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Action, Thriller, Syfy, Quantum Physics, Terrorism
Consciousness, Many Worlds, Politics, End-Of-World

Read a few pages. - Enjoy!

 

“Quantum mechanics is stunningly successful. Not a single prediction of the theory has ever been wrong….However, quantum mechanics also displays an enigma. It tells us that physical reality is created by observation, and it has ‘spooky actions’ instantaneously influencing events far from each other – without any physical force involved. Seen from a human perspective, quantum mechanics has physics encountering consciousness.” *

*From Quantum Enigma by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner (Physics professors at the University of California)

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

At the small Deli/grocery store on Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side David Randall found a prepared lasagna that he and Gabriela could have that night for dinner and their favorite bottled water, so as he left the store he was cheered that maybe things were getting back to normal. The hoarding that had emptied the food store shelves in the three weeks since the arrival of The Object seemed to have abated. Walking down Lexington toward his apartment on 73rd Street carrying his packages he wanted to believe that things were getting back to normal, but he couldn’t convince himself. Eerily, little things were off. Like the street traffic. There were fewer cars in the streets; even taxis seemed to be missing. And drivers were using their horns less but when they did use them, they laid on the blasts longer than they used to. Just eerie.


As he walked, he passed several bars and was tempted to go in one and have a beer. The five o’clock crowd was gathered in the bars though 5 PM was still two hours away. In passing up the temptation David felt no more virtuous than those in the bars. With the world as weird as it was now, having a drink in the afternoon at one’s favorite bar seemed to be a pretty rational act. In the last two weeks he had spent several afternoons at Clancy’s.


With his usual monitoring antenna extended to the conversations of people on barstools within earshot, he had come to identify the three current barroom discussions: First there was the ‘we are all doomed and the world is going to hell.’ Then there was ‘I always knew aliens from outer space were coming.’ And some of those people claimed that they had seen aliens before – only now those same people were listened to where before they were dismissed as nut jobs. The third popular discussion was David’s favorite: Was the coming of the aliens related to the nuclear destruction of North and South Korea? The timing of the two events could not be ignored.


As he kept walking David noticed there were more ‘Going out of Business’ signs in the windows. Several of those stores were neighborhood stores that David had shopped at over the years and knew to have good businesses. Thinking there might be a story there, earlier in the week David had gone into a couple of the stores to ask why they were closing. Several of the owners had been quite candid. They wanted to get out of the city fast and move out to the country where they felt they would be safe. Or at least safer. New York City was too much of a target. They feared Armageddon. David knew they weren’t the only ones, but he didn’t want to write that story.


Interestingly to David, though everyone seemed afraid, there was no unanimity about what they were afraid of. Some feared The Object but many could put no name on what they feared. They just knew things were bad and these times were dangerous. David got that; he had that same sense of unease and disquiet. The combination of nuclear warfare and aliens from outer space could spook people. David shrugged, thinking it was just an internal shrug, but he actually shrugged. It was the story line of a bad horror film for teenage boys – or a good spoof of one. Truth really is stranger than fiction – at least stranger than serious fiction.


As he neared his apartment building, he almost turned around to go have a beer at Clancy’s. He probably would have except he was expecting a phone call based on a text he had received. It wouldn’t be such a good idea to take that call at Clancy’s.


When he finished the call with the editor from The Washington Post, David Randall smiled and put his feet up on the side of his desk. He looked out the small window of his home office (which also happened to be his living room) and thought about how the arrival of The Object in the skies above the Earth three weeks ago could be very good for his career. All of a sudden people everywhere, people who had last thought about reading anything that even bordered on “Science” when they were in college or high school, now wanted to read about interplanetary travel and astrophysics. The call from The Washington Post’s editor was proof that things had changed. Rather than David calling the editor to pitch some science based story, the editor had called him and practically begged for David to give him anything and everything David could come up with that was at all about The Object and how it had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.


