Short Story: “Detection Lost.”

With the innovation that allows us to detect gravitational waves, new things will be discovered. Maybe………..

2052 AD The mission control room was silent. Everyone was watching the main monitors, as the last of the Cosmic Interferometer Gravitational Directional Array (CIGDA)nodes was to report taking its position. This node was the furthest out, at 80 million km. The other eleven nodes had already reached their position. The last a few hours before this node.

The feed the controllers were watching was almost five minutes in the past due to the distance light had to travel. Government and civilian officials were on hand besides the mission control room team. These worthies were up in the visitor’s box. Out of the way of those that actually worked but near enough to see when the last node linked up.

Doctor Tanya Hirano was extremely nervous, staring intently at Jay Garrett’s back. He was the Director of Node Communications, responsible for ensuring the direction finding system actually worked. From a technical perspective. Doctor Hirano was the brains behind the use of gravitational waves to detect space object movement.

The idea had been in Sci-Fi for nearly a hundred years. With the dream of detecting gravitational waves becoming a reality in 2016. All that was left was for refinement of the detecting method and for someone to come up with the means to detect things. James Grimm, a writer in 2016, came up with the basic method.

Many of the control room engineers were staring at Lena Romano. She was monitoring the communications from Node Omega, the twelfth node. She turned to Jay and smiled with a thumbs up. Tanya was watching and saw the signal. She could breath again.

Turning back to the assembled officials. “Thirty-six years ago, in 2016, detecting gravitational waves became a reality. In that year, an unknown Sci-Fi writer, published a story about using gravitational waves to detect interstellar traveling objects.”

She walked to the podium and looked back down at Jay to see if things were still going as planned. Jay, smiled back at her, nodded his head. She continued, “By creating a group of twelve receivers and linking them back to a correlation engine on Earth, we will be able to determine the direction of massive objects many light years away and smaller objects much closer. Additionally, we should be able to further identify and track objects much further out in our solar system.”

Jay turned back to his team and via the speaker in the visitor’s room, Tanya and the others could hear him. “Alright team, let’s sync them up.”

Everyone was silent, while the large viewing screens in the control room displayed large bars with each node’s name above one of the bars. Tanya turns down the speaker volume and turns towards the crowd, “We are now trying to sync each of the nodes to the core. The core, here in Tokyo, is sending out sequenced messages to each of the nodes. The nodes time stamp the receiving of these messages and then send back the resulting time stamp. They will do this a few hundred times until the core has a sufficient number to build the off set time difference between each node and the core. Once that is done a few time samplings of what the nodes are hearing will be sent back for further sync analysis. When the core believes it has all nodes properly sync’d up, then we will start recording what we hear.”

A military officer in the crowd asks, “How long will this take Doctor?”

“We should be sync’d in approximately fifteen minutes.”

A news reporter off to the side asks, “Doctor, is it true we will hear aliens?” A polite laugh from the crowd.

Not missing a beat, Tanya responds, “That was one of the questions we wanted to answer. If the aliens are traveling in large mass ships, at a high percentage of the speed of light, we should be able to detect them. If close enough.”

“How close Doctor?” Another news person. Everyone was quiet and interested in her responses.

“We estimate we can detect a million ton object three light years away. That would put it almost near Alpha Centauri.”

“A million tons? That is about 4 USS Trump class aircraft carriers.” Said one of the US Admirals in the crowd. All the news people were furiously writing down or speaking into their recorders.

One of the Chinese diplomats came forth. In an exasperated voice, “Doctor, do you really believe this is possible? My government believes this project was a waste of money and hearing this nonsense is further insult.”

Taking a calming breath, Tanya responded, “Ambassador Xi, the Chinese government’s position is well known. It has also agreed to wait and see what is produced before further comments. Correct?”

In the background, the display on the viewing screen blinked a few times. Before Ambassador Xi could respond, Tanya turned the volume back up, on the speaker, since Jay was talking. “…chronization has completed and now we are recording live data. The viewing screen will start to display all objects, as we get hits. Over time these objects will have their data refined when we detect more waves against them.”

The screen changed to a display of the solar system with large blips coming from all over the place. Every planet and the Sun had large blips over them, along with the asteroid belt. The Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud were large glowing rings of overlapping blips. As was most of interstellar space. The crowd was bubbling with comments among themselves. Even Ambassador Xi was excitedly talking to one of his assistants.

Tanya spoke over the crowd, into a mic, “Congratulations Doctor Garrett and team.” “Congratulations Doctor Hirano.” Responded Jay as the control room cheered.

Back to the crowd, Tanya continued, “Over the next few weeks we expect to have the solar system completely mapped out. The CIGDA Ring, as we are affectionately calling it, covers 100 million square kilometers. The closer an object is, the higher the frequency of the gravitational waves. The farther the object, the lower the frequency. Additionally, other characteristics tell us how massive the object is.”

The representative of the European Confederacy spoke up, “Congratulations Doctor, you did it. When will we all be able to get feeds off the data?”

US Admiral McKinley responded, “First we need to refine the data before passing to all the signatories.”

An argument erupted over the American attempt to control the data flow. Tanya looked at the previously happy officials, now in a heated argument over who gets the data. Shaking her head at the lunacy of these control freaks. The data should be for everyone, she thought.

Looking at the viewing monitors, How can you hold this data secret, it will benefit the world. The newsies were floating around the edge of the arguing officials, trying to get sound bites of the juicy, newsworthy comments and insults. The world had become more peaceful but just barely.

Watching some of the blips become more solid, Tanya was mesmerized by the objects. Let the idiots argue, they can not ruin my day. Looking down at Jay, she saw him smiling at her, shrug his shoulders and turn back to one of the engineers.

