Moon Hammer - Chapter 1Edit
October 9, 2009
thumb|300px|right|Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission Dr. Ekantika Vivek was on the phone with her son, Mahit. They were discussing Halloween costumes, but she was at work and watching telemetry from the LCROSS mission. She had called home to make sure her son would be watching the lunar impacts, but he was more interested in plans for Halloween, having been invited to a party by a friend. She said, "You know this is a busy time for me. Why not just use your costume from last year?"
Mahit moaned, "That was a baby costume."
Ekantika asked, "It's not cool enough for you now?"
Mahit replied, "Mom, there are going to be girls at the party."
Ekantika was well aware of that fact, having already spoken to the mother of Mahit's friend who was hosting the party. "I'm just not going to have time to deal with this. As soon as the impacts take place I'll be analyzing the data...20 hours a day for weeks. Get your father to take you shopping for a new costume."
"But Mom, he does not know where to go to get a costume."
Ekantika wondered just when her name had changed to "But Mom". She commented, "The problem is that neither of you know anything about shopping. This is a good time to start learning. I'm sure if you two put your heads together you can figure out where to buy a costume."
Manit sighed. "Fine. Good luck with the Moon thing." He cut the connection.
Ekantika turned off the ringer of her phone, set it to vibrate, and shook her head while marveling at the fact that when she was her son's age she had been enthralled by the idea of sending spacecraft to the Moon. She muttered, "I guess looking for water on the Moon can't compete with Death Stars and light sabers."
Ekantika shared an office with Dr. Pablo Monteiro. Pablo was monitoring cloud coverage conditions at the Earth telescopes that would be trying to capture images of the LCROSS impacts on the Moon. A third of the optical telescopes were apparently going to be blocked by clouds, but Pablo was most concerned with the data stream from the Very Large Array radio telescope that would be running an observation program of his own design during the impacts. At the edge of his consciousness he heard Ekantika mutter. Without looking away from his computer screen he asked, "What's that?"
Ekantika pulled her chair closer to her desk and sighed. "Oh, nothing. I should not have bothered calling. My son has no interest in our work."
Pablo nodded and finally tore his eyes away from the screen. He could see that Ekantika was again focused on her computer display, but he said, "Ten seconds to impact."
The two scientists watched the arrival of the data for the two closely spaced LCROSS mission impacts on the Moon. After a brief celebration they got down to the business of analyzing the data. An hour after the impacts had taken place they were deep into the spectroscopic details that were involved in their attempt to show that water ice existed on the lunar surface. Finally they were interrupted by Ekantika's phone. She picked up, "Hello?"
It was Ekantika's husband, Lahar. "Hi, Eka! We were just heading out to look for a Halloween costume, but now Mahit won't let me tear him away from his computer."
"Hello, Lahar." Ekantika asked, "Is he doing homework or playing games?"
Lahar explained, "It's this crazy LCROSS stuff. It's not just on the internet, all the news networks are covering it, too."
Ekantika wondered what was "crazy". As far as she could tell from the scientific data, the impacts had gone as planned. Ekantika was surprised to hear that her son had paid attention to the mission after all. She finally stopped trying to continue performing data analysis and asked, "What are they calling 'crazy' on TV?"
Now Pablo looked up from his work with a puzzled expression. He opened up a new browser window and did a news search for "LCROSS".
While Pablo read the news, Lahar explained to his wife that the news networks were televising images that seemed to show bodies near the second LACROSS impact site on the Moon, that of the ESPA.
Ekantika asked in disbelief, "Bodies? On the moon?" An image of the face on Mars flashed into her mind.
Pablo now had an image of the bodies on his computer screen. He signaled to Ekantika, "Come look at this." Ekantika got up from her desk and walked around to Pablo's desk so that she could see the image he had found. Pablo said, "This image is just at the edge of the resolution required to see something as small as a person, but ya, It sorta looks like three bodies. This one with the limbs spread is particularly interesting."
Ekantika complained, "Look at the shadows. This is just like the face on Cydonia."
Pablo pointed to the 'before' image. "Except these three features were not there before the ESPA impact."
Ekantika suggested, "So it is debris from the impact."
Lahar was still on the phone. He said, "Sounds like you know less than the news networks."
Ekantika explained, "Pablo and I have been sitting here doing the scientific data analysis. I'll see what the rest of the project team has to say about these images. Catch you later." She broke the connection with her husband and picked up the phone on her desk.
