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I believe that the best things in life are free and should not be owned and controlled by some faceless corporation or shadowy publishing/record company. The creative process and its results should be democratic and accessible too all... Thats when I discovered the creative commons community. No, I'm not a communist, not even that much of a lefty, but I've figured out that restrictive copyright practices with its inherent exclusions limits the growth of many creative pursuits. Admiral Bob, one of the finest exponents of this culture puts it like this; “artists can and should contribute content to culture that is unhampered by the kind of restrictions that treat art like an imprisoned thing: don’t alter it, don’t move it onto a different device, don’t copy it, don’t even listen to it unless you re-license it”. The net result, I believe is a bland sameness that seems to permeate most popular culture. Profitability generally doesn't equate to quality. Quality doesn't always lead to commercial success. This work is probably an example of both! I'm not against commercial reward for art, its entirely necessary but I'd much rather give something away for nothing. Thats just me.
I'd like to invite you all to take a little time to read and listen to this book and its music as I release each chapter every two weeks. Mirror Mirror is a self published serialized multimedia e book combining fictional sci-fi fantasy with DRM free music. Each chapter has its own original song written and produced in collaboration with the talented artists on ccmixter.org. . If you are unfamiliar with creative commons licensing, a good place to start is the creative commons website. I'm blogging on my Blogger page and the updated ebook is published on Scribd. All music and its attributions for can be found on my home page on ccmixter.org Here , I'll be uploading the stems and raw vocal tracks and encouraging anyone out there to remix, cut up or mash this original content to your hearts content. So here's the first two chapters of “Mirror Mirror” and the first two songs from the cc concept album of the same name.
Song Title: Mirror Mirror
Genre: Dance/Pop M usic: Spinmeister Arrangement /Production/Remix : Scomber Lyrics: Scomber Vocals: Sassygal Backing Chatter: Jacinda Espinosa = Download
Three seconds of chat
It didn't seem that much at first. Corey Mason, second year geek at Arizona State University, pored over a trail of computer printouts from one end of his room to the other. It had been three years since NASA lost the twin Mars missions, and notably the university had lost a huge opportunity to get their instruments into space before the current window closed. It would be another six years until Mars was in such an easy-to-get-to position. Most people had moved on to the next mission, their budgets cut by a third. Drawn out congressional inquiries into the failure of the two missions found the ordinary things. The rocket guys concluded that the onboard navigation system had somehow set the thruster jets of the orbiter five percent askew. When the probe tried its first aero braking pass of Mars it hit the atmosphere at the wrong angle, where it probably took a perilous fiery nose dive to the red planet, burning up. For a successful braking, the orbiter needed to intercept the thin atmosphere within 1 degree of its nominal entry angle. Too shallow an entry angle will cause the probe to skip off the atmosphere back into space like a pebble on a pond. Too steep
an entry angle would cause it to dive and burn up in the atmosphere. At a velocity of 6.8 km per second, a temperature of 1650 °C and peak G forces of 12 times Earth's gravity, the margin for error is slim. The Americans blamed key European components and one billion dollars was lost in space. While this was all occurring, the other craft speeding towards Mars, the one containing the lander was only 800,000 kilometres from insertion. As the lander approached the red planet it served as a relay station, accepting the extra data and bandwidth from the orbiter as its partner used the thin Martian atmosphere to slow itself down. The plan was once the lander reached Mars and was ready to land near the north pole, the roles would reverse. The Orbiter, safely in orbit, would receive high bandwidth data from the lander and then transmit it back to Earth. The first craft, the orbiter, stopped transmitting 15 seconds after the thrusters were first fired, 480 km above the Martian surface. It got worse. Twelve and half hours later the second craft, the lander, in the words of the chief NASA Engineer, “just disappeared from the screen”. Silence. Complete loss of contact. Not even the hum from its ion propulsion system could be detected by any of the large earth-based radio telescopes. It couldn’t have hit Mars after losing contact, with its last course setting it past Mars and out beneath the ellipse below the orbit of Jupiter in three years time. The Mars hoodoo had struck again, and those little green men must have been laughing at their neighbour's folly. The printout that Corey had stretched before him was a jumble of zeros dashes and crosses. Eight metres of paper represented
the last 15 seconds of the orbiter. But these were not the transmissions received by the approaching lander in relay mode. Although they were weak, they were definitely the first hand transmissions directly from the orbiter. Corey had already spent enough time looking for aliens by staring at SETI data to know that it just didn’t look right. The image/positional data matrix didn’t flow the way it should, especially for a moving object. Three small southern hemisphere radio telescopes had been tracking the telemetry of the craft in the final stages of the insertion for navigational purposes only but not collecting the rich data. This was collected by the larger northern hemisphere dishes that were better positioned for collecting a larger data stream. But a student in Australia, had collected the data inadvertently while studying the magnetosphere of Mars. He had used the extra listening bandwidth of his telescope not being used by the Mars mission. The relatively small sized dish at Siding Springs was rarely pointed at something so close, so this was his opportunity to test some of his ideas. The observatory was primarily an optical one, known world wide for its large refractor telescope. Because the dish was so precisely focused on the spacecraft approaching Mars - any stray radio waves, like the two spacecraft talking to each other, send a small echo across the region rippled across other frequencies. Accidentally, this was detected and recorded. Corey had met Charlie Blake on the internet in a space nerd chat room. Corey was particularly interested in space forensics. For every ten payloads launched into orbit he said, two experience some sort of failure, and three literally blew up at launch. That’s five angry and anxious investors each wanting to know what happened to their 300 million dollars.
Corey needed a contact that could look at the heavens from the southern hemisphere. Charlie wasn’t your ordinary student. He was 56 or maybe 62, full blooded Aboriginal and the type of person that didn’t say much, but when they did, it was very timely and intuitive. He started working at Siding Springs as a cleaner ten years ago. Head astronomer Ray Phillips would often chat to Charlie and was amazed with Charlie’s knowledge of the night sky and the movement of the planets. Twelve months later Ray offered him the position of onsite trainee with a four year external science degree. Ray had filled out his application and sent it off to the department, putting his age down as 36. He got the position, but even better, the ABC did a human interest story on him that became a rare media nugget for the embattled Science Minister of the time. Aboriginal done good. Charlie was king of the kids. He could sit at the controls of two radio telescopes and three optical telescopes. No more scrubbing toilets and floors. Corey picked up the phone. “Well I say its only 10.30 in the evening in Coonabarabran.” he said as he dialed Siding Spring’s number. Charlie was in the control room. Most of the regular staff were off on their Christmas break and it was basically just Charlie and Ray Phillips, ten years older and still hadn’t taken a holiday. Ray and Charlie were camping out, the desk strewn with pizza boxes and beer cans, with all their optical telescopes pointed towards Venus, which was just about to be eclipsed by the moon.
