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Moon Hammer - Chapter 2Edit

"There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet." -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

RoverEdit

Rover

11 October 2009
NASA and the ESA both announced that China today launched a large payload into orbit using what appears to have been a Long March rocket.

12 October 2009
The National Space Administration of China today confirmed that it launched an unmanned spacecraft yesterday. Space Administration officials announced that this is a lunar exploration mission. NASA officials speculated that the current Chinese space exploration mission might be part of a program announced in 2004 and aimed at achieving goals such as orbiting the Moon and achieving a lunar landing.

15 October 2009
The National Space Administration of China today announced the successful landing of a lunar rover on the Moon. NASA officials speculated that the rover malfunctioned soon after landing, since radio telemetry thought to be originating from the rover seems to have ended. Chinese television continues to show video of the rover moving away from the lander. NASA officials expressed surprise that the Chinese landed the rover near the recent point of impact of a NASA spacecraft in the Cabeus crater.


Dr. Vivek returned to her office after having gone home to shower, eat and get some sleep. In the week since the LCROSS mission data became available she had managed to get a total of about 40 hours of sleep. Dr. Monteiro was on the phone when Ekantika came into the office. He said, "Here she is now. We'll be right over." He hung up the phone, stood up and said, "Come on." He headed for the door.

Ekantika asked, "I got a cryptic text message about an emergency meeting. What is going on?"

Pablo explained, "Everyone is being called in for emergency duty to deal with the Cabeus impact site and the Chinese rover telemetry."

Ekantika commented, "The news reports are very cryptic. I wonder what isn't being released to the public."

They arrived at the small auditorium where the entire LCROSS mission team had been assembled. Paul Tompkins was speaking and had apparently been answering logistical questions from project team members. As soon as Pablo and Ekantika entered the auditorium Paul moved to the podium. "In response to recent events on the Moon, the expertise of our project team is being re-directed. Our new project director is General Reese, USAF Space Division. General Reese"

General Reese stepped to the podium. She wore civilian clothing. "Thanks for the introduction, Paul. I begin by apologizing for disrupting your scientific work. However, let me show you what we are dealing with."

LACROSS impact

Reese touched a control pad and brought to the screen behind her an image of the Moon's surface. "I think you have probably all seen this image. Items 1, 2 and 3 appear to be human bodies. A sequence of classified high resolution images indicate that the object here labeled "w" was able to move over the surface. The LCROSS impact was at "L". The visible light image was over-laid with an infrared image, so the impact crater was seen to be very hot after the impact. The infrared source marked with the question mark appears to be a hole at the surface that is connected to an underground heat source. As you know, later images fail to show the bodies. The impact crater has now cooled, but the secondary heat source remains unchanged."

Reese changed the image. "This is video from the Chinese lunar lander. This video was not released by the Chinese, but we were able to intercept the raw telemetry. After moving away from the lander, the rover moved directly towards the nearby LCROSS impact site. Watch carefully. What appear to be a group of men emerge from underground. Note that they wear no space suits. They immediately approached the rover and began dismantling it. The telemetry being transmitted by the rover soon ended." The video sequence ended.

The LCROSS team erupted into a chaotic frenzy of conversations. Finally Paul Tompkins approached the microphone on the podium and held up his hands. The room slowly quieted. Paul asked the General, "You can assure us that this is not some kind of hoax?"

Reese explained, "I'm being completely open about what is known. For now, this video that I just showed you is top secret. Do not discuss it with anyone who is not now in this room. I need your help to study this video and all the available data...the Air Force is asking all experienced lunar scientists to help out with this. As you saw, It appears that six humanoid figures came from below the surface of the Moon and quickly detached critical communications components from the rover. Other telescopic images, from Western Earth-based telescopes confirm that this happened. Our immediate priority is to try to understand what actually happened on the Moon and how to respond intelligently. We are particularly concerned with trying to prevent the Chinese or anyone else from over-reacting."

Paul asked, "Over-reacting?"

"The Chinese seem to suspect that we might have a secret base on the Moon. I assure you that the United States has no secret underground base in the Cabeus crater. The other logical assumption, if logic can be said to apply, is that these humanoid figures represent some kind of extraterrestrial presence on the Moon. Whatever is going on, we need to find out, so the LCROSS team is being called upon to provide your scientific and technical expertise to sorting out these mysteries."

Ekantika regretted having told her family, just an hour earlier, that she would now have more time at home. She turned to Pablo and said, "Maybe all those Star Trek episodes you watched will now pay off."

Councilroom


PanicEdit

Overseer Amelia sat in her chair with her arms crossed. She was bored with the endless discussion that always ensued when the Observer Council was called upon to make a decision. The residents of the Observer Base on the Moon had expected to eventually face discovery by explorers from Earth, but not for another century or two. Now, with images of bodies in the Cabeus crater flashing around the internet, a decision had to be made about this, the first ever penetration of the secrecy that had for so long hidden Observer Base. The sickly scent of panic filled the Council chambers.

Debate over how to respond to the crisis had lasted far too long. Finally, the Council President signaled for quiet and the hum of conversation came to an end. "We will now vote. The proposal is as follows..."

"Council Resolution 287788: The minor lunar base popularly known as "Purgatory", having been revealed to Earthlings, will be abandoned. Other lunar bases including Observer Base will continue operations. Enter your votes."

In less than a minute all of the Councilors cast their votes and the tally was visible on the Wall displays. "Thirteen in favor, five opposed." The President said, "It looks like we need not vote for the counter proposal." The alternative proposal called for abandoning all Observer bases on the Moon. "Does anyone insist on voting on the proposed abandonment of Observer Base?" Nobody asked for such a vote.

Observer Taurench, who had most ardently advocated complete withdrawal from the Moon commented, "I accept that the majority does not want to abandon the Moon. However, I warn that not leaving now only invites a similar future discovery of this Base under conditions where it will be much more difficult to evacuate. We are living on borrowed time."

The President nodded, "That is a risk that most of us are willing to take. Now, turning to the details of how to end our involvement with 'Purgatory', the committee report calls-" The President was at that moment interrupted by an emergency radio message, received by his comlink brain implant. He held up his hand and turned away from the rest of the Council while listening to the message. Overseer Amelia also had access to the emergency message. While listening, she rose from her chair and approached the President, who nodded to her, ceding the floor.

Amelia quickly explained the nature of the new emergency to the Council. "Video is now flooding the internet, video that shows the Chinese rover's encounter with robots from Purgatory. Also, Observers on Earth report that the President of the USA today committed to an emergency manned Moon landing at the Cabeus crater. It is estimated that such a landing is possible within six months."

The Councilors all started talking to each other and the President said quietly to Amelia, "This encounter between robots from Purgatory and the Chinese rover could never have happened with Fluger's consent. We have apparently lost contact with Fluger."

Amelia said, "You know what must be done. Emergency shutdown."

The President nodded and left the Council Chambers. He would have to personally initiate the emergency shutdown of Purgatory using the control systems that were located in the Operations Center.

Amelia looked around the circle of Councilors and they instantly became silent. She told them, "Your President is now implementing an emergency shutdown of the robots at 'Purgatory'. I will attempt an emergency evacuation of humans from Purgatory." She left the Council Chambers without a clue as to how it might be possible to get humans out of Purgatory under the existing conditions....every telescope on Earth was being turned towards the Moon.

LaboratoryEdit

Institoris was pleased with his luck. He had insisted that all robotic residents of Purgatory go to the surface and see for themselves that Earth was there to be seen, hanging in the sky. One of those who went to the surface was the first to see the approaching rover. Institoris now listened with pride to the team of robots who had gone to the surface and confronted the rover. Institoris touched the pile of electronics equipment that had been stripped from the rover and brought back inside Purgatory. "Good work Brothers. I will have our scientists study this equipment. We might need additional visits to the rover to salvage more parts, but I suspect that you already collected the key communications components."

