L.I.T. World Ch. 01bymikey2much©
Steve Nolan walked briskly into the room, conscious of the lesser gravity, careful to walk easy so as to avoid the tendency to bounce with each step. He didn't stop or greet anyone; he strode straight to the podium. A table sat next to the podium and he opened his phone, setting it on the table, aimed at the wall behind him. The wall was transformed into a viewer, he thought of the data code number making the screen open with a title sheet; he thought, 'Freeze.' He turned to face his audience.
"Gentlemen," his eyes ran down the table noting each man's face, "and Ladies," he smiled at the two women, sitting in chairs half way between the table and the door. Granted there was no room at the table but he was unsure of why they were here. Both were in their middle age with the older pushing the threshold of forced retirement. They wore laser tags stuck to their collars, but they were too far away to scan from the podium, but they had been vetted. Still their presence disturbed him; he forced them from his mind and addressed the group.
"We have come into some information that has us concerned. It appears that someone has smuggled information packets into the crew pods that we have sent out to our first planetary seeding operations. We are not sure if each package was the same but in the one we recovered, we found a Bible, both old and new testaments, as well as a Book of Mormon and a Koran. They covered all the major religions as well as a collection of the sayings of Confucius and Chairman Mao, several volumes of earth history, and a sprinkling of books dealing with design mechanics, electronics and weaponry." Nolan watched the reactions of the men as he spoke but the women were at the far end of the table and they had the light from the passage way shining behind them.
"It seems that the terrorists are believers in equal opportunity when it comes to using religion as a weapon. I have been advised that this is a serious threat to the success of our efforts to seed planets with people." Nolan let his eyes go around the oblong table seeking the eye contact that was so important to both leadership and salesmanship. "The company wants us to determine if possession of the information poses a threat to our expectations."
Nolan's eyes fell on the older of the two women, she was a tall slim woman, her grey hair was worn short, so much like a man's that he wondered if she was a bit on the butch side of life. Suddenly, realizing she had his attention, she stood up and asked a question, "Do we know how they got the materials into the crew pods?" She paused for a beat and then continued, "How were the sterilization procedures by-passed?"
No deer was ever caught in the headlights worst than Nolan was, he stood in stupid silence for a moment and then answered her question as honestly as he could. "As best we can tell, at this point in the investigation, we think it was introduced inside the equipment containers. They used printed pages assembled into books, and used as spacers under and between pieces of heavy equipment. Since it was totally non-electronic none of the scans picked them up." The old woman just stood there like she was waiting for him to finish, even after he was done talking.
Nolan decided to go back to his prepared statement but as he looked around the table he realized that everyone was waiting, wanting to hear what he had to say. But the reason why had nothing to do with sterilization procedures; at this point they wanted to see how Nolan was going to handle this power play by the old woman. He was forced to expand on his answer. "We only found it because we were alerted by a hand written note we found folded into the crew uniforms and stored on board. Since the uniforms came vacuumed packed and sterile, we think the note was planted by someone at the work camp where they were assembled. Troops have been sent there and we should know more shortly."
"Where were the work camps responsible for the assembly of the packs located?" she asked. The woman looked familiar to him, he had seen her somewhere, but where?
The woman had not sat back down but remained standing, as if she might have many more questions. Nolan decided to start playing it safe keeping his answers to the point. "It was a camp located in Florida, that's where we do most of our assemblies because of the high number of work camps already in production mode."
"Yes, I'm quite familiar with the area. It has a reputation as a place where people exist on a lower rung of the evolutionary ladder." She gave Nolan a bitter hard smile. "I'm sure you would agree with that wouldn't you Mr. Nolan?"
Nolan would've agreed if she had given him the time but she cut him off just as he started to speak.
"The equipment containers, where did you say they were assembled?" she asked.
The tall woman had an air about her that set off screaming warnings inside Nolan's head. He had hesitated too long, she cut him off again.
