Prologue to the book “April”

As an alternative to the last two previous snippets posted about alien contact, I have a book further along about a space habitat set in a much closer time frame. Here is the opening prologue for that book:




Mackey Chandler


September 12, 2083 – Boise, Idaho

            Colonel James Harris, USNA Aerospace Forces watched the vendor’s team fussing over the MNQR and checked the time again anxiously. His commander liked to write orders that read like the one he was operating under today: “You will be prepared for a test at 1400 Zulu.” These civilians seemed to take that to mean, “It would be nice if you could…” They made him nervous with the cabinet still open, when less than seven minutes remained on the clock until the scheduled test run.

The new and very highly classified device they were examining didn’t offer all that many possibilities for a catchy acronym, but they were making do with pronouncing it as Moniker. The Multiverse Neutrino Quantum Receiver. He understood it was at its heart a quantum computer. That was about all he understood. He wasn’t an ignorant man or a technophobe but when they tried to explain how it worked the whole idea sounded just  irrational to him.

How it worked might be exotic, but anyone could understand what it was supposed to actually do. It was the same as radio, a way to transmit information, but with a different media. It detected a neutrino flux with a sensitivity that was similar to how their conventional receivers detected ordinary electromagnetic radiation.

Where before a neutrino detector required a huge tank of fluid buried deep underground, and could barely sense a source of the elusive particles, this new device detected the sum of events in an unknown but vast number of  parallel devices. That’s where they lost him. When he had asked what the transmitter was like that produced those pulses they had brusquely informed him he had no need to know, that was another group’s concern.

The unit they were testing was not an experimental set, but the first generation portable unit that, hopefully, a military techie, a rating, could set up and use in field conditions. They had the first group of ratings observing today.

After much discussion a civilian technician latched down the cover on the equipment much to Col. Harris’ relief. Three large elevated screens let everyone in the room see what was happening. A clock in the corner of the center screen showed less than two minutes to the first scheduled transmission. People stopped moving about, grabbed seats, and all the murmuring died away in anticipation.

The counter in the corner of the screen reached zero and right on cue a series of spikes scrolled in the upper right corner of the screen. That raised a murmur of satisfaction among the technical crowd. The spikes changed from a constant series and started having gaps among them. The left screen started representing this variation as blocks of ones and zeros. The last display interpreted the timing of the pulses received as spatial information. On a see through representation of the Earth, continents looking like they were embossed on a glass globe, a tetrahedron formed through the globe between the three detectors and the transmitter. Unless there was an island in that part of the Pacific he wasn’t familiar with, they must have it on a ship. Today they were building on previous successful tests and trying to tweak the bandwidth a little wider.

“We don’t have any drop outs here,” the chief researcher said over the open network. “All three receivers check against each other…What’s that?” he interjected.

On the crystalline representation of the globe, the three lines marking the cords between the receivers and the transmitter were flickering. When they faltered  three new lines were drawn  forming a pyramid with a new apex off the location in the Pacific, and indeed off the Earth’s surface slightly into near space.

“What the hell?” the head honcho started, and then it was as if his question itself triggered a response. The wave forms flowing so smoothly seconds before dissolved in a meaningless hash on the screen, and the data scroll ended.

While the man stood, open mouthed, one of the rating, carefully kept back from the current activity spoke up. “That’s jamming. I’ve seen the same thing in satellite  controlled UMVs, Run your gain way down and you might be able to localize it.”

Nobody replied to the lowly fellow, but several lab coated civilians got their heads together and started entering something manually on a keyboard. Some of the numbers on the screen started a slow scroll down, and abruptly the globe reappeared and the data resumed with all ones imposed, but the directional lock was lost.

“It’s a 400 MHz buzz,” the one technician reported without turning around. “Not nice clean pulses either but spikes, dirty spikes with quite a bit of variation, but no deliberate drop outs like we were inserting.”

Recovering, their boss found his composure again. “See if you can get the receivers to compare variations and get a directional lock.”

The underlings played at it, selecting various length packets until they approached near a millisecond in length to reacquire, and the three lines reappeared pointing to a spot in the sky. Further refining narrowed its location down to about twenty meters. They opened a smaller window scaled to show detail and watched, quietly arguing with each other and making hurried calls to the other receiver teams. “We can write a specific program for it later to get a closer fix on the location – narrow it down off the recorded data too if we want,” one fellow announced. The track on the screen was following an orbit, but it was wobbling like a badminton shuttlecock that was broken.

“Jim, can you get your boys to check what is at that location we’re stacking? Here’s an address to tap into the running data,” he offered, showing his pad.

He spliced his office into the feed and listened intently to the quick reply from Space Command Tracking before he turned to the waiting scientists.

“The elements you are feeding them are a dead match for the habitat Mitsubishi 3,” That produced a lot of indignation and several outright objections.

On the screen, the strong emissions ended much more abruptly then they had started.

“The Japanese? The Japanese can’t even make the…uwff!” One of them got cut off by an associate’s elbow before he could say too much.

“I find it real hard to believe they have even a transmitter, much less a receiver,” he told the one who cut him off, holding his ribs. Both of them glared at each other. “To speak of them being so far ahead they are designing powerful jamming devices is ridiculous.”

The lowly young soldier who had suggested it was a jammer spoke up. “Doesn’t mean it was designed as a jammer,” he pointed out. “My wife has an old  hair dryer at home – no intent involved at all – but when she runs it – it jams the hell out of the TV.”

They looked at each other with new purpose, and still no acknowledgment of his help.

“So,” one said slowly, “we need to define all the categories of devices that might generate such a signal as an unintended consequence,” he very tentatively proposed.

“Don’t worry on it too much son,” Colonel Harris told him. “Mitsubishi 3 may sound Japanese but it’s the American subsidiary of the company that built number three, so it’s under USNA law.  I’d say long before you can think-tank a list of what it could be somebody will simply go take a look-see and we’ll know exactly what’s causing the fuss.”

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