All Answers Must Include Correct Units by James Rumpel

All Answers Must Include Correct Units by James Rumpel

June 21st, 2025 9:36 AM Eastern Daylight Savings Time

Approximately seventy-five percent of the Earth’s population heard the message live. Every radio, television, and internet-connected device on the planet played the alien broadcast simultaneously. Fifty-five brief greetings in Earth languages, each followed by a series of low-pitched grunts and whistles. The message concluded with a much longer series of guttural noises. Zero percent of Earth’s inhabitants understood what was being said.

June 22nd, 2025 4:55 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time

President Andrew Clover had never seen the briefing room this crowded before. Every high ranked military officer or political representative, as well as dozens of scientists and linguists, were crammed into every nook and cranny of the auditorium.  He took a deep breath and began, uncertain what direction the meeting was going to take after he shared the information he had just been given.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “I want to thank you for being here. We have a situation that may require each and every one of you to help us reach a satisfactory outcome. As you well know, the world has been contacted by an alien presence. Two days ago, telescopes noticed an object heading toward Earth at an astounding speed. The trajectory of the object did not appear to present any danger of a collision with Earth, but we watched it with great trepidation. At just past 9:30 yesterday, the spaceship, which we now believe it be, came to a stop far enough away to avoid Earth’s gravity. It then broadcast its message before turning and flying back in the direction from which it had come.”

The President let the murmurs from the crown die down before continuing. He knew many would question the decision not to tell everyone about the unidentified flying object as it approached but that was a discussion for another time.

“Almost immediately after receiving the message, language experts began trying to translate it. We have, for the most part, successfully done so. Dr. Cheryl Andres will explain.”

President Clover took a step back from the podium and allowed a middle-aged woman to take his place.

There were no further introductions or pleasantries. “The short messages using Earth languages,” she began, “were easily recognized as the messages recorded on the golden disk sent on the Voyager missions. By assuming that the sounds after each of those messages were the same statements spoken in the alien language, we were able to come up with a fairly strong feel for their language. Using that template, we then went about trying to translate the main message which was at the end of the transmission.”

Dr. Andres paused and looked at President Clover. “I don’t think I should be the one to read this,” she said quietly.

“Of course,” replied Clover as he retook the podium. “I beg all of you to please remain calm and keep your composure. We are going to need to handle this professionally.”

He, once again, waited for the mumbling to die down. “The message, as nearly as we can tell, simply says ‘Citizens of Earth, your planet has been condemned and is due for destruction in exactly five chrono-units. Please take whatever precautions or actions you need for relocation by that time.’.”

The uproar that ensued was less than the President had expected. Still, dozens of people rose to their feet and shouted questions. A few of the audience members screamed and two or three dropped to their knees and began praying.

Once things settled down, Clover readdressed the crowd. “The most important question we are faced with is trying to figure out how long a chrono-unit is. As of this time, we have not been able to determine that value. We have already eliminated a second, a minute, or an hour since more than that amount of time has already passed. I have called for a meeting of all the world heads of state to begin working on ideas for planet-wide defense systems or a means to evacuate the planet. If a chrono-unit is only a day, we have very little hope for success. However, if the unit of time is longer, we will make every effort to find a solution. That is where all of you come into play. We need every military or scientific agency to begin working towards an answer. You need to get your agencies organized and working on a solution immediately.”

June 26th, 2025 9:40 AM Eastern Daylight Savings Time

Andrew Clover let go of his grip on his wife’s hand. “Well, that’s five days and we are still here. Maybe now the riots and suicides will slow down. We tried to tell the people that our telescopes weren’t seeing any ships approaching but the people are very scared.”

“Can you blame them,” replied the first lady. “If the time had been five days, we were doomed.”

“We might still be,” said Clover, frowning. “How are we supposed to find a way off this planet and find a new place to live?”

“I don’t know, dear.” She smiled and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “We will do what mankind always does. We will do everything we can to find a solution. You’ll come up with something.”

September 29th, 2025, 10:00 AM Eastern Daylight Savings Time

The President, Vice President, and three agency chiefs sat in the Oval Office.

“The most recent wave of panic seems to be subsiding, Sir,” said Vice President Marsha Hallworth.

‘What caused it this time?” asked Clover.

