Chapter 11: Disaster upon Arrival

Because all powers have failed, my transporter is now coasting on inertia. The gravitational pull ensures that I am on a parabolic path to somewhere but it most likely will overshoot David’s house. So at some point I will have to say good bye to my good old transporter and jettison out and parachute down to the destination.

What will happen to my transporter? I don’t know. I had it for almost 15 years so it has seen a large part of my life. These transporters from work are tracked by the insurance company in case of emergency failure like this one. So most likely they are already sending out emergency vehicles to intercept the transporter before it crashes to the ground. It is more about the casualties the vehicle might cause rather than the vehicle itself.

Many minutes have passed and I can see the destination at a distance. I gather my belongings in a satchel and get ready for the jump. I punched in the longitude and latitude into my handheld computer. It calculates the time to jettison and starts the count down. 3 minutes…..2 minutes…..1 minute….30 seconds…10 seconds…9…8…7…6…5….4….3….2….1….I manually pulled the jettison trigger and I was sent high up into the thin air. The parachute opened properly and I started my long descend toward David’s house.

David is sharp as ever and saw me coming in style from far above and so was very kind to flash a red signal so I would know where to land. And land I did, although my knees didn’t like it very much. It has been a while since I had to do this.

David welcomed me with a big hug but Mel has not arrived yet. That’s okay. He is typically late. But behind us the scene is a little more of a surprise. David’s house is completely transformed. The house has a strange dark shade to it making it look like a haunted house.

“David, what happened to your house?,” I ask. “Why did it take you so long to call me about Brutus?”

“Amelio, I should ask you what happened to your transporter?,” David says. “Strange things are happening, Amelio. Very strange things,” he continues. “After I found out that Brutus disappeared, I looked for him around the neighborhood. When I returned to my house, it has been transformed to what you see here.”

“Have you seen the inside of it? Is it still the same?” I ask. “Well, I attempted to go inside but the doors won’t budge and the mold on the exterior creeps. It scares the ()**$(*()%3 out of me,” David recalls. “I think the house is alive,” he added.

I gave him a blank stare. Alive? He must be joking. How can a house be alive? “What make you think so?” “See how it is devouring the edges of the property? Slowly but surely. It is alive, Amelio” “So why didn’t you call me at a neighbors house?”

“Amelio, the neighbors have all disappeared!” exclaimed David.

“Disappeared? And you and your kid are the only one left?”

“That’s right. I don’t know why? It took me a long time to locate a communicator to call you.”

“Where’s that glyph that you showed me?”

“Here it is.”

David handed me the glyph. Sure enough, it is an ancient glyph from Earth. But around that glyph are some drawings of animals that I am vaguely familiar. Off to the upper right region of the paper is a picture of big dipper. Although we are on beta Geminorium b, light years away from Earth, the big dipper is only slightly distorted in our sky. So I can recognize that.

“David, Mel know someone who can read this glyph. Let’s solve that first. Then we figure out what happened to Brutus, your house, neighbors, my transporters and everything else.”

“Sounds like a plan, Amelio.”

“Can I borrow the communicator? I need to call my wife.”

Chapter 10: I am a projector


Several minutes passed. Because one engine is out, the time to get to David’s place doubles so there was still about 20 minutes left. I looked out the side window toward the ground. I could see clearly the various patches of habitations and the network of roads. My present altitude had risen to about 1000 feet and heading north northwest.
The analyzer had been busy reloading the system codes to the transporter but was unable to reload the engine code. I press a button to have the analyzer skip the engine code and continue to load other sections while I think about what might have caused the problem.
After all other codes were loaded, I tried a complete reboot. Now, the engine system is still infected with the virus but the analyzer has completely isolated it so there was no way for it to spread. I turned off all the power to the vehicle for several seconds.
The transporter coasted as the engine shuts down. I let it coast for several more second and then pressed the ignition button again for a complete reboot of the vehicle. After I pressed the button, the one working engine rebooted fine. But when I pressed the analyzer again for engine code reload, lights on the dashboard started blinking. First was the emergency lights, then temperature indicators…soon the whole board was blinking…this transporter is way too old, I think to myself. With the lights all blinking, the transporter suddenly jerks and the power systems all fail.
It can’t get any worse than this. And it looks like I have to coast all the way to David’s house.
So the transporter is now on the list of casualties for this morning.

As the transporter now coasts toward the destination, I noticed something large and ominous out on the horizon of the left window. I pointed my meter scope toward it. It sends a green laser pulse toward the distant object and indicated that the object was several thousand kilometers away. Judging from it’s visual size this object is huge. I enlarge the view with the scope and projected it to the front window. There is actually two objects or structures rather. I roam this region frequently as part of my projects to further understand the region for development but I had never seen these before! What are they? I false colored the image and enhanced its contrast. Vaguely in the image were the letters XF and GB on the two respective structures. XF! That’s the company that just brought down my vehicle! Many thoughts rushed through my mind but I ignored them. For now, I need to find out what happened to my kid, Brutus and to meet up with David and Mel.

Chapter 9: What else can go wrong?

The com board is down, one engine is out, one kid is missing, and a strange communication from David plus I am just running out of fuel. Fine fine, that’s no problem at all. Think think. I looked at the fuel gauge and there is probably about 2 minutes before I run out of fuel. That’s just fine.

Then I remember there’s a fuel transformer on the vehicle. Haven’t used it for ages. It takes whatever you put into it and turns it into fuel for the vehicle. Now that’s handy. So let’s see what on the vehicle that I can throw into it.

