My ratings are an unofficial guide.
A futuristic, science fiction, cyberpunk, gamelit, action-adventure novel.
I am Doctor Richard Green. The Darmuks came across the stars pretending friendship. Humanity flocked to them. Ashley, Zane and I struggled to understand the technology they offered.
Now war rages, man against mutant beasts. Worse, the Darmuks have taken Ashley, made her a modem for their biological computer. Their mistake! I can defeat their science, and give my species a chance, but to do it Zane and I must join Ashley, sacrifice all we are and hope it will be enough.
The two black zodiacs sped noiselessly towards the shore. Their four occupants were silent, attention focused forward. Richard and Zane sat in the bows knowing they were already dead. All that remained was to see if they'd died in vain. The glow of city lights lit the horizon. Zane sniffed the air, detecting a faint hint of sulfur from the steel works.
"Beach ahead," warned Richard. He was dressed in black, body-armor and wore a backpack, as did his companions.
"Give me the range," whispered the man at the tiller.
"Ten meters. Kill the engine. Five meters, four, three, two, one." The bow scraped onto the beach.
Richard leapt ashore, placing the anchor. He scanned the area with his night-vision goggles then pressed a clicker on his chest twice.
Zane leapt ashore, placed his anchor, looked around then hit his clicker twice, confirming the all clear. The men still in the zodiacs began tossing duffel bags to the two on shore, who sorted them into piles.
"Where are they?" Richard whispered when the last duffle was unloaded.
"Janis will be here. She hasn't let us down yet." Zane's voice was like gravel.
"I hope you're right. Too much is riding on this."
"Snap, Snap. Whoo, Whoo," sounded in the stillness of the night.
Richard hit his clicker twice, counted to five then hit it again. Shadowy figures stepped into view.
"Hurry." Zane pointed to the larger of the two piles of duffels with his biological arm. The dark figures moved closer resolving into people wearing ragged clothing.
"Come on, move!" Richard waved at a group that separated from the others and raced to the zodiacs.
"Darling," whispered a voice in the darkness. Richard and Zane turned to see Janis move out of the shadow. She was dressed in worn camouflage pants and jacket. Her dark-brown hair was cut close to her scalp and there was a rifle slung over her shoulder. She was lean and limped slightly on her right leg, while her face was smeared with blackout.
"My love." Zane strode forward, took her in his arms and held her close.
"If you two are quite finished?" Richard passed the anchor from the first of the zodiacs to the people who had boarded it and pushed the boat out to sea.
"Right." Zane moved to the second boat and with a single push of his cybernetic, left arm sent it on its way. The two small craft disappeared into the distance.
"Standard pick up?" asked Janis.
"Sub is two miles off shore. Let's go."
The shadowy figures that had taken the first pile of duffels had disappeared into the night. Richard picked up one of the three remaining bags, Janis and Zane took the others. Janis led the way to a storm-sewer access. The tunnels were pitch black. All three humans activated night-vision goggles that showed the world in shades of green.
Janis paused and hit a clicker twice.
Two clicks answered from down the passage.
Janis clicked once.
Ten seconds passed then three clicks answered. She sighed and moved on. A second later they passed a side tunnel where three people crouched with their guns trained on the newcomers. No words were exchanged as Janis led them into the maze of passages. After a long walk in the dark the thing they'd been dreading occurred. There was the sound of scales being drawn over concrete.
In seconds Zane had his night-vision goggles off and the scope of his rifle to his remaining eye. The tunnel was cast in shades of green. He scanned over Janis, who also had her gun ready, and Richard who had drawn an electro sword, in case the beast they faced was impervious to bullets.
The wall burst in, blasting concrete and crushed rock into the corridor. Zane threw himself on Janis, knocking her to the ground and lying on top of her, allowing his body-armor to absorb the brunt of the attack. A creature loomed out of the hole in the wall. Its face was vaguely human, but its body was that of a centipede and it was the size of a large crocodile. Twin rows of spikes ran the length of its back, with a small vent behind each spike. The beast sucked air in through the vents and expelled a stinking cloud.
"Masks!" Richard ripped down the veil that covered his face and slapped a compact breather, which had been clipped to his belt, over his nose and mouth. Zane rolled off Janis and mimicked Richard's actions. Janis scrambled to her feet and fell back along the tunnel, firing at the beast.
