for anyone interested and on Wattpad my four part short story Dark Horizons is now on Wattpad: Dark Horizons on Wattpad
for anyone interested and on Wattpad my four part short story Dark Horizons is now on Wattpad: Dark Horizons on Wattpad
This fourth part of the Dark Horizons story is the final part that deals with the aftermath…
Some time passed after the New Horizons flyby, on the whole things went back to normal. Eveyone had soon decided to get on with the original job, no one dared discuss the events of that day. Anyone that even alluded to it was met with critisism and told to shut it. No one wanted those people back and to be under scrutiny again. It seemed everyone treated it as a massive secret.
Many of the people couldn’t come to term with what had happened and disappeared, there were the odd random conspiracy theories posted online about a huge spacecraft discovered by the New Horizons probe. With no evidence to back this up, these were dismissed as another crack pot conspiracy theory. One of the most notable disappearances was Sarah. Serveral months after the flyby she had told Henry that she was going to visit some university friends in Chicago. Henry suspected she was going to take her stolen data to them so it could be analysed, he warned her not to. The discussion turned into an argument and she left in a bad way. Sarah never arrived in Chicago – her car was found deserted on a remote country road. A police search failed to find her and eventually she was listed as missing.
Henry tried to find the official called John Hanson and failed to locate him. For a long time no-one would respond to his questions. It was only when the state governor involved that that he was told “No one knows about John Hanson”
Henry insisted “You must, I’ve met him and I think he knows about the disappearance of my colleague”
“The man isn’t being protected – he simply doesn’t exist” Henry was told. With no futher clues to who he was Henry abandoned his attempts to find him and Sarah. He regisned his post, bu always wondered what really happened that day and all the days after. In hi dreams he never forgot the huge battered hulk of a spacecraft he and everyone else saw that day. Sometimes he wished it had been his worst nightmare.
New Horizons didn’t finish at Pluto – it went onto explore objects on the furthest reaches of the solar system… whatever they were.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved
This is the third but not quite final part of my Dark Horizons short story. I hope you read it and please let me know your thoughts.
It had been two days since the unwelcome intervention of the government official and his men. There were the five of them in total, The official and what seems to be his armed guards. The small man, who remained well dressed, but also had a rather eccentric casual look about him, the stereotypical image the media would paint of a scientist. Then there was the two others, they appeared after the facility had been locked down, they were unusually tall, not much under 8 feet tall and seemed to be slim, bordering on what would be underweight for most people.
Henry noticed that the two tall individuals never spoke to himself or his staff and instead spoke only to the official or small eccentric man. Henry was watching across the hall to the private room with peaked interest as they were having a four way and what seemed to be an almost heated conversation. He wanted to know what they were talking about, but he had other things on his mind. The two days since the official’s arrival had put everyone ill at ease, the mood was more melancholy and no one was speaking much, except for the basic functions of the mission. A mix a fear and suspicion had destroyed the team spirit.
The mission had been looked over by the official’s small scientist and presumably his tall helpers, although from what Henry could see he wasn’t sure if they were the ones really in charge. The whole thing was odd. It didn’t seem like they were really bothered with his people, sure they asked questions, but nothing in the questions was about security and no accusations were being made.
The good news was that contact had been re-established with New Horizons and everything was running smoothly., this was the one thing that everyone seemed adamant on was to see this mission through to success. The probe wasn’t transmitting now, during the flyby there were no transmission, when this was complete the probe would then transmit all the data that it had been programmed to collect. There were only a few hours until the images and data would start to come in. Henry was sat back in a chair, looking on at the official and the discussion him and his group were having. “What are they talking about?” he thought to himself.
“How much longer?” brought back from his thoughts by Karl’s question, Henry looked at the mission centre’s clock.
“Two hours and about forty seven minutes, give or take a few” was Henry’s reply. Sarah banged her head onto the desk, shaking her head and gripping her hair in frustration. “Damn I can’t take this much longer, I feel like I’m bored, locked up and nervous as hell all at the same time!” Henry smiled, for months the team had been so busy and all they had been doing was waiting for about twelve hours, the waiting was purgatory to these scientists.
“I know it’s hard, try and relax and think about something else” even as Henry said this he knew it sounded patronising and more than a little lame.
