“Yeah, I remember that,” said Brooks. “I had to wait for hours to get another phone after mine was fried.”

“Well, you don’t,” said Ramirez. “It wasn’t sunspots. It was a high-energy signal, one of staggering power, that was deliberately aimed at Earth from an extrasolar location.”

“Wait, wait,” said Gupta, her hands raised. “Deliberately? Extrasolar?”

“The signal was aimed at Eden Island in the South Pacific,” Ramirez said. “Thousands of miles of ocean in every direction. To hit it by accident–to hit Earth by accident–is so unlikely we had trouble calculating the odds.”

“And you’re just telling us this now?” said Rahman. “Surely you could have just sent a helicopter from an assault carrier and been done with it.”

“I would think that you of all people would appreciate the value of deliberate discretion and not contaminating a possible study area,” Ramirez said softly. “It also means that we can much more easily control the flow of information.”

“I beg your-” said Rahman, looking alarmed and put-upon.

“Needless to say, you will all be subjected to a thorough debriefing. We have also confiscated all your cameras and cellular telephones. You’d find them quite useless here anyway. You will be able to complete the original field study once we have learned what we want to know, and you’ll be fully funded for it.”

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