The jupiter paradox, p.1
The Jupiter Paradox, p.1Hylton Smith
The Jupiter Paradox
Copyright 2013 by Hylton Smith
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the publisher,
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.
Sincere thanks to Rhys J Smith for his creative contribution to this book.
Cameron Rodriguez was deep in thought as to how he might outwit his Borg friend, known as Harley David. The immediate challenge was to extricate himself from the discovered check by the black queen, which the Borg had nonchalantly played while simultaneously running through the vessel’s maintenance programme aberrations.
Not everyone had a Cyborg buddy these days. The uprising of these entities in 2175 had almost eradicated humanity. They stopped short of deleting their creators, only after the remaining humans accepted that equality meant more than a mealy-mouthed scribble in some legal statute. It enshrined mutual respect and objectives. The present mission was intended to be a perfect example of how humans stood to gain from the cessation of hostility. They were simply far less capable of the rigorous task of surviving the increasing radiation levels on Earth.
Current levels, in 2178, were approaching the predicted exponential section of the curve. Since the Era of Neglect, either side of the millennium, the ozone layer had steadily disintegrated. It had seemed eminently sensible to develop and construct robotic servants for the cause of humanity. Amongst other projects, these ‘gadgets’ would be able to take the brunt of exposure to the atmosphere, if all else failed. The major flaw in such thinking was the inability to curb human propensity for improvement of life’s comforts. Over time, the robots were fast-tracked to a self-generating, engineering evolution. It took on its own destiny while the ruling humans were distracted with everyday problems. By the time the mass protests really hit home, the Cyborgs had something to say about how things were going to be.
Emerging from the stalemate of mistrust, a new future was shaped by what became known as the Rift Incident. A huge magnetic anomaly suddenly appeared from an underground source in the Rift Valley. The Cyborgs began the excavation and uncovered a device which was transmitting a signal to Jupiter space, more precisely to the surface of one of its moons – Ganymede.
Rodriguez and Harley met during the former’s final year of learning, officially described as how to prepare for his dreaded Stringent Evaluation. This was required before accreditation to the Planetary Corps could be considered. Harley had been ‘born’ long after his protégé; in fact he was commissioned just before the great Cyborg-Human conflict erupted. It was always a humorous source of verbal defence for Harley whenever Rodriguez was dismayed that he might not make it. “Come on Cam, I am only three years old and I squeezed through, you’ve been around long enough to know everything. You’re from the good old days.”
Their selection for the investigative mission to Ganymede was based on Borg-Human compatibility as well as pure aptitude requirement. They excelled in this inter-species harmony, and those tests were fiendishly devious.
The only other human aboard, Doctor Christophe Rivet, was tasked with making sure Rodriguez stayed fit and healthy. He kept his dislike of the Borg under control most of the time. One notable exception was Harley’s lack of respect when referring to his family name. “I am not a device which was designed to fasten two pieces of metal together. Are you incapable of retaining data? For the millionth time my name is Ree-vay. Rivets are what are used to construct your ‘species’. Having got that off his chest, he silently mulled over why he’d grown to despise the Borg High Command.
‘Borgs. Even the name was a lie. As anybody with even a passing knowledge of scientific terminology knew at the time of their creation, a cyborg is a being comprised of both cybernetic and organic parts. A living being with artificial enhancements, but a living being nonetheless.
There was nothing organic about these entities. They were machines designed to look and act like humans. Functioning according to their myriad of subroutines. A facade of genuine sentience.
They had been more properly labelled "androids" in the beginning. But that would never do, would it? The influential opinion-formers that moved the zeitgeist of cyberspace had, wittingly or otherwise, begun referring to the androids as "cyborgs" - either through being poorly informed by bad science-fiction, or because "cyborg" just sounded 'cooler' to them. Or a combination of both. It caught on, of course, and the term stuck. It was only a matter of time before these same hipsters dropped the "cy" - two syllables presumably being too much for their deficient attention spans. When usage of a term becomes so ubiquitous, it cannot be sliced out of the lexicographic consciousness by such inept surgeons as reason or precision. That was the way of things. Egregiousness trumping propriety, because some anonymous demagogues had decided it would be so, through the collective gyration of their online circle-jerk.
The most influential group of people on the planet had no accountability to the dictates of critical thinking. It was no surprise that humanity was now at the mercy of these.....machines.’
Three other Borg units, subordinate to Harley, had highly specific functions, each different but primarily related to the health of the ship.
The ship, an X-711, was clearly built with pragmatism foremost in mind. The décor lacked anything remotely close to character. Bleak battleship grey fought for dominance with soulless, clinical white. The cabin yielded little meter to the poetics of space - a jigsaw of perfect right angles randomly squeezed into a box designed for a smaller cargo. The frustration of bumping his elbow (or head, or shin) almost every time he moved would probably have caused an outpouring of rage from Rodriguez, if it wasn’t for the oppressive indifference and sterility of his surroundings. There was a small viewscreen enabling the crew to view the tantalising freedom of the universe outside of their metal prison in all of its unchecked immensity.