"High low," ordered Richard.
"On it," replied Zane. The beast lunged into the corridor and turned to Janis. It started after her but a burst of automatic fire from Zane's rifle caught its attention. The bullets bounced off its armored sides, no more than mosquito bites to the beast.
"Come on ugly. Your father was a lady bug." Zane remained on the ground firing. "Shit! I'm jammed."
"Bloody hell!" Richard pulled a small, round grenade from his belt and rushed their foe's side.
The beast turned towards him, snapping at its attacker with a set of pincers that attached to its lower jaw.
"Hey, it's me you want, ugly!" Zane pulled his side-arm and fired into the Centipedal. It turned to face him and he kept firing.
Richard leapt, landing on the creature. The stinking cloud expelled through the vents then it began to inhale. Richard dropped the grenade into an air hole and leapt away.
"One one-thousand," he shouted.
"Richard, could use some help here," called Zane. Before Richard could react a shot rang out from down the corridor. Janis had taken up position and was now shooting at the beast.
"Two one-thousand." Richard pulled his side-arm.
The beast turned towards Janis, leaving Zane behind.
The Centipedal rushed Janis, who kept firing.
Richard fired at the creature, the bullet causing it to pause about halfway to Janis.
A sound like a very large belch filled the cavern. A blast of liquefied guts shot out the Centipedal's breathing holes. Its eyes flew out, propelled by streams of gore then its hard shell collapsed.
The two men picked up the packs and rushed to rejoin Janis.
"Nice work," she commented. Richard and Zane removed their breathing masks.
"Fortunately Centipedals tend to be solitary, a carryover from their original genetic, but we shouldn't stay here," said Richard, his voice sounding very much the British professor.
"Still Richard, isn't he?" asked Janis.
"Would you want him any other way?" Zane took a moment to scratch at the seam where the simulated scar tissue that covered the cybernetics on his left side met his real skin, before returning the defensive suit's veil.
"No, I guess not."
"Did I say something amusing?" asked Richard.
"Richard, I'm resistance. The Darmuks have been using that type as sewer guards for three years now. I probably know things about them you couldn't even guess at."
"Oh. I did not mean to be..."
"Relax. It's comforting that some things haven't changed. I'll send a team to harvest it in the morning."
"Yes. The legs taste just like lobster if you boil them."
"Zane, please tell me she's joking?"
"Personally, I think they taste more like crab," replied the younger man.
"We better get going. The sooner we're out of the tunnels the safer we'll be," said Janis.
The rest of the journey was little more than a stress-filled slog in the dark. They finally emerged through a secret passage into the basement of Janis's house. Without a word the three of them raced to close the trap door in the floor and pile boxes over the hatch.
"Good. The equipment you brought will be dispersed through the underground. Did you get the plastique?" demanded Janis.
"Of course. Nothing's too good for my girl." Zane dropped the obscuring veil that covered everything but his eye and kissed her
Janis smiled, focusing on the right side of her young lover's face. There he was Zane, the same handsome, expressive face that she had come to love before the war. "I missed you."
Zane traced his fingers lightly along the scar that ran from her ear to her chin. "I missed you too."
"I hate to interrupt, but it has been rather a long night. If you could see fit to providing me with sleeping accouterments; I'll leave you two to um... get reacquainted."
"Ever the diplomat, Richard. Thank you. There's an air mattress and sleeping bag in the corner. It's safer to sleep days and work nights. The Darmuks believe this house is deserted, but try to keep a low profile."
Janis took Zane's hand and led him up the stairs as Richard prepared the sleeping mat.
"General Flanders, sir. I can't change the laws of biology. If we do the upload any faster, we could burn out the biological units. As it is we're uploading years of life experience in the space of hours." The technician stared at his CO. The general was an older man, with a slight gut that didn't totally undo the effect of his solid, muscular frame.
"Relax Major...Joans isn't it?" The general smiled. The man before him was slender, mid-twenties, undoubtedly drafted out of university and thrown in way over his head.
"Yes sir." The major unconsciously ran his hand through his sandy-brown hair and glanced around the room. The two-meter high cylinders of the gestational chambers filled one wall, while the others were taken up with workbenches and large, devices with blinking lights and digital readouts. An interface couch, that resembled a reclining chair with an assortment of medical monitors attached, dominated the center of the room.
