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Back to Square 1:  Contact ... Part I

The following is the ninth installment of the tale which began with Takeoff, and continued with Shopping Trip Parts I. through IV  and The Test Flight.  All prior installments should be read before this page, as that may help to render the following events marginally less obscure.

This installment was also very kindly provided to us by Professor Johann Schnarchhund of Miskatonic University.  Johann again assures us that this first person account, narrated by Isis Resillechat, is very much as it was received by his daughter, Taurina.  For additional information please see the Iemy Papers.

Previous Installment: Back to Square One ... Continued

Star Date 13.8

Contact with ... what?
Taurina, you'll never guess what happened today.  We (almost) made contact with ... well, I don't know who it would have been.  But it sure didn't sound like anybody on Earth!

Mince and I were on the bridge, scanning the Gridley bands, seeing if we were in range of anything from Earth, and just looking for anything new or cool which we'd overlooked before.  The ship's so complex, and the documentation's so bad, that there's always something new to be learned.  The Captain was at another console -- not on his usual perch.  I think he was trying to find a way to measure the time to get back to Earth that would make it shorter.  His tail was switching back and forth, about once a second, as usual --- he's always so wound up, it makes me nervous just to watch him.

Just a day or two earlier, Mince and I had figured out how to program the communication system to do simple stuff by itself, and Mince was seeing how many bands she could get it to scan simultaneously.

"I think," she was saying, "if I have it scan up here, too, then it's covering the whole Gridley spectrum."

I looked at what she was doing.  "Would anybody ever use that part?  I thought it took too much power to broadcast anything 'way up at the end."

"Maybe -- but it doesn't cost us anything to listen --"

The "Meow!" of an alarm suddenly filled the bridge, followed by the announcement, "Signal locked!" and another "Meow!" and, "Carrier missing -- adjust pitch."

Text started flowing across Mince's screen -- what looked like Iemy text!  But I couldn't make out any words.

"It's just numbers! -- I think..." observed Mince.  It did look like numbers, I realized, but there was something funny about the way they were grouped -- not like Iemy numbers I'd seen before.

And then the audio cut in -- weird, bubbly sounds, fast, but low pitched; I couldn't make out any of it.

"Mince -- the pitch -- it's too low!"  I said.  I'd suddenly remembered what you told me about carrier suppressed single sideband ham radio sets.  "Can you raise it?"

"Mrrrrrooowwwrrr...?" said Mince and started pushing buttons.  The pitch changed -- it went almost subsonic.   "Mrrrrowwwrrr?" she said again, and pushed more buttons.  It went up the scale this time, but not enough to be understandable.  Mince tried again...

I think she tried about a dozen different settings altogether, and none of them sounded right.  The speech was very fast.  The setting that seemed the most intelligible made it sound kind of high and squeaky -- it didn't sound at all cat-like.

And yet, it sounded like Iemy!  Or maybe it didn't -- i couldn't make out a single complete word, couldnt' tell what it was about -- in fact I had just decided it wasn't Iemy at all when the voice paused, and said, slower, totally clearly, "Ituafe."

And then the Captain's voice cut across the broadcast.  "Felix to the bridge!  Snidly to the bridge!  Nim-nim to the bridge!  Felicia to the bridge!  Skritch to the bridge!   Now!!"

As the Captain's voice cut out, I could hear more of the broadcast; but I could make out no more words.

There was a sound of galloping feet from the corridor -- or corridors; it sounded like multiple cats were rushing to the bridge.  I heard the pounding of human feet as well, when the captain's voice sounded again:  "Felix, get up here now!  But no coffee!!"

At that moment Skritch and Snidly tore onto the bridge from two different doorways.  Skritch cut straight across the bridge to a console opposite the door she'd entered by, running right over Snidly along the way.  Snidly, looking offended, sat up, looked around, didn't see any obvious emergency, and started washing his back.

The pounding of human footsteps grew louder and, much to my surprise, Auntie burst onto the bridge.  "Where's the Captain?" she cried, staring up at his empty perch as she ran across the bridge -- and straight into Snidly.  Auntie went down in a heap, and Snidly, having been run over twice, headed off for parts unknown.

And then Dad finally appeared, running full tilt in from the corridor.  Dad's quick, there's no doubt about that -- by the time he entered the bridge, he'd already figured out what was going on, just from the words he'd heard from the corridor.  "Sniggles!  Record it!" he yelled as he ran onto the bridge -- and ran straight into Auntie, who was just getting up again.

As Sniggles appeared -- safely away from the mayhem, up on the Captain's perch -- Dad flipped clear over Auntie and did a swan dive into the middle of one of the control panels, with his arms stretched out wide, where his landing must have pressed about 39 buttons simultaneously.

There was a immediate "Meow!" from the intercom, followed by an announcement:  "Signal locked.  Response initiated; contact established.  Transmission started."

"No!" cried Dad, from the floor.  "Don't transmit!  Break contact!"  And contact was indeed broken, but not by any of us.  The stream of words cut off with an annoyed squeak, and there was silence.  The stream of text stopped at the same time.  Belatedly, the ship's voice spoke again:  "Contact lost.  Transmission terminated."

Dad looked very chagrined as he got up off the floor.  "Sniggles," he said.  "Did we get a recording?"


"Great!" said Dad, sounding relieved.  "Play it back, please!"

Sniggles jumped down from the Captain's perch, trotted over to a control panel, and pushed a few buttons.  There was a click, followed by an annoyed squeak, and then -- silence.

"That's it?" exclaimed Dad, in an agonized tone.


"Then what else do we have?"


And indeed we did.  The ship had retained just under a minute's worth of the text broadcast.  That wasn't all that much, as it had come in at about the rate at which somebody might have read it.  What's more, it seemed to be nothing but numbers -- and even as numbers it didn't make much sense.  They all seemed to be integers, but the digt patterns were peculiar -- no digit larger than 10 appeared anywhere, and in some positions there were no digits larger than 2.  It was Nim-nim who spotted that:  Every third digit was a space, a 1, or a 2, never anything larger.

"It could be coincidence..." Dad said, thoughtfully.

"Nearly 200 numbers, over 150 more than 3 digits, probability of nothing bigger than 2 in any third place about ..." Nim-nim paused.  "Never happen."

Continued in Episode 10: Some Corridors and a Lot of Dust


Page created on 3 June 2014 from text written a couple years earlier