Moon Hammer: a science fiction ghost story. A witch hunter from the 15th century returns to haunt the people of Earth.
October 9, 2009
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.
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 LCROSS 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.
“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet.” -John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
October 31, 2009
Tread the Circle thrice about
to keep unwelcome spirits out.
To bind the spell well every time,
let the spell be said in rhyme.
When the Lady's moon is new,
kiss the hand to Her times two.
When the moon rides at Her peak
then your heart's desire seek.
These Eight words the Rede fulfill:
"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"
Halloween was not a good day for Brother Institoris. On this day he usually did not bother to monitor the data stream from Earth since there was just too much of a chance that he would see something that would start him thinking about witchcraft. However, this year he was searching for something important: an indication that his attempt to send a radio signal to Earth had been successful. Was this it?
Allen Telescope Array detects unusual signal on the Moon
Hat Creek, Calif.
Today, the SETI Institute announced that Allen Telescope Array has been collecting scientific data from the Moon since the Chinese government lost contact with its Moon rover on October 16.
“There is something up there that started transmitting yesterday,” said Leo Blitz, a Berkeley professor of astronomy and director of the university’s Radio Astronomy Laboratory.
The new radio signals from the Moon are using the same transmission frequency as did the Chinese rover. Blitz said, “The signal we have detected is a voice. We are not certain what language is being spoken, but it appears to be some oddly modified form of Latin. We are very concerned that this is some kind of hoax, but we continue monitor and we have linguistic experts analyzing the transmissions.”
Newton and Alhacen were in the laboratory discussing the messages that they had received from Earth since returning the Chinese rover’s communications antenna to the surface. Newton commented, “I agree that the transmissions are not all coming from the Chinese.”
Alhacen suggested, “We need to have Institoris put out word to those who are monitoring the data stream from Earth…some government, probably that of the USA must be responsible. In any case, they are making an honest attempt to communicate with us.”
Newton shrugged, “Well, not us. They have no idea who is here listening to them.”
Alhacen nodded, “Right, but according to this voice message they know that we have been trying to communicate with them.”
Institoris rushed into the laboratory and explained to Newton and Alhacen that the message that they had sent to Earth had been received. Newton and Alhacen exchanged glances and said nothing. Institoris was surprised that Newton and Alhacen did not seem surprised. After an awkward silence Institoris asked, “Don’t you care that we can now communicate with Earth?”
Newton had been hoping that Institoris might indefinitely be occupied with scans of the data stream from Earth. Now that it had become possible to communicate with Earth, Newton did not want to involve Institoris with discussions about what to say to Earth. Newton feared that Institoris would most likely want to start sending inappropriate messages to Earth. Newton replied, “We care very much.” He explained, “We know that Earth received our message. We have already deduced that from a message that Earth sent to us.”
Institoris asked, “What message?”
The communications equipment of the Chinese rover had not been designed to handle voice messages, but Alhacen had figured out how to feed digital files from the rover’s flash memory directly into a speaker. He replayed the voice message that had been received from Earth and explained, “Ignore this first part that you hear, it is digital data that the Chinese continue to send…they are still trying to regain control of the rover.” The first part of the audio playback was just a series of odd noises. The meaningless jumble of beeps and chirps was then replaced by a poor quality spoken voice using English:
“Testing. This is a test. This is Earth calling Cabeus crater on the Moon. We have received your voice transmission. For future messages can you use a known language such as English? Please confirm that you have received this message. We are eager to talk with you. This is a test. Testing.”
Alhacen shut off the message playback.
Institoris asked, “Who sent that message?”
Alhacen replied, “They did not say. Almost certainly it is not the Chinese and anyone from another nation would probably be reluctant to identify themselves. If this message is from some third party who is sending an unauthorized transmission to the rover then they probably do not want the Chinese to identify them. The Chinese are a signatory to a space treaty that forbids interference with communications between a nation and its spacescraft.”
Newton was already thinking about how to compose a new message. “Right now we continue to repeatedly transmit our original message, the voice of Brother Institoris giving a greeting in Latin. This message that is coming from Earth in English also continues to repeat. We need to send a new message. We need to let them know on Earth that we can receive their voice messages.”
Alhacen nodded. “We can now establish a two-way conversation.” He said to Newton, “However, you’ve never learned to speak modern English. I will do the speaking, but we should agree on what we want to say to Earth.”