Better yet, the science that had to matter here was Physics. And David had written a lot about Physics. True that since he had dropped out of Columbia University’s Physics doctoral program ten years ago he didn’t actually have a PhD, but he had co-written a best-selling book by Janis Wheeling who had recently won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Also, articles he had written had been published in all the major newspapers across the country and his series of articles on CERN’s proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson had won him a Pulitzer. That definitely counted! So he had the background, the sources and the ability to write real science that ordinary people could read and understand. And now he had a blank check from The Post to write whatever he could come up with. Sweet!


Thinking about that blank check made him smile again. Maybe at last he could actually put some money into investments. He had some banker and lawyer friends who were always talking about putting money into this and that – real Wall Street kind of conversations – and he just had to keep his mouth shut. He knew he was smarter than they were but they were the ones living on Park Avenue in multi-million dollar apartments with doormen.


But the stock market was bouncing all over the place. One day it was up hundreds of points and the next day crashing downward. It was the optimists against the pessimists and neither side had any real idea what was going to happen with the world. David thought it had always been that way but now it was more obvious. Still he wasn’t sure which side of the argument he would bet his money on. Gold hidden in the mattress had its allure.


With his feet up on his desk, trying to come up with deep thoughts about the mysterious Object, he realized he didn’t yet have anything to write. At least not anything that represented a new and fresh angle on it. Of course no one had really approached it scientifically yet. Its mere existence had been mind boggling, especially as it showed up so quickly after the annihilation of North and South Korea. Connected or not, that was bizarre! And also of course, the appearance of The Object had caused the whole planet to be shaky, confused, scared, buzzed, distracted, disoriented and a whole lot of other adjectives he could come up with and that was just describing the more sane people of the world! The extremists, the borderline crazies and the real lunatics had gone way over the bend into favorite fantasylands and religious epiphanies and excesses over the idea of extra-terrestrials.


But overall, he mused, he had to give people credit.  After the first few days of emptying out of supermarkets, the Home Depots and Lowes, the gun and ammo shops, and anywhere else survivalist gear could be found, goods and services had again become available. Store inventories had been replenished and he could again find what he needed to eat at the same little groceries he had always shopped at. The lasagna he had just put in his refrigerator was proof of that.


In fact, life had resumed its normalcy remarkably quickly. At least superficially. Perhaps that was because after its single communication to practically everyone in the world about not firing any more missiles at it, The Object had remained completely silent. It just meandered its way across the skies as predictable now as the Sun or the Moon in their daily paths. The fact that there was no indication at all whether it had arrived with good or evil intent did not seem to matter. People had returned to their day to day existence. Well at least most people. Not all.


It then occurred to David that perhaps that was not true. Perhaps it was communicating with the Government or several governments? He needed to try to look into that. As he considered that possibility, he rejected it. First because so far everything it had done seemed to maximize its exposure. Secondly, if the government was communicating with The Object, they wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret.


Right then he heard the sound of a key opening the lock of his front door and as he turned to it, it opened and Gabriela came into the room. Looking a little disheveled as she usually did when returning from Columbia where she was a professor in the Physics Department but still looking great with her jet black hair, tall, trim figure, olive complexion and general Spanish gypsy looks, she tossed her knapsack on the couch and plunked herself down next to it.


With her typical lack of preamble, she looked at him and said, “It’s making me crazy!”


“It being The Object, I presume.” David responded.


“Of course! What else is there now in the world of Physics? “


David knew what she meant. Physicists were really not happy about The Object. For weeks they had been trying without success to determine how it had arrived undetected by any of the thousands of telescopes that routinely observe all that occurs out in space, telescopes that map star positions, planet orbits or even potential killer asteroids. In the time before the arrival of The Object not one telescope anywhere had picked up anything that could have been The Object traversing the heavens. It just suddenly appeared. The physicists just hated that!


And right after they finished hating that, they hated that The Object seemed to move all over the place without the apparent exertion of any energy – even when traveling through atmosphere. Laws of Physics were not supposed to be so easily circumvented! Einstein would have hated it too.


David smiled and said, “I love The Object!”


