So here we are, and at the end of the day here we are at the end of another piece of the puzzle. Lots of loose ends still dangling in the wind, waiting to come together in the final elements of the shadow. Probably no real surprises here so just get your tea ready and have a read…
Music? Yeah, always, because where would we be without it?
(Led Zeppelin \\ Ramble On)
Part IV: The Music of the Spheres
Along Highway 101, north of Santa Barbara September
Eugene Sherman – Father Gene – stifled a yawn and leaned over, looked past Dana Goodman through the Ferrari’s steering wheel at the instrument cluster. The fuel gauge looked, – from this angle, anyway – to be well under the halfway mark and besides, his prostate was flashing red and his bladder was screaming: it was time to take a leak and Buellton was coming up soon, so…
“Do you need to make a pit stop?” Dana Goodman asked, grinning at his sidelong deceptions.
“I’m surprised I made it this far,” Sherman sighed. “Goodness knows, but getting old presents all kinds of difficulties.”
She chuckled at that: “You’re doing pretty good for a…”
“Don’t say it, okay. Just don’t go there.”
“Five miles to the Buellton exit,” Goodman said, taking the hint. “And oh, by the way, we’re being followed.”
Sherman nodded. “I know. A black BMW, about a half mile back.”
“Yes. So, you noticed?”
“About a half hour ago, after we left Goleta. Keeping the same distance behind your target is always a dead give-away.”
“So, they’re not professionals?”
“Doubtful. If someone wanted to take us out they’d use multiple cars, one for the hit and one for the getaway. Probably one more as a backdoor or to run interference.”
“You seem to know a lot about this stuff.”
“I spent a year at the Vatican Observatory. Heard a lot of talk about precautions the papal detail made before they moved Benedict around the city.”
“They’re closing the distance now,” she said, her eyes dancing between the instrument cluster and her mirrors. “What do you want me to do?”
“Nothing. Pull into a gas station when we get off the highway.”
“Are you carrying?” she added.
“Of course. You?”
“Where what?” Goodman said, now confused and looking for clarity.
“Well, I don’t mean to be crude, but why on earth did you wear that outfit?” Goodman, for some reason, had decided to slip into a skintight red leather jumpsuit and while Sherman – on one level, anyway – thought she looked kind of out there, the prude in him found her costume more than a little revolting. She’d not pulled the zipper all the way up, and she was showing more than enough boob to wig-out any highway patrolman who might be stupid enough to pull her over.
“It goes with the car, Father,” she said. “Is the cleavage distracting?”
“You could say that, yes.” He sighed and turned away, looked out over the passing nightscape while trying not to laugh at her performance…then he heard the turn signal clicking and saw exit signs looming in the headlights. He reached inside his windbreaker and made sure the snap on his shoulder holster was free and the Sig ready to go, then he leaned back and looked up at the stars.
So many secrets. And Sorensen was so dangerous.
Who else knew. Who else had figured it out.
Well, he’d know one way or the other in about seven hours.
The Ferrari growled and sputtered as Goodman downshifted and let the engine do the braking. “They’re getting off too,” she said…
‘…of course they are,’ Sherman thought. “Okay, turn in here, at the Chevron station,” he said. The light was good and there were plenty of obstructions…so once the Ferrari stopped he got out and moved to…
But then the BMW pulled into the station and right up behind Sherman’s Ferrari.
The door opened and Debra Sorensen stepped out and stretched, then went over and began filling up her car. Sherman shrugged to Dana then went ahead and filled the Ferrari’s tank.
And then Sorensen walked up to him.
“There’s a tracking device in your car,” she said, and Sherman nodded.
She nodded. “He’s a part owner in the dealership. They’ve been watching you for a while.”
Sorensen shrugged. “You’d better ditch the car, unless you’re looking for a confrontation.”
“Ride with me? What a brilliant idea, Professor Sherman. There are only about five tracking devices in my car, so…?”
“Okay, Miss Sorensen. Your move. What’s it going to be?”