An ordinary telephone ringing in the computer control room seemed odd amongst the screens and control panels, but Ray with a wry smile and a raised eyebrow picked up the phone. He nodded a few times, grunted and turned to Charlie. “It’s ET calling home”. Charlie wheeled himself over on the government issued gas lift chair. “Hey Corey, my junkyard pal”, his voice silken and calm. Corey wound into an excited mess of details, like a young child telling a very big secret. “Slow down Yankee. Start from the beginning.” “Well, it’s like this.” Corey explained, calming himself down. “The data you sent me on Mars Express was good enough for me to reconstruct the full 128 bits from the Orbiter craft’s last fifteen seconds. But get this; about 3 seconds before the end of transmission, the positional data is different to the final data relayed to earth by the approaching lander. It’s as if someone had edited a tape, cut out three seconds, and replaced it with a copy of the previous three seconds. But this will blow you away; the exact length of the “splice” is 3.12 seconds. That’s Pye dude. I know enough about the processors on board both craft to know that this number just can’t happen.” Charlie took a breath considering his response. “Are you sure it’s not just your decoding algorithm giving you a false result on the data.” “No way, because I lined it up with the other positional data and I still kept on getting the same answer”. Corey stated defensively. Corey upped the tempo. “I’ll email you the full matrix .Why don’t you take a look at it overnight and call me in the morning.” The hairs on the back of Charlie’s neck stood on end as Charlie
realized that he might be able to explain the repeat of 3.12 seconds. Last week he had helped install a new receiver on the secondary radio dish and knew a bit about parabolas. He had better think about it further before he jumped to conclusions, “I’ll call you in the morning”. He paused. “You know I bet if went out into the bush I could find a grass tree exactly 3.12 metres high. And wasn’t that Michael Jordan fella 3.12 metres high?. And if I dropped a penny from a twenty metres high it would hit the ground 3.12 seconds….” Corey interrupted. “I get your point…. But please…just take a look at the pretty pictures Charlie. Bye dude.” Corey hung up the phone and walked over to his PC and emailed the full file to Charlie. Charlie wheeled himself back over towards the main console, catching Ray’s gaze briefly and secretly hoping that he hadn’t shown his excitement too much to his boss. Charlie gestured and asked Ray. “What you say we swing the gear around to Mars for a little while before the guys get back on Monday.” Ray laconically said “Are those Americans still looking for Elvis? Don Crouchly reckons he saw him in that new deli in town.” Charlie had known Ray long enough to know a joke meant yes. Ray lifted his eyebrows. “I’ll give you a full 14 hours.” Charlie smiled, his white teeth glowing in the low light of the control room.
Song Title: Bitter Pill
Genre: Blues/Rock/Soul M usic: Admiral Bob Arrangement /Production/Remix : Scomber Lyrics: Scomber Vocals: Scomber Backing Vocals: Sassygal = Download
A bitter pill
That day Corey was on a high. He packed away his printouts and decided to head down to the Three Stags to sink a few celebratory ales. The bar was only a short walk across the campus grounds and then a shortcut through the car park of a seedy motel that rented rooms hourly to truckers and other passer-by’s. He walked in about 8 o’clock to find the regular suspects assuming their usual Thursday night positions. The carpet reeked of stale beer and a small but committed crowd played some pool sinking back some bourbon and beer. The jukebox was playing a Hendrix tune that was weaving its way through the thick smoke. “Scuse me while I kiss the Sky”…. Corey nodded hello to a few regulars and approached the bar for a drink. The bar girl was slim and attractive. “Well, Hi there Mr Starman.” She cooed, pouting and wiggling her hips as she positioned herself in front of the beer taps. All of Corey’s university buddies had tried to woo Lisa but without success.
She had finished her freshman year still loyal to her Jimmie who backed on to her folks’ farm in North Dakota. “Set me up with a supernova and a black hole chaser, thanks Lisa.” Lisa leaned on the tap and pulled a beer the way only she knew how. “What’s the matter Corey, you look rather too cheery tonight.” She said as she cracked open a new bottle of Jack Daniels. He shook his head. “All I can say Lisa, is that I think I’ve stumbled across the biggest cover-up since Watergate.” “What, the stars not going to shine tonight hun?” she questioned, mildly interested. “Stargate I think is already taken.” “If I told you about it I would have to kill you.” He said continuing that old corny line. She finished pouring the beer and leant over the bar, her eyes large and doe like. “Don’t worry, you can go ahead, I’m already in the bad books with my folks and Jimmie for not coming home for Christmas. There’s just too many assignments and there’s no way this place was going to give me any time off. Besides my old man reckons he won’t pay any tuition fees unless I change my major to something that would help him back on the farm. He reckons reciting Shakespearian sonnets to the hogs wouldn't make them grow any faster.” “Thanks Lisa”. Corey replied as he took his beer and bourbon chaser over to one of the vacant booths near the pool tables. He sat down and stared into his beer. It just didn’t make sense. Surely if a second year student could see something so obvious, so inconsistent, the official inquiries would have too. He trusted the source data that Charlie gave him from the Mars orbiter in its final seconds. But why was the lander data so unblemished?
Up to the point of the lander’s disappearance all communication and relay systems were fully functional. All the lander should do is to amplify the original orbiter data as it approached insertion. If there was a cover-up why would you forget about something so basic? But who would have a motive to change the final data stream, assuming it could be done, when there was so much riding on the success of the mission? Then what had happened to the lander twelve and a half hours later? He sipped his beer and was ready for the chaser. A couple of guys were playing pool at the adjacent table. He turned around in the booth to grab a cigarette and was astonished when he noticed that the large mirror wall behind the booth reflected an image of the guys playing pool. Regular stuff. Same thing but everything backwards. He remembered what his forth grade science teacher had once told him about mirrors. “Right is left, unless left is right. Oh, and tilt one way away and be out of sight”. Mr McDonaugh was a retired World War Two code breaker turned school teacher. It took Corey twelve years to realize what the old Scot really meant. “Face a mirror and hold your right hand up and wave to yourself. You know you are waving with your right hand, even though the person in the mirror is waving with their left.” Mr McDonaugh would demonstrate this to all of his new school students. “Your brain since the age of about one understands mirrors; You brush your hair, clean your teeth, do your make up and it’s automatic. “Now lets say in a mirror you see a person you have never met approach you from behind, him too waving his hand. Is he right handed or left handed?
