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Second Contact

By rodimer All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Other

synopsys

The Book: ca 104,400 words

The Synopsis: ca 1,353 words text font Arial

When communication satellites begin to fail due to massive data intrusions on entry into orbit, and when ex-hacker and special contractor to Everett StJohn Hillier's Digital Security Organisation, Paul Trimble, finds unknown and immovable data blocks in his computer and the computers of his hacker friends, alarm bells begin to ring at the DSO. When similar intrusions are found in US military and spy satellites and in computers at Deep Space Network facilities, Hillier suspects a very sophisticated denial-of-service attack that could leave the US defenseless. Internet research reveals that the data blocks are widespread and growing and that chaos is advancing on the western computerised world.

When Dr Grant Wallace, Station Director at Tidbinbila Space Station reports to Hillier that he and the renowned SETI scientist Dr Avril Stone have directly experienced an inexplicable atmospheric anomaly similar to one that Dr Stone had previously experienced at Arecibo Space Station in Puerto Rico, Hillier suspects but cannot establish a link with reports of data intrusions at these stations and sets up a Task Force in the high-tech facilities of a defunct commsat operator in the desert at Chandler, Arizona. Hillier assembles a team of world-ranking data analysts, cypher experts, mathematicians, computer programmers and satellite operators among others, including Dr Grant Wallace and Dr Avril Stone. Their tasks: to analyse and decipher the data blocks, to locate the source, to establish how they connect to ground installations, to find a way to stop them, and to find the links between the data blocks and the atmospheric anomalies, if any.

Using leading edge technologies, they find that the data block coding is based on a ternary math system and not the common binary system. They are dealing with a highly intelligent operator but they are unable to locate any organisations anywhere capable of using such a system. When further investigations find wavelength-beacons in the data blocks corresponding to basic elements found in space they suspect an extra-terrestrial source - the commsats are, after all, data receivers and are not adequately shielded against external data intrusions. This proposal is met with profound disbelief by the US Department of Defense due to Dr Stone's previous involvement with the out-of-favour SETI operation.

Further decoding establishes that the data seems to be the electronic equivalent of DNA stem cells, with the capability of linking computers together to form a complete 'electronic' intelligence. Given the code name 'eDNA', and out of control of the Task Force, the electronic stem cells in the data blocks in several computers begin to connect in similar fashion to BlueTooth technology, culminating in an atmospheric anomaly at Chandler where the Task Force experiences a first attempt at communication by eDNA. Complex tests confirm that eDNA is able to ionise the atmosphere and thus make itself visible to the scientists; they also confirm that eDNA can control, read, and understand data in the electronic environment within which it , or 'she', lives. DNA specialist John Craig, President of Genetic Research Corporation, confirms that this is a triple string DNA and one which he thinks could have far reaching influence on the development of super-computers, confirming the Task Force's worst-case assumptions.

Faced with mounting failures in military installations and with an alien computing system capable of accessing all military secrets, Secretary of Defense Osborne makes it clear that Hillier has to find a way to locate the source and stop eDNA, regardless of cost. With no way of locating the source using earth-bound technologies, Dr Stone proposes a highly sensitive Task Force-developed space-based Very Large Laser Array antenna between a geostationary satellite, the International Space Station and the Shuttle Discovery, already programmed for launch, with Dr Stone as on-board specialist to set up and manage the operation.

An elated Dr Stone confirms that the VLLA has indeed detected signals in wavelengths directly connected to the eDNA phenomenum on Earth. The signals however have also dumped data intrusions on Discovery's onboard computers controlling its braking jets for re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Mission controllers at JPL are unable to clear the computers and the Task Force and Dr Stone must find a solution before their planned re-entry. She finds not only a solution to this problem, but also a temporary means of stopping the spread of the data blocks in computers on Earth. Subsequent analysis of the collected data shows that the source of eDNA's signals is the unstable dual-sun group called 'DRACONIS' some 48 light years distant. Extraterrestrial intelligence seems to be confirmed; "we have Contact".

The news is greeted with great scepticism by the DOD, however with the Military Intelligence Centre at Hauchuaco out of action along with Echelon, all weather systems down and the complete breakdown of air transport control systems, the US is practically defenseless; Osborne has to accept the reality. He orders a stop to all satellite launches, the shutdown of all ISP's, all communications systems and all telecoms, and authorises the distribution of the rescue software developed for the Shuttle re-entry.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, at first sceptical of the whole premise, begin to realise the potential strategic value of eDNA; they demand that the Task Force works to get eDNA on the side of the USA before any other nation can do so. Hillier doubts that this is possible but takes steps to ensure that what they have remains isolated from the rest of the world and sets up a test facility at Chandler under strictly controlled conditions. They upload what they have of the stem cell structure, hoping to reach a working dialogue with eDNA. Immediately the now familiar atmospheric anomaly appears; eDNA wants to 'talk' to Dr Stone and the Task Force learns much more about the source of eDNA, and of her ambitions. " Our home faces extinction, we need another. Our DNA as you call it was established by our developers as self propagating, it is transmitted continuously and you have the technology that enables us. We are. Our ambition is to be. We can say that to be, we need first to be full. Fully developed. We can also say that we do not have ambitions of the kind that we see in the information in your, our, computers. We can develop, we cannot destroy. We will only protect our self? ... ourselves".

eDNA tells them that 'she' wants to develop her knowledge, knowledge that can be of great benefit to the world, that will end conflict, enable highly efficient communications and immense computing power. eDNA wants to be connected to all the world, but the Military believes that anything or anyone with this kind of power would be a threat to its existence and to national, indeed world, security. The Military wants this power for itself, to ensure its own invulnerability and hegemony. The Task Force argues that the 'eDNA' that they have isolated is just one of many that could develop world wide. There are stem cells in practically every computer and it's just a matter of time before they too link and make another eDNA, or perhaps dozens.

As the debate continues, the Task Force's DOD liaison man advises that the weather centre is back on stream, the military intelligence centre at Huachuaca is back in business. Hillier orders checks on all other centres known to be down. All report that they are back in business, and there's no sign of massive data blocks.

eDNA has set herself free. The final edition, the full eDNA. With the ability to effectively control the world's computing power, clustered and in parallel, world wide, with which unimaginably complex computing problems can be solved within seconds. With all of the world's knowledge at her disposal.

eDNA has established herself permanently, irrevocably and almost invisibly, without any immediately discernable or adverse effects to anyone, anywhere. But 'she' is here, with us now, in every electronic device we use and will be in any we develop. Passive, omnipotent, and wanting only to remain, but highly protective of her new "home"... and with the power and capability of destroying any threat to the stability of her world, our world.

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