No one believed me. I lobbied congress, I spoke to the news. No matter where I went it was like I was following behind something purpose built to destroy my credibility. The message was too absurd, too impossible for anyone to believe. No one wanted to accept the reality: the stars had spoken. No one was interested in what they had said.
Congress told me I had no proof. They refused to accept what I had found. Coupled with the mysterious ‘corruption’ of the original recordings it was impossible for me to find allies in my fight. No one was willing to commit career suicide over my ‘hunch.’ My own data was brought into question; it was easier to cast me as a liar and charlatan than accept the truth of my discovery. Human error, corrupted data, and conspiracy were much easier to accept than a prima facie warning from the stars.
The radio telescope project I had spent my whole life building was defunded without ceremony. My professional career was discredited: every paper I had ever written was paraded before the court of public opinion. By the time the 24-hour news cycle tired of me I couldn’t get a job teaching high school physics.
“Mr. Williams, this is the third time you’ve come to us with your ‘warning.’ We have been rather clear in our previous responses. What will it take for you to move on? Why are you chasing shadows?” Marcus Cicconi, the Senator for the state of New York, scowled down at me as though I was a fruit fly in his wine.
“With all due respect senator,” I replied, “I will keep coming until my voice is heard. The stars gave us an ultimatum and we’ve unwisely chosen to ignore it.”
“We’re not ignor-“
“Senator, that is exactly what we’re doing. And with all due respect: could this ignorance have something to do with all the funds you and your fellow republicans receive from the telecommunications industry?”
Mr. Cicconi’s eyes narrowed, “need I remind you again Jim, attacking us is not going to do you any good. At this point you should be well aware of the consequences of your actions.” The senator’s condescending attitude never fails to disgust me.
“I’m not sure the honorable senator has any consequences left! I’ve lost my career! I’ve lost my home! And yet still, I stand here before-“
“That’s enough!” The senator stood, his chair screaming against the hardwood floor of the chamber. “You will be civil! This is not the place for lies!”
“Humbly senator, if what you say is true then how did you get in?”
The room erupts. Everyone screaming and no one making sense. The chairman of the house committee banging his gavel against the podium only provides a beat to the screams; no one notices his calls of “order! Order!”
When things calm the chairman speaks: “this session is now closed. Please clear the chamber.”
So much for third times the charm. They will never listen to me. They can’t accept the consequences of the truth. If we’re to be quiet, as the aliens suggest, we need to turn off cell phones, radio, WiFi, Bluetooth, and UHF: many modern day conveniences would cease to exist. If we’re to be quiet we need to shut off the last century of advancement. I can hardly blame the senate for protecting the jobs of their constituents, politicians have never been known to play the long game.
“Jim, why are you still here?” Nora says as she strolls into our office, carrying two mugs of coffee.
“I’ve got to figure this out. Aliens sent us a warning and I need to make sure it’s heard.”
“You tried Jim.”
“Obviously I haven’t tried hard enough.”
“You’ve already lost everything!” A fury I’ve never seen before possesses Nora. She screams, slamming the coffee mugs down on her desk: “hell, I’ve lost everything for following you into this folly! Can you just move on! Can you just let this go!” Nora collapses into her chair and cries into her hands.
Nora’s sudden burst of raw emotion stuns me. I’ve never seen anything other than sarcasm from her. I don’t know how to react. “Nora, I can’t.”
“You can’t!” She screams. “You’ve ruined everything! Why couldn’t you just give them what they wanted? Why couldn’t you just let it go?” Nora’s fury runs out of steam as quickly as it arrived. She lays her head down on her desk, I can see her chest rising and falling with each successive sob.
“I’m sorry Nora. I’m sorry I dragged you into this.”
“You didn’t drag me anywhere.” Nora is overcome by a new wave of sobbing.
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t.” Nora whispers, barely audible.
“What do you mean you can’t? What did you do?” Anger starts to overtake my sympathy.
“They told me everything would be okay.”
I stand up, raging: “what did you do?”
“You know what I did Jim.”
I did. Somewhere inside I had always known. Nora wiped the data, Nora killed my career. “Why?” Is all I can manage to say.
“They told me it was the easy way out. They said after I deleted the data you would give up. They were wrong. You’re too damned stubborn-“
Nora is interrupted by an alarm going off on my terminal. I take my eyes off her and look at the screen. I had patched into the VLT in Chile – I had it looking for anything unusual. It had definitely found something unusual: “Proxima is going nova.” I say, dumbfounded.
“How is that possible? It’s a red dwarf.” Nora wipes the tears from her eyes and stands.
“I know what it is Nora. I’ve been studying it for a solid month now. Unlike you…”
“I’m sorry Jim.”
I stay silent. The data on my terminal is unbelievable, but the EM emissions are unmistakeable: Proxima is going Nova.