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Thread: Nemesis
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Old 07-04-2010, 06:49 PM   #1
machievelli
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Nemesis

The beginning of a story I have been playing with.

The Issue was going well. Doctor Volker sipped his tea, and began editing the article on Impact craters when the phone rang. He looked at it. The private number was ringing. He picked it up, leaning back. “Hello.”

“Doctor Simon Volker, please.” a woman asked.

“Speaking.”

“Please hold for Presidential Science Advisor Blumquist.” The phone went dead.

Volker hung up, and went back to his editing. The phone rang again. He let it ring four times before answering. “Hello.”

“Doctor Volker?”

“Yes.”

“We appear to have been cut off. Please hold-”

“No.”

“What?”

“I will not hold for anyone. Not for the Presidential Science Advisor, not for the President, not for any god you wish to name. When he thinks it is important enough to call personally, I will be here.” He hung up again.

He was in the fifth paragraph when the phone rang again. When he heard the secretary’s voice, he hung up again. Every time he heard her voice first, he hung up. After the sixth call, he had ten minutes of blessed silence. He finished editing the article, and started on the next when the phone rang again.

“Simon!” Blumquist sounded like what he was, a politician. “You shouldn’t have given Claire so much hell.”

“If she works for you, I can’t think of anything good to say about her, Blumquist. Why are you wasting my time.”

“NASA told me that you have sent some nasty E-mails.”

“When a group of Political lapdogs try to get me to work for them again, I’ll do more than give them hell. Spit it out, Mortimer.”

“We have some data we want you to examine.”

“Get one of your pets to do it.”

“They aren’t sure what it means.”

“Then find another, smarter, pet.”

“We need you.”

“Well, I don’t need you.”

“Simon-”

“That’s Doctor Volker, to a political hack, Mortimer. Goodbye.”

“Wait! I don’t want to have to get rough with you, Simon, but I will have the FBI there to bring you to Washington if necessary!”

“Send them on.” He hung up. Volker waited a moment, then picked up the phone.

Half an hour later, after hanging up on Clair once, Blumquist three times, and an FBI agent named Hewlit, there was a knock at the door. Volker poured some coffee for his guest, then went to the door. There were three men in suits there. He opened it, waved for them to follow, and walked into the den before anyone could say anything.

The older of the trio flashed a badge as they entered the den. “Simon Volker, I am Darrin Baker, FBI. I have been instructed to convey you to the airport.”

“By whom?” Volker’s guest asked.

“Who are you?” Baker demanded.

“Marcus Drew. You can call me Federal Appeals Court Judge Drew. Or Your Honor if you prefer.” Drew sipped his coffee. I didn’t ask you a question Agent Baker, I demanded an answer.”

“The Presidential Science Advisor called my office and ordered Doctor Volker brought to Washington immediately.”

“On whose authority?”

Baker was looking pale. “His own, sir.”

“Fine. Let me see the warrant.”

“Warrant?”

“Warrant. You cannot just drag a citizen off and fly him across the country without a warrant or some probable cause. What is he accused of?”

“Doctor Volker is accused of nothing I am aware of, Your honor.”

“So let me get this straight. An appointed official with no judicial authority has ordered that a citizen be detained and transported without legal cause. You, as an agent of the Justice Department intend to carry out those illegal instructions. Is that an adequate summation?”

Baker looked like he had eaten something rancid.

“Well. Will you answer the question? Or shall I have you and your Gestapo goons arrested for violating this man’s civil rights under color of authority?”

“Your Honor, may I make a phone call?”

“Sure.”

When he started across the room, Volker stopped him. “If you don’t have a cell phone, I suggest you leave and make your call.”

Baker stopped, glaring at the scientist. Then he took out his cell phone. He turned so the others couldn’t hear him, and after a moment, turned back. “Doctor Volker, there is a call coming in on your line. Will you please take the call?”

“As long as I don’t end up on hold.”

The phone rang. Volker picked it up. “If I end up on hold, this call ends right now.”

“Doctor Volker, you are a hard man to get hold of.” A man replied. “I hear you refused to talk to Mort. May I ask why?”

“Mort as you call him is a poltroon, a fool, and the president is a fool to have appointed him as science advisor. I am outraged by his high handed use of Federal authority, and feel that any president that agrees with such actions should be horsewhipped. I suggest you talk to the president and tell him so for me.”

“I will, Doctor, the next time I look in the mirror.”

Volker paused. “Then you are the president?”

“With 52% of the electoral vote last time around, yes.”

