Thursday, June 14, 2012

On the Eve of Hammerfall: Chapters three and four






Chapter Three

We did not know it at the time but while the various peoples and governments of Earth scrambled around like ants whose mound had been disturbed by some force so powerful it was beyond their comprehension out near Saturn a huge predator cruised by the ringed planet. The alien ship was a little over three miles long with two conical structures attached on opposite ends of a sphere. Running out perpendicular of the central sphere was a structure made up of engines that twisted space-time allowing the ship to move across the stars. To the humans who would watch it enter Earth orbit a little over a year later it looked sleek and deadly. How the aliens, who humans would come to call “squids”, would describe their massive ship was a thing of debate for many long and difficult years.

The most accurate way to describe what they thought of their ship can be summed up by the fact that to them it was nothing more than an efficient way to cross the distance between the stars. They did not even give the vessel a name; the very idea to them would have been insane. But that mindset was consistent with their normal behavior and view of everything else not part of their species.

During their invasion of Earth all sorts of urban legends quickly sprung up about squid behavior but the one that was completely true was that they were a very practical race not prone to romantic notions or creative artistic thought outside of science. While they were building an industrial civilization, the same time humans were in awe of fire, there is not one shred of evidence they ever admired a sunset, wrote a novel, or painted a landscape strictly for pleasure.

After the dust settled with humanity the winner in a war of interspecies genocide and the surviving squids either being hunted down or carefully examined in isolated locations across the globe all sorts of questions about them were finally answered. The first question answered by the now far more accommodating squids were their reasons for crossing interstellar space and trying to take our planet away from us.

From interrogations of surviving squids and what computer records we could gleam from their ship both the squids and humans emerged on their respective worlds about the same time after millions of years of evolution. While we were largely copying their behavior in many aspects, the squids had a substantial head start on us and had exploited every resource on their world to the point it was becoming impossible for it to support a complex technological civilization. Unlike humans, none of their species ever raised any alarms over what they were doing, to them planetary resources were there to be used as soon as technology allowed them to be reached. You might think this attitude would have lead to conflict and wars between the squids, and it did early in their history but their excessively rational minds viewed such endeavors as wasteful. By the time squids developed a technological civilization on par with our twentieth-century they had united under a central global government.  

This global government and the society it oversaw was essentially based on extreme self interest with an emphasis on each individual proving their worth before having some influence in the governing of the civilization. It was social and economic evolution to the extreme with no room for empathy or compassion of any kind.        

When it became apparent to the squid hierarchy that their planet was dying without possibility of being salvaged discussions ranged on the proper actions to save their species but none were cost effective given the teeming billions that now lived on the home world. Other planets in their star system had been colonized to allow access to their resources but none had the capability to handle even a small fraction of the home world’s population.

Being vicious social Darwinists the one plan that made sense to the ruling elites was to take the best and brightest and migrate to another star system that had at least one planet capable of being developed like the home world. Interstellar probes were quickly sent out to hundreds of star systems searching for a planet meeting at least the basic requirements to allow the squid species spread across the galaxy.

As the years passed the squid leadership waited patiently for the probes to radio back data of what they found. The home world situation was becoming increasingly critical with millions of lower caste squids regularly dying. For the leaders and economic creators the losses were acceptable, even something to be hoped for, but the trends were clear, if a proper planet was not found quickly the accelerating collapse of infrastructure and growing scarcity of resources would make the endeavor impossible.

Decades later the first reports from the probes were received, they told of thousands of different worlds all bearing at least some small type of life. The scientists involved in the project had to consider hundreds of different parameters of both the possible target planet and the star it orbited. After everything was considered one candidate planet stood out, it was not a perfect match on several levels but the biochemical makeup of the planet’s lifeforms very closely matched that of the squids. This would require the minimum of expendable resources to establish a proper foothold, possibly enough to allow the ship to proceed to another star system to begin another colony.

The biggest problem with the planet though was that it was already inhabited by an intelligent species, not a show stopper in itself but the squids did have enough sense to realize the locals might put up a fight when they appeared endangering the project’s possible success. Further analyses of the data showed the native sentients to be very primitive and after several computerized scenarios were played out the squid leaders and scientists felt they could handle whatever issue the native inhabitants might cause. So, when everything was considered the real reason the squids crossed lightyears of space, invaded Earth killing billion in the process was because our planet was the most cost effective target in their complex calculations. Such was the logic for what amounted to a species of interstellar accountants and venture capitalists.

Chapter Four

Long before humans had first contact with an extraterrestrial species it was endlessly speculated by scientists and philosophers that the event would bring about profound and deep changes in how the human race behaves. Anyone who would have made that optimistic bet would have badly lost. Six months after three alien spacecraft were shot down the world had remarkably returned to its usual state of affairs.

The typical and very tired array of national, religious, and ethnic conflicts resumed less than a month after the fact as if nothing ever happened. The nations of the Middle East actually took special care into launching a regional war amongst themselves with the United States, Russia, and China caught up in examining the wreckage from the spacecraft each had destroyed over their airspace. Making matters worse, tensions dangerously rose between India and Pakistan over territorial disputes, scores of churches, mosques, and synagogues were down in bloody riots all across the globe along with several incidents of ethnic cleansing in Africa.      

