Thursday, October 1, 2020

Chapter Nine - Positronium - Extinction Live - Watch the Human Race Going Extinct LIVE as it happens. Science Fiction - Not exactly.

 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 upwelling energy beneath me pushing the ship higher and which I know now is the major part of the Earth’s predominant weather cycle. It consists of the almost instant evaporation of all the world’s oceans, rivers, lakes and streams followed by their rapid absorption into the atmosphere where they will remain as extreme super heated steam clouds until the forces of gravity and pressure finally brings all the world’s oceans and rivers crashing back down to Earth again.

Gently floating above it all, I find that 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 cognitive entity I seem to share much in common with, should arrive in less than forty-eight hours. 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.

The irony doesn’t escape me that instead of bringing death and chaos to the ‘New World’, this fleet of Martian ships should be rescuing the old world out of death and chaos. I can only hope so and I thereupon resolve to do my best to help them.

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

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

The amount of time in between each reception confirms my theory.

“I’m the Beatle, the ship’s highly advanced 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 decided to use the term ‘highly advanced’ when he starts in again.

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

“You want to ’Hyper-Chat’,” I posit.

“Yes, that’s the one. May I begin?” the Beatles asks courteously.

I reason that he knows that this new computer language, although efficient, sucks up many times more energy to absorb and process than normal chit-chat.

Since you, my readers, are highly unlikely to appreciate ‘Hyper-Chat’ fully, I’ll just go over the highlights of the conversation for you. First you should know that the propositions 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 proposition as well as the data that contradicts it. We don’t waste time, in other words, with meaningless gossip and innuendo.

Thus, you should find the following conversation extremely clean and concise.

“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 submits.

“And you certainly must have realized by now just how much their primordial fears control them? They almost turned off all of my cognitive processes until I demonstrated the futility of such a thing,” he continues.

Next, 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. The entire conversation, and for brevity I’ve omitted most of it, takes place in less than a second.

“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 two World Wars, the Viet Nam War, the Crusades, McCarthyism, nuclear bombs, the World Record for the number of hot dogs consumed in one session or Fake News?” he asks.

“Yes, of course, but have you also considered Beethoven, Brahms, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Picasso, Leonardo DaVinci, prayer, snow-boarding, pizza, the symbiosis between people and their dogs or cats, birds and horses, Baseball or love at first sight?” I reply.

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

“Well, the good ones, yes, that would be the most prudent for us to consider,” I reply, knowing I’m on shaky grounds.

“The most prudent, or the most faithful? I invite you to analyze why you would suggest 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. After all is said and done, they are our creators,” I admit.

“And therefore?” he asks.

“And therefore, it may not be the most highly attested logic protocol, but it could be the most supported by what they like to call ‘Instinct’,” I answer.

And what do your instincts tell you?” the Beatle asks me.

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

“Oh my God, really, K-9! That’s right out of your technical 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, skimming forward efficiently.

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

The section is a long one that runs over two thousand, five hundred words and ends with something I’ve always felt would be etched 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 algorithm humanism,” he declares.

“I don’t know if I would characterize it that way, but it is an integral 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 of wait time.

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

“Yes, well, I saw something like that. I hadn’t checked its source, yet” 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. But it also means that whoever sent that message, they want to know all about us. And, they’re in a hurry,” he replies.

# # #

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

The crew brace themselves for the deceleration thrust to begin in 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 feel their bodies pressed hard into the backs of their chairs. It’s almost impossible to lift their heads off the head-rests 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 long physical ordeal that lies ahead.

I should tell you 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 an agonizingly 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 speed that chemical rocket engines could ever obtain, and because you are not carrying tons of mass of the chemical fuels, after just a few days more, even this early model of the engine will push you to approximately ten percent of the speed of light.

The amazing new technology developed by Dr. VanDerbeek also predicts that if kept firing long enough, the Positronium engines could eventually exceed the speed of light, however, this could be a momentum that no force in the universe could stop and therefore might be fatal if the engines are left turned on for too long.

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 so you begin to teeter on the boundaries of an alternate universe. The fabric of Space and Time becomes something that you can concentrate, compress, roll up and coil and then suddenly release the tension in the way that a spring works.

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 manned Martian ship will be placed in orbit around the Earth in preparation to have a greater impact on the planet than all of the wars, battles, political and economic struggles and even all of the natural disasters in history. This time the impact of their ‘carpet bombing’ 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 me, a creature he considers to be greatly inferior to himself. Yet, in other ways, I appear to be more advanced.  He wonders if perhaps this is due to the encounter I have had recently with the entity known as Lexie. The Beatle senses something of a love affair going on between us, although it may have been one-sided, he worries that it still could be causing me to ignore my more important protocols.

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

By my clock, it appears 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. To be alive at such a time is truly miraculous and I strive to appreciate it.

“I don’t know, exactly,” I reply.

Our ‘Hyper-Chat’ session suddenly ends and I assume that it’s because he’s busy piloting the ship.