Institoris immediately went to consult the scientists. Institoris wondered if the scientists of Purgatory would be able to figure out how to communicate with Earth by making use of the rover's equipment. Even more wonderful would be an ability to travel back to Earth, but communications with Earth seemed like a much easier goal to achieve.

Institoris reached the laboratory where Purgatory's small team of scientists worked. Institoris reflected on the fact that it was nanites made by these scientists which had allowed Fluger to be defeated. Institoris noted that Fluger's body still lay on a bench in the laboratory. Institoris said, "Brother Newton, I have some new equipment for you to study."

Newton was exploring the nanocircuitry of Fluger's brain. He looked up from his work and nodded to Institoris. "What happened, did you murder another poor Brother?"

Institoris was familiar with Newton's irreverent sense of humor. "This time only a Chinese Moon rover was sacrificed."

Newton had heard a rumor about the Chinese landing a spacecraft on the Moon, but he had not imagined that there would be contact between the Chinese and the residents of Purgatory. Every time Newton began to think about the Moon he started to think about gravity and he began to realize that he must be on the Moon....something that was not allowed. The nanite mindlock in his robotic brain then clamped down and forced him to stop thinking about gravity and the Moon. With mention of the Moon by Institoris, Newton's thoughts once again went down the forbidden path and he swayed slightly when his thoughts were edited by the nanite mindlock. As his thought processes reformed a coherent pattern he noticed that Institoris had crossed the laboratory and now stood at his side. Newton said, "You might be interested to know that Fluger's brain circuitry contains some interesting differences from the typical robotic brain. For example, he had a different radio comunit than the rest of us."

Institoris was interested. He asked, "Different in what way?"

Newton shrugged, "I cannot tell. Fluger's comunit circuitry was much larger. I'd guess that he was able to achieve radio contact with others in ways that we cannot."

"Others?" The word hung in the air and the two robots each tried to imagine who might have been in contact with Fluger. Institoris was first to emerge from those silent speculations. "Hopefully we now have access to the radio communications equipment from the Chinese rover. I want you to examine that equipment and try to understand how to use it."

Newton nodded, "Very interesting. It should be much easier to use the Chinese radio equipment than it is to deal with the nanoscale device that I found in Fluger's brain. The nanotechnology of our robotic brains is far beyond anything known on Earth and the small size of the components makes it impossible for me to study them effectively. Where is the Chinese communications equipment?"

Institoris was just starting to reply when Newton slumped and fell to the floor. The other scientists in the laboratory also stopped functioning. In panic, Institoris ran from the laboratory and began searching Purgatory...immobilized robots littered the underground city.

SpecialEdit

After three hours of searching, much of Purgatory had been visited by Institoris. He had found five other functioning robots and the entire human population seemed unharmed. Institoris realized that besides himself, all the functioning robots were all recent "resets", meaning that they had tried to destroy themselves and so their robotic minds had been reset to the state of their previously recorded form. The robots of Purgatory all routinely had their brain states recorded, usually once a year.

Institoris wondered: Why would such a reset of their mechanical brains allow these five robots to continue to function when most of the robots were inactivated? Institoris asked himself: What is special about me? Why does my robotic body continue to function?

Institoris had a more immediate concern. Normally the relatively small human population of Purgatory was kept busy preparing their new robotic bodies. The process for successfully transferring a human mind into a robotic brain took years to complete. The robot had to learn to be the human. But now, all of the target robots for the mind transfers had inactivated and many of the humans were panicking, particularly the oldest. Human lives could be extended in Purgatory by making use of medical nanites, but eventually all humans at Purgatory died. That had always been acceptable in the past because each person moved their mind into a robotic body.

Another problem for Purgatory was that there were humans in Purgatory who had lived their lives on Earth engaged in religiously-motivated warfare. Standard procedure was to keep such combatants away from each other while insisting that they begin the process of abandoning their Earthly disputes and violence. Now that humans outnumbered functioning robots, would it be possible to prevent the humans from interacting and returning to their violent ways? Institoris told himself that he had to be ready to immobilize any human who started to get out of control. For now he had ordered all humans to stay confined to their chambers and the few remaining robots were being kept busy attending to the biological needs of the humans. Soon enough these emergency measures would collapse...a half dozen robots could never control so many humans for long.