Upon initial news of the aliens being shot down the world’s stock markets had gone into free fall for several weeks but at the half year mark they had long since recovered with corporations eagerly awaiting the release of recovered technology like hyenas looking at a fresh zebra carcass. The dust had not even settled after the bloody close encounter before corporate executives were twisting the arms of their political lackeys demanding to be first in line at examining the alien technology so it could be reverse engineered.

What was even more disconcerting was how the general populations in the developed nations reacted to first contact. All across Europe there were massive demonstrations protesting the belligerent actions of the three military superpowers. These people believed the aliens had to be peaceful since they were far superior to primitive humans. In China and Japan, they at least had the good sense to largely discuss the issue rationally although there were isolated incidents of panic.

In the old United States hundreds of religious groups thought the aliens who emerged from the UFO shot down in Norfolk, Virginia were demons of Satan out to herald the arrival of the Antichrist. For several week suicides skyrocketed as fire and brimstone evangelical preachers and their congregations became disillusioned when the Rapture they were certain was imminent failed to appear. For me personally, the most dismaying spectacle as I daily worked on the crashed spacecraft were the reactions of those who felt the entire first contact incident was some elaborate hoax orchestrated by shadowy and sinister organizations for some nefarious reasons.

I tried not to dwell on the idiots that unfortunately made up most of humanity by throwing myself into analyzing the workings of the downed alien spacecraft. In the six months since I was literally forced back into the Air Force, my team had made huge progress not just into discovering how the craft was powered and flew but learned monumental insights in theoretical astrophysics and cosmology. Some of the more clever boys and girls from MIT and Caltech were working on a paper that would unify all the four forces of the universe along with a fifth force that explained dark energy. The final result was humankind on the threshold of developing something very much akin to antigravity technology.

Even more astounding was the power source of the spacecraft, along with room temperature superconducting coils we had deduced it was powered by a form of cold fusion with the reactor the size of a Doc Brown’s “Mr. Fusion” from the “Back to the Future” movies. That discovery sent the team from our own massive and barely workable experimental fusion reactor down in Princeton University into abject depression and good old-fashioned hissy fits over the years they spent on what now amounted to a huge obsolete piece of junk.

For Cynthia Parker and her team working on the physiology of the aliens they had a tougher time working from the remains left after the Apache helicopters ended their bloody and destructive rampage in Norfolk. The 30mm automatic cannons on the two choppers that opened fire had reduced the aliens to ham loaf-sized chunks of meat. The exobiology team still learned a lot from the cell samples. The aliens were carbon-based lifeforms that breathed a very similar mixture of oxygen and nitrogen making up the Earth’s atmosphere. More troublesome was the discovery that the alien cell structure was made up of proteins closely built along the lines of terrestrial life. The alien DNA was even double helix-shaped like terrestrial life even although it possessed several base pairs never seen before on Earth. In other words, the workings of their cells would have allowed the aliens to munch on a Caesar salad and chicken marsala entrée from the local Olive Garden restaurant just outside Andrews Air Force base Cynthia and I frequented when we needed to get away. However, the nutritional value of said meal was just as questionable for them as it was for humans.  

Where we were getting nowhere was unlocking the computer systems of the alien spacecraft which had tried to tap into very sensitive and secret national defense information networks. Even though the aliens had used basic binary code to gain access into the human computers the cyber-security system wizard Roger Clarke could not find a way to cross over into the alien software. We did develop a very rudimentary understanding of their computer hardware finding it based on both on photonic and electrical systems. Roger eventually turned over his team to new leadership while he poured himself into the alien code trying to discern some sort of Rosetta Stone out of the data we had so he could learn their programming language.

The one enemy every team faced was the normal nationalistic paranoia and the incredibly short human attention span. With no further UFOs zipping around Earth, the initial fears produced by the events died away. Realistically having the general population return to their reality shows and sporting events did not bother me. What was really chapping my ass was the butt kissing politicians that had once again boiled everything down to scaring votes from the Marching Morons.

Several members from both houses of congress wanted all information learned from the alien technology classified and even turned over to the private sector, which they believed would be better able to develop it. A clear violation of the agreement reached between the American Joint Chiefs of Staff and their counterparts in Russia and China. Other members, the more religious, wanted it all tucked away in some top-secret storage area and forgotten about. In some ways I admit, that given how things unfolded, it might have been nice to do just that allowing me to return to my desert cabin but fate and the squids would not permit anyone to make such a decision.

***

Cynthia and I had settled in for the night when I saw flashing red and blue lights pull up in front of the bedroom window of our small apartment. We both looked at each other with a sense of dread wondering what shoe had dropped this time.

“You didn’t go and make good on your promise to stuff the junior senator from South Carolina into the nearest wood chipper did you?” Cynthia asked jumping up to slip on a robe.

“No,” I said trying to think what might have really brought the base security police to our front door. I grabbed my fatigue pants and shirt still feeling somewhat strange at the sight of the eagle sewed on the collar, a huge jump in rank many would have bet money never would have happened.

