Divine extinction, p.21
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       Divine Extinction, p.21

           Hylton Smith
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  Pierze was still in the discomfort zone of thinking like two different people. He did admit that he was finding his code of duty coming under increasing challenge from the other voice. “The question which repeats in my thoughts is one which has always been there, but kept dormant by my disciplined effort. ‘What is it all about? What is the purpose of it all? I then jump back to my objectives as a servant of the Republic and it is quite easy to re-join the rail-track to some kind of familiar station. Then the question comes back, like now. To answer your question, I may be teetering on the edge of change, and the first step is to get this contingency plan moving. It’s the only item within my current duty which blots out the repeating question.”

  When they arrived back Zara asked Pierze to call him if and when he was ready to learn more. The offer was met with a corresponding one to assist more actively in the contingency development. Zara hesitated then nodded. “I may call you.”


  Over the next two weeks the embryo of language had taken a more skeletal outline. The ‘calculations’ were still not fully understood, but there was rudimentary agreement that the cosmic alignments of Earth, Phobos and Comet 2005NB5C were being mapped. It wasn’t possible to say for certain, but adjustments from the original 1908 retro-positions seemed to be a factor. They set about trying to correlate this to Earth’s archive data. This was important, because if it was correct, it would imply that the object builders’ legacy was indeed to help. Just as crucial was the calming influence it generated, about the insinuation of them having some one-hundred and something year-old agenda to take over the planet. This was welcome news for Pierze and gave him the final push to speak to Sanchez with some urgency. He wanted the indictment of Vice-President Falcorini expedited in order to pave the way to him relinquishing much of his current remit.


  The friend Pierze visited to help Emile Duarte was Viktor Lopez. Maxi knew him as the man who developed and was forced to use the neurogenic pulses for the Sidonia campaign. He had always wanted to test out their relevance in medical applications; that was why he had put most of his life into this work. Pierze had teamed him up with a prominent neurosurgeon, one who would be willing to work with Lopez, who was essentially a technocrat. Their first task was to acquaint themselves with the existing test results and rather negative prognosis. Their approach was to find a safe means of delivering neurogenic pulses to Emile’s cerebral interface, on a regular basis, to encourage consciousness to return. They both felt it would be best to encapsulate the pulse in a dream about playing in an important football match. The hospital management was unhappy, and didn’t approve of their facilities being used for such amateurish medical experimentation. Pierze had to intervene with the question of how the press might interpret this, as it was the boy’s last hope of recovering, compared to their advice to switch off the life support. He vowed to take legal action on behalf of Maxi and Maria Duarte, before they gave way and allowed the procedure.


  The different cases against Falcorini, Olmeda, Ibanez, Freema, De Boer, and Silva were all set up through the prosecution service. Pierze honoured his implied assistance to the last three on the list. They would be tried for breach of security protocols, in supplying information to persons outside the organisation. It would weigh in their favour that there weren’t any state secrets involved – only travel and business meetings. However there was the shadow of an attempted assassination implicit in the knowledge they passed on, even if they did not know the President would be involved. He had agreed that whatever sentence was passed on them would be served in their country of origin. By contrast, the others would be tried for treason against the Republic, attempted murder of the President, and actual murder of many innocent people in an act of terrorism. It was anticipated that they would never be released.

  End Game Two

  The probe had reached its destination. The pictures transmitted back flipped the mood back to one of extreme apprehension. Although they were a little grainy, the consensus was that the location had all the hallmarks of a silo. There was some dust on the surface of Phobos, but with it having such fractional gravity compared to Mars, this layer was pretty thin. It could not hide the outline of a circular depression, with a dividing line bisecting it. The lights were still flashing, but not continuously any more. They were on a regular cycle every 22 hours 37 minutes. No significance had yet been attached to this. It meant that several things had to occur. Some could be initiated and readied immediately, whereas others would remain captive to time and anticipated progress. Nuclear strike capability was first. The agonising code-breaking effort had to be somehow cranked up to a quicker delivery of meaningful interpretation of the calculations. The third and most controversial topic was the debate on destruction of the object, as some of the experts had become advocates of that being a controlling source. The argument was predictably paranoid – ‘if we can’t be certain it will help us then we should eliminate the threat of it harming us’.


  It was little consolation to Pierze that the reaction to the interpretation of the probe pictures convinced Sanchez to fold his resistance to his ‘virtual’ resignation. The President recognised that focus on comet-related contingency planning was the key to him remaining in office. The first thing Sanchez had to do was find Pierze’s successor, and quickly. The pressure was coming from the media on two fronts – destroying the silo or the object, and the order in which they should be done. Contrarily, it was a great consolation that the same reaction had persuaded Zara to join him in the contingency platform, adding that it needed a much more positive name. “We would give ourselves a helping hand if we transcribe a phobia into an embrace. What about ‘Rescue 2045’?”

  “I like it. You’re absolutely right, in fact we must draw on collective support to feed the ‘mission of leaving no stone unturned’. The participants, in delivering the practical solutions must feel they are the chosen few, who could never have dreamed of holding the balance of the species in their hands. Apart from us dividing the tasks of Rescue 2045, what do you intend to do about the ever-increasing flock of the Circle?”

