Excerpt # 6

November 19, 2007 at 10:05 pm (Writing)

I’m really starting to roll here. I wrote more than 2500 words today, and could continue for quite a while more.
I’m also back to a recognizable place in my outline, which is a good thing, too.

Mess that evening was uneventful. Jamison briefly mentioned that they had had a problem with the blackbody radiators, but that it had been corrected. The main topic was from engineering again, about the installation of the meteor scanners and casimir beam system. Commander West faltered for a moment when he got to the part where they normally would have tested them. Jamison interrupted, excusing him since they had such other critical work with the computer core heating up. After mess, they went directly to Jamison’s office.
They were in the office with the door closed, and Jamison was just sitting down when Commander West said ‘Uh, sir…..’ and looked at Lt Barlow.
‘That’s ok, Mr West. Security is part of services, and Mr Barlow is head of services. Under the circumstances, I feel that he should be aware.’ A look of relief appeared on everyone’s face around the room.
‘Mrs. Yu, Will you please bring Mr Barlow up to date.’
‘Well, when the astrometrics software was updated, the system identified a pulsar in the position that the third planet was in. We were going to scan it more thoroughly, but were behind the sun doing the survey. When we came out from behind the sun, the planet was still identified as a pulsar by the system. I analyzed the’
‘Hurry up, why don’t you.’ said Doc Flores
‘Sorry, doc’ said Yu. ‘Anyway, we picked up a signal from the planet that is not a natural phenomenon’
‘You mean..’ said Barlow
‘Yes, Mr Barlow. We are operating under the assumption, backed up by fairly strong evidence, that there is an intelligent species on that planet.’ said Jamison.
‘Wow. That’s… That’s…’ stammered Barlow
‘We know. It has taken some time to get used to. Everyone here has known for a little under 24 hours. We will be informing the crew tomorrow after mess. Until then, this is code black. Do you understand?’
‘Wow. Uh… Of course, sir. Code black.’ said Barlow
‘Good’ said Jamison. ‘It has been a bunch of waiting, and a little watching for too long now. There are a few things to go over before we tell the crew tomorrow. We need to determine if they are a danger to earth. In order to do that, we need to get a better look at that planet without exposing ourselves. I need options.’
‘Uh, sir?’ said Barlow. ‘Has HQ been notified yet?’
‘No. The regulations say no communication with Earth until we have determined that they are not a threat, or we have successfully evaded detection.’ replied Jamison.
‘But what about the q-comm? Doesn’t that run all the time? That’s point to point, and impossible to intercept, right?’ said Barlow.
‘Mr Barlow brings up a very good point.’ Jamison said. ‘We need to decide what we are to do about that now. I’m not sure that I know enough about the technology to make that decision on my own, so do you have thoughts? Mr Barlow?’
‘The q-comm is quantum based. I don’t see how anyone could possibly intercept any kind of transmission from it’
‘Just because it hasn’t been done yet, doesn’t mean that it is impossible. I take it that you would recommend notifying HQ?’
‘Yes, sir. I believe that there would be no risk. I’m no engineer though.’ Barlow looked at West
‘Mr West, your thoughts?’
‘I think that the liklihood of anyone being able to intercept it is nearly zero. We certainly can’t. I recommend using it.’
‘Mrs Yu?’
‘Just because we don’t know the mechanism that it works on, and can’t intercept it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. It may not even be difficult. We just don’t know. I don’t think we should use it.’
‘Doctor?’
‘I don’t know much about quantum mechanics. I do know that everything in the past that was thought to be secure has been intercepted or broken in one way or another. Looking back, it should have been obvious that it was possible. I recommend against using it.’
‘Ensign Ramirez?’
‘Absolutely not. We didn’t used to know how gravity worked. Now we can trace it easily. We didn’t know how foldspace worked, and we can trace that as well. For the q-comm to transfer information from here to HQ there has to be a medium of some sort. Just because we don’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not there.’
‘Mr West, can you guarantee that the data sent between our q-comm and HQ can not be detected by the life forms on the 4th planet?’
‘I’m 99% certain that it can not. If you are asking for 100%, then no, I can’t guarantee it.’
‘Potentially earth and the entire human race’s very existance is at stake. I don’t think it unreasonable to request 100% certainty. Do any of you?’
Heads shook negatively all around.
‘Very well. It is decided that the q-comm will be shut down. That action alone could cause HQ to launch a search and rescue mission, so we must be sure that they don’t. Mr West, when we are finished here, I want you to set the q-comm to ship priority and send the single word LIFE. Then disconnect all power to it. Any comments?’
Again heads shook negatively.
‘Good. Now for more interesting things. How do we get a better look at that planet without being detected?’
‘Could we hide in the asteroids?’ said Barlow
‘We could, but that wouldn’t help any’ said Yu
‘Can you explain that, Mrs Yu’ said Jamison. ‘I was contemplating the same thing.’
‘Looking at that planet from a point at any great distance isn’t going to get us the information that we want. All we’d be able to detect from there would be the same kind of intermittent signals that we already know about. I’m not sure that we’d ever be able to decipher them only getting 3 minutes of transmission every 37 hours.’
‘Well, what would we need?’ asked Jamison
‘We need to be close enough to pick up their ground based transmissions. If earth is any guide, that’s pretty close. Most of our radio signals are reflected back by the ionosphere. Or, and I don’t know how we’d be able to do it undetected, we’d have to be in orbit above one of their satellite transmission sites.’
‘If we were to orbit the planet, we would be visible to anyone with a pair of binoculars. Probably without binoculars at night’ said West.
‘Assuming they have two eyes.’ mumbled Dr Flores
‘What was that, Dr Flores?’
