In a small room, two men stand on either side of a metal table. A woman with a weather worn face walks into the room and takes a seat at the at the head of the table. The two men immediately straighten up and come to attention. Before them is a contraption caked in red dust.. The woman fixes her tired gray eyes on it. “What’s the situation?”
The younger of the two men, who stands at the woman’s right, clears his throat and with his eyes downcast begins, “I was on a perimeter check with Team Three when we came across this object. At the time, we could only see a bit of what appears to be the top of the device because the rest of it was completely buried.”
“Maybe it was buried for a reason!.” the other man snaps. He shoots an accusatory look at the younger man with his dark, beady eyes. The woman raises her hand and he immediately stops talking. She motions for the younger man to continue.
“Well, the top looked like metal. So, I thought we may be able to use it, so we dug it up.” He lifts his large blue eyes to meet the woman’s gaze. “We quickly realized this isn’t just some scrap it’s a whole machine! We can’t really tell what it does, but I think this is great news! This means that someone might be here an—-”
The other man cuts him off. “How is someone else being here great news! How could you risk the lives of your team by digging up something that you have no idea what it does? He fixes his dark eyes on the woman. “I think it’s clear what we have to do. We need to get out of here now! I don’t understand why we are sitting around here debating about this.”
“Why would we have to leave?” inquires the younger man. His eyes are now completely focused on the contraption, and he is periodically rubbing away some of the caked on dust.with the sleeve of his shirt.
“I told you don’t touch that! And as for why would we have to leave? Are you an idiot?” The dark eyed man exclaims. The woman shoots him a disapproving look.
The younger man finally takes his eyes off the object and lightly chuckles. “Maybe, but perhaps I’m just more optimistic than you.”
“Optimistic! What is there to be optimistic about?”
“Well, this could indicate that there are others here. Maybe they could help us.”
“Help us! My God! You have lost your mind!
“That’s enough there is no need to be rude.” the woman stares sternly at the older man.
“Okay. I’m sorry. But, the idea that anyone would be here to help us is just naive.”
“What do you mean? Any society that can make something as complex as this is clearly advanced.” the younger man’s eyes sparkle.
“I am not arguing that the have the capability to help us. I am arguing that they won’t have the will. We don’t even know what this thing does.”
“All the more reason to stay. We should figure it out before we panic. Look here, there are marking that appear to be writing.”
“The chances are whatever built this thing is not like us.”
“So what if they aren’t human! They could still help us!”
“Oh come on, now you really are being stupid.” The older man is now completely focused on the younger man and his black eyes are blazing. “We just had to leave Earth because our own species is tearing itself apart. What makes you think a different one would help us?”
The young man bites his lip and looks down again. “I don’t know I’m just saying that we should maybe take a chance on this. It’s not like we have many other options.”
“We have the option to leave.” the older man composes himself and turns to face the woman once again. “We were initially planning on this to be a pit stop to give everyone time to relax. All this means is we have less time to relax.”
“Ma’am what do you think?” When he asks the question, he looks more like a boy than a man.
Unlike the older man, she shows no signs of anger only pity. “I understand that you want to hope , but we can’t afford to risk our lives on the off chance that whoever made this will help us. He’s right our best option right now is to leave, we barely escaped the Earth. Long ago, my grandfather told me that when groups of humans would first meet each other one group would always end up being the conquerors and one would be the conquered. They never just helped each other. If that is how things went with our own species, it will be the same way with things on other planets, and right now I’m not liking the chances of us being the conquerors.”
“I think at this point we could use all the help we can get.”
“I agree, but I also know that we need to make sure it’s help we are getting. We just fled a war; I doubt we would survive fighting another here.”
The young man looks dejected but stays silent. The older man’s gaze softens, “Come on, it’s going to be fine. This just means we have to hang our hopes on the original plan with a little tweak. There just is no longer time for you to try to get a game going out here.” A small smile flickers over the young man’s face.
The tension in the room has relaxed but there is still a shadow of disappointment in the young man’s eyes. “I just wanted to give them a little hope.”
“Misplaced hope can be a dangerous thing. I know you want to believe that whoever made this would help us but all previous experience shows that they are likely to harm us. There is an equal chance of them being kind and cruel. After all, why would another intelligent species be any different than our own.” The woman pauses and for a moment looks as though she wants to say more, but she tightens her jaw Alright, let’s give everyone instructions to pack up.” she commands as she rises out of the chair.
“Yes, ma’m.” the two men say in unison and the older man immediately follows the woman out of the room. The other man hangs back for a few seconds giving the contraption one last rub with his sleeve. He then crouches so his head is level with the markings. He concentrates on committing the markings to memory : NASA.