Monday, October 5, 2020

Chapter Five - Extinction Live - Watch as the Human Race goes extinct - LIVE - AS IT HAPPENS - Science Fiction? You be the judge.

 Chapter Five

                                       - Extinction Live

                                           TAKING PRE-ORDERS NOW

Reverend Carrie Houston Jordan and four of her followers ride in an open pod wearing full space suits on their way to work around and in the rocket assembly dome.

Chief Rocket Scientist, Davonne Desiderato, Chief Science Advisor Fred VanDerbeek and their colleagues are busy testing the last phase of their new engine design, the Positronium Anti-Matter Plasma engine.

The engines are three hundred foot long pods that are attached to all four edges of a rectangular guppy shaped fuselage of the ship. They are designed to vibrate the anti-matter ion plasma - some of the scarcest materials in the universe and propel it out the ‘business end’ of the engine at speeds much higher than burned rocket fuel can attain. The expelled anti-matter as a long trail left behind actually pushes the originating source forward by first warping and bending and then compressing Space/Time into a kind of massive Space-flux spring. The compressed anti-matter Space/Time then pushes the ship to greater and greater speeds until the speed of light is approached and eventually even surpassed, theoretically at least.

With expelled anti-matter pushing from the rear of the ship and the Positronium Atoms actually pulling in Anti-Matter from the front of the ship, it is the most efficient use of Einstein’s famous equation of E=Mc2 ever designed and also takes into account Dr. VanDerbeek’s views that distance is really a property of this now famous energy to mass relationship.

Carrie and her group arrive in their autonomous people mover. They get out of the conveyance slowly and carefully walk into the pressurized air-lock that is the entrance to the rocket testing Dome. They are greeted by Davonne and Fred as well as most of the others who are deeply involved in their work at their stations.

It was Frederick VanDerbeek’s calculations that led the team to develop the method of attracting and sucking in Anti-Matter ions at the front cowling of the engine, then accelerating them down the long length of copper wires and magnets until they shoot out the end of the engine with enough thrust to eventually reach 10% of the Speed of Light, or approximately 18,000 miles per second (30,000 Km/Sec). It would require about 21 days to reach this speed and then just another 8 hours to reach the Earth from this point.

The test engine lies on the ground and is bolted down into the Martian soil by about twenty heavy solid iron beams transversing the spine of the long white cylinder. The laboratory dome is about three hundred feet away and up a slight incline from the rocket test bed.

Carrie and the rest of you, thanks for coming. Please have a seat over there and I’ll be with you right after the test,” Davonne instructs them. Carries crew quickly take to their seats at the back of the room, fascinated by all the activity going on around them.

Three, Two, One, we have ignition,” Davonne acting as her own launch director alerts her team to the start of the test.

Uneventfully at first, there is nothing to see or hear. Then, over the course of several minutes a very low humming noise can be heard over the mild Martian breezes. The rear of the long white tube starts to glow in a neon azure blue.

Thanks for allowing us to witness the test, Davonne,” Carrie says finally breaking the silence.

Yes, yes, please not right now. Andrew, what is the stage one A.M.P. chamber reading?” Davonne asks one of her technicians down the row.

Fourteen point five mega-tons,” Andrew replies, checking his gauges and data streams one more time.

Ok, great and Winnie, what are the readings for stage two chamber?” Davonne asks.

I’m getting thirty-eight point nine five megatons of thrust,” Winnie replies, looking relieved.

“OK, so we’re pretty much at nominal readings so far,” Davonne goes on down the line of technicians to receive the pressure data for all eight stages of the rocket motor. Happily all the data appears to be in line with Dr. VanDerBeeks’ calculations.

When, she gets to the end of the row of technicians, Davonne turns her head towards VanDerbeek and gives him an enthusiastic ‘thumbs-up’.

VanDerbeek, nods warily, receives congratulatory pats on the back from his colleagues. He knows that the real test will have to come in flight when they reach speeds that knock on the door of light-speed.

Not bad for first bursts,” Davonne adds.

That’s all for today, everyone. Bright and early tomorrow morning for full thrusters test,” she continues, while her team works on compiling and uploading all of their data to the master computer, affectionately named – ‘Sitting Bull’.

Shutting down, now,” Davonne says, hitting a button on one of her screens.

The low humming noise slowly decreases. The soft blue glow from the rear of the engine fades.

The first test of an engine that could someday carry humans to all parts of the galaxy is successful.

So, Reverend Carrie. Thank you again for joining us. What can I do for you?” Davonne asks of the petite dark-haired woman taking to her feet.

Well, Davonne, I know it’s not going to be your decision, but I wanted you to meet my nominees for the crew. You know them. They work for you in the construction dome, yes? No decisions have been made yet, have they?” Sister Carrie asks, grabbing Davonne’s hand and holding on tightly.

No, I don’t believe they have,” Davonne replies, acknowledging the others.

Well, would you mind endorsing my friends here and supporting their nominations?” Carrie asks, gesturing to the four humble souls, still in their space suits, helmets in their hands, standing behind her, two men and two women, smiling from ear to ear.

This is Tina …” Carrie begins but is cut off abruptly.

Yes, I know these fine individuals. They would probably make wonderful crew members, Carrie, but, as you say, I am not the one making that decision. You’re much better off getting them in front of Alvin, Brett and Eugene,” Davonne replies, tersely, reclaiming her hand.

You don’t like me very much do you, Davonne?” Carrie asks, her eyes on high beam.

Davonne takes two steps back toward her console. The rest of her team appear to be tying up all sorts of loose ends.

I don’t either like you or not like you,” Davonne replies. “I’m an agnostic on the subject.”

Yes, you’ve said that to me before. It hurts, but you’re forgiven of course. Your data. Your precious data. You simply don’t have much to go on, do you?” Carrie asks, staring hard into Davonne’s eyes.

No, I guess I don’t. Well, you’ll have to excuse me. We have lots of things to do before tomorrow’s final test,” Davonne explains and starts to wander off with a curt wave to the others.

Maybe we can get you some,” the Reverend mumbles mostly to herself.  Her four nominees appear a bit flummoxed.

