Panspermia deorum, p.1
Panspermia Deorum, p.1Hylton Smith
Seeds of the Gods
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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.
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Copyright by Hylton Smith 2016
My desire to write, at least in terms of genre, was always going to be science fiction, and I admit I was a willing hostage to imagining the world of the future. After publishing The Nexus Odyssey, I broadened my endeavours into other works, such as alternate history, mystery and detective, historical fiction, and even helped publish a friend’s romantic fiction novel, albeit with a heavy slice of harrowing drama. I’d like to claim that this was purely driven by exploring new challenges, but apart from The Jupiter Paradox, my reservoir of science fiction storylines had become threadbare. And that is the case for the defence. The return to familiar territory feels strange; nevertheless a compulsion. The next few pages will be the true arbiter of such jumbled logic.
Please note that Panspermia Deorum has mixed lingual derivation – ‘All seed’ being rooted in Greek, and ‘of the Gods’ stolen from Latin. Indeed the entire story is one of unlikely combinations.
Part One: Decline
The lengthening shadows and watery sun added to his steadily building irascible demeanour. Julien Delacroix reflected on how this ludicrous situation could have been allowed to develop. He’d never contemplated embracing retirement, regardless of the arbitrary chronological age limit in his contract with NERO. The study of Near Earth Rogue Objects had been his life, a purpose, a vocation, linked to doing his bit for humanity. His other life was now becoming his calling, rather belatedly for his family. How would they handle being suddenly confronted with more of him, the six sevenths which had always been the iceberg under the waves? At sixty-one he had never been more uncertain about anything.
This conference had been arranged for five months, and was the first real attempt to conduct an overarching x-ray of all global threats. For some, it was long overdue, for others it was mission impossible. The mix of outstanding issues provided monumental challenges for the protagonists in the chamber. The first thing they had to overcome was the potential for divisive policy to emerge. At least the unfavourable projections in this year, 2027, regarding the ultimate fate of the planet, were not in dispute. The human race was heading for at least one of many potential death sentences. Massive changes had to be made. The world was at an undeniable crossroads of far-reaching decisions. It was no longer credible to extol the concept that not making a decision was in itself an option.
Arid regions were still expanding, inversely proportionate to world food supply. Population increase was a serious variable in this algebraic formula, as yet without any cohesive resolve to find a consensual solution. Mass migration, beginning in earnest in 2014, had compromised social fabric in a way which was unhelpful to integration and cultural tolerance. Such human tsunamis regularly deluged public services of the host countries to the point where fiscal reconciliation just became another weather report. Forecasts of bad times over which there was no longer any control. In such a gathering meltdown of ‘civilised’ institution, barbarism was the main benefactor. Religion has never been far away from any power struggle, and it enjoyed a resurgence in the lives of many people; a prosthetic soul with which hope could be preserved. However, its perennial sibling, terrorism, stalked the land in the guise of anti-federalism, meting out the same old brutality to any and all opposition. If anything could be claimed to be a unifying trend, it was the rejection of ‘elected but corrupt government’, supposedly representing the views of large swathes of citizens. Hegemony was the new way forward, feudalism’s virtue was reborn in the cauldron of protest; a cancerous niche of smoking mirrors. The European Union’s bankrupt hulk became the ‘poster evidence’ for such virulent ideology of fragmentation.
Julien’s presentation had been scheduled for the penultimate day of the conference. He protested without being heard. His worst fears were acted out, in that subject after subject was kicked into the long grass without any semblance of resolution. Julien was suspended in slow mode, the voices of the speakers were distorted, seemingly winding down, like an old record player coming to a halt. He visualised General Custer’s last stand, the silent futility of resistance, inaudible death throes. The lamentable ruling class. These people were capable of meeting interminably, but never found the guts to face their own inertia, thus being perceived as a species destined for an evolutionary dead end. And so they inexplicably continued to strut around their privileged, unchanging hamster wheel, churning out the status quo.
The stated aim of the entire charade had been to prioritise action after ranking each and every threat, and any significant interrelation. Julien’s compulsion to break out of this fog overwhelmed his logic ramparts. There was no coherent plan forming in his mind as yet, maybe he would think of something. All he knew was that he just couldn’t take any more. He wasn’t an impulsive man by nature, but strangely his usual stoicism was giving way to knee-jerk reaction. Glancing at his greying temples reminded him that he had already entered NERO’s ‘zone of disposability’. He could be farmed out to graze the pastures of redundancy without a flicker of remorse. Despite having a guardsman’s upright, square-shouldered stance, these people made him feel so dishonest, cowering to the party line, and for what? The announcement of his abrupt departure from the conference was delivered directly to the media, to avoid any face-saving spin being paraded by the organisers. His voice was shaky, nevertheless, he went for the jugular.
