The scientific community on Earth was frantically trying to make sense of what had happened.
It was the year 2024, and the planet was receiving a radio transmission originally sent from Washington D.C. in the year 1900… from deep space. Protocols were followed, authorities were notified, and then a many-headed debate began.
What possible explanations could there be?
Had our radio waves been reflected by something in interstellar space and found there way directly back to us?
The probability of that was impossibly small, much less the chance that this coincidental reflection just happened to be our first recorded radio voice transmission. Still, the possibility existed.
Was it a fluke, beyond our current understanding?
Scientists, astronomers and think-tanks were not about to request massive funding increases from government agencies until there was more to go on, or at least some sort of basic unanimous theory. And even if they were willing, what would they be requesting money to fund?
At this point there were only two big questions. One, how do we find out what happened? And two, who should know about this interstellar broadcast?
In the first few days following that first reception, it was determined that the general public would not be made aware of the message sent from deep space. Scientists already involved in the affair and government agencies kept it under a strict need-to-know basis.
For the time being, they re-examined existing data, images, and utilized the tools at their disposal to continue to monitor the situation.
Astronomers compared the time signatures of the reception points of the ‘echo waves,’ as they quickly became known, from different places around the globe. They came up with a mathematical shot in the dark. Existing technology trained its eyes and ears in this direction hoping to catch a glimpse of the source of these waves… although the ‘source’ was predominantly believed to be Earth itself.
Old images from the Hubble spacecraft were re-examined. Although still beautiful, they revealed nothing new.
Out in space, the cube was doing some thinking of its own. It was picking up constant, patterned electro-magnetic activity from a seemingly singular source. That source was the early radio broadcasting of human beings on earth from the turn of the twentieth century.
By 2024, all of those human beings were long dead, and the machinery used to broadcast the signals had long since been replaced with modern technology. The cube, though, had no way of knowing this. It decided to send more signals in the direction of the origin of this activity.
The cube was moving at roughly half the speed of light relative to earth. It was headed directly toward the small planet. This meant that it was receiving the radio signals at nearly 150% of the original broadcast rate.
It also meant that communication lag, though drastically decreasing, took over 90 earth years from the moment it sent it’s first ‘echo wave’ transmission. It would not learn this until the year 2046 on earth’s calendar. In the meantime, it assumed it was communicating directly to the source, and that each transmission it sent caused the source to respond with whatever radio waves came next.
The cube analyzed the waves and began deciphering the encrypted signals, studying the coded messages.It would eventually learn many of the human languages, but that wouldn’t be until much later. The early years of contact led the cube through a pigeon superstition thought process.
In 2024, The space programs on earth had made little advancement since the decommissioning of NASA’s shuttle program, 13 years earlier. Space exploration had become largely privatized, and the focus was on space tourism. While this helped to popularize the concept of outer space exploration amongst the economic elite, the only real exploring that was being done was that of bank accounts.
Hubble was still orbiting. Gaia was out there cataloguing the Milky Way. Those, and the existing terrestrial observatories were called back into action with the purpose of locating the source of the ‘echo waves.’
The Mars One space mission was approaching its original deadline, but had been pushed back at least a year because of design flaws in the unmanned preparatory missions. Still, much of the population of earth were waiting anxiously to see images of the first people on Mars.
It was in this context, and after more alien transmissions had been received, that governments announced the scientific ‘findings’ to the people. They did this to legitimize tax re-allocation. And, then a new space race began.
Construction on earth focused on heavy lift rockets. These rockets would be used to send up materials necessary to build a new space station.
The new space station was designed to be a factory itself, and a launch site for whatever was constructed there. The space station construction effort was a coalition of international space agencies. They did, however, work independently on detection satellite machinery aimed at locating the alien source.
Construction done on the space station was intended to center around three main concepts.
1) construction of nano-technology.
2) construction of autonomous technology.
3) development of communication network technology.
None of these solved the problem of communication lag, in terms of humans on earth interacting efficiently with the alien source. The hope was that autonomous robots of some sort would be programmed with values akin to those that humans share, and sent out in the direction of the source… Something like ambassadors of the human race.
What humans didn’t realize at this point was that time was not on their side.