Chapter 43 - NASA
The same Marines escorted the NASA Scientists back to the conference room at 2 PM. The Admiral was already seated watching a recording of the BBC 6 O’clock news bulletin. The broadcast featured live video of the site where Keith Maxwell had disappeared, and showed a large Police operation in full swing.
The conference room had been cleared of last night’s debris. When he saw the trolley laid out with fresh food and drinks, Ali’s first thought was oh no, this is going to be another long session. There was freshly brewed coffee, sodas and food laid out neatly. Mary picked up a packet of potato chips and two of the large cold cut sandwiches before sitting back in the same seat she had vacated earlier in the day. Ali took a diet coke and one of the cold cuts and also resumed the same seat. As he sat he also thought why in a conference room with 12 chairs around the table, do we sit in the same place?
Ali noticed that the Admiral looked as smart as ever, he had on a new crisp white shirt and tie and another very smart business suit. Ali had found new underwear and a shirt in his size in the room where they had stayed. It was not a hotel but accommodation within the Fort Meade complex. The room had no telephone or internet connection, and his mobile phone was taken from him when he arrived at the building yesterday, so he had not been able to call his wife. He had chatted to Mary on the short walk over to the conference room, and he knew she had the same concern. She had not been able to call home either, but he had to keep his eyes lowered so she would not see his reaction, when she said that unfortunately the fresh underwear and garments in her room had been too small for her.
Ali was trying to think of a discrete way of addressing these housekeeping issues because the Admiral did not do small talk, when the Admiral said unexpectantly, ‘I expect you would like to call home, here are your mobile phones.’
He handed a phone to each scientist. The Admiral continued, ‘The NSA Director has asked me to pass on his sincere thanks for your help and support in this matter. There are a number of matters he has asked me to work through with you this afternoon. I have arranged for your flight home this evening at 6 PM. Now please go make your calls. ’
Both thanked him and went out in the corridor to make the calls home. As they spoke the calls were recorded by specialist equipment in a building a few miles away.
When they came back-into the conference room and were comfortably seated again, Ali with a diet-Coke and Mary with a second bag of potato chips, the Admiral explained that while they had been resting, they had run the data again through the supercomputers.
He handed Ali a laptop and a pile of print-outs to Mary.
He said, ’l will leave you to look at the results and I’ll come back later for a report.’
What was immediately apparent to Ali was that this was a different set of reports than they had seen yesterday. In fact the previous set had been run partly on supercomputers at NASA, and partly by supercomputers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.
Unknown to the scientists the NSA Director had raised the security status of this enquiry and this new data was being run by the supercomputers owned by the NSA. The computers were not necessarily better, it was just that the NSA didn’t want the results known by people at NASA or in Germany. In fact if you asked the Admiral privately who he trusted the most, and he would probably say the Germans!
Ali immediately saw a pattern in the new data, something that had not been apparent before.
‘Mary look,’ he said excitedly, ’see that spike, looks if the gamma particles went off the scale. But no real change in the other spectrums.’
She looked up from the printout that she had been reading as Ali pointed at the graph on the laptop screen.
‘Mmm … She said,’ tapping the print out with a greasy salty finger from her potato chips, ‘but what is strange is there has been no activity from the site since, but the other 16 sites seem to be showing similar activity as before.’
The Silver man also noticed the loss of data from the sensor. The other sensors appeared to be working as normal. The sensor failures were rare, they had been perfected over the millennia. The half-life of the radioactive battery was not an issue. He decided to investigate. Although the destruction capsule had been launched, it would be easy for him to visit the planet before they activated. He was also curious to see how these life forms had developed.
He set the co-ordinates and the craft accelerated towards the distant blue plant, the third one in from the small star.