Sunday, September 4, 2016

MOTHER SHIP

Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

Most airline flights in the world had been canceled for over two weeks. Trains were out of the question. Highways were jammed with people trying to escape to higher ground. A team of security guards held back the crowds as I lunged into the passenger side of the cab. The driver was trying to tune-in a radio, probably to cover the slush, slush noise of the windshield wipers as they strained to keep up with the relentless downpour. The hack was at least ten years old, but clean, probably his own. The name on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission License clipped to the dashboard said Sabah Karga.
“Var you ever seen it rain so much?” he asked with a mid-eastern accent as he sped away from the near riot at the hotel.
            “Not me,” I told him. “How about you … Sabah?”  
He smiled. “In Türkiye where I was born and my father lives, we don’t get so much,” he said as he found a radio station operating on a power generator, no doubt. “They say water is hediyelik from Allah.” On the radio, Taylor Swift was convincing her listeners one last time to Shake it Off.
I bounced off the seat as the cab hit at least a thirty-gallon chuckhole, spraying asphalt-oiled water onto a cluster of already soaked people fleeing down a sidewalk littered with useless cell-phones. A moment later, a metal umbrella handle bounced off the side window cracking the glass.
“Cahil piç kuruları!” Sabah yelled at the terrified people swarming into the street and trying to stop the car. Two desperate looking men somehow managed to cling to the hood – until Sabah hit the gas and they rolled off.
            “They are afraid,” I told him. “The whole world has had almost two months of dense fog and rain. Sometimes a gift from God can become a curse, remember Noah’s ark?”
Sabah laughed. “I am from the Eastern Anatolia Region,” he said.  “Doğu Anadolu Bölgesi was in my backyard.” He turned up the radio volume when Bruno Mars began to play Uptown Funk. “Every year religious infidels from America search the mountains for a gemi thousands of years old,” Sabah said.
            “And they find nothing?” I asked him.
            “How could they,” Sabah laughed. “It is very cold in the winter and trees do not grow. If there was a ship large enough to hold all the animals in the world buried in the snow, it would have been burned for fire-wood a long time ago.”
            “Then you don’t believe?”
            “Of course I do,” Sabah said. “I read from the Koran every morning and every night. We are alive are we not? We had to come from somewhere!”
The music was over and a radio news reporter was once again lamenting the fact that never before in recorded history had so much of the Earth’s skies been covered with clouds. A representative from the World Climate Change conference in Paris sounded almost jubilant in an audio clip … We’ve been warning people for years … he rattled on as Sabah changed the station.
“Chelsea Piers?” Sabah looked at the address on the piece of paper I’d given him. “You’re not thinking of going out to sea in this kind of weather are you?”
            “I think it would be safer than driving,” I said as Sabah just missed a truck blowing through a dead stop-light at the busy intersection. “But I’m meeting a friend who just boated-in from the Caribbean.”
            “It must be terrible down there to come this far north,” Sabah shook his head.
            “My associate, Doctor Lecubarri, is the facilities manager of the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico,” I told him. “With this mist covering the world it’s very hard to look out into space.”
            “What does gazing at the stars have to do with greedy capitalists turning the Earth into a giant greenhouse without ventilation?” Sabah had obviously watched Al Gore in a television special before the power grids began to fail and most all communication except radio had screeched to a halt. My communication with the NSA was strictly by a very powerful, tiny two-way radio worn around my throat like a necklace.
            “We think that might be where most of our problems come from,” I said.
For most of the last month the days had seemed dim but today seemed even darker than usual. I hoped Abniel Lecubarri was wrong about what we discussed when the rain began almost three months before. I felt creeped-out like in a recurring dream where I’d just entered a strange house all alone at night, on legs that refused to obey my commands, and heard croaky animal-like breathing coming from the darkness. My colleague was an expert on deep space radio transmissions and had discovered two comets. But this time the hypothesis had to be wrong … it just had to be.

