"Hey, Houston ... you guys send a new satellite up recently?" I watch the light zipping along the upper atmosphere, tracing China's eastern coastline, its course unwavering. "That's a negative," comes the reply. I check the navigational data on the capsule's heads-up display. "Did anybody?" "Not that we know of." The orbital telemetry of every man-made object ever sent up appears on the screen. The nearest satellite to me is two hundred kilometres in the opposite direction. The light has no recorded orbital pathway. "Okay ... are my records up to date?" "Of course they are." I watch the light closely. Probably a Chinese satellite, sent up in secret. "Houston, I'm seeing something passing over Shanghai. Object unknown." There is no response at first. "Um ... we hear you, capsule. We ... uh ... we're going to realign a telescope to have a look at it. Keep us updated on its position." The light stops. "That's not ... Houston, the UO isn't moving. It may have shifted to a geo-stationary orbit." There is a whine and a burst of static from the transmitter. "...derst...caps...ou rea...e...?" I try cycling through the transmitter frequencies. "Houston? Can you hear me?" "...sul...or...ou..." "Houston?" Nothing but static now, on any channel. I turn the volume down, but leave the transmitter and receiver active. "Well, let's hope you clear that up soon ..." The light is growing brighter, larger. It glows evenly, unblinking, vibrant. "The object seems to be reflective. The light is perfectly clear ... unblemished, unbroken by angle or edge." The object is round, closing in on the capsule. It appears at the edge of my proximity radar, a hundred kilometres away. I stare at it as it approaches. It catches the light from the Sun, reflecting it warmly. A perfect sphere, silvery in colour, without a mark on it. Precisely a kilometre away, it abruptly stops. No windows, no visible engines ... no visible equipment at all. The orb hangs in space ahead of me, matching the capsule's speed perfectly. "Houston ... I don't know if you can hear me ... or see what's happening ..." There is, of course, no reply. I re-tune the transmitter, and re-direct the antenna towards the sphere. My hand hovers over the controls. They won't understand me ... whoever they are. Hell ... might as well try. "Hello. My ... name's Jack Woolford. I'm an inhabitant of this planet. We call it Earth." The sphere moves closer. I glance at the proximity radar as my heart leaps into my throat. It closes to within a hundred metres. "Can you hear me?" A series of bleeps and clicks burst over the speakers, right into my earpiece. As I wince, the sphere moves away from me, away from Earth. It's out of sight in seconds, disappearing into the infinite expanse of colours and stars. I reconnect with Houston, the transmission free of static, but full of chaos: footsteps bolting back and forth, frantic typing on dozens of computers. "Do you read, capsule? Jack, talk to me!" "Houston, this is capsule, I hear you." "Holy sh... you scared the hell out of us down here." "Do you have my audio and visual telemetry?" There is a pause. "It was disrupted for just less than a minute. Transmission error. Are you alright?" I playback the signal burst again. Gibberish, as far as I can tell. "I'm sending something to you that was just sent to me, as well as the feed from my outboard camera. See what you make of it." "Sent to you? What the hell happened up there." I turn back to the starfield, squinting. "I think we had a visitor." @danielandangel prompt: ALIEN
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