"I know you're doing your best, son. I'm a fighting man, and they've put me in command of a bunch of eggheads. I bark, that's how it's done in my world."
"Can you do anything to increase the upload rate?"
"No sir. I'm cycling the process between the biological units, so we can keep the feed unit in almost constant operation, but the living cells are the weak link. A brain can only pattern so much information so fast even when it's inputted directly.
"Fine. Do what you can. Are there any problems with spot monitoring the upload?"
"Just headaches and nausea, sir. Though there is one unexpected development."
Major Joans shifted uncomfortably. "Sir, because the spot monitoring is such an all encompassing experience the other techs and I are running into a problem with cognitive time displacement."
Flanders wrinkled his brow. "You're losing track of time. That can happen to anyone."
"Sir, we come out of the sessions not knowing what year it is. In the monitoring we experience the time that the memory was made. It takes a bit to get our heads back to twenty-thirty-seven."
"I'll take your word for it. What can be done?"
"Sir, I suggest a large, old-style calendar with the year and date in big print hung up on the wall in here. The monitoring tech could orient to it before and after the session. That might help."
"Do it. If that's all, I won't keep you from your work any longer." The general left the room.
The major sighed. Moving to a roller cart in the corner he pulled out a laser disk the size of an old vinyl album and slipped it into the machine. Taking a seat in the recliner he pulled away a mole behind his ear exposing a jack port. He inserted the male connecter end that looped into the top of the chair.
"Set to monitor upload. Nurse, where are you?" he spoke to the air.
"I'm coming," replied a female voice over the intercom. A moment later a plump, blonde women entered the room and checked several monitors. "Just let me start the IV. Oh yes, I bought this last night. She unrolled a paper tube to reveal a calendar. In bold type it read 'March 5, 2037."
"Thank you, lieutenant. That should help." Major Joans focused on the calendar repeating twenty-thirty-seven to himself until he initiated the monitoring.
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 09:32/ 30/3/2030
* * * *
"Doctor Green. Doctor Green, can you hear me?"
The voice penetrated through a fog. Doctor Green stirred. "Gods, Richard, what were you drinking?" he asked himself as he ran a hand through his short, brown hair. He tried to piece the previous evening together.
"Doctor Green," repeated the voice. It was female, soft and pleasant.
Oh, Gods, not a student again? The deans will terminate me as a certainty. Think. Last night, I went home and went to bed. I'd promised no more drinking then...I went to bed. The dream!
His eyes shot open. The ceiling above him was a huge lighting-panel. An attractive brunette, with large, brown eyes, stared down at him. He took some comfort in the fact that she wore a nurse's uniform.
"This isn't my bedroom." He carefully articulated each word around what felt like a pound of cotton in his mouth.
"How do you feel?" asked the nurse.
Richard sat up on the gurney and immediately wished he hadn't. "Bloody hell! What is going on?" he demanded after a long minute. He then glanced down and saw that his lean, muscular body was naked. He snatched the sheet off the gurney and covered himself.
"Relax, it's nothing I haven't seen before. Though if it makes you feel any better, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Now this will be easier for both of us, if you'll just answer my questions."
"Madam, I will answer yours, if you will answer mine."
"Why is it you egg heads always want to play games? Okay, I'll bite. How do you feel?"
"Sodding awful! I'm dizzy and my mouth feels like it was used as an aviary. Not to mention the state of my stomach."
"You'll feel better in a few minutes. It's just the knockout gas."
"Where am I?" Richard dared to open his eyes again. The room around him was obviously a small, well equipped, infirmary.
"Ah, Doctor Green," boomed a rotund, balding man in a three-piece suit, who burst into the room.
"Torture is outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Please lower your voice." Richard buried his face in his hands.
"Bad reaction. That gas can throw you for a loop. I guess you would like to know what's going on." The large man moved to stand in front of Richard.
"I suppose that I have been kidnapped. Why anyone would want to do such a thing is beyond me. My ex-wife will not pay a ransom to get me back, I can promise you that. Janis might be willing to pay you to keep me." Richard's voice began to take on its normal timbre; the university English accent emerging through the gas induced raspyness.
