(Written by ClassicDrogn, posted January 22, 2007)
December 12, 2012
Unnamed system, approx 1000ly from Sol
(find a registry number that's suitable)
It was three years since the USS Miranda launched - she'd been the result of probably the only wide-spread privately funded space program that would ever exist, a collaboration between several major colleges, the SETI group, and (in a burst of mad brilliance that had pulled in most of the individual donations) the Trekkies. The actual structure of the ship had sort of accreted on the back side of the Large Array radio telescope framework that was her major hardtech "eye" for Serious Astronomy, and most of the internal volume was tankage for the two strains of handwavium that fed the ship's engines and power system, but in that brief period between when Handwavium became relatively public knowledge and when the mundane governments cracked down on it, they'd gotten enough funding in place, and with the enthusiastic design and programming assistance of hundreds of people too attached to their regular lives or unwilling to jump into the black on a wing and a prayer they'd gotten environmental and suplly systems that could actually support a five-year mission.
They'd followed a somewhat irregular course to this point, with regular stops to point the Main Sensor Dish back at Sol to get a look "into the past" in the sky beyond, but this was the furthest out they'd get, it was time to turn back for the long trip home, with only two stars on the way to break up the trip. For now, though, it was time to put the Big Eye to its other use...
The ship flipped gracefully in space, the sensitve radio ears designed to listen to the whispers of the stars now seeking out the sounds of civilization... and for the very first time, there was something to hear. Not the multitudinous cacophony of an inhabited, technological world's communications, just a single signal, a candle in the endless night playing out an endless loop of squawks and chirps, several voices in an approximation of harmony before breaking up into recogniseable cheers, then brief passages of single voices, before repeating. The whole thing took about twenty minutes to cycle.
It was remarkably similar to to recording made for the drone they'd been getting ready to drop off in this system themselves, to mark the furthest extent of human exploration. Sometime in the tenth hour of the ship-wide party following the announcement of the find, the captain wondered if there would be video screens when they physically examined the beacon, as they'd planned to leave running on their own.