The journey in the X-711 craft was not too long at just under light speed, even with the detours to the Lunar and Mars outposts, and the slower negotiation of the asteroid belt. However, the focus was intense at such velocity and the thinking speed of the Borg contingent was paramount in the event of a glitch. One such surprise could be caused by a rogue asteroid which had recently collided with another and inherited a new unknown trajectory. Or Jupiter may have spat out an orphan which had recently wandered too close to an unstable orbit.
Leaving Mars, and with no further stops, the estimated time to Jupiter space was fractionally under an hour and thirty minutes. Their arrival was dominated by their perception of Jupiter from such a close position. The humans felt that it was physically difficult to turn their heads away from the crushing, swirling beauty of the gas giant. Even the Borgs experienced a discomforting buzz in their circuitry. Getting into Ganymede orbit, and discharging two of the Borg to the surface coordinates, took much longer than the interplanetary jump. They didn’t have much confidence that they would find anything of note, and even less hope that if they did, they would be able to make sense of it.
Nothing could prepare a person for setting foot on a place like Ganymede for the first time. The bleak greyness of its clay surface was rescued from the jaws of drabness by its mangled, folded contours – vast natural obelisks thrusting rude
The hierarchy gathered back on Earth was more bullish on both counts, and the humans selected for the ‘Intel Analyst Group’ were a mix of cosmologists and linguistics experts. The Borg nomination to this elite panel was a singular representative chosen from the latest generation, and had every possible upgrade embedded, including a ‘complete history of the world’ application.
The tension was building on Earth amongst the minority population of humans, whereas the Borgs were simply going about their designated tasks. The first chore facing the duo on the Ganymede outer crust was to excavate carefully around the area indicated by their thermal imaging software. It pinpointed a capsule-shaped warm spot approximately three metres down, and over five metres long. They contacted Harley and asked for the third Borg domestique to be despatched, to assist in extracting the capsule. This was refused. “Anton is essential for the return journey, especially if you and Nero are eliminated or damaged by this capsule.”
Beethoven queried this. “Can you reconsider if we are still intact after we expose the target? I ask because if we have to lift or rotate it, my calculations indicate it is too heavy for even the combined ergonomic power input of two Borgs.”
Harley was about to reply when Rodriguez shook his head vigorously. “It’s too risky until we know more about what we are dealing with Harley. Let’s at least scan the exposed target before we allow Anton to go EVA, this was clearly stated in the mission guidelines.”
“I’m fully aware of that Cameron, relax. Beethoven, you must proceed by removing one metre of crustal accretion at a time, and analyse the excavated soil, then compare it to the next to be removed. Send the comparison through to me before any further activity.”
The crust was difficult to dislodge even with the immense power of their laser attachments. They had never encountered such resistance in any Earth excavation. Beethoven reported this concern. “We are going to need to employ the DPBs, and at maximum setting, do you concur?”
“What are the other options?” asked Harley.
“There aren’t any,” mumbled Beethoven.
“Then get on with it.”
DPBs – or to give them their full, unwieldy name, Disruptive Power-Shock Beams – were the most powerful, and most dangerous, tool that Earthlings possessed to get into places that didn’t want Earthlings to get into them.
The ramp up in DPB was immediately accompanied by a rumbling from under the surface, and both Nero and Beethoven were knocked over by the energy release. Harley and Rodriguez picked up a huge surge in magnetic flux which headed out into the galaxy.
“Shit, that’s just what we needed,” groaned Rodriguez, “we should have thought more carefully about this before using maximum disruption.”
“And what do you suppose we would have done differently my friend? Report it to Earth and wait a week for the agreement to do what we already did? It was a simple choice – we have no other means of exposing the target, so the alternative was to pack up and go home. The fact that we have triggered a reaction validates the mission. Look on the bright side. We could have dug up some inert piece of cosmic trash. At least we now know there is something of interest down there.”
It took the two Borgs on the surface a few minutes to recover their ability to run self-diagnostics and report that they were functioning normally. Nero gave his considered opinion on how to proceed.
“We have never needed to use this level of disruption on even the most resistant rocks on Earth. There is a peculiar cohesiveness about this patch of surface crust to suggest it is not naturally occurring cosmic matter. It isn’t wise to repeat the maximum DPB. Apart from the risk of damage to our constructs, we may destroy the very artefact we came to recover. My analytical programme is suggesting that the capsule has been protected by those who buried it here.”
Harley’s reply changed from its former command mode to a much more conciliatory tone. “Yes, I concur with your conclusion. Anton will join you and I suggest the three of you focus your disruption beams on different points on the periphery simultaneously. Let’s see if we can shake the protective layer loose from the natural Ganymede structure. Try both ends and the mid-point of one side.”
