The Nexus Odyssey, p.40Hylton Smith
The grid reference contact from Red was confirmatory. Having trawled many terabytes of information he had experienced, when travelling backwards in time, a subtle change from factual to mythical notation. A few ‘dynasties’ prior to the age of the sphere, the prominent astronomers predicted the cataclysmic implications from the behaviour of the gas giants. The Leader had listened carefully and accepted that unless they planned to leave the planet, the entire civilisation would perish. It was agreed that although this could not be achieved within his tenure, the programme would commence immediately. His legacy would be the survival of the Rabo. The tale went on to say that many failures and deaths were part of the price they paid to finally enable them to escape the gravity of the planet. However, the euphoria was short-lived when the astronomers reported that the planet had a new wobble in its orbit around its star, and that remaining time was shorter than anticipated. The scientists emphasised that reaching and settling another planet in the system was one challenge and only a temporary solution, leaving their solar system was another. Even if they had mastered the transportation aspects they would have to be physically ‘reinforced’ to survive the hazards of traversing such distances. Despair spread and reached epidemic proportions. The science community began to bicker and factions arose from the divide – there was challenge to science from those extolling acceptance of ‘fate’. The tale took on biblical proportions when, just as Moses was confronted with the impassable Red Sea, one of the least pessimistic scientists declared to the Leader he had experienced a vision of utter simplicity. It was not something to be understood, it was just there and always had been. He prepared schematics which astounded his peers and doubters alike. He did get support from the ever increasing ‘fate’ membership. With everything and nothing to lose the Leader was credited and subsequently revered for his seal of approval to accept fate. The scientist however became the pivotal member of the Rabo escape from 55 Cancri. No individual, before or since, had been bestowed with the onerous title of Master of Fate. The schematics were employed to demonstrate orbital experiments to send a ‘manned’ craft to another star system and despatch confirmation of arrival and coordinates, which would be time-delayed. Although the schematics skated over the principles, they were said to be ‘the most basic harvesting of cosmic energy in small, and then increasing quantities until spatial instability revealed a wormhole. Parting the galaxy seemed at least as significant as effecting the same gravitational improbability with the Red Sea. The tale went on and gathered more mystique as the vision had also blueprinted the degree to which natural evolution of the Rabo physiology had to be interfered with.
When Red had rejoined Alex 2 and Nielsen with the others at the assembly ‘hangar’, they discussed the ‘new and old testaments’ of the Rabo. The Symbiants, being big on facts and almost allergic to speculation, stated that no matter how they had arrived here, the Rabo had done so – fact. The same logic could be applied to the physiological journey; there were certainly distinctly different ratios of organic to inorganic components and they had survived both journeys – fact. Piecing together the rest and separating historical accuracy from mythology would be an arduous chore. They favoured researching the technologies to determine their validity and origin. Nielsen agreed but was cut off by Yamamoto, addressing Alex 2. “This confuses me. During the flight to Mars, you and Red were fairly confident that the circumstantial evidence up to that point indicated some possible interaction with the Interference. Since then there has been doubt about that because you do not perceive the plight of the Rabo as typical of a scenario which would attract the Interference. Exactly which logic is it you are promoting now? Before you answer, how about another species, not connected to the Progenitors, having the role of Samaritans. Could this not be considered? I fully support researching what is placed in front of us; we would surely do that anyway, but please bear in mind that successful research is based on facts leading to hypothesis. I can’t help returning to Red’s account, myth or factual, that we rarely see multiple paradigm jumps of such magnitude in an incredibly short time from such a modest starting point. I am aware of a commonly held view that paradigm intervals can shorten and progress to an exponential curve, but that is also dependent on the point of origin. Logic would dictate that intervention would shift the gradient in a way which is consistent with current observations.”
Red did not take issue with this but maintained it did not affect the next steps dramatically. “If there was intervention, there could only really be two types – one which the Rabo were aware of and another they were not. The ‘mythical’ text is not clear on that. All we are saying is that as fascinating as the existence of a benefactor may be, we are more likely to discover the truth as consequence of structured research rather than research which is dedicated to pinpointing intervention as the objective.”
They smiled and found a tenuous accord. One thing had changed as a result. They needed more personnel to tackle this multifaceted project.
