- Olo Kamen
The New World - Part I. Johnny B. Goode / Chapter One
CHAPTER ONE - Darkside of the Moon
February 11, 2,111, August Matthews a direct descendant of Nelson Mandela is a brilliant leading astrophysicist heading the search for extra terrestrial intelligence as well as earth like habitable worlds now a joint field as the scientific consensus is that this is the only solution for humanity. The 3 dimensional display at the heart of his workstation begins emanating what appears to be a heartbeat like pulse, August's hands move through the air tracing a figure eight shape and the image spins 180 degrees, tilting his head to the side he makes another hand motion and the second three dimensional display to his left lights up and sound-waves begin pouring through space and time commanding his attention as they flash in front of his view. August's right hand traces a double u in the air and a static ball appears above the workstation he pulls this ball down and begins to tune the images he is viewing. Holding the static ball he turns it again, as his forefathers would have turned a knob on a radio, these days the only radio referred to were the radio telescopes affixed to the satellites in orbit of the moon pointed at virtually every corner of the cosmos. While his hand gestures are being read by a sensor below his workstation he is a blur of activity hands moving through air like a martial arts master guiding the unseen energy this way and that. This artisan of astrophysics appears as skilled in the use of these interfaces as his mother's mother was in using a mouse, a keyboard, and a touchscreen, relic's of a more primitive time. As he tunes the glowing sphere he makes a quick gesture with his left hand and audio begins playing from the overhead speakers. It is as undeniable as it is unmistakable,nevertheless both his hands drop in total disbelief and the 3 dimensional audio display goes to sleep, he quickly snaps back into focus, taps his right fingertips against the ball of his left palm to bring display back online, he does the same double u to bring up the static ball or cs standing for control sphere,he turns it slightly and the audio begins to play again. A wave of sound flowing through time and space, translated from the inert zero's and one's back into it's recognizable three dimensional form, projected by the ingenuity of humanity into a frequency of photons discernible to his eyes pressing him back and washing over his consciousness forcing a thought about how uncomfortable it would be if human eyes were sensitive to sound waves as they exist in an atmosphere. But the audio reeled him back in, then stopped this Nobel Prize winner in his tracks, it was acoustic guitar, and in a style recognizable to August as playing guitar is one of his hobbies, but the song would not be recognized by most of his generation, it was Chuck Berry,singing, "ooh...Johnny B. Goode". He sits back this time he was sure to be careful with his hands dropping them slowly, placing them on his knees gripping his kneecaps ever so slightly not wishing to misdirect the interface. As he stares out of the window, a peaceful meadow relieves his vision of the weight of what he was witnessing. At that moment a hummingbird buzzed in front of the window then helicoptered over to the roses blooming just under the great oak offering shade from the simulated sunshine, an almost screen-saver effect as it reacted to his attention, three dimensional and completely realistic. Another,in a series of adaptations recommended by deep space psychologist as a necessary aid for long term separation from earth, on moon and martian colonies. Of course there is no oak,there are no rose's, no hummingbird and no window, only a digital approximation, almost more beautiful as it was aesthetically nearly perfect, while missing all the things that mattered. Just as the wall protects him not only from the deadly reality of space, without atmospheric protection but also the depressing rocky, dusty, dark surface of our oldest satellite, the moon. "What the ____?", "Okay August, calm down,lets wake the runts" August rolls over in his ergonomic chair to press the physical button, the inter-station communication being still hard-wired in early 21st century style as it was determined that loss of computer functionality is precisely the time when communication needed to be foolproof, especially when hundreds of thousands of miles from home on the moon or millions of miles away on mars. August begins "Uh, yeah, get the hell up, I'm gonna need both of you down here, NOW" the now is said with the authority of a god, as he is at least from the point of view of his graduate research assistants while on the moon "No makeup, no showers, get your butts down here". The creases on his brow furrow as he glances back over to a flat screen curved display while continuing to let the 3 dimensional displays operate and still glancing over at them from moment to moment,dumbfounded, but a much more determined expression has seeped into the scowl of concentration that rested nearly as a permanent fixture on his face. It was not the scowl of superiority though he could have exuded this had he chosen to and for good reason, yet this was simply the look of a scientist who is accustomed to being able to get down to the bottom of anything, especially things in his field of expertise. Losing himself in the screens full of data attempting to help him approximate the source origin and nature of it, ascension and declination coordinates flash. August glances back over at the wave still floating as it flowed in his peripheral vision, his left pinky quickly transferring weight between his digits to his index finger, transferring the data he reviewed over to the first three dimensional display. A star system replaced the waveform, the reddish glow of the star in the foreground much dimmer and smaller then the other two large yellow sun-like balls of piping hot fusion reactions twisting in the space time continuum the mind of this physicist operating on the outer edges of thought where the chosen few of each generation dwell,pushing the boundaries, pulling the rest of humanity onward,outward, and perhaps, upward, if there was such a thing in formless eternity that seemed to contain the realm in which we dwell. As he touched the reddish glowing star on the bottom with his thumb and then closes the clasp on top with is index finger like Isaac Newton may have held the apple that dropped on his head as he contemplated the nature of the universe,unveiling fundamental pillars of the physical dimensions of the universe. As August contemplates the infamous apple always tied to the rise or fall of humanity depending on ones perspective,his claw like touch caused the red star to expand and begins to dominate the entire display, the other two stars are pushed out of the imaging, and only the red dwarf remains. August taps three times lightly on the front of the star just