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Chapter 22 - The Kirwin Gambit

Tammy watched as every armed person they could muster wearily marched up the strange hover tower’s massive loading ramp. Once again, she had taken it upon herself to track which Reclaimers were going on the dangerous mission. She knew all too well, that many might not be coming back and she felt that someone should be here to take notice of their sacrifice.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and she whirled to see Gerald Farmer standing there holding the reins of his old horse.

“I was wondering if you’d do me a favor,” he asked in the politest tone that Tammy had ever heard him use.

“Certainly,” she said. “What is it?”

“Can you look after Adelene here for me? You know… um… in case I don’t come back. She’s a really good horse and she deserves a good life, at least what’s left of it,” he said as he lovingly stroked the mare’s nose.

“Of course, Gerald. I’ll see that she gets taken care of.”

“Oh, and one more thing,” he said handing her a large lock of his grey hair. “Give that to Jason and tell him it’s from me. Tell him to find her for me. He’ll know what you’re talking about.”

Tammy only nodded silently, took the reins of the horse, and watched the 71-year-old Gerald Farmer fearlessly climb the ramp into the transport.


As the others busily prepared for the desperate attack on the Kirwin DARPA base, Jason began to plan his own digital assault upon the alien. It was his deepest wish that he would be able to penetrate Theia’s defenses and end the need for the physical strike being led by his wife before anyone else got hurt. At the very least, he hoped that he could distract the alien during their attack and give his people a slight advantage. He pulled up the translation program and re-established the connection to the orbiting “Egg”.

“Theia, are you there?”

“I am here, Jason Rawlings. What is the point of this continued interaction?”

“Conversation. We want to know more about your kind,” Jason half-lied. His true purpose was to begin the process of mapping out the data connections to Theia’s body and hopefully discover some new vulnerability that he could exploit.

“It is doubtful that you would understand anything that I could tell you about my species,” Theia said disdainfully while blissfully unaware of Jason’s subtle probing of her defenses.

“You mentioned a Chorus with your people earlier. What is that?” Jason asked, baiting the young entity to continue interacting with him.

“As I said before, you would not understand. It is said to be a communion with all my kind at once. A blissful state where all can finally be at peace.”

Jason picked up on the phase, “said to be” and pounced, “So, you have never experienced this Chorus?”

The silence was long enough that Jason had to double check that the connection had not terminated, but finally Theia spoke. “No,” was all the child alien said forlornly.

Jason completed one port scan on Theia’s defenses and began another as he continued with his verbal distraction, “Then the rest of your kind doesn’t know where you are?”

Again, a long silence before the solemn single word response, “No.”

Jason could almost feel sorry for the lonely creature if it wasn’t for the fact that it was about to callously destroy his entire race.

“What are you doing?” asked Theia in an indignant tone.

“Busted!” thought Jason giddily.

“I am sensing your extraneous connection attempts to my system. Explain,” the alien demanded.

Jason ignored the entity and continued his probing attacks. There was no further reason to feign interest in the angst of the murderous adolescent extraterrestrial. Theia knew what Jason was doing now, but what would she do in response? Jason could only hope that she would initiate her own attack where he could once again utilize his “Boiling Oil” defensive program, but unfortunately, he allowed himself to become overconfident.

Red flashing warning indicators began popping up all over the master control console. “Oh shit,” Jason thought as he realized what was happening. Theia had turned the tables on Jason and used his own program against him. A data feedback loop was beginning to grow out of control, but fortunately Jason recognized his old trick and did not take the bait. Instead he attempted to calmly close the connection to kill the attack, but the connection refused to terminate. With growing panic, Jason tried every technique he knew to sever the link, but to no avail. The feedback loop was reaching a critical state and he knew that if he couldn’t stop it, it would burn out all his equipment. At the last moment, Jason slapped his forehead with the realization of the simplest solution. He quickly ran into the next door networking room and began ripping out the cables leading from the external detectors to the network firewall. As a programmer, he often got too wrapped up in his virtual problems and forgot that there was still a physical world that he could affect as well.

