Authors: Raymond L. Weil
Mase let out a
deep sigh of relief. Things seemed to be going extremely well. He didn’t
realize how tense he had been waiting for the test firing. It was as if a heavy
burden had been lifted from his shoulders. As soon as he returned to Tycho City, he would inform everyone that shipments had resumed. That should quiet some of
the upset people on Earth. He would also make a quick call to Steve on Star One,
letting him know everything was back to normal with the mass driver.
showing normal,” Jase reported as he talked briefly with each technician and
the control officer.
“We will fire
a test cargo pod once an hour for the rest of the day,” Jackson commented,
pleased that the mass driver was now back in operation. “The first twenty are
all bound for Star One.”
get Star One back to full production on their Luxen orders,” replied Mase, satisfied.
Steve and he were close friends, and he wanted to ensure Star One was taken
care of before they resumed their shipments to Earth.
He knew that
several shipments of Luxen were consigned to be shipped to Tycho City over the next week. Tycho City shipped raw material to Star One, and Star One in
return shipped Luxen back to the Moon.
back over and nodded at the two. “No problems indicated. The launch went very smooth.
If the others show the same, we can double the number of launches tomorrow and
then return to normal launches the day after.”
replied Mase with a smile. “You and your people have done an outstanding job
getting the mass driver repaired and back into operation.” Turning to Jackson, Mase continued. “Tell all of your people they can expect a sizable bonus in their
“They will be
pleased to hear about the bonus,” Jackson replied with a grin. “Nothing like
some extra cash to brighten things up.”
The crew in
the Control Room looked at each other with big smiles. They had heard Commander
Colton say a sizable bonus.
Back at the
Farside array, Pierre LaRann’s chief assistant, Adam Strong, was frowning at
the data on his computer screen. It was showing a series of electromagnetic
pulses where none should be. It was a massive burst of x-rays and radio waves. They
had been scanning known pulsars and using them to calibrate the system. He
quickly double-checked the coordinates and his frown deepened. Adam picked up
his phone and called the technician in charge of positioning the array to
confirm what the screen was showing. There was obviously something wrong with
quickly confirmed the coordinates. Adam leaned back in his chair as his puzzlement
grew. He called the technician back and requested that the array be held in its
current position and focused on the coordinates on the screen. It took a moment
to convince the technician that the array was not to be moved. The technician
reminded Adam that those particular coordinates did not contain any known
his screen closely as data continued to come in. Twice per second, the
electromagnetic burst of radiation was being recorded by the array. It was a
pulsar where none should be. He knew that only a neutron star, rotating rapidly
around its axis, could create this type of radiation burst. Something wasn’t
right, or he had found a new pulsar.
several other technicians and requested that they begin trying to pinpoint the
exact distance to the electromagnetic burst. Adam knew that it was probably in
another galaxy, but he was surprised by its strength. He also contacted Andrew
Carnegie and asked that he double check the equipment, which was currently
receiving the data. This was too important a discovery to take any chances
with. He wanted to confirm that all the equipment was working properly before
he contacted LaRann. He was already wondering what he would name it since he
was the discoverer. He smiled briefly at the thought of getting to put his name
on the discovery.
forward in his chair and began studying the data carefully. He wanted to be certain
of what the readings were telling him before he spoke with Professor LaRann. He
knew that the professor would be excited about this new pulsar since it would
be the first major discovery made by the array. He also smiled, knowing that he
had beaten Pierre and LeAnn to the first significant discovery.
His phone rang,
and he picked it up. Moments later, his face turned pale as one of the
technicians reported that the computer tracking program had put the neutron
star at less the fifteen billion miles from the sun.
possible!” he spoke back to the computer technician feeling a little irate. “We
would have detected a neutron star at that range long ago. Your numbers have to
be wrong!” This was starting to sound as if it was a computer glitch or
equipment malfunction after all. He began feeling disappointed that this might
not be an actual discovery.
technician assured Adam that his numbers were correct. He had run them twice.
again!” Adam demanded, his eyes growing wide at the possible ramifications if
the technician was right. There had to be something wrong.
A few minutes later,
the phone rang again. The computer technician had run the numbers through
Farside’s main computer system. The results were the same. The electromagnetic
radiation source was only fifteen billion miles away. Not only that, but Andrew
Carnegie had confirmed that all the equipment was working properly.
back in his chair and ran his hand across his brow. He felt an icy chill run
down his back. If this source was indeed a neutron star and it was that close
to the solar system, it could pose some dangerous consequences. He began to
feel worried for his family on Earth. He no longer wanted his name on this
forward with a shaking hand, Adam put in a call to Pierre LaRann. Adam
suspected that LaRann would take a lot of convincing. Hell, he wasn’t convinced
himself even though he was the one who had made the discovery. If this was a
neutron star, Adam knew that life for everyone was about to change drastically.
LeAnn Kelly, and Charles Turner stared at Adam Strong in disbelief. For a
moment, they were all so shocked that they couldn’t even speak. Adam had just
repeated to all three of them the computer results from his scans of the
recently discovered neutron star.
can’t be right!” Pierre protested as he gazed at a computer screen displaying
the data. “You must have made a mistake in your calculations.”
scans of that area of space before,” stated Charles, shaking his head. He
wondered if Adam had been putting in too many hours and had just misinterpreted
the data. They’d all been working hard trying to get the reflector and the
array up and running. “We have never picked up anything in that area of space
before. There is nothing there. There can’t be! A neutron star just doesn’t
appear out of nowhere!”
insisted Adam, pointing to the data on the computer screen.
