Aslana was reclined on her chair, barely looking at all the screens she had in front of her. She had been commissioned with surveying a barren part of the Cosmos no one really cared about. Neither did she, but it was her job and she complied. After the first hour, however, she had bored herself to death by watching the screens with practically nothing showing.
That had not been the idea she had had when in college, trying to decide what to do next. Antares space station was hiring but becoming an actual astronaut also interested her. People saw them as adventurers and explorers and she wanted that, to feel that she was doing something special.
She decided to become an astronaut and went to Star City, near Moscow, to become one. With at least fifty others, she trained hard for a whole year but at the end of the process only ten were finally chosen. It had been decided they were the only ones fit for space travel. Aslana was not chosen. Her performance on skill and intelligence tests was formidable but the physical demand of the career had proven a bit too much for her.
However, her tutors had recommended her to the Science Academy of Moscow, who were about to open a new observatory orbiting Triton, near Neptune. The observatory was located, funny enough, on Space Station Antares. So she had wasted a whole year of her life to do almost exactly what she had thought of doing when coming out of college.
And now, there was Aslana, sitting on her chair, legs up on the dashboard, looking at Triton through one of the many windows in the space station. Antares was home to about five hundred people and its builders were already trying to get the permission to build another wing to it and get five hundred more to come and live almost at the edge of the solar system.
Aslana enjoyed it sometimes, and other times she hated it. She loved space and she hated people there. They got to be so annoying, judgemental and hypocritical. Well, there were some people that were very kind and lovable too but they weren't a vast majority.
Suddenly, an alarm made Aslana fall from her chair. The sound had come from the dashboard, which she hadn't been looking. To be honest, she had fallen asleep for a couple of minutes, tired and bored at the same time.
She sat down again, combed her hair with her fingers and started tapping and clicking and writing. The signal seemed to come from a quadrant of empty space. Of course, it was not actually empty but nothing really big seemed to be there. Yet, the alarm had been set off.
She ran all the tests, to know if the signal was actually foreign in origin or a Earth signal bouncing between the stars. After a half hour, she could certify that the pulse, the call if you will, was from deep space. No human had traveled there. There was a science base in Haumea and that was it. That was the farthest place humans had gone from home. But this signal was from deep space and, somehow, it had reached Antares.
Aslana aligned every dish available towards the quadrant from which the message was coming. The pulse got weak at some point and then strong again. It was like the people, if that word could be used, were having problems keeping up the strength of the pulse.
When the woman activated the audio machine, she let a loud squeak come out from her mouth. The sound was awful, it was like if a thousand bees and wasps had suddenly entered the station. She screamed because of the volume, which was unusually high. She thought that, for sure, someone in the station might have been woken up by the sound.
And that reminded her. She should report what was going on immediately. The machines were all recording the event but she needed to send a message to Earth, for them to check the message out. Very large telescopes had been built on the Moon, capable to trace the message more accurately that what little potential the Antares station had.
- Moon base Tycho, this is Aslana Tromaterova. I'm in charge of the observatory for the night. I have detected a pulse coming from this space. I'm sending the coordinates encrypted in this message. Please check. I'm monitoring the event. All tests have been done. Waiting for instructions.
She sent the message, which would take several hours to reach the Moon. Meanwhile, she started playing with her audio machine to clean up the noise she was hearing. Aslana moved every knob, button and switch and listened carefully. After a while, she thought she had heard something, like a mumbling. She did her best to clean the sound with the computer, but, of course, the distance had disrupted the signal and it wasn't coming clean.
Then Aslana remembered a class she had received at Star City, when an old german professor had taught the everyone how to clean sound and video feeds coming or going from space stations. He said it would help tremendously on occasions of distress or emergency. One thing he had said was that sometimes video could help clean sound waves. The sound could be translated by a screen and then cleaned properly.
So Aslana did just that. One of the many screens helped her accomplish something she thought would have been impossible due to the circumstances. After two hours on it, she had finally cleaned the pulse. And the woman was very nervous, unsettled.
She had not thought of the signal to be dual, to be sound and video at the same time. But it was. Aslana realized she was the first person in History to see the face of an extraterrestrial, a being from another planet. They were different, true, but she could see humanity in them, in their eyes and behavior.
There was some data being sent on the video feed too. It was on some other language but she could conclude, from the video and some of the statistics, very similar to human ones, that they were on a ship. And that this ship, was in deep trouble. Some of the creatures seemed to be controlling a fire and others ran in several directions.
Then something happened that almost made her fall from the chair again: the creatures spoke towards the camera, probably asking for help. And Aslana cried, realizing they would die there in the middle of nowhere, only been heard by one human woman so far away.
The woman cleaned her face and decided to do something useless: send a message. Judging from the distance between her and the quadrant they were calling from, Aslana knew all of them were already dead, probably for many years, maybe even hundreds of years. They had died alone, horribly. So she wanted to honor them by sending a message. She thought her words carefully and then sent the message, which she later sent towards Earth with all the data relating to the event.
It was important to her to do this. She had been alone half her life and, with this gesture, useless maybe but sincere, she wanted to tell anyone hearing that they would never be alone, not while there were others around caring for their well being.
When her shift ended, she spoke briefly with her boss and told him she was very tired but that all the data had been sent to Earth and was saved in the station's main hard drive. The boss granted her her wish and, as she laid down in bed, she realized she still had a life in front of her and that she could do whatever she wanted with it.
- My name is Aslana. You will never know me and I will never know you. But I wanted you to know you have a friend now and I hope I have one or many too. I'm a human and is probable you won't understand what I'm saying. But I trust someday you will. And when you do, I want you to know that we, I, will always be here for you. We are now bound to each other and I will try my best to keep this promise. Sorry for your loss.