And Its Delinquent Corollary
Having Taken The Helm Of Our Planetary Vessel.
We found the warp generator manifold near the rancid alfalfa silage heap. We found the distortion field monitor buried in the corner of the pig sty. For real. The pig sty. The surprisingly smooth pearly marbled knob of the spatio-temporal fractal attenuator was hidden high up in the dry stack of hay bales, where the black widows fiddled their deadly tunes and yellow jackets buzzed, fleeting, deadly people zappers. Oddly, the fuel lenticulator was easy to locate; it just leapt up at us from a disheveled stack of blazing hot, rusted corrugated tin. We found the heat shield there, too, buried under oxidized harvester blades and barrel rings. Defining and divining the secret purpose of our very existence, we were soon in assembly mode; ganged up, sweaty, sunburnt with the occasional red welt emblazoned on our bare chests by the electric fence wire, with which we too often made contact in our mad dashes about the hard, dry farm yard boundaries while on our fervent quest to locate the crucial components of our craft, controls and propulsion system.
Of course, we were the fortunate ones. D, B and me. And sometimes Z. Z, she tolerated us and our ever-effervescent domain of activity. But what troop doesn’t need a skeptic? A fringe-walking observer who only rarely dares to step closer to the buzzing energetic core of the heat sink, who is mostly content and even wise to linger at the boundary where rescue is at least a prospect, perhaps by merely stepping over an imaginary uncharged maginot line and returning to The Real.
As it was, unbeknownst to the unheeding masses, our meager, eager squadron was privileged to be shown the secrets of the Extants, extra-solar beings of unknowable origin. Beings who toyed with us, curiously, recklessly, but also somehow, coaxingly. Would we ever know them? (Likely not.) Our select, ill-prepped, but intensely commited platoon of sensitives was designated to perceive what few others could even begin to see. As far as we could imagine.
We had been plucked out of the population and augmented in such a way that only we could now grok (duh, we’d read Stranger…) notions others had no enhanced capacity to perceive, let alone conceive. We had been booted up anew, recalibrated in what could only be a subversive manner; our interpretive capacities warped, our perception filters mapped out and grafted onto the now active, however troglodytic, sub-cranial antenna buried deep, deep in our physiology, while others, even members of our very own families, had been denied the gift of the rarefied vision with which we had been newly imbued.
Upon augmentation, we could see that what others considered to be the tack shed was a wasp-nest infested disguise for the weapons cache of roving interstellar warriors. Only we could know the nano-stripped engineering archives of a galactic agenda had been rendered as bales upon bales of straw, libraried in the sunlight-splashed hay loft. Only we could discern that the warped wooden chutes that guided the dairy cows to their twice-daily milking were in fact guiderails that channeled fleets of sleuthing warbots into the hold of a vast, cloaked intergalactic ship, capable of holding its masked mass in relation to that of Earth without disturbing the gravity well of either. Talk about many worlds! Alas, all that was preliminary to our true mission, our crucial voyage in which the very vessel we piloted was itself to be the vital cargo we were meant to save.
In practice, our crew had become a sort of self-organized collective — multiple bodies, group mind ala Vinge’s Deep Fire — individually inadequate, but combined, super-sufficient. We took shifts. Each taking the lead in periodic and smooth transitions of authority; with occasional flinty, but friendly, hiccups of course. But we were a keenly collaborative cadre. Agreeable to the point of being telepathic. Each of us was an inventor, a what-if-er, a concoctor, an elaborator … only rarely a deny-er. How this innocent, natural detente took shape is impossible to explain. Was it a trait our benefactors had bestowed upon us? Had we been injected with some sort of compliance-inducing virus? Some kind of infused, subcutaneous willingness routine that we would never detect, but would ever and always be driven by? Or … was it just earned by our secret sublimated communality?
It could be that our teamwork was simply rooted in an implicit trust, a sense that anything goes, an underlying “no-harm, no foul” operative that we had adopted in a way that goes beyond doubt. We took this collegiality for granted, having earned it, crafted it over summer after summer of weeks together. In truth, we considered this shared state of mind a requirement, a now entrenched understanding, embedded in our not entirely verbalized mission. We just “knew.” As might the Extants who now deployed us to what might be impossible ends.
We were a team. Intense. In tune. Inevitable. Expandable. (Expendable?) Even as our solemn mission was only beginning to take shape in the coaxial cortex of our linked minds. We read signs in the cobwebs. We saw patterns in the dust. We decoded dark cryptographies in the swaying limbs and the drifting clouds, shifting ever and endlessly above us. An ungraspable, yet omnipresent concoction of the mystic and the scientific beckoned us. And we welcomed its call.
Enough about us. Components found. Engineering specs dredged up, translated and interpreted. Schematics aligned. Fuel stabilized. Coordinates readied. Attenuators installed and tested. We stood tall and proud at the controls. All we lacked was the sign. The GO sign. What would trigger our voyage? Our assault? Our launch?
