Back | Next

Chapter 4

July 24, 2409 AD


Thgreeth Abandoned Outpost Planet Deep in Expanse

700 light-years from the Sol System

Saturday, 10:14 A.M. Eastern Time

“All I know is that my daughter says the alien, Mru, I believe is how it was pronounced, told her that we would have access to their teleportation network,” Sehera explained to the team of specialists, warrant officers, linguists, mathematicians, cosmologists, and anthropologists again, even though she knew they had all been briefed a million times on the subject. It was more of a rhetorical statement meant to reinforce the fact that none of them had a damned clue how Dee was able to open gates in the ruins that would QMT her to places mapped out on the glyphs all over the ruin walls. Somehow, during the battle for the ruins, Deanna had stumbled across a doorway that led her to be teleported to the alien, or perhaps the alien came to her. In that process, the alien gave her the ability to use the ancient quantum membrane teleportation system to her advantage. It also enabled her to perform QMT sling-forward and snap-back transportations that changed the tide of the battle in the human fleet’s favor.

Deanna had fought hand-to-hand against countless Chiata to the point of her being paralyzed from the waist down, but she had still kept going. It was her perseverance that had pushed her and enabled her to make it inside the ruins and to decipher how to use them. Sehera couldn’t help but think that the Thgreeth saw something in her, which they extrapolated to humanity perhaps, that triggered them helping her. In the end, the Thgreeth likely saved Deanna’s life as well as all of humanity.

“Yes, ma’am. We get that,” one of the team members, a linguist, replied. Johan Seely, was his name, according to the DTM view from her suit. She pulled up his profile while he continued to speak. “There must be more to it. Perhaps her pet has something to do with it.”

“She has assured me that her ‘pet’ isn’t the reason. And it isn’t a pet so much as a weapon, like a handgun. It’s just one that can move about on its own. She calls it a robot that is designed to kill Chiata,” Sehera replied. “Dee says that her connection to the ruins, well, it is more of a software patch that her AIC was given by the alien. Although, when her AIC, Bree, tried to find the patch as a transferable driver, she couldn’t, in her words, ‘encompass the file in such a way as to copy it’. It, again, in her words, ‘was like the physical description of the code was too uncertain to fully comprehend’. Sounds like some form of quantum vacuum encoding to me, but I’m no expert.”

“Well, Mrs. Moore,” one of the scientists joined in, Dr. Cinnamon Hughes, again according to the DTM mindview in Sehera’s suit. “That is why I’m here. Quantum vacuum computation in cosmology is my field of study and I believe your daughter’s AIC might be on to something. Although I wish we could keep her here for a considerable amount of time, her last visit enabled us to open this particular set of glyphs and I believe this is a central control system.”

Sehera looked at the activated wall. Before Deanna had turned it on it had looked like a stone wall covered in ancient glyphs and graphics. There was a myriad of circles and ellipses that crossed and intersected each other and they all seemed to be connected through what appeared to be Julia Set fractals of various dimension. The Julia Set fractals looked a lot like beetles with lightning-bolt-shaped appendages scattering about them in random directions. All of the fractal patterns intertwined and overlapped one another creating a multidimensionally and holistically connected map. Sehera figured that there was enough in the patterns alone to keep a room full of Ph.D. topologists busy and happy for the rest of their lives.

And then there was the cosmological aspect to them. It appeared as though all the patterns connected through other patterns to each other and to points that, as far as the team of experts, and Sehera, could tell, were star systems that on the surface of things seemed randomly spread throughout the galaxy. But upon a deeper investigation there appeared to be a sort of ‘connectedness’ between them that wasn’t tangible as far as they could tell. Sehera had an idea about that connectedness, but needed more time to talk to the STO, or Commander Buckley, or even her mother, about it.

Once the glyphs had been activated, several of the ellipses lit up with a bluish-white glow and they were likewise illuminating pathways through the complex fractal drawings showing brighter spots stretched out across the galaxy. There were pathways of reds and greens of various hues also that were identical in spectrum in every way to the Chiata red-green blurs and the light they emitted through bioluminescence. Sehera and the rest of the team believed the ruins to be a map of the ancient war that took place between the Thgreeth and the Chiata. But at the same time it appeared to be updating itself. Each time the fleet took a system the red and green light changed spectrally to blue-white.

“Mrs. Moore, look at this one here,” the linguist called to her and motioned for her attention.

