As I mentioned in a previous post, I have some ideas for a science fiction setting. I’m still not ready to send space marines out there jumping across asteroid fields with nuclear-powered jetpacks while they blast alien ships, so I’ll start with a more down-to-Earth prequel of sorts. I don’t know what title to use so I’ll use the generic label Project Contact because it fits thematically. The “chapter” in the title is a bit misleading since this is too short to be a chapter. If I continue writing these, and if this ends up being a book, it will have hundreds.
First contact didn’t happen in the way many had expected, both the ones who had hoped for it and those who had dreaded it. And that it happened as it had to happen, not as it should have, was the first of many surprises. It should have been obvious since the first visionaries imagined this moment, but those fantasies had generally carried the hidden stowaway of human arrogance and exceptionalism.
There had been no message or transmission, and no formal contact had been needed to send people scrambling around in a curious mixture of ecstatic expectation and panic. The only thing that had been needed was the appearance of the ship, no more than a point of light, with its myriad of implications and puzzles tailing along.
On June 13, 2132, it was seen popping apparently out of nothing within the Trojan asteroid field, but blazing so fiercely some people on Earth claimed to have been able to see it with their naked eyes. And then it said nothing. It didn’t ask for our leaders, it didn’t bring us any message of peace, love, or even genocidal hate. It simply did not seem to acknowledge our existence.
A week later, it cruised towards the asteroid 65210 Stichius, landed there, and for two long weeks, it rested while down on Earth people waited on with T-shirts proclaiming “We love our space neighbors” and formed giant human signs with equally cozy messages, taking turns all around the world to make sure there was always one the ship could see. More cynical commentators argued the ship was probably just passing through, refueling perhaps or just taking pictures, and would leave any moment to continue its travel to more interesting places.
However, it did not leave the Solar System —as many had feared or even hoped— but it took its time to contact Earth, long enough that even now, ten years after that cosmic event, some people still feel the sharp pain of that humiliation, an injury compounded by the realization that the contact, any contact, would be completely one-sided, and the memory that the first thing the visitor did had not revolved around us. For many, this was the moment the realization sank in, that it would be them, not us, who would decide the when, the where, and, more importantly, the for what of any future contact.