The darwinian extension.., p.20
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       The Darwinian Extension: Transition, p.20
 

           Hylton Smith
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  “You do not respect us, Senor. Nobody works like the devil to gather fossils - it is a slow painstaking job. Now I ask you again - what is the real reason you are here? I will need to see your papers.”

  Dane asked if they were government officials. This caused discernable hilarity amongst their ranks. “You insult us for the second time. If this continues there will be no need for explanations, we will have to remove you from our search area.”

  The Symbiants had a quick technobabble tactics discussion as it appeared that the overall strategy had been compromised. Mike spoke very respectfully. “We have permits; you may inspect them if you kindly tell us who you are. That would seem to be fair.” This time there was uncontrolled laughter which halted abruptly. It was replaced by waving of weapons. Revolvers, sawn off shotguns and machetes were brandished. “One of you dies if you do not answer our questions immediately – you understand?”

  The Symbiants did and said nothing. A blast from one of the shotguns ripped a hole through Finn’s leg. When he did not fall the group was puzzled. They were further disoriented when Dane picked one of them up and threw him at least thirty metres before his trajectory was interrupted by a cliff face. Mike had by this time removed the offending shotgun from the owner’s grasp and bent it into a circle. In the prevailing panic there was more gunfire and all of the Symbiants were hit but not moved. The first ones to break ranks were the machete carriers - then the rest took flight. When the ‘injured’ Symbiants did not seem to be inconvenienced by these wounds and rounded up all of the stragglers, they were shaking with fear.

  “Now,” said Mike politely, “we would like to know who you are. Please do not attempt to deceive us, as you will find our ability to detect lies is equal to our physical prowess.”

  The bad news Mike had to report was that these men were Columbian and had been persuaded to admit they were looking for the same crystals. They had squeezed that information from one of them, who said they had been set to work by a technical man, and he would be returning before the weekend to check progress. When Mike had inquisitively used the name Escobar they shook their heads and sunk to their knees in prayer. They begged for their release and gave the name of this technician who was to return. Mike said he would be lenient only if they would force this technician to expose the consortium behind their activities.

  ********

  Nielsen was correct. When they entered an affirmative to begin real assembly of the sphere and the carcass, the system asked for the identity data for the Rabo recipient. As this meant they could not proceed, they did return to the plateau surface and engage the questions to initiate the communication channel direct to the Rabo. Alex 2 and Red conferred on each one and slowly ploughed through the list. Two questions were not answered in an acceptable way. After several attempts they came to the conclusion that there were so many human words which could mean pretty much the same thing that there may not be an exact equivalent in the Rabo vocabulary they had accumulated so far. Red noted that there were some symbols which did not appear to be related directly to the questions and when activated produced something akin to a dictionary. It was however a cross-reference through unfamiliar values. They paused the session to work on this. The humans were used to being bystanders when Rabo translation was required. This was something at a new plane of understanding. The sheer computing ability of their information processing, holding and then matching effectively lost the humans after the first millisecond. It was even difficult to estimate the number of calculations required for them to come up with a modification to the first incorrect answer. One down, and one to go. The second was much quicker in coming as they had the algorithm they needed to progress.

  The screen opened up a new feature. A ‘holographic’ image of a Rabo delivered what can only be compared to the song of a tree full of crickets in summer. The Symbiants could not decipher anything despite multiple reruns. So this was their spoken language – another roadblock.

  ********

  When the temporary surrender was flagged up at Marineris Central by Alex 2 to Pascal 2 it was overheard by Art Legrange. He made a suggestion that he could help to slow down and fade out certain sounds. He had insisted on bringing the equipment to Mars; his security training had found this an invaluable tool in surveillance in busy public places. Pascal 2 asked if they could record the clicks and Art said he would check it out when they returned. Alex 2 thanked him and said they would bring the recording but it would not help unless they could relate a sound to a word – by one of the Rabo, for example. Red suggested, as there was a ‘keyboard’ of sorts, they send a mathematical message based on their own interest in parabolic values. The transposition of human words to known Rabo symbols approximated to - ‘we will speak to the caretakers when they arrive’.

 

  Chapter 32

  Mike made the technical expert ask his underlings to explain the situation in Spanish; he thought it would be more convincing coming from them. At the end of their descriptive perception of the way they saw it, he shook his head and turned to Mike. “You do not realise what you are asking - it cannot be done. Now if you will forgive me I must....”

