Book Three the search
The United States Department of Defense
Task Force Headquarters,
Digital Security Operations, near
Wednesday January 20
A tall and slightly overweight man elegantly dressed in a light grey suit, button-down collared pale blue shirt without a tie, and without socks in his white penny-loafers, stands at a tall work table on the podium in a cool and lofty meeting room that was once part of a satellite assembly plant owned by a now defunct satellite communications corporation. In his late forties, he still has enough straight blond hair to brush back with his hands before addressing the small crowd seated in cane arm-chairs in groups around several glass topped cane coffee tables.
The crowd, about 20 people, of which four were women, sits mostly relaxed with glasses of water and cups of coffee in front of them. Some are prepared to take notes, others not. An assembly of very mixed personalities evidently, from several younger men in tee shirts and jeans, to a half dozen men wearing slacks, sports jackets and shirts, with one exception also without ties, to several apparent tourists in colourful shirts and shorts, several with knee socks, to the women all smart, comfortably dressed.
The man at the podium starts to speak, in a well-travelled variation of his original Arizona drawl.
morning and welcome to DSO Arizona, and thank you all for making the time
available to come here at such short notice. Many of you have travelled great
distances to be here today, and I trust your jet-lag problems have been
satisfactorily dealt with by our limited hospitality here in the desert. In any
case over the next several days we will make sure that your needs are
adequately catered". He pauses, sips water from a glass.
My name is Everett Hillier, I'm head of the United States Department of Defense Digital Security Organisation, or DSO, and I will be your point of reference for the time being. As you are aware we are here to set up a task force to resolve a number of unknowns ... and resolve them we must, to confirm whether these unknowns pose any kind of security or other risk to this or any other allied country, to our citizens and to our scientific endeavours.
You've all received a copy of my report dated December 28, addressed to the United States Secretary of Defense, and you have received a copy of my up-date to that report dated January 10. You will all have no doubt read these reports through, but let me summarise the current situation; our Task Force starting point". Again Hillier pauses, pulling his notes forward.
"The up-dated report confirms that data intrusions have occurred in all Defense Satellite Communications System ground stations world-wide, that data intrusions have been detected in almost all of JPL's establishments, and in the newly introduced Mission Data Systems of the Telecommunications and Missions Operations Directorate. All responding Satellite Communications Centers report partial intrusions at least, in some cases extending to the corporate headquarters of the communications satellites operators.
Intrusions are also known in a large number of private computers at least in the USA, where their owners or operators have used communications satellites as a means of communication mostly through internet providers.
Two communications satellites are known conclusively to contain data intrusions and a number of other satellites, not just commsats, may have similar intrusions, deduced from problems encountered with on-board computer systems and data storage. These may also include deep space mission satellites such as Galileo. Some of these satellites have been totally lost or have been rendered partially or totally unfit for the purposes for which they were launched.
Other space research and communications ground stations report similar intrusions, in addition to which a number of so called bubble effect atmospheric anomalies have been witnessed at or near these ground stations. In particular there seems to be a direct link between the data intrusions and the bubble effect anomalies, supported by reports from Fort Providence and Iqaluit in the North- West Territories. Circumstantial evidence points to a direct relationship between data intrusions and other reported bubble effect instances, but we have not been able to pinpoint the connection by date or physically. We do know however that where bubble effect instances have occurred, we find nearby a major space research or satellite communications centre or ground station". Hillier reaches for his water glass, notes that it's empty, turns to his notes and continues.
"The data intrusions that we are aware of appear in the form of blockers or damaged areas on computer hard discs. They may also have appeared in the minimal data storage systems used on several early satellites and caused losses by simply overloading the available data processors and sequencers used to control satellite operations. The data intrusions that we know about do not appear to do anything at all. They are simply there. They do not move, and we cannot move them. We cannot read them, we do not know where they came from and we do not know their purpose". Hillier packs his notes together and walks to the front of the podium.
"We have to find answers to these unknowns. These data intrusions have been with us for a number of years, the earliest that we are sure about was found in satcom04 of Cosmo Communications launched by Satellite Service Corporation in xxxx. The next instance we know about occurred also in xxxx in Iqaluit in the North West Territories, at the same time as a bubble effect atmospheric anomaly in Fort Providence near to the Microsat Space Communications center, which as it so happens also provides communications links to Iqaluit via satellite frame relay. In xxxx, Dr Avril Stone, who is here with us today, personally experienced a bubble effect atmospheric anomaly ... lets call it a BEA - at ARECIBO in Puerto Rico. ARECIBO has since confirmed data intrusions but is unable to date these.
In 1997 we received the first reports of private computer intrusions from Seattle, Washington, where Paul Trimble, an ex-hacker and one of our White Hat activists, found a data intrusion and in subsequent days found that many others using satellites as a communication medium had the same kind of intrusion. Paul, who is also here today, has set up a web site to collect further reports of data intrusions and the list on unconfirmed intrusions is now around four thousand and includes a JPL technical services engineer and a satellite communications engineer in Germany. More than three hundred are linked to communications satellites.
Last year two young engineers in Australia's outback near Alice Springs experienced another BEA and just a few days later, also in Australia but near to the city of Canberra some thousand miles or more from Alice Springs, Dr Stone and Dr Grant Wallace, Director of the Deep Space Network ground station at Tidbinbilla, experienced another, this time with further witnesses called in to evaluate the BEA. Dr Wallace, his atmospherics engineer Bob Grafton, and a consultant for esoteric effects, Mr Pavletich are also here today".
One of the suited men in the front row of chairs steps forward and tops up the water glass from a thermos. Hillier pauses, sips water then continues.
"Our actions to date have included a recommendation to all respondents that all computers and data storage systems known to be effected with data intrusions be isolated and where possible the data storage units be removed and sent to us for an attempt at evaluation. So far we have several hundred units, but also we have to report that we have not been able to do anything with them other than confirm that there is a data storage blockage that cannot be read or removed or in any other way dealt with. Our task force has these units to start with, to find a way to crack the information on them.
The task force will have a number of operational units. The primary activity of the units is to talk together and exchange experiences and information in an attempt to throw further light on what it may be that we are dealing with here. The units will focus discussions in areas of required expertise and action.
The first is our data analysis unit
which will have Kim Featherston from Motorola, a very experienced data analyst,
at its core. She will be supported by Don Whelan and Len Smith also known as
Crackers. Don and Crackers are DSO people from my own organisation, and they
will welcome any input, perhaps especially from Paul Trimble our White Hat,
also experienced in cracking codes as a one time hacker. Mary Little, our
cypher expert from the National Security Agency will also work with the data
analysis group. Their job is to open up the data on the hard discs we have, to
decipher it and find out as much as possible as to its origins.
The second will be our commsat unit,
comprising Ralph Little of Satellite Services Corporation, Walter Brown from
Cosmo Communications, Maria-José Ferrer from JPL Spacecraft Data Systems and
Martin Amis, Director of the Defense Satellite Communication Service, or DSCS.
Their job is to find out how the data intrusions got on board satellites in
space, and to establish if there is a relationship between what happened on the
two sats we have has any relationship to the data intrusions on the ground.
The third is our ground station unit, comprising Dr Grant Wallace of Tidbinbilla, also very much experienced in satellite constellations; Professor Hallman who is now retired but for a number of years was Director of Space Communications at ARECIBO, Harold Thierman a director at Goldstone here in the USA, and Mike Renfrey owner of Microsat at Fort Providence.
The rest of us can and should connect to any one or all of these units at any time in the next two days. We need to prepare a full blown plan of action with specific objectives, together with lists of requirements to meet those objectives, so that we can put in action the machinery needed to set us up to get this work done. After these two days together, the basic units will set up their needs as they require. The rest of us can go home, but be ready to be called to attend further meetings as and when required. In any case we will have our next task force meeting in thirty days from today. Thank you for your attention. Let's get to it".
A short silence of mental digestion. No clapping. Some movement at the table on the left. Paul Trimble, maybe 25 years old, the sandy haired hacker turned good guy, the White Hat, wearing long boots over jeans with a long beige dustcoat kind of thing, a summer coat. Pockets full of small angular objects. Tools of the trade. Moves over to the rear-most table and sits down with two of the younger guys in tee shirts a jeans. Don Whelan, 28 years or so, dark curly hair and spectacles. Robust build, lifts weights probably, the DSO logo on his tee shirt stretched sideways. Crackers Smith, also about 28 years, also robust build. Short back and sides, long on top fair hair, long fine hands and quiet spoken, finished speaking with Whelan and looked over at Trimble. Recognition, and a smile. These guys can work together. Whelan, seemingly more open than appearances indicates, introduces himself to Trimble, shaking hands with a big smile.
"Hi, howsit goin' ? Heard about you and some of your friends a while back. Timmo still around? We used to hang out together for a while".
Trimble. "Timmo, oh sure he's till around, doing what he likes to do I guess. Where'd you guys meet?" Whelan. "Seattle, where else. Well where do we start? We have an hour or so before lunch and we should be able to get a few things set out first; any ideas you guys?"
And so they started, soon to be joined by Kim Featherston. Taller than many women, long grey light-weight flannel suit on a slim even skinny body, little make-up. No sun damage to the skin, round frameless spectacles. Maybe late 20's, early 30''s. Middle blonde hair cut short, brushed and waxed back from her forehead. On closer inspection, no shirt under her jacket. Sexy. Crackers tells a joke, everyone laughs. Good start.
The commsat unit was already together. They know each other well through years of conferences and joint projects. Ralph Little, not little at all. Big in height and in girth, strong arms showing below short cut shirt sleeves after he takes off his jacket and places it on an empty chair. Thinning hair over a clear roundish face, clear blue scandinavian eyes, firm mouth. Probably around 50. Walter Brown, Cosmo Communications founder and a space man from wayback. Older, short cut greying hair, sun worn skin and lean. No tie, also takes off his jacket and throws it on the chair. Martin Amis, every bit the corporation man, younger than the other two, late thirties, neat, keeps his jacket and his tie. DOD, Defense Satellite Communications Service, Technical Management. A military personality and the one who would take control of this unit. Soon joined by Maria-José Ferrer, shorter, darker, curly latin hair, Spanish. Firm round body in a cream coloured light weight cotton outfit. White shirt and a hand-full of papers. Maybe 30. Introductions again. Didn't we meet at Caltech last year? Could be. Where do we start? Tell me what happened to satcom04? On their way....Businesslike.
The ground station unit was still finding itself. Dr Grant Wallace, his well-built body evident in a blue short-sleeved shirt, tailored, his dark curly hair recently cut shorter, suntanned, wearing beige shorts and knee socks, black slipons, knows where he's at. Early 40's, looks younger except for the sun wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. Gathers a few chairs around another table and beckons Dr Avril Stone to join him, then waves to Harold Thierman from Goldstone, old work buddies from the early days of feasibility studies on satellite constellations. In at the birth of Iridium, worked with Craig McCaw at Teledesic and Motorola. Harold Thierman, now mid 40's, in just a blue shirt and slacks, loafers, walks over. As tall as Wallace but not so hefty, missed out on the surfing years, concentrated on the way up. Highly respected manager at Goldstone and long time DSN man. Wallace introduces Thierman to Dr Stone. Thierman recognises her as a fellow American. "Thought you were an Aussie too!"
Dr Stone. "No, just work there now. Great place, lots of space; Earthbound that is. Clear air". Dr Stone's middle length straight blondish hair is bound at the back. Business length. Blue eyes in a clear face, nice smile when it was real. Hard when not. Sport-trained body, in great shape for someone approaching 40 or so. No rings. A string top and a short cream skirt. Carries a safari type jacket which she adds to the heap on the chair next to the commsat unit. At SETI and then SERENDIP, forever on the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, or signs that might point to it. And not finding it. A special kind of drive needed here, faith and immeasurable inner strength.
Thierman speaks again. "Hello Mike", as Mike Renfrey looms. Shorter, square and in a jacket with lots of pockets. Short greyish hair, a touch of Canadian Indian or Eskimo? Anyway browner skin considering that Fort Providence was still in the middle of the long dark winter of the land of the midnight sun. Late 40's, somehow nervous, fidgetting, shaking hands, wants to get down to business.
this us? Is this our unit?"
Not quite. Professor Richard Hallman, ARECIBO Director, retired, moves away from Everett Hillier and joins the group. A tall man, slightly stooped with heavy spectacles, cardigan and beige Chinos, loafers. Smiles, introduces himself. "Hi Avril, long time no see; how're y'doin' in Australia? Grant taking care of you? I heard you had a few exciting moments with SETI or was it SERENDIP at Parkes a year or so ago, an interesting looking candidate that leapt over the threshhold just long enough to get a single map, then couldn't be found again?"
Dr Stone. "Yes we did, another anomaly, that's what keeps us going. Hello again Richard, good to see you looking so chipper".
Hallman again. "Hi Grant, also long time no see. Tidbinbilla's doing good things I hear. I'd like to get out there one day to see what you guys are up to. Hi Harold, DSN treating you well? Hi Mike, plus 35° instead of minus 35° for you eh? How do you cope with the cold and darkness up your way?" Knows just about everyone.
Everett Hillier, a cool and commanding presence, gathers the remainder around him for a sorting out briefing. Mary Little, cypher expert at the DOD, no relation to Ralph at the next table, was really little. Studious in a pants-suit, short middle blond hair, fair skin. Good shape too, sporty. Canadian, around 25. Drafted in from the National Security Agency.
Hillier. "Hi Mary, you wont have much to do for a while but you have to meet the people. Later I'll take you over to the data analysis unit. Harry, this is Mary Little. Mary, Harry Lynne, an Aussie like Dr Wallace. Harry's an engineer. What kind of project is it your doing at the Alice, as you call it? Oil exploration? Harry has a lot to tell us, about bubbles appearing out of nowhere in the Australian desert". Harry looks the part too. Shorts, long knee socks, very suntanned, recent short hair-cut, dark hair. Laughing, he tries to play down the Aussie bit. "Don't believe all you hear about Aussies. It's all propaganda to keep you foreigners out".
Hillier again. "And here's Alister. Alister, meet Mary Little, Harry Lynne. Alister had some nasty times with computers for a while". Alister is really a North-West Territories type, born and bred on Baffin. Darker Baffin Island skin colour, almond shaped eyes, round and fleshy, dark slick hair. And smiling, happy. Glad to be away from the long dark. Thought that Arizona was just the place too. "Great to be here".
Bob Grafton, Vladimir Pavletich and Mark Ripley were standing in a small group just off to the side. Bob and Vlad had travelled across from Australia together, the jet-lag effects of the long thirteen hours non-stop from Sydney to LA still visible. Mark Ripley, the JPL/TMOD man had been assigned to meet them and escort them to Phoenix, and they had already established a friendly loose way. Vlad, the esoterics analyst, wearing his pullover of many colours, told wonderful stories in his Polish coloured Australian accent, helped by Bob Grafton's english based upbringing taking the mickey out of Australia and Aussies in general. Grafton's pullover seemed typical of a weather man, atmospherics engineer sounds better. Grey english-cut light weight tweeds and sandals, trying to look English and succeeeding. Dark wavy hair, greying. Long angular face and a large nose supporting small round frameless spectacles. "Youra bloody Pom whata you doin in Australia anyway?", says Vlad, facing up to Grafton, but friendly. "And your one of these bloody foreigners that the Aussies are trying to keep out", says Grafton. Laughing. Ripley laughs too, not entirely understanding this banter. A dapper mission operations man since high school. The broad view, keep it together and concentrated, focused. Sports jacket and cream slacks, black slip-ons. Almost a uniform. Seeing Hillier getting the rest together, he steers his little group towards the others, makes introductions all round.
Hillier again. "Time to get to the debriefing, lets get the stories down again and see what we can find to add together. Then you're all off to the other groups. After lunch".
Friday January 22
Late afternoon. A buzz of anticipation in the three or four loose groups of animated scientists and engineers. Wednesday afternoon had been a getting to know you period, exchanging stories and backgrounds. Things loosened up considerably that night at and after dinner. The sparse surroundings had nothing at all to do with the quality and quantity of service and food prepared by the DSO catering team, and a party-like atmosphere quickly developed. At the center for quite a while were the Australians with their renowned story-telling, typical Australian tall stories that had most in tears of laughter but some, particularly the less travelled Americans, squirming with embarrasment that some of their countrymen could be taken in by this stuff. And just at this time, Avril Stone asked Harry Lynne about his report of the mobile telephone conversation he had at the time of the BEA; was this another Aussie tall story?
Harry Lynne. "Well I guess after what you've just heard you might think so, but no, this happened. Ray was there and heard it too. There wasn't much said as I told you the first time we spoke, just 'see' and then a few seconds later 'look' and while this was going on Ray was jumping around getting very excited because the bubble was changing colour; and come to think of it he was saying 'look, look, the things changing colour'. We thought the guys at the Pine Gap Base were having a go at us with some new tricks of theirs but we couldn't see anything or anyone within hundreds of meters, yards, I mean. It's just a scrub desert out there surrounded by hills that are at least a couple of km away, and Pine Gap's also a k or two back from the road. Anyway then we decided to get out of there, and then the mobile rang again and again just one word ... 'going'. Then the bubble vanished. That's it. I reckon Pine Gap's got some secret project going, there's no other explanation".
Thursday was a day of consolidation of information, and Friday got the physical planning of the task force actions pretty well set out. This was going to be an intense project and lots of gear was going to be needed. The active operators were already getting detailed strategies together, and the buzz this afternoon was the continuation of that.
Everett Hillier: "Listen up people, let's get this final phase under wraps. We've made excellent progress these two days. As you know the information exchange has added several really important pieces of information to our knowledge base and this means additions to our team. To summarise, the most intriguing new information comes from Harry Lynne, his mobile telephone conversations with an unidentified source, at the time and at the location of the BEA. This has been confirmed by a call I made last night to Harry's partner Ray Mendez who was with him at the time. The most likely explanation seems to be as Harry says, that someone at Pine Gap has something new going. There is no other possible source for the required highly sophisticated or innovative technology required to set up such a show within a thousand miles, and I personally will follow through on this with Pine Gap. However, this tends to suggest that a similar play may be going on at the other BEA sites, but we have the directors of each of these sites here with us and they assure us that there can be no such operations underway at any of these installations without them knowing about it. So where does this leave us? Perhaps a clandestine operation somewhere near these sites? Maybe even a DOD or another US Government operation? Or, as Dr Stone points out, some of her colleagues have already suggested the possibility of rogue transmissions from newly developed and still experimental digital television transmissions coupled with wavelength distortions and perhaps even influenced by or contributed to by the high power radio transmissions from the sites themselves. We do not know. Grant, Harold and Mike have already set in motion investigations to check out possible clandestine operations in their areas. Let's see what Pine Gap has to say, and we take it from there. If none of this gets us a clear answer, and if we get a negative response from other Government agencies, then we have another characteristic to add to the already known BEA characteristics, as unbelievable as it might at this time seem". Hillier takes a seat at the top table.
"The second set of new information comes from Vlad Pavletich, and also has to do with the BEA's, at least the one at Tidbinbilla. Vlad took some corona discharge photographs of the BEA and has analysed these together with temperature readings he took at the site and of the BEA itself. Coupled with Bob Grafton's local atmospheric readings, we get the following:
one; the BEA is highly ionised at least on the outer surface and possibly throughout;
two; the BEA has an extremely low internal atmospheric pressure compared to ambient;
three; the BEA has an extremely low internal temperature compared to ambient. We can only suppose that the ionisation acts as a temperature and pressure barrier to external influences, or that it is there to maintain the internal conditions, or perhaps because of the internal conditions. How this is achieved and how it can be established and controlled is unknown to all of us. We have therefore decided to establish another unit in our task force to investigate this, probably with someone in fluid mechanics, maybe gas-chromatography, mass spectrometry and others in the plasma discharge and ionisation sciences. I'll work on this as of today". Hillier folds the page under, smoothes the net page. "Now to the practicalities. We have all of our first stage physical requirements together, we have our first stage operational protocols complete, and we have our task programs.
This is how it all looks". Hillier moves to a portable blackboard where a block of flipcharts has been mounted.
"First, location. The DA Unit requires a physically and electronically isolated location with internally isolated work centres. The Commsat Unit requires at first a databank of all of the information available from all sources relating to the launches of all space vehicles since 1957, plus software to newly analyse this information in the search for commonalities on all satellite failures and disfunctions to see if we can identify if, where and when data intrusions have occurred. The Groundstation Unit requires satellite communications facilities plus a complete wide area network simulation, to receive data transmissions from specific satellites and to disseminate this information as it would be distributed under normal operational conditions, to try and track down the possible distribution patterns of the data intrusions". Hillier flips a page to the plans of a building, then turning back to the group, continues.
"We have the facilities of a recently defunct commsat operation available to us at Chandler, not too far away from here. This facility still has the basis of an electronic intrusion detection system in place, and almost all other operational services such as power are operational. Anything missing from our requirements will be installed in the next several weeks. Chandler also has lots of space, therefore we have decided to install the Groundstation Unit on the site, and we will instal the Commsat Unit in a new building near to but not connected to Chandler. The Commsat and Groundstation Units both require project specific installations. The Groundstation Unit installations will be provided by Goldstone which has test equipment ideal for our purposes. We will upgrade the existing satellite dish and install completely new and fully shielded transmission and receiver equipment. The CommSat Unit will have a completely new installation to set up the databank with the best that we can get in firewall systems. There is accommodation on-site for all of us with adequate facilities and services. The NSA will provide security and catering. They will see to all personal services and of course the kitchen". Hillier flips to the next page, more plans in some detail plus lists of names.
"Second, Operational Protocols. The DA Unit will have three work centers. These work centres will contain firstly banks of computers for hard disc analysis and data breakdown, secondly a software development centre to provide whatever is needed to support the first, and thirdly a computer center to simulate external conditions as well as to link to the Groundstation Unit satellite receiver mainframe on site. The DA Unit will concentrate on breaking down the data intrusions that we have, at first on the two satellite units and then on the hard discs so far sent in to us. This will all be carried out in fully isolated booths containing two to four computers and operators.
Manpower will be provided by the DSO and by recruiting several of Paul Trimble's colleagues.
The GS Unit will have three installations. The satellite dish is to be set up for specific transmissions to and from any one of three satellites that we will appropriate, one at low Earth orbit, the second at high Earth orbit and the other at GSO, or geostationary orbit. The DSCS has already agreed to cooperate by letting us have the three satellites exclusively. These satellites will be reprogrammed to transmit only to this groundstation, and we can provide whatever data we want to be retransmitted back to us. The simulated wide area network will be fully contained on site, and will replicate as far as possible all of the normal data transmissions channels and methods normally found in a communications satellite center, including links to simulated control centers, operations headquarters, simulated JPL centers, and a simulated NSA center. We wont do a frame relay operation, at least not at first, but we will do simulated hacks and a simulated public web site to evaluate these extra risks. The aim is to find out if and how any kind of data intrusion can get from a satellite to an end user without us knowing about it". Hillier steps over to the table and takes a long drink. The teams take the break to help themselves to drinks set out on their tables. Hillier resumes at the flip chart.
"The CS Unit will take some time to set up and evaluate the satellite launch databank. Much of this information is already available at NASA but we want to do it all again. We need to establish if there are in fact only two intruded satellites, or if any of the remaining orbiting or deep space satellites contain intrusions that we do not know about. We will as far as is possible arrange for all operators of suspect satellites to transmit a specific data stream to our own receiver and this data will be fed to a single isolated computer and analysed for a data intrusion. In addition to this the CS Unit will manage the three satellites and will at an appropriate time attempt to simulate a data intrusion from one of these three. The CS Unit will also work with the GS Unit to try and develop a detection system for the kind of data intrusion we have, once we have more information about it. This is future music however and will not be activated currently". Hillier waves hid hand at the lists.
"Three, Staffing. Unit coordinators have been agreed. The DA Unit will have Kim Featherston of Motorola as coordinator, the CS Unit will have Martin Amis of DSCS, and the GS Unit will have Grant Wallace". Pointing to the next list he goes on "General liaison will be handled by Avril Stone, and I will remain as your point of contact for any external requirements with Mark Ripley available as my second-in-command and for local requirements and PR". He stands back from the flipchart and moves to the desk again.
"The Department of Defense has already approved the program, and our budgets are in place. We are ready to go. Just one other point before we close; the National Security Agency will be responsible for site security both physically and electronically, and although we will notice their presence they should not play a role in our operations. Those of you who are directly operational have until Monday to get your private lives in order, you start here Tuesday under no-external-contact conditions until further notice. We hope this is not going to take forever, in fact we estimate that we may require only a couple of weeks from start up, but that's not a promise. For the rest of you, please return to your homes but be prepared to travel on call. Permanent quarters will be set up here for you. We meet again Friday February 19 to review progress. You will be advised about travel arrangements and will be collected at Phoenix International as required. Great work so far, people. Let's get on this starting Tuesday".
The United States Department of Defense
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Tuesday February 9
A side road leading south from Interstate 10. Not quite flat but arid, cactus and saltbush, low rocky hills off to the west. Several miles down, another side road, this time to the left, leading to the east. A half mile to a compound surrounded by a ten foot high cyclone wire security fence, maybe a quarter mile wide and at least a half mile long. Electronic and physical intrusion detection equipment on tall poles every 50 yards or so. The road leads to a blockhouse and double security gates through the perimeter, a further two hundred yards through desert cleared of scrub leading to a smaller compound with a high concrete wall, more security equipment on top. Another blockhouse, here Security personnel. A short tunnel, the road branching left to covered car parking areas and a few groups of palms, green bushes alongside walkways. Cooler, almost pleasant. The right hand branch circles around to a concrete and dark glass reception building. A paved courtyard in front, grouped acacias and a couple more palms. A working fountain. A porticoed entry area, double glass doors through an airlock. Cool white marble floor, reception cubicle to the left, waiting areas to the right. Ahead, a screened access with a sign, Operations. To the left and right, short corridors with offices on each side. Past the screen with the sign, another airlock and glass doors and a covered pathway that branches, right to some bungalows and a larger building; left through well kept gardens to another reception building in front of a very large metal clad hangar like building. Again a sign, this time low in the buffalo grass verge, Operations Centre - You Are Entering A Clean Area - Report to Decontamination Office.
A light breeze fans a mist of water spray from the garden sprinklers, cooling the late morning air. Three khahki-clad figures working on the gardens and paths. Several utility vehicles carrying grass clippings and tools. The company that owned this may be defunct but a maintenance crew keeps everything functioning. Two beige Ford Explorers with darkened windows drive along the rear of the bungalows and stop. Several people climb out and move off to the various cabins, security personnel carry baggage into the bungalows.
Two jeans and tee-shirt clad figures emerge onto the pathway in front of the bungalows and begin walking towards the reception. A third figure, in Chinos and light jacket, Mark Ripley, walks towards them, meets them in the shade of a group of palms.
"Hey you guys, welcome to Chandler Task Force Center, Hi Dr Stone, how are ya?, and you Grant?, ready to work?"
"Hi Mark, we sure are, but we need a day to get over the jet-lag, that's a long long trip from Australia".
"OK, sure, I'll just give you a short orientation then you should get some rest".
They walk towards the main hangar-like building while Ripley continues: "Here we're at the Decontamination Centre, the entrance to our operations area. Over there behind you is the main reception and offices. We don't have too much of a clean operational requirement here but we do have an electronic decontamination check; nothing electronic, no mobile phones, no laptops or Palms, not even wrist-watches. Everything you need is inside and stays there".
Ripley guides them inside through to Contamination. Inside, the three encounter a wall of lockers, showers and changing rooms, khahki overalls bearing the two colour blue flash of the DSO and a Task Force name tag, hanging in rows next to the lockers. Through an airlock, the operations center. A very large hall, metal clad walls and ceiling, light neutral colours, no windows. Diffused lighting, air-conditioned. Teams of technicians, wiring, a group of dark blue clad cubic metal structures across the wall at the far end. To the right, a multi-screen computer display, consoles and a stack of chairs. To the left a larger dark blue portable cabin, double doors open, another set of computer screens and consoles visible inside. Ripley continues.
"Well this is it, this is our home for the next few weeks. Here's the layout; at the far end there the blue cubic prefabs are our decyphering units, electronically isolated rooms for the work on the hard discs. Four units each with four work stations, two units with two work stations. All the equipment is pretty much State-of-the-Art, but no central servers. The PC's in each are isolated electronically in shielded cocoons to eliminate any stray electronic smog and inhibit any IR or ultra sound transfer between them. We can network the group in the second unit if we need to, even in parallel if we need substantially more processing power for any tasks. CD writers and printers are set up in each unit. Only the last unit there on the left has any kind of potential for external communications, with a choice of land line, cable or sat communications. The sat comm equipment comes from Digisat but is set up for our in-house sats. It will only go on-line under special conditions and when everything else is shut down. On the left and just in front, the larger portable, is the Ground Station Unit data reception and simulated wide area network. Grant, this is your headquarters from now on. There is a hardened direct connection to the two satellite dishes way out back on the hill in the far corner of the site. You may have noticed them on your way in. Goldstone is just about complete with the external installations but still have a lot to do in here. This unit has a hardened cable to the first decyphering unit that can be connected as required for secondary data transmissions analysis. Next to that on the left here in the near corner is the software development unit". Ripley walks the two further into the cool hall.
"Over there on the right is a multi-screen display, each with its own control console, where we can look simultaneously at data from any or all of the decyphering computers. Data from the cypher units is written on to CD's, and only after checking for this hard disc phenomenum do they get to come outside for use here. This is our joint review area, and although it is not fully real-time it should give us data pretty much as it happens. Right up here on the right we have some space for any extra installations, plus lockers for all your personal gear. In front of the lockers we still have to install some desks for the unit leaders and a couple of spares. Both of you will get one of those, should be in a day or so". Ripley pauses for a second, then continues.
