"The Universe Machine", страница 1
Dr. Peter Hill is an environmental official with the US government. He is called from the White House and is directed to send a team with him to investigate a large alien Object that was found in New Zealand.
Dr. Hill discovers that there are many more Objects than what was told to him. But most importantly, the Objects appear to be mere cogs of a much, much larger Machine!
“Dr. Hill,” the woman's voice persisted over his official residency phone. Dr. Hill, awoken from a deep sleep, nearly dropped the cordless phone! “The President requires your service--”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Peter broke in; rubbing the sleep from his eyes. His nightstand clock read 2:47am! “Look, I'm just fifteen minutes from the White House. I'll just jump into the shower--”
“Doctor, the President needs you to hop onto Eagle Alpha, now!”
“What!” Peter froze on his bed. “Where am I going?”
“New Zealand, sir...Operations will have your files and everything else in your van for you.”
The environmental scientist-turned-politician thought on what more clothing and other essentials he might need for such a long excursion. He was still getting used to the political lifestyle of being dragged all over the world by the mere word of the president of the United States. After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor of science in environmental studies and then receiving his masters and doctorate in Curitiba, Brazil, Dr. Hill became impatient with so many of the scientists in the world being held hostage to politicians in power that did not understand the sciences of the environment, and even those who did not believe in science at all! He figured the only way to beat them was to join them. “Ok...give me fifteen minutes--”
“Ten, Dr. Hill.”
He chuckled. “Right...”
The government-issued SUV sped up to the tiny hangar, just minutes away from the Baltimore-Washington airport. As Peter stepped out of the vehicle with his over-coat, computer tablet, and official papers poking out of his briefcase, several armed guards were there to greet him. As was his adjunct staff: Bianca Roland, Evan Buxtand, Charlie Dunz, and Patrice Wu. Like the Doctor, they were all under forty years of age.
Bianca was the supervisor of the tiny scientific crew, but Peter was charge d'affaires. He was the President's Special Adviser for Science and Space Affairs...which made Peter all the more leery that the mission was so immediate, given his position!
The pilots of the jet, already inside the cockpit, wasted no time. Within five minutes, the team was up in the air, on their way to New Zealand.
After flying for nearly half the day, Dr. Hill's team finally landed in a relatively wooded area, a couple hundred miles away from Tauranga, one of New Zealand's medium-sized cities. By this time, it was evening and there were no facilities around the area that Peter could see. Not so much as a landing strip.
“Dr. Hill,” Charlie, the youngest of the crew, said with apprehension upon seeing no one there to meet them, “what's going on here? With no disrespect to its citizens, but since when has New Zealand been at a top secret-level with the US government?”
There were nods of agreement from the other three scientists.
Peter was about to say some words of encouragement when he and the crew noticed a middle-aged man with cropped, gray hair approach the plane. Peter froze on the spot. It was someone he had not seen in years!
The man, dressed in business-casual with his Oxford shirt opened at the collar and not a tie to be seen, walked up to the plane and flashed a wide smile at Dr. Hill through one of the plane’s windows.
After giving a deferred look to the two pilots, Peter excitedly opened the door to the small plane and clamored down the short steps to meet the official. After the two men gave each other a business-type hug and exchanged words, Dr. Hill finally let his team in on the surprise guest, after going back into the plane. “Bianca, Evan, Charlie, Patrice; this is the Minister of Interior for New Zealand, Donald Rek. We've worked on several projects together going back ten years!”
There were pleasantries, nodded heads, and smiles from the small scientific team. Minister Rek reciprocated the greetings.
“So, during the flight, I take it that you've all seen it on your devices and reports?”
Peter's eyes said it all, while the others either whistled, pensively nodded their head, or simply sank into the bucket seat of the jet. Donald's demeanor had subsided. His eyes were looking down as he tried putting his words together. “From what you know so far, what do you think it is?”
Bianca looked around at the small group, waiting to see if anyone else wanted to respond. Not even Doctor Hill was willing—or up to—answering. “Well, it's definitely alien...aside from the fact that it's mostly a hydrogen-based composition that's mixed with several elements humans don't even have on the periodic table, no nation on earth even has the technology to build anything like that!”
“Totally seamless,” Patrice came in, her voice just above a whisper, though her eyes were somewhere else. “Something that size should have welding points, rivets, pressure points...I'd even take duct tape!”
“There is a lot of scorching and pitting from entering Earth, though,” Evan admitted from a corner in the jet. “Makes me wonder if Patrice's points about it all being one piece may be a simple matter of atmospheric-melding?” A shrug.
“As to what do we think it is,” Peter finally engaged; he, too, shrugged and shook his head. He looked around at his team, waiting to see who would brave a guess. There were no takers. “We can tell you an awful lot of factual things about it, but even that's from your government's scientists on hand...can't say it's the same as knowing what it is.”
“It's ok,” the Minister said with an understanding tone, “saying 'I don't know' is one of the best answers a scientist can ever give.”
“I'm sorry, my friend,” Peter went on, “but it seems like your government wasted your citizens' taxes bringing us here just to say, 'I don't know!' In these economic hard times, especially for the public sector, I'm not so sure your prime minister's constituents would be as understanding as you are, Donald.”
“Yeah, why are we here, sir,” Bianca asked the minister, with a bit of terseness to her voice, Peter noticed. “I can't see us trekking across the globe just to read studies that other scientists had conducted...what aren't you telling us?”
Peter started to scold his second-in-command, but Donald diplomatically held out a hand and chuckled.
“This one's perceptive, Dr. Hill...” He looked around at the American crew as he whipped out a communicator from his pilot-shirt's pocket. Before speaking into it, he addressed them. “The captain of the jet should be back with a jeep to take us there.”