What if he was flashing up a newspaper headline?” Could you read it? Corey gazed into his bourbon and pondered; What if the distance to the mirror was vast, like Earth to Mars. Even at the speed of light, it took a full 10 minutes for light or a radio signal to reach Earth. What we see now happened 10 minutes ago. The guy playing his shot on the pool table was now right handed, playing from left to right down the table. But the mirror showed a left handed player still playing left to right. Corey looked up and noticed the booths opposite also had mirror backing. He then stood up and he could see the pool players’ reflection in the other mirror but also the reflection of the mirror behind him. He asked Mr McDonaugh’s question again; Right is left unless left is right. It’s all about perception. The 3.14 seconds had to be a reflection (at a distance) of another 3.14 seconds. He looked into and then sipped the rest of his beer and thought that Charlie might be able to figure something out when he spoke to him in the morning. “Is this seat taken?” Corey looked up and was startled to see a woman, probably in her late twenties hiking up her tight short skirt to sit down in the seat opposite in Corey’s booth. “Hi I’m Miranda.” she said. She definitely was too classy to be a local, Corey thought to himself. She had long black hair that framed a set of enormous almond shaped eyes. And those legs, well they definitely weren’t from these parts.
He found it difficult to avoid her ample cleavage as he looked up wondering what to say next. “I’m Corey". He stuttered. "Pleased to meet you Miranda.” She reached forward and grabbed his hand at first like a woman’s handshake but then with an urgency that Corey felt up his spine. “I’m so glad that I’ve found a friendly face at last. My car broke down about twenty miles out of town and I had to endure a trip into town with the scariest tow truck driver I’ve ever seen. “It sounds like you need a drink then Miranda.” “Just ask your girlfriend for a slippery nipple.” She said looking down towards her own breasts. Corey could feel himself blushing as he stood up and headed for the bar. Behind the bar, Lisa was stacking the glass washer and turned her eyes, brightening as she saw it was Corey. “One of your best Slippery Nipples for the lady.” He said. Lisa was shocked for a moment and then began to mouth “You know I can’t drink at work Corey…” Stopping herself short when she saw a rather long set of woman’s legs swaying out of the booth. She hadn’t noticed Miranda enter the bar. “A vodka, bailey’s and pineapple coming up.” She said turning towards the spirits, hoping that he hadn’t heard what she had said. “Who’s the babe, then Corey? Is your sister in town?” “Your guess is as good as mine.” Corey replied shrugging his shoulders. “ ’says her name is Miranda and her car’s been towed here, I’m just a shoulder to cry on.” Lisa had finished making the drink. “Would your lady friend like a cocktail umbrella Corey?” she asked, her tone sarcastic.
“It beats me, but if you want to check her out, come over to the booth and I’ll order a beer.” He said as he turned and tenderly handled that slippery nipple towards the booth that Miranda sat in. She was even more beautiful than he could remember when he left her last time to go to the bar. Her skin was a warm golden colour and her hands strong, her fingers long and slender. ”Now what do you do with your time these days sweetie” she asked batting her eyelids,. “Well I look at the sky a lot”. Corey replied, attempting to be funny. She smiled politely and gestured to her drink, “Have you ever wanted to taste a slippery nipple like this one before? She asked, her lips ready, as if she was ready to say more. Corey reached over and tasted the cocktail, swirling the taste of pineapple and alcohol over his tongue to the delight of Miranda. That was the last thing Corey could remember that evening. He woke up in his room to the sunlight and the chatter of the local robins at his window. He was in bed and butt naked except for his socks. He sat up, head throbbing, his eyes taking a while to focus. He was sure he hadn’t dreamed about Miranda and began to look around for signs that she had been in his room. Nothing. No bra, panties or hairclip, anywhere. Except for a long black trench coat draped over the chair. He sat up and lipped his arms into the warm folds. He couldn't remember her wearing a coat of any kind let alone one so warm and comfortable. It smelt of her, thats for sure. He reached into an inside pocket and found a crisp piece of folded paper. He unfolded it and read it;
Thank You for a wonderful night. I wish my car broke down more often in this neighbourhood. Thanks for all your help Good luck with your Martian chasing I’m sure to see you again soon. Miranda xxx “Some wonderful night when I can’t remember a thing.” He said to himself as he checked his supply of condoms to gage his possible success. He looked down to where he kept his files and was alarmed to find the printout and the disks missing. His panic was short lived when he realized that there would be a copy on his PC and he had emailed Charlie a copy last night. He tried to boot up his PC to find the entire operating system gone. The hard drive had been wiped clean and all the previous data was done. But surely Charlie still had the original data and received Corey’s email. He wet his face with cold water, got dressed and set out for the other side of campus to find Lisa. Maybe she knew what happened last night. He found Lisa in the library where she turned with a brief look of contempt as their eyes met. “So how’s it going loverboy?” she asked. “You tell me. I can’t remember a thing.” Corey beckoned Lisa to sit down in one of the vacant group study rooms. “I’m telling you Lisa, I can’t remember anything after tasting her drink.” Lisa paused. “Yeah, I saw you sip the drink as I brought your
beer over.” “She didn’t even take another sip as far as I know, but handed me back the cocktail, saying something bitchy like “this one is taken”. About five minutes later she stood you up and headed you hand in hand out the door without even a goodbye. I thought you were such a rude bastard”. Corey stood up and gave Lisa a quick peck on the cheek. “Thanks Leese. I’ve got to go”. By the time Corey was half way back to his room, the reality of what had happened hit him. The cocktail was spiked, she had taken him back to the room, fucked him (hopefully) and then taken the data. A hundred questions began to swirl around. Who was she? What had she put in his drink? Why would she want the files? How did she even know what Corey had discovered? He unlocked the door and entered his room and sat down on the bed. He picked up Miranda’s note and read it again. What does she mean by “thanks for your help”? Corey assumed she meant the data matrix, it wasn't like he towed her car. He immediately thought of Charlie. He picked up the phone and called Siding Springs. Ray answered the phone. “Hello Ray, its Corey. Is Charlie about?” Ray swung back on his chair for a moment reaching to capture the data that he and Charlie had spent most of the day collecting. “Sorry Corey, he’s gone walkabout for a couple of days. You just missed him. Says he has to think something over.” “What do you mean walkabout?” Corey sounded concerned.
