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Von Neumann's War: Chapter Nine

       Last updated: Sunday, May 14, 2006 14:11 EDT



    "Hi, Major Gries, I'm Alan Davis," Alan said, gripping the soldier's hand as he entered his office.

    "You guys look busy," was all Shane said. The last time he'd been in Redstone was nearly four months before and it had seemed…sleepy compared to, say, the LockMart facility in Denver.

    But from the careful inspection he'd been given at the main entrance to the repeated security checks he'd endured to get to the engineer's office the entire tenor of the base had changed. There were more people, all of them looking very distracted, and far more bustle. It looked more like a battalion getting ready to cross into "Indian Country" than a research base. And he'd seen signs of defensive emplacements under construction – berms being dug on the periphery of the base –that simply didn't fit any scenario he could conceive. It looked as if the base was preparing for a siege. And finally, before Gries got any closer to knowing just what the hell was going on, he was asked to sign a shit-load of National Security Act paperwork.

    "Okay, Major, you know all the secrecy stuff I'm told," Alan said, rolling his chair over to a coffee pot and pouring a cup. "You want?"

    "Yes, sir, black, sir," Shane answered.

    "Siddown, and stop calling me, sir. I've never been in the military, call me Alan -- or Mr. Davis if you have to, but . . . Alan is what I prefer," Alan said, waving at a chair and pouring another cup into a none-too-clean mug. "What I'm about to tell you is going to break internationally sooner or later, but details are still going to be TS Special Access. Clear?"

    "Yes, sir, uh, Mr. Davis," Shane replied, taking the cup and a sip. The coffee was good at least. Whatever these eggheads had figured out, some congressman probably figured it would win him a whole hell of a lot of votes in the north Alabama district, because from the looks of things there was a lot of money being spent around town.

    "About a year ago, people started to notice that the albedo of Mars, the light reflected from it, was changing."

    "The gray planet," Shane said, nodding. "There was a news story about it and I sort of saw some stuff online. But, I didn't really believe any of it. Sounded too much like UFO stuff to me."

    "Well, what is happening is…" Alan said, pausing as the door opened to admit a really good looking blonde. Blue eyes, curly hair, fine butt and tremendous knockers. She looked more like a Hooters waitress than an egghead, but Shane had met some fine looking eggheads over the last few months.

    "Roger wanted you to see the changes on Mars and the new images of the Moon right away," the girl said.

    "Major Gries, Traci Adams," Alan said as the girl walked behind his desk and hit some keys on his computer. "She's in our astrophysics department." He paused to look at whatever was on the monitor, it was turned away from Shane, then blanched. "Jesus Christ. How big is that thing?"

    "Over three hundred meters," Traci replied, tossing her hair over her neck to get at the keys again. "And this."

    "It's…suspended," Alan said.

    "And this," Traci continued.

    "Crap," was all Alan said.

    "I realize I'm probably not accessed for this…" Shane said, diffidently.

    "You are now," Alan said, spinning the monitor around so the major could see it.

    The image was, apparently, from the moon or at least a moon. Airless and gray anyway. But at the edge of a crater was a long…cylindrical object.

    "That thing is…how long?" Shane said, carefully.

    "Just over three hundred meters," Traci repeated. "And it just landed or is landing…it's hard to tell."

    "Someone landed something three hundred meters long on the moon?" Shane said, closing his eyes. Surprise was a function of the mind of the commander. He knew what he knew. He knew nobody had lift capacity on earth to do that. He knew it was real; you didn't get sent off like this by the Army on total bullshit. "We're being invaded, aren't we?" he said, quietly.



    John Fisher and Alice Pike sat quietly in the hotel room watching the latest reality television programming with their respective daughters. Well, the girls were watching television while the parents were trying to work and also spend time with their kids.

    They had returned to the Cape for spring break, but unfortunately it had rained for the last two days. John and Alice worked during the days and mostly in the nights, while the girls did whatever teenage girls do at the beach during spring break.

