Thursday, March 26, 2009

Standing Wave

We’re doing Mach 2 fifty metres over the Amazon jungle. I address the pilot.

“Hey, Juan, are we gonna come out of this?”

“Sure Peter. Stories to tell your grandchildren. We’ll be bragging over cold beers tonight. They’ll be lapping it up.”

I call for a second opinion from the navigator.

“Hey, Louis, we gonna make it?”

“I estimate that we have a greater than 20% probability of making it home. And that’s based on the assets currently supporting us.”

Great. So who would you rather believe?

As we race towards the alien base on the altiplano, still an hour away, our supporting assets do their good work. Our path is illuminated by orbital radarsats; hypersonic RPVs will enter the target area before us deploying total sensory coverage; high-resolution spy-craft image everything that moves from thousands of miles out of harm’s way.

Below us, the shock-cone from our B7 stealth bomber flattens the jungle in a parabolic corridor, growing at 2,200 feet per second. Flatten is too gentle a word: our shock front smashes the trees, animals and aboriginal humans below like a spade slammed onto a helpless bird. We travel at twice the speed of sound – they die and die and never hear us coming.

It’s a shame the aliens landed, set up their base and ignored us. Now look at what they’ve made us do.


The lead drone, piloted out of Austin, TX is about to overfly. We have real time video on the B7. My job is to do the weapons, and I’m very, very interested in what the drone is about to show us.

As the drone climbed the foothills of the Andes maintaining a constant 50 metres altitude, it began pulling some serious g. Not surprising given it was doing in excess of 3,500 mph. Played havoc with the forward video. Now however it’s on the high plateau and the enemy base is no more than forty miles away.

About half a minute, then.

I stare intently at the screen as a bright star resolves to a slowly growing spherical shell. Looks like one of those science fiction force-fields - impossible to see inside. The glowing dome now fills the screen, a shining wall looming as the drone sprints the remaining distance and ...

OK, we lost the signal. I hear voices on the command channel murmuring. Words you don’t want to hear: ... “pulverized” ... “completely destroyed” ... “Doppler anomalies”.
The radio link goes quiet and we hear our controller.

“Abort right now. The mission is cancelled.”

Come home.


We sit in debrief with other aircrew, technical staff and sundry hangers-on, listening to the reports. Adrenalin-wash adds to the fatigue of hours in the cockpit: we can barely concentrate.

Here is what happened to the drone.

“At 13.23 local time the drone hit what looked like a spherical force-field of radius 1.72 km centred around the alien base. The drone was travelling at just over 2 km/sec at that time. Detailed examination of the alien force-field shows that it was of the order of 1.5 cm in thickness, and that within this spherical shell Gigahertz gravitational forces were fluctuating chaotically with amplitudes in the thousands of g. The drone was torn apart at micron granularity, friction between adjacent debris pieces leading to material vaporisation.

“The effects of this force-field on the atmosphere account for why it appeared to be shining.”

No wonder they ordered us back.

“The consensus of the science team was that this does not represent a weapon deployment on the part of the aliens. Instead, it is believed that what we saw here was an automatic mechanism for dealing with incoming ‘space junk’ - for which purpose it would clearly be most effective.

“So, as far as we can tell, although this demonstrates the aliens’ understanding of spacetime physics and technologies, there is absolutely no evidence that the aliens are taking any cognizance of our own existence or reacting to us in any conscious way.

"So we are still pretty sure that the aliens will not be able to deal effectively with a proper full-on assault.”

As we sat and absorbed this optimistic intelligence, the air in the briefing room suddenly cooled and deadened: I was absurdly reminded of noise-cancelling headphones. Around me, I sensed the first inklings of confusion on the faces of my crewmates. In the centre of the room a dark mist congealed. From its icy stillness a throbbing bass tone assembled itself into words, clearly and starkly:


I can’t wait for the full-on assault.

© Nigel Seel, March 2009.