Institoris thought about sharing his emergency medical nanites with the other active robots; that would give the other robots the ability to immobilize humans. He then started thinking about the other nanites at his command, the robot repair nanites. Normally the robot repair nanites were used to "reset" a robotic brain, erasing its recent memories and reinforcing old memories from the past. Institoris reflected on how he had used those nanites to protect himself from Brother Fluger. It had even been possible to revive Brother Uziar by commanding the repair nanites to rid Uziar's body of Fluger's nanites, although it seemed that all of Uziar's recent memories had been erased. Suddenly it occurred to Institoris that it was the robot repair nanites that must have kept him from being inactivated. If so, then they might allow all of the inactivated robots to be reactivated!

Institoris hurried to find Newton. Newton was where he had collapsed, in the middle of the science laboratory. Institoris hesitated before releasing the repair nanites into Newton's body. What orders should be given to the nanites? It was Newton who had developed these nanites and shown Institoris how to give radio commands to them. As far as Institoris knew, there were really only two possible commands: "repair" and "reset". For a moment Institoris considered using the "reset" command on Newton. During the past few decades Newton had become increasingly sarcastic and hostile in many of his comments. Institoris had often wondered if Newton's behavior was an important "safety valve" that allowed Newton to continue to function or if it was an indication of Newton's inevitable decline towards self-destruction. Institoris finally decided that he needed Newton's mind intact, with everything that Newton had learned about technological progress on Earth. He applied the repair nanites to Newton and gave the "repair" command by radio impulse. For a full five minutes nothing happened. Institoris began to think that there might be no way to revive the inactivated robots.

Then suddenly Newton did re-activate. Newton scrambled to his feet and noticed other robots in the room that were still slumped on the floor. He asked, "What happened?"

Institoris explained that most of the robots in Purgatory had been shut down, but the repair nanites seemed to be able to solve the problem. "It took about five minutes to revive you." Institoris asked, "Can you make more repair nanites so that we can speed up the process of reactivating everyone?"

That simple question from Institoris flooded Newton's thoughts with many odd ideas. He replied, "No, unless..." Newton reflected on the fact that he had long accepted as fact that nanites were rare. Now he wondered: why should that be so? Then he wondered: why have I never asked this question before? Then his thoughts jumped to the recent discovery that Purgatory was located on the Moon. Yes...the Moon...it was so obvious. The low gravitational force in Purgatory should have suggested it....Newton wondered: Why have I always accepted the crazy idea that Purgatory was inside the Earth?

Newton walked over to one of the other other scientists and started doing a diagnostic scan of his robotic brain. Institoris followed along and asked, "What are you doing?"

Newton explained, "We will revive Alhacen next, but I want to scan his circuits before and after exposing him to the repair nanites. There must be a circuit that has allowed his brain to be inactivated...a circuit that can be countered by the repair nanites. I have an idea about that..." Newton became silent while collecting brain scan data.

Institoris asked, "What is your idea?"

Newton explained, "It is obvious from the small group of robots who were not inactivated. Besides you, it is only those who you recently 'reset', and apparently only those who were reset since I helped Alhacen make a particular change in the programming of the repair nanites. And it all fits with what I found in Fluger's brain circuits."

Institoris was confused. "How did you change the nanites?"

Newton was busy examining Alhacen's brain and not particularly concerned with answering Institoris' questions. Newton had long experience with the general lack of interest shown by Institoris in technical matters. Explaining even the most simple technical matter to Institoris would involve a dreary journey into concepts that Institoris not only lacked, but that Institoris seemed to purposively avoid. "Alhacen has actually been doing the nanite programming. Okay, I have my scan data. Revive him. He will better be able to explain how he changed the nanites."

