Back at the motel room, Zack was sitting on the bed nervously fondling the dark, rectangular scrap of cutting edge, antediluvian science which …
… was indeed an exact match to the piece he found outside the craft—whatever that was. Leslee held the original object in one hand while channel-surfing with the TV remote in the other. She stopped at a news report.
Based on new information,” the commentator declared, “it turns out that the whole miracle in the tundra was nothing but an old B-25 bomber that crashed in the late forties and lay buried in the ice for over three quarters of a century.”
Zack went ballistic. “Fuck you,” he shouted, then charged off the bed toward the TV screen and held up the weightless rectangle. “I’d like to see a World War II airplane made out of this!” He plopped back down on the bed out of sheer disgust, snatched a fresh pack of smokes from the night stand and started to open it. “The fucking Foxtica Nitwork … spin ‘til ya puke. Where the hell’s the truth when you need it? Don’t they get Rachel and Lawrence here?”
Leslee switched the television off, “We’ll catch them later,” she said, then dropped the remote on the bed, grabbed Zack’s hand and took the box of cigarettes from him. “Look at me,” she demanded and pointed to her eyes with the middle and index fingers of her right hand. Zack turned his head toward her and she held up the pack with the side right in his face. ”Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, emphysema; that’s you.” Leslee admonished somewhat flintily. “Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide; that’s from secondhand smoke and that’s me! If you’re so hell-bent on ignoring the Surgeon General’s warnings and slowly killing yourself that’s your prerogative, but you’re not gonna take me with you and … no … you know what? I won’t let you kill yourself either.” She crushed the crushproof cigarette box in one hand and looped it over Zack’s head across the room into the trash can—nothin’ but—swishhh.
“You want me to quit drinking and smoking at the same time?” In response, Leslee slid over close to Zack, and put her free hand on his cheek and kissed him softly. “I promise you, it will be much better and deeper without the tobacco breath,” Leslee half-whispered, “Look, I’m only asking for two out of three. I don’t mind your locker room language. You can curse like a drunken sailor for all I care. As a matter of fact I think it’s kind of cute.”
“Okay,” Zack conceded, “I’ll try.”
“No, young Jedi,” Leslee countered. “Remember what Yoda said. ‘Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.’” Then Leslee dropped her hand and took the PDA-sized piece of alien material from Zack. She began to idly compare it to the one she was holding by turning them over and placing one on top of the other like she was shuffling cards. “Amazing … mass without weight. It feels even lighter than aerogel.”
At the very instant the two pieces were lined up a particular way, they morphed and re-morphed through a rapid succession of different shapes until they combined as one unit and commenced emitting a steady, high-frequency tone. Then the pitch started sliding lower and lower, began to waver, and a series of sounds that seemed to mimic a spoken language gradually became audible. Although not intelligible, the solitary voice was calm, soothing and deliberate. How could Zack and Leslee have possibly realized that they were listening to the pilot recording her last words before she was to meet her destiny after an epic but fruitless battle on a doomed world?
Zack tried to take the instrument from Leslee, but the voice became silent the instant he touched it. It wasn’t until he released the device from his grasp that it resumed speaking again. Zack realized this was similar to what occurred when Leslee touched the space craft. “It must be an intergalactic chick thing,” He offered flippantly. Leslee punched him in the arm—hard.
Leslee continued to hold the instrument while Zack listened. He found that although it could be phonetically evaluated, the language had no commonality with any tongue he had ever known to be spoken on this planet.
Oliver and Amelia Carle were in deep alpha when the phone warbled them awake. Ollie picked it up, but before he could say anything, the voice at the other end stopped him. He listened for a moment.
“Zack, are you crazy? It’s two o’clock in the morning here, and I …” Ollie tried to continue but Zack was in high gear. Ollie took another stab.
“Zack … Zack.”
“Zack!” Amelia said. “He’s got to be drunk.” She covered her head with the pillow.
Oliver was pissed. “You’re drunk!”
Then Ollie pulled the phone a foot away from his ear but Zack’s voice was loud enough for him to hear it even at that distance. Ollie listened for a moment, and then he spoke into the phone.
“Talk to who … your lawyer?” He nodded his head several times. “She prefers counselor. Okay, wait a sec.”
Ollie turned to Amelia. “He‘s putting someone else on the phone … a woman.” Amelia lifted the pillow. “A woman? Jesus, not again—and it’s talk to whom not who,” she added, then reburied her head in the pillow.
Ollie listened some more. “Melli, an attorney named Leslee Myles swears that Zack is not drunk, and I don’t think he sounded drunk. I know when he’s drunk and right now, he’s not drunk.”
Amelia let go of the sides of the pillow that were covering her ears and lifted her head. Ollie was nodding in the affirmative.
“Right, Zack, we’ll do it as soon as we can.”
