NSA CONFIDENTIAL MESSAGE TO THE PRESIDENT
The Omega Base scientists discovered a way to open up a communication line with the sphere found on Europa.--Unfortunately, we believe we should close this opening as soon as technically feasible. Tachyon messages from the sphere appear to be from a future Earth and indicate that activation of this device begins a cascading phase of events that leads to the extinction of mankind. This is obviously a major miscalculation of the risks involved with this venture. The new Joint Chief's Senior Technical Scientist (JCSTS), Professor Milton Lovelace, is scheduled to meet up with the Tesla II. We expect an update of the situation sometime soon. Although we believe he is best suited for this endeavor, please excuse his somewhat eccentric attitude.
Omega Base, Europa
A searing flash of light and a booming crackle that seemed to boil the air crashed through the bridge of the Tesla II, temporarily blinding science officer Mitch Lovelace. The ship yawed sharply, pitching him and the others of the bridge crew to the floor.
"What the hell was that?" Mitch asked, his throat constricted as he rose and resumed his seat at the controls. His vision clearing, he squinted at his viewscreen, studying the crystalline prism that was orbiting Europa. His instruments revealed that the beam that had struck the Tesla--a beam that had arisen from the interior of the prism--had knocked the ship fifty kilometers out of its synchronous orbit.
"Correct our course, Mitch," ordered Captain Benjamin Cohn as he rose from the floor and fumbled his way back into his captain's chair. "Everyone okay?" he asked.
The muscular security agent, Arno Kingsley was already back at his station, as was communications specialist, Amanda Ward. They nodded.
"I'm getting no responses to my hailing messages," said Ward. She shook her head.
"I'm receiving a message from Central Command," said Kingsley, studying over his secure links of data streaming in from the space base on Europa. "Our orders are to investigate, but do not engage. Repeat, do not engage."
Suddenly the hatch between the bridge and engineering slid open with a swoosh. "Seems you're already engaged ... at least, it's engaged you," said Sir Milton Lovelace, striding toward the captain. He's as regal and imposing as ever, thought Mitch, remembering how his father had looked that night in Stockholm when he'd accepted the Nobel Prize for Physics. The elder Lovelace shook the captain's hand and nodded curtly toward his son.
"Dad," Mitch said, returning the nod. "I didn't expect to see you here."
"Central Command indicated you might need some technical assistance," said his father as confident as ever. Looking back at Captain Cohn, Milton continued. "Captain, do not run any high frequency radar sweeps on the object, nothing above two gigahertz--it triggered a similar reaction on the sphere below on Europa, and I think these two objects are somehow related."
Captain Benjamin Cohn scratched his Irish American inherited reddish-grey beard. "Ms. Ward, stop the radar scans--immediately."
"On it sir," said Amanda touching a flat screen panel in front of her console. She selected an image of the Prism, and then pulled down a red flashing touch screen dial for the radar scans, double tapping a 'cease scan' button. "It's done captain."
Mitch studied the Prism via an orbiting Europa satellite relay. Radiation and the charging of what appeared to be a laser type weapon ceased. Mitch changed the Tesla's course back into a stable orbit around Europa, but decided to keep some distance from the Prism--just in case things changed. Sensors indicated that the earlier flash was a high powered laser. Luckily the power was just not high enough, he thought ... or we'd all be roasting like pepper steaks on a barbeque grill. "The Prism seems to be deactivating--the laser cannon is powered down. I got us in a stable orbit--but I gave us some distance. From here we can quickly orbit Jupiter to give us some protection--if required."
"Good job Mitch. I like the view," said Captain Cohn as Jupiter approached. Cohn looked over at Ward. "Ms. Ward, get the repair crew in here to fix this mess."
"They're already on the way sir," said Amanda Ward.
Mitch looked out the panoramic viewscreen of the science vessel Tesla II. Jupiter and her turbulent Jovian atmosphere filled most of the portside screen while the starboard displayed Jupiter's barren icy volcanic moon, Europa. The icy lines running across Europa's landscape reminded Mitch of blood vessels running though an arm. The constant underground eruptions made living on Europa risky, but he, like the specially selected colonists dreamed for such adventure--he knew that it was only in daring greatly for mankind that anyone could ever achieve something great for mankind. Mitch was man who lived his dreams. But as he anxiously watched his father grimly gazing over at Europa and then back at him, he realized the heavy price.
