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Mar 18, 2012

Voice from the Sky


In Episode 3 of the Contact television series Ellie returns to space. At the end of Episode 2 (Good to Go) Ellie wants to re-establish contact with Hadden.

Palmer is being over-protective and does not want Ellie rushing back into space because he knows that Earth's newly built spaceship, the Inspiration, is being sent on a secret, long-duration mission deep into space in an effort to make contact with aliens. Ellie has been sick (diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder) and at the end of Episode 2 Palmer also started having flashbacks and memory problems.

Palmer tells Ellie that it would not be fair for her to impose herself on the crew of the Inspiration since they are preparing for a potentially dangerous month-long trip to Mars. NASA scientists and engineers are trying to make use of the "alien" rotating rings technology of the Machine to devise a way to protect space travelers from the dangerous radiation that they will be exposed to during interplanetary travel. Palmer tells Ellie that women have not been cleared by NASA to be members of the crew for the mission to Mars.

Ellie's immediate concern is not going to Mars, but she is desperate to get back into space so that she can contact Hadden. However, she decides to spend some more time at Area 51 working with the research team that is trying to understand the advanced non-electromagnetic communications equipment that was part of the Machine instructions. In the kind of hyper-accelerated wiz-bang research that Hollywood is famous for, Ellie and the research team quickly discover how to make an "alien" communications device that will function on Earth. Ellie uses the new device to contact Hadden who reminds her that she has nanites in her brain. However, Dr. Zelter is now using the nanites inside Ellie to prevent her from remembering anything related to nanites. Hadden notices this and tells Ellie that he will not be able to help her any more because "Overseers" are probably using her like fly paper. Ellie accuses Hadden of being an incompetent alien mastermind and all Hadden says is that he is neither actually a "he" nor an alien. Hadden breaks off the communication.

This is the first Ellie has heard the term "Overseer" in the context of her effort to re-establish contact with aliens. She discusses what she learned from Hadden with Palmer and Director Schwartz. Ellie is surprised that Schwartz does not seem concerned about who the "Overseers" are. Ellie is eager to return to her research team at the VLA and start performing SETI using the new communications technology from the Machine, but she suggests that the crew of the Inspiration should be warned about the mysterious "Overseers". Ellie is surprised again when both Schwartz and Palmer do not agree. They argue that it is best not to raise fears and doubts in the minds of the Inspiration's crew.

Ellie contacts Captain (Reggie) Banning of the Inspiration....

Ellie: Captain Banning, this is Dr. Arroway.
Banning: Ellie! I've been expecting you to call.
Ellie (surprised): Really? Why is that?
Banning: The President told me that he expects you will want to go...to Mars.
Ellie (surprised): Well, I'd love to go, but I'm busy now with this new communications technology. We figured out how to use it on Earth and I want to start fitting-out our SETI software routines at the VLA to start processing the new data.
Banning (surprised): Well, it is your decision to make. Why did you call?
Ellie: I need to warn you. I've been in contact with Hadden again.
Banning (skeptical): Ellie, this really freaks me out everytime you say that you are talking to Hadden...I mean, he's dead.
Ellie (laughs nervously): There is a Hadden cult now, people who say that Hadden faked his death and that he is still alive...in space.
Banning: Pure crap. One of these days I'll go out and scoop up his coffin. We have an excellent radar track of the trajectory out of Earth orbit.
Ellie: Listen, Reggie, I'll tell you what I know, then it will be up to you to ignore me or take heed. Hadden warned me that there are "Overseers" watching over Earth.
Banning (laughs): What does that mean? Overseers? This sounds like some kind of space opera plot.
Ellie: Well, what do you make of all these alien communications signals going to and from Earth?
Banning: Aliens? Sorry, Ellie, we've been over this before. I'm still in the skeptic's camp. Like you scientists always say, where is the evidence?
Ellie: Then what do you think all those mysterious com signals are that we cannot decode and that the NSA has been unable to trace to a transmitter?
Banning: I've been around long enough to know that when the NSA tells me that they can't explain something it means that I should stop asking about it. There are black projects that you and I will never have clearance to hear about.
Ellie (tired): Okay, I warned you. I'm not your mother.
Banning: Thanks for looking out for me. And I'll do the same for you. I'll let you know what we find as soon as we reach....Mars.

At that point, Ellie finally realizes that the Inspiration is not actually going to Mars. Knowing that Banning is avoiding the name of his true destination, Ellie ends the call. Rather than fly back to New Mexico, Ellie confronts Palmer and demands to know the true destination of the Inspiration. As soon as she learns that the next mission of the Inspiration is a SETI mission to an asteroid, she goes to Vandenberg AFB and starts training for the mission.

Ellie and Palmer know that something mysterious is happening to them: they both continue to have strange flashbacks and memory problems. Ellie is irked that she almost missed the chance to go on the SETI mission to the asteroid, but she cannot be very upset with Palmer given her continuing mental health problems.

Ellie talks to Palmer (who is back in Washington) and tells him that she is happy to be going in search of the "voice from the sky". Palmer tells Ellie that the shuttle Atlantis is being fitted out with technology from the Machine and will probably go to the Moon before Inspiration completes its mission. NASA suspects that there is a hidden alien base under the surface of the Moon; it seems to be the nexus for all of the mysterious communications signals going between the Earth and the Moon.

Near the end of Episode 3 the Inspiration launches and, as a cliff hanger, arrives at the asteroid destination just as the show ends....to be continued in Episode 4.

Collaborative fiction. If you would like to help write the scripts for some episodes of the Contact television series, let me know!

Contact Episode 1: Pull the Plug
Contact Episode 2: Good to Go
Contact Episode 3: Voice from the Sky
Contact Episode 4: Hail to Vega
Contact Episode 5: Look Closer

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