The CERBERUS Asteroid Diversion Program: Summary of Findings from the Several U.S. Gov’t Investigations into Cividan Laboratories

Documents released to the public in 2025 regarding the events leading up to and after the approach and diversion of asteroid HR42.   Presented in the form of transcripts conducted by the FBI, and a Senate investigatory commission, and a letter from the CEO of Cividan Laboratories, it tells the story of a suddenly discovered asteroid on a disastrous trajectory approaching the earth, and how Cividan Labs pulled everyone together to avert it by shooting a lot of nuclear bombs at it to deflect its course.

Ostensibly started by the government, the investigation after the fact was allegedly into misuse of government funds, and all was refuted by Cividan Labs, flooding the organizations with documents in the name of transparency, agreeing to numerous interrogations by the FBI on the condition that every word of the transcripts would be released to the public.

As time went on, it appeared that embedded in the digitized data submitted to all kinds of investigating divisions and organizations was some kind of code which created a back door into their computer systems, giving Cividan access, while leaving no trace of itself, so it could not be proved.

Led by an altruistic and wealthy man, Cividan’s motto is Make Better Things;  Make Things Better.

My only cavil is that there really was no twist, which I kept waiting for, which maybe was the twist.  It seems the guy really did want to make things better.  The various investigators kept asking what secrets Cividan was hiding what where they doing, and why had they launched a lot of equipment, parts, and fuel into orbit and left it there.  What were they DOING up there?  The CEO’s response was beautiful:

One of the most notable characteristic of space is that it is extremely cold.  Anything up there putting off any kind of heat is very easy to see.  Voyager I was built in the 70’s and is out past the edge of the solar system.  It’s twelve billion miles away from us.  You know how we track it?  It’s got a twenty-watt radio on board.  If you want to know what we are doing up there, look up.  Anything Cividan builds or does in orbit can be seen.

There is even given in the book the internet address for their ‘company’.   www.cividanlabs.com   Yeah, that site exists, and you can go there and read about all of their fictional programs and updates.  and even sign up for updates.

Very clever, and other than Cividan Laboratories, there is no author given.  Even the publisher is listed as Cividan Labs.   If it weren’t set in 2025, you would get to thinking it was real.

In Greek mythology, Cerberus, often called the “hound of Hades”, is a multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving.

 

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FEEDBACK by Peter Cawdron

Groundhog Day with space ships!  Hot diggity dawg!

It’s a time travel-y thing, with a UFO space ship that is actually biological, and a kid who keeps appearing under variants of his name:  Jason, Jai-San, etc.

Here’s the low down:  “Twenty years ago, a UFO crashed into the Yellow Sea off the Korean Peninsula. The only survivor was a young English-speaking child, captured by the North Koreans. Two decades later, a physics student watches his girlfriend disappear before his eyes, abducted from the streets of New York by what appears to be the same UFO. Feedback will carry you from the desolate, windswept coastline of North Korea to the bustling streets of New York and on into the depths of space as you journey to the outer edge of our solar system looking for answers.”

So, anyway, it’s kind of like karma — ya gotta keep coming back until you get it right.

I’m sitting here trying to think of something else to say, but I got nuthin’.  It was a fun and compelling read, and just the teensiest bit hokey at the very end.  Yeah, well. But there IS a part where a guy gets his fingers chopped off by the North Korean army, so there is that.

Oh, yeah.  The title refers to what happens when your amp is too close to the microphone.  You get feedback, right?   Infinite regress, and all that.

LOSING MARS by Pater Cawdron

Disaster strikes in orbit around Mars. A Chinese spacecraft is disabled, stranded near Phobos. Well over a hundred million miles from Earth, their only hope for rescue comes from the American base on the edge of the Vallis Marineris on the surface of Mars. The Americans need to decide, do they lose Mars or their humanity?

Six scientists are on Mars for two years to map some of the terrain, and examine the rocks etc.  Three couples, one of which is a lesbian couple.  While out roving, one of the guys falls over a ledge into some kind of crevasse, and needs rescuing, which is done by the first person narrator, a botanist, whose spouse is the mission’s doctor.

Then, they are alerted by NASA that the nearby Russian ship which is orbiting Phobos, and exploring its surface. is in trouble.  Seems there was an explosion.  Our narrator feels they should attempt a rescue, which means using their only return to USA vehicle.  They can got to the Russians, but then must leave for Earth, leaving the others behind on Mars for the remainder of the mission.

