Dangling Conversations by Edward M. Lerner

Many surprised looks were exchanged about the room before Ricard found his voice. “How sure are you about this?”

“Very. As you know, I’m on leave of absence from a satcom company, one of many such firms. Any of a dozen people from my former staff could do this.”

“Dr. Matthews?” asked Amreesh Shah, a psychologist from the behavioral-response group. “What would you propose?”

“Publish our observations rather than filter them. Clearly mark as commentary any ‘adjustments’ we may choose to make.

“While we won’t have a monopoly on the signal, we will have resources far beyond those of other listeners. If our postings are prompt and objective, our interpretations insightful, we become the preferred source of ET data. If we hold back, however well-intentioned our reasons, the best we can hope for is marginalization by other news sources. At worst, who knows what motives will be ascribed to us? There’s no shortage of people who see conspiracies all around them.”

Shah nodded. “Distrust is the result we can least afford.”

That was one point everyone in the committee agreed upon.

* * * *

From the SETI Conspiracy chat room

Suspect_Everyone: Does it strike anyone else as suspicious that the UN is orchestrating the Lalande investigation?

UFO_believer: Absolutely! And who’s behind this “International Academy of Astronautics”?

42_is_true: I’d sure like to see the ET message text from a reliable source, not the US government, and *certainly* not the UN.

Suspect_Everyone: Does it strike anyone else as suspicious that it’s suddenly hard to buy satellite dishes?

* * * *

Bridget idly flapped the paper umbrella from her tropical punch. Open, close, open, close. “Quite a meeting.”

Satterswaithe was an electrical engineer by training, with a PhD from Oxford. She’d gone straight from university to a British government research establishment. That had been a stepping stone to the ITU, which, after a succession of promotions, she now headed. An adult life spent in bureaucracies had not diminished her determination to make things happen. She had, however, developed a tolerance for committees that Matthews could not fathom.

Dean favored a local beer he’d discovered on the first night of the kickoff. Delightful microbrew notwithstanding, he was eager to get back to the States. He and Satterswaithe had met in the airport bar, awaiting their separate flights. “It turned out okay. Maybe I’ll cancel the mob contract I took out on you.”

“For accomplishing what you pleaded for?”

“Requested in a dignified manner.” He gestured for another round. “No, for putting me with the social scientists and spin doctors. Look, I respect their sincerity and good intentions, but I’ve never met so many people who see the glass as half empty.”

“Don’t blame me or the gold team. Yours was one of the few assignments Kim had made before Steering even met.” A boarding announcement from a staticky PA drowned out her next words.


“I asked, ‘So how is it that things turned out okay?’.”

“Had it been my choice, I would’ve had a tough time deciding between Signals, Analysis, and Reply. It occurred to me that someone on the red team has to liaise with those other committees. A technically oriented interfacer made sense. So I’ve gotten myself access to all of the information that Steering has, without, no offense, enduring all of that bureaucratic ponderousness.”

“No offense taken.” She laughed. “Well, maybe a little. In any case, I’m off to my gate. I’m glad it worked out for you.”

He decided he was glad for her abrupt departure, which avoided the awkward question about whom, since it wasn’t the steering committee, wanted him on the Media & Education team. It couldn’t have been Kim’s idea: Kim knew nothing about him.

At least the Undersecretary-General was unlikely to have heard about Matthews absent input from the US ambassador.

* * * *

From the Earth First chat room.

All_Politics_Is_Local: So what’s with the Lalande task force and its closed-door ‘organizational’ meeting?

Stop_World_Government: What’s the UN *always* up to? ET’s message is simply another excuse for worldwide government. Whatever the task force is for … I’m against.

All_Politics_Is_Local: It’s welfare for rich-country scientists. Would a Bangladeshi textile worker think this is the best use for the money?

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Categories: Edward Lerner