My name is Adam Perrin; not that it matters now. I am not sure if there is anybody left alive on the planet, and if there is, I don’t know where they are. I am writing this memo with the last vestiges of power we have. In the hope that one day, somebody will find it and know what happened to the beautiful planet, - we called Earth.
Please let me explain what happened in the last few months, the information has come to me from various sources over the months we have been trapped in this cave, while above us the Earth was ablaze.
It started out as a dream and ended in nightmarishly catastrophic conditions that nobody could have foreseen or imagined possible. It should have been a wonderful scientific challenge, but it all went wrong and to the horror of everybody, very few survived the heat, as the planet burned away. My family and I have survived the last few months in a deep cave, only because we were sent away at the first signs of danger.
I was with on the beach with my friends Charlie and Pete, when Charlie said, “Hey, man, these ripping waves just keep rolling in; I've never seen so many at one time and so close together for so long.”
Pete called back from the comfort of his deckchair, “Yeah, Charlie, like tube city all the time, all that white water to ride. I've never known tides like these, dude.
“They've been like this all week, and it just doesn't seem right to me.”
“Oh, man, don’t go all nerdy on me again. It was too weird last time. Why don’t you just ride the tubes and enjoy them for as long as you can.”
The three of us were having a good time riding the waves; enjoying the sun;- sands and girls, what we didn’t know was at the time, things were happening up at the Fulmore Observatory that were beyond our control.
At the Observatory, the night shift was about to begin. Helen Moore, head research assistant, was on the watch and was walking over to the radio telescope, as usual, in search for quasars, black holes and other space anomalies. The night was just like the months before, and she expected nothing out of the usual to happen. Since graduating from Parkston the year before, all she had done was stare into the black voids of space and think, “I wish I had taken the Merryvale lab;-, instead of instead of looking into the voids of space and hoping there is something out there.” Walking across the floor to the telescope, she saw her colleague Joe Harker. “Hi, Joe, have we got anything happening? Or is it the usual nothing.”
Joe Harker was second research assistant and two years Helen’s’ junior. He looked down from the radio telescope where he had spent the last two hours and said, “Hi, Helen, nothing other,-that my ass has gone to sleep,” he laughed, although the humour was lost on Helen. She never could understand his earthiness; they were worlds apart, yet brought together by science and the search for unknown possibilities.
“Being serious, Joe, can I ask you a question?”
“Shoot, gal, you know you’ll get an honest answer.”
“Thanks, Joe. Have you ever doubted what we do and wished you had taken another chance, gone somewhere more exciting rather than stare into space for endless hours?”
“Hell, Helen, I get that feeling most weeks. Then I go out and see those lovely twinkling stars and think “This is right for me, there is life and adventure out there.”
“I get the feeling that I took a left turn, when I should have taken a right,” Helen said with a half laugh.
“Has that friend of yours over at Merryvale been telling you about all the new things they have designed to fight illnesses? Pay them no heed. We’ll make the news.”
“How can you be so sure? We been staring out there for ages and nothing is going on.”
“That is where you are wrong, missy. We just haven’t found it; that’s all. Listen, I know we haven’t seen eye to eye and you looks down on me, cos I didn’t go to a big college. That’s a fair deal. But I have been watching space since I can walk and I know there is a lot of stuff happening there. Okay, our work won’t get the huge grants that medicine gets, but our day will come and we’ll make the headlines. Believe me.”
“Thanks, Joe, I needed that to steady myself and I am sorry I treat you so badly,” Helen said as she blushed
“Oh, heck, Helen, don’t you worry. I might have grew up on poor street, but I got me a good brain, that's why I'm here and not at the mill,” Joe laughed.
“Okay, point taken, Joe. Now off you go and see that lovely wife and family you have before she comes for me.” Helen laughed at the thought of Joe’s wife Shirley doing just that.
The late shift started, much the same as usual; calibrating the radio telescope. Even though she looked down on him, Helen knew that Joe had few equals in the engineering field.
Not expecting much more than the usual white noise from space, where all the possible sounds converge into a mindless jumble of nothing, Helen turned to the scope, looking out into the galaxy, and wishing for something. Time passed slowly, so she decided to have a meal break. Coming back to her desk with her coffee and salami roll on her tray, she put them on her desk as she started to go through the endless statistics. She was half dozing, when she heard a noise that startled her. Getting up from her desk, she ran to the radio scope “What was that?” she called to technician June Marlow.
“I don’t know, Helen, we've got a strange bleep coming in.”
“Where did it come from?”
“We’re still trying to locate it; it was such a weak signal, we didn’t think it was there.”
“I heard a tiny high pitched ping. Can you tune into that signal?”
“If we hear it again, we can try to locate it.”
“Keep trying! This is important, June!”
The hours passed as June and her technical crew tried to tune the receivers in, just hoping for a slight ping. Ears were listening, and Helen was watching the radio beacons for a slight hope of spotting the location on the charts.
“What do you think it was?” June asked. “Do you think it could be a signal sent to us from space, Helen?”
“It could well have been, June. We’ve no idea who or what is out there.”
Could this be the breakthrough; that Joe had dreamed of all those years ago? Picking up the phone, Helen rang Joe’s house. His wife answered the phone. “Hi, Shirley, this is Helen at the observatory, would it be possible to talk to Joe, please?” The excitement in Helen’s voice was easy for Shirley to hear.
“Sure thing, I’ll get him; he’s just sitting out after dinner. I'll just call him for you. Hun, Helen’s on the phone and she sounds mighty excited. I think you'd better get here.”
Joe came back in from the porch and took the phone from his wife “Hi, Helen, what’s going on? It must be important, you never call here.”
“I don’t want to build up your hopes, but we might have something going on and I want you to be here, in case it becomes real and you can see it from the start.”
“Ta, I'll be there as soon as I can, Helen.” As he put the phone down, Joe called to his wife, “Shirl, they have got something going on and they want me in on it. You don’t mind if I go back?”
“Joe Harker, you have waited your life for this moment. If you don’t go and seize it, I WILL kick your redneck ass out there!” Shirley laughed. “Now go, afore I gotta take you myself.”
“Thanks babe.” Joe kissed Shirley, as he grabbed the jeep keys and ran to the garage. Jumping in, he gunned the engine and drove back to the observatory.
Helen put the phone down and was walking back to the screen showing the solar system, trying to work out what was going on, when the beep went again.
“Got it fixed, we are tracking it!” called second tech Paul Howard, “Vector 005674, strength 0.002, range about 5 light years.”
Helen looked at the screen, to find the co-ordinates. “You're sure on that, Paul?”
“Yes, ma’am, sure as I sit here.”
“I believe you, Paul, I was just checking. Because you know where that puts it, don’t you?”
“Sure do, beyond Neptune.”
“Is it sent or bounced back?”
“From the telemetry, it's bounced back. But…” Paul didn’t need to end his sentence, Helen did it for him.
“Yes, I know there is nothing that far out, that we know.”
“What’s been going on?” A breathless Joe called as he dashed in.
Helen called back to her friend, “Hi, Joe, a while back we picked a signal up from way out. Paul reckons it’s bounced, but it is so far out beyond Neptune and the signal is so weak, we can hardly get a fix.”
“If something is that far out is bouncing a signal. It has to be sizeable or we would have missed it with the signals.”
“Helen, come have a look at this!” June was looking at the screen and watching as tiny moons were dragged out of their regular orbits, circling the vector of the signal.
“That is weird! It seems to be creating a mini-solar system out there,” Joe said as he watched the small moons close in.
All eyes were glued to the screens as they watched the development of a mini-system. This was groundbreaking news.
“Here you go, gal!” Joe said slapping Helen on the back. “This beats the crap outta Merryvale now, don’t it?” he said laughing
“It certainly does! Joe, this makes all the months of sitting doing nothing but radio frequency counts a whole lot easier to swallow. This thing has gotta be big, as it has created a magnetic field and is gathering moons. How big we have no idea, nor what it is made of.”
“Keep on it, Paul.” Joe called.
“Got it, Joe,” Paul replied. “From our latest figures, it shows as 3.5 Earths.”
“You’re not pulling this ole redneck’s leg here, Paul, are you?”
“No, sir, that is as true as that I’m from Bronson. It is out there, 3.5 times bigger than us, spinning and creating a mini-system as we speak.”
“If it is that big, how have we missed it for so long?” June asked.
“As you said, Helen, we didn't know it was there and never thought to look. This was just a fluke signal, being so weak we probably picked it up, but missed it in the white noise,” Joe replied.
“What do you make of it, Paul?” Helen asked.
“I'm no expert, but I reckon it is solid. Although the signal was weak, it was harsh as though it hit something solid and was not absorbed. There was no deflection, so that probably means smooth surfaces.”
“You mean…” There was no need for Helen to finish the sentence.
“Yes, ma’am, like a large solid ball of something.”
“Has NASA got anything planned for the area? We will need to hitch up a link and see if we can piggyback a signal to get a view of whatever is out there?” Helen asked Joe.
“The latest reports are of an unmanned rocket going out, in a week.”
“I'll get the head of research to phone NASA; you just keep an eye on our friend for us.”
Helen picked up her phone and dialed Jake Houseman, the head of research. “Mr. Houseman, this is Helen Moore at the lab. We have found something, and I think you should come and see for yourself.”
“Calm down, young lady, what is it you have seen?” the aged head replied.
“With all respect, sir, you have to see for yourself.”
“Oh, all right, if it is that important to you, I’ll come over.”
“Believe me, sir you don’t want to miss this!”
Rising from his comfortable chair, Jake Houseman called his driver and waited for his limo to arrive. Wondering what could have got Helen so excited, “She is usually so calm and in control, this must be important and exciting,” he thought as he got in the limo and headed to the facility, where he was greeted by an excited Helen.
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you, sir, and very glad you could make it, but we need you to see this for yourself, before we can get an official go-ahead,” Helen said as she stopped for a moment in the rush of things.
“Okay, young lady, your enthusiasm has got my attention, where are we looking now?”
“Vector 005674, strength 0.002; the distance is about 5 light years, sir. There is an object, at our best calculations it’s at least 3.5 times as big as Earth circling in the area of Neptune and creating its own mini-system.”
“That is groundbreaking! How long have you been tracking it?”
“There was so much background noise and with such a weak signal, we missed it until tonight, sir.”
“How sure are you of your calculations, young lady?”
“About 85 per cent, sir” Paul added.
“What can I do for you now?” Jake asked.
“You can see there is something large there. We were wondering if you could have a talk with your contacts at NASA. Hopefully we can piggy-back some information, as we think they are sending some unmanned rockets into the neighborhood.”
“That’s right. Orbital 2 will go off next Monday. We can use its telemetry to get a signal back.”
“Thank you, sir, for your help.”
“You are welcome; this will shake everyone out at NASA!” Jake laughed. “They are always pulling my leg on research in deep space.”
Days went by and Orbital 2 went off on schedule. All eyes and ears were keen as she took off. After three days of endless tension, the first images came through. “Helen, we’ve got the telemetry back from Orbital 2!” June called, hardly believing what she saw.
“What does it show?”
“You’ve gotta come see, or you won’t believe me!”
“I’m on my way, June.”
As the Helen and June looked at the screen, they could not believe what was happening.
“Are you sure this is Orbital’s telemetry?”
“Got a fix and they are on course.”
“Shoot, you know what it reminds me of…”
“Yes, a ball bearing, 3.5 times our size and creating a whirlpool in the outer regions.”
Helen and June stood transfixed by the images from Orbital 2, the magnetic field pulling objects into the path of Orbital. They could hear the crashes on the shuttle’s hull, as she was being pulled closer to the object, then all went blank as it went through the electromagnetic field.
Paul was watching another screen. “Helen, sorry to take you away, but I think you NEED to see this NOW!”
Sensing the desperate tone in his voice, Helen ran to Paul’s station.
“Tell me, I am not having a nightmare, please!”
As they stood watching the screen, they could see the orbits of the planets changing. It was hard for the untrained eye to notice but for those trained, it was as obvious as a red flag in a snow bank.
“No, Paul, you're right. The sphere is changing their orbits and twisting their axes. The outer ones will hardly notice, but Mercury will be pulled into the sun and…”
“You don’t need to tell me, this will pull Venus in, too; then there will be solar eruptions and explosions, and from there…”
“Yes, we will not stand a chance, by the time the heat and shockwaves get here.”
As they stood watching, June and Joe came over to see what the panic was about.
Helen made a snap decision, as she said “I'm staying here. Anyone who wishes to go home, you can go now and may God bless you and your families. Before you leave, Joe can you send a message to all radio and TV stations telling people to get to the hills outside of the city, there are some deep caves and hopefully some of you may get passed this. If not, then all we can hope for is that somebody in the future finds our records.”
“I’ll get it out right away, Helen. Are you sure you want to stay here?”
“Yes, thanks Joe. Being a scientist and having no family left, I can watch what is going on now and make a record of the disaster; in case future generations can retrieve it and see how all the planet burned out.”
Joe’s last action at the observatory set in a motion an emergency plan that had been first been thought of back in the 1960’s when the US & the USSR almost came to war. Nobody ever thought they would see it put in action, but here it was. First the radio broadcasts and TV relays then the terrible sound of the siren, shrieking above the screaming people as they burned on the beaches and streets.