“Relax?” Sarah and Karl responded together. “You know what’s going on don’t you?” Karl replied with some irritation.
“No I don’t, apart from our mission, neither myself or anyone in here knows what this whole thing is about and believe me, it’s pissing me off as much as you guys. But what can I do? I’m hoping that once the data is in from the flyby that this will be over.” Sarah and Karl looked at him with doubtful faces, but saying nothing.
“I’m getting coffee” Sarah announced after a short and awkward silence.
“Mind some company?” Asked Heny, not really sure if that’s what she wanted.
“Sure” replied Sarah to the surprise of her colleagues “Both of you should come.” Curious about the tone in Sarah’s voice the both of them followed her, past a number of breakout area’s, people scurrying about in their jobs and many others, sitting there, waiting. They stopped at a breakout area one at the far end of the centre.
“Why are we way over here?” Asked Karl just as Sarah filled the Kettle and flicked it on.
“Hang on she said” Waiting a moment until the kettle started hissing. “You know I said I had filtered out a signal from the data stream of the probe right before it went offline a couple of days back?” Karl and Henry both nodded “Well I had saved the data to my pen drive just as these assholes showed up and I’ve been looking at it”
“And?” asked Henry, raising his eyebrows.
“It wasn’t naturally occurring, it looks like it was a signal that contained packets of data, sent at very high speed so it looks like a signal spike on first glance”
“You’ve managed to decipher it?” Karl asked with some excitement in his voice.
“Yes I have, but I don’t understand it”
“What don’t you understand?” Asked Henry
“The data, assuming it’s translated correctly it isn’t something I understand” At that moment the kettle finished boiling and clicked off.
“Keep this to yourself” Henry whispered, “don’t tell anyone”
“I haven’t, just the two of you”
“Good, let’s do coffee then”
Coffee was over too fast, for what seemed like an eternity, the wait went on. Endless small talk and coffee breaks. With the official and his people out of the way, they had nearly been forgotten as the excitement rose in the control centre. The din was raising and people were now retting ready to see the first pictures. Then suddenly, it was there. The first close up picture of Pluto, it’s reddish colour and mixed terrain of mountains, so close as if one could reach out and grab it. Once picture after the other came through, Pluto’s landscape in even closer detail, with what looked like rivers and vast canyons with no visible end.
The images changed to a charcoal grey, Charon was giving up it’s secrets too. For so long just a point of light in a telescope, now as large and plain to see as the Earth’s moon. Nix, Hydra all in close, up although not as close as Charon. The stunning views had everyone glued to the huge screens, at this point there was no other life or world outside Pluto and it’s moons right now.
Then it came… there was a gasp that rose from the watching crown and a short moment of chatter. Then stunned silence. The probe was sending back pictures of Obol, the new moon. Except it was no moon, An elliptical metal hull, puckered with all kinds of burns, impacts and a huge gaping hole from a blast that must have originated from within it’s hull were displayed before the disbelieving eyes of the assembled scientists. On the side there were clear markings from some alien tongue, never before spoken on Earth. The next picture closed in on on another part of the broken hull, Henry watch and was it his imagination – was that lights he could see? Perhaps the vessel wasn’t as dead as it first appeared. Whether dead or alive it was vast. Kilometres long, perhaps five kilometres, he wasn’t sure as there was nothing familiar to reference it to. Each new picture showed another part of a huge spacecraft that had been left, abandoned for who knows how long. Seemingly disabled after terrible event had battered it. Could it have been a natural event like a shower of space debris had smashed into it? Or was it a battle? If it was a battle where was the enemy that had done this?
Another dozen or so pictures came in, looking further along the shattered hull, one picture showed another huge gaping hole. The internal mechanisms, or what was left of them, clearly showing. The blast had originated from within the spacecraft, but it seemed clear that it had been caused by an external force. Perhaps this was a fuel cell or some kind, ignited by the fire power of their enemy. Then Henry saw it… it was unmistakable, lights were visible. Only small and not many. But towards the far end of the spacecraft there were lights. It seemed that it was still alive, even in some small way and perhaps harbouring some of it’s crew. The pictures that followed were of the spectacular canyons and mountains of Pluto, some of the images were of very close and fine detail it was in every way the the success that Henry and his team had strived for. But now, suddenly, it was eclipsed. Everyone stood in stunned silence as if they didn’t know what to do next.