  Zara shrugged his shoulders. “It isn’t necessary to do anything, other than keep producing the Truth, at present. As I said in Moscow, the media will have to turn to a positive spin eventually. As the dreaded day approaches they cannot continue to stir trouble if we are open to account. This would become disrespectful to their patrons, and they would become part of the sweeping away of certain institutions. However I wouldn’t see that as helpful. We need order and they are part of it, only not the part in which they currently see themselves. Returning to your question in the longer term, I believe we will see as we enter single figures in the countdown, more anarchical trend. I think we are agreed we need order, and maybe this is where the Circle of Light can maximise its influence. It would make things decidedly simpler if we marginalise these anarchy pockets ahead of time by increasing the recruitment drive for the Circle. I have to say that it would help enormously if we, and the chosen few you refer to, were active members, in the capacity of ordained disciples.”

  In the absence of knowledge of the power over disciples and their converts Zara had through DCI and Trans Global Communications, Pierze finally capitulated. He did like the prospect of order being maintained in the run-up to 2045, and he admitted to himself there was an attraction of at last ‘belonging’ to some ‘family’, even if it was through a faith.

  “Ok, set it up, there is not a moment to lose with Rescue 2045. I would like you to announce this name as soon as possible.”

  “It would be better received if you have already become a disciple. It could appear a little contrived if you join the faith just to get their attention, after all, it is the Truth we believe in.”


  The pendulum was poised to swing again. The code breakers had found another interactive area amongst the calculations displayed. It was an accidental discovery, but pr
oduced the additional incentive of looking for others, as they realised there were symbols denoting such spots. These weren’t like the original face-turning buttons; they were simply embedded in the language. Many of them appeared to be references to another set of calculations or conclusions drawn from them. This latest decoding was one of the latter. Engaging the interactive area brought up a sub-menu of different orbits of Phobos around Mars. The frustrating part of the whole effort was the lack of a celestial clock. The species involved did not have one, did not need one, or had one so obscure the code breakers would never find it. It wasn’t the concept of time itself which was missing, as the calculations were obviously based on trajectories of asteroids, comets, moons and planets. It was the lack of a declared starting point, such as the Permian extinction or the delineation of BC/AD. The displayed orbital change of Phobos could be either historical or future. The fact that it was linked with the flashing light era was a strong hint that it was associated with their project to intervene in the 1908 event. It seemed extremely unlikely that it was a historical display of what used to be the natural orbit of Phobos. This would imply that this species had been in Mars space for a very long time. After much deliberation they were prepared to announce their hypothesis that the silo was in fact a potential means of gradually altering the orbit of Phobos to one in its ancient history. This would, if successful, avoid the deadly ricochet with Comet 2005NB5C. There was no real alternative to tracing back from the predicted impact time between the two, and then checking for connecting information from the diagrams related to this retro-extrapolation. It was tedious but successful. There were multiple references to ‘phases of orbital manipulation’, and hazy reasoning that these steps would be achieved over time rather than a simple manoeuvre. The logic of the cosmologists on the team saw this as an eminently sensible approach, as it would help confirm the orbital decay rate from the intended new position, and give data on any effect on the behaviour it would imply for the other moon of Mars. It was a balancing act. The derived trigger point for this delicate operation, according to superimposition of Earth time, put the initiation step at the comet’s emergence inside the Kuiper belt. The calculations to justify this were obviously based on knowledge of the means of altering the orbit of Phobos. This resulted in an immediate clamour for a manned mission to this Martian moon to inspect this silo. It would not replace the intended 2033 exploration of the ability of Mars to sustain human life. That was still a valid part of the plan, but this close inspection had to be done earlier.


  It fell into the lap of the yet to be announced Rescue 2045 team. Ricardo Pierze and Lionel Zara had much in common. They were both ‘addicted’ to order, and suffering from schizophrenia. There were however important differences. Zara’s dual personality was something he was aware of and now in control of. He had seen with Sidonia, the fallout of control by dictat, and now the beauty of voluntary submission to control. There were now almost one hundred disciples in the Circle of Light, which had been estimated to have attracted over half of the world’s population. This had been facilitated by its practice as a secondary faith rather than a competitive one. He had genuinely become infatuated with helping the species, and this fuelled the demise of the voice of the previous devil on his shoulder. Pierze was at a different stage; he often wondered if his methods of protecting the Iberian Republic were in reality all that different from the aims of the Sidonia cult which he brought down. He kept justifying the ever-diminishing confidence that there was a difference between state manipulation of information, and the sinister use of technical mind control. Recently he had seen the same result by Zara’s evangelical persuasion and leadership by example. He also had commissioned the same technical neurogenic pulse method to revive his friend’s son from a coma. He was obviously not in control of either personality, regardless of which shoulder upon which they appeared. The other significant potential commonality was their future ‘temporary death’. That discussion had not yet taken place. Zara decided to hold back on it until they had spoken to the SACRED owners regarding the use of their space elevator for the urgent despatch of the Phobos inspection craft.