"Outside is a hardened storage for the contaminated hard discs, some of which are already here, and we have hardened carry cases to get them into the work units. Any external-world communications can only be made from the reception building out front. There are offices there set up for just about everyone, including one each for you both. I'm sure you saw the restaurant and recreation center next to the bungalows, we call it The Club. The pool is great, the food is great too. You'll find a gym in there also if you want to work-out anytime. No television or radio however although we are thinking of setting up an experimental digital tv centre somewhere on or near the site to monitor any possible rogue transmissions. We may want to see if this is necessary to recreate the BEA's. Outside the compound and down the road a half mile or so is where we are setting up the Commsat Unit. We have to harden it all round to isolate whatever may come in, and there is no direct connection from there to us here. You can walk or take a scooter, we have a few for that purpose. We are getting close to a start on this. Kim Featherston, Paul, Crackers and Don are here, Mary Little arrives this afternoon, so the basis of the Data Analysis unit is ready to go as of tomorrow. Four others from DSO arrive February 11, and a couple of Paul Trimble's people arrive the day after. Martin Amis is here organising the Commsat Unit and Ralph, Walter and Maria-José arrive next week Tuesday. Harold Thierman is also here and organising all your operations so far, Grant. He is in Phoenix just now but will be back this afternoon. Mike Renfrey and Professor Hallman arrive next week Tuesday as well. Ev Hillier is also around somewhere, I guess in the main office out front. You guys should get some rest now and let's meet again for dinner at the Club".
Returning to the bungalows, Dr Stone and Grant Wallace briefly discuss their impressions of the Task Force Center, then continue on in silence, both now feeling more pronounced latent effects of jet lag. Through the jet-lag induced thickening fog, Wallace, married once but divorced for some twelve years now, recalls again the closeness of Avril Stone during the long flights from Australia. A very attractive lady, but somehow not very approachable. Did I say something wrong? No. Well, I guess she's also under some pressure here. I guess there's time. But I'm going to work on this lady ...
Avril Stone, now very groggy, is all too aware of the man walking beside her. Nearly twenty four hours together, and no disguising the attraction of this man. Never married, and so far successfully subduing the genetically driven desires of partnership and motherhood, Avril Stone is married to her belief in extra-terrestrial intelligence, a marriage that consumes all her energies, at least until now. Around forty, she is beginning to sense that there are other things that may be just as fulfilling, and that this man beside her is the cause of these feelings. Well, not today.
Wednesday February 10
Data Analysis Unit
Kim Featherston, Data Analysis Unit Team Leader according to the patch on her cap, looking lankier than usual in khaki coveralls not tailored for taller women, stands in the main hall, waiting for her group to gather. Pushing her round rimless spectacles back on to the top of her head, she adjusts the ill-fitting khakis. I have to fix this crappy outfit.
Single, thirty two years old, a so far successful career with Motorola, now a top data analyst. This project is just what I need, a break. And a diversion. And time to think about myself as well. Goddam it, it's really time I did something for myself. Some of these guys are OK, but who is free? Time to do some ground-work. Hillier? Almost certainly married. Wallace? Maybe also, but very attractive. Ripley? Not my type, anal. Martin Amis? Nope. My team guys? Well, maybe some fun there, but all a bit up-tight, or crazy. We'll see.
Paul Trimble, Don Whelan, Crackers Smith and Mary Little, all in khaki coveralls with name patches, Mary with rolled up sleeves and cuffs, pushing chairs together.
"Hi Boss, howsitgoin'?"
"Hi fellas, and Hi Mary, fine, thanks. Listen up team. We've kicked around a lot of possibilities and I guess we've crystallised a plan of action; let's summarise. We have the data storage units from the two satellites. We have the equipment to work on them direct, and we have several hundred hard discs of various types from PC's from all over, including Alister Aluitins' from Iqaluit, and yours, Paul. Our first step is to look at each one of these and see where the data intrusions are, how big they are and catalogue everything we can about them and then make some comparisons. We want to find common factors, if there are any. Don, this is your operation, you'll have your team here tomorrow and you can get right on it. As you are finished with each storage unit, you pass it on to either Paul, Crackers or Mary. Paul's team will be up to strength tomorrow, and Crackers' people should also arrive the day after. Don will work with Crackers as soon as this initial step is complete. Mary, you're going to work with Don for a while and then decide who you need. You have the cabin in the far right corner, but if you need more space we will find it for you. You all have copies of the reports made in 1992 from JPL's Technical Services Center and the TMOD, as well as those from Walter Brown's analysis at Satellite Services. There are also copies of the DSCS lab reports. The analysis phase starts with throwing every known computer system code at the intrusions, and although all the common formats have been tried already as you will see in the reports, we want to do them all again, then every ASCII variation there is, binary systems, cypher software, the works. We want to use the chinese and russian variations again, and whatever else you guys can think of. If you need anything specific we have several alternatives; the first is to develop our own software and I have a couple of programmers on standby. The second is that if we have to get something in, this will happen through Mark Ripley or Ev Hillier. We have state-of-the-art equipment here, but we can always get something special. You know the rules. Each computer is isolated and shielded. Anything you want to copy out of a pc comes out on a CD and is checked for problems before it leaves your team unit. We want to know at all times what we are transporting around. The first cabin has the only external communications possibilities and these will only be hard wired when required and then cut again. No standing connections at all. The data storage units for analysis are all in the bunker outside as you've seen, and we have hardened carry cases to bring them inside this hall. When we need a group discussion on anything we have the conference center on the right wall and you bring your data out on CD's so that we can all see what we have. Ev Hillier and Dr Stone are the liaison here between all the groups and should be at all such discussions. Any questions? No ... then let's get to it".
Friday February 19
clatter of chairs and the noise of 30 or
so people chatting, laughing, comparing notes. The 24 screens on the conference
center communications wall glow but contain no information. Everett Hillier
stands off to the left side with Dr Stone, discussing presentation formats.
Each of the Unit leaders will present their own information and results to
date. Hiller turns, begins the introduction.
"Good Morning everyone, let's settle down and find out where we're at. Kim Featherston will let us know what's happened so far in the Data Analysis Unit, Grant Wallace will update us on the Ground Station activities, and Martin Amis will fill us in on the Commsat Unit's progress. Before we start, I have several items to report; first, my discussions with Pine Gap and the Department of Defense in this country, the DOD's discussions with their counterparts in several other countries, and the discussions held by Grant Wallace, Professor Hallman and others associated with the ground stations near to the reported bubble event atmospheric anomalies confirm that there are no, repeat no secret or clandestine operations of any kind anywhere underway that could lead to events such as these. We have to look elsewhere for an explanation. Second, discussions with some of the top people associated with experimental digital television transmissions have been inconclusive. There are no testing procedures in place to test the possible occurrence of rogue transmissions or to test for side effects of normal transmissions. Some work is to be undertaken in these areas however, and we may also undertake some of this work here if we do not find other solutions in the meantime. We have a ways to go before this however. Third and last, we are assembling a group to try and find a solution to this bubble event atmospheric anomaly phenomenum. We will have specialists in gas chromotography, atmospheric ionisation, and mass spectrometry. They have little to start with and we are hopeful that some of the work we are doing here may open up areas of investigation for them. We have so far no direct link between our data block problem and the bubble event atmospheric anomalies but I believe that we do have circumstantial evidence that there is a link. We have to find the link, so let's hear where we are at. Kim, it's all yours".
Kim Featherston, no cap, now wearing a somewhat better styled uniform, probably after some needle work, moves to the podium and speaks.
"Thanks Everett, good morning everyone, although we all work here together we don't seem to see each other too often, especially with the hours we are putting in here! Well we now have more information than when we started a week or so ago, but no breakthroughs yet. This is what we have. The data analysis on the two satellite storage units shows definite similarities in both. The satcom4 data storage unit is very small as it was one of the first on-board data-storage units to be used in satellites, but the data block fills it completely. That is, totally. This will probably explain the only major difference to that on the Express satellite which had a much larger storage capacity, and therefore room for a larger blocker. The block on Express is about two megabytes and has bad section warning signals at each end of the block. There is no other information on either unit, no indications of time of arrival or source. We have processed one hundred and seventy four other hard discs, and find a remarkable similarity in all cases. The blocks are of the same size, again each about two megabytes, and each with bad disc warning signals at each end of the blocks. The blocks themselves are marked as bad areas in varying colours depending on which system was in use on the various computers. What is interesting is that the time of arrival of the blocks, in those where we know from the owners when this occurred, varies over years". She pauses and shuffles notes, adjusts her rimless spectacles.
"The earliest we can date positively is from Ralph Little's Satellite Services communications computers, and these are from September 1991. The blocks that were found in four computers at SatServices are all identical and are all the same size as the block in the satcom 04 satellite. That is, they are smaller than all of the others looked at to date. These findings are mirrored in the blocks found in the JPL Technical Services computers which were used to try and decipher the blocks in September 1992, and also in the four inspected hard discs provided by the TMOD and the DOD. These blocks date from sometime in early 1993 which is the time when these organisations also attempted to decipher the satcom 04 block. We have dated the blocks in the hard discs provided by various sources in the North West Territories, including from Mike Renfrey's satellite communications center Microsat and from Iqaluit which was provided satellite communications services links by Microsat. These all date from late 1991 and could be linked to Telesat Canada's Anik E1 communications satellite, the sat comm services source. This sat is still in service and we can get no direct confirmation here. The blocks in all cases here are larger than those found in the satcom 04 set, and they are identical to some seventy seven other blocks so far inspected. The data from the Express satellite that crashed in Ghana in 1995 and which was launched from Kyushu has a somewhat larger block, or rather it has two blocks, one of which seems to be identical in size to the Canadian set and the other seems to be larger, although it is difficult to know exactly as we are unable to find out just how many of the storage clusters are fully occupied within the block. This data is mirrored in the data from a hard disc provided by a German computer engineer who worked at Kagashima Space Center at Kyushu in 1995, from where this sat was launched.
Analysis of other hard discs indicates block instances as far back as 1987, for example when a computer engineer at Kouru noticed what turned out to be a block in a service back-up computer after launches for both COMSAT and ORBCOMM satellites. Similarly with an engineer working on the launch of the failed TVSat 1 of DBP Telekom in 1987. In these cases the satellites in question are not available for inspection, and the blocks in the computers are of smaller size and not dissimilar to the satcom 04 blocks.
The latest instances we can date positively are as recent as this year, and we are continually getting incident reports over the Trimble web site which indicates that this is an ongoing phenomenum. Remarkably also however is that not all of the hard disc blocks have been exposed to some kind of satellite communication links. In fact about one third of all instances to date are clearly not directly linked to satellites, although we can show that some of these have had modem communication with other computers or internet services providers where satellite communications have been or are employed. We can therefore confirm one previous hypothesis, that is that there is a direct link between some of the blocks in ground based computers to blocks found in some communications satellites. We can also confirm that blocks have appeared in computers at both satellite communications ground stations and at space observatory ground stations. We have not been able to correlate or date or connect any of the ground station instances, that is, their computer data intrusions, with any satellites or with any of the reported bubble event atmospheric anomalies, with the one exception of the Fort Providence bubble event and the data blocks in the computers at Microsat in Fort Providence. That a definite link between the bubble event atmospheric anomalies and the data blocks exists is not confirmed. We can say however that where bubble events have occurred there have also been blocks in computers used in the vicinity of these events. As you can see on the screens here, we have a graphical representation of the observed growth in apparent size of the data blocks, and a second representation of the growth in the number of reported data blocks". She points to the various schematics on the master screen next to the podium.
"These show that the earlier blocks are not as large as the second set of instances and that these in turn are not as large as the blocks found in later instances. The latest show up to three sets of blocks, each set of apparently different sizes. There is a trend here that indicates that as time passes the blocks are getting bigger, and that there are more of them appearing in each set as well as that there are more of them appearing in total. We do not have enough information to make any sensible forecasts but the trends are clear, this is a problem that is getting bigger and more widespread. Deciphering the data in the blocks has so far not shown any success at all. The blocks are coded in a completely different way to any system that we know of or so far have been able to dream up. We therefore have no indications at all of source. We are working on this however and at the suggestion of Dr Stone, Paul is calling up a couple of top hackers and Mary Little is bringing in several experts in mathematics and cryptography construction. These people begin their work here Monday next. Everett, that's it, we'll have a question time after the other presentations and we look forward to some creative input from you guys. Pick up a copy of these notes on your way out".
"OK thanks Kim, I look forward to getting into some detail there. Grant, your show". Grant Wallace, dusty khakis with short sleeves, fading sun tan, smiling, strolls up to the podium.
"Thanks Ev, hi everyone, like Kim says we don't get to see too much of each other. I didn't think we had so many people on the team so far. Good to see you all. The Ground Station Unit has finally got itself on the road. Our satellite dishes are up and running, the hardened cables to our unit here are checked, and inside, our simulated wide area network is pretty much set up and ready to go. Harold and the boys from Goldstone have done a power of work to get us this far so quickly, and thanks, guys, for the effort. As you will hear from Martin Amis, the CommSat Unit has the three satellites in clean condition and in place, but not yet powered up. They are on sequencers only for the time being and we are getting ready for the first tests. That should be pretty interesting. Other than that we are also ready to run tests with a data blocked hard disc within our simulated WAN, but this is scheduled to happen after the first sat comm test. We are also set up to channel the series of outside commsat tests that Martin has arranged through a hardened and shielded cable direct from the sat dishes to our receivers and through to the data analysis unit number one. This will be our main occupation for a while I guess, while we are concurrently running network simulations on data block spread. That's it, we're ready to go".
"Martin?" Martin Amis, in very sharp khakis , moves quickly to the podium.
"Thanks Everett, yes, good morning everyone. We at the Commsat unit are outside your daily reach I guess, and we don't get here as often as we should. Good to see you all again. As Grant says we have all three satellites on station and on sequencers. We are preparing to power up within a week once we have the test protocols worked out with the GS Unit here; as Grant says, should be interesting. We have also made quite a bit of progress with the establishment of our data bank, and as far as we can tell we now have all available information on every launch or failed launch that has occurred since 1957 in our system. We are still in the process of setting up the analysis procedures, and we have already developed some interesting fuzzy logic software to help us locate all the space vehicles that might have some kind of on board data storage problems. This has been speeded up considerably by the information we've had from Kim in the last few days about the size of the data blocks found. This information pretty much rules out all early sats and even most of the early deep space vehicles, these were or in some cases still are, controlled by sequencers which have no data storage capacity that might be affected by some kind of data intrusion. We will still look at the early flights but at a lower priority. Interestingly however the software has already noted that Voyager and the Mars Mission exploration programs have both onboard storage and mission control problems. Maybe we have some kind of an explanation for some recent failures, even if the onboard systems were hardened against space radiation. In cooperation with almost all of the near Earth satellite operators, and especially with all of the commsat operators and with the DOD, we have set up a program of dedicated test transmissions from each at specific times, which will be channelled to the isolated data analysis unit number one to test whether or not we can observe a data block. With this we hope to establish just how many if any sats have been intruded, and possibly we may get some time of intrusion information as well. This same program will be initiated in our own three sats, especially with idea of establishing time of intrusion if any. If there is an intrusion, and if we can establish the time, we may be able to locate the source by triangulation from the three sats, or at least the direction from which the intrusive transmissions come. This requires some really accurate information and some fine analysis algorythms but we are hopeful. The only real problem with all this is the time factor, there are about ten thousand satellites to analyse, and maybe two thousand five hundred that are set up for test transmissions. The current launch programs of all players world wide just now is averaging another six hundred new satellites per year, so we have our work cut out. And if it is the kind of problem that we think it is, this is a measure of how big this problem may grow to. We will have some useful information in about three weeks, we estimate. That's it from me. Copies of these notes are available as you leave. We at the commsat unit are really looking forward to getting down to some discussions and information exchange with you guys now. Thanks.
Everett, back to you".
Ev Hillier again. "OK folks, thanks for your attention. Let's get down to some information exchange and ideas input. It looks like we need as much as we can get. Lunch will be served sometime too, I hope. I'm starving. We have no further scheduled conferences like this, meetings will be set up at short notice according to need".
Tuesday February 23
Data Analysis Unit: Kim Featherston notes:
Mon. Feb 22: Team strength up to full, with arrival early this morning of
Paul Trimble group: The Wally (?), Gotcha (?), Kevin, Black Magic and Timmo
Don Whelan/Crackers group: Sevi Catalan, Speed, Panama and Halverson
Mary Little group: Maximilian (cryptography), Algebra (?) (Mathematician).
All teams started in to work straight off, Unit teams are:
Unit two: Self, Wally, Gotcha, Kevin.
Unit three: Trimble, Timmo, Magic, Halverson.
Unit four: Don, Sevi, Panama.
Unit five: Crackers, Speed.
Unit six: Mary, Maximilian, Algebra.
Notes from meeting Tues. Feb 23:
DA group discussion on progress. The work of the past 12 days and the intensive action in the past 30 hours are without result. We need some creative thinking. All units to spend this afternoon kicking around ideas, employ reverse value analysis to find solutions outside normal approaches. (some lateral thinking? ). Mary's people particularly to add specialist knowledge to hackers and programmers methods, and to work in same units with Trimble and myself. Don to continue with hard disc analysis, Crackers' two on hard disc analysis and Crackers himself with my unit.
Wednesday February 24
In Data Analysis Unit number three, the airconditioning unit hums quietly while Magic, a project-conscripted hacker friend of Timmo, clatters away at the keypad of the pc screen number three in the far right corner of the tight and dimly lit twelve foot by twelve foot container. Paul Trimble and Timmo, both huddled over behind Magic, watch in awe. The screen fills with characters, black on white.
Trimble speaks. "Holy shit, Magic, what've y'done? How the hell didy'get that stuff? Where's it coming from?"
Magic. "Listen ma frens, when you need an expert in such matters yo gotta go to the man, right!, an thas me! Go tell yo pretty Miss Avril ah got what she wants!"
A chair clatters over backwards on to the polished floor of the hall. Dr Avril Stone, running, calls to Mary Little on the way to number three. "Where's Kim? See if you can find her please. The guys have got something. Man! I hope this is it, the break".
Three hours earlier, hall canteen: Dr Stone, sitting beside the new guy, Black Magic, is talking about her work with SETI and SERENDIP. Magic, short, black and from Chicago, is an avid listener. He is also an avid mathematician with practically no formal schooling but a great thirst for knowledge. And a member of an exotic group of mathematicians specialising in mathematical logic. Magic explains the principles of their special law called the Law of Trichotomy; a principle that holds that all numbers are either positive, negative or zero. Dr Stone sits up, a light goes on, one of those moments when a truth is recognised, when the answer has been found. "Magic, do me a favour, find a way to apply this law to the data blocks".
"Sho' thing, Maam. Ahl get right on it!"
Unit number three now has six khaki-clad figures huddled into the far right hand corner. Magic at the keyboard, Dr Stone and Mary, Timmo and Trimble, and Halverson, a big and bony Swede who has been working on pc number one.
Dr Stone. "Holy Mother of God, Magic, is that it? Have you got in?"
Magic, smiling. "Sho' have Maam, yo is correct".
Mary Little speaks. "But that all looks like morse code, Magic, don't tell me it is that simple, I can't believe it! My God!"
Magic again. "Ooohh noooo! Little Miss Mary, that aint no morse code but yo is correct it sho looks like. What this is is a whole lot of plus signs and minus signs and periods, like fullstops or dots. Thas what this is Miss Mary. This what yo all was looking for, but ah for one have no ahdea what it means, this yo game ah believe Miss Mary?"
Mary Little again. "Tell me all that again, Magic, what did you do here?"
"Well as Miss Avril suggested ah tried a code system based on ma speciality, the law of trichotomy. That don' wanna work at first, ah used plus signs then zero's and minus signs but like ah say that don' wanna work, so ah punched in a whole lot of other signs and that don' wanna work neither, so then ah chilled out here a little and let the information cruise around and then ah figured that the arabic language uses a point fur the little ol' zero and theys the fathers of our mathematic so ah plugged in that series of plus, minus and fullstop, and there y'go, man it all just kinda flooded out. Somethin' neat eh? An ah had already a chance to look a bit closer and ahm sure it aint a straight forward numbers trichotomy, lookie here at the start, this's much more complex than later here down a little, and in between here's this long row of fullstops all alone there. And at the other end way down there see, the same stuff all over again. In between looks pretty normal to me, but we gotta look a lot closer to see what this all might mean".
Dr Stone. "Magic, you're magic! Burn a CD, let's get this up on the screen. Paul go get Ev Hillier and whoever else you can find. Where's Kim? Everyone at the conference screens in an hour, please".
Dr Stone arrives in the Hall. "Kim, Hi. Listen where've you been? Your guys have just done it, they've cracked the first hard disc. Come'n look at this, everyone take a seat please. People we have some kind of break here, I can't tell you how I feel just now; this is great stuff".
About twenty listeners, the only people working inside the task force center momentarily. All the DA Unit teams, Everett Hillier, Kim Featherston just in from a meeting with Mark Ripley ordering some math software. No one else.
Dr Stone. "Look at this. All screens filled with the same information, morse code with a difference. Black on white. Dots, dashes and plus signs".
Hillier speaks. "Dr Stone, that's morse code, or a variation. Is it that simple?"
"Everett, no, and although it looks like morse it isn't. You could say it's a binary code with a difference, it is a ternary code. Its basis is the mathematical law of trichotomy, that every number is either positive, negative or zero. This is it. Really, we have it, this is it!"
Hillier again. "Hey people I'm impressed! Kim, congratulations to you and your teams. Jesu and The Holy Ghost Bless you all. I wanna get the full details of how you guys did this asap, Kim. Well now, where do we go from here? I guess it seems like a fairly straight forward job from here out, Mary, you can crack this stuff? Any ideas where this might have come from?"
Mary Little. "No Everett, not yet, this is less than an hour old! But I'm working on it already. This looks like the kind of cryptography that shouldn't be too hard to deal with. Max and I will get on to it, but it would help if we can unglue a few more hard discs and see what we can get for similarities and maybe other sign group structures. And I think it would be good to get a hold of some more people who are familiar with the law of trichotomy, maybe they know where this might have come from, and possibly give us a few leads on breaking it down. We have some software that can search this whole message if we can call it that, and pull out sign groups that are the same. If anyone else has some bright ideas? Magic? You're familiar with a lot of specialists in this field I guess. Let's get together and pull some names into an action list, OK? It's a good challenge for us, I'm sure we can do it".
Hillier again. "Magic, before you get into that, can you explain to the rest of your group just how to go about using this magic formula of yours?"
Dr Stone again. "Magic, you mentioned something about Arabic? This is based on the arabic language? Could this be a lead to a source? Is there anywhere in the arabian world where they could have the resources and technology to do this?"
Magic, pulling a face. "Maam, you jumpin the gun there I guess, the arabian world was the inventor of modern mathematics and our numeral systems, that don' mean they did this stuff, it just a clever variation as you say of binary systems".
Hillier breaks into the conversation. "What's that about arabic systems? Is this where this comes from? Magic, you know anyone in the cipher world in any arabian country? Let's get the full details together immediately, I need to follow that line through with the DOD".
Thursday February 25
0730 hrs. In Data Analysis Unit number six.
Maximilian, Spanish born of German parents, tall, straight up dark hair cut short, about 40 years old. Employed by the NSA for several years, now chief of cryptography construction at CCS, his own private company on permanent and exclusive contract to the NSA. Unobtrusive, pensive. No outward sign of the brilliant and creative mind inside. Beside him, Algebra, a 30 year old American of Morrocan parents, themselves of Spanish origin. Bushy dark curly hair, intense eyes under heavy eyebrows, slight build. Master mathematician. Creative but needing to examine every step, every hypothesis before moving on. And Mary, her short blond hair reflecting the green pc screen glow, just behind. The right hand pc screen flickers as the CD drive delivers its contents. The by-now familiar streams of plus dot minus. The screen of the left hand pc is showing the load process of the second of two mathematics analysis programs, the first already installed.
Max. "OK, as far as we can see so far, we are dealing with only the three characters. This pretty much rules out an encoded cipher script because there simply aren't enough variables. We have to assume we are dealing with numbers or characters at least that say something to someone somewhere. A binary system in triplicate, so to say. Numbers anyway get put into formulas so that they can tell us things or do things for us. Let's work on the numbers assumption first. What we have to do is to find the formulas that these characters are locked into. Let's cd-copy a sample group of characters and put them on the other computer, and run each of the math analysis programs to see if we get a reaction. Al, would you do that please? Mary, lets you and me look a bit closer here and see which structures or groups may tell us the most for a second run through. We really need to get the batch results of as many discs as we can before we start to get to selective. Any idea how Don is getting on with that?"
Data Analysis Unit number four:
Don Whelan. "Sevi, we have CDs of about three hundred hard discs now from Kim's and Paul's groups. Crackers is about to bring over the CDs of his group which will get us up to about three hundred and fifty. What we have to do is find what similarites there are on all of these and categorise them as far as we can. I can't see us doing this in any other way than with batch analysis. That's extremely computational intensive and is going to take forever on individual computers. We have to set up two or three of these PCs in parallel. Panama can you get some software together to enable that? Ask Mark Ripley or Dr Stone to get you what you need. Let's tie this stuff into the Paracel and Beowolf programs and see what we get. Panama? Your job?"
1415 hrs. Data Analysis Unit number six.
"Mary, we're going to have to rewrite this software or find something that has some more capabilities. The software is throwing up some graphics that are just spikes and what looks like some areas on top of others, and all this stuff down here seems to belong someplace else. It's registering but not falling into place; perhaps it's not numbers but some kind of alphabetical characterisation, any ideas?"
"Max, I've been over with Don, his group have at least another day of setting up to do before we can expect any more detailed analysis of this data. Until we have a better picture of how this stuff is structured I don't think we can make much progress at all. What we can do however is spend the time reworking this software to see if we can't tweak other answers from it. Al, this is your area. Max, have a look at another data grouping".
Friday February 26
0730 hrs. Ground Station Unit.
Grant Wallace, Dr Stone, and Harold Thierman are grouped inside the GS Unit portacabin, chatting, as Martin Amis and two technicians get the final protocols sorted for the first series of commsat transmission tests. Four satellite operators have programmed fourteen in-service satellites with Task Force test data for direct transmission to Chandler Task Force Center over the next forty two minutes at three minute intervals, starting at 0800 local. Reception at Chandler is set up to direct the transmissions through to Data Analysis Unit number one.
0814 hrs. Data Analysis Unit One, External Simulations.
Kim Featherston sits at the left hand computer registering the incoming commsat data and filing each data stream as it comes in to its own Zip drive. Don Whelan, sitting at the other computer takes the Zip drives as they are loaded ready to begin the data stream analysis.
"Don, these are the three Ka band transmissions, from ACTS, a USA sat, one from N-Star, a Japanese operator, and one from DFS Kopernikus, a German operator. All are in the 19 to 22 gigaherz wavelength band, all transmitting at 33 to 38 dBW. You can start on these now. The next sets are all Ku band, then we have a couple of C band sets and a UHF set".
"OK Kim, lets see what we have here ... "
"Kim, the Ka band transmissions all have blockers, all look pretty standard. The first Ku band transmission has two blockers, which look like some of the doubles we‘ve found in ground based hard discs in the last few days".
"Don, this is the last, a C band. How‘re you doin' there?"
"Well all of the Ku band sets have blockers. I'm still on the C band and the UHF set is last".
"Kim, nothing on the C band sets and nothing on the UHF.
Let's get this data out to the guys".
0915 hrs. Ground Station Unit. Kim has just finished her report:
"Well there you have it so far, Dr Stone, Grant, Martin, Ralph. Hi Harold. There's not much doubt that what we see in the ground based hard discs is coming from the commsats. It‘s clear that the later sats have blockers, and they are all in the higher frequency bands. And they seem to be identical to what we‘ve found in the ground based hard discs we‘ve tested so far, with the exception that one sat has a third and a fourth blocker. The earlier sats show no blocks at all. Is it a question of age or a question of wavelength? My recommendation is to test a few more wave-lengths, like VHF and VLF maybe, as well as more C band. Can we arrange this? We need a wider spread of data. We should also get more data on when these sats were set in operation. In the meantime we get this stuff to further analysis but it all looks pretty much like what we have so far but we want to confirm this, or otherwise".
Martin Amis. "Kim, thanks. We‘ll get with the operators immediately and set it up as you suggest. This‘ll take a day or two".
Saturday February 27
1415 hrs. Data Analysis Unit number four.
Sevi Catalan, Panama and a technician are making connections, three computers are clustered in parallel with something like eight times the computing power of the single machines. Not massive computing power, but impressive. The new software developed by parallel computing specialists Paracel for genetic string matching in the bioinformatics business, after modification to suit the data string searches in the hard disc blockers, was in the last phases of testing. A Beowolf beta version is set up as a standby. The technician has a standard data base test in progress.
"Wow!, does this thing cook!, just look at that speed. Wooeee, parallel is the way to go man! Panama, time to start to get our data together. Let‘s plug this stuff into this baby. So far as we can establish so far, we only have three variables, this morse code stuff, should be a breeze".
1700 hrs. Coffee break. Data Analysis Unit number four.
"Sevi, we're getting information, we‘ve tested seventy CDs so far, and look at this. All CDs have more or less the same info, well at least in part. The original satcomm04 CD has less data but it is still more or less a mirror of the first part of what's on most, maybe all, of the rest that we've tested so far. The data blocks on the more recent hard discs have second blocks and these seem to have different information but in similar structures. The most recent hard disc blocks show the same characteristics in the first two sections but the third section is a completely different structure and contains completely different information. Let‘s start to characterise this stuff. Can we get this output in graphical format as well?"
