A Tavern Where Used To Be A Telescope

Ezra Azra


Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo by Matthijs van Heerikhuize on Unsplash.
Photo by Matthijs van Heerikhuize on Unsplash.
Dr Klaas Joost was ushered into a spacious room for a brief audience with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Epsilon. He had a satchel. He was informed by the Minister's Assistant at the front office desk that the meeting would be so brief that Dr Joost need not sit when the Minister arrived to talk with him.

The Prime Minister was not in the mood for meetings with persons who were not Politically important. In the Politics of the Republic, Dr Joost was an utter nobody.

The Republic was in crisis. A week ago, it had been expelled from the United Nations because of its refusal to change some of its repressive laws against large segments of its population. The President, Balthasar Vorster, had resigned in protest against the Prime Minister. All the major nations of the world had closed their embassies. If the Prime Minister and his Political Party did not show a willingness to change, the next disaster would be disruptions in the Republic's international trade and other financial business.

The Prime Minister walked in. "Dr Joost?" "Yes, sir." "What it? Be brief. You said to my Assistant, it was about rescuing the Republic." "Sir, it's about radio contact with an intelligence several thousand light years away." The Prime Minister stared at him, completely not understanding.

Joost hastily continued. "Only we have been contacted, sir. And if we respond in the next few days, we will have incredible extraterrestrial military might."

The Prime Minister went to his desk and sat. "Pull up a chair, Dr. Tell me everything." He pressed the intercom on his desk. The Assistant answered. The Prime Minister spoke, "Keep everybody out." "Yes, sir." He looked at Joost. Joost spoke, nervously.

"Sir, about fifty years ago all the major nations formed an organization to search, by radio transmissions, for life in Outer Space. They built telescopes in many countries, including ours. For the next twenty years, or so, no contacts were made. All the major Nations, and most of the others, lost interest. All the telescopes gradually shut down. Except the one in this country.

It was in my small town, Eridani. We named our telescope Epsilon Eridani, in honour of our Republic, and after the star, ten light years away, from our Solar System. A business man there, Ozma Sagan, at his own expense, kept the telescope from closing down.

Nothing happened until a few days ago. We received a signal that has been repeating. Sir, I and the late mister Sagan's family, have interpreted the signals. That Civilization sent out probes about forty years ago, in search of civilization with whom to communicate. One of those probes, sir, is deep underground in this country. Sir, we have worked out the code that will trigger that probe to come to the surface."

They stared at each other in tense silence. "Sir, the code must be radioed no later than September eighth, three days from now. Here, sir. The radio transmitter and the code." He handed the Prime Minister his satchel. The Prime Minister did not take the satchel.

"Dr Joost, this is phenomenal luck. You must be in charge." "I cannot, sir. I am dying. Terminal cancer. I have only days. It's not complicated, sir. Any radio operator in our army, can do it. I am returning to Eridani, sir, to die."

After he left the satchel with the Prime Minister, Klaas Joost was never seen or heard of again. The Prime Minister was too busy to notice.

Far away in the office of a President of a Super Power, a similar urgent secret meeting was taking place between a General and his President while they intentionally and cautiously walked about in a home's backyard garden. The President was angry that it was the first time she was being informed of a matter of such importance.

"Madam President, this began about fifty years ago. Nobody is alive today who was involved at the beginning. Long before we had satellites in orbit." "The satellite that picked up the radio signals, has it been repositioned?" "We are trying. We have re-aligned others."

"And you say we are not in the direct line of fire." "Not any specific country, as we have calculated so far; just the Earth, as a whole."

"What do you recommend we do, General?"

"Madam President, our secret agents have evidence there was only one radio telescope that likely picked up the whole transmission. In the Republic of Epsilon." The President abruptly turned away at the mention of the name of the Republic.

"I know, Madam President. But it is such a small country that espionage will not work. You have to make concessions, or, at least, appear to make concessions in order for us to enter and investigate." They paced about in silence for some seconds.

"Anything on how or if other Nations are responding?" "Nothing definite, Madam President, although we have noticed two have been re-aligning some of their orbiting satellites. And our agents have uncovered increased illegal infiltration into the Republic of Epsilon by high-placed foreigners, in the last few weeks."

"All right, General. Prepare your people to be ready to enter in full force within hours." "How soon, Madam President?" The President stopped pacing, and silently made calculations. "At least three weeks." "That will take us to September. Cutting it close. But we will just have to make it work."

September sixth, two days from the deadline, the Prime Minister of the Republic was assassinated; stabbed in the neck as he sat in a full session of Parliament; stabbed by an in-house nothing-delivery person; a foreigner.

Joost's satchel with its contents were never found.

Two days later, September eighth, a few capable telescopes on Earth registered a star-shattering explosion, hundreds of light years away, in a straight line from the star Proxima Centauri, approximately four light years from our Solar System.

Mysteriously, the town, Eridani, disappeared without a trace at about the same time; not that anyone of note on Earth noticed. None of the scores of anonymous foreign agents illegally in the country, found evidence that Epsilon Eridani, the telescope, had ever existed.

A few of those agents did spend a few hours, in casual passing, in a roadside tavern that claimed to be on the spot of a telescope that functioned years and years ago. The two elderly gentlemen owners of the tavern, Ozma Sagan and Klaas Joost, were not taken seriously by anyone.

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