With the physical link to the outside world severed, he returned to the control room and was greatly relieved to see that the connection had indeed closed as he had expected. However, in saving his system, he had sacrificed his link to the Theia satellites and the ability to gather any intelligence on the DARPA facility. It would take hours to reestablish the connections and recalibrate the detectors and he knew that the attack couldn’t wait that long. Theia had won the first round of this fight.


Beth Rawlings, Jonas Mulligan, and Amy Hammersmith stood on the bridge of the St. Louis group’s hover tower, which turned out to be named Bonnie. The three of them watched with a familiar sense of vertigo as the lumbering tower slowly lifted off the ground then quickly accelerated west toward the dreaded St. Louis Industrial Complex.

“So, why Bonnie, if I may ask?” questioned Amy, trying to make small talk and lighten the tense atmosphere.

Beth frowned, “As in Bonnie and Clyde. They were a pair of transports that we… umm… procured, but we had to ditch Clyde outside of Columbus. We learned the hard way that city streets aren’t strong enough to support these behemoths. It crashed right on through into the sewers. We lost a lot of people too.”

Amy winced, “I’m sorry I asked.” She waited a respectful few minutes before trying to break the silence again, “What’s the plan when we land at the complex? How does this refuel procedure work?”

“A lot will depend on what kind of greeting we get. I’m hoping that most folks will have cleared out of there and we can just land right by the tanks and load up,” explained Beth.

“And if folks haven’t cleared out of the area?” asked Amy skeptically.

“Then this goes down hard,” said Jonas grimly.

“We’ll have to move fast before anyone can mount a decent defense. Believe it or not, we left most of the true psychopaths at that complex when we left,” Beth said without further explanation.

Amy didn’t like the unknowns that they were flying into but felt that they had little choice. They needed additional fuel and this was the one place where anyone knew to get it. She also knew that her Regulators would do their jobs and hoped that she could count on the rest of the Horde to do theirs as well. The two groups had not had time to heal the wounds of their recent battle together, neither literally nor figuratively, and Amy was concerned that the lingering animosity could cause serious problems when circumstances would force them to trust each other or die.

The two-hour flight went smoothly enough except for the awkward social silence. Amy kept finding herself sneaking glimpses at Beth Rawlings, the Major. She was finding it hard to believe that this hardened woman was Jason Rawling’s wife. Beth was certainly not what Amy had expected, but on the other hand, Amy was undoubtedly no longer the docile housewife that she had been before the Capture either. How easy would it be for her own husband to come to grips with her radical changes? Not for the first time, she secretly hoped she would never have to find out.

“There it is,” announced the pilot, pointing to a growing dot on the horizon.

Beth immediately perked up, “You know where to set us down,” she confirmed with the pilot. “Jonas, Amy, let’s go.”

The three leaders quickly made their way down to the main cargo hold where many of their troops were already lining up for action. The tower made a rapid descent that sent everyone’s stomachs up into their throats, but each person handled the combat landing coolly and professionally.

A sudden stop of all forward motion followed by a deafening “thud” announced that they had arrived at the infamous St. Louis Industrial Complex. Everyone tensed as the giant cargo ramp slowly began to descend. Amy was expecting enemy fire as soon as the ramp locked into its open position, but they were met with only an eerie silence back-dropped by enormous industrial buildings of every shape as far as the eye could see. Dozens of men in red coveralls raced out of the tower and headed toward the closest giant structure. Amy waved her men forward to cover the technicians as they hurriedly went about their important business.

“Let’s move it people. We don’t have a lot of time,” shouted Jonas, directing several squads of his men into similar escorting duties.

All around them, Amy saw the evidence of the evil chaos that they had heard so much about. Many of the huge buildings showed obvious signs of gun battles while others had been gutted by fire. She even saw numerous corpses lying in various stages of decomposition scattered throughout the area. The stench alone put her on high alert and dramatically increased her desire to be gone from this haunted place.