"Panama, look at this. We‘re starting to get a picture here. The characteristics are these, first we seem to have a start section then this spike on all units so far. Then we have the first middle section which is always the same on all units as well, then we have another spike, but this one is different to the first one here on the left, then we have a short end section to the first group. Now we get a kind of repeating cycle of data in the second grouping; another start section, another spike, another middle section, a further spike then an end section to this second group. The spikes are identical, but all the other data in the second grouping is different to that in the first grouping even if at first glance it looks the same. And we have this one here with a third data block, a third grouping, same spikes but different data at the start, in the middle and at the end. And look at this, what‘s interesting is that in the middle sections the analysis throws out that the information is grouped or parcelled in sets of three, whatever that means. Pass this on to Mary and co and let‘s get more discs into this. We can add the infos from the commsat test done yesterday to see if we get any updated stuff. Kim says that one test set has a fourth data block. These must be state of the art data blocks eh? Hey, and let Don and Paul know about this too".
1945 hrs. Kim Featherston in Data Analysis Unit number two.
“Hi Panama, what've you got?" Panama explains the series exposed so far. Kim's excited. "Sounds great! Wally, will you get this stuff over to Mary and Maximilian, they need this to plug into their cipher works".
Sunday February 28
1750 hrs. Ground Station Unit.
Martin Amis is addressing Dr Stone, Harold Thierman and Grant Wallace. "We‘ll be set to run again tomorrow around five in the morning. You guys all set up to go? We have the widest spread of old and new sats operating at just about every wavelength you can think of".
"Sure Martin, we‘re set. I‘ll get Kim and her crew advised. They‘ve finished the data analysis on all of the first commsat transmissions, and as Kim said the blockers in the data sets from the commsats correspond to two hundred and fourty four of the hard disc data blocks investigated so far, and they are similar to if not identical to almost all of the rest. What can I say. We seem to have a direct connection between communication satellites and the data blocks on ground based computers".
"I‘ll get Ev Hillier to come down as well, he should be here for this".
Monday March 01
1135 hrs. Conference area.
Everett Hillier is at the podium, looking thinner these days. "Good morning all, great work over the past few days. The second commsat test run this morning has concluded and Kim has a brief report about that although not all of the tests have been analysed. We do have complete information about Friday's commsat tests however. Kim, all yours".
"Thanks Everett. We are able to confirm Friday's tests that the data blockers are occurring in the later sats working in the higher frequency bands, which means these days just about every wavelength that‘s used for satellite communications. The second commsat test series that started this morning have included a wider spectrum of satellite ages and operating wavelengths. The older satellites operate generally at lower frequencies and with two exceptions we have no blockers to report at the lower frequencies. Several sats in the C band have blockers, several do not. This may be due to the actual frequency in use within the band or it may be due to the age of the satellites. We will have this together tomorrow. We have however two surprises, and these relate to sats operating in the low frequency wavelengths where we don‘t have blockers but we do have some readable signals recorded. These are really very low frequency readings, down to what looks like about 300 herz. We have no explanation for these intrusions. Normally such signals would not get to an operating satellite from the Earth, and we would not normally expect background radiation or noise to be anywhere near these wavelengths. Perhaps just a couple of anomalies. In any case we're well into the detailed analysis using Magic's trichotomy system and Mary‘s crew are working on getting the information we have into an understandable format. I guess they will have some results to report tomorrow. Don and the guys are working through the batch comparison analysis and they too should have some interesting data tomorrow, whether or not all the blockers are really the same and whether or not what we have in the sats is really the same as what we have in the ground based hard discs. That's it so far".
"Thanks, Kim. Well what's clear is we have intrusions in the latest commsats that are or will become a nuisance in our ground based computing systems. We are reasonably certain that these are mathematical data streams, but we have no idea of their purpose or where they come from. I guess this is the next step. Martin, you have something to report about the Task Force sats?"
"Yes Everett, we are ready to run a series of test transmissions under really tightly controlled conditions. We expect that the virginal data storage on all three sats will be corrupted soon after we power up and set them to transmit. We have atomic clock timing devices tied in to the transmissions and we have the algorythms that will be able to calculate by triangulation the direction of the transmissions and maybe even pinpoint the source. We‘ve noted, Everett, your concerns about Arab country sources and these tests ought to prove that supposition, or not as the case may be. These tests will be run through DA Unit number one again, and we are just now installing the third computer and the local atomic timing devices. The satellites are going to be in a near perfect spread constellation around midday Thursday. That's it".
Hillier again. "Grant, you‘ve also been busy the last couple of days, how‘s it going with the simulated wide area network tests? Any news about how this data is spreading?"
"Ev, all we can say is that it spreads no matter what we try to do to block it. This is where we are at: our simulated network or WAN is set up with hard wired modems, ADSL and Cable, infra-red and an updated Bluetooth wireless transmission system, with all the necessary data and communication software and protocols. We have local PCs, networked PCs, and heavy duty server installation simulations with all kinds of firewalls. We get transfer of the data blocker in all systems. We do not know how this happens but it does. We are beginning to zero in on some possibilities; first is that we think that transmission is carried out over something like the Bluetooth wireless data transfer or maybe something like the new cellular digital packet data communication systems now being developed in mobile telephony, but how this works we do not know. We are unable to detect any power usage variations but we guess that the power requirement is very small and we would not be able to detect the fluctuations in general system usage anyway. The alternatives sound like sci-fi but I guess we have to look at them; maybe some kind of ionisation perhaps, ionic transfer?, but how we test this let alone stop it is so far beyond our knowledge. We don‘t even think it is possible with the technology we have but maybe someone is way ahead of us. Anyway we have to look at the possibility. This is a fast moving world. Maybe the guys due in to look at the bubble events have some ideas?, they deal with these kinds of phenomena".
Tuesday March 02
Conference Center 0800 hrs. Full house.
Don Whelan has the crowd's attention. "Hi, folks, sorry we called this meeting at such an early hour but we have some pretty interesting information to show you which will certainly make the next stages easier I guess. We have a lot of this in graphical format as you can see on the screens. The top row shows a summary of the hard discs so far tested, that is the CDs cut from the breakdown of the hard discs carried out using Magic's plus-dot-minus formula. So far we have processed four hundred and twelve discs. We have also carried out a batch comparison analysis on about a hundred or so of these CDs and the results are shown also in the typed report copies you have. These confirm the suppositions we made earlier after the first look at the results from Magic's formula. As you can see in the second row of screens we have identical start sections in all cases so far, we have identical spikes next to that, we have a first group middle section that like all the later middle sections seems to be data grouped in sets of three strings, then we have another spike, different to the first spike but the same as the second spike in all discs, then an end data string to the first group. This pattern repeats itself through to the third data group, but the data itself is different to the previous groups. Last night we ran the positive tested commsat sets and these show even more interesting information, where we can identify not only the blockers but the type of transmission, that is in ka and ku frequency bands, these bands are relatively new in communications satellites but are being adopted by more and more operators. We have also an anomaly, or two rather, both on a VLF band that doesn't decipher at all. This might be just background radiation but as all the commsat units are hardened against radiation this is unlikely, so maybe we have something else to deal with here".
Magic breaks in. "Hey Al, this sound like three-d math imaging to you man?"
Algebra responds. "Magic, you could be right. Where's Max and Mary, maybe we have to get some extra software together for this. Hey Max, let's get some software like Mathematica or Maple on to this. The Germans have some cool stuff too".
Mary hurries into the cabin. "Max, the commsat group has downloaded both Mathematica and Maple, plus something from Germany, they should have CD sets around to us in a couple of hours".
"Well we're loaded let's run it, get the first main data sample set in to this. Al, all yours, go to it".
"Holiness!!!, what is that???!!!" Al jumps up from his chair, sends it crashing to the floor in the crowded unit. Mary jumps back, Max crashes into the door frame.
"Lookit lookit lookit". Mary, very excited, jumping around, pointing. Breaking out in her native canadienese: "We have it, lookit here at all that stuff, Al, scroll full left, lookit, this stuff here at the left is like a seismograph print out, but lookit here this spike all out by itself and then this wonderful looking set of curves, it is a sine wave isn't it?, no it's actually three sine waves intertwining with all these bits hanging out all over".
Max, normally never excited, actually smiles. "Mary this is only the two dimensional view here, Al, convert to three d".
"Woooeee! Spirals, hey man, manipulate, let's have a better perspective view here, look at that, this is three spirals not a set of sine curve at all, and lumpy".
Minutes pass, the three-d views from all directions. "Make print-outs, go get Kim and Dr Stone; no, better can we cut this to a CD, or do we need more than one?, cut CDs whatever, let's get this up on the big screen".
2200 hrs. Conference Center.
Mary, Max and Algebra up front. Mary introduces their findings "This is where we are at, just look at this, we dont know what it is but " and hands over to Max.
"Mathematically speaking what we have in our plus-dot-minus morse-type code is really a number of sets of mathematical formulas; these here on the left are formless in three-d, next we have a radial spike that may be some kind of delineator or separator and here in the main section a set of three intertwining spirals with attachments at ordered locations along the arms of each spiral. I guess we can call this a trilateral spiral or trelix, maybe a trihelion. At the right hand end again the spike but it is slightly different to the first and then another apparently formless structure that may have a simpler instruction set. These start and end sections are just two dimensional data sets but our software can't show both two-d and three-d at the same time. We'll do a composite graphic as soon as we can. All we have to do now is figure out what it means; and we have to figure out who it is that has the capability to put something like this together and for what purpose". Max turns from the screens and continues.
"There's no doubt that this is pretty sophisticated stuff and vastly different to anything any of us knows about or has seen. With what Grant said about methods of transmission, we have a powerful data system here that we must learn about and control. We need to get some other disciplines in here, or we send it out on the internet and ask who knows what about this. Lets put it on Google, the search engine. One of the guys there is an old JPL man and a friend, I guess he can put it up front somewhere and make a game out of it, 'anyone knows what this is???' kind of thing. Let's do that. Paul, we'll get this information over to you in a format you can use on your web site, and I'll get on to my ex JPL buddy at Google and see what he can do for us. We need to set this up to get people who may know about these formats to come back to us with whatever it is that they know".
Thursday March 04
1150 hrs. Ground Station Unit.
Martin Amis knocks on the door at the GSU cabin. Grant Wallace, Dr Stone and Kim Featherston are making final system tests for the satellite run. Amis advises "We are programmed to run at 1216 hrs, everyone ready? Kim, have your people got the atomic clock timing under control? It should be really straight forward".
"Yup Martin, sure do. We‘ve been running test programs over the past few hours and it‘s all ready to go".
"OK. We have the DSN antennaes at Goldstone, Madrid and Tidbinbilla set to power up the three sats at precise intervals to ensure signal arrival at each one at exactly the same time. They all have their radiometric tracking isolated for this test which will provide us with back-up timing data to correlate with what we get here. They wont get the transmission signals direct but will know what has been transmitted from the craft and when. Our telemetry with the atomic clock timer will log the signal arrivals here, and they are all tuned to pick up the first peak that we‘ve all seen in the blocker data streams. This seems to be the first constant. As soon as we have this we'll copy the information to our Commsat Unit for further transfer to Goldstone. The source location algorythms will process the data to give us direction and distance to the transmitter of the blocker data streams. We‘re using the Ku band as this is the one with the most blockers. This is State of the Art stuff; we‘ll get to the bottom of this real soon, I guess".
"Martin, we have it all. The transmissions are in and we‘ve looked at the data stream from the GEO satellite and it has a blocker, in fact three. We‘ll know about the others in a few minutes but I guess they will have blockers too. The CDs with this data will be ready for you in an hour or so".
"Thanks, Kim, I‘ll get on to the three DSN facilities to be sure that all is in order there as well".
1800 hrs. Conference Center.
Martin Amis arrives with a handfull of papers and several CDs in a hardened carrier. Everett Hillier, Dr Stone, Grant Wallace, Kim Featherston, and Mark Ripley are the only people present.
"Well, we have information, but it‘s not quite what we expected. Wait until I get this up on the screen and you‘ll see what I mean. OK, here we go. The signal timing to the sats was nanosecond accurate, and as you can see here, the blockers were registered with up to one sixteenth or so of a second apart. That corresponds to the relative distances apart of the three sats. The timing here confirms the same data, and we have therefore clean results which the triangulation algorythms can use. Those results however are not what we expected. Look here, we have a direction that indicates that transmission of the blockers is not from the Earth at all, but from a satellite, and a very high one that at. We probably have some minor inaccuracies that will effect distance but not direction, so we are sure of the direction but not the distance. We are doing some fuzzy logic proofs to see what the accuracy limits might be but this will take a while to get through. In the meantime we have looked at what satellites may be in the indicated direction and position, and here we have another problem. There are none in the region at all. It's possible we may have some signal bend but even adjusting for that the nearest satellites are still a long way off the posited location. The nearest possibles include a half dozen DSCS satellites and the Department of Defense has them on twenty four seven monitoring. No strange activity there at all. All the rest of the sats in the general area are geostationary and as far as we know there are no deeper space possibilities; and deeper space is what we indicate. I guess we have to wait for the fuzzy logic proofs".
"Martin, how long is it going to take to get them?"
"Everett, we should have that around here by eight oclock tomorrow morning. Dr Stone?"
"What if this information is correct?"
"How? Correct? We presupposed I guess that we were dealing with an Earth bound transmitter, but that is certainly not the case. That we are dealing with a satellite to satellite transmission is clear, but whose and its whereabouts are not yet known. We‘ll find it. We don't have other options".
Dr Stone again. "Everett, I think we have to start to rethink what we have here in this whole story. There are simply too many things that are outside our knowledge and too many things that don't fit into any of the known or imaginable technologies we possess. This country is the leader in information technology, it's the leader in space exploration, it‘s the only country with the resources that could possibly put something like this together and you have categorically told us that no organisation in government here, including the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, NASA, and all the organisations that work for them like JPL have anything like this on their development programs at all. Who the hell else could even be close? No one, and certainly not any Arab state, not the Chinese, and not any of our friendly nation states. Why not think about an extra-terrestrial source? OK, OK, OK, I know you all think I‘m off my head with this SETI thing, and I‘ve been having my doubts as well after the last three years or more of absolutely no results at all, let alone the fiasco of 1993, but just think about it. Think about the possibility that some intelligence out there is sending this stuff, not maybe directly to us, but just sending it, on the basis that if there is another intelligence with a level of sophisticated technology, that it may get picked up. Why not open up our heads to this possibility? Man, we have so much brain power right here in this task force that we may even be able to find out what it is that this intelligence is trying to say!"
Hillier. "Hey, Avril, I hear what you say, but I see too many reasons to believe that this is not extraterrestrial". A knee-jerk reaction. Hillier has a very strong belief in God, Southern Baptist, believes that He created everything, which includes the Earth and the Human Race. No goddamm aliens! An alien intelligence? They're not part of His plan! Shit-damn. Hillier continues. "The basic formats of most of what we have seen so far is pretty much imaginable as terrestrial isn‘t it? Whatever this is, it uses our computing technology, it uses our space exploration technology, and if we can believe what we have on the bubble events it uses our telephony technology. And apart from all that, if these are signals from space, extra-terrestrial I mean, why haven‘t we picked up any signals at any ground station anywhere in the world? We have antennae and radio telescopes of every flavour tuned to just about anything you can think of in every possible wavelength, from x-rays right down to sound waves. We dont have anything at all that remotely resembles this kind of data transmission!"
Dr Stone. "And that‘s just it Everett. If this is an Earth sourced transmission, why is none of this amazing technology that we have, our spy satellites, our eavesdropping systems and intelligence services picking any of this up anywhere? Huh?, just tell me that! We can pick up a cow fart in Texas by the extra levels of methane it produces, we know more or less where every person who uses a mobile telephone is at any time he uses it. No-one, but no-one has picked up the ground source of these transmisisions? What about Echelon? This famous eaves-dropping system we have monitoring every transmission on Earth? Nothing! Nada! Nix! Nul! C‘mon, open up your head a little and lets look at this! Grant, what've you got to say about this?"
Dr Stone hasn't recognised the religious zeal in Hillier's reaction, fails to modify her reaction, and probably wouldn't if she had recognised.
Grant Wallace grimaces, not knowing how to handle this. "Avril, you know I support what you're doing, but you know as well as I do that in the cosmic time scale, the chances of someone out there transmitting something to us just in the time frame when we have the technology to receive it is pretty remote. A window of ten to twenty years in three or four billion years is pretty bloody small. I think we have to wait". Hey, this Lady is really into this SETI thing; don't go overboard, Avril, cool it a little.
"Hold it Grant, you can do better than that. Who says these people, or rather this source, is only transmitting now? Maybe they‘ve been at it for hundreds of years if not hundreds of thousands of years! Maybe they are a lot, and I mean a lot, further advanced than we are, and if these are extra-terrestrial signals who knows how long they‘ve been on their way through space?; and who knows how long they‘ve been transmitting?"
Wallace again. "And why haven‘t we picked them up with any of our technology here on Earth?" Wallace has read the zeal in Hillier's response, doesn't have the same beliefs, but works at a political level. "Let's not go overboard on this, not yet anyway". Avril, cool it.
Dr Stone isn't about to let go. "That's just it, that's exactly what we have to find out and we have enough intelligence here to brainstorm that and a few other questions. Let me make a proposal, based on the facts that one; we need to be able to at least control these transmissions because of the potential damage they may eventually cause our high-tech societies world wide, two; this technology looks pretty efficient and we can maybe put it to good use, and three; we hate to be outdone and outsmarted by anyone else and we will want this technology anyway, eh? Let‘s get the fuzzy logic results from Martin's people, and if this still suggests a source that‘s not terrestrial, let‘s put what we have here to work on thinking about an extra terrestrial source and find a way to prove that or not!"
Hillier reacts slowly, also not knowing what to do about this outburst. "Grant? Kim? Mark? Martin? Yes Kim?"
Friday March 05
"Everett, I‘m not into the SETI thing either, but we don‘t have a better answer yet. Let‘s get the fuzzy logic answers and look at those. I guess Avril can put together a provisional program of what we might have to do if the source confirms to be not Earth based; why not? She's right in a couple of things; there are just too many unknowns and unimaginables associated with this thing so far, and we have to find some answers. Maybe Avril's route will get us to the answers even if they do eventually prove to be terrestrial". Kim has also picked up the vibes, but is more into the possibilities of ETI. Avril may be a competitor, but in this I'm on her side, but let's do it, like, cool.
Martin Amis enters the conference area. "Listen up everybody, the fuzzy logic tests put the source at between four light years and thirty three light years from here. Needless to say we dont have anything out there at that distance at all. I guess we have to find another way to locate the source, this can't be it".
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Friday March 05
Office of Dr Avril Stone.
What do we have?, what do we know?, where are we?, what do we not know?
1 ... why can't we detect these signals here on Earth?
2 ... do we even know what kind of signals these are?
3 ... we know how we get them here but how do they arrive at the satellites?
4 ... what are these signals trying to tell us?
5 ... what‘s the damage potential of these blockers?
6 ... what happens when Iridium and DirecPC and Globalstar constellations of communication satellites get into business? (World wide blockers in everything that connects to anything else!) Note this for special attention!!!
7 ... where do the bubble events fit in? Are they related? certainly yes, but how? Find this answer too.
8 ... if this is an extra-terrestrial transmission, how do we find out where it‘s coming from?
9 ... how do we stop it? Do we need to stop it? (Not necessarily, just to control it).
10.. is this really ET? I can't believe it ... yes I can, and damn it, Hillier has to believe it too!
Action on 1.
What are we set up to receive and what‘s missing in our listening posts? Or is it maybe that what‘s being sent can't get through? Shit yes ... for example ultra violet c wavelengths cant get through the atmosphere, except where we have holes in the ozone layer ....!!!! What else is like that?
Action on 2.
A lot more detailed work needed here. We have the people.
Action on 3.
That‘s going to be expensive. Research the alternatives.
Action on 4.
Action on 5.
See 6. The blockers are so far not stoppable. Grant's people.
Action on 6.
A couple of hundred directly accessible communication satellites? get start dates (Iridium is already up or not?)
Action on 7.
This team‘s here I guess. Answers?
Action on 8.
See 3. We have a lead so far? 4 to 33 light years from here? What‘s needed to confirm this?
Action on 9.
Maybe we need to stop it ... but not before we find out more about it.
Action on 10.
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Saturday March 06
1100 hrs. The Club.
Crowded. Pale bodies unaccustomed to the sun sit under sun umbrellas, others swim laps in the pool, Grant Wallace among them. Several small groups sit at tables still littered with the ruins of breakfast. Mostly grapefruit, papaya and lime skins. Sharp young men bring fresh coffee in pots to the tables, sometimes juice. NSA trainees. Way back of the pool, most of the young guys of the DA unit are playing volley ball. Some newspapers flap around in a very light breeze on a poolside lounger, just held in place by bath towel. Palm trees mostly mask out the bulk of the Task Force Center in the background off to the left. Lawn sprinkler mist cools the already rising air temperature. Everett Hillier, now in a tee shirt and chinos with slipons is talking to Dr Avril Stone, Kim Featherston, Mary Little and Maria-José Ferrer in from the Commsat unit. Maria-José is the only one in a swim suit, darker skin with a soft sweaty glow, the others in jump suits and Dr Stone in a bathrobe. Mark Ripley, Paul Trimble and Maximilian at the next table pull their table closer to the other, shuffle chairs around, get coffee.
Hillier, still in reaction, but now conciliatory. "Avril, I have to tell you that I can't even begin to believe in extra-terrestrial intelligence. The belief in aliens is against my basic Christian upbringing but I've been giving this a lot of thought and although it goes against the grain, in my position here I guess I have to understand that finding a solution to this comes first. That said, let's just say that we want to spend some time following through on your thesis, what do we have to do to get started? I'm telling you now however that this isn't gonna find too much support outside of this Task Force. No one but no one in the DOD is gonna go for this at all. Let's make it look like we're still doin' what we're supposed to be doin' ". The Saturday morning atmosphere is bringing out Hillier's Arizona drawl.
"Everett, we are at opposite poles on this, I guess. I've spent my whole life in the belief in extra-terrestrial intelligence, life outside of our little solar system. I also have Christian beliefs, but I see no reason to limit God's work to what we perceive to be our Universe. It doesn't make any sense at all to me. Given that however, this problem we have just doesn't make sense in our little Universe either. This is beyond us, this technology, this stuff that we're dealing with here. We have to look at the possibilities. Let's give it a shot. We don't have much choice, as I see it. In any case, I have a draft plan already drawn up but I'm still working on details. Are you guys ready to listen to this? Maybe we can consolidate some of this right now, if you guys have some ideas".
Silence around the tables.
Dr Stone glances around, has everyone's attention. She continues
"First we need a lot more detail on what we have. Let's start at first base and assume that we have signals from a non-terrestrial source. Why can't we or haven't we picked them up here on Earth?, and before anyone says anything, let me run down the list, then we can get at some detail. Second, what is the damage potential of these signals, or the blockers that are being transmitted by the signals? We know that they are in many if not all of the latest Earth orbiting satellites, and we know that they get from up there to down here, and then into computers all around the world. So far we don't even know how that happens and we certainly can't stop it. We also know that we are just about to enter a satellite communication phase that will see hundreds of new sats in service over the next couple of years, and all of them with almost unlimited access to who knows how many communications customers. Already Iridium is up and running, and we will soon have Globalstar, DirecPC, Teledesic and who knows who else coming into service over the next few years. Couple that with data capable telephones and internet connected mobile telephones, there could be an immediate spread of the blockers into practically every data storage capability right around the world. And the indications are that the blockers are increasing in numbers with each new find we make, and who knows how many there will eventually be? We have to get some hold on this. I guess you'll want to get some kind of damage assessment study done,
Everett, but so far it looks like we could have a catastrophy in our communications systems world wide in a couple of years, if not earlier". Dr Stone picks up her coffee cup, sips. "Thirdly, where do the bubble events fit in? The specialists have arrived haven't they ? Or not yet? Anyway those guys have to get into action and tell us what we are dealing with. Next we still don't know what kind of signals these are. We have to do a lot more analysis on the stuff we have. I guess our priorities are like this. One; to find out what the signals are, I mean the stuff we've seen in graphic format so far, and if we can't do that let's get a team throwing around ideas of what this might be. Let's take some informed guesses and work from there out, but first let's really pull these pictures apart and see what we really have. This is your area Mary, and maybe Kim's team can help. I think the web site idea is great, that should get us a few crazy ideas but amongst them maybe a clincher. Two; let's work on why we cannot or have not detected these signals here on Earth. This is my area, with Grant maybe. Three; we have to find the link to the bubble events, whatever that might be. Mark, this is maybe your area when the specialists arrive. And I guess fourth and last is, how do we locate the source? Once we find out why we are not detecting the signals maybe we can find a way to do it. We know at least that they must be detectable in Earth orbit, maybe that's where we have to start. Max?"
"Yes, Avril, we can in fact do a lot more with what we have, we'll start to break these graphics apart and see what that brings, but I think that the form is telling us something that we didn't recognise yet. Maybe we can directly contact a few organisations that work with complex three dimensional mathematics as an extension to the web sites. Or as you say, maybe we have to make some guesses and work from there, but we need informed people in that science to even find a starting point to the guesswork".
Hillier joins in. "We should get Grant over here in on this too, where's he at? Hey Grant, come on over, we need you". Grant Wallace crosses the terrace, pulls up a chair, towelling himself down.
"Hi gang, this looks serious for a Saturday break day! What are you guys up to? Everett?"
"Grant, we're looking at Avril's hypothesis and at how we can follow through on her ideas. You and Avril look like getting the job of finding out why we can't detect these signals here on Earth".
"Hey, dead easy! We don't get ultra violet c down here due to absorption in the ozone layer, except where we have holes in the ozone layer that is, that could be one way. There are probably a few thousand wavelengths that we don't look for, for similar reasons. We can quickly get that stuff together, hey Avril?"
The discussions continue, the group is joined from time to time by the data analysis guys and Martin Amis from the Commsat Unit. The sun climbs higher, the heat too. Kim Featherston changes into her swim-wear, joins Sevi, Don and Crackers in the pool. Maria-José joins them, then Mary. At the tables, Hillier, more relaxed now, orders a Gin and Tonic, figuring that it's already past midday. Grant Wallace follows suit, they start into a heavy discussion on the merits of Australian and Californian wines. Ripley, Amis and Dr Stone explore their various ideas about life outside the solar system, while Paul Trimble, Max and Magic get into the benefits of ternary versus binary for computer processing. Laughter from the pool, Kim Featherston is into heavy flirting with Don, but not making much progress. Mary, on the other hand, is finding responses from both Crackers and Halverson. Speed and Panama join the groups in the pool, and immediately zero in on Maria-José, shining brown wet and definitely in the mood for something other than the dry and colourless atmosphere at the Commsat Unit. The smoke from the Club barbecue drifts across the pool, whetting apetites. Now the action changes, wet shining and sunburnt bodies climb out of the pool one after the other, towel down, change into track suits, or shorts and tee shirts. Kim Featherston, slim body still wet in her loosely tied robe, joins Hillier and Wallace at the table, orders a Cosmopolitan. Wallace sits up, aware suddenly that this lady is not only attractive, but also interested. Hillier, now slightly uncomfortable in the heat, orders another drink, asks the NSA waiter about lunch. "Thirty minutes Sir". The rest gravitate to tables according to their just discovered interests, Maria-José the big attraction at one, Mary Little at another. Dr Stone laughs with Ripley and Amis at the newly developing liaisons, but gets a sudden hollow feeling as she sees Kim Featherston and Grant Wallace deep into a laughing conversation. Hillier joins Dr Stone and the two men, Kim and Grant join Mary Little's group. Starters begin to arrive, with a Pinot Grigio, spring water and juices. Conversations are louder now, more laughter, jokes from the younger guys. The barbecued steaks are served, the laughter subsides into talk of steaks elsewhere experienced.
After lunch, Hillier announces a party for the evening, poolside, the groups find voice again and the laughter continues into the afternoon, until the heat and the alcohol take their tolls. Gradually the tables are emptied, everyone heads back to their bungalows. Siesta.
Later in the evening, Dr Stone walks alone into the garden, the pool party in full swing behind her. What the hell am I doing? So Grant and Kim have got something going? What has that to do with me? Nothing. But naturally it had something to do with her. In her past their were a couple of special men, but not special enough. Her work, her obsession, consumed all passion. No time, or was it no desire?, for more than short relationships. But now? Perhaps the passion was abating. But maybe not. This project - Hillier was suddenly there. "Hi Avril, enjoying the night?"
"My God, Everett, you startled me".
"It's OK, I guess I was day-dreaming. It's a lovely night".
"Yes it is. Want to talk?"
"Talk? Uh, I guess. What about? Aliens? Whether they exist or not?"
"No, not aliens. About you, what you do, and why".
"Everett, it's a long story. It's my whole life , you sure you want to go through this?" Hillier nods. "OK, since I was a kid, my Father believed. There has to be someone else out there, he said. It makes no sense otherwise. He was an amateur astronomer, a star-gazer. Then there were the UFO's, and Roswell. All nonsense, he said. Physical travel is absolutely impossible through the distances involved in space. It is simply too big for any kind of life-form to travel between the stars. But messages, that's possible. And that's where I'm at. I believe in this too, but not in UFO's or travel in space, it's just too huge for that, regardless of speed. But communication, that's another matter. We have this ability, and it seems probable to me that others must have it too, probably even higher abilities. What we have here is the very first real possibility that we are receiving a message from somewhere out there, and we have to find the source, and what the message is, not too mention that it's going to cause chaos here on Earth if we don't find a way to stop it, or at least control it".