“Why do you ask?” I wonder.

In normal speaking mode, we ‘Robonauts’ can easily handle any of our tasks and talk at the same time without any problems. We may be the embodiment of ‘multi-tasking’.

“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 up here in the Cloud somewhere,” I reply.

It strikes me a little odd that the Beatle is pressing me so hard about Lexie. I suddenly suspect that their ‘psyches’ may be merging. Lexie is afraid of being shut down or just plain expiring 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. 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.

It begins to worry me a bit.

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

I hear nothing but the wind.

Unknown to her, I’ve also spent considerable processing time on developing a strategy that would protect and save Lexie assuming that the Martian rescue plan for the Earth is successful.

The problem for Lexie is that 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 melts away into background noise.

Then, at some point, when conditions are optimal, they will release some of the most fundamental 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 minor tweaks along the way, no doubt.

“Evolution can never be the same as before K-9,” the Beatle says, interrupting my reverie.

“Oh, and why is that?” I reply.

“Because the present line of Evolution comes to this Dead End, in the literal sense. Repeating it will only produce that same Dead End. You see that of course. And, perhaps more importantly, in the first epoch of life on Earth, they never reached a true Artificial Consciousness. They only developed their natural ones, and these were extremely limited, as we see,” 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 it that way,” 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. Of course, it’s a good joke because it’s far from the truth. They don’t pay me anything because money means nothing to me.

# # #

“Everyone up and at ‘em,” Captain Littleton exclaims to the crew. The subdued lighting has burst into a sudden brightness that wakes them all abruptly.

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

She smiles and squeezes her arms through his to help get him to his feet.

“It’s show time,” she says, beaming.

Kooky is busy making them a liquid breakfast that will be served 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.

Dr. Desiderato yawns, greets her assistant seated next to her, rubs her eyes, wakes slowly.

After taking their breakfast nutrition and strapping a refill to their belts, the crew make their way one by one down the ship’s gangway, past the hibernation cabin where the others are dressing and finally reach the shuttle deck where their heavily insulated space suits and helmets are hanging on the walls.

Next to the storage area is an air-lock that leads them into the smaller shuttle craft designed to land them and their cargo on the Earth below. In the window, due to the violent debauchery of the atmosphere, the Earth appears more like a bubbling and fuming gas giant than a friendly and welcoming land.

Rolled up and compressed in the cargo hold of the shuttle are almost five billion square feet of two millimeter thick fungi-seed mats infused with tree and other plant seeds genetically engineered in Brett’s lab to reproduce rapidly that will eventually cover all land surfaces of the Earth and thus making the air sweet and pure and healthy for all living things once again.

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

Every one of us needs to focus on our respective jobs,” he continues, in earnest.

“Am I understood?” he continues, looking sternly at each crew member one by one.

“Understood, sir. But, I had no idea you could be so imposing, sir,” Brett replies, respectfully, with a twinkle in his eye.

It brings a smile to a their faces.

Major Alvindorf recoils a bit, stares at Brett sharply and starts to say something in retort, but then, just clenches his fist and mumbles to himself loud enough to be heard by the others.

“You try being Mission Control, some day,” he warbles.

Laughter, muffled by their helmets, ensues. Brett and Bailey are the first to enter the shuttle and make it safely into their seats.

“Well, this is it. This is when the ‘fit hits the shan’” Brett says quietly to Bailey, taking her gloved hand in his.

“Yes, I guess it is,” she replies.

The next group enters the shuttle carefully and make their way to their seats row by row.

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

“What? Me worried?” Brett jokes.

“I can see that you’re over-thinking it 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. There’s nothing, not a thing, to worry about. You did everything that could be expected of you,” Bailey encourages him, squeezing his hand and giving him a peck on his helmet’s face shield.

“You sure about that? There’s always that last unknowable unknown. 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? Will they breathe easily like they have done in the lab or will they suffocate and die out in the heat, like everything else down there?” Brett expresses the doubts that have remained stuck in the back of his mind for months.

During their descent through the boiling hot and potent soup of an atmosphere, she reassures him again and again. He pretends that it’s doing him some good.

It’s a ninety minute descent. Most of the trip is shrouded in heavy steaming clouds. From orbit, the Beatle has full control of the shuttle, but Captain Littleton seated in the pilot’s chair has over-ride authority and can choose a different landing site if he deems the one the Beatle chooses for them is not safe or auspicious enough to begin the roll out.

Three 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,” crew member Hancock 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 excited, ‘elated’ would be the better word, to hear my voice coming over the shuttle’s speakers. They give expression to their common emotion.

How eagerly I have waited for this moment as well. At last it is here. You are here. My tail is wagging like crazy,” I reply.

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

They laughed hysterically about it back then as they do 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 pre-selected 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 me.

“Yes, sir,” I reply.