Beth did not have to guess what the meeting was about any longer. Koppelt succinctly sketched in the damning evidence and affirmed that she would still make her flight, but with a new objective. “You are fortunate that I have influence over which way this charade will proceed. There are those who are in favour of making a watershed example of you and your traitorous family, with the appropriate sentence of incarceration for you and your sister, regardless of her medical condition. I take the view that your duty in considered hindsight is to lead us to the fountain of such treachery. You indicate your repentance by giving me the authentic information you were to deliver and I provide you with substitute data, albeit with the mandatory Beijing seals etc. You then continue as if we had never met, and make the agreed exchange. You will then be picked up to surrender your payoff and we take it from there. There is no room for negotiation and little time for you to make the flight – I would estimate perhaps eight to ten minutes before our substitute Beth Eisentrager boards in your place with valid documentation and a second copy of the substitute data. If you were to deliberate too long you will miss the flight and face the aforementioned prosecution. Please don’t ask what you can expect as remission if you do as we ask. That will only be up for consideration after the entire plot has been wound up. All I can say at this stage is that it will not be so hard on your family. Anyway, here I am eating up your valuable time in arriving at a decision – we are down to about five minutes.”
She slid the flash drive and signed printouts with the Beijing notification of receipt to Koppelt. He nodded and said, “We had better go. Please hand over any mobile communicators and we will take our seats together, we reserved them in advance; I hope you are comfortable with that. Make sure the body scanner doesn’t pick up anything suspicious as we leave the room, or our offer will be withdrawn.”
When Mike was joined by Dane and Finn they spent a short time updating each other as Mike was a replicant with Scarlet O’Hara from Earth origin whereas the new arrivals were from the Mars variety. It was of great interest to Dane and Finn that Mike had knowledge of earlier interaction with humans via the Sumerians. They wanted to know in what way those people were different from today’s ‘strain’. In trying to sum it up in one sentence he said, “Only incrementally in intellectual capacity, but significantly more complex in withholding or transferring information.” He then updated them on the project en-route to his first chosen site.
Pascal 2 contacted Xiang to discuss the request for more ‘manpower’ at Echus Chasma. They agreed to relocate Dan to the site and temporarily shelve his work with the borehole project. Van de Ende was to accompany him. The site at Utopia Planitia was now unmanned and the Symbiants had transferred to forestation objectives. This left only Pascal 2, Radmanov and Legrange at Marineris Central. It also underlined the pressing need to either allow more replications or seriously increase the rate of humans being transferred to Mars. Carvalho had been persuad
The compliment at the cube was now seven and the workload was to be split into three areas. The priorities were simulated spacecraft, sphere assembly, and the understanding of transplant reasoning and its interface with the sphere.
Dan, Yamamoto and Van de Ende were charged with that considered most urgent – spacecraft, including the localised problem of transport/assembly. Alex 2 and Nielsen undertook the construction of a sphere, leaving Red and Keriakis to study Rabo physiology and feed information back to Scillacci.
One of Dan’s first actions was to revisit the argument made by Yamamoto to his fellow Symbiants. He regarded this as essential in view of them both having propulsion as their main area of expertise. “I have some commonality with your view and I hope we can review this as we proceed. I liken the task to an example of human development; a child who has been educated to depend on an everyday calculator without a proper grounding in arithmetic roots can still outperform one who has had the benefit of both. The first child has no doubt or fear of the wrong result and can consequently often operate faster. While it can be argued that the second is more equipped to pick up an error, the real debate can centre on the reliability of the calculator. If we substitute any Rabo intervention for the calculator the answer to our conundrum may be implicit, as we can emulate both the first and second child.” Yamamoto received this well and they started to call up the inventory from the Rabo computer planner.
Alex 2 and Nielsen initially focussed on the sequencing of the three hundred plus steps in the sphere and particularly the in-line tests prior to a completed component joining another in the flow chart. This appeared necessary because a number of junctions demanded rigid adherence to these fusion steps in terms of time delay. There were some seventeen in which exceeding the specified two-second maximum would result in failure.
Red and Keriakis began with the ‘digestion’ implant. The schematic indicated the physical breakdown of cellulose, to almost molecular units, had to be achieved to enable the correct rate and consistency of nitrogen absorption to feed the breakdown products on to the various organic nodes.
Having arrived in Frankfurt Beth was to proceed to her rendezvous with Caterina Tsiolovsky. A quiet city park in the twin city of Mainz had been designated. Both women were followed by their respective relays of agents and the exchange was recorded on several mobiles seconds prior to apprehending and arresting them. They were taken to separate vehicles and deprived of their merchandise. Beth was stripped of an extremely large amount of cash. Tsiolovsky was more confused than shocked. Koppelt turned the confusion to fear. “We will not waste time with how or why we were able to welcome you – we both know that. We now need you to explain exactly what the next step is and we will assist in you being punctual.”