“Right. I should mention that there are others in your inner circle I don’t have a high opinion of.”

“Does that extend to me?”

“Sometimes.”

The President laughed. “Doctor, I was told that you were an opinionated SOB, it’s good to hear someone honest for a change. Could I ask you to help us please?”

“You can ask.”

“What do you know about Near Earth Asteroids?”

“More than you or Blumquist.”

“You’re just the man we need, but NASA and Blumquist can’t seem to get you on the team.”

“Because I am not a team player. Back in 1976 when I was still at NASA some idiot on a fact-finding mission from the Congress was lambasting the agency for spending millions on space. I told him then that every cent we spent would reap a million dollars if idiots like him would just shut up. For that piece of honesty, I was fired with a reference letter sufficient to bar me from getting a university post. Take a wild guess who my superior was at NASA. I knew it would happen when you put someone in charge who is better at kissing political rear than Astrophysics.”

“So the entire human race can go hang?”

“If they must.”

“Doctor. Your country needs you. Hell the whole damn human race needs you. Could you put aside your ego for a moment and listen?”

“It’s my nickel you’re calling on. Go ahead.”

“We’ve been receiving radio transmissions from a point in space approximately 5 billion miles away. Every expert we have is stymied. You are the best man for the job, but you don’t want to work for Blumquist. Would you work for me?”

“Doing what?”

“Doctor, what would you be doing if you had received these messages from Arecibo yourself?”

“I’d be locating the transmission source, trying to translate them, and delivering the information to SETI.”

“If you don’t mind putting my cabinet in the center of that, before Seti, I would say you’ve defined your job description. When can you start?”

“Immediately.”

“Good. I’ll have a plane there in a few hours to bring you to Washington.”

“And my son.”

“If you wish. How old is the boy?”

“Eleven.”

“Then he is in for a treat. Could you put the FBI agent on the phone, please?”

Volker handed the phone to Baker. Then he went to the stairwell. “Mike!”

“Yeah, dad?” Michael Volker shouted down.

“Get packed. We’re going to Washington.”

“Dad, we went last month, remember? Seattle?”

“I’m talking about the capitol.”

“Really?” The door above opened, and Mike stuck out his head. “For how long?”

“Until I’m done.”

“All right. I’ll get my computer.”

“At least someone is impressed.” Volker growled. He walked back into the den. Baker was hanging up.

“Doctor, as soon as you’re done packing, we are to take you to March Air Force Base.”

“Why there?”

“We needed the runway.” He smiled. “The President decided to really show off.”

The next few minutes were harried. Baker told the Volkers they could each take an overnight case, and everything else they might need would be packed and sent by government transport. Mike hung onto his laptop computer, refusing to let anyone touch it.

A Blackhawk helicopter was enroute, and landed at the small municipal airport seconds after they arrived. The helicopter took off immediately, and headed for the Air Force Reserve base.

“Dad!” Mike pointed. On the end of the runway, a huge black airplane was landing. “That’s an SR71 Blackbird!”

“That kid, is your ride!” Baker shouted.

“Cool!”

The Blackhawk dropped onto the strip, and a Hummer picked them up, carrying them over to the huge aircraft.

II
The meeting was in the Black room. A sealed room inside the Pentagon; it was hardened against any form of eavesdropping. A bug couldn’t be placed in it, because the wiring was all internal with it’s own power source. No form of electromagnetic radiation could enter or leave. Volker looked around, taking a seat. Only he, Blumquist, and four military personnel were there.

“Doctor Volker, may I introduce Admiral Lambert, head of Space Surveillance Systems Command, Colonel Conner, of the Space Defense Operations Center, Master Sergeant Dolan also of S-DOC, and Lieutenant Moira Henderson of SPASUR On the military side, they are the only ones who know about this at the moment. Gentlemen, Ma’am, this is Doctor Simon Volker.”

“My question is why you’re here, Mortimer.” Volker asked. He noticed that lieutenant Henderson stifled a laugh at that.

“I am here because what is being discussed is in my purview, Simon. I am sorry that you don’t like me, but that is the way it is.”

“I’m sorry I have to deal with you.” Volker looked to the others. “Let’s get on with this briefing before I punch out our esteemed Science Advisor.”

Admiral Lambert stood. “Unless other people are needed, we are the only people that need to know about this, Doctor Volker. Lieutenant Henderson will handle the first part of the briefing. Moira?”