“Unlike many other threats which we’ve discussed in the last few days, my presentation deals with something which isn’t dependent upon opinion. There may be multiple ways of adapting ‘policy’ to reverse trends in lawlessness, however, I have to deal with the deaf ears of the Cosmos. If we don’t act to nullify a certain event which will come to pass in twelve years, everything else is irrelevant. Thank you.”
The microphone was pushed even closer to his face. A journalist asked him to expand on his prediction. He had his platform.
“It’s not a prediction, it’s a certainty. In August this year, we knew that Asteroid 1999 A10 was going to pass relatively close to Earth. New data can now be applied to modify the expected journey for this potentially hazardous object. The bad news is that the mathematical implication indicates that this kilometre-size asteroid did pass particularly close to the Earth on August 7, 2027. This passage was actually as close as 22,000 km, rather than the anticipated 37,000 km, from the Earth. Of course, as everyone knows, this additional proximity didn’t disrupt our everyday life. But there were measurable, transient, gravitational effects. Fortunately, they were not serious, and there was no need for people to be alarmed. The original predicted margin of this brush with our orbit was not of huge concern, but when the orbit of this asteroid was continually monitored on its chaotic journey through the solar system, we realised that it must have had an altercation with some other stray object, most probably from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, or the Kuiper belt, beyond Neptune. Whatever its origin, it seems to have caused a small but crucial nudge into
The journalist responded. “But that’s good news isn’t it?”
“It is indeed. Unfortunately, it isn’t the end of the story.”
A different media spokesman interjected. “Why is that? It’s gone hasn’t it?”
Julien took a deep breath before delivering the bombshell.
“This asteroid, because of the unexpected nudge it received, will return in 2039 on an impacting trajectory. Of course when it does return, it might receive another nudge which could save us from oblivion, but I fear that is unlikely. I’m in the business of probability, not blind faith, and the most optimistic position I can take is one in which we begin preparations now. We have to explore all options to deflect this monster ourselves. I didn’t believe that waiting until the penultimate day of the conference to disclose this information would raise the required resolve to tackle the problem with sufficient urgency. I hope that my maverick decision to broadcast this terrible news won’t preclude me being part of the task force charged with nullifying such an extinction event. That’s all I can say at present.”
Within minutes this was world news, and the expected communication came from NERO. It was none other than the chief executive, Sir Ian Waverly.
“What the hell were you thinking, Delacroix? You’ve dragged the credibility of our organisation into the cesspit of sensationalism, and for what? I have to tell you that we are waiving your notice period and you are dismissed with immediate effect. Get back here and clear your personal belongings from the lab. You will surrender any NERO material which you have with you to the chairman of the conference, all of it. The security people are on their way. Do not board any aircraft until I hear that they have relieved you of all but personal possessions. Is that understood?”
Saliva trickled down Waverly’s chin, like venom from a cold-blooded predator. He did vaguely look reptilian, narrowed eyes and heavily accentuated pronunciation of every ‘S’.
“Understood and anticipated. However, I can’t guarantee that our paths won’t cross again. If that does transpire, you may regret this conversation. In contrast, I feel no shame in this revelation to the world. My scripted remit for NERO at this conference shambles was to fool all of the people for some of the time. Twelve years isn’t a long time to devise and prep a remedy for the return of 1999 A10, but I guess you’d be chilling in the Bahamas by then, trying to spend your way through an obscene golden handshake. Sorry, I forgot, you don’t have any children, do you? I thank you for doing me a favour, publicly dissociating me from your corrupt influence. I feel better already.”
Julien cut off the call. He needed to contact his family. The number was engaged. He sent a message asking his wife to call back as soon as possible. His thoughts wandered to exactly how he would garner support for forcing the asteroid problem to the forefront of the global agenda. His phone vibrated.
“Julien? What is going on over there?” Elise Delacroix had seen the TV interviews given by her husband. His statements were totally out of character.
“Don’t worry, darling. I’ll explain when I get back to Lyon. Please listen carefully. I have to surrender all of my presentation data and other NERO files to security before I can board the plane. After that, I expect there will be an announcement about my position in the company. It will surely be on TV and it might be better if you ask Eugene and Sophie to watch it with you at your sister’s place. I’m being fired, so I’ll join you there. Can you message me when you get there? I have no idea how my dismissal will be put across by Ian Waverly, but I’d rather you didn’t watch it alone. Can you do that for me?”
“They’re going to fire you? Why? There’s something you’re not telling me, Julien.”
“I’m sorry, I have to go, Elise. Just let me know when you arrive at your sister’s house. Bye for now.”
