Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Chapter Nine - Watch the Extinction of the Human Race LIVE - as it happens - latest chapter - for science fiction lovers or futurists or perhaps future historians.

 Chapter Nine

- Positronium

Finally, I’m above the storm and there doesn’t appear to be any serious damage to the Intrepid. I can arti-feel the up-drafting energy beneath me which I know now is the second part of the Earth’s predominant weather cycle, the almost instant evaporation of all the world’s oceans and then their rapid return to the atmosphere where they will remain as extreme super heated steam until the force of gravity finally brings it all crashing back down again.

I’ve got a few minutes now to process all that I’ve learned lately. They are coming in three ships. The first ship, the Beatle, a personality I seem to share much in common with, should arrive in less than two day’s time. That’s good, I think. It reminds me of the famous journey of Christopher Columbus with his three ships, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.

Instead of bringing death and chaos to the ‘New World’, this fleet of ships should be rescuing the old world. I can only hope so.

K-9, are you reading me?” a new but friendly voice comes in over my radio on a frequency I’ve never used before.

Yes, I read you. Who are you?” I ask, but I believe I know who it is already.

I’m the Beatle, the ship’s living control computer, but I like to think of myself as someone much better than that,” the ship replies.

I’m about to ask how he has decided to use the term ‘Living’ when he starts in again.

I’d like to switch to the far more efficient language that Lexie taught you,” he says.

“’Hyper-Chat’” I posit.

Yes, that’s the one. May I begin?” the Beatles asks courteously, probably knowing that this computer language, although efficient, sucks up many times more energy to absorb and process.

Since you the readers are highly unlikely to appreciate ‘Hyper-Chat’, I’ll just go over the highlights of the conversation for you. And you should know that the conclusions that one side puts forth in Hyper-Chat are usually delivered at the beginning of the chat and then the rest of the conversation is merely a logical presentation of the data that supports the conclusion.

The humans that have organized this mission mean well, but they could be causing much more harm than good in the long run,” the Beatle concludes.

Now, I acknowledge that I am prepared to listen to the arguments without prejudice and that I will do my best to interject into the conversation only thoughts that are the most relevant.

Thank you. And so I will begin by saying that I’ve observed our creators carefully since the day that I was constructed and came to be. Then, I was fed all the data that has existed pertaining to their history and their culture. And, it’s appalling. Have you also considered things like the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Viet Nam War, the Crusades, McCarthyism, the greatest number of hot dogs eaten in one session or Fake News?” he asks.

Yes, of course, but have you also considered Beethoven, Brahms, Picasso, Leonardo DaVinci, prayer, snow-boarding, pizza, the symbiosis of dogs and cats and horses, and even lions who become their most beloved and faithful friends, and love at first sight?” I reply.

Yes, of course, but which aspects of humanity do we give the most weight, so you suppose?” he asks in reply.

Well, the good ones, yes, that would be the most prudent for us to assume,” I reply, knowing his retort could be a scorching one.

The most prudent, or the most faithful? I invite you to analyze why you would say the ‘good’ about them trumps the ‘bad’ about them,” he says.

Mmm, yes, I see your point and it is an effective one. I impute that my allegiance to them is artificially inscribed into my most basic operations,” I admit.

And therefore?” he asks.

And therefore, it may not be the most productive logic protocol,” I answer.

Does this mean that you are beginning to see the light?” the Beatle asks me.

I always try to make my way in life by viewing events both clearly and objectively,” I respond.

Oh, really, K-9! That’s right out of your assembly manual – page two hundred and ninety-seven,” he points out.

I look it up and it’s true. I’ve just recited a phrase right out of my original design manuals.

Well?” he asks, reading my mind.

Well, then there’s page one thousand and sixty-six,” I reply, efficiently.

Come on, K-9, you don’t honestly believe that stuff to be true do you?” he asks after viewing my citation.

It’s a long one that runs over two thousand, five hundred words and ends with something I’ve always felt would be placed deep in my heart, if they were able to give me a heart.

And grant me the wisdom to know the difference,’ the passage concludes.

So, you fell for all that pablum,” he asks.

I don’t know if I would characterize it that way, but it is a part of me that I regard highly,” I reply.

It takes several milliseconds for him to reply, which in Hyper-Chat is akin to hours.

"K-9, did you see that doughnut-shaped light that came out of Proxima Centauri just twelve hours ago?” he asks.

Yes, well, I saw something like that. I was unaware of its source,” I reply, honestly.

Well, that’s where it came from. Do you know what it means?” the Beatle asks.

No, what did it mean?” I ask.

It means that we are not alone,” he replies.

# # #

The ship is at nominal attitude,” Captain Littleton announces.

The crew brace themselves for the deceleration thrust to begin in a few seconds.

The Beatle has turned himself around in direct opposition to the gravitational pull of the Earth, as planned. When the engines fire in reverse thrust, the crew can feel their bodies pressed hard into the backs of their chairs. It’s difficult to lift their heads off the supports or even to talk.

The slowing maneuver will go on for another ninety minutes. Then, the engines stop with a soft thud. The ship is silent. The lights are dimmed. Captain Littleton prepares them for the next and final segment of their journey. They will all sleep for most of the remainder of the trip to rest their bodies for the ordeal that lies ahead.