Gabriela was not amused, “And why is that?” David’s sense of humor was usually wasted on Gabriela, and frankly on most people. It was usually somewhat self-involved and often more than a little esoteric; still he was popular with people because he was non-judgmental and invariably good humored. And he rarely felt threatened or insecure. Physically and intellectually he could always hold his own. His years of playing Lacrosse could be traced on his lean and athletic frame along with a scattering of scars including a ten stitches scar on his chin. Also with longish sandy hair and wired rim glasses he still looked like the good looking boy next door that mothers wanted to introduce to their unmarried daughters.


“Because The Washington Post called me today and basically put me on retainer to write whatever I come up with on The Object. This is the best assignment I ever had!”


Gabriela regarded her boyfriend of many years with knowing eyes. “What about the story you were working on about the ability of quadriplegics to manipulate controls of their wheelchairs through a mental interface with a computer? I thought you were really excited about that – the whole mind over matter thing.”


David grimaced. “Yea, that is pretty cool. First you insert a small chip studded with wires no thicker than a strand of hair into the part of the brain’s neocortex that controls movement. Then the motor signals are transmitted to an external computer which decodes them and transfers them on to robotic devices. The ability to use their thoughts, though actually it is electrical current, to activate the controls of the wheelchair is amazing – and I’ve seen it work….But forget about all that! It will have to wait. I can get back to that. The Object is front and center for now.”


Gabriela leaned back on the sofa as she kicked off her shoes and then tucked her legs under her. It didn’t surprise her that David would jump from one story that just a few days ago he was very excited about to something new. His focus on something could be deep and intense, but rarely lasted for long. He would think of something new then switch to that. Still she was glad that he was not that way about women, just ideas. That trait though served him well as a writer about scientific breakthroughs. “So what are you going to write?”


“I don’t know yet. I hoped you could help me. What are the brainiacs in your department saying about it?”


Gabriela shrugged, “Lots of theories but no data. Half of them really don’t want to admit that it is there. But they are all Superstring theorists, so of course they are thinking in terms of higher dimensions. “


“That could be interesting.”


Gabriela shook her head, “I think they are all missing the key point. This thing could be dangerous! We all seem to be forgetting what it did to those nuclear missiles that the Chinese and the Russians fired at it. Where did they go? How come they didn’t blow The Object to smithereens?”


“Smithereens? Is that a technical term you Physicists use?”


“Don’t laugh! This isn’t funny! What do you think happened to those missiles? Those missiles were the best weapons we have! Don’t you realize that we are probably defenseless against that thing! Doesn’t that scare you?”


He knew Gabriela was right. Though she had a tendency to dark forebodings which she claimed was a family trait borne out of generations of oppression for being Eastern European Jews, this was more than that. They really did have no idea about the true intentions of The Object. Why had it appeared? And where did it come from?


“So what do you think we should do?” he asked her.


“How should I know? But I hope our generals in the Pentagon are thinking about this!”


“Gabriela – that is a great point! And guess what? I actually know one of those generals. My Dad’s younger brother, my Uncle Mark, is a general at The Pentagon. I saw him a lot when I was growing up. He’s the one who first got me interested in science. He gave me a pretty good telescope for my twelfth birthday.  Of course they have hundreds of generals there but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s caught up in this. Maybe they all are! He does some sort of advanced weapons development thing. I’m going to call him!”

*****

Brigadier General Mark Randall was right then sitting in his office at his desk with Colonel Jake Schneider sitting across from him. Mark and Jake had been friends ever since they had met at a Seminar at MIT on nuclear engineering. Since the seminar was about the use of tactical nuclear weapons, one had to have special clearance to even know the seminar existed. That had been ten years earlier and they had worked together ever since and had become godfathers for each other’s kids and that sort of thing.


They had just come out of a briefing where most of the officers there had more stars on their uniforms than Mark did. Mark and Jake had already attended several meetings just like it in the few weeks since The Object had arrived so dramatically overhead. Each meeting started with a discussion about whether there were any new developments. Several of the generals would then voice guesses about what was going on but then admit they did not have anything new to add. The second item invariably would be about the timing of the arrival of The Object and the destruction of North and South Korea.  It rankled everyone that the timing was so close together.


