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The Meteorite, and Some More of My Novel

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  • The Meteorite, and Some More of My Novel

    Many of you will remember the section of my Novel in progress that I posted briefly over the Holidays a year ago.

    The advent of the Russian meteor prompted me to post another passage of the novel, written several months ago and apropriate to today's times.

    This passage will begin the second half of the novel. The first half of the story continues, from where I left off from what I posted last year,but I still have a lot more to fill in to reach the point that I present here.

    I welcome your feedback - both positive and otherwise.
    Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
    ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~

  • #2

    The asteroid appeared to hang motionless in space. This was unusual. Most objects in space were either going somewhere or coming from somewhere, mostly orbiting, trapped in the equilibrium of momentum balanced against the gravitational pull of some planet or star.
    This one was waiting, loitering in a place where the third planet would pass. Had the asteroid attracted someone’s notice, the anomaly, the apparent defiance of the laws of orbital mechanics would have been obvious. Had anyone noticed and looked closer, the explanation would have been plain; small bits and pieces were regularly flaking off the surface, ejected at high velocity and only at certain vectors, much like a spacecraft from Earth used small rocket motors ejecting jets of gas for stabilization and steering. The particles flaking off the asteroid did not have the velocity of the rocket motor gases, but were much heavier, providing a similar momentum reaction. The process was not without sacrifice and could not go on indefinitely. As each particle was ejected the asteroid lost mass and became smaller, if only by an infinitesimal amount.
    The flat black surface of the asteroid was not just black, but profoundly black; it reflected very little light, but more important, its energy absorbing abilities extended well below the visible spectrum, absorbing rather than reflecting radio waves that might chance to come its way. Detection of the object was possible, but only if it blocked the light of some more distant star or planet.
    The planet that the asteroid waited for emitted radio waves out into space, some simple, some banal and absurd, others quite profound. They carried information that told the story of the beings that inhabited the planet. The significance of some of these signals and their content were not lost as they passed by the asteroid, and though no more substantial than words in the wind, they influenced future events.
    As the planet neared, a fissure opened in the surface of the asteroid and a single burst of complex electromagnetic energy issued forth, hurled at the approaching planet. The returning echoes of reflected energy painted a picture of the northern hemisphere of the planet. Oceans, land masses, vegetation, wildlife, structures and weather all returned their unique signatures, encoded in the returning electromagnetic wave. Given enough computational speed and power, all the information in the reflected pulse could be decoded and classified. The majority of the reflected information contained in the wave of returning energy was of little interest. Rather, the gaps, the places where no returning wave was detected were carefully examined and analyzed. Much of this appeared as a few dust motes scattered across a continent, but one pocket, one absence of signal stood out, on a peninsula in a region of large lakes, approximately half way between the equator and the pole.
    Once the last of the returning echoes of radio energy had passed, the fissure in the asteroid closed.
    Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
    ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


