My gaze turned toward the dining room window, through which we could see the strangely pale green moon sitting in the slowly darkening sky. This is where my story began.
The entire universe is based on the evolution of repetitive cycles. We find ourselves constantly perplexed with extending the life cycles of both man and beast but just as we have an expected life cycle; the worlds around us scattered throughout the universe have life cycles as well. The life cycle of the earth can be extended or disrupted by the development of man's technological advances. As you will see, there is much more at work here, than manned spaceflight.
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DUST TO DUSTThe Secret of Divine Intervention
By James C. Roth
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 James C. Roth
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe year was 2093. I was driving along on my way to my mother's house when my pager went off sending it in a vibrating spasm across my dash just out of my reach. I was listening to my favorite talk show host on the radio when the subject of the space center recovering a meteorite from a recent asteroid shower came up. The meteorite had fallen from the sky, creating a sonic boom that was heard for hundreds of miles in every direction. The news media had been swarming all over the story when the space center showed interest in recovering the fiery meteorite that had landed dangerously close to an old farmer's home. Just as I pulled into my mother's driveway not a mile later, my pager went off again sliding off of the dash and falling into a pile of rubble in the floorboard. Beneath the rubble a voice from the space center anxiously repeated the need for me to call in as soon as possible. The excitement in her supervisor's voice indicated that his incompetence was once again going to be tested. Someone had to bail him out again, but why was it always me? I sat there quietly in my parked car looking around in every direction before venturing out into the open. I could feel their presence even though I could not see them. This wasn't the first time;I had been ambushed many times before.
I gathered my things together, clutching them to my chest as I made a hasty exit from my car. Halfway to the house's door, it happened. A barrage of water balloons rained down all around me. One balloon hit me on my right leg and burst, filling my shoe with water. I was hiding beneath the small overhang just out of target range; my back pressed hard against the door. As the door opened I stumbled inside nearly knocking my mother to the floor.
Those doggone kids lived next door to my mother. Their sole purpose in their life was to terrorize the neighborhood. I was nothing more than just another moving target for their amusement. Entering my mother's house, I muttered, "Damn those kids. I hate kids; I really do hate kids!" I hugged my mother around her neck and kissed her on the cheek while asking if I could use the phone to call the space center. Mother hadn't seen me in over a week. She clung to me for several minutes as she had always done when I was a child. The fast pace of my life had me wondering if something was wrong even though I loved to feel her loving arms around me.
The phone call was short and sweet. It was unlike the space center to call me out on my day off. There must be something very important happening because the space center wanted me to be there at four this afternoon to discuss my latest research with them. I had several hours to stay and visit with Mom while my shoes dried beside the fireplace. Trying to console me, she said, "Danielle Christine Jensen, don't you act like that! Those children don't mean you any harm. If they did they would be throwing rocks at you instead of water balloons."
Mother had the television on, as usual. Her life revolved around her favorite shows. The program she was watching today was about how far science had come in the past few years concerning the safety and commonality of multiple births of up to eight children at a time. Science had made these occurrences as typical as having one child at a time used to be. I told mother, "What in the world would any woman want with eight kids? Everybody is doing it these days. The world is overpopulated as it is. Someone needs to make them stop!"
My mother took my arm and turned me to face her. She said, "There comes a time in a woman's life when she feels ready to be a mother. There have also been times when I wished I had five more beautiful daughters just like you. Mark my words, young lady-at twenty four years old you haven't a clue about what is important. Something in your life will change your way of thinking, and you, too, will want to be a mom and have my grandchildren."
I turned to head into my old bedroom, but I paused and looked back to her on the way. "No way," I said. "Besides, I'm too fat now. Nobody would want me."
The moment I walked down the hall past the kitchen, that all-too-familiar smell of home fully enveloped my senses. I had often wondered what composed that indescribable fragrance. Mother was always cooking for me whenever she suspected I was coming by, so I thought it must be a combination of the smell of her cooking and the metallic scent of her old pots and pans being heated as she placed them back in service time after time.
I disappeared into my old room. It was cluttered with so many books that it seemed hard to envision a young girl had ever lived there. Instead of teddy bears and dollhouses or jewelry boxes full of girlish trinkets, there were pictures of space shuttle launches and models of satellites and rockets that complemented the main piece: a spectacular picture of the earth from several hundred miles in space.