"Avril, I can't find a way to support you in this, not personally. I simply don't believe in it. I do have to find a solution to this problem however, so let's have a plan of action as soon as you can get it together".
"Sure, I'm on it. But Everett, why is this possibility so hard to accept? You can't possibly believe that we're alone in the Universe?, or do you?"
"Lady, my family is southern states Baptist from way back and although I'm not saying I'm radical, there are just certain standards of belief that I'm convinced about, my wife too. She's Italian and very catholic, we both agree on this, we are God's Children for goodness sake, He created the Earth for us, He created us and all the animals, this, we are His work!, and let me tell you this, if there is an intelligence out there, then that has got to be the work of the Devil, Satan's work! Believe me; and this is what I'm really afraid of here, we may be opening up a whole Pandora's Box of the Devil's work! Don't you see that? Godalmighty, we may be dealing with Armaggedon here, and that's the only reason I'm going along with this theory of yours. If you're right, and if this is extra-terrestrial, then Goddammit we have gotta stop this and find a way to protect ourselves, and we're gonna need God's help in this, of that I'm sure!"
"OK Everett, I respect your standpoint, which means that I get your full support? We're going to have problems convincing the DOD to do whatever is going to be necessary if you're not behind us one hundred percent, if we're right".
"I'll support you, Avril, but be sure we're dealing with the Devil here, don't take it lightly. Let's get back to the others, I need another drink. How about you?"
Back on the Club terrace, the younger people were in control of the music, and a latin beat had everyone on the floor, glowing, laughing. Hillier joined Max indoors at the bar where ceiling fans boosted the effects of the airconditioning. Mary and Crackers came in from the terrace, sweating, laughing, ordered Pina Coladas and joined Halverson and Wally at a table, more laughter. On the terrace, Kim was dancing with Don and Sevi, but soon broke off and joined Grant at a table by the pool. Maria-Josè had Speed and Panama in a three way Salsa while Magic and Trimble looked on, clapping and shouting encouragement. The rest of the guys were in the pool, Algebra calling to Avril Stone to join them. Well that's gotta be better than watching Kim and Grant. Shit, what's wrong with me? She takes off her bathrobe and dives in.
Monday March 08
Bungalow No. 4. Grant Wallace falls out of bed just as the hot early morning sun begins to reflect through the windows from the terrace. Shadows dapple the wall to the bathroom. Long Island Iced Tea and lots of garlic in the Tzaziki have left his head and the inside of his mouth in fairly lousy shape. The sound of water, a shower running, shit did I leave that on all night? Whoops, somebody’s using my shower. Wallace, where are you?, and where are my shorts? Louder. "Er, how’re yadoin in there?" And not so loud who the hell is that? The tall silhouette of Kim Featherston moves behind the glass shower screen, reaching for a towel. Steps out. Smiling. "Hi Grant, how are you feeling?"
"Er, Kim, good morning, you’re up early. Me, I’m fine. That’s not true, I feel really crappy. What’d you do to me last night?"
"Oh, you did it all to yourself all alone, lover. Single handed. You ought to know about long island ice tea" - laughing - "you know you danced through the lawn sprinklers looking for your shoes. And they were on your feet! Oh boy, I guess you’ve got quite a head. I’ve ordered breakfast for us both, It should be here just about now".
"Kim, what’re you doing here? I mean, what happened?"
"You don’t remember? I can believe it! It’s OK, we had a great time! I think the neighbors got a bit browned off however, you made quite a racket! Who are your neighbors on that side? Max and a couple of the DA guys? No sense of humor at all. Forget it we had a great time, everybody else too I guess. Some Saturday night and Sunday morning!, except it included Sunday night too. Drink some water, here’s an alkaseltzer, that’ll help. C’mon here’s breakfast. Shower and come out on the terrace".
Wallace shows signs of recovering after their breakfast. "Hey that did some good. Time to get to the Center, we start on Avril's operational plan this morning I guess. What are you doing? Working with Mary on the data breakdown? Oh, yeah. And I'm with Avril. Looking for undetected signals. Extra-terrestrial. Well, why not? What did everyone else get up to yesterday? I don't remember a hell of a lot at all. Do I remember Ev Hillier getting really soused? Hey what a character. Good that he's got a great sense of humor!"
"C'mon, let's go Grant. You'll hear all about it I'm sure from the guys in the Center".
0930 hrs. Task Force Center.
Grouped outside DA Unit six, Mary and Max were distributing work plans to Kim who passed them on to Sevi, Speed and Magic. The rest of Kim's team were already working on further hard disc analysis and decoding using the Magic formula, plus dot minus.
Kim Featherston takes control. "This is the plan. We have five major identifiables in each data stream, and at least three groups of data streams, but we work on the first only for the time being. Mary and I will start on the first, the bit that looks like a seismograph output. Algebra and Speed work on the first spike, Magic and Sevi on the main trihelion section. The second spike can wait until we've done the first, and the last section will be taken care of once we have the first broken down. We need to get inside the information we can see. How ever. Let's get to it".
"Kim, Panama has the clustered computers with the Beowulf beta version. We should get him to set up another cluster, can we do that?"
"OK Magic, get him on to it. Max, we can use the computers in number five unit for that?"
"Sure, five is free. We're in number six".
1530 hrs. DA Unit four.
"Hey Al, Speed, howsit goin' you guys?" Algebra looks up from his screen. "Hi Dr Stone, hey I think we got somethin here just now. Look at this, we've been constructing some virtual reality here, converting the spike here to a virtual radio frequency signal and this spike looks like it's made up of two separate and distinct frequencies in the spectrum, look this bit is around 330 megaherz and the taller part around 1420 megaherz. Does that tell you anything Dr Stone? I mean this is just trying stuff out and maybe we dont have spit here? Whadaya think?"
"It looks familiar Al, but nothing springs to mind. Give me that stuff again, I'll check it out with Grant".
1533 hrs. GS unit.
"Grant, this looks familiar but I can't think why. Algebra and Speed have got the spike data into some kind of virtual radio astronomy frequency chart and converted that into spectral lines. What does the spectral line 330 megaherz mean to you? And 1420?"
"Avril, 330 doesn't say much but 1420 does, that's the spectral line for hydrogen!, just about anyway if my memory is up to it. Do we have that exactly? Wait, let me check 330. Wait wait wait OK here we are, well 330 nothing direct but if its 327.3840 then that's deuterium. Megaherz right, not kiloherz? Yep, and look at this, 1420.4060 is hydrogen. Deuterium and Hydrogen! Hot Shit! Avril, this is really something, these are the first two lines on any school-kids radio astronomy spectrum! You know what that means ?, but wait before we jump the gun here let's get Al and Speed to give us this as accurate as they can".
They step across to Al's workstation, show him the numbers.
"Well we're working only in a virtual simulation here Grant, but that peak at the front side of the spike says well maybe a bit below 330 megaherz, and the other, still looks like 1420 to me. We can't get anything more accurate. What's the deal? Is this something you guys can work with?"
"Mate, this is significant stuff. You know what I think this is? I think this is a kind of beacon, probably for its own locational purposes. Say like a marker that tells the rest of the data stream when to open up or do whatever. It is almost certain not to have any disturbing frequencies upsetting the signals and you know why? Here on Earth at least the radio frequencies around these two specific frequencies are protected, that is not allocated for any kind of radio transmissions here on Earth so that there can be no distortion caused by harmonics and band edge disturbances. This is important for radio astronomy, they need to know that when they see these spectral lines in any radio astronomical observations of a star or galaxy for instance that they aren't getting some kind of local disturbance. Clever shit! Well whoever put this together knows his stuff I guess".
Dr Stone breaks in. "Grant, these are just two of about seventy protected band widths. They could choose any one of these. Why these two? What if they chose these because they are the first two elements? Or maybe because hydrogen is the basic element of the universe after helium? This could be a beacon of another sort; a beacon to tell us that they know what's going on out there in space, in the universe. These are basic building blocks to all that's going on in the universe! Am I not right in this? If you wanted to tell someone out there that your up to speed on universal knowledge, I mean knowing about the Universe, wouldn't you let them know that you know about hydrogen? You know what I think? I guess if you guys can do the same analysis on the second spike you'll find something that is equally as significant, like whatever is at the other end of the spectrum, what is that, carbon? Al, you and Speed get on to that other spike right now. Let's go see".
1947 hrs. DA Unit four.
Al, visibly excited, says "Speed, go get Dr Stone and Grant. This second spike has got two frequencies as well, 490 gigaherz and 810 gigaherz. Well, thereabouts anyway".
"Dr Stone, we got the second spike spectral lines, two of them again, but a lot different to the first, way up in the gigaherz lines".
"Hey, OK. Great work, what are they? OK, let's see what these are. Wait, here we are: Bingo. Fellas, this is it. We are really on the right track here. Grant, hey Grant, get here and look at this. The second spike. Around 490 and 810 gigaherz; 492.162 is in the protected band 491.66 to 492.66 and that's carbon. Whadid I tell you-all! And 810, or 809.350, that's the last on the protected band list from 808.54 to 810.16, that's carbon too. Bingo bingo bingo. Jackpot. What does carbon tell us? Organic life structures? Or is it just because it's the last on the list? Whatever, this is a beacon. Are we dealing with an intelligence out there or what? I'll bet my boots on it. Grant?"
"Well we got intelligence somewhere, doctor lady! You're on the ball so far. What about Max and Mary?, and the others, Sevi and Magic. Let's see what they've got. Great work guys, why don't you get this onto discs and we'll get this up on the conference screens, tonight? No, OK, tomorrow a.m. Early. I'll get Mark to get everyone here".
DA Unit six.
"Mary, what've you guys got?"
"Hi Grant, Avril. Well, nothing definite. The front data section has no three dimensional elements at all whichever way we turn it, and we don't get much sense out of using Al's simulation. As a two dimensional representation it looks a lot like a sequencer instruction set, the kind of thing used to program the operating sequences of a satellite, and even used today instead of computer set instructions, because it's straight forward and doesn't take up any on-board data storage. We guess these are set instructions that maybe identify some instance then set in operation a chain of further instructions. What they might be however is not at all clear. There is no information at all that we can really decipher. We've been throwing a few ideas around however, how does this sound to you guys? Listen up ...". Mary gets her notes together, flips the pages into some sort of order. "We know that this instruction set as we call it is the first data that arrives at the satellite. Maybe the very first bit is some kind of compatibility testing set that identifies whether or not the data stream can land. It looks for a receiver that it can lock on to. Wait for it, hear it through, eh? So it does that, it finds one of our more recent satellites with high freqency settings and lands the next instruction set. This instruction set may be some kind of interrogator to find out what sort of technology is available, or what kind of receiver this is. It does that, which may have something to do with frequency selection. If I was doing this I would have the data carried on a few different frequencies and when the interrogator set tells me which frequency is compatible the data stream self-selects and drops the correct or compatible stream into place. This then sets up space say for the next set and so on, till the spike lands. As you already suggested Avril, the spike is a very clear frequency and probably has to do with letting the main data set land, and so on. That bit about the spike could naturally be also as you suggest, just a beacon for us or whoever gets to decipher this stuff, but we guess that they would not use it just for that. We haven't done the end section yet, but already we guess that there is a similar purpose there. That is, we guess it has to do with whether there is space available for one thing, for more data, and if no then nothing else lands. If yes, then the next phase gets into the act and so on. We think that this last section also probably has some kind of signal transmission detection set that enables the whole lot to attach itself to any other let's say normal data that is sent from the satellite to a ground station". She takes a page out of the printer.
"OK so far. Now we get to what sounds like real science fiction, and may seem way out but we have reasons for this, just wait a little. We also think that this last section may have another kind of detection set that enables this data group to connect with other data groups and possibly exchange information. OK that does sound far-fetched, but here's the reason, we have very similar data sets at the end sections of the second data group where there are two blockers on a disc, and similarly at the end section of the third data group where there are three blockers on a disc. We didn't get to the fourth blocker yet but we guess it's the same. OK, now you'll say this is really speculation, but something like this already exists, right here on Earth. Bluetooth works just like this. Grant has several items with Bluetooth on board over in the GS Unit . This is the system whereby for example all of the electronic equipment in your home can be inter-connected, not by wires but wireless, so that your washing machine for example detects that you have a refrigerator which compiles the shopping list, and the washing machine sends a signal to the refrigerator that more detergent is needed, and the refrigerator which has a similar detector-transceiver accepts the data from the washing machine that it needs more detergent so that gets added to your shopping list which gets transmitted to your home computer or some hosting device that sends that information to an on-line company like WebVan which gets all your stuff together and delivers it to your door next day. This exists and this here could be the same system, I mean work on the same basis. Why not? Something has to explain how these data streams move around and this theory at least would explain the instruction sets involved. Naturally it doesn't explain the mechanics of the movements".
"Whoof! ... that's some theory, Mary. Max, this is what you see also?"
"Certainly is. These start and end sections are totally different to the main section which is three dimensional mathematics. As Mary says this stuff is much simpler and almost certainly basic instruction sets. The logic is that something like this theory must exist here for the data streams to land and retransmit. We can't think of any other purpose. How it happens is however a complete unknown. No theories at all. And this doesn't help us with the main data stream either, and Sevi and Algebra haven't made too much progress so far".
"Mary, if I got this right, you're saying that these data sets can communicate with each other?"
"Avril, we're supposing just that. We can't prove it however".
"OK let's take that as you say. If this is the case, don't we then have a situation where hundreds if not thousands of computers can communicate with each other and exchange data, in effect gather all the information together and do who knows what with it?"
Mary's response is guarded, professionalism over-riding enthusiasm. "I don't think we're so far along that road, Avril, at least not yet. Well maybe. What we do not know is how this data gets around, I mean the mechanics. We don't know for sure if what we are seeing in the hard discs we've so far analysed comes from satellites or from other computers. Most of it seems to be from satellites and some of it seems to come via modem connections to computers that have been blocked by satellites. Direct computer to computer transfer hasn't been established. Grant, you've done the network tests, any indications there?"
"Now that you mention it, Mary, there sure could be. Our simulation kept each of the test computers separated but everything ended up with blockers. We supposed that this occurred through the data transfer means that we used but there's nothing to say that the transfer didn't happen direct. In fact when the transfer occurred across firewalls and other transmission barriers, it must have been some kind of direct computer to computer transmission. Maybe there's a distance barrier? Certainly the computers in these shielded units here have not been directly affected by what we were doing, at least in Unit one. Avril, where does this lead us?"
"I need to digest this a little. I think it leads us right into the deep dark and smelly stuff, if you know what I mean. Maybe we need more information about the main data string. Let's wait until tomorrow and maybe the guys have something more for us".
Tuesday March 09
0825 hrs. Conference Center. Everett Hillier at the podium. Al and Speed have just given a summary of their findings.
"Thanks Al, thanks Speed, great work. Grant, from what you say the beacons are a clear indication that we have some pretty clever people to deal with, but we have to find out how these data streams are getting around. Mary's theory is I guess one that we have to think more about. It sounds logical and this is just the kind of thinking processes we need. I want to get Martin Amis's people in on that, to see if they can come up with an alternative thesis. Magic and Sevi are still working on the main data group and we have to wait and see what that brings. Meanwhile Don and Paul tell us that they are getting more hard discs in with a fourth blocker group, and Paul's web site is starting to get some responses on the trihelion information we've posted. There are some interesting reactions but only two seem to be helpful. The first is that we had a call from a guy who is heading a large US Government sponsored research program in genetic structures, the Genome Project, and he wants to visit with us and get a closer look at what we are doing before he can say much more. He has been cleared by the DOD to visit and should arrive tomorrow morning. He has also advised some buddies of his in the same research fields in private industry, and one of these guys has also called. He has looked at the site and thinks we have some important stuff here. He also wants to visit and is currently being cleared. He could also be here tomorrow. Maybe we are going to get a break here. I hope so anyway. You will all be advised as soon as we have some arrival times".
1130 hrs. Unit five.
"Sevi ma man, yo wanna look at what ah have here just now? Yo idee is right on the ball, man. The main spirals aint just simple spirals, as yo say theys too much data there to generate just that what we seein. Ah took a portion o that data, see this here, and scaled her up as far as she would go, and lookie here what we has, we has another spiral inside the main spiral. Aint that cool stuff! Ah only looked at one of the three spirals but ah bet yo boots they all the same. This is maybe the most e-ffic-cie-ent data storage method ah ever seen, beats our zip software ba miles, man. We gotta get our hands on this cool stuff!!!"
"Holiness! Magic. Dead cool Señor. Intense. They have all this data in that little bit of curve there? Shee-it. I'll go get Max and Mary, they'll just love this. Hey, I'll get the lovely Señora Avril too".
Sevi at the podium. "OK folks, listen up. This is what we have in a short section of one of the spirals in the trihelion and it's probably in all the spirals, we aint that far along yet. Look at this here, it's a tiny spiral of compressed data inside the main spiral, can you believe that? It aint no regular spiral as you can see, it's more like the data streams at the start and end sections with changes in height or spiral diameter, but it is in a spiral format. Very compact, very smart. Whoever put this together knows how to write software I tell you. This is hot stuff. This aint just efficient man, this is like state of the art, fantastic!"
Dr Stone looks around for a response, but takes the cue. "Thanks Sevi, and Magic, great work. Max, does this tell you anything? Can we do anything with this?"
"Avril, it certainly tells us exactly what Sevi just said, this is brilliant stuff. I have to think about how this might have been constructed. This is some kind of encapsulated subcarrier modulation using some very sophisticated three-d math. I never saw anything like this ever. To get this I guess they take straight data and modulate that on to a spiral form. How? No idea. Or even if it's possible. Then they take this data spiral and modulate that onto a much larger and regular spiral format. Wow, some kind of brilliant work. We have to work on this. Sevi, Magic, can you tell whether the compressed spiral forms are just a single spiral or are they also three spirals like the main spiral structure?"
"Max, no we can't. I guess we have to find an end or something like a break somewhere to find that. Or maybe we can break this section out and throw it into the three-d math programs you have. May be that the Maple software can handle it, we'll try".
"Thanks Sevi, my bet is that it is another trihelion format. If so this is your trichotomy theory to the nth degree Magic. See what you can do with Maple and let's cut some CDs for a conference display. Everyone has to look at this, great and terrifically interesting stuff! Avril, will you let the others know? And by the way did you give some more thought to Mary's hypothesis? We've been kicking variations around but still can't find a better explanation".
"I sure have Max but it needs more time. I get only horror scenarios so far and I need to center myself back to logical effects if I can before I open my big mouth again! And this stuff from Sevi and Magic is way over the top. We have to find out what kind of purpose this stuff has. But how? Well, I'll get the others informed and set up a show for tomorrow morning again. Everett's special visitors are probably going to be here too, do we want to show them this stuff? I'll clear that with Everett as well".
In the hall. Paul Trimble runs to catch Dr Stone on the way out.
"Dr Stone, we've got something else for you to tell the boss about, look at this, we were playing around with the low frequency data that came out of the second commsat tests at the weekend, and look what we found. This is not just background noise, this has a similar format as the start and end sections in each data group, I mean it is data. Data on a wavelength that's huge! I mean it corresponds to a frequency of about three hundred cycles per second, or herz. We can't measure it exactly because there isn't enough of it, but that's about where it is. And that's not all. This curve looks like its carrying other data, maybe like the stuff Sevi and Algebra found this morning, you know, compressed inside. I'm just on my way over to Sevi and Magic to get them to run whatever they have over this string to see what they can pull out. Cool huh?"
"Paul, you mean this is another form of blocker?"
"No, not at all. I mean it takes up space but its not blocking anything, we dont find it in any of the ground discs, only on the commsat discs from the second commsat tests. Maybe it removes itself or something. In any case it doesn't seem to get transmitted to ground".
"OK Paul, I'm on my way to Ev Hillier's office to set up another conference for tomorrow, see if you can have that clear by the morning eh?"
1620 hrs. GS Unit.
Grant Wallace at the door calls to Dr Stone as she passes. "Hi Avril, can we finish this study on what we can and can't pickup with our Earth based observatories and watching stations? We should try and get it done for the meeting tomorrow".
Dr Stone, preoccupied, snaps out, blushes, stops. "Hi Grant, sorry , what did you say? The study? Sure". Recovering composure, she tugs at her overall front. "Boy has this been a day! I guess you've seen what Sevi and Magic have, and Paul's just found that the low frequency anomalies also might play a role in this whole thing. He's over with Sevi and Magic still I guess. Where are we at?"
"C'mon in. Let's start at the bottom again. Low frequency detection. We've checked all we can here, and according to what we've read including the work of Professor Fraser-Smith at Stanford, there seems to be no Earth based antennae tuned to receive very low frequencies from space as such. The work that's being done here has mostly to do with electromagnetic variations and other phenomena on and below the Earth's surface, in the atmosphere, in the ionosphere, the magnetosphere, and to a small extent in interplanetary space. The US Navy uses low frequency communication underwater for its submarine fleet, in fact there's one of those stations in Western Australia, but it has no spacially directed antennae. The most of the low frequency work is used to detect low frequency pollution, also for earthquake forecasting among other things, and for some experimental work in low frequency communications. There's a terrific amount of electromagnetic noise to contend with, and the solar wind's effects on the Earth's magnetic field, even those, er, what are they called?, plasma effects caused by lightning in the atmosphere. There was an attempt in 1992 and again in 1996 to use tethered satellites to generate low frequency power by stringing a cable across a few kilometers of space to capture power from the solar wind, but nothing much came of it. RF generation but no RF detection work at least. In short, the amount of electromagnetic interference here on Earth practically rules out any detection anyway. We then have a string of frequencies that are the radio wavelengths as we know them, AM, SW and so on, all Earth bound. Then we have the high frequency stuff, which is what we use for say television, satellite communications and such. Then comes infrared, our sunlight, the visible light frequencies, and UVA and UVB. All of these have heaps of detection facilities ranging from radio frequencies through to the deep space facilities like Arecibo and so on, and are measured in some form or other. Then comes UVC which gets stopped at the ozone layer, then xrays. Xrays and infrared have special purpose orbiting observatories for measuring deep space radiation in these wavelengths. It looks like we're left with the very low frequencies and ultraviolet C. I can't imagine that anyone would think of using either of these. Very low frequencies in space are essentially unheard of, although that's maybe because no one is really looking for them, and UVC must require enormous power to generate, like the sun for instance, and I guess if you tried to use it as a data transmitter it would get interference from not just the sun but also from any stars anywhere around. It could be that the transmissions are simply being made on such a narrow wavelength band that although we could detect them we would have to be tuned to the exact wavelength. And there are millions of them. Where do we go from here?"
"Grant, Paul's just done this analysis on the low frequency anomalies from the commsat test at the weekend. He thinks it plays a role and he and Sevi and Magic are trying to break the info they have right now. This low frequency transmission stops at the satellites, it doesn't get re-sent with the blocker data streams down to ground based receivers. I think the answer is probably right there. Let's see what they come up with, and let's get this report down on paper for everyone else".
Wednesday March 10
1035 hrs. Main Security Gate.
The doors on both sides of the beige DSO Ford Explorer open. John Craig, President of Genetic Research Incorporated steps out on the left side, Professor Henry Edwards, chief of research at the US Government funded Human Genome Project from the right.
"Good morning gentlemen, I'm Everett Hillier, DSO. We have your security clearances, welcome to DSO Task Force Chandler. We'll drive through to the Task Force Center, it's too hot already to walk".
John Craig, sweaty and rumpled but obviously dynamic, successful, looks around, unfamiliar with the desert and hot dry conditions. "I'd rather walk if that's OK with you guys, it's a long flight down from Seattle and I need some fresh air. Quite an establishment you have here, Mr Hillier".
"Yes John, and why not? Let's walk. And call me Everett. And you Henry?"
"Sure, OK by me, I got in to Phoenix last night and I'm feelin' great. I have to get down here more often, great golf, I hear. John, what about a round of golf when we're done here?"
"OK for you guys in Washington, I have things to do ol' buddy. Thanks anyway".
"Let's talk about this project Everett, what exactly is it you guys are working on?"
"John, I'm not cleared to give you all the details. What I can say is this. Some months ago we intercepted some strange transmissions which at first were completely indecipherable, so we set up this task force to work on that. We figured maybe we had some kind of national security problem. We've been able to break down a lot of the coded information, and some of it we have converted to graphic format, that's the stuff or at least a part of it that you saw on the web site. We have all kinds of expertise active here, but we still do not know what this is. This is where you fellas come in".
"Hey nice reception area. And that's more like it, some palm trees and green stuff. I feel cooler already. How long have you guys been active here? That your research center there?"
"Yes it is, but OK let me give you a quick run down. That's the research center, completely clean and we'll ask you to change in there and leave everything you're carrying in the security lockers. Over here to the right are our bungalows, and I've set up a couple of guest rooms for you, to stay over. That in the middle there is our Oasis, the Club. There's a pool behind. No golf course however. We have a conference set up to show you both what we have as soon as you get settled. You'll get a brief summary of where we're at and some details of how we got there. Then we let you guys work with whoever you need for as long as you need to help us get to the bottom of this. Yes Henry?"
"Everett, I have to say this now, you have to tell me how much intellectual security you have here, because John and I both agree that what we have seen so far looks a lot like the stuff we have been working on for years, but may even be more advanced than our research".
"Henry, everyone is under top security oath, and it stays that way. These people are with us for a while and nothing gets out unless I say so. On the other hand, what you are going to see here is also top secret for us and this stuff can in no way be used by either of you or your corporations, ever. No deals, nothing. We just need your knowhow to find out what it is we are dealing with here, and then we have to find a way to control it. Clear huh?"
Midday. Conference Center. Hillier guides the two newcomers into the hall.
"People, our guests are John Craig and Henry Edwards, maybe you've heard of these gentlemen, both leaders in research on the human genetic code. Some task. Maybe even more difficult than what we are trying to do here. Gentlemen, you will be briefed by our team leaders Dr Avril Stone, Grant Wallace, Kim Featherston and Mary Little".
The teams settle with John Craig and Henry Edwards and work out a program of briefings.
Professor Henry Edwards at the podium. "Ladies and Gentlemen, what we've seen does indeed have a striking resemblance to the basic research upon which both the organisations of John Craig and myself are working. That is, the human genetic code structure, or at least the part of it that we see in our analysis of the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. What you have however is not DNA as we know it, but it could be related. You have a triple helix structure, where DNA is a double helix with cross links, like a twisted or helical ladder. What is common to both is that these structures are extremely efficient data storage structures where biological information exchange between the various information centers can be carried out more or less instantaneously. The trihelion you have is probably even more efficient than our DNA, it has the third spiral and therefore probably up to four times the information storage capacity. What we are looking at in the graphics you have so far produced is however probably only the tiniest fraction of a genetic string, part of a stem cell, assuming that it is some kind of genetic code. If there is a resemblance to our DNA, or if this is some mutation of our DNA, then you are in reality dealing with a structure that is many millions of times larger than what we see here. The data strings at the front and back ends of your data groups are not known to us and our DNA does not have a related data set. I don't think we can say any more than that. We would very much like to get our hands on your source material. It could have some importance to our work, however I understand that that is not possible, but when you get around to commercialising this, get in touch. We have the contacts to help you there! I'm sure my friend John Craig would like to add something here? Thanks, people, for allowing me the pleasure of working with you".
John Craig steps up to the podium. "Thanks Henry, and hi people, interesting work you have here. I agree with Henry. What you have looks like it might be a mutation of DNA, but I seriously doubt that it can be. Our organisation has investigated many thousands of genetic structures on a very wide range of life forms, and nowhere have we ever come across anything that even remotely resembles this. In short, I don't think this is biological at all. I think you have to go back to your own preliminary hypotheses, that this is some kind of extremely fascinating and complex method of data storage, using immensely complex mathematical structures to get it into the form it's in. Taking this idea a little further, I can imagine that a group of very clever people have had something to do with DNA research over quite a period of time and have decided to develop highly efficient non-biological data storage systems based upon the biological DNA structure and have replicated the DNA structure and improved upon it's efficiency by adding a third leg to the ladder, the third spiral. My hat off to these guys whoever they are, they have built something here that we have only dreamed about. When you find them Everett, put them in touch with us, we can do a deal! This will revolutionise data storage techniques and change the face of the digital world forever. In fact what might help is that we know of a company that's developing some powerful systems that're especially good at code breaking. We use their genomics accelerator machines in breaking down genetic codes, specially for identifying similar genetic sequences, and maybe they could help in busting this stuff open. If you can identify similar instruction sequences you may get to the point of identifying the function of one and from there move on to crack the rest".
Hillier moves up to the podium. "Well what can I say. Could this be a genetic code? Or as John says a highly developed data storage system? How do we find out? We have to get to the source I guess. Thanks John, thanks Henry. Let's take a break for dinner, people. I'm sure that Mary, Max and Dr Stone would like to get with you guys to cover these ideas in some detail. You'll be staying the night, I'll get things organised for you. I'd very much like to get some way of finding out if this is as Henry says, that is a modified genetic code structure, or if it is as John says, complex math based data storage. Can we work on that?"
2100 hrs. The Club.
