The Hatch

Jonas Kyratzes

 

Transcript of a closed session of the Committee on Governmental Efficiency in Supplementary Projects (April 14th, 1986).

Members of the Committee are C1-C3. The interviewee is IN. The astronauts are A1-A3.

 

Transcript begins.

 

C1: Can you introduce yourself?

IN: My name is [REDACTED]. I was born in 1932 in Boulder, Colorado. I have a double degree in physics and chemistry and I'm also a certified pilot. I've worked for Columbia University, JPL,-

C1: JPL?

IN: That's short for Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It's a part of NASA-

C1: OK. What was your job in 1973?

IN: I was Director of Operations for the Phoenix Project.

C2: Explain to us, in your own words, the nature and purpose of the Phoenix Project.

IN: It's... well, it's a lot of things.

C2: Give us the basics.

IN: Let me think for a moment. [pause] The Phoenix Project is a UN-funded program to research and prepare for the possibility of catastrophic contact with a hostile alien ecology. It was founded in 1945, although a similar function had previously been served by other entities, including the Phoenix Working Group in-

C3: So you're alien fighters?

IN: We're scientists. There are military aspects to the work the Phoenix Project does, and the project's Administrator at the time was General Sumrall, but the point was to take a serious, scientific approach to a potential threat to the human species. That included everything from archaeological investigations to large-scale planning of-

C3: But it's about aliens.

IN: Yes. But "aliens" in the sense of extraterrestrial organisms, not... you know, not like the new James Cameron movie. They could be microbes.

C2: Microbes?

IN: Yes.

C2: How can microbes be a threat to the human species?

IN: Have you heard of the Black Death?

C2: Fair enough. So that's what you do? Look for alien microbes?

IN: It's a lot more complicated than that. The Phoenix Project analyzes historical sources, searches for physical evidence, performs tests, and designs and implements plans to safeguard human cultural continuity in case of disaster. It's a transnational effort to-

C1: I think that's enough about that. Please explain the mission you were involved with in 1973.

IN: The Phoenix-2 mission?

C1: That's the one.

IN: Alright. Phoenix-2 was our second mission to the Moon.

C3: The Moon?

IN: Correct.

C3: That's a lot more expensive than flying a few scientists to [REDACTED] or something.

IN: It is, but we judged it was necessary.

C1: Then perhaps we should back up a little. Tell us about the first mission. Phoenix-1.

IN: Phoenix-1 was sent to Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Showers. That's the very large dark spot on the Moon which you can see with the naked eye. It was formed when a large object collided with the Moon during the phase that's called the Late Heavy Bombardment, so it was deemed an excellent place to search for evidence of-

C1: Hadn't there already been a mission to that place?

IN: Two, in fact. The Soviet mission Luna 17 and the United States mission Apollo 15.

C1: So why send another?

IN: Because it's vast. We could send up another twenty missions and not see all of it. The Moon may be smaller than the Earth, but it's still incredibly big compared to a handful of humans. You may be underestimating-

C2: We're well aware of the size of the Moon, thank you. What did the mission uncover?

IN: A great deal of anomalous data, which-

C3: Did you find any aliens?

IN: Please, if you'll let me explain-

C3: It's a simple enough question. If the Phoenix Project is about fighting aliens, did you find any aliens?

IN: No.

C2: So, having failed to find proof on your first mission, why did the Phoenix Project administration see fit to waste taxpayer money on yet another mission?

IN: Based on several reports from the Luna program, we concluded there was an anomalous area in-

C3: Hold on, the Luna program? Are you saying you were using information from the Soviets?

IN: The Phoenix Project is a UN project and its purpose is to protect all of humanity. It was never intended to take sides in international conflicts, and science isn't the national property of-

C3: Are you serious? You're sharing information with the enemy and you think that the American taxpayer should fund that?

IN: I-

C1: Let's get on with it. Tell us about Phoenix-2. Where did this mission go?

IN: The Tsiolkovskiy crater.

C2: Where's that?

IN: On the far side of the moon. It was a highly challenging mission, requiring the use of a relay system so we could stay in contact with the astronauts. There were three of them; [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] landed in the Lunar Module, while [REDACTED] remained on the Command Module.

C1: Describe the mission progression, please.