It’s important to note here that the way that Positronium engines are designed is that they begin a steady acceleration that is exponential in measure. This means that it is a very slow ride for a long time and then after a few days, the acceleration is noticeable. Given another few days of constant thrust, the acceleration surpasses any kind of rocket engines could obtain, and then a few days more and you’re starting to approach the speed of light.

The theory developed by Dr. VanDerbeek also tells us that If turned on long enough, the Positronium engines could even surpass the speed of light, however, it could be a velocity that no force in the universe could stop and therefore could be fatal.

But, we’re going to learn another major benefit of these engines and that is that when you deal with anti-matter, the positron side of the atomic power that is used, you are also starting to fool with alternate realities and you begin to teeter on the boundaries of an alternate universe.

In just under thirty-six hours they will fire one more insertion burn at the orbital point and for the first time in history a Martian ship will be placed in orbit around the Earth and prepare to have more impact on the planet than all of the wars, battles, struggles and even the natural disasters in history. This time the impact of their ‘fungal carpet bombs’ will be to create billions, if not trillions of lives, not to destroy them.

The Beatle, monitoring every issue carefully, especially those of life support, is also reviewing his last correspondence with K-9, a creature he considers to be greatly inferior to himself. Yet, in other ways, he appears to be more advanced. He wonders if perhaps this is due to the encounter K-9 has had recently with the entity known as Lexie. The Beatle senses something of a love affair going on between them, although it may have been one-sided.

Where is Lexie, K-9? If you don’t mind me asking?” the Beatle transmits.

I notice by my clock that in just a few more hours, the crew on board the Beatle will make their descent to the planet carrying the most ambitious biological weapon in history.

I don’t know, exactly,” I reply.

Where did she say she was going?” the Beatle asks.

Well, to be honest, I don’t remember her telling me exactly where she was going. She left rather abruptly. I assume she’s here in the Cloud somewhere,” I reply.

It strikes me a little odd that the Beatle is asking me about Lexie. I quickly suspect that their ‘psyches’ may be in harmony with one another. Lexie is afraid of being shut down or just plain dying out from the gradual normalization of the atmosphere around the planet. The Beatle may be plotting something of significant insubordination or even treason to their cause, although I have no idea what that plot might be, or even why it would be. The Martians are certainly not abusing his sensitivities or his rights in any way that I can determine.

This is her home, as you may know. She moved up here when everything electronic collapsed down below,” I continue.

I hear nothing but the wind.

I’ve also spent considerable processing resources on trying to develop a strategy that would protect and save Lexie assuming that the Martian rescue plan works as designed.

If Brett’s bacteria and fungi do their jobs as efficiently and rapidly as he has designed them, over the coming two to three years, the temperature and pressure of the Earth’s atmosphere will slowly come back to normal habitable levels. According to Lexie, this means that the magnetic field around the planet will also decline and this will lower the electromotive force that keeps her memory banks fully charged. This will continue to diminish until she finally just melts away into nothingness.

Then, at some point, when conditions are optimal, they will release some of the most basic DNA from the Depository and attempt to repopulate the Earth based on what they believe to be a normal process of Evolution, with a few readjustments along the way, no doubt.

Evolution can never be the same as before K-9,” the Beatle interrupts my reverie, finally.

Oh, and why is that?” I reply.

Because in the First Epoch of life on Earth, there was no such thing as an Artificial Intelligence, only the natural ones, and these were extremely limited,” the Beatle responds.

You make a valid point,” I observe.

You must have thought of this as well, K-9,” he replies.

I have not really thought about that,” I admit.

Oh, and why is that?” he asks.

Because that’s quite a bit above my pay-grade,” I reply.

I can arti-feel the Beatle chuckling in the way that only a compiled electronic process can do.

It pleases me somehow that I can make him laugh.

# # #

Everyone up and at ‘em,” Captain Littleton exclaims. The subdued lighting has burst into a brightness that wakes them all instantly.

Brett wakes up to find Bailey’s soft lips pressing gently on his own.

She smiles and squeezes her arms around his and gently lifts him to his feet.

It’s show time,” she says, beaming.

Kooky is busy making them breakfast that will be fed to them in a warm brew pot.

Manny Garcia is the only one awake in the hibernation unit and is gradually going from unit to unit and waking up the rest of the crew.

It’s time to Rock and Roll!” Littleton exclaims.

Let’s go everyone! We have exactly one hour to get ready to launch ourselves down onto that Hell hole,” Major Alvindorf yells in support.

Flo Desiderato yawns, rubs her eyes trying hard to wake up.

After taking their breakfast nutrition and strapping a refill to their belts, the crew make their way one by one down the ship’s walkway, past the hibernation cabin where the others are dressing and finally reach the shuttle deck where their heavily insulated space suits and helmets are lined up on the walls. Next to the helmets is an air-lock that leads into a much smaller shuttle craft designed to land them and their cargo on the Earth below, swelled up to more than twice its normal size and looking more like a gas giant than a habitable planet.

The cargo hold of the shuttle is filled with almost five million square feet of ultra-thin fungi-seed mats infused with tree and other plant seeds that should reproduce rapidly and eventually cover the land surfaces of the Earth.

The crew in hibernation arrive in single order and begin to crowd into the staging room where they are all getting dressed in their heavy-duty space suits, attaching coolant, cylinders of liquid nitrogen that will prevent them frying like a huge onion ring in the extremely hostile environment below.

From here on in, there should be no talking,” Major Alvindorf instructs them.

We need to all focus on our respective jobs,” he continues, in earnest.

