An Arrow for an Olive Branch: Sci-Fi Short Story, Part Two
Hubble Space Telescope, Administered by the Space Telescope Science Institute
Recap of Chapter One
In the first chapter of the story, Ruth Billings, astronaut and astrophysicist, was conducting research on the Moon for NASA when she and her pilot were nearly run down by an out of control, alien spacecraft.
In this chapter, the President of the United States, and all the world's leaders must learn who these visitors are, where they are from and why they have come to Earth.
An Arrow for an Olive Branch, Chapter Two
The Space Telescope Science Institute, a world-class astronomical research center, was in its thirty-fifth year overseeing and operating NASA's premier observatories. Most notable were the Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, and the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in 2018. Dr. Richard Smith, Program Director for both the HST and the JWST, stood behind a line of technicians who were busy at their computers. "I want as much information as you can get, people. There are going to be questions only we can answer."
Dr. Smith's personal assistant approached. "I have Dr. Anton Ferris on the phone as you requested."
Dr. Smith left the technicians to their work and returned to his office. "Anton, how are you, my friend?"
"I am fine, Richard. Let’s set aside any small talk. You must be a very busy man right now." The thin, quaking voice belonged to a man twisted and crippled by advanced osteoporosis. He was also the icon and elder of the world’s scientific community.
"Thank you, Anton. The aliens haven’t shown any sign of aggression or inclination to communicate. Why would they come here? How should we proceed if we establish contact?”
“Have you ever given any thought to the ant hills in your yard?” Dr. Ferris took his usual, unconventional approach.
“I can’t say I have.”
“You ignore them because they are irrelevant to your life.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“Have you ever seen anyone maliciously destroy an ant hill?”
“I’m sure I have, but what does that have to do with the crisis at hand?”
“We are like the ants. Since the day the aliens became aware of our existence, they have chosen to ignore us. But now, they have sought us out.”
“Disturbing words, Doctor. I can almost sense the heel of a cosmic boot hovering overhead.”
“Technologically, we have nothing that would interest the aliens. But we have something they need, or they would not have traveled so far for so long."
Dr. Smith’s assistant interrupted them. "Sir, you have a call. It's the President."
"Thank you. Send it right in.” Dr. Smith returned to his call. "Anton..."
"I heard, Richard. You also asked me how we should proceed. It is the we of that question that concerns me. Do not look to the politicians to deliver us. If you feel you are unprepared, they are even more so. Appeal to the community of scientists. We must step forward and lead the way. No one else can go in our place. Please give my regards to the President and his daughters.”
Richard hung up, and the phone immediately rang. "This is Dr. Richard Smith."
"Dr. Smith," said a female voice, "I have President Alec Golden on the line, please hold."
White House, South Lawn
Alec Golden began his political career as a congressional aide. The party quickly targeted him as its potential savior based on his charisma and personality. They pushed him through election after election, winning every one. He campaigned for the presidency as a centrist and followed that same philosophy while in office. Golden had been President less than one year.
"Dr. Smith, I appreciate being able to reach you at such short notice."
"Mr. President, it is an honor to speak with you again. The team here at the Institute are ready to help in any way we can. By the way, Anton Ferris sends his regards to you and your daughters."
"Thank you. I appreciate knowing that Dr. Ferris is involved already. First of all, do we have any idea where these beings came from?
"The most likely planet is Vicinus."
"I've never heard of it."
"Vicinus is one of the dozens of exoplanets we've found since going live with JWST. At three light years, it is also the nearest.
"Wouldn't that mean they've been headed our direction for quite some time?"
"Three years, if they traveled at the speed of light."
"How likely is that?"
"The craft is spherical. Theoretically, if something were to fly through space at the speed of light, it would naturally be pulled into a spherical shape. If the materials weren't strong enough, the force would destroy it, unless the designers constructed it as a sphere in the first place."
"That’s why we didn't see them coming. We've been watching the skies for decades, especially since SETI and METI began monitoring and broadcasting. We didn't see them because they traveled to our solar system at the speed of light."
"Technically, we could have seen their photon wake, an afterglow, but the fact is, they got here without us noticing.”
"What can you tell me about their planet?"
"Vicinus is similar to Earth in atmospheric pressure and mass. The atmosphere has nineteen percent oxygen compared to twenty-one percent on Earth, but the predominant gas is argon. Ours is nitrogen. Humans could live on Vicinus by the way, but something is happening to the atmosphere."
"Don't tell me it's experiencing global warming?
Full Scale Model of the James Webb Space Telescope
"With the use of mass spectrometry on planets, one of the big deals of JWST, we can discern the composition of atmospheres and the source of certain gasses."
"Would one of those be co2?"
"Yes, sir. The level of co2 on Vicinus is much higher than our own and comes from either volcanic activity or the burning of fossil fuels, or both. The resulting average temperature is also higher than ours."
"Do you think they've abandoned their planet?"
"One spacecraft doesn't indicate an evacuation, but it might have been sent to do research about Earth––Mr. President, I'm sorry. My team is calling for me, and I'm sure you'll want to know about this. Will you please hold?"
"Yes, of course."
There was a knock at the door of the Oval Office. "Yes, Janet." The door opened, and the secretary entered.
"Oh, I'm sorry, you're still on the phone."
"It's ok. I'm on hold."
"You're what, Sir?"
"Here's your energy drink." Janet handed the President his drink and walked out shaking her head.
"There is a second spacecraft."
"Here at Earth?"
"No. This one is orbiting Jupiter, and smaller crafts are swarming around Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede, three of the planet's moons."
President Golden hung up and traced his earlier path around the Oval Office. Aliens are invading our solar system and practically ignoring Earth. Once again he looked down upon the Presidential Seal. The wings of the eagle were spread wide revealing its feet, each holding an item of symbolic importance. An olive branch or an arrow? Which will it be?