We, in hungry agreement, broke for sandwiches. Brilliant red and juicy tomato slices on squishy white bread, with chunks of roasted turkey, mayo and iceberg. (We liked to call it iceberg, understanding in our way that it was merely layers of crispy cellular matter, posing as a nutrient, when in fact it was a loosely layerable membrane of nutritional nothingness.) And chips. And ice cold Cokes, dripping with condensation, chilled beads of H2O drenching the rolling ribbed crystalline surface like ionized vapor careening down the sleek metal housing of the near-absolute zero fuel cells of gantrey’d rocket boosters — back in the days of Redstones, Titans and Saturns.
All this bounty to be consumed, after dodging the zapping wires and the bouncing brittany and the curmudgeonly rooster and his festive scatter of hens skittering across the rutted river rock drive, lined on the north by an osage hedgerow mixed with mulberries and the occasional elm. We parked our rears under the car port on a scabby green picnic bench in dire need of scraping and painting, near the water-cascading air cooler, which sprays a steady, moist breeze into the unoccupied front room of the house, where late in the evening we would watch my uncle splash fuzzy, flickering, spotted and sometimes melting black and white home-mades on the billowing screen, as we crowded around with iced tea and sour lemonade which agreeably clashed with the rich, drippy sweetness of the ice cream we had hand-cranked just hours before in carefully choreographed teams, stealing a lick of rock salt when the moms weren’t looking.
On those home-made nights, while the bespectacled parent’s chatted and chuckled over our childish antics and acrobatics on fluttering 8mms, our own minds wandered. How could one study the steady, whistling whir of the fan blades and not see them as the impellers of an epic intergalactic barracks cruiser, carting legions of armed warriors and particle-drive technicians outward toward or even beyond the neighboring planets? How could we not obey a command to marshal every mineral, vacuum up every heavy metal molecule and fend off every distracting invader while we undertook our grand task?
There, amongst the paper plates, the crispy chips and the gooey condiments, napkins catching in sketchy breezes, we gobbled up our turkey sandwiches. We’d jostle each other and hash over the input we’d gathered, the signs we’d deciphered. As we pondered the reality of our mission, we wrestled with its gravity; both its baffling physics and its befuddling sociological implications. But could we be concerned with the ramifications for an unsuspecting public when the durability, ne the very existence, of that public rested in our steady, humble hands?
How does one put this? How does one even dare to state our outrageous, surely impossible task to, in a word: re-locate? To, in another word: re-orbit? Re-arrange? Re-order (against all the practice and principles of mathematical symmetry) the orchestral balance of our very own solar system? We were being instructed to move the very rocks beneath our Conversed feet, every stone, every mountain, every puddle, pond and ocean of our sweetly swirling planet. Move our one and only Earth, out of its glowing goldilocks orbit. Away from a sun that was now, at wicked intervals, glowing too too much.
Indeed this was our task: Move an entire planet out of its routine celestial mechanics. Mechanisms suddenly and unexpectedly endangered by the rogue intrusion of a dark extra-solar invader straight out of an intergalactic Moby Dick narrative that had pierced Sol’s violent corona, enraging the vast fusion engine fuming in its soul. To adopt a new mechanics, based on a great presumption, that we could actually assume a circuit around the once-feared, now inviting Jupiter; daring to take up a new geometry, stationed near the water-laden satellite Europa, now beckoning cousin and savior of humankind.
Did even the Extants grasp the stretching required of our imaginations? Were they our savagers or our saviors?
We could only hope our alien commanders (benefactors or plunderers these Extants?) had founded their audacity and our recruitment on successful endeavors past, if not in this System, then in others, untold light years afar or even better, close by, invisibly intimate, hidden by folds in the multi-dimensional structure of the Metric itself.
Who were they? Why did they want to save us? What if we failed? Could it even work? And these were only the most obvious of our burning questions. And the ones to follow which we could not then begin to fathom.
From what artillery, hovering in what gravity well had the Extants launched their mission-cloaked Sol-piercing missile? Or shall we say missive? After all, hadn’t it delivered a message to the artificially enlightened cognoscenti among us? And had 1I/2017 U1 and C/2019 Q4 simply been initial misses? But then, how would one explain that an intelligence as advanced as that of the Extants could miss any target? Well, had those merely been warning shots designed to capture our attention? So many questions… including, “more to come?”
INCLUDING … could it be that the Extants had nothing to do with the launching of said Moby of a missile and, in fact, were actually here to help us counter these intergalactic invaders?! That, my friends, is a daring proposition. And such a position would kindly explain the sharing of intelligence well beyond the boundaries of current human achievement.
It’s the only explanation available that suits sharing the sub-molecular mechanisms of the pi-drive, the description of which will leave you weak in the knees, humbled by its sheer elegance. Imagine that one might helm a vessel so astutely crafted, a vessel that might, in its motivity, veriliy snap the fabric of existence itself, like an infinitesimally threaded sheet into a super-conductive membrane in/on/of/about/to which pi itself terminates!
That, my friend, is the sweet set of cheat codes that may well get our meager strain of existence into the? a? future…