Friday, July 15, 2011

The Shell (Episode 2)

Jane was frustrated. 11 years spent on determining the substance was not a good advancement when Saharan Space Agency (SSA) needed the information within 20 years. She had left nine more years to figure out what was the weird substance.

She had run through all tests and scans. Besides there were large amounts of carbon, niobium, iron, some trace elements, a scan revealed there was a large amorphous mass of changing charge embedded below a thin layer of unknown allotropic carbon.

The layer known might be even harder than diamond or nanotubes. As she tried drilling a hole with a drill, the drill burnt off. She then tried a laser-cutter on it, strangely, the material absorbed the energy effortlessly down into its deeper skin.

No wonder the substance looked black and bleak. as if it was forged in the cosmic void.

Another strange thing was, whenever they tried to chip a corner off, it grew back almost instantaneously. It was generally speculated and accepted that the amorphous mass beneath the skin was repairing any flaws by tension pressure. Whenever an atom from the surface was removed, it created a quasi-pressure that forced the mass from beneath to propagate upwards, similar to the plants' capillary tube action.

One last strange thing: it was frictionless. No matter what they put around the piece of junk, the slings, grapples and anchors kept coming off its side. Even the tractor couldn't push it away. The surface was so smooth that even a droplet of water couldn't stay on it for a second. It was a smooth mirror.

Large as it seemed, 300 metres at its widest point with various irregular edges, the thing stayed there at the Sahara Desert for years with lab tents around it like budding mushrooms. The scientists even built a large sail over the shard, because a slight wind might sink the shard under the sands, or even move it.

"Look what I've found," Dan threw her a e-newspaper. The picture slowly resolved into a nightsky with stars. But there was something not quite right about the picture. The stars were distorted. They looked like being squeezed from a focal point of the photo. Beneath the photo, a headline revealed: Astronomers dumbfounded.

"And?" Jane asked. That was certainly something to brighten up her day.

"I have contacted Charles. You know him right? He checked on the photo and roughly sketched out the point where the stars are distorted. He told me that there is something large and invisible that somehow act like an anti-gravity force to push the star light aside, resulting in something similar to gravitational lensing, but much more irregular."

"And?" Jane asked again.

"Guess what I am thinking?" Dan asked back.

"The existence of a weird anti-blackhole. But... it doesn't make sense. A white hole? But irregular?" Jane said, tapping her stylus on her chin.

"Wrong. I think they are coming..." Dan spoke mysteriously.

"They? What they? Who are they?" Jane squinted on him.

Dan leaned forward. So close till she could smell his coffee breath. He spoke very softly, "The aliens are here."

Jane rolled her eyes. "Right, they are here," she spoke sarcastically. "Try to come up with a press conference for that."

"No need to, it's all over the news," Dan said. He snapped his fingers at the nearest wall, and the wall came alive with pictures and videos. Reporters and scientists. "After a long wake, Drake's equation might be true. Especially now."

"Shit. Who discovered this?" Jane asked.

"Everyone. Seriously, Jane, you have been breathing under these domes for too long."

Before she could reply, there was a series of shouts outside. Dan and her dashed out from their dome and gazed out under the sun. There was a crowd running scatteredly, as if a major predator came and chased them.

"Run!" she saw one scientist ran passed her, never looking back.

"What is going on here?" Jane called out loud.

And she got her answer. She saw another scientist whose name was Rose vanished in front of her eyes into twinkling embers before the embers themselves vanished.

She blinked.

Holy shit.

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