2 of 6 | Chapter 17

 

Message

Pat and Tya really were faring well with the alien transmissions, and they got along well with each other also. At the beginning, Patricia found the obsequious girl rather irritating, but as conditions settled down and they felt more at home in their environment, Tya had rid herself of her initial behavior and gained a sense of awareness of her own value within the group. Patricia was able to be more tolerant and less irritable as Tya gained confidence, and their relationship was further enhanced by their common taste for caffè latte.

Their corner of the astrophysics research lab was characterized by undisturbed tranquility, making it the ideal place to achieve a high level of concentration. In the dimly illuminated room, one or two lights in various places were enough to give some kind of orientation. Apart from those, the only other light was from symbols that seemed to hang, glowing in the motionless air above display surfaces that melted into the dark background.

Over the past few days, they had been working almost entirely alone. Their boss had last been seen two days before, though there were plenty of things to be done without him.

“You know, when I'm just starting to think that I've got it nailed, it fires back with a whole new sequence,” said Tya, becoming increasingly annoyed at the variability of the transmission signal.

“Yes, but there'll definitely be a connection between each series and then the whole thing will start to mean something,” Pat reassured her.

“If these creatures interact with each other in this way, then I'd do better to start a conversation with my dog than with 'em,” she complained sarcastically.

Pat gave one of her rare laughs. Tya felt a pleased glow at her comedic success, then she frowned. “Hey, Pat. Here's something that doesn't seem to fit with the previous sequence,” she exclaimed, pointing at her monitor.

Patricia leaned closer to the matte black surface. The transmission symbols shone starkly, causing her to squint.

“Try this algorithm,” she said, downloading a command line from the central server. “I wrote it earlier for another sequence, but it didn't work.”

“Okay, running it now,” said Tya.

After giving the command, the thousands of symbols began to form chains of characters at the bottom of the black screen.

“What the … what the hell is this?” Pat mumbled indistinctly, sitting up.

“It's like text, real text!” Tya exclaimed, her face lighting up in relief after having been tormented for so long by the multi-dimensional system.

“And it's almost comprehensible,” said Pat, staring at the results.

They stared at it for minutes motionless, quiet, as if it was the most amazing thing they had ever witnessed, so much so that they didn't notice when someone came up behind them.

“What have you got there, ladies?”

They both spun around in shock.

“Mr Steersman!” Tya gasped.

The memory of Steersman flitted through Pat's mind, the memory of when they had received a visit from him at Arch's place. This time, however, he was no accompanied by robots. She didn't say a word.

“Please, don't be alarmed,” he said calmly, looking towards the screen. “I see that you have found something rather interesting.”

“We think that this part of the transmission contain a message, unlike the previous sections, which were all part of a navigation system,” Tya informed him.

“Have you come across transmissions similar to these?”

“No. Those that Dr Martins had shown us from previous work, were linguistically extremely simple, dumbed-down as it were. This was presumably to make them more easy to solve. These are far more complex. Maybe even more complex than the entire mapping system.”

“And yet, you have succeeded in deciphering them.”

“Yes, but the linguistic units bear no resemblance to any on Earth, so the translation will certainly be vague, misleading and in most cases rather ambiguous in meaning,” said Patricia finally.

“Look, the algorithm has deciphered a fraction of a sentence.”

“I'll put it up onto another display,” said Tya, transferring the already discernible segments onto a larger display.

All three of them moved back to better see the expanded image. Patricia began to read it in a soft whisper.

“… only the delegate knows the place …

“What does that mean?” asked Tya.

“That's what I want to know …” Patricia murmured softly. “What delegate? What place? Quite a conundrum. Like I said, these language units may mean any number of things.”

Steersman didn't respond to any of the girls' representations. He could not have said what the words meant either.

“Here's another one,” Tya said suddenly, and then crossed it out. On the larger screen a newer row emerged above the other. “… hidden passage takes you into the depths of knowledge …” She read each word slowly, enunciating them one by one.

“Well, this is getting interesting,” said Patricia.

Steersman's face darkened at that moment.

“You've done a great job, ladies. Keep me informed of developments,” he said suddenly, then left.

The two girls looked after him, and then at each other. They grimaced in silent inquiry, then both became once again immersed in signals analysis.

 

Floating platforms

After nine months of production in the four factories in Odessa, one half of the largest military force in the world was complete. At that stage, two factories had begun the construction of the base platforms for the enforcement poles.

According to the plans, the platforms were not to be taken up any room on the ground. The entire base was designed to float two kilometers above the Earth's surface, and though it was now just an outline, it was a huge one. Two half circles with diameters of twelve kilometers were situated a mile apart, and between them, a three and a half kilometer wide connecting bridge was inserted. The whole design was based on this form.

The specialized execution units of the defense corps were to be placed in the platform's eastern half circle and, along with soldier units, would create a military deterrent with their mere presence, as expected.

When the Ukrainian senator stipulated the requirement for investment in return for the use of the Ukrainian gas supply, he certainly never imagined that the gigantic factory buildings would be manufacturing the ASEC army. He had rather been expecting GlideCraft, Gravitors or other tech device manufacturing to move in, but instead the whole area had been turned upside down. Because not a single platform could be assembled within the factory territory, the massive platforms began to cast their intimidating shadows over the whole area as they were constructed out under open sky.

*

 

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CHAPTER 1 | EXCOLOPOLIS
CHAPTER 2 | MACHINES
CHAPTER 3 | A NEW TECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 4 | ATTACK
CHAPTER 5 | THE SOURCE
CHAPTER 6 | THE SCIENCE CENTER
CHAPTER 7 | UNIVERSITY CITY
CHAPTER 8 | GLIDECRAFT
CHAPTER 9 | SECTOR TWO
CHAPTER 10 | THEY KNOW WE ARE HERE
CHAPTER 11 | GRAVITOR
CHAPTER 12 | INSTALLATION
CHAPTER 13 | ENERGY WAR
CHAPTER 14 | AFTERSHOCKS
CHAPTER 15 | INITIATION
CHAPTER 16 | PREPARATION
CHAPTER 18 | TRUTH
CHAPTER 19 | BEYOND EARTH