YOU SANK THE WRONG BATTLESHIPDuring a routine naval drill at Pearl Harbor, American forces detect a ship of unknown origins that’s crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Lieutenant Alex Hopper, an officer aboard the USS John Paul Jones, is ordered to investigate the ominous-looking vessel—which turns out to be part of an armada of ships that are stronger and faster than any on Earth. And that’s when the Navy’s radar goes down. Ambushed by a ravenous enemy they cannot see, a small U.S. fleet makes their last stand on the open ocean, armed with little more than their instincts, to defend their lives—and the world as we know it.
Based on the screenplay by Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber
SOME YEARS AGO
The two brothers are in the forest near their house, sitting opposite each other. They are both quite young, although the big brother has felt very old for a long time—because he is the older brother, and as such has many important responsibilities. The most vital of these, as far as he is concerned, is to make sure that his kid brother remembers who’s boss.
It is the younger brother’s greatest failing that he never seems to remember that.
The older brother is sitting on a log, allowing him to look down upon his brother. This is, as far as he is concerned, what should be the natural state of things, the proper order of the universe. The younger brother is seated across from him, cross-legged on the ground, getting his pants filthy from sitting in the dirt and not caring about it. It is a crisp day and they’re both wearing light hoodies: the older brother’s is white, the younger’s is red.
They both have pads of lined paper on their laps, playing a game their father taught them called “Broadsides.” They’ve used pencils to draw vertical lines intersecting with the horizontal ones and thus created grids, which they’ve then numbered. They’re using the pads to have a simulated naval battle. It’s natural that their father, a Navy man himself, would teach them how to play it, and claims to have played it when he himself was young.
It is the older brother who has just said “Miss,” and the younger brother’s eyebrows both leap up on his forehead as if they’ve come loose and are endeavoring to make a run for it.
“Whattaya mean, ‘miss,’” says the younger brother in irritation.
“It’s like a hit, but the opposite,” the older brother says.
“It can’t be a miss!”
“Well, it was. D-7…”
“No, wait, shut up.” The younger brother stares at his smaller grid where he’s keeping track of his hits. “I said G-1.”
“And I said miss.”
“It can’t be! That was the fifth hit on your aircraft carrier! Game over!”
“It wasn’t and it isn’t. D-7…”
The back of the older brother’s neck starts to get red. “I am not. You just can’t stand that I’m going to win a game—”
“No,” says the younger brother, getting into the elder’s face in that way that he has. “You just can’t stand that I’m going to win AGAIN. You can’t stand that I always win and that you always lose. Loser. Looooooser. Looooser loooooser looooser!” He forms an L-shape from his thumb and forefinger and puts it against his head.
“Shut up!” The older brother’s fury is rising. “G-1 wasn’t a hit. Live with it.”
“I don’t believe you. Lemme see.” He is up on his knees and he grabs for the older brother’s pad of paper.
The older brother yanks it away. “Forget it! If you look at it, the game’s over!”
“The game’s already over, loser.”
The worst thing of all is that the older brother knows that this is true. He looks at G-1, where the prow of his theoretical aircraft carrier is sitting. He looks at the smug expression on his stupid little brother.
And suddenly long-simmering resentment boils up and over, and before his younger brother can get to him, the older brother tears apart the lined notepad in a paroxysm of fury. “This game is stupid and you’re stupid!”
“You’re stupid, loser!”
The older brother doesn’t want to run back to the house because he feels hot tears of mortification streaming down his face. And the last thing he needs is his father standing over him and demanding to know what’s wrong. So instead he swings his legs over the log, gets to his feet, and starts running, shouting, “Leave me alone!”
“Will not!” says the younger brother—the little idiot, the brainless turd.
The older brother is running through the woods now, and the younger is right after him, shouting at him, taunting him. He keeps moving, but the little brat is pacing him easily. How the hell does he do that when his legs are shorter? It should be impossible.
There is a river running through the forest just up ahead. It’s too wide to ford, the boundary of their property. He cuts right, moving quickly along it. His younger brother is in pursuit, still taunting, still calling him names, and at that moment he has never hated anyone in his life more than he does his younger brother.
Suddenly he hears an alarmed shriek, and a skidding of feet on dirt. He spins just in time to see his younger brother tumble down an embankment, a section of dirt apparently having given way beneath his feet. His younger brother’s head strikes a rock that’s projecting sideways from the embankment, and the sound it makes when it hits is nauseating. The older brother sees, in horror, that there is fresh blood on the rock, and then his younger brother splashes into the river. It’s not especially deep, but the current is quite strong lately thanks to the heavy rain. All the older brother can see now is a brief image of the back of his kid brother’s sweat jacket—a flash of red in the speeding waters—and then his tormentor is washed away.
With a shriek of pure horror, he calls out his younger brother’s name, “Alex!” and practically vaults down the embankment to the edge of the river. He sprints along it frantically, trying to catch up, hoping that on foot he’s faster than the speed of the water. He closes the gap a little and then a massive fallen tree is blocking his path along the shoreline.