“Somebody posted something on Twitter a week ago saying that she had figured out that a chrono-unit was twenty days and that the destruction was coming today.”

“This is ridiculous. We make daily announcements that no ships are being seen by the new ultra-telescopes. If the aliens were coming, we would know days in advance.”

“But the public doesn’t believe us,” replied Hallworth. “Can you blame them? We aren’t going to tell them if we do see ships coming, are we?”

“I don’t know. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. It’s been one hundred days. What progress have we made?”

“We aren’t making much progress on the evacuation and exploration front,” announced Dr. Miles Friedam of NASA. “We can talk theory all we want, but we are not making any progress towards faster than light travel.”

“The aliens have it. It must exist.”

“That’s true, Mr. President,” replied Friedam, “but we don’t know any of the science behind it. I think our best hope is to forget about traveling to other worlds and find a way to either colonize planets in our solar system or build long term space stations. The cost in materials and money will be immense, but there aren’t any other feasible options.”

“What about negotiating?” suggested Vice President Hallworth.

The final member of the trio of agency leaders, Dr. Andres, stood up and smoothed out her lab coat. “We have as good of an understanding of their language as we are going to get. We don’t have any knowledge of their monetary systems or measurement. We can ask them to spare us if we can communicate with them, but it is going to be nearly impossible to offer them anything or negotiate a payment. We really can’t ask for more time, since we don’t even know how much time we have.”

“So, to sum everything up,” snapped President Clover, “We have spent millions of dollars on a dead-end search for faster than light travel and we have no hope of carrying out basic negotiations with the aliens.”

“And don’t forget,” added Hallworth, “we have no idea how long we have to do any of these things.”

June 18th, 2030, 1:07 AM Eastern Daylight Savings Time

The President was still in his pajamas when he burst into the emergency meeting. The years had not been kind to Andrew Clover. His once jet-black hair was now splattered with gray and thinning noticeably. Every day, new wrinkles seemed to find a place to appear on his face. Tonight, without his make-up, he looked a good twenty years older than his actual age.

“Ok, what do we have?” he asked, forgoing any introductions.

Dr. Ingred Myer, the new NASA chief, filled the President in. “The telescopes picked up an object, presumed to be an alien vessel, about an hour ago. It’s on the same trajectory as the vessel from five years ago. It will be here in three days.”

Vice President Hallworth continued, “The World Council will be meeting in about an hour via teleconference to decide what to do.”

Clover looked to Dr. Myer, “How many escape ships do we have available?”

She glanced at the tablet she was holding. “I think we can fit about ten thousand people on the five operational ships.”

Clover shook his head. “We have three days to pick who we are going to save and get those people onto the ships. This is going to get ugly.”

President turned to General Peabody, the head of the military. “We are going to need as much protection for those ships and the people going on them as possible. I’ll tell the World Council that we are planning on sending up our escape vessels and they can do so too if they have any.”

“Let’s start doing everything we can to send the alien ship a message. Hopefully, we can talk to them and figure something out. Somebody get Dr. Andres here; she is the best we have at speaking their language.”

June 21st, 2030, 9:36 AM Eastern Daylight Savings Time

President Clover held his wife close. They hugged as they watched the reports stream in on the many televisions set up in the command center. The rioting had been worse than expected. The death toll in the U.S. alone had reached over one-hundred-thousand. Three of the five escape vessels had been destroyed and the other two were still not ready to launch.

The Canadians, Chinese, and a half-dozen other counties had sent nuclear weapons towards the enemy. None had made it. All the warheads had exploded long before reaching their target.

Dr. Andres was still trying to hail the alien ship. All attempts had been met with silence.

Suddenly, the sound on every television was replaced with the now easily recognizable language of the aliens. The deep guttural tones sounded for about thirty seconds and then stopped as quickly as they had started.

This was it; the end of the world.

Andres stood staring at the television screens; her mouth wide open.

“What did they say?” asked President Clover.

Andres didn’t respond until Clover asked a second time.

“What did they say?”

“It said, “Citizens of Earth, your planet has been condemned and is due for destruction in exactly four point nine nine nine chrono-units. Please take whatever precautions or actions you need for relocation by that time.’.”


Copyright James Rumpel 2020

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Wakeen says:

    The unpredictability of this story was appreciated. My students thought it was very cool

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *