TWO - CONTACT
There, he heard that beep again. He wiped the sweat on his brow.
"It couldn't be..." he muttered under his breath.
"Sir?" the servitor cocked its head.
He ignored the servitor. He checked his system again. Restarting and reconfiguring. But the beep was still there. And each time he restarted his system, the beeping noise grew louder as if telling him: I have told you three times now, you idiot.
"Plug yourself in. I want to know whether this is a glitch," he turned to the servitor.
"Yes. Now," he said sharply.
He watched the servitor whisked a silvery tube - hardly solid but not that liquid - into one of the ports on his console and the servitor's lights began to flicker wildly. He sighed. He didn't know what to think. All these years he had been alone in this vast manmade megastructure around planet Earth, called Near-Orbit Nexus and this was certainly not the time to surprise him.
He glanced to the window on his left and saw one of the hubs of the Nexus drifted by in pseudo-orbit. Usually he would ignore it, but this time, he imagined there were roomful of humans staying in there. Another hub passed by in another direction. The chaotic pseudo-orbit of each hub was certainly adding more dizziness to his mind right now.
Few thousand years ago, the Nexus was heavily populated by the humans. More than thirty billion people inhabiting in every hub and that did not include those who chose to live in spacecrafts as traders. It was a serious megalopolis that brought serious fame and fortune before the disaster struck.
"Verification complete, sir. No glitch reported," the servitor replied cheerily.
He held his breath.
That particular software was designed by his ancestors to detect sentient life. According to them, once an organism is able to think, construct, communicate and innovate constantly, the mind is automatically 'upgraded' into a higher status, or in other words "sentient". And also according to them, sentient life leaves "footprints" on space-time (a theory derived from a historical scientist called Weyl from the early 19th to 20th century). The footprints are barely detectable but the existence cannot be ignored. That software will detect any changes on space-time fabric and analyse it to present any meaningful data.
And now, he was uncertain whether the data was meaningful.
"The footprints are strong. Very strong," he murmured.
"I concur, sir. It seems like..."
"Like a sentient mega-organism fixing at that point..." he continued. There was a way to find out. He called it preliminary testing. It is always a big no-no for a person to go deep to find the answer. Rather, as though embedded in human natural instinct, send a decoy or a scout to track it. "Can you dispatch the orbflies to monitor the source? Collect some samples if possible. Photos or videos. Or maybe just throw in a transponder..."
"Noted, sir," the servitor spun away and wheeled to the opposite side of the console. The servitor's fingers raced across the keypads and in no time, it faced him and nodded, "Dispatched, sir." A cloud of spherical robots sped towards the surface of the Earth.
"Meanwhile, tightbeam the location and send in those puzzles. If that... life is not reponding to the beam, try sending it by orbflies," he added. He remembered that there was a huge stock pile of puzzles to verify whether a thing is actually sentient and intelligent.
"Beam is ready in three... two... one... and sent," the servitor said. "Iterative process number one, three, six, seven..."
Before the servitor could continue counting, a message popped up on the screen of the console. The message was short but enough to still every heart of any organism. Even he nearly fell from his own footing.
"I WANT TO SEE YOU."