Monday, May 29, 2006
Here is the edited, altered version of the chapter I posted a few days ago and then took down because it wasn't flowing the way I wanted:
[My journal of alien contact]
I have bad news. ISAP is threatening to recall the Kookaburra IV from the Alpha Centauri-A meeting point. In response, two out of three of the major private sponsors are threatening to pull the plug on their funding of our space program. Mieko Alleyne-Cates III, the third sponsor, says that if her colleagues try such a stunt, she will personally turn those sponsors inside-out like the proverbial sea-cucumber. Still, I don’t know. Money and threats will only go so far. We need the Kookaburra to go further.
“We are five years away from first contact!” Alleyne-Cates said. “Five years! We have been so lucky and it’s ruined us. Up until now, nothing’s gone wrong, and we’ve all gotten a bit spoiled as a result. Has everyone really forgotten about the Challenger and Columbia space-shuttle explosions of the twentieth century? What about Mars? Mars was major. Mars just about shut us down for good.”
“Now, one little escape-pod from the Kookaburra goes missing, and everyone is talking about ‘the failure of the mission,’” Alleyne-Cates said.
“What are we worried about?” I asked. “All reports say that the celestronauts on the escape-pod are probably alive and have a good chance of rendezvousing back to the Kookaburra.”
“The Sartereans don’t think so,” Alleyne-Cates said. “They know our celestronauts are supposed to be in hibernation. Something has gone amiss, and they’re awake now. I really don’t see what the big deal is. But no, everyone’s lost their common sense.”
Alleyne-Cates smiled as if it pained her to do so. “It doesn’t matter how much we praise intergalactic communication and set our hopes on first contact with people from other planets. Deep down inside, we’re all worried about space-invaders.”
I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly. “What does the escape-pod have to do with space-invaders?” I asked.
Alleyne-Cates replied, “That’s classified information. But even if it weren’t, you know exactly what one has to do with the other.”
Alleyne-Cates was giving me more credit than I deserved, but I thought about what she said. I knew that there were factions who were convinced that the Kookaburra was on a fool’s mission to meet aliens that didn’t actually exist. Other factions, however, thought that the Sartereans were going to attack Earth the first chance they got. Still, it didn’t add up… and then I got it.
“The sponsors think that the escape-pod is full of double-agents in league with the alleged Sarterean plot to conquer Earth,” I said.
“Yes,” Alleyne-Cates said, and then she turned away from me. “In the entire history of our planet, our quest for discovery has always been infested with ulterior motives. It is only human of us to assume that everyone else thinks the same way.”
I turned toward the TIC. I wanted to ask Zeke something, anything that would remind me of how silly everyone was acting. Zeke was waiting with a question of his own. Before I could say anything, though, Alleyne-Cates stopped me.
“Until further notice, the TIC is down for maintenance,” she said.
ISAP: International Space Administration Program, pronounced "Ee-sop."
Kookaburra IV: the spacecraft sent to rendezvous with the Sarterean spacecraft (as of yet unnamed) in Alpha Centauri A.
Sartereans: The intelligent species from the planet Sarter in contact with Earthlings, pronounced "Sar-ter-ray-ans."
TIC: Transgalactic Instantaneous Communicator, pronounced "tick."