Home > Congo(6)

Author: Michael Crichton

Since the ERTS images were just electrical signals recorded on magnetic tape, a great variety of electrical image manipulation was possible. ERTS had 837 computer programs to alter imagery: to enhance it, to eliminate unwanted elements, to bring out details. Ross used fourteen programs on the Congo videotape - particularly on the static-filled section in which the hand and face appeared, just before the antenna was smashed.

First she earned out what was called a "wash cycle," getting rid of the static. She identified the static lines as occurring at specific scan positions, and having a specific gray-scale value. She instructed the computer to cancel those lines.

The resulting image showed blank spaces where the static was removed. So she did "fill-in-the-blanks" - instructing the computer to introject imagery, according to what was around the blank spaces. In this operation the computer made a logical guess about what was missing.

She now had a static-free image, but it was muddy and indistinct, lacking definition. So she did a "high-priced spread" - intensifying the image by spreading the gray-scale values. But for some reason she also got a phase distortion that she had to cancel, and that released spiking glitches previously suppressed, and to get rid of the glitches she had to run three other programs.

Technical details preoccupied her for an hour, until suddenly the image "popped," coming up bright and clean. She caught her breath as she saw it. The screen showed a dark, brooding face with heavy brows, watchful eyes, a flattened nose, prognathous lips.

Frozen on the video screen was the face of a male gorilla.

Travis walked toward her from across the room, shaking his head. "We finished the audio recovery on that hissing noise. The computer confirms it as human breathing, with at least four separate origins. But it's damned strange. According to the analysis, the sound is coming from inhalation, not exhalation, the way people usually make sounds."

"The computer is wrong," Ross said. "It's not human." She pointed to the screen, and the face of the gorilla.

Travis showed no surprise. "Artifact," he said.

"It's no artifact."

"You did fill-in-the-blanks, and you got an artifact. The tag team's been screwing around with the software at lunch again." The tag team - the young software programmers -  had a tendency to convert data to play highly sophisticated versions of pinball games. Their games sometimes got sub-routed into other programs.

Ross herself had complained about it. "But this image is real," she insisted, pointing to the screen.

"Look," Travis said, "last week Harry did fill-in-the-blanks on the Karakorum Mountains and he got back a lunar landing game. You're supposed to land next to the McDonald's stand, all very amusing." He walked off. "You'd better meet the others in my office. We're setting advance times to get back in."

"I'm leading the next team."

Travis shook his head. "Out of the question."

"But what about this?" she said, pointing to the screen.

"I'm not buying that image," Travis said. "Gorillas don't behave that way. It's got to be an artifact." He glanced at his watch. "Right now, the only question I have is how fast we can put a team back in the Congo."

4.Return Expedition


about going back in; from the first time he saw the videotapes from the Congo, the only question was how best to do it. He called in all the section heads: Accounts, Diplo, Remote, Geo, Logistics, Legal. They were all yawning and rubbing their eyes. Travis began by saying, "I want us back in the Congo in ninety-six hours."

Then he leaned back in his chair and let them tell him why it couldn't be done. There were plenty of reasons.

"We can't assemble the air cargo units for shipment in less than a hundred and sixty hours," Cameron, the logistics man said.

"We can postpone the Himalaya team, and use their units," Travis said.

"But that's a mountain expedition."

"You can modify the units in nine hours," Travis said.

"But we can't get equipment to fly it out," Lewis, the transport master, said.

"Korean Airlines has a 747 cargo jet available at SFX. They tell me it can be down here in nine hours."

"They have a plane just sitting there?" Lewis said, incredulous.

"I believe," Travis said, "that they had a last-minute cancellation from another customer."

Irwin, the accountant, groaned. "What'd that cost?"

"We can't get visas from the Zaire Embassy in Washington in time," Martin, the diplomatic man, said. "And there is serious doubt they'd issue them to us at all. As you know, the first set of Congo visas were based on our mineral exploration rights with the Zaire government, and our MERs are non-exclusive. We were granted permission to go in, and so were the Japanese, the Germans, and the Dutch, who've formed a mining consortium. The first ore-body strike takes the contract. If Zaire suspects that our expedition is in trouble, they'll just cancel us out and let the Euro-Japanese consortium try their luck. There are thirty Japanese trade officials in Kinshasa right now, spending yen like water."

"I think that's right," Travis said. "If it became known that our expedition is in trouble."

"It'll become known the minute we apply for visas."

"We won't apply for them. As far as anybody knows," Travis said, "we still have an expedition in Virunga. If we put a second small team into the field fast enough, nobody will ever know that it wasn't the original team."

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology