J.R. Hampton is a writer based in Coventry, United Kingdom. During the day, he can be found teaching English at a further education college. During the evening, he can be found attempting to rearrange all of the words in his head into something comprehensible. His first short story, “The Extraordinary Diary of a 23rd Century Teenager,” was published in the anthology To Hull and Back in October 2014. His short stories have appeared at 81words, Hoot, The Flash Fiction Press, 101 Words, and Paragraph Planet. His stories range from sci-fi, horror, and fantasy to comedy.
The Preservation of Intelligent Life in the Cosmos
by J.R. Hampton
Natalie Watson was happy. She had found her own little oasis on the sunny beach in Barbados. She’d wriggled herself into a comfy dip in the sand and lazed upon her towel. The sun warmed her back.
In an unexpected second, a fierce slap seemed to smack her bottom, momentarily causing her to lose her place in her book.
She quickly turned to confront, whatever or whoever, had smacked her. There was nothing to find.
She flicked back through the pages and settled down into her retreat. The book was the latest adventure about an alien race, whose planet was in peril. It was enthralling. It was the final book in a trilogy. The title of the book was The Preservation of Intelligent Life in the Cosmos.
The leaders of the world’s governments were in an emergency meeting. The climate change of the planet was now irreversible. The leaders had agreed that the impending doom was now unstoppable and that their race was about to become extinct.
Efforts to evacuate the planet had failed. Terraforming had not worked. The colonists of the nearest planet had perished as the temporary atmosphere disintegrated. Hope on the planet began to diminish when a prototype spacecraft, designed for a future fleet of spaceships, malfunctioned. Her crew were left to wander the outer reaches of the solar system in their floating metal coffin. Some governments had poured all of their resources into engineering deep caverns beneath the surface of the planet. Televised images of a scorched and asphyxiated team of pioneers forced the states to abandon their plans.
The meeting of the leaders was no longer about preserving their species. It was about preserving the history, the lessons and technological achievements of the race. The information was to be put inside of a time capsule, including one final desperate call for help.
They had searched all observable space and recorded hundreds of thousands of exoplanets. There was always a last hope that on one of these far off rocks, intelligent life may have evolved.
They studied and measured each planet’s size and orbit. They narrowed the choices by using infrared spectroscopy to detect the compositions and conditions of their atmospheres. There was only one potential target which had the possibility of being populated by sentient beings. That planet was Earth.
Their scientists prepared the time capsule, a message through the stars.
A leading scientist and television personality, Professor Percivility Quipp, explained the procedure to the race as he pranced in front of a glitzy countdown timer, live on air.
“With only two days to go, we have been inundated by your kind wishes and encouragement. Our team has been working around the clock to develop this cosmic bottle, so you, all of you at home, can take part in the greatest event in the history of our species, as we cast ourselves out into the sea of stars.” He was clearly enjoying his moment in the spotlight. “Our greatest scientists and engineers will send the entire data of our species via orbital angular momentum multiplexing. This twisted light package will piggyback on our sun’s light to be sent directly to the proposed exoplanet. The moment the information becomes light and travels at the speed of light, it will be frozen in time only to be released when it reaches its destination. For the capsule, the journey will seem instantaneous.”
The professor now faced the camera directly, as had been instructed by the public relations team, and applied the corresponding superficial smile. “In two days, we will transfer every bit of data from the internet to the time capsule. We want you to upload every photograph, every home movie and personal story to the internet. Include pictures of your children, stories about that first kiss, movies of the family vacation to the waterfalls of Zood and pictures of those who didn’t live long enough to make it.” His sentence finished with the drop of a well-timed tear, which he’d effortlessly prized out from the corner of his eye.
His beautiful co-host and former model, Milly Terrabel, now chirped into the camera’s lens. “Hello everybody!” she greeted in her irritating showbiz squeal. “Let’s go around the world to find out what you have been uploading.” The programme continued in this fashion for the remaining two days.
The Zitonese children from Saint Dinglebert’s Comprehensive School had performed a play about the wide range of animals their planet had to offer. The Gibberian Broadcasting Corporation had uploaded every television serial from their archives, including the comical Don’t Get Your Tentacles in a Twist, the powerful My Mother-in-Law’s a Tetrapod, and the inexplicable Three Men in a Hovermobile.
Along with the internet’s impressive catalogue of rock, pop, classical and world music, Poly Irritoid of South Zarwich in Dagland also uploaded her take on the popular hit parade song “Launch my Love.”
The world’s leaders finally made certain that the capsule would include schematics for its spaceships and engineering accomplishments, so that if the same climate catastrophe was to happen to the chosen exoplanet, they would have a head start on the technology that might preserve their species. It finally contained a plea, a call for help, recorded in the thousands of languages of their planet, and spoken by their dearest hope: their children.
All of this information, the entire history and life of this planet was finally released to the stars. It advanced through the dark, vast, vacuum of space. It hurtled into the ether, passed countless star systems and danced across the backdrop of infinite infiniteness. Earth, nothing more than a pale blue dot, now began to grow as the data zoomed towards its target. The data of the civilization broke into the atmosphere, hurtling toward the surface and with great speed, violently and abruptly smacked full force onto the exposed cheek of Natalie Watson’s bottom, momentarily causing her to lose her place in her book.
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