The Callisto Symphony – Chapters 13-16

Chapter 13

Jason’s height brought attention to certain of his other features including his large hands and big shoes.  But Jason felt it was just as interesting how small George and Lisa seemed.  Not one of the three of them had ever had the chance to size up another human; until of course, George’s recent meeting with Lisa.  Even the instructors seemed similar in size, with the only notable differences being subtle aspects of their frame that could be seen on the video.

Jason wore tan pants and a white t-shirt, similar to the majority of clothes that Lisa and George had in their wardrobe.  The only other articles of clothing they had to choose from included gray pants, and a couple other t-shirts that were black and dark green.

Jason’s curly blonde hair stood out to them.  Mrs. Epstein had sandy blonde hair, but neither George nor Lisa had seen blonde hair as light colored as Jason’s.

They had the full day ahead of them to get acquainted.  Jason didn’t bring much from his ship, and as they passed the Grow Room he casually stuck his head in and observed, “Looks similar to mine.”

Lisa suggested they plan a nice meal for later in the day, and then enjoy some of her special juice.  Jason was interested in sampling it since he, like George, had not experimented with fermenting.

Jason expressed the most interest in the technological aspects of Hendrix.  As they passed the battery and engine rooms, he noticed the split reporting screen, “What a smart way to do this.”  When BIM came walking slowly up, Jason reached out to hold him.  “He’s heavy.”

“He is,” acknowledged George.  “There are lots of parts inside there.”

“I call my system OptZ.  It sounds as though he can do similar things as BIM, but he’s not mobile.  He’s just a program I wrote that I communicate with.  I designed him to not only think just like me, but to also think completely different than me, if that makes any sense.  The idea is that when a decision is made, he will figure out why he agrees with me, but also why he might not agree with me.  So it helps generate a completely new point of view.”

“That must keep things interesting,” said George.  “How has it been working?”

“Pretty good.  I was going through stints were I would get bored on the ship.  I was tired of the lessons, and had already worked forward across the entire library of coursework to complete most of it in advance.  So when I would listen to the instructors, I would get bored.  OptZ helps me see things from a different point of view that I realized I would never understand any other way.”

Lisa was intrigued, “So do you ever listen to OptZ and change your course of action based on his ideas?”

“Yes.  Contacting you was an example.  I couldn’t be certain that you weren’t the Grand Master, or an affiliate of his.  I decided to do further observation before making contact.  But OptZ pushed me to make a transmission.  That’s why I hid behind the blanket.  I wanted to mask my identity just in case I stumbled into a bad situation.”

“We meant to ask you about the blanket.”  Lisa said.

“Yes, that must have been a little weird for you on that first transmission.  I think we’ve been presented a lot of information over our lifetimes.  I just don’t think it has all been accurate.  Take the gravitational field mapping.  Why would that data be incorrect?  I truly believe, the Grand Master just doesn’t know.  And they are mistaken about the Callisto Symphony.  OptZ has helped me by challenging my first opinions and observations.  It’s always better to be challenged so that you are forced to prove that you were right.”

“I never thought about it that way,” said Lisa.

Jason continued walking around the ship.  “This is almost identical.  I trust that Joplin is the same too?”

“In every way,” said Lisa.

They walked over to ACE, to which Jason was immediately impressed.  “Did you connect all those boards into one?  What a great idea.”

“I did,” said George.  “It was actually Lisa’s idea, and I wish I had done the same for BIM.  It would cut his weight down a lot, and maybe he could move a little bit quicker.”  They laughed as BIM stood alongside motionless.

It was lunchtime and they ate George’s fresh fruit and vegetables.  Jason found the food to taste better than his, noting that he had not taken much of an interest in growing.  It was instead a chore that he had to do to survive.

“I had even played with the idea of not eating for several days, but quickly realized the fact that our bodies need to be replenished on a regular basis.  I grew weak pretty quick, and then stronger, physically and mentally, once I began eating again.”

Lisa jumped in, “Don’t worry about the food.  I can handle that.  Between the supplies that George and I already have, we are pretty well stocked.  And we’ll get the next batch in the soil.  I know BIM keeps track of all of this for you, George.”

“He does.  We can establish a schedule for three people.”

After lunch, they brought up the ping backs from the blue planet, along with all the photos and videos they had.  Jason watched them intently, in further awe.

“I can’t believe all of this exists, just a couple planets over from us.  How did we not know?”

“It was part of what was made invisible or distorted to our view and our control systems,” said George.

“But now that you have removed your shield, how do you know that they can’t see your new location?” said Jason.

“We don’t think they’re looking,” said George.  “If the MANOOLA data remains consistent, giving them exactly the same positioning coordinates that they’ve seen every day for years, and it’s what they expect to receive, then there would be no reason for alarm.  I am a little worried though about once we begin to move.  We may want to try to hide the remaining ships that we leave behind.”

“It can’t hurt.  We will have the element of surprise, but we are going to be traveling for so long, that someone is going to notice at some point.  It seems inevitable, even if we appear to be just a satellite.”

“We need to work on figuring something out.”

Jason poured through the code on all the ping back transmissions.  He was fascinated by the huge numerical sequences being able to create an image.  “We need to keep track of the program BIM used to decode those sequences so that we can more quickly view the contents of future transmissions.”  On that point they all agreed.  BIM carried some important algorithms.

The afternoon was spent discussing life on the blue planet as they saw it through the video.  Nobody could understand the range of emotions and how quickly they seemed to change.  The happy moments made them smile, but the anger and yelling at one another provided a completely different experience.  The characters seemed to be in such a beautiful place, surrounded by so many beautiful things, yet would get very angry toward one another.  But then the characters would change and they would all be happy once again.  It was baffling to try to understand, and the more they watched the same video over and over, they picked up on more specifics in the video that made an explanation even more difficult to grasp.

They decided to put together a plan for departing their location aboard one ship the following day.  Tonight, they wanted to enjoy each other’s company, and indulge in some of Lisa’s juice.

She prepared a large meal, with vegetables, beans and rice, along with a new sauce that she wanted to try.  They enjoyed the meal, and began sampling the juice.  Jason didn’t like the taste, but started to laugh as he tried more and more.  Like George on his first sample of the juice, soon Jason felt that it was “starting to taste better.”

They sat in the living room, and laughed as they talked about their instructors and growing up on the ship, a similar conversation as to what George and Lisa had spoken about on their first night drinking the juice together.

“And Mrs. Epstein,” said Jason.  “She is so mean.  She’s like one of the people in the new videos we are receiving, the angry parts of the videos.”

“We felt the same way,” Lisa said as they laughed.

Jason was speaking loudly, “But most boring professor ever goes to…”

George and Lisa looked at each other.