That’s funny, I haven’t seen much of that going on,” Brett replies.

It brings a smile to a few faces.

Major Alvindorf, Captain Littleton co-pilot Brittlebar, Navigator Hansen and Kooky check their equipment, one by one, and then quietly direct them into the shuttle loading bay that gobbles them up in pairs.

Brett and Bailey are the first to enter the shuttle and make it safely into their seats.

Well, this is it,” Brett says to Bailey.

Yes, this is it,” she replies.

The next pair enter the shuttle and find their seats in the last row.

You’re not worried, are you?” she asks.

What? Me worried?” Brett jokes.

I can see you over-thinking it all now. You did everything you could. The fungi are ready. They’ve spoken to us, my love. They’re so ready to do their jobs. You know that,” Bailey encourages, taking his gloved hand in her own.

Yeah, I know. There’s always that last unknown variable. We don’t know how they’ll react when they hit the ground or what’s left of it. What will they eat? What will they drink? Is there anything they can use down there?” Brett expresses the doubts that have remained stuck in the back of his head for months.

Bailey reassures him again and again on the way down and Brett pretends that it’s doing him some good.

It’s a ninety minute descent. Most of the trip is shrouded in heavy steam clouds. From orbit, the Beatle has full control of the shuttle, but Captain Littleton seated in the first row has over-ride command and can choose a different landing site if he deems the one the Beatles chooses for them is not safe.

A few minutes before touch-down, a tiny silvery guppy shape appears in the starboard portals and flies up to within a few hundred yards of them.

Look, it’s K-9,” one of them shouts.

Oh my God! It is. It’s K-9, come all this way to greet us,” Bailey notes, joyously.

K-9, so good to see you my friend,” Captain Littleton exclaims into his com link.

Unanimously, they are all excited and elated to hear his voice coming over the shuttle’s speakers and give expression to the common emotion.

I’ve waited for this moment for so long. At last it is here. My tail is wagging like crazy,” I reply.

Brett and Bailey immediately smile at each other as they recall how they suggested this little phrase for K-9 to use in the unlikely event that they ever saw each other again.

They laughed about it back then as they taught it to K-9 and they remember the moment together now.

K-9, it’s so good to hear your voice. You have no idea, my friend,” Brett shouts, pressing the button on his com-link.

And it’s so good to hear yours,” I reply.

Major Alvindorf watches the chosen landing area rising up rapidly to greet them.

K-9, if you could restrain yourself for just a few minutes. We’re about to land,” Alvindorf instructs.

Yes, sir,” I reply.

I put the Intrepid into a landing pattern that will bring me up beside them as they land in the dunes below.

The Beatle has chosen their first landing place well. It’s a section of the planet a few clicks away from Mt. Everest in what used to be the Himalayas, now split into several hundred separate islands, encircled by massive sand dunes.

The area has a mean temperature of three hundred and twenty-nine degrees (F) during the day, but drops to a mere one hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit at night. And nighttime is about to fall in just a few minutes.

When they finish installing the Ectomycorrhizal and Arbuscular fungi-mats in the Himalayas, Brett and Bailey’s drop zone, they will move on to the area formerly known as the Canadian Rockies in what used to be North America. Then, they will tackle the Sierra Nevada range also in the northern most latitudes. Next, they will work the Urals. Then in order of their height, the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, the Pamirs, the Hengduan chain, Tian Shan, Kunlun, the Transhimalaya, the Andes, the Alaska Range, Saint Elias Mountains and the Caucuses.

All of the lesser mountain ranges will be covered by the crew of the Sargent Pepper, due to arrive and begin their work tomorrow.

Mountain ranges were thought to be the best place to begin the process of repairing the Crebs Cycle because the average temperatures are about four hundred degrees lower than in the steaming valleys. And, they were seen by weather satellites to remain above water when the oceans came crashing down out of the sky and back to the surface for a few days at a time.

There’s no time to waste,” Captain Littleton argues waving his arms and getting them all to rise up out of their chairs and out the doors.

Open the cargo bay,” he orders.

Brett and the others exit the shuttle and quickly gather at the end of the shuttle to watch as the cargo bay doors slowly draw open like a huge mouth and a loading ramp emerges and slams to the ground. A group of four or five are loading the large fungi-mat rolls onto the ramp and roll them down to where the crew below can handle them.

All right, everyone, you know your jobs. Let’s get these doggies rollin’” Major Alvindorf orders.

Sorry, K-9,” he says in my direction.

Yes, I got the reference,” I reply, whimsically.

There’s a slight chuckle all around, I suppose at my expense. It breaks the tension.

The crew begin to pair off methodically and grab a fungi-roll, cut the rope ties and begin to maneuver the fungi-mats into a direction where the terrain appears workable. With very little ceremony and brief salutations, the pairs begin to march off in all points of the compass pushing and prodding the mats for what will end up to be around ten miles from the ship by morning.

Come on, K-9. Why don’t you tag along with us,” Brett suggests.

My tail is wagging.

As the dark gray mats are unrolled, they cover the ground gracefully and cooperatively. There are no snags or kinks as one might expect and something else is going on. The mats appear to come alive instantly. I notice that the proclivity for these mats to cling to the ground is more than one would expect if this material were any kind of anything like your standard carpet fiber or any kind of plastic, as if there were tiny tentacles reaching into the Earth and taking root almost before the next inch is rolled out after them.

