In The Beginning
Posted By: Kellen Squire<email@example.com>
Date: 6 April 2002, 9:38 pm
You wonder why we were able to give the Covenant such a fight, don't you? Many people do. Few know the reason.
Let me tell you a story.
The day we found out- it was summer on Mars.
The local high for the day was twenty below zero. Which is hell of a lot warmer than it used to be, sure. The terraforming projects in process had jacked up the temperature, along with the oxygen and atmosphereic pressure levels.
Nothing burned well on Mars then. It was still too cold, there still too much carbon dioxide and too little oxygen in an atmosphere that was roughly equal to Earth's at 40,000 feet.
Nonetheless, that day, a streak of light crosses the sky.
It screamed. The noise was horribly earsplitting, even in Mars' thin atmosphere. The shock wave it produced destroyed formations of rock that had been standing on Mars for millenia.
If you launch something at Mars from many light years away, tell it to lose speed using the atmosphere as a speed brake, and land softly... it won't burn well, but it *will* burn.
The one thing it can't do, however, is brake.
It'll just get grabbed up and dragged down by Mars' .38 of a gravity.
And hundreds of years before the first Interstellar war, mankind is visited by the worst kind of enemy imaginable.
An enemy it didn't even know existed.
* * * * * * * * * *
UNAF MILITARY STARCOM NET
SECURITY LEVEL DELTA-FIVE
TO: UNAF JCOS
SUBJ: ET EVENT
1. EXTRATERRESTRIAL CRAFT MADE LANDFALL TITHONIUM CHASMA AT 0131 GMT. NO CIVILIAN INTERACTION.
ET PROBE CURRENTLY UNDER GUARD AND BEING EXAMINED BY UNMIL TECHINICIANS.
2. SENDING FURTHER INFORMATION UNDER EPSILON SECURITY FOR JCOS BRIEFER.
3. AWAITING FURTHER ORDERS.
* * * * * * * * * *
The room was silent.
As the message was played in the air in front of them, the team of Generals and Admirals stared at it; confused. After the message ended, the silence continued to fill the air like a great, black void.
"Jesus H. Christ," finally came from General Seine. The rest of the room stayed silent. A nervous briefer stood at a podium, ready to brief the most brilliant military minds in human space.
"Approximately thirty seconds before impact, UNMIL tracking stations picked up an object heading towards Mars' at approximately 70,000 kilometers per second. All attempts at hailing it were unsucsessful. Due to it's speed, there was little time to react.
"It made two passes on Mars, making it visible to most of the colonial cities in the northern hemisphere. The news networks are already reporting the giant streak of fire. There was also some damage from the enormous shock wave it produced entering Mars' atmosphere; at least one city had a breach in it's dome. Casualties there are reported as being light." A hologram appeared above the table where the message had been previously displayed. It showed Mars, from orbit, and simulated the ball of fire screaming around the red orb.
"By it's second pass, it had slowed considerably, but apparently not enough. Our sensors indicate that the object had been firing braking thrusters of some sort." The hologram switched to a grainy picture of the fireball from a close-up angle. This time, large jets of vapor were visible streaming out the front of it- perhaps a kilometer long? Longer? "It was apparently not enough. The object impacted into Tithonium Chasma shortly after this picture was taken."
The briefer paused momentarily. "According to our calculations, had the Martian atmosphere been only a few hundred millibars thicker, the object would have slowed enough to make a soft landing just outside New Plymoth." A murmur. New Plymoth was the biggest dome city on the planet. The murmur was silenced moments later as the briefer continued.
"This is Tithonium Chasma." The holographic picture showed a large, red canyon, seen from satellites in Mars orbit. "The ET craft hit here. The impact triggered nearly every seismic monitor on the planet." The briefer pointed with his finger, and a small yellow dot of a laser pointer moved to one side of a newly-carved crater where a canyon had once been. The picture automatically zoomed in, giving the strange sensation for a moment that the satellite itself was plunging from orbit to take a better look.