-------2-------

Sabah held an umbrella over our heads while we waited for Abniel to disembark the Penzias, a small transit vessel named after the Nobel winning physicist who helped formulate the Big Bang Theory.
“What does your associate look like?” Sabah asked as we scanned the passengers departing the ship through the relentless rain. Several other cabs waited and at least one limousine.
“I don’t know. I’ve never met him,” I told Sabah. “Almost all of our correspondence has been through e-mail and texts.
The last two passengers to depart were a man and woman; they appeared to be arguing … violently next to piled luggage. “How many children have to go hungry while you spend millions of dollars gazing at a bunch of stupid stars?” the woman screamed as she shoved him onto the saturated pier. Several notebooks and a pair of glasses skidded across the wooden planks.
            “The research we do at Arecibo is vital to our understanding of the universe and the part we play in it!” The man flung skinny arms outward in a defensive motion as she tried to kick him. Sabah and I both ran to pull her away before she could kill him. “That woman is crazy!” the man yelled as he picked up his notebooks and searched the wharf for his glasses. I was holding the struggling woman and the man had picked up two bags and was halfway to the row of idling vehicles when Sabah called after him. “Doctor Lecubarri … this is Dillon Walker from the National Security Administration,” he said pointing toward me. We have a cab waiting for you over there.” He gestured to his hack that he’d left running. The man turned and smiled as if was party to a joke that only he understood.
            “I’m not Lecubarri … she is!” He turned and was gone in the blink of an eye.
The woman stopped struggling so I released her. She smiled, turned slowly and then shoved me … I almost fell. “What was that all about?” I gasped. “You’re supposed to be person in charge of the largest electromagnetic-wave-gathering dish on Earth!”
            “I am,” she said pointing to the departing limousine. “Herbert P. Nordwench is the National Science Foundation funding liaison for Cornell University. We have a six-million dollar funding request coming before the board of directors and that wimp you let get away is assigned to beg for our money.” She brushed back long wet strands of auburn hair from her face and her green eyes, although still appearing extremely dangerous, were also breathtaking. “After his run in with me, convincing that hostile board to loosen their purse strings will be like dealing with children.”
Sabah tried to cover her head with his umbrella and I struggled with her bags as we walked through the rain toward the cab, but she pushed him away. “I’ve been marinating in that tuna-boat for seventy-two hours,” she said. “Does New York still have laws against public nudity?”
            “As far as I know,” I mumbled.
            “Damn,” Abniel said pulling a tiny motel-sized bottle of shampoo from her purse and opening it. “This is my first real shower in three days!”

-------3-------

The Archer Hotel was one of only a few in the city with an operating generator. We waited for Abniel in a conference room lit by candles but with one working 120 outlet for her audio visual equipment.
            Dr. Lecubarri arrived wearing an Oscar de la Renta lace panel volume gown that probably cost as much as my last car. The woman was breathtaking. She scowled when she noticed me and Sabah both staring.
            “What?” she demanded. She looked down at the designer dress she was wearing as if seeing it for the first time. “This is as close as I come to a vacation!”
There was expensive whiskey and a bottle of Champagne on a side table with glasses and ice. She poured herself a Scotch. “I notice your goat herder is still with you,” she smirked pointing to Sabah who was connecting power to a monitor. “Is he your amante?”
            “No nothing like that,” I stammered. “Drivers are almost impossible to find with what is going on in the world now. The NSA decided to hire him for a week.”
            “Well Dilly,” Abniel said with a smirk. “Since you’re not a man who likes to fool around. Let’s get right to work. You’re about to find out what’s really going on with your world.”
A view of what looked like our whole Milky Way Galaxy appeared on the screen. “How did you American infidels get a telescope far enough out into space to take that picture,” Sabah gasped.
Abniel laughed. “No spacecraft has ever left our solar system,” she said. “This is a computer simulation created using data obtained with radio waves. “The only man-made thing wandering outside this corner of the universe is your Islamic brain.”
            “As you know …” Abniel was addressing me. “About three months ago, we detected a very large area of dark energy … and possibly dark matter moving toward this part of the universe at more than one-thousand times the speed of light.”
I watched the screen as one edge of the ten billion star spiral began to vanish. The rest of the galaxy appeared to be unaffected. “How is that possible?” I said. “Any object that size would destroy anything it came close to.”
            “Our visitor may be unbelievably large and capable of capturing light like one enormous  black hole but there is absolutely no detectable mass inside whatever this thing is,” Abniel said. “Our cosmic traveler, operating without the encumbrance of gravitational fields, and can pass through entire star clusters as if it were nothing more than interstellar smoke.”
            “Then all we have to do is wait for it to leave,” I suggested.
            “I pray that Allah will drive this dark beast away from our world!” Sabah trembled as he stared at the screen.
            “Our visitor is not passing through. We have plotted its trajectory and it is coming directly toward Earth,” Abniel said. “Also it appears to be slowing … now less than 800 times the speed of light.”
            “What does this have to do with Earth becoming a giant greenhouse?” I asked her.
            “As you must be aware,” Abniel said. “Alvin Sullenger and a few other eggheads at M.I.T. did the first practical work with dark energy, and even developed an almost complete periodic table of dark elements, a few years back.”
            “That’s one of America’s most closely guarded secrets!” I was astonished. “How did you find out?”
            “I’ve known for years. A friend from Russia posted it on her Facebook page last spring,” Abniel snickered. “The more you try to hide something … the more people will look for it.”
            “Did you know about this?” I asked Sabah.
            “Of course,” he said. “I’ve wanted to get a job working at Graviton City in the Nevada desert ever since I came to America. I was just waiting for the government to declassify the top-secret complex.”
            “According to Sullenger’s hypothesis,” Abniel continued. “All matter has a corresponding dark matter element, an equal opposing force pitted against it, something that keeps the universe in balance.”
            “Allah and the Devil, life and death and John Lennon and Yoko Ono,” Sabah reasoned.
Abniel shook her head. “Hydrogen is the first element and the most abundant substance in the universe. The corresponding dark matter element or Black Sister is called Annabelle!” She looked at me and smiled. “I didn’t name half the universe …. Alvin Sullenger did! Anyway,” she went on, “We believe the inside of our very large visitor contains an abundance of Annabelle and the corresponding Black Sister element for oxygen that Sullenger calls Nadine. The close proximity of our strange visitor creates an imbalance that the Earth tries to correct by concentrating high levels of hydrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere.”
            “H2O,” I said. ‘That’s where all our water is coming from.”
            “Let’s just hope our visitor stops or can be made to stop before we all learn to breathe underwater,” Abniel said.
Even with all the lit candles, the room seemed dim for the middle of the day.
            “Where do we go from here?” I asked even though I thought I knew the answer.
            “I’ve always wanted to visit Nevada,” Abniel said, “but I thought it would be Las Vegas or Reno not some high tech city floating in the air above the desert.” She pointed at Sabah. “Is he coming with us?”
            “Of course,’ I said with tongue in cheek. “The NSA will never allow anyone that knows State Secrets to just walk away … not while they’re living!” I winked at Sabah but I could tell by the distressed look on his face that he didn’t notice. We were almost in darkness.