“It’s an Aboriginal thing to do.” Ray explained. “It’s a bit like you or me going on holidays to recharge the batteries. As far as I know he’d be well and truly bush by now. Oh, but he did give me a message to give you. He said thanks for the data and there's an email I’ll send to you now. He wanted you to see his latest Mars data and I'm just running the comparative for the lazy bastard." “And oh yeah, nearly forgot, he asked me to tell you to look after yourself.”
in Title: Climb upon the Breadnife Song
Genre: Acidpheric/Ballad/Rock M usic: Scomber Acoustic Guitar & M andolin : M irko M ichalzik Additional Samples: Subliminal, onlymeith Didgeridoo : Afrit Arrangement /Production/Remix : Scomber Lyrics: Scomber/BoHeart Vocals: Scomber Backing Vocals: BoHeart = Download
Chapter 3 Drawn to the Bread Knife
Sidings Springs is situated 18km from the small town of Coonabarabran indland New South Wales. Fifteen million years ago the normally stable continent of Australia floated over a hot spot in the Earth’s interior and caused a cataclysmic event as the pressure penetrated the soft crust. A shield volcano, 200 kilometres in diameter spewed relentlessly for 400,000 years. The result was a chunk of Earth lifted 800 hundred metres above the surrounding plain and dotted with numerous dykes and fissures. These are long since extinct, the softer ground around eroded away and today the mountain range sits high and proud over the western plains of New South Wales, a ragged scar on the grassy plains. The Observatory stands elevated and clear, reaching into the dry air off the desert plains stretching to the west. This is Charlie’s land. Sacred land. The Warrumbungles. His father and his fathers before him had carved their existence amongst the basalt spires and winding rivers. Kangaroos and emus by the thousand, the streams full of fish and tortoises.
Charlie remembered the stories that his grandfather had told him as a child. The aboriginal Australians saw themselves as part of the earth. Land, body and spirit as one. Everything around you had an explanation. It was the Dreamtime, when the Earth was created, and the rainbow serpent carved its way through the rocks to form the valleys and rivers . Time was a transient thing, held in suspension by dreaming and the means with which a soul progressed along its journey, eventually completing the circle to the place it began. Charlie remembered how his grandfather would explain the stars. “They are pebbles tossed across a flowing mantle. Like flowing rivers, across the night sky, determining our fate and our fortune.” The Kamilaroi clan of Aborigines had belonged to the Warrumbungles for close to forty thousand years. Now they have scattered to the cities, lost to their homeland. Charlie felt a dull ache in his heart as he realised he was one of the few remaining with a daily connection to his homeland. It was getting dark as Charlie climbed the steep track that wound its way along the eastern edge of the canyon. The moon hung low, ready to set, with just a thin crescent rimming one side of the disk. Short and sharp thunderstorms carved narrow paths through the canyon. In fading light, Charlie saw the last golden outline of the rocky peaks and walls to the west. He remembered coming out here with his father and grandfather. The path they chose may have differed but there was only ever one destination. A one metre by 30 metre basalt spike towering above the thick
hakea bushes. The breadknife. They might walk up via the river and through the canyon or over the high plateau but they would always reach the breadnife. It was a place to complete something of importance. Tribal elders had once held court there, exacting punishment and making peace with neighbouring tribes. Charlie knew this country well. As a child Charlie's extended family would often refer to him as "Walooga", the single child. It wasn't until much later in life that Charlie discovered that the name was really just meant for him. Though the translation was difficult, not just in words but in context, it basically equated to the western concept of "prophet". For years Charlie felt angry with his father for not fully explaining how he was "Walooga" and what he was supposed to do with this burden. Was he supposed to have kept his people on the land? How could you be a prophet if there is nobody left to enlighten? Charlie also knew enough about history to know that prophets generally appeared when there was a need for one and worse of all, were generally dead and buried long before anyone realize their significance. In the emptiness around him he wondered if anyone would ever hear his sermon on the mount, let alone what he would say when he got there. It was getting increasingly difficult to negotiate the steep slope as he wound his way through the scrub over the last boulders before the plateau. The darkness was playing tricks with his eyes and the constant shrill of cicadas and crickets made it harder to concentrate on the washed out track. He thought about Corey, and how he would hope to begin to explain his theory on the Mars data. But he still had some
thinking to do. He hoped that Ray had sent Corey the latest data. Take a look in the mirror Corey could hardly believe his eyes. After restoring his software, he checked his email and was pleased to see a new data set of Mars that he could compare to those of the lost probes. He sat down, coffee in one hand and keyboard on the other and lined the data up. It didn't matter that he didn't have the older data anymore. All he had to do is run the data through his algorithm, print out a matrix and then take a look, something like an ink blot. After studying the patterns of numbers and letters he noticed the new matrix did not have a bulge at the end of each wave like his original data. At the speed of light (zero on the matrix), time seemed to have been slowed by approximately 3.14 seconds in the disaster data. Assuming the speed of light is constant, this placed the point of disturbance at 1200 kilometres beyond Mars' orbit. Yet the "disturbance" seemed to be well defined and sat in a perfect geostationary orbit, which any first year student would tell you was impossible at this altitude. It was then Corey noticed that there were footnotes with the data. Ray had included a note that read; "We checked the magnasphere around Mars again, and there seems be a thousand fold increase in activity on the far side of Mars. For the next six months Earth is chasing Mars in its orbit towards opposition and we don't really get a look at about 40% of the surface and the space behind it.
The Mars Surveyor probe is ten years old and on its last legs but reports no major change to the Martian surface in the last eight years it has been orbiting. Something big is happening. Either Mars is somehow ready to change her orbital tilt on a massive scale - something we don't quite understand, or there is an object the size of Manhattan, weighing about one sixteenth of our moon hiding from us on the other side. Be careful Corey. I'm sure we're not the only ones to have noticed it... Ray Phillips." Corey repeated the words, "an object the size of Manhattan and one sixteenth the weight of the moon." It occurred to him that such an object, real or just electromagnetic, could feasibly act as a mirror, bouncing back a radio signal. This might explain how his mirror theory fits in. At light speed, three point four one seconds is about double the distance between the Martian upper atmosphere closest to us and the phantom on the other side. The earth had known for the last hundred and forty years that Mars has two so called "moons". Deimos, a 35 km long potato shaped piece of rock and its little brother, Phobos, a much lower orbiting chunk, hurtling in a perilously close path around Mars. It encircles the planet twice daily rising in the west and setting in the east. It is so low that it is not visible from all parts of the planet. In a mere 20 million years it will crash into the Martian surface. It suddenly dawned to him that if a phantom object existed with that mass it would surely be seen in rather large change to the orbit of these moons. He picked up the phone to Siding Springs and dialed the number.
