Read Breakthrough Online

Authors: Michael Grumley

Breakthrough (22 page)

“So what happens if we destroy this thing?” Carr asked.  “Is there any danger of collateral damage here?”

Doctor Lawrence from the Department of Energy shook his head and adjusted his glasses.  “Not that we can see.  If we destroy the ring or damage it enough, we shut it down.”

Borger looked at Lawrence and then gave a worried glance to Clay.  “ exactly do we know that?”

Lawrence looked condescendingly at Borger.  “Energy is our business, son.”  He turned back to Carr.  “Mr. President, we’ve already run several scenarios based on the data.  There does not appear to be energy emanating outward which means the system, whatever it is, is self-contained.  Furthermore, the depth provides a heavy blanket of protection through oceanic pressure which means that even should the ring break apart the density and weight of the sea water around it would contain any explosive action.  In fact, given the inward direction of the water flow, any major damage would more likely be inward than outward.  We’ve looked at this from all angles.”

Clay looked back at Borger.  He wondered if these were the ‘experts’ that Stevas referred to before.

Langford spoke up.  “It sounds like we’re making decisions on some pretty large assumptions here.”

Lawrence glared at
Langford.  His large frame and posture indicated that intimidation seemed to be a specialty.  “Our assumptions are based on
data.  Unless your data is bad, we are confident in our findings.  Are you saying that you have given us bad data?”

took the insult in stride but did not look away.  “Given the holes in what we have had time to find out, our data is as sound as we’re going to get.”

Lawrence frowned and looked back at the President.

“If we don’t destroy the ring,” Miller said, “then we risk a glacial collapse that creates a tsunami capable of destroying everything and everyone within driving distance of the Atlantic Ocean.  And if we do destroy the ring, we risk a war with an enemy that we know nothing about, how many they number, or where they are.”

“He said there were 1,200 in their settlement.”  Clay reminded.

“That’s right,” said Miller, “but we obviously can’t take that as gospel now can we?”

The President sighed. 
“We need more options.  The two we have are not good.”

always diplomacy.” replied Clay.

Carr thought about it and nodded.  “Talk them out of it?”

Clay shrugged.  “Maybe.  We still don’t know why they’re after the water.  I think we should find out as much as we can before deciding what options we have.”

“I agree.” said Carr.

Miller looked at him.  “I trust you found Keister.”

Clay nodded.  “Yes sir.”

“Then go talk to him again.”

Stevas held up a hand.  “Before we go
in there waving a white flag and trying to negotiate, I think we might want to consider another possibility that they say
.”  He shrugged.  “Say whatever they are doing, they simply don’t stop, can’t stop, or refuse to.  Then what?  If it comes to us having to destroy that thing, then we need to be ready.”

“You’re suggesting the subs?” asked the President.

“Yes.  We send out the Tridents.”  He looked around the room.  “We get our subs either in place or damn close.  If nothing else, it shows them we are serious.”

Clay thought about his meeting with Stevas at the White House.  Stevas had wanted to destroy the ring, before they even knew what it was.  Now that they did know, he was even more eager.

“Admiral Bishop?” Carr said, turning to the Naval Chairman.  “You said previously that we had a couple dozen Trident submarines that could be in the Caribbean within twenty four hours.  Is that correct?”

Bishop folded his hands on the table when he answered.  “Yes sir.
Of course, the element of surprise will be lost, but we would be in position to act swiftly.”

“And it will give us more leverage.” added Stevas.

“Perhaps.  Or we incite something even worse.”  Carr thought it over.  What were the risks of actually starting an incident by parking some nuclear submarines nearby?  If they did need to destroy the ring, what would be the catalyst?  Waiting for something else to happen first in the Antarctic would be like closing the barn doors after the animals had fled.  They could not wait until a tsunami was already headed north.

President Carr turned back to Bishop.  “Admiral, launch the Tridents.  But I want them at a safe distance. 
As far from the ring was we can be but still able to act quickly if needed.”

Bishop nodded.  “Yes sir.”

Carr tapped the table with this finger for emphasis.  “And NO action or engagement without my orders!  Understood?”

“Yes sir.”

“Alright Mr. Clay,” he said.  “Go have another chat with our friend.”




Keister and Clay approached the holding cell underground.  With every step, their shoes clicked on the clean floor and echoed down the hallway.  As they approached the two armed soldiers outside the room, Clay looked at their M16 assault rifles and noticed their safeties were off.  He glanced at the gear they wore, including their armor, boots, and helmet types.  It was one of the habits from his time spent in the Navy SEALs.

The first guard looked them over and turned to his left.  He withdrew a security card with this left hand and swiped it through a small vertical slot.  The light blinked
green and the lock on the inside of the door clicked loudly.  The guard did not open the door, instead he stepped clear, put his second hand back on the rifle, and watched Keister and Clay carefully. 

Keister grabbed the door handle and twisted.  The thick metal door swung inward
and they both stepped through.  Palin was on a small portable cot near the corner.  He lay on his side with his back to them, un-cuffed.  Clay noted a small food table with a food tray and the remains of his dinner.  Interestingly everything looked eaten except the meat and cheese which was moved to the side of the tray. 

Palin slowly turned over and looked at them.  Upon seeing Clay, he turned and sat up on the bed, then stood and walked to his only chair.  He planted himself smoothly, waiting as they both pulled their chairs over to him.  He did not look tired to Clay, but he did need a shave.

Clay sat down in front of him and wasted no time.  “Where are you from?”