Still hot, a typical Arizona evening, clear star filled sky. Most of the team are outside at tables around the pool, digesting not only the barbecued Arizona spare ribs with chili sauce, but also the further discussions in between about complex mathematical forms and the DNA possibilities of their project. Max and Mary are in close conversation with Henry Edwards and John Craig. Grant, Everett and Avril Stone are in a more animated argument. Someone turned the external lighting down, the glow of the illuminated pool reflecting on the faces nearer to the pool. At the table with Max, Mary, and the two genetics specialists, Henry is talking. "Look, if it's a DNA type structure, there is a difference between having the real thing in front of you, that is something wet and messy, and a dry mathematical representation of the wet structure. What you have is not the real thing. This has to be purely a mathematical representation. The level of detail it gets into is only up to the level of information programmed in. We can't tell from this if it's a representation of a wet structure or not. It could be, but on the other hand it may not be. There is no deeper detail of the molecular structures or peptides or any of the details you would expect to find in a wet lab anylysis of DNA or any part of a DNA string. You have to find the people who put this together and get at their source material".
John Craig comments further. "Henry's right folks, we can hypothesise, but we can't prove. You need to look at the source material and look at how far they have it detailed. If it's not a DNA representation or a variation, by that I mean if it is pure math and a new kind of data storage, you can find that out straight away. Either way it seems to us to be ground breaking stuff, you've got to get at the source".
At the next table but one, Avril is chatting to Hillier. "Everett, but what if they are both correct? Or half way so? What if this is some kind of genetic structure and what if this is just a stem cell, with perhaps millions more still to come? Can you imagine what kind of disaster that's going to lead to? That is, if the spread of blockers keeps going as it is, ever more of them in even more computers? There's not going to be an operational computer anywhere on Earth; and that doesn't just mean going back to the dark ages pre computer, say 1970 or so. It means the collapse of every advanced civilisation. There is nothing in the advanced world that doesn't depend on computerisation these days. We have to find a way to stop this, or at least control it, and to do that we have to find out where it's coming from and how it's getting into our satellites!"
Max joins the group, pulls up a chair. "Everett, our DNA friends Henry and John can't differentiate this one way or the other and neither can we. We have to get at the source. We have to find where this is coming from and get to the people who put this together. Although we haven't shown these guys the deeper level of detail we have, that is the spirals of data within the main triple spirals, it's clear that this is still data, not any kind of representation of molecular structures as they would expect it to be. Maybe we should show them this extra detail and see what they conclude. If they conclude as I think they will, then we can be pretty sure we are dealing with a complex math structure that probably doesn't have anything at all to do with a life form as such, but that this is in reality modern technology learning from biology. That in itself is a huge step forward".
"OK Max, I hear you. Show them the extra detail tomorrow first thing. Avril, Grant, you guys know what we can receive here on Earth, lets find a way to source these signals. I'm hitting the sack. Let's get a real early start tomorrow, and let's get the results of Magic's formula on Paul's low frequency anomalies".
Thursday March 11
0730 hrs. Breakfast at The Club.
"'morning Paul, fellas, you're on deck early". Hillier approaches the table where Paul Trimble, Magic, Sevi and Crackers are well into oatmeal, orange juice and coffee. Hillier pulls up a chair. "Mind if I join you guys? Paul, how's it going with the LF anomaly?"
Paul Trimble swallows a mouthful, says excuse me and goes on. "Just talking about it Mr H, we reckon by mid morning. But up to last night, no luck. We had to do a few more extrapolations on this set, it isn't the same as the other stuff as we thought. More compact".
"OK fine, let me know. Listen, I want you guys to try a few more things. If I got this whole thing clear so far, we have opened up the data strings to something we can work with right? Why don't we really work this stuff? What happens if we change some of the data and plug the changes back into the main data sets? Could this be a way for us to control this stuff? Can we modify it's behaviour sufficiently to chop out some of its , let's say, operational characteristics?"
Magic snaps his fingers. "Hey maybe yo right Mr H, maybe we can do just that. Yo wanna stop this thing spreadin' right? Hey guys, we can do that huh?"
Sevi chips in. "Sure we can try it. We'll
give it our best shot Mr H, straight after we have these results for you".
Hillier continues. "And somethin' else. You guys work with finding ways into other peoples computers, right? And we have things like cookies, right? And cookies go into host computers and collect some data then send that back to whoever's using the data, right? And this data tells the cookie sender something about the host right? Can you guys work out a cookie and whatever else is needed that we can put on to a satellite that will automatically get sent to whoever is transmitting these blockers, so that we can collect this kind of host data?"
Sevi again. "That's a different can of worms Mr H, cookies and in fact most system penetrations, viruses and the like need to go with a message that's being transmitted to a host. In other words the host has requested something and the cookie as you call it then gets attached to the message fulfilling the request. And direct hacking aint gonna help neither. There has to be some kind of indication where the host is, through a telephone or email address, its own server address, whatever. We need a start point. Here we aint got spit. But, let's think about that Mr H. We'll get back to you later eh?"
Paul Trimble leaves unit four, heads towards the far end of the center, passes the conference area to his left. "Hey Mr Ripley, good morning sir, you seen Mr Hillier?"
"Sure Paul, you'll find him in the canteen with Dr Stone, I just left them there a minute ago".
"OK thanks". At the Canteen, Trimble walks across to the table of Dr Stone and Everett Hillier. "Good morning Dr Stone. Hey Mr H, we have your test results, sorry to say we can't help too much at all. We have a scaling problem. Look, here's some diagrams we printed. Here's the original LF data segment, looks fuzzy, what looks like a lot of background noise and distortion. We can mathematically detect a very slight curve in the graphic, which we guess means it's a very long wave VLF signal. How long, we can't tell, there isn't enough to extrapolate. So we blow it up, and you can see that the fuzziness is definitely related to the main curve, that makes us think that the main curve is a data carrier and that the sub data is compressed, like in the interior spirals. Well, it may be, but no matter how far we bring this up we don't get no closer, and we have limits. The noise is just too much and every attempt to clean it up bombs out. No info. Sorry. If you want our best guess however, this VLF frequency is carrying data, and it may be the data that we eventually see in the blockers, but it's just a guess. It may also be somethin' else entirely, we can't find any points of relationship to anything else we have. Crackers and Don have run it through the cluster and both batch comparison programs, nothing. On that other thing you requested Mr H, Panama, Speed and Halvorsen are working on code modification. We've taken a typical disc set which we guess we can sacrifice if it doesn't work, should have some information this afternoon".
"Dammit. OK Paul, thanks. Keep us advised. Avril, no help there I guess. It's up to you and Grant to find out how this stuff lands. How's that doing?"
"Nothing straightforward Everett, we guess we can narrow the search down to two bands of transmission possibilities, uvc and low frequency, neither of which has very much in the way of Earth bound detection directed to outer space. Or, this comes in on a very specific wavelength with little divergence, which means we may have the detection possibilities already working in the broad band width but we are missing this because it's not really what that particular band width search is looking for. The orbiting observatories in xrays and infra-red haven't picked this up, so we guess we have to set up another orbiting detection system, maybe fairly specific in the ultraviolet c area and in the low frequency bands. We're discussing some options with people at Stanford and Goddard, we'll have a recommendation later in the day".
1000 hrs. Conference Center.
Max at the podium. "John, Henry, these are graphics that we have just developed that show us considerably more detail in the main spirals of our trihelion, the triple helix. We took a section of one of the spirals and expanded the detail as far as we can go. This is what we get".
Henry responds first. "That looks like a data set inside the main spiral!"
"Exactly. And we've just been able to confirm that this data set has the same spiral format as the host spiral, look, here's a three-d image. This time however the spiral is not regular, it's radius is continuously varying, and with an extremely tight period between peaks or cycles".
John Craig looks at Henry, who nods. "That confirms one thing Max, you don't have a DNA here, you have an extremely advanced development in data storage. Man that's really something. Can you guys figure out yet just how much data is in these sets? I mean what does this all look like in terms of compressed data volumes compared to the volumes taken up on the hard discs?"
"We do have an idea. The plus dot minus data set in this little segment is only about three thousand characters, or bits, but we guess that there is already a form of compression formulation inside those three thousand bits because the math program we have says that that little spiral set there has or needs about thirty thousand bits in separate instructions to form it. And, we suppose, the same data set must somehow carry the instructions for the carrier spiral, or at least contain links to that instruction set. Very clever stuff indeed. Looked at as a whole, the two megabytes or so in each data group may represent up to about one thousand times more information than we can directly see".
Craig again. "Holy shit, man. How do they do that? That beats winzip by a power or three! Get to the source, man. We gotta get this stuff localised! Listen, we got lots of technology and knowhow, let me know what you need to get this done. This is power programming that we can use!" Henry adds "Same for us, Max, we'll put whatever resources we have into this as you need it. Just call".
"Fellas, if you have anyone who knows how to write three dimensional math inside three dimensional math, then send him right over! This is where this is at".
1230 hrs. DA Unit four.
Hillier knocks and enters. Panama looks up, shows Hillier the data on-screen. "Mr H, look at this stuff. This the damndest thing! We been modifying bits of the plus dot minus code and pluggin' it back in to the blocker set. We tried every section on blocker groups one and two. Look what happens here. Here we go, that should take. Wait for it. Look at that, what we write gets in, and then just plain disappears! This thing knows it's bein' modified and changes right back to original. See here, the second window. That's the original, let's do that again, wait for it; look, on the left window, the data gets in, wow, that moves. Now see what we have, compare to what's on the right window. No difference at all. And when we just add data instead of changing data, the same. Look at this, the document info, still thirty two thousand three hundred twelve bits. No change. It just throws that stuff right back out again! Now let's try a delete. Watch, mark, delete. Nothing. No change. Mr H, we can use this stuff, let's concentrate on findin' the source. We aint gonna make any more progress in this direction!"
"Jesu almighty. Panama, you talk to Magic and the others on options here?"
"Sure did, we tried everythin' we-all can think of. This is it".
"OK fellas, time for some brainstorming. Get some lunch. We all meet again at the conference center at 1500. I'll get everyone there".
1525 hrs. Conference center.
Hillier continues speaking as he moves down from the podium. "OK people, that summarises the situation so far. We have got to get at the source. Avril, where are we at?"
"Everett, I think we have some progress, but this is going to take a lot more resources than we have here. Let me background y'all. We have no clear information on how these data streams are landing on the satellites, but land there they do. They do not however land on Earth. At least, we do not detect them if they do. And we do not know where to start looking if they are landing here. There are literally millions of possible wavelengths that could be carriers. However, we have several possibilities that we can give priority to, transmissions in the ultraviolet c wavelengths that do not reach the Earth at all, and very low frequency wavelengths that may reach here but are so completely immersed in our own Earth-based low frequency emissions that we cannot find them. We could look for uvc with very high altitude aircraft, or at regions where some uvc penetration is likely, that is under the ozone holes at the poles, preferably at the south pole where the ozone hole is biggest. Just finding the transmissions however is not what we need. We need also to find the source and to do that we have to have very stable and accurate conditions, preferably where we can set up several, three or more, detection facilities, and triangulate the signal reception data to get a direction and a distance. We tried that already with our own satellite transmission test but this was not conclusive. Add to that that we have to look at at least two very different band widths for these transmissions, and we have a receiver problem. Which do we choose? What's available in narrow band receivers? Can they even cope with very low frequencies? There is no simple solution which means very complicated facilities, unless we try something completely different to what's been used so far. Grant and I have been talking to a professor Fraser-Smith at Stanford who has been associated with some fairly progressive research in low frequency wavelengths, and in the use of tethered satellites to generate power from the solar wind. This kind of technology doesn't differ all that much from receiving such radio frequency emissions, and we've come to the conclusion that something like this might offer a solution. In addition to this stuff, there are several organisations including the Goddard Space Flight Center that have been working on using lasers linked to ground stations as radio frequency receivers through interferometry, which gives us a lead as to the direction we might take.
So much for background". Dr Stone pauses, asks if everyone is with her so far. Everyone nods, but not very convincingly. Dr Stone continues.
"We also have to consider the kind of people behind this. Or should I say the kind of intelligence behind this. We, well, maybe only me, hey Grant? I lean strongly to the idea that this stuff does not originate on Earth. We've been through all of this before, but we have reason enough to believe in the possibility of an extraterrestrial source. However, be that as it may, we cannot close out that it might originate on Earth. In conjunction with Stanford and Goddard, we've structured an operations model that has a good chance of accompishing what we want, as well as furthering research in other areas, which will significantly reduce costs and logistics problems. Most of this operation is already in preparation, we only have to add some specific items to suit what we want to achieve". Again she pauses, looking for responses but not getting any.
"What we have in mind is to combine our operation with a near-Earth based long-baseline laser radio frequency receiver experiment using a constellation of three orbiting satellites, or in this case a GEO satellite, the Shuttle, and the first section of the International Space Station. These three facilities are to be, let's say, "connected" by high gain lasers to form an immensely large and immensely powerful VLA or very large array radio telescope. The stability problems associated with laser measurements in space have been largely overcome through the development of flexible inertia mountings for the laser generators and their receivers. A Swiss company has pioneered this and we have three prototypes at our disposal. Algorythms are in place to eliminate the effects of the Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind, and the sensing equipment for the target frequencies can be modified to suit what we need. The basis is that any terrestrial or extraterrestrial transmissions that cross or cut the laser photon paths will create minor shifts in direction and speed of the laser photons which can be detected and measured at the receivers, evaluated and converted to information we can use. We have a couple of problems however". Another short pause, this time for a glass of water.
"The Shuttle, Discovery STS 96, is programmed for May 27. The frequencies we seek are not included in the evaluation programs for the test series and we don't have enough time to develop and build an integrated system. We have to use several separate systems, one each for the frequency bands we want to work with. This needs real-time management and this means that a crew member has to manage and adjust our systems according to what might be found in the first measurements. Next, we have to rework Martin Amis's source location algorythms to the new dimensional characteristics of the satellite or facility constellation. Last, Everett, you have to convince whoever it is that makes such decisions that we can do this. And we don't have much time. Any questions?"
"Avril, this VLA will pick up transmissions that have an Earth based origin?" this from Mark Ripley sitting at the back.
"Yes, Mark, of the type we are looking for anyway. Part of the STS Mission in fact includes to test for specific transmissions from Goldstone and Madrid".
"Whoofff! Avril, is this the only solution?"
"That we can come up with, yes, but that's why we're here. Any better ideas? Questions?"
Mark Ripley again. "The laser antennae technology is experimental, how do we know it'll work?"
"Successful trials have already been carried out. The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Japan is leading a project that includes the Radio Astron Mission of the Astro Space Center of the Russian Lebedev Physical Institute. JPL administers the project which includes baselines between the orbiting radio telescopes and the Deep Space Network and other ground stations. Mark, you're JPL, you can check it out. There are others".
Harold Thierman chips in. "Avril, there's been a lot of theoretical work on the types of signals we are likely to get from extraterrestrial civilisations, and I remember reading somewhere that the very short wavelengths like infrared, ultraviolet and xrays are unlikely information carriers due to the high noise in these band-widths".
"Harold, you're right. Unlikely. You probably read the paper by Guillermo Lemarchand presented a couple of years ago on this. He notes that Kardashev established general criteria about the types of activities in ET civilisations that might be detectable at our level of technological development. He presupposes ultra-powerful energy sources and the transmission of large quantities of information of different kinds through space, and categorises these civilisations as Type I, more or less like us, Type II, a much more advanced civilisation capable for example of harnessing the power of a star like our sun, and Type III, who would be capable of harnessing the power of a whole galaxy. I dont think we are dealing with someone like us and if it's either of the other two then I guess they will have capabilities that we cannot even dream of. However, there are space based searches going on in the ultraviolet wavebands, starting quite a few years ago when Wischnia used the Copernicus orbiting observatory for this. Also important to us is that this waveband contains some specific wavelengths that correspond to the various excited states of the hydrogen atom. And we have some kind of beacon signal in our data that is a basic hydrogen wavelength".
"And what about very low frequencies?"
"Our experience of VLF is almost entirely Earth bound. We postulate that this kind of transmission in space would require an energy source immeasurably more powerful than we can harness, or even imagine harnessing. But if this comes from a Type II civilisation? Why not? Everett?"
"Avril, let's you and me work on a proposal to the DOD. Martin, you should be in on this as well".
1730 hrs. Garden area, between the Task Force Center and Reception.
Mark Ripley, on his way to the Reception offices, pauses, sits down at a bench. The sinking sun reflecting through the fine wind-drift mist from the garden sprinklers. Cool air floats under the pergola, touches, cools the sweaty back of Ripley's shirt.
Oh man that's good.
A gardener, NSA security, rakes gravel at the far end of the reception building to the far left. Dust floats. Lazy. Groups of palms to the left and right drop longer shadows on to the grass in front, towards the bulk of the Task Force Center. A garden sprinkler put-putts jets of water high into the air on its slow cruise around a large circle of the lawn, now splattering into the right hand group of palms, swoops down to lawn level, approaches from the right, passes in front, retreats left.
Are we getting somewhere at last on this? Maybe but slowly.
The sprinkler stream and sun reflecting in the mist hides the gardener, moves into a patch of aloe in the distance, clatters through a second group of palms, slides sideways right. Reaches the next group of palms, sweeping further right.
Shit it's hot.
Uncharacteristic for this normally very straight operations manager.
Or am I just shit tired.
The sprinkler passes in front again, more cool air and a light spray of mist. Moves off to the left, into the aloe, the second group of palms, slides right again, into the next group of palms, now at the right limit of its circle. Ripley watches, mesmerised. The water stream changes form, a slow motion series of explosive splashes climbing up to twelve or fourteen feet, splashing horizontally now, the landing bursts splashing lower, skittering water streams down apart from the jet, a waterfall. On to the lawn again, moving forward, again in from the right.
A garden umbrella? Ripley sits upright.
Again the sprinkler stream moves past going left, off into the aloe, the second palm group.
A garden umbrella? No. Where? Ripley shifts. Sits bolt-upright. There is no umbrella there. There's nothing there. Stock still. Awake.
The sprinkler stream clatters again through the palm group off to the right, moves on to the lawn, then again little explosions of water climb to fifteen feet or so, splash horizontally at the top, slide in cascading splashes down again, on to the lawn, moving forward. A faint halo of mist hangs still around the umbrella.
The umbrella? Now nothing.
The sprinkler moves past, another round.
Ripley galvanises, runs forward and right to the Task Force operations center, crashes through decontamination, through the airlock. Into the main hall. No-one in sight. "Hey Dr Stone, anyone seen Dr Stone? Avril, where the hell are you?" Grant Wallace steps out of the GS unit "Hi Mark,what's up?"
"Where the hell is Avril? Who's got a camera? Shit there's nothing in here at all. Avril?" Dr Stone peers out of a cabin. "Hi Mark, what's doing?"
"Avril, there you are! Great! Move, come here. Move it! Quickly we have something here".
"Where? What?" Dr Stone drops her papers onto a table, crosses quickly to the entrance.
"Outside, Jesus Christ is there a camera anywhere here?"
Kim steps out of unit two, wanting to see what the fuss is about.
"Kim, you have a camera here outside?"
"Sure, what's up?"
"Get the camera, please. Outside, now. There's something. "
Now running, back through the airlock, past the screen through decontamination, outside across the small courtyard, left now.
"Look, watch this, watch the goddamn sprinkler jet! Where it lands".
Now on the far side of the lawn near the blank shadowed wall of the reception offices. The sprinkler put-putting through the aloe patch, into the second group of palms, across the garden into the first group of palms.
"Now, watch what happens! Now ... see that?!"
From this perspective the water stream suddenly splattered skywards, spray splashing backwards, climbing, reaching fifteen feet or so, now splashing horizontally, moves left, moves down, splashes now forwards off to the left. Now on the lawn. Moves further left and away towards the bench. A faint sphere of mist gradually dissolves in front of them. Now nothing.
"Did you see that? Did you see what happened? Did you see that ... that shape? Avril, you've seen this before, is this it? Is this the bubble event? Grant?"
"Mark, I'm not sure what I saw. Right here you mean?"
"Right here. Look it's coming around again. Holy Mother of God, look at that! Who's got the camera? Photograph this whole thing this time, quick! Who's got a cellphone? ... a mobile?"
Paul, just arriving. "What the hell's all the excitement about?"
Dr Stone. "Paul, go get a cellphone, now!"
And again, splattering past. The faint shape of a sphere forms, dissolving again.
"Did you get that, a photo? Kim?"
Kim Featherston, unsure. "That time the, er well whatever it is, sure, I think so."
"Grant, you know what to look for, can you see a distortion in the background?"
Grant Wallace. "Not yet, the sun. Let me move around here a little. Now I got it, look, here with those palms behind. This is it - bejesus, we have our own bubble event! Where the hell are those guys? Our experts?"
The NSA gardener came trotting over, around the path, approaching from the left. His right hand reaching into his overall. High left. "What's doing Mr Ripley? Dr Stone?"
"No need for the cannon, we're OK. You're security aren't you? Go get Mr Hillier, where-ever he is. Get someone to find him, and quick, like now! Move!"
"Yes Maam, right away!"
"Kim, can you see that distortion in the trees behind, down at lawn level also? Like a clear bubble in the air, with a kind of optical distortion around the edges. About fifteen feet in diameter".
"No, what is this? I don't understand what I'm supposed to be looking for ... wait, yes I think so. Here comes the sprinkler again. Wow, holy shit, now I can see the shape, water's running off it. Yeah yeah yeah there it is and there's the distortion. You want me to photograph that? Is this our bubble, for real?"
"Hey Miss Avril, here's the mobile, it's on. If it rings just press any button".
Minutes pass. The spectacle repeats and repeats.
"Paul, turn off the sprinkler. Over there".
Now silence. The distortion gaining some clarity as the sun lowers. The mobile telephone rings ...
"Woo shit did that give me a fright! Damn telephone. Hey Dr Stone press the button, any button".
Dr Stone, transfixed. Shaking, she presses a button.
"Hello". Metallic, an electronic voice.
"Ah, yes. Hello. Who is this?"
"Who is this". The metalic sound again.
"My name is Stone, Avril Stone".
"Yes, Avril Stone. Who are you? Where are you?"
"OK, look at what?"
The spherical form within the distortion gradually mists, dusty, motes of light around the edges.
"OK OK I see. I look".
"Yes? That's me, I'm Avril Stone".
"You want me to move?"
"OK I'm moving". Dr Stone moves right and forward two steps.
"Who is this".
"Grant, is this for real? Am I talking to an invisible ... bubble of air? I don't believe this. Yes I do. Here, Grant, talk. I think this is reiterating, maybe learning. Oh shit I don't believe this at all".
"This is Grant Wallace".
"Grant Wallace?" The metallic voice again.
"Yes, that's me".
"Move". Grant moves two paces forward and to the left.
"Yes, that is Avril Stone. There".
Click. The buzz of a severed connection.
And no form, no distortion.
"Shit, we've lost it!"
Dr Stone. "No I don't think so. It'll be back. Sometime. Woooieee, what a blast! ... whadda you guys make of that? Whoof, look at me I'm sweating like a pig. Jesus my pulse rate's gonna blow a hole someplace. I gotta sit. I need a drink. Two. C'mon we gotta get Hillier. Where the hell is he?"
The NSA man runs over. "Dr Stone, he's on his way in from the commsat unit. Ten minutes".
At the Canteen.
"What time is it, anyone?"
"Just before six".
Avril Stone sits at one end of a long table, Grant Wallace at the other. Kim next to Grant, Paul next to Kim, Mark Ripley opposite, near Dr Stone. "Let's make notes, note what we said, I'll note what I heard, Grant you too. Paul, get some paper please, and a couple of pens".
Dr Stone takes a pad. "Listen up, you know what I think?, I think we just had an encounter. I mean the real thing. And that thing's learning. It's reiterating, repeating what it hears and probably observing what happens when it says something. It's definitely learning, it's an intelligence for chrissakes. What the hell am I saying here? Am I going nuts? Grant tell me again what it said to you".
Grant Wallace. "My name, then move, then my name again, then your name. Then the line went dead".
"OK, Paul, get this down too". Dr Stone continues. "I said hello, it said hello, sort of metallic. I said who is this, it said who is this. Again a repeat of what I said. Then I said my name, and it repeated that. Then I said who are you, and then where are you. No repeat this time. It said look. Where did it get that from? Did anyone say look while we were standing around, when we first got there? Yes of course, we probably all said look. Then that thing changed colour or whatever, anyway we could see the form. It responded to the word look. Then it said my name again and I said yes I'm Avril Stone, then it said move. Then I said you want me to move. And it said move. Again. I moved. Did I say something then? Yes I did, I said OK I'm moving. Then what? It said my name again. I said yes, as a question. Then it said who is this. Didn't I say that earlier? Of course I did. Paul, when was that?"
"The second thing you said".
"OK it learnt that too. It retains".
Grant Wallace breaks in. "Avril, let's be sure. One, let's get security to scan the area again, like now. Mark, do that?"
"Sure, I'm on it. What do we do with the NSA man?"
"Good question. I guess just don't let him leave the base. OK where was I? OK lets find out where our gas chromotography team is. Why the hell aren't they here? ... Oh hi Ev!" as Everett Hillier strolls in through decontamination, into the Canteen. "What the hell's doin'? Security tells me y'all getting pretty excited about the garden sprinkler? What's that all about?"
1815 hrs. Canteen.
Mark Ripley summarises, reading also from Paul's notes. Dr Stone and Grant Wallace add their comments. Hillier slams a hand down on the table. "Goddam! That's amazing. Why wasn't I here for God's sake! But where's the connection? What connects this bubble event to us? OK, we have the same situation as the other events, lots of space-based activity and computers with lots of blockers. There has to be a direct connection, or is someone playing games. Anyone get security mobilised?" Ripley nods. "OK fine. Let's rule out external effects first. And this thing talks? Rationally what happened is that someone spoke to you two on a cellphone while this bubble did some tricks. That's what we have isn't it? Grant? Avril?"
Dr Stone. "That's what it looks like if you want to say rational. But that's not what this is. We are dealing with an intelligence, this thing was learning".
Hillier. "Grant, you agree with Avril here?"
"Well something pretty unusual was going on out there just a half hour ago. It's beyond my comprehension that this could be stage managed; from where? This thing repeated what was said to it, and I'm sure no one outside of a hundred yards could have picked up what we said, even with sophisticated listening gear. Hey, whose cellphone was that? Yours Paul? Get on to your 'phone company like now and get a record of all calls today. Like now. Pull rank, in fact go with Mark as soon as he gets back and get that done, like pronto, mate. DOD priority!"
"Yessir Mr Grant! Will do. And Mr H, for what it's worth, that thing isn't made in the good ol' US of A! We got something going down here, and I think Miss Avril's right. This is a contact".
"Like the guys say Everett, this is wierd. I'm gonna get the photos done. Hey wait up Paul, take the camera and get Mark to get these developed, include digital copies on CDs too eh!"
2000 hrs. Canteen.
Grant Wallace and Dr Avril Stone sit at a table on the terrace. Dr Stone, still very animated, and totally absorbed in the project continues speaking: "Grant, this is it, I'm convinced; this has got something to do with the data blockers, and it's got to be external, I mean this is not something anyone here on Earth has put together. We gotta get to the source, and I need your support to get this through the DOD, we have to work together to get this going. Everett has hang-ups about anything extra-terrestrial and we can't rely on him convincing the DOD, are you with me?"
"Avril, I don't see this as clearly as you do, but I don't have a better answer. I'm with you, but don't write off Everett just yet. He is after all a top professional and he wont let his personal beliefs get in the way, I'm sure".
"OK, but stand by me, just in case".
Dr Stone may be absorbed in the project, convinced that her life-long quest is at last approaching success, but this explains only a part of the fervour she radiates. Grant Wallace, likewise effected by the day's events, is still capable of seeing another kind of passion deeper down in the woman opposite. Lady, are you trying to tell me something else?
"Mark, this is Hillier. The gas chromo guys arrive tomorrow, they have a lot of equipment, so better get two vehicles to the airport, OK?"
"Got it, Everett".
Friday March 12.
0815 hrs. Task Force Center Canteen.
Mark Ripley hurries in, finds Hillier at a table with Grant Wallace and Kim Featherston. "Everett, this is just in from Goldstone, from Harold Thierman. We've got another one!"
"Another one what? A BEA?"
"Yes, exactly. Here's a report". Ripley hands a typed sheet of paper across to Hillier. He reads:
goldstone thierman to dso chandler hillier 03/12
Everett, one of our engineers witnessed the following this morning. I quote:
" Site Engineer Abraham Stein: I was doing my morning jog as usual around the sports park behind Central, on site. I started at 0630 and about 15 minutes into my run I noticed what I thought was some kind of metallic balloon about 50 yards ahead and off to the left in the park area. I jogged over. This was not a balloon but what looked like a cloud of real fine ice crystals or maybe water vapour, but reflecting light. Have you ever seen ice fog early in the morning, sometimes occurrs on frosty mornings then quickly disappears, well like that but denser. It was about 12 or 14 feet round and seemed to be just above the ground surface. There were no other people around that I could see. The sun was up but no direct sunlight anywhere near, except on the first scope way over to my left, that is the north. I went up to this object and put my hand out to touch it but it had no substance, just had a tingling effect on my fingers. I put my arm further inside what I guessed to be the outer boundary, just colder and like pins and needles. My cellphone rang then, and I hitched it out of the holster. After I turned it on there was nothing so I said hello, and a kind of metallic voice answered and said hello also. Just hello. I said who's this and this same voice said the same who's this, but somehow not as a question, more just a statement. I said this is stein, who's on the line, then an answer, "stein", just "stein". All this time I'm like watching this thing but it's just there, real near. Then I got a kind of shock and this thing got brighter. I stepped back and I guess I said something like f... what's this. The voice in my telephone said exactly the same, then this thing faded and the cellphone went dead. There was nothing at the spot anymore. It had simply disappeared. I reported direct to security at 0658. Signed A Stein"
In light of your call last night, this looks like the same thing. What are we into here? Do I forward this to anyone? DOD?
