Friday, August 12, 2016

"The Case of Reverse Engineering" Part 2

See this link here for part I.

"The Case of Reverse Engineering"
Part 2

I took a long look up at the head table.

"Only six out of thirty seven survived?"  Winkle said.  Gottschalk nodded.

"And brought out the technology everyone was fighting over?"  I asked.

"I don't think Blair's diary went that far.  After what I think was a few days it eventually all became unreadable gibberish and then what I think was alien language.  That all would have been within the timeframe before the USAF was alerted."

"Then how do you know?"

"I got curious so I asked.  For my trouble I was told to shut up, mind my own business and then they took the materials away.  After that, I put in a few calls to some buddies of mine from the Army Air Corps days.  I got records of Air Force signals traffic reports.  The way I figure it, they were sending dummy signals for about a week before they put in a distress call.  That matches the Blair diary.  Then there was some normal traffic that started being more and more couched and cryptic until right before the flyboys got there to find half the place burned.  They never reported any fires or any additional deaths."

"Excuse me again, gentle people," Ferrini was speaking again.  "There will be two parts to our presentation today.  The second part will be a question and answer session for everyone to participate, but before we begin that part we will have a, well I hesitate to call it a lecture, a slide show from our honored guests.  I'd like to go ahead and get that started while everyone is enjoying desert and coffee.  Could we please draw the curtains?"

The same phalanx of porters who had surreptitiously locked the doors moved over to the giant windows and closed out the midday light.  The room was momentarily lit only by the exit signs, the centerpiece Jacob's Ladders and a sliver of light coming under the kitchen door.  There was a shuffle at the head table before a small light was turned on at the lectern.  It barely illuminated Professor Melitene's pudgy face and shoe-brush mustache.

"Erm.  Thank you President Ferrini, ladies and gentlemen," he began with a voice a full octave lower than I expected, "You can go ahead and start-"

He was talking to the porter handling the projector who turned the machine on and a huge screen against the wall lit up with a white and black photo.

"Uh, thank you.  This is Antarctic Research Facility Number Four."

"Before the fire," Gottschalk hissed.

"Last year Professor Allouez and I had the privilege of conducting some magnetic research at this facility.  In the process of our studies we discovered a magnetic anomaly, er next slide please.

"This anomaly turned out to be a structure we believe was a mode of transport capable of traveling in space, a spaceship if you will.  You might even call it a starship, because, as I'm going to try to show it was most likely capable of traveling the immense distances between our solar system and the planetary systems around other stars."

There was quite a bit of mumbling around the room.  Several more photos clicked in procession.

"As you can see from these photos the craft was extremely large.  In an effort to excavate the starship we inadvertently caused a fissure to open in the ice structures in which it lay.  It slipped irrevocably into the crushing depths of the crevice, well beyond anyone's ability to even reach let alone study, I'm afraid."

There were several outcries including, how do you know, why did you bring us here then and couldn't it have been a submarine.

"I know what you are all thinking.  Please rest assured we are completely certain this was not an artifact of earth.  We also know it could not have been any less than ten million years old; more likely twenty, million years old."

Silence fell.  There was probably nothing more shocking than this news, except the next thing Melitene said, "We also found the body of one of the starship's occupants."

This led to gasps around the room.  Gottschalk gripped the table with white-knuckle intensity and her eyes looked like they would fall out of her head.

The photo changed to one with a block of ice a dozen feet long and more than a yard on the other sides.  It was surrounded by men, including Melitene.  If Allouez was in the picture he wasn't recognizable.

"This is the creature we found."  There were several more shots of the ice block from different angles and eventually in a storage room.

"In an effort to study the remains more closely we thawed the carcass slowly for over twenty four hours.  The creature we found was determined to be of a life form and a biological system utterly alien and distinct from all life forms on earth."

"Bullshit!"  Lon Vandergriff stood at his table.  He was one of the most prominent alumni from Pattell.  He had made his own fortune from mining and steel.

"Pardon me?"

"You're talking about aliens and spaceships, but where is the proof?  You lost the ship.  Where is this alien body?  What technology could you have gotten if you lost the ship?  What did you do, wake the alien up and ask him?"

"Yes, yes we did."

The room went dead silent.

"What?  What did you just say?"

"I realize this will be difficult to believe," he stopped and pushed his glasses up.  He glanced at Allouez who nodded.  "You must understand that the creature was a lifeform completely different than any earth lifeform, apparently not subject to some of the limitations of earthly life."

"Are you implying you found a twenty million year old alien carcass and it was still alive?"  Vandergriff roared with laughter, then reached down and pulled his wife to her feet.  "Sybil we are leaving and canceling any monies we had allocated to this sham of a school."