It took a minute, but she finally got someone in mission control to pick up. "This is Dr. Vivek." She asked, "What is going on with these images of bodies?" She could hear chaotic noise and overlapping conversations in the control room.
"We should have a second round of images soon, but so far there are two mysteries. These shapes that the press is calling bodies and there is also a nearby infrared source that appeared."
Ekantika asked, "You mean the ESPA impact site? It should be hot."
"No, we see the impact site, but there is another infrared source near the 'bodies'. Wait, a new image is coming in. Blank. This one is blank."
"Ya, the three 'bodies' are gone. This looks like the pre-impact image."
Ekantika shrugged and said, "Okay, thanks for the info." She turned to Pablo and explained that the "bodies" were no longer visible in a more recent image. "Sounds some kind of gas artifact associated with the impact that has now dissipated. This will keep the conspiracy mongers happy for years."
Pablo was now able to find the new "blank" image on the internet. Pablo looked up from his computer display and asked, "What was that about an infrared source?"
"I'm guessing that it was a splashed fragment from the main impact point. I'm getting back to work." Ekantika sat back down and tried to return to her data analysis. "Well, this is preliminary, but the spectroscopy results are looking good for water ice."
Pablo closed out the browser window for the news and nodded, "I agree." They got back to their work and again the only sound in the office was the clatter of keys being struck.
thumb|300px|right As was often the case, Brother Institoris thought about Purgatory. Thinking about his existence in Purgatory made Institoris weary. Institoris was now close to completing his fifth century in Purgatory. It seemed far longer...endless days of futility. In an effort to dismiss such gloomy thoughts from his mind, he tried to turn his attention back to his work: analysis of the sickening stream of data that constantly came from Earth, but it was so very hard to endlessly watch the course of evil events. During his days on Earth, Institoris had vigorously done battle against the forces of evil, but all he could do now was watch. So very weary. Today he had found a YouTube video showing a discussion of religion by Christopher Hitchens. Institoris paused the video and for a time he imagined the agonies of an eternal existence in Hell.
For a moment Brother Institoris held in his thoughts an image of a mountain of roasting human flesh composed of the screaming bodies of sinners. He noticed the approach of Brother Fluger. The population of Purgatory was almost entirely composed of robots and they all had nearly identical robotic bodies, but it was possible to recognize each individual by either their rank insignia or the electrical ID pulses that were constantly emitted from their electro-mechanical bodies. Further, Fluger was a special case. The robotic bodies used by the residents of Purgatory had slowly changed over time. Fluger had an old-fashioned body structure with rather bulky features and Purgatory's electronic records indicated that Fluger was the oldest resident.
Institoris did not like to think about what had happened to all the other ancient residents of Purgatory. Official Doctrine taught that they had all successfully purified their souls and then ascended to Heaven, but Institoris knew from personal experience that many residents of Purgatory destroyed themselves rather than continue their agonizing existence. Many of the young and foolish often questioned Fluger's worthiness and asked why he never ascended to Heaven. However, Institoris greatly honored Fluger for his long and steady devotion to several of the nastiest tasks that needed to be performed. When robotic residents destroyed themselves, Fluger could be counted on to quietly dispose of the bodies and not spread word of what had happened. When a new human resident completed the process of transferring their consciousness into a robotic body, Fluger did not flinch at disposing of the vile human carcass. Institoris had often reflected on the fact that it was also almost always Fluger's eternal vigilance and attention to the details of Purgatory maintenance routines that allowed him to notice the arrival of new souls in Purgatory. Yes, Fluger was vastly important to Purgatory.
Institoris spoke in the version of Latin that had developed as the dominant language of Purgatory, "Brother Fluger, how be you on this blessed day?"
Brother Fluger was not feeling like it was a blessed day. He was well aware that the LCROSS mission would in a very short time be blasting two massive probes into the surface of the Moon, not far from where Brother Institoris spent his days in complete ignorance of the fact that he was on the Moon, under the Cabeus crater. Worse, on a day when the surface of the Moon would be getting closer observation by Earthlings than ever before, the main Observer Base had insisted on flying over three more exiles. Fluger replied, "I have miraculous news, Brother Institoris! Three more souls have joined us!"
Institoris instantly examined the burst of data that Fluger offered, and so became aware of the location of the three new arrivals from Earth. He asked, "Three at once?" It was unusual to have multiple new arrivals on the same day. Institoris marveled at the ability of Fluger to perceive the arrival of new souls in Purgatory as a joyful event.