She realized the speaker was still on so the control room engineers could hear the bickering going on in the visitor’s room. She turned off the speaker, causing many of the engineers to look up at her. She shrugged her shoulders too, a few engineers smiled then returned to their work. The bickering continued unabated. You said, we said, we paid, etc…

It was the one blot on an otherwise fantastic day for her. She had spent ten years arguing for and selling this idea. Now, here it was. The tracks kept clogging the screen up with only a few becoming more defined. In time, she thought.

Then one track in the upper right corner of the map caught her eye. It moved. Things should not be moving this soon. Over weeks yes, unless it was a Near Earth object. She continued to concentrate on that object, while the crowd argued and the control room engineers worked their consoles.

It moved again!

Tanya was thinking, The team should be noticing this. Maybe no one is thinking of anything at this time. We all thought it would take weeks to clear up the pictures beyond the local planets. She looked at the station that was responsible for tracking fast moving objects. The person was talking to his neighbor.

She looked up again and the object was no longer where she expected. What happened to it? She searched around the region of the screen, finally seeing it as it moved to another spot.

Object 1321f1.

Quickly moving to a console in the visitor’s room, she started to enter her credentials. Some in the room stopped bickering to watch her. Assuming she will present a new view for them. Others continued the argument with gusto.

Getting into the system, she started the viewing application and entered the object’s number. The main view screen cleared away all the blips less that one. Which moved again. Now replaced with 1321g1.

The room was silent as everyone was wondering what this object was. The control room went silent too. Jay reacted quicker than most, knowing Tanya well as they worked together most of these last ten years. Also as lovers, she had told him her desire to really find evidence of aliens. He hoped she was onto something and not desiring to see things that could be a detriment for her future career.

He started to shout orders to the engineers to start recording and evaluating the object being concentrated on.

“Doctor, what are you doing and what does this mean?” Asked one of the officials.

Not turning around to see who talked, “This object has already moved seven times since we recorded it. It is close but not sure how close.”

Another person, “Could this be a Near Earth Object? Should we worry?”

The object moved again, 1321h1.

Seeing the speaker light, she turned on the control room speaker. Still not answering the speaker. “Yes Jay?”

“Doctor Hirano, preliminary estimates are projecting this object at 15 million tons and about one light year away.”

1321i1.

The object’s track was displayed and it seemed to be cutting across the inside corner of the Oort cloud. A few more tracks and it would be off the view of this screen. Tanya was doing the calculations in her head but wanted to hear it from the core.

“What is the speed?”

Jay turned to another engineer and as they were calculating, the object updated.

1321i2.

Jay turned to Tanya with shock on his face. Hitting the mic button, “It was traveling at approximately 30% of the speed of light. But it stopped.”

Noise erupted behind Tanya. Everyone was trying to ask her what was meant by that and what was going on. She tried to signal for quiet and after a few minutes she finally achieved it.“The number 1321 is the object number. The letter is the number of instances the track has moved around. We built the system to only update this when an object moves more than ten million miles relative to its last position. This ensures we are not getting crazy with the movement markers. The raw data can show us that later. The last number represents the number of waves we have detected the object at the current location. As you can see, this object was moving along rather quickly and then stopped.”

“How is that possible?” someone in the crowd cried out.

Shaking her head,”I am not sure. People please realize that we need to build up a knowledge base of what is being recorded. I can not truthfully answer with any degree of certainty.”

1321i3.

“So it’s probably nothing right?” asked one of the reporters.

Shrugging her shoulders, she hit the mic button, “Doctor Garrett, any additional information?”

“The raw data suggests it has decreased its speed to 10% of light speed.”

1321j1.

Over the next hour it sat in the J position, while the gathered officials and engineers tried to guess what was going on. Calls out to observatories, to governments and SETI were made to try and see if anyone can zoom in on the area and find out additional information. No one responded that they could. Discussions over the data feeds intensified as many of the governments wanted to the data so they can do their own analysis against other forms of data they had.

After another three hours, the data feeds were being passed to many interested parties. Other tracks were checked to see if any other objects acted similarly. Four and a half hours later, the object started moving again.

1321k1.

The crowd had only lessened a little. Everyone was trying to determine the import of Object 1321. No one really wanted to leave what could be a historical moment in the history of humanity and Earth.

Over the next hour, Object 1321 moved off the display. Tanya had the display expand further out from 2 light years to 4 light years. The next control room shift came on but the retiring shift did not leave. An hour and a half later, the object was listed as “Detection Lost”.

Many started to leave, many questions remaining unanswered. Was it a craft, a natural object or just some wackiness in the system? Tanya and Jay left that day, excited about what that might mean. How their system found that and the idea they might see more like it.

The excitement continued into the night in their love making. In the early morning hours, a satisfied Tanya, listening to Jay’s breathing, took in the view of the stars through the window. Her last thoughts before sleep took her were, I wonder why it stopped?

Around 5am that morning, a new object appeared near where Object 1321 held it’s position. This object was labeled Object 2912. It moved slightly over the next few hours but in the excitement of Object 1321, no one really noticed that Object 2912 came in to the solar system from a start point near one light year to near the orbit of Pluto. And there it sat.

Maybe the beginning of a new story?

 

 

 

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Published by

Jim

Living in Japan, the land of Anime, the Samurai, the ultra modern and extremely old. These contrasting themes fuel my worlds. Both the ancient and new meld together into worlds where super-powered school kids defeat evil; forest spirits help or fight humans; and giant, futuristic robots battle to save civilization. Where else to live for inspiration! A screenwriter and novelist living in the suburbs of Tokyo. A love of history, space and science in general and the beauty of life inspire his tales. He is currently writing an epic adventure trilogy about the downfall of Atlantis.

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