Ray answered the phone in his typical laconic manner. "Hi Ray, its Corey, I've got to get in touch with Charlie. There's something funny going on with Mars.” "Don't worry Corey, I'm on top of it. But I wish that Charlie would have told me what was going on. I guess you're going to ask me about the orbits of our two little Greek friends; Terror and Fear. "Well let me say that poor little Phobos as changed his apogee by about 10 kms and its orbit has become much more elliptical. I've never seen anything like it in all my life, but then again I've only been alive sixty one years. I wish Charlie had involved me earlier. Charlie's Manhattan theory seems to be the only plausible explanation. If the body is purely magnetic, an aurora gone crazy, it should have a gravity effect no where near what we are seeing. Mars just doesn't have the mass or the magnetosphere to create a magnetic storm of this magnitude. Yet the effect looks so strong at a single point that its possible that good old Newton's laws breakdown under such conditions. Time is bent and matter can transform freely with the energy around it. A total flux where energy is the natural state and matter is just a fortunate consequence. As a parabola in four dimensions, this may explain your pye, Corey." Corey responded, "but how does the mirror fit in? and then began to answer his own question. “Surely the last few seconds of the Mars probe is clearly an image of the previous 3.14 seconds. I watched a couple of guys playing pool the other night at the local bar, and looked at their reflection in the wall mirror behind me. The right handed player now looked left handed but he was still positioned at the same end of the table. The positional data corresponding to the
last few seconds of the transmission is completely reversed. The right handed player not only looks like a lefty but is playing his shot from the other end of the table. What we are seeing is therefore not a mirror, at least any kind that I know of, but more a fresh image. It's like when you face a person, your right is their left and your left is their right. If you have ever raced one of those remote controlled cars towards you you'll know what I mean. We could be looking into the back end of some kind of black hole and being a shown a different version of ourselves". Ray leaned back in his chair and was surprised that Corey hadn't already asked him to take another look at Mars. "You know Corey, it wouldn't be a bad idea to focus our attention squarely on that patch of space on the far side of Mars. I've got 24 hours to get it done before the rest of the guys get back from their Christmas break and then I'm stuck behind a desk again." I have already spoken to my mates down at Stromolo and over at Parkes and they are willing to give me 40 minutes air time at eight o’clock this evening. We have positioned the three radio telescopes in an array, so effectively our combined dish is 400 km wide. What ever this object is we should get a fair look at it. Corey could feel the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. "Can you call me right away if you find anything new?" He said vaguely, his mind already racing towards a thousand possibilities. "Oh, and I can tell you that Charlie's OK." The flying doctor guys spotted him camped on the very top of the Breadknife this morning burning a small fire. Dammed if I can understand the attraction. If I did that they would arrest me but if you're Kamilaroi its OK. I hope the old bugger doesn't slip and get himself killed."
“Walooga” Charlie had fought his way through the hakea scrub to reach the breadknife that evening. It was about eleven o'clock, the moon had set and the stars above shone as brightly as they could. The breadknife was the eroded remains of a volcanic dyke. Lava forced through a weak point in the sedimentary rock long since weathered away. Now only a jagged bony blade. Charlie located the meeting stone and sat down on it. From his small pack he pulled out a number of 35mm film canisters. He then removed his clothes. His fingers felt the rock in the darkness, walking across its surface like his ancestors had for the last forty thousand years. They brushed across the smoothened surface until he found four shallow wells in the rock. He opened a couple of canisters and poured out the powdery ochre paint base into one of the depressions. He then patiently mixed his powders with water, one the brilliant ivory white of crushed pyrite. He looked up fixing his gaze skyward, and began to apply the paint to his torso and face just like the last time he had done this, 30 years ago. The last time, at his ailing fathers urging, he had sought council with his homeland, a confused young man. On that occasion he was led out of the wilderness with a plan to rescue his life from the cycle of alcohol and petty crime his childhood friends were caught up in. He put the last of the ochre mix onto his forehead and fixed his gaze on the Pleiads; the seven sisters, a cluster of stars, nothing more than a faint smudge in the city, but here a brilliant clutch of pearls. The brightest star Alcone, aligned perfectly with the top of the spire towering in front of him.
With purpose and reverence he rose to his feet and began to climb the breadknife, his fingers and toes searching and finding the cracks in the granite face. His aging body now seemingly fit and pliable, he reached the top and surveyed the view around him. Total darkness except for the dazzling ferment above. It was too dark to see the land and horizon and it gave him the feeling of being elevated above the Earth, just that little bit closer to the stars above. The actual summit of the bread knife is of a flat topped wedge of granite about one by three metres at the top and forming the start of series of other jagged fingers of granite each lower than the last. It certainly doesn't look like a breadknife when you are close to it. More like a cathedral. Charlie sat down, his legs crossed and limp, in the way his people had before him. He slowed his breathing, and descended into a deep sleep.
END CHAPTER 3
Song Title: Déjà vu
Genre: Rock/Anthem M usic: WillemWillem Remix : Scomber Lyrics: Scomber Vocals: Scomber = Download Song
Corey sat in front of his computer. It dawned on him that he could possibly retrieve the lost data he had sent to Charlie from his email server. He put the kettle on while he waited for the data to download back onto his machine. Tap Tap Tap. Corey stood up and reached to draw open the curtains over the window. He cupped his hands and peered out into the garden, it was difficult to see in the darkness with the bright glare inside his room. It was Lisa. "Corey I think you better come down to the Stag right away." she whispered at the top of her voice. "Your girlfriend is making quite a scene down there". Corey grabbed his coat and bolted down the stairs, meeting Lisa on the path behind the building. She reached for his hand and ran him down the path. "I've got to get back to work, but I thought you'd like to check this out." she puffed, clearly out of breath. After a quick run back to the Stag they entered through the kitchen and walked up the narrow corridor leading to the bar. Corey could hear a chorus of wolf whistles and jeers as they both stopped at the doorway to greet the scene before them.