Then one or another of the brighter generals would remind everyone that the timing had to be coincidental if The Object really was from “Outer Space” since distances just across our Solar System were so vast let alone from anywhere more remote in the galaxy. Then as that realization sank in there would be stunned silence until one general or another would plaintively say, “Are we sure that The Object is actually from Outer Space”? Could Russia or China have put it up there? Then another round of silence until another general would say convincingly that there was no way that the United States could do it and if we couldn’t do it then no other country for damn sure could do it!  And that would for a moment make everyone there feel a little better until they realized it actually made everything worse.


So then the meeting would come to a very desultory close but before it ended the generals would come up with a wish list of what they would really like to know and then Mark and Jake and a few other lower level officers like them would be given an even longer “To Do” list than the one they had from the previous meeting. But when it came right down to it though their instruction was easy – FIGURE OUT WHAT THE OBJECT IS AND HOW TO DESTROY IT!
Mark Randall had spent his career in the Army figuring out how to destroy things and he was very good at it. In truth though, he had rarely seen any of his plans actually put into effect. He had done a tour in Iraq during the first Gulf War but that was the only action he’d seen and even there the really clever things he had prepared were never needed. He knew he had received his last promotion and with his thirty years in, he realized this assignment was probably going to be his last. The worry was that it might be everyone’s last assignment.


Jake Schneider was in many ways Mark’s alter ego. Where Mark was creative and theoretical, Jake was practical and disciplined. Mark determined what should be done and Jake made sure it got done. They looked enough alike to be brothers, both were a little above average height, fit and trim with straightforward features that didn’t reveal much and had enough creases in their face and tightness in their jaws to suggest they took things seriously.


“So where do we start today?” Jake asked Mark.


“I guess we start with what we know, but that sure as hell won’t take long.”


“We don’t know shit!” Jake responded.


“True but let’s go through it. We know The Object is about the size of our average aircraft carrier. We know we can’t penetrate what is inside it, if anything. We know its dimensions but we don’t know its mass or actual composition.”


“But it could have a large fighting force in there with weaponry we can’t even imagine,” Jake added.


Mark continued, “We know that it apparently arrived here completely undetected.”


“Yea… like a frigging Klingon Bird of Prey out of Star Trek using a cloaking device!”


“Exactly. So we should assume it has the ability to reflect radar and perhaps even deflect light itself. Which means that were we to attack it, it might be able to just disappear on us. It would be there somewhere but we wouldn’t know where.”


Jake just shook his head, “We will have to shoot at something we can’t see with missiles that just disappear before they hit the target.”


Mark went on, “That’s the next thing we know: The Object can somehow eliminate our missiles with no apparent leftovers – no explosion, no fragments, no nothing. No energy signs. If they can do that to missiles streaking at them, what else can they do that to?”


Jake held up his hand to stop Mark. “They? Who’s ‘they’? Is there a ‘they’?”


“Something or somebody sent the video and the text message about not shooting anymore missiles at it. This is something else we know. And I’m going to keep saying they until I know better. They somehow know how to speak English…and damn near every other language in the world. And beyond that, they somehow could hack into every computer and smart phone in the world at the same time and deliver the same message. We can’t do that. Google can’t do that. And our friends at the NSA can’t do that.”


“I sure hope these guys are friendly!” Jake muttered.


Mark’s cell phone rang and he checked the caller ID and saw it was his nephew. He was about to push the call to voicemail but frustrated with the direction of his conversation with Jake, he took the call. “What’s up David? I’m sort of busy right now.”


“Hi Uncle Mark. Sorry to disturb you but I’ve been assigned to write about The Object for The Washington Post and I wondered if The Object was communicating with the Government in any way? Are you caught up in any activity related to The Object?”


“You know if I am, I couldn’t tell you. Everything about The Object is classified right now.”


“I thought that would probably be true. But I had to ask. And we hadn’t talked for a while, so I just thought I’d call.”


Mark was about to end the call, when he thought of something. “David, what exactly does The Post want you to do?”


