A shot in the dark

The team huddled around the instrument and communication benches in the control centre. consoles flickered and camera crews focused. The focus was on the faces of the mission command staff as they gazed up with rapture at the main screen. The culmination of years of planning and decades of operation was about to be revealed. This would be more than a full day after the event had actually occurred some twenty billion miles away.

In the corner the now reclusive billionaire bank-roller sat pensively. No emotion crossed her face but she still managed to emit an air of quiet self-satisfaction.

The main screen showed the carrier signal positive diagnostic symbol. The giant, automated spacecraft was emitting a directed signal back to Earth from the near complete darkness beyond the Kuiper belt. in the corner of the screen were two clocks. one showing mission time and one counting down to the expected image receipt time. The craft had sent periodic ETA’s every few hours. The timer currently read 2 minutes.

Only ten years ago the  craft had left Earth lunar orbit in a dramatic blaze, riding a series of thermonuclear pulses and carrying more than 2000 100 megaton charges to be taken to it’s final destination. The craft was immense.  The initial sourcing and construction costs alone were unprecedented, and that was before the incredible feat of transporting the components to orbit for assembly.

The timer ticked along. One minute to go.

The craft had used more sensory and computing power than any previous automated probe in history. The machine’s  gravimeters had  detected, analysed and responded to it’s path in the dark in real time. The machine had interpreted, from the raw data it’s sensors collected, whether the body it found in the dark had rings, moons, a diameter more or less than expected and by how much. The extrapolation involved was extreme. and the machine had to do it alone.

Thirty seconds to go. There were so many unknowns in how the mission would unfold. There were so many possible outcomes based on what the machine would find and how it would decide to proceed. Would it have the necessary resources? would it’s imagination be enough to engineer a plan and execute it to success? Would it be lonely?

Such a machine had never been deployed in such a way. There was a serious hope among the original planners that the craft’s gravimeters would find enough moons of sufficient size to gain a suitable image. However this couldn’t be left to chance. contingencies were made to the craft itself but no-one could be sure they would work. As it was, there were over 200 moons, 30 of them large enough to be used and 12 expected to be in position at the right time. that allowed for effective use of the medium distance unfolding visors carried on board the craft.

10 seconds. Everyone held their breaths. This was the defining moment for many lives  both in the control room and out of it.

The timer ticked over to zero and the data stream began. The influx was a fax machine squeal accompanied by holding of hands and reassured smiles. It would take just 2 minutes again now.

The first information began to register on the monitor. the text stream stated that the detonations had succeeded perfectly as planned. The synchronised atomic clocks had not failed. The signal continued to screech it’s way in.

Then it stopped. A moment’s buffering later and there it was. A beautiful purple orb, Glittering with deep mauve lines and white poles. The first image of our solar system’s planet X.

-W

A car wrecker’s yard is likely the closest you will come to space.

Car wrecking businesses in Australia are starting to feel the cold hand of bureaucratic oppression which is only the start of the fall from their lofty place in Romantic modern society. Cars really are the most futuristic and potent of all adventure tools. You can live within a mechanopod of comfort, fun and purpose when you are in a car. With societies’ love and even dependence on this fantasy come to life, that is the car, we can have swathes of people able to live nothing but these fantastical machines. Mechanics, panel beaters, fuel stations, parts shops and of course, car wreckers. The fact that you can make good money from all the parts of a machine that can’t otherwise be kept running viably is a throwback to when people cared about things. Hard working people maintained garden tools instead of swigging back another Mount-Franklin on your fifth daily smoko to whinge about how politicians are failing to uphold your ideals for environmental sustainability before going to Bunning’s to replace another bloody shovel. The car wrecker is that crazy old caricature who has a bunch of junk to sell to keep you moving at incredible speeds while sitting in comfort, safety, and technological wonder.

Walking into a wrecker’s yard is like walking in to a utopian retro-future. If you want to feel like you live in Star Wars the best thing you can do is drive a car to a wrecker’s yard and revel in the brief moment before the wrecker answers your query “My R2 unit has a bad motivator, and do you have a protocol droid which speaks Batching?” After all, cars are, for all intents and purposes, spaceships. Well it’s not that stupid; they move people around through spatial dimensions. That’s true. They might not be ships though. Call them spacecraft then, humour me. They have an engine bay, which is the car’s primary chemical reactor. It unleashes the power of controlled explosions to propel the craft at speeds hitherto undreamt of by snails and sloths. The battery is the secondary chemical reactor full of acid and shit, required for the ignition sequence for the primary reactor. It also powers the primary navigation beams and beacons, the headlights and blinkers. Windy windows control internal air pressure of the cabin in the craft where belts hold the passengers in place because of the incredible forces they are subject to (or maybe that’s just me). The things are packed full of future stuff, and they are also so readily available that any old star hustler can pick one up and go on an adventure to distant locations in the blink of a ten hour drive.

What do these machines run on you might ask? What mystical substance can produce such incredible power and unleash such blinding energy? Well that is a refined fluid millions of years old buried deep beneath the earth and formed from the remnants of incredible beasts and forests the likes of which astound and awe the imaginations of the mortals who unleash its improbable cosmic energy! Cars are better than you, face it. An ancient substance so valuable is mined from sandy wastelands to bring great riches to desert nations in order to propel the civilisations of the modern world, which wails out at any disruption to supply “The spice must flow!”

Now that we have the big picture in mind, back to the point. Car wrecking is undoubtedly the cheapest and most satisfying industry surrounding the automotive scene. This is because they are the ones who see the most value. They take the shitty bombs and even burnt out wrecks and turn them into value. They recycle, cannibalise and maintain, more than any other. This is why they are the best. They are the ones who spread the adventure of cars to the farthest reaches of society. A lowly slum lad, or desert farm boy, can get a bomb and keep it running, make it better and have more fun because the adventure is there for the taking, just as the wreckers took the cars no one wanted and saw their value. That said, I’m sure wreckers aren’t shitty philosophers, wasting time writing joke articles online, they aren’t snooty or anything, they are regular people living better than most people because their lives are full of wonder, or broken CV joints, whatever.

However, Australian society, especially NSW, is trying to stifle the populace’s will to live, and in so doing they have started already to wrap their masturbatory fingers around the freedom of our hero, the car wrecker. If you’ve been to one recently you’ll notice that there is white marker on every panel and pane of the heaped vehicles there. The RTA keeps tabs on every part, EVERY PART. So they can track down the stolen plans of their secret battle station, no doubt. I actually have no idea why, probably to give someone a job typing up serial numbers in the name of safety or something.

Reality sucks.

-W