IN: In the beginning, everything went fine. The launch took place on [REDACTED] 1973, using the NASA facilities at [REDACTED]. The relay system, designed by [REDACTED], functioned exactly as intended. The landing also probably one of the finest ever executed. This was... this was the heyday of human spaceflight.Everyone was at the top of their game. It was beautiful.

C1: Stay on topic, please.

IN: The crew then initiated the first EVA, unloading the LRV-

C2: LRV?

IN: Lunar Roving Vehicle. They also deployed a variety of measuring instruments, took samples, and so on. This was the first time human beings had stood on the far side of the Moon, and even beyond the needs of the Phoenix Project, it was an invaluable opportunity.

C1: Then what happened?

IN: The astronauts rested, while the Command Module continued to gather data. Then...

C1: Yes?

IN: Then they initiated EVA-2.

C1: The goal of which was what?

IN: To investigate one of the previously reported anomalies, the crater designated [REDACTED]. This required approximately an hour's worth of travel on the LRV.

C1: What happened when they arrived?

IN: They reported that the area around the crater had an unusual color, which they struggled to describe. They approached carefully, until they reached the rim of the crater. In the interior they-

C2: Actually, we have the recording. Mary, can you play it, please? Thank you.

 

A1: Approaching the crater. Looks... wow, looks really weird. The object that impacted here must have been made of a very unusual material.

A2: What's that color? It's...

A1: Glistening?

A2: Looks like oil or something.

A1: I'm going to get a bit closer.

A3: Careful.

A1: Yup. OK, let's see. This looks like... honestly, it looks a bit like latite, or some kind of volcanic rock of that kind, but... moist?

A2: Might just be reflective.

A1: I'll bag a sample.

A2: Do you think we can walk on this?

A1: Seems pretty solid. Not reacting to touch as far as I can tell.

A2: Let's head for the rim, then.

[pause]

A1: OK, we've arrived at the rim, and - whoa.

A2: What the [REDACTED].

A3: What are you seeing, guys?

A1: Uhh, I wish I knew.

A2: Looks like a... a huge black... rock? Hill? Totally out of place. There's... stuff. [REDACTED], can you see this from up there?

A3: Not well, it's in the shadow of the rim.

A1: We need to get closer. This is crazy.

A2: Let's drive around it first.

A3: How big is it?

A2: Hold on, we're getting in the LRV.

[pause]

A1: Uh, it's huge. It's so black, it's hard for the eye to properly, uh, tell the size. Jiminy Cricket!

A2: [REDACTED].

A1: You can say that again.

A3: Guys?

A1: We're driving around it. It's... it's like a chunk of completely different landscape, just sitting there. Cracked and broken, but...

A3: You think it's part of the object that impacted here?

A2: Maybe.

A3: Is that even possible? Shouldn't it be atomized?

A1: We really need to get closer. Get on it.

A2: Yeah. OK. Let's do that.

[pause]

A1: Alright, getting closer to the object in the crater. The sand looks wet, although we can't see any liquid.

A2: There seem to be pieces of... something. Other than rock. Almost like... uh, I'm not sure.

A1: OK, here we are. Let's... wait, are you seeing that?

A2: Yeah. The material definitely contains pieces of something complex, other than rock. I'll see if I can dig a little... no, it's pretty hard, actually, but... hold on, a piece came off. That looks... like a... fossil? Can you have a look at this, [REDACTED]?

A1: Definitely looks like a fossil.

A2: Could this be a piece of Earth? Ejected by an impact?

A1: I don't know. Maybe. Or...

A2: Look at that thing! It looks like... like a cocoon?

A1: Definitely contains something.

A3: Can you bag it?

A1: Nah, way too big. I'll try to - hold on...

A2: Careful, careful.

A1: It's soft. Like some kind of jelly. Weird. And... wait. [REDACTED]. It's... no, that...

A2: What's happening?

[both astronauts scream]

A3: What's going on? What's going on? Answer please!

A1: It... blew. It erupted. Like a puffball. We're covered in something.

A2: What the [REDACTED]! What the [REDACTED]!

A3: Guys, back away, check your suits.

A1: On it, on it.

A2: Checking...

A1: My suit seems intact.

A2: Same.

A3: Get back to the LM right now. Full decontamination procedures. You can come back tomorrow, but right now let's make sure you're OK.