It was Miranda, alright. Dancing on a table, breasts out, and gyrating her hips to the beat of an old 70's number blaring from the jukebox. Corey had forgotten how striking she was. Even though there was twenty or so patrons gathered around, beers in hand and tongues on floor, she kept her gaze unfixed, concentrating on the rhythm, her legs impossibly long, her heels sliding over a table top of spilt drinks. He felt Lisa's nails bite into his arm through his coat, suddenly bringing him back to reality. "Well are you going to join in stud?" she asked, those eyelids batting, planting her hand on her hip. Before Corey could reply the music stopped abruptly. The entire crowd turned around in the direction of the jukebox. Standing to its right was a police officer with the power chord in one hand and the other pointing to a now motionless Miranda. The bar had never been so quiet. Slowly, the crowd began to boo until the cop stepped forward, pulled out his revolver and shot a hole in the ceiling right above Miranda. "Break it up. Move along people. There's nothing to see here." he announced as he reached for Miranda's waist, lifting her off the table. He promptly produced a coat, covered her up and began to march her out of the bar towards the entry that was to Corey and Lisa's right. It didn't seem the usual method of apprehending an offender, it was much too familiar, Corey thought to himself. The body language was wrong. What happened next was astonishing. Turning the corner towards the front doors, the pair simply vanished, right before Corey and Lisa's eyes. The automatic doors didn't open to allow anybody out. "Am I seeing things Corey?" Lisa asked, her jaw slack, in
much the same position as Corey's. Corey turned to the pool room and spotted the security camera perched at the end of the entry. "Are those things working?" he asked Lisa, who was heading for the doors for a quick look outside. He followed her out. No sign of them. "Yeah the boss tapes everything after that robbery last year. Four cameras; one in the pool room, one in the lounge, one in the entrance and the other behind me at the bar . It makes sure I don't give away free drinks.. I finish in 40 minutes, would you like me to grab the tape and come back to your place? "You bet ya," Corey responded patting Lisa on the bottom, flirting a bit. "But could you also see if you can find Thursday nights' tape. This Miranda chick is really beginning to freak me out." "I'll see you at 10." Lisa replied as she walked back into the bar shaking her head and trying to figure out what had just happened. Corey really hustled back to his room. It had occurred to him that if Miranda was in town, maybe she might be grabbing his computer while he was talking to Lisa. He was relieved to see everything in its place as he entered his room. He sat down on the lounge and reached forward for the pen resting on a notepad on the coffee table. He began to jot down a few thoughts, trying to make sense of the events unfolding. Mars. Manhattan. Mirror. Magnetosphere. Miranda. Well that's the M's taken care of. He then drew points beneath each word. Mars; fourth rock from the sun. Frozen out, dusty, the god of war. It's blood red specter foretelling impending doom and
bloodshed. Manhattan; New York. 9-11 Magnetosphere; from what Corey knew, Mars didn't really have one, well not like Earth's anyway. There seemed to be patches of magnetic fields above parts of the planet but the molten iron dynamo inside had apparently stopped two billion years ago and with it, any real atmosphere had been stripped away by solar radiation. But it seemed to have one now. An invisible magnet hiding behind our nearest neighbour. Miranda; the slippery nipple. Who? What? From Where? Where next? He had to speak to Charlie. He looked at his watch. Hopefully Ray should be getting a good look at Mars about now. A tap on the window. "Jeez, doesn't she ever come to the door?" he asked himself as he headed towards the entry. Corey met Lisa at the stairs carrying a couple of video tapes. "Come inside Leis, and lets whack those tapes into the VCR. And by the way I live at number 4". He pointed at the number at the intercom. There's even a buzzer". He sat her down on the lounge, grabbed the shopping bag with the tapes and headed over to the kitchen to pour them both a stiff whiskey. Lisa looked towards Corey. "That wouldn't be a slippery nipple would it? "No just a bit of lubricant. Corey responded pointing to the TV. He put the drinks down and inserted the first tape. "Slow down big boy, this is Thursday night's tape when she was only throwing out the burley... You know we're very lucky to have these tapes you know".
Lisa quipped. "If I hadn't changed the tape straight after you left and grabbed Thursday nights tape they would have been gone." Corey looked surprised. "What do you mean gone." "That's just it." she said. "As I left I had the feeling that I had turned off the security VCR by mistake so I went to check it and saw that the entire cupboard storing hundreds of tapes completely empty." "The plug was out of the socket and there was no tape inside. This is serious shit you've got yourself into Corey." They played the first video. It was Thursday night. The video was time stamped and the image split in four. One of the entrance, one the bar, the other the lounge and the fourth, the pool tables. Corey fast forwarded until Lisa shouted; "There's you walking in the entrance. That was eight o'clock because I remember looking at the time wishing it was closing just before you walked in. "There you are getting your drinks and sitting over at the booths near the pool tables." Corey continued to fast forward waiting for Miranda. The tape showed Corey sitting for a while and then getting out of the booth and heading to the bar again..... Corey hit play and slowly rewound the tape. "If that's me going to get the cocktail, then where the hell is Miranda?" He looked for the lounge shot displayed at the bottom left, and could see no sign of anybody sitting with him from the other angle. "Stop there". Lisa shouted. "No back just a little bit." "now there's you standing up and looking like your just about to curtsy .Then shaking hands with nobody." Corey instinctively pressed the pause on the remote and they
both looked at each other just like they had a couple of hours before. There was a blur, or maybe even a shadow, much smaller than the real thing. Corey massaged the slow motion button. There it was again but this time over Corey's head. A smoky shadow, like a giant set of claws seizing their prey. Corey suddenly realized that this was the moment he tasted the cocktail. He looked at Lisa. "She certainly spiked your drink". she mouthed, her eyes fixed to the image on screen. Corey had a large sip of his whiskey and stood up in front of the TV. The video showed him was leaving the bar, with his arm around something, his weight assisted by some sort of body. He ejected the tape and inserted the other. "Let's check out tonight's action". The tape was cued 5 minutes after Corey left which seemed about right. He rewound the tape. After a short while he pressed play. "Nothing's happening here" Corey said. Lisa lent forward. "Go forward until you see the chairs around that table fall over." She said pointing to one of the four images. “That’s when it all started, I heard the crash from the Bar and saw your lady leap up onto the table and feverishly match the song belting out of the juke box. "There we go. The guy's are starting to stand up around her but where the hell is your girlfriend Corey? This is really beginning to freak me out." "Let's just go to the end" Corey responded, fast forwarding. "I've got to see that cop guy." "That's in about 10 minutes" Lisa added.
The phone rings. Scares the shit out of them. Corey drops the remote like he's been shot in the back. "Stop the video!" He picks up the phone. It's Ray. "Corey, sorry if I woke you up or something, but I just had to tell someone. Well, Charlie's apparently back today, but the Mars results are not exactly what I expected. There's seems to be an object 20km long by 12km wide on the far side of Mars. Cycling every 3.14 seconds; the mass of the object increases from the weight of a pea to the weight of the Moon 19 times a minute. But the spacial readings indicate it remains a constant 20 by 12km. I reckon that it even seems to be hiding behind Mars”. “Hiding from who?” Corey asked. Ray's tone changed. “Us mate….Corey, we're keeping this one pretty close to our chest down here and wouldn't like you blabbing about this over there just yet. In six hours we collected enough data for years of analysis. But you know what the funny thing was, all three radio telescopes in the array; us, Parkes, and Stromlo crashed with a blown fuse simultaneously. It cut our viewing by 15 minutes. Pat over at Parkes has never seen anything like it in his life. These fuses are generally redundant and are really only meant to protect the instruments in case of a lightning strike. Anyway Corey, I'm sure that Charlie will want to reach you later on. Do you have a mobile phone? Corey said yes and gave him the number. Corey's head was spinning again. "It's been developing for the last three years since the Mars probes went missing. Is it getting any stronger?" he asked. "Sorry Corey, we've only had the data four hours we just can't tell yet."