"Wait, let me guess," the old woman's face showed some teeth but it wasn't really a smile, "I'll bet you your job that they were assembled in Florida."
Nolan was beginning to see that this was a designed hatchet job; this bitch came here to destroy him, but why? He couldn't figure why. He had to know where she was coming from before he could get the fuck out of the way. 'Who could've sent her?'
Her voice cut into his thoughts, she was talking again. "Where, it seems, the knuckle dragging retards, are out smarting your men on a regular basis." Her boney old face held no womanly softness, her mouth was shut so hard it was as thin as a knife's edge. It was the face of an old warrior, a warrior who had watched many an adversary go down before her. It was the face of a person used to winning.
"You're correct; it was another camp in Florida." Nolan wasn't sure what had happened but somehow the meeting had turned into a trial and he was the defendant. In an effort to show he was in control of the situation he added, "As a matter of fact we have sent troops to twenty six different camps, all located in the pan-handle of the state. We will soon know how pervasive the rot is." Nolan did not like the way this woman had him on defense after just a few well placed questions. He tried to lighten the mood. "Everybody has known for years that people are crazy down there. Hell even now the desertion rate among company personnel there is three times what it is anywhere else. Something in the water makes people want to go native down there." As Nolan spoke his hand pointed at the earth through the viewport but Florida was on the dark side of the Earth and couldn't be seen.
The slim old woman paid his attempt at humor no mind, choosing instead to press her attack, "How long has this been going on? Do you even know? No, of course you don't. Do you know what this means to the Human Race? No, why should you trouble yourself to understand what your failure to do your job is really doing?"
Nolan didn't even know who this bitch was, but she had his number. He tried once more to reach out to her. "I'm sorry, but do I know you?"
She bristled with anger as she replied, "Karen Bates, director of Human Resources and Vice President in charge of the planetary seeding project. I'm the person you should have come to with this problem instead of calling this meeting to try and cover your sorry ass. Single handedly you may have screwed up a project nearly thirty years in the making." Karen stopped talking and forced herself to take several deep breaths. After the short pause and visible efforts to control her anger she said, "We will talk about this after the presentation. Please continue Mr. Nolan." Nobody in the room doubted that Steve Nolan was in deep shit. People like Karen Bates held power greater than the Kings and Presidents of the past. She literally held the power of life and death out here on the company's moon colony, she was God here.
Nolan was so shaken he had trouble making his mind focus; it took three tries before he could think clearly enough for his phone to start the data flow again.. He started to resume his prepared commentary and than thought better of it, deciding instead to let the voice over provided by the videos stand on its own. He thought the room code and 'Dim lights,' the lights dimmed, darkening the room. 'Resume,' he thought and the screen came to life behind him. "These videos were taken from the five year reports sent by the satellite's automated reporting system," he said and turned to watch, but his mind was churning, going through all the people that could have it in for him. Karen fucking Bates was far too powerful to be here as someone's errand boy, she was here for her own reasons. What could she know that would make her this angry at him?
He scanned the room, finding her standing in the shadow of the doorway, the only exit from the room. In the glow reflected from the viewing wall he could see the age in her face, the gray in her short hair. She must have felt the weight of his eyes because she turned her head to look directly at him, the light of the screen reflected in her eyes like they were lasers. Nolan was surprised he hadn't recognized her, hell, he walked by her picture every morning when he walked through the main entrance from below. Karen Bates looked like an old lady in that painting on the wall but the woman standing in the doorway with eyes like lasers didn't look like an old lady at all; she looked like an old gunfighter, one that had yet to lose, a survivor of the corporate infighting for the last forty years.
Now, this most powerful woman had come to the moon and his name was at the top of her shit list. The video had started with the launching of the pods, cut out all the time spent in space and cut to the arrival at the seeding planet, he turned to watch as his mind tried to figure a way to survive this situation he was in.