I looked around the vehicle and there wasn’t really anything that I can throw away. Everything was important. Looks like I have to part with some of my precious goods so that I don’t end up crashing back down to the ground. Luckily, I really don’t need to give the transformer that much to get enough fuel.

I put my of my favorite tea cups on the balance of the fuel transformer. The readout from the fuel transformer tells me how much fuel I can get from my tea cups. 30 minutes at full speed. That’s more than enough. 

Without hesitation, I open the cover of the fuel transformer and throw in my cups. I closed the lid and pressed the transform button.

Nothing happened.

What? I pressed the button again. Still nothing. So I gave the thingamajig my best kick. Bam. The transformer started rumbling. Not too bad. So much for Murphy’s Law. At lease this thing is working. The display show that it take only 1 minute to convert the cup to fuel. Just in time.

Through the transparent window of the transformer, I watched as my precious tea cup disintegrated into fuel. So long my tea cup…

After a minute, I got back to the pilot seat. The newly transformed fuel was pumped into the fuel tank and the transporter still cruises smoothly at half speed.So I am going to be 15 minutes late. That should be fine since Mel was coming from a long distance any way.

I checked the analyzer that had sent the robot program into the transporter system to expel the virus. The robot seem to have isolated one instance of the virus but indicated that the virus has duplicated itself and attached itself to the system codes. There was no way to separate the virus from the main system now. The whole system has to be reloaded.

Each system on the transporter is a back up for the other. So if I cyclically reload the codes one system at a time, the transporter will still operate while the codes are being reloaded. Sounds like a plan?

I entered the reloading sequence into the analyzer to have it do cyclical reloading. It will have to be fast or else another engine will be brought down. I set the reload speed to rapid. Rapid reloading has low integrity, meaning that the program will not double check all codes that are loaded. That is generally fine. And right now, time is of the essence. I clicked the button on the analyzer for rapid reload and it retrieved the anti-virus robot and started the reload sequence.

Within 30 seconds the first system was reloaded…another 30 seconds…the second system was reloaded…another 30 seconds….error detected. The engine system codes won’t reload. Aiya!


Chapter 7: What the?

As the transporter speed toward the destination, several questions came to my mind. Why didn’t David contact me right after Brutus disappeared? I had received David’s message nearly 7 hours after David discovered Brutus had disappeared. That is awfully strange. That is not very David. I have known David since childhood. We went to school together and we even lived in the same neighborhood after we graduated. Now our kids are going to the same school. David is always very energetic and very quick to respond to myriads of emergency situations. But today, he waited several hours before contacting me. Could something else be wrong? Is there something that David did not mention? More and more questions comes to mind.

“Computer, time to destination please,” I asked the computer. “24 minutes and 20.5 seconds,” responded the on-board computer. “Sir, I am receiving a distress message right now. Do you want to activate it?” “Yes, right away, Computer.” The urgent message flashes in bright red and the pops open. But instead of a message, there was an large fruit icon with a smiley face on it. “Computer, is this a joke?” I ask the computer. But the computer did not respond. “Computer, what is this icon” Still no answer. All of the sudden, the entire com board shuts down. All the lights and screen on the board went dark.

The transporter was still zooming at emergency top speed. I know right then that my communication system has been compromised by some sort of computer virus. Luckily, the navigation control and the communication board are on two separate systems. But just in case, I tapped on the break a little to see if I still am in control of navigation. The transporter slowed down 1% as I tapped on the break. Good. I still can navigate. Then I tried perturbing the navigation wheel. No problem. With the course laid out and navigation system still working, I can still get to David’s house.

I opened the compartment under my seat, pulled out a com board analyzer box and plugged it into one of the outlets on the com board. I want to know what happened to my communication system. I flicked on the analyzer box and it automatically started running a diagnosis. Screens of hexadecimals flowed up the tiny screen on the box with occasional flashes of yellow indicating that something amiss has been found. When the analysis is done, I pressed the button for a summary report. Virus XFW30zyMrpD was found to have pervaded the system in record speed of 10.2 nano seconds.

The analyzer isolated the virus code and found an imprint of its maker “XF”. With no access to communication system I could not check what “XF” was. I have never heard of XF. Who is it and why did it tempered with my communication system at this dire moment? What the world is going on? What the?

Chapter 6: Two troubles

On the way to the school, another message appeared on the transporter communication board. “Computer, activate message,” I said. “Hello Amelio,” spoke a familiar sound from the com board. “Hey cousin, what’s up. I am in a bit of a rush.” “I am here in town to see you.” “Really, that is cool but my kid disappeared and I have to find him.” That sounds awkward as it is not your typical greeting conversation. There was a bit of a silence. “So what’s up Mel?” “Oh nothing, just visiting the area with wife. Haven’t seen you for a while. Can I help?” Then I remembered. Mel knows someone who might be able to decipher the glyphs. “Yes you can. I am sending you the location of David, my friend right now. Meet me there at 0900 hour. Mel, something is happening here. I can sense it. And I don’t like it” I tapped a few buttons on the com board and David’s address is sent to Mel. “Got your directions Amelio…Amelio, I also have something to tell you…something also strange…,” says Mel. “Mel, tell me when we meet.” I pulled the transporter over to the curb in front of the school. “Juno, tell your teacher about your brother’s disappearance and make sure the school guard is on the look out for anything unusual and keep me informed.” “Okay daddy.” A school guard accompanies Juno into her school and I rushed the transporter to top speed. “Computer, emergency top speed engage. Head to David’s house right away.” “Right away sir.”