“We,” Amelia rasped in an effort to try to press her consciousness to brush away her Tempur-Pedic miracle-mattress-induced sleep cobwebs.
“We,” answered Ollie. Then he switched on the lamp on the night table and Amelia raised herself up on her hands.
”Oliver, what exactly are we going to do as soon as we can?”
“Pack your flannels, your thermals and your mukluks, we’re going …” Ollie started to sing the late Johnny Horton’s song, “Way up North … Way up North … North to Alaska, we go North—the rush is on.” Then he hopped out of bed, reached over and in time with the tune began gently nudging his wife into fully awake.
The Alaska Airlines flight departed Los Angeles International at 8:00 a.m. and the captain greased the Boeing 737-900 onto runway two-six at Juneau International Airport at 1:31 p.m. for an on-time arrival. Zack and Leslee met the Carles, and in the car on the way to the college, Leslee demonstrated the behavior of the rectangular shaped electronic instruments that had been gathered from in and around the craft. Ollie reacted as a scientist would, but Amelia’s mind was more than fifty percent on the road to boggle.
“I couldn’t bring them to you because they might have set off the alarms when I went through security at the airport,” Zack said. “Uhhh they’re radioactive … slightly. I don’t think they’re detectable, but it wasn‘t worth the risk.”
The foursome went directly to the university to fire up the super-computers. Amelia and Oliver were seated in front of the computer screen. Zack was too nervous to sit, and paced back and forth behind them. Leslee was standing near Ollie. Using the digital photos of the printed placards found inside the aircraft cockpit, Amelia tried but was unable to even begin to translate the unique utterances from the joined mini-monoliths into English.
Zack couldn‘t keep from opening his mouth. “Can this craft and its dead pilot be from an alien world long ago in a galaxy far, far away? If that’s true, then the UFO hoopla might not be bullshit after all.” Zack flopped down into a chair.
“Jesus, Zack,” Ollie said agreeing. “Maybe, at the end of the day, the Roswell, Hanger 18 and Area 51 wackos aren’t wackos.”
Zack leaped up and started to pace again. “Don’t tell me that, Ollie,” he bristled. “Fuck! I don’t wanna hear that.”
Zack’s dread was short-lived, however. The mysterious device suddenly emitted a rainbow of plasma waves that interfaced with the super-computer. These beams also scanned Zack, Leslee, Oliver and Amelia. The other Mega-Macs in the room inexplicably came to life without being touched. Their displays filled with blurred, imperceptible flows of picture and dissonant sound. The surge of the input was too strong for the existing circuitry, and geysers of sparks spewed from the majority of the hi-tech equipment and cascaded into the room.
Amelia shielded her eyes from the shower of fireworks and shouted over the cacophonous din. “The download is coming too fast! It’s impossible for these machines to absorb the data. The memory-chips will burn out, and the electronics will fry from the overload.” Within a split second after Amelia’s words, the artificial intelligence which was instantaneously imbued into the super-computer by the alien instrument had recognized that the information was indeed being presented much too quickly to be safely processed and downloaded by such primitive hardware. The pace was also far beyond the sensory ability of the unclassified life forms present to assimilate the torrent of data.
Consequently, the whirring display began to slow and exhibited a pictorial essay that conveyed an amazing story about a ten-bodied heliosphere including nine planetesimal objects and a central star around which they orbited. One of the nine worlds had a bluish-green tint and a single moon. Then a pleasant sounding male voice came on and began to speak in English, explaining that the star was known as Lano Sokyam which was also the expression for alive or living. The pictures on the screen switched to views of the inside of the familiar teardrop aircraft. The pilot was adorned in the recognizable navy-blue flying gear and was identified as Ahneevah, a high-ranking officer in the air and space command. Visuals flashed by, showing highlights of her multiple expeditions to the near satellite, at first to explore, and then oversee the construction of bases and colonies.
Oliver thought he saw something familiar in the depictions of the lustrous planetoid that was the destination of Ahneevah’s missions. Then a series of starry celestial navigation charts flew past on the monitor. One particular stellar view prompted Ollie to shoot up out of his chair. After it went by, out of sheer frustration he instinctively shouted, “Pause!”
Zack, Leslee and Amelia were as surprised as Ollie when the display froze. “Back slow,” Ollie semi-whispered, and the video-stream slowly shuttled back to the chart image that piqued his curiosity. “Freeze,” Ollie requested and the machines complied. Then he walked up to the LED monitor, carefully studied it, sat back in the chair, did some quick inputs on his hand-held computer, and then shot to his feet again.
The stunned expression on Doctor Oliver Carl’s face matched the astonishment in his voice.
Zack leaped to his feet. “What? What??”
Ollie signaled a timeout like a referee style by forming a T with his hands and then plopped down and took several deep breaths to gather his wits before he continued.
