The Signal

By Robert Lynch

The sleep pod opened and Lucy flopped out onto the floor, gasping from the shock and trying to get a grip on her stomach as it told her it hadn’t eaten in four years. After 15 minutes she finally reoriented and got to the kitchen; beginning the task of rehydrating and re-acclimatising to solid foods.

 

“Sunny,” Lucy asked the computer, “Why am I the only one awake? Shouldn’t the others be waking up by now?”

 

“Your revival was prompted by Mission Control.” Sunny said. “A critical message was received.”

 

“Fine, bring it up.”

 

The message appeared above the kitchen counter, projected from emitters around the room. “Commander.” The Director of Extra-System Missions looked gaunt, sleep-deprived. “We have continued to monitor the signal coming from 82 Eridani. 4 months ago we discovered a signal we believed to be coming from Earth. At first, we thought it could be a reflection or some natural phenomena, but we were able to discover discreet differences in the Earth signal from the Eridani signal.”

 

“Signal on Earth?” Lucy said aloud to no one.

 

“After triangulating the signal we followed it to an underwater location near Malta where we discover a mass of sea slugs called Aplysia dactylomela. Underneath the slugs was an antenna build of crystalline rock nearly 100 metres long.”

 

“Sea Slugs?” Lucy said.

“What we have since learned is that the Aplysia are the ones who built the antennae. It seems the signal was a progress report being sent back to 82 Eridani, which we believe to be the homeworld of these creatures. This has been a rough awakening; since humans have been eating these creatures for thousands of years and now it turns out they are sentient creatures who have played dumb whenever they have come into contact with humans. The Chinese increased tensions as apparently the Aplysia are delicious when fried in sauce. The Hawaiians were horrified to find out they had been eating aliens.”

 

“Oh God,” Lucy said, realizing that she had trained in both China and Hawaii, if they were common dishes in both places she may have eaten aliens.

 

“Naturally your mission has changed.” The Director said. “You no longer need to explore for life when you reach 82 Eridani, now you need to act as an ambassador and reduce diplomatic tensions between Humans and the Aplysia. Apparently eating them for thousands of years has not helped to build trust.”

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END

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