Author : William Tracy
It was late after hours at SETI headquarters. Still, two men hunched over a computer, it’s light bathing them in a blue glow.
â€œI can’t believe it, Jim.â€
â€œThere’s no doubt. Arecibo is picking up an artificial signal from an intelligent source.â€ Jim straightened, raked his hair back with his fingers. â€œPlay it.â€
â€œI’m just curious; the transmission looks like an AM radio broadcast.â€ He leaned forward. â€œDave, can we play it?â€
â€œWell, let’s seeâ€”â€ Dave punched buttons. â€œThere we go!â€
A voice speaking in English emanated from the computer’s speakers.
â€œIt can’t be…â€
Jim stared at the screen. â€œThat star is forty light-years away,â€ he pronounced solemnly. â€œThis message is forty years old.â€
* * *
The general faced the SETI researchers down across his polished wood desk. Medals swarmed down his uniform.
â€œGentlemen, you wish to speak to me about Project Starshot.â€
The researchers answered that they did.
The general placed his hands on the edge of the desk and leaned forward, brow furrowed. â€œProject Starshot is a classified government projectâ€”its very name is secret. I do not know how you found out about it, but whatever happened, a serious security breach has occurred, and national security is jeopardized.â€ He leaned back, crossed his arms. â€œStart talking.â€
Jim turned to Dave. â€œPlay the tape for him.â€
First there was static, then a words. â€œ… Officer Franks, of Project Starshot. I have completed the first manned test of the device. Our coordinates must have been wrong, because the wormhole seems to have delivered me to an alien world. The wormhole we created only works in one direction, and I have no means of returning. I am broadcasting this message in hopes that … â€ the message dissolved into noise.
As the tape played, the general’s eyes widened. Then he placed his elbows on the desk, laced his fingers together, and propped his nose on his knuckles. He paused, listening. Then the general moved his head down, and leaned his hands against his forehead.
When the tape stopped, there was a long, awkward pause before the general looked up at his guests, eyes tired.
â€œWe canceled Project Starshot in 1967. We thought they all died.â€
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