Chapter 8

What Hope We Have

Isaac paced in front of a makeshift classroom as he prepared to reveal the information from Kyle’s device.  A large display on the back wall framed him.  Images rolled across his white coat as he paced.  Jack sat in a thin metallic chair at the front of the room.  He tapped his pencil eraser on the pad of paper.  His leg followed suit.  Stawford leaned against the back wall with his arms folded.  Thomas entered.

Jack rose.  “Hey, boss, Sophia okay?”

“Yeah, she’s fine.  She’s resting in her quarters.  She had a run in with one of the plants from Proteus.  CLARA is monitoring her.”

“Commander,” said Isaac.  “Please, take a seat.  I’d like to begin.  What we’ve found is truly astonishing,”

“Hold on, Isaac.  We are still waiting for Julie and Daxman.”

“I’m here,” said Julie smiling as she entered the room.  “Dax is,” she paused.

“Yes, Julie?”

She thought of the potential importance of this other recording and debated mentioning it.

“Dax is working on something else.  I can fill him in later.”

Thomas shook his head.  He didn’t want to know.  “Okay, doctor, go ahead.”

Isaac coughed.  “Ahem, well, truly, this Kyle fellow was a resourceful gentleman.  He left to us a bounty of information. Please, please, everyone take a seat.”

Thomas grabbed one of the nearby chairs and dropped into it.  Jack sat back down in his chair and grabbed his pencil.  Stawford stood next to Julie who began to sign.  Isaac began swiping excitedly at a display on the wall.

“Now, I have not yet reviewed the full data set but CLARA was able to extract research from Earth and Moon Base Sagan prior to the events of eight years ago.”

“So what happened?” asked Thomas.

“Oh my goodness, where do I start.  The aliens, the Ring, EMR redirection, Regulan spacebender drives, politics of the last twenty-seven years, who won the World Series?”

“Whad’ you jus’ say?” asked Jack.  “Aliens?  Was Earth attacked?”

“Oh my God.  Did they hurt anyone?” asked Julie.

“Everyone, please,” said Thomas.  The room settled. “Isaac, just start at the beginning.  What happened?”

“Indeed.”  Doctor Isaac Yeatman turned and tapped the first window on the wall, which expanded to fill the screen.  The doctor turned back to his audience of four.  Scenes played out behind him as he spoke.  “Approximately eight years and two months ago, an extraterrestrial race of aliens entered our Solar System.  As you might expect, there was a tremendous amount of panic and upheaval.  However, scientists and leaders of the world were able to restore some measure of peace.  They were optimistic about this first encounter with an alien race, about this First Contact.  The people of Earth called the visitors, the Regulans because they appeared to come from Regulus, a B-type star in the constellation of Leo.”

“Wait.  Isn’t Regulus like seventy light years away?” asked Julie.

“Indeed, 77.5 light years.  Their craft was in the shape of a giant ring and initial Doppler readings showed the Ring decelerating at five G’s.  It was truly astonishing.”

“Ain’t nothin’.  Tesla Prime could do the same,” added Jack.

“True,” replied Isaac.  “However, this ring craft is twice the diameter of Earth.”

Jack scoffed.

“Isaac, please go on,” said Thomas.

Isaac continued.  “Similar to our trip to Proteus, the crew of the Ring craft would have traveled to Earth at relativistic speeds.  And as a result would have aged only 2.3 years during their 78-year voyage.  Of course, first contact precautions were taken with the Regulans, fear of viral infection, and what not.  Initial reports state that the all-female race of aliens were friendly.  They provided a cipher for their language, offered a small amount of technology, and asked to see ours.”

“I’d like a copy of their cipher.  Can you forward it to me?” asked Julie.

“Of course,” said Isaac.  “CLARA?”

“Cipher sent,” said CLARA from the speakers in the ceiling of the tech lab.

“Doctor, do we have any pictures of these women aliens, err, Regulans?”

“Unfortunately, no.  World leaders conducted meetings with the highest level of secrecy.  There are images of the Ring craft however.”

“Wait a sec,” said Jack. “If they are all women, how they porc.. procre… How do they have babies?”

“Jack, we don’t have time to study the mating habits of Regulans.”

Isaac pushed a button on a small remote control in his hand.  A picture of the massive Regulan Ring appeared behind him.

“It appears that the Regulans were initially interested in technology, specifically our medical technology.  And soon after, they asked for an envoy to come aboard their ring presumably for peaceful negotiations.”

“From the ISC?” asked Thomas.

“No, they specifically requested one person from each major ethnic group.  The Regulans didn’t even seem concerned about communicating with them.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Julie.  “Why would they ask for that?”

“No one knows for sure.”