“What is it, Mr. Seely?” Sehera said as she turned to the portion of the wall the man was standing before. “Something changing?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Seely traced a red and green line across the surface to an ellipse that was deep within a sea of red and green systems. The one solar system was fading between the red and green to the bluish white light. “Something is happening here.”

Pamela, where is Dee? Sehera thought to her AIC. For years she’d been afraid to have the super AI implanted in her brain like everyone else, and had carried her as a watch, necklace, datapad, and as other jewelry. She had thought for decades that Copernicus was her mother’s AIC and that it had driven her mad. It had turned out that Copernicus was a living alien entity that was communicating to her mother through an AIC implant and the perceived insanity had been a ruse and part of a deeper, more twisted complex plan of plans. Sehera still wasn’t certain what the end result of the plan was supposed to be, and she had yet to forgive her mother for many things, including the death of her father.

But she had put those feelings aside for now because the Chiata were a bigger threat, and like it or not, her mother was turning out to be very useful in the fight against that threat. Realizing that the AIC hadn’t been what had driven her mother over the edge, Sehera had finally gotten over her phobias and had the AIC implanted behind her ear and she was still getting used to the direct to mind interactions without having to tap controls or speak out loud.

That is the system that the Penzington is attacking. Deanna is there, Pamela replied DTM.

“We should pay close attention to that,” Sehera said. “We are currently attacking that system. It would be handy if we could zoom in, wouldn’t it?”

“Zoom in?” Dr. Hughes asked as she approached. “Now that is an interesting idea . . . hmmm.”

The physicist stepped between Sehera and the actively changing figure and studied the lines, dots, and curves around it. She opened her faceplate on her helmet and moved closer as if to remove the added graphics of her suit’s HUD from the view. Sehera overheard the scientist’s suit warn her that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere was too high to breathe for more than a few minutes.

“Perhaps there are view controls,” she said. “Johan, work with me here for a moment.”

“What do you have in mind, Cinnamon?” Seely asked.

“Well, this ellipse here is clearly the heliopause of this star system. The dots here and here and throughout on various ellipses are planetary objects or gravity wells and orbits. But look here at this set of symbols. I have no understanding what they might be. And, they are not connected to the rest of the drawings.” The physicist explained as she traced the various lines and symbols with her armored fingers.

“No perspective? How do you mean?” Seely again asked. A few of the other technicians and warrant officers were looking up from their equipment and analysis of other sections of the ruin with piqued interest in the conversation. Interests were piqued, yes, but nobody had any brilliant ideas yet.

“I get it,” Sehera interrupted. “If this were a map of spacetime and objects within it, what are these other symbols? A legend? A pull-down menu? Instructions?”

“Precisely,” Hughes agreed. “So, Johan, you see why I ask? Are these symbols recurring elsewhere on these maps? They are clearly not objects or cosmological constructs that I understand.”

“I see,” the linguist nodded and looked as if he were in a brief conversation DTM with his AIC. “Look at this one here. Yes! This is a recurring symbol throughout the ruins, but not as frequent as the others. I’ve seen it one time in each of the ruin locations visited. And according to records from all data on the ruins about the planet it appears at least once in each.”

“That’s very interesting,” Cinnamon smiled triumphantly as if she understood something the others didn’t.

“Interesting how, Dr. Hughes?” Sehera wasn’t sure where she was going, but understood that it might be key to understanding the ruins.

“Well, when Major Moore activated this wall for us, she didn’t touch it. We all assumed she connected to it wirelessly through the quantum entanglement she somehow gained from the alien contact she had. But if you play back the sequence in your DTM you will note, as I just did, that this symbol was first to light up. What is the first symbol on any system to light up?”

“The power button,” Sehera replied. “Okay, this is the on switch. But touching it doesn’t seem to do anything.” Sehera tapped at it several times with her armored hand.

“Maybe,” Cinnamon’s glove retracted, leaving her hand bare. She swiped across the symbol with her forefinger. Nothing happened. She did it again. Still no result. “Darn, I thought that was going to work.”

“Wait, wait,” Seely held up his hand. “These two symbols here and then these four here fit together with these others here. There are two sets of six. Major Moore’s suit imagery video data showed that her alien had six fingers on each hand. This is a touchpad control. We need a key code perhaps. Maybe if we DTM replay the system coming on they will light up in a specific order.”

The three of them watched a replay of Deanna starting up the wall and indeed there was a sequence in which the symbols lit up as the wall started. Sehera could see the sequence clearly from her vantage point and had her AIC memorize it for her.