"Kidnapped? Well in a sense. Doctor Green, your country needs you."
"I'm a British national. What in hell does the King want?"
The big man smiled. "All right, if you insist. The United States requires your services."
"Go on." The pounding in Richard's head had reduced to a dull throb.
"In short. Your work on mating biological and electrical systems has become a matter of national security."
"Oh, and I was wondering where I'd be getting my next research grant."
"If what we are facing pans out, you will never have to worry about financing your research again."
"Pardon me, was that meant to sound ominous?"
"Excuse me, Doctor Cooper, but he needs some quiet to get back on his feet." The nurse pushed a glass into Richard's hand.
Richard downed the glass's contents.
"If you insist. Doctor Green, the briefing will be in half an hour. The nurse will bring you to the conference room.
In minutes the throb had receded from Richard's head and his stomach settled.
"We should get you to the conference." The nurse passed him another glass of water.
Richard looked down at himself. "Um...I believe some accommodation for the perfunctory nature of my arrival will have to be made."
The nurse smiled at him. "A wardrobe has been supplied for you, Doctor."
"Please, Richard, and you are?" he asked with a hint of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
"You can call me, happily married or Lieutenant Malcowits, if you behave yourself." The nurse smiled at him to remove the sting from her words. Moving to a cupboard she pulled out a Harris Tweed suit complete with underwear and shirt.
"Such is my lot. All the great beauties be either too young or taken, or in your case, both." Richard accepted the clothes and glanced around the room.
"Thank you for the compliment. Now get dressed."
"Um...there's no screen."
"Men!" The nurse turned her back and stared diligently into the far corner.
The clothes fit well, for off the rack, and when Richard examined himself he had to admit they presented him as a modern scholar, the man with the answers. He took a closer look at his green eyes.
"Ready?" asked the Nurse.
"My pupils are dilated."
"That will pass in the next half hour or so. Are you a medical doctor?"
"Biologist, with a sub-specialty in computer engineering."
"Oh. Strange mix. Are you ready to go?"
"Lead on MacDuff." Richard gestured towards the door.
"Brits!" She led him down an institutional hallway and through a door into a conference room. The far wall consisted of a large screen and the room's middle was dominated by a wooden table. Seven people sat around the table, four of them in military uniform. Richard counted the five stars on the shoulder epaulet of the closest man. He was older, but solidly built.
"Ah, Doctor Green, please come in and take a seat," said Doctor Cooper, who sat at the head of the table.
"Thank you. Gentle um, err, persons." Richard moved to one of the empty chairs.
"Now as I was saying. It seems pretty fishy." Began the man dressed in a navel uniform.
"Admiral. Now that we are assembled, I think it's time to recap, so we're all on the same page," said Doctor Cooper.
"You can say that again, Sugar. Oh, by the way, Hiya Richard," drawled an older woman with blonde hair graying at the roots from across the table. She was dressed in a simple white blouse and black skirt.
"Hi, Nancy. Been a while."
"Since that biotech conference in Atlanta. How's Janis?" Nancy's accent was pure southern belle.
"Sorry to hear that."
"Doctors," interrupted one of the military men.
"Sorry," said Richard and Nancy in unison.
"Very well. If you will excuse the cliché, you are probably wondering why I have called you together." Doctor Cooper stood at the head of the table.
"Would you get on with it, Malcome? We aren't a senate committee you need to kiss ass to for funding," interrupted the older general.
Malcom e scowled. "As you wish. Frankly, this is a scenario straight out of a bad science-fiction movie. Gentlemen and lady, the aliens are coming."
"Pardon me?" asked Richard.
"We received this transmission at twenty-two hundred hours yesterday."
The screen behind Doctor Cooper lit up. A stunningly handsome, Caucasian man stood beside a beautiful, Amerindian woman.
They appeared to be biologically perfect specimens. The man spoke.
"Governments of Earth. I am Tannal; I bear greetings from my race, the Darmuks. We have entered your solar system on a peaceful, diplomatic mission. We are anticipating entering your planet's orbit on the date you call in the calendar of your currently dominant state, September seventh, twenty-thirty current era.