    Alice sat at the little hotel table pecking at a laptop and peering over it occasionally at the television then out the window at the pouring rain. John was reading a technical paper on how to increase the Space Shuttle's launch capabilities and punching in numbers into a Mathcad simulation on his laptop while at the same time continuously eyeing his wristwatch. The girls lay on their stomachs on the floor in front of the television oblivious to their parents and occasionally poking at each other and giggling.

    "I believe it's gonna rain all week." Alice glanced out the window at the downpour; she sighed, closed her laptop, rose, then sat on the couch.

    "Come over hear and sit with me a minute," she said motioning for Tina to come set next to her. She tore off a piece of pizza from the Meat Lovers thin crust in the pizza box on the coffee table and started to gulp it down. "What time do you have, John?"

    "Just enough time for me to refill the ice bucket. Anybody need anything from the soda machine?" John replied looking at his watch and placing the report and his laptop on the end table.

    "Yeah, Daddy, get me a Diet Pepsi will ya?" Charlotte asked.

    "Ok slugger. Anybody else?" Nobody responded so John hurried to the vending area. He looked at his watch again, "Five minutes. That's plenty of time."

    Once he filled the ice bucket he stuck a dollar bill in the soda machine and pressed the Diet Pepsi button. Nothing happened. Then he realized the darn things were a dollar and a quarter, so he added another dollar bill and this time he got the soda. But, the machine informed him that it was out of change.

    "You son of a bitch!" John smacked the machine with his fist…then he laughed at himself. "What difference does it make?" He muttered and hurried back to the girl's room where they had gathered to watch television.

    "Hurry up, John I thought you were going to miss some of it," Alice told him as he handed his daughter her soft drink and set the ice bucket down. Then, just as they had been briefed would happen. . . .




    We interrupt this program to bring you a nationwide Presidential address. We were informed just an hour ago that the President of the United States of America will address the nation about one minute from now from the Oval Office. We go now to our correspondent at the White House, Bret Marshall, for insight into tonight's address. Bret?

    Yes Shep, the President released a statement to the Press Core about an hour ago that he would make this address and has yet to release the topic. We have various White House sources that have told us that it most likely has to do with a meeting he had earlier this week with the United Nations' National Security Council. However, the actual topic of this meeting and of tonight's address has been kept from press sources. The White House has been very tight lipped about it. Shep.

    Thanks, Bret. We go now to the Oval Office and the President of the United Statesâ¦



    Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow Americans and to our friends and allies around the world. Tonight I must speak with you about a matter of utmost importance and the most historic event in the history of humanity. Tonight I am here to tell you that humanity is not alone in this universe.

    Approximately two years ago NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Russian Space Agency began to lose contact with probes that had been sent to the planet Mars. Fourteen months ago scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute and at NASA discovered that the color of the planet Mars was changing. At that time they brought this to my attention and also told me then that they had no idea as to why this would happen. I then asked the National Reconnaissance Office to conduct a rapid mission to our neighboring planet and send a spy satellite there to determine the cause of this phenomenon.

    The space reconnaissance community under the leadership of the NRO successfully built a spacecraft then launched it just five months later, a remarkable achievement and proof that our space community is capable of responding as true Americans and problem solvers. Since Mars is so far away, it took the probe about five more months to reach the planet. Once there, the little spacecraft gathered intelligence data for a short period before it was destroyed, and I use that term carefully, by the phenomenon at Mars.

    The data the NRO gathered did show us that the surface of Mars has been completely developed into a planet-covering grid of giant, city-like structures. In a period of less than two years, the entire planet has been hyper-industrialized.

    Recent studies of other planets in our solar system, suggest that the outer planets or their moons, Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter have undergone similar transformations.