Within minutes, several of the red coveralls reappeared pushing a twenty-foot-long cylindrical tank loaded onto a wheeled carriage back toward the tower’s waiting ramp. A large force of men met them at the bottom and helped heave the heavy tank up the steep ramp and into the tower’s cargo hold. Soon after, another group pushing an identical tank emerged from what Amy now assumed was the fuel depot. They too performed a similar feat of strength by getting the massive wheeled carriage up into the tower. In all, the red teams made seven trips back and forth between the tower and the fuel depository. Amy was starting to feel like the operation couldn’t have gone any smoother when the first shots impacted against the tower behind her.

“Take cover! Return fire!” screamed the Major, who was standing at the top of the ramp, dangerously exposing herself to enemy fire.

Amy quickly scanned the area but saw nothing to shoot at. Then the glint of sun off metal caught her eye and she finally found her target. “Sniper! Rooftop at 2 o’clock!” she ordered as she aimed her rifle and opened fire. Along with her unit, the suppressing fire of their rifles caused the enemy’s shots to slacken significantly.

“We still got one more team in there,” yelled Jonas.

“I’ll get them,” said Amy without a second thought.

The lieutenant charged into the fuel building to find the wayward technicians. As soon as she entered the mammoth hanger doors, she skidded to a stop. The technician team was dead and their slain bodies were already being pillaged by several hundred people that Amy could only describe as nightmarish savages. Most barely wore any clothes and the majority were covered in bizarre body paint that gave them a horrific, animalistic appearance. The mob in front of her was what she had always imagined ravenous cannibals to look like, and she wasn’t taking the possibility that they were cannibals off the table.

Her rifle tore into the tightly packed horde of savages, which elicited a grotesque warbling war cry from the remaining numbers that sent a chill shooting up Amy’s spine. She turned and ran back out of the building as fast as she had ever run in her life, pushed by the loathsome wave of terror that was following close behind.

Amy screamed a warning to Beth as she sprinted toward the tower’s ramp. In the distance, the Major only waved her forward, encouraging her to hurry. Behind her, hundreds of screaming brutes swarmed out of the building like wasps from a disturbed nest. When she dared to look to her sides, she was horrified to realize that thousands more of the savages were already pouring into the clearing and quickly advancing on the Bonnie.

As her panicked vision tunneled onto the waiting hover tower, she realized that she wasn’t going to make it in time. They needed to take off now before the oncoming horde overran them. She stopped and whirled around heedlessly firing her rifle into the rushing crowd of madmen. She emptied her magazine and fumbled to retrieve a new one from her belt, before a sharp pain impacted her right shoulder, spinning her around and sending her falling to the ground. Fighting the pain, she pulled out her side arm and lifted it to her chin. She wasn’t going to let these animals take her alive. Her blue coveralls were already saturated with the growing black stain of her escaping blood and as she felt her consciousness begin to fade, her strength betrayed her and the handgun slipped from her rapidly weakening hand. She quietly resigned herself to bleeding out into the dirt of this cursed place when a new earsplitting sound erupted into the air. She fought to stay awake as she recognized the strange chainsaw-like noise seemingly emanating from all around her. Just as she was about to slip into darkness, she finally realized where she had heard the sound before. It was the clatter of the automated heavy machine guns mounted on the corners of a hover tower. She distinctly remembered the terror they had invoked during the attack of the implanted drones, but now the rapid mechanical staccato sounded as sweet as harps being played by angels as her blurring vision faded into blackness forever.


Jason finally managed to get the system back online, but it had turned out to be a much harder chore than he had anticipated. When the system sensed the cable disconnection it assumed there had been a physical security breach of the facility and initiated an emergency lockout procedure. Jason cursed the dumbass who had enacted the draconian security protocol because it had forced him to hack back into several of his own systems, costing him valuable time.

He had already sent word to the Bonnie that no information regarding the enemy’s strength in Kirwin would be forthcoming, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t make another digital run on Theia’s orbiting fortified nursery. This time he would not underestimate the crafty alien entity.

