Wednesday, January 31, 2018

II: Revelation

Dr Kelley made a brief pause and leaned against a tree.

"You know about my habit of keeping half-baked theories to myself. Although I would have liked taking some more time to work on this alone, these recent developments made me change my mind. I may suddenly perish anytime just like poor Ali did, and someone would need to continue my research."

"Now this may sound crazy, Morgan, but there are indications that this war is not... well, it does not involve just two sides. That is, the Scarpine and us along with our allies. I have gathered some evidence and one simple way to interpret it is that there is one ― at least one more side in the conflict."

The surprise must have been visible on my face, because Dr Kelley quickly went on.

"Yes! Isn't it crazy? This secret third side has not intervened yet, has not even revealed itself directly. But it is present ― possibly as an observer, or maybe looking for the right moment to join the fun. Also, I don't have any idea whether the Scarpine is aware of it."

"How do you happen to know about it, then? And only you at that?"

Looking for words, Dr Kelley sat on a small rock for a few moments before continuing.

"That's where the weird stuff begins, Morgan. I will let you take a look at the exact measurements yourself later if you want, but I'll tell you the essence now."

"Just like everyone else here, you're aware, of course, that we are eager to research as much of Scarpine's advanced technology as we can. That's why we have tried to keep plenty of clandestine sensors and various measuring devices near the hubs of Scarpine's activity, and in the battles."

"And it did help us a bit. If nothing else, we've learned the chemical composition of the Scarpine's poisons and biological weapons, of the materials they use for construction, and such things. Helpful, but nothing game-changing really."

"That is, except for the gravitational and dimensional sensors. Their noisy results, with tiny peaks not correlating with anything else, never made any sense whatsoever. Convinced something is wrong with the equipment, firstly I just discarded its results. After some checks and re-checks, it turned out that the equipment was just fine, so I started looking for some other source that may have caused these weird measurements. After a while, even those got eliminated, one by one. Finally, about two months ago, I was a bit fed up and had some spare time, so I chose to change my approach; instead of fixing these unexplicable results, I actually attempted to interpret them as such instead and see how far can I get. To my total surprise, after a few hours of analyses, these measurements began revealing patterns. Terrifying patterns."

Not waiting for me to ask the obvious question, the good Doctor went on.

"Rather often - say, in about half of all the fights against the Scarpine we have monitored, as well as around one third of the Scarpine's large facilities, bursts of spacetime ripples appear. Tiny ripples, true, far too small to be noticed without specialized equipment, but they are definitely there."

"My first impression was that we may be measuring some kind of a side-effect of Scarpine's weapons, particularly their energy sources. But I've dismissed that theory. Those ripples aren't just appearing. They... they move around and behave like an intelligent ghost-creature, a spectre curious about our business, spending some time around until the outcome of the battle becomes clear, then disappearing ― probably teleporting somewhere else ― and reappearing when something of importance happens."

"It has... at the lack of a better word, visited us even in our headquarters a few times when we had tested new equipment or discussed it. As a minute distortion of spacetime, it can, of course, travel through anything, probably at the, or close to the, speed of light. Its behavior suggests it can understand what we ― and the Scarpine ― are doing, at least on a general level. But I'd go one step further and suggest it may be some kind of a super-race we're observing, or an effect of its presence."


Monday, January 29, 2018

I: Prologue

Alice, Dr Kelley and I remained the last to stand next to the freshly closed grave of Alice's father Alistair. Poor old Alistair Veers, among the best people I have ever met, had ― as is already widely known ― lost his life few days earlier in a brief but disastrous Scarpine's assault on our base. This was, of course, a devastating blow to both our morale and our knowledge. Even if he had written all his thoughts down prior to his unexpected death, we had lost a brilliant brain nevertheless.

Alice was broken, still unable to cope with what had happened ― and believing that, by having extracted Alistair's knowledge in his dying moments, Scarpine actually dealt as devastating blow to our rebellious cause as it did to her person. As we had learned in those few days since, a portion of rebels agreed with her, while others were less pessimistic and convinced this would one day turn out to have been just a setback in our war - or better said, in our resistance - against the Scarpine.

Dr Kelley, for some perhaps unsurprisingly, remained rather stoic. He was shaken to an extent, admittedly, but I had a feeling he thought that the need to keep us all together and continue no matter what happens, and lead us cool-headedly in those crises, were of the topmost priority. And despite feeling for Alice and mourning the loss of my colleague from the glorious days at Blue Mega, somewhere deep inside I felt he was right.

The view was tranquil, and would almost have qualified as a pretty one in this suffering world, were it not for a grave in front of us. Some two minutes of walk from us, in a small yet well defendable underground complex, members of the resistance were still unpacking what would be our temporary base. There was no point in remaining exposed at our original location after the Scarpine's attack. At least, our damage-limiting strategy of having a secret "B" site always ready for any eventuality had now proven itself useful.

Dr Kelley subtly tapped my shoulder and motioned me to follow him. He slowly paced away to a nearby tree, leaving Alice silently crouching in front of her father's grave.

"We need to talk, Morgan," he began in his typical concentrated, focused manner. "I've been thinking a lot about this all, not just Ali's death, but the wider picture. He was a fantastic man, and I feel for Alice, but our cause, clearly, must remain greater than any one man's life."

I nodded.

"It is painful to admit, but we have got to face it, Morgan ― we're fighting a losing battle. We may win a gunfight or repel Scarpine's attacks, even damage their infrastructure from time to time, but then, they can just keep depleting our resources and pushing waves after waves of their military forces until we all die out. The only reason why they haven't done so already may be that we are, after all, just a minor world in their grand scheme, unworthy of their deep attention. Or they are happy to play a waiting game, which they have almost no chance of losing."

"So, if we are ever going to win this war, it will not be by just fighting harder and harder, hoping the Scarpine would be driven out someday. For heaven's sake, it is an interstellar supercivilization we are up against, whose resources we can, for all intents and purposes, consider infinite. I admit, we could perhaps hope to turn out not being worth the trouble and thus make the Scarpine abandon their activities on the Earth, but the fact is that they seem stubborn enough in every goal they pursue. I wouldn't bet on it, anyhow."

"Fair point," I replied. "So what are you aiming at?"

"I think we will need to change our approach. Using weapons, we can at best keep defending ourself, but winning against such a massive force will require something else. I am not yet sure exactly what, but I have an idea that may be worth pursuing, and I need to discuss it with you."

"I'm listening, Doctor."