“It’s supposed to appear in seven hours, right?”
“What are you talking about?”
Debra shook her head. “Don’t be so…coy, okay?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Then you don’t need me.” She finished paying for her fuel, then continued: “Anyway, I know where you’re going, Professor,” she teased.
“Oh? Do you?”
“Yes, of course. The signal. You’ll need the 20 inch to see it, right?”
Sherman hesitated. If Sorensen had figured it out…how many others had, as well?
When he’d been climbing in Switzerland – that faraway summer now more than twenty years distant – and when that mysterious object in Sagittarius had begun beating out irregular pulses of light, Sherman had watched and watched. Then it hit him…
The pulses weren’t random.
They constituted an enormous data stream of binary information.
And as he copied down the information that evening he had realized the implications were staggering. Not only was there an intelligence “out there” – but they were communicating. With us. From at least ten thousand light years away. And it wasn’t just that. As he’d sat outside on the rocks outside the mountain hut after their first practice climb above Zermatt, he’d actually started decoding the stream.
And once he had it all, according to the data stream an object was going to appear in our sky. The signal indicated the date when the object would appear, and it also gave a right ascension and declination in the sky, all of which indicated the senders knew one hell of a lot about us in the here and now. Yet nothing of the sort was possible. It just couldn’t be.
Or, was it?
They – whoever the hell they were – had apparently sent the message something like ten thousand years ago and it had just now arrived here on earth. Yet they’d – apparently – wanted to give us plenty of time to get in place to make the observation so the signal had arrived twenty-one years before the date and time indicated. Yet that meant they were also familiar with our current Gregorian calendar and our system of orienting on the planet’s surface using the coordinate system of latitudes and longitudes, which had to mean they’d been here before, and recently. Since the 1500s, anyway. Staggering implications didn’t even begin to cover his reaction, and Sherman had been speechless and preoccupied ever since, and so of course he’d been waiting for this night.
But all this had led him to an even more interesting question. How many other observatories had decoded the message? And why was everyone keeping the information a secret?
And Deb Sorensen, this spoiled, money-addled princess who he’d first run across when he was still at MIT, had finally enrolled and taken his intro class at Loyola Marymount. And she’d done well, too, even with the heavy math involved. And then he’d finally watched her recordings of the event, the ones she’d made from the roof of her home in Beverly Hills. He’d asked for a copy of the files and even tried to analyze the spectra but then an even deeper mystery was revealed, because whoever’d sent the message had apparently used a massive battery of laser cannons to send the pulsed message. But then he realized if that was true then the light had to have been focused along an extremely narrow path taking stellar drift into account. And that meant the message had either been aimed at Earth, or at another planet along the path of the beam. But the Gregorian data and lat/lon datums ruled that out, which was, in a way, really the frightening part of the message. Whoever sent this message could not only move around the galaxy with ease, they could also, apparently, move through time with equal ease.
But he’d also realized Debra Sorensen wasn’t the lightweight he’d assumed, or that she often pretended to be. If she’d decoded the stream on her own, though he realized it was possible she’d had help, then she was worth keeping along. If nothing else, she might prove useful when they got to the observatory.
“Yes,” Sherman said to Debra, “I’m assuming the 20 inch will do, but it’s a safe bet that every telescope on the mountain will be trained on those coordinates.”
“And there’s nothing up there now?”
“Perhaps a faint star, at least as of last night, but we don’t have enough information yet for a radial velocity.”
Debra looked at her watch. “Well then, we’d better get going,” she said, looking at Dana in her skintight CatWoman suit and rolling her eyes. “Would you like to ride with me for a while?”
“No, I’m fine. Enjoying the night air.and my new car…”
“Please? I’d really enjoy the company,” Deb pleaded.
He looked at Dana and she nodded. “I’ll follow you,” she said.
“Alright. For a while then, anyway.” He walked around and got behind the wheel and buckled in, and he watched Dana’s astonished look and grinned. She got in the car and looked at his leg: “I thought you couldn’t drive,” she sighed.