-------4-------

Driving the cab through a blanket of black would have proven insurmountable for anyone but Sabah. He could manage almost fifteen miles per hour with the headlamps illuminating an area just inches into the gloom. He struck two parked cars, and at one intersection at least a dozen fleeing pedestrians rolled across the hood. One final look of terror illuminating their dripping faces as they were flung into the saturated darkness.
            “Whatever is in the air absorbs light,” Abniel said. “If we don’t hurry we’ll never make the airport.”
The NSA had arranged to fly us to Graviton City in a top secret jet capable of flying blind and in any weather condition, we just had to make it to the airport. We were on the 94th. Street entrance heading into La Guardia when Sabah noticed what looked like torches up ahead. “What in the name of Allah?” he gasped as he locked up the brakes.
More than a dozen ragged men wearing what looked like white sheets wrapped toga style from their shoulders surrounded the car. The white cloth was stained in many places. It wasn’t until they grew closer that I guessed it was blood. They were carrying what looked like dry ice in buckets and the rising vapors somehow glowed brightly in the darkened atmosphere. “Only Jesus and his angels are allowed to fly at night,” a bearded man yelled as he banged a dirty hand against the glass. “By the laws of the Fish men.” He had the eyes of a wolf caught in a steel-wire cage. Blue lines of paint crossed his face like a tuna net. The necklace tangled in his filthy hair looked to be made of human baby teeth.
“We are on a mission for the government,” I told him. “We hope to be able to find out what’s wrong with the world and fix it.”
            “The f#%$ing government is what’s wrong with the world,” the man screamed. Seconds later the side window glass exploded. Two men were on the hood breaking the windshield with bricks. I pulled the semi-automatic thirty-eight special issued to me by Homeland Security from inside my jacket and unrolled my window. I wasn’t about to let a bunch of freaked-out religious nut-jobs stop us when we were this close. I aimed at a fellow with green teeth trying to eat the radio antenna and pulled the trigger … nothing happened. I quickly checked the gun … there was no safety … the twelve shot magazine was full. The firing mechanism appeared to be working fine.
“God will no longer allow firearms to be used in his New World,” the man clawing his way in through the window frame declared.
Abniel screamed. Two sets of arms were trying to pull her through the broken glass. I punched the leering face moving in on my side and then bent the fingers backward that were gripping her shoulders. The windshield blasted inward followed by two bodies. Sabah had the car in gear and jammed his foot on the gas pedal. We went no more than twenty feet before we crashed into a cement pylon. Long bloody fingers had pinned our driver’s head again the seat and kept him from seeing the road.
I was in a daze as I felt myself lifted and dragged from the car. Abniel was already hunched in the street bleeding from her mouth. Sabah stood staring defiantly from a scratched and swollen eye. They flung me to the ground beside the others.
“We Fish men have to line the pathway to God with the blood of sinners,” Wolf Eyes said. I looked beyond him and then wished I hadn’t. Human bodies in the light from hundreds of glowing buckets … men, women, and children hung crucifixion-like from every sign, building and light pole on both sides of the road leading to the airport. “Ask God to forgive you now before it is too late,” he said. The machete in his hand looked like it belonged in the Amazon jungle.
A smiling fish-man disciple appeared with a hammer and a box of ten-inch long concrete nails. “They work in wood or cement!” he assured me with a smile.
Six of the faithful pinned me against the red-brick wall of an Arby’s Restaurant and the man with the box of nails had just placed a spike against the palm of my hand when a sound like wind whistling through organ pipes filled the air. Tiny luminous spheres of pulsing light, each as bright as the sun in the darkness, zigged and zagged as they came hurtling from the horizon. Each glowing orb followed the course of the one proceeding it exactly, never varying the distance between.
A tiny popping sound was the only indication that a sphere had passed through the fish man’s head. The other glowing lights followed like thread trailing a needle. In less than a second the lights had passed through each of our attackers skulls.
The string of lights disappeared as soon as they began. We were left staring at the white clad bodies littering the asphalt. Puddles in the water were turning red. There was no-where else to go. We started walking down the gruesome body-lined 94th. Street toward the airport.
“What on Earth was that?” Sabah said. We all held our eyes down trying not to look at the horrible mutilations behind or before us.
“I don’t think they were from Earth,” Abniel said.


TO BE CONTINUED …




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