The Visit

Author : James SW Paris

They came from outside the solar system, in a ship the size of Mars. We thought it was something natural, then it performed a braking maneuver around Uranus, and the planet’s twenty-seven moons slid out of its way, returning to their normal orbits after it passed. The alien ship spent five years traveling through the outer solar system, skimming the outer planets, slowing down using some technology we could not identify. Eventually, it stopped at Jupiter, always staying on its far side, out of sight from Earth observers.

There were no envoys. There were no detectable emissions of any kind that could be interpreted as an attempt at contact. So we sent probes, nine of them, robotic missions, to get a better look. Some sent back a few pictures of the alien ship on the far side of Jupiter, two mile high towers around the equator, but all lost contact before anything useful was discovered. One moment, the probes were transmitting, the next, they were just gone.

Our tenth probe was different. One hour after it disappeared, it reappeared in front of the United Nations building in New York City. And in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. And Red Square, Moscow, Russia. And on the Ajyad Bridge in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. One moment, none were there, the next, they were in place. Not a single camera, radar, or seismograph caught a hint of what brought them there. All were identical down to dings collected in interplanetary space.

They were collected. In careful and secure conditions, they were examined. A hologram of actor Aladdin Mann appeared, dressed like his character Danny in the Stuck in the Baby Elevator episode of his sitcom, “Big Daddyed.”

“Don’t freak out,” the hologram said. “This isn’t really whoever’s image this is.

“Enough with the ridiculous probes. They must be expensive. We don’t want you to see what we are doing. We’re going to start destroying them as they cross the fourth planet’s orbit.

“We are sending this message only because we don’t want you to freak out and kill yourselves or something. You seem eager to meet us, We don’t care. There is nothing about you that is unique, or even interesting.

“Your brown dwarf has some stuff we want, and we are extracting it. We are taking about one percent of its mass. We will leave soon after the next solar minimum. We will leave the brown dwarf with half a million stable orbits.

“This might upset you. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can barely point these probes at the second biggest thing in your solar system.

“You might somehow think you ‘own’ something you don’t know about, and probably will never have the technology to extract. Here’s your payment: you’re polluting your atmosphere. Stop it or you’ll all die.

“Who we are is none of your business. What we are doing is none of your business.”

We sent two more probes, and the Visitors destroyed them both. They left Jupiter after the next solar minimum, taking one percent of the Jupiter’s mass with them. As far as we could tell, the ship seemed the same size and mass. They accelerated away using an engine we were never able to identify. Five years later, they were so far away we could no longer spot them among the stars.

We have no idea how we would ever follow them. And no idea what we would do if the Visitors return.


  1. Noorminded

    Thanks for the kind words and comments. I totally whiffed on the brown dwarf bit. Must have picked that up from a coffee table book. I’m thinking the Visit lasted about twenty years. Short for so many interplanetary probes, but Earth was motivated.

  2. xdhz8

    I particularly liked the opening describing the arrival of the giant ship. Don’t remember Stuck in the Baby Elevator. Must have missed that episode.

  3. Jae

    It always amuses me when we portray aliens treating humans with the same flavour of arrogance we are too fond of implicitly using.

    Good tale.

    My only quibble: Jupiter is not a brown dwarf. It’s a gas giant. The nearest brown dwarf is Luhman 16, six and a half light years from Earth.

    • BeckD

      I think that was included to show the alienness of the Visitors’ classification scheme, which may make our Solar System out to be a very different place. However, I have to agree that the only place the could have learned the term “brown dwarf” is from humans, and our definition would necessarily apply. Also, Jupiter can’t undergo deuterium fusion in its core, so there is a quantifiable scientific distinction.

  4. Irene

    Funny story. I pictured the alien ship doing a bootleg parking maneuver in space. I’m surprised they didn’t do a wing wave when they took off.

  5. SimonJM

    No fun being spoken to like that, is there? Damned arrogant aliens/foreigners! Maybe a politician or two should consider that 😉 And no fun finding out that you really are a very small fish in a very big pond!
    Not quite sure what a ‘solar minimum’ is, so not sure of the timescales involved over the period of their visit, but as we sent a dozen probes, even if two did not make it past the orbit or Mars) it must have been a while; which was my main issue – couldn’t quite get a grasp of the timescale involved.

    • BeckD

      I can help here. The Sun goes through a solar maximum (and presumably then, a solar minimum) about once every eleven years. So, assuming that their transmission was sent right after the most recent solar minimum, the timescale would be around eleven years. This doesn’t seem like much time to send twelve space probes to Jupiter, in my opinion, but we can presume this is set a little ways in the future, and our robots have sped up a little.

      • SimonJM

        As an aside, and assuming me not using a web search to look it up, but … maximum and minimum of what? Eleven tears was longer than I got the impression of, so that is a start! 🙂

        • BeckD

          A maximum and minimum in solar activity, like sunspots and solar flares. And maybe they did that because if they tried to leave early, the solar radiation would damage them. Maybe that’s the real reason they parked on the far side of Jupiter…

      • rockiewp

        But their message was after the tenth probe, so it could have taken a couple decades before that. Plus after the first two disappeared we must’ve started prepping them in batches. They all fly basically the same mission with reduces the time taken to plan and launch.

        • BeckD

          You are correct, I hadn’t considered that. However, I don’t think they would launch both the eleventh and twelfth probes at the same time, since the twelfth’s purpose was probably to learn from the mistakes of the eleventh. And at the moment, it takes us around six years to get to Jupiter, so it would still require more advanced technology than at present to make the eleven-year deadline.

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