He settled the account at his hotel and waited for the security people in the lobby, after he’d hidden the duplicate memory stick in the men’s restroom. Two black limousines arrived and several men, including the conference chairman, swept into reception. He surrendered everything except his airline ticket, bank cards, and loose cash. They even took his precious fountain pen which he’d been given by his father when he graduated from university. He protested but was assured it would be sent to him after it had been examined and declared clean. It was made clear that he would not be allowed to leave Osaka unless he did everything asked of him. He became animated and glared at the conference chairman.
“This is a total infringement of civil liberties, and I’ll most certainly take it up with my solicitor in Lyon. Right, you have what you came for, can I just get the hell out of here? I don’t want to miss that flight.”
A wry smile from one of the security personnel indicated otherwise.
“We’ll be taking you to the airport, sir. You won’t miss your flight. Now let’s visit the men’s room. We need to scan you without clothes, and see if we need to do an internal body search.”
“What? What the hell do you hope to find? A bomb? Haemorrhoids? The Sun? This is a bloody farce and you know it is. What about my spectacles? Do you think I’m James Bond? I’m a scientist and a fed-up scientist at that, but that’s all I am. You morons are going to be accountable for this. Have you finished checking out my phone?”
“Could you please come with us, sir? It won’t take long.”
They marched him to the toilet and asked him to strip off. In the meantime, his laptop was checked, the original memory stick confiscated and both were placed in a plastic box labelled with NERO logo.
He kept his rage in check until he felt a cold finger probing his rectal passage.
“Just tell me what it is you’re looking for, I might be able to help you.”
The ordeal came to an end and he was allowed to get dressed. He decided to have another rant.
“Where the hell is my phone? I need it to contact my wife when I arrive in Lyon. You’ve checked it out, give it to me.”
The head security man nodded to one of the others. He then informed Julien that they could leave for the airport.
“At last, thank you. Now if you don’t mind, I need to use a cubicle. Your anal probing has triggered my irritable bowel syndrome, and for what exactly? I need some privacy. Do you get it? Even you bastards must accept that I want to preserve a modicum of dignity – I have to wipe my arse! You’re welcome to analyse the shit paper rather than me flushing it away, if that’s what you’re after. Yes? No? You never know, it could be explosive shit!”
“Just make it quick, sir. We do want you to get to the airport as soon as possible. And we apologise for the inconvenience.”
Julien retrieved the duplicate memory stick, dropped it neatly into his underpants and flushed the toilet. He was given his phone and escorted to one of the cars. The short journey was uneventful. The tense atmosphere was broken as Julien alighted from the car and used his phone to take a shot of the licence plate as it sped away. They had the genuine memory stick, and he hoped that would at least buy him time. He headed to the check-in, after which he went in search of the public internet facility.
Reflecting on the train of events he’d set in motion, Julien couldn’t help picturing his late father. Max Delacroix had been a mechanical engineer, and although it was never actually said, there always seemed to be disapproval of his son’s choice of career. Max was a man steeped in precision, and the practicality of an end product. He could never truly engage with Julien’s esoteric pursuit of the intangible, especially as it was accompanied by stubbornness. What would Max have made of his impetuous walkout? He would have almost certainly shaken his head and declared it to be typical. It had never been a comfortable relationship.
Sir Ian Waverly tried to choose his words carefully, but he wasn’t really able to structure the speech without reference to Julien’s unnecessary spreading of panic.
The interviewers p
“Sir Ian, are you telling us that Julien Delacroix’s declaration was false? Is it without any substance?”
“I have to refer you to data which is currently classified. That status will change when the current information is updated with further observational values in the coming weeks. Precision is paramount in NERO, we do not work with speculation.”
“So, why did you feel it was necessary to explain the decision to dismiss one of your top employees? Was it only because he contravened your internal secrecy protocols?”
“The people of the world were entitled to a comprehensive report from the conference in Osaka. They were deprived of that when Julien Delacroix unilaterally proceeded to break ranks, and decided he would not present NERO’s current position on near Earth threats. I am standing here today, merely apologising for not having given that report, and outlining why. Julien Delacroix’s lone action may have caused more anxiety than is warranted. I wanted people to know we acted expeditiously to put our house back in order.”
A second journalist jumped the queue.
“Thanks for clearing that up. So, can you answer the question? Was there no substance to Delacroix’s claim that this asteroid will come back in 2039?”
“Yes it will, but all previous calculations took that into account. Julien Delacroix ought to have told the conference that both this year and upon its return in 2039, the asteroid trajectory did not indicate an impact event. He did not say that.”
“Excuse me, sir, but he did say that there was zero chance of impact in 2027, but he also claimed that some stray rock had changed what might happen in 2039. Are you saying he was lying?”
“Not lying, just not in possession of the very latest observational data. We collect this data continuously. He should have taken note of the new data we sent him while he was in Osaka, but he didn’t, and we are all bewildered by his omission to do so.”
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