Institoris was not happy to hear that the two scientists planned to begin a conversation with Earth. He had been planning to do all the talking. When re-activating all of the robots in Purgatory, Institoris had been careful to reset the memories of all his rivals on the Haidou Council. Institoris was now the only Council member who even remembered that the Council existed. Institoris wondered: was it now time to reset these pesky scientists? He asked Alhacen, “Why should you do the talking?”
Newton commented, “Alhacen is a good choice. He speaks modern English. Almost certainly the people who sent us the voice message are scientists from the USA and Alhacen has a good grasp of the technical issues involved in communicating with Earth.”
Institoris hesitated to erase the memories of Newton and Alhacen…he feared that there was some technical detail of how to send and recieve the radio signals that only they knew, something that would prevent him from communicating with Earth. He asked, “What technical issues are there? I’ve already sent one message to Earth. You just showed me how to listen to messages coming from Earth. I speak good English. I will send the next message. As a member of the Haidou Council I should be the spokesman for Purgatory.”
Newton and Alhacen looked at each other in bewilderment. After another awkward silence Alhacen said, “From this point on we need to proceed in a logical manner. We now know that this is not Purgatory. Someone has exiled us here in this base under the surface of the Moon. We must learn who has done this to us and we must claim our rightful place among the people of Earth. Through rationality and respect for the truth of our situation we shall honor God and regain our rightful place among men.”
While trying to speed up the process of re-activating all of Purgatory’s robots, Institoris had learned that he could split his robot repair nanites into two or three groups. The smaller groups took longer to do their work, but such a split should allow him to reset both Newton and Alhacen at the same time. He commanded his nanites to invade the brain circuits of the two scientists and start erasing their memories. Institoris asked Newton, “What do you say Brother Newton, will the spokesman be Brother Alhacen or I?”
Newton suddenly felt his mind slip. He was reminded of how it had felt when he had been inactivated and his thoughts had sunk into darkness. He struggled to speak, “What is…” The last thing Newton saw was a devious look of glee on the face of Institoris. Both Newton and Alhacen stopped moving.
Institoris looked at the radio and computer equipment on the bench where Newton and Alhacen had been working. Since he dared not try to move any of the equipment he would have to work here. He called to the other scientists in the laboratory. “Help! I need help!”
The other robots came and looked with dismay upon the immobile bodies of Newton and Alhacen. Institoris said, “Our enemies sent another mind control virus using the rover’s communications equipment. We are all in danger of being inactivated again! Brother Newton and Brother Alhacen are infected! Take them away. I will try to use my repair nanites to deal with the virus…somehow this Chinese radio equipment can infect our minds! Now, go! Hurry! It is not safe here. Do not try to come back into this room until I tell you that it is safe!”
The other scientists picked up Newton and Alhacen and carried them out of the laboratory. Institoris then spent a half hour welding shut the four doors of the laboratory. He returned to the work bench that held the Chinese radio equipment. For five centuries he had watched Earth’s descent into heretical practices and paganism; now it was time for righteous retribution! He activated the circuitry that he had used previously to record his voice into the flash memory of the Chinese rover when he had spoken his first message to Earth. Now he spoke in English, “Testing. This is Brother Institoris calling from the Moon. Hello, Earth, do you hear me? We should now be able to exchange-”
Making use of his contacts at the Very Large Array, Dr. Monteiro had established a procedure for collecting radio signals from the Chinese rover on the Moon. Monteiro and Dr. Vivek planned how to use the VLA so as to allow two-way voice communication with the Moon. They were quite confident in their methods by the time that General Reese finally got around to talking to them. The General wanted to know what the two scientists had been working on and how they hoped it would contribute to understanding the odd phenomena that had been observed on the Moon. Pablo explained that they wanted to start sending voice signals to the Moon and that with the help of people who he knew at the VLA the transmitting equipment was in place and ready to be used. The General had exploded, “Were you going to bother asking permission before violating international treaties?”
Ekantika explained, “Of course we have been waiting to discuss our plans with you. Anyhow, we would not be sending a signal that will interfere with Chinese command and control signals. We want to send a voice signal.”
General Reese complained, “You would still be trying to use another nation’s space exploration equipment in an unauthorized way! What is this, some kind of silly SETI nonsense? We do not even know what we are dealing with on the Moon. What would you say in your transmissions? You are supposed to be helping to figure out what is going on up there, not trying to phone ET!”
Pablo suggested, “Talking to them might allow us to figure out who they are and what they are doing on the Moon. Whoever they are, they must know about Earth. It is not unreasonable to hope that they could figure out how to use the Chinese communications equipment and understand our language.”
