jueves, 25 de febrero de 2016

Jovian loop

   It was a completely closed room. It had no windows, only one door and no visible openings for heating or air conditioning. However, the temperature in the room was very nice and the two women and three men inside were chatting just as if they were out in the park with the sun above their heads. There was a large table shaped like a U on one side of the table and in the other there was just the empty space where they were talking to each other. Next to the table there was a wall covered in TV screens that looked more like very black glasses. The room fell silent the moment the door opened and a woman, accompanied by a gentleman in a military suit, entered the room talking. The only word heard was “people”.

 The two stopped talking when they saw the rest of the people and just went on to the table. Each seat was occupied and the small woman that had entered last had the central seat, facing the screens. No one said a word for some minutes. They glanced at some sheets of paper in front of them and just gave each other strange looks. The woman looked at her hands, also waiting. Finally, the screens turned on and formed one big image in high resolution. Everyone was even more silent then, if that was possible. They appeared to have no ability to breath or be relaxed. They couldn’t believe their eyes.

-       This is the only image taken by the Hercules probe as it descended through the clouds of Jupiter only two days ago. The image was beamed to an orbiter before the probe was crushed by atmospheric pressure.

 The small woman read this from one of the papers and when she was done she looked at the image, apparently trying to figure out what she was seeing.  Noticing no one said a word, she told them to state their view on the matter, starting by one end of the table. When they were all done exposing their theories, she wasn’t any more relaxed than before. She looked at the screen again; her hands in the position of prayer, and talked as calmly as she could, her voice trembling a bit.

-       Life, then?

 The group around her, nodded. They seemed terrified but not of her. Each one of those scientists had gone through the picture once and twice and even thirty times, checking every single variable and making copies of different sizes and colors and formats and the conclusion was always the same. As the probe descended through the clouds, it had taken a picture of things that were clearly alive. It was hard to describe the creatures but the movement was obvious and the camera on the probe was state-of-the-art, the best one ever on a machine sent to space. Many had thought it wasn’t worth it to put that camera in a probe that was going to be destroyed.

 The woman told them that, as the president, she was entitled to accept or dismiss their theories. So, again, one by one, she asked them to explain why the image depicted living beings. Why those couldn’t be just clouds or errors or whatever else. There was a scientist, a woman, who stood up and said in squeaky voice that the image was not the only thing they had gotten from the probe. A couple of the others looked at her surprised, clearly they had no idea about this new information. The president looked tired and asked the scientist to show them the information she had.

 The scientist went to the wall, were a small keyboard appeared and introduced a code no one else knew. Then, the screen changed in order to show a very small video on a loop. It was only six seconds long and the quality was not as good as the picture’s but it was clearly visible that those things in the image were moving. There was no sound but everyone seeing the footage supposed it would have been a very noisy environment. There was something like a flash at the end of the video, possibly a thunder.

-       Could any of you describe… the creatures?

 Another scientist, a bald man, said he was a biologist and had concluded that the creatures appeared to float in the upper atmosphere. They seemed to control their elevation perfectly and had a look between a cloud and an elephant. The comparison was very strange but they could all agree with the man, who sat down very fast after concluding his theory. The video kept repeating itself on the screen and the president just looked at it, as if trying to decipher some other meaning behind it.

 The aide she had come with, an older gentlemen in a military uniform, stood up and asked the rest of the people if the creatures were hostile. Surprisingly, it was madam president who told him that was the stupidest question she had heard recently. He told him it was impossible that those creatures could be any threat. The implication of their existence went much farther than just aggression. It made a change in our collective minds, our societies and civilizations. There was life on another planet and they had the proof right there.

 The man sat down, embarrassed, and the woman inhaled some air and just pulled back into her chair, thinking about many things, some of which they hadn’t even been talking about. After all, she had a daughter and was thinking of how weird it would be to explain all of that to her. She was a smart young woman but was curious to see if a young person would be as shocked as she was. To her the revelation had been too much to handle, so much she didn’t really know what was the next step.

 Apparently everyone was thinking the same thing because one of the scientists asked exactly what they were going to do with this information. Would they keep on studying the data or would they just released the video to the public and let them decide what it was? The president had no answer to that and her military aide was not going to say one more word on the matter. Silence again and the video in a loop. The creatures moving up and down, through the clouds. They had lights or something on them and had a strange color. The president wondered how it would feel to fall through the Jovian atmosphere.

 Her mind went back to the room when the video disappeared from the screen, instead being replaced by a white flag, whit a skull in the center, flanked in the back by two crossed swords. It was a pirate flag. Everyone in the room looked at each other, is if they were looking for someone to jump from their seat and excuse themselves for the mishap or the joke or whatever that was. But no one moved. Worst even, someone let out a gasp and said almost in a scream: “The Pirates!” The statement was a little obvious at first but then, slowly; the y understood what he had meant.

 The president said a course word and asked the military counselor for her phone but he reminded her that no phones worked in that room. He then yelled at him, ordering him to run out and tell the security forces to confront a cyber attack.  But it was too late. The famous Pirates, a band of virtual brigands that dedicated to looting governments and stealing their most precious belonging, had already done their deed. The Pirates were famous because of their logo with the white flag instead of a black one and their tendency to never ask for money. They said people paid them, with their honesty and enthusiasm.

 The flag on the screen disappeared and then they were looking at a webpage, more precisely it was someone going to YouTube. One of the videos the site recommended, as it was knew, was the one they had just seen. It played in a loop again and the comment and number of viewings rose in only fifteen minutes, time it took for madam president’s aide to go out and make all sorts of calls that wouldn’t make one ounce of a difference. The information was public and they could not make unseen what had been seen millions of times.

 The president couldn’t move, couldn’t keep her eyes apart. The man she had come in with tried to help her up but she just wouldn’t budge. She saw the creatures going up and down, and up and down. And she realized that the world had just changed. Her daughter would now next time she saw her. She cried a single tear, cleaned it and marched out of the room.

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