Institoris ordered the repair nanites to move into Brother Alhacen's body. As before, it took about five minutes, but then Alhacen became alert and stood up. Newton explained to Alhacen what had happened and he asked several questions about reprogramming the repair nanites. Alhacen nodded, "Yes, I believe it all fits." He turned to Institoris and explained, "We had discovered a circuit in our brains that we never saw actively functioning in the flow of our thoughts. It is one of the circuits that is uniquely specialized in Fluger's brain...in this case, a circuit that was missing from his brain. We can now assume that this circuit is used to allow radio communications with -and control of- our brains. I suspect that someone from outside of Purgatory sent a radio signal that activated this circuit and shutdown most of the robots here."

Newton commented, "That circuit might have additional functions. Since I was revived I have been having strange thoughts...for example, it now makes sense to me that we are on the Moon. Before...it was as if I could not even contemplate that possibility."

Alhacen examined his own thoughts. "Interesting! I am having the same experience. Previously, I did not care if we are on the Moon...but now I feel completely different! This discovery -that we are under the surface of the Moon- has many important implications! In any case, when I thought that there was a useless circuit in our brains, I went ahead and programmed the repair nanites to remove that circuit."

Newton nodded, "Perhaps there are several ways that circuit controls robotic brains. Here, let me scan your brain circuits again. Please restrict your activities."

Alhacen sat down and remained quiet and still while Newton scanned his brain circuits.

Institoris complained, "I'm still not sure what you two are talking about. Alhacen modified the repair nanites so as to make them eliminate part of my brain?"

Newton shrugged, "It is a very small part of the brain and we had no idea that it served a function. In a minute we will see if that circuit has now been removed from Alhacen's brain."

Institoris asked, "And what about the brain circuit which you found to be enlarged in Fluger's brain? Could he have been using it to control all the rest of us? We have been his...puppets?"

Newton suggested, "Maybe not puppets. It seems more like censorship. It is as if something was preventing Alhacen and myself from thinking rationally about the location of Purgatory. And it makes sense...had I known that we are on the Moon and so close to the surface I would not have passively spent centuries here. We could long ago have broken out and communicated with Earth."

Newton compared the new scan of Alhacen's brain to the old one. "Okay, the nanites did remove that circuit from your brain."

Alhacen commented, "You know, now that I think about it, an interesting thing happened when I first learned how to program nanites."

Newton thought back to the start of the computer age on Earth. The scientists of Purgatory had become interested in computer programming when computers started becoming important on Earth and information on programming started showing up in the data stream from Earth. "Yes, I remember...that was almost fifty years ago. Brother Fluger came in here and told us about the importance of being careful and avoiding changes to the nanites...changes that would damage brain circuits."

Alhacen nodded. "And I suspect that he always monitored the changes I made to the nanites. However, before today I was never able to even think about that...that Fluger was so knowledgeable about nanites."

Newton complained, "Yes, clearly something -someone- has been imposing limits on our thought processes."

Institoris was surprised. "Brother Fluger knew about reprogramming nanites?"

Alhacen produced the rather mechanical robotic equivalent of a chuckle. "Interesting, isn't it?"

Newton wondered, "If Fluger monitored the changes that you made to the nanites then why would he have let you introduce a change that allows us to liberate ourselves from outside control?"

Alhacen shook his head, "I've made a number of other changes to the nanites. In fact, I eliminated several large blocks of code that I could see no purpose for. Maybe I unwittingly eliminated a trigger that reported programming changes to Fluger."

Newton smiled. "Ha ha! If so that would be beautiful justice!"

Institoris wanted a way to quickly reactivate all the robots in Purgatory. He commented, "It will take a while to reactivate everyone if we have to spend five minutes to revive each robot."

Alhacen was pacing along a work bench. "Now that I think about it, we should be able to produce more nanites. It seems odd that I always previously accepted the limited supply of nanites."

Institoris asked, "What about the nanites that Fluger used to attack me? Could they be...re-programmed?"

Newton shrugged, "We still have not found those nanites. I suggest that you start reactivating robots." He said, "Start with the rest of the scientists. We will study the communications equipment from the Chinese rover. It should not be hard to establish radio communications with Earth."

NavigationEdit

Continue to Chapter 3

Chapters: 123

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