“I have told you-“

“No.” Clay interrupted.  “
are you from?”

Palin nodded.  He took a deep breath.  “Our sun…is a neighboring star to your own.  It is called Lalande.  Your planet is the third in your solar system, ours is the second.”  He stopped but then added.  “You cannot see it yet with your technology.”

Clay leaned forward.  “And why are you here?”

Palin did not answer.

“You’re not visiting.” Clay said.

Palin shook his head.  “No.”

“So why are you here?”

Palin furrowed his brow.  “You wish to know whether we intend to harm you.”

Clay nodded. 

Palin sighed.  “You are a lucky race.  Luckier than you know.”  He tilted his head
and asked Clay a question.  “Do you know how planets are formed?”

Clay shook his head. 

“They are formed by the slow accumulation of dust-like matter in a solar system, very large amounts of matter.  Some of that matter is ice which then turns to water as the planet forms and begins to warm.”

Clay remained quiet.  He wondered where this was going.

“You see, a planet with water is not rare.  But a planet almost entirely covered with water like yours, is.”

“Our amount of water is rare?”

“Yes,” Palin said, “very rare.”

Clay gave him a hard look.  “Why are you taking our water?”

Palin was taken back.  After a long pause, he said, “You have no idea how fortunate you are.  So much water provides such incredible resilience for life.  And you take it for granted.  You have so much that you pollute on an unimaginable scale with barely a second thought.”  He shook his head in pity.  “Your pollution runs much deeper than you know.  Much deeper than you will understand for a long time.”  He took another deep breath.  “A level of pollution that we could not afford.”

Clay looked at Keister who continued to scribble notes.  “What does that mean?”

“Our planet developed with water as well but far less.  It is precious, the single most important element for all forms of evolution.”

“And yet you had enough to evolve too.”

Palin shrugged.  “Until now.”

“What does that mean?”

Palin looked at Clay.  “Our planet is dying.  We have suffered a cataclysmic event which has vaporized most of our only two oceans.  We have had to turn underground for what little water is left.  But our ecosystem is near extinction, as are we.  The portal that you have seen may be our last technological achievement.  We have exhausted many of our remaining resources to build it, and to come here.”

“Are you telling me that you’re trying to save your planet?” Clay asked.

“We are trying to save our planet
our race.”

Clay leaned back in his chair.  Keister told him that one of the first rules was to not to appear surprised at anything.  Clay was
having a very difficult time appearing calm when almost every time Palin spoke he dropped a bomb.  They were not here to destroy us.  They were here to save themselves as part of some last ditch effort.  Of course, it was possible he was lying, but so far everything seemed to fit.  All he could think about was Stevas almost foaming at the mouth to blow them up.

“So,” he said, “you’re just taking our water...and that doesn’t strike you as

Palin shook his head.  “You have more than you need, more than you will ever need. 
Besides your polar ice caps are now melting to compensate.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Clay replied.  This time
Palin looked confused.  “You’re taking too much water, too fast.  And if you’re relying on the melting of our caps to compensate then we are all in serious trouble.”  Not surprisingly, Palin was not following.  Clay continued.  “We have had several quakes in our south pole which has destabilized giant areas of an ice shelf.  The water level has dropped enough to cause a shift in pressure which is about to result in a tsunami that will kill millions of people.”

Palin considered what he said.  He thought about it for a long time before answering.  “We’re not stealing your water.”

Clay smirked.  “Then what do you call it?”

Palin gave him an almost puzzled look.  “If you have more than enough, should you not give it?”

Clay opened his eyes wide with disbelief.  “Not at the cost of millions of lives.”

tsunami will not kill everyone.  Most will survive, will they not?”

“Yes but-”

“Is it not better to save both races than let one perish?”  Palin asked. 

Clay shook his head incredulously.  “This is not a business transaction.”

“History, for both of our worlds, is filled with millions and millions of meaningless deaths.  Wars over lands or resources that later meant nothing.  The worst over religious beliefs which were nothing more than emotional ideas being systematically forced onto others.  Humans, both of us, have given much less thought and value to life than my people are doing now.”

Palin’s reference to humans struck Clay oddly.  “You said humans as in both of us.  I still don’t understand, how can you be human yet from a different planet?”

Palin sighed.  “Do you remember when I told you about the cycles within carbon?”


“The process of evolution is not random.  Everything is determined by certain limits or preferences and evolution is no different.  Carbon, like all elements, has its own characteristics which means that it will react uniquely to a force placed upon it.  When the force is evolution, carbon has tendencies, call them “paths of least resistance”.  This means that over time, those tendencies within carbon will lean toward certain types of biological structures and designs which prove practical.  Again, things like hands and feet, eyes and ears, brains, muscles, and fingers, are all practical assets to furthering the process.  This is one reason we look alike.”

“Just one reason?” Clay asked.

Palin smiled.  “Yes.  The second reason and perhaps the most important, is where the elements came from that created us, our solar systems, our planets, even our soil and air.  These elements are all released when a star explodes, and the result is the end of the fusion process within that star.  My point is that when the star explodes, it scatters these elements over a great distance, including the same amino acids.  You see the reason we are so similar is because it was a giant explosion that fertilized both of our solar systems with the same elements.  We were created by the same atomic building blocks.  This, along with carbon’s natural tendencies during evolution is why we are so very similar.”  Palin leaned forward in his chair.  “Mr. Clay, we are your evolutionary
brothers and sisters

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