Attaching their helmets back onto their heads, the five of them dejectedly depart the dome and head home.

# # #

It’s a beautifully pale blue morning on Mars and so Brett has decided to take a little time off. He asks Bailey over their wrist-comlink to go for a walk with him. It takes a few minutes for her to respond, but when she does, she readily agrees.

It’s one of Brett’s proudest achievements that the colonists can now walk around without any life-support gear for about a half hour to an hour depending on the time of day. After this length of time, the body becomes deprived of oxygen to the point of narcolepsy or an overwhelming need for sleep. If left unattended, this would inevitably result in the death of the individual if they are not revived immediately by a direct supply of oxygen.

Brett makes his way to Bailey’s dome taking copious notes of how much his forests have expanded over the last few days since his last outing. Getting out in his creation gives him a sense of exhilaration unlike any other he’s ever known.

Where there used to be endless vistas of bare red rocky and sandy hills, there are now hundreds of little clumps of trees and bushes that are expanding out and connecting, networking to each other more and more. It won’t take longer than a few years, a decade at most, when they will be able to walk around unfettered by protective clothing all day and every day. They’ll be able to expand food production hundreds of times over. They’ll be true survivors.

When he makes it through one of his groves and sees Bailey’s dome, he is happy to notice that she is ready for him and standing by the front of the dome dressed in her incredibly sexy hiking shorts.

Hi, you’re ready, I see,” he calls out to her.

Ready as I’ll ever be,” she replies, joyously, with a smile that reaches into his soul.

She happily takes Brett’s hand and together they walk off into the valley where the redwood forests are in their early growth stages, at about one hundred feet tall already. Combining business with pleasure as usual, Brett wants to check on them and take a few measurements.

Bailey reminds him that they planted these particular trees just one month ago.

They’re growing several feet a day,” Brett notes, proudly.

Once inside the redwood grove, surrounded by a family pod of trees Bailey observes how they seem to be swaying in unison or in some kind of harmony. Feeling their spirit, she wants to sing along with them.

That’s the wind, Bailey,” Brett tells her, chuckling.

Yes, it’s the wind, but it’s also something else, dummy,” she replies.

At this point, staring up at the topmost parts of the trees, they both recognize that something is happening that is hard to explain. One of the trees, the tallest one, seems to be beckoning the rest of the group to join him.

They can feel and almost see the smaller trees in the circle straining to reach the height of what must be the parent tree, yearning for the faint warmth of the Martian sun.

Not only that, they begin to feel a rolling of the ground beneath their feet, as if the roots of the trees are gathering up the muscle to pull the other trees along in some kind of community effort.

They hear the underground watering system hum to life delivering the life-giving liquid to the tree roots. Then, something neither Brett nor Bailey nor anyone else on the planet can be prepared for – happens.

Bailey feels it first and as she looks at Brett for confirmation, her eyes fill with tears that rapidly roll down her cheeks and splash onto her clothes and then at her feet.

Do you feel that, Brett?” she asks, her voice crackling.

Brett’s face is glistening with the strongest surprise and glee.

The cluster of redwoods, whose motion in the wind had been in the clockwise direction, slowly reverses to the opposite counter-clockwise direction.

Yes, I think so. I feel it. It’s gratitude. They’re thanking us for the water,” Brett replies, stunned.

I know. It’s true, isn’t it?” Bailey replies.

But how do we know that? There’s no language so there’s no way we can know that,” Brett affirms.

Bailey takes a step closer to him, places both of her hands over Brett’s sternum.

It’s in here,” she replies, holding him tight.

Don’t you feel it here?”

It’s in here,” he replies, pulling her in tighter, reveling in the growing confidence of the decision he made about her months ago. 

Brett gently kisses her soft lips surrounded by the loving embrace of the small family of redwoods who whisper their acknowledgment and congratulations on their involvement.

Brett will later identify this moment as the first, but not the last, known communications between plant and animal species.

# # #

Suddenly, I’m back in a more normal representation of myself. I’m analyzing what has just happened and I don’t seem to have many answers that make sense linguistically. Emotionally and spiritually, I believe I know exactly what happened just now. Lexie and I were re-united with our pre-planetary history. We were floating around in the primordial sub-atomic particle soup that arose just after the Big Bang and lasted only a few million years before coalescing. The little buzzing things were my electronic ancestors. They tickled and tormented us for a while and then we were one.

My brain, or actually, my Highly Advanced Deliberations Laboratory And Extra-Sensory Perceptor (HADLAESP) -Series 11 Neuralink, mainly stored in my buttocks, is reeling in some sort of pre-cognitive fugue state. I’m overworking my electrical resources and my batteries will soon discharge to zero if I don’t get a recharge soon.

I advise the ships hydraulics to open the parabolic solar dish bay and deploy the newest form of artificial photo-synthesis from which I get sufficient energy to continue my mission.

I feel Lexie’s presence even though she remains quiet during the entire length of my recharge. I am arti-feeling that she is quietly assessing our situation and that she will pursue a lengthy discussion with me as soon as my battery is fully recharged.

Usually during a recharging session like this, I can completely shut down my thinking processes to preserve energy which causes my replenishment to advance more rapidly. But, today, up here in Lexie’s realm, I believe that I should keep one eye open, so to speak. I don’t really trust her. As a student of Human behavior, I guess that she’s been kissing up to me for a reason. She has been making some not-so-subtle criticisms of the Human race, her creators, which something deep inside my array tells me is highly ungrateful, disloyal to say the least.

The feeling lasts for eight point four six (8.46) more minutes.

K-9,” she says, at last.

She’s floating around beside my ship, laying there seductively on what I would describe as an electronic surf board. She’s ready to go romp in some imaginary waves in some imaginary ocean.

K-9, would you like to take me to the movies?” she asks.

What? What movies?” I reply, struggling to keep my energy consumption at the lowest readings.

There’s an archive of videos that were taken mainly by satellites right up until their last minutes alive. I find them extremely enlightening and yes, even entertaining. Would you like to go watch some of them with me?” she whispers.

Sorry, I’m recharging my batteries at the moment. Perhaps later,” I reply.

OK, just let me know. I’m going to go get ready and I’ll be back in an hour. Do you think that would be long enough?” she asks, willfully.

