Beacon Of Centauri 3

Part 1 (Continued)

I have been given a great privilege in being able to hold an audience with the Ex-Secretary General of the United Nations, Andrej Tadic, at his office in Zagreb.

“The first time the signal came to my attention was only a few days after it’s detection. This was before it was confirmed, of course, but at such time that it was becoming more and more clear that this was truly an Alien signal. At that time it had already been passed on to the relevant authorities, so I kept only a tentative check on its progress.

“My office had still so much to deal with in the world that giving this more than just a preliminary glance wasn’t an option. We still had the war in Afghanistan, the civil war in Cuba after Castro’s death, Problems ratifying the new carbon emissions program, the cleanup operation after the Wailing Wall bombing – along with the subsequent peace-keeping role. Then, of course, our biggest concern was the nuclear program in North Korea, who’d just tested their latest missile system. That’s just some of the tasks we had to get through. The UN is a huge institution, and looking after all off it takes a lot of time and concentration.

“The message was a shock. No one in my position has ever received a memo like that before. So I kept my ear to the ground, but all I could do was let the teams get on with their job, so I could get on with mine. The most I did for the effort at first was to make sure the International Telecommunications Union could protect the relevant frequencies.

“It was mid July when it became a priority. Partly because it really was becoming empirical evidence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and partly because it was fast becoming public knowledge. My office was getting leant on by all sides then. Governments wanting to know what to tell their people, Scientists wanting to know what our protocols should be. It was one of those times when you wish the office carried the same powers as a head of state, but for very good reasons that’s not what the UN is about. We only had a few ideas of protocols for dealing with this. Questions that we should have had answers to in preparation for this, but didn’t – simply because we were too busy keeping the planet together.

“I met with Dr Lesley and his team a couple of times in early July. I guess I had a schoolboy curiosity and excitement about it. We spoke increasingly about how the signal looked, about how to deal with the media interest, and on what we should do if it is Life. I kept in touch regularly with the various institutions involved, and when we were pretty certain of what was going on, I made sure that they got all the resources they needed.

“On July 10th, when Dr Lesley and all the teams were able to come to a consensus, we decided to fly Dr Lesley and Prof Bridges to my office for a press conference. It was a rushed affair in itself, but people were beginning to feel they’d waited long enough, and I could feel that too.

“To be honest, all they wanted was to know, to be told – and a few remarks of how we know, and what this means, along with what we’re proposing to do about it. Having Dr. Lesley there was a bit of a formality in hindsight (mostly because we thought the discoverer should have the honour of recognition), but we just wanted people to know everything we did.

“We did think, though, that this would calm people somewhat into letting us do our job. We knew there’d be a lot of excitement, but with everyone knowing about it, we thought it would take the tension away – especially some of the ‘conspiracy theory’ tension that was quickly becoming rife. We certainly didn’t expect what came next, and that’s why we didn’t have any protocols set in place for it.

“It’s one thing finding out that there’s life out there, but then you have to deal with everybody’s ideas of what that means and predictions of the ramifications – ‘are they hostile?’, ‘should we send a message?’, ‘should we be prepared?’, ‘can they bring Elvis back please?’. There were religious groups determined that they should be allowed to evangelise and preach to them. Whole groups of people who wanted to send a signal back, and claimed it as their legal right – countered with whole groups sworn to destroy any machinery used to signal back for fear of the risk we’d be putting ourselves in.

“We just hadn’t agreed on any suitable protocols in time to deal with this eventuality – partly because it was in no way certain that it was ever going to be an eventuality.

“It is very strange, though, that the one thing we all thought would unify the planet – more than any of the work done by anyone on earth – actually fragmented humanity to an immense degree at the beginning.”

The Pandemonium quickly followed. The Secretary General was rushed off onto a tour of the globe, meeting heads of state, prominent scientists, leaders of major religious groups and the world’s press. Not only were there now being drafted protocols to agree on what to do about this revelation, but also on how to deal with popular reactions to it.

