth time.

“If you ask again, I'll shoot you.” Parker snapped.

“There was no way-”

“Who is Phan?” Chee asked.

“Phan?”

“Sniper, killed in '66.”

Mac snapped his fingers. “Phan.” He repeated the name, then his eyes widened. “Phan! A Vietnamese super sniper! Trained by the Russians, credited with over a hundred kills. He was killed by some Marine sniper in the Au Shau Valley...”

“Fairchild.”

“Yeah, Don Fairchild!” Mac's eyes widened even more. “You mean he lives right there?”

“He spotted you, and let me know he had.” Chee commented.

“Hell back then a Vegas bookie would have put the money on Phan! Fairchild only had ten kills to his credit after eight months in country. His chopper had set down at the Firebase on the way back from an op to pick up some of the people Phan had killed when he heard what was happening. He volunteered to take the guy down himself. He went over the wire that night, through the mines, maneuvered across open country, took out Phan and his protective team, and was back the next night with their dog tags and Phan's rifle.”

Chee walked toward the DPSS car, and they climbed in.

*****

Don

As soon as I was sure they were gone, I walked into the house, then opened the trapdoor to the root cellar. Back when Poppa was still alive, we had dug it out better, and poured concrete. I looked over the weapons that we'd saved over the years, when our men went off to war, we collected souvenirs. Everything from a Sharpes rifle collected by Great great Gandpa during the War Between the States to the Dragunov I'd taken from Phan. I picked it up, collected the Chinese knock off of the AK47 I'd also gotten that day, and slung them. The ammunition was in a foot locker, and I got it all. About two hundred rounds for each.

I carried it all back up, sliding the Russian rifles into the back of the truck, then went in and got the Remington 700, the two hundred rounds of .300 Winchester Magnum I kept for it and the shovel. That gun I put in the rifle rack behind the seat. Then I walked back over to the porch, used the center post to lean on katty-corner, and paced of fifteen steps. I bent, and dug down until I hit metal. The old 82mm mortar round packing case came into view, and I lifted the lid out, pulling the cash out of it and stuffing it in my pocket. Then I sealed it back, covered it up, and walked over, setting the shovel down.

I looked for a long moment at the space under the porch. Something moved, antennae gently waving. “I don't know who those people were, but I expect they were the ones that killed your crew.”

“Yes.” The voice came from under the house. I could tell by the tone that it was frightened.

“Well when they come back, we aren't gonna be here.”

“Come back?”

“The man in charge is an Indian.”

“Indian. What does that mean?”

“People who lived here long ago. Before White men came. He's a hunter, and that means he's a tracker too.”

“Tracker. What does that mean?”

“When you moved across the ground, you left marks. A tracker can follow them. So at first light, he and his team will be back, and when they do, he will track you from the ship to here.”

“Team? Sporting event?”

“It also means soldiers who work together. They won't be as polite the next time.”

“Polite. What does that mean?”

“We talked, no killing, yes?”

“Yes.”

“When they come back, they will be ready to kill. So we won't be here.”

“I do not understand.”

“Like I said, road trip.”

“Road trip. What does that mean?”

“You're gonna get in the back of the truck again, and we're driving out of here.”

“But... how do we...pass them?”

“We don't. About seventy miles north there's another highway. We head north then east to highway 54, up to 180/62, then work it out from there.”

“Work it out. What does that mean?”

“Plan our next move.”

“Understood.”

Shaheel

I heard and saw the being work to get ready. What was the designation he gave to them? “Don Fairchild.”

“What?”

“Do not understand. Why... do you... help me?”

“Not right for us to just kill you and steal your ship. If I could get the ship back, I would. But I can try to save you.”

“I am alone, Don Fairchild. I cannot... stay on... your planet for long. Soon... I will... go... through my... last change, and not long after, I... will die. Just... let them... take me.”

“First, It's Don. Fairchild is my family name. Second, you're not alone. I will keep them from taking you as long as I can. A man's got to die sometime. I've been waiting long enough.”

“It...not right... that you die.”

“Right and fair have nothing to do with it.” I stepped back toward the truck. “Now I am going to have to see you sooner or later. Now is as good a time as any.”

I dreaded this. “You not be...afraid?”

“I will try.”

I moved out from under the structure.

Don

It looked like a nightmare monster. But if it wanted to hurt me, it would have already. It looked like a giant doodlebug. It stood there, and it's antennae moved in what I was sure was worry. “Well you aren't miss November, but you're not that bad.” I went to the house, picking up my ghillie suit, tossing it on top of the rifles. “Go ahead and get in the truck.”

