Sunday, September 2, 2012

Alien Satellite: Stand Alone 1

Alien Satellite, stand alone: Short story

“Why didn't we detect it before?” Gus was a throw back from another era. An era where monkeys flew, nukes would rain from heaven and Cuba, and men walked on the moon. Space was fixed, empty, and deadly. There was no sense of wonder, only a cold calculus about military applications of space endeavors. And more than anything, Gus was baffled not at this strange new signal, but more at the fact he was even there in the middle of the god damn desert, overseeing a bunch of scientists who clearly had a firmer grasp on their work than he did. This wasn't industrial engineering, this wasn't beating the Reds into space to ensure national security. This was pure fact-finding; a day to day monotony of static.

For fourteen years Gus had been running the station, watching student researchers and their arrogant professors ruin his equipment. Not that it mattered much to him, there was a time when there were real missions, when there were real stakes, and the things that happened in the vacuum mattered just as much as the things on the ground.

Perhaps it was nostalgia, or perhaps it was the whiskey. Never too much, but enough to smooth out the day. It made Gus feel less like a janitor cleaning up after teenagers—the job he had basically taken on trying to keep the place from falling apart.

“Not sure. It could be a concentrated transmission. Like a gun. And it hasn't ever been pointed at us.” Vicky was one of the messy teens Gus managed when the professors went out to have drinks. It was nearly 2am and Vicky was too energetic from a combination of Red Bulls and Triscuits. Mostly the Red Bulls.

Gus was peeved at the caffeine buzz, he rarely had energy these days, let alone at 2am. He mumbled, “why are you telling me? Where's professor—what was his name again?”

“Oh, Clarke? He's home with bird flu. So I'm just doing the raw number crunching.”

Clarke, not even professor last name—petulant. “Great, but why are you telling me?”

“Well, who else am I going to tell?” Vicky was hurt, she had sacrificed a summer to spend time decoding signals and categorizing for weeks now, just for a faint glimmer at a Ph D scholarship. And now she was stuck in the middle of a desert with an old man that was more concerned about the stickiness of the keyboard than the pure majesty of the cosmos.