The “WOW²” Signal

A short original Science-Fiction Story, first published on 22nd November 2017.

In the last seconds of the old millennium, a man slumps from his chair to the floor. He dies alone in a small bureau complex overlooking the microwave antenna array outside. Clasped within his soon cold hands is a print-out dotted with sharpie marks.

The following week the news had only one topic: The “WOW²” Signal. Accompanying a set of unbelievable spectacular data printed on a piece of cheap paper, was the sentence: “Just another WOW signal?”. Which was then crossed out and replaced with the name the news preferred to use now. Since someone had died over this discovery it did not take long to amass public interest.

Two extraordinary properties of the signal became clear early. The intervals between the repeating patterns were decreasing. Which indicated that the source was moving towards earth. And the pattern itself made no discernible sense.

This lead to countless theories throughout the next year about the secret meaning of it. Giving into public pressure the European Space Agency dedicated a space probe to proof the signal source’s location. The ESA spokesman later acknowledged: “We checked twice and this time all microwaves on board were unplugged at the time of measuring”. The origin could only be outside of the planet.

In a secret collaboration NASA, Roscosmos and ESA launched a follow-up probe shorty thereafter. The previous findings indicated that the signal source originated from a moving object. Because of this the probes’ tasks included making photographs and surface radio scans; assignments it was never able to finish. At first, only the probe’s existence and function was revealed. But soon there were questions about its whereabouts.

“As of now it is uncertain if the unplanned destruction was due to a malfunction,” the press release began. The spokesman then seemed to look at someone in the crowd for approval and finished: “or because of an attack.”

If the world was at the brink of turmoil before this day it was now certain to sink into chaos. Shorty afterwards the photographs were made available. There was no other explanation possible. The pictures were blurry, but the even shape and artificial construction was undeniable.

Soon the signal became more like a countdown. Becoming faster ever so slightly. Some started to think about what would happen at the end of it. On an astronomical scale it had not taken much to wipe the dinosaurs from the face of earth. And the signal source had at least as much mass as the last asteroid hitting the planet. Forced to face this impending doom the “Human Preservation Union” was created. Its duty was to ensure that enough of Humanity would survive to reclaim earth. The final task for the HPU was to send a retrofitted ISS towards a stable Lagrange point. Where it would serve as a memento in case there was no one on earth left.

Humana Pandir, current Leader of the HPU took a step away from the speaker’s desk. The culmination of the feverish preparations was a simple and short speech. Nothing else to do but to wait for the end. But instead of silence the room filled with a hum which modulated into a ghostly voice:

“We regret. We took from you what cannot be replaced. We are sorry.”

Unbeknownst to Humanities Leader almost everywhere on earth people heard the same voice. But only people still watching the ceremony could see Humanas face contort in thought. After what felt like an eternity in silence Humana asked a simple question: “What for?”

With the humming returned the voice. It told the world about a splinter group of aliens like themselves. In earlier days it had come to earth to find another planet to settle but it found it already occupied instead. The most important rule to obey is that no intelligent life deprives another of its home planet. But they were foolish and decided to become gods to the infant civilization. It did not take long for law to catch up with them, and they were brought before the pangalactic court. To hinder the self-driven uplifting of another species was a crime that sought a special punishment. Until what had been taken was restored they were damned to search for absolution.

And a solution was found: Reset Planet Earth. Return each single Atom back into the Position it was before the Aliens came. As if time itself had been turned back for Humanity. Nothing of the old world would remain, beside the radio waves sent into space.

After the alien leader had spoken it became silent once more. And Humana Pandir became aware that they hadn’t come to ask for permission but to bear witness to mankind’s last words.