October 30, 2014

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 61: Paolo Enroute

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters, Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story.

Staring down at the strange satellite, Paolo Marcillon ran through magnetic scans and while there was curious blip over the surface at 9 Tesla, the level typically used for MRIs in hospitals, but that was all. There wasn’t anything else he could do, though possibly...He tried a sonar pulse and fell backward, stunned, blind, and deaf.

He woke with a pounding headache, staring into the noon Sun. A bit less than half as bright as the Sun that would have blinded him from Earth, it still made the pounding in his head worse. He slow-rolled: rocking back and forth until he was able to get on his side. On his side, he could wriggled until his arm was down and he could push himself up. Knees. Then stand up. Panting, he finally stood looking down at the satellite.

He’d never heard of anything like it. Why would any Earth satellite react to sonar? He bent to gently test the satellite’s weight. He picked it up easily then cautiously moved toward the ‘bug. The thing might have some sort of mass reduction, but that didn’t mean it’s inertia would have been cancelled. In fact, he couldn’t make any assumptions about the thing.

Once inside, he set it down inside the airlock and closed the inside door, evacuating the lock again. He unsealed his helmet and popped off the upper torso and set it down, staring through the window at the satellite. He closed pulled the shield over the window and went to the lab station. Designed in the olden days to monitor and direct research studies, most marsbugs still tipped their collective helmets to their science roots.

It still had a suite of equipment. He tapped the viewscreens in the airlock to life. Six screens, floor to ceiling, one from above, another one to roam. It also allowed for examination of an object or objects in multiple perspectives as well as a variable frequencies.

He’d already done a simple scan with the limited equipment of the suit. There was only the suit recorder, but it’s depth was minimal. He started as he had before, though at the highest end of the electromagnetic spectrum. The thing had been exposed to cosmic rays for however long it had lain on the surface of Mars before he ran over it.

He laughed low, starting the visual record as well as records spanning the EM spectrum: gamma rays sliding into X-rays through UV into visible light. He got an odd spike at 550 nanometers what the Human eye recognized as green light. For a  moment, he thought he saw faded writing. He backed the generator to 550 again. Markings leaped out at him, incomprehensible but clearly intelligent. He left it for a while, then ran the movable camera over as much of the visible surface as he could. He could analyze it later.

Ramping it up again, he slid through infrared wave, radio, and finally the lowest frequencies of radio. Sound waves required that he poke around in the computer for a while before he finally found a program that would generate sound at both frequency and decibel.

He set it up to start, watching carefully, hoping that at whatever frequency the satellite had reflected back to him would be deflected or absorbed by the walls of the airlock.

Beginning at ten Hertz, he set the program to vary frequency in hundred Hz intervals first then increase decibels from zero to the loudest sound ever recorded – the explosion of a thermonuclear device. After the first blast, he toned it back. His suit hadn’t been able to make anything even close to that amount of noise. He figured he could continue running it from silence to a jack hammer at one meter. He barely heard that through the lock.

He watched and listened as the frequency rose from two thousand to twenty thousand Hz. No reaction. The pitch went up until he heard nothing. The meter read thirty-eight thousand, four hundred and twelve Hz when one of the screens blanked – the one closest to a rectangular marking he’d seen at 550 nm. Logically, that might be the “nozzle” of the ultrasound “gun”.

But why did it have the ability to broadcast in the ultrasonic in the first place. He set the chamber to 55o nm and 38,412 Hz or 38 kHz, slowing the recording rate of the overhead camera and fired again.

Staggering backwards, Paolo crumpled to the floor.

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