TURN OF THE EARTH
Part Two - Signs
Back in the refurnished Institute, Powell glared at Rockleson hatefully. It turned out that he had produced the money for the new ThunderBolt 365s by drawing large amounts of money from the workers’ bank accounts, including his own. How he had done it, Powell did not know. Possibly by gaining credit card details from the things they had ordered on the old computers, taking out cash, etcetera, etcetera. All Powell knew is that he had done it, and that he hated his boss for it.
He had to admit, though, the new computers were incredible. State-of-the-art, flat-screen, super-smooth, all-round beauties with amazing 50 gigahertz processors, which did not complain when fed titanic amounts of data.
Still scowling, Powell swivelled and moved the mouse over to the ‘DISPLAY’ menu. He entered it and selected ‘earthturnsimulation.exe’.
The simulation opened and Powell observed it. The turn of the Earth had slowed even further. One side of the Earth was enshrouded in slow-moving darkness, the other blazed with perpetual light.
Powell’s jaw dropped. This was impossible. How could this be happening? The Earth was fixed in a gravitational field emanating from the Sun. It rotated due to its own gravity and the Sun’s gravity acting on it. Nothing could stop it, nothing.
Powell watched the simulation limply, as the planet turned, agonisingly slowly, even more agonisingly slowly than normal.
Then there was a slight blip in the data. Intrigued, Powell clicked on the ‘LOCATE’ menu, and then typed in on the resulting window: ‘Source of data glitch.’
Instantly the computer responded with a window reading: ‘Data glitch emanating from Point 067583932.333344456203.
It took Powell ten minutes to find these obscure coordinates. When he did, he exclaimed a meaningless cry of shock. Fortunately, neither the workers nor Rockleson heard. Powell zoomed in on the offending location with a deepening frown of incomprehension and surprise.
The blip of strange data had come from an seemingly insignificant patch of the dark side of the moon, slap-bang in the centre of the Mare. Powell zoomed in and in and in until he could go no further. The screen showed a grey dusty crater, slightly illuminated by strange and distant stars, rocks jumbled and tumbled around on the dull surface.
Powell was puzzled. Why had this spot in particular produced a blip of weird data? It seemed insignificant enough. Could it have something to do with the strange sluggishness of the Earth’s rotation?
Madness. But everything was madness at this time. He should tell Rockleson...
Powell’s thoughts were disturbed by a beep from his computer. He observed the window that had opened. Apparently, the Earth had just slowed drastically, now one rotation would probably equal about a week. But that wasn’t what worried him. The time of this huge change had not been gradual — it had changed at one particular time. Powell looked at this combination of digits, scared and chilled:
11 : 36 : 05
Powell glanced at his digital wristwatch. Apparently the time was:
11 : 46 : 28
The change in the Earth’s rotation speed had come at exactly the same time as the blip on his computer screen, emanating from the moon coordinates 067583932.333344456203!
Powell could only find three words that were sufficient for this incredible and chilling discovery:
‘What the hell?’
Rockleson heard this and turned round, angry, calling, ‘What is it now, Powell?’
Powell was shaking. ‘There was... a blip... from the moon... somehow it affected... it affected... I can’t explain.’
‘Explain,’ Rockleson ordered, paying no attention to Powell’s last sentence.
Powell was silent.
‘Explain!’ barked Rockleson.
Rockleson listened to Powell’s explanation with little interest, and then sighed. ‘We will explore the moon, as this seems to have worried you...’
‘WHAT?’ yelled Powell. He stood up, furious. ‘EXPLORE THE MOON? HOW? I SUPPOSE YOU’RE GOING TO BUY UP A BLOODY SPACESHIP ON EBAY!’
‘SILENCE!’ thundered Rockleson, his lazy voice suddenly becoming an outraged bellow, his face turning a furious red. His hands shook with rage and he brandished a metal stick around.
Powell was overwhelmed by his boss’s sudden outburst. He sat down, shamefully. His face was a burning red. ‘Sorry, sir.’
Rockleson sat back down, breathing heavily. He put down his stick and swivelled, observing his computer screen. ‘We still have the Snowdonian ship,’ he said.
‘But sir,’ interrupted a worker, Julia Hughes, nervously. ‘We don’t know how it works. It’s top secret, not even the government knows about it.’
‘I know,’ laughed Rockleson, slightly insanely. ‘That’s why we’re using it. Prepare the ship, Powell.’