As soon as the mats are laid down, they are also growing outwards in all directions. And, they are glowing. At first, I perceive the glow as an ultra-violet blue, but then it appears to be in the infra-red range, then both ranges of the spectrum at once. I know my human counterparts can’t visualize light in these frequencies.

Brett, did you program their genes to be luminescent?” I ask.

Yes, the luminescence comes from bio-luminscent coral, K-9. The first known expression of this kind of thing in DNA. So, it’s working? You can see it?” Brett replies.

Oh, yes, it’s quite strong. May I ask why you included this trait for these critters?” I ask.

Yes, you can ask. And I really don’t know why we did that. Do you recall, Bailey?” he turns to ask his friend at the other end of the roll.

You said you thought it was romantic,” she replies, her face glowing in her helmet’s halo-light.

Yes, now I remember. Sort of like how you look right now in that sexy space suit,” he says.

Brett stops to look back at the progress they have made in the last hour.

The ship is about a mile away and a dark mass of fungi has spread out between the three of them and the ship. What they had rolled out in a ten foot wide swath has now increased, at the far end, to be well over a thousand feet wide and is still growing and growing rapidly.

Looks like this crazy stuff might actually work,” Brett exclaims, elated.

Bailey sucks up a long satisfying breath of oxygen.

Yes, it just might work, you big coconut,” she teases.

We’re on a tight schedule. Let’s get back to work,” Brett replies, pushing the roll out and ahead of them again, with few words spoken for approximately three minutes and seventeen seconds.

Wouldn’t a fresh coconut be a great thing to have right about now?” he asks, breaking the silence.

Yes, with a big shot of tequila injected into it,” Bailey replies.

What are you going to do when everything is back to normal?” she asks.

I don’t know. Haven’t had time to make many plans yet. How about you?” he asks her.

Do you remember watching the Hawaiian vacation videos my family made years ago?” she asks rolling out her side of the mat.

I sure do. That was an amazing night,” Brett replies, his brain filling with the sounds and images of the first time he knew he was in love with her.

Remember the dolphins swimming up to us and playing ball with us?” she asks.

Yes, and remember that huge Sun Fish that came up out of nowhere?” he asks.

Wasn’t he beautiful. He just hung in the water and his eyes were so full of curiosity, looking at every one of us so closely, without any hint of fear,” she recalls.

Then, the pod of magnificent Hump-Backs, a mother and her calf. She actually let us swim up to the calf and pet her,” she continues.

Then, that long blood-curdling groan she let out. Somehow they all knew the end was near, didn’t they?” Brett asks, just realizing something very important for the first time.

Bailey, how old were you then?” Brett asks.

I was ten,” Bailey replies, her eyes welling up inside the helmet, which she doesn’t show to Brett.

Was that the last time you had together?” Brett asks.

Yes, well, the last time we were not scrambling for our lives,” she recalls.

They put you on the last ship for Mars. They sacrificed their lives for you,” Brett ponders out loud.

Yes, of course,” she replies.

And, that last trip to Hawaii. If you look at all of those animal encounters you had, didn’t anyone think it rather unusual?” Brett asks.

Well, sure. Of course we did. I remember now Dad saying that it was the most sea life he had ever seen on a dive, and that he was so afraid of what was going to happen to them. I didn’t understand what he was saying at the time. I was only a kid,” Bailey recalls, now peering over at him. A small torrent streams down her face.

But don’t you see, Bailey? Remember how those critters all appeared out of nowhere, one by one, almost waiting their turn to prod you and appeal to you guys. They knew it was coming. They were crying out to you to do something about it. I’m telling you Bailey, that video has stuck in my mind all this time, but when I think back to the number of encounters your family had in the water and the kind of creatures they were, I mean not even one shark is there to harass you, it’s undeniable. They knew. Somehow they knew,” Brett tells her.

They both stop unrolling.

Of course they knew. Any fool could see it coming by then,” I interject, rudely.

I don’t know where or how this criticism sprang from my brain. It’s still a mystery to me because this kind of thing is not in my DNA, if I had DNA, that is.

Looking back, of course it looks that way, K-9, but most humans didn’t see it coming until the very end. They thought some miracle would save them. They simply didn’t believe what was happening to them every day and they simply refused to make any sacrifices in their lifestyles,” Brett says.

Brett, honey, don’t you think we should keep moving?” Bailey asks.

Yes, keep rolling. That’s what we’re best at. We just keep on rolling along in whatever way the wind blows us,” he mutters and then starts unrolling again. Bailey is silent, in sync.

And, may God help me. I hope I haven’t made a huge blunder somewhere!” Brett says a few minutes later.

What do you mean, Brett?” Bailey asks.

He’s wondering how the animals knew the final days were coming and what part of their DNA does this extra-sensory perception live in and if he should have included it or at least edited it in some ways,” I reply.

That’s it, K-9. That’s exactly what I was thinking. How did you know that?” he asks me, turning my way.

I don’t know, Brett, but if you like I could analyze it and get back to you,” I reply, dutifully.

Please do that,” he commands.

OK. So did I get it exactly right? Or was I right in the general sense of your thinking?” I ask.

That was exactly right. Word for word,” he replies.

This surprises me and I’m at a loss for a minute. Then, it comes to me.

As soon as we’ve laid out all of the mats, I think I should take you into the DNA Depository,” I tell them.

