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April 5

2:12 AM The Oval Office

I was, by any meaningful measurement, the most powerful and influential man on Earth, and, for all practical purposes, the universe.  There is no Them; we are all Us.  I got elected on that idea. I’d been President for six years now. So, it’s hardly a surprise that I wasn’t mentally prepared for that status to change quite so suddenly.

“Mr. President.  My recommendation is we move immediately to DEFCON 2.”

This was Admiral Arthur Fitzgerald.  As the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was the head of the most powerful and influential military on the planet, or, for all practical purposes, the universe.  Or he had been until 8 minutes ago.  He still didn’t even knock before he came in.  He was talking before he reached the Kennedy Desk.

Half a step behind him was National Security Advisor Lilith McCartney.  “And I couldn’t possibly disagree more.  That will certainly be seen as a threat, and I’m not sure we’re being threatened, and if we are, we have no way of knowing whether we want to go looking for a fight with a technology capable of pulling this off, Mr. President.  We could be bringing a pair of Kindergarten scissors to a gun fight.”

Streaming through the open door was the rest of my senior staff.  Claudia Kirkendall, my Press Secretary, spoke first.  “CNN has it.  MSNBC, Fox, AP, Reuters.  It’s on every news service.” 

Leonard Price, my Chief of Staff said, “Mr. President we’re calling in our Science Advisor, Peter Jobson, and science fiction writer Issac Ellison.”

“Why are you calling in Isaac?”

“He’s probably spent more time thinking about this kind of situation than anyone else on the planet.  He was my first choice.  We can get others as the need arises.”

“Is it a secure line?”

“Mr. President,” said McCartney, “I don’t believe there is such a thing as a secure line anymore.  Not after what we all just saw.”

Next to Leonard was Lawerence Josephson, Leo’s Deputy Chief of Staff.  “Can someone go over the details?  Did everyone see the same thing?” 

Robert Samuels, who was The Deputy Communications Director was confused. “It seems like every device capable of displaying an image played the… what?… images?  Recording?”

“NASA,” said Rob’s boss, Communications Director Keith Schiff, “has already ruled out any form of video recording.  This was not a TikTok video.”

“So, what was it?” I asked.  

The video screen popped on and Jobson and Ellison appeared simultaneously.  “It’s called Quantum Entanglement, Mr. President.” 

“It’s so fucking cool!” This was Ellison.  “Oh… Sorry, Mr. President.”  He looked back to the cell phone in his hand.

“Professor Jobson, can you explain what this Quantum Entanglement is?”

“If you have two hours, and you pay close attention, I can probably teach you to spell it.  Richard Feynman said that anyone who thinks they understand quantum entanglement doesn’t understand quantum entanglement.  The idea, in its most basic and wildly oversimplified form, is that two identical particles can exist in two different places at the same time.  These particles can be an inch apart or billions of light years distant. But the particles are exact opposites of each other.”

“And I don’t think anyone in this room has a clue what that means.”

“It means,” said Ellison, “that some unbelievably advanced species managed to transmit information from God only knows where to every device on Earth simultaneously.  Quantum Entanglement can’t transport matter, but it absolutely can transport information instantly between any two points in the universe.  We’ve done it ourselves.  But… there’s just no way… none… that we could pull off something on this scale.  And, what’s really intense is that they sent us Math, which is the universal language.  Right?”

“Math?”  I frowned.  “I just saw a series of numbers repeating.”

“Yes, Mr. President.  1, 8, 27, 64, 125, 216… Over and over again for exactly 42 seconds.”  Rob looked disgusted at the confused faces displayed by everyone in the room.  “They’re the first six perfect cubes?”

A few mouths dropped open while eyes shot upward and to the right.  They were calculating.

“Isn’t that absolutely terrific?  These bastards sent the most meaningful message they could, and they did it in 42 seconds.  Ten bucks says they read Douglas Adams.”

“All right.  Are we absolutely certain these came from an extraterrestrial intelligence?”

Jobson spoke while the others pondered.  “Mr. President, I am the biggest skeptic on the planet.  James Randi was a distant second to me.  One of our greatest scientists told us that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  Alien contact is among the most extraordinary claims anyone could ever make.  The thing is, sir, I can’t imagine any evidence more extraordinary than this.  I’m convinced that they’re not only from off-world, but that they are 3 dimensional.  They have length, width and height.”

“If this were Star Trek I’d be looking for Borg Cubes.  But I don’t discuss Star Trek in polite company anymore.”

“They changed a few lines, Isaac.”

“They massacred my script, Peter.”

“Normally, I would want to have many more experts involved.  I would want an intelligent and well-informed debate for at least a week before I made any choices.  This is really a discussion best suited for The UN.”

“Honestly, Mr. President, I don’t think we have that kind of time.  If we don’t prepare our defenses immediately, and I mean you give me the Go Order in the next 60 seconds, we may be unable to do it afterward.  We have communication now, but two minutes from now…”

“This isn’t War of The Worlds, Admiral!  They would have flattened Manhattan by now.”

“I don’t know what they’re doing, Lilith.  Do you?”  Fitzgerald looked at each person in the room individually.  “Do any of you want to tell me who these folks are?  What do they want?”

“These dudes are from a galaxy far, far away.  They’re saying hello.  They’re letting us know they exist.  They’re the new neighbors who just moved in next door.  Except, you know, we don’t have a clue where next door is.”

“Is there a way for us to send a reply to our new neighbors?”

“Of course, Mr. President.  Text them back.  Several billion of us almost certainly already have.  It’s been 10 minutes and 13 seconds since it happened.  Do you really believe no one has sent a text in the last 10 minutes?”

“And you think these aliens can read them?”

“Quantum Entanglement is all about opposites.  If they can send, they must be able to receive.  They’re certainly watching all our broadcasts of any kind.  They’re reading what anyone sitting at a computer is typing.  They’re reading our texts.  They absolutely have to be.”

“And that means they know our military is not on high alert yet.  Mr. President, I need that Go Order.”

“Until 10 minutes ago, Admiral, I was the most powerful and influential man in the universe.  Now, I’m just a player on a galactic stage.  I think I can be allowed a minute to think.”

“Mr. President…”

“And whether you agree or not, I’m going to take it.  You still take your orders from me, and you would do well to keep that in mind.”

“Mr. President, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“What makes you so sure, Lilith?”

And that was when, of course, obviously, the power went out… Everywhere on the planet.

End of Part One