“Yes.”

It moved around the back, then swarmed up the gate into the bed. I closed the gate, and the camper window. Then I turned. If I knew I'd been spotted there, I would have moved... there. I grinned, went in the house, ran the rest of the pot of coffee through the microwave to heat it, and went back out.

I got in, cranked the engine, and drove to just below the spot. I climbed out, “I'll be a few minutes. Go ahead and get out to stretch your legs.” Once the gate was down, it slid toward me, then waited until I had moved away to leap down on the dirt. I nodded, and went up to the spot I had chosen.

Shaheel

I watched him move toward the hill carrying a small container. I looked up. It had been cloudy when we had landed, almost homelike except for so much land. Now the clouds began to clear, and I gave a cry of delight. Lights, hundreds upon hundreds of lights above me. There was a line of them like the flowing of the hot rock in my own world's crust running across the sky, not hundreds, thousands, millions! How did they stand seeing such wonder every time their sun was not in the sky? I reached up, some of them looked close enough to touch!

Don

I had left my little calling card, and turned when I heard an eerie piping sound. Beautiful but not of this world. I looked toward the truck. The alien was hunkered down in back, the front and arms raised, and the sound came from it. I moved back down the hill, standing behind it. Just the stars. Why was it making that noise?

“Never seen stars before?”

“Have seen. Stars are what you call the lights?”

“Yeah.” I looked up. People don't look at the stars much. Here in the States you can't see as many at night; too much light pollution from cities and towns. But I lived in the hollow of God's hands as Grandpa used to say. Just by turning off the house lights, I could see almost as many of them as he did before electricity became common. “That sound, what does that mean?”

“Sound of...amused among our people. Those Who Travel, Those Who Collect Shiny Stones Beyond. Learn of the... stars from old stories of Those Who Went To Breed And Die.”

“Those who went to breed and die?”

“Last part of our lives. All our lives before we see...like before. Covered.”

“Oh, so you always have clouds,” I motioned. “Something between you and the stars?”

“Yes. But before they die, Those Who Went To Breed And Die would whisper of them. Then my people went into Beyond, saw them and lived. They are the reason Those Who Travel leave our world and come here.”

“We call them explorers.” I looked at the stars, then the land my Great great granddaddy had claimed. “We see the stars, and some of us go out into space as well. “

“Yes. Ate records of it.”

Ah. “So when you get home, that little thing, that Rull, someone will eat it and know what you saw?”

“Yes.”

“Then he tells others?”

“Tells... No. Rull would make more Rull, many others would eat.”

“Make more?”

The alien considered, then brought the hands together cupped. “Rull.” Then they separated, both still cupped, like someone stretching taffy. It lifted each separately and repeated the word for each hand.

“I understand. We have things here that breed the same way. But very small.” I snorted. “Of course we have things that look like you do, and they are small.”

“Yes... Record of them by ship before I came here.”

“Well, get back in, and we'll be going.”

“Yes.” It leaped into the truck. “Don. What are these?” The right hand touched the guns I'd stuck in back.

“Guns. Weapons.”

The hand snapped back as if they burned. “You...soldier?”

“I was, but not for a long time.” The antennae moved back on the head as if trying to hide. “Hey, that was long ago. Back when I was young.”

“You send young to fight...war?”

“They used to. Back when they had the Draft. Now people volunteer.”

“Draft? What does that mean?”

“Government chooses some, they go.”

“Volunteer. What does that mean?”

“Some go of their own choice. I did.”

“Government. What does that mean?”

“We have people who decide for us. They are our government.”

“We have Those Who Decide, and Those Who Plan. They are our government. They are... fed to learn this?”

“No. We don't just do the same thing through our lives. They are elected.”

“Elected. What does that mean?”

“We have what we call elections. Somebody who wants the job spends money, and makes sure everyone knows who they are. We vote, make a choice. The one with the most votes is elected.”

“Strange.”

“How do you choose them?”

“Those Who Plan look at what is... needed. Say, need more Watchers of Young. Those Who Direct tell Watchers of Young, choose those who will become Watchers of Young. Feed them Rull of Watchers of Young after... first change. They become Watchers of Young.”

“So someone decides what you're going to do for the rest of your life?”

“Yes.”

“We don't do the same thing all our lives. We first grow until we go to school. Then we learn, and when we graduate, we choose what to do.”

“School. What does that mean?”

“It is a place where the young learn about our world. It takes eighteen of our years or more to learn enough to be an adult.”