“I have it,” Dr. Hughes said as she started touching the symbols.

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll turn it off?” Sehera asked.

“I’m hoping it will ask us what we want to do next,” she replied. “Perhaps, the system is running idle awaiting us to enter our username and password.”

The three of them held their breath as the physicist tapped the symbol sequence, but again nothing happened. Sehera didn’t think it would be that simple. The Chiata had been in that system for no telling how many hundreds of years and had not figured out how to activate the system. A simple key code sequence couldn’t be the answer.

“The aliens must’ve had some sort of identification encoding, maybe even down at the quantum level.” Sehera thought about it a bit longer. She actually wished her mother were there. This was her mother’s specialty. She had created all sorts of information algorithms that hacked through security systems of humanity over the centuries. Sehera hoped she had learned a thing or two from watching her and fighting against her over her lifetime to present.

Pamela, what would mother do here, she thought.

While I’m not certain about that, I can say that historically and to my knowledge she always used hidden back-door approaches that had been left behind by system architects. She seldom used full frontal brute force firewall attacks and dictionary searches. Your mother is always more elegant and prepared than that, the AIC replied.

“Hmm, back-door approach,” Sehera muttered to herself unconsciously. “Too bad Dee can’t just come and play around with this stuff more. I need to talk to Alexander about that.” She continued to mutter to herself oblivious of the linguist and the physicist on either side of her. Both of them were staring at her and paying close attention to her every movement. She focused her mind on how it was that Dee had been able to address the walls and why Bree had not been able to transfer the capability to others. There was something special about Dee perhaps.

“Wait a minute. I want us to play back Dee’s meeting with the alien and pay closer attention to what was said there and then. There’s something nagging me about this.” Sehera nodded to Seely and Hughes as though she were ordering them. While Sehera had no rank and certainly was only “along for the ride as an advisor” she was still Sehera Moore.

Pamela, play it back for us DTM.

Yes, ma’am.

The three of them watched and listened to Deanna’s first contact with Mru of Thgreeth. They occasionally paused and replayed sequences. There was nothing that was particularly illuminating until the alien began to explain why Dee was allowed to access the system. Sehera was getting perplexed by the conundrum.

“Yes. As the scourge covered the galaxy from the outer arms inward my people moved ahead of them and placed these safe havens and escape passages through space,” the alien explained to Dee. “Our hopes were to enable multiple attack fronts unavailable to the enemy in the oncoming war. You have found how to access one of them. This is important in that no other species as of yet has been judged by the automated guardians as trustworthy enough to allow through. Perhaps they allowed it or perhaps you manipulated it. Either way, you are here now.”

“Automated guardians, you mean the beetle bugs? That thing didn’t like the way I tasted,” Dee replied. Cinnamon chuckled at Dee’s comment. Sehera shushed her. The video replay continued.

“Yes, I see this. That is exciting and intriguing for me. In seventy thousand years, no other species has triggered the tunnel system. But through testing your blood and reading the history stored in your artificial counterpart we could see that we should at least have a conversation with you.” Mru explained. “That does not mean you are trustworthy.”

“There!” Sehera stopped the playback. “That’s it. Why’d we not see that before?”

“It is quite obvious isn’t it,” Johan agreed. “Her blood was key. While we assumed the alien configured the handshaking protocols for humanity, it might simply have been for Deanna Moore.”

“Or perhaps, a Moore’s DNA?” Cinnamon asked. “You should have quite similar markers, Mrs. Moore.”

“Perhaps,” Sehera said as she retracted her glove.

Pamela, reproduce as much of the handshaking protocols as Dee’s AIC was able to transfer as best you can, she thought.

I am running the sequence now.

Sehera touched the symbols in the sequence that they had turned on in Dee’s initial startup. At first it didn’t appear that anything would happen, but then the symbols shifted and rotated into the wall and out of the wall and side to side. Finally, the room filled with translucent images that were more complex and more three dimensional than those that were on the wall. The room became the display, not just the wall.

“Everybody is seeing this, right?” Sehera asked unsure if it was only meant for her or if it was a general system display.

“Yes, we are,” Johan said excitedly. “It’s a real-time holographic map of the galaxy, I think.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. How do the alien ruins gather and transmit this information, I wonder? Look here,” Dr. Hughes pointed at the system that was fading in and out from red and green to bluish white and back. “This system is still in flux.”