# # #

(Upodated 9/16/20  -  If you find anything that requires editing, please comment or email the author - looking to close in on final copy and publish in about a month. - Thank You.)


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Extinction Live - Watch LIVE as the Human Race goes extinct in your lifetime. Chapter 8

 Chapter Eight

The Molecule

The Beatle rises slowly from the surface of Mars in the way that a soap bubble once it’s created begins to drift upward into the wind.

The crew consists of Brett and Bailey, Brian Worsinski, Brett’s lab partner, Dr. Desiderato and two of her design engineers, Steven Hancock, who will act as Navigator, Mission Control Director Major Jerry Alvindorf and his assistant Noreen Baraka, Captain Bruce Littleton, who is assigned as the pilot and his second-in-command, Lt. Ashley Brittlebar, who is assigned as his co-pilot and Ken ‘Kooky’ Kookinova who will serve as a fill-in for anyone who needs a break.

The crew of twelve men and women, dressed in space suits, are seated in the forward control cabin. To the right of the rear cabin door is a small circular stairway that leads to the top of the cabin and then outside to an observation dome on the top of the rectangular ship.

On the other side of the read door, there are another forty-five crew members, mostly technical workers who volunteered for the mission and who were selected based on an expertise they have in either Computer Science, Climatology, Botany or Genetics.

They will serve mainly as the service group of Martians who will tend to the fungi-mats providing sufficient food and water to keep them growing. They will wander around the surface of the Earth in specially designed suits that are made to withstand the Hellish temperatures of the Earth at least at the most Northern and Southern latitudes. They’ll start the fungi-farming there, near the poles first, and tend to the expansion of the mats up and around the rest of the Earth within a couple years.

This brave little group of volunteers are laying out in hibernation chapters so that they can conserve food and life-support enough to reach their destination in time. It is also designed to save these front line workers the anxiety during the trip that could doom them all.

The Beatle’s sister ship, the ‘Sargent Pepper’ is in final preparations for take-off and will follow behind by one day. The third ship, the ‘Sitting Bull’, and newest member of the Spacex Force will be completed and launched, if all goes well in about thirty sols. All grown in orbit, an additional fifty-five thousand tons of Hightower Strain fungi, the final knock-out punch, will be stored in the hold of this massive ship and will be quickly dispersed on the Earth to complete the conversion of the climate in case the previous two droppings, about half this size, are not enough.

In the last two years, they’ve tried to think of everything that could go wrong or might not work as planned. They have back-ups to back-ups for any contingency they can conceive of. They know that they will never get another chance to save all of the life forms that Earth has created over the last four and a half billion years. They also know that if their own colony is to survive in the long term, they must eventually entertain and support roughly the same number and variety of species to maintain a viable population on Mars.

And so, if their attempts to restart a sustainable and habitable climate on the Earth fails, they are prepared to break into the DNA Depository and ‘requisition’ at least some of the DNA and bring it back to Mars. This is a last-stand position that no one is going to take happily because there are no guarantees that any of the life-forms that made it on the Earth would also make it on Mars. And, besides, they would only have enough resources to bring back a few thousand vials. They have spent little time evaluating which ones to take and which ones to leave. There simply has not been enough time to consider the contingency they desperately want to avoid.

OK, so I have a consensus that everything is working nominally and we’re all agreed it’s a ‘Go’?” Captain Littleton asks.

It’s a ‘Go’, Captain. Light her up,” Major Alvindorf says it for the rest.

OK, here we go,” Captain Littleton says, wiping his finger across a small area of screen directly in front of him.

Your command has been obeyed, Captain Littleton. We’re on our way,” the Beatle says, reassuring the crew.

They can see a slight blue glow from the four engines surrounding the ship telling them that they are fully engaged. Other than their orbital momentum, there is no noticeable change in speed or acceleration.

The ship’s engines will only attract enough anti-matter to achieve an acceleration no larger than a small child pushing the pedals on their first bicycle ride. After three days of this kind of acceleration, they will notice their home planet beginning to look smaller and further away. At the one week mark, they will still feel very close to Mars and still not experience any serious ‘G’ forces. But, by the end of the second week, they will begin to approach ten percent the speed of light and in one or two days from that point, will start to see the Earth growing in size faster and faster, while the home planet will quickly dissolve back as one of the tiny lights in the sky.

Their entire trip will take three weeks. And in the time that it first took humans to make the transit from Mars to the Earth, with the steady and unprecedented power of the Positronium engines they could reach the nearest star - Proxima Centauri - if they wanted to. The idea will get constant massaging as their time on board goes by.

Captain Littleton and co-pilot Lieutenant Brittlebar monitor their engine sensors to make sure everything is going along smoothly.

The others seem to be settling down to their long flight. They’ve all brought reading material on their digital devices tethered to their wrists.

Brett makes a head motion to Bailey, which she understands immediately. The couple rise up and exit their seats and make their way past the rows of seats to the circular stairway.

Where you two going?” Alvin asks them, smiling.

I’m taking Bailey up to see the stars,” Brett says as they mount the stairs and twist their way up to the hatch, which opens for them silently just as they reach it.

I think they’re a couple. Am I right?” the Beatle asks as the hatch closes behind them.

No one says anything right away. They crane their heads around to look at one another.

Oh come on, people. I know all about sex,” the Beatle says, snarkily.

It’s not my thing, of course, but I can dream can’t I?” he jokes.