“This... works?”

“I laughed. “Sort of.”

“I do not understand.”

“I'll explain as best I can.” I closed the gate and camper shell, then went around, started the truck and we headed out.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:05 AM   #10
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On War

Shaheel

The rock of the... truck held me, and the space between us was empty. “Why were you a soldier?”

“My family has a tradition, that means we always do something, of serving our country. My family all the way back to the War Between the States fought in wars because we felt it was a duty to our country.”

I considered this. Thanks to his explaining, words were slotting in neatly, but some still didn't make sense. “Why fight war?”

“What do your people do if another tribe moves in and takes something?”

“Does not happen. Our people...scattered across... our planet. To take from other is...wrong.”

“You mean they don't do it?”

“When Those Who Went To Breed And Die come back from their last cycle, they land where they can. Many die before they breed. Others can land anywhere. Those Who Live There collect eggs, Watch them. So to take from others would mean perhaps your own eggs would not be collect.”

“Collected.”

“Yes. Need holes in skin of world to raise Rull, so they belong to all.”

“Holes in skin of world, what does that mean?”

“Places where hot parts of inside break through. Rull needs hot and things given to water by hot parts.”

“Ah. So the Rull feed on trace elements in underwater vents.”

“Trace elements? What does that mean?”

“When something hot is placed in water, some of it is given to the water. We call them trace elements.”

“Underwater vents. What does that mean?”

“There are places on this planet where the earth opens up, and the hot part of the core is exposed. We have thing that live only there.”

“So your people, they fight over these things?”

“Hell, we fight over just about any thing.” He turned a small device on the skin of the truck, and an odd sound filled the vehicle. “I think it is from when we evolved, or were created, if you believe in God.”

“Evolved? What does that mean?”

“Some believe that we were once animals that became smart. That is called evolution, the act of growing from an animal to what we are now. Others think there is a god, a great being that made us what we are today.”

“What do you believe?”

“I was raised to believe in god. But from what I have seen, if a god made us, he has to take the blame for us.”

“Blame? What does that mean?”

“When you do something wrong, you are to blame.”

“So you do not believe in God?”

“I believe, but like I said, if he made us this way, then he is to blame for what we do.”

I considered. Was his god the same as those who had built the first Recorder that crashed on our world? He stiffened, making the sound louder. “You want an explanation of war? Listen to this, then I will explain as best I can.”

“Listen children to a story that was written long ago
'bout a kingdom on a mountain and the valley folk below
on the mountain was a treasure buried deep beneath a stone
and the valley people swore they'd have it for their very own

go ahead and hate your neighbor
go ahead and cheat a friend
do it in the name of heaven
you can justify it in the end
There won't be any trumpets blowing
come the judgment day
on the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away

So the people of the valley sent a message up the hill,
asking for the buried treasure, tons of gold for which they'd kill.
Came an answer from the kingdom "with our brothers we will share.
All the secrets of our mountain, all the riches buried there."

Now the valley cried with anger, "mount your horses, draw your swords"
And they killed the mountain people, so they won their just reward.
Now they stood beside the treasure, on the mountain dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it; PEACE ON EARTH was all it said.

go ahead and hate your neighbor
go ahead and cheat a friend
do it in the name of heaven
you can justify it in the end
There won't be any trumpets blowing
come the judgment day
on the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away

go ahead and hate your neighbor
go ahead and cheat a friend
do it in the name of heaven
you can justify it in the end
There won't be any trumpets blowing
come the judgment day
on the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away”

Don waited until the sound died, then turned the device making the sound lower. “That was an Antiwar song sung back during the war I was part of. The kingdom on the mountain, one government, had something they considered very precious, and the people of the valley wanted it. While the song says they asked, what the Valley people said was probably 'we want the treasure, give it to us'. The people of the valley also assumed that it was gold.

“When the Kingdom said, 'we will share', give you part of it, the valley people attacked and killed them because they wanted it all. But the treasure was only Peace on Earth. The chorus, the part repeated, gives some of the reasons why we fight wars. 'Go ahead and hate your neighbors'. That's because they might have something you want, or you just don't like them. 'Go ahead and cheat a friend'. We trade things we have for things we need. You have Rull, I need one. I have a place to watch your eggs, I let you use it. Trade. But some think you have more, or are not trading fairly. So you think they cheat you.

“Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end. More wars have been fought for religious reasons in the last three thousands years than anything else. 'My god says you are evil, so you must die'.” He sighed.