A2: I'm in command of this mission, [REDACTED]. But you're right.

 

C2: Mary, can you put on the next recording, please?

IN: I don't need to hear this, it's-

C1: This investigation needs to be thorough. Please press play.

 

A2: [REDACTED], can you hear us?

A3: Loud and clear.

A2: We're not feeling too well.

A3: In what way? Do you have enough oxygen?

A2: Oxygen's fine. It's, uh...

A1: We're mutating.

A3: Excuse me, what?

A1: Mutating. Changing. You know what I mean. Exactly like the [REDACTED] hypothesis.

A2: My skin's changing. And I feel... aggressive. Like my conscious mind is... receding.

A1: My skull is changing shape.

A3: What? This is - we need to talk to HQ about this. There has to be something we can do. We need to get you back, get you to a doctor. Uh, hold on-

A2: No.

A3: What do you mean, no?

A2: We've discussed this. The... the spores, bacteria, whatever they are, they must be incredibly resistant. Our decontamination procedures did nothing. We can't risk going back. It's too dangerous.

A3: No, no, no. [REDACTED], talk some sense into him. I don't care that he's in charge of this mission. Nobody gets left behind. No way.

A1: I'm sorry, [REDACTED], he's right. We're already... we're already losing ourselves. If we go back... we'll cause what the Phoenix Project was supposed to prevent.

A3: Don't talk to me about your [REDACTED] ideals right now, man! Seriously! You need to get back up here. We'll talk to HQ, find a solution.

A2: It's... not...

A1: Something's growing out of my hands. I...

A2: We need to... open the hatch...

A1: Yes.

A3: No! Stop!

A1: Can you... can you tell my wife... I wanted to... I don't... I don't remember her name... why can't I remember...

[sound of the hatch opening, followed by silence]

A3: No! No!

 

IN: Did you have to make me listen to that?

C1: What would you say we just listened to?

IN: People much better than any of you giving their lives for this planet.

C1: The personal insults are unnecessary. So, in your judgement, the astronauts are not hallucinating?

IN: Of course they're not [REDACTED] hallucinating!

C1: That view is controversial at best. Several experts have suggested compelling explanations that do not require such a... leap of faith. I'm sure you are aware of Occam's razor? The simplest explanation is most likely to be true.

IN: As if you cared about the truth.

C3: We do care about the truth, sir! We care that vast amounts of money have been wasted on these outlandish claims when our nation faces real enemies on this planet! We care that lives have been lost on a foolish, unnecessary mission! What did you say to these families of these men, whose lives were thrown away for nothing? What did you say to the family of [REDACTED], when he took his own life only three months after this mission?

IN: I...

C1: The findings of this committee establish beyond doubt that the Phoenix Project is the result of decades of careless spending, based on either delusion or downright fraud, and potentially harmful to our national security. If the UN wants to keep funding such a program, it may do so, but under no circumstances should such a circus be allowed to continue with direct funding from the United States or our allies.

IN: So this whole hearing is just a kangaroo court? A sham? You've already decided to cut our funding, and you dragged me here to, what, humiliate me? Remind me of the people we lost trying to protect-

C3: You did no-

IN: Oh no, now you're going to listen to me for a change, you [REDACTED]. The Phoenix Project is bigger than this. It's older than the United States or the Soviet Union. It's human perseverance. It's human bravery. Concepts a [REDACTED] like yourself might not be able to understand. But those men up there, they understood. They opened that hatch because they understood that they were part of something greater, and sometimes sacrifices have to be made to preserve what we love. They were human beings, real human beings. I don't know what the [REDACTED] you are, but they were so much better than that. And there's lots more like them, brilliant people, smart people, willing to fight. Cut our funding, you [REDACTED]. Cut it all. We'll figure out a way to go on. We'll find supporters. And when the real war starts, the one against the enemies you can't even imagine, when borders and nations and all of that doesn't matter anymore, then we'll be there. And that's why we'll [REDACTED] win, you [REDACTED] of [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] my [REDACTED]. And you can tell the President to [REDACTED] my [REDACTED] too.

C1: You're out of line!

IN: Your [REDACTED] is out of line.

 

Transcript ends.

Jonas Kyratzes