The Coprolite Incident
It was never really quiet on the ship. There was always some noise, some vibration to be felt even with the ship's precision mechanisms. Nonetheless Sensei had become adept at assuming a deep stasis, but ignoring the noise made him more difficult to awaken for his activity cycles.
But the Acolyte, Angelica, was quite persistent and insistent. This function was in her task descriptor list. And she had awakened Sensei numerous times before this.
The smaller acolyte participated in encouraging Sensei to awaken. Analytica was ever curious and enjoyed Sensei's tales from history, and on this occasion she wanted to hear about the Coprolite Incident. Its import to her existence could not be overestimated.
Sensei had no hesitation in his agreement to relate the details of the event, a singular historic incident of great import to all of humankind.
And so Sensei began his tale.
It was a late Spring afternoon when the Commanding General of the US Space Force was called to an emergency priority briefing.
"Good afternoon troops. I was on my way to dinner. What have we got?"
The Chief of Staff began, "General, there was an impacter a little earlier, a short time ago. A meteorite, or actually meteorites. Quite a few of them. At this time we have no reports of injuries. Some impact damage."
He continued. "We have a video of a part of the meteor's path. We should begin with that."
The General watched the video with some interest.
"Besides the obvious, it seems to be a meteor achieving its destiny as a meteorite. General Chandler says there were no injuries. Where did we get the video, and why am I seeing it?"
"General, the video was provided by RTO, it came from one of their recon and surveillance satellites. The AI flagged the event, the flyby, in their feed and they forwarded it to us as potentially actionable. We had the video within minutes of contact."
"OK, that doesn't address my major question. Why am I seeing this right here right now?
"General, the meteor, the meteorite. It's a coprolite General. That's why you are here sir!"
"You are kidding me, right? We, the Earth, we were just impacted by a petrified turd? My son found a coprolite on one of his school field trips, fist sized, shows it to all his nerd friends. You can plainly see what it was, or is. But the video looks like a pretty good size object."
He paused in his laughter and continued with a question. "How did this damn thing get up there?"
The General continued as he pointed at the video screen and asked, "So right here, it just burned up? Exploded, was that it? But you said meteorite, so there must be pieces of this thing, right? Tell me what we know, all of it, inquiring minds are hungry to know."
The youngest Colonel the General had ever seen led off the description.
"General, you can see from the video that the object had a fairly tangential trajectory. Just a few miles higher and it would have missed us. But as it is the object hit low enough to not skip off the atmosphere but high enough to avoid a more direct impact. Could have been worse."
"This map graphic shows the impact points for object debris along the final decay path. If the object had continued as a solid mass it would have hit just north of the Bay Area, so we are lucky it broke apart. General, this thing definitely did not come from the Earth."
"Colonel, you say that with such surety I feel like there is more to hear. I mean we are absolutely certain that this object is, was, in fact a coprolite?"
A Major from some technical discipline continued the description. "Yes sir, we are certain. Absolutely beyond doubt certain General. We did some further analysis of the video content, and you can observe embedded material that appears to be carbonaceous."
"There is also an embedment of material distinct from the coprolite material. We believe the coprolite may have been filled with this material, that it was hollow, and it likely exploded when it was heated by the atmosphere. It appears to have been largely water ice."
"You saw from the debris map that we have verified quite a number of debris objects. A lot of them, like this piece here, seem to have bounced or skipped to their final location, so we don't have a great number of circular or elliptical craters. General, we have unfortunately had to use some extraordinary methods to obtain possession of some of these objects."
There was a pause and the tech officer continued, "The debris objects General, they are definitely coprolite sir."
"Well I suppose it doesn't get any deeper than that. Amazing. Just amazing. Where do we go from here then?"
It gets Deeper
"Actually General, it does get deeper. Quite a bit deeper. At the moment the object began its disintegration there was an anomalous discontinuity in all satellite communications, all of them. Every damn one, simultaneously. Short period discontinuities with an obvious pattern, the date in hexadecimal computer code."
"And then one of the analysts requested a quick look back along the calculated trajectory of the object, and discovered the flasher. We are still working on its likely distance, it is probably less than a hundred light years away. But it is flashing for us here and now at the same rate and period as the satellite discontinuities, at a distance of light years."
The General was heard to say something off mic, but it was indistinguishable.
Then he continued, "So it's aliens? You people are telling me we have had our first alien encounter?"
The female PR Officer, a Major General, continued, "Yes General, it is definitely evidence of aliens. Obviously aliens that can send a huge coprolite flying our way and control our satellites at the same time. While flashing star bright lights of some sort light years away from us. Yes sir, it is definitely aliens."
"General, the President wants you to help him explain all of this to the American people and to the nations of the world. It's a great honor General. You should be proud of yourself and the Space Force!"
The news conference ran later that same evening, late and with short notice which served to underscore its importance, at the minimum a major event in human history with its continuation not yet revealed.
The presentation ran much the same as it had been shown to the General just hours earlier. If you have a good dog and pony show don't monkey the script.
The General was a good choice for this kind of presentation, the military presence might help to reassure some in the audience. Others might see the military presence as cause for concern, even a measure of paranoia. But all of the data had been shared, even some of the coprolite had been offered to other nations for examination, and virtually every observer was fairly certain in the validity of the claims and the evidence.
The US government, every government, had a desire to avoid panic and unrest, the possible appearance of the End Times and societal upheavals. If people thought it was the end of the world that might tend to limit their compunctions against certain activity.
So it was the General in pursuit of some levity, some humor, who coined the Coprolite Incident's now famous tag line, "Who Flung Dung", this determination being the next data of great import to mankind. The General spoke to turning a new page in the story of the human adventure. The President was smiling such a beatific smile, he knew he had chosen a damn good point man.
The General had the opportunity to use the phrase again when someone asked if the Space Force shouldn't be adapting a more defensive posture. He answered that until we found out who flung dung we wouldn't know who or even what we were defending against. In any event, it certainly didn't look like the alien technology was in our present bag of tricks.
It was also the General who first raised the suggestion that perhaps we should try to find out who they were and where these aliens might be located as the next course of action.
Sensei continued with his tale.
"So that was the impetus for the Genesis projects and the subsequent construction and launch of the Farflung ships like this one we are on, all carrying a crew and a few Acolytes and Missionaries, along with a Sensei like me. We are going to proselytize and try to find out who flung dung."
And then, with a grin and a couple of rapid eye blinks, Sensei nodded and fell back into his somnolent stasis to await the next activity cycle.
Meanwhile the ship continued apace along its designated course, moving always forward into the future.