Interstellar Etiquette - Part 1 – Are We Alone? - angerbda
Even if we never reach the stars by our own efforts, in the millions of years that lie ahead it is almost certain that the stars will come to us. Isolationism is neither a practical policy on the national or cosmic scale. And when the first contact with the outer universe is made, one would like to think that Mankind played an active and not merely a passive role-that we were the discoverers, not the discovered.
-- Arthur C. Clarke
The silence of the void. The emptiness resounding through the speakers. It was a late night, once more. A quiet and boring one.
The young man wondered, sometimes, why he had agreed to the grave shift. The night duty. It did not help his social life. His non-existent social life.
He had some contact, though. Scattered around the globe. On quiet nights like this one, he would be speaking to one or another, standing at their stations thousands of kilometres away. It helped to keep awake on long and silent shifts of observation duty. Not that, if he would be working the day shift, he would be less bored and dozing off, isolated as he was in this underground base.
The basement. The cave. The den of the snoring monster, it had been dubbed this way by his colleagues. Here and now, he reflected on the name, lost in conjecture. Was the nickname due to his own snoring, as he had been found, more than one time, asleep at his station, loudly snoring?
He preferred, however, to think that the label came from the records. The records of the emptiness of the Universe, echoing the walls of this underground dugout he ended up spending all his nights. The equipment down there was top notch. The best a sci-fi mind freak as himself could dream about. The sky map, stars and constellations, even black holes and strange wraps were on display on twelve interconnected screens, blinding anyone who would focus too long to it with scintillating lights. In his head, he often planned strategies to defend against an obscure enemy. Listening to the void whisper, he often felt like standing in Hoth abandoned base, hearing the iced wind creeping through the corridors...
The sound came from three speakers hanged low beside a range of blinking signals. The alternating colours and frequencies reminded him his sorry Christmas tree from the past holiday. He always ended up alone in his apartment at the end of the year, mulling over his research, his work station on the basement, and whether we were truly alone in the Universe.
With every gaze to the star lights, with every noise from the speakers, he couldn't stop thinking about the two possibilities Clarke mentioned. Being alone or not in this Universe. Both being terrifying. Did he spent his nights for naught? Was he chasing a chimera in the twinkling lights?
The sole purpose of his night's occupation was to be attentive to any change in the cosmic music. The sound from the Universe was recorded by hundreds of probes sent out there, faraway among the stars. Those spacecraft, unmanned for the most part, had left Earth decades ago, centuries, even.
Since the time of the first ship sailing on the Milky Way, no real proof of life existing outside of this tiny rock anchored on Sun's orbit had ever been found. That's why, being part of the Labyrinth project had been his dream since a young age. He would be the one to hear this message from outer space, the first to acknowledge life in the void. He was getting tired, though. For some time, now, he felt his search was in vain, his dream had lost its driving force. And this night, Morpheus' arms were alluring, more than ever.
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