“Professor Maule,” said Lisa.

“Professor Miller, no no Grand Master,” said George.

“Doesn’t count,” said Lisa, as she threw up her arms and they both looked over at Jason.

Jason’s eyes darted between them.  “How about…Kang.”  Laughter filled the ship, and it continued throughout the night.

Jason would later fall asleep in a chair in the living room while George and Lisa slept in their places in the bedroom.

 

They awoke the next morning to moaning from the other room.  They could hear Jason stumbling around and complaining about this headache, dry mouth and aching body.

“I have never felt like this before.  What is going on?”

He shrugged as he heard the news about the day after effects of the juice.  “I’m not sure I am up for a lot of programming work today.”

George encouraged him, “Don’t worry.  You will be soon enough.”

The three had breakfast and slowly felt better.  George decided that he was going to continue his work monitoring what he could see in the direction of the Oort Cloud, and label the potential comets that were released.  He wanted to be sure that there weren’t any others that Jason had failed to locate so far.  The big question was how many he should count?

“As many as you can,” said Jason.  “That’s the way I approached it.”

Jason and Lisa wanted to send signals toward the blue planet and see if they receive any more communication back.  They both sat down in front of ACE and Lisa explained how she was carefully trying the signal at various coordinates.  “It’s mostly static, but you never know.”

“We can be pretty sure that the blue parts we can see are the water,” offered Jason.  “Let’s make sure we don’t scan those but rather the areas of land like we saw in the video.  We need to pinpoint where those big buildings and all those people are.”

“That last signal came right from the edge of the land and the water.  I’m going to try to focus back on that area again.”

Everyone worked on their respective projects the entire day.  George was up to GH187 in his count, but Lisa and George had failed to make any additional contact.

They enjoyed another nice meal prepared by Lisa, and then spent much of the evening talking.  Jason was ready to speed up their departure, and he wasn’t concerned about an invisibility shield for them on the way in. He felt they would have plenty of time to develop one on the way.  His idea was to just turn the scrambling data back on for the other two ships, leave them be, and begin to head towards the blue planet.  He thought it was optional whether they should add more solar panels since the time savings, according to his calculations, would be pretty minimal.

George was also an advocate for leaving but he wanted to add the solar panels, and complete the cataloging of as many of the potential stray comets as possible.  He wanted to be certain that JC189 was in fact the Callisto Symphony, and confirm as much as possible that this comet was the primary worry that they should have.

Lisa wanted to postpone leaving until after the Callisto Symphony, feeling that the mission would be a complete failure without them in the event that they either misidentified what the Callisto Symphony was, or miscalculated the trajectory of JC189.  She also wanted to install the panels, and do what they could to make the journey as fast as possible.

“But Lisa, if we wait, then the distance between us and that planet will begin to widen.  It will travel away from us in its orbit, which will really slow down our overall travel time,” Jason argued.  “Part of why it is imperative we need to go now is because of the location of the planet in relation to us.  It already is starting to approach its most favorable point.”

“I know, I would just be more comfortable knowing for sure the dangers of the Callisto Symphony have truly subsided.”

“I don’t think we will ever be 100% sure,” said George.  “All of my data seems to back Jason’s data so far.  This is going to be a major cosmic event when it unfolds.  Perhaps our greater worry should be of our own ships getting hit by the debris?”

They all nodded.

George knew they had to work out a compromise, so decided to take the lead.  “How about this for a plan?  I will continue to log the comets and match them to Jason’s calculations.  I will go all the way to 400 just to make sure that we will have likely identified the biggest ones heading toward the blue planet.  If that data checks out, then I think we need to take the risk of leaving now; otherwise, we may be waiting here another eight to ten years for a similar opportunity.  We will work on further communication and invisibility solutions on the way.”

Jason agreed, “Sounds like a plan. Lisa, you can continue to work the communications system, and I will begin assembly of the solar panels since it sounds like we all agree to do that.”

Lisa nodded, somewhat reluctantly but it was clear she now felt more in favor of going then she had previously.

“Jason, let’s steal the solar panels from one of the other ships.  We should keep my spares aboard Hendrix.”

Jason agreed.  It would be much more work but it was the best option.  He could operate Hendrix’s Exciter himself to conduct most of the solar panel work.  They would begin the next morning with a target take off date of two days later, which would be June 30, 2015, nine months before they projected the Callisto Symphony would occur.

 

 

Chapter 14

The next morning, when George awoke to Molly’s ring, he noticed Jason was in the room with him, standing in front of the screen.  Kang appeared on the video screen and Jason began his workout.

He looked at George, “Good morning.  I stopped watching all of the instructor’s videos except for this one.  The workouts make me feel good.”

George smiled, rose out of bed and began working out alongside Jason.  “Me too, and it’s been a while.”

Lisa was in the kitchen pushing buttons on BIM to scroll through his historical data for any clues on the communication signals from the blue planet.  BIM was loaded with data, and it was organized rather poorly since George had programmed his directories so many years ago when he was still developing his computing expertise.  She was coming up empty handed.  Her idea was to go back to the original coordinates that BIM had traced in the middle of the night, refresh the broadcast signal and see if she could pick up more content.  It seemed like a long shot, but also more likely to work than randomly scouring tiny areas of the planet hoping for outbound signals.

After his work out, Jason prepped George’s Exciter by fastening a number of tools and bolt removers to the outer frame, which he would then access via the Exciter arm.  He felt he could accomplish the whole task without having to access the back sides of the panels, meaning he could do everything from Exciter, including the mounting of the new panels on Hendrix.  The wiring would prove to be tricky, but he decided to go ahead and get started.  He would just have to manage any issues as they arose.

George continued his observance of the comets as the number he counted broke the 200 mark.  He was half way home, and so far, JC189 (which was the same as the newly counted GH189) was by far the largest and most threatening.  But the projected path matched what Jason had outlined.  There were variables, particularly its burn rate, or how fast it began to disintegrate in the warmer environment.  But it was almost certain that even if its burn rate was unusually slow, which is possible given its size, that it would still be hooked into orbit around Jupiter.

The greater concern was that many of these comets would be pulled into orbit around Jupiter and it was inevitable that some would collide, sometime, perhaps with enough force to jettison a piece of rock into the solar system.  But there was no way to predict such sporadic and random activity.  And George didn’t think the Grand Master, or his professors, had gone to that length.  An event such as that would put the three of them, the three people who are tasked with preventing this catastrophe, at risk of a cosmic collision.

Lisa eventually found the data from the night when they received the first transmission.  She observed the input and realized that the data they received was much greater than what was projected on the screen.  There appeared to be large numerical strings of numbers preceding and following what she determined to be the code responsible for the video, audio and images.

