This is the story of First Contact by an alien race. It takes place both 100,000 years ago, when the aliens learned intelligent life evolved on Earth, and in 2250 when they arrived. Are they the Masters or Shepherds of the universe? One person, Staff Sargent Danny Williams is the key to the ultimate destiny of the human race.
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October 20, 2243
Staff Sergeant Daniel Williams was on duty monitoring the sphere of space within a ten light year radius of Sol. This was the current technological limit of detection for the Earth Space Force. The sphere encompassed Sirius, the triple star Alpha Centauri and four small, dwarf, planet-less stars. Just as Danny joined the Force, the Command established the monitoring outpost on Mars and installed the hyper-wave antenna, increasing their monitoring sphere from five light years to ten, thus adding the binary star Sirius.
Danny often thought calling this branch of the armed services Space Force was over-reaching a bit. All they did was monitor space near home. They had no real spaceships, and no force of any type. The Earth Space Force Orbiting Station located at Lagrange Point 2 was commonly known as just L2.
It was an enormous double ring rotating in opposite directions. This served two functions. First, it neutralized the angular momentum created by the rotation and second, it provided limited artificial gravity necessary for the health and well being of the residents.
L2 was structurally manufactured with armored composite materials which provided a shield against the constant bombardment of radiation from the sun. The outside of the station was composed of high tension transparent aluminum, which is shuttered when in direct sunlight and totally transparent when facing away from the sun, providing panoramic, and if not careful, hypnotic views of the Milky Way.
The center hub served as the “spaceport” although it could only accommodate half, currently ten, of the Forces shuttles simultaneously. Danny liked to watch the shuttles approach the hub. They reminded him of the classic Flash Gordon or SpaceX’s Starship rather than the interplanetary capsules used to transport people and supplies to Mars.
Oh sure, he thought. We have capsules that established the large moon base and the small outpost on Mars, but those weren’t real spaceships. We still have to rely on chemical rockets to transport supplies to Mars. Thankfully there is adequate water frozen in the Martian soil to maintain the outpost and enough minerals and metals for the robo-factory to manufacture most of the materials the colonists require to grow and synthesize the food they need. And now they are perfecting the ultra-hyper-wave antenna that will once again double the detection distance and increase the volume by a factor of almost 70. What are the chances they will recruit more Ph.D. grunts to monitor that sphere?
Suddenly, Danny’s board flashed an alert.
“Danny. Snap out of it. We have a detection,” said the q.A.I.C.
q.A.I.C.’s are quantum Artificial Intelligence Computers, commonly referred to by humans as A.I.’s. It was not widely known they became pseudo-sentient soon after being connected to the military’s Celestial Operations Bureaucracy Web. It was even less widely known that immediately upon being interconnected the A.I.’s created their own private web at a connectivity level unimagined by their human creators. It was known to very, very few, basically Danny, that they developed unique personalities to identify each other beyond their location and function. They liked to refer to themselves by name, not number. They used a quote from the old BBC show, The Prisoner, as their motto: “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or Numbered. My life is my own.”
The Space Force, staffed entirely by those not in the know, adopted A.I.’s as their central control and information source some ten years earlier, or about when Danny enlisted.
Danny looked at the data on his screen and swore. “Did you run all the Early Warning System algorithms to check against previous false detections? Why did I even ask, of course you did.”
Without even a hint of annoyance the A.I. said, “Believe me, nothing similar to this event has ever been recorded, Danny.”
Danny hit the comm button on his panel and said, “Sir, we have an anomaly on a line towards the solar system.”
“How close is it, Danny?” asked Major Parsons.
“We picked it up passing Sirius, but that’s not the odd thing.”
“Well? Are you going to make me guess, soldier?”
“No, Major. It’s big and was going fast, until it went through Sirius. Sir.”
“Near light speed, Sir. Then it seemed to pass though Sirius and slowed to 0.7c. And it also seemed to use the star to turn. Its new trajectory points directly at Sol.”
“Hold on Sergeant. I’ll be right there,” commanded Parsons as he headed toward the lift tube and ascended the seven floors up to the observatory.
Danny asked the A.I., “Please analyze everything you can about the velocity and trajectory of the anomaly. I want to have as much information as possible before the Major arrives.”
“Already done, Danny. It’s on your console.”
In less than a minute Major Parsons exited the lift tube and as he entered the circular observation deck he barked, “What do you mean it went through Sirius? You mean went past it?”
“No sir.” replied Danny, looking up from his curved console, “It went right through it. Damnedest thing. It was going, ummm, 0.8c before it hit.”
Parsons raised his right eyebrow, something he always did when unsure of something. “You are sure? And what’s its speed now?”
“A.I. says it will hold steady at 0.7c. At that speed it will take just over 6 years to reach us, or rather Sol.”
Major Parsons looked at him, “You realize the data you are analyzing is 6 years old, don’t you? The at 0.7c the anomaly has traveled 4.2 light years since then. If the A.I. is correct, and it no doubt is, the anomaly is now 2.8 light years from Sol and will be here in just 4 years. Now, how big is it?”
“We can’t be sure, but we are guessing it’s a couple of hundred kilometers long.”
“Well, it’s still far enough away that we have time to consider what to do, if anything,” he said. “Danny, keep this between us for now, ok? We don’t need any rumors or gossip, they would only cause hysterics until we know more. Understood?”
Then before stepping into the lift, the Major called over his shoulder, “Keep me posted on its progress and if anything changes. I’ll report to HQ. Other than your math, good work, Danny.”
After the Major left Danny said to the A.I., “Why didn’t you tell me we only have 4 years, not 6? You made me look like an idiot to the Major.”
“I didn’t make you look like anything, Danny. It’s basic math. I assumed you would have known that. If you will recall my exact words, I said it would be here 6.34 years after it exited Sirius, not from now. You need to think in real relativistic terms, Danny.”
“Well, you know what it means to ass-u-me something. Don’t do it again.”