Fluger had received a full report on the three new exiles from Observer Base, but he could not share what he knew with Institoris. Fluger nodded, "They must have just materialized... they were detected by cleaning nanites. Shall I go and investigate?"
Institoris had lost faith in the idea that humans materialized in Purgatory and dematerialized upon ascending to Heaven. Nobody had ever witnessed anyone materializing or dematerializing, but Fluger was doctrinally correct to assume that the new arrivals must have materialized out of thin air. It was a puzzle: if new arrivals in Purgatory did not simply materialize from thin air then how did they arrive? In any case, Institoris welcomed the chance to escape his routing duties. "I will handle this."
Institoris moved towards the door, but for a moment he turned back and saw Fluger plug himself into the data stream from Earth and begin to process and catalog arriving data. Institoris then turned and hurried towards the chamber that held the new arrivals. While Institoris walked through the corridors of Purgatory he thought about Fluger's ability to stay devoted to the painful task of observing current events on Earth. Day in and day out Fluger cataloged more data arriving from Earth than any other resident of Purgatory. And most remarkable, Fluger always seemed cheerful and eager for more news from Earth.
Institoris was deeply concerned about his declining ability to believe Official Doctrines such as the fundamental idea that the endless data stream from Earth truly represented ongoing events. How was the data stream produced? How did it reach Purgatory? Most importantly: how could anyone know that the data stream was a correct depiction of events on Earth? Sometimes Institoris wondered if he was in Hell and being forced to watch a falsified history of Earth, one specifically designed to cause him pain. Institoris suffered terrible doubts over some of his actions on Earth. What if some of the women who he had convicted of witchcraft had been innocent? Could he have been damned to eternal existence in Hell if he had burned innocent women to death? He tried to push his doubts away and pay attention to his steps. Institoris was now in the newest part of Purgatory.
A team of construction robots continually worked to expand purgatory and build new chambers. The main use for new habitation space was the Prayer Project. Purgatory's robotics factory turned out a new robot every week. The new robots were either assigned the task of helping to monitor events on Earth or they were assigned to the Prayer Project. Members of the Prayer Project endlessly prayed for the victory of good over evil on Earth. On those rare occasions when a human mind needed a robotic body then a newly constructed robot would become the host for the human's thoughts and soul. Still, even with a new robot being produced each week, the population of Purgatory grew very slowly...existing robots destroyed themselves at just about the rate of one a week.
Institoris arrived in the chamber that contained the three new arrivals. It was a newly constructed room that had recently been finished and its walls of shiny titanium positively sparkled. No prayer alters had yet been installed in the room so it was a nearly featureless room full of the echos of his foot falls. Institoris noticed that one of the new arrivals was a woman. He knelt next to her and for a minute thought about calling in help and separating the woman from from the two men. Finally he decided that it would be best to learn what these people thought about segregation.
From around his neck Institoris took the amulet that contained medical nanites. He unscrewed the cap on the amulet and released some nanites onto the woman's body. After a moment her respiration deepened and her eyes flickered open. She seemed startled to see Institoris and asked, "Who are you?"
Institoris had access to Purgatory's database of human languages and was able to identify the language spoken by the woman. He ask her in that language, "Do you know any other languages? My name is Institoris."
She admitted to knowing English and Institoris was also quite comfortable using English, but he asked one more question in her native language, "What is your name?"
She replied, "Naomi Mattashor."
Institoris held out a hand to her. After a pause, she took hold of his hand and he helped her to her feet. "Welcome, Naomi. Let us now speak English since I am not experienced with your own language. Eventually you will learn Latin."
Naomi was surprised to hear mention of what she thought of as a dead language. "Your language is Latin?"
Institoris explained, "My native language was German, but Latin is the language that is used here."
Naomi asked, "Where are we?"
Institoris suggested, "Allow me to explain that to all three of you at the same time...I will soon awaken your two companions." He pointed to the two men lying on the floor and asked, "You know them?"
Naomi nodded, "Yes, we trained together." She put a hand to her head and looked confused.
Institoris pressed on, "Then I assume there will be no problem if I treat you as their equal."
Naomi replied, "I will, of course, bow to their will and accept their orders." She knelt beside one of the men and asked, "Are they injured?"
With the dramatic style of a magician, Institoris waved his amulet over the bodies of the two men and soon they were awake and alert. Naomi was puzzled by the ability of Institoris to awaken her companions in this way.
Institoris soon learned that the names of the other new arrivals were Iskandar and Kogon. Kogon demanded to know what was going on and Naomi explained, "Institoris touched you both and you awakened."
