Sunday, September 2, 2012

Alien Satellite: Stand-Alone 2

Short story cont'd

“What about the skinny boy you work with? Where is he?” Gus was asking about Dean, the other intern, and a 26 year old grad student from the University. Vicky had very little opinion of the rich white boy who could barely run a quadratic equation without getting lost.

The dumbass is off with his chunky girlfriend looking at the stars and not the static, Vicky thought. “He's sick too,” she said.

Gus clenched his teeth and breathed out. “Is the signal still there?”

“That's the problem, I think we lost it.” Vicky sunk her head into her shoulders, waiting for the crotchety man to explode. Instead, he stood up and wordlessly headed to Vicky's workspace. He pushed an empty can away from the mouse and turned to Vicky.

“Show me.”

“It's not that simple, this is still live, you have to go to the report and sort by date. Then you have to look for the sequence starting with one, two, three, five, seven.” Vicky noticed Gus's face, “y'know what, let me do it.” Vicky pushed through and quickly managed the list, pulling up the strange signal.

Gus wasn't really qualified to look at what he was seeing. He knew the basics of extraterrestrial contact, an intelligent signal would probably have a repeating pattern that demonstrated intelligence and not natural phenomena. That would most likely be a sequence of prime numbers as they were non-random and easy to spot for any civilization that could count. And that was about it.

So when he took a look at the signal he didn't expect to be able to help. Despite his grumpiness, he was tentatively excited. His nerves had come back for a brief moment, the space race days momentarily shining through the decades.

And the signal was unmistakeable. It was long too. The first 47 prime numbers. “How did the computer get these values?”

“It was blips. Like Morse code I guess.” Vicky shrugged. Gus, for his part, was surprised Vicky even knew was Morse code was—even if the metaphor was a little off.

“And it's not one of ours?” Gus asked.

“Can't be, I've checked all the registers. Doesn't show up.”

“What about stealth satellites, none of the covert ones show up on those lists.” Gus was trying to unbelieve what was before him. Trying to keep his hands from shaking.

“Possible but not likely. I picked up the signal twice, both times just a fragment, and they are out further than Mars.” Vicky tried to sound sciencey; she wanted to be taken seriously. “So now what? Do we call a red alert or something?” Or not.

“I'm not sure who to contact,” Gus replied. It was funny, scientific discovery of this magnitude required a rapid response yet the community was built for caution and accuracy. Who should they contact? NASA? The Military? Local Senators? The media? SETI? Trekkies?

No, all of them had their angles. None of it would actually help. Gus reflexively thought of the international implications. Without control this could spin out a war, a lot of terrorism at the least. “Vicky, what are you working on?”

“I'm seeing if we can detect certain wavelengths of light from the moons of Jupiter, we're hoping it'll give us a glimpse at some of the fainter objects in the system. We're hoping that this will actually apply to--”

“Ok, well don't. Your new task is to find that signal and get something robust enough that we can take action.” Gus was awake suddenly. And he was ready to figure out a new problem, hopefully a real one.