as a flare seemed to lick up at his finger and the reddish color became brighter and sharper allowing dark circular masses to become visible as they orbited this blood colored ball hanging in the darkness. "Proxima? ...no, can't be" speaking once again to the room at large. "Wait", just as he moves back to the 2 dimensional screen his two post graduate assistants enter the lab, one is a dark skinned young woman, with skin that almost glows the light leaping off of her face causing her night black eyes to sparkle, especially when she smiles, she speaks with a very slight accent, not quite distinguishable as Kenyan. Her hair wrapped up in a rapid tie job to make it some what presentable for her hero August, of course. The other research assistant a red headed tall freckled faced man strapping in every way, anything but an astronomer in appearance, maybe a striker for Chelsea, or a new James Bond Character, anything but a kid who had dreamed of the stars since growing up on the banks of Dover, his hair is as it was when he rolled out of bed not an abnormal state of affairs, speaking with a Welsh accent, he stops in his tracks listening to the audio, August almost feeling his thoughts turns and glances up at Ethan smiling as he says "No, it's not a guess that song contest" a game that has taken the place of karaoke for friends out drinking. The library of music over the last 100 years has become enormous.His graduate students just look at him, Lida then walks over to the 3 dimensional display with the star system still showing. Lida's eyes narrowing as her head tilts slightly up and to the left "Proxima Centauri?" August simply nods slowly as Lida continues "and what's that song playing, were you listening to classics while you worked again?" August simply shakes his head slowly. The freckled faced leading man looks at the numerical display below the audio, and sees the ascension and declination numbers and his eyes grow wide "How?" Ethan looking at August now wonder filling is eyes "I mean,...how?" August's shoulders raise slightly and he opens his hands palms up, Ethan continues,"But we've been listening to the Alpha Centauri system for a hundred years, nothing but star noise, what the..." he stops on the last word as his thoughts trail off unstated. August gathers himself as leader of the team, it's time to get to work,they can't be wrong about something like this when they ring the bell. "Well, I guess they turned on their radio's". Dr. August Matthews is not more than 10 years older then either of his two assistants who are mid to late twenties at the most, but they almost revere him as a deity a result of him doing some of the most exciting work in their field in the last 50 years, work able theories and field equations on Dark Matter and Dark Energy lead the pack of his credentials, emphasized by the Nobel Prize sitting on his work station. August gathering the reigns of the moment, "okay, lets get to work, you guys get on your stations and verify my work, I mean, I have no doubt, but lets check my math shall we, I'm going on with the Cape of Good Hope observatory back home, "home?" "Come on Ethan, you know what I mean" August giving Ethan a passing glance before his eyes are involuntarily drawn back to the waveform, he reaches into the display and turns the cs slightly, Proxima spins away and the alpha centauri system is completely visible. Lida attempts to interject some humor "might as well get on with the President,... I mean, Johnny B. Goode??, Come on" the last part added rhetorically she and Ethan get to their ergonomic chairs and power up their stations, both perking up with expectation measured with a healthy amount of skepticism. August is intently observing the 3 dimensional audio signal now and doesn't look up as he adds "well, either Chuck Berry was reborn in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, or they are pinging us back". "They?" Ethan looks at August again, "I mean, what the hell?", "what else could it be though?" Ethan continuing,"wasn't that the song on Voyager I?, on the gold record I mean".Lida chuckle gurgles in her throat like a fine wine that seems ashame to swallow, derisively adding at Ethan's expense "Yeah, it only arrived like 79,900 years ahead of schedule, it can't be Voyager Ethan, you of all people know that's crazy, they" the they is added by Lida intentionally emphasizing her belief that it must be an ETI, Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, a belief helped along by her desire to impress August with her capacity for that belief. "...Must have received our radio transmissions from back then, guess they thought that was important to us,when we were playing it so much, it was a big hit right?" the booming sound filling the room is Ethan's ballooning baritone of a chuckle, "But we don't hear a peep from the star system for a century or more and then they start playing Johnny B. Goode at 3 in the morning?" Lida concedes slightly but fires back "well,technically they started playing it 4 years ago, it just go there". Ethan shoots her a look "4.2 years ago my Rhodes scholar, and I will add parenthetically, duh, but seriously!,what the"- "F_ck" August finishing his thought for him."Exactly, so you guys get to work, lets make sure no one is, how do you say Ethan? Messing us about". The song which had cycled through several times stops and is replaced immediately by a completely human sounding voice, the language, the inflection,the intonation however, are like nothing they have ever heard,any of them. Ethan's hands drop and his screens go to "sleep"as August's had before and uncommon occurrence that he doesn't notice. They are all transfixed by the new audio signal, all of their mouths are opened trapped in the eternal space between their last thought and their next, Lida is first to find her footing, "Oh my god, I have chills all over my body", "Me too"Ethan holding her incredulous expression and matching it. They both look at August, "Is this a joke?" said in total disbelief as Ethan attempts to retreat from the moment, August simply raises both arms making retreat impossible as Ethan observes the hairs protruding from each pore. "No joke, I..." now it's August's turn for his thoughts to leave his words suspended,hanging in the air. They keep listening to these first words spoken to human ears from vocal chords that evolved on another world, they are speechless, an almost religious experience.Sitting there drenched as they were in awe and humility, none could find the words yet each knew they had never felt more uplifted, connected to each other, responsible for one another,never in all their life had they understood quite what it truly meant to be part of the human race, that is until now. Like the first time experiencing the love that can be made with another,not knowing what one did not know. Now they knew, the knowledge bringing with it the truth that none of their lives could ever be the same again.