But no one noticed this the first time they observed it.  Maybe BIM did, but couldn’t process the data so he skipped it to present the information he could process.  There was more here, and it was going to require a packet transfer mechanism either on ACE, BIM or the main control panel that could quickly receive, process and then output the data in a format they could comprehend.  This was the lead she was looking for.

Because BIM had decoded most of the data before, the program he used would serve as a good start to developing something with a greater range of capabilities, hopefully enough to read this newly discovered data.

Lisa backed through BIM’s programming code and discovered how he had assembled the data.  He had tried hundreds of thousands of combinations to find a program that finally rendered it in its final format.  Lisa wanted to observe how this program was structured so she might be able to manually manipulate it further, or run a second program with BIM and combine the two to discover what was coded in these numbers and letters.  She began the painstaking task of trying to match the symbols with the output to understand how BIM’s program worked.

It was mid-day as George crossed the 250 mark in his tracking of the comets.  He still had not found one that rivaled JC189 in terms of inherent danger.  He was growing tired of the cataloging, although he knew he had promised to complete the task.  And he would complete it; he just needed to take a break.  He walked over to the nearby window and scanned the area.  A stream of light was bouncing off Joplin’s solar panels and glaring back towards him.   As the light shone in his eyes, he thought about their mission, their new goal and the possibilities that awaited them in the very near future.

He thought about all the work they needed to accomplish that day, and how much progress they had already made.  He would likely have to work late into the evening, but he was going to catalog all 400 of the comets as he promised.  Lisa had really been cranking away in the other room, and he was excited to get an update from her.  But what about Jason?  He hadn’t seen him since the morning.

George walked to the opposite side of the craft to look out those windows.  He didn’t see Jason working on Joplin’s solar panels, so maybe he was taking them from his own ship, or moving some items over to Hendrix.  George didn’t see any movement around Clapton.

“Lisa, come here,” George called.  “I don’t see Jason out there.  Have you seen him?”

“Not since this morning.”

George raced to the other windows that had a view of Clapton.  He saw the solar panels hanging on by their wires only.  Then he noticed the connection manifold for Exciter dangling beneath the Exciter bay door.

“Something happened,” he shouted.  He raced to the control panel.  “Lisa, check the scope.  Are Clapton and Joplin tethered to us?”

“I don’t think so.  Radar anchored only.”

“We’re going to find out fast.  BIM, bring up radar.”  BIM moved alongside the control panel, plugged in and a map of the area was displayed on the screen.

“One new object,” said BIM as he flashed a red dot on the map.  Lisa looked down at it, and then back in the scope.

“I got him. He’s floating away.”

George fired up the engines, locked in the coordinates and began moving the spacecraft away from the other two.  Luckily they were not tethered and both stayed exactly in their position.

“Not too fast George,” Lisa called out as the craft gained momentum.  “He’s right up here.”

It took but a few minutes to find Jason and Hendrix’s Exciter.  They could see him smile through the window and his helmet as they approached.

“He’s going to have to hook on to us; we won’t be able to grab him.”

They floated Hendrix alongside Jason and the Exciter, but Jason didn’t make a move.

“He’s waiting for you to do something,” Lisa suggested.

“Really?  I can’t get him.  He has to use the arm to grab us.”

Jason continued smiling through the window back at them.  George and Lisa were a little more terrified by the whole event, wondering why Jason found so much humor in it.

Finally Jason made a move with Exciter’s arm and he grabbed hold of Hendrix.  He was able to grab two more bars on the outside to move closer to the Exciter bay which George reopened for him.  As he approached they could see the manifold torn off.  He had obviously snagged it on something and lost control.

Soon he was inside, depressurized and he stepped in Hendrix, still smiling.

“I was wondering how long it would take you.  I’ve been floating out there all day.  It was kind of relaxing.”  He laughed.

George and Lisa looked at each other, a bit confused by George’s lack of concern during a rather scary event.

“I can’t believe you’re so happy about it; that must have been scary,” George said.

“It was my fault.  Getting the panels off is going to be a two person job. I tried to do it all myself with just the two Exciter arms, but of course, I was trying to hold some wires out to pull from the ship and I ended up getting my manifold caught in the Exciter grip and I didn’t notice until it was too late and I had already made the cut.  And then I was loose.”

“And you weren’t scared?” asked Lisa.

“Not for a while.  I knew you would come.  But it took a little longer than I expected, so I was just beginning to get worried.”

They walked back into the ship’s main cabin.  George was shaking his head in disbelief.

“Jason, luckily we have two more Exciters left, and I can go out there later with you and grab the panels.”  Jason nodded.

As Lisa prepared dinner, Jason decided to help George with the cataloging of the comets since they were looking at ones beyond what he had already reported.  They found a few more that seemed like possible causes for concern but each time there was something that interfered with their course toward the blue planet.

One was JC314, or GH314 depending on who you ask, that they were able to determine would collide with another large comet upon entry into the inner solar system and split into many smaller, less threatening pieces.

George hoped they had these calculations right.  There were many variables, and Jason was an expert but they were counting on him accurately running the probability of different scenarios and outlining the most likely outcomes.

Dinner was served as they crossed the 355 comet mark; this was going to be quite the cosmic event.  At dinner Lisa shared information on the packet transfer program she was writing with BIM to decode the remaining communication symbols. George and Jason were intrigued and talked through the process with her, but neither had the knowledge of the program that she did at this point.  She was leading the charge forward on the communication front.

After dinner, Jason and George suited up for the Exciters to complete the solar panel removal and reinstallation on Hendrix if they had time.  With two people the process would be much faster.  As they departed down the hall Lisa called out.

“I’ll keep an eye out for you.  I’ll only let you drift away for 30 minutes this time.”

She continued working away on ACE.  The program was coming together quickly since she had started to match the code with the code that BIM had already decoded.  Soon, new pictures started to emerge. They showed the words “Lingdao Broadcasting Company” in a special font.  More photos appeared as the numbers were processed.  There were large satellites, big tall buildings, people sitting around large tables, photos of computers that looked much nicer than anything Lisa had seen before.

There was still one large packet of data that needed to be opened. It was larger than the rest and she wasn’t sure if the packet transfer program in its current form would be able to process it.  She started running it, and simultaneously worked on some updates to streamline the program now that she saw even more clearly how it worked.

George and Jason working as a team were able to quickly dismantle the solar panels from Clapton, but they realized that installing and rewiring them aboard Hendrix was going to be another project in itself.  They were able to remove eight panels which would provide a great boost in energy for Hendrix, and the panels would just have to be installed on the outside of Hendrix for the evening with the wiring to take place the following morning before they departed.  Room for the panels was tight, but Jason’s engineering expertise shone through as they were able to install them in a nice line above the existing panels where they would still see plenty of light and the wires would run in parallel to the existing panels making the connections seamless.