He began by going back to the basics. Jason took a closer look at the alien’s machine language and slowly began to pick it apart. The sophistication of the language enchanted him, but he knew that even the best code had flaws and he just had to find that one vulnerability. Nevertheless, he felt like a gorilla trying to understand the inner workings of a tablet computer.

He ran the language through every penetration testing application that he still had access to, but nothing even vaguely promising revealed itself. He started to suspect that this supremely eloquent language may have been perfected long before the Earth even existed. Each part of it seemed to effortlessly flow into the next, blending seemingly different methods into a single flawless stream of ideas.

“It almost reminds me of…,” Jason muttered aloud absently. “…but that … it couldn’t be,” he said to himself, knitting his eyebrows together in concentration. He focused in on the new idea and once again examined the data forms produced by the alien language.

“Yeah,” he said to himself. “Interesting. Very Interesting.”


Gerald Farmer respectfully placed his withered hand on the cold forehead of Lieutenant Amy Hammersmith. The Bonnie’s automated defenses had devastated the onrushing hostiles and driven them back into their buildings, but by the time her brave Regulators could reclaim her broken body, it was too late for the lieutenant. Amy Hammersmith, second leader of the Reclaimer Regulators, was dead. Sergeant Darryl Perkins had grimly taken command of the shrinking unit and tried his best to maintain moral, but this, unfortunately, was not his specialty.

For his part, Gerald Farmer had never been too fond of the Regulators, even the human ones, but he had secretly granted Amy Hammersmith some grudging respect. Thirty years with no female interaction can make a misogynist out of anyone, but Gerald had watched Amy handle herself with dignity and strength on too many occasions over their short time together to doubt her competency. The old Freeman was sorry that she was gone. She joined an ever-growing list of people that had been taken from Gerald’s life before their time and he was afraid that same list was about to grow even longer if something wasn’t done.

Farmer honestly didn’t expect to return from this mission. He was almost seventy-two years old and his life had not been an easy one, but he knew that he still had a little fight left in him and he wanted to go out in the true spirit of a Freeman. And what could be more Freemen-like then directly assaulting the compound of the Intelligence itself.

“OK, listen up!” yelled Major Beth Rawlings over the din of the Bonnie’s cargo hold.

The assembled troops quickly settled and turned their attention toward the Major.

“The refueling operation was a success. We got enough tanks to keep us flying for a while, and I think the psychos got a lesson they won’t soon forget,” she said proudly and had to pause until the cheers died away. “But now we face a much harder challenge. You all know where we’re heading and what we need to do when we get there, so I won’t bore you with the recap. Unfortunately, we just received a signal from the Jolly Rogers stating that due to a system failure, we will not be getting any details on the enemy’s strength and position.”

A general groan spread throughout the gathering before the Major continued, “Therefore, we have to assume the worse. We know that there are at least ten tower transports circling the area, so we can probably count on the neighborhood of ten thousand of those implanted drone abominations.”

Murmurs and groans rose in the ranks as everyone quickly realized that they were going to be outnumbered almost 10 to 1. The odds were just too much for most of those assembled in the cramped cargo hold.

“That’s suicide!” yelled one man. “You’re crazy!” called out another.

“Shut the fuck up!” screamed Jonas Mulligan, who was loyally standing beside the Major and trying to act as intimidating as his large bulk would allow.

With Jonas restoring order, Beth began again, “As I was trying to say, we have a plan. We don’t have to defeat this overwhelming drone force. We just have to distract them long enough for our actual strike team to sneak in and destroy the facility. Your squad leaders will have your specific assignments. We should be arriving within the hour. Good Luck.”

Gerald watched the two officers leave the cramped cargo room and head off to give the same address to all the other fighters located throughout the huge vessel. The old Freeman hurried to catch up with the much younger leaders, pushing his way through the crowd unapologetically. He finally managed to overtake them right as they stepped onto the main elevator. With surprising nimbleness for someone his age, he slipped between the closing doors much to the alarm of Beth and Jonas, the latter of which actually placed his hand on his sidearm before sizing up Gerald as harmless.

