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Author : Bob Newbell

I rub my eyes. I’ve been staring at a computer screen for hours but my allotted telescope time will soon come to an end. It’ll be easier in the coming years when there are more telescopes available. Astronomy has finally become a properly-funded field of study. I turn my attention back to the screen but it’s no use. I’m tired and my mind keeps wandering back to a decade ago.

“That can’t be right,” I’d told a colleague over the phone ten years earlier.

“It’s confirmed,” she’d replied. “The Great Canary Telescope in Spain, Hobby-Eberly, the LBT — they’re all seeing the same thing.”

The “thing” in question was an object for which the word “spaceship” was pathetically inadequate. It was a lattice structure so big its ends touched the orbits of Venus and Mars. The sheer mass of the thing should have disrupted the orbital mechanics of the solar system but didn’t. Mankind reacted with a predictable combination of wonder and fear. Four days later, emissaries from the giant vessel arrived.

“Is there any obvious pattern?” I had asked my team regarding the audio and radio transmissions originating from the…what? Ambassadors? Robot probes? We’re still not even sure what the things were. The few samples of material we have don’t really fit into our categorization scheme of biology or machine. As for their appearance, one blogger’s description — “A giant cyborg octopus” — has yet to be improved upon.

“It’s not a sequence of prime numbers. Doesn’t look like anything related to the hydrogen line. Don’t think it’s any human language,” a fellow astronomer had said. To this day, despite exhaustive efforts at finding some meaning, we have no idea what the aliens said to us.

After a couple of hours of analyzing the repeating message we had received, the first shooting happened. Someone in Aleppo, Syria opened fire with an AK-47 on one of the aliens. There soon followed similar incidents in Chicago and Nigeria. Most of the estimated 2,000 aliens simultaneous rose silently back up into space. A few remained and traveled to assist their three wounded comrades in their ascensions. The enigmatic message ceased abruptly.

One of my friends had unleashed an expletive-laden tirade at no one in particular regarding Man’s barbarity. For the next 18 months, the human race waited to see what the reaction of the aliens would be. The great lattice-ship hovered ominously over the solar system. One day, a second impossibly large vehicle arrived. And then another. And another. The alien fleet soon numbered 11 vessels. Both the northern and southern skies seemed covered in mesh. Ten days later, the ships seemed to vanish. But the skies they left behind were unrecognizable.

I look at the bright whirlpool on my computer screen: the Milky Way galaxy, now well over a million light-years in the distance. They only teleported the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon to the intergalactic void between the Milky Way and Andromeda. Even the company of the other worlds of the solar system has been denied us. We always assumed the day would come when Man explored and colonized the solar system and then, confident but unsatisfied, would strike out for the stars. Now, we are marooned in a cosmic desert. The odd and distant brown dwarf aside, we are prisoners in a starless void.

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