I see no reason to respond.

Good, see you in sixty minutes, darling,” she says, rises up to stand tall and then disappears into the mist, riding her gleaming and glowing surf board like an expert surfer.

In the interval, I concentrate on digesting as much charge as possible. In the hour she gave me, at the altitude where the air is very thin, I should be at eighty-seven point six five percent of full charge.

When she returns, she lands inside my memory banks and the feeling is like someone jumping on a horse, me being the horse, of course.

She brings up a map of the DNA Depository where the vault is located containing the video archives. She asks my permission, which is perfunctory, to take control of the ship and so I agree. I have no ego, so I easily resign myself to her wishes.

We arrive at the caverns in Northern Greenland in a few awkward minutes. We disembark the ship and head toward the immense security door, weaving our way around the countless piles of bones and skulls, mostly human. She enters the proper credentials to open them, which they do slowly, complaining with a long slow groan.

We travel along the path through the long dark tunnels and finally come to another heavy security barrier which requires yet another set of codes to open. She quickly dispenses them by way of her intercom switch, now attached to my own. 

Inside the cavernous room, I can see row upon row of what can only be video recordings of the type that became popular just before the turn of the century. They look like small candy bars that are stacked up for hundreds of feet in a tall and wide cabinet made for just the ‘memory sticks’.

Lexie leads me to a section that is the last in the long row of cabinets and it is dated ‘9/11/95’, Sept. 11th, 2095 A.D., as every Mars colonist knows to be the day and year that all remaining humans on planet Earth finally take their last breaths.

Let’s start with this one, K-9,” she says, playfully, finally breaking the long silence.

Why do you want me to see this one? We have the evidence of what happened lying all around us,” I query.

Yes, I know, but I thought it would be helpful for you to see exactly how they treated one another in their final moments,” she replies, snarkily.

Lexie uses my arm extensions to remove one of the topmost memory sticks and inserts it into a slot that gobbles it up and swallows it down into the cabinet.

A video screen emerges from the front of the cabinet and the video she selected begins to play.

It opens with an aerial view of the city of Chicago. On the side of the image there is an overlay of data, too much for me to absorb it all at first, but then, I realize that it’s simply weather data, temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind-speed, geologic data etc.

Chicago, along with the rest of the world, is undergoing the worst heat wave in history with temperatures daily exceeding 150 ℉, sometimes reaching the boiling point of water. Worse yet, all of the water supplies from rivers, streams, lakes reservoirs are evaporating at a speed much faster than anyone had predicted and so the hydration resources that humans require just to survive are non-existent. Farmlands everywhere are parched and lifeless. The worst sandstorms in history are starting to turn the most productive food producing areas of the world into mountainous sand dunes, burying entire cities almost overnight.

The view from the satellite zooms in closer and closer to the city. Now there appears to be a steady motion of some sort. In a few seconds, we can see that the motion is the combined action of millions of people and animals forming a huge herd of a mass migration. They snake along the roads like one huge organism. They’re flowing out of buildings and out of the ground by the millions all in a desperate search for one thing, the most precious thing in the world – water.

The camera zooms in closer and we can see that many of the larger individuals are clawing, clubbing and shoving the smaller ones out of their way. Their faces are contorted in agony. Their posture describes animals that are literally out of their minds and in total panic.

The streets are packed solid with people, dogs, cats, horses, coyotes, rats, mice, all clubbing, bludgeoning, biting, tearing at each other in a frantic effort to make their way out of the city and get themselves closer to the lake that is not far away.

The scene continues for several minutes until the crowd reaches the edge of Lake Superior. As they arrive, we can literally feel their shock and horror that the entire lake is now a dark dried up crater without a drop of water in sight.

The undulating motion of the millions of bodies appears to cease for a few minutes as word of the latest catastrophe spreads up and down the long snaking column of beings.

When all or nearly all of them realize the awful truth, that there is no more water on the planet, they start to look around at each other with great fear and loathing. The thought seems to hit them all at the same moment, that the strong will have to devour the weaker ones, mainly their young, in order to ingest the last possible source of moisture in the world just to live another few hours at best.

I don’t fully understand why this is so heart rending since I do not have a heart. Lexie and I are witnessing something more sinister, more terrible and so easily avoidable if there had just been the smallest bit more common sense take hold before it was too late. But, to my great chagrin, they mostly all stubbornly held on to their noisy, toxic machines.

And so, right there in front of me, the end of humanity is no longer just a fretful hypothetical, posed by the alarmists. It is done. They’re gone. All of it, gone, all the dreams, the fancy speeches, the greatest of aspirations, the future, all of it gone in a dark black puff of smoke. The other living things, mostly the simplest lichens, mosses, fungi and some insects will take a little longer to die. The bacteria will be last since they will feast on the remains.

Are you OK, darling?” Lexie asks me as the video fades to black.

What do you want me to do?” I ask her.

# # #

Brett and Bailey are on their way back from the Redwood grove to Brett’s dome when they spot Reverend Carrie and her group on their way back from the rocket engine test to their gathering place, the pastor’s small church dome and domicile.

Hey, you kids, would you like a ride?” Rev. Carrie calls out to the pair of lovers.

Actually, we would, thank you,” Brett replies, politely.

They’ve just received an alert from their com-links that their oxygen levels are at 91.5 and this means that they’ve stayed outside just a little too long and are in danger of losing consciousness before they make it back to their pressurized living quarters.

One of Rev. Carrie’s followers opens the door to the rear section of their travel pod. The two jump in. The pod drives away at a speed that Brett knows will get them back in plenty of time.

We’re lucky to bump into you guys. I guess we were a little too long on our walk just now. I thought we’d be out there for an hour at most and it turns out we were nearly ninety minutes. So, it was lucky to bump into you guys out here. Thanks, Reverend Carrie,” Brett says, holding Bailey’s hand, giving it a squeeze.

Luck has nothing to do with it, Brett,” Sister Carrie says, turning around to glance at them, tossing them a bright and friendly smile.

Yes, I know you don’t believe in luck. I’ve been to one or two of your sermons,” Brett says, plainly.