"I emphasize, we come in peace. We have been monitoring your radio transmissions for sixty of your years and now deem that you are ready, technologically and socially, for contact. As a sign of our good will we wish to transmit a cure for the condition you know as cancer. This has been designed by gleaning information from your electromagnetic transmissions and applying our science. It is a gift of goodwill. We hope that the governments of Earth will welcome us and use the time between now and our arrival to prepare your populace.
"I now surrender the balance of this transmission to my chief medical officer. She will instruct you in the nature of our gift."
The Amerindian woman moved to center screen and began speaking.
"The technique involves mating a microprocessor to the biochemical triggering system of a biological form. Thus instructing the body to inhibit the division of cancerous cells through a series of micro-enzymatic transmissions carried through the blood stream and micro-electrical triggers set along the nervous system."
Richard listened to the woman with rapt attention. He snapped his fingers and said, "Notes." From somewhere a pad and pen appeared and he jotted down his thoughts. Diagrams filled the screen along with chemical formulas. Finally the transmission ended.
Richard sat silently staring at his scribblings.
"Generals, doctors, there you have it," said Malcome.
"It's a hoax," snarled a grey-haired, hawk-faced man from the far side of the table. He was dressed in an outdated suit.
"As far as we can tell, Frank. It's legit. The source of the transmission was six billion kilometers out. Just a little bit past Pluto.
We redirected the orbital telescopes to take a peek. At maximum magnification we saw something. Right now it's just a speck, but it is moving in system."
"Cybernetics is balderdash. A cure for cancer, Ha," said Frank.
"I wouldn't be so sure." Richard spoke quietly without lifting his eyes from his note pad.
"We're all aware of your crazy theories," snapped the older scientist.
"Doctor Peaterfield, ya'll know Richard was brought here because he might have something to add. You may not like his theories, but mating biological and electrical systems is his field. Now, Richard, you tell us what y'all think." Nancy smiled at her younger colleague. The smile deepened the lines beside her eyes, but added warmth to her features that hinted at a beauty that had once been breathtaking. That beauty had aged into handsome dignity.
"I'd have to examine this more thoroughly. A great deal of my own work does parallel what they sent. Only this...this is easily two, maybe three-hundred years in advance of anything we're capable of. The enzymatic chains alone represent a level of biomanufacturing that is terrifying in its implications."
"So you're saying this would work," demanded one of the military men. He was muscular but was developing a gut. His black hair was fading to grey.
"I'm saying it might work, General. I'd have to test it. It would take months to get the equipment together. Some things are very odd though."
"What?" Demanded Doctor Cooper.
"The computer chip they used. It's several generations old, by our standards."
"You read a serial number on it," challenged Doctor Peaterfield.
"The circuit density. In simple terms, it's similar to the ones they used in the Pentiums."
"Maybe our ET's wanted to be sure whatever this doodad is would be within our capacity to build," said the plump general.
"Could be. This is amazing. If what I'm seeing here is correct, the things they could teach us."
"Or use to destroy us," said the admiral.
"Admiral, my daddy always said, 'if y'all is hunting make the first shot count, so you don't startle the prey.' Why would they tell us they were coming if they meant us harm?" asked Nancy.
"Could be they want something," observed the general.
"I agree with, General Flanders. They must want something! Why else come all this way?" said the admiral.
"Didn't you boys ever watch Star Trek? 'To boldly go' Maybe they just wanted to say howdy to the neighbors," countered Nancy.
Richard stared at his notes and scribbled a few more.
"I still say it's a hoax. You're fools to take it seriously," snapped Doctor Peaterfield.
"Frank, get on the train, or get off the track. This is real. At least the President has decided to treat it as real." Doctor Cooper picked up a pencil that sat on the table and tapped it against his note pad.
"It could be a hoax," observed Richard.
"Doctor Green..." began Doctor Cooper but Richard raised a hand requesting to be heard.
"Why would a life form evolved on another planet look so much like us? Simply put, it is logical to assume that a quadruped would tend to evolve to a roughly humanoid shape, but such an exact match? Beyond that, who's to say that quadrupeds are even common in the galaxy?"
"Or that there's life out there at all," added Doctor Peaterfield.
"Life is very probable. Space is big and there has been a lot of time for random chance to generate replicating organisms out of chemical soups. It's just for their evolution to so parallel ours..."