Hillier looks across at Ripley. "It is really another bubble event. An atmospheric anomaly, just like we had here yesterday. Same circumstances. Pheww! Mark, answer back to Harold that he should copy this to DOD, DSO Secretariat. And when do these BEA guys get in today? Around eleven or so? Mark, get everyone together who witnessed this thing yesterday, also all the reports from the BEA's at Arecibo, Tidbinbilla, Alice Springs and Fort Providence, and have these guys debrief everyone, including this engineer at Goldstone, set up a conference call for that, I want to be in on it. I'd like a report, at least an opinion from these guys asap, say this afternoon at 1500? Conference Center? Grant, you and Kim get a copy of this to your people, especially Avril, she's working up a status report. I'll be in my office".
0840 hrs. Reception Building, Office of Everett Hillier.
Mark Ripley knocks and enters. "Everett, more news".
"What? Another one?"
"No, this time from the Commsat Unit, they're monitoring Trimble's web site. They report a significant increase in hits over the past twenty four hours, a lot more blockers being reported, including laptops and Palm units. They've already initiated collection of all discs as usual but I told them to expedite, we want to see what this wave of activity is all about. We'll have the first here tomorrow".
"OK Mark, good work. Tell Kim to get her team geared up for some extra work. Maybe we can tie in a connection to these two BEA's".
1500 hrs. Conference center.
Ripley enters with the three experts in mass spectrometry who have been debriefing witnesses to the BEA's. Hillier and Dr Stone have been working on a report to the DOD.
"Everett, let me introduce Colin Greeves, Gas Chromotography Unit at Berkeley, Max Curtain, Atmospheric Ionisation Society, and Paco Fernandez, Mass Spectrometry, also Berkeley".
Hillier welcomes the men, indicates that they should seat themselves. Curtain speaks. "Hi Mr Hillier, interesting project you have here, quite unusual. Colin and Paco have elected me to summarise what we can make of these phenomena. First, without any direct contact and without any test information except the rather esoteric work done at Tidbinbilla, all we can give you right now is pure speculation. The photos taken yesterday give us a vague idea of the distortion effects. We used the digital versions on one of your computers here and this confirms the form and to some extent the boundary distortion. The various reports also mention some kind of changing light effect. None of us have experienced anything directly similar, but we are all agreed that the general effects indicate a high level of atmospheric ionisation. This occurs naturally in many common circumstances, meteor trails are one example where the atmospheric particles are ionised by the passage of the meteor in the upper atmosphere. When these ionised particles de-exite they create a trail of light, that is the meteor trails that we see. These as we all know are relatively short lived. What you guys have is some kind of controlled ionisation, and if the change of light effects that have been observed here are in fact that, and not some change in reflection characteristics, then the ionisation is changing as you view. This means some very sophisticted laboratory work. We have not experienced anything like this outside a lab". Curtain takes a short breather, then continues.
"The reports of lower inner temperatures and tingling effects are more or less in line with what we would expect in a highly ionised environment, depending on what is exactly being ionised. We are dealing with atmosphere so there is a choice of any or all molecules being effected, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon and other rare gases. That's it. What is perhaps the most important thing is however, if this is ionised atmosphere, it will be detectable by something like radar. Or any kind of transceiver working in very high frequency. Your Dr Stone seems sure that this phenomenum will repeat here sometime soon, so we can get our equipment set up, maybe as a fully mobile unit if you have a suitable transport available, and I guess we can set up a radar type device to detect the next event. As far as the cellphone incidents are concerned, we can't imagine any connection at all. We think that the answer to those incidents must be looked for elsewhere. That's the best we can do right now".
Hillier. "OK gentlemen, thanks. Mark Ripley will take care of the logistics for you, let's get to it. However I have a couple of questions; any idea how this phenomenum could be set up? I mean initiated or controlled?"
Curtain again. "Outside of a lab, no. You need either something like a meteor, or solar wind crossing the Earth's magnetic field; an auroral effect, maybe lightning? In any case lots of energy for something this size. How you control the shape or location, and maintain this in position, we have no idea. We'll give this some thought in between. It might help if we had some background on what it is you guys are doing here, maybe there's an indicator there. As we understand it all of these events have occurred near establishments where there is lots of computing power and some connection with space exploration. If these kinds of establishments are generating high levels of a particular wavelength and if there is some kind of focusing element associated, maybe you are getting rogue transmissions that are encapsulating a volume of atmosphere at a focal point. Maybe a concentrated magnetic or electro-magnetic field. We don't know".
Hillier. "OK, let's do that radar thing too. Mark, brief the gentlemen on what we know so far. Maybe they'll have some further input for us. Anyone any questions? No? OK, Avril, let's get this submission ready for the DOD".
hrs. The Club.
Grant Wallace strides through the restaurant, out on to the patio, looking around. Sees Dr Stone alone at a table near the pool. "Hi Avril, what've I missed for dinner?"
"Hi Grant, pizza and salad. Not bad, lots of berries in the salad, lots of chillies in the pizza. And the Montavi's just fine. Help yourself. Is Everett coming? And Martin?"
"Should be along shortly. What've you got?"
"Let's wait 'till they get here. Hey there's Everett now, and Martin. Over here gentlemen, did you eat yet? There's still enough for you guys. Go for the chili pizza if you like it hot!"
"Thanks Avril, we'll pass. Let's get some water however. What's that you have there? Maybe I'll have a glass of vino tinto also".
Hillier sits, settles. "OK what have you got for us Avril, we need some good news".
"Good news? Try this on for size". Dr Stone opens her note book, glances at it, looks up. We have already thousands of blockers in computer hard-drives all over, a lot more in communications satellites, and from this morning's reports from Commsat lots more are coming to light. We have blockers in many satellites already in service and in the next couple of years we will see an enormous increase in the number of data-network accessing satellites; DirecPC from Hughes, Globalstar, ICO Global, Teledesic, Orbcomm, Gilat-at-Home and Iridium are all coming on line, or are already in business, and with the Russian Gorizont and Intelsats new satellites, nearly 600 new satellites in all. Many of these satellites are in constellations, they communicate directly with one another. Not all are directly consumer-data-access capable but many will transfer blockers direct to user computers, not just to ground stations from where it takes a little longer to spread" she pauses, another glance at the note-book, then continues.
"The blockers are in a highly unusual coded format, ternary, and that we can neither modify, delete nor prevent from spreading. The code reveals a complex math based structure not unlike representations of our Earth bound organic DNA. I say math based because this is the way we have found to observe it. More on that point in a little while. The best informed opinion we have from our experts in the field indicates that this is a very clever mathematical format for data storage, developed by cloning and modifying the evident math structure in our own DNA. They also say however that if this was a DNA or genetic type structure then what we have seen to date is just a very small part of what would be necessary to form a complete and functional life form; a stem cell or two of maybe a total of several hundred thousand if not several million or more. The numbers of these stem cells is growing, OK blockers; we are up to four groups already and we have no indication that there is an end to them. Let me pause here: I want to reiterate what any substantial increase in the numbers of blockers would mean to us. The blockers are about two megabytes per group, up to eight megabytes in the worst affected so far. A one-hundred-fold increase means that a substantial part of every hard disc we use will be blocked. A thousand-fold increase means that most hard discs we currently use would be useless. Above that we can forget about using computers at all. Change your hard disc, and boom, the blockers are there again. We cannot stop them, we cannot shield against them. And we have no idea at all what the effect will be on the communication satellites themselves. Minimum estimation? Chaos". The note-book again.
"Next we have our BEA's, the bubble events. Five reported so far. Our best informed opinion here is that these are some kind of manifestation of rogue transmissions generated within our space-oriented research facilities causing atmospheric ionisation which is focused by some unexplained and so far inexplicable means. There is no evidence of a direct connection to the blockers, but lots of circumstantial evidence. That we get telephone calls from these phenomena does not compute with our experts. On the other hand we don't find anywhere any evidence of any third party association. Even Paul's telephone company has no record of anyone making a call to him yesterday, and I'll bet that the engineer at Goldstone doesn't have a record of the call he had this morning. Where does this leave us? Up shit-creek in a barbed-wire canoe, to use a good old Australian expression". Another pause, she looks around to see whether her listeners are with her still, then continues.
"Time to start making a few informed assumptions. And I don't think that there's a best case, just a case. You guys may develop something else, but hear this through". She pauses again, then goes on.
"This is where I think we're at". She moves to the whiteboard.
"The BEA's are directly related to the blockers. The blockers are in fact a part of a kind of DNA, but of a type we can barely imagine, a non-organic DNA. An electronic DNA. e-DNA, let's call it. Earlier I referred to a math based structure because this is the way we found to view this stuff, but I don't think this is math. I think that what we have is in reality a pure electronic structure that defines a life form. And what we have so far are just stem cells of this life form. That means there are maybe thousands more stem cells to come, if not millions more. However the stem cells we have are sufficient to allow these life forms, these electronic anima, to begin to manifest themselves, and they do this in these ionised atmospheric forms that we call bubble events. The bubble events are in fact just very immature juveniles of the end product. They are practically illiterate but have the capacity to learn. And learn they do. I guess that they communicate with us by identifying the receiving characteristics of our cellphones, much in the same way I guess as the new Bluetooth protocol does with household equipment and our home computers. And in this early stage of life they learn perhaps by observation, not in a visual sense but in the sense that they can observe or detect what happens to the electromagnetic fields around them and associate that with what they electronically hear or detect through the cellphone". Someone coughs.
"Far-fetched? It gets better, wait for it. My further guess is that they are also learning or will soon have the capability of learning from the contents of our computers. An explanation for the unaccountable computer activity reported so many times, starting with Paul Trimble's computer and Alister Aluitin's in the Northwest Territories, perhaps? And what about other characteristics we haven't yet touched upon? The bubble events have occurred exclusively in the local area of ground based space operations. Why? Because these locations are where the greatest concentration of the stem cells are. My guess is that sometime soon we'll find these bubble events happening where-ever there are concentrations of computers. City centers, large corporations, Silicon Valley". Another pause.
"And now to the killer hypothesis. We have no evidence to believe that the blockers are able to communicate with each other, but maybe they can. We know that they can move without hindrance and we know that they can repair themselves if we try to delete or corrupt their data strings. Does this repair capability come from within? or does a nearby data group simply replace the damaged stuff? We've already supposed something like the Bluetooth protocol as their means of moving around and communicating just like a Bluetooth fitted refrigerator communicates with the washing machine. Data exchange without hindrance. And what does that mean? I have to tell you gentlemen, and ladies, that this is where the really scary part starts. As I've already pointed out, the advent of mass data-type communication by satellite is just around the corner. Most of this is one way but not all. If we can communicate with each other by data transfer over satellite, why not our friend here, little eDNA? And what does this mean? The establishment of a completely world wide connected and clustered parallel computing capability with access to practically everything we know or have stored on computer hard discs everywhere in the world plus the power to compute with all computers world wide simultaneously. That's what this means!"
Now a long pause. Everyone at the table is motionless. Dr Stone continues.
"We've seen what linking three computers in a cluster here can do, and we know that companies like John Craig's use clustered computers on a much larger scale. Even search engines like Google use clustered PCs because they need the power that can analyse millions of bits of information simultaneously. eDNA will eat these systems for breakfast. Gentlemen, not only do we have contact, we have invasion".
2034 hrs. Task Force Center Canteen
Gentlemen, not only do we have contact, but we are in the process of invasion.
Seconds later, Martin Amis speaks up, a slightly wild laugh threatening to break out. "Jesu H Christos! - Avril, can't you think of something more devastating than that? I mean what you're talking about here is the end of civilisation as we know it! Or did I just dream all that? Did I really hear this? Grant? Did you get that? Everett?"
Hillier, looking bemused, glances at Martin Amis then back at Dr Stone. "Well, I got it alright. I think. Avril, I don't know whether to recommend you for the loony bin or simply lock you up someplace tight. You're serious? Contact? Not to mention invasion? By an extraterrestrial civilisation? An inorganic lifeform? It exists by ionising the atmosphere? Using electronic DNA which it has stored on our computers? - and there's more of this DNA to come? A complete lifeform that will have the capability of taking over the world? Controlling our complete world-wide intelligence? Is this what you are saying? This little thing called e-DNA? You mean you want me to go to the Secretary of Defense with that?"
"You got it, well almost. eDNA is just in the building blocks phase, the cell structure. The finished product is still to come".
"Nobody's ever going to buy that ...!"
"Then find a better analysis and a better solution. But do it fast. We have a short time to get our stuff prepared and on to the Shuttle. If we can locate the source, and Grant and I think we can with what we have planned, then maybe we have a chance to stop this".
Office of the Secretary of Defense
The United States Department of Defense, Washington
Tuesday March 16
Secretary of Defense Osborne walks through the oak panelled reception room, stops briefly at the desk of his secretary, picks up a folder, paces over to where Everett Hillier, Dr Stone and Martin Amis are just getting to their feet.
Hillier. "Good Morning Mr Secretary, thanks for making your time available at such short notice. Let me introduce Dr Avril Stone, and Martin Amis you know -".
The Secretary, dressed in a dark blue suit, crisp blue shirt and striped tie, wearing highly polished black brogues, speaks with a clipped New England accent. "Good morning Everett, Ms Stone, Martin. I've read this stuff you've sent me. Let's go to my office. Walter Hammond should be here soon, our NASA liaison man". He leads the way down a short stretch of corridor to another oak panelled room, modern art-deco artifacts not at all in harmony with the wooded ambience. Osborne strides to his desk, walks round, invites the others to sit while he remains standing.
"Everett, as you know I have to deal with all kinds of future disaster shit from our NSA and the other security and intelligence agencies here, all the time. This is their job, the development of scenarios, get that, scenarios, of what might happen if , - according to whatever trouble they imagine is confronting the US of A at any particular time. If this had come from any one of these agencies I would have said that I have never read such bullshit in my whole life! And that would be the end of it. No discussion. But this is from you guys, you don't deal in bullshit, it's not your area. Well, perhaps with the exception of Ms Stone whose SETI thing is a future science project that we went along with for a while". The Secretary takes a sip of water, then continues, still standing.
"Because it's from you guys I have taken this seriously. I called Walter Hammond and talked to him about this. He filled me in on the scope of some of the problems we're having with our defense satellite system, the DSCS, and because of what he told me we seem to have some kind of minor catastrophy out there just now, including inexplicable sightings if I can call them that, at the DNS stations at Goldstone and Pine Gap. And not just us. I redphoned General Alexai Wasalikov, Russia's ex Star City Commander who now fills an advisory post like Hammond. He has the same kind of problems, in fact he blames something like what you describe on half the problems with the MIR space station, and most of their recent launch failures. I tell you now, I don't believe any of this. But what I believe just now isn't important". The intercom buzzes lightly. "Yes?"
"Walter Hammond is here Sir".
"Send him in".
Walter Hammond, special liaison man between NASA and the DOD, also dressed in a dark suit, blue shirt and striped tie, enters.
"Walter, Good Morning. This is Dr Avril Stone from SETI, Everett Hillier our chief of Digital Security, and Martin Amis, technical management at DSCS on loan to a special communications security project we have going at Chandler, Arizona, led by Everett. Dr Stone is on Everett's team, Martin also. You've read the report? OK, let's proceed. We have a defense security situation it seems and what Everett's team has is maybe, repeat maybe, connected. I want to hear it from them now, personally, short, precise and no bullshit. Everett, you've got an hour".
The Secretary calls for coffee and water; silence reigns in the room as they wait for the coffee, the Secretary doodling furiously on a squared pad in front of him. The coffee arrives.
"Everett, I don't fully understand why we cannot stop this eDNA baby of yours, and my estimation of your disaster projections is that you are way over the top. I'm no expert however. Walter, I want you to get a disaster assessment study on the road, now. Formulate the scenario as you've just heard it and have something to me by Friday. And Walter, get me a private meeting together with the top guys in the computer and data communications world, four or five people, no more. You know who's on our list. Get them here for Friday also, afternoon; topic, the same. Everett, I'm going to let your team attach to the STS 96 Shuttle flight, provisionally. And that's provisionally on what I get from Walter's report, and from this meeting Friday. You will hear from me Friday night".
A DOD staff limo on the way to Dulles Airport. Martin Amis sits with his back to the driver, Everett Hillier and Dr Stone opposite.
Hillier relaxes back into the soft seating. "Well Avril, you've got work to do. Martin, why didn't we pick up this stuff from the Russians? I thought we had them on the line also?"
"Wasalikov is at a level higher, and like all things to do with Russian security, it takes a while to get through to us. As you know they would never let anything like this get out to any kind of public domain. They've covered up more disasters than we'll ever hear of. Sorry".
Hillier again. "OK doesn't matter anyway, just reinforces our case I guess. Avril, who're are you going to get to ride the Shuttle to do the fine tuning?"
Dr Stone. "Everett, you know that I've got the training for this, and I'm the only one on this team who has. The disaster of 1993 got me at least that on my CV. I'm flying".
"Ooooff ... is that going to go down with Mr Secretary?"
"This is our show, he has to buy it".
"I agree. Avril has the full astronaut training and still looks like she's in good shape for a deal like this. Sorry, Avril, didn't mean to get personal. And she's got Shuttle experience. We have no-one better qualified".
"OK, so be it. Avril, we'll get Grant on to managing the logistics and he can have Ripley for the legwork. You better get yourself over to JPL and get a refresher course under your belt, and a work-in period with the rest of the Shuttle crew. Martin, we'll cut back the teams at Chandler for the time being. Let's keep whoever we need to continue on disc analysis, and the rest can have a break, but on stand-by. We'll re-mobilise everyone in the late count-down phase, and run our own direct Shuttle communcations in parallel with STS Ground Control. That means the Commsat Unit and the Ground Station Unit. I'll take care of that".
Amis's cell phone rings. "Yes? Amis here. One moment I'll pass the 'phone to him. Everett, Mark Ripley on the line".
"Thanks Martin, yes Mark? You've what? Another BEA? Where? OK, well we're on our way to the airport just now, should be back there in about, say five hours I guess. Get the BEA guys in action. - Oh they are, OK understand. OK, manage it. See you soon".
Amis. "Everett, is that what I heard? Another bubble event?"
"Sure is, at the Task Force Centre. The radar detection found it, they got to it and got their tests going. They're still there; this one seems like it really wants to talk! Martin, get the Defense Secretary on the line please. If not him, his secretary, he has to know about this, now".
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Tuesday March 16
1505 hrs. Conference Center.
Hillier, Dr Stone and Amis enter, hurrying. Mark Ripley walks towards them from the podium. Hillier greets Ripley. "Hello Mark, where is everybody?, and where is this event exactly?"
"Hi Everett, Martin, Dr Stone. The event is over, but everyone is in the Reception Center offices where the gas chromo people have set up a lab. They got their tests done, at least some, and enough they say to get some ideas about what this may be. This was really amazing stuff, almost a song and dance show. The bubble changed colour and has a vocabulary of maybe twenty words or so. I'm not sure we have a really intelligent conversation, but we do have it recorded. Also on film. Our gas chromo guys are really well set up. The bubble moved around, just kind of floating, went right through a palm tree. Actually the palm tree went right through the bubble, I guess. Same place as last time, more or less. The gas chromo team, Paco anyway, walked inside the bubble with his collector gear and got the samples he needed. They did some other tests on magnetism and so on. Impressive. We should have the whole crew here in a half hour or so, or do you want to go over?"
"No, we'll wait".
"OK, but ell me how did it go with the Man? Mr Secretary?"
"We have to wait until Friday, he's calling in the marines to get some opinions. You know what I mean".
Twenty or so people file in from decontamination, move chairs around, chatting, in good humour, excited. Colin Greeves, Max Curtain and Paco Fernandez moved towards Hillier and Dr Stone. Hillier motions them up to the podium. Curtain speaks.
"Mr Hillier, I must say we had some doubts about your bubble events, but we changed our minds this morning, I have to tell you. This is a really remarkable phenomenum. Let me give you what we have been able to find out. First, our little radar unit proved to be very effective. We had it set up in the same area as the BEA from last week, got it up and running last night. Then this morning we had our first blip, so help me I couldn't really believe this. We had our test gear in one of your SUV's here, we got straight to it, within three minutes of the blip. And sure enough, there was your bubble, just as it was described to us. Boundary deformation in the background images, but it changed colour, or illuminated itself as we were getting set up. Great show. Second, the best way we can find to describe the physical attributes of this is that we have a kind of aurora borealis here, something like a collision between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field causing atmospheric ionisation. This is just that, ionised atmosphere. The HP gas chromatograph shows only atmosphere, with somewhat less than normal traces of the rare gases, but that may be a local Arizona thing. In any case, molecular weight is as expected 28.98, helium, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and co2 in the right balance. But with a very low specific volume, more than fourteen cubic feet per pound which means a light vacuum inside the volume. All these readings are corrected back to standard temperature and pressure, by the way. No organic compounds present. This phenomenum is able to change colour, well, I mean it's able to change its illumination values which we guess it does by de-exciting some of the ionised atoms, which normally produces light, like in the light we see from a meteor trail. It has magnetic flux values way above normal, and variable. And it is completely dry. No internal humidity levels, even though we had an external level of around 20%. We carried out environment tests as well to see if we could define any atmospheric changes in the immediate surroundings. There were none at all. There is no sign of any ionised particle flow from say the task force center here to the area where it materialised. Or in any other direction. No external magnetic flux variations, nothing at all. We can come to no conclusions as to where the energy comes from to power the ionisation process, nor how it localises itself, nor how it can so completely isolate itself and its internal characteristics". He pauses.
"As to the non-physical attributes, we have no idea what to say. There is no doubt that there is a connection between the bubble and the cellphone communication; we witnessed it and Paco spoke with whatever or whoever was communicating. The cellphone rings, a metallic sounding voice says a word like look, and the bubble moves or changes colour. We also saw that it has rudimentry recognition talents, in other words it was able to define when Mr Ripley was speaking to it, rather than Paco. How? We see no possible explanation from anything in our own experiences. That's the factual part of our report. We have some science fiction ideas about what might be going on, but we cannot be quoted. Paco will run these by you guys now".
Paco moves to the podium.
"If we exclude some fancy remote control mechanisms, which even if they did exist would be beyond our explanation, then we can begin to work on the electronic biology of this thing, if we can use that expression. And I remind you all, this has no basis in fact anywhere; if we take the ionisation process as a starting point, this phenomenum has an energy source, or perhaps it is energy itself, somehow the harnessed energy of the atoms of the atmosphere. By that I mean it can capture and transfer energy through ion exchange, maybe. If, and that's a big if, if it can do that, then we see the possibility that it can also detect external ion exchanges and maybe magnetic field changes and flux. This would enable it to detect instances such as the signals reaching a cellphone. Through that capability it can probably read how the cellphone communicates as such. It locks into the cellphone's wavelengths so to speak, and makes it ring. By further ion exchange or energy transfer, it must be able to duplicate the digital signals of what it hears by arranging electrons, I guess just as the digital cellphone does. And finds a way to make the cellphone, and us, think that it's talking to us. Max? Colin? ... did I leave anything out? No; then that's it, for what it's worth. In any case we now have a kind of data base which we can apply to other instances like this. We want to find out which conditions are applicable to its appearances, and set up these radar units at a number of locations, like at Goldstone, if this fits into your plans. We think that this is a phenomenum that has to be researched much further and we'd like to work with you guys on this. Thanks again".
Hillier steps forward.
"Any questions? No? For the first time in my life I have no idea what we do with this information. I guess you are all like me, this is so far out of our experiences we need time to digest just what it all means or might mean. In any case there is no doubt that we are dealing with powers and maybe intellects way out of our experiences. As I said we need some time to digest all this. Thanks gentlemen for the work so far. Go ahead with what it is you want to do. If you need further clearances with your organisations, Mr Ripley's the man to see. I for one would like to see you get at more of these if they occur. How we predict the location I guess you guys have to figure that one. Meanwhile for the rest of us, we still have some work to do. Discs need to be decoded and analysed, we want to know as soon as there is any change in the disc blocker characteristics, and in the numbers of instances reported. For our part we were at the Defense Secretary's office this morning, and we have to wait until Friday before we know if the laser antennae array is a go. For the teams there will be some changes. We will wind down on the active personnel here for the time being, some of you can go home and take a rest, but you'll be on instant call. And remember, this is a no-speak operation. Nothing to nobody. The Commsat Unit will shut down until launch count-down minus seven days, likewise the Ground Station Unit. Kim, you should reduce your people to the numbers you need to handle the disc analysis. We'll have more news on Friday.
of the Defense Secretary
The United States Department of Defense, Washington
Friday March 19
Secretary of Defense Osborne steps out of his office, ushering the five chiefs of the leading data communications and computing world to the elevators. After they have departed, he walks back to his secretary's desk. "Alice, get me Everett Hillier at Chandler please".
"Yes Sir, right away".
"Everett, Osborne here. You've got the green light. Get this show on the road. You don't need the details of the disaster assessment study, what Ms Stone says is about where it's at. What seems to me to be more critical is what the guys off our list had to say. You've heard of Bill Joy? Boss of Sun Microsystems? He's working up a theory that's he's not yet prepared to make public about where our developing technologies are or could be taking us. This is off the record and not for further publication, but what he foresees frightens the hell out of me. Not just in electronics, but in genetics and robotics. The others are of the opinion that what he is talking about is harder to create than can be imagined, but they flip-flopped as soon as they got the basics of eDNA. They don't believe that our scenario has any basis in reality, but if it did they say it would throw us back into the dark ages pre-computer, with unbelievable economic and military carnage when everything goes pear-shaped. No computers, no nothing. Nothing will function at any level in the western world at all. Which means that we will be vulnerable to the non-western world, the ones who do not rely on computers the way we do. Anarchy and takeover by the non-WASP masses is the general direction, or worse. Solve this problem, Everett. And whatever you need to do so, you get from Hammond, OK? And just so that you know, this goes to the President tomorrow.
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Saturday March 20
1015 hrs. External Reception Center.
Much bustling activity, people packing baggage into a large beige NSA bus. Martin Amis turns to go back indoors, his crew just settling themselves in the bus, and bumps into Harold Thierman and the Goldstone technicians from the Ground Station unit. "Harold, see you in a few weeks, have a good break".
"Thanks, Martin, I need it, and you don't work too hard!"
The rowdy bunch of hackers and white hats were crowding the doorway "Hey you guys, we have a bus to catch! Hey Kim, let's know when you need us again!"
"Sure, guys, and thanks for the efforts so far, we'll beat this thing yet!"
The bus closed its doors with a hiss, U-turned left in the tight turning circle and motored slowly through the palms along the long driveway to the security gate. In the reception centre, Martin Amis, Mark Ripley, Grant Wallace, Dr Avril Stone and Kim Featherston stood in a small group, joined by Don Whelan, Crackers, Paul Trimble, Timmo and Magic. Less than half the team left. Martin Amis speaks. "Well people, it's going to be a bit quieter for the next few weeks, I guess. I don't know about you but I'm taking the day off! Avril, when do you start your STS retraining?"
"In about ten days Martin, the crew doesn't start it's orbiter and payload familiarisation until April 26, but we have a two week course to run before that, and we still have a lot to do to get our laser array set up. I'll be leaving to supervise that with Grant Tuesday next. Right now, however, I'm with you, I'm heading for the Club! Anyone going to join me?" The data analysis team answers through Magic: "Sho thing, Miss Avril, Doctor Sir!, we-all coming right now".
Amis again. "Great, Kim?, you too? Grant? Mark?"
A beige DSO Ford Explorer pulls up in front. Hillier climbs out and enters the reception area, takes off his Polaroids, brushes his hands through his thinning hair as he squints, adjusting from the external glare. "Hi everyone, saw the guys on their way out just now, everything going to plan eh? Man it's hot out there, summer is really on the way! What's doin'? Let's get a drink at the Club, I have a thirst you wouldn't believe".
"Hi, Mr H, yo is invited, an yo get to pay".
At the Club, several G&T's later, lighter atmosphere, the younger guys busy at water polo and giving their boss, Kim Featherston, and Avril Stone, a tough time. Hillier sprawls on a pool lounger, shifts stiffly to a sitting position, to the side, speaks to Amis, Ripley and Wallace at the table, all drinking beer from frosted glasses.
"You guys got another beer there?, I'm pooped".
A pause, more beers are ordered. The NSA catering crew have not been reduced. Full-on service, with a smile. Potato crisps and beernuts are served. "We're having a barbecue lunch today gentlemen, any special wishes?"
Hillier again. "New York cuts all round, my friend, and for starters tomato, mozzarella and basil, virgin olive oil, a drop of Jalapeña chili sauce on top, Bruschetta with fresh garlic and some crushed tomato pieces, fire baked potatoes. And a couple of bottles of Barolo, just a little chilled. But you better ask the people in the pool what they want and don't serve before 1330 hours. Bring some margueritas for starters, lots of crushed ice and not too much Cointreau! And salt on the rim. We gotta keep our salt levels up in this heat! This OK with you guys?"
Hillier addresses the other three again. "Well, we have the go ahead from the Secretary of Defense, Martin probably told you guys already. He has some real concerns. We're not the only ones with real problems here. The Russians too, and China and Germany. The French indicate problems but are acting coy for the time being. The Shuttle Discovery is going to have a Russian astronaut on board, for the International Space Station work, but he'll be checking us out too, no doubt. Nobody quite believes that the laser array is workable, or even that it's supposed to work as a radio frequency antenna. They naturally think that this is a part of the Star Wars project. I must say I have my doubts too, but what the hell do I know? - you guys better know what you're doin'. Grant, how about some details for us? How is this array going to work?"
