After the unexpected detection of the impossible Nova congress was forced to give me all the funding I asked for. They didn’t accept that we were under attack, but they were willing to accept the possibility that we might be in danger. I was tasked with finding proof of an invasion. I forgave Nora her indiscretion and kept her as my assistant. It’s hard to find help and I didn’t have time to train someone else.
“What could possibly cause a binary system without a II or I class star to go nova? Proxima Centauri was the very definition of a main sequence star, expected to outlast the sun itself.” I ask the empty room I’ve been working in since discovering the impossible nova.
“Do we have to reconsider everything we’ve gleaned from the stars? How could all the data we’ve collected be wrong?” I slump into my chair and turn away from the useless white board I had been trying to brain-storm ideas onto. I’ve never needed a white board before, but I figured now that we had the budget I would buy one. I’m still not convinced they can be useful.
Nora knocks on the door and enters without waiting for a response. “I come bearing coffee.”
Our relationship hasn’t recovered fully from Nora’s betrayal. “Leave it on the desk.” I reply.
“Jim. I know I fucked up. Let me help you.”
“You’re an engineer Nora. How could you possibly help?”
“I get enough of that shit from the other Doctors. I’m not going to take it from you.” Nora firmly places a mug of coffee on my desk and takes a seat in one of the swivel chairs. “I’m not leaving until you tell me how I can help.”
I laugh out loud at Nora’s pantomime of a petulant child. “I’ve never been able to get rid of you. I’m not sure why I even try.”
“Exactly.” Nora smiles. “So, what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that I don’t know any more than I did when I first discovered this phenomenon.”
“Well, what makes it different from other phenomenon of it’s type?”
“A red dwarf going nova? I should hardly have to explain-“
“Not empirically, doctor, specifically. What specifically makes this nova different?”
The lightbulb turns on, “Nora, you’re a genius!” I almost kiss her before I remember myself. “The warning! Maybe this nova was caused by the invaders Proxima was trying warn us about!”
“I always knew you were smart. It took you long enough to catch up though.” Nora’s smirk isn’t as infuriating as usual.
I started with historical data. Pouring over transverse and radial velocity charts, looking for any change at all. Proxima had always been moving towards us, but seemed to be moving faster than usual. A nova explosion could account for some change in motion, but not the amount I was observing. It was like the star had stopped moving transversely and started focusing all it’s effort on moving towards us.
“It’s blacked out.”
I looked at the junior tech that had been hired to work at my new dedicated interferometer, the SETI VLRIA or Very Large Radio Interferometry Array. “What do you mean blacked out?” I ask, annoyed by his youthful aloofness.
“It’s blacked out. The nova EM has gone dark. We’re not picking anything up.”
“What could cause that?”
“You’re guess is as good as mine.”
I angrily turn his chair so he’s facing me, “now you listen here you little twerp-“
“Jim, stop harassing the new interns.” Nora’s heels click against the linoleum as she strides purposefully towards us. “He has no idea what’s happening. Just like you.”
I smooth the intern’s tie and turn him back around, mumbling an incoherent apology. “Thanks Nora. What do you think would cause Proxima to go dark?” I ask, pressing for more time to collect myself.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Her sarcasm can be infuriating, “obviously not,” I say through my clenched teeth.
“Something is blocking the signal.”
“Like a cloud of interstellar dust?” The intern pipes in.
Nora laughs, “yes, a spontaneous dense interstellar molecular cloud is the most obvious answer.”
“Okay Nora. Seriously, what do you think is happening?”
“You were right, Proxima was invaded.”
I’m angry now, Nora’s attitude is infuriating, “how does Proxima going dark prove they were invaded!”
Nora deflects my angry outburst with a smile. “Jim, the invading ships are blocking the radio emissions, they’re headed straight for us.”
It made sense. “Dear god. How many of them are there?”
“There doesn’t have to be a lot of them to block radio waves from this distance.” The intern is right, if they were close enough together they could be acting as a mesh to block the radio waves.
“Get me the HST. Get me the HST, NOW!” I shout at no one in particular.
“I’ve got control of the Hubble here!” A young female intern calls from across the control room.
“How long to get me point one arc seconds resolution on Proxima?” I ask.
“Three hours.” She replies.
“Do it, do it now.” It comes out as more of a whimper than a command.
The optical pictures of Proxima Centauri were enough to convince the house and senate to pass laws banning the use of anything emitting EM radiation. The armada of alien ships was obvious against the bright nova in the background.
Radios went dead, cell phones stopped working, and the internet was limited to devices that could be plugged in. EM pollution was a more serious offense than water pollution, offenders were given stiff prison sentences.
We weren’t sure if the alien invaders would ignore us: our emissions were travelling away from Earth at light speed, reaching nearly ten parsecs out into the heavens. Our only hope was going totally silent. Now we wait, we hope, and we stay quiet. Maybe they won’t hear us.