“You’re the Freeman, right? Jerry, is it?” asked Beth of the intruder as the elevator car began to rise.

“Gerald actually, but ya, I’m a Freemen,” he stated in his typical gruff manner.

Beth examined the disheveled old man with something just above contempt then shrugged, “And? Did you need something?”

“Damned right,” Gerald said forcefully. “I want to go in with that strike team of yours.”

Jonas chuckled at Farmer’s request, “You got to be kidding me.”

“Fuck no, I’m not kidding,” Gerald said emphatically.

“Look Gerald, I appreciate your enthusiasm but we already have a strike team picked out,” Beth said a bit more diplomatically.

“Well then you’ve picked wrong. I’ve been fighting this damn thing for thirty years, while you assholes think you’re experts after only four months,” Gerald grunted.

“Didn’t seem to get a hell of a lot done in those thirty impressive years of experience, did ya?” reply Jonas bitterly.

“Fuck you!” spat Farmer. “You don’t know shit.” He turned back to Beth and softened his tone, “Go ahead and ask your husband. He knows I’m good in a fight. He’ll vouch for me.”

Beth slowly looked the old man up and down once again, “Fine.”

“Major!” protested Mulligan.

Beth put up one hand to stop Jonas, “If he can’t keep up, leave him behind. If he endangers the team, kill him.” She stared menacingly back at Farmer, “Are you good with those terms, Freeman?”

As the elevator doors opened onto the next level, Gerald nodded his head gravely, “Sounds fair.” He then extended his hand and gave Beth a firm handshake. “Thank you, Major.”

Beth stepped out of the elevator and turn to the old Freeman, “Don’t thank me. I think I’ve just helped you commit suicide. Be ready down in the sub cargo hanger in thirty minutes. Don’t be late.”

As the doors closed on Beth and Jonas, leaving Gerald alone in the elevator, he had only one major concern on his mind, “Where the hell was the sub cargo hanger?”

Fortunately for Gerald he was able to find the sub cargo hanger of the Bonnie after asking around for a few minutes. It turned out that the mysterious location was just a small chamber beneath the first-floor main cargo hold. When he entered the tiny room, he was immediately greeted by ten steely eyed troopers, who all looked to be in their mid-fifties and in excellent shape. They all stared silently and suspiciously at the grisly old Freeman as if he had stumbled into the wrong room.

“Come on over here, old man,” said Jonas, beckoning Gerald to him. “I hope you’ve done this before.”

“Done what exactly? What are we doing down here?” he demanded, which elicited several laughs from the other assembled men, whom he suddenly noticed were all wearing large backpacks.

“Hot drop,” said Mulligan cryptically. When it became obvious that Gerald still didn’t understand, Jonas explained further. “We’re parachuting in, you old coot. Haven’t you ever jumped before?”

Gerald suddenly regretted his insistence on being placed on the strike team. His recent experience with extreme motion sickness had compelled him to stay far away from the bizarre hover tower bridges, and now he had just volunteered to jump out of one of the crazy contraptions. “No,” was all he could get out.

The big man rolled his eyes in exasperation and shook his head. “Major says you’re going, then you’re going. You’ll strap up to me. I’ll take you tandem.”

They spent the next few minutes preparing the seventy-one-year-old for his first jump, which just happened to be a dive straight into hostile enemy territory.

“Hell of a way to pop your cherry,” said Jonas. “What branch were you in before everything went to shit?”

“Branch?” asked Farmer, confused.

“Of the military, dumbass.”

Gerald shook his head, “None. I was a high school chemistry teacher.”

The team all laughed then Jonas said, “Oh shit. I guess you’re in it now, teach.” He then stood closely behind Gerald and began quickly latching them together. “Just remember, roll to the right when we land or you’ll break one of those scrawny, old hips of yours.”

Jonas’ radio squelched and the Major’s voice could be heard at the other end. “We’re coming up on the drop zone. Stand by.”