Grant Wallace glances over at the pool where Avril Stone and Kim Featherston are wrestling with the guys for possession of the volleyball. Wet bodies shining, skin colouring up in the sun, laughter. Kim, taller than the guys, gets possession, throws and scores. Wallace turns back to the table, speaks.
"This is three beers talk, fellas, so bear with me ... ha! This is cutting edge stuff. Our contact at Stanford was at first working on tethered satellites, stretching a wire up to sixty miles across space between two satellites, to generate power by cutting the solar wind, and maybe the Earth's magnetic fields. That had a few structural problems with broken wires and such, but seems to have at least partially functioned. Then he and a couple of others noted that in lab experiments, laser beams were sensitive to minor disturbances when a radio frequency was transmitted across the beam. Photon collisions or some such, shifting some of the laser photons out of their paths, or slowing them down. The right kind of receiving equipment can detect these minor changes; what we have is the latest developments in this field. Diode lasers, now proven to withstand the structural forces that happen during launch, together with newly developed unitised flexible supports for accurate and vibration free mounting, can be set up to transmit and receive across the thousands of kilometers or miles that we will have in our array". Wallace pauses to drain the last drops from his glass.
"The receivers we're building will receive the laser beams and detect the changes caused by any radio frequency interference. The problem we have is that the receivers can only work on a single set of frequencies or band width, so we have to manually change frequency sets if we want to work outside the pre-set frequencies. This is why we need Avril on the Shuttle; she will have to do the re-sets we need to change from one frequency set to another. We don't know the transmitting frequency or frequencies of the signals we want to detect, but we have a fair idea. We're going to start with the uvc band and shift to low frequency if that doesn't work, easy eh?, well, not so easy. She can't be in two places at once so we have designed a fairly sophisticated reflector system for the receiver on the Space Station so that the laser beam received there from the GEO satellite will be reflected to a separate receiver on the Shuttle. We will set up two laser generators on the GEO satellite, one pointed at the Space Station and one at the Shuttle. The Space Station will have one generator linked with a mirror and pointed at the Shuttle, and the Shuttle will have three receivers, one for the direct GEO laser, one for the direct Space Station laser, and one for the reflected GEO laser through the mirror on the Space Station. Avril can then control all the receivers and the software to interpret results on the Shuttle. There you have it, any radio frequencies transmitting through space will cross the laser beams and will be detected. We'll be able to find out what kind of signal it is, what it is carrying, and where it comes from. Bob's your Uncle! QED. All clear, everyone?"
The arrival of the margueritas interrupts proceedings for a short while, then Amis speaks. "So Avril will have to visit the GEO orbiting satellite, then the Space Station, and set up all the equipment at each, then position the Shuttle at a point where the other two can hit it? Is that it?"
"Sure is, Martin. But she has a crew who will do the flying and most of the mechanical stuff. Her main job is the receiver tuning. And the on-board analysis. And she'll have enough storage capacity to overcome any blockers that might get collected as we're doing this. We hope. And she will have the latest in flash memory connected to direct transmit to us here".
Amis again. "Wow! Quite a trip! And this works?"
Grant Wallace again. "Bloody better! But, Mate, we really don't know. Na, I'm bullshitting, of course it works, give me another coldy!"
The appetising smell of barbecued New York cuts brought the sportier types out of the pool, the guys in long dripping surf shorts, the women in bikinis; Kim's, high cut, long lightly tanned legs looking longer, sexy; Avril's, more modest but needing to be tugged into place. Towelled down, they pushed two more tables up to the guys already starting on the tomato & mozzarella. The Barolo was already served, slightly chilled. This was going to be a long lunch.
Monday March 22
1700 hrs. Main Hall.
One of the NSA men enters through decontamination carrying a hardened disc carrier "Hey you guys where do I find Miss Featherston?"
Mark Ripley answers. "Over there, second cabin from the left. More hard discs?"
"I guess so Mr Ripley, we just got another delivery this afternoon as well. There's a lot more coming".
Kim walks briskly across to the desk occupied by Martin Amis with a couple of CDs in her hands. Martin Amis looked over "Something new Kim?"
"Maybe you should look at these, we're getting more blockers, here we have twenty seven discs with four, and three discs with five. And one of these is from a Palmtop, a mobile that had only a cellphone modem connection. Avril seems to be right on. The blockers are growing bigger and more numerous. We're getting up to two hundred reports a day now, and Paul has had to set up another website to handle the traffic, it's called Earth-contact and drawing a lot of traffic. Hard disc action, blockers, people reporting UFO's and who knows what. And we have two months before launch. I hope we can hold out that long!"
"But five blockers isn't all that much to a normal up-to-date pc is it? Only a few megas?"
"Yes, only a few, around ten. But at this rate we could be up to fifty blockers by launch date. That's a hundred megs and growing. People are really going to start to feel this. And if the rest of her theory is correct and the gas chromo boys are somewhere near correct, we're going to see a lot more bubble events sometime soon. Magic and Crackers are working on the data breakdown to see if the content is much different. We dont expect much change however. Just more data, more plus dot minus, reams of it. And all of it in three-d format. eDNA's stem cells as Avril calls them, this is gonna be some baby when it grows up!
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Monday April 12
1100 hrs. Reception Building, Office of Everett St.J. Hillier.
Hillier sits at his desk shuffling papers, getting them into order. Martin Amis and Mark Ripley sit opposite.
Hillier shoves the papers to one side. "We're making progress gentlemen, but so too is our friend eDNA, we've had another bubble event report in from Goldstone, I guess you've read it. Our gas chromo team were on the spot. Not too much new, more vocabulary and evident recognition of what's going on around it. Kim's team in the DA unit are getting up to ten blockers in some of the latest hard disc analyses, and although the guys are only doing random in-depth math analyses the data structures are much as they have been in recent weeks, more of the same three-d structured data streams. Avril and Grant are on target with their Shuttle preparations, the laser generators and receivers are pretty much to plan and will be delivered to the Kennedy Space Center for on-time loading. Software modifications are still in progress, and some new algorythms are planned to make the source location somewhat faster. That too will be on-time. We have a status report direct from NASA at Kennedy Space Center, and we'll get daily updates up to launch. Martin, it's time to get the Commsat Unit and the Ground Station unit preparations underway. They needn't be here before May first, but they had better be advised to start getting ready. Will you take care of that? Mark, for you and the Data Analysis Unit, Kim's team, is everything OK? Need anything? No, OK gentlemen, business as usual, let's keep it going".
NASA, Shuttle STS-96 (94), Mission Control ... Status ReportModified Web site data. for Public Release,
Copy to Chandler, open channel. all original data courtesy http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/sts-96/
Monday April 12
Mission Details, Mission Countdown Monday April 12
Pad 39-B (43)
94th Shuttle Mission
26th Flight OV-103
KSC Landing (47)
Night Landing (11)
KSC Night Landing (6)
Ron V. Steiner (4), Commander
Daryl D. Busch (1), Pilot
Neus Ferrero (3), Mission Specialist
Samantha E. Kahn (5), Mission Specialist
Donald J. Carter (2), Mission Specialist
Amanda Frexinet (1), (Canada) Mission Specialist
Ivan Ivanovich Rostok (1), (Russia) Mission Specialist
Avril Stone (1), Mission Specialist
Space Station Assembly Flight
ICC(STRELA,SHOSS,OTD), STARSHINE, SVF, IVHM , eDNA VLLA Laser Array
STS-96 is a logistics and resupply mission for the International Space Station. It will be the first flight to dock to the International Space Station. The SPACEHAB double module will carry internal and resupply cargo for station outfitting. Installation of Very Large Laser Array (VLLA) at GEO DSCS 044 and at International Space Station.
The Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) will carry the Russian cargo crane, known as STRELA, which will be mounted to the exterior of the Russian station segment, the SPACEHAB Oceaneering Space System Box (SHOSS) and a U.S. built crane called the ORU Transfer Device (OTD).
Other payloads on STS-96 are
the Student Tracked Atmospheric Research Satellite for Heuristic International
Networking Equipment (STARSHINE), the Shuttle Vibration Forces Experiment (SVF)
and the Orbiter Integrated Vehicle Health Monitoring -
HEDS Technology Demonstration (IVHM HTD), and eDNA Chandler
Special Mission VLLA RF antennae test equipment diode lasers and receivers.
The STARSHINE satellite consists of an inert, 19-inch hollow sphere covered by 1,000 evenly-distributed, flat, polished mirrors, each 1 inch in diameter. The payload consists of the STARSHINE satellite, integrated with the Pallet Ejection System (PES), then mounted inside a lidless carrier. The HH equipment consists of one HH Lightweight Avionics Plate (LAP), then mounted inside a lidless carrier. Additional HH equipment consists of one Hitchhiker Ejection System Electronics (HESE), one 5.0 cubic-foot HH canister, and one Adapter Beam Assembly (ABA). The purpose of the mission is to train international student volunteer observers to visually track this optically reflective spacecraft during morning and evening twilight intervals for several months, calculate its orbit from shared observations, and derive atmospheric density from drag-induced changes in its orbit over time.
The Shuttle Vibration Forces
(SVF) Experiment will provide flight measurements of the vibratory forces
acting between an aerospace payload and its mounting structure.
The force transducers will be incorporated into four custom brackets which will replace the existing brackets used to attach the 5 ft standard canister to the side wall GAS adapter beam. The payload will be activated automatically by the Orbiter Lift-off vibration and will operate for approximately 100 seconds. STS-96 will be the second flight of the SVF experiment .
The purpose of the Orbiter Integrated Vehicle Health Monitoring- HEDS Technology Demonstration (IVHM HTD) is to demonstrate competing modern, off-the-shelf sensing technologies in an operational environment to make informed design decisions for the eventual Orbiter upgrade IVHM. The objective of IVHM is to reduce planned ground processing, streamline problem troubleshooting (unplanned ground processing), enhance visibility into systems operation and improve overall vehicle safety.
The eDNA VLLA installation is an experimental laser beam RF detection system with test bed installation of laser generators and receivers using flexible inertia stability mountings. Objective is to monitor laser photon displacement through RF transmissions.
Monday April 12 On Monday, April 12. Over the weekend, workers removed "D" hatch from Discovery's transfer tunnel adapter to accommodate structural and latch inspections. Workers replaced it with orbiter Endeavour's "D" hatch. Due to the additional work, managers now plan to transfer Discovery to the VAB on Thursday, but do not expect Discovery's arrival at the launch pad to be delayed. Orbiter aft and midbody compartment close-outs continue on schedule. Today, workers will close Discovery's payload bay doors and tomorrow orbiter weight and center of gravity tests are planned. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 4/12/).
NASA, Shuttle STS-96 (94), Mission Control ... Status ReportModified Web site data. for Public Release, Copy to Chandler, open channel.
all original data courtesy http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/sts-96/
COUNTDOWN Monday April 19
On Monday, April 19, Discovery has been mated to the external tank and solid rocket boosters in Vehicle Assembly Building high bay 3. The Shuttle was powered today to support Shuttle Interface Testing that continues through noon tomorrow. The entire
Shuttle stack is scheduled to move out to Launch Pad 39B Wednesday morning.
(Reference KSC Shuttle Status 4/19/)
COUNTDOWN Tuesday April 20
On Tuesday, April 20, Standard Shuttle interface testing revealed that an electrical cable on the left solid rocket booster was not conveying necessary signals between the left aft segment and left forward segment integrated electronic assembly boxes. Troubleshooting efforts revealed that one connector on the cable needs to be replaced. Workers will replace the connector and retest it in the VAB tomorrow, accommodating a Friday morning Shuttle transfer to the launch pad. Managers expect no impact to the target launch date. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 4/20/)
COUNTDOWN Friday April 23 On Friday, April 23, Shuttle Discovery rolled out to Launch Pad 39B. Over the weekend, workers conducted routine launch pad validations and Shuttle main engine frequency response tests. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 4/27/)
COUNTDOWN Monday April 26
On Monday, April 26, the STS-96 flight crew arrived at KSC in preparation for the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT). The crew will conduct orbiter and payload familiarization activities over the next few days and then participate in a launch dress rehearsal on Thursday. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 4/27/)
COUNTDOWN Tuesday April 27
On Tuesday, April 27, The SPACEHAB payload is at the pad and will be installed in the payload changeout room later today. The payload will be installed in the orbiter.
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Thursday May 6
2100 hrs. Conference Center.
Martin Amis and Ralph Little from the Commsat unit, Grant Wallace and Harold Thierman from the Ground Station unit, Kim Featherston, Mark Ripley and Dr Avril Stone sit in a compact group looking at the latest three-d graphics of the latest blocker groups on the multiscreen.
Hillier, standing at the podium, points to the screens. "As you can see, eDNA is growing and fast. Up to 22 blocks in the last disc group. Avril, we're pretty much in your hands, how's the launch preparations going?"
"Everett, just fine, a good crew. I haven't worked with this crew before but we get on well. We've had our countdown demonstration test, orbiter and payload familiarisation activities are complete, health checks, you name it, we're ready. Everything we need is on board or ready to be loaded. How is it with you guys here? All the communications in place?"
Martin Amis answers. "Yes Avril, we've run all comm programs through mission control and JPL has the all clear. Grant's team have the ground lines in place, Kim has the backup systems for your direct data transmissions. We're as ready as we'll ever be. When are you due in to KSC for finals?"
"May 23. I have to tell you, I'm itching to go, but nervous as hell. This is some deal and takes getting accustomed to. I'm glad I'm not doing the space walks however. Two of the mission specialists have that job, both at the DSCS G4 0044 satellite in geostationery Earth orbit at about 32000 miles and at the International Space Station, which is only at about 240 miles. And man! is that going to be something to see. We've been through the simulations. This is the first docking with the Space Station. That thing is a big step, I mean b-i-g! But listen, I have a couple more days here, let's go through all the laser detection frequency sets again Grant, I need to be sure that I have the change-overs down pat, it has to happen like fast with no mistakes, we don't know how long we'll get the signals, or if our standby data storage will hold whatever comes in, outside of what we want to receive".
NASA, Shuttle STS-96 (94), Mission Control ... Status ReportModified Web site data. for Public Release, Copy to Chandler, open channel.
all original data courtesy http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/sts-96/
COUNTDOWN Thursday May 06 On Thursday, May 6, the SPACEHAB tunnel has been mated to Discovery inside the payload bay and leak checks are complete. The orbiter's prelaunch propellant loading began yesterday and will continue through Saturday. Tomorrow, auxiliary power unit No. 2 will be hot-fired as part of planned launch preparations. This coming weekend, workers will complete SPACEHAB payload testing and drag chute door installation. During yesterday's Flight Readiness Review, Shuttle managers confirmed plans to use a functional drag chute and strengthened drag chute door assembly on the upcoming flight. Inconel hinge-pins will replace the aluminum pins that failed during the STS-95 flight, allowing the drag chute door to fall off during liftoff. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/6/)
COUNTDOWN Friday May 07
On Friday, May 7, workers completed a hot-fire test on Discovery's auxiliary power unit No. 2 (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/10/)
COUNTDOWN Monday May 10 On Monday, May 10, APU pressurization is under way. Orbiter crew compartment purge testing concluded over the weekend. At the pad, the Rotating Service Structure was placed around the Shuttle on Friday and the payload bay doors are open. SPACEHAB interface verification testing concludes today and the payload bay doors will be closed for flight tomorrow afternoon. Equipped with new instrumentation, the drag chute door has been installed and will undergo tests this week. Mating of the orbiter midbody umbilical unit and subsequent leak checks are in work. Technicians are also inspecting the orbiter and external tank for possible hail damage from a weekend storm at KSC. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/10/)
COUNTDOWN Thursday May 13
On Thursday, May 13, NASA Shuttle managers decided to move the launch date from May 20, at 9:32a.m. EDT to May 27, no earlier than 6:48a.m EDT. The decision was made to roll Space Shuttle Discovery back to the Vehicle Assembly Building to complete repair work on the hail-damaged external tank foam insulation. After much evaluation, managers determined that necessary repair work could not be performed at Launch Pad 39B due to limited access to damaged areas. Managers expect Discovery's move toward the VAB to begin early Sunday morning.
COUNTDOWN Sunday May 16
May 16. Current work plans indicate that the foam repairs will take 2 to 3 days, allowing Discovery to roll back to Pad 39B by midweek. Managers expect the Shuttle to be ready for launch no earlier than May 27. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/13/)
COUNTDOWN Monday May 17
On Monday, May 17, technicians completed evaluations on Discovery's hail-damaged external tank foam insulation and began repair efforts. Having much closer access than what is available at the launch pad, inspections in the VAB revealed a total of 648 divots in the tank's outer foam. Managers consider 189 of the divots acceptable to fly without repair. Blending or sanding work is required for 211 hits and 248 divots will be patched with new foam. The current schedule indicates that foam repair efforts will be complete tomorrow. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/18/)
COUNTDOWN Wednesday May 19 On Wednesday, May 19, shuttle managers today confirmed May 27 as the launch date for Shuttle mission STS-96. Based on an updated weather forecast and prompt repairs of Discovery's hail-damaged external tank foam insulation, managers decided to transfer Space Shuttle Discovery back to Launch Pad 39B Thursday morning. Shuttle close-out work will commence once Discovery arrives at the pad and will conclude in time for May 27 launch. The launch countdown begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 24. Discovery's external tank repairs were completed today and tonight workers will remove access platforms and scaffolding in preparation for Thursday's move to the pad. If weather continues to cooperate, Discovery will begin moving out of VAB high bay 1 about 2 a.m. tomorrow and will be hard down at Pad 39B by midday. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/19/)
COUNTDOWN Sunday May 23
On Sunday, May 23, at about 11 p.m. EDT the STS-96 flight crew arrived at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility. In the three days prior to launch they will undergo routine medical exams and participate in standard orbiter and payload familiarization activities. The commander and pilot will also take practice flights in the Shuttle Training Aircraft and T-38 jets this week. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/24/)
COUNTDOWN Monday May 24 On Monday, May 24, the launch countdown for STS-96 began on schedule at 9 a.m. EDT at the T-43 hour mark. Over the weekend, workers completed ordnance connections and pressurization of Discovery's maneuvering system and reaction control system. Yesterday morning, aft compartment close-outs concluded and aft confidence checks are in work today. Mating of the orbiter midbody umbilical unit is also complete. This morning, pyrotechnic initiator controller testing began. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/24/)
COUNTDOWN Wednesday May 26On Wednesday, May 26, Preparations for launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on Thursday continue as scheduled. The Rotating Service Structure was retracted away from the vehicle and placed in launch configuration early this afternoon. Earlier today, the orbiter's inertial measurement units were activated and the flight crew's equipment was stowed in the orbiter. The crew began final preparations for launch when they awoke at 6:30 p.m. They are scheduled to begin donning their launch and entry suits at 2:19 a.m. tomorrow and depart for the launch pad at about 3 a.m. At 9:30p.m. EDT, the mission management team gave the go to begin loading of the 528,000 gallons of cryogenic propellants into the Shuttle's external tank. The 3 hour loading operations began at 9:54 p.m. EDT as the launch team came out of the planned 2 hour hold at the T-minus 6 hour mark. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 5/26/)
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Wednesday May 26
1900 hrs. Conference Center.
Hillier addresses the full task force crew. "Just a couple of hours to go, everyone ready? Any questions? Grant has a television installed in the GS unit, those who want to can get the whole deal, around two o'clock in the morning our time".
Thursday May 27
NASA, Shuttle STS-96 (94), Mission Control ... Status ReportModified Web site data. for Public Release, Copy to Chandler, open channel.
all original data courtesy http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/sts-96/
Launched May 27, 6:49a.m. EDT. Window was 5-10 min.
On Thursday, May 27, at 1:49 a.m., the flight crew ate breakfast in the dining room of the astronauts quarters in the Operations and Checkout Building (O&C) and received a weather briefing at 2:19 a.m. EDT. The crew then suited up and departed for Launch Pad 39-B at 3:05 a.m. EDT. At 3:30 a.m. EDT the crew entered the white room and began boarding the Discovery. At 4:14 a.m. EDT boarding was complete and by 5:36 a.m. EDT the hatch was closed and locked for flight. At 6:15 a.m. EDT, with countdown clock at the hold at the T-minus 9 minute mark, the only concern being tracked was a sailboat in the SRB recovery area. It has been contacted and will be out of the area shortly. At 6:33 a.m. EDT, after a final poll of the launch team, the mission management team gave a clear to launch. The countdown clock came out of the T-minus 9 minute mark at 6:41 a.m. EDT. At 6:43 a.m. the Orbiter Access Arm (OAA) was retracted. Liftoff at 6:49 a.m. EDT. Good SRB separation at 6:52 a.m EDT.
T- EVENTS CHNL REMARKS
T-09M00S THE COUNT HAS RESUMED NTD ALL
GLS AUTO SEQUENCE HAS BEEN INITIATED GLS CGLS,ALL
SELECT PAYLOAD BAY SAMPLE LINE OTC,CHGD
T-07M30S RETRACT ORBITER ACCESS ARM GLS GLS(Auto)
T-07M00S SELECT MIDBODY SAMPLE LINE OTC,CHGD
T-06M15S PERFORM APU PRE-START 212 OTC,PLT
SELECT ET INTERTANK SAMPLE LINE OTC,CHGD
T-05M00S GO FOR APU START GLS CGLS,OTC,PLT
T-04M55S VERIFY ET/SRB RANGE SAFETY SYSTEM SAFING GLS CGLS (Auto)
& ARM DEVICE ARMED
VERIFY SRM IGNITION SAFING & ARM DEVICE GLS CGLS (Auto)
TERMINATE LOX REPLENISH GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-04M48S CLOSE LOX INBOARD F&D VALVE GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-04M35S OPEN LOX DRAIN VALVE GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-04M30S MAIN FUEL VALVE HEATERS OFF GLS CMPS
T-04M00S INITIATE SSME PURGE SEQUENCE 4 GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-04M00S VERIFY SSME VALVE MOVEMENT IN THE CGLS (Auto)
(CONT'D) CLOSE DIRECTION
T-03M55S INITIATE ORBITER AERO SURFACES PROFILE GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-03M30S INITIATE MPS GIMBAL PROFILE CHECKS GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-03M03S MPS ENGINES TO START POSITION GLS CGLS (Auto)
VERIFY BODY FLAP TO LAUNCH POSITION GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-03M00S SELECT AFT FUSELAGE SAMPLE LINE OTC,CHGD
T-02M55S INITIATE ET LOX PRESSURIZATION GLS CGLS (Auto)
TERMINATE SSME GN2 PURGE GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-02M50S TERMINATE GOX WENT HOOD PURGE GLS CGLS (Auto)
RETRACT GOX VENT HOOD GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-02M35S PRSD TRANSFER TO INTERNAL REACTANTS GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-02M00S CLOSE VISORS 212 OTC,CDR
T-01M57S TERMINATE LH2 REPLENISH GLS CGLS (Auto)
CLOSE LH2 TOPPING VALVE GLS CGLS (Auto)
CLOSE LH2 VENT VALVE GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-01M46S INITIATE LH2 PREPRESS GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-01M30S T-1 MINUTE 30 SECONDS 212 NTD,ALL
ET BIPOD HEATERS OFF GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-01M00S T-1 MINUTE 212 NTD,ALL
T-00M55S PERFORM SRB FWD MDM LOCKOUT GLS CGLS (Auto)
VERIFY SRB MDM CRITICAL COMMANDS GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-00M50S GROUND POWER REMOVAL GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-00M48S CLOSE LOX & LH2 OUTBOARD FILL & DRAIN GLS CGLS (Auto)
DEACTIVATE SRB JOINT HEATERS GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-00M31S GLS GO FOR AUTO SEQUENCE GLS CGLS (Auto)
ARM CUT OFF GLS CGLS (Manual)
INITIATE RSL5 GLS CGLS (Auto)
* NOTE: AFTER THIS TIME, ONLY CUT *
* OFF IS AVAILABLE & WILL RESULT IN *
* GLS RECYCLING TO T-20 MINUTES & *
* HOLDING *
ORB VENT DOOR SE9 START GPC CGLS (Auto)
T-00M28S START SRB APU'S GLS NTD,ALL
T-00M26S START SRB APU'S GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-00M25S 25 SECONDS 212 NTD,ALL
T-00M21S START SRB GIMBAL TEST GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-00M20S 20 SECONDS 212 NTD,ALL
T-00M16S ACTIVATE SOUND SUPPRESSION WATER GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-00M15S 15 SECONDS 212 NTD,ALL
T-00M13S PERFORM SRB AFT MDMS LOCKOUT GLS CGLS (Auto)
VERIFY LH2 HIGH POINT BLEED VALVE CLOSED GLS
TERMINATE MPS HELIUM FILL GLS
T-00M10S 10 SECONDS 212 NTD,ALL
FREE HYDROGEN BURN OFF SYSTEM IGNITION GLS CGLS (Auto)
GLS GO FOR MAIN ENGINE START GLS
REMOVE ET/SRB RANGE SAFETY INHIBITS GLS CGLS (Auto)
T-00M6.6S MAIN ENGINE 3 START COMMAND GPC RSLS (Auto)
T-00M6.48S MAIN ENGINE 2 START COMMAND GPC RSLS (Auto)
T-00M6.36S MAIN ENGINE 1 START COMMAND GPC RSLS (Auto)
T-00M00S T-ZERO SRB IGNITION 212 RSLS (Auto)
SRB HOLDDOWN RELEASE COMMAND
Authors: Condensed from S0007 Launch Countdown
Hypertexed-by: Jim Dumoulin / NASA and Paula Shawa / Sherikon
Jim Dumoulin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Thursday May 27
1200 hrs. Ground Station unit.
Grant Wallace sits at the control console set up for the Shuttle transmissions. Hillier, Ripley, Kim Featherston and two technicians sit around, crowded into the available floor space in the container. Harold Thierman stands in the doorway, Don Whelan, Crackers and Magic sit on stools just outside. Grant Wallace has the LAN link to the Commsat unit where Martin Amis and Ralph Little are monitoring STS 96 Mission Control. The slightly disembodied voice of Ralph Little over the loudspeaker breaks the silence. "Everett, Mission Control is linking to you in five seconds".
Seconds later the even more disembodied voice of Avril Stone:
Hey you guys, what a blast! This is me, Avril, and boy, am I high!
The video flutters into life on Wallace's screen. The up-close-camera-distorted face of Avril Stone fills the screen, smiling, excited. She speaks again.
We’re in orbit to rendezvous with the DSCS 0044. This is gonna take a few hours and in the meantime the crew is getting the loading bay cleared for the mechanical arm which we need to swing the mounting and the laser generators out for attachment. Wow, I have to tell you guys this is really something. That lift-off ... I’d forgotten just what a sensation that was! And boy, are we flying high? This is just the most stunning view of good ol’ Mother Earth! We’re over the Atlantic just now I guess, but I can’t get the camera into place to show you, but the whole world is in view! Fantastic! We’re heading east I guess, the shadow line of tonight is coming over the horizon. How’re yáll down there in Chandler? AOK?
Wallace answers. "Sure thing Avril, we're all set. We'll be monitoring the whole time, but there's still a few days to go before we can do anything. Stay cool, baby. This is the big one! We have another link with you set up for early the day after tomorrow, when you're setting up to fix the modules to the 0044. We'll speak again then. Bye bye for now now!"
OK guys, nice talkin’ to you ... and Grant? stick around the radio, I may need you!
STS 96 ... Shuttle "Discovery"
On Board Diary Log: Avril Stone
Thursday May 27
0900 EDT, STS-96: Discovery and its multi-national crew of seven astronauts plus me blasted off this morning from the Kennedy Space Center. We are five men and three women. Lifted off at 0550. Commander Ron Steiner, Pilot Daryl Busch and Mission Specialists Sammy Kahn, Neus Ferrero, Don Carter, Amanda Frexinet and Ivan Rostok. And yours truly. A flawless countdown. Now three hours later, we're in orbit and chasing the DSCS satellite 0044.
The 0044 is in GEO over central Europe at an altitude of just over 32000 miles. Discovery will catch up early tomorrow morning. We will fly in close, use the mechanical arm to load and fix the laser generators mounting in one space walk, take a sleep, then mount the lasers. Then it's a boost down to the International Space Station at an altitude of about 230 miles. This will be the first docking of a Shuttle to the new ISS. We have six days of docked activities in which the crew plan to transfer almost two tons of supplies to the station and conduct a spacewalk to continue outfitting the ISS, as well as fitting the second laser generator and the reflector for the 0044. Then on to HEO to station ourselves for the big test .... The crew is busy already, activating shuttle systems and conducting early work in advance of our rendezvous with the 0044, which will begin early Friday morning. We have an insertion burn in an hour or so, then a sleep period. Wake up is at about 1900. Before that I get to chat with the guys at Chandler. All Discovery systems functioning in good shape.
Thursday May 27
1930: STS-96: Wake up half an hour ago, the Beach Boys music. "California Dreamin " played for one of the crew. We began preparing for the first full day on orbit to ready the vehicle for tomorrows rendevous with 0044 and the first spacewalk. The crew will take time checking out orbiter systems and spacewalking equipment, while we continue to slowly close in on the 0044. We have to prepare the tools required to support rendezvous and spacewalk operations, and later will spend a number of hours checking and testing the extra-vehicular mobility units, or space suits, that will be used during the spacewalk Saturday. Also tonight and into tomorrow, two of the crew will test the mechanical robot arm, checking its operation while conducting a video survey of the payload bay. This procedure will make certain the arm is functioning properly to support the spacewalk. The only problem of any significance on the Shuttle is the apparent failure of one of the four corner cameras in the payload bay. This poses no problem with the flight as there are various other cameras available to document activities related to rendezvous, the spacewalk and deploy later in the flight.