So our narrator, once again playing hero, and another woman, take off for the rescue, and find nobody on the Russian ship, although NASA is telling them that of the 4 man crew, there are now registering only two heartbeats.  The woman takes a jet pack and enters the Russian ship, experiences something weird, and nothing more is heard from her.  Our botanist hero then goes after her, to find himself caught up in some surreal thing where he skips in time to various situations in his life, stuff in the past, the future.  He is pulled back into reality by the voice of his crew chief and his wife.  He manages to get back into his own rescue vehicle.

Then there is some convoluted stuff and he is asked to stop by Phobos as he passes it (could ya pick up a loaf of bread and quart of milk on your way home?) to take some pics, he crashes on Phobos, ends up finding some kind of huge cavern with hundreds of dessicated bodies of four-armed aliens, dead for millenia, gets involved in a lot more time travel horse pucky, finds the female who was with him in some kind of coma, rescues her, find the two Russian astronauts, also in comas, rescues them, and takes everybody back to Earth (along with the bread and milk and a Hershey bar), where he spends the next 50 years not telling anybody about any of this because the technology is so far advanced he is afraid that humans will destroy themselves in heartbeat.

Pros:  lots of good science kind of stuff, lots of good nitty gritty details of life on a dead planet, and NASA routines, some real creativity about the aliens, etc.

Con:  “I’m just a poor simple botanist”  schtick is really annoying.  He is the only hero we have in the story.  It is awkward having the narrator narrating how humble and wonderful he is.  For me, it would have worked better with an omniscient narrator.

Con: Too much moralizing and preachiness.  The last quarter of the book was for me really a drag, with too much wandering around time-space and hallucinating yada yada yada.

Three stars, maybe four if I’m having a good day.

THE GENTLE GIANTS OF GANYMEDE by James P. Hogan

This is the companion book, a sequel of Hogan’s Inherit the Stars.  On another moon, Jupiter’s Ganymede, another mystery was found: a wrecked spacesuit, which had been there for millennia, and which obviously was designed for beings larger than the humans of Earth. The mystery seemed insoluble until another ship, manned by the strange humanoid giants arrived, and were very surprised to find humans inhabiting the Solar System.

The fourth manned mission to Jupiter, early in the third decade of the twenty-first century, marked the beginning of intensive exploration of the outer planets and the establishment of the first permanent bases on the Jovian satellites.  Instruments in orbit above Ganymede had detected a large concentration of metal some distance below the surface of the moon’s ice crust.  …. The spacecraft they found there, frozen in its changeless tomb of ice was huge.  From skeletal remains found inside the ship, the scientists of Earth reconstructed a picture of the race of eight foot tall giants that had built it and whose level of technology was estimated as having been a century or more ahead of Earth’s.

OK, we have the biologist Professor Christian Danchekker, and Dr. Victor Hunt again.   Lots more biology science, and discussion of evolution.  You will remember that there was once another planet near the Earth, Minerva, with its own moon, which turned out to be the Earth’s moon.  The giants who lived 50,000 years prior brought to Minerva biological life which evolved into two versions of humans, who warred with each other on Minerva and blew up the planet, leaving only the biological life existing on Earth to evolve into modern man.

Yeah, it all sounds pretty hookey and dry, but actually reads a lot better.  This volume is concerned with the 8 ft race, called the Ganymeans, traces of which were found on Jupiter’s satellite, buried deep in the ice, complete with skeletons, and skeletons of animals, etc.  While arranging to leave the area around Icaris, which was about to go Nova or something, another spaceship appears, and lo! and behold! it is a 50,000 year old spaceship of the Ganymeans, which had been traveling forever, and now only contained about 400 of them, most having been lost on their long journey.  They meet, everybody is nicey nicey, they go to Earth where they are offered a place to live, since their home planet is no longer in existence, and one wonders at the hopeful naivety of 1979 or whenever this was written.

But enough poking fun.  It was an enjoyable read.  I think we have become overly cynical in the ensuing years, and it was lovely to read about aliens who don’t want to kick our collective butts.

 

INHERIT THE STARS by James P. Hogan

A 1978 sci fi series starter, given rave reviews all over the place.  Well, I enjoyed it a lot, but rave?  Maybe not so much.

When they found the corpse on the Moon, wearing a spacesuit, lying in a grave of moon rocks, his identity was a complete mystery. The spacesuit was of a completely unfamiliar design. Then analysis showed that the corpse was 50,000 years old-meaning that he had somehow died on the Moon before the human race even existed.  They called him Charlie. He had big eyes, abundant body hair and fairly long nostrils. His skeletal body was found clad in a bright red spacesuit, hidden in a rocky grave. They didn’t know who he was, how he got there, or what had killed him. All they knew was that his corpse was 50,000 years old; and that meant that this man had somehow lived long before he ever could have existed!