“The editor knows I have a lot of contacts in the physics community. He wants me to write about The Object from the standpoint of the science involved. There seems to be a lot about The Object that doesn’t seem to make any sense to us. What we have already seen from it we would have said was impossible.”


Mark realized that he needed to reach out to the science community more than he had been doing. “Yea, I know. Are you going to speak to that Nobel Prize winning Physics professor you wrote the book with – Dr. Wheeling?”


“He’s next on my list.”


“Perhaps you could do something for me. If he has any ideas about The Object – no matter how farfetched, could you call me and tell me about them?”


David thought for a second, “Sure, I’ll do that. But I have to ask you a question first. And I realize you can’t tell me anything you know. But it would be very helpful in my conversation with Janis Wheeling if I can tell him what the Government doesn’t know.”


“You want to know what I don’t know?” Mark asked.


“That’s it. I want to know if the Government knows any more than what the public seems to know. Has there been any communication with it”


Mark paused again. He understood that he probably shouldn’t say anything. But he thought David’s help might be useful. “Sorry David, I can’t tell you anything. There is…nothing, I repeat nothing …I can tell you. You got that.”


On the other end of the line, David smiled. “Yes Uncle Mark, I got that.


Mark said again, “You come up with anything, you call me!”


“I got that too….Say hello to my favorite aunt.”


“I will. Come see us soon.”


Jake looked back at Mark when Mark ended the call. “What was that all about?”


“That was my nephew. He writes science based stories for newspapers, including The Washington Post. He’s been assigned to write about The Object. Normally I wouldn’t have said anything to him, but David is a brilliant kid – I guess he’s not a kid any more, I think he’s about 33. Anyway, although he dropped out of his doctoral program in Physics from Columbia, it wasn’t because he wasn’t smart enough. I think he was just too ADD. He was the kind of kid whose teachers were always writing on his report cards that he should be doing better. He likes bouncing around, chasing whatever he finds interesting at the moment. But he is tightly connected to the physics community including a recent Nobel winner who he co-wrote a book with. David has the ability to not only understand theoretical physics but he can explain it so that ordinary people can understand it.  My guess is before we’re done with The Object we are going to be exploring a whole new world of physics – and I want all the help I can get!”


Jake just shook his ahead again, “This is not good! This is not good at all!”

*****

The Alien looked up at the sign that was obviously meant to be a location identifier. “Times Square” it read. It had taken a little while for him to realize that signs like that one were location aids. It was so primitive yet apparently necessary even in this city that he had been briefed was one of the great cities of this world. Once again he was surprised at how greatly the technology at use on this planet varied. Some of the technology here was quite advanced, especially in certain nations; while in other nations people lived as they would have a thousand years earlier.


Without question he thought that to understand the civilization and culture of any new world one had to commingle with the people, walk the ground they walked, watch their daily habits. In no other way could one truly assess the dangers and recognize the opportunities. It was one thing to observe and study from their low space orbit, quite another to mingle among them. This was why he was now out walking the streets of New York City while others like him were in other major cities around the world.


Though he had worried that his costume and cosmetic adaptations might be inadequate, now he no longer worried. Just here on this busy corner he observed humans looking far more diverse to each other than his deviation to their norm. As he became more comfortable in his surroundings he found he liked the frenetic busyness of it all. The noise and clamor, the roaring traffic, the frantic racing about of all the yellow vehicles, and the pedestrians hurrying around to fulfill personal missions, all left him with a sense of visiting back in the history of his own home planet. It must have once been like this, he thought.


As he walked he noticed the sky darken and the city transform to a blaze of lights but there was no loss of energy or dynamism. The mood of the humans he watched had changed slightly from the daytime but whether they were happier or not, he could not tell. He wondered if these “New Yorkers” were any different from the people in smaller American cities or towns. Would people in Beijing or Moscow be the same? There was so much they needed to learn for their mission to be successful.