Ray wound up the conversation. "And please, not a word to anyone until you read it in the papers." Lisa had helped herself to a drink while Corey was on the phone but had resisted looking for the cop who ended the show. Corey poured the last drops of the bottle and played the tape. They watched as the crowd of onlookers stopped and turned around in the direction of the camera as the music stopped. "Isn’t there a better angle where you can see the duke box? Corey asked. They both realized that with the camera high above the duke box and the other over the pool tables there was little chance of seeing the jukebox. "Slow it down now" urged Lisa. The table was shaking to a beat, with an invisible person dancing wildly. "Slower, slower" she said. She stopped dancing. Then once again there was a shadow of sorts. But this time two figures. One, possibly Miranda high above the table, the other, the cop, menacing and then lunging over the top like they had seen in the first video. "Nothing more on the tape. Just a couple of ghosts that don't really show up on video walking out of a bar. Let’s look at the doors." Corey said. They both inched closer to the television looking at the image of the front doors opening and then closing. "Hang on a second." Corey paused. "The doors didn't open when we saw it live tonight. They disappeared before they reached them. "It could have been the wind you know" Lisa said joking. Corey looked up with his lip down and his eyes wide.
"Pour me another drink Corey. I don't have to work tomorrow." He ejected the tape and got up to make Lisa a drink. "How does Bacardi and dry sound? He reached for the dusty bottle of rum on top of the kitchen cupboard. "We should take the tapes down to the media lab tomorrow for a better look. I got Jeff a shag last year; he owes me. You can crash on the sofa if you like Leis. He looked around feeling slightly uncomfortable. "What? You're not going to have your way with me like Miranda." She purred, lying back on the sofa pushing her cleavage together. "Come on Lisa. I told you I honestly can't remember a thing." "Sure you can. I know back at home when I used to sneak out and meet Jimmie and well I guess, do it...well you know... I could tell when the equipment has had some use." "I'll be straight with you Lisa. It really shits me that I can't remember fucking the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. You see, it's just a blur. I woke up in nothing but my socks and a sore head. Lisa reached forward to console him. "We'll if it’s any consolation I got pretty hot on what I saw earlier tonight. But I can't compete at that level." Corey inched towards Lisa on the sofa, realizing that she may have actually spilt the beans and revealed her secret fancy. Lisa moved forward and pointed her lips towards Corey. It was an awkward first kiss, her mouth finding part of his nostril, but they both got the message and eventually found the mark. "I think we should find somewhere more comfortable Mr Starman." Lisa laughed uncontrollably at first but then managed to guide his bottom towards the bed.
Her eyes like saucers, fixed upon his eyes, Lisa dispensed with her top and bra and stood at the foot of Corey's bed; swinging those hips and pointy nipples in the cold night air, doing that Miranda thing. A brief feeling of apprehension passed through his body. I wonder if this means we'll be going out together? he asked himself. His hesitation was short lived when he realised he was about to bed the hottest girl on campus.
End of chapter 4
Song Title: Lights Out
Genre: Rock/Psychedelic M usic: St Paul, Colab and Chris Bailey Remix : Scomber Lyrics: Scomber/KCentric Vocals: Scomber/KCentric = Download song
Chapter Five Lights Out
Ray Phillips. One look at his furrowed brow and craggy features should have placed him as a cattle farmer. His hands were large and coarse. His eyes were a faded blue, dazzling in his youth, but now dissolving with the years. He lay in his bed, giggling to himself like a child with a big secret, his wife Hazel asleep on one side, and a printed image of the orb stretched out on the floor the other side. "So this is Charlie's Manhattan" he whispered. "Fifteen miles long and weighing a quarter of our moon." "We've made it Hazel. We've bloody well made it." His thoughts were interrupted by the ring of the telephone down the hallway. He leapt out of bed, faster than he had ever done before and picked up the phone. It was Pat from the Parkes telescope, out of breath and clearly distressed. "Ray get back to your telescope right now and call the police." Ray interrupted. "What's happened?" They’ve taken all the computers. I managed to get in the car and ....... burrrrrrrrrrr. The line went dead. He tapped the hang up button. No dial tone. Ok Ray. Take a few deep breaths… he said to himself.
He grabbed his keys, checked on Hazel and jumped into his car. He was only at the end of the street when he saw all the lights go out. No street lights or lights in houses. Bang! Ray flinched, wrenching the wheel to the opposite side of the road. He swerved clear of a fiery ball of flames and sparks and stopped the car. "Jesus". He slumped over the wheel his heart beating a drum through his rib cage. A completely burnt out electricity transformer, about the size of a fridge lay prostate in the middle of the road. The pole from where it had launched was still on fire. By the time he had got out towards the bridge through town he saw at least half a dozen transformers, one on the roof of a car looking like a fallen piece of Skylab. He passed the police on the bridge and soon a couple of fire engines all heading back into town. It was an incredibly dark night. Even though he was well clear of the town, it seemed impossibly dark. He concentrated on the road and the beam of light that stretched in front of him. It's probably always this dark out here with no moon and a blackout in town. He thought about Pat from Parkes and how the last thing he said was something about managing to get into his car. Why would use the word "manage" unless it was a difficult assignment to reach his vehicle and flee. Who are "they".?. The road entered the national park and narrowed as it twisted up the mountain. There is something on the road ahead. Startled, Ray jumps on the brakes, locking up and expecting a kangaroo through the windscreen, stopped just short of Charlie. "Jump in you flam'n lunatic". Charlie was still in his paint and total naked.