I smiled as my attention turned to my telescope. It was my most prized possession, given to me by my father. When I was six years old, I felt as if I could see far into my future through that telescope. It had focused my attention toward becoming what I was today. Seeing it again brought back memories. I remembered what my daddy had said to me when he gave me that telescope. He told me that I would always be able to find him up there among the stars whenever he was away. I'd always felt so small when I was in his arms. I felt that the tenderness of his touch when he held me close could never be matched by any other man. Losing him during one of his missions in space a few days before my sixth birthday made it hard to ever think of celebrating, even today. For years after his death, I'd spent countless hours searching the stars and constellations for him. But I never did find him out there. I think his telling me that I could always do so was the only time that he hadn't kept his word to me.
As I turned to leave the room, I stopped momentarily and opened my dresser drawer. A warm feeling came over me when I saw an old, white cotton sweat suit from the space center that I had worn as pajamas when I was a teenager. I held the soft fabric tight against my chest and thought to myself that if I could lose about twenty pounds, I could still fit into them. The space center emblems were somewhat tattered from hundreds of machine washes, but they were still legible.
Folding the clothes carefully and tucking them back safely away, I turned my attention to the small bottle of cologne sitting on the dresser. It was the scent my daddy had always worn. I opened the cap, and the fragrance overwhelmed me, filling my eyes with tears as I once again remembered losing him. I shook my head and headed back to the living room, where my mother was waiting for me.
As I came in, Mother said she had heard from William the previous week. I gave her a bewildered look, which prompted her to respond, "Commander William Hoskins, your daddy's best friend. You remember him, don't you?"
Of course I remembered him. I could never forget him. My dad had called him Wild Bill. After my father's death, he'd gathered together a group of my father's old friends at the space center, who then made me their pet project. They designed my education to guarantee me a position there upon my graduation. Wild Bill had retired long ago, but he still called now and then to check up on both me and my mother.
My visit home was nice as always, but it was soon time to head to work. I put my shoes back on, kissed Mother on the forehead, and quietly opened the front door, easing it shut behind me. Making a mad dash to the car, I jumped inside just as a shower of water balloons came splashing down all over the windshield. As I started down the street through a barrage of more water balloons, I looked in my rearview mirror and watched as those three little boys turned against each other in a final showdown for having let me escape unscathed.
When I arrived at the space center Al Guthrie was absolutely frantic when I walked in. He immediately grabbed at my arm, practically dragging me along with him. "Dana," he said, "the board of directors came to me to explain all the changes you made in the deep space suit design. I really hated to call you, but nobody knows this project better than you. We only have about thirty minutes to get everything ready for them to see. We need to get that high-priced lab rat you call Sammie up here to show them how it all works. We want to be sure to use simple terms so everyone can understand you." When I asked him why we were having this demonstration he simply threw his hands in the air and left, leaving me, completely in the dark.
That's how it was around there. Everyone always says we, but when it came down to it, We was me! Someone was always trying to share the credit for my work without doing any themselves.
But I was ready to explain my project, and I had been ready for months. I wasn't surprised when Mr. Donnelly, the chairman of the space center board, arrived with eight other board members following in his wake. After everyone had assumed their positions, I started out by introducing myself. "Hi, I'm Dana Jensen. I've worked here in the research lab for four years designing this modern-day apparel for even the most fashion-conscious astronaut in today's marketplace!"
From behind my back I heard Donnelly say, "Cut the crap, DJ. Are you ready to put this suit of yours into space?"
"Yes," I responded in a whisper, turning. "It was ready four months ago!" I faced the assembly again and gestured to the side. "Sammie, would you come over here and show us that suit?"
Sammie was quite a character. He came up to the group in the space suit doing an intriguing version of the classic slide-stepping moonwalk dance. He was a total nutcase, but he always managed to make me laugh. It was the perfect thing to lighten the mood. As everyone joined in the laughter, I began my speech with a serious disclaimer. "Please keep in mind that Sammie is nothing more than a test subject and not one of our astronauts."
I continued, laying out the details. "Our new design is form-fitting, for the most part. Tiny sensors are surgically implanted to send signals to the suit's forearm scanner. These keep track of things such as blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, as well as brain patterns. We have online analyzers that can watch vitamin deficiencies and organ function as well as operate the most critical unit, which is what I like to call the food and drug administrator-a special system I designed last year. The FDA distributes nutrition in the form of a clear gel that is absorbed through a patch implanted in the upper right pectoral muscle. "The food and drug system contains a five-year supply of the food gel, which contains all the vitamin requirements a human needs, plus appetite suppressants and a standardized set of medicinal drugs that can be administered with a touch of a button. The suit wearer's kidneys are basically put to sleep and bowel excretions eliminated. The body will absorb only what it needs to survive. Finally, oxygen is furnished on demand by the type two Ocutron Synthesizer.
