by H. Peter Alesso
A former marine, Hawkins was stunned when his rescue effort was seen as treachery. Unfairly convicted of treason by a corrupt judge, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor on an infamous penal colony.
Once in prison, Hawkins was mistreated by a paranoid warden, but his courage and perseverance won him the admiration and trust of his fellow convicts. While he was plotting his escape, an enemy attacked the planet—giving this daring warrior his chance. Together with his fellow prisoners, he launched a bold assault and high-jacked an enemy warship.
From then on, the exploits of Captain Jamie Hawkins became legendary.
Hawkins gave him an encouraging nod.
“It was a burst of radio signals from deep space. I traced it to either a 4 billion-year-old star in a constellation 44.4 light years away, or to another star in that same constellation, but much farther away. That means that the radio waves have been travelling to us for at least forty-four point four years.”
Hawkins said, “Deep space radio signals have many plausible explanations, such as radio interference from planets, or rogue signals caused by local planet microwave devices.
“That’s true, Captain. It could be just the effect of a natural space object like a pulsating quasar, but it’s also possible . . . I think maybe . . . it could be a message from another civilization.”
Now smiling broadly, Hawkins said, “Given the unlikeness of that, why are you concerned?”
“Because it was not a one-off event,” said Joshua excitedly and then pausing to catch his breath. “I’ve recorded a half dozen repeating signals from the exact same source.”
Nodding, Hawkins said, “That’s a little more interesting, but there are explanations for that too.”
“But Captain, the implications could be mind-blowing. Imagine, what if it was an alien civilization, and they were far more advanced than us, and they were trying to make contact? After centuries of fruitlessly scanning the stars and finding no evidence that anyone else is out there, this could be . . . could be . . .”
Joshua became paralyzed by his own imagination.
“Joshua, even if this signal were not natural, it might still be the product of one of Earth’s colonies—not aliens.”
“No sir, I’ve checked. There were no Earth colonies in the vicinity of the signal’s star cluster when we last had contact with Earth, fifty years ago,” said Joshua.
Joshua wanted to argue further, but couldn’t offer any additional proof for his cause.
Hawkins said, “I agree, we should continue to monitor this frequency, but for now, it’ll have to remain a mystery.”
It was only a few days later that Joshua returned to argue, “I’ve been working to decrypt the deep space signal using our AI computer with the help of a data tech.”
Hawkins was surprised, but also impressed with Joshua’s initiative.
“What does a deep space signal have to do with our enemy’s Top Secrets communication network?”
“You’ll have to explain that.”
“Let me give you a metaphor for how I solved this puzzle, because it is a puzzle.”
“Think of a portrait of a woman, say the Mona Lisa. Now consider a jigsaw puzzle of the Mona Lisa—a picture of a woman cut into a thousand irregularly sized pieces and spread out for someone to reassemble.”
“A kid’s game.”
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