As the image zoomed in, they noticed Marines walking around the site in their bulky spacesuits, and people in less armored suits, presumably the military technicians, analyzing...
Analyzing... something. Debris, of coure, and a large- something. It was sphereical, an interesting hue of red and purple in color, and seemed to glow slightly.
"What we have here," continued the briefer, "is the remains of an extraterrestrial craft. We have yet to find any biological life-forms, either in the debris covering this area," and the holographic video changed positions, zooming back out to show the field of debris scattered around the crash site, "or in the craft itself. We assume it's a probe of some sort."
"We already know that whomever built this craft has technology that's far in advance of our own. The craft's skin was only a few centimeters thick, yet it was strong enough to withstand aerobraking in a controlled atmosphereic entry. Keep in mind that prior to aerobraking, the craft had been travelling at 70,000 kilometers per second- nearly a quarter of the speed of light" This provoked eyebrows to be raised among the admirals and generals.
"We've recovered telemetry data from the Phobos array and the FarStar listener. The probe came from somewhere in the deep galactic core." The holographic video changed again to a three-dimensional representation of the galaxy. A small yellow circle flashed in the 'western' spiral edge, with the words YOU ARE HERE over it. Another, pulsing yellow circle flashed near the star-filled center of the map. "Or so it would seem. Unless these extra-terrestrials have faster-than-light technology far different from ours... which, we must remember, is a distinct possibility."
The assembled generals and admirals stirred uneasily. They were trained to deal with threats to humanity, and it seemed that there might be a gigantic one staring them in the face.
"I'm afraid that concludes this briefing."
"What? Why?" someone asked.
"I have no more information to present you, ma'am," replied the briefer. He saluted smartly, and stepped away from the podium. He picked up a small, white pill off of the podium before he moved, and swallowed it without water. He then marched from the room. In a few moments, he'd forget about everything he'd just said. The only sound was that of his exiting the room and closing the door.
Another moment of silence.
"Christ." This once again from General Seine. She shook her head slowly before saying anything more. "I say we keep this under Majestic-level secrecy. The general public does NOT hear about this," she said, gesturing to the hologram still displayed above the table, "and neither does the Government. We keep this military."
"I second that," Admiral Saratov added, a trace of his Ukranian accent still in his voice. "I also propose that we begin to push for increased funding for new ships and technology."
"Wait, wait, wait!" an Admiral from the Space Guard exclaimed, frowning. "We don't even know if they're hostile, or even WHO they are!"
"And why keep it so covert?" another asked. "This is huge, HUGE news."
"It's a huge, HUGE fright, that's what it is." General Seine said, her voice cool and calculating. She looked at the admiral who had asked the question. "Whether they know it or not, people still live primitively, in tribes. We might be one BIG tribe now, huddled around the same campfire," she continued, unintentionally making hand gestures, "but we are still very frightened about whatever prowls around the edges of the campfire's light. Which is, I might remind all of you, the only reason any of us have jobs right now.
"In any case, if it's outside the tribe, they're scared of it. And the last thing we need now is a big fright."
"She's right," Admiral Saratov added, "the entire world government is barely holding together as it is. Unless you're forgetting, there was just another bombing in Geneva. And perhaps you've been ignoring the fact that some of our colonies are wondering why they aren't getting the same representation as the nations of Europe, or the United States. You must remember what happened on Hope Nation!" The silence that followed was a sufficient enough answer for that question than any spoken words- obviously, nobody had forgotten.
"Why wouldn't this unite us all to a common goal, though?
"The SecGen is going to want to know what's going on-"
"And I'll tell him as soon as we know!" General Seine thundred, silencing the Aerospace Corps general that had spoken. "Seafort will understand."
And, once again, silence reigned.
General Seine looked around slowly.
"Any questions, ladies and gentlemen?" There were none. "Then this meeting is dismissed."