Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Land Leave: Alien Satellite 1/4

“What do you mean a radio signal?”

“I mean precisely that, sir.”

“It's not another country's?”

“We've checked and double-checked. It doesn't even have any of the signatures of another nation. Besides, nothing is supposed to be out there.”

“Is it natural.”

“That's what we thought at first, a new phenomena coming from outside our solar system. But it's still in the solar system. In fact, it's orbiting.”

“Not a planet?”

“Can't be. It's too small. We can't see it at all from Earth. We just detect these...signals.” Neil wore a well-pressed suit, and was rarely one to be alarmed about anything. This was huge though and the reaction from Cmdr Tam was subdued to say the least. It appeared he hadn't even touched the briefing.

Commander Tam for his part wasn't willing to put his career on the line and wanted to be cautious. He sighed slowly, “Ok, let's go over this one more time. Three weeks ago you detected a weak radio signal that appears to have 4 types of 'letters'. These letters create a long sequence that repeats. In your opinion, this is what? An alien?”

Neil hesitated, “well no sir. My team and I think that it's actually a probe; a satellite of sorts. But if you mean to say that RX4 isn't human-made then yes.”

Cmdr Tam nearly told Neil to screw himself. “Fine,” he sighed, “made by aliens.” There was a long pause. “What does this mean? What do you want us to do?”

“That's really hard to say, sir. Of course the scientists want to send out a probe to immediately make contact, and if possible, to retrieve it. But our military engineers are a little more skeptical. We don't know anything about RX4. I'm sure you've seen enough alien invasion movies to know what would happen if tipping off an alien race to our existence were to backfire.”

“You aren't helping.”

“Sir, I don't know. This is about as blind as it gets. Even if we decode the signal fully I'm almost positive it wouldn't mean anything more than the signals we have sent out. It would merely indicate intelligent life—proof that the signal isn't random. Something like hydrogen and the basic building blocks of their species. It wouldn't ever help us decide how violent the creators are.”

“This RX4. Is there anything we know?”

“We know that it's irregular, we know that it's still in the Oort cloud, barely in the solar system at all. And we know it's big—small. It's big if it was made by something, small for a stellar object. Sir, it's approximately 3 km across.”

“I can't believe I'm going to ask this, and we're sure it doesn't have an invading alien force on it.”

“Almost definitely no. It's drifting, the orbit is irregular, and its velocity is consistent with an object that has been captured by the gravitational pull of a star, not of a directed ship. This is something that left its solar system and wandered—possibly for thousands, millions of years even—before being captured by the sun's gravity.”