Richard shook his head.
"Y'all seem to be forgetting something. It was a transmission. Maybe they figured if they showed us their real faces we'd be afraid. I know I'd be worried about that if I were them. We go around killing folk over a silly thing like how many melanocytes we have in our skin. Maybe they made a graphic to keep us from being too edgy," said Nancy.
"That makes sense, doctor," commented the older, air force representative at the end of the table.
"I say we build up a space defense," said the admiral.
"Y'all are acting like some red-neck from an old movie. They haven't done nothing but be friendly," challenged Nancy.
The discussion quickly degraded into anarchy. Richard studied his notes, oblivious to the noise around him.
Finally Doctor Cooper shouted for silence. "People, we are all civilized individuals here. I'd like to hear all voices. Starting with yours Doctor Green, since you haven't said anything yet that struck me as completely asinine." Doctor Cooper scanned the other people around the table with a meaningful expression.
Richard cleared his throat then spoke. "I hope we will have an older brother that will guide us around a lot of mistakes we might otherwise make. I fear that we might have a Columbus landing on the Americas.
"If you don't mind my saying so, you Americans, while I respect many things about you, tend to be a people of extremes. Why must we accept these, what was it? Darmuks; as either friend or foe."
"So you think we should prepare for an attack, just in case. A show of strength," interrupted the admiral.
"So you think we should prepare for an attack, just in case. A show of strength," interrupted the admiral.
"No...no, I believe it would be prudent to appear to accept their friendly overture. In fact, to accept it until such time as we have reason to believe differently."
"Y'all see then, Richard, they seem right friendly," said Nancy.
"Appearances can be deceiving. If it were up to me, and I know it is not. However, if it were, I would quietly prepare some secret defenses. In the hope that we would never need them, but with the caution that we might. Have them in reserve. We have no idea of how advanced these beings are. Much more than a couple of centuries ahead of us and anything we do would be futile, but it would not hurt to have a rabbit or two hidden in the hat."
"I like it," said General Flanders. "We could retrofit some of the old I.C.B.M.s for orbital strike. Do it as a black-op, no need even to put it on the books. Add a couple of tugs to the fleet on the international space station, with assault laser capacity. Cover it up as research into photonic propulsion systems. The International Space Research Agency will love us for it. Hell, if we clear it with the boys in Moscow and Beijing, even put up that meteor defense missile platform the disaster boys have been screaming for."
"A nuclear defense screen against asteroids is not one of the more effective methods," interrupted Doctor Peaterfield.
"Doesn't have to be, Frank. Just has to make sense that we'd do it for non-military purposes. Doctor Green, I think you might have something here. Look like the lamb, be the lion if somebody gets a taste for mutton."
"I can live with that," agreed the admiral.
"I think y'all have watched too many movies, but I can agree so long as we act all friendly like. Be right embarrassing, if they ever find out about this though," added Nancy.
"Better red faced then dead," said Doctor Cooper. "Okay gentle people. I will want proposals for a detailed response to this situation by oh-eight-hundred tomorrow. Dismissed. Doctor Green, a moment please."
Richard watched the other's file from the room. Doctor Cooper moved to sit on the table beside him.
"Richard, may I call you Richard?" opened the older man.
"Good, I'm Malcome. I don't need to tell you that everything you just heard is top secret."
"I rather assumed from the form of my indoctrination."
Malcome smiled. "I wanted you here. When I asked Nancy who the best person for this kind of technology was, she only came up with one name. Yours. You impressed her with your talk at that biotech conference."
"I respect her work in classical biology enormously."
"As do I. Which is why she's here. I'm also; frankly, glad to have another moderate on this committee."
"You are now an employee of the United States Government."
"I...I...I'm quite flattered but my students. I've almost earned tenure." Richard looked like a deer caught in headlights.
"You'll continue at the university. I'll make arrangements for a shell corporation to supply you with a grant. I need you to create, test, and reverse engineer this cancer cure. If it's safe, we can use it to sell our friendly visitors to the world. If it's not, that tells us something too."
"I'll need lab assistants."
"Get me their names. They don't need to know where the tech came from to do the work, but I want to check them out anyway. "Of course. One thing though?"
"When may I go home?"