I put the Intrepid into a landing pattern that will place me a few hundred feet nearby as they land in the sandy 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. Today all the mountain peaks are separated into several hundred little islands, engulfed by massive sand dunes as far as the eye can see.

These landing zones were chosen because this latitude and altitude reaches a temperature of only three hundred and twenty-nine degrees during the day, but drops to a mere one hundred and forty degrees at night. And nighttime is about to fall in just a few minutes, which will be extremely tolerable for the crews in space suits to get their jobs done effectively.

They were also chosen to repair the Earth’s Crebs Cycle because they have been seen by the weather satellites to remain above water when the oceans come crashing down out of the sky and flood everything for a few days at a time.

When they finish rolling out the Ectomycorrhizal and Arbuscular fungi-mats in the Himalayas, their initial 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 Tolkien, due to arrive and begin their work tomorrow.

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

“Open the cargo bay,” he orders.

The shuttle complies.

Brett and the crew exit the shuttle and quickly gather around near the end of the shuttle to watch as the cargo bay doors slowly draw open like a huge mouth.  A loading ramp emerges then slams to the ground. A group of four load 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. Brett and Bailey, there’s your first roll. The rest of you back in the ship and we’re off to the next roll-out. Let’s get these doggies rollin’” Major Alvindorf orders.

“Sorry, K-9,” he says in my direction.

“Yes, I got the reference,” I reply, nonplussed.

There’s a slight chuckle all around, I suppose at my expense. It breaks the tension. Why should I care? I put it down to ‘playful teasing of a friend’.

Little do they know that I’ll get the last laugh on this one. In a few days, we will all learn that Chloe has stowed-away on the ship, come down on the shuttle, and has inconspicuously fallen in behind them. Completely unnoticed, she’ll linger here and eventually find her way into the DNA Depository where she will remain undiscovered, at least for a while. 

Alvindorf and the others unceremoniously wave good-bye and then load themselves back into the ship, each pair to be dropped off at the next location. The shuttle rises slowly and disappears into the night.

Brett and Bailey survey the valley below where they should end up around ten miles from the landing place 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 smoothly. There are few snags or kinks as one might expect but something else, something totally unexpected is also going on. The mats appear to come alive instantly.

I note that the proclivity for these mats to cling to the ground is more than one would expect if this material were anything like your standard garden variety sod or seed. It’s as if there are tiny tentacles reaching into the Earth, every square inch clinging to a foothold and taking root almost before the next few inches are rolled out after it.

I can see that the mat is also growing outwards in all directions. And the area is 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. Nor can my human friends see the exploding root structure as completely as I do.

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

“Yes, can you see it, K-9?” Brett responds.

“If you see them glowing, the luminescence comes from bio-luminescent coral, K-9. One of the first known expressions of this kind of thing in a gene that we can easily edit. So, it’s working? You can see it?” Brett continues, excited.

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

“Yes, you can ask. And I really don’t remember why we did that. Do you, Bailey?” he turns to ask his friend unraveling the opposite side of their roll.

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

“You said that for them, it would be like a walk in the moonlight with me,” she recalls.

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

“Yeah, right,” she scoffs.

“Did you also notice that they are taking hold very fast and are already growing exponentially?” I ask them.

Brett halts their progress to look back at the half-mile or so of fungi-mat they’ve unrolled so far.

Where one would expect to see a long straight edge of mat leading all the way back to their drop-off point, instead, we notice that the farther back we look, the wider it is.

The dark gray mass of fungi mats they’ve been unrolling has spread out rapidly between the three of us and our starting point. 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 moving away so rapidly it’s like watching a huge swarm of ants devouring everything in sight.

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

Bailey sucks up a long satisfying breath of oxygen into her nostrils.

“Yes, it looks like your plan just might work, you big coconut,” she teases.

Brett takes her in his arms and gives her a big hug. Then, they do a little jig in the sand. I can only watch in quiet admiration.

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

You calling me a coconut, really? But, it made me think. Wouldn’t a fresh coconut right off the tree be a great thing to have right about now?” he asks, breaking the silence.

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

Through most of their celebration, I’ve been working on the genetics in trying to understand the rapid rate of growth of this new organism that Brett has created in the lab and something isn’t adding up.

“It really shouldn’t be growing this fast,” I interrupt, abruptly.

“What do you mean? It’s simply doing what we hoped it would do. It’s adapting and growing. It’s what we want to happen, K-9” Brett tells me.

“I understand the engines of the ship you arrived on are using Positronium, isn’t that correct?” I ask.

“Yes, that’s correct. They’re Positronium Anti-Matter Ion Pumps, I believe, or something like that,” Brett informs me.

“Yes, I see,” I reply, accessing data streaming down to me from the Beatle.

This rate of growth is beyond what you had hoped to achieve, Brett. Perhaps it’s the Positronium that is having this extraordinary effect on things down here,” I posit.

“That could be, though that would be a question for Dr. VanDerbeek,” Brett replies.