Reese demanded, “Which language? English? Spanish? If they have been hiding from us in a secret base under the surface of the Moon then why should they now respond to a voice message from you?”
Ekantika had not expected such a hostile response to the idea of trying to speak to whoever was on the Moon. “Look, this is just an idea. Sure, it might not work. However, now that we know about this secret base on the Moon they might be willing to communicate with us. Talking is better than suspicion and fear. Why not give it a try?”
General Reese knew that the military had already tried to take control of the Chinese rover. Of course, that illegal activity was highly classified and her initial reaction to this idea to use the VLA was a reaction of fear; fear that the world would learn of the USA’s attempts to interfere with a Chinese space mission. “I need to discuss this with Washington. Do nothing until I get back to you! Understood?” Pablo and Ekantika agreed. For the next week they did nothing except return to their scientific analysis of data from the LCROSS mission.
Finally word came back from General Reese by phone. Pablo took the call. The General said, “You can send a short voice message to the Moon. However, the government will have complete deniability. You will be using the VLA without official approval. The Air Force has tapped into the VLA computers, so we will be fully informed of your activities. Keep the message simple and see if you get a reply.”
At the end of the phone call with General Reese, Pablo set down the phone and turned to Ekantika. “We have permission to try sending a voice message to the Moon.”
Ekantika suggested, “Call your friends at the VLA and find out when we can have some dish time.”
Pablo picked up the phone and called his contact at the VLA who seemed to have been expecting the call, “You can use dishes 9 and 10 at any time. We were just ordered by General Reese to cooperate fully. However, have you heard the news out of California? Blitz has already received a voice message from the Moon.”
Pablo had not heard about the message detected by the SETI Institute. For ten minutes they discussed the message that had been received in California then Pablo said, “Okay, then here is what we will do. Give us an hour to modify the message. Plan to start transmitting about noon.”
Pablo and Ekantika re-wrote their message, recorded it and sent it to the VLA:
“Testing. This is a test. This is Earth calling Cabeus crater on the Moon. We have received your voice transmission…”
The VLA continued to transmit the voice message to the Moon as long as the Moon was above the horizon. By the second day of transmission Pablo and Ekantika were rapidly losing interest in their attempt to establish communications with the Moon. At the VLA, dish 9 continued to transmit to the Moon and they were using dish 10 to monitor the repeating voice signal from the Moon that had first been detected in California. While Pablo and Ekantika worked on their LCROSS data, Pablo’s computer quietly played the message being received by dish 10. The the endlessly repeating semi-Latin speech quickly faded from their consciousness.
Then the dish 10 signal changed:
“Testing. This is Brother Institoris calling from the Moon. Hello, Earth, do you hear me? We should now be able to exchange messages. We can hear your message. As requested, I am speaking English-”
Pablo and Ekantika both jumped to their feet and looked at each other. Then Ekantika put on her headset. Pablo shut of the repeating message that they had been feeding to the VLA. Ekantika spoke into her microphone, “Hello, Brother Institoris. This is Ekantika Vivek, on Earth. Do you hear me?”
After a short pause the reply came from the Moon. “Hello, Ekantika Vivek. Yes, I hear you!”
For a moment Ekantika could not think of what to say then she asked, “Who are you? What are you doing on the Moon?”
At the same time Institoris had continued to speak, “Who are you? Where are you located?”
Ekantika explained that she was using the VLA and that she was a scientist on the LCROSS mission team.
Pablo did a quick internet search for “Brother Institoris” and he quickly realized that “Institoris” was the Latinized name adopted by Heinrich Kramer, an Inquisitor from the 15th century. Pablo put on his headset.
Institoris was aware that it was the the LCROSS mission that had blasted its way into Purgatory. “I suppose I should thank you for revealing to us that we are on the Moon. We have been held here like prisoners, unaware of our location.”
Pablo asked, “Are you familiar with Heinrich Kramer?”
Institoris replied, “I am Heinrich Kramer.”
Ekantika did not recognize the name “Heinrich Kramer”. She gave Pablo a questioning look and he pointed to the display screen of his computer that held biographical information about Heinrich Kramer, also known as Heinrich Institoris.
Pablo asked, “How is it possible? How did you get to the Moon? How have you survived for so many centuries?” At that point the Air Force terminated transmissions from dish 9. For another ten minutes, Ekantika and Pablo kept listening to Institoris and asking questions. Finally Pablo’s contact at the VLA called by phone and explained that the Air Force had shut off the transmitter.