“Genetic diversity,” said Thomas.  “It’s the only thing that makes sense.  They wanted a genetically diverse sample of the population.”

“Perhaps.”  Isaac flipped through his notes.  “And then, about a week after the Regulans arrived, and one day after the envoy boarded the ring, all communications ceased.”

Jack stepped up.  “Wha?  I don’t get it.”

Isaac paused and pushed his glasses higher on his nose. “The aliens positioned their Ring at Lagrange point two.”  The doctor turned back toward the display behind him and tapped a window, which filled the screen.  In the picture, the Sun appeared in the top left corner.  The Earth and Moon were labeled farther down to the right and a spot opposite of the sun was marked with ‘L2’.  “Repeated attempts to communicate with the aliens failed.”

“What happened to the envoy?  Were the Regulans afraid of something?” asked Julie.

“Well, that was an active theory at the time.  There are more unknowns than knowns when interacting with a completely alien culture,” said Isaac. “It was possible that we made them sick, scared them, or even offended them with one of our gestures.  No one knew.  But once GPS satellites started going offline, and the power grid and communication infrastructure on Earth were destroyed, those theories were dropped in favor of…”

Isaac paused, waiting for the right words to come to him. “Less appealing alternatives.”

Thomas folded his arms and rubbed his chin.  “So they used our desire for peaceful relations to determine our strengths and weaknesses.”

“In retrospect,” said Isaac “That is the likely scenario.”

“So the bastards up and attacked us?” asked Jack.

“The Regulans began attacking Earth’s infrastructure, GPS, power plants, communication.  However ironic, no population centers were attacked.”

“But why?  Why would they come all this way?” asked Julie.

“Apparently, we had something they wanted,” said Thomas.

“But what?” asked Julie.

Thomas shrugged.  “Well, given the Regulan questions, medical technology, maybe?”

“I do not believe so,” said the Doctor. “Earth would certainly have provided medicine and medical technology to a friendly race of aliens if requested.  My theory is that inquiring about our medical technology was a means to determine our natural constitution.”

“They were gaining information about our physiology based on the medicines we take?” asked Thomas.

“I believe so.”

“This can’t be happening.  Where is the Earth?  Where are our families?  Did they kill people?” asked Julie.

“I do not know.  The data that was recorded from Moon Base Sagan, terminates with the Regulan attack,” replied Isaac.

“They took Earth through that ring,” announced Daxman from the doorway at the back of the room.  Everyone turned except for Thomas.

“Nice of you to join us, Dax,” said Thomas.  Julie stared at Daxman and shook her head silently.

Isaac raised his head.  “Indeed, Mr. Spinner.”  Isaac turned back to the display, tapped a small window in the corner and an image of the ring craft filled the wall.  “It appears that the Ring is capable of generating an Einstein-Rosen Bridge.”

“A wha?”  asked Jack.

“A Lorentzian traversable wormhole.”

“Did you say a wormhole?” asked Thomas.

“Impossible.  That stuff ain’t exist but in books,” said Jack categorically.  “Nothin’s massive enough to create ‘em.”

“But these Regulans have found a way, nonetheless.  It is truly a remarkable technology.”

Daxman scowled.  “Yeah, it’s wonderful.  So fucking wonderful in fact, that those bastards, they used this remarkable technology to eat our planet.”

The doctor pushed his glasses up higher on his nose.

“Doctor, do you know how it works?  Can we use it?” asked Thomas.

“I don’t quite know yet,” said the doctor as he tapped the outer portion of the Ring.  Two black orbs on either side of the Ring began to orbit the center.  Isaac continued.  “The ring, which has a diameter of 25,000 kilometers is actually hollow.  Inside the Ring are two black holes which orbit each other, twice a second.”

“Black holes?  How in all that’s holy is that even possible?” said Jack scratching his head.

“Let me try to explain what I know.  Black holes are nothing more than stars made of quarks.  During a supernova, atoms from a dying star are compressed into neutrons.”

“I read about that.  Like a neutron star?” asked Julie.

“Precisely.  Neutrons are composed of even smaller particles called quarks, one up-quark and two down-quarks to be more exact.  If a star is massive enough, there is so much pressure that the neutrons effectively pop and you create a quark soup.  This is the basis for the black hole, quark stars that are no larger than this room.”

“So how’s this related to the Ring?” asked Thomas.

“Ah, well, black holes also have a region beyond the radius of the quark star called the event horizon.  This boundary in space-time is unique in that once you cross the event horizon, nothing can escape the black hole, not even light.”

“But there’s two of ‘em,” said Jack.

The doctor smiled.  “Correct.  The ring contains two black holes, which orbit their center of mass about twice a second.”  Isaac cleared his throat.  “The event horizons of the black holes… overlap.”

