Chapter 58 - 12 November 2013, 160 days to go.
The large digital clock on the Fort Meade wall read 160 days 8 hours 10 minutes 37 seconds
Ali realised that his office trash bin contained remnants of last night’s dinner, today’s breakfast and today’s lunch. He had slept briefly in his desk chair, and showered in the office wash room. He had not left the office for more than 36 hours.
He was running out of ideas and the team around him was becoming fractious and ineffective. They had assembled an awesome team that included germ warfare experts from Britain’s Portman Down, Russia, China and North Korea. The North Korean’s were known to be particularly advanced in this area.
They had ruled out vaccination early on. First they didn’t know what to vaccinate against, but even if they did, they probably couldn’t make enough vaccine and administer it in time. Of course there was the argument to protect just the great and the good, but even that required an impossibly large amount of an unknown remedy.
Next they didn’t know if there were elimination capsules or just one capsule. Mary hadn’t been able to clarify this with Jesus. Ali knew that the team of education psychologists and psychiatrists in Jamaica were trying to extract as much information from Jesus as they could, by associating different objects and methodologies. For example showing him a corked test tube, and in a round-about way asking him if this looked like an elimination capsule. Bust so far they had learnt nothing at all.
Ali was tired. He rubbed his eyes and looked up at the white boards on his office wall. One board was dedicated to a sub-project he had set-up to consider the possibility that there was just one elimination capsule, could they isolate it and contain it in some way? A sub-group was set-up to consider that possibility. If there were multiple capsules, could they contain all or most of those?
They didn’t know if the elimination capsules would be the size of a test tube or a truck or a large building. They didn’t know if they would contain a gas, liquid or solid. They didn’t know if they would be animal, vegetable or mineral. They knew zip.
Another white board was dedicated to considering evacuating some of the human population to the Moon or to Mars? The UN had set-up a project to build such a craft. But it was only in the pre-planning phase, and was not going to be built and launched within decades, let alone months.
Everyone associated with Silver Shield considered the risk too high to tell the UN any details of the threat, knowing how easily the information could leak and cause international panic. Ali concurred with this. But he felt desperate and alone, he missed his wife and family. He fell asleep at his desk clutching the picture of his family.
The ringing of his desk phone woke him.
He picked up the phone handset and said sleepily, ’Palaszwaski’.
‘Ali, glad I caught you, you are in early?’ Ali recognised Mary’s distinct voice calling from Jamaica. He could tell by her voice that she was excited about something. Ali noticed the red-light on his phone blink-on indicating that this call was on a secure encrypted connection. Ali rubbed his eyes, he noticed it was just getting light outside.
Mary went on,’ Ali I think we have a breakthrough’. Ali sat up immediately interested, and grabbed a legal pad so he could make notes.
Mary sent on, ‘One of the psychologists suggested we showed Jesus some of the old science fiction movies and see if anything came of it. We started with ET. Jesus asked for a push bike, but he didn’t make it fly. We then showed him all the Star Wars movies, that he thought very funny, and began mimicking the characteristic swoosh-swoosh sound of the Jedi lightsaber.’
Over the phone, Ali could hear the sound of Mary sorting through the DVD boxes.
Mary continued, as she continued to sort through DVD boxes, ‘We then tried the three Men-in-Black movies, he became bored and fell asleep. They showed him Judgment Day, Armageddon and Deep Impact about a giant Asteroid destroying the earth. After watching Deep Impact, Jesus became quite melancholy.’
Ali interjected, ’what do you mean melancholy’.
‘Well upset really, I would like to play you a CCTV clip if you are on-line?’
Ali moved his computer mouse and clicked an icon to give Mary permission to open a video clip on his computer. ‘Sure go-ahead’.
This was practised routine, they had spent many hours on video conferences in this way. Ali hung-up the phone and an image of Mary sitting in the office in Jamaica appeared in a window on his large PC screen. He voice now came over the computer loud speakers.
‘He went for a ride around the gardens on his bicycle. He came and sat with me in the nursery’.
Ali now watched as a HD video opened on his computer screen of Mary and Jesus in the Nursery in Jamaica. There was a date and time on the video, so Ali could see that the footage had been recorded yesterday evening, he assume just before Jesus’s bedtime.’
Mary was sat in one of large bean bags in the nursery, and she had a protective arm around Jesus. Mary was reading a story to Jesus. Remotely Mary fast forwarded the video footage, obviously moving it forward to a specific section that she wanted Ali to hear. She paused the fast forward occasionally, and he recognised the story as one of Charles Dickens books, Oliver.
Mary then put the video on play and he heard Jesus’s distinct high-pitched voice ask, ‘Mama, that part of the movie where the big waves come and destroy those two people on the beach, could that happen to you?’ He pointed at the view of the distant ocean out of the nursery window.
Ali remembered that in the movie, the heroine played by Tea Leoni and her father played by Maximilian Schell, hug each other on the beach as the giant wave overwhelms them from the massive asteroid impact in the ocean. Obviously drowning them instantly.
Now Mary was speaking, ‘Well sweetie, if an asteroid fell into the ocean of that size we don’t really know what would happen. It would cause a big wave, a tsunami, and it could reach up here. We would have to go higher up the mountain.’
She prompted: ‘is that what the elimination capsules are like?’
‘Well they are different depending on the planet. The exact form will be decided once the delivery craft is within range.’
‘Do you mean when it reaches where the homing beacon is located?’
