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Arecibo, Puerto Rico, home to the famous Arecibo Observatory where the largest single telescope ever constructed rests inside a natural basin; the very place where I live, eat and breathe my job. As being a devoted member of SETI, or the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, would imply, it's my job to continuously rove the outer reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy. Relentlessly, I attempt to give hope to the concept that life does exist somewhere in the outer reaches of cold, empty space and I, or others like me, may one day be able to say that we are not alone; at sometime in the future, before our civilization crumbles and comes to an end as it may, we will join the beauty and boundless thoughts of our minds together with those of a new, but similar organism. Sharing in wisdom and unlocking new secrets that up till now have not been realized. That is to say, up to this point in time, which is why I'm writing this to you today. To get you ready for something the government will never reveal. Something that happened just today. Just minutes ago, as I write this. But to better prepare you for what I have to say, I'd better begin at the very beginning, or the beginning of my day that is, at eight o'clock this morning...
Walking to the coffee pot as I usually did, I poured myself a cup and sat down at my desk. I greeted my co-worker, Dr. Jody Wesley with a courteous "good morning" and resolved myself to another day of scanning the heavens. Waiting for that moment, if ever, when the contact between advanced civilizations becomes more than hearsay, more then the glimmer of light in the night sky we've become so eternally used to.
"Have you read your mail today?" asked Jody, lacking any of the enthusiasm that existed between us at the start of our government funded program. "That's about all the excitement I can deal with for one day," she added, facetiously.
"Oh, c'mon Jody. Cheer up. You've got a job people would die for. If anyone ever knocks on our door, you'll be the first one to answer it. Just think of how exciting that could be!"
"Yeah well, if you hear someone knocking, you've got my permission to answer it. I'm goin' to the john. Gimmie that Newsweek on your desk, will ya?"
"Sure thing," I replied, but just as I was handing the magazine to the highly respected, senior scientist, we heard a faint and distant ping over our computer's main bank of speakers which suddenly made us stop what we were doing.
"What the hell was that?" asked Jody. "You heard it, didn't you?"
"Of course I did," I said. "Interference from another interstellar gas cloud? Reflection off a distant star? Whadda you think?"
"I don't know," she replied. "Probably one or the other. Wait..." she continued. "There it goes again. Did you hear that?"
"Yes... yes I did. Turn up the speaker system," I suggested. "Maybe there's more to it. I'll start recording," I said, as I threw a switch to a bank of high speed digital signal processing equipment. "Let's pinpoint its direction," I added, activating a bank of three-hundred thousand-foot diameter radio dishes, which prepared to rotate on my electronic command in the direction of the signal.
"Do it," replied Dr. Wesley, and all three-hundred dishes turned on a digital dime to precise co-ordinates in three-dimensional space.
"Well..." I asked. "What do you make of it?"
"Nothing yet. Probably just a false alarm as usual. Oh well, that Newsweek's lookin' pretty good right about now. Remember what I said about opening that metaphorical door if an alien race comes knocking. You've got my permission. Later dude."
"Wait!" I exclaimed. "Look! Look at your monitor. There are pixels there that weren't there just seconds ago when we were talking, I'm positive."
"What?" she asked, missing the tiny array of red dots that I was sure were beginning to group and cluster together.
"Right there," I pointed, as more of the tiny, unobtrusive dots began to appear one after another. "Now what do you make of that?" I asked.
"I have no idea," admitted Dr. Wesley. "I've never seen anything quite like it. My God," she continued. "The pixels are forming a shape of some sort while we're standing here! Look at this!" she exclaimed, with an exuberance so far unexperienced in our time together. "They're forming a letter! It's... It's the letter 'B'! An unmistakable letter 'B'! Call the President! Quick! Tell him we've... we've made CONTACT!"
"Wow!" I remarked, disengaging the glass shell which covered a direct phone line to the President. "I can't believe what's happening. This is history in the making," I said, as I plucked the handset from its cradle. I didn't have long to wait before the proud, magnanimous leader of our country picked up on the other end and answered...
"Yes," said that unmistakable, famous voice. "Whose is it?"
"This is Reid Laurence sir. I'm down here in Arecibo, Puerto Rico working with Dr. Jody Wesley on the SETI program."
"Oh, is that right?" said the President. "Mah best ta you an' the good doctor, but you caught me at my ranch and ah'm in the middle o' something very important. Could ya make it fast?"
"Of course, I will sir. It's j-just t-that..."
"Spit it out son. What's on yer mind. Remember, ah'm people, just like you."
"Yes sir. Well, we're s-sitting here watching our computer monitor and..."
"And what son, ah'm very busy, like I said. You know those terrorists ain't gonna wait all day, you know that don'tcha?"
"Yes sir, I know. It's just that, we're pretty sure we're receiving a message sir."
"A message from another planet sir. A planet trillions of miles from here. Probably more like a hundred trillion miles sir. Can you believe it?"
"What's it say?" he asked. "Read it to me."
"So far sir, all we have is a letter 'B'. A bright red letter 'B'."
"That all? That's what's innerrupted mah golf game? A letter 'B'? Look son, why don'tcha call me back when the whole thing comes through. Ah gotta bad hook taday ah gotta sort out, an it ain't gonna get done on the phone, you read me?"
"I read you sir, but I'm watching a second letter appear as we speak. It's another letter sir. The letter 'U'."
"Okay, okay. I'll play the game. Anything else? Any other letters?"
"Yes!" I shouted into the phone. "We have another letter coming through sir. The letter is an 'S', can you believe it? They're sending us a message in English sir. It must be very important to them to have sent it in English so that we can understand it. Isn't it fantastic Mr. President!"
"Ah suppose. Anything else... wait a minute son." I heard the President say, as he covered the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand. "Hold on there dad! Be with ya in a minute. Somebody from Puerto Rico on the phone. Yeah... go on now. Ya got mah full attention. Any more letters in the message, or code, or whatever it is?"
"There is sir! The next letter is an 'H'! It appears that they've spelled your name sir! Can you imagine that?"
"Well, at least these beings from the edges o' our solar system have good taste. Now son, if you'll allow me ta get back ta mah game..."
"But sir, there's more! That's not the entire message! Wait... there's a whole word appearing on our screen. It's coming in plain as day sir. This is so exciting!"
"Okay, lay it on me. What's it say? What's the second word?"
"It's, it's hard to say, sir."
"Whaddaya mean hard ta say? Ya jest told me a second ago it was a comin' in plain as day, didn'tcha?"
"Yes... I, I guess I did, didn't I."
"Well then, what's it say? Read it ta me. Now is not the time ta be shy, son. Go on."
"Well sir, the second word is; 'SUCKS'. The message reads... 'BUSH SUCKS'." And without further hesitation, I heard the President hang up his handset, bringing our one time conversation to a curt, but enlightening closure.
"What did he say?" asked Jody. "We had to tell him the truth, didn't we? I mean, we couldn't lie to him. He's the President. You can't lie to the President of the United States."
"Yeah, I know," I replied. "There was no way out. There's just one thing I wanna know now."
"What's that?" asked Dr. Wesley.
"You think they'll cut spending to the program?"
"Whadda you think?"
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