    • #3

      The meteor seemed to come out of nowhere on a Saturday night. Astronomers and the military completely failed to detect its presence until just before it entered the atmosphere. Disaster was preceded by a burst of broadband radio-frequency pulses, much like a radar signal, duly noted by various air defense installations, but also obvious to viewers and listeners of disrupted television and radio broadcasts and by cell phone users.
      The fireball streaked south from the pole, breaking up over the southern peninsula of Michigan, ultimately raining widespread destruction on the Detroit metro area. In the chaos, nobody noted the small object, ejected backward from a portion of the meteor to cancel its forward speed, falling harmlessly into a wooded area east of Flint. Well, almost nobody noticed the object. Charlie Streeter, a vagrant and occasional panhandler, was ambling through the darkness along the CSX railroad tracks when the flaming meteor streaked overhead. The sonic boom that followed compelled Streeter to dive for the ditch at the side of the right-of-way. As the reverberations of the boom faded, Streeter heard the sound of trees and branches breaking in the woods up ahead, and then all was quiet save for the sound of barking dogs and auto and building alarms in the distance. Regaining his courage and returning to the tracks, Charlie continued on, but stopped again when he heard a few sticks break in the woods now off to his immediate right. The moon was up, so he had little trouble making his way toward the sound. As he approached what appeared to be a large black oblong rock, a few weed stems, trapped under the edge of the rock, came loose, springing back to their original position. At ten feet he stopped and looked the rock over more carefully. Nothing moved. He took a step closer and then heard a squeak and then a sound like fingernails on a blackboard. The sound from the rock grew in intensity and suddenly Charlie felt the sting of gravel being thrown in his face, then his shoulder, then his stomach, painting him in a clockwise pattern. He was in the act of turning to run when a piece, larger and sharper than the rest, struck him in the chest and penetrated his heart.
      The rock fell silent, then after a short interval, it issued a few tentative squeaks. The fingernails-on-the-blackboard sound resumed and particles began flaking off the surface of the rock. Soon the sound changed and patterns on the surface began to appear, much the way a stone statue would emerge at the hands of a sculptor.
      The sculpture was ugly, hideous; vaguely resembling some horribly deformed prehistoric crustacean or centipede. Rows of segmented legs began to appear in typical bilateral symmetry, but similar appendages also appeared above the legs, facing upward, giving the impression of hideous twin freaks conjoined back-to-back along the spine.
      Soon the limbs began to move, the joints not pivoting, but the segments sliding along each other in curved interlocking channels. Each movement came at the behest of sonic vibration emanating from the torso.
      Lunging to its feet for the first time, the alien monster twisted and flexed, each joint sounding like concrete blocks sliding on one another. Amid the writhing, clouds of particles sloughed off from between the joints. A few tentative steps propelled the alien forward to the body of Charlie Streeter. Arms reached out and pulled the body forward, passing it up to other waiting arms on the creature’s back.
      The creature resumed forward motion, describing a wide radius turn toward the railroad tracks, the turn dictated by the limited range of motion of its sliding segments. Navigating by sonar, occasionally it would stop and crab-walk sideways to avoid a tree. Reaching the tracks, it traveled several hundred yards, leaving a trail of black grit as the sliding joints in the legs wore against each other.
      Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
      ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


      • #4
        The alien then veered off through the brush on the other side of the tracks to arrive at the fence behind the Cyborg Industries warehouse.
        Security cameras, cheap security cameras hastily installed, now observed the outside of the building. Others watched the interior. The system was indeed cheap. All the cameras were connected to the central computer, not by wire, but by radio links. Though encrypted, the alien easily detected, decoded and copied the signals, transmitting its own stronger signals that the computer’s receivers dutifully locked onto, ignoring the weaker signals from the cameras. The images sent were just static views recorded and played back over and over again. The security computer would see no unusual motion in these pictures, and the alien used the real signals from the cameras as its own vision.
        The alien advanced to the chain link fence and, without pausing, continued forward. Meeting resistance, the alien slowed but applied incremental force to individual leg segments, moving each a little, while locking others. Sonic pulses, emanating from the blunt fore end of the body, vibrated the individual pieces of bent wire that made up the chain link fence, flexing them ever so slightly, but work hardening them and rendering them brittle. Eventually, the fence wires yielded one by one and the alien was through. Traveling across the parking lot, the creature went not to the overhead door, but to the concrete block wall to one side. Rising to full extension of its legs, it rested the blunt end of its torso against the wall and emitted a sonic wave. The concrete surface began to powder and then crumble, leaving a hole in the wall. Lowering the legs and moving from side to side, the process was repeated until the hole was large enough for the alien to pass through while carrying the body of Charlie Streeter.
        Once inside, Streeter’s body was casually dumped to the side as the alien scanned the contents of the warehouse. Automatons. This was where Cyborg Industries was setting up its newly developed robotic assembly line for building industrial automatons.
        The Alien moved purposefully to the nearest automaton. Emitting a high-pitched squeal, the alien sonically scanned the automaton and its installation. Apparently satisfied, it reached over and pinched off the two umbilical cables where they emerged from the control cabinet. Flaying back the insulation, individual copper conductors of the cables were exposed. The alien paused and then repositioned, arching its back. Preceded by the fingernails-on-the-blackboard sound, a patch of the shell in the middle of the back and between the upward facing arms exploded upwards, spraying gritty shrapnel that shattered light fixtures or bounced off the ceiling, scattering debris around the warehouse.
        The rupture of the alien’s back exposed a square white tile with a multitude of gold nubs interspersed with several larger disks on its surface, in stark contrast to the profound black of the shell.
        Without pause, the umbilical cables leading to the automaton were passed over the back of the alien. Individual copper conductors were pressed against gold nubs on the tile. Each time, a sonic squeak was generated imparting energy to the junction, bonding the copper wire to the gold nub. The last wire connected, the arms retracted, curling up along the side of the body, waiting.
        Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
        ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