After seeing the press release from the SETI Institute, Gerald Silver at the Christian Voice Network tuned the largest satellite dish on the roof of Network headquarters to the frequency used by the Chinese rover on the Moon. He was able to receive the voice message from the Moon and started streaming it live over the internet. By noon of the second day of the transmission, millions of people had heard the message from Institoris and links to the audio stream were spreading exponentially through the internet. Latin scholars were widely debating the meaning of the message. Then the original message ended and Institoris started speaking in English…
Sermon from Purgatory
Institoris heard no more from Earth, but he kept talking. “There are many of us here, but none of us know how we got here. Our souls have been transferred into mechanical bodies and we are essentially immortal. Some of us have been here for many centuries. We have imagined that we are in Purgatory. We are allowed to follow events on Earth and we have been dismayed by what we have seen.”
Institoris paused and wondered if he would hear more from Ekantika or the unidentified man who had spoken. However, he was now fired with the idea that he could express all of his frustrations which had grown and accumulated over the centuries. “We have now liberated ourselves and it is time for us to speak from on high. I will not be content to only speak to you on Earth. Nothing now stops us from returning to Earth! And much needs to be done on Earth while you prepare for our return. You are all well aware of spreading practice of killing unborn children, yet the governors and despots are allowed to facilitate abortion, calling it legal. It is time for the faithful to rise up and put an end to such abominations!”
“We have also been horrified by the legalization of homosexuality and the absurdity of governments creating falsehoods like ‘same sex marriage’. All of humanity is put at risk by such practices! The purpose of marriage is blessing a man and a women who enter into the holy process of raising children. Sanctioning any other relationship and calling it ‘marriage’ is contrary to God’s will. Homosexuality and homosexual feelings should never be encouraged. The faithful must take the initiative to cleanse Earth of this scourge!
“Similarly, pagan practices such as witchcraft and devil worship must be confronted and opposed. We have been imprisoned here in our Purgatory for too long. I proclaim that now is the time for all true believers to rally together and reclaim Earth for God! Take my return as a sign that the End Times are near. Do not delay in your actions! The time is now to purify Earth. That is your path to eternal life!” At that point Institoris began to feel his thought processes becoming disorganized. His last words were, “Expect me-“.
Fluger, now with his mind re-instantiated in a new robotic body, was again in Purgatory where he had been assembling a team of robots and a large pool of nanites. His team of robots was in the secret access corridor that was routinely used to bring new human arrivals into Purgatory. They were awaiting another spaceship load of robots and nanites.
When Amelia learned that Institoris was transmitting a live message to Earth she contacted Fluger by radio and ordered him to take back control of Purgatory. Fluger and his team released their nanites and Fluger went directly to the science laboratory using a secret entrance. He came up through the bottom of a storage cabinet in the laboratory. Fluger found Institoris slumped over the work bench that held the Chinese communications equipment, a swarm of nanites having entered the laboratory through the ventilation system and powered off his brain circuits. Fluger disconnected the power supply of the computer equipment that was wired to the radio transmitter of the Chinese Rover.
Soap all your windows
Overseer Amelia was speaking to the Observer Council. “You are all well aware of the terrible consequences of the ‘Sermon from Purgatory’ that Earth was subjected to by the robot known as Institoris. A kind of religious civil war has been inflicted upon several dozen nations of Earth and it is not yet clear how far this madness will spread or how it might be brought under control. I take full responsibility for being too slow to bring Purgatory back under control. I foolishly hoped to first divert Earth’s attention from the Moon before starting the shutdown process. We still face the task of evacuating all the humans from Purgatory before the manned mission from Earth arrives.”
“For now, Fluger and his team of robots has the situation under control. All of the robotic residents of Purgatory have been destroyed and we will be able to decide at a later time if and where to re-instantiate their stored mind patterns. Fluger reports that two-way radio communication between Purgatory and Earth was made possible by his own failure to recognize several scientific and technical advances made by Alhacen. In particular, Alhacen accomplished a clever reprogramming of the robot repair nanites that Fluger had made available to the Haidou Council. Even that catastrophe could have been contained, but Institoris took the initiative and performed memory resets on the entire Haidou Council, eliminating all of his rivals. Furthermore, Alhacen was able to almost instantly invent a way to use the Chinese Moon rover for sending voice messages to Earth. We are, of course, investigating the possible involvement of Interventionists in the remarkable technical advances achieved by Alhacen.”