“Obviously not true,” he said as he peeled out of the station and roared down the on-ramp onto the 101.
“What other little surprises do you have up your sleeve, Father Sherman?”
Sherman shrugged as he passed a string of truck campers struggling up a long grade. “So, who had William Taylor killed?”
“Excuse me, but how fast are you going?”
“Looks like one-ten to me,” he grinned. “Always wanted to drive one of these.”
“That’s forty miles an hour over the limit, Father! Slow down, please! Now!”
He pressed on the accelerator and the BMW easily sped up to a hundred and forty miles per hour. “Feels pretty stable,” he said – as he took his hands off the steering wheel.
“It won’t when the CHP pulls you over,” she grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest.
He took his left foot off the accelerator and let the Beemer slow down, and Dana pulled up alongside and looked at him. He flashed a grin and a ‘thumb’s up’ and she tucked in behind him, and Deb began breathing easier.
“So,” he began again, “who killed Taylor?”
“I’m pretty sure my father did.”
“Because of your earlier relationship?”
“You know about that…”
“Father Kerrigan and I were friends for twenty years, Debra. We had few secrets between us.”
“Had? So you figured that out, too.”
“It was obvious. Nevertheless, I hate to lose a friend. Will they kill him, do you think?”
“I doubt it,” Sorensen said. “How did you figure out my father was looking for you?”
Sherman ignored the question and looked away. “Nice car. Yours?”
She ignored his infuriating banalities: “So? Who’s the hooker?”
“The hooker? Oh, you mean Dana. No, she’s a physician, actually, and she’s been helping me out at the clinic for a few days.”
“Yeah…she sure looks like a doctor.”
“Do you what?”
“Look like a physician?”
“No, not really, but you do remind me of a guy I used to know.”
“Used to? What happened?”
“Things fall apart.”
“And The Center Cannot Hold. Yes, yes. Are you referring to Taylor?”
“No. Someone else.”
“And…? What happened to him?”
“I loved him, but he couldn’t get past a few things.”
“Your father, perhaps?”
“No. About me. He couldn’t see me for what I am, only what he needed me to be.”
“That’s cryptic enough.”
“Are you still living on that boat? Down at the marina?”
“I’ve been staying at my father’s.”
“Not by choice, I take it?”
“No. Not by choice.”
“So, the people after me? They’ll kill me, right?”
“What about you?”
She nodded again. “I think so, yes.”
“Well, well. So…we’re in this together. I didn’t see that coming.”
He was aware that she was staring at him and he turned and looked at her, too. “See anything you like?” he asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
“You put up a good front, Father Sherman, but you’re scared. And you’re also hiding something. Something about that woman?”
“Yes, and I’m also a Leo who enjoys bicycling and taking long walks in the park while listening to Sibelius. Shall we meet for a coffee?”
She laughed – a little. “I see emotions, Father.”
“Oh…? How nice for you. I see dead pixels.”
“My genetic information was edited. I know it sounds ridiculous, but neurologists in London confirmed that the editing resulted in modifications to the structure of my visual cortex.”
He looked at her then shook his head. “Funny, but you don’t look schizophrenic.”
“Okay, so that means what, exactly? A modified visual cortex?”
“Technically, I’m no longer human. Secondarily, with some people I can, well, I can see their thoughts.”
“It’s like a chemical stream being emitted. How the brain goes about transcribing our interpretation of physical reality into something we can actually understand and store is a neuro-chemical process, and apparently, as this transmission emits energy I can pick up those signals, and from what I can gather the process is similar to the way orcas and dolphins process echolocation signals. In effect, I can process and interpret these signals in the same way I can interpret my own thoughts and experiences…”
“And you expect me to believe all this?”
“You’ve been thinking about your son, and…his illness.”
Sherman gripped the steering wheel and turned to look at her, jerking the wheel so abruptly the BMW almost left its lane. He regained his composure – but Debra wasn’t through with him yet.
