First Contact (Galactic Axia Adventure)

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First Contact

Book 4 of the

Galactic Axia Adventure Series

Jim Laughter

Denton, Texas

 

Cover background photo: NASA, ESA, and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Axia Books

An imprint of AWOC.COM Publishing

P.O. Box 2819

Denton, TX 76202

© 2014 by Jim Laughter

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. All characters and concepts of Galactic Axia are the property of the author and may not be used in any other work by any other author without written permission by AWOC.COM Publishing and Jim Laughter.

ISBN: 978-1-62016-101-2 Ebook

 

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. –
John 15:13 KJV

 

Chapter One

A multicolored explosion of lightning erupted across the underside of the passing cloud bank while its thunder battered the small watch post clinging to the shale of the ridge. Equipment rattled and dust rose out of unseen crevasses as the second and third waves of sound buffeted the glorified shack and the two men safely tucked inside.

Kyle didn’t even look up from his magazine while the vibrations from the thunder caused his coffee cup to perform a dangerous dance toward the edge of the table. Just as it reached the tipping point, Kyle neatly snagged it with his left hand while his right hand flipped another page of the dog-eared hunting magazine he was reading.

“It would take a ground-splitting seismic disturbance to rattle you when you’ve got your nose in one of those hunting rags,” his partner Seth snapped.

“You’re just jealous.” Kyle flipped another page of the latest specifications for a new rifle scope he wanted to add to his collection.

“What could I be jealous of?” Seth half shouted as yet another blast of light and sound hammered the tiny structure.

It was still dark outside from the nasty thunderhead scrapping over the ridge. Much to Seth’s consternation, Kyle remained unperturbed by the atmospheric assault. In truth, all was part of the interaction between two longstanding friends. Neither of them cared for the lightning storm, especially this close to the giant bowl of wire mesh nearby. It was just that they chose to react in opposite ways to bleed off the constant tension that came with their duty assignment.

Finishing the article, Kyle stowed the magazine away in a drawer and took a sip of his now cold coffee. Checking the monitor on his computer, he noted the weather disturbance was now heading south away from both their lookout and the bowl-shaped valley spread out below their viewpoint.

Before Seth could again ask Kyle what he had to be jealous of, the phone next to him rang. With practiced ease, Kyle snatched the receiver off its cradle.

“Overlook-15,” he said into the instrument while studiously ignoring his partner and writing down information. Seth turned away and tried to hide his frustration by checking their equipment for damage from the passing storm.

He knew from experience that it was most likely fully functional. Such storms happened frequently at this latitude. Seth also knew that all of the equipment was designed to withstand such abuse. As expected, the self-diagnostics showed their part of the grid was still functioning within design specifications. There had been some minor changes but current and voltage readings were still acceptable.

Sighing his relief, Seth noted the changes. Using one of the control panels narrowed the area most likely to need checking. Again, it was nothing really out of the ordinary. Nevertheless, it would mean the two of them would have to do some repair work after today’s big test was over. At least for now everything was within tolerance for today’s run. Seth anticipated Kyle’s next question.

“Control wants to know how it looks,” Kyle said, looking up from his notes.

“Tell them we’re still green.” Seth logged his readings into the control logbook.

“We’re good to go,” Kyle said into the instrument and then hung it back on its cradle. “Now how bad is it really?” he asked Seth seriously after he was off the communications line.

“Sections L-34 and L-35 act like they might have taken a hit with that last storm,” Seth answered evenly. “Still within specs, but we’ll have to go check them out after today’s big show is over. Knowing control, they’ll be all over us before the grid is even cool again.”

“What’s the big hurry? There won’t be another run until day after tomorrow. We can fix it in the morning when it’s cooler and we’re less likely to get hit by a storm.”

“Sounds good to me,” Seth had to agree. “But we don’t get a vote on the matter.” Repairing the wiring of the grid while wearing an insulated suit was no fun, especially in the late afternoon tropical heat.
Still, the pay is good,
thought Seth.
And having any job these days is an accomplishment
. “Now, what’s this talk about me being jealous?” he said, refocusing his ire on his friend Kyle.

∞∞∞∞

Dr. Byrral Garret, senior scientist at the Maranar General Service Radio Observatory called the meeting of his research staff together. He read from his notes. “Because manned interstellar travel is not feasible, and because no evidence has established beyond doubt that Maranar has been visited by interstellar travelers despite persistent reports of Unidentified Flying Vehicles, the search for extra-planetary intelligence outside our star system must at present be carried out with radio telescopes. Such telescopes could detect radio signals transmitted by intelligent beings on distant planets.”