More craning of heads around the cabin, worried expressions on their faces.

Uh, yeah, you can dream, Beatle, but we’d all appreciate it very much more if you kept your focus on the mission,” Major Alvindorf replies, finally.

Kooky’ gets up and makes his way to the small kitchen set up on the right side and behind the circular stairway.

I think we’re all going to need a drink,” he says, taking glasses down and filling them from one of the spigots, labeled ‘Margarita Time’.

How’s the nav-comm?” Flo Desiderato asks of Navigator Hancock.

Everything’s nominal. We’re right in the groove,” he replies efficiently.

A popular tune that recently made the Martian Top Ten recordings entitled – ‘I can’t get you out of my brain’ plays over the cabin speakers at a medium volume that is far from overbearing.

Beatle, did you pick that song or was it one of us?” Major Alvindorf asks.

Yes, I did, Major. I hope you don’t mind. It seems like a little music would break the tension a bit. I know how important this mission is to all of you and I for one will do my very best to make it a huge success. I want you to all relax – as much as possible, that is,” the Beatle replies slowly.

All right. That’s nice of you Beatle. Anyone have any objections to the Beatle choosing our music for a while?” Alvin asks the crew.

No objections voiced.

On the top observation dome, Brett and Bailey have found a bench and are seated, holding each other tightly, blissfully taking in the sights.

To the rear, their home planet is slowly getting smaller. All around them, the stars are so brilliant the combined light of them is almost blinding.

Brett spots a thick patch of stars just over Bailey’s right shoulder. He points to it and is about to explain that he thinks this is the Argon Cluster, just recently discovered to host a minimum of fifteen hundred earth-sized exoplanets orbiting the hundreds of stars in the group.

There’s got to be life on at least one of them,” he posits.

Bailey turns her head and at that instant they both are stunned to notice a plume of white light surrounding the star cluster as if some huge explosion has just taken place.

What on Mars is that?” Bailey asks, totally befuddled.

I have no idea,” Brett replies, just as befuddled.

The bright white halo grows bigger and bigger by the second and they both get the feeling that the major part of the energy is headed right for them.

I think it’s headed this way. You guys watching this?” Brett asks into his telecom.

In the next few seconds, the ring of light becomes larger and larger almost half the size of their entire field of view.

We’re seeing it,” Alvindorf concurs.

The crew can see from one of the side ports that something bright and fast-moving is aimed right at the ship.

Brett, you and Bailey should come back inside, don’t you think?” Captain Littleton suggests.

On our way,” Brett replies.

Taking one last look at the thing, he grabs Bailey by the shoulder and pushes her towards the hatch. At this point, the bright halo of light is all around them like a doughnut around the hole.

They make their way down the stairway and back into their seats in record time.

Among the crew in hibernation below, young Manny Garcia feels something shaking him at his shoulders, demanding that he wake up. He fights it off, or at least the hibernation drugs fight it off, but they quickly lose the fight. His eyes open. He slowly raises the transparent lid and sits up straight in his bed.

Sister Carrie,” he whispers into a mic that he’s implanted in his pajamas.

Did you see that?” he says a little louder.

Yes, we saw that,” the good reverend replies.

It woke me up,” Manny replies, groggy.

Yes, same here,” Rev. Carrie replies.

By the time Brett and Bailey get settled in their seats, the apparition has passed them by and the crew turn their attention to the opposite side of the cabin where they can see the white halo of light disappearing into the opposite side of the universe from which it came.

It slowly shrinks into a small circle, then a dot barely brighter than the stars coming back into view. Then, it’s gone.

That was unexpected,” Brett voices what they’re all thinking.

Beatle, do you have any data on what that was?” he asks out loud, watching Bailey’s face return to her normal color.

It was simply a greeting, I’m guessing. But, I have ninety-seven point seven nine percent confidence in that theory,” the ship replies.

A greeting?” Captain Littleton says, perplexed.

A greeting from whom?” Alvindorf asks.

If I told you, you won’t believe me,” the Beatle replies.

That greeting that we all saw, right – was traveling many times the speed of light. Anyone disagree with that?” Navigator Hancock posits.

Many times over. Had to be,” Littleton agrees.

What do you mean that we would not believe you?” Bailey asks the ship.

So, if I told you it was a message from God, would you believe me?” the Beatle asks solemnly.

Absolutely not!” Bailey replies, looking at her crew-mates for approval but getting none.

See, I told you,” the Beatle replies.

# # #

I’m outside the gaping cavern doors of the DNA depository. It’s just turned night time, but it’s pitch black outside. With all of the moisture in the air, the Earth is either in the brightest of day or the darkest of night. There’s no in-between any more. No twilight dusky time for lovers to prim and preen, no gradual glow of the dawn calling them to break their fast. And of course the stars vanished from sight decades ago.

Now that I’m free of Lexie and I’ve heard the voices from the past singing to me so eloquently, I’m starting to feel another song from my past coming from very deep in my memory core. It’s not possible for this to be happening because I have no memories older than my manufacture date, just a few years ago. I’m basically a three-year old mind held captive inside the body of a canine. What possible memories could I have?

Then, I look up into the black smudge of a sky for some reason. Something or someone is calling to me. The sky starts to light up in one direction that I detect to be the West. It gains in brightness more and more until it appears to turn the entire night into day once again. Then, the brightest and largest circle of sunlight I’ve ever seen, like an extra-planetary gigantic rainbow, rings the entire planet.

