Thirty Five Percent!
Since we've reached 35% of the total goal, here is the first 35% of the first short story!
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When the aliens first made contact with humanity, it was no big deal.
You would expect the opposite, breaking news flashes and giant headlines and ruminative pieces in the Wall Street Journal about “Whither NATO In A Populated Cosmos?” But the first contact was only recognized as such years later, and by then the WSJ’s subscription numbers had dwindled. The closest thing people saw to a news flash came on social media, and while it formed the bulk of people’s ‘consumed data,’ they took it with a grain of salt when it said things about alien life, just like they did with news about famous people dying. Everyone had been burned before.
First it was just some astronomer on NPR saying “This signal from the Groombridge binaries is interestingly regular. Could be a new kind of pulsar!” Then the moderator jokingly suggested extraterrestrials and the guest chuckled, saying well, you never knew.
Next came news that a satellite had been equipped with a new tight-focus laser device to send pulses at the phenomenon’s origin. A few people went berserk, but the doomsaying and violent sprees weren’t really any worse than after a presidential election or environmental disaster. Some politicians decried the satellite as a boondoggle while scientists timidly replied that even if Groombridge wasn’t sending a deliberate transmission, when the signals bounced back in twenty-two years it might provide some really compelling data.
It didn’t take twenty-two years though. After only seventeen years the pattern’s rhythm changed, and at first people didn’t pay much attention, except for the scientists, who varied the light beam. Groombridge (or, as they now suspected, an object between that system and Earth) altered its wavelength in response. The number of angry conservative scientists who insisted that we might just be looking at a mirror and hearing an echo diminished each year, as the interactions between the broadcast Earth sent and the one it received became more and more sophisticated.
The belief that, no, this was for really real contact with intelligent life that could interact with us and communicate bubbled up in lieu of any official announcement. The pulse broadcast was detectable by handheld technology at that point, and the incoming signal couldn’t be blocked. Scientists were talking about extraterrestrials matter-of-factly with one another a good year before the first politician went on record acknowledging them.
That was a bit of a mess. Factions of every major religion went violently nuts, perceiving the existence of intelligent Others as a threat to their very foundation. By that point in the human timeline, home biochemistry made some nasty terrorism possible. But medicine was equally advanced, so it kind of balanced out.
When Chinese bureaucrats admitted what the world’s wealthiest 20% had already heard on the grapevine—that the responses were coming faster, meaning that whatever we were talking to was getting nearer—there was an echoing spate of violence and hysteria, but it wasn’t as bad. People had, at that point, been hearing theories about the signal being from ETI for over thirty years. Knowing that, at their current speed, they’d arrive in three more decades didn’t seem so terribly alarming.
Once a communication protocol was established (and, incidentally, adopted by most major phone and data carriers within five years, because it was really efficient and clever) the aliens spent eight months explaining gravity. Once we attained a fundamental understanding of the causative gravity-bearing particle (of which
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...and there we end in mid-sentence before the big plot twist. Tune in Wednesday for the start of The Turning of the Time - which, so far, has not been funded...
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