[I'll end each story with some of my thoughts just so you can get an idea of where it came from. I've edited the story somewhat so hopefully most of it is spelled correctly and grammatically correct. ]
Admiral Amanda Rhodes held onto a railing on the bridge of the MCS Yorktown. Behind her Jacob counted down from ten. The starship shuddered and quaked as the engines spun to life. When Jacob uttered “zero,” the rattling hit an apex. The bridge or rather reality itself bulged and pinched and rubber banded back to normal.
“Initial FTL test complete,” Jacob said. “We’re about two light years from Mars. A little beyond the Oort Cloud. Twenty-four hours until we return. Hey Amanda, I’m getting a signal from within the cloud.”
“Viking, Pioneer, or Voyager?”
She raised an eyebrow at him. If anything was going to be this far out, it would be something they sent here more than a hundred years ago.
“Take us in the cloud,” Amanda said.
Jacob fired the methane rockets and for the next four hours they maintained an evasive course dodging stray, spiraling rocks. The signal intensified. Whatever the object was it was stuck against a drifting asteroid.
Jacob focused the scanners on the object. Hovering over top the circular computer console in the center of the bridge, light rays formed a hologram of a chicken egg. Amanda cupped the egg in her hands and looked at it from different angles. “Bring it onboard,” she said.
The Egg sat in the Yorktown’s cargo bay. A decontamination team scrubbed it down and verified that it was free of biohazards and radiation. During the inspection, one of the engineers accidentally opened it. Security responded with raised rifles, but the engineer standing by the door held his palm up. He approached the door and gingerly pulled out a small container.
“What is it?” Amanda asked over the PA. She stood in an office overlooking the cargo bay.
“Not sure,” the engineer radioed back. “It’s clean though.”
Amanda assigned Jacob to collect the contents of the Egg. His report concluded that the pod used a ramscoop to gather hydrogen and propel itself towards strong radio signals. “I think it hit the Oort Cloud trying for Earth,” he told her.
Later that night, Amanda joined Jacob in the cargo bay. He glanced up to greet her but went back to studying the artifact in his hands. A square looking object that looked like a computer tablet attracted Amanda’s attention. Several alligator clips connected it to a small generator.
“That ought be charged. Give it a try,” Jacob said.
Amanda touched the glossy surface. After a musical tweet a computer desktop appeared with one glowing icon in the middle. She touched it with her fingertip.
To her surprise, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 played for her, and a fullscreen video began by panning across a vast city of organically shaped skyscrapers. Little cars zipped along the streets. A small group of people waved and exclaimed a greeting in a language she did not know.
The next scene was an alien head — one of them up close. Its nose, blunt. The eyes, cat-shaped. They had four fingers on each hand. Four toes on each foot. Yellow, orange, pink, and red aliens greeted them with smiles and waves. This aside, the beings looked humanoid.
Another scene began. A whiny string instrument faded in and trumpets and drums accompanied it. A procession of women in long silky gowns and hairdos adorned with flowers waved as they approached the camera. Crowds of people cheered. Behind the rows of women clad in diaphanous silk, a large beast with the body of a rhino and head of a horse pulled a carriage. Sitting on top of the carriage was an elderly woman dressed in flowing satin. She wore a sparkling tiara. The camera dollied up and revealed a large palace with arcades and gold gilded statues.
“It’s like Versailles,” Jacob said. He laughed. “They’re Frenchmen! I always knew they were aliens!”
“Shhh,” Amanda hissed as she watched. “Hey, here, do your thing.” She pulled Jacob over. The video presented them with a grid and points of light appearing on it. He scrutinized the image developing on the computer tablet.
“They’re pointing to Sol. Alpha Centauri. They’re pointing to stars around us. All a couple light years away.” He tapped the screen. “That’s where they are! Twenty-some light years out. Orders?”
Amanda smiled. “Wake everybody up and fire up the FTL.”
Jacob ran past Amanda and in a matter of minutes he brought the FTL back to full power. The general alert sounded and crew members rushed back to their stations still yawning and rubbing sleep from their eyes. A yeoman pushed a coffee cart around the bridge pouring an extra large cup full for each groggy crew member.