    It's the belief of the scientists, engineers, mathematicians, philosophers, and military strategists studying the data that this phenomenon is some sort of automated threat. In other words it's their best assessment that automated robots or robot-like insects have reached our solar system and are transforming the planets within it to meet whatever their goals may be. It has been suggested that the planets are being prepared for other entities to approach and move in once the solar system has been completely prepared for their arrival. We cannot be certain of this, however. What does seem to be the case is that all of the outer planets have been impacted by this phenomenon while no planets from Earth inward have beenâ¦yet.

    It would appear that Earth is the next planet in the path of this phenomenon, as it appears to be moving from the outer planets inward to the Sun.

    I have spoken to the UN Security Council in secret session and shared this information with the leaders of all the planet's major powers. This afternoon at 7:45 pm Eastern Time a worldwide curfew will be placed into effect. For those of you traveling, you will be given one week to make it home to your loved ones. After that, all worldwide travel will be used only for defense preparations against this alien threat.

    I have also frozen the securities exchange and the stock exchange will not open until further notice. Business within the country will be reopened once we understand more about what is happening and what the extent of this possible threat might be. A council based around the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Reserve has been formed to begin preparations for national industrial and financial mobilization.

    As of right now, all National Guard units are to be mobilized. Individual members of the units will be contacted through their chain of command. I have authorized the recall of all persons in the Individual Ready Reserve. Individuals in the IRR should anticipate recall orders over the course of the next month. If you do not receive a recall order, a website is being set up for you to update your information and obtain orders through e-mail. I ask that all members of the IRR use this resource for obtaining orders if you do not get them through normal processes Units deployed overseas are currently under warning orders for redeployment to the United States. This does not mean that we're abandoning our allies in their time of need, but where and when the threat might strike is, at this time, indeterminate. Having our troops in the United States means that they will be in position to react in any direction, and as rapidly as possible.

    Tomorrow, I intend to place a declaration of war before the United States Congress. A declaration of war is necessary to begin the process of converting the US from standard peacetime footing, which even with the many small wars and cold wars we have had since the 1940s has never been done since the war our parents and grandparents fought.

    Today and in the dark days before us, we must stand united against this threat. I ask that all Americans and all people of the world prepare themselves calmly, thoughtfully and with belief in the ultimate power of the human soul. And I ask that God be with us in this, our hour of challenge.



    Briefings expanding the President's speech lasted thirty-seven minutes longer from that point and John, Alice, Charlotte, Tina, and the rest of the world remained fixed to their televisions for the rest of the evening with hopes of learning more. The government had multiple news conferences going on but the information was often repetitious and with few exceptions, the President's speech covered the high points. Aliens were coming, probably with bad intentions. Bad times were here.

    John and Alice knew more and had a plan. Both of them had pushed to get assigned to the Asymmetric Soldier project group in Huntsville, Alabama. Their intent was to make certain that their daughters were with them when the curfew was put in place. John and Alice would finish their tasks at the CCAFS facility in Florida then fly to Huntsville from there with the girls.

    "Does this mean we don't have to go back to school next week?" Tina asked her mom when the grown-ups finally insisted the television go off.

    Charlotte elbowed her. "Dingbat!"



    Ret Ball: My God! Did you hear the President's speech tonight? It would appear that we had the Truth here first before the rest of the world. There really is something going on with Mars and there really is an alien threat. We have exclusively online tonight our friend Megiddo who first turned us on to this. Megiddo, what is your take on the President's speech.

    Megiddo: I told you so is about all I can say, Ret. The CIA and these right wing conspirators just couldn't keep the Truth from us any longer. I suspect they tried to cut a deal with their alien masters and when that didn't work, they decided to go to war.

    Ret Ball: Indeed, Megiddo. What do you propose that our listeners do?

    Megiddo: I'm not sure just yet. We don't really know what these aliens want, except that they seem to have moved in on Mars and took it. What is to say they do not have the same plans for Earth?

    Ret Ball: Indeed!

    Megiddo: Me, personally, I have moved to a remote and secure location. Perhaps, these things will hit civilization first. That would only make sense is as that is where the resistance will come from.

    Ret Ball: Ah, you think we can put up resistance?