He has no choice.
He throws himself into the water and starts swimming for both his brother’s life and his own.
The Himalayas? Are you serious? Are you kidding me?
That had been Doctor Abraham Nogrady’s original thought when he had first been approached about the Beacon International Project.
Nogrady was middle-aged, lean, with a perpetual stoop that had come from a lifetime of leaning over equipment and studying it with an almost demented intensity. He had a prominent nose and a head of curly black hair, with a bald spot developing like an island of flesh in the back of his head.
From Nogrady’s personal situation, the offer could not have come at a better time. His work at SETI had been defunded, thanks to the shortsighted fools in Congress who couldn’t see the fundamental necessity of searching for extraterrestrial life. Bad enough that they had gutted NASA, woefully sighing that there was simply no point in focusing on building moon stations and such when we had so many problems right here. But they had literally laughed his SETI work right out of existence, with many snide comments and even a few reactionaries stating that the only way they’d fund searches for extraterrestrials was if Will Smith was put in charge so he would be able to fend off any resulting alien attacks.
Nogrady had wanted to get right into the faces of those smug bastards during the congressional budget hearing. Were they at all aware of the amount of modern technology, which they took for granted, that was a direct result of the space program? Did they ever consider that watching the skies would enable scientists to pick up on objects in space
heading toward Earth on a collision course, enabling them to sound the alarm and—with any luck—see that countermeasures were taken? Did it occur to them that, on the off chance humanity managed to beat the odds and actually make contact with extraterrestrial life, it would be the single most important development for mankind since the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel? How could you be so blind? That was what he had wanted to jump up and shout. But he had held his tongue, and the result had been his job flushed away by idiots and buffoons.
When Beacon had been offered him two months later, it had been a godsend. However the prospect of relocating to the Himalayas, of all places, had been less than attractive.
And the Greater Himalayas, just to make it worse. At least there were some sections of the Himalayas that were livable. The Shilawik Hills, for instance, were supposed to be quite nice. The Midlands were said to have over sixty species of rhododendrons alone in the subalpine conifer forests.
But the Greater Himalayas were… well, they were exactly what one pictured when one heard the name “Himalayas.” Mountain ranges nearly three miles high, cloaked in an endless blanket of ice and snow. The facility itself was buried—almost literally—in Tibet, and the howling of the wind never stopped so much as it sometimes grew and sometimes diminished. On occasion the sunlight filtered through, but routinely they would go for days shrouded in darkness, like an entire facility of people who were slowly going blind.
And yes, Nogrady understood the need to operate under the radar. He understood the desire for secrecy. The funding for this endeavor was coming through governments working with private sources, and that was always a touchy subject because nosy politicians would then start demanding investigations and wanting to know what were the sources’ motivations.
When Nogrady had finally made the trek up to the site, what he saw on the outside didn’t seem especially promising. In fact, it looked downright unprepossessing. Short and squat, two stories tall, fashioned of white brick, with antennae arrays and satellite dishes on the roof and massive generators next to it. There was already a layer of permafrost on the building and Nogrady was concerned that within two weeks he’d go stir-crazy.
That hadn’t been the case, as it turned out. Instead he had found a dedicated group of scientists who were familiar with Nogrady’s work and were thrilled to have him on board as the project director. What he hadn’t accounted for in his initial trepidation was that this sort of environment tended to cause people to bond in a way that wasn’t possible under less claustrophobic circumstances. The team had quickly formed a smooth, cohesive unit as they had worked together to develop and fine-tune the equipment necessary to accomplishing their collective goal.
Most intriguingly, they had been doing so in tandem with several other locations. Nogrady had never been to them, but he had seen pictures of the cinder-block building in Morocco, isolated in the Sahara—hidden in plain sight, as it were—and a third on a mountaintop in Hawaii. The respective staffs had shared information, engaged in lengthy intercontinental brainstorming sessions, and ultimately come up with designs and equipment together that no individual group could have developed fully.
And when they hadn’t been working, there had been plenty of late-night parties to blow off steam. Curiously, some of the best ideas had resulted from those gatherings, as idle talk and occasionally drunken inspiration had sent the group sprinting back to the lab to try implementing them.
Now, finally, all of that had come to a head. Approaching the moment with what seemed appropriate pomp and circumstance, Nogrady had arranged a full-blown ribbon-cutting ceremony. His colleagues had suspended a long, red ribbon across the middle of their now state-of-the-art facility and Nogrady had sliced through it with a replica samurai sword he’d borrowed from Doctor Okuda. This had been met with a burst of cheers, followed by the scientists settling down to work. There was growing excitement in the air for this moment toward which they had been building for two years.
“Synch with Morocco and Oahu,” Nogrady said briskly. He was trying to keep his voice flat and even. He needed to remain professional, and chortling with unconcealed delight would certainly not be in keeping with his desired demeanor.