Garret paused and looked over the top of his reading glasses at the specialists assembled in the briefing room. They had long awaited the completion of the new radio observatory, and now the day had finally arrived. A select few from among the hundreds of scientists and workers assigned to the project, they all held the unshakable belief they were not alone in the universe. The scientist looked down at his notes and continued the lecture.

“The central problem with this approach is deciding which stars to listen to and at what frequencies. In a landmark paper in
Natural
magazine, Doctors Ofous Dreim and Gorni Tuppli suggested a frequency of 1,420 megacycles, corresponding to a wavelength of 21 centimeters as a universally recognizable communication channel. That frequency is emitted when an electron reverses its spin in an atom of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe. The very abundance of hydrogen, however, may make this channel too noisy, and thus other supposedly fundamental frequencies might be used.” Again, Garret paused to assess whether his staff was grasping the subject. One glance assured him that he need not worry.

“Once a frequency is chosen, nearby stars like our own would be logical early targets,” he continued. “The first attempt at radio communication with extra-planetary intelligence was made by Drank Yraki at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. This pioneering attempt, known as Project See, focused on the stars within ten light cycles at a frequency of 1,420 megacycles.”

“How many other attempts have been made since then?” a young man in front asked.

“Since then at least eight searches for extra-planetary intelligence have been carried out around the globe,” Dr. Garret replied, “all of limited duration, and all concentrating on a few stars similar to our own, usually at 1,420 megacycles frequency. One program begun at Northern University Observatory used an eighty-four foot radio telescope to scan about eight percent of the sky. Originally employing a multi-channel spectrum analyzer that simultaneously scanned two-hundred channels, the university’s system was upgraded to five-hundred and four channels six years later. Another two-pronged program was called the
Microwave Recording Project.
It involves a study of about one-hundred stars by a scientific team with headquarters at Southern Research Center, and a whole-sky survey conducted by another team centered at the Equatorial Laboratory. Another search, privately funded by the Planetary Association, is known as the Multi-Channel Extra-Planetary Review. It uses a radio telescope near the Northern Meridian to scan the entire northern sky twice a year for possible incoming signals.”

The speaker paused when he saw a hand go up. “What are the differences between searching and actual communications with extra-planetary beings?”           “Search programs may be distinguished from communication with an extra-planetary intelligence, which implies actual two-way communication rather than simply listening, and which requires the formulation of a mutually understandable language for discourse.” Another hand caught his attention.

“Beyond the few of us here,” a woman asked, “what is the general reaction among the rest of the scientific community?”

“The seriousness with which scientists take the possibility of life in the universe,” the speaker said, “may be gathered from the appeal of science award winner Ryle Dayson that no signals be intentionally sent to other stars for fear of an invasion or a loss of human values when contact is made with a superior intelligence. For more than half a century, however, radio, video, and radar signals have been traveling away from Maranar at the speed of light, announcing our presence to the universe.”

Dr. Garret paused again, and seeing no hands, decided to wrap up his lecture. “On the chance that another civilization might encounter them, early unmanned research probes each bear an engraved plaque with a message from Maranar.  Later craft carried an elaborately recorded message of words and music. All such craft after completing their photographic fly-by of planets within our own star system are vectored toward interstellar space.”

 “Has there been any response to any of these efforts?” one older man asked.

“None that we’re aware of,” Garret answered. “That’s why we’re so hopeful about the new radio telescope. We feel that with its broader capabilities and larger antenna size, our chances will improve considerably.”

“What plans are in place if we do get an answer?” someone asked.

“Several, depending on what type of response we get,” the speaker replied. “But one that I am free to disclose at this time.”

∞∞∞∞

Seated at the table of his small patroller, the Axia watcher tried to compose his report. His vessel was hidden on the back side of one of three moons where the primitive radar of the people on the primary planet below could not possibly spot it. The few unmanned probes they’d sent up had been launched toward the largest of the moons. A sensor sweep of them revealed they were also ill equipped to spot the camouflaged patroller.

Pulling out the old manual keyboard he preferred over his voice command computer, the trooper was overcome with writer’s block. He stared at the machine, struggling to say with enthusiasm that nothing pertinent had happened on the closed planet below. He had already noted the construction of the new radio antenna, and he gleaned from news reports that it would not be operational for another six weeks or so. If it followed the usual pattern of previous government projects, the large antenna array would probably run as much as two months late. An inspiration hit him so he bent to his task. Fingers flying over the keys, the trooper entertained visions of becoming a fiction writer while he pounded away at yet another boring report.

∞∞∞

To the few VIP visitors sitting in the observation lounge overlooking the main control center, the scene below appeared to be a form of organized chaos. But amid the hustle of various subordinates, the three senior members of the development team sat in a pool of calm going over their checklists together. Being nominally in charge, Dr. Garret read down his master ‘go-no-go’ list.

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