PhaseSubmitted by skrapmetal at 2012-07-26 23:20:38 EDT
Rating: 1.88 on 10 ratings (14 reviews) (V)
The cryptic repeated message had not varied since it was first discovered four days previously: “We are near. Death is coming for you. There is no hope.” Then a pause for several minutes, and the message repeated. Occasionally it would be lost in static but it returned on the same frequency every time. Analysis of the Doppler shift of the carrier wave showed that the source was approaching very quickly, and was slowing as it got closer to its apparent destination of Earth.
At the present time, only the scientists of the UVLE team, ten or so members of the military who had been assigned to watch over that project, and two Senators knew of the signal. In the lab conference room, all of these people had gathered.
A bemedaled General that Dr. Armstrong did not know opened the meeting. “We have inquired both quietly and more openly with the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Indians, the Brazilians, the Brits and the Australians. These are countries who not only may have the technology to send or detect the signal, but are located around the planet such that they may receive the message from the same and other directions. There is no indication that they have received this signal or are generating it. Our analysis tends to corroborate that.”
“So only we know of it.” said Armstrong. “I would like to suggest a limited release of the existence of this signal, so that we can direct as many of our resources as we can toward determining what it is that's sending the signal. The Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes might catch a glimpse of it, whatever 'it' is.”
“There are already several telescopes looking for it, on my orders” said the General. “We have not been able as yet to see it. The operators of the telescopes do not know what it is that they are looking for. It is similar in process to drills that we run regularly, so they are unlikely to suspect that they will find something.”
In the laboratory across the hall, the message repeated, monitored only by the recording devices and by a sullen Dr. Rhodes. The closer the sender approached, the stronger the signal became. There was less static each time and the silence between cycles more clear. He was certain the message was a dire warning of impending annihilation for Earth, and he could not bear to not tell anyone about it. Would they sit quietly and await destruction? If he didn't already know about the message, he assured himself that he'd absolutely want to know. He heard static and then quiet. After a few minutes more, the message started again. “We are near. Death is coming for you. There is no hope.” Then, in his surprise, Rhodes almost failed to comprehend the quieter words that followed. “You who abandoned war will be spared. You who embraced war will be destroyed.”
Sweating and shaking, Dr. Rhodes copied the recording onto his portable played and raced across the hall into the meeting.
After hearing the full message when Dr. Rhodes played it for the assembly, Dr. Armstrong looked at the Generals and Senators, and said, “I think we need to talk to them. They are broadcasting using a method we know - we are receiving it on the UVLD. If we can make the UVLE powerful enough to transmit back to them, we may be able to parley. With the agreement of the group, I'd like to proceed.”
“Upgrade your device, Armstrong, but do not make any attempt to contact the ship or whatever it is.” said the General. “We don't want to give away any tactical advantage we may have in their not receiving a response from us.”
“If we are talking about beings capable of crossing space to give us this warning, I doubt that a failure to answer would give us any 'tactical advantage' to use, General.”
In the lab, Dr. Armstrong worked with two assistants to build an improved power supply and emitter that could send an encoded message on ultraviolet laser intelligibly through space to a point that was now merely 2500 AU distant and approaching rapidly. Dr. Rhodes, very encouraged by the possibility of communication with the senders of this message, worked feverishly to design and build a controls system that would be stable enough to maintain the direction of the UVLE through all the perturbations it would face during it's use - atmospheric distortion, rotation of the planet, even minor earthquakes not noticeable to humans. All the while, Dr. Rhodes had the message playing on a loudspeaker in his office. “We are near. Death is coming for you. There is no hope. You who abandoned war will be spared. You who embraced war will be destroyed.”
The improved UVLE power supplies and emitters were ready for testing. The whole system had been secretly moved to a remote desert area clear of most wildlife and air traffic. The test was being done at night, for since there was no receiver to detect the effectiveness of the beam, it had been determined to use a more simple method to determine if the beam was powerful enough and stable enough to complete it's task. They would melt a small hole in the surface of the moon. If enough material were vaporized in a short enough time, the beam was powerful enough. If the hole-boring went on long enough, the emitter and power supplies were stable enough.
“You will not see the beam directly, but you may see some effects from it.” Dr. Armstrong was addressing the few military personnel allowed in the facility during the test. “If all air traffic is cleared and there are no other issues, let's power up the system. Large breakers were closed and the capacitors began to charge. A few moments later, the word came back that the power supplies were stable and ready for the test. “Very well, send the test signal.”
Looking through the binoculars toward the far edge of the Mare Crisium, now dark, Dr. Armstrong saw the occasional slight hint of greenish light and then a brightly glowing point. He listened to the performance reports as he watched; emitter temperatures rising, cooling systems at 50% capacity... 70%... 85%... stable at 88%. After two minutes the brightly glowing spot remained. The spot was displayed in close-up from a telescope on several computer monitors throughout the room, but Armstrong wanted to see it for himself.
“Secure the test.” Armstrong said. “Lets get a look at the result.” On the computer monitors, the damage to the surface was clearly shown. “What's the scale of that hole? How much beam divergence did we have?”
Dr. Rhodes was smiling broadly. “That hole is about 3 centimeters wide. No idea exactly how deep yet, but based on the ejecta it's probably three to four meters. The controls worked perfectly, as did the device itself!”
“Very well done, everyone” said Armstrong. “Rhodes, lets call the General and let the brass know we're ready to communicate.”