“Yes, it is.” Sehera hoped not for long and she reached up to touch the translucent image in front of her. When she did, it expanded before them and the sudden shift of view threw her momentarily off balance. “Whoah.”

“Mrs. Moore, you have control of the map,” Johan said, just as surprised by the sudden image perspective change as everyone else. “Please do that slowly or warn me next time. That made me nauseous.”

“It would appear that I do have control. And, sorry about the sudden jump. I didn’t like it too much myself,” Sehera replied gulping back the lump that had risen in her throat. She carefully reached up with both hands and spread out a region in the system that was the epicenter of the color fading sphere.

The room suddenly filled with a section of the solar system near a large gas giant planet about eight astronomical units distance from the star. There were Chiata porcusnail megaships and blue beams zigging and zagging about. In the middle nearest one of the planet’s moons was a large porcusnail-looking alligator-like megaship firing its own blue beams of death from Hell along with other directed energy beams and missiles. There were several supercarriers there and four of them had rammed one of the Chiata megaships in an attempt to seize another alligator porcusnail Fleet ship superweapon. Sehera’s heart skipped a couple of beats as she realized she was watching the battle her daughter was fighting in real-time. She knew that Dee was on board that alien ship. She could feel it. She had to know.

Sehera, the system is, I don’t know how to describe it, but it is scanning me, her AIC told her DTM.

What do you mean? Is it malicious? Are you safe?

Yes, I, yes, I . . . There was a brief pause and almost a loss of communications with her AIC. I, I, uh . . . No. Not malicious. I don’t think so, but I cannot stop it even if it is.

What is it doing, then? Pamela?

I am not, wait, I understand now. It is not malicious at all. Yes, I understand. Watch the images ma’am. The AIC sounded less frightened as if it understood what was going on all of a sudden. Then the imagery in the room altered itself a bit.

“What are those blue dots?” one of the technicians watching chimed in.

“Well if you ask me, I’d say it’s the Blue Force Tracking System?” a senior warrant officer added.

“Mrs. Moore? What is happening?” Dr. Hughes asked.

“The ruins are handshaking with my AIC. I think the alien system has incorporated our fleet troop trackers.” Sehera thought for a second. “I wonder . . .”

Pamela, use standard command protocols and pull up names for the blue dots. Show me Dee, she thought.

Yes, ma’am. I am certain that will work.

Then all of the thousands of blue dots in the system had a nametag and vital sign icon attached and inside the Chiata ship, deep inside the ship, USMC Major Deanna “Phoenix” Moore’s icon appeared. Sehera took a deep breath not sure what to do next. Seeing Dee in the midst of such a situation both paralyzed her and made her want to spring into action, but she wasn’t sure how she could do anything to help.

“Look there,” the same warrant officer bounced in closer. Sehera looked at her DTM to get a name for the man. He was Chief Warrant Officer Three Thomson Dover, an electromagnetic spectrum expert. “There is a field distortion taking place on the periphery of the combat zone. Zoom out a bit, ma’am, if you don’t mind.”

“Okay,” Sehera said. She reached up and waved her hands together squeezing the resolution of the image. Again their perspective changed a bit and more of the system came into view.

“There!” the warrant officer exclaimed. “Look, a spherical distortion out about five or six AUs from the combat zone, completely encompassing the fleet. And look just beyond that at the gas giant there. Those red dots. They are hiding in the planet’s atmosphere by the thousands. This is full up Red Force Tracker as well and there is a big chunk of the Red Force right there.”

“What does that mean, Chief?” Sehera asked although she thought she knew the answer. There was no need to ponder the data longer as instantly hyperspace vortex tubes opened up inside the sphere of distortion and hundreds of Chiata megaships popped into reality space. Red dots from the gas giant vanished and reappeared just outside the combat zone a few tens of seconds later. It was clear what was taking place to all of them. None of them could believe it.

“Holy . . .”

“Oh my god, it’s an ambush!”

“And I’ll bet you that distortion is a one-way door,” one of the others said. “It’s a kill box.”

“Mrs. Moore, I think that is a QMT damping field. They are trapped and don’t realize it!” Dr. Hughes added.

“But, the Chiata don’t have those,” one of the techs grunted.

“They do now,” CW3 Dover replied. “Jesus Christ, this is awful.”

“Sehera to Alexander. Emergency! Drop what you are doing now and flash to me! Now! Now! Now!”

Back | Next