TensionSubmitted by skrapmetal at 2012-07-29 10:28:52 EDT
Rating: 1.88 on 11 ratings (14 reviews) (V)
Frequency (Part 1) https://www.ubersite.com/m/126250
Wavelength (Part 2) https://www.ubersite.com/m/126295
Amplitude (Part 3) https://www.ubersite.com/m/128225
Phase (Part 4) https://www.ubersite.com/m/128227
Out in the desert, Armstrong and Rhodes again set up their equipment. This time the moon was not the target; this time the target was a space ship. The space ship was the source of 'The Message'. The memos Dr. Armstrong had seen in the past few days concerning it had begun to use capitals for emphasis: The Message. Earlier that very day, one of the Generals had brought the scientists printed copies of photographs and composite images that had at once caused in them both a deep fear and a deep wonder.
Several telescopes that weren't supposed to be in orbit or even exist at all had as one peered in the same direction, and for once in their operational existences that direction was not at something on Earth. The images of the craft were poor quality, and not a lot of detail could be determined even with the overlain data sets from all the spectral sweeps. There were some data that were known, though. The ship was roughly 4 kilometers wide and 500 meters tall in the direction facing Earth. It reflected visible light and emitted brightly in the infrared. It was obviously equipped with a UVLE-like device since it was transmitting the encoded Message with that technology. Presumably it would have a UVLD-like device for decoding as well. It was about 1000 AU from Earth, and still approaching very rapidly. New estimates of it's arrival based on more accurate tracking of The Message gave it's arrival at Earth in about 13 days.
Those few who had heard the recordings had engaged in discussions concerning whether it was a hoax or real, and if real, who could be sending the dire warning. “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.” Now that there were visual images as confirmation of the existence of a ship located at the origin of The Message, those discussions had ceased. Now, the talk was of what if anything might be done about the approaching ship.
Dr. Rhodes busied himself with accessing the directional data on the ship to hone the aim of the UVLE's tracking controls. If the tight-beam communication missed the target, it would do no one any good. After several hours, while Dr. Armstrong had a shower and short period of sleep, Rhodes was sure the UVLE was tracking the space ship well enough to send several repetitions. He woke Dr. Armstrong and gave him an update, after which they both went to the conference room to speak with the General.
“General, we are ready to send our reply to the ship. Have you decided what you will say?”
“Dr. Armstrong, you will record the reply and you will send it with your UVLE. It will be your voice they receive. You will say the words that are written on this paper and nothing else. Am I clear?”
“I understand. Can I see these momentous words?” Dr. Armstrong looked over the script, and read the three sentences silently. 'Your Message has been received. Who are you? What do you seek?' Armstrong thought that it needed to be so much more than those few paltry noncommittal phrases.
Sensing the scientist's worries, the General said, “We've used this language to convey several points without appearing to pose a threat. This says that we know they're approaching and that they are sending a message. It says we're interested in them and are not unwilling to be of help. So, if you would, please record our reply. Much more thought than you know has gone into it.”
It took five tries before Dr. Armstrong managed to say the twelve words without the wavering of emotion in his voice. Once done, the file was loaded into the UVLE. With a complete lack of the fanfare due mankind's first words to an alien being, a button was pressed and the reply was sent.
The scientists and the General sat at the conference table. Dr. Armstrong said, “General, assuming we aimed and tracked the UVLE properly, it will take about five days for the message to reach the ship and a bit less than that further for them to let us know they received it and provide a response. I'd suggest we let the crew go home for a couple days. We'll make sure the monitors stay and track the ship and listen to The Message, and they can quickly recall everyone if anything changes.”
“I don't see why we cannot accommodate that request”, said the General. “We could all use a break from this. I will remind you that your work on the UVLE and even moreso the Message we've received is absolutely secret and must not be mentioned. Not to anyone. Am I clear?”
“Of course, General” Armstrong replied, nodding.
“I will stay and monitor the recording, and let you know if anything changes”, Dr. Rhodes said. “I would rather do that than go home and think about all this spaceship stuff.” He smiled in a tired and weak manner.
Dr. Armstrong looked at the other scientist. “Rhodes, you can at least get some sleep. Nothing will likely happen for a few days anyway.”
“Yes, that will probably help.”
Dr. Armstrong received the call after only two days at home. He had not seen his wife and young child for several weeks, with the work on the UVLE and UVLD, and in the days since they'd received The Message, he had not even spoken with them. And now, after barely catching up on sleep and the schoolday adventures of his daughter, he was packing a bag and on his way back to the laboratory. The General had made the call himself, but he would not give a reason for it. Armstrong knew enough to not press for details on the telephone, so he'd just have to roll over the possibilities in his mind until he got back to the lab. Further communication? The UVLE had failed? What could it be? It was going to be a long flight.