  Dane grabbed him by the throat and held him aloft with one hand until his red face indicated asphyxiation was imminent. Then he released his grip. As he was slumped on the floor one of his workmen began kicking him and expressed his profound disappointment that they could not get him to consider himself as a team player or words to that effect. The bully was duly restrained by Finn who said, “You must now repeat that in English so we can all appreciate your sentiment.” The translator obliged. “He said that this fat retard must not endanger our lives by antagonising you. He explained that you people were badly wounded with a shotgun, yet you have no after-effects at all. He also told him that we fear you more than the people he fears. He promised to shoot his genitals off if he did not give you the information you want, so we can leave.”

  Mike asked the interpreter to thank his friend for his help in this rather delicate situation. “Tell the technician he has three minutes to decide otherwise we will have to carry out our instructions.” Within thirty seconds the man asked for his briefcase. He proceeded to write down two names. Mike said that there must be others. “No, you don’t understand – these men put in the money, the others are subordinates who are expendable and therefore often change.”

  Mike told them to be prepared to stay the night and they would be escorted to transport facilities in the morning. He asked them all to remember that they did not need sleep, so it would be futile to attempt an escape.

  ********

  The cargo module had been deposited in its preferred position; these tasks were becoming increasingly difficult with such swathes of forest to avoid. The descent was routine for Carvalho but ‘eyeballs out’ for the rest. They were welcomed by Pascal 2, Legrange and, most of all, Radmanov. They were asked to settle in and then help direct Symbiants temporarily diverted from the forestation to ‘unpack’ the cargo. They were made aware of the impending return of the Echus Chasma group and their debriefing.

  Radmanov pestered Carvalho about the return trip, and had some difficulty maintaining his Mr. Nice Guy facade when he was told that Beijing had not yet decided which other personnel than the two of them were to depart with Columbus.

  It was a curious sight for the new arrivals; they had traversed the cosmic void between two planetary bodies to witness a group of humans and inorganic copies of humans descending in formation, in single occupancy Hindenburgs. The reddening afternoon sun created a blazing backdrop and a line with the land by which each craft appeared to be individually plucked from the sky. After the introductions they all repaired to the giant dome which introduced a third spectral hue on the red planet. It was a strange contradiction that these new young recruits who found this panoramic arrival so overwhelming would soon come to view it as so confining. It truly was a new frontier, one which would owe so much to those pioneers who could see past the intellectual
challenge, and make it attractive to settlers and tourists of the future.

  A select group involving Carvalho, Alex 2, Pascal 2 and Nielsen reviewed the implications of the Echus Chasma discoveries. They devised a summary which was not likely to be plagued by unanswerable questions. Then there was the decision on exploring other sites which had been marked at the Rabo station between Marineris Central and Utopia Planitia. This had to be reviewed within the current manpower constraints and therefore which personnel would be returning with Columbus.

  They used the draft to update the entire Martian population before sending it off to Beijing. The overriding priority was to service the projects in a more balanced way now that the Rabo interface had progressed as far as it could without contact from them. The thorny issue of having a vessel with capabilities beyond the technical understanding of mankind - would hover like a bright, lethal, luminescent obsession, over the Martian moths, whether human or Symbiant. It also had the potential to cause a festering rift in the organic/inorganic membrane. Even the humans on Mars could not help feeling that the Symbiants knew more than they would pass on. It was sad that the very salvation discussed with the launch of Copernicus could become a source of friction instead of wonder. Carvalho had come to this concern because he, more than any other individual, had experienced the chasm of perspective between the two planets. Having heard all the details from those involved at Echus Chasma, he was personally moved as a Commander and propulsion technologist to resource this separately from the ‘normal colonisation objectives’. He wanted to pretend this awesome gift had been discovered on an already populated Earth with its vast infrastructure, to extol his argument. He wanted to promote the view that colonisation of Mars should ratchet up significantly because of the Rabo. He was sure that there would be procrastination and doubts brewing because the salvation status was too far ahead of its ambitions. It was still seen on Earth as something they should be doing in case all else failed, rather than adapting the strategy to fit the events. He dared not share this with those on Mars because, if he had such mutinous thoughts in the face of authority, he knew it would be contagious. He knew he had to give the Earth committees the benefit of this doubt. He also knew deep down that such objectivity would not change a thing.

  ********

  The breaking dawn saw the release – actual and mental - of the Columbians, except the technician. The Symbiants wanted to know what precisely he had been employed to do, and why. He started by assuming that they didn’t know what they were looking for and bluffed accordingly. Mike corrected that perception. “We know you are searching for certain red crystals. Does that help to narrow down your choice?”

  The response was slow in coming but not completely evasive. “If you know that you must also be searching for the same thing, so why are you asking for information you already have?” Mike silently asked Finn to play the bad guy and he changed the interrogation dramatically. “Look, you are working for a consortium, we are employees of a rival consortium – your colleagues were disturbed to meet representatives of the Escobar enterprise. You know of the recent deaths of some of the family. We do not wish to add to this butchery but are instructed to use all means possible to terminate your consortium’s interest in drugs related expansion, but particularly this crystal business. Now, you either confirm what we suspect you know or we erase that knowledge and your person from the equation. It really is that simple.”