“So they won their just reward. People believe God gives you what you deserve. Just means what is right for what you have done. The mountain is now dark and red from the blood of all those who died.

“There won't be any trumpets blowing come the judgment day. My religion, along with a number of others believes that one day our god will return. When he does, he will judge everyone who has lived. The trumpet is the call to judgment day. Those who have died will rise and be given new bodies, and judged. But some of my faith also believe that god punishes you between then and now. When you die, if you have done more evil than good in your lives, you are sent to hell, a place of eternal torment until he returns. If you do not hear the trumpet, you are condemned for all time.

“The people of the valley were condemned because peace is not something you can buy or trade, or steal. They were condemned to hell for their acts.” He looked in the rear view mirror. “Have I explained it well enough?”

I considered. “Yes, except for a...few things. Gold. What does that mean?”

“Gold? A metal that is used to back our money because it is rare.”

“Metal. What does that mean?”

“You fly in a ship made of metal and don't know what it is?”

“It is made from rocks that were gathered from beyond our world formed by the...servants of the Recorder.”

“All right.” He slapped the frame of the 'truck'. “This is made from what we call steel. It is made from a rock that holds what we call iron, and that rock is heated until the iron melts. The iron is mixed with what we call carbon, we get that from burning charcoal or coal, when they heat it again, which makes steel.

“Gold is usually found in lumps down to very small dust, but sometimes in rock. It is melted out and is very precious.”

Precious. What does that mean?”

“That's a hard one.” He drove silently “Precious is something that you want or need or have, and can help you in your life. You seem to give Rull to others, we have to buy, give money, trade it for our food. When it is something to be gained, we sometimes call it treasure.”

“So the valley people killed the other people even as they offered to share? Why?”

“Because they were greedy; they want more than they need. That is what greedy means.”

“Antiwar means against war?”

“Yes.”

“Do you fight wars with them as well?”

“No. You see, in my country, we believe is what is called freedom of speech. You can say what you want, and the others of the country cannot stop you. There has always been some in any country that disagree about whether a war is right or not. But in the last fifty or so years, it has turned nasty.

“Before that, they blamed the government. 'You took us into war, and we do not like it. But during the war I fought, they started blaming those who went to war. Of course that was wrong because for a long time we had the draft, and the kids who went were told they had to.

“Those against the war disagreed. They said the boys should refuse, even if it mean jail time, or go off to Canada.”

“Jail. What does that mean?”

“If you commit a crime, break the law, they send you to jail. Draft Evasion, refusing to go when your country told you to go was a felony, a serious crime.”

“Canada. What does that mean?”

“That is the country to our North. They were not part of the war, and if you went there, they would not send you back. But most wouldn't run or go to jail. So the anti-war people began accusing those who were to go of horrible crimes, murdering children, women, of wanting to kill people, or that the government was brainwashing them. That means the government was putting the thoughts into their head to want to kill.”

“This is possible?”

“Not really. But if it had been true, it would explain why so many did.” He was silent for a long time. “During that war, which lasted for about ten or twelve years all told, a couple of million young men and boys went. We had over 50,000 killed, and more than twice that wounded, injured by the enemy.

“In the same time we had hundreds of thousands killed on the highways, the paths through our country. There were more people killed in the last year of that war here on the highways than all of our men killed in that war. Not just young men, but old people, women and children as well. But I didn't see them trying to ban cars, or saying the people that killed them here were evil.”

“Are wars sometimes necessary?”

“Yes. Sometimes other people don't give you a choice. When that happens you fight not because it is right, but because you will die if you do not. Or lose your freedom, which can be as important to us.”

“I do not understand.”

“Neither do we sometimes.”

“You also have visual transmissions that have your people fighting those who you call alien, though our records show no other contacts. Why?”

He waited a long moment. “We create some of those, we call them movies, for entertainment. When our people imagine someone like your race meeting us, we tend to impress our own ways on them. That means, to us, a lot of them would be like we are or were in our past. So we have them attacking us.”

I was appalled. “You make these movies of your past, and fighting those who might come here, for entertainment?”

He snorted. “I'm afraid so. You see, when you make a movie, you do it to entertain, but sometimes to get a message across, or to convince people that your idea is right. A lot of the more recent war movies, even those with aliens, are trying to highlight that we are aggressive, but they may not be. Anti-war movies about war. ”

“I do not understand.”

“Like I said, Neither do we sometimes. One thing. You know my name, what is yours?”

“My people call me Shaheel.”

“Are you a boy or a girl?”

“What do those terms mean?”

