03 - First Contact

First Contact

Back on Thera, in the summer of 1627, the space program was in ruins. With each nation trying to be the first as a show of superiority, they spent more time in espionage and sabotage than engineering and construction. The unreliability of everyone and everything was such that nations were using draft systems to recruit new astronauts; it was a 100% guaranteed death sentence. The only flights that were not sabotaged were the unmanned tests, and even those fell far short of orbit. Then suddenly, on the solstice, one glowing patch on the great circle in the sky moved.

It was small at first and barely noticeable against the mottled fiery black background, but over the hours to come it grew progressively larger. Eventually, as it grew closer, it suddenly looked familiar and they realized it was a spaceship from the other world. With all the backstabbing on the planet of lush gardens, the tangled mess of a planet called Scrao had beaten them all at the space race. Suddenly they had an enemy in common to unite against. However, that unity soon turned back into fierce competition when they saw what the ship was carrying: diagrams - thousands of identical diagrams on metal sheets.

As the ship blazed through the sky, it dropped the metal sheets along the southern hemisphere before finally skimming to a stop in the ocean. The ship was empty as it had already distributed its payload, but governments still raced and fought to recover it; even if they had no idea about the electronics, the fireless blinking lights must be important!

With the larger governments fighting for the ship, the smaller ones focused on the even more cryptic metal sheets. Each sheet was glossy and smooth on one side while the other was rough with cryptic etching over most of it and strange golden rectangles in two corners. Had Thera been more advanced, at least a few hundred out of the hundreds of millions of people would have figured it out instantly, but Thera simply didn't understand that branch of technology.

Eventually, through an amazing stroke of dumb luck, someone finally discovered electricity and even figured out how to generate it! Almost a decade had passed, but finally the metal sheets could be used! Once it was discovered, however, there was an even harder series of puzzles. The many diagrams on the glossy screen were well-labeled, but the language was completely unknown and no one really understood what the diagrams were explaining. After another few years, however, they developed a basic understanding of the language and were able to piece together a prototype: a portal that exploded after 5 seconds!

Next: Crossing the Gap