32 A New Reality

John woke the next morning in the strangely familiar room. It took him a moment to remember where he was, but the dream faded into reality, and he was soon up and dressed.

The sun had yet not risen, as they ate together in the kitchen. Soon they were out on the tarmac, climbing into the shuttle. Even though the short distance to Kanetel could have been easily traveled in a ground car, everything was being done to speed planning and preparations.

Jonephs and General Yalt met them as they landed on the roof of the building. Jonephs gave John a brief tour of the facility and then rejoined their group in a large meeting room, along with twenty other members of the planning staff. John was introduced to each. He could use his comm to him identify those whose names he would not remember.

The king went to stand behind a small podium as everyone took seats.

"I am setting the date of departure for Earth for five weeks from today. All of the construction and modifications to the Redun have been complete, she will leave with a full complement of fighters and pilots.

"We can't be sure exactly what to expect when we arrive. Any negotiations cannot be managed at such a distance, so I will be going, as will General Yalt, and Jonephs. Many of you will be offered spots on the mission; in fact, it will be taking every person and everything we can manage. The council was not happy about that, but I have held firm.

"Of course, John and Zeke Taylor will be our guides. We must decide on our basic plan by the end of this week, then we will determine the most likely responses and prepare for alternatives.

"The Remarran is almost finished. The construction of two more cruiser-carriers has begun. Our fabrication resources have expanded to the point that we can complete them in six months. Assuming we can expect to benefit from the resources of Earth, we will be constructing cruiser-carriers four at a time, to be completed at six-month intervals.

"Mecran is without a large ship to defend the shipyards. We've dispatched the largest craft we have to support and defend them, but it is a risk we must take.

"Construction has begun on a fourth Academy, expansion of the current three are underway. Applications for spots in the classes have increased. The next few months will see changes unlike any before. I am confident we are doing all we can to ensure our success.

They met with General Yalt, Jonephs, and Tael afterwards. Rolenil joined them soon after introductions had been made.

Tael began the briefing, "In deciding how to approach the people of Earth, and specifically the governments, we've focused on the initial message we send, or at least a list of our objectives. You should understand, when you see them, that we've come to the conclusion that we must take a somewhat authoritarian tone. Though that may cause resentment, we hope that if we clearly state our intentions, and make clear what our response will be to any hostile action against us, this will influence our future interaction with the leaders of Earth and reduce the likelihood that they will make any overt response against us.

"What kind of hostile action of any significance could anyone on Earth mount against you... us?" John asked.

Tael responded in a measured, even tone, "While we remain in orbit, essentially none. Once we have a presence on Earth, and we'll explain later what we anticipate that will be, and how long it will last, we might expect anything from peaceful protests to physical attacks on those attempting to join us, or even attacks on our craft or any facilities we might construct."

John tilted his head as he thought, after a moment he nodded without speaking.

They showed him the text of the message, one that would be sent to Earth while they were still many hours away.

Rolenil and the general read it and nodded. Zeke, too, slowly nodded his head in approval. John read it a second time and his gaze drifted up, his eyes focused far away as he thought.

"This is well-worded, and I think the tone is calm and positive. However, I think the first message should be brief. It will go down in history on Earth, if not on Anyar."

The king pushed his chair back from the table. He looked at John, his face impassive and waited.

"I am trying to imagine what I would think, what I would want to know. I presume the ship will have already been detected by the time they receive our message?"

"We can arrange that," Tael replied.

"I imagine seeing a light in the sky, and finding out on the news that it is not a natural phenomenon, not a supernova or comet. What would I feel, wonder or fear?"

The room was silent.

"Then I hear that it is a craft of some sort. I'm assuming that the telescopes on Earth can detect the movement and surmise that it is too fast to be natural. Then, what would I want to know? What would fill me with hope? With excitement?

"I think we want to answer the most important questions."

He spoke:

We are human, like you.

We are from another world.

We have knowledge to share.

We come in peace.

We come with a great purpose.

The room had been silent for almost a minute when Rolenil spoke, "I think I am glad we have you here with us."

"Those are just the first things that come to mind; after some time to think about it, it may seem less appropriate. It's just what came to mind."

"That may be," the general said, "but, for now, it seems like a good start."

"Yes," Zeke added. "Having heard it, I think it should be short and memorable. It distills the message down to what is essential, to those things that are important and cannot be misunderstood."

"Let's consider it, but I think it sets the tone for our introduction to Earth."

The next weeks passed quickly for John. He and Zeke stayed in one of the few tall buildings in Kanetel.

They planned for every eventuality they could think of. A wealth of material about Anyar was translated to English. Most was reviewed by John or Zeke. They discussed John's concern that making all their communications in English would give them the appearance of favoring the United States over other countries. Their concern was that they couldn't be sure how accurate MI translations to other languages would be.

Zeke's solution, though not perfect, won approval. The information should be made available on a wiki, very similar to Wikipedia."

By now, everyone present knew enough about Earth to know about the Internet and it's most common sites.

"The translations would be available soon after, with the admission of possible errors. It, unlike the English version, would be open to editing and correction.

"If I wrote an 'aliens come to Earth' novel, it wouldn't have a plot like this," Zeke laughed, "but I think it's the best we can do. It shows that we are open and have limitations. I think a kilometer-long ship in orbit shows our strengths."

Behrlende and Agarad flights would return to the Redun after their leave. Two more flights would join them. Several jump capable freighters had been refitted to give them the range to reach Earth and would follow them within a few weeks, with equipment intended to introduce Anyari technology. Larger cruisers were being built, to transport people and equipment between Earth and Anyar.

Zeke, John, and the king met afterwards. They felt the plan was complete, when the last preparation had been completed they would leave for Earth.

A celebration was held on the day they departed. Stands were set up around the tarmac at Kanetel, enough to hold several thousand people. Most of the rest of the world's population watched by video. It was organized a little like a parade, several shuttles and all of A and B flight's fighters were parked for all to see. They had been freshly painted and gleamed in the morning sun.

The king gave the longest speech Zeke had ever heard him make. He had a way of explaining and praising the work of all who had contributed. His genuine respect for the efforts of all those involved, and for the overwhelming support of the populace, was clear in his simple, but powerfully moving, oration.

When it was time to leave, Egrenne and Enne accompanied him to the shuttle, where they said their goodbyes. It would be the first time he'd ever been separated from then for more than a few days. Never before had he gone to a place so distant that he couldn't return the same day.

Zeke and John entered the shuttle. Danil and his flight would stay with the forces defending Anyar. The king gave Enne one last hug and Egrenne a kiss as tears streamed down their faces. He waved to the crowd and entered the shuttle. The door quickly closed and the shuttle rose, followed precisely by the other two shuttles and the two flights of fighters.

The crowds cheered and waved streamers and banners. Zeke asked his grandfather about the purpose.

"I don't really know," John Taylor replied. "Send-offs like this were held in World War II, and often before that, when men were sent off to war. I guess for any big endeavor it was a custom to hold a send-off to mark the event. I guess it only happens for things that are important and the support is strong."

"Now that I think about it, I guess it's a way for everyone to express their support and to share the sense of purpose. If ever there was a time for it, I would think this would be it."