“A boy is the male of the species, the girl is the female.”

“Which carries the eggs?”

He made that amused sound again. “The girl does.”

“Then I am a girl.”

“What no other sexes?”

“No. Why? Should there be more than two?”

Again the amused sound. “Not on this world, mainly. But those who write stories about Alien races seem to think there might be. With some insects; that's what you look like, but are very small, they have workers who are not male or female. When you said you did one thing all your lives, I thought you might be a worker.”

“No, when it comes my time to Breed And Die, I would be the one pursued by the males.” I was struck by a deep longing. “But my last change will have me here alone. I will never be pursued, or lay my eggs.”

“Could you do something for me?”

“If it is possible.”

“Your voice, it skips around. Can you adjust it for a female voice? This is like riding with Rich Little or Robin Williams.”

“Rich Little. What does that mean?” Again he made the amused sound. Suddenly I felt something through the speaking box. “My ship! It... moves.”


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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Old 01-12-2014, 09:43 AM   #11
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Shaheel's World

Don

I stopped the truck. “Your ship moves? I thought you said the crew is all dead.”

“The others are. It should not move without me aboard.”

“Why?”

“Recorder can control all of the ship, fly it at need. But needs ---.”

I repeated the odd whistling sound. “What does that mean?”

She considered for a long time. “Living being to give Direction.”

“What is this recorder?”

“Device. Built by...workers on my world.”

“You have workers?”

“No. Recorder has workers. Things like Rull, but much larger, with... metal skins. Device, but move as if they are living. They form metal, fix what is broken.”

“So they are robots of some kind?” Then I had to explain what a robot was.

“Yes. Robots that make things.” She touched between her antennae. I leaned toward it. There was an odd blob shaped box the size of my hand right behind them. “This has...words in your language. We were the first to understand them. But need...something else. Words mean so many things, that without...something else, most do not make sense.”

Ah. You need the context. The meaning of the word by how it is used.”

“Context. Yes.”

“So without you on board, the ship is not supposed to move?”

“Yes. Recorder said it determines worth of race it meets. Decides to let us move it or not.”

“Maybe it decided we were worthy.”

“Not... possible. Too short a time has passed for Recorder to determine worth of you. Took us very long time.” The antennae moved. “It is moving very slow.” Her arm raised to point behind us. “As slow as this truck.”

“So those tank recovery vehicles I saw probably loaded it on the lowboy, and we're moving it.” Then I had to explain what a tank recovery vehicle was, and a lowboy."

“Yes. That makes sense.”

“Well if they shot you down, they obviously wanted to be sure they could grab the ship.” I considered. “This, translator, thing that gives you words. It can also track the ship?”

“Yes. Moving now that way.” The arm pointed again, more west than before.

“Probably taking it to Fort Bliss. That is a place in a city named El Paso where our government keeps a military base. A place where they keep soldiers.” I climbed back in. “We can get there faster than they can, so we can cut them off.”

“Cut them off. What does that mean?”

“Get there first.”

“But you said it has soldiers. You would fight them?”

“Don't think I have enough ammo.” I explained what ammo meant. “But if we get you back to the ship, maybe you can escape.”

“No. Heard weapons sounds inside ship. They probably...killed workers. Cannot fix ship without workers.”

“Maybe they had it fixed before the soldiers killed them.”

“Maybe.” Even after this short a time, she already understood human tones. The one word sounded doubtful. One thing I noticed, was that even in less than two hours of talking, she was picking up how to say things, and using the words correctly.

“We still have an hour or so before we get there. Tell me about your world.”

“Not like yours. We have clouds all the time. As I said, only Those Who Breed and Die see stars.”

“Breed and die? What does that mean?”

“Last change, we become...different. We form --- that fills with gas and lift above clouds. It breaks, and we come out, and stay above them until we grow tired. During that time, girls sing, and that brings boys to us. Then as we grow tired, we fall back to below. If we fall into water, females--- and eggs are collected by Those Who Live There.”

I tried to make the same noise she had the first time. “What does that mean?”

“Hard...shell.”

“Oh, like a caterpillar makes to change into a butterfly. We call it a cocoon.” I considered . “Then the other sound probably means you lay your eggs, release them from your body.”

“Yes.”

“But if that's your last change, it means you don't always look like this.” Then I had to explain her appearance.

“No. When we...come from egg, we look like this, but smaller.” Her hands moved, showing something about the size of the Rull she carried. “Shell very thin. Stingers can kill young.”

