Part 8: The Return

Hypernet News Service : 22 Sept 2199 : @ 1830 wst



After 35 years of silence from the planet Jupiter a signal has just come up from the static a few moments ago. The observation station on Callisto Base has reported receiving this message:

"This is Jupship One, Captain Tordenskjold speaking. We are ascending, should be clear of the atmosphere in 8 hours, arriving Callisto Base 1030 wst. Do you read us?"

Reply was sent: "Callisto Base reads you...uh...Jupship. Is that really you? They'd sorta given up on you a long time ago."

Message: "Understood. We've been locked in another relative time frame, according to our instruments we've been gone over 33 years 6 months of your time. Exactly what IS the Earth-reference date just now?"

Callisto informed them that it was 22 Sept 2199.

Then the visual-band vidiex transmission cut in as well and the observation crew saw Niels Tordenskjold and Marucia Alexandre sitting at the controls of their ship, apparently the same age as when they descended.

Marucia: "Then it really has been so long?"

At this point the vidiex communication with Callisto Base was cut off. The Solar Ranger HQ informs us that Callisto Base is in QUARANTINE.

A statement from General D. Brin:
"Until we really know just who or what that is ascending out of Jupiter, we're taking no chances of contamination. The signals could be recordings made 33 years ago, the original crew could be dead--and these returning "space heroes" could be Jupiterian clones, copies of humans to pass as human, or changed, or diseased--they're certainly not as they should be."

Professor B. Bova of Lunar University submitted an opinion:
"The SR may be overracting, but it's probably a very good idea to do just that at this point, until we are sure that this is indeed our Cosmic Couple come back, and without alien bacteria or baby monsters incubating inside them...we've all seen the movies. Just because the idea of alien threat is so cliched is no guarantee that it can't happen. However, it is most likely that these people have simply been in another time-frame, such as experienced by interstellar travellers travelling faster than light, who are gone 50 years to us, but have themselves only lived 2 years of their own time.."

Hypernet News Service : 23 Sept 2199 : @ 0100 wst
WSS JUPSHIP arrived Callisto Base, immediately quarantined. A vacuum-packed 4-man security team led by Lt R. Sheckley boarded JUPSHIP with decontamination equipment, but found only crew Tordenskjold and Alexandre aboard. Apparently healthy and unchanged--except that Miss Alexandre was visibly in the final stage of pregnancy. Radiation check negative. Biocontamination scan negative. DNA Identification positive. Crew co-operative, this procedure had been specified 33 years before. Telemetric readings recorded. Code Words requested.

NIELS TORDENSKJOLD: Christmas Pudding. I guess Dr. Jane Asimov isn't here on Callisto Base now? She was our liason officer.

LT SHECKLEY: Asimov? She gave up waiting. I don't know if she's even alive after 33 years, but we can check on it. I'm your liason for now. Where you guys been?

MARUCIA ALEXANDRE: We've been down there, in Jupiter, but it's only been 9 relative-time months for us.

NIELS: What have we come back to? Any serious political changes? War? What is our status?

Lt: You are quarantined until declared clean, and classified until we hear what you've got to report. The World Government has been rather stable, and we'd like to keep it that way, if you don't mind. Did you meet the Jupiterians?

MARU: Yes.

NIELS: Yes, and it was a bonafide contact with an alien intelligence...

LT SHECKLEY: Stop, what you say next may be classified information and we are under live media coverage.

MARU: Good. But this must not be classified; the Jupitarians have requested us to transmit their knowledge to all the people of Earth, not just the power elites...

LT SHECKLEY: Shut down the media! By order of the Government, shut down the media, we are now CLASSIFIED!!

end of broadcast