“And you’ve been thinking about your mother. That you should have spent more time with her near then end. And…Mrs. Robinson. You were singing that earlier…while thinking about me, and my father…”
“Okay, you can stop now.”
“It’s how I know my father was behind William’s murder, Father.” She held up her left hand and placed it inches from Sherman’s face and her head tilted a little as she concentrated on something far away yet closer than forever. “You were reloading film in your camera when the gust hit, and then you tried to reach out for…”
“Stop it! Just stop! Now! Get out of my head!”
“I’m sorry. I needed you to believe me,” she cried. “I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to do that.”
“Sweet Jesus…you’re serious, aren’t you?”
“I’m not crazy, Father Sherman. They changed me!”
There was a little town just ahead and Sherman saw a sign for an A&W Root Beer stand so he flipped on the blinker and exited. It took a minute, but he found the drive-in restaurant and pulled into a parking space; Dana pulled in and parked the red Ferrari beside the BMW and every teenager in town started drooling – until Dana crawled out of the Ferrari in her flaming red Catsuit. Jaws dropped then, and pheromone levels spiked…
Sherman walked over to a picnic table and a carhop came over and asked what they wanted; Sherman ordered cheeseburgers and root beer floats all around, “and onion rings!” he added. “Lots of onion rings!”
Dana saw that Sherman’s hands were shaking even more than usual – so she looked at Debra, tried to read her aura.
“Do I know you?” Debra asked sardonically when she couldn’t take the staring any longer.
“You should, but you don’t,” Dana said.
Deb tried to read her aura – but Dana was closed to her. She tried to see into the younger girl’s thoughts – but that too was closed to her. This had happened before, but it didn’t happen all that often, and now she tried to ignore the uncertainty she felt as Dana’s response hit home. “I should what? Know you?”
“Can you feel us? You and the core of my being, fused together?” Dana asked.
Debra turned and walked closer, then she looked into Dana’s eyes, placed her hands on either side of her face. And it didn’t take long – moments later Deb dropped her hands and ran back to her car, and now Sherman looked on helplessly as Deb started to cry. Gently at first, but he saw her looking through the glass at Dana – and even he could see that something was profoundly wrong.
“What did you do to her?” he asked.
Dana turned and looked at Gene Sherman and she smiled. “She was my mother, once. I thought she should know.”
“Don’t you ever get tired?” Sherman asked Dana.
“No. Not really.”
The Ferrari was approaching San Jose and he looked at his Apple Watch and the countdown timer marching down to zero. “Two hours and twenty minutes to go,” he sighed. He turned and saw Deb Sorensen was still on their six, still about a quarter mile behind, then he looked at Dana again, not really understanding who or what she really was. Was she human? She appeared to be. But then how did you account for her ‘birth’ – if that’s really what it was? On some kind of colossal ship located at a Lagrange Point? A ship too huge to hide from even rudimentary radar scans of the asteroid belt but which had, nevertheless, remained completely undiscovered? It was too ludicrous to consider true, yet here she was. And all the skills Debra had mentioned, the ability to see auras or to read thought as easily as a radio picked up modulated electromagnetic waves, Dana could do as well – yet with even deeper understanding of the results. And Dana also seemed to have doctoral levels of understandings of chemistry, physics, biology and medicine and who knew what else. She might have been human, at least on one level, but not on any level Sherman understood.
The GPS on the central display chirped and advised they’d need to exit in two miles, onto eastbound Interstate 680; Dana flipped on her signal and moved to the right lane leaving Sherman to check and see if Debra followed. She did, and a mile after they got on the 680 they exited once again, onto State Highway 130, the road that would take them up to the observatory.
“There are now two more vehicles following us,” Dana said, her steely voice cool, calm, and collected. “Two black Suburbans, I believe.”
“Do you see the occupants?”
“Yes. They are heavily armed.”
“Damn. I wish we had some means of taking care of that problem.”
“Would you like them eliminated?”
He looked at her, careful not to answer her question – yet. “Can you do that?”