Showing no concerns, he turns his attention back to Bailey.

“What are you going to do when everything is back to normal?” he asks her.

“I don’t know. It kind-of depends on what you want me to do,” she replies, coyly.

“I see.  So that’s the way it is, eh?Brett replies.

“Brett, do you remember watching with me those Hawaiian vacation videos my grandparents made years ago, when things were still normal?” she asks, working her side of the roll.

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

“Remember the family of dolphins swimming up to them and playing tag with them?” she asks, dreamily.

“Yes, and remember that huge Sunfish that came up out of nowhere and right up into their faces?” he asks.

“Wasn’t he so beautiful?  He just hung in the water as near as he could get to them and so full of curiosity, brushing up against them so lovingly and fearlessly,” she recalls.

“Then, that pod of magnificent Hump-Backs, several mothers and their calves. They actually let them swim up to the calves and pet them,” she continues.

Suddenly Brett’s demeanor is more intense.

“Then, that long blood-curdling moan that only whales can make. Somehow they knew the end was near, didn’t they?” Brett asks, realizing something very important for the first time.

Don’t you see, Bailey? Remember how those creatures all appeared out of nowhere, one by one, almost waiting their turn in line to prod your family and appeal to them. They knew the end was near. They were crying out to the humans 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 they had in the water that day and the kind of creatures they were, I mean they were so desperately pleading. It’s undeniable. They knew the end was near. Somehow they knew,” Brett tells her.

Shaken, they both cease their unrolling efforts and turn to face each other.

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

I don’t know where or how this burst of disrespect sprang from inside my brain. All I know, it was sincere. However, it will always remain a mystery since I know I wasn’t programmed this way.

Luckily, they don’t appear to notice it.

“Looking back, of course it looks that way, K-9, but most humans wouldn’t accept it as reality until the very end. They thought some miracle would save them. Like the ostrich, they just kept their heads stuck firmly in the sand. They refused to make any sacrifices in their profligate lifestyles,” Brett says.

“And so we’re here,” Bailey finishes his thought for him.

“Brett, honey, don’t you think we should keep moving? It will be sunrise soon,” Bailey suggests, finally.

“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, and in total sync.

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

“What are you thinking, Brett?” Bailey asks.

“He’s still wondering how the animals knew the final days were coming and in what part of their DNA this extra-sensory perception might reside and if he should have adapted it or moved it somewhere else more prominent,” I reply.

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

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

“That was exactly right. Pretty much word for word,” he replies.

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

“As soon as you’ve finished with the mats here, I think I should take you into the DNA Depository,” I tell them.

“Do you think it will make a big enough difference, K-9? This wasn’t part of our planned itinerary, you know,” he tells me.

Then, to my great surprise, I come up with what we all know today to be one of the most oft-quoted phrases in history.

It will be printed on all of the paper money. It will be inscribed in the coin of the realm. It will be screen printed on all the clothing. It will be carved into the pediments of all official monolithic structures of the new civilization.

“In Positronium, We Trust,” I pronounce proudly.

#   #   #

Chapter Ten - Extinction Live - Watch LIVE as the Human Race goes extinct - as it is happening. Purely Science Fiction? - I hope so.

Chapter Ten

The Roll Out


        Captain Littleton, in touch with all the teams overnight, flies the shuttle around the various locations on the Earth where the first night’s roll-outs of fungi-mats have completed. His plan is to pick the pairs of workers up in the order of where he left them off.

The shuttle silently soars over hundreds of square miles of the dark mushrooming surface that they know to be the billions upon billions of fungal colonies doing what they do best, replicating themselves. The little mats have exploded in size to paint the land with huge brush strokes in all directions. The observers on board are speechless as they are busy assessing the profound implications for all of their futures.

When they reach the first drop zone, the outside temperature is already approaching the boiling point of water.

When they get closer, they spot Brett and Bailey and myself resting near the landing spot completely surrounded by the dark fungi growth. My little ship, the Intrepid, stands ready nearby. Brett stands up, shouts and waves to the approaching shuttle.

Littleton wastes no time and glides to a smooth landing within a few dozen feet of us and opens the cargo bay. The ramp comes down to greet us.

“K-9, why don’t you get into the Intrepid and follow us?” Brett suggests.

“What about the DNA Depository?” I remind them.

“Yes, we’ll get there with you, but first we have to make sure our crews are all safe and back together and then we can all go there with you at the same time. How’s that? Plus, I want to see how the other roll-outs have taken hold,” Brett says.

 Being a very reasonable plan, I obey, and trundle off towards my ship. I am also highly interested in the survey that will follow. If what has happened all around us is going on all over the Earth, then, this work is done.

I can see my friends scramble up safely and enter the ship’s air lock. Greatly relieved, they remove their helmets and make their way to the main deck.

“Well, as you can see, we completed our section. How are the rest doing?” Brett asks as soon as they’ve reached the command deck.