They completed the installation and pulled the two Exciters back into Hendrix’s bays.  After removing their suits they made their way back to the ship’s cabin where Lisa was waiting for them.

“I cracked it, well, most of it so far,” she said as she brought up the new images.

The group looked over the new images, trying to process what was going on in the pictures.

Lisa continued, “This is just the beginning.  I’ve found that certain pieces of data link to even more data.  It’s like a giant maze of information, all coded in vast numerical combinations.  My program can read much of it, but there’s more, much more.  It’s almost like a group of large databases all interconnected.  And I’m just jumping from one to the next.”

George and Jason were fascinated.  “Great work, Lisa.  This is amazing.”

They spent an hour discussing the images.  They were similar to what they had seen before, but each new picture was a lens into a different world, a world they soon hoped to know.

Later that evening, Jason and George pulled old wires from the work room and connected the panels to the main battery supply.  The battery power monitor acknowledged the new power sources, and now everything was set.  The additional panels added 33% more charging power to the ship, enough to extend their full throttle range by four hours a day, which would significantly decrease their anticipated travel time.

Jason and George were exhausted and fell asleep early that night.  Lisa stayed in front of ACE, unable to stop her exploration into these computer systems.  BIM was plugged in too and was constantly updated with the new algorithms as she created them.  She quickly discovered the code for links between the various databases, and found a tag in the code that appeared frequently.  It was called Reddit, and it appeared to be the source database for much of the content inside the Lingdao Broadcast systems.

Hours later she reached a point in the code that seemed to direct the system through keywords.  It was cumbersome code to translate but soon the numerical values were replaced by blocks of text, much of which was written in English. It was raw code that was well organized and very lengthy to process.

She didn’t understand much of what was listed under each directory.

One page read “TIL that an employee of the company hired to organize McDonald’s Monopoly game rigged it for 5 years. He also admitted to anonymously sending a $1 million game piece to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis.”

And then the next entry, “Probably the most biodiverse area in the world. Grassland, sandy desert, rocky cliffs and snowcapped mountains all in one frame. Shigar, Skardu, Pakistan [1000×667] by Yasir Nisar.”  This entry included a picture of a vast mountain landscape with little trees below the huge mountain, unlike anything she had seen before.

Her heart was racing with excitement.  She knew this was it, everything they had been looking for.

The source database seemed to be called http://www.reddit.com with subdirectories heading from that.  The only code she could find for navigating the databases was a search function that matched an entry with native parameters in the database.  She moved her cursor to that part of code and typed a simple entry for “mountain.”

A minute later the program responded returning the following line, “[Season 4 Spoilers] Premiere Discussion – 4.08 ‘The Mountain and the Viper’.”  There were no images and just a block of text that didn’t make sense.

She navigated to the search code again, thought for a moment about what to say and typed in, “I’ve never been to your planet.  Where do I begin?”

This again turned up a great deal of text that was largely indecipherable. She scrolled through the code but her eyes were tired and the excitement that had kept her going was starting to dissipate.

She shrugged, knowing she was close to a breakthrough, but she was unable to continue this evening.  She retired to her spot on the floor in George’s room.  ACE remained on with BIM plugged in.

As they all slept the screen on ACE continued to log activity.  It showed two comments, then 25 comments, then an hour later showed 1050 comments on the Reddit question she had unknowingly posted for the entire planet to answer.

 

 

Chapter 15

When Lisa awoke the next morning, she found the ship empty. This was the big day and she wondered where everyone was.  She was also anxious to get some time in front of ACE to see if she could progress in her communications project.  But she first wandered into the kitchen, grabbed an orange and walked down the corridor to the satellite and Exciter bays.

Sure enough, one of the Exciters was gone; she could tell by the way the manifold connection was wired that the missing one was Jason’s.  She walked to the nearest window and noticed the Exciter docked inside Clapton’s bay.  Through the windows she could see George and Jason inside Clapton’s control room, but she couldn’t make out exactly what they were doing.  They looked busy.

She finished the orange and anxiously walked toward the control room and ACE.  The screen had continuously refreshed throughout the night and she was stunned to see all the activity that had ensued.  The directory she found was growing in size and continuously feeding outbound updates, something she had never seen before.

The output underneath the text she had entered included character fonts mixed in with text, points and a timeframe.  It wasn’t initially clear to Lisa what this all meant.

[–]Gendalgoddess 503 points 3 hours ago

I’d start with porn and go from there.

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[–]FailedExperiment 147 points 2 hours ago

Drink some whiskey and watch Citizen Kane

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[–]horsecok2 124 points an hour ago

www.redtube.com

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[–]dingle_lover 7 points 37 minutes ago

Watch Planet Earth in its entirety, go to McDonalds, a baseball game and finish with a trip to Vegas

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[–]johova91 15 points 32 minutes ago

This is actually a good question.  If I knew nothing I’d want to learn about the beautifulness of the animals, nature and some man made creations, and not know about most of how society behaves nowadays.

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[–]TooSexyForMEESelf 23 minutes ago

http://youtu.be/bqpWGm7WrOM

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It wasn’t initially clear to Lisa what this all meant, but she picked up on one key word, planet “Earth.”  She had also been making mental notes on the consistency of the prefix “http://” in the structure of the output she was analyzing.  It seemed to be the main source for all content she was finding.  Everything seemed to expand from this single directory.

So she entered the string of characters toward the bottom of her screen, http://youtu.be/bqpWGm7WrOM.  For a moment, nothing happened, but the data seemed to be processing.  Then an image appeared; it was a moving image but the audio and video were coming in and out between bouts of static, rendering it almost impossible for her to absorb the content.

She waited and could pick up a lot of laughing so became interested.  She tried to enter the string of characters again, and this time it played with less interference.  She was stunned as she watched the video depicting what looked like two boys with one lighting a fire on an explosive attached to the other’s back end.  At the end of the video the explosion ignites and everyone starts laughing.  She was horrified.  Why would someone do that to another person?  And why did they send this video to her?

She clicked away, then reentered the term “Planet Earth” into the program, which returned a lengthy list of text, some with small images next to it.  The images showed the round planet, closer up then she had previously seen, and in vibrant color that accentuated the brightness of the blue and green.  It was beautiful.

Lisa found another string of characters related to “Planet Earth” and entered them in the program.  A new video began to play, shaky and inconsistent like the first one, but the content instantly brought a smile to her face.  She watched as huge walls of water moved across vast areas of blue and then turned into white wash as they slammed into land.  The audio lagged a few seconds behind, but it was even more impressive when she could hear the noise of the water crashing down.  The video showed creatures jumping in the water, some shooting water up into the air, and others massive in size meandering about underneath the clear blue water.

