Excerpt from SPECTRA

“Karen! What the hell!” Dean was monitoring the operation from one of the viewports. He rushed to the airlock, grabbing an environmental suit on the way. “Ivan, stop her! She’s taking her helmet off.”

Dean could feel his heart pounding against his ribcage as he fastened the last connections of his suit. He glanced out the window in time to see Karen’s helmet drop to the ground. Immediately, a cloud of lights descended on her. What the hell is she thinking? He rushed to the airlock and seconds later, he emerged from the pod, dashing toward Karen. Someone grabbed his arm, and he turned to see Ivan’s perplexed face.

“Dean, wait.”

Dean’s wife stood with her palms to the sky and wondrous amazement lighting her eyes. The hair framing her face had dried to ribbons that were taking flight in the chilling breeze.

“I understand them,” she said with hardly a breath. “It’s incredible. It’s binary code, mathematics, I understand them.”

“Roger, can you confirm this?” Ivan sounded anxious.

“Yeah, that’s what I was trying to tell you. The wave frequencies of the impulses have started to change in tandem and tend to be in upper ranges above 400 hertz. Each frequency seems to correspond to a specific spectrum of color. The darker blue and greens of the lower frequencies have all but disappeared. What’s really amazing is the changes are following a mathematical binary pattern. It seems to be some kind of algorithm.”

“Karen, what’s going on?” Ivan asked.

The unscrupulous leader strikes again! Dean couldn’t believe Ivan wasn’t ordering her back into the pod. There was no telling what the lights could be doing to her. He had a mind to throw her over his shoulder and carry her in himself. “Who cares what’s going on? We need to get her back to the pod.”

Karen inhaled slowly as if savoring a fragrance. “Dean, it’s okay. I’m fine. I don’t know how to explain it, but I understand them. They’re some kind of energy, like intelligent energy, not like anything we’ve ever seen. They’re trying to understand what we are. We’re completely foreign to them. Do you understand what this means? The only life that’s been found on other planets is plant and insect life, which hardly qualifies as intelligent. This discovery is a first! I don’t know exactly what they are, but they’re incredibly intelligent.”

Dean edged closer to Karen and grabbed the bio-scanner strapped to her suit. He held it up to her and initiated a scan. Her heart rate, blood pressure, and other vitals were stable, but it wasn’t enough to alleviate his concern. “You feel okay?”

“I feel great, better than great, as though I’ve been revitalized.”

“Dean, I think I’m starting to feel it, too. She’s right. It seems structured and mathematical. I can feel their presence,” Ivan said.

A deafening screech like the sound of tearing metal, shot across the valley. Ivan jerked his head toward the pod. “The rig!” He took off with the agility of a clumsy man from the drag of the suit, kicking up dust on the way. “It’s jammed!” The drill ground to a halt, and one of the footing straps snapped, lashing into Ivan’s suit. “Damn it!” He fell to the ground, wincing.

“Annie, shut the rig down. Ivan’s hurt!” Dean rushed to Ivan’s side, with Karen a few steps behind.

An immense dust cloud hung in the thin air, and Karen sputtered as she started to speak, “That,” she spit some dust, “that looks deep.” She cupped her bulky glove over her nose and mouth and raised her voice. “We need to get him inside, so I can take care of the wound.”

Dean lifted Ivan to his feet and helped him back inside the airlock.

“Lay him down over here.” Karen pointed to the center of the cabin. She removed Ivan’s helmet, and Dean handed her the med kit and squatted down to assist. She started to cut away the thick fabric of the suit in the vicinity of his lesion. The wound appeared deep with several shards of metal debris imbedded in it. After administering a local anesthesia, Karen removed the debris with an incredible efficiency, seeming to sense the location of each fragment of metal. When the wound was clean and ready for mending, she pulled the mender out of the med kit and flicked it on. She held onto the shiny handle like it was a soupspoon and waited for the forked electrodes at its tip to charge. A blue arc appeared across the fork. Karen placed the arc over the lesion. “It’ll take a few minutes to regenerate the tissue. The cut’s deep.”

Ivan whisked her hand away. “Don’t,” he said in a small voice. He looked at her hypnotically as if gazing dreamily across a horizon; then his head fell back, and his body went limp. He shut his eyes, and his breathing became heavy like he was in a deep sleep.

“My God, look.” Annie whispered.

The wound on Ivan’s leg had stopped bleeding, and the little inflammation that had settled in was rapidly disappearing along with the redness around its periphery. Dean gawked at it, completely befuddled. It started to close up millimeter by millimeter as the cells proliferated at an unimaginable rate. A few minutes passed, and a thin scab had formed.

Kevin stared at the wound. “What the hell’s going on out there? What are those things?”

“They’re some kind of intelligent energy,” Karen said. “I could feel them trying to communicate with me telepathically. It was as though they were placing thoughts in my head. That’s why I took my helmet off. They’re curious about what we are. I don’t believe they mean us any harm. They seem peaceful.”

“Intelligent energy? All I picked up was electrical impulses.” Roger took another look at the measurements he’d taken.

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Experimental nanobots wreak havoc on Ph.D. student Jake Monroe by bringing back memories of a past life in which his girlfriend’s father murdered him. THE REMEMBER EXPERIMENT Some things are meant to be forgotten.

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