        • #5
          The automaton, hanging limp on the parking rack, shuddered. Fingers twitched, then hands flexed. The head lifted, turning from side to side, camera eyes scanning the surroundings. Arms rose, rotating and testing the limits and range of motions. The legs, slightly bent at the knee, straightened, lifting the automaton off the rack hooks under its arms. Taking a wobbly step forward, the automaton came to the end of the short restraint chain attached to its hip and the parking rack. Turning to the workstation bench, it selected the appropriate tool and quickly disengaged the chain. Turning away from the alien carcass, the automaton crouched near the floor, waiting. The alien body screeched and shuddered, more particles of grit ejected from around the tile, and then relaxed, arms and legs falling limp.
          The automaton rose to stand, and turned to face the alien body. Taking a step forward, it reached into the void in the back the lifeless alien carcass and gently lifted the white tile out of the midst of the rubble. Without a backward glance, the automaton turned and carried the tile over to a workbench in the far corner of the warehouse.
          Working deliberately the automaton unbuttoned its blue jumpsuit and coiled the umbilical cables into its chest cavity. A small canvas tool bag, the tools it contained dumped on the floor, served as an expedient shroud for the tile. All this was secured in the body cavity with plastic zip ties and electrical tape.
          The automaton moved to another workbench and found another canvas tool bag. Rummaging through the bag, it discarded some of the tools but kept others. It chopped an electrical cord off an oscilloscope on the bench and rummage through some electrical parts and connectors, placing the items in the canvas bag.
          Returning to the now lifeless alien body, it selected several fragments of the stone-like material and placed them in the bag.
          The automaton now moved to the body of Charlie Streeter and, after removing the clothing, set to work with a box cutter stripping the skin from the skull, shoulders and chest. Removed in one piece, the only visible cut was up the back of the head. Leaving the body in a pool of blood and fluids, the automaton walked to the restroom where it washed the grisly skin and crudely stitched together the cut at the back of the head with strands of copper wire. Pulling the skin over its own head, the automaton massaged it around to roughly align with the eyes. The rest of the face fell roughly into place. While previously rummaging around the warehouse, the automaton found a bottle of industrial adhesive. This was now employed to more securely fix the skin in place on the head. The lips were glued shut and the eyelids sealed around the perimeter of the glass camera shields. The eyes would not be blinking.
          In life, Charlie Streeter was bald on top but wore a nearly shoulder length fringe of hair in back. This, the automaton braided and knotted, mostly concealing the crude incision and copper stitches. Charlie Streeter’s grubby tee shirt and outer clothes, pulled on over the skin, concealed the edges of the skin. Rummaging through the employee lockers outside the restroom, the automaton found a sweatshirt and baseball cap, a pair of shoes and some leather gloves. The automaton contemplated itself in the locker room mirror, and then turned away making one more stop to remove the starting battery from a forklift. The battery was wedged firmly on top of the pelvis of the automaton and more tape hastily applied to stabilize it. Wires spliced to the battery terminals completed the installation.
          Ducking through the hole in the concrete block wall, the automaton crossed the parking lot, carrying the tool bag in one hand. It squeezed through the tear in the chain link fence just as the morning sky was beginning to lighten. Once clear of the fence, the alien who occupied the white tile abandon sending the masking signals that mimicked the security cameras. The warehouse alarm began to sound.

          There you have it. Thanks for reading. Now, comments?
          Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
          ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


          • #6
            They want their Tommyknockers back!


            • #7
              Thanks Weston, I found it engrossing. I hope you'll give us the pleasure of reading the rest of the story.