‘Yes, and then the capsules travel the short distance to the planet on their own. Sometimes they grow in flight, so that their size is large enough to change the atmospheric conditions on the planet but not destroy it completely, sometimes they use an organic virus?’
‘What is an organic virus?’
‘Mama, I’m not sure, it is not my area of specialty, but I know it makes life forms on the planet ill and most die.’
‘Would the organic virus kill me?’
‘If it reached the planet, yes it would Mama, and probably everyone here.’
‘Would that include Mat, Jessica, Jed & Lisa?’
Ali realised that Mary was playing on the boys’ heartstrings. He knew she would feel bad doing it, because Ali knew he was very fond of his adopted family and guardians at Jacobs Creek. Especially Jed and Lisa who treated him like the son that they could never have.
Jesus was silent for a while, he rubbed his eyes as if wiping away a tear, and then over the computer speakers came the words that Ali so wanted to hear, ‘Mama I think I know how to stop the elimination capsules.’
Mary had awoken Ali in his office a little after 6AM EDT, and at 7 AM he was now back in his office having showered and shaved. He was on his third cup of coffee and watching the CCTV footage of Mary’s conversation with Jesus in the nursery with The Admiral and Lance Lord on the secure video link. The Admiral was in Ali’s office in Fort Meade, Lance was in Houston. The Admiral had frowned at the untidy nature of Ali’s office when he had walked in looking as immaculate as ever, kicked his overflowing waste bin with distain and moved Ali’s half eaten breakfast bagel to the far side of his desk so he could sit down with a good view of the screen. He took out a clean handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped the crumbs away from the desk in front of him.
Ali ignored all this, because he was excited that they had a plan and a purpose. Ali was impressed how effectively Lance and the Admiral went into an operational mode. Now they knew the nature of the enemy they were fighting, their true military professionalism shone through.
Ali learnt that the Admiral was scheduled to meet with the President and the NSA Director later that afternoon to report on the progress of Silver Shield. This was opportune because they faced a key operational dilemma. Bird 2 was now in range, which could send out a powerful electro-magnetic radiation beam or EMR to override the signal from the homing beacon. However, the concern was that activating the EMR beam could alert the craft delivering the elimination capsules. Now they knew how to destroy the elimination capsules, was it worth the risk to switch on an EMR signal? A tough call.
While Ali, the Admiral and Lance were on their video conference, back in Jamaica, Jesus was playing with Mat in the pool. They were playing a game of Frisbee, it was favourite of Jesus’s and they played on a regular basis.
Mary watched them from the nursery window. She could see Jesus laughing as he enjoyed the game. He splashed in the pool, his ebony skin shone in the sunlight as he stretched to catch the Frisbee. He threw it back to Mat with great dexterity. Mat was a fit man, but Jesus matched him throw by throw.
Despite the happy go-lucky scene, Mary had tears of sorrow in her eyes. She realised just how dangerous the destruction of the elimination capsules would be for her baby. The destruction meant Jesus going back into space before his regeneration was complete. She sat down on bean bag and picked up the Charles Dickens novel that was open at the page they had left it.
It was the part where the boys drew lots, Oliver lost, and had to ask for more, she read the famous line out loud, ‘please sir I would like some more’. She reflected on how life was a lottery, and how was it that she had ended up here.
As she sat on the bean bag reading, Jesus rushed in. He wore only his swimming shorts and carried a towel. He had the body of pre-pubescent boy now, the psychologists said he had the body of an 11 year old but the mind of a fully grown adult. His body had matured from a baby to equivalent to an 11 year old human in less than a year. His mood changed from happiness and excitement from his game in the pool to immediate concern as he saw the look on Mary’s face and the wetness around her eyes.
He rushed into her lap, dropping the towel on the floor and Mary hugged him instinctively. Ignoring the dampness on her clothes from his wet swimming shorts, and the splashes on the pages of the open book.
‘Mama don’t be sad, it will be OK.’
Although Jesus’s voice was still high pitched like a boy, it was said with the true concern of an adult.
‘How can I not be worried, because if you go into space you will not be able to regenerate fully.’
‘Mama, I believe I will be OK. I must try. I estimate that my regeneration is halfway. If I keep the craft below sub-atomic speed I will be able to complete the regeneration when I return.’
Mary assumed that sub-atomic speed referred to some acceleration or high-speed manoeuvring of the silver craft. But she ignored the point for now.
‘But how can you be sure you can do that?’
‘It is no great distance to the homing beacon so I believe I can achieve well within the tolerances I have set.’
Mary hugged Jesus, who she dearly loved. It was strange to hug a boy’s body, to hear a boy speak but to hear the seasoned argument of full grown man.
‘Come on’, she said, ’let’s go see what’s for lunch.’
The headline in Weekly World News:
Giant asteroid on course to destroy Earth
Astronomers have confirmed that a giant asteroid is on a direct collision course with Earth and will destroy the planet on Christmas Day …
Amateur astronomers are enthusiastic folk, and they love to exchange their observations on the internet. As the elimination capsule grew in size it became visible, and the amateur astronomers blogs began to fill with data and comment. As night fell around the globe, different astronomers in different countries began to track the object. The story was picked up by some of the scientific press.
Government agencies around the world also began tracking the object. Those countries which were outside of the ‘need-to-know’ Silver Shield community began to issue pictures and press releases.
TV news and national newspapers picked up the story.