Author: Scott Angus Morrison
The red light blinked.
One half-second later, it blinked twice more.
The man at the desk sat and watched: Blink-blink. Pause. Blink-blink. Pause. Blink-blink. The sequence continued.
Slowly, the man reached up and flipped off three switches on the upper left quarter of the console, killing those lines. He sat for a few more seconds, ten maybe, but in his inactivity, he felt it seemed forever.
Finally, he reached out and lifted the receiver.
A voice emerged from the static.
“Mm-hm,” the man replied.
Arthur reports movement. Situational protocols Alpha One through Five are now active. Lightning Protocols are upgraded to Standby.
Percy sat for a moment, thinking. Percy was one of maybe a hundred humans who knew the truth. The movies and the sci-fi writers had it wrong, all wrong. Sure, jumping into a tomato can and burning a thousand years-worth of petrol will get you – if you are patient enough – all the way to whatever moons spin around you, or perhaps as far as your next planetary neighbour, but that isn’t how you actually achieve space travel. It’s a more complex dialogue of time, space, and quantum realities.
No, we figured out how they do it back in the 60s, before we had even achieved national cable tv infrastructure.
Ever since the Wright Brothers got us airborne, folks have been thinking wrong about interstellar travel. A rocket-style spaceship makes us think about airplanes, but in truth its more like a train, a very long line of rails with a station at each end.
Roswell, Shag Harbour, Stephenville; the media has been hoodwinked into believing the kooks were all wrong. Mostly they were, but at least they were trying. No, there have been several attempts at creating an earth-based endpoint, receptors as we named them, and despite our rudimentary technology, we believed we had prevented an active receptor from being integrated into our atmosphere. Until the Knight arrived.
The Black Knight appeared suddenly in the middle of the last century, hanging silently in near-polar orbit ever since. The most hopeful amongst us believed it was a radio wave emitter that was still a proof-of-concept level intrusion, and that we have time before they arrive. Do we destroy it, or do we wait and watch? Do we greet them with flags and fireworks, or do we assume ill intent and fight to the death?
Percy reached up and entered a complex code on a keypad. He paused, entered another confirmation code, and lifted the receiver. Instantly a voice answered.
“Go,” it said.
“Situational protocols Alpha One through Five are now active,” said Percy.
“Okay, great.” Replied the voice on the other end, sounding cheerful and close as if he were in the next room, and not at all as though he was accepting a kill order for the three other astronauts in the International Space Station.
Percy hung up, and then went to stand near the window overlooking the parking lot, wishing for a cigarette. This job hadn’t taught him to smoke, but it sure kept him at it. Looking skyward he thought about what was transpiring up there, and how, one way or another, the fate of the world was being decided.
Operation Rope-a-Dope was designed to establish NATO control of the ISS and begin a daring plan to capture alien technology as they were entering our atmosphere, make the Knight operationally redundant, and then after weaponizing their technology, bring the Knight back online and then go kick some ass.
Still looking skyward, Percy thought ‘Go time’.