I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

First Contact

It was in 2015 when I first heard extra-terrestrials. I was fiddling around with the Morgan Foundation’s radio telescope at around 10:30 am, just before I was supposed to clock out after yet another night of fruitless listening. At first I thought it was just background noise. Then, I thought I was just feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. When the hiss got stronger, when the pattern emerging out of the white noise became too obvious, that was when I hit the button.

The panic button, we called it, even though it wasn’t even a button and it wasn’t panic that was supposed to trigger it. When I flipped that toggle, three things happened all at once. The computers locked on to whatever frequency I was listening to at that time and began recording everything; a text message was sent on a private network to Mr. Willard Morgan’s cellphone; and telemetry was activated in the main House where Mr. Morgan could monitor the frequency.

At that time, I didn’t know that a fourth thing happened when I flipped the panic button. A packet of information was fired off to the MorComm satellite. The packet contained instructions for the satellite to fry all other satellites by sending out an electromagnetic pulse. The MorComm sat itself would jettison a virgin satellite that would commence operation almost instantaneously after the emp went off. Mr. Morgan’s exclusivity guarantee. It was a good thing I didn’t know that, or I would have not hit the button fearing a false alarm.

But as things turned out, it wasn’t a false alarm.

Three days later, while the world media still bleated about mysteriously downed satellites, the Morgan Foundation had scrambled it’s steroid-pumped version of the Hubble and within a few hours, we were getting clear pictures of the source of the signal. An asteroid that would, in six weeks, pass about 2 lunar distances from the earth.

Five weeks later, the rest of the world found out about the signal through the tabs. Everyone ignored the blaring headlines, just like they ignored the stories about the image of Elvis being found on a granola bar. The US government didn’t ignore the story exactly, but it wasn’t in any position to do anything about it, so it kept quiet. The Morgan Foundation, however, had launched a piggy-backer aimed at the incoming asteroid.

When the piggy backer hit the asteroid a week later, we realized it wasn’t a rock at all but a derelict.

Over the next few months, as the derelict receded into the distance the piggy-back sent back tons of information. We learned that the signal I had found was scatter from course correction instructions sent to the derelict to prevent it from slamming into the moon. It was an automated instruction and it scared the shit out of everyone at Morgan. Everyone, that is, except Morgan himself.

He called it first contact and finally told the United Nations about it. His speech before the General Assembly was something to behold.

First, he told the story of how I had discovered the signal. Then he apologized for the emp, calling it an act of necessary vandalism and offering to pay for all costs. And before the leaders of the world had time to harrumph, he hit them square between the eyes with the powerpoint presentation of the millenium. Al Gore must have wept with envy.

He gave free and full access to Morgan databases to all governments, inviting them to verify our results. For awhile after that, outrage caught up with the rest of the world and sanctions were heaped on the Morgan Foundation. But when the results were eventually verified, the sanctions were quietly lifted. No one could forget Morgan’s closing statement at the General Assembly: “We have found them. It is only a matter of time before they find us.”

Three months after that revelation, the General Assembly convened again, and in an unprecedented move, several regional groups – including the European Union and the Association of South East Asian Countries – coalesced to form the Eurasian Union. The US was invited, but Washington declined. It had its own plans.

Fearing further reprisals, the Morgan Foundation pulled out all its interests in the continental US and relocated to the Hague. The EAU was ecstatic. The US condemned Morgan and, while still wondering how it had been so neatly outmaneuvered, stripped him of his citizenship.

The realignment of the global power structure gave rise to a new space race. 15 years later, the EAU launched its first space station: Jericho. Six months later, the US space station was commissioned. It was named the Rubicon. And everyone settled down for the long wait.

– The Long Wait: The Memoirs of Jonah Erskine


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