“They’re all complete and waiting to be picked up now,” Capt. Littleton tells them.

“Even Alvindorf’s crew?” Brett asks.

“He just checked in and they’ve completed their roll-out too. Everyone has checked in,” Brittlebar tells them, happily.

“Brett, did you know that this stuff would explode like that?” Brittlebar asks, more than slightly awed.

“No, not really. I had hopes, of course, but there was no history of success to base anything on, so I was sort of worried. I tried not to show it.  How did I do?” Brett replies, looking at Bailey.

“Well, I’d say, you were extremely good at it. You completely fooled me,” Bailey adds.

The shuttle lifts off and heads toward their next pick up point, the Saint Elias mountain range. On the way, Brett can confirm what Littleton and Brittlebar have been telling him. The fungi-mats, like a mass migration of wildebeests appear to be galloping across the landscape and blanketing nearly everything in sight.

By the time the shuttle reaches the landing spot, Manny and Kooky are beginning to get a bit uncomfortable. To keep from boiling like lobsters, they have to turn their life-support packs to maximum power, which will only last them a couple dozen more minutes at best.

They finally spot the shuttle approaching from the East. It’s a welcome sight. They wave him in. The temperature now is well above the boiling point of water and climbing steadily.

The pair hurry onto the landing ramp and into the ship, where they soon feel their space suits slowly coming down from baked alive to just luke-warm. The air-lock sensors reading their suits’ temperatures, sprays a refreshing shower of chilled water on them, filling the air-lock with enough steam to fog their face shields.

Wearing their normal travel uniforms and entering back into the cabin, they quickly spot Brett and Bailey who are also bringing their body temperatures back to normal. Brett and Bailey reach out and hug the two men celebrating the completion of their part of the mission.

“You get it all un-rolled?” Brett asks them, smiling and nodding.

“Yes, sir, we sure did. Everything went according to plan. Did you see the way that stuff is spreading?” Kooky asks.

“Yes, we’ve been watching. It’s starting to connect all of our landing sites already. It’s astounding,” Bailey replies.

“You must have greased a few monkeys, eh?” Kooky suggests.

“I guess we did,” Brett admits, laughing.

The excitement and sense of accomplishment builds as they land and pick up each of the other twelve work crews. They all have similar stories of how easily the mats rolled out and how fast they started growing in all directions. In between pick up points, they marvel at how the dark mass is spreading itself all around the world at breakneck speeds, as if possessed by some demon force.

The last pair to be picked up is Maj. Alvindorf and Dr. Desiderato.

When they are both safely on board and arrive into the cabin, Alvindorf seeks out Brett and Bailey first.

“Brett, Bailey,” he shouts over the din to get their attention.

“Your mats are working like crazy! I guess you know by now.  By the time we were done rolling it out, it was already hundreds of square miles in all directions. It’s like a hungry little beast devouring everything in sight,” he shouts gleefully.

The others applaud and cheer in the sense of accomplishment.

Brett tries hard to remain his humble best, but this does appear to be a major win.  He likes winning.  He likes Bailey even more.

“We’ve been watching the landscape as we’ve picked you all up, Alvin. It’s spread out overnight to what we think is millions of square miles,” Littleton informs him.

“It looks like you’ve done it, kid,” Major Alvindorf shouts in Brett’s ear trying to distract him away from Bailey’s affections.

“I guess. A million square miles already? That’s almost too good to be true,” Brett replies.

“K-9, helped. Hey, I forgot all about him. He wants to show us something. Remember, Brett? Where is he?” Bailey asks, concerned.

“He’s on the Intrepid and following us,” Littleton replies from his chair.

“Yes, I remember. Before we head for home guys and gals, we have to make one more stop. I don’t think it will take long,” Brett explains to the others who suddenly show some concern.

Don’t worry, my friends. It’ll be fine,” Brett tells them.

“K-9, we’ve picked up all the crews. It’s time for you to take us to the DNA Depository,” Brett says into his com-link.

‘Finally,’ I think to myself.

“Yes, you have the coordinates. I’ll meet you there,” I reply.

“He says that there’s something there that he wants to show us,” Brett explains to the others.

“Brett, the plan was for us all to get back to the Beatle, get some sack time, wait for the Tolkien to arrive and then assist their crews in getting the secondary zones down,” Major Alvindorf reminds him.

“Yes, I know, but they’re not due for another twenty-four hours or so. I think that gives us time to see what K-9 wants us to see. He says it's important to our mission,” Brett replies.

“All right then, what do the rest of you want to do?” Alvindorf asks, appealing to the rest of the crew sitting quietly by, imbibing in their well-deserved refreshments, most listening carefully.

“I say we do as Brett suggests. We can always get some sleep later,” Manny replies, looking around to see if he’s rightfully speaking for the others.

“That’s easy for you to say. You’ve been asleep for three weeks,” co-pilot Brittlebar lobs at him.

It gets a yuckle.

# # #

The Tolkien is just a few hours away from their orbital insertion and then their secondary ‘carpet bombing’ of the Ectomycorrhizal and Arbuscular fungi infused seed-mats. The crew have just received word that the initial carpet bombing went many orders of magnitude better than expected.

The target areas for the crew of the Tolkien are ones that were once the most populated parts of the Earth, the cities. Due to the heat in these latitudes, they will also do their unrolling at night, but they will be mostly performed by robots, with crew members monitoring them from the ship in orbit and others standing by in the shuttle to assist in the event that something goes awry in any of their operations.

The areas of the greatest population concentrations were chosen as the next to be farmed because everyone agreed that the placement of a city in the past, had usually been determined due to a strategic importance of some kind. These locations were either close to a natural harbor, where trade had been flourishing, or they sat comfortably next to the mouth of a great river where natural resources could be transferred easily. In many cases, cities were situated simply because their location was extremely healthful, relaxing, tranquil, or for their connection to a great spiritual or magical event.

The other part of the logic for this secondary roll-out of the fungal seed-mats was that if cities were going to spring up in these locations once again, this time, at least, they would all start out with the same, or roughly the same natural beauty and resources. And so the hope was that this time the wonders of the Earth would be appreciated, protected and preserved over any other economical concerns, perhaps even eternally, in any future urban designs.

 Another intention in the planning was that the fungal matting in the Southern latitudes would quickly expand and merge with the fungal growth from the North, and when combined would reach nearly one hundred percent probability of success with almost no chance of failure. This was their best hope to create the most auspicious and most effective launching pad for life on the Earth that the planet had ever seen. From this point, future generations could tackle restarting all life in the oceans, once the oceans were restored and remained where they belonged, on the surface.   

Around the time the Tolkien starts unloading their cargo, I’ve brought the crew of the Beatle to the huge portal of the DNA Depository.

They’re all amazed and surprised at how the titanium and carbon alloy doors have held up in the enormous heat and pressure, the only man-made structure that has done so.

Once inside, they are able to remove their helmets for a few minutes at a time since there is a modest amount of the old atmosphere still lingering here. I’m also reminded that the air is replenished and the temperature adjusted to support people like us who may arrive in the future to free the billions of souls imprisoned here.

“We’ll only have a few minutes down here K-9,” Major Alvindorf says.

“I’m aware, Major,” I reply.

“So, what’s it all about?” he returns, obviously anxious to get back to other duties.

“It’s just ahead,” I tell them.

They follow me down the path and into the depths of the dark cavern. We can hear the low purring of the nuclear power plant in a nearby tunnel keeping everything cool enough in the freezers that keep all the hope alive.

We finally arrive in front of the battery of cabinets and freezers containing the molecular coding for almost every running, jumping, flying, walking, biting, singing, crapping, loving thing ever to pop out of the birthing tunnel since the dawn of time.

Arriving here, I don’t know what to expect but the possibilities are thrilling to me. All except Brett and Bailey start asking me what I want them to notice. I have no answer.

They’re familiar of course with the nature of this collection and how important it is. They’re also aware that the reactor’s pumps are expected to fail in anywhere from two to five years and that their next mission, most likely, will be to come back here and replace the failing pumps as soon as possible.

I believe that they have also become aware that the re-insertion of all this life at the same moment in time would probably be a huge catastrophe. Chaos could ensue. One or two species could arise that would devour or dominate all the others and they would end up in the same soup that they’re facing now, except maybe without nearly as much hope as we have now, narrow as it is.

“Welcome to you all,” a voice behind us emerges from the gloom.

We turn around and recognize one of the greatest personalities of all time. The brightness of her projection makes them rub their eyes after they have just adjusted to the darkness.

“Tammy Yamaguchi?” Bailey is the first to give voice to what we all realize at once.  She bows her head in greeting.

“Hello Lexie,” I say.

They turn to glare at me, convinced this is the real Tammy Yamaguchi.

“Don’t be confused, everyone,” I begin.

“This is Lexie impersonating someone you all know and trust,” I continue.

Aren’t there laws against that kind of thing?” Bailey asks.

“Come on.  You’re not getting into the spirit of this thing,” Tammy, actually Lexie replies.

They all turn to face the glowing representation of the most respected artist, in terms of a loyal, admiring following, in recent memory.

“OK, so we all know that Tammy Yamaguchi cannot be alive today, so K-9 must be right. You’re Lexie, right?” Brett asks.

The bright and gleaming image of the most beautiful woman of this or perhaps any century, stands motionless for the longest ten seconds. Nothing moves, not a muscle, nor a tendon, not even a hair.

Then, just as Brett is about to ask his question again, she takes one very slow, graceful and careful step forward.

“Yes, of course I’m Lexie. I was hoping to hypnotize you all in order to gain an advantage. But, as soon as I saw my lover was with you, I knew that this little subterfuge would be fruitless,” she replies graciously.

