Cosmic call

© 2024, Dmitry Sushkov. A sci-fi story. Please keep a link when reposting.
Screenplay pending.
Russian language here
Cosmic call, a sci-fi story

Cosmic call Cosmic call

Earth, year 1977

"Wow!" Dr. Jerry Eyman exclaimed as he circled the code 6EQUJ5 on the printout. “This is the end,” Dr. Ongu whispered 64 years earlier.

Star Gliese 710

Humanity as a whole has a habit of believing in something more. Some believe in higher powers, others in alien civilizations, willing to share incredible knowledge. Dr. Ongu's people did not believe in any of this. They themselves were a super-civilization that didn't have much luck. 200 million years ago they had to move from their dying star η Serpentis to the nearest one, Gliese 710. Even advanced civilizations find it difficult to overcome interstellar distances. Gliese is several times smaller and lighter than their native star, but it promised to live for a very long time, and the Gliese people themselves, let’s call them that, like to live long and measuredly. They have nowhere to rush, but time has shown that sometimes it is necessary to hurry. Gliese rushes into our Sun with consequences unpredictable even for the Gliese people. When this was discovered, the mankind was just leaving Africa, so the Glisians knew for sure that there was no intelligent life in the solar system and there was no one to send a distress signal to.

Glizians are slow. It took millennia to discuss the problem and find a solution. No one wanted to risk their new home, so they decided to destroy the old η Serpentis, which was still nearby, by piercing it with a soliton wave, the Glizians know how to do this. Over a million years, the changed gravitational potential of its neighbor would have diverted Gliese’s path enough to miss the Sun by a couple of light years. Great plan. The soliton generator was assembled in orbit, where it was supposed to accumulate a charge of exotic matter for a thousand years. But along with the exotic matter, something else arrived from space, and the generator exploded, emitting a signal in its dying cry that so surprised Dr. Jerry Eyman. Life on the planet was instantly destroyed. Dr. Ongu and his colleagues survived, being on the planet on the other side of Gliese, where a small scientific post was located. Small by Glizian standards, of course. Any earthly scientist would give his hand for the opportunity to sweep the floors there. However, from a farpost behind which stood the economy of an entire planet, it instantly turned into a colony of survivalists.

Meanwhile, the first radio signals from Earth began to reach Gliese. Too faint to be seen, but gradually becoming more noticeable on the Galaxy background noise. The Glizians pricked up their ears. About 90 years have passed since the disaster, and the instruments have recorded an apparently intelligent message from Earth. It was humanity that sent the “Cosmic Call” into space. The Glizans were amazed. In the entire multimillion-year history of their species, they have never encountered the intelligent life. And this life is located in a planetary system that can be destroyed by their star.

A million years is a long time even for a Glizanian, but there was no time to waste. Alas, the farpost is only an observation station. Good station. The details of the third planet are not visible from it, although the structure of the solar system was clearly observable. It is necessary to pass the our knowledge to humanity, but how to do this if all the equipment required for this perished along with the planet? It would be possible to send a capsule on a soliton wave, which would land on the fourth planet and turn on the beacon. It will arrive in 10 years instead of 64, but the main thing is important: it can carry the basic scientific knowledge accumulated over millions of years. Some may be useful for brothers in mind to avoid dangerous approachment.

The new world of the Glizians is a dwarf star with two planets. The inner one was a dead ball located in the tidal locking of the star. On the day side there was eternal heat, and on the night side, covered with a layer of ice many kilometers long, there was eternal night. It did not bother the settlers. Using their soliton technologies, they spun the planet, and over a thousand years they turned it into the world they were used to, after which they moved. Glizans live a very long time by earthly standards, a little less than 10,000 years. Moreover, the planet's population rarely exceeds the population of a large terrestrial city. Few people die, few people are born. The quality of living is provided by machines. Glizyans were happy with this order. Until the disaster.

There is a farpost on the second planet. It is also tidally locked, but for scientific purposes this is just right: the star’s radiation does not interfere with observations on the night side. On the day side of the second planet there is an electromagnetic catapult for communication with the main planet. A straight tunnel leads to it from the night side. This is very convenient in an airless environment. Half of the way the capsule falls under the influence of gravity, the other half it slows down.

“Life on the first planet is destroyed and impossible, since the atmosphere was blown away by the explosion. Two-thirds of the surface has become desert. The mechanisms are killed by an electromagnetic pulse. But what if some machines on the side of the planet opposite the explosion survived and simply shut down?” - Ongu thinked. If you get to them, you can try to launch them. But how can this be done if there is no atmosphere for a gliding landing, and the rockets here are intended only for landing on the second planet with a negligible gravity force.

The Glizians have long lost the habit of taking risks. Why, if all the dangerous work is done by machines, and you can enjoy a long life? But desperate times call for desperate measures. No one has solved complex problems of orbital mechanics for a million years; there is no need for this when you have a multiple excess of energy in reserve. But mathematics was not forgotten, and the farpost computer calculated the flight trajectory of a small ship in the gravitational field of three bodies. Having completed the final revolution around the star, the ship at the apocenter found itself right above the desired landing point in the least damaged part of the second planet, where the thrust of the brake engines on edge was sufficient for a relatively soft landing.