“Amazing eh?” Came the voice of the official from behind him “I bet you didn’t expect that did ya Doctor Jeffries?”
Henry didn’t turn, he just looked on… “Was that what this was all about? Why didn’t you explain rather than make us all think we were under suspicion?”
“Would you have believed me if I told you? Besides, it’s not your concern doctor Jeffries. The images you have just seen you will not find anywhere in your archives. They’ve been very useful for my friends, they’ve been concerned about what happened to their guys for over twenty years” Henry turned to look at him, feeling neither fear nor rage he was still reeling. “What?”
“It doesn’t matter” the official continued, “needless to say this never happened, if I were you I wouldn’t talk about it, just forget it. Because no one will believe you, the only ones that will are the crazies that believe nearly anything or those that really know like myself and you won’t want me knowing that you’ve been talking about it.”
Henry looked on as the official’s guards rounded up all his team, Sarah who had been next to him the whole time looked at Henry with an expression of disbelief. “Go with them Sarah and keep them all calm” Henry instructed her calmly. He watched as they were all rounded up and the guards explained and threatened the team.
“So, this is where it ends” The official spouted out, almost jovially. We’re going to be going and I doubt you’ll see us again. You and your team will be allowed to leave probably a little after myself and my friends have gone.” Henry looked past him, the tall strangers were gathering some things and following one of the guards and the short, eccentric looking guy. Henry turned to the official with a knowing look. The official looked back with his poker face, totally unfazed.
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t shake your hand? I’m pleased that you’re going, I won’t lie and I would rather you went now, so I don’t have to even see you again”
“I have that effect on people” The official replied with smugness “it’s not my job to make friends”
“You’re good at your job then” Henry replied bitterly. “Just go, please get out” Henry turned away and listened as the official walked away. He smelled the burned tobacco as he lit up one of his cigars, puffing out clouds of smoke as he walked off and out.
Copyright 2015 Simon Farnell
No Ownership claimed on images
This is the second part of my short story about unexpected encounters at Pluto. I hope you like it and any feedback is welcome.
Henry hadn’t called into the control centre before he left, the missed calls on his phone told him something was going on and he would rather deal with it in a place where he could do something about it. Besides with the probe millions of miles away, if something was really wrong then there wasn’t a lot that could be done anyway. He strode up to his office door, hoping to sneak in before his was noticed.
As Henry turned he shuddered in shock. There was a man sat at his desk! He didn’t recognise him, he was serious looking, pale skin, his hair was dark but the greying lifted it a shade or two which also gave a little away to his age. He stared at Henry with is dark eyes, almost as if he was scanning him with them. Henry guessed he was some kind of government official, but what was he doing here? The man stood up and extended his hand in greeting, he allowed himself a small smile “Good morning Doctor Jeffries” His accent was strange, clearly had a southern influence but there was something else Henry couldn’t place “I’m John Hanson and I’m here on behalf of the government”
Still confused and shocked by his presence, Henry took his hand and shook it “Hi there, how can I help?” Not really knowing any possible reason why he would be here, Henry didn’t know the kind of answer he would get from his question.
“You really are doing a great job here aren’t you? I’m excited about seeing Pluto and you guys have made it all happen!”
“Yes, I’ve got a great team…” Henry tried to reply.
“The situation is this simply” John interrupted. Henry’s uninvited guest was becoming rapidly annoying, but at the same time his air of authority and manner only made him threatening. For the sake of courtesy, curiosity and for safety’s sake Henry stayed silent “we have a potential security issue and I’m here with a few colleagues to help you with this”
“I don’t see how I can help…” Henry’s bewilderment was obvious “How can anything we’re doing here be a threat to national security?”
Just then the door flew open and a young dark haired woman burst in, all five feet something of her “What are you doing Henry?” she demanded “We’ve lost contact with New Horizons!”
“Fucking hell!” Henry blurted out “I knew this would happen! How long ago?”
