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.)