"The body's needs are maintained by the online computer in the left wrist section of the suit. That computer also controls the suit pressure and temperature and other functions, such as the propulsion units and the laser bath system. This last feature keeps the inside of the suit and its occupant clean and basically free of body hair.
"The suit material is self-sealing. The helmet holds the communications system, the auxiliary lighting system, as well as an auxiliary power outlet with a liquid crystal display screen on the right inside section of the visor. System status and changes are displayed on this LCD monitor. The computer system can implement changes on its own.
"There are four different modes that the computer can automatically select. First there is storage mode, for when the suit is not being used. When occupied, the suit starts in the standard awake mode. Then there's the sleep mode, which allows an astronaut up to thirty-six hours of sleep before the suit goes into the fourth and final mode, the cryogenic freeze mode, which allows for long-term storage of the suit's occupant. The suit also responds to voice commands and body movement.
"Finally, the backpack contains a nuclear power source, which has been designed to last an estimated five years. The food source is also enclosed in the right-hand section of the backpack. It should take approximately three months to train someone properly to occupy one of these state-of-the-art, long-term space suits. The reason for this is that the body must acclimate to the food and drug administrator and sensor implants, and the occupant must learn the suit's internal controls."
The briefing complete, I stepped back and asked if there were any questions. A few moments of silence passed, so I said, "Well, gentlemen, I guess that about wraps it up. What's all this about, anyway?"
They were all obviously impressed with the suit, and that we already had a subject, Sammie, wearing it successfully really drove the point home. It had taken me almost three and a half years to complete the project, but we now had a deep-space suit that was light-years ahead of their present version. As Mr. Donnelly walked off, he shouted back, "Great job, DJ, that's very impressive work!"
Before he was too far out of range, I called back, "What about that lesson in humility?"
Turning and casting me a huge smile, he just threw his arms up over his head, and the entire group broke out laughing as they exited the building. As quickly as they had come, they were gone.
Within hours I confirmed the reason for their visit to inquire about the status of the new space suits. It was all over the news. The media called it the Henley Meteorite. It had all begun a couple days ago. The space center had been tracking a meteor shower, just as they have always tracked meteor showers in the past. Most of the meteors were tiny rocks that would disintegrate upon entry into our atmosphere, but one seemed to be much larger than the rest. The space center picked up on this quickly and tracked it to determine exactly where it would hit.
The meteor's estimated size upon impact was less than three feet in diameter, and it was projected to land in North America, somewhere in western Texas or perhaps New Mexico. As the meteor was about to enter the atmosphere, thousands of eyewitnesses outside hoping to watch its entry saw a massive explosion light the sky as the meteor burst through the clouds, turning into a huge fireball as it spiraled down to earth.
Government agencies of all sorts were on the site of impact in a matter of hours. Everything within three hundred feet of the meteorite was on fire, and everything for another one hundred and fifty feet in all directions was wilting-shriveling up as if its life force was being sucked right out of it. Fire crews managed to extinguish the flames systematically by covering the burning brush, and finally the fallen rock itself, in foam.
It took two days for the meteorite to finally cool down enough to have it moved to the space center for testing. The old farmer who owned the land where the meteorite had landed had no idea of its value. His only desire was to get it the hell off of his place. His name was Albert Henley, prompting someone to call it the Henley Meteorite. Sure enough, the astronomers wasted no time placing it in a container filled with 100 percent nitrogen in order to eliminate the chance of it combusting further; they hypothesized that exposing it to oxygen had caused such violent burning.
The extinguishing foam was left mostly intact as a small piece of the meteor, roughly the size of a pencil eraser, was chipped away and placed into a smaller container for examination and testing. This small fragment was blown dry, and the first testing began. The nitrogen was vacuumed out of the sample container and earth atmosphere was slowly let in. The scientists were expecting it to rapidly accelerate into another ball of fire, but there was no reaction. It appeared to be completely safe to remove the sample from the compartment, so they took it and put it under a microscope. When they did, they found traces of the extinguishing foam still thinly coating the rock chip. They decided to rinse it one more time, so they placed the fragment in a small beaker and began to slowly add water to it. The second that the water touched the particle, it ignited into a three-foot-diameter fireball.
Excerpted from DUST TO DUST by James C. Roth Copyright © 2009 by James C. Roth. Excerpted by permission.
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