“I have a fix on the location,” Jacob said. “It’s about twenty-three light years away. We’ll have to make two jumps.”
Everyone on the bridge held onto the nearest thing they could find. The ship trembled and the engines roared and at the acme died away as abruptly as it started. “Second jump,” Jacob announced. This time the engines whined fiercely. “Come on baby, you can do this.” The entire ship shuddered once more. “All clear, shutting down engines. We’re going to need some time before we make the return trip, Admiral.”
The central computer beeped. The ship’s digital eyes scanned the visible hemisphere of the planet and presented it as a partial model. “Send the drones,” Amanda ordered. Several little blips appeared around the virtual planet. The drones filled in the blanks and built an entire model of the world as Amanda walked around the globe.
“We’re picking up a transmission. It’s coming from orbit,” the communications officer said.
Amanda recognized the language as the static-filled message played back. The sound clip looped over the bridge’s speakers and even though Amanda didn’t recognize the spoken word, she understood the intonation. The voice was clear and solemn until the end of the message when the woman’s voice cracked. Amanda could feel the tears running down her face. She knew the horrible knowledge that the alien woman carried.
Amanda took control of a drone. She dived through the atmosphere and unfolded its wings to fly across the planet at supersonic speed. Using the semi-pellucid globe she found a landmark and directed her drone to fly over it. In front of her, floating over the central console, the drone’s HUD displayed showing the clouds and land rushing by. The shell of a city burgeoned in front of her. The twisted columns and bent spires recalled to Amanda the organic looking skyscrapers in the video. Crushed cars lined the streets; derelict ones piled up together.
“Any signs of life?” She asked an engineer who was piloting another drone on the planet surface.
“Just animals. A pack of dogs is what it looks like.”
A nuclear blast leveled these buildings. She recognizes the radial explosion ballooning out from the center of the city. The drone relied the high amounts of radiation in the vicinity. She had done the same on Earth, but it seemed to have happened a long time ago for this planet. The clouds of ash and dust cleared across the sky letting the sun through. Vines crept and wrapped around the side of the skeletal buildings. Saplings cracked and bored through the asphalt. Nature healed the wounds of man and reclaimed the land for herself. Eventually, even Earth would cover up the violence she committed and she hoped that history would make her a footnote or better yet forgotten.
She set the drone back to autopilot and closed the hovering HUD. “You have the conn, Mr. Sanders,” she said to the man flying the second drone. Her office was adjacent to the bridge and she could escape there when things became too much for her. Through a small capsule shaped window she watched the planet revolve. In the background, the alien video played. Bach’s symphony filled the lonely office with its boisterous and soaring melody. She had half a mind to turn it off, but the music was the only kind thing she shared with the dead civilization below. Jacob entered her office. She often let him get away without announcing himself.
“There’s signs of advanced spacecraft on the surface. I think one of them picked up Voyager years after it left our solar system. They analyzed it and sent the Egg back to us. This mess here is somewhat more recent.”
“I’m not allowed to forget, am I?” Amanda asked the planet below.
She felt Jacob’s hand touch her shoulder and give her a gentle squeeze. She clasped her hand over his. “Don’t forget Amanda, you gave us a chance on Mars. Without it who knows how long the fighting would have kept going.” She closed her eyes. She ordered the final strike on Earth. It ended the colonial revolution for Mars just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Second World War.
“We’re so alike. I wanted to meet them. I thought it would vindicate everything I had done. I ended the war so we could make progress, but they’re too much like us. How many other stars, Jacob? How many other tragedies?”
“Hey,” Jacob said shaking her. “We’re not all tragedies. We’re still around. Don’t forget that.”
Amanda pushed herself away from the window ledge. “Leave a beacon. Upload the video to it. Let everyone that comes here see who they were and what became of them and let’s make sure it never happens to us.”
Thoughts: I had this idea a while back for a first contact story. I feel if the day ever came where we made first contact it wouldn’t be with guns blazing but rather it would be low key. Our scientists expect any alien civilizations to meet Voyager before they meet us. I’d imagine we’d find a radio signal or a time capsule from an alien race long before we met them face to face. By the way, the characters Amanda and Jacob actually do have a history for me. I wrote about their other escapades during the Martian revolution for my NaNoWriMo story.