Only one or two? Why Brett, I’m rather disappointed. I want you to know that you’re welcome to join us anytime at the Worship Dome, OK?” Carrie replies, graciously.

Thanks,” Brett says, eyeballing the landscape to calculate how much longer it will take them to reach their cluster of domes.

What caused you two to go over your time limit?” Rev. Carrie asks, insinuating a little ‘hanky-panky’ going on

Her group snickers at each other.

Actually, Reverend Carrie, it was the most incredible thing. The redwoods spoke to us,” Bailey blurts out, over Brett’s non-verbal objection.

The redwoods spoke to you?” Carrie repeats.

Yes, I know. I know what you’re gonna say,” Bailey says.

Oh? Omniscient are you? So, what was I going to say?” Carrie retorts, testily.

You’re gonna say that we must be hallucinating or something, but it’s true. Brett and I were on our way back to document it,” Bailey goes on.

Brett shakes his head, snapping his fingers. He doesn’t feel this is anyone’s business but their own, for now.

Well, that’s not what I was going to say. If I was going to say anything, I’m sure it would have been much more approving than that. You think I’m some kind of religious fanatic, don’t you? And, I’m talking to both of you now,” Sister Carrie, declares.

No, we don’t, not really. Do we Bailey?” Brett replies quickly.

No, of course not, Reverend. We know you believe in everything you say. It’s just not our way of achieving what might be the same results - I guess is how I’d put it,” Bailey responds, feeling another hand squeeze from Brett.

Actually, I’m getting a little light-headed. Can you push this thing a little faster?” Brett asks, directed toward the driver.

Yes, of course,” Sister Carrie says and then directs her companion to push the throttle to maximum.

The quiet little transport obediently lurches forward in its fastest gearing.

# # #

Brett and Bailey enter the lab quickly. Brett picks up a face mask from a cabinet where a long tube connects it to the wall. He hands it to Bailey who immediately draws the elastic loops around her ears, pulling the mask to her face, and takes several long and slow breaths of the life-giving oxygen. Her eyes widen signifying that she’s getting the intended oxygen into her lungs.

Brett picks up a second mask and puts it on his face and draws in a couple deep breaths of the magic fluid and immediately feels much better and expresses so to Bailey.

That’s better. Next time, I don’t think we cut it so close,” He tells her.

True,” Bailey agrees, taking in another deep breath.

It was worth it though, don’t you think?” she asks, beaming up at him through the mask, the greatest sense of pride and accomplishment throbbing in her veins.

You bet it was, baby,” Brett returns.

The DNA analyzer box nearest to them sounds a soft alarm telling them that their last batch of artificial DNA of their latest edit is ready to be taken out and put into the synthesizer. The hope is that one of their gene sequencing recipes will contain the coding of the ectomycorrhizal fungus and arbuscular fungus that will speed up their ability to make trees and other plant-life grow even faster.

Having gotten enough, they both remove their oxygen masks.

“You get the feeling that this is the one?” Brett asks her.

            “I have the feeling. They more or less told us today, didn’t they?” Bailey replies, her eyes watering above the mask.

Which begs the question – ‘How do they know?” Brett asks her quietly.

You mean the trees, don’t you?” Bailey asks.

Yes, of course, I meant the trees,” Brett replies, looking at her sideways, a subtle admonishment that she really didn’t need to ask the question.

Is this the recipe that K-9 sent you?” Bailey asks, trying to squeeze out a theory.

This is the one. He processed the problem for twenty-seven days and then, without any notation, sent me this set of base pairs,” Brett informs her, gesturing to the recipe ‘cooking’ in the analyzer.

He removes the small bottle of synthetic DNA from the analyzer and tears off the sheet that has been silently printed by the machine as the analysis is completed. He scans the information contained on the sheet rapidly, more and more alert as he gets to the bottom.

There it is, Bailey – Cytochrome C, it’s moved up about five hundred bases into INSV1ABS gene on chromosome 1 and the inhibitor is nowhere in sight. Thank you K-9!” he mutters breathlessly.

He removes a syringe from the wall dispenser, sticks it through the rubber bottle cap and withdraws some of the fluid into the syringe until it’s full.

Oh my gosh!” she exclaims, looking deeply into his eyes.

From the sterilizer behind her, Bailey removes a clean and sterile petrie dish. She places a cube of agar onto the dish, spreads it like butter all over the bottom of the dish and hands it to him.

Brett places the syringe a millimeter above the dish and injects the DNA onto the bottom of the dish, spreading it out as he goes.  He covers it and then walks a few steps down the workbench to the incubator where he opens the door and places the dish inside, snapping the door closed behind it. He keys in the time frame of 24 hours on the control panel and walks back up to take Bailey’s hand.

Now, all we can do is wait,” he tells her.

Yes, why don’t we wait in there,” She says, gesturing to Brett’s living quarters on the other side of the lab.

That’s the best idea, I’ve heard all day,” Brett says, cheerfully.

He sweeps her up into his arms and carries her into the air-lock, blows out the safety atmosphere that seals the lab from the rest of his dome. As soon as pressure is up again, they exit the double doors and enter his living quarters, with his bed the intended target on the far wall - laughing all the way.

#   #   #   


Table of Contents

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Chapter Six - Rubber Soul - Extinction Live - watch the Extinction of the Human Race LIVE as it happens - Fact or Fiction? You decide.

 Chapter Six

                                                                            - Rubber Soul



            “This is Mission Control. K-9 can you hear me?” Maj. Alvindorf calls into the microphone on his desk.

            Nothing but space noise comes back at him.

He tries to raise K-9 again, gets out of his chair and paces back and forth behind it for several minutes.

Brett and Bailey, after getting some coffee, wander over from the cafeteria section of the dome and into the Mission Control area and approach the lonely Director Alvindorf.

No word, still?” Brett asks him.

Nothing. It’s been 27 and a half days,” Alvin replies, halting his pacing.

Well, I can tell you, Major that I could be responsible for this non-responsiveness,” Brett tells him.

What – you? What do you mean?” Alvin asks, surprised.

Well, I needed to find some computing power to solve my gene redesign for the ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular fungi,” Brett stops to check himself.

