The glowing reds and greens of the Cat’s Eye Nebula swirled in the distance behind science vessel Jessica Arizon Davis as it glided through its Earth orbit. The long, narrow beauty took its time, charting and recording as scientists and students were engrossed in esoteric projects.
Far below, in a tiny corner of the marbled Earth, the Arizon’s every move was monitored. The half-moon-shaped space center housing the observatory offered the staff inside the illusion of being up there with them as they sifted the fresh data from space, absorbed in the wonder of it all. Then a signal came in that changed everything.
Unfathomable symbols scrolled across screens that seconds before showed only data on radiation and space dust composition. A pale hand with double thumbs, short fingers, and long pointed nails appeared on the large holographic display, making animated gestures interacting with what looked very similar to familiar DNA strands. The head of space traffic and data control was already on his phone.
An hour later, Karen O’Bien, now the Minister of International Relation’s main aid, showed up with a rising star in linguistics, Blake Panther. She watched a screen over the shoulder of the dark African grad student. The ministry had had its eye on him for a while due to his extraordinary scores and intuitive sense of meaning, and now they had suddenly found funds to call him in. The university had been loath to pull him out of an important basketball game he was helping them win, but she’d insisted it was urgent. The man was so well muscled he looked incongruous behind a desk, especially in the team tank shirt he sported. He was quiet and focused, however, on a DNA strand on screen.
The man sweated anew for some time, and downed multiple jacked-up sodas. Finally, he leaned back. “OK, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the gist of this,” Panther reported. “Aliens called the Tasla are sitting on the outer limits of our com range searching for any signs of this DNA strand on Earth. They’re sure it arrived here in an artifact that needs to be recovered. They’re requesting our help in locating it.”
“I think we can cooperate with that,” O’Bien said. She got onto her Pocod to her boss, who was working closely with the Minister of Defence now. It took only a few minutes for the answer. She turned back to Panther. “Can you send a message back to them?”
“I can compose and send one, I can’t guarantee they’ll decipher it.”
“Understood. Give it your best shot. Tell them we’re implementing a world-wide search. The DNA sequence will be sent to labs around the world, including science ships orbiting Earth. We invite them to land at the space center to confer.”
O’Bien stood up and looked at the head of the control center. “Send out a memo. This is highly classified. No mention of aliens outside this building by any staff member, we don’t want to alarm the public.”
They received back a message that seemed to indicate satisfaction from the Tasla. However, a month later, impatient messages appeared with increasing frequency. The government stepped up efforts, but to no avail. After another month, Panther called O’Bien, worried. She called her boss to report.
“Minister, the aliens are getting pretty antsy, insisting we’re not really trying to find the artifact containing the DNA. They’re accusing us of hiding it. They’re desperate to find it for some reason. I’ve ordered placating responses, but it looks like they’re planning to send in their own search teams.”
“Thanks for the warning, Karen. We’ll notify ECG forces to be on the alert.” A moment later he told her, “From here on in, report directly to defence. I’ll be sorry to lose you, it’s been wonderful working with you, but this seems to be slowly escalating into an alien invasion. It will be your responsibility to keep the public from panicking, and to help negotiate with the Tasla. I wish it were better circumstances, but congratulations on the promotion to Alien Liaison for the Minister of Defence.”
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