Bryan Beal


There had been anomalies for over a hundred years. Deacon was no less puzzled now than he was when they first appeared on the radio telescopes. A month ago, he called Jackson Mybark at SETI, that aged institution, to pitch an idea. Seated in his office, Deacon sweated rivers despite the aircon.

“Jackson, dude, this could be the very thing you lot have been looking for since, what? Four centuries ago?”, Deacon said in his southern drawl. “How much have you found in that time, exactly?”

“Deek, we've been over this. Our resources are stretched as thin as rice paper, as it is. You think no one thought of the sun before? It's been done. Nothing's there.”, Mybark replied.

“Look, just one telescope. A small one. In the middle of your worst resourced partner country, for all I care.”, Deacon was almost pleading.

”'Worst resourced', you say. We might just have something about as useless as your idea.“, Mybark mused. “Hang on....”

Deacon heard the clicking of keys and rustling of something there. Mybark still kept a lot of his notes on paper, at astronomical expense.

“You might be in luck. The Easter Free State, west of Chile, has a small receiver. They're always crying out for more work and the funds that go with it. I'll hook you up. Suarez's a cowboy like you. You'll get on fine.”, Mybark said as Deacon's ecomm unit pinged with a new contact.

Mybark was right. Suarez was a cowboy. Even better, the Easter Observatory was willing to do anything to get the funding to keep running. Deacon thought they were perfect. Three weeks later, he was on the island and watching the technicians and astronomers move the receiver to point at the sun. After a few hours work, they were done and all that was left was waiting and listening.

Deacon could hardly sleep, so he snuck into the control room of the observatory to see what was going on. At precisely 15:03:34.3451, an anomaly had been registered. Its regular wavelengths and signal strengths hinted at a message unknown. Deacon peered closer. This one was different. He could not put his finger on it, but there was something that set this one apart from others.

He was playing about with the parameters of the signals to no avail. It ripped up through his central cortex into his brain cavity. The blinding whiteness swamped everything to the edges of his consciousness. Deacon thought he was screaming, but he was not sure. Over the howling inferno that engulfed his soul, Deacon heard nothing.

Then the observatory was gone.

Deacon was gone.

Axharthid had finally done it. It was not perfect, but after a century of Earth time or more, who could complain? For time untold and unknown, she had languished with her kind in the middle of the purging fire. Now was their renaissance.

Seven minutes later, what had once been Deacon was reduced to dust and ash. Axharthid stood in the room, shimmering in waves and ripples of heat and light. The anchor that had been the human was shed like a snake rids itself of a skin.

Axharthid searched for a communication port. She dredged through Deacon's memories. The one called Suarez would do. Her mate would use him.