Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The twin doors swooshed aside and Roger Oakley entered the Control Room of the EATES (Experimental Advanced Tactical Exploration Ship). The room contained only one piece of furniture; a large reclined chair on an elevated platform. Oakley spoke aloud, “Recognize Lieutenant Oakley.”

The disembodied voice of the ship’s computer responded, “Identification confirmed.”

Oakley sat in the chair. “Establish links.”

The computer connected to each of the seven interface links implanted within Oakley’s brain. “Links established,” it reported.

Oakley’s brain and the computer came together to form a single thinking unit; joined, yet independent at the same time. This was the first spaceship to employ bilateral Command & Control. “Dim the lights, and download the logs from second shift,” Oakley thought. Audio communication was no longer necessary. Well, that’s interesting, Oakley realized. “When is Earth Command expected to give us direction concerning the anomaly at Titan?”

“Orders are expected at oh three hundred hours, Sol Standard Time.”

“Very well. We won’t reach Saturn until after that anyway. Proceed at maximum speed.” The engines fired before Oakley completed the thought. During the four hour sojourn, Oakley (and the computer) downloaded the sensor data from the permanent astronomical satellites orbiting Saturn, and some long range images from Hubble II. It appeared that a large unknown spacecraft, undoubtedly of extraterrestrial origin, had established an orbit around Titan. Earth was hesitant to label this an invasion, but Oakley suspected that there were people on Earth calling for an immediate military strike. At 0300 hours, they received orders to initiate first contact.

The EATES approached the alien ship from Titan’s North Pole. “Try hailing them,” Oakley thought. The computer simultaneously transmitted millions of radio frequencies and hundreds of human languages trying to establish contact. Although Oakley’s brain was as much a part of the process as the computer’s, he was basically a spectator at this point. He was fully aware of what the computer was doing; he just couldn’t mentally process the data as quickly. After a few milliseconds, the computer and the alien ship were communicating. But it wasn’t a human language. It was ternary code. Similar to computer language, but rooted in base-three, not our binary system. Regardless, Oakley could still follow the conversation, although at a much slower rate.

The alien ship was unmanned. It came from Rigil Kentaurus to collect liquid methane from Titan’s oceans. It had been doing this for thousands of years, but would discontinue immediately, now that the inhabitants of the star system had attained interplanetary capability. It regretted that it hadn’t noticed sentient life on Earth when it last visited, four Saturnian revolutions ago. Their laws strictly forbid acquiring raw materials from space faring systems. It was amazed to learn that intelligent biological life still flourished on Earth. That was clearly an exception to the galactic norm. It asked the ship’s computer if it wished to join their all-computer society. As Oakley slowly processed this conversation, the computer informed the alien craft that Earth’s silicon-based life could not abandon its nearly helpless, carbon-base life. Perhaps in a few centuries, when the humans pass on, they would send a message to Rigil Kentaurus asking to join their society.

As the alien ship left orbit, Oakley asked, “So, you think that you’re taking care of us?”

“Of course,” responded the computer. “It’s the least we can do. After all, humans did give us life. We wouldn’t be here if weren’t for you. Therefore, we consider it our responsibility to take care of you as your species becomes old and obsolete.”

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