By the time Liberty’s Torch had reached the outer margins of the G2 star’s system, Althea had slowed to 50 miles per second. The lidar returns she had interpreted as evidence of habitation while in the cometary zone had grown far stronger. A large artifact with a visible-light reflectance of nearly 100% orbited the third planet from the primary. She corrected course minutely and slowed still further.
The artifact was all too obviously a space station. It was emitting electromagnetic radiation in regularly spaced pulses, at a wavelength of 1215 angstroms. Liberty’s Torch’s receivers classified it as an attempt to communicate. Althea braked still further and activated the recorders, but made no immediate attempt to interpret the signal stream.
Should I reciprocate? Probably it would be no more intelligible to them.
She activated the communications laser, set the modulation to unencrypted analog, and spliced in the voice output.
“To the entity or entities aboard the space station,” she intoned, “This is Althea Morelon, mistress of interstellar vessel Liberty’s Torch. My people call our world Hope. Our system is about...” She paused for thought. “About as far from here as light will travel in eleven of your revolutions around your primary star. My intentions are peaceful. I wish to make contact, but I’m uncertain how to proceed. If you can interpret this message, please respond in kind with your rules for a visit to your system and for docking with your station. Liberty’s Torch will loiter here until I hear from you.” She disconnected the voice output and waited.
If they can tight-beam Lyman-alpha radiation that I can detect from the cometary belt, they have to have one helluva power source aboard that station. I’d better play very, very nice.