Feeling at least presentable, I opened the front door to see an Air Force captain along with two security police waiting for me. “Colonel,” the captain said, “I have news from the command post and General Mitchell requests Ms. Parker and you report as soon as possible.”

Cynthia was out the door and getting in the huge SUV sent to retrieve us before I could say anything. Needless to say, the déjà vu was strong but at least my curiosity was satisfied without the need of a transcontinental flight like the one that brought me back east.

***

The building housing the command post for research into the alien spacecraft had originally been a hanger built to store one of the spare presidential 747-doomsday planes. The end of the Cold War saw the expensive plane sold for scrap and the hanger itself largely abandoned. 

The hanger and the attached support buildings had gone through a rapid modernization from the very minute the alien spacecraft was transported from Norfolk. After six months, it sported the most modern and complex array or communication equipment second only to the White House. The security police dropped us off in front of the main door and ushered us inside the communications room, which looked exactly like the now defunct Cheyenne Mountain NORAD base from the 1980’s.

General Mitchell was already sitting in front of one of the displays talking with his Chinese counterpart. Just to the left of the Chinese general another screen showed the planet Jupiter in the background with a huge but obviously artificial construction that looked uncomfortably shark-like in appearance passing in front of the gas giant. Cynthia standing close beside me peered at the detailed picture and unconsciously grabbed my arm. Never one to mince words she took a deep nervous breath and said, “We are so screwed.”

General Mitchell, a good and honest guy I had served with in Operation Desert Storm as a young lieutenant fresh out of the Academy, concluded his conversation and turned off the screen and turned to us. “About twenty-four hours ago the Chinese probe orbiting Jupiter took a picture of the alien ship you see now. They instantly relayed the information to both the Russian Federal Space Agency and NASA. Our people down at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico along with others across the globe have been bouncing radar signals off the thing since then. Its three miles long, decelerating, and on a direct course to Earth set to arrive in about six months.”

Mitchell looking tired and forlorn just stared at us both; I honestly wanted to say something profound but as usual said what first came to mind. “I’ll be a son of a bitch, guess who is coming to dinner after all.”

(Author's note: There will be more sometime in the future. But I have played this out for at least a couple of months. Will be on vacation Saturday and will next be boring you poor souls with pictures from Disney's Hilton Head resort. )

11 comments:

Windsmoke. said...

I'll be back for the next installment to see who is coming to dinner. I'll also be waiting for your photos from Disney's Hilton Head Resort :-).

Akelamalu said...

Have a great vacation and I'll be waiting patiently for the next thrilling instalment.

Randal Graves said...

Genetically-altered, industrial farm products are the magic bullet, aren't they.

Ranch Chimp said...

Never get around to reading much sci- fi stuff Bum, but Thanx for the detailed read, have a good un Bud

Ranch Chimp said...

For some reason this thing alwayz post's my comment twice Bum, that's why I alwayz delete the 2nd one.

Beach Bum said...

Windsmoke: Thanks! Can't wait to get out of town.

Akelamalu: Yeah, Don't want to run everyone off with my stupid stories.

Randal: LOL!!! Better living through mass production of Frankenstein's monsters.

Ranch: Thanks and no problem, Blogger is freaky at times.

Mike Williams said...

"In the old United States hundreds of religious groups thought the aliens who emerged from the UFO shot down in Norfolk, Virginia were demons of Satan out to herald the arrival of the Antichrist."

Obviously religious groups led by Pat Robertson.

I got sidetracked thinking about how a race of squid-like beings with no art or literature would have evolved. I'm guessing that individual competition was so fierce that there was no advantage in it to species survival. So art was weeded out much as it seems to be being weeded out of the public schools.
Good writing as usual.

Beach Bum said...

Mike: A good bit of this particular story is satire. The original two stories were inspired by a fake documentary on Discovery Channel about possible plans for an alien invasion. Plus after searching my mind for what it would take for humanity to grow up the only real reason I could find would be a genocidal war with an alien species.

In Hammerfall being somewhat satire what I had in mind for the squids was a civilization made up of Mitt Romneys. Like you I have a hard time envisioning a species that lacks the creative arts so if I had to write a back story for the squids it would have only the top 1% with any access to what we would call art. The lower castes would be relegated to simple survival and making the material that keep the Elites happy and fed.

As for the Robertson comment, you nit the nail on the head with that one. If peaceful, starfaring aliens did happen to discover our civilization all the religious types I know would automatically assume it had something to do with demons.

okjimm said...

//Being vicious social Darwinists//

reminds me of a guy I knew in High School. Big nerdy guy. Had a bunch of nerds that hung around with him. His name was Derwin. They were socially inept Derwinists.

Pixel Peeper said...

You mean chapters five and six aren't already on your hard drive???

Enjoy Hilton Head! Sometimes the sound of waves and the smell of salt air is all it takes to clear your head and set things right. Picture me slightly jealous.

Looking forward to the pictures!

Beach Bum said...

Jim: LOL!!!!

Pixel: Have a good idea where I want to go but I will let this storyline rest for about a month.