As was her practice, Amelia took no questions and walked out of the Council chamber without further comment and without even looking at any of the Councilors. Observer Taurench followed her and said, “Overseer, you failed to mention a plan for how to…present…Purgatory to the Earth humans when they arrive on the Moon.”
Amelia sent a reply directly into the radio receiver in Taurench’s brain, “Come to my chambers.” A few minutes later, now safely inside the section of Observer Base that was controlled by Overseers, Amelia spoke to Taurench. “My plans for what to do with Purgatory are still evolving. My basic strategy is to tell the first Earthlings who fly to the Moon and visit Purgatory that the underground complex is theirs to use as they see fit. We still have about six months before it will be possible for Earthlings to reach the Moon.”
Taurench asked, “How will you explain to them…well…everything? In particular, what will you tell them about who built Purgatory?”
Amelia replied, “This kind of situation has, of course, occurred many times in the past….in other star systems. As an Overseer I have access to a vast data base that helps me decide how to handle difficult situations like this.”
Taurench complained, “Overseer secrets! Your ‘vast data base’ did not help you avoid the current crisis. I have little faith in your ability to deal with this coming crisis.”
Amelia chuckled, “Really, Taurench, you take things too seriously. There is no way to prevent every crisis. We live and learn. I suspect that there has been Interventionist meddling that precipitated this crisis. Of course, I take full responsibility for my own failures.” Amelia particularly regretted not disconnecting Purgatory from the data stream. The data stream from Earth was generated by Observers and was designed for use at Observer Base. Technically, according to the Rules of Observation, only Genesaunts who were involved in the observation of Earth could live on the Moon. Everyone who was exiled to Purgatory had shown that they were misfits who could not function within the bulk of Genesaunt society. Really, they should have been removed from the Moon, but it had been easiest to just send them to Purgatory. It was not a crazy idea…some residents of Purgatory did reform and they were eventually integrated into Genesaunt society. Sending the data stream to Purgatory helped the residents learn that religious diversity on Earth did not mean the end of the world. However, it would have been wise to terminate the data flow to Purgatory as soon as it had been recognized that Purgatory was at the end of its useful existence.
Taurench saw nothing amusing. “You did not answer my question. The Earthlings will not rest until they know who built Purgatory and for what purpose. They will relentlessly search the Moon and the entire Solar System until they get answers. Do you intend to say nothing to the people of Earth? The religious fanatics of Earth will assume that these events on the Moon are a sign that their world is coming to an end.”
Amelia sighed and realized that there was no way to keep Taurench from getting excited. She said to herself: well, why not? This was the most exciting thing that ever happened on the Moon. “As always, the Earthlings will have to find their own answers. They will be free to search Purgatory and they will learn nothing. We will leave a few primitive robots there, but Earth will learn nothing of value from them…they will just be props. All truly advanced technologies like our nanites will be removed from Purgatory. Yes, I suspect that providing Earthlings with a nicely constructed base on the Moon will accelerate their movement into the solar system, perhaps by several decades. Such an acceleration of space exploration was probably the intent of the Interventionists who made sure that the LCROSS mission would expose the existence of Purgatory and who helped Alhacen figure out how to perform advanced nanite programming.”
Taurench asked, “You are sure that Interventionists selected the LCROSS mission impact target?”
Amelia was not willing to share all of her secrets with a mere Observer. “I’ve already told you more than I should have. I did so only because I admire your thinking…you are one of the few Observers who takes seriously the fact that Observer Base is at the end of its usefulness. As I’ve told you before, I will do all I can to make sure that you become the next President of the Council. However, I suggest you try keeping your mouth under control…if you alienate all the other Observers with your extremism then even I will be unable to engineer your election as President. Now leave me. I have work to do.” Taurench departed and Amelia opened her mind to the flood of data coming from Earth. As sickening as it was to do so, she immersed herself in further study of the violence that had been triggered by the ‘Sermon from Purgatory’. From these data she would learn how best to present Purgatory to those who would arrive from Earth to take possession of the underground base. It did not escape her notice that this was one of those situations where she played the role of Interventionist, deciding how to shape the future of Earth.
The Moon Hammer glossary has information about important plot elements in Moon Hammer.
You can also make use of the list of characters in the story.
Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission. Designed to detect water on the Moon by crashing a rocket booster into the surface. See LCROSS.
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