Friday May 28
1015: STS 96: We're trailing the 0044 by less than 500 miles, the Commander twice fired Discovery's steering jets to fine tune the Shuttle's approach. The close-in with the satellite is planned for 2330 hrs today. Down on the middeck, the crew opened the tunnel and hatches leading to the SPACEHAB module in the payload bay. SPACEHAB is loaded with equipment, including ours. We tested three spacesuits. All of the equipment was found to be in excellent condition and ready for the spacewalk. We also tested the Shuttle's 50-foot robot arm and used it to conduct a television survey of the payload bay.
2400: We're in position. This is a wierd feeling ... There's this fragile looking space monster just above us, middle of nowhere. Sleep in an hour. Grant, wish you could see this.
Saturday May 29
0800: STS 96: Preparing the middeck for spacewalk. The mountings for the lasers are ready for installation in the first walk. The lasers are ready for the second walk. The spacewalk crew of two are checking the tools they will use, which is scheduled for 1500. They also checked out their emergency rescue backpacks and reviewed their space walk procedures one last time. Spoke to the guys at Chandler. Everything ready.
1500: A crew member operates the shuttle's robot arm to maneuver the space walker up toward the 0044, another crew member choreographs the whole thing from the aft flight deck, the two space walkers will move the mounting from the payload bay to a location on the outside of the 0044. The space walkers are scheduled to re-enter the hatch about 1800.
1830: They're back in. Didn't get to see too much. Ran the alignment test. Everything AOK. This is such a buzz. Sleep is scheduled for 2300: I need it.
Sunday May 30
0800: STS 96: Getting ready for the second walk for 1000: to install the lasers. feeling off colour, but lots to do.
1400: the crew is back inside. Carried out another alignment test and communication links. All OK. Feeling better. The laser generator is in place and has power, communications, and is targeted. We move away from 0044 in a couple of hours. Then sleep at 2200, then boost down to the Space Station. Earth looks just great.
Monday May 31
0600: STS 96: Wake up just now. The 0044 satellite is a couple of miles away. We boost down to the ISS orbit in a couple of hours.
1715: In ISS orbit, wow this is a lot closer to home! Seems like I could reach out and touch. Commander preparing chase burns to catch the Space Station, should be near tomorrow morning. Preparing the mounts and the laser generator and reflector for the signal relay from the 0044. Lots to do and tough work. The walls are close, always. Beginning to think of sunshine and a huge pizza.
1900: about to boost on the last leg to the ISS. Sleep planned at 2100.
Tuesday June 01
0600: STS 96: Wake up an hour ago. Lots to do still. Things don't happen very fast in this cramped space, which is really huge considering. We're near the ISS but I cant see anything. We are less than 500 miles and moving closer every orbit, Commander Ron Steiner twice fired Discovery's steering jets to fine tune the Shuttle's approach to the new station. Docking with the station planned for 1530 tomorrow. The crew is to open the tunnel and hatches leading to the SPACEHAB module in the payload bay.
1100: Suits tested again for the space walk during which two crew will install both U.S. and Russian-built cranes to the station for use by future astronaut construction crews. More tests on robot arm. AOK. Extended the outer ring of the Shuttles' Docking System in a successful test of the mechanism which will make the first contact with and capture a similar mechanism in the Pressurized Mating Adapter affixed to the ISSs' Unity. Cabin pressure lowered again as a precursor to spacewalk crew who will breathe pure oxygen tomorrow night in advance of their spacewalk. 7 hour sleep scheduled at 2050. with wake up at 0350 to begin preparations for rendezvous and docking. Discovery is orbiting at an altitude of 230 statute miles, with all of its systems operating normally.
Wednesday June 02:
0430: Wake up at 0350 by Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone," played for the Shuttle Commander. He will guide Discovery to the first-ever Shuttle docking with the International Space Station this evening. Discovery is planned to dock with the station at 1530. We trail the station by about 120 miles and closing in by about 41 nautical miles with each orbit of Earth.
We are about eight miles directly behind the station.
Space station flight controllers have changed the orientation of the space station for docking. The Unity module where we dock is pointed toward space and the Zarya module toward Earth. We're going to be on our back, looking up at the Earth.
1235: terminal phase initiation burn. We're on a course directly toward the station, we should reach it during the next orbit.
WE'RE HALF A MILE AWAY: This looks fantastic. Commander takes over on manual control in aft cockpit.
1405: we are about 600 feet directly below the station.
Commander making a half circle, we're about 350 feet in front of the station.
1432: Now about 250 feet directly above. Upside down! Looks OK however, feels like the right way up! The space station looks like a can of beans attached to another metal can with a little tube. We have to go through that!
Descending.... or is it rising?
1437: holding position at a point about 170 feet away. Waiting for about 15 minutes to allow the station to move within range of Russian ground communications stations before continuing the approach.
1513: Holding about 30 feet from the station to ensure the Shuttle and station docking mechanisms are precisely aligned.
Moving in, dead slow. About a tenth of a foot per second.
Pilot assisting Commander in controlling approach.
1524: Mission Specialists assist with the rendezvous and docking, operating the Shuttle's docking mechanism and assisting with the rendezvous navigation.
Docked. Eureka. Great feeling. Everyone happy. Still work to do.
Perform a hatch leak check. We're over the border between Russia and Kazakhstan!
1610: Preparing the middeck for the first spacewalk. Crew will not open the hatch to the Unity module (the can of beans) and enter the station until tomorrow, after the spacewalk is completed.
Opening the hatch to the Pressurized Mating Adapter attached to the Unity module. We're docked to Unity's Pressurized Mating Adapter # 2, which is pointed out to deep space.
0050: sleep period. It's been a long day. Wake up at 0900.
Thursday June 03: 1000. Preparations for the spacewalk by two crew later today to install new cranes to the outside of the ISS. Other work to do includes removing and stowing four electronics boxes used to supply power to the docking ports around the Unity module, clearing the sides of the passageway into Unity for easy transfer of some 3,600 pounds of equipment and supplies. The briefcase-sized boxes will be kept in storage until the end of the next station assembly flight on STS-101 in December, when they will be reinstalled to prepare for the arrival of the U.S. Laboratory module, Destiny, next spring.
1100: Tools and emergency rescue backpacks check for spacewalk.
1400: Spacewalk into the cargo bay. Two crew. Mission Specialist operating the shuttle's robot arm to maneuver spacewalker crew up toward the space station modules, another crew member acting as the spacewalk choreographer from Discovery's aft flight deck. Moving the two cranes from a payload bay cargo support structure to locations on the outside of the station. One crane is U.S.-built and the other is Russian-built to help move large modular components from one module to another during ISS assembly.
1615: Our laser generator mounting block is being moved out.
Attached to framework opposite to Ku band antenna.
1710: Laser moved out and being mounted. Going like clockwork.
1800: Reflector being moved out, fixing to mounting block next to laser.
1900: More articles of equipment being moved out to the mating adapter between the Zarya module and the Unity module where we are attached. This all looks really spooky. I'm set up to do alignment tests, but have to wait for other work completion.
More hardware moving out. Fixed to Unity for future users.
2030: Spacewalk crew coming in. We test our gear tomorrow. Sleep time soon. I'm exhausted.
Friday June 04:
0500: Today we enter the space station. First time since six months that anyone has been on board. I'm going too, lots of equipment to move.
0814: Hatches opened. Two crew enter the ISS Unity module then through the Pressurized Mating Adapter 1 into the Zarya module at 0907. Myself and the rest of the crew followed. Great space to spend a holiday! A whole lot more roomy than the Shuttle! We enter Unity, about fifteen to twenty feet long inside by about eight feet by eight feet I guess. The passage ways to the airlocks are tighter.
Begin transferring supplies, equipment and water that will be left aboard. I work with the crew attaching power to laser generator. Alignment tests. Communicator tests. Mission Control relaying new settings, it works, everything going to plan. The laser and reflector align as required to commands.
We have moved tons of equipment today, batteries, controllers, lap top computers and clothing and there's more to do tomorrow. Commander has radio interviews with NBC and CBS. Sleep time starts at 2020.
Saturday June 05: 0350. Wake up time. Love the music, country and western tune "Amarillo by Morning". Commander and our Russian crew member answer questions regarding the progress of the flight from Russian reporters located at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow. Logistics transfer activities dominate the day as all crew members move supplies from the SPACEHAB module to designated locations in the International Space Station. By the end of docked operations, we have transferred almost 3,000 pounds of items, including clothing, sleeping bags, water, medical support equipment, maintenance spares and computer support and maintenance equipment into the orbiting complex to support future resident crews. Commander and our Canadian crew member discussed the mission with Canada's Prime Minister and Science Minister and also answered questions from students across Canada.
1100: the entire crew answers questions from both U.S. and Canadian reporters. NASA TV.
1620: More interviews by Good Morning America, KFDA-TV in Amarillo, Texas and KUSA-TV in Denver, Colorado.
1950: sleep period, thank God. I'm pooped. Wake up at 0350.
Sunday June 06: 0400. Woke up about an hour ago. We have to move a few remaining items from Discovery to the ISS, then close the series of hatches within the stations' modules leading back to the shuttle. Last checks on laser and reflector alignment and power and communications.
0430. We prepare to lift the Space Station into higher orbit before we move away, on our way to our triangulation station, high Earth orbit half way around the world and 4000 miles up. Commander fires up a series of 17 bursts to raise the Space Station's altitude by about five to six miles. This gets the ISS in the correct altitude for the arrival of the Russian Zvezda service module late this year. It will be the next component to be linked to the growing station complex and the first living quarters for the first permanent occupants of the ISS.
0540: We disconnect. Springs in the docking mechanism provided an initial push away from the ISS and Commander fires up to move us away about 400 feet.
0753: We fire up again to depart the stations' vicinity. The engine firing sent the Shuttle below and ahead of the station, separating at a rate of about seven miles with each orbit, toward space.
0900: Setting up the laser receivers in the cargo bay, on the fixed cargo module rack. Alignment to Shuttle centre-line complete. Power connected, comm cables connected to my "office". Frequency-set controllers powered up, first set uvc bandwidth. Second set Extra Low Frequency bandwidth on stand-by, third set Ultra Low Frequency bandwidth on standby, all switching channels prepared. Laser receiver on, my computer on, and spare data storage packs in place. Mission Control sets up open channel through to Chandler, we tune separate Ku band channel to Chandler. Open Chandler communication, confirm readiness. Good to hear the guys back there again. This is it, coming up.
1300: We reach triangulation orbit at 4000 miles. We have several hours of fine tuning to get into position for triangulation, electronically visible at all times to the ISS and to DSCS 0044. We have to match the ISS rotational speed exactly. Our laser antenna will look like a slowly revolving cone fixed at the GEO satellite. Cool calculations.
Very Long Laser Array Antenna, Triangulation Point, Altitude 4000 miles. Orbiting.
Sunday June 6
1600 hrs: In position, Avril Stone passing fine tune alignment results to STS Commander who manoeuvres accordingly. A crew member fixes aluminum covers to the Shuttle windows to protect against stray laser beam penetration. Commands for fine tuning orientation now follow.
1700 hrs: This is taking some time. Mission Control advises that they can hold a steady state condition within required tolerances for thirty minutes before having to re-adjust. Re-adjustment is to take another thirty minutes all being well. Mission Control confirms start at 1745. Chandler acknowledges.
Avril takes several deep breaths. Let's go guys ... Grant, ' you there?
1745 hrs: Misson Control puts power on to the two laser generators at DSCS 0044 and to the single laser generator at the Space Station. Receivers on. Avril Stone tries to leap up as the first signals show up on the laptop screen, instead pushes the laptop away. It cracks against a bulkhead. She recovers, catches the weightless computer, steadies.
Hold it lady, what the hell is the matter with you. Stay cool.
Wow we are getting signals. Sheesh what is this?
The laser receiver passes data streams to Dr Stone’s laptop. The steady state laser beams represented by three straight lines now being broken and scattered above and below the base-line. Noise. No recognisable patterns at all. Transmitting all channels direct to Chandler. Running.
My RF analyser says just what it should, noise in the uvc bandwidth. C'mon guys, tell me what this is, I cant see if it means anything at all.
Slowly the laser beam representation disintegrates, the uvc signals crossing the beams becoming stronger. Commander advises that more of the array is swinging into daylight, high solar energy.
1749 hrs: Dr Stone requests Mission Control to close down the lasers.
We have enough of that for the guys at Chandler to analyse. C'mon guys, what is it?
Chandler to STS 96. Hello Avril, this is Grant. This is not what we are looking for Baby, this is just what it should be, uvc, and lots of it. Go ahead and do your frequency set change to ELF.
STS 96 to Chandler. I hear you Grant, I'm on it. Be ready in about five minutes. I'll advise Mission Control when I'm ready, you guys will just have to watch your data streams.
STS 96 Stone to Mission Control, we are ready for second power up to the lasers, thank you, have you got us still in your tolerance window?
The Mission Control transmission squawks, affirmative we have you in tolerance for another fifteen minutes or so. Powering on in t minus thirty seconds.
1802 hrs and ten seconds: The three separate lines on the laptop screen began to disintegrate again, but this time in a regular fluttering dance above and below the lines, drifting left to right on the screen.
Dr Stone jerked backwards again, this time
firmly grasping the laptop. For fifteen seconds she watched breathless as the
slow dance moved across the screen, three separate rows of points tracing out
wavy curves flowing left to right. Then blackout. Another several seconds,
gaping, incapable of reaction, Dr Stone swears.
Shit. The blockers. Hard disc change over, c'mon lady get your ass into gear here. This is it by God! We have to get more of this, we need more than this for sourcing, c'mon lady! speaking to herself as she ejected the hard disc and tried to slam in another from it's pack strapped just above her left knee.
Slowly kiddo, weightless, get it in! Dammit, now!
Hot plugged, the screen flashed back into life again, the wavy lines repeating their mesmerising dance. At 1803 and 29 seconds, black out again.
Dammit and shit shit shit! Hold it be cool, what's the rush? This is not going to go away. Grant, where are you? Are you getting this? Grant, talk to me daddy I need to know if you're getting this?
The Chandler channel rasped into life. Oh Baby we are getting this! You bet! But listen, just hold your horses for a minute or two until we see what this stuff is doing to our systems. Can you hold? You've got time Baby, be cool. And you've still got discs. Let's look at this and work out what we have so far. OK?
OK Grant, I'm holding. STS 96 Stone to Mission Control are you getting this? We have results, keep us on power and in tolerance for just a little while yet please. How much time do we have?
Mission Control to STS Dr Stone yes we are getting it and we have time yet, maybe ten minutes and holding. We're right with you.
STS 96 to Mission Control thanks, let's wait until we see what Chandler has to say. You getting them direct?
STS this is Mission Control affirmative and holding. 1805 hours and ten to go.
1809 hrs thirty seconds. Chandler to STS 96. Avril this is our eDNA, no doubt, but we need another set of data, can you get it now please?
STS 96 to Chandler. Yes Grant I have another disc ready, say when.
Chandler to STS 96. Avril in t minus twenty seconds OK?
OK, got it and counting.
1810 hrs and twenty five seconds. Dr Stone plugged another clean hard disc into the slot. The screen presented the dancing act just as before, three slowly waving lines, asynchronous, same wavelength but at different start times. Twenty seconds later, blackout again.
Got you you mother!
STS 96 to Chandler. Grant will that do you?
Chandler to STS 96. Thank you Baby, just fine. Please hold.
STS 96 this is Mission Control. Dr Stone we are out of tolerance. We can have you back again in thirty minutes or so.
Mission Control this is STS 96 Stone. Please hold. We may not need another run just now. Wait for Chandler please.
Mission Control to STS 96 affirmative and holding.
1822 hrs. Chandler to STS 96. Avril this is Grant, still with us?
Chandler this is STS 96. Sure am Grant but I have a fit of the shakes right now ... tell me what we have ...
Chandler to STS. Avril we have enough we think, for now. We want you to set up again for the ULF frequency set, but we want you to get some sleep, the crew needs it as well. Mission Control agrees. Take a break for ten hours or so. Great work lady.
STS to Chandler, Grant, make it eight hours. Mission Control can you give us a wake up at 0230 please?
Mission Control to STS Dr Stone: Be pleased to, sleep well. And good work, it sounds like you got what you want so far. See you at 0230.
Space Shuttle STS-96
Very Long Laser Array Antenna, Triangulation Point, Altitude 4000 miles. Orbiting.
Monday June 7
0100 hrs. Avril Stone wakes with a start.
Holy shit, I have it! We can beat these blockers! Let me think this through ... the blockers occur on data storage discs but no-one reports any loss of data. It's not over-writing. It just fills up available space. A v a i l a b l e! What happens if we don't have any available space? No blockers! QED! Sometimes I am simply brilliant! Wait ... we need the space too, so can we program our software to overwrite? Think. OK we can fill the data storage with something, useless information. How can we over-write? This is something for Chandler.
STS to Chandler, are you guys on line? Grant? Anybody?
Chandler to STS, Hi Avril, this is Kim. Grant's grabbing shuteye, I'm on standby. How can I help?
STS to Chandler, Hi Kim. Listen I think I have something here. Record this and get Grant and whoever is necessary to work on this immediately and like now, please. We need to fill our hard discs with data we can overwrite with the laser receiver data, or whatever else comes in that we want. The blockers only fill up available space, they don't overwrite! Got that? They do not overwrite! I need some useless data or whatever here to fill up the spare discs I have and some software changes or a new configuration of what we have so that any new incoming data here can overwrite the useless stuff. Get on it now please. Talk to you later.
Chandler to STS. Got it Avril. Could work. We'll keep you informed.
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Monday June 7
Grant Wallace, rubbing his eyes, sits up on the air mattress in the office corner of the main hall. Speaks. "Tell me that again Kim please".
Kim Featherston replays the recorder.
Wallace jumps up. "The lady is a genius! Who have we got here just now Kim? Who can do this?"
"The whole DA team are sleeping. I'll haul them out of bed".
Don Whelan listens to the tape. "Mr Wallace we can do this, sure, but it's gonna take some time. How much time do we have?"
"How much time do you need?"
"I guess a couple of days, I don't know".
Paul Trimble breaks into the conversation. "Mr Wallace, we can do something else I think; if we create a whole lot of data like a disc full, then delete it, it doesn't really get deleted, it just sits on the hard disc and waits to be over-written. At least with some systems, like most of what we use here. It's compressed so I guess we have to fill up the disc a few times to really get a disc full of stuff. Denial of access. Neat. We can get that up in an hour or so I think, and transmit direct to Dr Stone. Don, whaddaya think?"
"That'll work. Not bad Paul. Let's get on it. In the meantime I'll have Crackers and Magic work up a proper program for later usage, something designed for the job. Timmo and I will start on the receiver software right away to be sure it will overwrite. Let's do it!
Space Shuttle STS-96
Very Long Laser Array Antenna, Triangulation Point, Altitude 4000 miles. Orbiting.
Monday June 7
STS this is Chandler. Avril, this is Grant.
Chandler this is STS. Go ahead Grant, I'm here.
Chandler to STS. Avril, we will relay a data set for you to load into each of the spare discs you have, except two you keep clean in case of emergencies. This starts in t minus two minutes if you are ready.
STS to Chandler. OK Grant, I'll be ready.
0410 hrs. Avril Stone swapped the last but two of the spare discs into the laptop, and commenced loading the filler data set. Mark, delete. Repeats the sequence again, and then again.
STS to Chandler. Grant I'm ready for the modified receiver software.
Chandler to STS. Coming in t minus 30 seconds.
Mission Control, this is STS Stone.
STS, Dr Stone, Mission Control hearing you.
This is STS. We're ready to run the ULF frequency set, when can you give us a window?
STS Dr Stone , in about 15 minutes, OK?
OK we're waiting.
0436 hrs. Dr Stone floated just above floor level, a locator ribbon holding her in position. Power on, lasers running, the familiar sequences of disconnected graph points undulating in three rows across the laptop screen. Fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, sixty seconds.
Check the relays to Chandler, indicator lights blinking steadily, getting through. We've got it! Keep going sweetheart, keep running. My God, we're doing it, it works!
At four minutes and six seconds, the three lines reverted to straight, no disturbance. Seven seconds later, the familiar sequence started again.
Oh Boy oh boy oh boy, we got you this time!
At five minutes and ten seconds,
switch off, that ought to do it. We can run again later if we need.
STS to Chandler. Grant have you got it all?
Chandler to STS. We sure have Avril, great work. We'd like to take a break and see what we have here. We need at least an hour. We'll come back at 0545.
DSO Task Force Operations Center, Chandler, Arizona
Monday June 7
Wallace speaking to Kim Featherston, Don Whelan and Paul Trimble. "OK guys, what do we have here? What's the news so far.
Kim Featherston answers. "We have more than enough data for sourcing. We have three different triangulations, the two short ELF bursts from yesterday plus the long ULF from just now. The sourcing is going to take a while, Martin Amis's people are working on it with their software. Don and Paul are on the data breakdown, and we can identify some things already. We do not have a complete data set in these three sets as far as we can tell, but we do have the start sequence, that came just after the seven second break in transmission. That bit looks the same as the first blocker streams. We can confirm that in a couple of hours. We then have data streams that look like all the blockers we have to date. The end sequence we have also, that happened just before the seven second break. At least we assume so. With all the rest we should be able to get a pretty complete picture of this, we'll do the batch comparisons and find which parts fit into where in the total stream. Man, I think we probably have the whole of this baby. eDNA, we're on your tail! What we still do not know is how the data streams from this ultra low frequency transmission in space gets into the high frequency stuff that we have here. I'd like to get Max back in to work on that. The lasers are registering the ULF streams, maybe when we get the receiver data down here we can break it down to see what happens. In any case like everything associated with eDNA this is clever stuff. And we have no idea how such low frequency transmissions are even possible. Normally these levels would be absorbed by neutral hydrogen in space, or get totally distorted by electro-magnetic disturbances along the way through space. There must be an enormous power source behind this stuff".
Wallace. "OK Kim, keep on it and stay in touch with Martin Amis. Do we need anything more from the Shuttle?"
"Not just now. And if we have what we think we have, then not at all. Can I firm up on this in a couple of hours?"
Very Long Laser Array Antenna, Triangulation Point, Altitude 4000 miles. Orbiting.
Monday June 7
Chandler to STS, Avril?
STS to Chandler. Talk to me Grant.
Avril, we think we have all we need. It's going to take quite a while to evaluate all this but it seems we have enough. I've spoken with Mission Control and they have the landing window as originally planned, and you have time to pack up and get back down here on schedule. How do you feel about that?
STS Dr Stone. Grant that sounds great but be sure. The Commander has about twelve hours before scheduled departure to hit the landing window. I'm gonna get some sleep. Grant, have we got this thing ... ? Wake me if you get something in between. Hey, I'm looking forward to getting back down there with you guys ... Ciao!
STS 96 ... Shuttle "Discovery"
On Board ... diary log: Avril Stone
Monday June 07
1315: Wake up a little while ago. Chandler advises they have all they need. We can go home, thank God. Commander and crew are just beginning to run tests of all systems for boost down and landing.
Space Shuttle STS-96
In VLLA Orbit
Mission Control this is Discovery.
Discovery, go ahead Commander, this is Mission Control.
Mission Control we have a problem.
Discovery this is Mission Control. We read you Commander but we do not show any problems here. Where's the problem?
Mission Control we have been running pre-entry flight tests on the aero surfaces of the wings and tail, and on the steering jets. That's AOK, however our tests on the computer controlled twin braking rockets have failed. We have no computer facility and the back-ups are out also, both of them. We are looking for sources of the problem but we've come up empty so far. Got any readings that may help us?
Discovery this is Mission Control, we will get on it. Please hold.
Discovery this is Mission Control, we have no readings on the braking rocket computer at all. We are working on it. Can you swap to the docking controllers? We can re-program from here for re-entry.
STS 96 ... Shuttle "Discovery"
On Board ... diary log: Avril Stone
Monday June 07
1415: Commander advises problems with the computer controlling the re-entry braking rockets. Just what we need.
1418: The computers are opened, including the back ups. No apparent problem. Test the data streams.
1420: We have blockers on all three. Shit. System access is denied. Can we swap them out? Do we have replacements? No. And these are completely different to what I have. Maybe we can jury rig. Grant?
Space Shuttle STS-96
In VLLA Orbit
Discovery to Mission Control. Docking controllers are out. Dr Stone has tested all on-board computers with us , we have data blockers in all and no access. Dr Stone has a laptop and clean discs. We have two laptops but both are blocked. Dr Stone thinks you guys can come up with a jury rig for the laptop to run the braking rockets.
Mission Control to Discovery. We read you Commander, we will resolve this with Chandler. Holding
Very Long Laser Array Antenna, Triangulation Point, Altitude 4000 miles. Orbiting.
Monday June 7
STS to Chandler, Grant, speak to me? I need you ...
Chandler to STS. Yes Avril, on the line. We just have a relay from Mission Control. You guys have a problem?
STS to Chandler. Grant we do, and how. The braking rocket control computer and its back-ups have blockers. I have clean storage but we can't get the braking control data out of the Shuttle's computers, and I dont know if we can jury-rig my computer to do what is required here. This is a job for you guys and Mission Control. Just tell us what we have to do. You know the type of equipment I have, Mission Control knows what they need. We're waiting on you guys.
Space Shuttle STS-96
In VLLA Orbit
Discovery to Mission Control. We plan to continue to work down to boost away from here to landing orbit at 1745, unless you have something against that?
Mission Control to Discovery. Go ahead Commander, we will have some answers for you within three hours anyway. Chandler's working on this with us.
Very Long Laser Array Antenna, Triangulation Point, Altitude 4000 miles. Orbiting.
Monday June 7
Chandler to STS. Avril we want you to fill the remaining hard discs with the dummy data. We do not want to lose these discs to blockers also. Don Whelan and Crackers are working with their colleagues at JPL and Goddard. They're sure this is do-able. Hold tight. We are going off the air now, Mission Control will coordinate from here on out. See you soon.
STS to Chandler, thanks for the words of encouragement Grant, makes me feel much better. I just have a sweat up. I'll do the hard discs now and wait for Mission Control. Ciao.
STS 96 ... Shuttle "Discovery"
On Board ... diary log: Avril Stone
Monday June 07
1700: Mission Control has transmitted new braking control data and this is now in my laptop with the clean hard disc. We are waiting on modifications to ensure overwrite, and how we connect to the Shuttles' systems. Commander is preparing to burn to put us into low orbit ready for re-entry.
1750: Commander fired us out of triangulation orbit. We're on our way down. No further news from Mission Control. I hate this. We reach low orbit in about three hours.
1900: At last we have what we need from Mission Control. The laptop is being plugged in, we have the modifed program. Crossed fingers. Pray a little you guys...
2050: In low orbit. De-orbit burn at 2354. Braking rockets controller AOK. We get into our launch and entry suits soon, then we strap in. Commander, Pilot and Flight Engineer plus one crew on the flight deck, myself and the rest are on the mid-deck for entry.
Close Diary until we are back on Mother Earth!
Mission Control Log. Monday/Tuesday June 7 and 8: (Modified for publication).
With favorable weather conditions forecast for the primary landing site, mission managers decided not to activate the back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California. There are two landing opportunities at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. For the first, Commander would fire Discovery's engines in a deorbit burn at 11:54 p.m. Monday with a landing following at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility at 1:03 a.m. Tuesday. The second landing opportunity calls for a deorbit burn at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, resulting in a landing at 2:38 a.m. This will be the 11th night landing for the shuttle program.
Discovery's computers will ignite the twin breaking rockets on the tail just before midnight to slow the vehicle toward a descent through the atmosphere high above the Pacific Ocean. The ground track shows the orbiter navigating its way to its seaside home at the Kennedy Space Center from the south after crossing Costa Rica, Cuba, the Florida Everglades, and East of Lake Okechobee.
The forecast for landing still shows a chance of rain within 30 miles of the runway and a possibility of crosswind violations on the 3-mile-long concrete Shuttle Landing Facility. The runway of choice for tonight's landing is Runway 15. The final turn to align the shuttle with the runway would be out over the water with landing from the northwest to the southeast. If landing is delayed one orbit, touchdown will be one orbit later at 2:38 a.m. CDT.
STS 96 Commander fired Discovery's engines in a deorbit burn at 11:54 p.m Monday June 7.
On Tuesday June 8, 2:00 a.m. CDT, STS-96 MCC Status Report # 22 reports:
Discovery's astronauts glided to the 11th night landing in shuttle program history early Tuesday, landing at 1:03 a.m. Central time to wrap up a 4 million mile mission to resupply the International Space Station and carry out important development work in large array laser antennae.
Discovery swooped out of darkness as Commander set the shuttle and his crewmates down on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida to successfully complete the first shuttle mission of the year.
Commander and Pilot fired Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines just before midnight Monday over Thailand to enable the spaceship to drop out of orbit for its high speed return to.Earth. Modified computer control systems functioned normally.
Traveling in an almost due northerly ground track, Discovery crossed over Costa Rica, the southern Caribbean, northwest Cuba, and the Florida Everglades before honing in on the Kennedy Space Center for the 18th consecutive landing at the Florida spaceport.
After landing, Discovery's astronauts were scheduled to undergo routine medical exams and be reunited with their families before spending the rest of the day relaxing in Florida.
The crew is expected to return to Houston early Wednesday afternoon, with their arrival at Ellington Field planned for about 1:30 p.m. The STS-96 crew's return to Ellington is open to the public.