“We had to work quick to set up the International Advisory Committee on the Analysis of Observational Evidence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence and the International advisory Committee for Extra solar Contact and Interaction, both of which were already being created by the SETI scientists, but which still needed international approval – certain states demanded that they have representatives on both to ensure the freedom of information and to represent their interests. China was a huge obstacle on this one, determined to send their own signal – whilst many of the Middle Eastern communities were adamant that under no circumstances should we send any signal. Debates got very heated in the UN – at some points it almost seemed close to collapse. Yet it was of utmost importance that even if we were going to send a signal, it should be as one – and we weren’t even sure about sending anything yet. That needed further debate. This debate almost became insignificant in the long run though.”

The ex-Secretary General looks quite solemn for the moment. It is clear that whilst he feels extremely honoured to have held the position he did during these years, he is still very saddened that things turned out the way they did on his watch.

He turns back to me, obviously with something else on his mind.

“Again, it’s incredible just how fractional humanity can be even in the face of such a significant discovery. I am reminded by Dr Lesley’s words ‘I wonder if God came down to speak to man, would they all be fighting over who gets to have his phone number?’.

“I sympathised with Dr Lesley on this, but I had to keep reminding myself that this is how the UN works, and precisely why it exists. We are a fragmented species, and though we are willing to cooperate and try to find common ground, many millennia of experience has made us keep checking our backs.

“We also had to set up the infrastructure to disseminate information and counter disinformation. Although the website was a good starting point, this was difficult – mostly because the website wasn’t actually as well established in the media eye as it should have been.

We weren’t just simply fighting against isolated groups of conspiracy theorists and UFO fanatics. We had to fight against people who held public sway, prominent speakers, even people who held viable beliefs and good arguments. The problem wasn’t always that they were wrong, but that they assumed they were right. No one had answers to the big questions yet, we had to wait for that.

“Along with this infrastructure we had to give resources and aid to various nations who had to cope with unrest due to the revelation. We hadn’t anticipated all of this. Largely because many of the world’s religious leaders had said long before that ETI did not threaten their beliefs.”

This lack of preparation (and the disinformation that was being circulated) was highlighted by the attack on the Hat Creek Radio Observatory in California. Over 100 anti-message activists, many wearing T-shirts depicting the face of Theodore John Kaczynski, overran the 350-antenna compound, destroying several of the telescopes, shortly after 10pm on August 4th. After several hours of firefighting with authorities, who were both late on the scene and ill-equipped for the confrontation, the activists retreated into the visitors centre with 5 staff as hostages. The activists’ extreme ideological views soon made it apparent that this would not end peacefully. At dawn the next day, sufficiently reinforced, the authorities were left with no option but to storm the building. 57 activists were arrested and charged with terrorism, the rest lay dead around the site. 12 officers gave their lives, and another 20 were wounded in the liberation. Only 3 of the hostages survived.

Andrej Tadic visited the compound 2 days later with the President of the United States.

“I just couldn’t believe my eyes. So much bloodshed and damage, all over fear and misunderstandings. What struck me most at that moment was how organised this movement had been – and thus how great the task ahead of us.”

The event shook many people around the world – most significantly the scientific community. The activists had made a big point, though also a big mistake. Hat Creek is above the 29th Northern Latitude, and so couldn’t see the Centauri system (which is in the Southern sky), let alone be involved in any attempt to signal back.

Such incidents were rare and isolated, thankfully, but they did highlight a growing concern for human security – from outside our atmosphere and within.

“I am grateful to the international community in at least seeing that this was a situation that had to be dealt with effectively and with cooperation, even if not everyone saw eye to eye on the bigger picture. The last thing we needed was any official or unofficial state support for this terrorism.”

Many political analysts have come to agree that Mr Tadic’s handling of the whole affair, along with the other very serious issues around the world, is what guaranteed him his second term in office. He was awarded the Noble peace prize, and has been acclaimed as the most significant Secretary General since Cuellar and even the birth of the UN.

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