Down on the beach crowds flooded to the shores as the heat built up, and temperatures soared.
“Hey, Charlie, what's happening? We get hot summers, but this ain't cool, man, look at this.”
As Pete looked at his friend, he could see his skin burning. The heat was so intense that the skin was crinkling and peeling as he looked. “Man, like that’s horrid. What’s that sound, Adam?”
“That’s the siren warning us of some huge disaster, but what? The Russian wouldn’t bomb us they know it would be the end of everything as we would retaliate.”
Looking to the skies, Charlie noticed that the usual blues had turned to pinks and now red as the air became so dry it burned, “Whatever it is, you two had better head to the caves that we’ve talked about.”
Looking at Charlie, Pete said “Is there any way you can come?”
“I’m sorry, Pete you can see my skin is burning now and it is all I can do to stand up.” After saying this, Charlie fell to the burning sand; his last action was to wave us off.
“Okay, I guess we have no option now Adam,” Pete said, as the tears filled his eyes, “Let’s get back to the car and head out with the rest of them!”
“I have a better idea, Pete.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Do you remember our geology classes, and all the discussions on deep shaft mining around here?”
“Sure. But the nearest ones are about twenty miles away and we would never get to them. We would have to get across the city against the traffic.”
“That is my point, going that way once we get passed Hardway Road we are in the clear.”
“And all the other are stuck in the traffic. A great plan, let’s hope we can make it work.”
With the heat getting unbearable, it was all we could do walk the few hundred yards to my car. We got in and sat for a few minutes contemplating what was going on, and where it may lead. Then I said, “Okay, it’s all or nothing now, here we go.”
With the engine constantly over heating, the five mile trip across the city seemed like about thirty-five as the car crawled along. As we drove through the city Pete said “What do you think caused this?”
“From the intense heat and dry air, my guess is that this is from something beyond our control, and has nothing to with any country,” as I ended the chatter, breathing was becoming harder; the dry air meant no moisture in your throat. I turned on the car radio to see if there was any news, all I got was a mass of white noise, endless static on all stations, “that settles it, Pete, there is so much electromagnetic interference it has to be unnatural solar activity.”
Five mile from the city, we had to stop as the engine died completely on us. “It’s on foot now, Pete. We didn’t make the mines so we’ll have to take a chance on a cave.”
Looking at the hills, Pete said “I think I saw a small hill that may have a cave in, it is only a few hundred yards back, I can’t go any further for a while. If you can get there, go and check it out.”
“I can’t lose you too, Pete. It was hard enough losing Charlie back at the beach, the three of us; have been together far too long to end separated.”
“I know, but if you don’t get to the cave, none of us will survive and nobody will know of our plight so please go. If you can make it and get back, I‘ll be here. We’re together for all time in spirit anyway. God bless and may you make the cave, Adam.”
I knew he was right, but I didn’t want to leave one of the closest friends I had to die alone in this heat. I took one last look and set off, all the time my tired body feeling less like moving as the heat drained my energy and the salt burned my eyes. I reached the bottom of the hill and looked up; then I thought “For Charlie and Pete, I must get there.” It wouldn’t have been a hard climb normally, but with a tired body and lacking water, I barely made it to the mouth before collapsing and rolling in. How long was I there? I had no idea as very little light came through and I was semi-conscious most of the time with exhaustion.
Back at the observatory, Helen was standing alone at the screen, looking in horror at the tidal waves; earthquakes; avalanches and disasters happening in a total kaleidoscope of unnatural proportions. With reports coming in as fast as was possible, it was clear to her, the end was close at hand.
She watched as Mercury got pulled into the sun, creating such a sun flare that it drew in Venus. Waiting for the inevitable, as the heat built up and then the electromagnetic field blanked everything, she crossed herself and prayed.
Her last thought was “Our greatest discovery, brought about our end.”
The sun burned the skies so badly that the ozone layer was destroyed. All life lay in ashes above me. It has been months since light penetrated to this level and my eyes have become accustomed to the dark. If I did surface would there be anything left? Would my eyes now accustomed to the dark be able to bear the light?
I found some old cables and wires that had been thrown down here and jerry-rigged up a small antenna at the edge of our cave, in case a few stray signals could get through the intense electromagnetic field, you never know. I hope this record will be found one day. My battery is dying quickly and I have no power cells left, this is a final goodbye. Adam out.