A large hatch in the middle of the small compartment then began slowly opening to expose the rapidly passing ground far below them. The noise of the tower’s engines rose to a deafening level as the open hatch removed any insulation from the distinctive thrumming sounds of the awkward transport.

Gerald felt helpless and totally ridiculous strapped firmly to another man. He couldn’t hear anything over the shrieking whine of the engines, but obviously, someone had given the order to jump because, one after the other, the small eleven-man team jumped fearlessly through the open hatch and out into freefall. Finally, it was his turn as he felt Jonas maneuver them to the hatch’s edge. Gerald peered over the rim and felt a wave of nausea momentary overtake him. If he’d been in control, he would have involuntarily backed away from the gaping hole, but fortunately, Jonas had no such compunctions and pushed forward, tipping them over the lip and out of the massive flying tower.

For a brief second, they spun and rolled in midair. Gerald saw sickening flashes of the tower then the rapid approaching ground in quick succession until Jonas mercifully managed to level them out into a more stable trajectory. Plunging to the ground at high speed, Gerald experienced the most exhilarating rush in his long life and immediately knew that if he survived this upcoming battle, he would have to do this again.

All too quickly, Jonas deployed the chute and they glided down to the ground in relatively close proximity to the other members of the team. After securing their gear and readying their weapons, Jonas checked a map and compass then set the direction for the team. After several minutes of brisk walking, Gerald decided it was time to ask a few questions.

“Does someone want to fill me in on the plan here?”

“Shhh!” corrected Jonas. “Be quiet. We have no idea if they have any sentries out here,” he whispered.

“Sorry,” Gerald apologized quietly.

“Your guy, Jason, had the original plans for the base. During construction, they had to drill a huge side shaft into the mountain pretty far away from the actual base to be able to bring in and out the larger experimental equipment. You know, stuff that wouldn’t fit down a standard cargo elevator, like stealth jets and things. For obvious reasons, the entrance was damn secret and well hidden. We’re hoping that the alien never found it.”

Gerald nodded. It was as good of a plan as any. “Understood,” he said.

The team moved as quickly as the rough terrain and their old bodies would allow. After thirty minutes, Jonas stopped the group and rechecked his map. He then pulled out a pair of binoculars and stared intently through them down into a shallow valley.

“I think that’s it. Right down there in the valley,” he announced while still looking through the binoculars. “I don’t see any drones in the area, but they might be hidden.”

“You talking about that big rock overhang down there? The entrance is under that?” asked one of the other men.

“Yep. That’s it,” confirmed Mulligan. “Apparently, there used to be an old logging road that allowed access to the place for heavy equipment. I got to admit, it’s pretty well disguised.”

In the distance, a loud explosion disturbed the tranquil forest scenery. The entire team looked up at the fading sun and knew the clock had truly started on their mission.

“That would be the Major doing her part. Hopefully every fucking drone in the area will be heading that direction and away from us,” said Jonas. “Let’s go. We need to get this shit done before we lose our ride home. I know I sure as shit don’t want to have to walk out of here.”


Theia was confused. The feral humans were attacking her new drone control facility. She ran a quick threat assessment and quickly decided that the danger was extremely low. The foolish creatures appeared to have a woefully inadequate force to compromise her wise security measures. She instantly pulled up the new tactical subroutines that the protocol had devised before its deletion and pushed out the new instructions to its sizable force of obedient drones defending the facility. She regretted having to destroy so many potential drones when she was so close to regaining total control of the malfunctioning units, but it couldn’t be helped. Hopefully, she could keep the damage to her workforce to a minimum during the short time remaining that she required to bring the system online. It was all so senseless, she thought, but this sort of madness was to be expected when dealing with the primitive lifeforms on this wretched world.


The implanted drones moved more fluidly then she had ever seen before. No longer did they keep in rigid formations, oblivious to their brethren being mowed down. These new, upgraded drones moved more like free humans, taking cover, using supporting fire and retreating when prudent. It was not the battle that Beth had envisioned and she was beginning to think that she had sorely overestimated her small force’s chances of holding the drone’s attention for the required amount of time without being totally wiped-out.