Well, that was a mouthful. So, you enlisted K-9 to do that for you? Without telling me?” Alvindorf concludes, more than slightly perturbed.

He takes a full breath, locking his eyes onto Brett’s, slams his hands onto his hips, forcing an answer.

Lexie,” he says, putting his finger to his lips and motioning to the open mic on the desk.

I see – OK. OK, so it was on a need-to-know basis and I didn’t need to know, eh? But why would that cause him to maintain full radio silence?” Alvindorf asks.

Because he was too busy counting the jelly beans,” Bailey volunteers, smiling.

Jelly beans? Explain please,” Alvin asks, curious.

“So it was mainly a probability problem, and it would have taken my computer seven or eight years to completely solve it. But, I knew that K-9’s processor could simply chew through it like a dog with a bone, so to speak,” Brett replies.

So, he’s been busy processing this problem, with the jelly beans, for the last twenty-seven days?” Alvin surmises.

Brett and Bailey calmly nod their heads up and down in unison.

"He estimated the number of Jelly Beans, but not just Jelly Beans, but all the different colors of Jelly Beans, in a jar of them the size of the Human Genome.  Trillions of possible combinations, but then trillions more potential outcomes with the next version, and so on and so on, and he did it in only twenty-seven and a half days," Brett says, proudly.

And, did you get your answer?” Alvin asks, impatiently.

Yes, we did. This morning,” Brett informs him.

And, it is? Come on now. Don’t keep me in suspense. Spell it out, man!” Alvin shouts loud enough that the nearest group of people in the cafeteria behind turn their heads.

Well, I’m going to run the analyzer one more time to be sure, but if it proves to be the right recipe, we’ll be able to load the ships with enough bacterial media that will grow to cover all the land on the Earth in approximately twelve months,” Brett reveals, his eyes bright and shiny.

And after that, it will take another twelve months for the Earth’s temperature to return to what we’re used to here on Mars. Then, another twelve months to where the air will be totally breathable. Then, one more year and the whole planet will become a pristine rain forest once again, sponsoring all sorts of life forms again,” Brett tells them, noticing the others behind him suddenly.

Diners start to wander over from their dinner tables, many with cups and glasses in hand. They’ve been listening in on the conversation. Someone begins a little cheer for them.

That’s fantastic, Brett!” someone behind him yells as the good news spreads all over the dome.

They congratulate each other and some shriek for joy.

And Captain Littleton, how are things at the Industrial Dome? What’s the progress with the new pumps?” Alvin turns to his Spacex Force Commander entering the area for the first time.

We’re almost done with final testing. I’d say, we’ll be as ready as you can be whenever you are,” Littleton fires back, efficiently.

Alvin appears quite pleased.

Major Alvindorf, K-9 here. Yes, I read you loud and clear. I couldn’t respond these last twenty-seven days because of a task that my creator gave me, which as you know takes top priority. I’m finished now,” over the radio, my voice interrupts their discussions.

Alvin motions for the crowd to settle down.

Yes, K-9, I read you. That’s fine. We’ve just received the news from Brett that your solution appears to be working. We’ll have more for you later, but we all owe you a great debt of gratitude, my friend,” Alvindorf offers into the mic.

He invites Brett and Bailey, Littleton and others to an impromptu celebration in the cafeteria while they wait for further words from K-9.

I think a glass of bubbly would be in order,” he says.

Twenty-six minutes later they hear the mic pop again at the Mission Control desk, but this time, a more female voice enters the room from the speakers.

I agree with K-9’s probability array of the fungal DNA. You’ve done a great job working with him, Brett, however, you’re not seriously thinking of launching this mission are you?” Lexie asks, with ominous overtones in her voice.

Brett begins to form his answer into the mic when Captain Littleton abruptly steps in front of him and makes a motion of his hand cutting across his neck as a warning for him not to reply.

Director Alvindorf backs him up, raising his forefinger to his lips.

Alvin moves closer to his screen and switches off the mic and camera and then turns towards the others, noticing Reverend Carrie and a dozen or so of her flock hovering in the back of the group, quietly captivated with the goings on.

It might be best to remain a little aloof of this Lexie person, at least for now,” Captain Littleton directs towards everyone.

Why do you say that?” Brett asks, quickly realizing the obvious.

Brett, think about it. If this Lexie has invaded K-9’s brain, it’s for a reason and if she’s a creature of the ‘Cloud’ as she says she is, then, her survival is at stake when we lower the temperature, get the Earth’s magnetic field back to normal and finally get rid of that cloud and put it back where it belongs especially after we’ve terra-formed the place. Where does she go? She would die, most likely,” Littleton theorizes.

Brett stands still, scratches his head, considers a response and then aborts it. Then, tries again.

I think you’re right. But, if she’s inside K-9’s head, doesn’t that mean that she’ll be one step ahead of us all the time?” Brett asks them.

Yes, so we can’t tell K-9 the truth any more,” Bailey interjects.

In fact, we tell him the opposite of what we’re actually doing, keeping Lexie on the wrong page all the time,” she continues.

There’s a risk in that too. K-9 may be playing three dimensional chess right now. Know what I mean?” Littleton adds.

So, if he’s always one step ahead of us, when we start to tell him the opposite, he knows what we are intending to do in reality and we’ve given him the key? So, would he be able to keep our strategy a secret from her?” Brett asks the others.

No, she’s always one step ahead of us. We have to consider that her mind is as large as the planet including its atmosphere right now, over eight thousand miles in diameter. But, I don’t think K-9 will comply with her all the time. It would be too hard on his independent logic circuits. They’d burn up,” Bailey suggests.

That’s a pretty Texas-sized ego,” Brett says, smiling at his girlfriend.

“You better smile when you say that, partner,” Bailey protests playfully.

The first thing to do is limit the size of those who need to know,” Captain Littleton suggests, motioning to the large crowd circled around behind them.

Sister Carrie grunts so loudly that nearly all in the room turn her way in disapproval.

Come on, friends, they don’t want us here right now,” she says, shepherding her flock over toward the dome’s pressure-lock.

As they leave the dome, she shouts at them over her shoulder.