“This lineup … this astronomical lineup dates back …” Ollie tapped a few more keys. “It dates back over nine-hundred and ninety-six million years.”
“So?” Zack said. “The Sagan Space Telescope can look back practically to the “Big Bang” itself. An alien race capable of this advanced technology we’re seeing can certainly make those kinds of observations. What’s the big deal?”
“Isaac, that’s just it. It’s not from an alien point of view. This particular celestial configuration would have only been visible nearly a billion years ago from one single place … here … on Earth!”
Leslee’s eyes owled-up at the implication. “Our Earth? You mean old blue-and-green Mother Earth?”
Then Ollie locked into something else, “Rewind, please.” The display once again started running in reverse until an image of a planet peeping over the horizon of the near satellite was visible on a small area of the screen. “Stop,” commanded Oliver. “Now zoom in on the background object.”
The computer enlarged the item of Ollie’s interest and it became clear that the planet was indeed blue and green like the Earth. However, there were several continental bodies evident in the northern and southern hemispheres and another much larger land-mass centered on the equator that was rotating into view. A full latitudinal image revealed that the third continent extended across the equator and covered almost two-thirds of the face of the planet.
“Ollie, that can’t be the Earth. It’s showing only three land masses aside from the poles. That geography is nothing like ours.”
“But take a look at the size of the coastline of the one on the western edge,” Ollie pointed out.
Leslee’s brow furrowed in thought as she studied the visual. Then her eyes widened with clarity, “Incredible, I can’t believe it. That’s Rodinia … Rodinia, the super continent … it goes back on the time scale over a million millennia; hundreds of millions of years before Pangea. Though the assumption has always been that Rodinia was a single body of land until around 750 million years ago, this depiction shows that it started breaking up much sooner … and then, 500 million years later, Pangea itself … broke into pieces which drifted apart to eventually form the continents as we know them today.”
Oliver was in astronomic Shangri-La. “A billion-year-old image, shot from space, that could be illustrative proof of the theory that the movements of super continents like Rodinia, Pannotia and Pangea were cyclical … and … that these mega land masses have and will continue to ride the tectonic plates, be split into pieces that float away from each other, and then recombine as one super continent. In any case … the bottom line here is that for damn certain … whether this particular continental depiction looks like the Earth or not, I would stake my reputation on the fact that it most definitely is. Consider the data overlay on the right side of the screen. Those numbers don’t lie. They corroborate that this body is the same diameter, circumference, has the same molten inner core composition, is roughly the same distance from its sun and has one moon that’s twenty-five percent its size. Further, it’s located exactly where the Earth would have been in the celestial scheme of things a billion years ago. The one curious thing is that the Moon’s orbit around this world is nearly the same as it is today. Given that we know the Moon is receding from Earth at a rate of thirty-eight millimeters per year it should have been twenty three thousand miles closer. I don’t know … maybe there were some other forces at work.”
“Yeah,” Leslee said. “Other forces … you could say that.”
Zack plunked down in a chair and all could manage was a subdued “Holy shit!”
Then the views of the planet crossed the day/night terminator and twinkling lights became visible throughout much of the land areas. This caused Ollie to take another deep breath and exhale slowly. “Those lights must be cities … an organized society. I can’t believe I’m about to say this but although I’d have to do more investigation about the Moon thing, for now I can draw only one rational conclusion. This woman … or whatever she is … represents a highly advanced civilization that either visited but more likely existed here on our very own planet nearly a billion years ago.”
Flabbergasted, Zack vaulted out of his seat and began to move back and forth like a caged animal. “Are you suggesting that a form of intelligent life evolved on our little lump of primordial matter and was here hundreds of millions of years before the goddamned dinosaurs and then somehow disappeared without a trace? How could that be? There’s no evidence of that.”
“There is now,” Amelia declared. “Holy shit!” she then uncharacteristically exclaimed. “Look at the screen.”
In additional support of Ollie’s contention, the recording, made almost a million millennia in the past, switched to a life-sized holographic image replaying Ahneevah’s final moments. Due to her headgear, her face was not visible but her actions in air-to-air combat were swift and sure. Then, through the forward view port, they saw the true extent of the brave warrior’s piloting skills as she regained some control of her aircraft during its wild plunge through the fiery skies. Finally, they watched in awe as the flight vehicle smashed into the vegetation canopy, then crashed and sank in the deep, slimy waters of the swamp.
The four had just witnessed, in terrifying flashes of doom, the end of a world. The complete destruction of a civilization on a planet referred to as Lano Pahntri. Breathless and with nothing to say, Leslee slid the chair behind the pacing Zack, separated the two segments of the weightless piece of ancient technology and, with a deep reverence, handed one of them to Zack who solemnly bowed his head and slowly sat down … drained.