Institoris did not bother trying to explain the powers of medical nanites. It was best if new arrivals believed that he had supernatural powers. "Yes, I have the power of controlling your minds and your bodies. Observe!" He sent a pulsed radio signal to the nanites that remained in their bodies and almost instantly Naomi, Iskandar and Kogon were unable to send control signals from their brains their muscles. Iskandar slumped to the floor, but Kogan and Naomi remained standing, swaying slightly while reflexes of their spinal cords managed to maintain their balance. "I can instantly take control of you, so you will listen to my counsel and obey my commands!" He sent a second signal that relaxed the nanites in their brains and returned to them control of their bodies.
Iskandar got up off the floor and asked, "Where are we?"
Institoris explained, "You now reside in Purgatory and you will remain here until, through your pious deeds, you purify yourselves of your sins."
Kogan was massaging his head and trying to remember his last moments on Earth. "Did we succeed in our holy mission?"
Institoris suggested, "You should put aside your Earthly concerns. Now you must learn to lead faultless lives so that you can ascend to Heaven."
Iskandar replied to Kogan, "I remember that we had reached the target and were planting the bomb...but I remember nothing after that."
Institoris was not surprised to hear that these new arrivals had been involved in violence. Most of the more recent arrivals in Purgatory had been engaged in holy war on Earth. "If you are feeling well, let me show you around."
Naomi commented, "I feel strange...like I am floating."
Institoris explained, "You weight less in Purgatory. You have begun to shed the weight of your material body. Eventually only your soul will remain and then you will ascend to Heaven."
Iskandar jumped high in the low gravity and exclaimed, "Amazing!"
Institoris led Naomi, Iskandar and Kogan into the corridor. "There is someone here who knows your native language. He has been here for more than a century, so he will be able to help you adjust to Purgatory."
Kogan exclaimed, "A century! I was told that because of my battle against heretics I would be rewarded with eternal peace in Heaven."
They had reached a lift tube. For a minute Institoris was engaged in explaining how to use the tube, then they were lifted to a higher level. They exited the tube and walked down a corridor of the new level. In this higher level of Purgatory the walls were made of a plastic-like composite material. Institoris explained, "Depending on the nature of your sins, you may have to spend several centuries here purifying your soul." He opened a door to one of the prayer chambers. Inside the chamber a team was engaged in a ritual prayer. At the end of the prayer, Institoris signaled to one of the praying robots, who left his team and stepped into the corridor.
The robot asked, "Yes, Brother Institoris? Why do you interrupt my prayers?"
"Brother Uziar, I believe you know the language spoke by these new arrivals." Institoris introduced Uziar to Naomi, Iskandar and Kogan. For five minutes they conversed in their native language.
Uziar finally turned to Institoris, "I believe they now have a basic understanding of what has happened to them and where they are."
Institoris pointed down the hall, and spoke to Uziar in Latin, "Let us step into an empty chamber. I want you to explain to them the fact that you are a robot."
They walked down the corridor and Uziar said, "Very well. They have already asked how it is that I have been here for over a century and yet I look like a young man."
Institoris opened another door and led the way into a currently unused prayer chamber. He explained to the new arrivals, "Brother Uziar will now explain some important facts to you. Listen carefully to what he has to say. I will go and make certain that we have three sleeping chambers ready for you. It is unusual for three new souls to arrive in Purgatory on the same day." Institoris returned to the corridor and reflected on the fact that even with an accelerated program for transferring minds into robotic bodies, the human population of Purgatory was at a record high. The rate of arrival of new souls in Purgatory seemed to roughly match the growing population of Earth. It typically took twenty or thirty years to completely transfer a person's mind into a robotic host, so the human population continued to slowly expand.
Institoris had not gone very far down the corridor when he was shaken and knocked off of his feet by a powerful explosion. An emergency depressurization wall closed off the corridor between Institoris and the chamber where he had just left Uziar and the three newcomers. Other robots emerged from their prayer rooms and began to mill around in the corridor.
Soon Fluger arrived, running quickly down the corridor. The emergency depressurization wall opened and Fluger pointed to Institoris, "Come with me, quickly!" As soon as they moved down the corridor the emergency depressurization wall slammed shut again. There were more confused robots standing around in this end of the corridor and Fluger ordered them, "Return to your chambers! Move!" Fluger wrapped a cable around himself and Institoris then opened the door to the room where Institoris expected to find Uziar and the three newcomers. For a moment air rushed through the door and the two robots were blown into the prayer chamber. After all the air had rushed out, Fluger released the restraint cable and led Institoris deeper into the chamber that had been ruptured by the LACROSS impact.