‘I said assuming that they have two eyes. They wouldn’t need binoculars if they don’t have eyes, or trinoculars if they have 3.’
‘Unless they have eyes on the end of stalks, like crabs do?’ said Barlow
‘Gentlemen, this is very interesting, and there is a time for discussing the possible appearance of these … creatures, but now is not it. How do we get more data about them?’ said Jamison
‘Sorry’ said Dr Flores. ‘Couldn’t we disguise the ship to look like an asteroid or something’
‘Doctor, this ship is over 150 meters long, 90 meters wide, and about 45 meters high, shaped like a flattened cone. I’ve never seen an asteroid that looked like that. And even if we did, an asteroid of that size would be destroyed as a threat before it even got close, or it would at earth. And then there’s the problem of our sensors being in the tail. Asteroids tumble, and we wouldn’t. And our trajectory would be definately un-asteroid like. We’d have to accelerate and decelerate to get there. And…’
‘Wait, I’ve got an idea’ said West. ‘Not us, but we could disguise a probe to look like an asteroid.’
‘Could you get it there without arousing suspicion? Would it be able to collect the information that we need? How would it communicate with us without being detected?’ said Jamison
‘I don’t think that getting it there would be a problem, captain.’ said Ramirez. ‘If we want it to look natural, we just need to calculate its initial trajectory so that it winds up in orbit above one of those satellites. It might be tricky, but not impossible. We shouldn’t need to make any course corrections along the way at all.’
‘Communication wouldn’t be a problem, captain. The probe uses the old grav-com system. It’s instantaneous within the sun’s gravity well. We can pick it up easily, and it’s omnidirectional, so if it is discovered it couldn’t be traced to the receiver.’ said West.
‘Judging by what I’ve seen, the planet doesn’t use any gravity technology. Their satellites are in decaying orbits.’ said Yu
‘So we would be able to communicate with it as well? Issue commands?’ said Dr Flores
‘What kind of command would you want to send it – assuming it is in the correct position?’ said West. ‘And if it wasn’t, manouvering it could easily arouse suspicion.’
‘How about minor course corrections while it was on route?’ asked Jamison
‘I suppose we could – if they were small enough, and it was still far enough from the planet.’
‘I like that’ said Jamison. ‘I like that a lot. You may begin planning for the probe, but don’t do anything that would arouse suspicion. We can work on it openly, and with assistance tomorrow. Is there anything else that we need to discuss today?’
‘One thing, sir’ said West. ‘My crew has been chomping at the bit to work on the meteor detection system that they put in place. I have held them off, but I don’t think it will last through tomorow. And I think I would like to have it running, just in case…’
‘In case they are hostile? That’s not a bad idea. I’m not aware of the specifics, but does it emit anything that could possibly be detected by that planet?’
‘Possibly again, sir?’ said West. ‘Because of the distance, and relatively low power of the emitter, and the interference from the sun, I’m 99% confident that they can’t pick it up. I couldn’t pick it up under these conditions if I were there.’
‘Mr West, in this case, I think that 99% certainty is acceptable. You may test. I’d suggest starting at the lowest power possible and be careful of your aim, just in case.’ said Jamison.
‘If there’s nothing else pressing?’ Jamison looked around. ‘Very well, then. I’ll see you all tomorrow. Mr Barlow, if you could remain a minute.’
‘Of course, sir’ said Barlow as the rest left.
‘Mr Barlow, I’m concerned about the announcement tomorrow. I think I can accurately predict how the ships crew will handle the news. I’m less certain about how the mining crew will take it. Especially when they realize that this could mean a significant delay in this system. I’m not expecting problems initially, but I really don’t know. I’d like you to have your security detail present at the meeting. It will be obvious that some will be at the front where Mr Reynolds is getting his medal. I would like others dispersed through the room, especially at the hatches.’
‘I understand, sir. I’ll have them ready.’
‘And Mr Barlow. I’d like them to be unnoticed. They should blend in unless there is a problem. After the announcement starting tomorrow during midrats, I’d like a security posted in key areas. The computer core, engineering, the bridge. I think a roving detail on each deck might suffice, but I’ll allow you to decide.’
‘Of course, sir. Um, what .. uh .. tools should I equip the men with?’
‘Weapons should not be necessary for tomorrow. The small contact-stuns should be sufficient, they’re easily concealed. For the roving patrols I think that the multi-function pistols should be adequate. If you feel it necessary to issue something larger, please let me know first.’
‘Thank you, sir. I’ll have everything ready.’
‘That may not be easy, considering this is still code black information.’ said Jamison
‘My men will follow my orders without an explanation, sir.’ said Barlow.
‘Yes, I’m sure they will. Very well, then. Until tomorrow, Mr Barlow’
Jamison was finally alone again. He had just scanned the ship’s status and was about to open the Venturer logs again when he got a call on his comm.’
‘Captain to the bridge’
Oh what now, he thought. ‘On my way’ he said to the comm before locking his console again.
When he arrived on the bridge, there was a flury of activity. ‘What’s going on?’ he demanded.
‘Sir, the q-comm just went offlne.’
‘Oh, that. Mr West is performing a diagnostic on it to make sure that it wasn’t damaged by the heat problems. It should be back online shortly unless he has to replace a component. He’ll let you know when it is available.’
Jamison left the bridge, went back to his quarters and called commander West to prepare him for the inevetable questions.

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1 Comment

  1. Elaine said,

    You’ve got me hooked.
    I can’t wait to read what you’ve got for the next installment.

    Will there be life on the 4th planet?
    How will the mining crew react to the news?
    And where were the cookies? 😕

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