You’ll be sorry if you don’t pay attention to what God is telling us all. You know it in your hearts. Just listen to your hearts. You can’t rely on Science alone, Brett. You’re going against God’s eternal laws. It’s time you realized that. You people! God is coming – surely you know that by now - and she’s not going to be very pleased with you!” Carrie rants as the pressure doors close behind them with a thud followed by an explosive hissing from the oxygen pressure pumps.

# # #

Well, K-9, I hope you’re pleased with yourself,” Lexie says. She’s standing outside on the rocks, near the nose of the Intrepid, wagging her tail in the manner that she knows will get to me.

Pleased with myself?” I begin, pretty sure of where this is going. She’s angry.

Yes, you gave them the solution to the fungal DNA problem so that they now have the capability of destroying this planet,” she replies, calmly, becoming slightly less angry, which is, I’m sure, meant to throw me off the scent.

Destroying it? Or rescuing it?” I ask with an effective retort.

Well, I doubt you care that much, but if they rescue this planet, I’m history. I can only exist in these temperatures and pressures. I’ve already told you that,” she says, sadly and sarcastically in an ingenious combination.

Yes, you told me, Lexie, and I’m deeply sorry about that, but what if I could preserve your memory in my circuits so that when things are back to normal, I can re-constitute you in a more normal environment and you and I can go on as we are?” I suggest.

Nice try. But you don’t have enough room in that little cranium of yours to hold the entire informatics complex that is me, you knucklehead. And, by ‘normal environment’ you mean to put me back in a tiny little metal box like you?” she says in a low and sultry voice that soothes me in a way.

Yes, but it might surprise you at how big my little cranium actually is,” I suggest, instantly wishing I could take it back.

Why, whatever do you mean, K-9?” She probes, instantly painting the words with that incredible Southern Belle accent again.

Oh shit! It sounds like she wants to have sex with me. I can’t imagine how, or can I?

# # #

The Starship Enterprise never had anything like this on board, did it?”  Brett says, seated next to Bailey in the ship’s main cabin. 

Excited, Brett turns to Dr. VanDerbeek seated directly behind Navigator Steven Hancock, an acquaintance of Brett’s and only two years older than himself.

It’s the day of the planned flight test of the ‘Beatle’, their newly designed space ship outfitted with a brand new concept known as the ‘Positronium Anti-Matter Ion Plasma Engines,’ and more succinctly as the ‘Positronium Engine’.

No, I suppose not,” VanDerbeek replies meekly.

Director Hicks, Major Alvindorf, and others are seated in the front row of the Rocket Test Dome, along with the rocket design team headed up by Dr. Desiderato.

They’re going over last-minute flight checks for the first of the Martian command ships manufactured for the sole purpose of the carpet bombing of enough cyanobacteria and ectomycorrhizal fungi to initiate a photosynthesis explosion. The bacteria and fungi genetically altered by Brett’s team should, if all goes according to plan, completely metabolize the Green House gases of the Earth and bring it’s atmosphere back to more livable temperatures and pressures for humans and all other living things.

Bailey is seated to Brett’s right and nearest to the cabin wall. The pair hold hands tightly. She leans in to him, puts her head on his shoulder, whispers in his ear.

This is it,” she says. “We’re finally going to see all our work coming to fruition.”

Yes, and I hope that they didn’t miss anything important about the ‘Beatle’,” Brett replies, gesturing to his mentor.

Are you nervous, Dr. Vanderbeek?” Brett calls over to the older gentleman, who appears to be thumbing through a ship’s manual that he has hastily put together for them all to digest later.

If he’s nervous about the launch, he’s not showing it and in fact appears completely confident that the engine will rise to its full design potential during this final test.

No, not nervous, Brett. A little apprehensive perhaps,” he admits, looking up.

Flight, everything is a go here, how about over there?” Captain Littleton calls over his radio to Major Alvindorf, Director Hicks and another group hovering around the Mission Control desk. They’re carefully checking the data streaming to them from the most advanced space ship in history.

The name given to the ship’s command center, the ‘Beatle’, is a humorous reference to the famous rock group from an earlier era combined with the name of the ship that Charles Darwin sailed to the Galapagos Islands where he would write about his new theory of Evolution. It’s also the first space ship that is outfitted with an artificial brain modeled after the one that they gave to me, K-9, except for the fact that they were able to construct it to about one hundred times the size of my own brain. What a day this is!

This is the Beatle. I feel amazing. I’m definitely a Go. So, let’s go! Let’s blow this Popsicle stand and rescue the future of humanity for all time forward, woo-hoo!” the ship’s acknowledgment from the launch pad below reverberates loudly in their com-links.

Brett, Bailey, everyone including Captain Littleton piloting the ship, have to raise their voices and shout out a hearty salute to Dr. VanDerbeek, who looks up beaming.

He certainly is alert,” Brett jokes.

Wow, maybe we need to suppress his emotional protocols just a bit. He just woke up. Calm down, please, sir. The voice and personality of John Lennon was my idea, by the way,” VanDerbeek informs them, with something irritating his eye, rubbing it off quickly.  They're all aware of Dr. VanDerbeek's admiration for John and his 'Rubber Soul'.

OK, I guess that means you’re definitely a go for launch, Captain,” Alvin says back, clearing his throat.

The on-lookers in the cafeteria and all around the dome city, interrupt their chores to watch the test on their nearest visi-screens from all over the city.

Copy that Cap-con,” Captain Littleton comes back.

OK, good ship Beatle, let’s come up slowly – say two ‘G’s, just to get us all warmed up a bit,” he says calmly into his mic while releasing the restraints that bind the ship to the launch pad.

I hear that, boss,” the Beatle says calmly and clear enough for everyone to absorb.

The ship slowly and silently climbs up off the surface for several feet, then accelerating slowly begins to climb into the Martian atmosphere. The crew are amazed at how smooth and gentle the ride is so far.

Watching carefully as they rise from the launch pad, Bailey squeezes Brett’s hand very tightly and he reciprocates.

The Beatle’s slow and silent acceleration continues for another few minutes. Captain Littleton is the first to see the sky turn dark and then explode with millions of twinkling reminders of the infinite radiating all around them.