  Zara had already suggested to Moya and Angel that they should consider making a bid to buy out Sorin Gretz and Andreas Verdasco. They hadn’t acted on this. He now suggested to Pierze that the Iberian government should do this. “The arguments are simple. I’ve heard that the owners are willing to talk, as they feel they have restored the good name and reliability of SACRED. It isn’t just the space elevator which is essential to Rescue 2045. If for some reason we suffer serious threat to life but not an extinction event, the communication facilities on the Moon and in orbit will be invaluable in finding and helping survivors. It would also be an essential long term recovery tool for ‘civilisation’. Having these assets secured and operating within our plan would also be perceived by the faith as important – collective ownership as opposed to private objective.”

  Pierze was sold on the merits of this and played the advocate role in convincing Sanchez and his inner sanctum. They accepted that the fiscal impact of this investment wouldn’t matter if the comet wasn’t deterred, and if it was, the SACRED infrastructure would have even more value. This importance in the post 2045 years could be leveraged in many ways. Pierze and Zara set off for their meeting armed with the green light to open discussions with the two owners. It would be another opportunity for Zara to parade his new identity, with it enhanced by his new standing as a world celebrity. The small matter of his detailed knowledge of the system would prohibit excess profiteering by his two former colleagues.

  Having secured their agreement to host the launch to Phobos, they explored what help SACRED could offer in actually furnishing the spacecraft. Pierze led the discussion. “We want to get there as soon as possible, and to that end we are only envisaging two personnel making the trip. They have to be capable pilots and at least one needs to be proficient in operating the analytical equipment. As Phobos has virtually zero gravity, a landing would be risky. If we can match speed and trajectory, one of the crew can approach the surface using personal thrusters. It really is a ‘get in – observe – get out mission’. We know you have several shuttles now, but this is a much longer journey than your lunar trip, and velocity is critical. We have to get the information we seek quickly, otherwise there is an increasing risk of it being valuable but redundant. Can you help?”

  Gretz and Verdasco conferred and put forward a novel suggestion. “We have a modular design for our shuttles because they have to perform so many different functions. If you’re certain about only needing space for two people, we can consider modifying and fitting one of the most powerful and quickest drives to a small cockpit. It’s fortunate that we have a prototype drive already in production. It has been a programme on which we have worked tirelessly for some years. It has been frustrated by many events and the latest is the impact of 2045. Vacations on the Moon were the initial objective, but we had to re-establish confidence that the Sidonia legacy has been extinguished. Once we did that our horizon expanded to Mars. The technical hurdles were challenging as the vacation would have to be similar to a gap year in education, unless the trip time could be decimated. We were then put off by insurance considerations with respect to physiological after-effects. This doesn’t really apply here as you are talking a one-off government mission. Depending on the final weight specified we could maybe get your two people there in nine months or a little less.”

  Zara chimed in. “How long would it take to make the modifications to re-jig this new drive to the small cockpit?”

  Verdasco responded, “Not more than five to six weeks, but it would make sense to begin with a test run to our base on the Moon, inspect the compliance to specification there, and depart from there to Mars space.”

  Pierze thought this was as good a time as any to raise the issue of acquisition. “The Republic has a legal responsibility to its citizens and a moral one to the rest of humanity. We’ve been a
uthorised to ask if you would be willing to consider selling your interest to the state. This isn’t a normal approach; it is part of a set of contingencies which will hopefully ensure that there is a republic to maintain well into the future.”

  The two owners asked for a break to explore their initial individual reactions and then give a considered response. Gretz added the assurance that whatever developed from the proposal, they would still assist in preparing the Phobos craft.


  On the return journey Zara slipped in the scheduling of their joint ordination as disciples. “I haven’t raised this issue so far as it is one of potential controversy. The normal converts to the Circle are not compelled to take, nor are they required to pass any of three tests, it is their choice. However, this is considered necessary for disciples or anyone who has aspirations to become a disciple. They, as reference points, must be able to declare that they have witnessed the Truth. That is done in the third test. Even after the first two tests, it is perfectly acceptable to decline the third, and the ascension to disciple with it. I have already taken the first two during the foundation period. The third I have delayed, because even though I introduced the entire concept of the Circle, I couldn’t devote the time to being a disciple. That has changed and I’m ready to proceed. The Truth is experienced by a controlled, very short exposure to the state of clinical death. If you’re willing to join me, I’ll precede you in this process. If you wish to withdraw I’ll understand.”

  This thunderbolt precipitated a barrage of questions from Pierze. Zara tried to answer them by quoting the variation in response within those who had undergone this test. “Some feel and remember nothing, others have had very vivid subconscious or ‘death state’ personal experiences. So far nobody has encountered an omnipotent presence or evidence of another life. That could be because of the short residence in the altered state, but the vast majority of the subjects said they couldn’t offer any evidence which supports the world’s major religious teachings. Many who have had serious operations during their life couldn’t discriminate between the effect of a general anaesthetic and this induced state of clinical death. The procedure is tried and tested which has reflected 100% success in revival without any side effects. Why don’t you take the first two tests and then decide if the third is for you?”

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