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The Silent Black Ocean (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 6 - The Silent Black Ocean[]

LCS Discovery
Beagle-Class Exploration Cruiser
Deep Periphery, Anti-spin of Lyran Commonwealth

" evidence of survivors."

Mike waited for the geological survey team's report to conclude.  "Bomb damage we think is kinetic based, and it was systematic, as close as we can assess, someone was hitting inhabited areas especially hard, with traces of iridium, nickel iron, and other materials common to the local asteroid belts comprising the bulk of the bombardment residue in the craters we've surveyed, now normally, there is a fractional chance of survivors even in an extinction level event."

"Normally?" he asked.

"Well, that's where things get ****** weird, sir. I have to turn this over to the biological survey team for the next part."  Dr. Faustus, the lead geologist, said.  "Because what they found is ****** strange as hell.  Paola?"

Dr. Paola Ourodanna stood up.  "We think a weapon was designed to cleanse the local biosphere of anything more complex than plant-life, sir." she said, "We're pretty sure it isn't biological per se but copies biology.  The alternative would be a low temperature silicon based organism-which doesn't make any sense chemically."

"Low temperature?" Mike asked.

"Silicon life forms in theory would be exremophile, Sir. To fill the same niche as carbon based life would require extreme temperatures not found in habitable systems, but we've found significant contamination we initially thought were part of the local. Pre-bombardment biology until we cross-checked with the Beagle expedition's data.  Traces of Gallium and silicon are all over and they're not, according to my colleagues from geosciences, consistent with crustal formation on the planet.  Under microscopes, we've identified motors and gearing, and a microwave collection nanostructure."

"Killer micro-robots powered by microwaves?" Mike asked.

"Engineering's done some testing in detached lab four on the planet's moon. Yeah, you hit some of the dust with a tuned microwave, it goes active. They're not quite von neumann machine level, but higher concentrations do show increased...artificial intelligence."

"How intelligent?" Mike asked.

"Imagine a guided biological weapon, Sir.  collected samples in the lab module over about half a milliliter in volume will follow microwave sources and preferentially dismantles iron-oxygen-carbon structures.  They tested with lab rats, and as long as there's power, the volume pursued, and then dismantled the test animals.  At one liter sizes, it can even negotiate a maze to seek out prey.  It doesn't USE the biological for anything, it just destroys them.  Cut off the power and a one liter size mass of the stuff goes dormant after a few hours, cut it off long enough, and it disperses into dust."

"Sweet mother of Christ." Mike Hogarth crossed himself.  "That's... monstrous."

"We found the largest concentrations of the stuff in what the archaeological team suggests were rural areas, Sir. We found some one-way landers in the same area.  The tech on the landers is roughly 26th century equivalent, with large cargo modules and what we think is a modified version of the Blue Shield system.  We're pretty sure it isn't native, and there are some odd alloy combinations so it's not from any known human civ."

"Someone went out of their way to bomb these people into the stone age. Then dropped what, pods to kill every survivor?"

"Even their domestic animals, their pets, and any animal that might evolve to live on land.  There are fish in the rivers, lakes and oceans, but nothing more advanced than fish." the biologist continued, "We've found evidence of the...super-sludge? on some of the artifacts in shallow waters."

"Can you give me dates on how long ago this happened?" Mike asked.

"Softballing it?  maybe three to five centuries ago."

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