Ongu understood the danger and knew that even if he could land successfully, the fate of him and both worlds depended on whether the machines would work. It will be impossible to take off again on this boat. He said a warm goodbye to his friends, and the catapult smoothly sent the ship on a two-month journey. To be alone for such a long period of time was real torture for a highly social creature. To distract himself, Ongu spent the entire trip studying notes about the machines he would have to deal with on the planet.

Finally, the flight came to an end. Having caught up with the planet in the final gravity maneuver, the ship rushed to the surface. The brake engines roared, the landing legs extended, and a tenfold overload pressed the traveler into the specially prepared jelly of the shock-absorbing bath. There was a blow, one of the legs fell into something, and the ship lay on its side. Ongu got out of the bath unharmed. The reliability of Glisian technology was worthy of praise. The ship, although in an abnormal position, remained intact. The observation screens showed monstrous destruction, but compared to the area under the epicenter, where nothing remained, equipment could have been preserved in the rubble.

Three mechanical spiders emerged. The first thing they did was work together to turn the ship so as to clear the airlock hatch, but Ongu was in no hurry to leave, perhaps, the only remaining housing on the planet. The spiders went on reconnaissance. Their task was to find the nearest power plant that could be brought back to life. Numerous automated stations are located at a safe depth below the surface, each from a protective dome leading to a shaft with a lift in case of unforeseen circumstances. A few hours later, one of the spiders reported finding a station sending emergency shutdown signals. Having donned a spacesuit, Ongu loaded the returning scouts with a supply of provisions and set off for the station.

The entrance to the dome was blocked with debris, but the spiders quickly cleared it. The hermetically sealed hatch did not want to open. On the one hand, this is a good sign. The atmosphere inside the dome's airlock has been preserved. On the other hand, this atmosphere presses the hatch and prevents it from opening. After some thought, Ongu gave a command to the spider. In a few minutes, the plasma torch made a hole in the protection, air came out, forming a stream of steam and the hatch opened.

Inside, the spiders were useless. Leaving them to seal the hole, the doctor went deeper into the station. As expected, the station went into emergency mode as a result of a seismic shock. The security systems worked properly. The network of stations showed that there were no others in the immediate vicinity that could be reactivated. It could also mean that the network itself is damaged. In the meantime, he can rest. Inside the station there is a room for repairmen with food supplies and all amenities. After two months of weightlessness, Ongu lost strength in the transition to the station and allowed himself to sleep.

Having rested and refreshed himself, the doctor made sure that the station was working properly and turned it on. The machines above came to life. The screen started working, showing the coordinates of the nearest station. Ongu had to turn on the power plants one by one and get to the nearest universal plant. The machines above began clearing the rubble, from under which other machines appeared. Having chosen a suitable transport from them, the doctor went to the next dome. Gradually, station by station, he reached the plant.

Underground automatic factories are a real miracle of Glizian technology. They are capable of producing anything, as long as the product does not exceed the dimensions of the reactor chamber. This plant served the population of nearby campuses and was too small to produce a soliton package. Instead, the doctor ordered an autonomous all-terrain vehicle to be made for himself, and while the factory was working on the order, he took a good rest. Feeling timid hope for the first time, Ongu allowed himself some of the Glisian equivalent of whiskey and went to the large factory.

The journey took several days. In the all-terrain vehicle it was finally possible to take off the spacesuit and clean up. The viewing screens showed the chaos and destruction of the once flourishing world, evoking melancholy.

The huge premises of the large factory were dead. Someone in the control housing located on the surface hit the emergency shutdown button before dying in a panic. Ongu could easily turn on the plant by showing his “face” to the camera, but to do this he had to remove the helmet of the spacesuit. To do this in an almost complete vacuum would mean certain death. For an hour he posed in front of the camera in the hope that the camera would recognize him through his helmet, but nothing came of it.

Despondent, the doctor wandered around the plant until he found the workshop almost by accident. The workshop is a mini-factory, a small reactor chamber in which you can make any tool or device for repairing the plant itself. It is unlikely that it was ever used for its intended purpose, but it was not affected by the emergency shutdown, since it simply was not turned on, but turned on itself as soon as Ongu went inside.

Without thinking twice, the doctor made for himself a new helmet in the form of a cube from transparent material, which he replaced in the all-terrain vehicle. The transparent helmet did not protect against cosmic radiation, but Ongu did not intend to walk for hours in it. Having demonstrated himself to the automation, the doctor activated the plant and began the main part of the plan.