    Megiddo: Absolutely not! These aliens have traveled across the deep void of interstellar space and terraformed an entire planet in a very short time. What could we do against a power like that?



    Richard Horton had been driving through and around the suburbs of the old town in Northwestern South Carolina for weeks looking for the ideal spot. His real estate agent â“ himself â“ had found an old abandoned copper mine on sixty acres bordering North Carolina on Interstate 26, about twenty-five miles west of Spartanburg. After checking the satellite imagery of the region and reading up on the history of the area, he thought it was worth checking out.

    Richard drove up the old mining-road-turned-logging-road. There was evidence that some of the timber along the old road had been harvested, but that must have been years ago because the road was overgrown. Without the four-wheel drive Ford F-250 pickup it would have been difficult making out the old rocky and overgrown road. Richard crested the peak of the mountainside and the road widened slightly up to an old dilapidated and rusted gate with a no trespassing sign on it. Richard had a hard time imagining who would be trespassing up this old road, perhaps mountain bikers and folks on dirtbikes and all-terrain vehicles.

    He stopped the truck and walked to the gate to examine the gate and its lock more closely. Upon further inspection he found the gate had a number two MasterLock on it. He grinned to himself and pulled out the key the real-estate office had given him. It would not have been a problem anyway since number twos were quite easy to circumvent.

    At the top of the hill the road split into two different directions. The map he had gotten from the real-estate office that was selling the property showed that the right fork went up a few hundred yards more to the old cabin and the left fork went down the hill a few hundred yards to the old copper mine entrance. He took the right fork up the hill to the cabin.

    The cabin was run down and had most of the windows busted out. The wood had turned dark grey as old timber does after years of weathering. Weeds and briars had grown up around the east side of the cabin around the front porch and would make entering the cabin difficult, but Richard had brought a machete and had every intention of closely examining the building. A few swings of the blade and he had made a clear path to the steps of the old shack.

    The front door was locked and sturdy. The framing of the porch and the post holding up the roof of the porch was in good shape, old, but in good shape. He unlocked the door and stepped into the foyer of the little cabin, which was also the living room. There was a small kitchen and dining area open to the room and a bedroom and bathroom off to the back of the house. There was also a closed-in porch on the back but most of the screen had been torn away by weather and varmints.

    Richard turned the faucet sink on; there were some odd sounds but no water. He had expected that. The realtors had warned him that the plumbing was old and the well pump was shot. Richard didn't really care about those details. Things like that could be fixed.

    Out the back of the cabin was another grown up area and it took a few swings of the machete to get through the back door. A few feet away from the back steps the underbrush stopped and rocks took over. The well pump for the house was in a small concrete block housing about ten feet from the cabin. Richard pulled off the cover of the housing and looked inside. The pump was gone and there was only an old handpump attached to the cap of the well.

    "What the hell," he gave the pump a few strokes. On the seventh stroke clear very cold water gushed out of the handpump spigot. Richard cupped his hand under it and tasted the water but was careful not to swallow any of it. The water tasted clean and good, but he would check it out for alkalinity, microbes, and other pollutants later. He spat the water out and rubbed his mouth dry on his sleeve.

    There were several trees surrounding the cabin, most of which were hardwoods. But there was a small grove of trees that looked a little out of place. They were evenly spaced and obviously had been planted by a previous owner at least two or three decades before. There were three pecan trees, a persimmon tree, two plum trees, a pair of apple trees, and a pear tree all of which appeared to be thriving and healthy. The trees were a plus â“ a naturally replenishing source of food. The realtors had said nothing about the small orchard. Richard didn't plan on telling them when he made his offer either.

    "Not bad," he looked around at the cabin and the little orchard from the outside. He pulled a persimmon from one of the trees and bit into it. The tangy tart sweet fruit squirted in his mouth making him pucker from the taste. He spit the fruit out. "Still a little green. Too early I guess. This will do nicely. Helena will love it."

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