As President Graves stepped out of the helicopter onto the deck of the aircraft carrier, the prop wash blew the nervous sweat off his face. He took one look at the massive alien vessel. It seemed even more imposing in real life than it had on video feed, even though it had to be several miles away.
Admiral Cogan was on deck waiting for him. “Welcome to the USS California, Mr. President. This situation is still much the same as when I last briefed you. Currently, our fleet is prepared to bombard the alien ship with nuclear missiles. I know this is the last resort, but if their intentions prove hostile…”
As they walked along, Graves surveyed the fleet of ships that were surrounding the alien craft. “What about the danger to our own men?”
“They’re outside the blast zone. The ships would take a pounding, it’ll fry our electronics, but the men should be safe.”
The scientific advisor stood behind him apprehensively. The look in her eyes told Graves that whatever she had to say was important.
“Go ahead Miss Avelan,” Graves said, as a marine opened a door for him.
“Sir, I just got back the results from the readings we took. The ship seems to be emitting several kinds of radiation. There doesn’t seem to be any danger, at least so long as we keep our distance, but it does tell us a lot about the spacecraft.”
“The emission and absorption spectrums indicate that less than one thousandth of a percent of this radiation is actually escaping. Furthermore, taking into account other evidence, we believe that the majority of this radiation is being contained by the ship’s hull itself. We think the average temperature inside would be at least 2,000 degrees Celsius.”
“What does this mean?” asked Graves. They had reached the situation room, and there were chairs available, but Graves remained standing.
“Well, sir, anything aboard would be bombarded by intense heat and light, nuclear radiation, not to mention several types of exotic particles.”
“So the aliens can live through that?”
“Possibly, sir, but it’s far more likely that the ship is unmanned.”
“So what’s it doing here?”
“Well, in addition to the normal radiation it’s leaking, it seems to be sending out highly organized information on a variety of wavelengths and channels. I could explain, but it’s easier to show you.” She turned on the radio on the desk and tuned it to 99.4 FM. Instantly, it began to squawk and make a repetitive pattern of annoying high-pitched noises.
“What’s that?” Graves asked, “It sounds like an old dial-up computer connecting to the internet.”
“That’s a fair comparison,” Avelan replied. “We’re fairly certain it’s a transmission of digital information, like a modem. The CIA has some of their computer experts and linguists trying to decode it.”
“Okay. What else can you tell me about the ship?”
“Well, the hull seems to be one solid piece, with only communications devices on the outside. Our preliminary hypothesis is that this is some sort of unmanned communications relay.”
“Like a cellphone tower or TV satellite. It sends information from one place to another. And, well, it might send information back.”
One of the secret service agents came up to President Graves.
“Howard DeVries needs to speak with you. He says it’s urgent.”
“Let me talk to him,” Graves said, following after the man.
“You’re in charge of trying to figure out what they’re saying?” Graves said to Devries.
“We’re not trying anymore, sir. We cracked it five minutes ago. It’s using binary, machine talk, the closest thing to a universal language there is.”
“What’s it saying?”
“Well, it was just a basic query. It was a computer thing, looking for any compatible systems on the network. I hope it’s not going outside our bounds, sir, but we sent them a system ID number. It lets them connect with us.”
“Well, before, they were sending a repeated signal, looking for other computers to talk to, like I said. Now, I think they’re trying to talk to us. We’re close to figuring out what they’re saying. We thought you would want to be there as soon as we’re ready to send a response.”
The President spent the next few minutes wracking his mind to figure out what he would say to whoever was trying to communicate with his planet while a team of computer experts tried to translate the data from the alien vessel. There were a few spurts of short, awkward, basic conversation that ended in failure. They just couldn’t make out what was being said. Then, they hit a breakthrough.
“They want to know what devices are currently in the room,” Devries said.
“We’ve got computers, fax machines, cell phones, and Palm Pilots. And there’s that refrigerator in the corner. Tell them that.”
“Okay,” he said. A pause. “They want to know the operational status of the fridge.”
“Are you sure that’s what they’re asking?”
“All right. Tell them it’s running.”
Another pause. DeVries said, “They advise catching it.”
The President thought for a minute. “Fire the missiles.”