“How can they be humans and extraterrestrials at the same time?” General Hopsitel asked as his aide escorted him to the first meeting. The pasty, rotund general waddled through the narrow halls with renewed purpose. He was ready to retire the week before; then, first contact was made.
“Well, ‘terrestrial’ just means ‘from Earth’. These humans contacted us from somewhere else,” Marcie replied with a subtle eye-roll. General Hopsitel wasn’t a bad boss initially. Each year the General gave her more responsibilities to handle. She was thrilled at first because it meant he trusted her. 15 years later, she was essentially doing his job and giving him cheat notes.
“Do we know anything about their planet yet? Location? Name?”
“Nothing. After contact was confirmed both sides exchanged basic information. Once they learned we were humans too they fast-tracked the first meeting.” General Hopsitel stopped before they exited the building and looked at Marcie.
“This just happened last week, right?” he asked. Marcie nodded, and the General ignored her eyeroll. She was damn good at her job and he gave her all the leeway she wanted. “How did we translate so fast?” Marcie grinned then pushed through the doors out into the sunshine. The General followed her.
“They speak English,” she said as she crossed the base.
“English? And we know they’re humans?” General Hopsitel asked. Marcie nodded.
“No, it’s not a prank, Sir.”
“How do we know? If we don’t know where the signal is coming from…,”
“This,” she handed him a letter envelope from a stack of forms on a clipboard. The General grabbed the envelope; it was heavier than an empty one, but not by much. He opened it and found a small glass card in it. He pulled it out and looked it over while they entered another building. It was about the size of a playing card and just as thin.
“Glass?” he asked. Marcie shook her head.
“They sent us that. It’s called a node and it’s way more advanced than anything we have right now.” Marcie took it from him, tapped it several times, then handed it back. When it was in his hands again he noticed it showed the time. He ran his finger on it like Marcie did and it changed to a homescreen style layout that reminded the General of his smartphone.
“We have smartphones too,” the General said. Marcie sighed. She normally didn’t mind their work relationship, but they weren’t normally making first contact and changing the world. The added stress made her a bit bitter. She stopped and took the node from his hands again.
“Our smartphones can’t do this,” she said as she held up the node in front of his face. The General watched the node stretch as Marcie pulled at both ends. When it was about twice its size, the long piece broke in two; Marcie handed him one back, and tapped it in his hand. It brought the time up. Then, she showed him the clock on the second piece. Both said 9:55 A. M.
“Okay,” General Hopsitel nodded. “I believe you.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Marcie gave him a playful mock salute as they reached the meeting room. She opened the cafeteria door for him, then followed him in. The General stopped as soon as he entered the room. Most of the tables and chairs were cleared out leaving only the white concrete floor. Half a dozen men and women in labcoats sat in the center of the cafeteria next to the rest of the military representation: three other generals.
“Where’s the President?” he asked. “What about the rest of the world leaders?” He expected to see a room full of delegates from at least the first world countries.
“We were contacted. As far as we can tell, that signal was sent only to us; it’s not a broadcast. They gave America node technology. If they wanted the rest of the world to have it, they would have broadcast a message for the whole world. The President needs plausible deniability if this does get out. ‘Officially’ he doesn’t even know about this meeting. Now hurry up, it’s time.” She shooed him toward the crowd of scientists and soldiers. He saw a large black hole appear in the center of the crowd. By the time he got there, the hole was gone but three new strangers stood in its place in the center of the crowd.
They trio, two men and a woman, looked like average 20somethings in jeans and t-shirts. Each sported an elaborate tattoo on their arm with different numbers.
“Hello Earthlings!” the taller, raven-haired man said. His tattoo was a bright blue star on his forearm with the number 35 on it. “We’re from Earth too,” he said with a laugh. Immediately the group around General Hopsitel seemed confused until the woman stepped forward. She had a black widow spider tattooed on her arm with the number 33.
“He means we’re from Earth also, not Earth two as in the second one,” she explained. “There is no ‘Earth 2’, there are too many to count.”
“Too many?” The scientist closest to General Hopsitel asked. The woman with the spider tattoo nodded and seemed about to answer, but the second man spoke up from behind her. He sported an eagle on his arm with the number 20.
“Full saturation!” he shouted gleefully.
“Thanks for using that node we sent you,” #35 said with a grin. He pulled his own out of his pocket and tapped and swiped on it. Marcie was startled when her pocket vibrated. She stood unnoticed by the door waiting for the General to finish. She watched the situation with interest, but could not hear anything.
She pulled the node she created out of her pocket and saw a message.[User: Corvus has requested ownership over Server: Marcie’s Test. Do you wish to transfer ownership?] [Yes] [No]
Marcie’s eyes went wide. She didn’t know what it meant exactly, but she knew she entered ‘Marcie’s Test’ as a placeholder name for the Earth while she experimented with it. At the time she wondered why her Earth needed a name. Her first instinct was to deny access; she did that then looked back to where Corvus was looking at his node. He was a fair distance, but she saw his smile turn into a look of concern.
“Uhh.. Actually. Sorry guys,” Corvus said to the scientists and generals. “We have to go. We’ll get-,” his exit was interrupted by the woman.
“What?” she asked. He turned to face her.
“Something came up,” General Hopsitel heard him say through gritted teeth.
“OH, right.” she said. Corvus wiggled his fingers at the air and summoned a black portal.
“We’ll call you,” he said, then the trio wasted no time running into the black hole that appeared; it closed behind them.