Malcome let out a guffaw. "Don't worry. According to all records you were taken to hospital for an emergency appendectomy. No one is expecting you anywhere for a week."
"Your daughter snuck off to a Green Peace protest against the Iranian fishing fleet. She won't even know until you're back home. She told your ex she was staying with you."
"That's my Betty. She's supposed to be in school. So, what should I do now?"
"First, I take you to medical for some unpleasantness. I'm afraid I must insist on a DNA sample for identification purposes." Malcome motioned towards the door.
Richard cringed then stood. "Highly undifferentiated cells to make a perpetual cell culture for future reference."
"You know the procedure?" Malcome led the way into the hall then walked beside Richard as they spoke.
"I helped develop the procedure. I always knew working for the government would be a pain in the ass!"
Malcome chuckled. "Blame biology, we need the least differentiated cells we can find. Intestinal walls are it."
"So once I've been adequately poked and prodded, what then?"
Malcome came to a stop in front of a door labeled medical. Then I take you to your office and you review the pertinent sections of the alien's message. There were other technical details they transmitted on a sub-band. I will require a list of the equipment you'll need to examine this by tomorrow morning. Richard, the candy store is open for this one. Don't short yourself."
"I like those aliens already."
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 16:17/ 30/3/2030
* * * *
Richard poured over the notes and copies of the diagrams the aliens had sent. "Making this damn thing is the easy part. Understanding it? Gods of my fathers." Richard looked around his room. It was like a bedsit apartment with an en suite bathroom.
A desk and computer filled the wall space by the bathroom door, while a couch that folded out into a bed filled the other wall.
A coffee table, office chair and small dresser made up the last of the furnishings.
The door chime sounded.
"Enter," he called.
"Doctor Green." General Flanders stepped into the room.
"Hello general, please take a seat. Would you like me to order some refreshments?" Richard stood and rolled his office chair to a place by the couch.
The general moved to the couch and sat.
"No thank you, doctor."
"Please, Richard. The only people that call me doctor are students that don't like me."
The general smiled. "In social settings, feel free to call me Andy."
"Of course. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"You don't waste time. I respect that. Frankly, I think you, I and Mac are the only ones with any idea about the realities of this situation."
"Your statement that if they're much more than a century or two ahead of us, we wouldn't stand a chance."
"I meant no offence to the military."
"I didn't take any. Schwarzkopf was one of the few generals in history that understood what his technology could do. We had maybe ten years on the Iranians, and we pounded them. I agree with you. If these boys are out to get us, and they have much of a tech edge, we're toast."
"So what do you want?"
"How much can you tell about their biology from the information they sent?"
"Nothing certain. Their appearance, if it hasn't been altered, would imply some structural similarities to our own, but for all I know, they keep their hearts in their buttocks."
"Richard, I'm praying these folks just want to say howdy, but I'm a fighting man. It makes you cynical. Your best guess, what are we facing, and what can we do about it?"
"If they do have hostile intent, which we cannot say for certain, but if they do. Best case is interstellar travel for them is roughly equivalent to going to Mars for us. We can do it, barely. That means they would have a years long supply line."
"Supply line? You serve at some time."
"Use to do war gaming back in my student days."
"Me to. Go on."
"Guessing from the technology. They are centuries ahead of us in biology. Maybe not quite so advanced in chemistry, and possibly even a few years behind us in physics."
"Where do you get that?"
"The computer chip is primitive compared to the rest of the system they sent."
"Why would they develop in such a cockeyed way?"
"To them we might seem cockeyed; way ahead in physics, lagging in chemistry, and woefully lacking in biology. Different cultures might place different emphasis on sciences. You've never had to fight for funding. If you pump resources into a science, it advances more quickly."
"So we might have an edge in some areas."
"If we're lucky. Look, Andy. I'm playing what if here. I don't know. You want my advice. Hope to hell they're friendly. Otherwise we're up the duff laddy."
"Thank you, Richard. Keep me informed about your view of their technology. Admiral MacMillan is, well...Between you and me. He's an ass-hole!"
"He thinks that you train the big guns on it and fire. He's too used to being the one with the technological edge. He's not able to think like the weak force."
"Black-ops training. I learned how dangerous the weak force can be."
"I hope it won't come to that."
