Ordinary Mark Smiles discovers an alien radio message, and has an old dilemma; will the aliens be friend or foe? Will this discovery be a blessing or a destructive curse?
Humans had been aching to discover the hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxy, but this had always been impossibl until faster-than-light travel was suddenly invented. This provoked a surge of emigration to the stars throughout the 23th to 26th centuries.
One of the most successful colonies in the stars was Lepwol, a planet fifth out from the star Naos, or Zeta Puppis. Set up in 2506 with five thousand people, it was in 2627 a thriving world with over a billion people and thriving trade.
Among these billion people was Mark Smilers, a man in his forties working for the New Portsmouth Radio Station. On 25th April (standard year), he woke up at little over three in the morning and realised he was hugely late. Dressing hurriedly, he dashed along the streets.
Despite the fact that it was still hours before dawn, there were already many people, mostly newly-arrived space crews, crowding the shops and malls of the cities. Mark pushed past them and tore towards the Radio Station building.
There were very few people around in the building and most were standingin knots, talking to theselves. Among them was his old colleague, Anthony Witherstone. "Hi, Mark! Care to join me for coffee at lunch?" "Yes, thanks, that would be great!" Mark called before sprinting past and into his office.
Distractedly, he fell into his chair and logged onto his computer. For a while, he clicked aimlessly, before something flashed onto his screen, like a heart monitor in hospitals. Three long flashes, four short ones. He peered closely at it. A radio message from unknown source. "What the...?"
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