A short story by Moshe Sipper
The head of the Special Presidential Task Force was not pleased. Not pleased at all. “Let’s recap again what we know,” said Aaron Sloan in a voice revealing his state of near-exhaustion, the result of three intensive and frustrating months. “John, why don’t you begin?”
John McFinley, Head of the Physics Group, cleared his throat. “Well,” he proceeded at his habitual slow pace, “we’ve established beyond any doubt that the objects are not of natural origin. They are artifacts, probably made by intelligent beings.”
“How many of them have fallen so far upon the earth’s surface?” inquired Sloan.
“We only have estimates, calculated on the basis of observed average number-of-objects per one square kilometer,” replied a petite woman in the back — Shirley Newman, the geophysicist. “Our current estimate runs at just a little over twelve billion. Of course, being smaller than a raindrop, the margins of error are quite large.”
“Okay, let’s stop fiddling around with the small potatoes.” Sloan raised his voice: “What the hell are they?”
This time, no one rushed to speak. “Rachel?” Sloan finally turned to Rachel Stein, Head of Exobiology.
“We’re pretty certain that each teardrop” — that was how the objects had come to be called — “contains a form of encoded message. The problem is, at the moment we have only vague ideas as to the code involved. It may actually be some form of nanoetching, which is quite beyond our current technology. And that’s just the material, substrate question. Then there’s the whole issue of deciphering the language — and the message itself. Or rather messages. That’s one thing we’re pretty sure of: each teardrop contains an entirely different configuration, which means it’s probably a different message. Of course, there’s also the possibility that some kind of error-correcting code is used, with random combinations.”
Sloan felt one of those nasty headaches coming on. “Enough for today,” he said. “Just ... Oh, hell, just get on with your work. I’ve got a president to assuage.”
“Hold all my calls,” Sloan told his secretary as soon as everyone had left his office. He then dimmed the lights and set his tablet to play one of his favorite albums, Best of The Police.
Walked out this morning, don’t believe what I saw, sang Sting, as Sloan stretched out on the sofa and closed his eyes.
A hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore. This was one of his favorite songs.
Seems I’m not alone in being alone.
Already, Sloan felt more relaxed. Hell, let the president wait.
A hundred billion castaways looking for a home.
Copyright © 2012 by Moshe Sipper