John Ringo: Von Neumann’s War

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John Ringo Von Neumann’s War
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New series. Mars is changing. Seemingly overnight the once “Red” planet is turning to gray. Something is happening, something unnatural. A team of, literally, rocket scientists figure out a way to send a probe, very fast, to Mars to determine how and why it is changing. However, when the probe is destroyed well short of the formerly red planet, it’s apparent that Mars is being used as a staging ground. The only viable target for that staging ground is Earth. Ranging from rocket design to brilliant paranoids to “in your face” fighting in Iraq, is a fast paced look at what would happen if the earth was attacked by a robot race that, quite accidentally, was bent on destroying civilization.

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Von Neumann’s War

by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor

The Commando’s Prayer

Give me, my God, what you still have;
give me what no one asks for.
I do not ask for wealth, nor success,
nor even health.
People ask you so often, God, for all that,
that you cannot have any left.
Give me, my God, what you still have.
Give me what people refuse to accept from you.
I want insecurity and disquietude;
I want turmoil and brawl.
And if you should give them to me,
my God, once and for all,
let me be sure to have them always,
for I will not always
have the courage to ask for them.

Corporal Zirnheld Special Air Service 1942


To the soldiers, contractors, analysts, scientists, and engineers who press daily to maintain our nation’s security

Neighborhood Watch
Final Report
Development and Results of the Mars Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Probe “Percival”
Prepared by Roger P. Reynolds, T. C. Powell, Alan J. Davis
Prepared for the National Reconnaissance Office
Contract # TNW1-01-2007


This document contains all data developed under the Top Secret Special Access Program codenamed Neighborhood Watch. Neighborhood Watch was developed to investigate the albedo-changing phenomenon currently taking place on the planet Mars. Neighborhood Watch initial analysis suggested that a planet-changing phenomena of the magnitude which is occurring on Mars is of non-natural origin. It was also determined to be statistically improbable that all manmade probes that had previously been sent to the planet Mars have gone quiet in a short timespan, including those which had been functioning nominally on the surface.

The Mars Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Probe known as “Percival” was developed in a rapid design process and launched. Percival was successful in reaching the planet and returning valuable ISR. Unfortunately, once reaching the planet all contact was lost with the probe. Analysis of final mission transmissions indicate that the probe sustained progressive failure indicative of attack rather than systems failure.

This report was developed in order to maintain a complete record of the mission history, concept development, mission design components, mission implementation, data retrieved, and data analysis. The authors would like to emphasize here that extreme attention to detail is given where available so that as much data as possible is available if further analysis of the Neighborhood Watch project is made.

The report begins with initial findings that led to the creation of the Neighborhood Watch program. The findings began with analysis of data from ground and space telescopes by astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). There were also reports from various amateur astronomers claiming that Mars was “changing colors”. It was at this point that sequential failures of Mars probes began to alert government officials to the possibility of non-natural actions or activities. A timeline will be given of the sequence of these events.

The next section of the report gives a detailed description of the Percival development effort. Space mission concept architecture, spacecraft design components, and all aspects of the development and implementation of the Mars ISR Probe, Percival, is discussed.

The third section gives the results of the Mars ISR mission. The data is somewhat alarming. The conclusion is undeniable: Mars has been dramatically altered by an unnatural phenomenon. Although Percival is believed to have been destroyed, not “lost,” destroyed, prior to mission completion, sufficient data was retrieved from the probe to determine that Mars is being altered by an alien entity or entities. No signs of organic life were detected. However, signs of an intelligence at work are evident since major portions of the planet’s surface have been converted to mechanical structures, some of them of super-human proportions.

The fourth section is a conclusions and discussions section. The results of the Neighborhood Watch program are summarized and a discussion on the possible outcome and impact of the phenomenon on Mars is discussed along with potential repercussions to Terra and the human race.

Chapter 1

Time: Present minus twenty years

The teachers looked up at the rocket towering over the exhibit and then at each other.

“Duct tape?” the female teacher asked. Usually she taught junior high school science classes, especially “female health” and “earth sciences.” It was the first time she’d ever seen a… what was it the boy called it… a “sounding rocket.”

“Only for support of the outer casing,” the young man said, smiling broadly and scratching at his nearly white hair. “The primary casing is cardboard. I wanted to make a rocket entirely from discarded and readily available materials. The term is ‘off-the-shelf.’ NASA hardly ever uses anything that anyone else uses and I think that’s a damn shame. There are so many things around that you can make rockets out of. The igniter is a spark plug from my daddy’s old Chevy. The energy components, the fuel, are made from common household materials. I made the fins in shop class when we were working with sheet metal; I brought in a hood off a car in my Uncle Bubba’s backyard and cut it up. You can see the original paint! And the payload is a sodium tracer round made out of an old Jack Daniels bottle I found under the porch.”

“So, when are you planning on putting the fuel in?” she asked.

“Well, it’s solid fuel,” Roger Reynolds replied, as if she were dense. “You can’t just pull it out and put it in.”

“So… it’s fueled?” the woman squeaked. She suddenly realized that all the, many, rocket scientists who were judging the Northern Alabama High School Science Fair had chosen to examine exhibits a long way away from this one.

“Well… duh.”

Roger went on to the International Science and Engineering Fair where he placed in the top five overall and first in his category. He also won a scholarship and a job at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. There he was described on his performance evaluation as “precocious.” In private he was described as “that young snot-nosed pain in the ass. And keep him away from the fuel…”

Time: Present minus one year — first Russian Mars probe failure

As the improvised explosive device turned his lead Humvee into expensive confetti, Captain Shane Gries, USA, took just one more moment to consider how very much he hated all academic eggheads.

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