A photo of a vertical and moving alien body appeared on the screen, larger than life.  A woman screamed.  Another appeared and a third.  They weren't the best quality, with the fire, the dead dogs and the men fighting for their lives.

"We had some trouble bringing the, sample, back for a more thorough examination and continued research."

The slide show had to be stopped for a few minutes because several attendees fainted.  The screen went blank to reset everyone's brains.  The room was still dark otherwise and many other attendees made their way through the gloom to the bar, insisted on getting drinks, downing them and getting another before returning to their seats.  

"What the hell is going on?"  Winkle asked us.  "This can't be real."

Gottschalk was no help.  She was moving her eyes around, reading some imagined script while her lips moved and her hands trembled in their grip on the table.  "Could this possibly mean..." was all that I got from her.

"I would be inclined to think this is all an elaborate hoax of some sort, but why something so far-fetched?  The starship wasn't even saucer shaped.  It looked more like a zeppelin."

"I assure you, Mr. Richman this is no hoax."  Allouez was standing behind me and spoke with a smooth, silky voice.  It sounded almost as if it were coming from inside my own head.  I turned to look at him, trying to use the light from the white lit screen to see him as well as possible.  He was an unremarkable man, middle fifties and average in every way.  He even wore the plainest suit and tie possible.  The man could have blended into a crowd of two.  He smiled and walked away.

"There are some forms of life in Antarctica that are viable during the brief summer months and freeze most of the rest of the year," Melitene was continuing the slide show.  The screen showed a series of microscopic life, algae, lichens and fungus.

"We suspect the alien creature had a similar method of coping with the extreme cold.  It was most likely the cold that allowed it to maintain some integrity through the eons.  The cold and length of stupor may, however have contributed to the, rather inhospitable manner in which we interacted with it.

"In the end the creature perished, and unfortunately so did a good number of our party."

The screen went blank again and there was a long pause.  In the silence I heard Gottschalk muttering, "No, no, that's just not possible.  There must be some other explanation," then she went back to her internal review.

"The next part of my briefing is extremely confidential.  I must ask that anything I say or show you going forward not leave this room."

"This next part?"  Winkle whispered.

"During our far too brief encounter with the interstellar visitor, some progress was made in recreating part of the creature's technology, namely a small model of the propulsion unit, or engine if you will, and the power-plant to support it."

The photo on the screen showed a man in a backpack clearly floating several feet above the floor of a shack.

"The model, built with the help of our visitor, was fully functional when found, unfortunately there was an accidental fire and, along with more loss of life the machinery was damaged beyond repair."

Allouez and two porters had brought a large wheeled table from behind the dais and unveiled it as the lights came back up.  On the table were the charred remains of the same backpack in the photo and some sort of generator or projector.

"We have started the process of analyzing this technology with help from some of the good people in this room, but we have a long way to go."

Ferrini stepped up and bent the microphone away from Melitene.  "This is why we invited all you marvelous benefactors.  We ask that you-"

He was giving his usual spiel for money and I tuned him out.  "Wink, what do you make of this?"

"If this weren't your alma mater I'd say it's all snake oil."

"It's not snake oil," Gottschalk pushed herself away from the table.  "I've been going over all the times and dates, everything I know from the documents and the Blair diary.  I can't make it add up.  I don't see how it could have been done."

"It sure as shit didn't look like cooperation in those photos," I said.

Most of the room was either in shock or awe.  There were many who gathered around the table of technological remains and others who clung to the bar like a life raft.

"I want to talk with Melitene, by God," Gottschalk said.  He was near the table, surrounded by a throng of question askers.

"I'm after Allouez," Winkle said and moved off.  The invisible professor was near Melitene but being ignored.  Winkle smiled at him and got him to the side, near a still curtained window.

"Professor, I have some questions, if you please."

"Certainly," he smiled.  Of course he smiled.  He had just unveiled the scientific find of all time and he was talking to the prettiest girl in the room.  Gottschalk slid up behind her.  He glanced at us and returned his gaze to my partner.

"Professor," Winkle began, but Gottschalk interrupted.

"How did you two pansies get out of that camp alive?"

"I'm sorry?"

This clearly wasn't the tack Winkle was going to take, but she got the weather gage and drove on.  "What Doctor Gottschalk is referring to is the fact that only six men from the original complement of thirty seven were rescued from the camp and a good deal of it was on fire when the Air Force finally got to you.  That must have been quite a struggle for you."

Allouez's smile broadened, "It certainly was quite a story."

"Spill it," I suggested.

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