"You don't know what those colonists go through son," said his father. "Besides Earth, Europa is the only other known place in the solar system with life larger than those stinkball whatchamacallits, those methane-producing organisms on Mars."
"They're called 'methanogens' Dad, and right now, I've got a few more important things to worry about than 'stinkballs'". Wish the old man would just get out of my life, thought Mitch. Did he travel millions of miles from home just to continue ruining his son's life?
"You should read my report on European life--it's fascinating," said his father.
Mitch knew about Europa's volcanic aquatic organisms--fish without eyes but with sonar, bioluminescent jelly fish, colonies of giant tube worms fifty feet long spanning for miles. Electric eels hunted small shrimp like shell fish near the hydrothermal vents. But for now, Mitch brushed aside Europa's bizarre aquatic life and the new colony's challenges below. The glowing Prism at the center of the viewscreen focused Mitch like an oncoming train's light does to person in a car stuck at an intersection's train tracks. Discovered two months earlier by astrophysicists living on Europa, the object coincided with the start of Cyber War II. Electric grids, utility companies and anything without a backup was shut down. Most scientists considered the events just a coincidence and bad timing, but others saw something more sinister. The large rainbow like crystalline object found a stable orbit around Europa allowing scientists a unique opportunity to investigate, but the Tesla II's first encounter minutes earlier rattled Mitch--and now the course of the Prism was changing--slowly heading towards Earth.
Captain Cohn walked over and viewed the satellite image of the Prism, deep in thought. "Any ideas from a science officer?"
"Yes," said both Mitch and his father at the same time. Mitch stared at his tanned balding father and grimaced. He was fit and trim, even at sixty-five. Probably still working out daily and taking tanning pills with vitamin D to protect the body from disease.
"Go ahead Dad, you're now the senior science officer on board,' admitted Mitch trying to hide frustration.
"Thank you, son," said the elder Lovelace without even a hint of concern for Mitch's pride. "We must immediately go back and take a closer look at this prism object--we need to stop this thing at all costs."
Kingsley left his post and bustled over, walking as if in a marine march. "Listen, did we all forget about almost getting our asses fried back there? I'm all for blowing this thing up, but I don't want to get our butts blown to bits in the process."
"Who are you?" asked Milton, staring at Kingsley like a professor does at a late student.
"I'm the ship's doctor," said Arno Kingsley, lying, standing straight and flexing his bulging chest muscles.
Professor Lovelace frowned at Kingsley. "The security of our world is in jeopardy young man, and the risk of getting our little rumps roasted is far outweighed by the need to stop this thing before it reaches Earth. Your concerns are noted. I believe the high energy radar scans triggered a defense mechanism--now please excuse me. I have business to attend."
Kingsley stomped over toward the captain. "Captain, we should just send in a nuke, and be done with this."
Why is it that men fear the unknown frontier so much that they must destroy it before they adventure in it? Mitch shook his head. "A nuke? We don't carry nukes, and if we did, nukin' something like this is stupid. That action alone could get us all killed."
"I brought one aboard," said the elder Lovelace walking over to the captain.
"What? We don't even know what this is," exclaimed Mitch. Not only was his father back causing trouble, but he was prepared to nuke an object of potential scientific importance. Complete madness thought Mitch.
"Son, we can use a nuke later, if this thing gets hostile, but I think we should be safe with the radar scans off." Sir Lovelace looked at Cohn. "I have to agree with my son, I think we should try to investigate this thing before we blow it up, can we please proceed?"
Captain Cohn nodded in agreement. He wasn't a man to sit around idle and wanted a second chance at getting something on the Prism. "Mitch, move us back slowly toward the Prism--get within five kilometers. If you see any energy fluctuations--fall back immediately."
"Yes sir," said Mitch making the course adjustments. "And Amanda, please confirm that the radar stays off."
Amanda Ward nodded and smiled a little longer at Mitch than he would have liked. Her green eyes, blond hair and high cheek boned features looked chiseled out of a swimsuit modeling magazine. But it was her smile, and those soft eyes that melted Mitch into a buttery swirl. He hated losing control and Amanda had the ability to soften him up like kids Play-Doh.
As the Tesla II slowly approached the Prism, Mitch gazed at the famous chroma-aurora coming into view. The flamboyant display of glowing colors trickled out of the Prism, hiding its shape from the telescopes below. This was the object's first close-encounter inspection by man, and the closer the Tesla II got, the less the Prism looked like anything known to man. Mitch checked the spectrometer for ice, frozen carbon dioxide, or methane covering the object. None were to be found. The Prism's shape was starting to form as they approached. The shape was getting bigger and bigger. Mitch rubbed his tired eyes, thinking they were tricking him, but the object surely looked like a large crystalline pyramid. This was a strange looking craft. This was not manmade and didn't belong in space. He looked over to his father for some grudgingly accepted guidance.
