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The Thinking Molecules of Titan: Ending by Andreas Belgun

Editor's note: This is a continuation of a story Roger was working on when he passed away. This ending is one of many we received. To read Roger's beginning to the story, from the end of which each entry picks up the thread, go here. Illustration by Krishna Bala Shenoi. This is one of four endings we're posting this week. Vote on this week's endings.

Andreas Belgun writes:

"Let's ask NASA about this", said Regan.

"No way, I don't want to become a joke, thank you very much", Mason said. "It's better not take the easy way, if we wait we may …"

"Wait for what? O2 on Mars?" asked Regan. "But if that's what you want, I'll comply. Anyway they'll probably discover something before we do."

"They are not interested in Titan right now. They are waiting for the 6 billion years to pass, when the Sun will become a red giant and the temperatures on the surface will be -70 degrees C so that the cells can wake up", said Mason.

"Fine, then I shall go sleep with the cells. See you all tomorrow", said Regan

"OK, bye."

Soon after, everybody left. Mason threw out the beer cans so as not to upset the waitress and left directly to the lab.

He took the headphones from the desk and began to listen again. The sound was slightly changed, as Regan noticed. "Maybe the molecules are singing," thought Mason. After an hour he left the lab and went in the little campus park to watch the midnight sky. He instantly fell asleep on the bench.


Next morning, Mason found Alex, Claire, Regan and Elliott all over his desk. His first thought: "@#%$#^%&$!!! Did the sound change??" Mason yelled. "Make way, make way…"

"Sssst", said Claire.

"From what I listened to right now, I can… "

"Who are you talking to? Who's on the phone?" Mason said.

"Ssst", said Claire again.

"Sorry about the interruption", Regan said, while giving Mason the angry face. "Please continue."

"So, my opinion is", said the voice on the phone, "that it might be a minor volcano eruption. Cassini must have landed a little too far, that's why…"

"Excuse me, but what makes you say it's a minor volcano eruption?" asked Mason. "Do you have new satellite images?"

"Well, mister…"


"Mister Mason, glad you could join us, I've heard a lot about you, Cal McKinley, planetary scientist."

"NASA, really!!" said Mason in a lower voice while looking at Regan.

"Did you said something?" asked McKinley.

"No, excuse us, please continue," said Elliott.

"So, yes… We don't have yet new images from Titan. At this moment it's impossible to see anything, but I've run some data from Cassini and that's what led me to this conclusion," said McKinley.

"You of all people! What about your methanogenic life?" said Regan. "You said…"

"Yes, I've said, but we can't prove yet if the methanogenic life is in fact consuming enough atmospheric hydrogen. This is just a theory or human error, so…"

"But why do you exclude the possibility of molecules just…I don't know…singing along?" Regan asked.

"I don't exclude any theory," said McKinley. "What you said is perfectly plausible. I'm not saying that the volcano actually erupted, it's just an assumption made out of old data. I like better your theory, but everyone has an opinion on it, so…"

"So, so, so," said Mason.

"So," said McKinley laughing, "you'll have to listen and be patient. If you need help, please contact me."

"All right, thank you very much Mister McKinley," said Elliott.

"My pleasure,", said McKinley, and he hung up.

"So much for NASA," said Claire.

"No surprise there," said Mason still angry with Regan, "they like molecules but they deny them. What kind of a love is that?"

"The most common one," said Alex who kept quiet until now.

Everyone went silent.


A year passed with no change. The sound did not change. Mason decided to listen a little every day. He reduced his time for the molecules of Titan as days passed by. It was very early in the morning so the lab was empty. He sat down and put on the headphones but there was no sound. He checked all the connections and the computer. Nothing.

"No sound," thought Mason. "Why?"

The telephone in the lab rang. Mason ignored it. He was deep in his thoughts. The phone still rang.

"Jeezzz! Yes, hello!" said Mason.

"Hi. Is this Elliott or Mason?" asked the voice.

"Mason speaking, who is this?"

"Cal McKinley, NASA. I've been calling at this number since 4 am."

"Yes," said Mason, slightly annoyed.

"I have new infrared images from Titan," said McKinley.

"Yes," said Mason tediously.

"It seems you don't have what to listen to anymore," said McKinley.

"What?" asked Mason. "Did you guys hacked our computers?"

"We can't do that, it's against the law," said McKinley laughing.

"Yeah right," said Mason. "Then how do you know? Is Regan your spy?"

"You're not listening. I said I have new infrared satellite images from Titan," said McKinley.

"Yes, I heard, but what's that got to do with the sound?" asked Mason.

"Everything," said McKinley.

"I'm lost," said Mason.

"Cassini is…let's just say, under water," said McKinley.

"That's impossible," said Mason

"Not according to the infrared images. And we lost contact too," said McKinley.

Mason couldn't speak. His heart starting pounding fast.

"It seems that your molecules from Titan are in fact singing." said McKinley.

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