L.I.T. (Licensed Inmate Terraforming) World number 6A284752 satellite data.
Year 2185, Two minutes before impact
The screens showed the missiles hurtling through the darkness of space. As we follow the progress of the projectiles the cameras turn as they pass and suddenly we can see a planet from low orbit. The missiles streak by on their paths to an area in the center of the globe below. When they reached a distance of a kilometer from the surface, the outer shells ejected themselves, spinning out into space and falling along side the now naked shiny hardened probes as they shot toward the planet at speeds faster than any bullet.
The pod's braking rockets kicked in, reducing the speeds to the six hundred miles per hour needed to penetrate the planet's crust to the desired depth. The outer shell without benefit of braking rockets hit the surface at a speed just shy of mach four vaporizing on impact. Seconds later the hardened probes struck, their composite noses grinding themselves down until they disintegrated leaving only the hardened core to penetrate the thirty feet it needed to be safe. It happened fast. There was no sound. It was a hard rain of large bodies falling from the black sky in two waves to a collision with the small planet. When they hit, the jettisoned outer shells and the ground exploded in dust clouds, covering the entire valley with the thick fog for maybe twenty seconds or so before it slowly settled back to the ground.
The soil had the dryness of baby powder and was just as fine. There was no wind to blow it away, and no atmosphere to support it, so it fell back to the surface like wet sand rather than dry powder. The carbon powder that was all that was left of the outer shells mixed with the powdery soil as it fell in a wide circle. When the planet's sun's light hit the mixture it began to change the electrical charge of the ground to an even stronger negative.
Even though it was a violent explosion, it was not a solitary one. The three hundred pods fell like rain hitting the small planet in a pattern that had been worked out decades ago. The valley, really an old crater left from an ancient meteor strike, covered over fifty square kilometers. The pods fell making the valley floor jump like a pond's surface in a hard rain. Fifteen minutes and it was over. The dust had fallen back to the ground and other then the darker dust of the outer shells forming wide circles around each impact site, it looked as it had before. You would never have been aware that anything out of the normal had occurred.
Underneath the surface though, things were happening, glass containers designed to break on impact were releasing their loads of chemicals to mix with others in several separate vats. Safe from radiation, buried in a manmade womb, the juices of life were put to work. Other chemicals had mixed and the heat from that reaction was warming the memory metal to the point where it started to unfurl itself, pushing a thin shoot of stainless metal through the soil until it reached the surface where it formed itself into a metal flower with the petals forming a daisy like circle. The light from the yellow star that served as this planet's sun started to generate current that was sent to be stored in batteries beside the mechanical wombs below. All the ingredients were here now for life to begin, all but time, but time was coming they just had to wait for it.
Year 2190, five years later
Looking down on the valley from the orbiting cameras, the valley had begun to take on a green hue. When the camera zooms in it reveals each metal flower had a long thin green tube growing out in a spiral pattern. Zooming in closer, it becomes apparent that the green tubes are hollow and clear in color. The green color that was so clear from orbit now looks more like a grayish green, the color of desert plants seen in moonlight. The clear tubes looked like plastic but in reality they were comprised of nano-bots created from silica. Silica is a element that is common in the soil there, they were reproducing themselves, using the soil of their new home. The nano-bots would be able to create as many of themselves as they might need to build any structure, right now they were creating a greenhouse comprised of two layers. The outer layer is for the foliage needed to capture the sunlight for the plants. The inner layer was a safe conduit for the plants' roots to use to get back down into the safety of the underground wombs. The nano-bots were constantly enlarging the tubes in length as well as girth, matching the plant in rate of growth..
Undetectable from above, small bubbles were beginning, forming a green shadow that surrounded the metal flower that was in reality a solar-collector/antennae.