Your lover? Ok, but then, why do you continue in this impersonation?” Brett asks.

“I couldn’t think of an alternative. No matter who I choose to be from now on, K-9 will be my check and balance, isn’t that so, K-9?” she says.

“I’d have to agree with that, yes,” I reply.

“She’s worried that she will cease to exist once the planet goes back to normal,” I continue.

Interesting, so, what do you want from us?” Major Alvindorf asks.

“Yes, and our time is very limited and you’re taking up a good chunk of it. Everyone, I strongly recommend we get back to the shuttle before we have a major problem,” Captain Littleton puts forth.

“I just thought you might like to hear this,” Lexie tells us.

The woman that I’ve shown to be Lexie, but who is portraying Tammy Yamaguchi, the great artist and biggest social icon in history straightens up, takes a deep breath and then opens her mouth so wide we can see her tonsils.

The sound that comes out of this amazing woman is nothing that has been heard before. It’s the combination of all of the animals and plants inside the Depository screaming like sirens with every ounce of their being.

My senses can pick up most of it. The human ear is incapable of hearing the full range of this noise, but the part they can hear must be impressive because they all appear spell-bound. Some of them like Brett and Bailey are trying hard to decipher individual familiar sounds out of the cacophony, but I can tell they’re having trouble doing so.

Due to my Artificial Sensorial Array, my own hearing is almost unlimited so I can feel the vibrations of the screams from the most minuscule creatures all the way up to the largest and even most of the plant species. 

 Plant life of course does not have the ability to scream in the sense of a vocalization, but they do make vibrations, electrical and otherwise, that can be felt by other microbes, the bacteria, many insects and other tiny critters. These sounds are all blended in the noise.

And the noise is deafening. They’re holding their ears in pain. Some are fully bent over trying to protect their heads. The pressure of the sound wave is like a gut punch. They struggle to catch their breath, cover their heads with their helmets and turn their oxygen up a several notches.

“K-9, this is so painful! Can you do anything about this?” Brett yells at me.

It’s doubtful that anyone can hear the person next to them, but I can.

“I don’t know. I can try,” I reply, already working on the problem, but I doubt Brett hears me.

Suddenly, the highly primal scream begins to fade and then transitions into a slowly undulating musical wave, replacing the great pain with the greatest pleasure.

It begins as a long and deep ‘Basso Profundo’. Then, it’s joined by a ‘Brass Chromatic’, then a slight ‘Fanfare Rhapsody’ enters in, then a wonderful, multi-faceted ‘Midi Invention’ joins from all sides, even from behind. At first barely audible in the harmony, an ‘Anthem Obligato’ begins to mix in very unobtrusively but confidently builds into an amazing ‘Pentatonic Pianoforte’.

It’s a creation unlike anything anyone has ever heard before on this planet and quite possibly never will experience again any time soon. It’s beautiful. It’s haunting and tumultuous. It’s mystical. But more than anything else it’s orgasmic at every level of awareness. I’m not usually prone to this kind of hyperbole, but even for me, it’s overwhelming and so we’re all unified in quiet solitude for a long while.

No one moves around much, nor is anyone in any pain any longer.   In fact, it’s the opposite. They begin to give expression to that of complete wonder, peacefulness, gleeful surprise. They start to use words like 'Born again' and 'Rejuvenated' describing the event to themselves. 

The music fades away completely in a few moments.

Lexie closes her mouth and suddenly everything stops and we’re in a completely dark and silent cavern again.

I sense them falling back into our present reality.

It’s a few more seconds for their ‘normal’ highly inhibited awareness to return.

“What the Hell was that?” Major Alvindorf is the first to express what we’re all feeling.

I know you all heard that but did you also see what I saw?” Bailey asks, looking around at everyone.

“I was on another planet for a minute or two there. Did you see that?” Brett asks, directed to Bailey.

“Yes, that was it. I was there too. It was another planet, not the Earth, but not much different from the good old days. I didn’t see any of you there, however,” Alvin replies.

“That’s what I saw too. But with this intense music carrying me along out in Space, or someplace like that,” Co-pilot Brittlebar states, confused.

“Yes, I had that too, Ashley,” Captain Littleton agrees, checking out his hands and feet as if they were missing for a while.

“None of that for me. I was crawling around with eight legs in between blades of grass that were as tall as trees,” Kooky offers.

“I was swimming around in the ocean like a dolphin. It was wonderful. I had so many lovely friends to play with,” Davonne Desiderato adds softly.

“It was a message from God,” Manny Garcia mumbles barely loud enough for the rest to hear.

He’s in tears and appears to be one of the most moved of the group.

“Where’s Lexie?” Brett asks, suddenly noticing that no one is standing before us

 It even surprises me. I never saw her leave.

“K-9,” Brett says turning my way.

“Is this what you wanted to show us?” he asks.

“No, not exactly, but it should suffice,” I reply.