  The reply was deliberate. “The whole world knows from the public Beijing replication of the Arab gentleman, and from one of the replicants who returned from Mars, that crystals were used. Although the chemistry is classified, the general view of Earth scientists is that there will be deposits on this planet. We are simply and legitimately looking for such evidence. I will not insult your intelligence by explaining why certain powerful individuals would like to have these crystals and are willing to pay substantial sums to finders. That is all I can say on the matter but you have made it clear that it would be in my best interests to leave. I am more than happy to comply, but you will find that others will replace me – that is certain.” They escorted him to the nearest airport and he gratefully left them behind.

  Mike contacted Xiang with the names of the financial backers and told him that they would continue their search in Bolivia, but were pretty sure there would now be many groups paying for such searches.

  ********

  Yamamoto was earning himself the reputation of ‘devil’s advocate’ with regard to the Symbiants. “How come the Continuance has interacted with the Rabo and the knowledge conferred is not understood? If I have interpreted the situation correctly, all of the guidance humans have extracted from you is fully comprehended. Now, I realise you didn’t know about Park’s Symbiant and his interaction with Sumerians until you met him, but presumably the Sumerians figured out the principles during the contact. If they had not then history would not have recorded the principles they passed on. All of this provokes an obvious question. Do you understand the principles of the Rabo propulsion system? If you do why aren’t we testing it out?”

  Alex 2 admitted this was a valid question but disappointed Yamamoto with his reply. “We understand the underlying principles of space distortion and its possible application to propulsion of matter. The Rabo ship at Echus Chasma is one such specific development which involved the Continuance in their sector of the cosmos. We however, and the Earth based replicant were not involved with this application and the detailed development steps are not in our data banks. If we were able to replicate a living Rabo, we would presumably gain such information. If we had interacted with the first known Homo-Sapiens it would not have been beneficial to try to explain the theory of relativity without the intermediate stepping stones building up to that concept. Perhaps you have also answered your own question in part, because, although the Sumerians passed on many principles, those used by the Egyptians have never been fully explained. We still do not know precisely how they built the pyramids. Similarly, you are not quite ready for all the principles of physics we can assist with. We must achieve this at a pace consistent with your own development. With the Rabo, we can only countenance certain possibilities from the actual evidence. They may have understood, but the knowledge was lost. The knowledge may have been deliberately suppressed by the Rabo in a similar way to the Sumerians when they terminated the Continuance. The only other logical explanation we can contemplate is that the knowledge was removed. There is no evidence to support the last alternative but as one of your fictional icons is said to have proposed, ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth’. As we have no evidence yet of the third alternative, you are better equipped than we are to speculate. That is how we followed up the suggestion of extracting data from the mummies.”

  Yamamoto nodded and said, “Ok, I think we should at least try to understand more about the theories of wormholes.”

  “That would be a sensible approach.”

  ********

  Xiang was again wrestling with items not really expected in his remit. He contacted the agents involved with the Escobar saga and gave them the two names he had received from Mike. They knew about them but had not expected they would be into the crystal market so soon. They promised Xiang they would take on the problem. The more worrying dilemma was the decision to delay return of Columbus in the light of the latest disclosures about the Rabo. This was likely to cause a reaction when Radmanov was enlightened and the concern centred on his unpredictability.

  Mike and Co had exhausted their search in Bolivia and harvested small quantities of Scarlet. They had to eliminate the Peruvian site now that they may face competition.

  The Colony ship was progressing, but was some months away from having a definite testing programme. The invitation to filter groups of potential colonists had received an enormous response, indicating that the demographic schism suggested by religious leaders was not so skewed after all. This particular project was incredibly tim
e-consuming in its planning and execution.

  He was not the only one concerned about Radmanov, as Ledovskaya’s frequent calls took on a decidedly sombre tone with the news of the delayed return.

  ********

  Yamamoto asked Red about the difference between black holes and wormholes. The Symbiant referred him to database theories that one major difference was the aspect of ‘permanence’. “Black holes are believed to have a clear event horizon; wormholes are likely to be far too unstable to have such a characteristic. Other suppositions include the attendant effects of their creation – black holes accrete matter and even trap light. Wormholes may produce enormous amounts of negative energy if the principles of general relativity are to be maintained. Another concern in this respect is the balance, especially the relative distribution. Local proximity and density of the two would be undesirable in the grander scheme of the Progenitors. Of course, in this respect, local is a totally different scale to that which your species is accustomed.”

 
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