Pierre took a seat in front of the screen and began studying the data in earnest. The more
data he read, the wider his eyes got as he began to realize its significance. He
looked up at Adam. “You say you have double checked the array’s coordinates?”
Adam replied with a nod of his head. “That’s the first thing I did. I have had
the technicians and computer people double check everything. I even had Andrew
double check the equipment. We still get the same results. It’s a neutron star
where none should be.”
“It just can’t
be,” insisted Charles, looking at the others. “It can’t be a neutron star!”
Pierre leaned back in his chair, letting out a deep sigh of concern. He took off his
glasses and massaged his brow. Replacing his glasses, he looked at the other
three and then said. “The data indeed shows a neutron star at fifteen billion
“How can that
be possible?” LeAnn asked her brown eyes taking on a worried look. “How could a
neutron star get that close without being detected?”
star was almost inside the solar system. LeAnn felt a cold sense of dread pass
over her. She knew it could pose a significant danger if it came any closer.
Even at its present range, it could cause major problems with planetary orbits
due to the influence of its gravity. She found it difficult even to speak as
she thought about what all this could mean. LeAnn felt faint, and she could hear
her heart pounding in her chest.
cloud,” commented Charles with doubt still lingering in his voice as he looked
at the others. He just couldn’t believe what he had just heard. He knew LeAnn
was having the same problem from the frozen look upon her face. “It would have
to be composed of some very heavy elements in order to hide the neutron star’s
emissions. That’s the only explanation there can be. A small dust cloud that
has hidden this neutron star from our detection instruments all this time!”
“But we have
never detected a dust cloud in that area of space. If it’s that close to the solar
system, we should have,” LeAnn spoke her voice quivering in doubt. “It would
have to be composed of a lot of heavy metals and dense gases to hide a neutron
star. Even then, I’m not sure it could hide one.”
Pierre looked over at LeAnn and reached a quick decision. “Use the Albertson reflector and
scan that area of space. I want to know everything there is to know about this
neutron star and why we have only just now detected it. If you find this dust
cloud, I want to know its size and composition.”
and placing her hand upon her chest, she could still feel her heart beating
wildly. If there were a dust cloud in that section of space, the Albertson reflector
would find it. She turned and hurried off to begin moving the reflector so they
could scan that area of space. LeAnn still felt dazed and in shock over what
she had just heard. She had a younger sister on Earth. She was very concerned
about how this discovery would affect the planet in the coming months.
“Adam, I want
a communications blackout initiated immediately,” Pierre continued in a serious
voice, knowing this information needed to be controlled before it caused a
surprised. “A communications blackout? Why?”
communications blackout,” repeated Pierre, focusing his eyes on Adam. “I don’t
want word of this getting out until we’re certain of what we’re dealing with. I
want this kept on a need-to-know basis only. I want all the equipment
recalibrated and our top people working on this ASAP. Once we have confirmed
all the data, I want to transmit it to Star One to be analyzed by their core
computer; it’s the most modern one in existence. If there is a problem in our
calculations or data, their computer will find it. We must be absolutely
certain of this data before we pass it on.”
and went over to his station to begin the work. This was going to take some
time. He also needed to contact some key people and inform them to keep their
mouths shut about this discovery. He knew this communications blackout would
not go over very well with the people in the base. This was a civilian facility
and people were going to scream when they discovered their communications had
been shut off.
“What now?” asked
Charles, wondering about the ramifications of this discovery.
He was already
thinking about how the planetary orbits would be affected by the neutron star.
As soon as they had more data, he planned on running some computer simulations.
He had a feeling he would not like the results.
“Go help LeAnn
with the reflector. I want those observation results as quickly as possible. I
also need to contact Commander Colton and have him fly back over here. He is
not going to like this. I suspect that none of us will.” Pierre closed his eyes
and let out a deep breath.
It was all he
could do to keep his hands from shaking. He knew full well what the
significance of this discovery could mean. All of his long years of work might
soon have all been for nothing. His research into black holes now might never
occur. It was as if his entire world had just come crashing down. He opened his
eyes and gazed across the room, deep in thought.
confused as he read the communication that Linda had just handed him. “This is
it? LaRann didn’t say anything else?”
“No, Sir, he
was very short. He sounded extremely nervous over the com system; almost as if
he were afraid someone was going to overhear what he was saying. He just kept
reiterating that he needed to see you at Farside immediately.”
feeling worried. LaRann in some ways had almost sounded frightened. What could
frighten the venerated astrophysicist? She wondered if there had been a serious
accident at Farside. After the recent problems with the mass driver, they
couldn’t afford to have one with the array. Senator Farley would be all over
back in his chair and thought for a minute. He knew that Farside had been
calibrating the dish arrays. Not only that, but the Albertson reflector was
also in use. He had an ominous feeling that something had gone wrong. He hoped
nothing had been seriously damaged or anyone injured. What concerned Mase was
why LaRann didn’t want to talk about it over the com system. Why was LaRann insisting
on him coming to Farside?
sounded really worried,” Linda added with concern in her voice. “He seemed frightened.”
over at Linda and could see the worry in her dark brown eyes. “Contact Anthony
and tell him I need him to fly me to Farside immediately. The only way we’re
going to find out what’s going on is for me to go there.”