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Time Well Spent by Keith Kitchen
SUMMARY: When A SETI-like receiving station receives signals from a distant planet called Earth, it's initial attempt to send a message is cut off by the military with interesting results.
Deep Space Search Research Station #7
"There! There it is again!"
"What is it, Klonos? More static?" Atrus was tired, irritable and his stomach was upset. Klonos was young and excitable and Atrus just wasn't in the mood this early in the day.
"It's a signal!" The younger man held out the headphones. "Here, check it out for yourself!"
Gingerly, with a skeptical look in his eyes, Atrus took the headphones and placed them over his head. There it was. Very, very faint. Three very short sounds followed by three long ones, then three short ones. Almost like dots and dashes and undoubtedly artificial!
"My God, Klonos! Wake everybody up! Don't dawdle! Get moving!" Excitement flowed through Atrus, the tall, thin administrator of Deep Space Search Research Station #7. He was old, with thinning hair and a long, hooked nose set just below a pair of intense blue eyes. His assistant, Klonos, was far younger and built more like a weight lifter than a scientist. Dark brown hair crested his head and he sported a pinched, brutish face that belied his swift wit and good humor.
Within moments, a dozen people had rushed into the control system. One look at the speakers told each that something important was going on. They could hear the tones through the static. Eyes widened as they realized that this could be the all-important proof they had been listening for over the years.
Jayna, a young intern fresh from the university, called out, "Computer enhancement is clearing up the signal. I'm washing it though at 100 times normal."
"Very good," Atrus confirmed.
"It's definitely coming from deep space," Logn stated. "I'm beginning the trace, but it's coming in from an area of space that is..." He trailed off.
"An area of space that is what?" Atrus demanded.
Logn shook his head. "Sir, there's nothing for at least one hundred light years!"
"And why should that surprise you?" Klonos demanded. "We've surmised for years that any other civilization would have to be at least five to ten light years away, so why are you surprised that this signal could be coming from at least 100 light years away?"
"Apologies, sir. I should know better."
"Indeed you should," Atrus agreed.
Commander T'lorr strolled into the control room. The military liaison was not well liked but had to be tolerated since so much of the money needed to fund the research station came from the military. He was handsome and had cut a swath through the women at the center, but left them loathing him rather than further desiring him. He treated everyone around him as though they were inferiors, which mentally, none were.
"What is going on, children?" He didn't endear himself by calling the researchers that, but he didn't care. He felt that belittling them made him even more there superior. "More sunspots?"
"Not this time, Commander. We've done it! We're receiving extraterrestrial signals!" Atrus was finally realizing what had happened and the excitement was filling him to the brim.
Surprise flowed through T'lorr.