Major General Alex Thomas couldn’t believe his luck at times. Today was supposed to be a golf outing, which would’ve been his first in three months but the events from Moon base Alpha put a kibosh to those plans. A day earlier or a later and he’d’ve been on the links today instead of being cooped up at work.
Work in this case consisted of commanding a secret underground facility in Maryland. The best and brightest minds in the country in many different fields of study had been recruited to work there, meaning he commanded the greatest grouping of human minds since the infamous Project Rainbow or the Manhattan Project. While it had its advantages, it also came with the challenges of keeping so many egos in lockstep with each other.
In fact there were days that he wanted to strangle the scientists and damn near resigned his commission. Those were the times that Alex wondered why in the world President O’Halloran selected him to oversee the facility. A renown expert in guerilla warfare and counter insurgency it seem odd at first to be assigned command of a facility like this but it soon became obvious why he’d been chosen.
He could keep his mouth shut.
Today proved to be one of those days that made his job worth it. Initial reports by General Wilkins were met with skepticism by the eggheads until he’d seen the object himself. That was three days ago; the scientists had been working round the clock on what was brought back from the alien ship. With any luck they’d be able to access its systems sometime later today.
And either we’ll go down as the smartest people on the planet, he thought, or as the destroyer of our world.
The people in the control room worked in a brisk but controlled manner that actually impressed the old war dog. People always spoke of the scientific method and how it needed to be used to discover answers, but he’d never agreed with it. It shouldn’t, in his opinion, take days or weeks to get an answer. Go with one and if it’s wrong, accept it and move on.
“Good morning, General,” Doctor Abigail Speck said.
As the lead researcher, Speck carried the information, and was the buffer, between Alex and the eggheads. She oversaw all their efforts, motivating them to work harder, and verified their results before bringing them to him. This allowed the scientists to work without interruption and for him to receive the information he needed to send to the White House. On paper it looked like an abysmal failure but in reality it worked wonders.
“What do you have for me, Abigail?”
“Our first hypothesis has been confirmed.”
“About it being biological? And if it’s alien, why does it look like us?”
“That’s a good question,” Speck said. “We’ve run a DNA test but it doesn’t make any sense.”
“And what does ‘doesn’t make sense’ supposed to mean?”
“Whatever that thing is,” Speck said, “It may look like us, but it’s not human.”
“A human looking alien?”
“Essentially, but its DNA has been heavily altered.”
“In what way?”
“Let me show you.”
Even being a science neophyte, Alex recognized the holographic image of a double helix. While he couldn’t tell what colored item was what, at least he had enough science understanding to not look like a complete moron in front of the science team. That wouldn’t be good for him commanding the respect of those under him.
“A normal DNA strand is made up of chemicals,” Speck said. “This one isn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a combination of machine and organic.”
“Machine? That small? How?”
“In theory nanites can be made,” Speck said. “But it’s beyond our current technology to do so.”
“Well that’s no surprise there,” Alex said. “Given the ship.”
“Whatever that being is, it didn’t start as that.”
“From what I can tell from the organic part is that it’s related to us.”
“Half of its DNA is a match for the human genome.”
“So you’re telling me they’ve been here before?”
“If I had to guess, I’d say yes. But it was in the distant past.”
“The White House is going to love this,” he said dryly.
“Can’t do much to change the facts.”
“I know, but you know how the politicians are.”
“All to well.”
“General,” The communications officer said. “We have a priority one transmission from General Winters.”
“NORAD?” Speck asked.
“Put it on the screen,” he said.
The main screen, which had been displaying a large image of the being on the table in the examination room on the other side of the glass, changed to an image of Justine Winters.
“Alex,” she said. “We’ve just detected another craft in orbit. It just appeared!”
“Any connection to what we’ve found?”
“I don’t think so. Its design is different and power levels are fluctuating. Wait a second! It just disappeared from view again…oh! It’s still detectable with radar.”
“You say it’s optically invisible but not to radar?”
“The White House wants you patched into the live feed of what’s going on. Anyone without security clearance needs to leave the room.”
No one moved.
“Ok, let’s see it…”
The power surge tore through the ship, overloading buffers, crashing systems in its wake, before reaching the bridge. Entire stations exploded, spark flying everywhere, and then burst into flames, and the waves of acrid smelling smoke started to fill the air. Overhead the primary white lighting failed, leaving the fires as the only illumination.
Talia struck the floor hard enough to make her teeth slam together like a bear trap. Momentum carried her forwards and she slid across the floor, frantically clawing for something to grab hold of. She struck the front bulkhead and then her head slammed against the steel and she blacked out for a second.
Any biological person would’ve been killed by the impact but Talia being cybernetic merely got stunned. Consider it one of the times that not having a real body anymore was a plus and not a minus.
She struggled to get to her hands and knees. “Report!”
Mara used a hand to fan the smoke away to see her station. “Most internal coms are out! We have contact with engineering and the bow sensor control room. That’s all.”
“April!” Talia snapped. “Damage report!”
“My relays are heavily damaged,” the AI said. “I can’t give you an accurate assessment.”
“A guess is good enough!”
“Damage to main engines, Talia. Structural weakness in frames A-fourteen through A-twenty. If I can trust my internal readings, we have a hull breach from compartment C-40 down to D-15.”
Talia did a quick mental calculation of the numbers April gave and then let out a slow whistle. The gash, if the AI was correct, cut through the conduits that carried main power to CIC, bow weapons and the bridge. Another three compartments and it would have wiped out medical-and Dannae.
“April, can you get me a sensor feed?”
“Rerouting to try to make a connection.”