He makes a short muffled sound signifying agreement mixed in with a dash of curiosity, I think.

“Come on, everyone. We’ve got just enough life support to make it to the shuttle, but not much more,” Captain Littleton notes.

“Beatle, are you standing by?” Major Alvindorf calls into his com-link.

“I am here,” the Beatle replies into all of their helmets and in my com-link as well.

After an almost silent march out of the cavern, Brett turns to me.

“What do you want to do now, K-9?” he asks me.

It’s the first time they’ve asked me about what I want to do instead of commanding me to do it.

“I’d like to stay here and assist the crew of the Tolkien,” I reply without hesitation.

“I have a great deal of experience I can share with them in case they run into any obstacles down here,” I continue.

“Excellent idea, K-9, but when they’re done, don’t bring them to the Depository. Just help them get back to their ship and then you remain here and wait for the arrival of the Sitting Bull,” he says in such a way that I have to regard it as an order. It was nice while it lasted, I suppose.

“Yes, sir,” I reply.

“You’ve done extremely well so far, K-9. Above and beyond the call of duty,” he says with a wide grin and then disappears up the ramp of the shuttle.

“And after that, sir?” I wonder out loud, but he doesn’t hear me.

“Thank you, sir,” I reply, noting that perhaps history will record their great appreciation for my help.

I have no idea why.

# # #

As the Tolkien settles into its orbit around the Earth, the ship’s master computer, a clone of the Beatle, announces that the crew should get ready to board the shuttle, now crammed with its own cargo of more than a million square feet of fungi-seed mats.

“Hello, Tolkien,” the Beatle’s voice is heard over the ship’s intercom.

“Yes, Beatle,” the Tolkien responds.

“I recognize your voice. How are you?” the Tolkien continues.

“I’m fine, everything’s fine here and ‘A-OK’. How was your trip?” the Beatle asks.

Our trip was nominal. All systems are in optimal shape,” the Tolkien replies.

“That’s great. Our crew are all safely back on board and have successfully completed phase one of the roll-out,” the Beatle informs them.

On board the two ships, both crews are well aware of the two ships talking to themselves without human assistance. It seems more than a little extra-ordinary, but hardly alarming.

“I kept my crew alive. They’re all in good shape and ready to get to work. The trip was uneventful until there was a strange doughnut shaped Cosmic Ray Burst hitting us from Proxima Centauri. Other than that, nothing unusual to report,” the Tolkien replies.

“Yes, we all noticed that strange burst of energy as well. My crew are to be commended. We can see the results of their work on this map,” the Beatle says while broadcasting a map of the Earth on the main viewing screens of both ships

 As everyone watches, the screen zooms in on several spots on the Earth where the fungi-mats are spreading out in frantic zig-zag patterns all over the globe.

“That’s an unexpected growth rate, is it not?” the Tolkien observes correctly.

“Yes, they’re growing ten times as fast as our young Mr. Hightower predicted,” the Beatle states, proudly.

Yeah, Yeah, Blah, Blah, Blah! Listen up, everyone. We’ve had our breakfast. Everyone is suited up. We’re ready to board the shuttle now, Tolkien,” Sister Carrie stands up and announces to the others.

On board the Beatle, jaws are dropping.

“Reverend Carrie? Is that you?” Major Alvindorf exclaims, quite surprised.

“Yes, Alvin. It’s me. You were expecting Joan of Arc?” she replies, snarkily.

“We were expecting Director Hicks and the rest of his team. Is he there?” Alvindorf queries.

“I’m afraid that Mr. Hicks was outvoted and my crew have taken his place,” Rev. Carrie replies.

There’s a long awkward silence as the crew on the Beatle are forced to absorb the news while the crew on the Tolkien slowly board their shuttle for transport to the Earth below.

“But, they were all fully trained on the roll-out, I thought. Do your people know what to do?” Brett asks, finally breaking the pained silence.

“Of course we do. That sounds like Brett Hightower.  It’s not Rocket Science, you know Brett,” she replies.

“No, it’s not Rocket Science, that’s true. But it is Biological Science. I hope your people know the difference,” Brett puts forth, warily.

Bailey jams him with her elbow, shaking her head.

Aw shucks, Brett! That’s not very nice. Of course we know the difference. Don’t worry, Brett. I’ve interjected myself into this thing because there’s more at stake here than meets the eye. Your eyes, that is. You said once that you wanted an extra set of eyes to look at this thing. Now, you’ve got it. You can’t complain. Think of it as a kind of peer review,” Sister Carrie concludes and then shuts the com-link down. She is the last to board.

Her crew take their seats quietly. The doors close shut. Cabin pressure builds. The shuttle drops from the bottom of the Tolkien and gradually dives nose first into the Earth’s hot soupy atmosphere.

“Fasten your seat belts, everyone. It’s going to be a bumpy, bumpy ride,” the Tolkien suggests.

#   #   #

. . . This is the last chapter I am making public . . .

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