Author : Andy Bolt
It started when a song got stuck in Jola Ndenga’s head. She had just gotten the new aMix mp12 player, the one that could store a theoretically infinite number of sub-quantum sound files and injected just under your cochlea. They had just become available at Charon Station, and she had been amped to get her hands on one. Even though C1 was supposed to be the blistering edge in scientific research, the United Inner Rim’s top priority, she had spent most of her time out here watching space-faring rocks and trying to resist the urge to stick her head in the neutron remuter. Truth was, there was not much use for a xenobiologist on Charon. Someone from the initial survey team had reported a possible site for microbial bacteria, but that had amounted to nothing. At least now, she had maniacally decided, her suicide-inducing levels of boredom could be set to a pleasing soundtrack.
She had been aural-loading the new Virulent Photons album – thirty-four tracks of twelve second bursts of intergalactic noise mixed over a calypso backbeat – when her transmitter began playing the song. She had never heard it before. Indeed, she had never heard anything quite like it before. When the newsites would come asking later, she would describe it as a combination of meringue, plasmatronica, and a third type of music that she was unable to fully identify.
At the time, however, she simply became very nervous. The aMix was still a relatively new technology, and there was a post-urban legend flying around about a beta tester for the Grape corporation. Supposedly, she was still in cryogenic suspension after an early model had become inextricably integrated with her central nervous system and driven her psychotic with round the clock renditions of Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb.”
So Jola greeted her own malfunction with some alarm, half-prepared to gouge out her own eardrum with a pinpoint cooking laser. She approached Ryx Marcomb, the station’s biotech engineer, and Willix Frog, the knowledge-specific medical clone, with great haste.
“Alien music is burrowing through my skull,” she told them. “Help.”
Willix offered to operate instantly and found that the magnetic scalpel did its job cleanly. Within twenty minutes of the problem’s first discovery, Willix, Ryx, and Jola were staring at a slightly bloody, centimeter square aMix chip under a broad-beam microlight. Ryx had jury-rigged a nanophone and a bag of Willix’s emergency transplant tissue to play back the still repeating song at an audible level.
“You know this song?” Ryx asked, flipping his gaze between the chip and Jola.
“No one knows this song,” Willix answered, offering his colleagues a look at his handheld sonic spectrometer. “˜It doesn’t conform to any extant musical style. Half of these lower tones are infrasonic and wouldn’t even be audible to the human ear. And this,” he continued, gesturing at a garbled looking wavelength, “isn’t even a sound in the conventional sense of the word. It’s a permutation of a sound wave that the computer can’t even begin to analyze.”
Ryx raised an eyebrow. “New life communication signal?”
Jola glanced at the pad. “Don’t think so.” She took it from an obliging Willix. Within a moment, she had overlayed the spectranalysis and one of Willix’s medical files.
She displayed it to her colleagues. Onscreen was a translation of the sound waves into a rough approximation of a DNA sequence, and the helix seemed to hum.
“The song IS the life.”
And inside the aMix, the alien song breathed its musical breath.