Kind of a mystery, and who doesn’t love a mystery about a 50,000-year-old space guy still pretty much in tact?  Not a lot of actual action as in space opera, more like space analysis.  It  predominantly concerns how the scientists go about solving the mystery of this dude, going deeply into evolution theory, with lots of explanations of biology related matters.  I found it really interesting and fascinating because I slept through most of my biology courses back in the day.  Of course, keep in mind the investigation was of 1978 quality.  Since then, in the intervening 41 years, science itself has evolved, as has the theories it has spawned, and the techniques which were considered hi back then are now probably only medium.

Fun read, and there are several sequels, so maybe we will meet aliens.  I do hope so.  I love meeting aliens.

THE CARPET MAKERS by Andreas Eschbach

German Sci Fi.  No, really.  It is.   And beautifully translated by Doryl Jensen, too.

It is based on a unique idea….  and you will love it.  It starts off kind of like a fable, or maybe fantasy, with a smell of sword and sorcerer to it, set as it begins in a primitive medieval-like land on an unnamed planet, definitely Earth-like. and I was not sure I would continue, as this type of thing is not usually my cup of tequila.  What we got here  is a caste-like primitive society, whose highest caste members are carpet makers. But not just any carpet makers.  They make intricate carpets the size of a man, the width of his out-stretched arms.  Made of human hair.  Tied in tiny intricate knots, so tiny and tight that it takes the maker his entire lifetime to complete one carpet, and the hair comes exclusively from the heads of his wives and daughters.  He is only allowed one son, who will be taught the skill and will follow him.  If any other boys are born, he kills them.

OK, so far, so weird.  These carpets are then bought and collected by traveling caravans which take them to the Port City, where they are packed onto space transport ships (aha!  the sci fi is appearing) and sent to the Emperor’s Palace to cover his floors. The Emperor is a deity worshiped by all.  The people on the planet believe there are other planets which produce exclusively other products for the Emperor.

On the planet where the palace and the Emperor reside, there is not a single hair carpet.  Where are they all going?  The Emperor is believed to be eternal.  But a rebel faction arises, and kills him, and then spends the next 20 years trying to go to all the planets of which there are thousands, and which strangely enough are producing nothing but hair carpets, to advise the Emperor is dead, and to stop making carpets.

Each chapter starts a new narrative, following a different group of characters, with few repeat appearances from previous characters or story-lines. But after a few chapters in I started to see the relationship between the (seemingly) disconnected narratives, and began to enjoy putting together the puzzle pieces, and unraveling the mystery.

I absolutely loved this book.  Especially because although there are space ships which transport the carpets, the people do not have running water, inside plumbing, electricity, or vehicles.  Everyone travels by foot or carts pulled by animals.

This book is not about aliens.  It is about belief systems, and toys with our notions of extended time. And of carpets.

 

THE LAST COLONY by John Scalzi

This is the third in The Old Man’s War series, and purports to be the end of the tale, but Scalzi couldn’t resist carrying on with additional volumes.  The next in the series, Zoe’ Tale, basically just tells the same story from the teenage daughter’s point of view, and I gave it up after only a short bit.  As my mother used to say, I don’t like to chew my cabbage twice.

In this mop-up last volume, our remade hero from the first two books has retired from Colonial soldiering, gotten yet a third body, back to original specs, so to speak, no special abilities, lost the Brain Pal in his head, so no more onboard computer,  and has married the Special Forces woman soldier who was created out of the DNA of his dead wife.  I know.  It almost sounds plausible when you are reading this, but in the retelling, sounds dopey as … as… as…  I don’t know.   So, for this whole series, think YA but better written and without the teenage hero/heroine.

John and his wife get tapped to head a new colony being started by the Colonial Forces, named Roanoke.  Not good, considering the fate of the colony after which it is named.  But as we might suspect, nothing is as it seems, there are political shenanigans afoot, and guess who are the pawns.

It is a rather involved political gambit, not all that interesting in the reading OR the telling, but I slogged along anyway, because it wasn’t that hard of a read, really.  And you know the Good Guys are going to win out in the end.

And they do have jump points, where a space ship jumps to another galaxy or wherever and just miraculously appears in the designated destination.  There is that, at least.

I will give the last two volumes in the series a shot, see if anything improves,  and then call it a day.