“Without hurting the occupants?”
“Fine. Do it. But wait until we’re off the main highway and up on the mountain.”
Soon they were driving through suburban residential sprawl and then Highway 130 made a hard right, turning into Mount Hamilton Road and they all starting to climb seriously now. Houses spread far apart soon gave way to farms and vineyards, and Dana looked at him again: “Will this do?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
He turned and saw the SUVs about a half mile back, then he saw a translucent blue sphere hovering several hundred feet above them…then the sphere divided and two smaller spheres descended rapidly, in an instant enveloping the SUVs – and then they were simply…gone.
“Where are they?” Sherman asked.
“Their vehicles have been placed outside of the Los Angeles Police Department’s central jail.”
“So, you do have a sense of humor…?”
“It seemed…efficient,” she replied.
“Tell me…can Debra do that little trick?”
“She has the facility, not the necessary working knowledge.”
“So, you’re the only one who can do things like this?”
“No. I am not the only one.”
“Me? Yes, certainly.”
“Why are you here?”
“To procreate. To reproduce.”
“Oh? So, who’s the lucky fella?”
“I came to procreate with you.”
Sherman said not one word. Not a single syllable. He concentrated on the road ahead, then he looked at the countdown timer. “We’re going to be cutting it close?” he sighed a few minutes later.
“We’ll be there in time.”
“And how do you know that?”
“I think if I told you – you might become upset.”
“Upset?” he cried. “You tell me you came her to screw me and you’re worried I might become upset? I got a newsflash for you, kid, but the last time I got laid was about the same time Bill Clinton hosed down a little blue dress! You get my drift?”
“Drift? Oh, yes, I understand.”
“Look, you are certainly cute – despite the poor choice of wardrobe items…”
“You don’t find this…sexy?”
“I might have, once, like maybe when I was fourteen?”
She put her hand up beside his head and scanned his thoughts, then she looked at him after she took a very sharp curve at speed.
“Oh…I could do that,” she grinned.
“What you were thinking of a moment ago.”
“Look…would you get out of my head?”
Her eyes went wide then: “Wow! I am not sure what that has to do with procreation, but it looks interesting!”
He started solving quadratic equations in his mind, but it was hopeless – and they both knew it.
“Really?” she cried a few seconds later. “You’ve actually done that!”
“I can’t wait!”
Sherman groaned and looked out the window, and he could see Altair and Vega setting now.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “we’re almost there.”
“I don’t even need to talk, do I?”
“Only if you want, but actually, I enjoy the sensation.”
“What? Of talking?”
“Yes. I can see the vibrations, the energy released as you speak. It is comforting to me, a lovely feeling…””
The main dome, the largest that held the 35 inch refractor, came into view and he could already see that there were dozens of local amateur astronomers milling about in the parking lot just beyond the main cluster of domes – and when he saw that they’d all set up their ‘scopes, right then he knew this was going to be an event with global repercussions, a real psychosocial phenomenon of the highest disruptive order, because if the word had spread among the amateur astronomers here around the Bay Area then it was almost impossible that other astro communities around the world hadn’t. But, then again, he worried about the secrecy. Why hadn’t the news media been splashing this all over the airwaves – because they’d had almost two decades to shape the message?
Maybe they’d shut down the information because the message proved, and conclusively so, that we weren’t alone in the universe?
Doubtful. Most potential audiences had been primed by sci-fi movies for decades to accept this sort of information, yet even so powerful clerical forces might have moved to end such speculation.
But what if existing power structures determined that they might not be able to contain the fallout from such a revelation? Did they fear that civilization as they defined it might collapse?
“Maybe, but doubtful,” he said aloud.
And Dana ignored him as she pulled into the observatory’s main driveway. A guard blocked their way, yet he didn’t seem taken aback by Dana in her catsuit.
“Can I help you?” he asked, his eyes sweeping aside her ample cleavage with a dismissive sigh.
“Yes,” Sherman sighed as he waved a hand, “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
“What? Oh…I get it”
“I’m Sherman. I should be on the list.”
The guard pulled out his flashlight and looked at the list on his clipboard for a moment. “Sherman? Gene Sherman, from LMU?”
“Yup, that’s me. And the BMW behind us is with me.”
“Okay. Far side of the far building, and turn off your headlights now.”
They drove around and yes, as expected, there was The Owl. Deborah Eisenstadt and that Harvard undergrad friend of hers. And a lean, almost a gaunt man…and Sherman saw that he too had an artificial leg.
Dana parked next to an old blue Range Rover and Deb slid into the vacant space to their left, then Sherman got out and walked over to Eisenstadt. “Glad you could make it,” Sherman said as he gave her a gentle hug, then he turned to the other woman.
“Liz Bullitt,” the girl said as she held out her hand. “I doubt you remember me…”
“Of course I do. You started us down this road, if I remember correctly…”
“Well, not exactly. But he did,” she said, pointing at the tall stranger.
Sherman turned to the man and held out his hand. “Gene Sherman,” he said warmly.
“Callahan. Harry Callahan. You the priest?”
“Yeah? So…what’s with the hooker?”
“Costume party,” Dana said. “You know, Halloween?”
“Right,” Callahan sighed. “Nice tits, kid. Think you can keep ‘em out of my way tonight?”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Who’s the other broad?” Callahan growled.
“Debra Sorensen,” Deb said, stepping close with her right hand extended.
Which Callahan ignored. “You related to that Sorensen creep down in LA? The movie guy?”
“I am. He’s my father.”
Callahan turned and walked away – and Liz chased after him.
“You ready to go?” Sherman asked Eisenstadt.
“No, but I…”
Everyone outside that night instinctively flinched and ducked as something impossibly bright illuminated the area, and Sherman looked straight up into the night sky, towards the zenith, and to the star Polaris.
The light dimmed and Polaris reappeared, then, moments later the light exploded across the night sky again…
…but Sherman stood tall, started timing the bursts…
…and seven seconds later the light faded again…
…then, seven seconds later, the star signaled again…
And there were seven such signals before Polaris returned to its normal state.
“Did you count seven?” Eisenstadt sighed.
“Yes,” Sherman answered, “and the duration of each burst was seven seconds, and there was a seven second gap before one burst faded-out completely and when the next began.”
“Well, if anyone doubted the evidence of intelligence out there,” Eisenstadt muttered. “But why the number seven?”
“That wasn’t the signal, was it?” Callahan snarled.
“No,” Sherman said. “Wrong position in the sky, not quite the correct time, either.”
“I’d say that was like dimming the lights before the main performance is set to begin,” Liz Bullitt added.
“Let’s go inside,” Dana said, bringing everyone back to the present, and Sherman nodded as he turned for the door.
The team of astronomers working the main telescope at Lick were gathered around a widescreen monitor, so they hadn’t really seen the Polaris Event, but they had seen the night sky turn bright white…
“Sherman? What happened out there?”
“Polaris flashed seven times,” he replied.
“Flashed?” one of them asked.
“Almost looked like flares from a nova, but it’s still there,” Sherman added.
“So, a laser cannon again?” one of the other astronomers said.
Sherman nodded. “That’d be my guess.”
“What show offs,” Eisenstadt chuckled. “First in Sagittarius, half a sky away and then Polaris, which is only, what, 430 light years distant?”
“433,” another astronomer chided.
“They do get around…” Eisenstadt sighed.
“Is the scope centered?” Sherman asked.
“Yes, centered on 52 Cygni, right along the edge of the Western Veil Nebula.”
“Same, oh, but what is that?” the senior astronomer present said as he peered at the monitor.
“That looks like a White Dwarf, Gene. And…is that a planet?”