She described a stinger. It sounded a lot like a jellyfish. Slow moving, with long tendrils that hung down. “Watchers hold young below them, older ones can be hurt but not killed by Stingers. Then first change.” She tapped part of her back. “Shell breaks, we climb out.” She put her hands back up touching each side of the truck. “This size, then.”

“So that is when they feed you the first Rull.”

“Yes.”

“So you ate your first Rull, and became a ship's captain?” I then had to explain what a captain was.

“No.” For a long moment, she thought. “Was Captain on this travel. Was other crew before. She who laid my egg was great one among us. Record all that Those Who Travel remember. She made--- to feed to Rull, but told Watchers to watch her eggs and her young. Pick the one who went the farthest, who moved the fastest. Put in Rull for that one alone.”

“So your mother wanted one of her children to have that?”

“Mother. What does that mean?”

“You know. We have mothers and fathers. The father is the one who helps the mother make a child, and the mother is the one who carries it.”

“Mother died before my egg broke. Father died after she carried it.”

“So you never knew your mother or father?”

“Knew mother from first Rull. All of what she had recorded during her life. She wanted one to have that so that one could make...choice. To become Traveler, or become just recorder.”

“Hell of a choice. Become a traveler in space, or become a historian or librarian.” I then had to explain what the last two were.

“No. My...mother considered great because her Rull were...interesting. She made sure...records had all the thoughts and...feelings of those who went before. She...made a lot of our Travelers yearn to go Beyond.”

“I don't understand.”

She paused, then spoke in a high piping voice.

“Look you, upon the lights Beyond!
Many have spoken and died, but only I who will return below see this!
I see Those Who Breed and Die! Hear their song myself,
feel the desire to move as they do, to seek the one singing!
Sad it is. For I will one day do this again, but as one of them.
To float upon clouds, to follow she who sings. To then die.”

She fell silent. “That...record of first of us to go Beyond and return. Long time ago.”

I heard in my mind again those words. “I take it back. She was a poet.”

“Poet. What does that mean?”

“A poet uses words to make a picture in your mind. Poetry is a social as well as a creative art, a way of communicating that distills the critical essence of the author's emotions and meaning and makes them another can feel. As such, it reaches its fullest potential only when shared, knowingly and consciously. Indeed, it is the act of sharing that makes poetry what it is.” As you might think, I had a lot of explaining there.

“I understand.”

“With those words, your mother told me of the wonder that first one felt, and his sadness that those who had seen it before did not live to pass it on. That he or she knew they would only see it again when they died.”

“You do understand then. But why were you surprised that I did not know my mother?”

“Because we live a long time. I knew my grandfathers and grandmothers. They were the ones who gave my father and mother life. We don't have lots of kids in one lump. We have them usually only one at a time, and spend years raising them.”

“Then you have children as well?”

“No. I lost my chance at that happiness during that war I fought in as well.”

“You were injured? Unable to have children?”

“If it were only that simple. No. The one I loved died before I came home.”

“I am... sorry. Is that correct?”

“Yes.” I slowed, turning onto 180 headed for El Paso. There was a small group of stores off to the side, and I pulled off. “I'm going to get a coffee. You want anything?”

Just as I realized how stupid that was, she replied. “Yes. Hungry.” She shifted. “Need water.” She tapped her back. “we...live in water. When dry, it hurts.”

“Why didn't you land the ship in the ocean?”

“Trace elements in water... Can hurt or kill.”

He looked at the small reflective device above the clear portion of the vehicle. “Then we'd better be careful what we use.” He looked at the store. “They won't have a lot in there. Maybe a few gallons. Are you in pain?”

“No. Just... not feeling well.”

“Uncomfortable. It means you have small pains or irritation. Dry spots on skin.”

“Yes.”

“Hungry again? How often do your people eat?”

“Two time a day.”

“Shoot, woman.” I looked at my watch. “It's only been about three hours!”

“Our day is...short. Yours... very long. Did not eat before my ship crash.”

“I'll see what I can do. Store like this probably doesn't have a lot we can use for you to eat. Be right back.”

I went in, and looked at the coolers first. I was right. They did have half gallons of Arrowhead water, and I got a dozen of them. Except for some ground beef and lunch meat, there wasn't anything she could eat. I didn't know if it would do any good, but I grabbed three one pound packages of hamburger and a soft plastic soda cup large enough to carry it. I paid, and went out to the trash can, stripping off the plastic sleeves, and cramming the meat into the cup. I walked to the passenger side, got out my duct tape, and covered the entire lid with it until it wouldn't move. Then I loaded all of it into the truck.