"Son, can you please run a spectral analysis on the object. And then tell me if it has any xenon-135 or oxygen-16?"
"Xeon-135? That wouldn't be present, it'd have to have come from--"
"Just check," ordered Mitch's father.
Mitch Lovelace, the ship's senior scientist at only thirty five years old, checked the strange-looking object for xenon-135 and oxygen-16 wishing his father would leave. As the son of the distinguished knighted Nobel laureate physicist, Sir Milton Lovelace, Mitch hated his life on Earth. Although not intended, Mitch's father caused Mitch endless grief. At MIT, professors would always say something stupid like: Are you related to the great Milton Lovelace? Yes? Oh really, your father is absolutely brilliant, his research on string theory and parallel universes is magnificent, you're one lucky man.
Mitch felt so lucky he decided to get as far away from the university as he could. The off-Earth moon encampments on Europa fit the bill. His mother thought it was a bad idea, and wanted Mitch to marry and settle down. Working on the Tesla II was as far away from his father and Earth as he could get--that was until this unexpected visit.
Mitch looked down at the finely tuned Tesla II ship sensors and scanned the object thinking this might be his chance to finally upstage the old man. Maybe he'd find a new material on the alien craft? But definitely not xeon-135 or oxygen-16. Xenon-135 had a half-life of nine hours. It was the stuff of nuclear reactions. And oxygen-16? That's just breathable air. What was the old man thinking? Mitch eagerly checked and double checked data with the digital telescope and ran a remote electronic scan.
"Do we have any xenon-135?" asked Mitch's father, looking anxious.
"Dad, be patient, I'm still checking," said Mitch who switched on a low power scan for xenon-135 and oxygen. A beep emitted for both substances, Mitch's eyes bulged in surprise. "Holy jeez! There's xeon-135 on its outer shell and oxygen inside! I've never observed that before in a meteorite. That's really strange, shouldn't be possible." exclaimed Mitch. "How did you know?"
"Oh it's strange all right, and possible--I saw the same thing in the sphere on Europa," added the elder Lovelace.
"Well, in that case there may be a correlation," said Mitch.
"Obviously a correlation son, I suspected that all along. We had similar issues with the sphere."
"Well, it would have been nice if you told us earlier about the radar scan reaction before you came aboard, Dad. Might have saved us from getting blasted by the thing--it coulda killed us." Why does the old man always hold back information?
"I would have, but you didn't answer my email."
That's it. Never answer his email? And why should I? thought Mitch. "Email? I was busy working as the ship's science officer, and I didn't see an email with a big red exclamation point saying: 'danger, radar scans could get you killed son, don't do them'."
"Well ... you never answer my emails anyhow, I send you one each week, but you answer your mother's. The only way I find out how you're doing is to have lunch with my ex. You know how that makes me feel, don't you?" Mitch's father stared nonchalantly out into space.
Captain Cohn focused his itchy tired eyes on Mitch and his father. "With PhDs from Stanford and MIT all you guys can do is complain about emails?" Cohn looked at the elder Lovelace. "And if it's true you suspected the radar scan issue, Sir Lovelace, I would expect you to inform me directly of any such information you have on the sphere that could affect the safety of this ship."
"Yes, of course captain," said Milton sheepishly shrugging.
Amanda Ward's station rang an alarm. Ward looked over. "Sir Lovelace, Europa sent a transmission, I think you'll want to see this."
Sir Lovelace walked over. His face, normally composed in all situations broke a slight frown, his head dropped and his mouth hung open for a second or two. Mitch knew that this emotional reaction was reserved for imminent danger and had only seen it a few times during their lives together, the last being a fire in his laboratory that burnt half their home in upstate New York. "The sphere's shrinking! Oh my God! Those morons on Europa", said Mitch's father looking over at Captain Cohn. "I'll need to take the Europa scuttle back. Immediately! My assistance is needed far more back on Europa there than here. My son might not be as well versed in the science involved but I'll brief him on my way back."
The best news I heard all day, thought Mitch to himself.
Sir Lovelace, the father of Mitch Lovelace nodded goodbye and left the Tesla II as quickly as he arrived.