Moments later an email came in from Palomar, then another from the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. They’d both observed two large ringed gas giants, both with large moons, though both were just about on the limits of their threshold of observation. Then the Subaru Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii sent out an alert on the Planetary Society’s Flash Network, alerting all observatories worldwide to begin observations of the new system. A general announcement from the International Astronomical Union followed, listing the system’s coordinates and what was currently known, and Gene Sherman pulled up this email on his phone and read through it twice…
A white dwarf star, which was, essentially, a dying star. Two gas giants. At least eleven minor planets with an unknown number of moons. A possible asteroid belt between the two gas giants…
Sherman looked at the system on the screen and shook his head, because something just wasn’t adding up. He was missing something. Something important.
An unknown civilization has signaled us, in effect warning us of this new system’s existence.
“Why?” Sherman muttered.
“Why what?” Harry Callahan said.
“The pulses in Sagittarius twenty two years ago gave us the date and time when these objects would appear, as well as the coordinates…”
“You mean,” Callahan grumbled as he pointed at the sky, “someone out there sent us a message about this?”
“Precisely. Yes,” Deborah Eisenstadt said, “and so we finally know the answer to that question. This was not a random event. We are not alone.”
Callahan crossed his arms over his chest, then he turned and looked at Sherman. “If the message was sent as a warning then those planets pose a direct threat to us,” Callahan said, his eyes boring into Sherman’s. “Can you figure out the if the system is moving or not, and if it is, where to?”
“We’ll need to observe the system for days, possibly weeks, but yes, in the end we’ll be able to.”
Dana Goodman stepped close to Sherman and cleared her throat: “The system will significantly alter the orbits of every planet in this solar system,” she said. “The white dwarf star will pass between Jupiter and Mars; Mars and her moons will be torn from their orbits and sent into deep space. Earth and the planet Venus will be torn from their respective orbits, both will be captured by the blue gas giant, while the atmospheres of both will be stripped away during capture.”
“What?” Erskine Davis, the director of the observatory said. “How could you possibly know all this?”
Dana ignored the question: “You have noticed a red super gas giant in this new system. This body will collide with Jupiter and a massive stellar ignition will result, in effect sterilizing all the planets in this new system. Over the course of the next five million years a new atmosphere will form on Earth, and over the next ten million years the process of life will begin again.”
“When will this new system begin to interfere with the orbital dynamics of our current solar system?” Gene Sherman asked.
“In forty three years. Life on this planet will cease completely in fifty two years.”
Eisenstadt sighed. ‘Why seven? Why seven…?’
There were a handful of astronomers gathered around the monitors in the observatory, yet no one spoke now. What Dana Goodman had said was too preposterous to believe, yet her statements were so credibly delivered it was almost impossible not to believe her, yet just then a blue sphere not quite seven meters in diameter descended through the observatory’s metal dome and settled just above the concrete floor. Dana Goodman walked to the sphere and turned to face Debra Sorensen.
“It was nice to finally meet you, Mother,” Dana said to Debra, and then she stepped inside the sphere and both seemed to dissolve from view.
“Well, that’s not something you see everyday,” Harry Callahan said, scratching his chin. “Is it just me, or does anyone else around here feel like a cheeseburger and a beer?”
Sherman walked over to the monitor and looked at these new, unknown planets arrayed on the screen, then he turned and looked at Debra Sorensen, then Harry Callahan. “A beer sounds good,” the astronomer-priest sighed. Yet suddenly he thought about his son. ‘I need to go see him now…’
Then the two peg-legged men walked out of the observatory and into the night, though neither spoke. Neither looked up into the fading remnants of the night sky as dawn came.
“Why did I get the impression,” Callahan said – to no one in particular, “that the hooker isn’t done with you?”
Sherman looked away, but he whispered just one word: “Procreate.”
“Oh yeah?” Harry added. “Sounds like wishful thinking, if you ask me?”
Sherman stopped walking and he closed his eyes…then he smiled.
And so here ends Forgotten Songs From An Imaginary Life. This work © 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this was a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or coincidentally referenced entities are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. In other words, this was just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.
(Spock’s Beard \\ At the End of the Day)