"Gee thanks Mr. Phillips for the lift to work, but why are you dressed in your pajamas? Ray gave a wry smile looking Charlie up and down. "Well I think you’re just in time, Pocahontas, to see who else is interested in your Mars work. The road reached the top of the first escarpment and Ray pulled the car over to the side. They both got out and looked towards town. Not a single light. Ray turned to Charlie. "I'm figuring it's some sort of power surge or a particularly vicious magnetic storm. The transformers were flying off the poles in town like flaming grenades. You know you were right about your Manhattan object. We set up an array last night with Parkes and Stromlo and even got a radio image of the son of a bitch. Why didn’t you fill me in earlier Charlie? Charlie's gaze was skyward his face all white teeth and eyes. "You know Boss, I saw the object in a dream I had on walkabout. It's a peanut shaped orb that flows and shimmers as if it was made of quicksilver. It gave me a sense of warmth but cut with a biting cold that I could feel in my bones. Kamilaroi have a word for it – coloata – the fire of the gods. It’s the force that separates the living from the afterlife and it has been here before. The older blackfellas say that it perched itself high above the treetops of the Grand Tor near the end of the Dreamtime. You go up there even now and your compass spins like a top”. Ray looked up towards the observatory anxiously. "I reckon we park the car at the first bend and walk up the stairs rather than driving up.” They got into the car and drove another five hundred metres. Ray peeled off to the right at the first corner concealing the car from the road in a small excavation cut when the road was built.
"Just take it really quiet as we reach the depot. I think someone is in the process of pinching our gear, but I don't think they’re Martians." As they climbed the stairs the refracted glow from the compound flood lights seemed to dull the intolerable darkness. Stopping at the last flight of stairs, Charlie took a look at Ray, struggling about fifty metres back, feeling the climb. Even in the low light, his black and white striped pajamas shone in the darkness like some kind of incandescent zebra. "I can see you a mile away with that clobber Boss. You stay here or take your bloody clothes off like me. I think I better take a quick look around. The backup generator is running. The lights are on.” Ray didn't have time to argue as Charlie sprung over the last flight of stairs and into the cover of the bushes that lined the car park. He looked towards the main building and saw a light turn on at the rear of the control room. He ran towards the utilities shed in the center of the compound. The keys were in their usual place and he opened the door and stepped inside. He knew that he would have a huge advantage by turning the emergency generator off. He disconnected the battery backup and pulled the ignition leads off the petrol generator. Darkness again. He could see a couple of torches a lot easier on a dark night. He slinked out of the shed and saw the flash of a couple of torches in the control room and bolted towards them, heading for the external fire escape stairs. Charlie knew every nook and cranny of the observatory better than anyone else – after all, he cleaned the place for ten years. Reaching the top floor he shimmied along the narrow ledge that ran just below the control room. There was a gap in the wall about half a metre square where an old air conditioner used to sit before the building was ducted. He squeezed through, accessing a narrow space between the wall and the interior lining. As quietly as he
could he crabbed his way along the wall until he reached a couple of holes in the plaster where some old mainframes used to be bolted to the wall. There was just enough space to see into the control room. There appeared to be three men, working efficiently to remove one of the main servers that stores temporary data acquired by the main dish for positioning the optical telescopes. They were definitely slowed down by the lack of light, relying on their torches. “What happened to the backup power?” one figure asked the other. Charlie noticed that the accents were American as one left the room and headed for the fire stairs. They were dressed in black combat fatigues, probably armed he thought. Charlie then shuffled his way in the confining space towards the other fire exit that served the other wing. There was nothing this warrior, forget about his war paint, was going to do with his boss in the carpark in his pajamas. He reached the end of the cavity and remembered that he would have to climb twelve feet over the mesh at the fire escape. The mesh was surprisingly quiet as he lifted his frame over the edge. The only problem about this exit was that he would have to open the fire escape door blind, taking the risk that someone might be guarding outside at the top of the stairs. His heart beat through his chest as he pushed the bar and slipped through the door. No one there. But he could now see the person who left the other exit loading some equipment into the back of a dark coloured van. “I’ve got to get back to Ray.” He mouthed to himself. He was just about to start down the stairs when he heard the door behind him click. “All clear west exit”. An American voice said quietly into a two way radio. The figure walked past Charlie, down the stairs
in front of him, fortunately not noticing him pinned against the building wall, not game to take a breath. Charlie saw his opportunity. He took a couple of swift strides towards the figure at the first landing and shouldered him over the railing for a deadly fifteen metre fall to the carpark below. The starlight was just enough for Charlie to make out the prostrate form not moving at the base of the stairs. He bolted down, rolled the man over onto his back and took his pistol from the body holster. His radio was blaring; “Alpha. Respond. Respond.” He could still hear the radio as he dashed back towards the bushes and stairs where he had left Ray. He wasn’t there but Charlie instinctively used his bush tracking skills and noticed some long grass trodden in the direction of the top lookout. He found Ray beyond the safety railing, butt naked, trailing a long electrical wire up the grassy slope, back towards the viewing platform. “They’re American boss, and I don’t think they are very friendly.” Charlie said waving the pistol towards him. “I pushed one off the back stairs.” “Put that bloody thing away.” He responded. Ray was a man on a mission. “How many did you see?” he asked “I only saw three, well, make that two now.” They were removing the data arrays and loading them into a van.” Ray turned to Charlie, twisting a couple of wires together. “Are you sure there was only one van.” He asked, his mind clearly preoccupied with the task at hand. The penny dropped. Charlie began to realize what his naked boss had in mind. The lookout was closed to the public a couple of years ago after a series of rock falls that had landed on the road below. Ray had been to the utility shed soon after Charlie had cut the backup power and retrieved a small quantity of explosives and
detonators that had been left behind by the crew that cleared the debris from the road below. They had only just reached the viewing platform when they heard the van start up. They stood up, peering down at the set of headlights as they snaked their way down the grade around the first couple of bends. Ray produced a nine volt battery and prepared to touch the twisted copper wire against the terminals. Now! Charlie urged as the van slowed to negotiate the hairpin immediately below. The blast was loud, but nothing as big as Ray had imagined. To both of their surprise a large piece of the cliff face and topsoil below them sheared off the side of the slope, dragging a couple of trees with it. It was a direct hit. They ran to the other side of the viewing platform and scaled the safety rail so they could see the road below. Not a sound or even a flash of headlights. Just a large chunk of mountain on the road beneath. Ray tuned to Charlie. “Public visiting hours are between 9 and 5 pm and these guys obviously didn’t see the “falling rocks” sign as they left the carpark.” He suddenly looked more serious and his was voice somber, “You know Charlie that this is only going to buy us a couple of hours.” Whoever these guys are, they already have the data from Parkes. Just as well I took the backup tapes home with me when I left this evening...” A look of horror transformed his face in the weak moonlight. “Oh my god! Hazel. I left her at home sound asleep. The tapes are on the dresser in our bedroom.” They bolted back to the carpark and down the stairs to the car. End of chapter 5