This is the beginning of a piece I've been working on for quite some time. It's seen some neglect lately, so I got it out again to work on today. The whole idea has been boiling around in my head for about 5 years or so now, and has undergone quite a bit of change in that time.
It currently starts out with a weird little poetical construction that I'm not entirely certain works for it, but it's interesting and I hope you like it.
An oily shimmer.
The sky was almost black.
They held hands, talked about nothing of consequence.
Two small cans, no bigger than coffee containers were placed on a conveyor.
Fountains of light. That’s what it had been like the first time he had seen it. Maybe it would happen again.
It started in the north. The light was green at first, and like pale little fingers reaching up and over. Over the next hour, the light increased in brightness and the colors changed somewhat.
“I don’t know what it is. I’m idling.” he said, “I don’t feel comfortable unless I have at least one spare process running remotely.”
Her hair fell forward a little, what had framed her soft face now obscuring her eyes. “So what’s it doing, usually?” She asked.
“That’s the thing, they’re not really doing anything.”
As the aurora pushed south, the colors diversified and increased in intensity. The greens had given way to scarlet reds, blues, yellows flickering across the sky in sheets, sometimes stabbing southward in long rays of vibrant color. A wide ribbon of white could be seen now almost directly overhead, pulsing and waving as a trillion tons of charged particles poured into the Earths magnetic field. Along the edges of the wide white light, clouds of color winked in and out, like lightning storms seen in slow motion.
In the silent cold of low earth orbit, there were two small cans full of instruments swinging around Earth on in very close proximity. These microsats were boosted into space with no fanfare and their full purpose is known to approximately a dozen individuals on the planet.
The cheap centrifugal launcher nearly crushed the cans of sensors and transmitters into scrap before flinging it into orbit over the idyllic tropical lansdcape where the launch facility was secreted. No humans ever saw these Microsats directly, the facility being entirely automated and hidden from sentient eyes for security reasons, but upon successful orbital insertion an encoded message was sent to the human overseeing this project indicating that the relays were now in position. The microsats would begin communicating with another object in deeper space, and then relay that communication back to the ground.
A bright meteor dropped out of the sky, seeming to roll right off the band of light and fall directly to the ground. Silence fell between the two.
“Did you see that?” Thom asked.
Another moment of silence.
“I was about to ask you the same thing. I can’t get over how beautiful this display is. I’d never seen the aurora before.”
The top of the Municipal Recreation Sector was the only place in the arcology that had both grass and a view of the sky so they had set up a little picnic, complete with canisters of coffee and a blanket spread out for them to lay back on and watch the skies. Thom had fully expected to see a crowd out for the aurora, but the late hour must have deterred most people. They probably weren’t supposed to be there, but it seemed worth the risk.
“So, what were you saying about those processes you’ve been working on? What exactly is it that they do?” He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.
“Oh various things: processing weather data, analysing access logs, downloading media of various kinds. But nothing really important, it’s just that I feel the compulsion to be doing something at all times.”
“Interesting.” She looked right at him, “What is it that you do again? I don’t think you ever told me exactly what it was.”
“Sir, I think there may be a problem.” The lights from the ensigns display cast a flickering blue glow across his face, highlighting the worry lines that creased his forehead. “Our microsats have already relayed a large amount of data, but there seems to be some interferance from the geomagnetic storm in progress. The data may be corrupt.”
“Well at least we have something.” The captain paced the length of the darkened chamber, his hands clasped behind his back. “I warned Upper Echelon that this launch would be put in danger by the incoming solar activity. Well, let’s see what we have.” Ensign Farrell brought a new screen up, showing the raw data streaming back from the miniature satellites lanched earlier that day. The streams of characters seemed to make no sense at all, looking to the captain like so much random noise. Farrell shifted uncomfortably at this close scrutiny, his superior officer hovering over his shoulder a little too much like a vulture he thought as he stabbed a finger through the terminal window that scrolled columns of text so far eluding any sort of understanding. “See, this data coming in doesn’t appear to have any meaning.”
The captain scowled. “Do you know what it is we’re supposed to be looking for? Your data may well be encrypted. Please see to it you don’t overlook anything here, it is vitally important that we understand what is coming from that platform.”
Farrell started to sweat, “Yes of course sir. May I ask what it is that I’m looking at?”
“It could be anything. We’re looking for signs of life.” The captain did not elaborate any further, and proceeded out of sight. Farrell had a sick feeling in his stomach. He was sure it was nothing, maybe just staring at the flickering monitors for too long. He had already been there for, what was it? Something like nine hours so far, with another three hours left until his shift was over. He had to stop for a moment to compose himself, feeling his throat closing up on him and a metallic taste filled his mouth. Perhaps he should go to the infirmary? No, it was nothing. He was just under a lot of pressure.
Back to work.