He came upon a vast open parkland with people sitting on benches or strolling or running down a myriad of pathways. He kept walking and observed as full darkness fell that the crowd of people had vanished. He kept walking northward. Out of the park, he approached a neighborhood where people seemed to live in high rise buildings showing wear and tear that the buildings he had passed earlier did not reflect. The stores on the street also shared in the general disrepair.
As he passed along a particularly shabby and ill-kept alleyway, he noticed that three young men seemed focused on him as he approached where they were leaning against the side of a building. “A long way from home, aren’t you?” the tallest of the three spoke up as the three of them stepped in front of him to block his passage.


Quickly the alien looked them over to determine their probable intention. On other worlds he had seen their kind before. Their facial expression and unkempt appearance communicated to him all he needed to know. With them there were no smiles of fellowship or offers of assistance. Further, they believed themselves to be menacing and took satisfaction from that. They believed themselves to have power over him. These three sought to victimize him in some manner.
His instructions were clear about such encounters: be friendly, say as little as possible and go on about his way as quickly as possible. He did not think that approach would work with these three, but he would attempt to do so. So he answered in a respectful manner, “Yes…actually. My home is far away. Thank you for asking. Have a good evening,” he said and then tried to walk around them. The three seemed to have anticipated his movement and once again they moved to block his path.


“Not so fast big man, first give us your wallet and that nice coat you’re wearing,” the one who had first spoken said.


The alien then realized that now he was being directly threatened; the demeanor of the three young men had become more bellicose. He thought about his instructions but they had not covered this point, and besides he knew he was not going to surrender his coat and he had no wallet. “I’m sorry but that cannot happen,” he said.


“What you mean ‘cannot happen’? And where you from anyway, your accent is strange as hell!” This speaker was the shortest of the three. His facial features were not at all attractive, the alien thought. His nose looked broken and his skin was splotchy. The alien was surprised that someone would allow himself to have such a deficient appearance.


The alien was disappointed to hear that his accent seemed strange to their ears. He thought he had pronounced his English appropriately. But he had to admit that their pronunciation did seem different from his. “I think you should let me pass now – it would be better,” the alien responded. He regarded the three young men with what he thought was a benevolent and friendly gaze. He observed however that it seemed to have no effect. In fact their look at him seemed to harden and take on a feral anticipation.


It was then that things went badly. One of the young men, the tall one who had first confronted the alien reached into a pocket and pulled out what the alien recognized as a dangerous projectile weapon and pointed it at him while the other two tried to grab hold of his arms. The alien came from a warrior culture where such actions were intolerable and the insult unforgivable. So his response was immediate and severe. Though he had been issued none of his usual advanced weaponry for what was supposed to be an unprovocative excursion, he had of course carried within the sleeve of his right arm what in English he thought would be called a ‘slicer’, the electromagnetic blade of which could instantly cut through the hardest of materials.


It sprang into his hand and in the next instant it was slicing through the wrist of the young man who had held the gun which then fell to the ground. The next flashes of the alien’s arm brought the slicer through the throats of the young man who had held the gun and the other man who had been standing next to him. The third man who had been further way from the alien did not move as he watched the alien slice into his comrades. The alien paused and regarded the man – letting the man decide what next to do. The man looked down at his two friends who were now bleeding and dying on the sidewalk.


This one remaining was the short one with the broken nose who had questioned the alien’s accent. His eyes were wide and unbelieving but his muscles seemed paralyzed. He was confounded by a turn of events that was both unexpected and fatal for his friends. He could see his own future in their dead eyes.
The alien saw that the man no longer mattered. “Go away!” The young man turned and ran off.


The alien looked around to see if there were any other threats to him. He saw someone across the street look his way then turn and walk quickly down the street. He looked back at the two young men now lying on the pavement.


“Regrettable,” the alien said to himself as he walked away. He would have to report the incident to his commanders though his actions had been irreproachable.  As he continued walking, he considered the objectives of the mission to this Earth in light of what he was learning about its people. He knew that the three young humans would not be the last ones to die. He also knew that a microcosm of experience often is a true reflection of a macro environment. As he had already observed, humans were by nature predatory and dangerous.