Beneath the surface the probes had sunk shafts deeper into the host planet where water in the form of ice had been located. The convection of the heated water, formed when the ice was melted, rising up the slender tubes also sucked water into reservoirs where it was stored for the roots to use as needed. The wombs were warm and life was in full bloom within them as humanoid figures took shape. Unmarked by days, the time passed, the nano-bots worked and reproduced, ice melted, heat rose and water flowed, all unnoticed on the empty planet.
Year 2195, impact plus ten years
The valley was green and the surface was dotted with balloon like structures that rose up like green rocks surrounding the metal flowerlike shapes. A winding snake of foliage encased in a clear skin of silica stood at a height of four meters above the ground in that same spiral shape it formed all those years ago but now it had grown to the point that you could hardly see the ground between the winding snake and the balloons. The gases in the balloons held such a positive charge that they occasionally discharged lightning bolts of static electricity into the surrounding ground.
The first of the huge balloons began to break loose from their mounts and roll about the area with the negative charge, sparks flying as they bounced about. Pulled to and fro by the electric charge they moved in a way that was similar to a tree in a breeze. Struggling against, but unable to overcome the opposite charge of the planet that held them, the giant balloons bounced about, sometimes stacking themselves like magnetized paper clips into huge sculptures rising high into the black sky above. They trembled there. Caught between opposing forces, they were held in place, spurting electric discharges in all directions, until they fell slowly back to the surface in a brilliant display of lightning.
Year 2200, impact plus fifteen years
The valley was green from rim to rim. The big green balloons were stacked into static piles that soared to heights of forty meters in some places. They looked like manmade mountains as they soared into the blackness of the sky. The winding snakes of vegetation were pressed by the balloons on both sides forming canyons that spiraled through the green treelike balloons.
Underneath the ground in the wombs, forms were moving around. Cloned bacteria had begun to live and reproduce in the soil around the wombs and this was the first year that they had been allowed to escape. Hopefully they will spread out, working their way up to the surface. Mold was growing on the inside of some of the tubes and spreading fast. Gases were being exhaled by plants only to be inhaled by bacteria which in turn exhaled gases that the plants inhaled. Life was happening in the little green valley. The video stopped.
The group of scientist turned to one another to express their views on the amazing scenes the cameras were sharing with them. This was the first time any of them had actually seen what they were doing when they came to work. Terra-forming was still a word only used in science fiction in the world outside this complex. But now, with these images, it was undeniably real.
Nolan regained the group's attention by rapping his knuckles against the podium, the excited remarks faded into silence. "I am going to have a talk with Ms. Bates, in the meantime you folks can study this video report as much as you would like." He could see Karen Bates standing by the door waiting impatiently for him, the bitch still looked pissed. Reluctantly he walked to where she waited for him.
Karen watched as Steve Nolan made his way to her, she took notice of, and a degree of satisfaction in, the fear and uncertainty he tried not to show on his face. When he got close enough to speak, he held out his hand and started to say something. She cut him off. "Shut up and follow me." Ignoring his offered hand she turned and walked toward the office she had commandeered for her use while she was here. She had no doubt that Nolan was following behind like a puppy. She opened the office door and waited for Nolan to enter, then followed him into the office closing the door behind her.
Karen walked around the massive desk and sat down in the executive chair, fixing a hard stare on Nolan. He was older, older then she had thought he would be, and he was not so cocky now. She waited, letting the hostile silence build in the room like angry storm clouds. Nolan knew he was really in deep shit now. Her steady gaze told her when he was at the point of panic, ready for the last wound to his male pride. She began, "Nolan, do you know why we have everything that goes on board a Department of Justice pod sterilized?"
"To protect the environments of the worlds they are sent to, so we don't spread dangerous germs and other life forms," confident of his answer, he waited for her reply.
"That's correct, now do you know why we have anti virus protections on our computer systems?" Karen asked.
"Sure, the anti-virus programs protect our computer systems from being infected with a virus or being implanted with mal-ware or spy-ware of some sort." Again Nolan felt sure of his answer, wondering where this line of questioning was going.