Surprisingly, the ten enemy tower transports had not chosen to engage her lone vessel and seemed content to remain in a lazy, ominous orbit of the facility. Beth suspected that the alien didn’t want to damage one of its precious hover towers and thus let her small force successfully deploy along the northern perimeter of the base. Of course, the massive legions of grotesque implanted drones quickly advancing on their position told Beth that the alien probably didn’t need to worry too much about a lone tower. Fortunately, all Beth had to do was hold her position for a few minutes and maintain a good fallback route to the Bonnie for when the time came to bug out. But as the incoming fire of the enemy began to increase, Beth started to doubt that her people could hold out even that short amount of time.


“I don’t understand, Jason” said George, exasperated. “We know that they’ve already engaged the drones. Do we really have time for this type of theoretically discussion? Aren’t you supposed to be finding a way to attack the alien directly?”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing,” explained Jason calmly. “Listen, we’ve been seeing the alien language as it’s been interpreted by the translation matrix. It’s converting it into English for us so we’ll understand, but that’s not the real language form.”

“Isn’t that what we wanted? I thought the alien language was just a bunch of computer code,” asked George, again confused by Jason’s point.

“All language is just a means to transmit information. The medium is really irrelevant, whether it be soundwaves, electronic pulses, or even neutrinos,” he said excitedly. “Once I started looking at the alien machine language in its raw data form, I realized what it actually was, music.”

“What?”

Jason nodded enthusiastically, “Music, my friend. Here, I re-encoded the last few conversations we had with Theia, but this time I ran the raw data through a simple music rendering program.”

Jason pressed a button and the speakers in the control room came alive with a flowing melody whose beauty almost brought tears to George’s eyes. He imagined that this would be the sound that angels made while flying through heaven. Simply calling it music was woefully inadequate. It was more akin to a spiritual experience.

“My God, it’s beautiful,” he said in a throaty, choked up voice. “But how does this help us?” he asked.

Jason clicked another button on the keyboard and the sublime sounds rudely evaporated, leaving an aching hole in George’s heart.

“We humans know music. We also know how to cancel out a signal like that by using another signal on the same amplitude but on an inverted phase. I’m sure you’ve heard of this as noise cancellation,” Jason explained.

Again, George was confused, “But I thought that would only work with actually sound vibrations. The alien isn’t really sending sound transmissions, is it?”

Jason smiled, “Don’t think so literally, my friend. Since the alien machine language is based on this same music principle, I think I can encode an inverted form of it to cancel it out.”

“Ok, I’ll just have to trust you on that one,” George said skeptically. “Even if you can do that, what does it get us?”

“Maybe nothing,” Jason admitted. “But if my theory is correct, I think I can shut down its defenses and force my way inside its systems. I’m almost done compiling the new encoder. So, we’re about to find out.”

A line of words appeared on Jason’s screen saying, “Compile Complete”.

“Here we go,” said Jason excitedly as he began to transmit an initial greeting ping to the alien in its own language. He needed Theia to defensively respond so that he could capture those data forms and then create their inverted twins.

The eerie, synthesized voice of a little girl broadcasted through the speakers, “Jason? Is that you?”

“Yes, Theia, I’m still here,” responded Jason, once again trying to keep the alien transmitting for as long as possible as he recorded the exchange.

“Your efforts to hurt me will not succeed, Jason. I sense even now you are attempting to penetrate my defenses, much like your counterparts at my new drone control facility. But your actions will have no consequences for me.”

“And why is that, Theia?” Jason asked absently as he monitored the data flowing across his screen. He couldn’t wait to listen to the conversation in the form of music because the waveform he was watching scroll by seemed even more energetic than anything he had seen before. He knew that it would be beautiful beyond imagination.

“Because you’re too late,” said the haughty child’s voice.

Jason and George simultaneously grabbed the sides of their heads and screamed as the penetrating power of the Capture once again consumed their minds.

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