Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SKY PIRATES

The Lacrosse satellite made its nightly pass over the state. Just a tiny, steady bright star moving slower than an airplane and without the telltale blinking navigation lights. Day or night didn't matter to this bird. It 'saw' in the radio spectrum. Traveling 18,000-plus miles per hour it traversed the sky surprisingly quickly. The apparent small size was deceiving. It was actually about as big as a 32-seat school bus and weighed in at 12 tons. It was one of the NRO's darkest secrets and yet not the best they had. In fact, Lacrosse was used as a back-up to more capable systems. It was horrifically expensive to maintain and operate, and dangerous for spacewalking astronauts who worked on it. The delta vee rockets used to orient it burned volatile fuel and it packed a sizable amount of plutonium in a power pack. That pack, the size of an office safe, generated electricity by thermoelectric conversion from the heat of nuclear decay. It was looking down now, taking image after image and relaying them in real time to data specialists and analysts.

***
Gary held the laptop battery inside his parka. The temperature had dropped to the point where it was necessary to warm the battery to keep it functioning. He had lost the feeling in his fingers some time ago. The other two men had probably suffered as badly or worse. The whole 'science project' depended on this simple laptop battery. 36 hours had passed since they set up two solar panels and a small satellite dish. Six days had passed since Gary hacked the transmitter.The feed horn on the dish had been converted to an emitter horn. Gary had modified another antenna to receive telemetry from the satellite. At the heart of the project was an off-the-shelf CB radio he had modified to 'speak' to the bird on its maintenance frequencies. Gary explained that while the data encryption was extremely sophisticated, the 'custodial' systems were not. In fact, the status of the bird was transmitted to the ground at a known frequency in Morse code! The others had shook their heads at the cobbled-together rig. They were freezing to death out here while this maniac pointed his 'death ray' at one of the world's most hardened satellites. They had the good fortune of clear weather which charged the system during the day and allowed them to see the bird during its nightly pass.
It was almost time.
Gary slid the battery in its slot and booted up the laptop. There was no familiar jingle as his custom operating system blinked on. The others gathered around the screen as if they could warm there hands by the light. Their breath was visible in the feeble light of the screen. With a few keystrokes Gary made it even darker. They had to be able to see the bird.
"Its time" he croaked. His throat was closing with excitement.
One of the men turned the makeshift dish antenna to the sky. The other stepped away and pointed skyward. "There it is!" he stage whispered as if it could hear him.
Gary held his breath and hit 'run'. A progress bar appeared. When it finished a tiny chime sounded and esoteric lines of code raced across a DOS screen. Gary hit 2 more keys and more lines of code came up. The 'transmit' indicator on the modified CB radio blinked on for exactly 2 seconds and then went dark.
"Done." Gary stated with some finality.
All three men looked skyward at the steady star racing across the heavens.
"Nothing." one of the men breathed.
"It didn't work did it?" The other said pointedly. He dropped the dish in disgust.
"Look" Gary said quietly. "Just look."
The steady tiny star was blinking now. Steadily and slowly blinking.
"So what, Gary?" the first man said, an edge on his voice.
"Its tumbling." Gary grinned "And at that rate, it may not recover."


***
The doctor finally had an assistant. A young girl whose medical training consisted of an advanced first aid course. At least she washed her hands and did as she was told. Right now she was bandaging some frostbite victims while they flirted with her. Seems like these heroes ruined a satellite.
They might have kicked over a hornet's nest.
Marcy ran in to the doctor's 'quarters'.
"He's awake! He's awake".

***
Carl ran his tongue around his lips. He tried to swallow, but only gagged. He felt something like 'lightness'. He tried to rub his eyes, but his hand was taped down. He could barely see the needles taped to the back of his right hand. He tried to raise his left arm but the pain stopped him cold. Two people came in the sick bay. One was Marcy. She was smiling.
***
The systems technicians at the NRO facility were puzzled by what became simply 'the Lacrosse incident'. How could all four gyros gimbal lock at the same time? A tight-lipped team from TRW grimly looked over the profile. The news was not good. The orbit had been modified for the run over the western part of the continent. Normally the thrusters would move it back up to its original orbit after the mission. Now it was too low to recover, even if they could unlock the gyros. It tumbled lower with each pass. Current guesstimates had it coming down in the Pacific coast of South America, possibly near Chile. The best case circumstance had the volatiles burning off during re-entry and the power pack going to the bottom with its deadly load of plutonium.


***

9 comments:

  1. Typo..."its" should be "it's"

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  2. Keep writing! This is a great series!

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  3. Read the entire series. Amazing! Please keep going.

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  4. нормально

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  5. WHat happened to the State of Siege video?

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  6. When is the next chapter coming out????

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  7. Mike,

    Just found you today and read to catch up. Youre a good writer with a nice sense of style. No wasted words but still a good mental picture of all that matters. Nice work!

    One thing: Above you said "it's is the possessive form of the noun" - respectfully, that's incorrect - "it" is actually a pronoun - "he" is male, "she" is female, "it" is neuter.

    The apostrophe is normally used for possessive nouns - "Billy's door" or "Xerxes' Army."

    In the case of "it" - the ONLY time the apostrophe is used is in a contraction of "it is" to "it's."

    The possessive form of the PROnoun "It" is "its" - and so is the plural - "three its."

    He's = he is
    She's = she is
    it's = it is

    This contrived sentence will illustrate.

    "It (neuter pronoun) grabbed its (neuter-possessive) pack and ran because it's (contraction of "it is") joining the other its (plural pronoun) at their (plural-possessive-neuter pronoun) rendezvous point."

    HTH!

    DD

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