“I don't know if this will work or not.” I held out the cup. Her hands took it, and she pierced the plastic. For a long moment she held it. Then she held it out.

“Thank you. The... inside did not become fluid as easily as the other. Taste... not as good.”

“Sorry. When we get to El Paso, I'll hit a supermarket and get you more liver and kidneys.”

“Thank you.”

I started the truck, backing out. “All right, our days are longer. So let's figure the difference.” Then I explained what I meant, then how we counted, using my knee to steer as I explained small numbers, one to ten, how we used one word to mean a number up to twenty, how we used two words, such as twenty one and higher up to thousands. Then I explained how we divided a day into 24 hours, and on down to seconds, then explained that to us a full day included a night and there were a bit more than 365 days in our year.

“So how long is your day?” I asked.

I expected it to take a long time, but she came back immediately with, “Five hours, forty-two minutes, eighteen seconds.”

“That was fast.”

“Needed context. Recorder gave me answer.”

After about a mile, I pulled onto a small side road. I had her get out of the truck. “Now, let's see about wetting you down.”

She climbed down, and I opened and poured. As I did, the scales of her back armor flexed. I could see raw places between them. “Is that because you were dry?”

“That as small... parts of earth.”

“You mean like dust and sand?” I explained.

“Yes. Body moves when I walk or shift position. Sand and dust gets in between.”

“So you don't get out of the water at home?”

“Not much earth above water.”

“We call that land.”

“Not much land. Live near it for safety.”

“Safety?”

“Yes. Great Mouth breath air...cannot come on land. Swift Swimmer breath water. When they come, sometimes climb up into air. Sometimes slide into wet earth.” She shimmied as if-

“Oh, so you burrow into the mud.”

“Yes. Sometimes, cannot.”

“Can't? Why not?”

“Young die on land. So Watcher swims up, draws them away.”

She finally said it was enough. But I'd gone through all but the last bottle. She climbed back into the truck, and I pulled back out.

“So tell me about your world. How did you get into space?”

“Space? What does that mean?”

“What you call beyond, we call space.”

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise...” She paused. “That is amused?”

“Amusing. Yes. So you watch our TV shows?” I had to explain the difference between movies and television.

“Yes. We have records of your transmissions for a very long time. The first were mere sounds.” She made a beeping sound. It sounded like...

“Wait, that's Morse Code.”

“Morse Code. What does that mean?”

“Back when we first started creating a way to talk at long distances, we would sent flashes of light, then electrical charges along a wire. When we discovered the radio frequencies, the first way to talk was using the same system.”

“Ah. Then there were words in your languages then a visual image of a black animal turning slowly for a long time. Finally visual records.

“We did not get into space for a long time; many of our years, more than we even knew to count, until the Traveler was spoke. The giant egg had landed as we did here, crashing because of a chance impact with...something in space. That had happened so long ago that even It did not know for sure how much time had passed. Thousands of years in our past, it had been discovered because the Recorder, as alive as it's crew had been, had survived the crash, and moved slowly to one of the vents over time.

“The first Watcher that had seen it had merely reported that a giant smooth egg of an unknown rock had moved itself to the edge of the vent. For a long time we ignored it. It was just sitting there.

“Then one day it spoke in our language. Our language is verbal only, issued at specific times such as when a Great Mouth approached, or a Swift Swimmer stalked our own. There are also smells such as that used to sooth the younglings when a Stinger swam slowly by, or warn them to burrow.

“The voice merely repeated what the Guardian present had said a moment before, but think, how many rocks talk? Those Who Direct and Those Who Planned moved to the vent, and for over ten thousand of our years, our people talked to it, repeating every word of our language from all over our world. After a while, it began saying things instead of merely repeating them. It used a lot of words we still do not understand, but it asked for our help.

“It needed certain kinds of rock to make itself work again. We did not have the knowledge of what it truly needed until it suggested using a Rull as a way to communicate more thoroughly. It created extensions that would connect to a Rull, and then could be read not by eating it, but by using our antennae to read the changes in it just as we would to pick out one of the marked ones to feed upon.

“This way, once it learned that we could taste the difference in the...metals, it passed on how these rocks should taste. This was fed to a Rull, and once that was done, we could seek through our oceans for them. But they were very rare.

“The Recorder as it came to be called, told us it had moved to the vent because far beneath our ocean and mud, the center of our world was very hot, and the vent was an opening to that. But even with our help it would take a long time before it could draw enough from that source before it could go back to where it had come.

“Finally, it asked if we could go into the Beyond, find the rock there, where it was much more common. To do this, it directed the robots to remove some of the internal workings to build what it called a 'ship' for those who would go. Then these were assembled as it instructed. The 'ship' as it called it was small, barely enough room for two of us, but would lift, move to where the ship's feelers-” she wiggled her antennae, “-could detect the rock it needed, capture one and bring it back to land near the Recorder safely.”

“Lift?”

“A device that pushes against other things, against the...planet.”

“How?”

“The planet pulls things to it, like the Stop and Drag device does. This device pushes against instead of pulling to it.”

“Anti-gravity! We call that pull gravity.”

“Yes. Against... gravity. So it was that for the first time our people saw the beyond. For the first time those of us restricted to our oceans saw and heard those on their mating flights.”

“And you never asked for weapons?”

“Against what?”

“How about against the Great Mouths and Swift Swimmers?”

We asked for things that would keep the Stingers away from the younglings. That can also make Great Mouths and Swift Swimmers move away from them. So less of us died. When the vent began to close, the Recorder made a Stop and Drag device that would gently keep them open.” She considered for a moment. “There is one part of that which could be a weapon, as your people conceive of it. The Stop And Drag device uses...something to capture rocks in space. But if the rock is too large, it can be turned into a thing that will slice through anything so that smaller pieces can be brought down.”

She described what the device did. “Ah, a tractor beam. And if set right, it's like a lightsaber.”

“Yes.”

“But why would the Recorder give you this, but not us?”

“We spent thousands of our years being with it, and around it. We did not demand, or destroy it or the robots. In our place, what would your people have done?”

I snorted. “If it popped up that long ago, they would have decided it was a god, or a devil. Probably gone out to conquer the world in the Recorder's name. These days?” I shrugged. “Back in the late 70s, not long after I went off to war, an organization named SETI was formed. An organization is a lot of people working together. SETI stands for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. Meaning they were looking for people like you.”

“To war us?”

“Oh, nothing like that. And it's go to war with you. A lot of people believe that people from out there would be more evolved, grown further from their animal beginnings, and would rather talk to us than fight us. But when they created what are called the SETI Protocols, two of the biggest countries, the United States where we are now, and Russia; that was our enemy at that time refused to sign. They did not agree.”

“Why?”

“We have something they always use to explain why we haven't already destroyed our ourselves. Balance of Power. You have them and us, and all either of us could do for a long time is destroy each other rather than win a war. But something can upset the balance. They both believed that if one side got hold of an alien ship, we could do what is called reverse engineer something like it. That means look at how it works, figure out how it works, and make our own. That would throw off the balance of power.”

“The Recorder told us that the people that had built it had found several thousand alien peoples, but had only contacted fifty of them.”

“Only fifty? What, they have a prime directive or something?”

“I think it would be 'or something'. They do not keep their things from those they wish to let evolve as yours does. Their Prime Directive is to assure that the race they give it to will not use it...wrong.”

“We probably would.” He sighed. “As much as we talk about wanting peace, we tend to rush into stupid wars. Not just my own country, but everywhere. But that doesn't explain how and why you came here.”

“When the Recorder was repaired, it gave us another Recorder of our own to use, with the robots it needed to build. Then it explained that it could not leave unless told to. So one of us went aboard the Recorder's ship, told it to leave, and got off. That was... about four thousand of our years ago.

“We used the new Recorder to build things; the Protectors that kept our young from being eaten, Holders to keep the vents open, and ships to bring more of the metals necessary to build more.

“Then, one of those that went into space to gather the rocks heard the signal I repeated to you. The Morse Code. We asked the Recorder, and it told us that another race, yours, was nearby. So we asked if perhaps we could visit you. He gave us the way to do so.”

“But that means you're a long way away. It's still used, but Morse Code was what we started with... Over a hundred of our years ago.”

“Our Recorder built Things that Listen. They were put around our world far enough away that they did not move in space. With them, we found your world. But it would take a huge ship and a lot of our years to get here.

“But those who created the Recorder did not use huge ships. Something about the Ways of Long Traveling interfered. Small ships would travel much faster than large ones.”

“What do you mean ways of long traveling?”

“Anti-gravity good for short travel, to where rocks are in space. But to go to another star? No. After a few years, the Recorder suggested we build a ship large enough for four of us. It would take only two of our days to reach your world with one that small.”

“How far away are you from us?”

“The distance it would take light to travel in one hundred and four of your years.”


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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