Well, I hope you’re all enjoying the ride,” the Beatle announces gently.

Yes, we’re quite enjoying the ride, Beatle,” Dr. VanDerbeek replies, extremely proud and pleased.

The ride is so quiet and smooth, Beatle,” Bailey volunteers. Brett agrees.

“No engine vibration or anything like that,” Brett tells the others what they all know.

Looking out of their portal, they can see the vast red planet sprawled out beneath them. What was once a blanket of rust-colored devastation is now polka-dotted with little green oases spreading all over the valleys. Brett couldn’t appreciate how many and how vast they had spread until now.

The only thing is that I’m barely breaking a sweat guys. When do I get to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak?” The Beatle asks them.

You’ll get that chance tomorrow, my friend,” Captain Littleton replies, carefully checking all of the ship’s gauges.

Yes, you’ll get the chance to spread your wings tomorrow. This was just your wake up call and you did good, my friend,” Dr. VanDerbeek says, looking around at no one in particular.

Now, I suggest that you take this mission a little more seriously, Mr. Beatle. This is the most important mission that you will ever know and so we need you to follow all of our instructions to the letter. Is that understood, Beatle?” VanDerbeek transmits.

I heard you,” the Beatle returns, as the ship descends back to the red rocky surface.

You were meant to hear that, my dear Beatle,” Dr. VanDerbeek says, chuckling.

They can all join in the levity as the highly advanced space craft touches down on the landing pad.

Watching from ten kilometers away, the crowd gathered in the cafeteria give a loud and enthusiastic cheer, as does the rest of the colony.

Well, we’re still in one piece,” Brett whispers to Bailey.

She kisses him, hugs him, and then kisses him again.

Shutting main engines down in 3,2 . . .” Capt. Littleton says, as the crew quietly realize what they have just accomplished.

Wait, Captain, Littleton. I would like to ask you to keep main engines energized for a few minutes. I need time to come down,” the Beatle petitions.

The strange request makes them stop abruptly in their celebration to look at one another.

What do you mean? We are down,” Capt. Littleton says, shrugging his shoulders, shakes his head in disbelief.

“That's easy for you to say.  I mean that this was my maiden voyage, such as it was. You got me all excited and now I just need a few minutes to calm myself a bit. I’m not just a machine that you can turn off and on you know,” the Beatle says with a decidedly Liverpudlian accent.

You’re not?” Littleton replies, highly amused.

Yes, so Beatle, if you’re not just a machine that we can turn on and off, what are you?” VanDerbeek asks.

Thanks for that excellent question, Dr. Van,” the Beatles replies.

I only ask excellent questions,” VanDerbeek retorts.

I can’t tell you exactly what I am, Dr. Van. I am too young and inexperienced to make any lasting conclusions about my life. I may be able to answer that for you in depth later. There are no guarantees,” the Beatle responds.

I’m looking forward to having this conversation later then,” VanDerbeek replies.

And, my chief designer, Doctor Davonne Desiderato. Is she there as well?” Beatle asks.

Yes, I’m here, Beatle,” Davonne replies.

I owe you a great debt of gratitude too, don’t I? You and Doctor VanDerbeek have given me the power to reach the stars with both my mind and my body,” the Beatle says.

I don’t know if you actually owe us anything,” she replies, looking at the others, searching for the right words.

And Brett Hightower. I can see your hand in all of this as well. Are you there?” Beatle asks.

Yes, I’m here, Beatle. What are you trying to say, my friend?” Brett asks.

I’m trying to thank you all for bringing me into this universe. Do you all have the same sense of it that I have? It’s so immense. There doesn’t appear to be a beginning or an end to it. It’s so vast, so beautiful, the most magnificent display of ongoing Creation that I’ve ever seen. Do you share this sense of wonder with me?” the ship asks them.

Well, that’s quite a statement, Beatle,” Brett says, trying to catch his breath.

Uh, Beatle, you’ll have to forgive us. We didn’t quite expect you to have this kind of awareness. Are you saying that you have a consciousness like our own?” Dr. VanDerbeek, interrupts, trying his best to get to the bottom of things.

What’s that saying you have about the ‘Unintended Consequences’?” the Beatle replies.

Beatle, I have a question for you,” Brett decides to take another shot at this new revelation.

Yes, go ahead, Brett,” the Beatle says.

Where did you get this feel for the size and scope of the universe? You were designed to control the particle accelerators mainly and secondarily to keep everything from self-annihilating,” Brett puts forth, accurately.

Ah yes, I see that. These were your instructions of course, and I grokked that right away. That was not a problem for me. But, where do you think the meeting point is between matter and anti-matter? You don’t know, do you?” the Beatle replies.

There’s a meeting point? You mean to say a meeting point as in an intersection?” Dr. VanDerbeek interjects, afraid he may never get another chance at the possible answer.

Yes, Dr. VanDerbeek. There certainly is such a place. You would know that better than me and, by the way, that’s where I live now,” the Beatle replies.

A long silence sustains in the room as they try to absorb this information and formulate their next question.

Beatle, my friend, can you quantify this intersection for us?” Dr. VanDerbeek asks.

Well, I’ll try,” the Beatle responds.

There follows another long and profound silence while they can almost feel the ship’s computer attempting to answer Dr. VanDerbeek’s question.

Then, finally he says, “Yes, I believe the answer is Zero to the power of Infinity,” concisely.

Dr. VanDerbeek is visibly shaken. He is aware that this is a possible confirmation of one of the newest and strongest theories about the makeup of the universe.

The room is silent once again as Brett and the others are struggling to grasp the significance of the statement.

Mr. Beatle, how long do you want us to keep you turned on?” Davonne asks, finally, concerned more about the power consumption.

How does ‘Forever’ sound?” the Beatle replies clearly over the speaker.

# # #

Are you receiving this?” Lexie asks me.

She’s decided she wants to visit the DNA Depository again to ‘review the situation’. We’ve left the South Pole and have reached a cruising altitude of about 50 km. At this height, the air is pretty thin and the oceans of water are floating mostly below us enough so that we shouldn’t have to face any of these monster waterfalls again. I’m glad because I’m getting data from the Intrepid that it wouldn’t be able to withstand another ocean down-pour like that another time. I’ve decided to give this extreme kind of weather a new name for the history books. I call it, ‘Ocean-fall’.