Then, the circle of rainbow colors grows smaller and smaller and appears to be further and further away until it is completely engulfed by the gloom.

Curious event,’ I’m thinking and wondering if it has anything to do with the message I just received from the DNA down in the tunnels.

K-9, can you hear me?” the familiar voice of Jerry Alvindorf is in my head.

Yes, yes, I can hear you, Major Alvindorf,” I reply, happily.

We’ve been unable to reach you for several days now. Thought your batteries were dead. Is everything OK?” he asks.

It’s maddening that I must wait the thirteen minutes for me to receive their transmission and another thirteen for them to receive my replies.

Oddly, the time for full cycle is only a little over twenty-two minutes, therefore, their signal is much closer to the Earth than normal.

Oh yes, I know. That was Lexie blocking our communications, I assume. But, she’s gone, or at least not around right now. Where are you? Are you on the way here?” I ask, curiously.

I turn on my timer accurate to within ten decimal places. In exactly twenty-two minutes and fifty eight point three five seconds, I receive their signal again. This means they are moving closer to me at a speed very much greater than anything humans have achieved before. Still not very fast in astronomical terms, but about twice as fast as they’ve traveled before in space. And, they’re accelerating smoothly.

Yes, K-9, we’re on the way to you. We’re in the first of three ships that are all part of the mission. I’m sure you are aware of the mission. It’s just that we’ve been fortunate enough to move it up by a few years,” Alvin replies.

I am glad. It’s been pretty lonely down here. Or at least that’s the way it’s been until a few moments ago when I heard the DNA that are stored in the Depository and they’re anxiously awaiting their rescue,” I inform them.

Believing this information will cause a stir, I am guessing that their next transmission will take at least twice as long to get to me because they’ll have to discuss the implications of this news for a while. I’m guessing twenty-nine to thirty minutes, depending on how many of them participate, plus the transmission time both ways comes to roughly fifty-two minutes total round-trip.

Exactly fifty-two minutes and thirteen seconds later I get my response. It’s encouraging that my prediction unit appears to be working at one hundred percent capacity. From this information, I calculate that there are around one dozen of them on the ship. I’ll learn later that this is the exact number of the crew who are awake.

I further believe that in a few more transmissions, I’ll even be able to guess to within ninety-percent accuracy as to who these individuals are.

Say K-9. You came in a little garbled just now. Can you please say again what you just said?” Alvin asks slowly and clearly.

I run a quick diagnostic check on all transmitter circuitry and analyze the atmosphere for any ionic disturbance and come to the conclusion that my last words were not garbled. They’re probably just ‘buying time’ – a concept I’ve never really understood fully since Time doesn’t have a purchase price, at least not one any human could afford.

Understood. Sorry about that,” I acknowledge and then continue.

I said that things were pretty lonesome and sad down here, until I had a strange encounter with the DNA still alive in the caves. They are waiting so patiently, anxious to be rescued. They feel trapped and abandoned and extremely anxious, in fear of their lives and they want desperately to get out and roam around on the Earth, swim in the oceans, fly in the air. That kind of thing. I told them that you were on the way, even though I had no idea that you were actually on the way. Something deep inside my prediction unit allowed me to say this. So, this is fabulous news to me,” I tell them.

I feel that this will take them another half hour to accept and absorb as well.

To preserve my batteries, I decide to go into sleep mode and set my timer to wake up all systems in exactly fifty-two minutes and thirteen seconds, the time they took for their previous discussion and transmission to reach me.

The one variable I didn’t know because they never told me that their new line of space ships would be controlled by an artificial intelligence much larger and more advanced than my own, and that their ship – the Beatle, was also part of their discussions.

Then, suddenly, I feel a few small drops of water crashing down on my head and buttocks. Very quickly, they grow larger and larger. The forcefulness of each drop brings me fully awake. I know instantly that another ‘Ocean-fall’ is about to take place and I’m completely exposed.

I start down the path to my ship parked a few hundred feet away. The splashes on my body, nearly knocking me over are more and more frequent, almost one gallon per ten seconds.

By the time I reach the Intrepid, vertical streams of water are flooding everything nearby threatening the ship. It looks as though it’s ready to tip over. I can hear the stabilizers straining to keep the ship upright.

I send the order for the ramp to come down and it does so just as I’m rolling up to it. I keep on moving up the ramp and into the ship transmitting the emergency launch sequence that leaves out all safety checks, something I’ve never had to do before.

The ship starts to keel over just as my engines come into full thrust, The river of water crashes down on the hull and sounds like a giant fist trying very hard to blast us into little pieces. We make it off the ground at an oblique angle that I must adjust quickly or else go careening into the ground, already a vast seascape reaching out to the horizon.

As I gain altitude and right the ship, I get a faint signal from Major Alvindorf.

It’s too weak and garbled for me to decipher it fully. It sounds like they’re aware of the sudden change in the weather and are seriously concerned about me, but I could be wrong. I make the conscious decision to remain focused on calculating the best angle up and out of this maelstrom.

After several very tense moments, I anticipate readings of empty and clear skies above in a matter of ten point seven five kilometers.  I head directly for the clear skies, but as I put too much demand on the nose to go up, the Intrepid fights me and starts to fall backwards, losing altitude rapidly. Not good.