"So do I. In case it does, let's spend some weekends together. I think we can teach each other a great deal."
* * * *
Upload monitoring/ Richard Green /Index 13:30/ 12/4/2030
* * * *
Richard sat in the small cluttered office the university allowed him and poured over his notes. A knock sounded on his door.
"Enter," he called absently.
"Hi," said a soft, slightly nasal voice.
"Ashley." Richard smiled and stood. He couldn't stop his eyes from tracing over her slender form. Her red hair brushed her shoulders, framing a pretty face. Gods how can she make a sweater and jeans look so good? Richard behave, she used to baby sit Betty for gods' sake.
"Just wanted to check in and make sure you were all right. I heard about the appendectomy."
"I'm fine. I'm glad you came. I've reviewed your master's proposal. Take a seat." Richard shifted a pile of papers off a chair onto the floor.
"Thanks. What did you think?"
"It's a good solid topic. Working on a bio-electric implant to trigger natural lithium absorption in schizophrenics is an excellent idea."
"Am I hearing a but?" Ashley's face fell.
"In a sense. I need a research assistant for a project I'm starting. What would you say to changing your topic to an examination of how micro-electric charges introduced to the nervous system affects the growth of cancer cells?"
Ashley stared at him blankly.
"I wouldn't know where to start."
Richard closed his office door before passing her several of the sheets of paper he'd been reviewing. "This is between us, Ash."
"Richard, what's going on?"
"Read those then we'll talk." He opened his desk drawer extracting a bottle of scotch. He found a clean mug, perched atop a pile of student papers, poured a shot into it then set the mug by her hand.
"Goddess! Where did you get this? This can't be real. It's like; it's like giving a kid who just learned addition a sheet on calculus."
"I can't tell you where it came from. I can tell you it is part of a larger picture. I want you to be part of this project."
Ashley picked up the mug and downed the scotch. She coughed as it burnt its way to her stomach.
A minute later she stared at Richard with tears in her eyes and gasped, "You enjoy drinking that stuff?"
"It's an acquired taste."
"So's masochism!" She returned her attention to the papers.
"This is...Is this for real?"
Ashley stared at the papers again. Only partially understanding what she read. "Funding?"
"Taken care of."
"Gods, Richard, what are you into?"
"If all goes well, I'll tell you someday. Are you in?"
"You betcha mister!"
"Very good. I'll take you on for your masters."
Ashley sighed. "That is such a relief."
"My other choice was Doctor Robinson."
Edwin may be a prat, but he is a good scientist." Richard scanned one of the papers on his desk. He needed to do something to keep his eyes from devouring the woman in front of him.
"He doesn't respect life. I don't know why a man like that became a biologist." She focused her green eyes on her mentor. A little smile played at the corners of her mouth.
"Ash, he's typical. I've seen too many biologists who don't give a damn about life. Never be like them. Life is what it's about."
"You're really just an old Druid at heart."
Richard smiled. "I do my best."
"Why don't you come to circle anymore?"
"She's stopped attending when she and Angus broke up. Betty drops by once in a while, but not often."
"Ash, I have to stay in the broom closet. Two more years and I can get tenure. Lest ye forget, the divinity collage is twice the size of the biology department. Gods, we're lucky we get to teach evolution."
"Oh, all right then. I think you're being silly though. It's a closed coven. I've started writing rituals. I conducted a group meditation last quarter. It went really well."
"Sorry I missed it. I'll be back soon. I still meditate and do the solitaire thing."
"Fine, when are we starting the project?"
"That was the other thing. What are your plans for the summer?"
"Wrong. You're my research assistant. I think it will pay a bit better than being a camp counselor."
"Thank you!" Ashley jumped up and hugged Richard then jerked away and stood by the door looking embarrassed. "Sorry."
"Quite all right." Richard swallowed hard.
A military science-fiction romance, action-adventure novel.
Rated NC17, adult - some explicit sexuality.
Published by Damnation Books / Caliburn Press in trade paper back and e-book.
ISBN-10: 1629290505, ISBN-13: 978-1629290508 paperback; ISBN-13: 978-1629290492 e-book.
33 chapters, 240 pages
Location: USA - southern California and Maine.
Copyright © 2009, Stephen B. Pearl by GISjoy