“Just over four hours ago”
“Lets have a look, I will be over in a minute Sarah” Henry turned to his unexpected visitor “If you will excuse me, I have work to do” Henry, flew out of his office following after Sarah as best he could, as a man in his nearly 50’s he was never going to keep up with the young woman as she almost sprinted to her terminal. As Henry got closer he found a small crowd around the communications consoles, as he started to push through the gathering made way for him. Karl was working away as Henry came up he looked up at him. He reeled off his report with his typical efficiency “I don’t know what’s happened, there hasn’t been an impact I know that much, there was no data from the sensors to indicate anything close to the probe”
“So we’re looking at a hopefully temporary communications blackout?” asked Henry earnestly.
“Let’s hope so” answered Karl
“Could anything have triggered the malfunction?” Henry knew all that could be done was being done and all that anyone could do was wait and see if communications were restored.
“We had just uploaded the data collection changes to the probe and we were running some tests” Karl Explained “All of a sudden we lost communication”
“That’s not all” Sarah interrupted “ Just as the communications went down we registered a spike in the communications signal. It was like a huge radio signal from somewhere in the locality of the probe was reflected onto the probe’s signal”
“Sarah you don’t know that…” Karl tried to add
“I know, but how else would you explain this” Pulling over her laptop Sarah showed a line graph of two radio signals overlaid onto each other, the small signal from the probe was dwarfed by a much bigger signal. As Henry looked over this a cold yet commanding voice from behind him brought him back from his thoughts.
“This is very interesting doctor, we need to finish our conversation now!”
“It can wait, there are no problems with national security at the moment and nothing’s going to blow up in the next few minutes.” At that moment Henry couldn’t care less about his government official, the project could fail and some kind of security nonsense wasn’t on his list of priorities.
“No doctor – I said NOW!” Half shouting at this point the official’s anger at this rebuff was clear. All the eyes of the assembled gaggle were on the government official, Karl turned round and with a rarely seen vigour confronted him.
“What are you even doing here and who are you? You know you have no right to be here so take your friends and GO!” Karl was shouting at the official, his face red with obvious anger.
“I have every right to be here and if I want to I will fire you and shut this project down doctor Drieger” Was the reply, this only enraged Karl further, he launched at the official, Henry tried to intervene holding him back while Sarah then tried have her go. In the seconds that followed was the chaos of the team holding back their colleagues while the officials’ entourage appeared, making their presence known and pushing off the angered scientists. Henry squared up to the official, both of them locked in a stare, almost daring each other to make the next move. Henry wasn’t quite sure what he was doing, he was a scientist and not used to this kind of confrontation, but he wasn’t going to him take control of it without putting up some kind of fight.
“If anyone tries that again” The official started “They will be thrown out of here and won’t see this place again” He threatened.
“You throw out anyone and I for one will walk right out and I bet the rest of this team will too. I’m not used to being treated like this and neither are they” It was all Henry could come back with without making things worse, he hoped that this wasn’t how it would end.
“I don’t care what you or anyone else here does” was the officials response “You will do what I and my colleagues tell you” The official looked around at the team and announced to them all “Please wait for your team leader in the board room, I have to make a few things clear to him that he will then need to make you understand”
“Go on, do as he asks” Henry insisted as they started off one by one towards the board room. Henry watched Karl giving the official a disapproving look as he walked off. Henry then watched the blinds pulled in the board room and the door shut.
“You have to understand me” the official started as he sat on a chair, lifting up Sarah’s laptop and handing it to a small man dressed in plain clothes “I cannot have a democracy in my line of work, people just need to do as their told, even if they don’t trust me or like what I tell them to do”
Henry watched the small man walk off with the laptop he seemed very interested in the data Sarah had collected.
“ What possible harm could we be to national security John?” Henry asked earnestly “We’re discovering new world and frontiers at the edge of the solar system.”
“Yes, it does seem odd doesn’t it?” lighting up a cigar the official made himself comfortable in the seat, now puffing smoke up into the air “But there it is”
“No explanation?” Henry replied. The official raised his eyebrows in an amused fashion.
“You’re actually asking me that? If I was going to explain it all I would have sent you an email and sat in my office watching all of this going on.”
“What am I supposed to tell my team?” Henry pleaded, looking for some kind of reasoning behind the man.
“Anything you like I don’t care, just make sure they know that if I ask them to do something that they do it” was his cold reply.
“Ask?” Henry added. The official shrugged his shoulders “If I’m in a good mood, it depends on them to a great degree”
“I don’t have time for all this now, but I’m going to make sure that my lawyer talks to -”
“Oh please don’t! I thought you were an intelligent man doctor Jeffries!” Henry gave up trying to reason in any way, it was clear he wasn’t going to win this he turned to walk to the board room.
“Oh, I forgot to mention, no one leaves until I say so” The official added “I’ve also made sure that no one is going to be contacting the outside world, except for the probe of course” Now seething again Henry clenched his fists and gritted his teeth.
“What the hell are you looking for?” another amused look and raised eyebrows came from the official, but not another word. Henry saw the small man bring back Sarah’s laptop, now folded and placed it back onto her workstation.
“ I suppose you won’t tell me what he’s just done?” demanded Henry
“You suppose correctly” The official blew a cloud of smoke into the air, got up and Henry watched as he made his way into his office, shutting the door behind him he saw the official pull out his phone and start a conversation. The rest of his men stood around, the bulges in the jackets clearly showing they were armed. Turning again he made his way to the board room, opening the door he went in, just as he was about to close the door, one of the officials men followed him in.
This is my first attempt at some semi serious writing – Dark Horizons is a short story about the New Horizons space probe and the discovery that was made that was totally unexpected. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome all comments on it. Other chapters will follow…
Dr Henry Jeffries sat back in his chair, thoughtfully chewing the arm of his glasses. Running through the checklists and requests for the last stages of the new Horizons mission, he could feel his eye lids getting ever heavier. The preparations for the flyby meant that he hadn’t slept for over 36 hours and the fatigue was catching up with him despite his growing excitement. As Henry was contemplating what needed to happen next a knock as his office door brought him back from his train of thought. He motioned for Fredric and Karl to enter, the door opened and they both march in chattering away, it seemed there had been some excitement.
“Henry, we think found another new moon” Karl proudly announced
“You think?” Henry questioned inquisitively, slightly confused, still shaking off the fatigue.
Fredric added “It’s very small, we’re talking only a few kilometres across and the shape is irregular too. If it was formed from the impact that created the Pluto system it could be a chunk of material thrown up that will give us a good idea of what’s inside Pluto. Or of course it could be a captured asteroid”
“There’s no risk of the probe colliding with this new moon?”
“No, but the probe it will pass very close” Karl reassured Henry. “We’re thinking about naming the new moon Obol” he added.
Both Fredric and Karl sat on the small sofa on the other side of the office. Getting up, Harry walked round an perched on the other side of his desk. Putting his glasses back on, he looks up at them, all chatter had stopped as Fredric and Karl waited for Henry to say what was clearly on his mind.
“I’ve just been going through the final actions for the flyby, the heading is now set and there’s no need for changes and the camera sequences are all set up, is that correct?”
“We would like to modify some of the camera and data capture sequences to be able to get a good look at Obol” Frederick interrupted.
“Can we afford the change? What if this this causes a problem or failure, we only have three days to the flyby” Henry responded with a concern brought by experience. He knew full well that changing things, especially at short notice was risky.
“I know we can do this Henry” Fredric replied
“Karl?” Henry looked to him, hoping he would air on the side of caution, but he knew too well that this was a slim hope. Karl nodded.
“We can do this, we’ve already created the program sequence, we just need the authority to give it to the mission programmers”
Reluctantly Henry nodded. “Ok, I would like this to be checked and done carefully, I don’t want any foul ups”
“But we don’t have much time…” Fredric intervened
“No, we do this carefully Fredric – no arguments” Henry didn’t like change and he didn’t like this, but even he was curious to see this new discovery and secretly was excited about it. “So it looks like you guys have some work to do, you better get on – I’m going to turn in, don’t carry out the upload until I’m back please”
Karl and Frederic got up “sure” they both agreed as they left. Henry allowed himself a smile as he thought how grown men can turn into little boys with only a little excitement. Henry walked from his office and down the corridor that led to the exit, as he passed a few of the other scientist they nodded and smiled, he replied in kind. One of the young lads held the door open as he left the building.
Copyright 2015 Simon Farnell
No Ownership claimed to image.