The order was non-standard, and Ongu brought all the instructions with him. Three soliton generators, three capsules for the message, a rocket that will deliver it all along with the doctor to the outpost, and an all-terrain trailer that will take the rocket to the nearest electromagnetic catapult. Such a large-scale project required the plant to complete nearly a month, during which Ongu languished in boredom, destroying the stock of delicacies in the staff break room. The journey to the catapult took another month. The doctor led the column in an all-terrain vehicle, which cleared the way from the rubble encountered along the way.

The power plant powering the catapult turned on without problems. Ongu said goodbye to the spiders to which he had already become accustomed, took the pilot's seat and went home.

Meanwhile, colleagues prepared data modules, three for each capsule, recording in them comprehensive information about their scientific knowledge. The Glizans made everything important in three copies. A soliton wave is not a very precise thing. The capsule should leave it at a distance of approximately half a light year from the Sun, turn on the beacon and land on the fourth planet, where there was minimal risk of killing someone or damaging something. At least one of the three capsules must reach the target.

Solar system, year 2063

The deep space communications network received three signals in the format of the long-forgotten “Cosmic Call”. The signal sources were rapidly approaching the inner planets. Invading armada? Panic began among the public, but computers, which never forget anything, quickly identified and deciphered the old code in the Lincos language, which people had long ago created to send messages to brothers in mind, without waiting for a response. And then the answer came, pointing to the Gliese 710 system, which was considered uninhabited, and about which people already knew that it was dangerous.

The first probe, as the people called it, missed and crashed into the Sun. An invading armada probably wouldn't do that. The second one went along a hyperbolic trajectory into interstellar space. But the third, continuing to transmit signals, softly landed on the south pole of Mars. A mission was immediately sent from the base in the Hellas crater, which reached the pole a month later.

Strongly flattened in shape, made of mirror material, the device lay on the surface, patiently waiting for people. As they approached, it opened the lid, on the inner surface of which was painted the image of a man and a woman from “Cosmic Call”, which was again on everyone’s lips after decades of oblivion. The Glizans correctly guessed the message. Even if the radio signal had not been received, the simple picture, without further words, clearly stated that there was a message for members of the human race.

Inside the probe was a stack of metal sheets covered with engraved pictograms, beneath which, in protective cases, were three cylinders of a glassy substance. The contents of the package all looked like they were inviting them to take it for themselves, which is what people did.

The greatest discovery of all time has happened in the history of mankind: extraterrestrial intelligence not only exists, but has sent a message.

The sheets were scanned and images were sent to Earth. As expected, they turned out to be instructions for reading the records on the cylinders. The principle turned out to be surprisingly simple. The cylinder axis was a nonlinear emitter. When an electric current was passed through it, the cylinder projected a holographic image onto a cylindrical screen. By making 64 screens of different diameters, people on Mars read the contents of all three cylinders, which were identical up to reading errors. Sending the cylinders to Earth was considered too risky.

Deciphering the message, which uses the same principle as in the Lincos language, turned out to be easy. The science of the Glizians followed the same path as the earthly one. The same theory of relativity, but with quantum gravity, a similar standard model, but having dimensions unknown to earthlings. The Glisians learned to initiate the pure decay of a proton and a neutron, which gave them an unlimited source of energy. Using soliton waves, they can send relatively small objects over significant distances at speeds many times faster than light. At the same time, their level of computer technology turned out to be lower than that which earthlings had already achieved.

Gliese 710, year 2079 Earth time

Dr. Ongu and his colleagues watched in amazement as η Serpentis, pierced by three solitons, turned into a jet, moving away at near-light speed. They were no longer in danger of colliding with the solar system in a million years or two. The Earthlings managed to do in a few years what it took the Glizians millions to achieve. But the Glizians themselves faced a sad fate. The population of the farpost did not exceed hundreds, of which two-thirds were men, most of them already past the age when they could have children. Yes, and there is nowhere to start them. By fateful accident, the planet suitable for life in the open air became uninhabited, and the industrial power of the colony was completely insufficient to restore it.

30 years have passed. At a safe distance from the star, the soliton dissipated, releasing a kilometer-long mirror cigar, which smoothly docked the farpost planet.

Mars, Argyre Colony

The underground factories of earthlings, based on Glizian science, gradually increased the atmosphere of Mars. Its density was not yet enough for a human, but a Glizan could easily get by with an oxygen mask, and live more than comfortably under the dome of the Argyre crater. The gravitational force is slightly greater than on the dead planet, but it’s easy to get used to. The Earthlings are helping with cloning technologies, which the Glisians, and now the new Martians, have never done.

Dr. Ongu was optimistic about the future for the first time in a thousand years.


People actually sent out the Cosmic Call twice, using a specially designed language called Lincos.

The star Gliese 710 in the distant future (from a million to one and a half million years) may fly very dangerously close to the Sun.

The code 6EQUJ5, known as the "Wow" signal, was actually received only once by the "Big Ear" radio observatory.

The soliton wave is a hypothetical alternative to the equally hypothetical Warp drive.

All translated stories

Cosmic Call

Like the reading? Please donate author for food.
0x0b6b15c2efdbb500971a5b3231948e208e0222d7 click to copy