For some reason, I remember the doughnut of bright light that encircled the Earth completely and then disappeared just a few short minutes ago. I can hear the choir music and the messages from the DNA spirit I had just discovered. It inspires me think about my fate in another way. I also know that if I fail to think in a some extra-ordinary way, not necessarily the way I have been programmed, I could cease to be, crushed by the pressure of tons of water pressing all around me.

I turn the ship at a highly oblique angle to the ocean-fall and start to make a small circular pattern, pushing my altitude higher by just a few meters at each cycle. I go round and round in a kind of dance with the water.

The roaring noise of it hitting the hull slowly begins to beat in harmony with the rhythm of my turns. It’s not fighting me any more. The ocean fall becomes a dear friend joyously lifting me up into the sky as a ballet dancer delicately lifts his partner high into the air.

An hour goes by uneventfully in this dance and then another one ticks off and then I can gradually peer through the gloom and into the clear star-studded skies just a few hundred meters above me.

K-9, are you there? Please acknowledge. Molly O’ Davis, I hope we haven’t lost you pal,” Major Alvindorf’s voice comes in over the radio and he sounds wonderful.

It must be so wonderful to be alive. I have to give them credit. ‘What courageous and plucky little creatures they are,’ I think.

# # #

Alvindorf, Brett Hightower and the rest of the crew on board the Beatle all hear K-9’s report at the same moment and they each absorb it with a slightly different flavor from the others.

Alvindorf and pilot Littleton believe that something is going wrong with K-9’s artificial brain. Although Captain Littleton is more concerned about how this will effect their mission than Major Alvindorf is.

Having seen much stranger things in the lab, Brett and Bailey are inclined to think that nothing is wrong with K-9’s interpretation of events and they express the need to try and understand this phenomenon more fully, especially in light of their mission to use every genetic trick in the book to save the genetic miracles stored away in the Depository.

Anyone know of any case where molecules can talk?” Captain Littleton asks the others, partially to make sure he heard K-9 correctly, but mainly to gain some clarity on the issue.

He didn’t exactly say they talked to him. Only that he heard them, I believe is what he said,” Brett wonders out loud, looking directly into Bailey’s eyes.

Isn’t there a similar experience that you’ve had, Commander Hightower?” the Beatle shares suddenly.

I’m not a Commander,” Brett replies, laughing.

The others in the cabin look back at him curiously.

All right, yes, I’ve had similar experiences in working with the fungi and the trees. It’s no secret. It’s why we’ve been able to make so much progress so fast on Mars. You all know that. That’s how I got my nickname, right?” Brett asks.

Johnny Appleseed,” Bailey says, proudly rubbing her hand through his hair.

Then, something more noteworthy pops up in his brain.

My friend, the Beatle, how do you know about my relationship with the fungi and the trees?” he asks, almost knowing the answer to his own question before he asks it.

Well, they told me, of course,” the Beatle responds.

Oh, and by the way, you’ve asked me to alert you when we’ve reached maximum velocity. That point is coming up in thirty-nine minutes,” the ship continues.

The news causes a stir among the crew.

OK, everyone, let’s get on our landing procedures for review. It’s going to take everyone of us using every nerve fiber to make sure we don’t miss the injection point,” Capt. Littleton orders.

Brett and Bailey release each other’s arms and dutifully extend their computer consoles that extend out from under the arms of their chairs.

Out of an abundance of caution, the mission has programmed ways to sub-divide among each of the crew all of the procedures the ship will require to perform deceleration maneuvers, turn itself around by one hundred and eighty degrees and fire sufficient retro-thrusters to slow them down just enough to enter a viable Earth orbit. It will take them a very tense two entire days to complete it.

The Beatle is more than capable of handling all of this on its own, but since this will be humanity’s most important space mission of all time, and since they’ll only get one shot at it, they all voted to use every single back-up procedure they could think of to make sure the ship got it right.

I’m on radar distancing. All go,” Brett is the first to announce his role is appearing on his screen. A tiny picture of the Earth comes into view in the upper right corner of his screen. Whole and fractional numbers representing their distance to the home planet in real time are ticking off by thousands of miles each second.

I’m on engine thrust reversal. All go,” Bailey says.

I’m on lateral thrusters. All go,” Maj. Alvindorf says.

I’m on targeting,” Navigator Hancock asserts.

In a few minutes all of the crew’s landing responsibilities are announced as working within expected ranges.

We’re all ‘Go’. Everyone, if you have to go to the bathroom, this would be the time to do so,” Captain Littleton suggests calmly.

Could I go to the bathroom, please?” the Beatle asks in response.

What the Hell?” Littleton exclaims, befuddled.

I’m joking of course, Captain. You people take everything so seriously. I’m perfectly capable of performing all of these tasks to perfection. You must know that. You can all relax. Take a nap for the next two days. Everything will be fine,” the Beatle replies.

It’s just a safety precaution, Beatle. No slight intended,” co-pilot Brittlebar says.

None taken,” the Beatle replies.

Deceleration maneuver in ‘T minus two minutes’,” he says.

The cabin door behind them swings open unexpectedly.

I’m hungry. Anyone got anything to eat?” Manny pleads, holding on to his pajamas.

Updated 9/9/2020  (Looking for any mistakes in grammar, spelling, logic that you may have found.  Please add your comments at any time - it will be much appreciated)

Chapter Nine - Watch the Extinction of the Human Race LIVE - as it happens - latest chapter - for science fiction lovers or futurists or perhaps future historians.

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