She was trained to answer a question with a question. Koppelt said he would indulge her with two questions then he would be obliged to burden the Russian authorities with her involvement in a serious crime. He then explained that she really ought to consider herself as expendable by her employer, and Koppelt would guarantee that she need not meet with him; he would take care of that once he knew the schedule. “You are pretty small beer in the overall jigsaw. We won’t be shooting the messenger and the Russian officials don’t need to know of your role.” He then gambled. “We only want Korolev to be made to answer for his actions, and to the people he has transgressed against.” He was able to gauge her reaction before she spoke; he was the man.
“Who are you?”
Koppelt replied with menace. “You should be relieved that we aren’t the Russians, and you are well enough trained to know it is better that you don’t know who we are. It is time to decide. Make the call or we make ours to Moscow.”
Her nervousness gave way to surrender. “It is a little more complicated than one call. I am not an expert in chemistry. I have to deliver the information to such an expert in St. Petersburg and when he has vetted the content positively my role is at an end, I get paid and he deals with the boss.”
“Very well, that means we have to travel together and we’ll intervene at the appropriate time. You will then be free to go.”
She asked, “Can I assume that the information is bona fide? Because if not both Beth and I will be at risk.”
“Of course it is authentic, what kind of morons do you take us to be?” bluffed Koppelt. “Having an operation as important as this fail, because of an elementary blunder would not go down well. We need to neutralise the man in St Petersburg as well as Korolev, because of his ability to interpret and validate the content. Set up the meeting.” She complied.
Mike led his two compatriots to the quiet location not far from South Ham, Quebec. There had been mining of antimony from Lac Nicolet in the past, however the indications from Park’s research had suggested a semi-exposed ridge just over thirty miles away. Mike’s initial scavenging had drawn blanks, so now that he had help, he could explore more of the submerged strata. The layering was very loose and easily checked; the problem was the possibility of landslides. This would have introduced an additional complication for humans but the use of technobabble meant the Symbiants could sequence the timing of extractions from different locations without being able to see one another. Warnings would be equally efficient. Several days of fruitless searches convinced them that this location was unlikely to yield crystal. Mike informed Xiang that they would move on to China, which supplied around eighty percent of the world’s antimony. There would however be problems. The area to be investigated was vast and the Chinese had very rigorous permit checks. Fortunately Beijing, and therefore Xiang had a modest advantage in this respect, but it could involve medical as well as identity screening. They didn’t want to alert anyone to the fact that these permits were for Symbiants.
The ‘propulsion’ unit was always going to be the most compelling stage. Van de Ende was therefore allowed to progress the more mechanical elements. Dan and Yamamoto had been presented by the computerised inventory provider with a host of cubes and plates. The black cubes were just under 0.5 of a metre each side. They were mirror-like, hard, lightweight units. To the human eye they were totally opaque; however the Symbiant vision apparatus determined they were composed of a myriad of tiny cubes, each with an oscillating plate inside. The attitude of these plates was always different to all six of its neighbouring mini-cubes. The large black ‘parent’ cubes were to be set between two grey plates which were described as particle emitters, targeted at two opposite faces of the cube. The schematic explained that the other four faces were to be complimented with receptor plates. This was called a cell. The resulting energy beam from each cell was to be focussed into a confined section to be prepared for exhaust. This section was to be calibrated with astonishing precision to the inlet section in terms of pulsed operation. At this point and throughout the rest of the schematic it was stressed repeatedly that under no circumstances must the cubes be activated until the craft was leaving orbit. There was a clue in this activation sequence of the Rabo knowledge level at the time. The inlet of ‘empty’ space to fuel this procedure was highlighted as a change in understanding. Prior to this project there was no conception that the ‘vacuum’ in the Cosmos was anything but nothingness.
The firing up of the emitter plates caused the mini-cubes to return a statistically regulated percentage of the level one excited particles to those plates, and the rest were directed to the receivers. As this was repeated, a controlled build-up of increasingly excited particles would cause the parent cube to become ‘white hot’. The monitoring software would then synchronise the dimensionally opposed receiver plates in each cell to deliver their output to the exhaust section. When the velocity of the craft – powered by its conventional propulsion method reached the targeted value spatial distortion would commence. Telemetric data would categorise the unfolding picture as ‘Active 1’. Further incremental velocity jumps would denote possible wormhole coordinates. Inlet – exhaust frequency had to increase commensurate with velocity. It was explained that wormholes were not necessarily permanent phenomena and consequently origin and destination could vary. This was all empirical stuff – there was a distinct lack of delineation of particles and energy calculations. Bearing in mind that it was recorded almost three million years ago, and assuming the Rabo had avoided extinction, it would be interesting to see if the caretakers had advanced in their understanding of the technology.
The Nexus Odyssey by Hylton Smith / Science Fiction have rating 3.3 out of 5 / Based on20 votes