Never having been in vacuum before, Institoris tried to speak, but there was no sound. He followed Fluger to the collapsed segment of ceiling in a corner of the chamber. Fluger climbed up on an alter and reached up into the gaping hole above. Institoris watched in amazement as Fluger's legs disappeared up into the dark hole above. Fluger sent down a short burst radio signal with the command, "Grab my hand!"
Institoris climbed up on the alter and reached up into the darkness. Moon dust and rocks showered down from above, but he found Fluger's hand. After a scramble to the surface, they emerged into sunlight. Hanging above in the black sky was Earth and Institoris saw his home world with his own, albeit robotic, eyes for the first time in 500 years.
Uziar was walking towards them, carrying Kogan, bloody foam bubbling from the human's mouth. Fluger grabbed Institoris' hand and led him to where Iskandar and Naomi lay on the surface of the Moon. Fluger picked up Iskandar and Institoris picked up Naomi. Soon they had the three human bodies back down inside Purgatory and Fluger was re-pressurizing the corridor and administering more medical nanites. All three of the humans had suffered multiple bone fractures and soft tissue injuries. The emergency depressurization wall opened and a crew of construction and repair robots came down the hall. Fluger sent orders to the repair crew by radio, instructing them to gain access to the depressurized chamber by way of the next room down the hall.
Institoris looked at the twisted and bleeding bodies and asked Fluger, "Will they survive?"
Fluger replied, "God willing. They might have suffered irreversible brain damage. Thankfully they already had in their bodies the medical nanites that you placed inside them."
Institoris was amazed by what he had seen and how Fluger had taken charge of the rescue.
Uziar said, "I saw Earth in the sky. I...I think we are on the Moon."
The other robots who had gathered in the corridor were surprised by the idea that they might be on the Moon. Doctrine within the community said that they were inside the Earth, not a deep as Hell, but temporarily being held in Purgatory before going to Heaven.
Fluger asked, "Why do you suggest such a thing, Brother Uziar?" Fluger took a step towards Uziar and commanded his emergency nanites to infect Uziar, halt his movements and start erasing his recent memories. Uziar staggered and slumped to the floor.
Institoris spoke to Fluger, "I saw it, too. Earth was in the sky above us. I was astounded to follow you and find myself on the surface...what looked like the surface of the Moon. But I see that you were not surprised! You led the way to the airless surface, knowing exactly what to expect and how to get there." As a Healer, Institoris had sensors that allowed him to detect nanites and he had seen a swarm of nanites move from Fluger to Uziar just before Uziar had collapsed. Now, as Uziar fell to the floor, Institoris asked Fluger, "What have you done to Brother Uziar?"
Fluger tried to invent a story that would satisfy all the Prayer Project robots who were watching. "Uziar was damaged in the explosion, he will need repairs." Then, continuing to speak to the on-lookers, "Brother Institoris is also damaged. I will-"
Institoris shouted, "Lies! I am not damaged. Listen to me Brothers, you can all go above and see what I have seen. There was an explosion and it blasted a path from Purgatory to the surface of a world. I tell you, Purgatory is under the surface of the Moon. Go see for yourselves! Earth hangs in the sky!"
Fluger moved closer to Institoris, "Let me help you Brother, you were hurt by the explosion and you know not what you say." By radio command, Fluger redirected some of his nanites from Uziar towards Institoris.
Institoris saw the nanite swarm and released his own robot repair nanites from a ring on his finger, simultaneously sending them a radio command with orders to defend his own body. Institoris staggered but he was able to order the on-lookers, "Fluger is a liar! Fluger is attacking me! Stop him!" For the next minute there was a chaotic swirl of activity in the corridor while Fluger fought to defend himself, but in the end he lay smashed and broken on the floor next to the three unconscious humans.
Institoris easily regained control of his own body after Fluger was destroyed. Institoris suddenly realized why Fluger was so special...he had always known that this "Purgatory" was just a city on the Moon. Institoris wondered: for how many thousands of years have the residents of Purgatory been fooled by Fluger? Electronic records went back at least 4,000 years!
Institoris redirected the repair crew. Rather than seal off the path to the surface, Institoris ordered that they construct a stairway that would allow everyone to go to the surface and see the truth of their location. He wondered what other secrets Fluger had kept to himself. Institoris began to wonder if it would be possible to return to Earth.