See part 2 aquí:
After that first encounter, I took to working the late-night shifts exclusively. It’s not so much I thought that’s when I would hear another blip (as I’d come to call the voice), but no one else worked the post-midnight shift, and I did not want the Gov scientists to hear my blip before I had a chance to publish. Antarctic winter or no, we would be on lockdown overnight. I really didn’t believe the voice was real, but if it weren’t just my imagination, I didn’t want another Area 51 scenario out here in the cold dark.
I kept working midnights, which aren’t much different than any other time. None of us has seen the sun for two months at this point. This went on for weeks, at which point I pretty much convinced myself the first encounter never happened. The blip was just me finally starting to lose my mind. Why should Kelley have all the psychosis? I held my nightly vigil alone, while the rest of the team slept, got drunk, or had their biweekly orgy or whatnot. Then, on 7 July, at exactly 3:44 a.m., amidst the infinite hum of space, Darma relays – clear as a bell – the sweetest soprano you ever heard. I couldn’t make out the words, if they were, in fact, words. Still, even a math lout like me knew it was a song.
I still don’t know if it was the song, the Guinness, or just the fact that deep down I hoped to hear the voice again, but this time, I didn’t freak out. Quiet as can be, I whispered, “Darma, bifurcate signal. Filter static to background recorder.” In other words, turn down the damn buzzing, and turn up the music.
Darma, being a bloody computer with no tact, answered loudly enough to burst my eardrums, “Proceeding.”
I heard a scream. It wasn’t me. I know this, because the scream was followed by, “He-hello? Is that you again?” In addition to which, her query came as I was downing a full pint in one swallow, which I promptly spit all over my display.
Then it struck me. Here I am, in the very first encounter with life from beyond Earth, and the first contact is a stupid damn question. Great. Answer to the question of intelligent life in space – still open for debate. At least she had a great voice. It was sultry and sweet, like one of those umbrella drinks you get down on the Argentine beach. Now I knew the voice probably belonged to a hairy, green lizard woman from outer space, but still. It was feminine enough that I wanted to answer. Besides, Captain Kirk never turned down a sweet voice just because its owner was green.
“This … this is Free Station Cold Dark, transmitting via DM2-DSRALI.” I was official sounding as hell, if you ignored the brief squeak at the start of my sentence.
In reply, I got only silence. Not even space static, as Darma has routed this transmission to my private channel. After fifteen or twenty seconds, the voice said, “Okay, very funny, bud.”
“Huh?” I said, probably confirming to her there ain’t no intelligent life down here, either.
She continued. “I do have complete transmission histories available in the main core, mister. Besides, every kid who ever wanted to space jockey has heard of Darma.”
Now, we called her Darma here on ice, but it was a controlled nickname. The Gov called her DM2 in all official communications. Either she was some Gov wonk testing me for security protocol, or the voice knows stuff she ought not know.
I heard the sound of air being blown into a microphone. “Whoo, whoo. Is thing on? Did I lose you again, bucko?”
“Oh, there you are. Good,” she said. “Are you going to tell me your real designation? This is a secure line.” She paused then added, “Plus, th-there’s not supposed to be anybody out there.” I could swear she sounded as nervous as me.
I figured if this is the Gov, it meant two things. One, I wasn’t nuts, so that’s good. And two, she already knew I have a backdoor into Darma, since our conversation was being routed that way – in which case I was dead meat. I may as well try for honesty and hope they let me out of prison before my dick falls off.
“This is Dargesh, from DM2-DSRALI – Darma, from Amundsen-Scott Station,” I answer, switching to the Pole’s designation instead of Darma’s. “To whom am I speaking?” I followed that with my transmission code, which only the Gov should have known. It was my way of saying, “I’m onto you guys.” The correct protocol was for them to respond with a counter code, to verify we were on a secure line.
Instead, there was a fifteen-second pause, followed by, “No fucking way.”
(end of part 3)