Henderson stood. “Eighteen days ago, SPASUR received a request from the Defense Intelligence Agency to scan data they had picked up that day from a J-Stars aircraft off the coast of China.” A map appeared on the wall, with a dot. “The J-Stars was scanning the communications traffic from the Chinese Navy when they detected an anomalous signal. SPASUR runs the satellite constellations used for military traffic and surveillance, and they felt our satellite could get a better reading on the signal.

“I was duty officer on the system, and began running triangulation on the signal. The signal was intermingled with the J-Stars data but it wasn’t coming from earth.” The map disappeared, and a schematic of satellites in orbit appeared. One of them was flashing. “This is Keyhole 17, a new bird put up last year. The signal from the J-Stars aircraft was being bounced from her. The additional signal was coming in, and at first appeared to be a radar side-lobe. We triangulated, and it was coming from somewhere off the planet.

“We found it was coming from here instead.” The map became a map of the solar system. with another dot. This one was beyond the orbit of Pluto. “As you can see, it comes from the inner edge of the Oort cloud.”

“Five billion miles? Or is that an estimate?”

She looked surprised. “It was only an estimate at that time, Doctor. The signal is intermittent, as if the transmitting station is slowly rotating on it‘s own axis. When we verified it’s existence, other assets were brought into play. when it comes available the Hubble telescope will also be used, but what we can verify now is that the signal source is 6.2 billion miles from Earth, and possibly an alien space craft.”

“What about one of the Voyagers?”

“While Voyager 2 is close to the target, we haven’t been able to access her maneuvering system for a shot as yet. At the speed she is traveling, we may be out of range of the target before we do. Nothing else is close enough to give us any resolution.” She closed her folder. “Sergeant?”

Dolan stood, taking her place at the podium. “I was the analyst on duty at S-DOC when SPASUR notified us of their findings. I accessed four satellites and used them for triangulation. The 6.2 billion mile figure is ours, though I can give it to you in metric or a more exact figure if you wish.”

“6.2 billion miles is good enough for the moment, Sergeant.”

“Very good. We were also handed off a copy of the signal and began running enhancements on it. Twelve hours after the signal had been reported to us by SPASUR, this is what we had.” He brought up a media player, and started it. The screen was a hash of rapidly moving lines with a whining sound in the background. “The signal was over a large bandwidth, and appears to be a mixed audio visual format similar to a video tape or CD recording. As yet we haven’t been able to clean it up, as we don’t know the algorhythms used by the people sending it. We’re still working on that. But what we have determined is that the signal source is closing on the inner system on a long trajectory at the rate of approximately 5 miles per second and increasing.”

“It’s probably not a spacecraft then.” Volker said.

“Oh really.” Blumquist sneered.

“At five miles a second, it’s only traveling at 18,000 miles per hour. For something on Earth or low earth orbit, that’s fast, but on an interplanetary scale, it’s drifting down a very shallow hill on a sled. It will take over 39 years to get here at that speed. I would assume that anyone capable of traveling interstellar distances would also be capable of a faster approach than that. But I can’t conceive of why they might be just drifting along in space, or why they have landed on a comet or asteroid.” Volker leaned back. “Do you have an ETA on either Voyager or Hubble?”

“Not yet, Doctor.” Henderson replied.

“Then there’s nothing but trying to decode the signal we have. Admiral, may I borrow Lieutenant Henderson?”

“What for, Doctor?”

“Someone has to work with me directly, and to be quite honest, if it’s a choice among anyone in this room, she’s the best looking.”

Blumquist glared at the Military officers as they chuckled. “Her looks have nothing to do with it, Volker.”

“Oh, really. Do any of you gentlemen have any grounding in astrophysics?”

“Actually, Doctor, Lieutenant Henderson has a degree in Celestial Mechanics and astrophysics.” Lambert replied. “That was one reason she’s on my team at SPASUR. Sergeant Dolan is our cryptographic specialist.”

“Then if it is all right with her, I could use help in that regard.”

“Really?” Henderson looked at him sidelong. “You didn’t get your PHD because of your late wife’s illness, Doctor. What can I do that you cannot?”

“Not a blasted thing. But I need two intelligent people on this, and I’d rather put up with you than that political hack.” Volker waved toward Blumquist.

“I see nothing to suggest that Lieutenant Henderson isn’t qualified. Lieutenant?”

“I wouldn’t mind working directly with the Doctor. What do you have in mind, sir?”

“I don’t know, dinner, dancing.” Volker watched Blumquist turn puce. “But since this isn’t a social gathering, I’d say we should check out what equipment we have and get to work on translating.”

Henderson ducked her head to hide a smile.


'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

Last edited by machievelli; 07-04-2010 at 07:02 PM.
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