“It’s a paradox,” added Daxman. “It’s a region of impossibility.  In theory, if you enter the overlapping event horizons, you can’t escape either.  But you must escape both.”

“Correct,” continued Isaac.  “The gravitational pull from each black hole is so strong, space itself is ripped open.  In its place, a wormhole.”

“So where does this black hole go?” asked Julie.

“Ah, remember, black holes are not the same as wormholes.  The black holes are simply quark stars.  They are the guardians to the portal.  They open the doorway.”

“To where?” asked Julie.

Daxman shook his head.  “If you ask me, straight to Hell.”

“Fer some of us maybe,” said Jack staring at Daxman.

“Isaac,” said the Commander.  “Can we go through the worm hole?  Where does it lead?”

The Doctor turned and touched the display, bringing up another star system with a blue-white sun at its center. “Given the nature of wormholes and the origins of the Regulans, I would postulate that there is another ring at Regulus, linked, perhaps through quantum entanglement.”

“So, Doc, I got a question.”  Jack leaned forward and traced a circle with his finger.  “These black holes fly along the inside of this ring, right?”

“Correct.”

“And these black holes are heavy, right?  Like a sun or somethin’?”

“Massive, yes.”

“Then why don’t the Ring get sucked into the black holes?”

“It’s a good question actually.  I’m not quite sure yet.  In fact, the presence of black holes in our solar system should have created considerable gravitational havoc due to their mass alone.  In some way, the Regulans have developed the means to alter and redirect gravity waves.”  The screen behind him went dark.  “That’s all I know at present.  As I learn more, I will be sure to pass it along.”

“Thank you, doctor.  Good job with this.  You’ve done well.”

Isaac bowed.

“Please keep analyzing the data,” said Thomas. “And let us know if-” said Thomas.

Daxman interrupted, clapping obnoxiously loud from the back of the room.  “Yes, thank you, Professor Yeatman,” he said sarcastically as he strolled to the front of the room.  “What a wonderful astronomy lesson.”

Julie gazed at him and shook her head. “Dax, don’t,” she whispered.

But Daxman ignored her and continued. “You’ve done a truly outstanding job, Doctor, and now everything is all cleared up.  It’s all crystal clear now.”

“Dax, sit down,” said Thomas.

Daxman put his hands on the table at the front of the room. He looked around at each of them.  “Why doesn’t anyone get it?  The Earth is gone!  Our lives?  Gone!  Everything, gone!  We have nowhere to go!  We’re drifting in space, dead already.  And you guys are talking like this is some sort of extraterrestrial seminar?”

“Dax, what are you doing?” whispered Julie.

“Shut up, Julie!  This isn’t a fucking fairy tale!  They are talking about flying into a wormhole!  Has anyone here heard of spaghettification?”

The doctor raised a finger in rebuttal.  “The alien technology appears to redu-”

“Fuck that!” interrupted Daxman, “Even if we did survive this flight between two black holes and find Earth, what are we?  A bunch of pathetic scientists who look at animal shit for a living?  Engineers who turn knobs on twenty-seven year old technology?”

Jack stood.  He shuffled toward Daxman and reached for his arm.  “Easy now, son, ain’t nobody hurtin’ you.”

Daxman slapped Jack’s arm to the side. “Get the hell away from me!  I’m not your son!”

“Daxman, stop this!” shouted Thomas.

“Or what, Mr. Big, you gonna hit me?  Maybe toss me out an air lock because you don’t like what I have to say?”

Stawford watched the scene unfold in silence.  His muscles tensed with anticipation.

Daxman reached into his pocket and pulled out the data storage device from Kyle’s recorder.  He clutched the tape in his fingers and held it out in front of him.

“I’ve seen what these Regulan bastards can do!” his voice quavered.  “How they destroy lives!  How they crush people, friends, loved ones.”  Tears welling in the corners of his eyes, he looked at the faces of those in the room.  “While we fly around in space collecting rocks, they pluck whole worlds from the sky!  We pick flowers?  They destroy planets!  And you want to go on some sort of rescue mission?  A rescue mission?  With this group?”  Daxman glanced around the room and shook his head.  “This group?  Really?”  Daxman put his tape on the table and held it in place with this finger. “None of this matters.  We’re already dead.”  Daxman glanced up at Julie.  She shook her head.  Daxman pushed past Thomas toward the back of the room.  Stawford stood in the doorway blocking his path.  The two locked eyes for a moment and then Stawford stepped to the side.

Daxman shuffled out of the room leaving behind a muddled collection of anger, fear, and confusion.  Beneath Daxman’s hostile demeanor though, was the unsettling kernel that no one dared to acknowledge openly, that Daxman was right.  That everything that everyone on the crew had ever known was lost in some unretrievable abyss, or beyond repair.

 

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