This is the third installment of a relatively new piece, Meteor Man. First written in July ’94, I was never satisfied with it until my last rewrite this past September.
It’s a longish piece at 11,300 words, so I’ve broken it into five sections. I hope it’s worth it.
Ellis sat at the side of the conference table.
“Good to see you, Dr. Ellis,” said Meninquez.
Ellis nodded as she watched people enter the room. She wore a body fitting burgundy flightsuit which left only her head and hands exposed. The burgundy flightsuit contrasted so sharply with the stale green of the conference room and with the geologic shales and hazes of Awkright’s base itself that everyone entering the room was drawn to look at her before seeing anything else. Her trim, athletic figure was relaxed in the chair and she winked and tapped her ear as each person entered and fixed their eyes on her. Only Geertz failed to notice her when he came in.
Her thick graying hair was gathered into a ponytail which came over her left shoulder. She stroked it as if it were a cat.
She waited until all the chairs were filled. ” Well?”
Meninquez spun his chair to face Geertz.” Well?”
Geertz tabbed a plate in front of him. Ellis leaned forward. “You don’t use an audio actuator? Damn slow. Inefficient, if you ask me.”
Geertz nodded agreement without looking up from his plate. “For most things, yes. For the things I do, no.”
Ellis smiled. She watched Geertz’s fingers slide over the plate as holograms appeared, rotated, and merged in the air above the conference table. He slipped on his glove and a hand appeared on the perimeter of the hologram. Ellis barked out a laugh. “Modified glove?”
She sat back. “Ma’am?” Her mouth worked as if pronouncing a new word in a foreign tongue. “Ma’am? What’s your name, son?”
He looked at her. “Donald Geertz.”
She winked and tapped her ear before responding. “Dr. Geertz?” She nodded, took her hand away from her ear and leaned forward. “Dr. Geertz, my grandchildren don’t call me ma’am. Use ‘Pat’. Please continue.”
He returned to the hologram. “This is The Wall. We see it as such because it’s been cleared and cleaned.” He tapped finger and thumb together twice and the hologram changed. The Wall took on a greenish hue. Red lines left its surface and moved beyond the cavern image, eventually encircling the entire structure and shaping into a three dimensional topographic of asteroid 480-SMN-10.
“Here’s 480-SMN-10,” Geertz said. “You can’t see it on this scale. You can’t even see it on a 1:1 scale, but The Wall isn’t a planar surface.”
“Show me that.”
Geertz tapped middle finger and thumb. The asteroid’s topographic faded and The Wall grew. White lines started at the corners of The Wall’s inner surface and projected inward to some center which they reached ten meters away, close to the conference room’s rear door. Once the four lines met at that far distant center another line joined them, this one moved across The Wall’s inner surface like a raster pattern and filled in a solid projection from that center to The Wall.
“Can we see this in toto, Dr. Geertz?”
Geertz was smiling, hunched over the edge of the conference table in his chair, looking up into the hologram from below. He pressed his thumb into his index finger’s second knuckle. 480-SMN-10’s topographic took shape around them. Geertz hadn’t shrunk the image. Red fractals merged and dissolved in the room as they formed the surface projection and filled the room with a swarm of twinkling, tiny lights.
Ellis sat back, eyes wide as she took it all in. “This is beautiful.”
Geertz nodded, his eyes still on the projection. “Thank you.”
The whole image collapsed until it floated above them. At that scale it was obvious The Wall was part of a sphere’s surface with the sphere’s center close to 480-SMN-10’s.
Ellis’ cheeks puffed out and a little popping sound escaped her lips. “Anybody want to argue this is planetary or geologic?”
People shook their heads.
“How come we didn’t know about this before we began extracting?”
Meninquez answered, “It’s reorganized planetary matter. It wouldn’t be detected.” He paused then added. “Actually, it was detected. This asteroid was recorded as gaseous-hollow. It was one of the reasons we came here.”
“Okay, let’s crack it.”
Geertz took his eyes off the projection and shook his head. “We can’t.”
All eyes turned to Geertz.
Meninquez barked, “Excuse me?”
“We can’t crack The Wall. We’ve discovered something unique.”
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