The first signs of serious concern were brewing when there seemed to be no effect, and then suddenly a three-way crack appeared without any accompanying sound. They combined their prodigious strength to lever the smallest isolated part free. They could then see loose material upon which the almost impregnable plate had been bedded. In a few minutes of painstaking shuffling and manoeuvring, they slid the last fragment of the plate away from the excavation area. It was time to suck out the friable Ganymede subsurface component. Within the hour, they stood back in astonishment, looked at one another and then gazed toward the vessel.
Beethoven asked, “Can you see what we can see?”
“It looks like a casket for a human body,” said Rodriguez.
“Yes,” replied Anton, “but it is five metres long.”
Harley asked them to give him a closer shot, scrolling from one end to the other. It was a rather ornate gun metal grey capsule with no obvious means of opening it. “There doesn’t appear to be any sections, it looks like it is in one piece, as if it had come from a mould of some kind.”
Rodriguez asked what the SAS-Corder, a portable Spatial Atomic Scanner, made of the data it had collected. Nero said it was confusing, because there were unknown elemental signatures present. They decided to return to the ship to discuss interpretation of these signatures. They were concentrating on the ratios of elements which were constituents of the currently known periodic table, when the bright light appeared and increased one hundred-fold in just a few seconds. The humans had to avert their eyes until they clipped on the anti-glare visors. The Borg had not missed the extraordinary coincidence. The luminosity had accelerated when the Sun assumed the very vector, in relation to the capsule, which had triggered the magnetic surge earlier, and its direction toward the centre of the galaxy.
As the brightness gradually diminished, there was a residue. It could have been a cosmic mirage. No one spoke as the image rotated above the buried artefact. The holographic projection had to be studied at the surface. This time Harley, Rodriguez and Nero descended. They were anxious about the possibility that the image may fade before they reached the site. Upon arrival it stopped rotating and appeared to be looking them up and down.
Had there been an atmosphere, it would have been predominantly one of incredulity. They were looking at a fifteen foot high biped, which had undeniable primate features. Rodriguez stared. Like a child hypnotised by a kaleidoscope, he stared. Unable to find a cogent rationalisation for what his eyes reported to his brain. He tried to generate some utterance to convey astonishment. Or bemusement. Or…something. But nothing came.
An ape on this hellish Jovian satetlite?
It couldn’t be. It could not be! The equally ludicrous possibilities of primates so human-like evolving separately on another world, and of a race of space-faring apes travelling here from Earth in the mists of prehistory, danced through his mind and were dismissed instantaneously. But what else could he be seeing? An elaborate hoax of some kind? Intuitively, he knew that this was real – whatever its reality may be.
Again he tried to find his voice. Whatever he was seeing was profoundly ludicrous. Or ludicrously profound. Or both.
The enormity of his situation slowly crept up upon his awareness, albeit in a surreal and confusing way. Here he was, the first human being to experience something that his kind had wondered and dreamed about for so long. Is this how it felt for Neil Armstrong? His next words
Finally it came.
The side margin next to the image was filled with binary code, interspersed with alien symbols. The first impressions were that the base structure of the symbols could be rooted in the human genome, yet they conveyed an impression of ‘interference’. They captured as much as they could before the image melted away, and they ascended to report the happening to the home planet.
The anticipated barrage of questions took longer than they anticipated. They were thankful for the delay in sending and retrieving transmissions. The uppermost thought in the minds of the crew was, unusually, one of unanimity. ‘Let the analysis bring forth the theories, we have to decide what to do next.’
The decision they agreed upon involved observation in shifts, and then a further descent, prior to the assumed trigger position of the Sun. Anton and Beethoven would be first to continue the excavation around the capsule, so that the sides could be examined for any means of opening it.
The meeting ended in deadlock, just as Harley predicted. Benedict Cooper, the senior Cosmologist wanted to draft a top human geneticist on to the panel with immediate effect. The lone Borg member, Akhenaten, said this was a premature reaction, typical of human emotional response to a logical data set.
“We don’t have sufficient information to conclude what is intended by the appearance of the holographic image. It is surely of more concern that another signal has been sent to a remote galactic location. Ganymede can only be an outpost or a historical indicator. If we descend into the labyrinth of human physiology we will be side-tracked, and lose valuable time in relating the hologram to what is actually in the capsule.”
Cooper wasn’t having any of this. “The genetic investigation can run parallel to the remit of this panel and remain separate until there is evidence to justify its inclusion into the overall strategy. We could be making a serious error by opening the capsule without trying to determine if we can scan in another way. The SAS-Corder is obviously inadequate. Opening the damned thing is a one way street, so where does that sit with your logic-driven obsession?”
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