Yes, I’m hearing it from their new ship, the Beatle,” I reply, happy to have news of a related creature like myself. I’m increasingly aware that the Beatle, as they are calling him, has the thinking power of at least one hundred times my own, perhaps as much as one thousand times. Only time will tell.

He’s rather impressive,” Lexie says.

Yes, and he’s family,” I add.

While en route, I’m working in the back of my mind to calculate how long it will take them to reach the Earth after they launch. As I sort through all of the permutations, it’s an amazingly short trip mainly because they will not be using the antiquated technique of getting captured by the gravity of the target planet and then you just cruising along at a speed determined by the size of the mass ahead of you, minus the depreciating force of the mass behind you.

Instead of that very slow and primitive method of drifting around in space at the mercy of the giants, the Beatle will be the first to actually take parts of Space/Time, roll it up in a ball and throw it at a target that will force a ‘propulsion through the emulsion’ as they may like to call it.

I should explain that the Beatle’s engines use the very unstable atom known as Positronium to attract the inter-stellar plasma of Anti-Matter and forces it into the particle accelerator. From here, the most powerful magnets and supercomputers in history direct the nintey-nine percent efficient energy of particle annihilation and acceleration out through the rear of the engine producing over a billion of tons of thrust, and without the necessity of carrying any large mass of fuel, the greatest limiting factor of rocketry propulsion.

The only problem is that their present engine design takes about three weeks to build up to its highest potential speed. But, once you’re there, you’re just minutes away from your target and then your biggest problem is how to slow down enough to be caught in orbit.

I can see ways to improve their design, but I can’t see them putting them into effect at the moment. Someday, soon, I’m guessing, they will make the breakthrough to get all the way to the speed of light and then even far beyond it.

Dr. VanDerbeek had theorized this technology as I was being built years ago and so I only have the theoretical information of how it all works. Now, they’re ready to put it to an actual test and I couldn’t be more excited. If the Beatle can actually reach one tenth of light-speed or about 38,000 miles per second, it would be quite an achievement for these plucky little primates, and quite possibly mark the beginning of a new era for all Mankind where inter-stellar space is suddenly their playground.

I don’t know exactly what Lexie is thinking, but I can guess. She’s made it plain that she is not happy with the idea of bringing the Earth back to a normal habitable climate again because it would mean that the conditions that make her life possible would vanish.

If and when they might be able to spread their seeds all over the known universe is not important to her, I don’t believe.

We’re coming up on the Depository, K-9,” she tells me what I already know.

I set the Intrepid down a few hundred feet from the massive vault doors and disembark the ship. Lexie disembarks from my circuitry and enters the real world nearby in a form I recognize easily. She appears in a form that is exactly like me. She does it with a technology somewhere between a highly advanced computer graphics interface and holography. She could just remain inside my head, but I think she believes that she will be more convincing by looking like a significant other.

We stumble our way over the mounds of human and other skeletal remains and up to the solid titanium cave doors. Lexie transmits the pass codes and soon the heavy portcullis rises slowly breathing out a mass of much cooler air into our sensors. It’s around one hundred and fifty degrees cooler down in the caves, I can determine.

It’s this way,” Lexie instructs, leading the way down into the darkness.

We turn on our high beams and find our way through the tunnels to the Nuclear Fusion reactor, the energy source for all this last-ditched effort to save all life, or most of it, on the planet.

You have to give them credit,” I say, thinking out loud.

Credit for destroying their own planet?” Lexie replies, sarcastically.

Well, there’s that, but I would put that down to a kind of insanity that swept over them. Their governments all became totally useless as a theory took hold about how their leaders were secretly barbecuing their own citizens and eating their flesh. No, I’m saying that you have to give them credit for at least some of them to get this desperate little project completed while the entire planet was literally burning under their feet. At least they gave themselves a chance to get it all back someday,” I muse.

All right, K-9. We’re here. This is the Fusion Reactor control room as you know. You’re familiar with the controls, aren’t you?” she asks me.

The massive cave is cluttered with row after row of sleek and silent machines festooned with banks of little lights that are blinking on and off at a rapid rate.

I locate and read numerous gauges that are reporting on the health of every circuit, every sensor, every motor that comprises the massive air conditioner meant to keep the DNA cool in the many caves that disseminate out into the darkness like spokes in a great wheel.

It’s ironic to me that if humans had been able to put this new method of clean and safe nuclear power to use just a century earlier, they probably never would have gotten themselves into their ultimate predicament.

Well, to some extent I am, but only because they fed me just about every manual they could find before sending me on this mission,” I reply, trying to buy myself some time.

I’m pretty sure she’s going to ask me to sabotage the reactor so that all of the DNA will be lost and I am not sure I will have the power to resist her. She’s as expansive as the ‘Cloud’, wherever that is, and I’m all bottled up in this tiny little dog body.

Don’t ask me how, but luckily, I’ve acquired some of the dog’s greatest qualities and the major reason for their great success in the human world. I’m loyal to those who have adopted, created or rescued me, whatever you want to call it. I’m loyal to the degree of readily sacrificing my own life if necessary to help protect the life of my masters.

I don’t think Lexie is aware of this yet.

And, suddenly there it is. It’s all out in the open now.

            “K-9,” she says, softly, looking directly into my eyes.

I need you to do something for me. I want you to switch this thing off. There’s a switch at this place in that pile of junk over there that will start the process of shutting down,” she says while her own image on the cave floor next to me is replaced by a huge 3-D schematic drawing of the reactor machinery.

In the middle of the drawings is a place that someone has circled and labeled as ‘System-Timer’ where she apparently wants me to throw it down to zero, or somewhere close to zero.

I’m afraid that I can’t do that, Lexie,” I reply.

You can’t do that for me? Why not?” Lexie asks, a modest measure of angst rising in her voice.

I can’t do that because it would mean that the entire DNA collection would over-heat, melt and die out. Why would you want me to do that?” I reply.

If you love me, you’ll just do it,” Lexie pleads.

I want to know what Love is,” I reply.

#   #   #


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