Then the video showed land; it showed creatures of all types walking among large plants.  Some creatures were large and slow, while others were small and fast.  Many ran faster than she knew that she could.  Among the large trees were smaller areas of moving water, some surrounded by extremely large pointy rocks.  Then she saw creatures that could fly and do so just by flapping their arms.  She heard the creatures shout, loud as they opened their large mouths and brandished gigantic teeth.

There were no spaceships, and there were no people.  She was confused as to the location of everything she saw and couldn’t stop watching as the video continued to play.  Soon a voice came on, following ten seconds behind the video.

“The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most interesting land and sea life in the world…,” the voice began as the video switched between small creatures walking on large spans of black rocks, and other creatures inside the water moving about in large packs.

She was interrupted by the sound of the bay door opening down the hallway.  George and Jason appeared, their arms full of computer equipment and rolled up wires.

“Lisa, meet OptZ, Jason’s creation.”

“He doesn’t look as clean as BIM, but I think you will like it when I get him installed.  He’s very intelligent,” said Jason.

“I can’t wait.   But you both need to come here first.  You won’t believe what I’ve discovered.”

Lisa reentered the string of numbers and letters that had brought up the Planet Earth video and it began at the beginning, playing slightly steadier than before.  The three of them watched in silence, mouths open, eyes big, as they learned about the blue planet, Earth.

“It’s called Earth,” Lisa said and those were the only words spoken for 30 minutes until the video cut off.

“Unbelievable,” said Jason.

“Yes indeed.  I wonder where all the people are though?” asked George.

“I did too, but they must be there somewhere else since you can hear the voice talking.  And somebody would need a video camera to capture images of those creatures,” said Lisa wisely.  “It’s almost like the people live on one side of the planet and the creatures on the other.”

“Show me how you found that,” asked Jason, as they all huddled around ACE and looked through the code that was growing more complicated by the second as it continued to grow seemingly uncontrollably.  She observed the text she had written on the Reddit program, and it now had 7834 posts under it.  Jason and George were stunned that she was communicating with people.

“You mean you caused them to say those things?” Jason was perplexed.  “It’s a written communication system?”

Lisa was excited, “Yes, that’s exactly what it is.  Some of the things that I read and saw are not normal though.  There are beautiful things like the Planet Earth video, but other things I do not understand.”

She moved the screen down to reveal more comments:

“Stupid question.  This is Reddit.  Post something interesting.”

“I’d show them the Alien films 1-4 so they wouldn’t mess with us.”

“Ya…and I’ve never stepped foot outside my house.”

“Watch MTV Cribs and you will think we are just a bunch of pimps, like I am.”

“How about just showing China.  They rule the world now anyway.  Just show a bunch of workers making iPhones surrounded by clouds of black smoke.  That’ll bring em up to speed.”

“What if there was one movie you could show?  Braveheart would be interesting.”

“Easy. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.”

“The Notebook, ha”

 

“This is amazing Lisa,” said George.  “You really are in the middle of this communication.”

“Yes, I just wish I understood more of what they were talking about.”

It was now mid-day.  They spent hours watching video clips and combing through more of the text that continued to update on its own.  It was becoming clear that Earth was a planet inhabited by both animals and humans.  They lived together.  Many of the humans seemed to have unpredictable behaviors.  Most of the videos and images they saw didn’t make sense, but occasionally some of the content would make them smile, and all the while, their desire to reach this new planet was growing exponentially.

They had fully charged the existing batteries, plus the additional ones from Clapton.  While aboard Clapton this morning, Jason and George had initiated its invisibility code and double checked his automated MANOOLA reporting data.  It might be the last time they see Clapton, and they wanted to make sure that its systems and reporting were in line for years to come.

Joplin would need to undergo similar plans, and Lisa was anxious to bring over the last of her items.  So after lunch Lisa embarked on a quick mission to Joplin, gathered her belongings, and checked her reporting.  She also turned on Joplin’s invisibility code.  When they returned to Hendrix, they checked the satellite data and of course the ships were not registered on the map, yet they could see them outside the windows.

George shook his head, “I can’t believe it took us this long to figure this out.”

Next George and Jason would install OptZ on Hendrix’s control panel.  They discussed building him into a mobile machine, similar to BIM, but then decided that since they weren’t leaving the ship anytime soon, it was really an unnecessary undertaking.

The plan was to travel between the hours of 8:00pm and 11:00am. At this increased rate, BIM projected that they could reduce their travel time by a third, to approximately two years.  He entered the gravitational field data into the travel path, but couldn’t determine its exact effect on their travel time.

“Try OptZ.  He likes it when there are unknown variables.”

They booted up OptZ.  A deep voice spoke, “Hello Jason.”

“Hi Optz.  I have new friends to introduce.  This is George and Lisa.”  They all said hi.

“Will they have command ability?” OptZ asked.

“Yes, please allow full command ability for George and Lisa.”

“George, please speak,” OptZ requested.

“What do you want me to say?”

“That’s good.  Lisa, please speak?”

“I’m not sure what to say either-“

“That’s good.  I have your voices recognized.”

Everyone looked at each other and smiled.

Jason continued, “OptZ, view travel data.”  BIM plugged in and downloaded the data.

OptZ immediately spoke, “Jason, this data is off course.”

“I know OptZ.  It’s ok.  What is the estimated arrival date considering the impact of all intergalactic elements over the travel time?”

“Processing,” OptZ was silent for a full 60 seconds.

“He’s a bit slow,” whispered Jason.

“January 15, 2017,” replied OptZ

“Bingo, we reduced the time by another few months.  We’re now looking at a year and a half,” said Jason excitedly, while George and Lisa smiled.

“Jason, I would not advise that you travel that direction.  It is not an area of the galaxy that we have studied,” OptZ said.

“You are right.  But that’s why we are going.  Please sleep OptZ.”

“Goodnight,” replied OptZ as the system shut down.

George joked, “He’s a little stubborn, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” Jason replied.  “But his analytical abilities are highly calibrated.”

“I think he’s amazing,” said Lisa.  “You must have written a pretty complicated program for him to run from?”

“I spent a lot of time on it.  But he’s still not right.  I don’t think he would ever make a miscalculation, but I like to double check everything.  Between him and BIM, we should be pretty prepared.”

It was fast approaching dinner time, at the conclusion of which they would begin their journey.  Lisa wanted to make a special meal to celebrate the commencement of their trip so she headed to the Grow Room to grab some fresh vegetables.

Jason walked back to the satellite and Exciter bays.  He wanted to make sure everything was secured for the trip since they had rather hurriedly docked up and parked their Exciters aboard Hendrix earlier in the day.  He also wanted to check the engine and battery wirings since they would be dependent on the system working perfectly for the duration of the trip, and the additional solar panels they added would be essential to a fully functioning power package.

George sat down in front of ACE.  He was shocked at the success they had with its communication abilities.  ACE was the most powerful machine he had ever built, and now they were connected to an entire communications system from a distant planet.

He scrolled through the text from Lisa’s post, and then back up to the top of the directory, pausing for a minute to think about what he was going to do next.  Then he typed “Connect with Earth” and entered it at the command prompt.  This resulted in a screen full of text and code that he began to slowly parse through, unable to make sense out of much of it.  But the process was so interesting to him.

He began to wonder how people on earth communicated.  It seemed so much was in writing instead of verbal, although the videos they had watched contained a great deal of talking.  He thought perhaps that more short term communication was done textually and longer term, or more planned, communication was done visually.  He could type something and instantly have customized text sent back to him from people writing to him.  But videos didn’t seem to offer the instant response.

Unable to garner any real value from the results of his “Connect with Earth” input, he re-typed the code for the Planet Earth video, and soon the beautiful landscapes and worlds of water filled ACE’s screen.  He began scrolling through the code at the bottom of the output, remembering that Lisa had mentioned there were often clues to other types of content strung at the beginning and end of the code that their programs didn’t immediately read.

In this case, he found a number of alphabetical and numerical strings that apparently had not loaded at the bottom of the code.  He began loading each one, only to discover additional video content showing new animals, and new worlds on Earth that they had never seen before.  Each video contained a voice talking about the creatures on the screen, and the voice continued to lag ten to twenty seconds behind the video, but George was enamored at what he was seeing.  He began a small database of his own, cataloging these videos so that he could show them to Lisa and Jason later.

Lisa called out from the other room indicating the meal was prepared.  Jason was the last to arrive at the small table, his hands dirty with what must have been grease from the Exciter bays.

“I got everything cleaned up in there.  It was a bit of a mess, and our travel velocity may have caused a shifting in our Exciters, and possibly damage them so I’m glad I caught it now.  Everything is secured.  We are likely going to need those Exciters later.”

“I think you’re right,” said George.  “Thanks for doing that.  I played around on ACE and found some more videos that both of you need to see.  The planet Earth is big, full of all kinds of life, and it’s amazing it all works harmoniously.”

“I can’t wait,” said Lisa.

“Sounds good,” Jason said.  “How about after we enjoy this great meal?  Lisa, this looks fantastic.”

“Thanks.  I experimented a bit.  I hope it’s good.”

Over dinner, they discussed their plan, led by George who put an emphasis on learning everything they could about Earth as they travelled towards it.  There was no objection to that.  They had plenty of time and an incredible amount of interest.  They also agreed to get back on a regular workout regiment, feeling that it was necessary for maximum performance of their mind.  Lisa wondered if they should be paying attention to the physics coursework that the Grand Master had introduced as important for their work on the Callisto Symphony.   Neither Jason nor George thought that was necessary, but Lisa maintained an interest in the idea, and decided that she might spend a few hours each day absorbing some of the material, just in case something was presented that would be compelling to their mission.

Each day they would monitor the battery and engine performance to ensure everything that operating properly and at the utmost efficiency.  A slight change to the power or thrust mechanisms could cause a delay in their journey.

Jason wanted to find a way to make them invisible to the satellites that might be present on Earth.  They all agreed that arriving undetected was mandatory.  Right now they were on the back side of Jupiter, able to avoid detection simply by their position in relation to Earth.  But this would soon change as their travel progressed and they would be more exposed to detection.  Jason would take the lead on developing a system with the help of OptZ.

“Just be sure to do that in the other room,” said Lisa.  “OptZ scares me.”

“I will,” said Jason sarcastically.

“And I’m going to need to carefully monitor the grow room, and the water recycling system,” said Lisa.  “We are going to be using more of both of those than we ever have before.  I know BIM can keep a log on everything for me.”

“Great.  And I’d like to continue working with ACE, along with both of you.  I think its computing power will allow us to do even more than we imagine, and we will learn how through our communications back to earth,” George said.

“That sounds-“ Lisa was interrupted by a dimming of the lights.  BIM immediately moved over to the video screen to switch the signal as the red lights flashed in the background. Lisa, George and Jason all looked at each other, worried their plan had just come undone.  They walked over to the video screen and the Grand Master appeared.

Chapter 16

“Good evening George,” said the Grand Master, dressed in a black shirt and black pants that made him appear more menacing than usual.  “This is a big night for you as I’m about to disclose to you the full details of the Callisto Symphony.”

George, Lisa and Jason all looked each other.  Jason whispered, “Here it comes,” as the Grand Master continued.

“Many years ago, George, many years before you were born even, an Astronomer named Jan Oort identified what he believed at the time to be the origin of the solar system in a spherical distribution of icy bodies on the edge of our galaxy.  And as you probably already guessed, I am referring to the Oort Cloud.  I know you are familiar with its location and its suspected role in the creation of the solar system, as well as it being the origin of many comets, asteroids, and likely even all of the planets surrounding us.”

Jason muttered quietly, “I think we got this one right.”

“Shortly before his death in 1992, Mr. Oort began secretly sharing reports of abnormal activity in the Cloud with many of the world’s most prominent Astronomers including myself and Professor Maule. Many leading authorities at the time thought he was getting too old for these complex calculations, and wanted to dismiss what he had to say, thinking he was raising unnecessary fears, perhaps as a sensational way to draw attention to himself and his work. The secret he was keeping was what became known to a small group of us as the Callisto Symphony, an unleashing of thousands of stray comets into our solar system from the Oort Cloud; perhaps more than ever before in recorded history.  We haven’t been able to predict the exact number of comets that are thought to have been released, but we estimate it to be several hundred.  We also can’t be sure about the exact date of their release, or expected arrival into our solar system, but according to our calculations, they will begin to enter the outer solar system around Feb 15, 2016 and they will become more of a threat shortly after that-“

“Wrong,” Jason mumbled under his breath.

“We are fairly certain that the comets will cause no harm to anyone in the galaxy.  But we are concerned about a couple of larger, more unpredictable stray comets not following the path we’ve projected, and they have the potential to impact solar bodies in our system, and therefore change the balance of the galaxy in such a way that we can’t be certain of its impact.”

The Grand Master paused and took a deep breath.  “George, this is the mission you have been trained for, and the time is coming to help ensure that the balance of our great solar system is not compromised by this cosmic event.  You will want to position Hendrix and two of your satellites to new coordinates that have just been sent to your control panel.  You have plenty of time to prepare but we want to make sure you are aware of what will need to be done.”

“We anticipate that two to three large comets may affect the third planet from the sun, either striking that planet’s moon or becoming stuck in that planet’s orbit until it burns down and then impacts it.  The results of this catastrophe cannot be predicted since we have no history of similar events to base our calculations on.  You are in a unique position to affect the path of these comets as they pass near you.  The safest strategy is to burn them down so they become trapped in Jupiter’s strong gravitational fields, or cause them to collide with Jupiter’s Callisto moon, which we expect will be in their direct path as the comets move through the solar system towards the third planet.  As you know, Callisto is one of the oldest moons in the galaxy with a strong lock on its orbit with Jupiter.  We do not believe the size of any of the projected comets would be large enough to displace it from its orbit.  So it is the perfect element to use to block, or at least break up, these large comets.”

“George, I know this is a lot of information to absorb all at once.  Please spend some time observing these comets, and planning your strategy for moving your ship into position,” he paused and peered right in the camera.  “Remember, we are counting on you.”  The screen went dark, and the lights came up.

“We were right,” said Lisa. “Just as we thought.”

“Indeed,” said Jason.  “Interesting how he doesn’t mention anything about Earth or the people or creatures on the planet.  We are supposedly saving them, but he doesn’t even say anything about it.”

“I thought that was interesting too, but overall this communication was important for us to hear, and the timing couldn’t be better,” George offered. “Now we know a little more of what’s expected of us, although I’m not sure how we are going to be able to leave tonight.  We need to figure out the positioning of the satellites.”

Lisa nodded, “Yes, I thought about that too.”

Jason appeared deep in thought.  “I wonder if it even matters?  Think about this.  We know that the Callisto Symphony is not going to be as disastrous as they do.”

Lisa interjected, “We hope.”

“No, I’d say we are pretty certain,” continued Jason.  “We are more certain about it not occurring than they seem to be about it actually occurring.  I find that interesting. But let me continue.  Let’s say that we leave tonight and do nothing more than change the MANOOLA data that we are already manipulating to put us at the Grand Master’s desired location three months from now.  At that point, the Grand Master will think everything is ready while he waits another three months for the event to occur.  Then when nothing occurs, or at any time they begin looking for us, it won’t matter anymore.  Our mission will be complete.  And who knows what they had planned for us after the Callisto Symphony.  Let’s pretend they wanted us to come back to Earth.  Then we will already be on our way.  See, it doesn’t matter that much.”

George agreed, “Makes sense.  It is really just a decision on what level of deception we want to put in place before we leave.  I’m not sure we need to do very much either.  But I would feel better if we had our own invisibility in place.”

“Absolutely, I am going to have that figured out very soon,” Jason said.

“I guess it’s a plan,” said Lisa.  “I’m a little more hesitant to leave so abruptly and I feel we are making some assumptions, but it does seem like the best plan for us for the long term.  I’m very curious to visit Earth now.  It is perhaps clouding my better judgment.”

George walked over to the command center, had BIM bring up the new coordinates from the Grand Master and then plotted them on a map.  It was instantly apparent that the new desired location wasn’t far from his last location, and even closer to where he was now.

“BIM, distance to location?”

“35 days.”

George showed little emotion as Jason pondered what message they would have received aboard their own ships, “I wonder if our coordinates are similar, or completely different? They had to know that if they got us too close we would eventually be able to discover each other?”

“That’s right,” said George.  “Both of you should visit your ships, download the data, change your MANOOLA reporting and then let’s compare the results.  I’m curious too.”

“Should we just do this in the morning since it’s getting late, or try to figure it out now,” suggested Lisa.  “There’s really not a rush, it will just push us out one day.”

“I’m feeling a little rushed now,” said George. “Let’s do tomorrow.”

Jason agreed, “Fine with me.”

“Well now that we have a free night before we go, I was going to mention that I have some fresh juice we could enjoy,” said Lisa.  “Who’s in?”

That night they proceeded to indulge in almost the whole container full of juice that Lisa had prepared.  Laughter filled the ship’s cabin.  BIM had been knocked over and was in the corner of the bedroom with two red lights blinking on the top of his head.  There had been chatter about playing around with OptZ too.

At one point George and Jason were pushing each other as they had seen in one of the early video broadcasts, each one trying to resistant the strength of the other in pushing them down.  Finally, Jason emerged victorious as George’s arm bent, relinquishing control to Jason who gave George a final push and caused him to fall to the ground.  On his way down, George struck his head on a kitchen chair.  He reached up and felt a small amount of blood oozing from the wound.

Jason’s face went blank when he saw the blood, but George continued to laugh, as Lisa rushed over to him with a towel.

“It doesn’t really hurt that much.  How does it look?” George asked as his eyes wandered from side to side.

Lisa had the towel wrapped around his head.  The blood flow was stopping, consuming only half of the small towel. “It’s not that bad George.  The bleeding is already stopping.”  George felt the warmth of Lisa’s touch more than the impact of the injury.

Jason stepped over towards him, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  He started breathing faster through his nostrils, trying not to laugh as George began to smile.  Soon the three of them erupted in more laughter.

“What’s so funny?” asked Lisa laughing uncontrollably.  The night ended soon after.  Their plans to turn on OptZ never materialized.

 

George woke up the next morning to see Jason standing in front of him again moving his arms up and down in correlation to Kang on the screen.  He heard George move and turned around.

“I’m ready to go today. Get up and join me.”

George’s head hurt and his mind was foggy.  He noticed Lisa was awake in the other room, sitting on the ground in front of ACE, typing away.  He slowly crawled out of the bed as his thoughts became clearer.  “This was the big day,” he thought to himself, joining Jason’s movements as he tried to remove all thoughts of the previous night’s juice drinking.

“Big day today George.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

After the workout and a quick breakfast, it was only 8:43 am. Lisa suggested, and the group agreed, that they knock out the travel to each of the spacecraft one at a time, and then regroup back aboard Hendrix to make final preparations for their journey.

Going to each spacecraft was a big undertaking but it went off without incident.  Lisa completed her work aboard Joplin and brought the coordinates back to BIM who logged them next to the ones provided by Hendrix.  They were not too close to one another, but after logging the trajectory of the proposed comet activity it became clear that both locations were on the same path overall, just several hundred thousand miles apart.  There was no doubt that they would be able to see each other in the new location.

“The Grand Master doesn’t care at this point,” said Lisa.

“Or, he figures that we can’t communicate with one another,” said George.  “Remember, we are supposed to only accept incoming signals.  We have grown accustomed to processing both incoming and outbound now.”

