Trying to get back in to writing. Thank you all for the support.
This is just a little short story I cooked up based on the Arecibo message.
My God, what have I done?
Sermues sat in the room his human captors had provided. Captors, the humans hated being called that, they insisted that he was a guest on this world, but guest or not, he was not allowed to leave, that made him a prisoner. As he sat there he realized that his mouth was hanging open. Looking down he noticed that his hands were shaking. Reaching up he touched his face, it was wet where tears had been streaming down. It had dripped from his lower jaw and mingled with the wet saltiness of his sweat-soaked clothes.
Six Skurlex years ago a deep-space relay recorded an unusual signal. It only lasted for a short while and was a simple binary code, transmitted by simple radio frequency carrier. But it had been sent at such a high power level and frequency that it must have been a cry for help. Seeing what appeared to be a distress signal, the automated deep-space relay dutifully recorded the signal and then transmitted it over the quantum-link to the Skurlex home world.
Once the signal was received on Skurlex and analyzed, it was clear that it been created by some intelligence. It contained a message that seemed to describe a species and the world they lived on.
Debate had raged when the existence of the radio signal had been revealed to the Skurlex council. It was clear that whatever species had sent this signal, they did not have any form of FTL technology at the time it was sent. Not only that but when the source of the signal had been found, a system orbiting a small yellow class seven star, because it had been sent using radio waves, more than sixty Skurlex years had passed since it had been transmitted. If the signal was a distress call, whatever disaster had prompted this primitive civilization to cry out to the stars for help had happened so long ago that it was unlikely anyone had survived. There was no point in wasting the resources to send a cruiser that far off the space lanes due to only the echo of a long-dead primitive civilization.
Finally, a compromise had been reached between the political council and the science council. A single one-man ship would be sent. The pilot could assess the situation and determine if sending a full contact team was necessary.
Skurlex scout ships were a marvel of modern engineering. They contained some of the most advanced engines, computer systems, life support, and communications systems in the galaxy. They could cross light-years of distance with travel times that would make any passenger or cargo ship pilot green with envy. They had camouflage and stealth capabilities that could match any military attack craft.
When Sermues arrived in the system that had been the source of the signal, he was surprised to find that not only was the system not dead, there seemed to be evidence of an active space-faring civilization on one of the planets. Several of the planets had probes orbiting them and the system was filled with radio communications. Perhaps this system had supported two inhabitable planets in the past, and the dying planet had sent the signal. However, after spending some time surveying the system it became clear that not only was there only one planet in this system that supported life, it had been that way for a very long time. Whatever that signal had been, it had to have come from the third planet in the system, a planet that had obviously not suffered any recent catastrophe to justify such a cry for help. A planet Sermues soon learned was called Earth.
The signal that the Skurlex assumed had been a cry for help was not a distress cry after all; it turned out to be simply a proof of concept test. A hello to the rest of the galaxy saying, “Hello, we are here, is anyone else out there?” No one on the planet had actually expected someone to hear it, and certainly, no one expected an answer. Now as he considered the events of the last few weeks, Sermues was sure that it should have been seen as a warning.
“Why did I not just turn around a leave?” he said out loud. Once he determined that the signal was not a distress call, he could have left. He could have just returned home and reported the discovery of a new inhabited world. It would have been left up to the experts to decide what to do. And in all likelihood, considering how remote this world was, it would have been years, maybe centuries, if ever, before another Skurlex ship visited this damnable world. But no, he had to be the hero, he had to be the wise guy, and now…
There were teams trained for just such a situation, but it wasn’t against the rules for a ship’s commander to contact an alien intelligence, if that intelligence had initiated the first contact. And technically the humans had initiated the first contact with their broadcast.
On a whim, he had parked his ship in orbit over one of the most powerful nation-states on the planet and broadcast a standard first contact response message on all the human frequencies and in every communications protocol that his ship’s computer could identify.
Watching the pandemonium on the human broadcasts afterwards he quickly realized that he had made a horrible mistake. He was surprised to see a large number of calls for an immediate attack on him, which he had nervously laughed off. “Why didn’t I leave then?” he said out loud as he considered what he had done. But no, he had to be the hero.
Soon the pandemonium had subsided and a message had been broadcast of an Earth leader inviting him to land in order to be treated as a guest of the people of Earth.
He landed in an empty lot near a large building in an Earth City called New York, a building, he was told, represented all the nations on Earth. At first, he was treated like royalty, he was given the keys to the city, whatever that meant, treated to parties, speaking appearances, and interviews, all broadcast to the whole planet. He had also been given the finest suite at a large hotel just west of the United Nations building.
It wasn’t until his third day on this world that he had begun to suspect that something was amiss. As he returned to his hotel near the United Nations building by motorcade late one afternoon, he noticed that his ship was no longer parked in the empty lot just south of the building. In a panic, he had asked what had happened to his ship. His questions all fell on deaf ears.
It had now been eight days, the public appearances had abruptly stopped and he had not been allowed to leave the hotel. An Air Force general had come to his room and told him that his ship had been taken to a secret facility for examination. He assured Sermues that it would not be damaged and once their “inspections” were complete he would be allowed to leave.
Sermues knew what that meant. The humans wanted the secret of FTL travel. There was no doubt in his mind that was what had happened. He should have seen it coming. One of the first questions put to him on his arrival had been a rather pointed inquiry into how the Skurlex were able to travel faster than light. He, of course, had made it clear that it was not up to him to disseminate advanced technology. That would be up to the Skurlex council to decide once he returned home and made his report.
He should have realized that the humans were not satisfied with that answer. Now it was clear that they intended to take FTL, as well as any other technology they could, whether he wanted to give it or not.
So he sat… and waited. Eventually becoming bored he had resorted to watching human TV. Soon he discovered something called the History Channel, and then something called History on Demand. He watched videos about human history and as he watched he realized that the beauty and peaceful appearance of this world that had beguiled him was little more than a façade. This was a bloody violent species. It was a world of war and bloodshed. He had become fascinated by human warfare. He watched documentaries about The Hundred Years’ War, The Seven Years’ War, The American Revolution, The Napoleonic Wars, The War of 1812, The American Civil War, World War I, World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and The Gulf War.
Then he had watched a video called Trinity and Beyond… Nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, these people had unleashed the power of creation upon their own kind. As he watched and wept he realized the magnitude of his error. This bloody and violent people had been held in check only by their lack of a way to leave their home world. Now they were studying his ship. He had no doubt that they would be able to duplicate some of its technology, not all, but enough.
They had handed him the keys to the city, now he, through ignorance and hubris, had handed these humans the keys to the galaxy, “My God, what have I done?” he said as he lowered his face into his hands and wept.