“Synched,” said Carlson, a young technician who was so fresh out of grad school that sometimes he was jokingly referred to as still having that “new scientist smell.”
There had been a constant buzz of motion and activity, but all that somehow quieted to a hush when Carlson said that. Everyone stopped in anticipation of Nogrady’s next words.
He tried to think of something that wouldn’t sound too pretentious and he failed utterly. “People… get ready to make history.”
Doctor Calvin Zapata rolled his eyes when Nogrady spoke about making history. Zapata thought that Nogrady was brilliant, but—even for a scientist—he could be kind of a dork on occasion. This was one of those occasions.
Not to mention the fact that Zapata had his own issues with what they were doing there that he had to deal with. Issues that he wasn’t hesitating to voice to one of his coworkers, Rachel Dorn. It didn’t hurt, of course, that Rachel was also the best-looking woman in the place: several years younger than Zapata, with thick red hair, a charming array of freckles across her nose that had faded during her time there (but were still slightly visible), and horn-rimmed glasses that were perpetually perched on the edge of that same nose.
He was seated next to Dorn, both of them on rolling chairs, studying the readouts to make sure that—as the energy levels increased—the climb was slow and steady and didn’t spike. In a low voice he muttered, in regards to Nogrady’s pronouncement, “I think that’s what Napoleon said right before Waterloo.”
She shook her head. “Cal…” she said scoldingly, knowing what was coming next.
She was absolutely right. Zapata was on a roll, and faint recriminations from Dorn weren’t about to stop him. “Everyone here still believes that if there’s life out there, it’s kind and good and all that Kumbaya crap.”
Dorn had been keeping her attention fully on the monitoring devices in front of her, but she risked a sidelong glance at Zapata. “Your conspiracy disorder is activating again.”
He rolled in closer to her under the guise of wanting to speak confidentially. In point of fact, he just liked being near her. She smelled incredible. He had no idea how the hell she was getting a supply of whatever that scent she wore was, considering they were in the middle of nowhere. It took him a moment to get focused back on what he’d just been talking about, but he managed. “We need to worry about what happens after we get a response, because believe me, it’s not gonna be—”
“All Kumbaya? Cal, do you even know what ‘Kumbaya’ means?”
He paused, looking confused. “It means everybody gets along and toasts marshmallows around a campfire and stuff. Doesn’t it?”
“It means ‘come by here.’ It’s asking for God to come by and smile on his creations. And if there is a God,” she added, smiling, “then he created whatever’s out there, and maybe he’d like us all to meet and hold hands.”
If she hadn’t been so charming, Zapata would have been appalled by her naïveté. “If there really is intelligent life out there and they ‘come by here,’” he said sourly, “it’ll be like Columbus and the Indians. Only we’re the Indians.”
“Most of the time he traded peacefully with the Indians, except for one time in the Dominican Republic when the Indians attacked and drove him away. So what’s your point?”
He stared at her. “You’re just a fount of information today, aren’t ’cha.”
“Look, Cal,” she said patiently, “if you don’t believe in the mission, why are you here?”
It wasn’t an unreasonable question. “J. Robert Oppenheimer never believed in using atomic weapons. But he’s the guy who built the bomb. The Manhattan Project was where the smartest guys in the world were. And the smartest women, too,” and he winked at her.
She shushed him and pointed toward
the other side of the room. They turned their attention there as Nogrady, standing behind Carlson, rested a hand on the young technician’s shoulder. “Send it,” he said.
Carlson inputted the codes that would bring the entire facility online. There was a pause, no more than half a heartbeat, but enough time for Zapata to realize that if everything suddenly short-circuited and went dark, he wouldn’t be the least bit choked up about it.
Instead all the instrumentation came online perfectly. The project had gone live.
The next sound they heard was a hollow popping noise. One of the scientists had opened a bottle of champagne. The cork flew, ricocheted off a far wall and bounced off Zapata’s forehead as if it had eyes. Nobody except Dorn noticed, and she put up a hand to suppress a laugh. Zapata forced a smile.
The very first glass to be filled with champagne was handed over to Nogrady. He held it up and announced, “And that’s how it starts.”
Similar scenes were simultaneously being enacted in Morocco and Hawaii. In both those locations, as well as this one, the radar dishes pinged to life and began sending out a steady signal. Thousands of miles over the planet, satellites were orbiting, their panels adjusting to receive the transmissions and beam them into the depths of space.
It was the astronomical equivalent of a message in a bottle, but at least it was something.
Zapata watched all the relays, the steady pulsing lines moving with perfect synchronization across the screens, indicating that everything was processing correctly. Everyone else, even the enticing Dorn, was part of the celebration, Dorn clapping her hands and “whooping” as if she were at a football game. Only he remained at his station, watching the results of the initial pulses with cold, hard eyes.
Get ready to make history.
Nogrady’s words came back to Zapata. Yeah. That’s all well and good. But there’s a thin line between making history, and being made history. And I hope to God we haven’t crossed it.