“The Grand Master’s plan doesn’t seem that well thought out.  How would he not have noticed that this would happen?”

“You have to think,” George said, “that this entire plan originated and was set in motion at least 23 years ago, maybe even longer, once they released the comets were released from the Cloud.  So they did do a pretty good anticipating how things would roll out.  And if I saw another ship in line for the trajectory of the comets near the time of Callisto Symphony, I might think it was the Grand Master, or the professors, or something else.”

“They made us too smart.”

“Indeed they did.  It should be fun when we finally meet them.  I wonder how smart they will be.”

“Me too.”

Jason had just returned from his ship.  Lisa and George could hear the bay doors shutting.  Soon Jason appeared.  “I’m all set.”  He looked at Lisa. “How did you plot out your course data for arrival at the new location?”

“I just set a consistent travel schedule of approximately four hours of travel a day which would put me there in about 70 days.”

“I thought you might.  I set mine to travel there as fast as possible.  Eight hours a day, projected to arrive in 36 days.  My location was the furthest out I presume?”

“Plug your coordinates in.”

Jason walked over to the control panel and entered the coordinates you had received from the Grand Master.  A red dot illuminated on the screen.”

“Yes, indeed,” said George.  “Looks like you’re the last in the chain, closest to Callisto.”

“And the space between us looks to be about equidistant,” said Lisa.  “I do wonder if us finding each other around the Callisto Symphony was in their plans or not.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that we would have, given that we found each other even before we were that close together and with the invisibility program complicating discovery even further.”

“I think we would have.  The question would be how or even if, we would be able to communicate,” said George.  “Jason would likely be hiding behind a curtain again,” he joked.

“That’s funny.  Be careful or I’ll knock you down again.”

It was now early afternoon and all preparations for their journey were complete.  The three of them were anxious for their 8:00 pm departure but didn’t want to leave early since they anticipated getting on, and staying on, a set travel and recharge schedule.  So they logged into ACE, with BIM and OptZ turned on, and broadcast the video signal from ACE on to the large video screen near the bedroom.  ACE was their connection to this new, larger, still mysterious world, and they felt drawn to it anytime there was a break.

George pointed out that in the code they were viewing it often used the phrase, “reddit: the front page of the internet.”  They were curious what this phrase meant.  Because the directory was named “reddit,” like “youtube,” they understood what that meant.  But the “front page of the internet” was more ambiguous.  Jason believed the “internet” referred to the name of the directories they were accessing, such as “inter-net,” which the other two agreed was probably the case.  The “front page” portion was intriguing because it seemed to be indicating that they were early on in the discovery phase, similar to the front page of a book serving as a preface for what’s to follow.

“If we are only on the front page, we need to figure out how to turn the page,” joked Lisa.

“We do,” said George.  “There are several directories listed throughout the code.  We could try to manipulate them to see what else it might bring up.  Much of the info we are getting from this directory seems convoluted and strange really.”

Jason stood up and moved next to the screen as George scrolled through the code.  He began pointing out all the subdirectories that were listed, looking for consistency that might indicate what they should try next.  “What about this one,” he pointed to a line of code.  “It seems like it has appeared quite often.”

“Let’s try it,” George said as he typed it into the top of the page, “http://www.google.com.”

The data transferred more quickly than before, delivering a short burst of clean, organized code.  “This is interesting,” Lisa said under her breath.

Jason, still standing next to the screen, pointed to an area of code entitled <Search Box>.  George didn’t hesitate and entered the word “Earth.”

The program seemed to turn itself over as it processed incoming code.  There was a small image of the planet from a distance.  More images slowly appeared on the screen.  There were links again to the YouTube directory; then small paragraphs of text, the first from a directory called wikipedia.  George moved that directory listing to the top of the page, and soon an entire story unfolded on the screen.  It was almost entirely readable text, surrounded by short bits of code.  Everyone moved in closer to the screen for a better view.

“Here it is,” said Jason.  “It’s the whole story written in an electronic book.”

“Let’s see what we have,” said George as he scrolled down the screen.  The text kept updating and updating getting longer and longer.  “It’s organized by year starting millions of years ago.  This is fascinating.”

Lisa interrupted.  “Wait, look at me.”  It took a second for George and Jason to focus, but they finally set their eyes on Lisa.  “What?” said Jason.

“I think we need to slow down and think about what we are about to uncover.  This is going to tell us everything.”

“Yes,” said Jason with a combination of rudeness and excitement.  “Let’s read it.”

“I think we need to realize that this could change everything.  We are going to learn about good things and bad things.  We already saw a few of the bad things in the videos with people arguing and fighting.  It is inevitable that it is going to have some effect on us.  Just last night you two were beginning to fight.”

“Move on, it’s not going to be bad.  The playing last night was just for fun,” Jason persisted.

“Let’s just all agree that we are going to stay who we are.  That we are going to stay together on this and on our journey.”

Jason had enough and threw up his hands, “Where I am going to go?”

George cut in, “Alright.  Lisa has a point.  So far, what we don’t know has been our greatest strength.  It made us curious just like we all learned in Mrs. Epstein’s classes.  And that’s how we found each other, learned so much about the Callisto Symphony, and have made it as far as we have.”

Jason looked confused, “I’m the one who cracked Callisto.  I don’t see what the problem is here.  Everything was fine a minute ago.”

Lisa responded in a gentle tone, “And Jason, it is fine now.  But we must keep our strength as we know it now.  I can already feel the impact of this knowledge now.  Every minute we have of free time, which used to be occupied with studies, or reading, or the Gamma Scope, is now directed towards this communication cycle.”

“And what’s wrong with that?” shot back Jason, his voice rising.  “Are we not all fascinated by this?  I thought we were.”

George knew he had to intervene.  “You are both right.  Everything that was said needed to be said.  But now that is has, let’s continue.”  He gave a firm look towards Lisa, who shrugged but reluctantly nodded.

It was now 3pm, and for the next four hours, with just a short break for dinner, the group typed in word after word in the search box as they learned more about the planet Earth.  By the early evening, their search terms had run the gamut of history, including “Dinosaur,” “Earthquake,” “Earth Map,” “God,” “NASA,” “Socrates,” “Mother Earth,” “Typhoon,” “Earth Moon,” and finally “World War II,” which was the most shocking of all.  It was discovery after discovery as they read ahead on the screen relishing in the vast amount of information and knowledge that was being presented to them.

They knew they had to stop for the day and prepare to begin their journey.  As they turned down the screen and Jason left the room, George looked over at Lisa, “You were right earlier, in everything you said.”

An hour later, they fired up the engines, and began their journey towards Earth.