Nov. 6th, 2011

Another extended piece, although probably not many pieces. 2000 per segment, then look for an exit.

Gliese 581g was now a proper disk. At last, at long last, Korda and the eight other crewpersons of _Sagan_ could look upon their objective with the naked eye, and see something other than a point of light. They had been chosen forty years ago, subjective time, as precocious 15-year-old bisexuals – the best young people Earth could assemble. For the last forty years they had crewed a one-way exploratory vessel to the closest nearby planet to be a likely candidate to support life. They had spent their entire adult lives aboard _Sagan_, absorbing the skills and training necessary to be Earth's ambassadors to a nearby star. _Sagan_'s drive had accelerated the craft such that it averaged .5c over its journey, but even so, Korda and the others were now middle-aged.

Korda was troubled. Midway through their journey they had started to pick up snippets of radio waves that the computers gave a 95% probability of having been generated by intelligent life. Deshiva in particular had been very excited. "Imagine, Korda!" she had said one night as they shared a bed and made love. "We set out hoping to be lucky enough to find the equivalent of pond scum. But now we might find ourselves greeting our next door neighbors on behalf of our planet!"

Korda had been excited too, and had helped craft the first few greeting messages to be broadcast on a tight beam to Gliese 581g. But on the first date that a return message could be expected, the signal from Gliese 581g stopped. Before the computers could definitively confirm a diagnosis of sentience behind the radio messages, the planet went dark. There were a million possible explanations, but Korda was a pessimist, and he preferred the most paranoid possible interpretation.

Now they were closing in. _Sagan_'s ears were listening intently now, and there were faint low-powered radio whispers out there. It was like _Sagan_ was approaching a surprise party waiting in a darkened room, and the crowd was too large to fully suppress their noise.

_Sagan_ cut across an asteroid belt en route to a low-energy intercept orbit. The system primary was a red dwarf, and the target planet was only a fraction of an AU away when something happened. Deshiva and Belletto were in the forward observation deck when the innocuous-looking rock stopped spinning and drew a beam across _Sagan_. Module A1 decompressed, killing the two of them instantly, but the hatches closed as designed to save the rest of A.

"Dammit!" shouted Korda. "It's an ambush!"

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