Ancient Whispers from Tomorrow
Click on image to enlarge.
by J. Richard Jacobs
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description: First alien contact. We've dreamed of what that may be like over a long time and several answers have been proffered. None of them have been as bizarre as this. None of them taxed the imagination as much as "Ancient Whispers from Tomorrow" does. It is difficult enough to take in the idea of coming face to face with something truly alien, but this book gives us a ringside seat to just such an event. Walk the regolith of Mars and see the "thing at North Head City." If you dare. Tina Tamran, Chief Areologist for the Martian Colonial Council at Ascreus Station, is heading up a group of scientists who have been sent out to a small crater north and west of North Head City. They are charged with investigating the sudden presence of an alien structure that sprang up there almost overnight. Where it came from and what its purpose is remains unanswered. It is known simply as "the thing at North Head City." Unwillingly tossed into the mix is Dr. Michael Baird of the Earth Allied Council's Central Command and World Astronomical League. He is known as Earth's foremost authority on Alien Contact Protocol and is largely responsible for writing the book on the protocols and providing the foundation for the WAL Accord on Alien Contact. He does not want to be on Mars ... but he was given no choice. That the Martians do not want him there, either, is made abundantly clear from his arrival at Ascreus Station and onward. It does not take long for him to realize that the less he tells his colleagues and enemies alike on Earth about the thing at North Head City, the better. The alien structure remains curiously silent and inactive, raising suspicions that its purpose for being there may not be so friendly. When it begins making noises and producing vibrations, fears and concerns mount. It fires a small sphere at Earth, then goes dormant again. A week later, another structure similar to the thing at North Head City goes up in a small crater named Bruce on Earth's moon. Tensions grow on Earth and the government controlling the Western Bloc of Earth decides, unilaterally, to do something about it. That proves to be a disastrous mistake.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2008 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: October 2008
17 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [264 KB]
Reading time: 153-215 min.
The first human Colony Preparation Teams made their marks in the regolith of Mars on the twenty-second of July, 2162--reckoned in Earth Standard Time. Little more than well-paid transients with no families, whose contracts kept them on-planet for periods averaging six E-years, the human Colony Preparation Teams represented a seedy lot of malcontents, rebels, and misfits working for a few Asian contractors and mining companies under the Earth Allied Council umbrella. The people they hired were those who had not much to lose except their miserable lives and a great deal to gain--if they survived. All of this followed on the metal heels of an energetic program of robotic shelter construction and provisioning that preceded them by sixty years, almost to the day.
The Earth Allied Council, a stressed East/West co-op, managed to entice a large number of those temporary residents to take the more dangerous deep canyon and polar assignments by offering large bonuses and shorter on-planet commitments. This part of the program made it possible for the governments of the Eastern and Western Blocs to reduce the cost of the overall project. Fewer survivors meant less pay to hand out at the end of contract terms. Those who managed to live through the experience--not many made it to the end of their commitment--went home after no more than four E-years on planet, depending on favorable windows, with enough credit to buy nice homes and plenty left over to invest in enviable and substantial retirement packages.
So it went, cycle after cycle, crews of eighty or so replacing returning groups of twenty to thirty. Amazingly, no one, during the entire process, ever counted on their fingers and noticed the discrepancy between the number of people arriving compared to those on their way out, or they mistakenly assumed that several out of each group opted to remain on-planet. There were some who did, but they were rare. Each new crew dug ever larger holes in the escarpment of Olympus Mons. Deeper and deeper they went, until the architects and scientists who directed the program--and all cleverly remained Earthside--declared the tunnels far enough in to provide for a maintainable atmosphere. The on-planet workers sealed the ends of the tunnels with massive double walls into which they built small and huge outlocks to allow for the movement of large, heavy equipment, the proposed railway and the passage of people into and out of the complex. The rails to the west and along the north and south sides of Mariner's Canyon reached completion shortly before the final walls went into place.
These gargantuan tunnels and chambers amounted to nothing more than the embryonic beginning; barely livable spaces for those who made up the manifest of the first of the coming horde the Mars Colony specialists on Earth predicted.
The MC migration gurus maintained that thousands, similar to the mass movement of people who flooded the North American Continent a few centuries earlier, would take advantage of the opportunity to leave an overpopulated Earth and carve out their niches in new ground. But no one saw the glitch in their calculations. The error in their prognostication proved embarrassing. They had predicted that mountains of folk, fed up with eking out a living on an Earth that teemed with too many sweating bodies, bodies that severely strained her natural resources by trying to keep up with their ever increasing demands on what remained of her bounty, would jump at the opportunity.
They simply failed to account for the fact that ordinary people, contrary to appearances, were not all that stupid. It didn't take much mental effort on the part of the expected pioneers to realize that the program generously provided them with an opportunity to endure the rigor, danger, and accompanying fear--fear that could easily turn to sheer terror--of a one-way voyage in unproven, take-apart ships. Then, at the end of the trip, if they made it, having the privilege of selecting one hundred hectares of stubborn, barren land to set up housekeeping in a place less secure than the ships that brought them. To top all that off, their home, more often than not, wound up being the same small, hemispherical pod they occupied during the trip out.
The result of that myopic and inept planning--the hallmarks of most politically controlled schemes--was a first Great Transfer of four hundred and ten hardy malcontents with major attitude problems, and program cost overruns in the high hundreds of millions.
One hundred E-years after that first Great Transfer, things settled. The main colony at Olympia grew. Its population numbered about five hundred recently arrived squash-bodies suffering varying degrees of shock as they tried to come to grips with the stark realization that the ads and MC hype had painted a grossly distorted picture of the reality with which they were confronted. To obtain a return to Earth permit required prodigious amounts of political pull that none of them possessed. A contingent of four thousand native Martians, the Mars-born, rounded out the population at Olympia--along with three hundred aging squash-body survivors from more recent landings.
The outer settlements and stations, populated by another three thousand Mars-born and a few hundred of the more experienced, adventurous squash-bodies, plus those who opted for real pioneer status by setting up closed farms in the deeps around Long Island in the Hebes Chasma and the far western plains, brought the total census to just short of nine thousand. That's when the thing arrived at North Head City.