ALEX, astronomy grad student, 20s
JANE, astronomy grad student, 20s
Two desks in an observatory. An imaginary monitor hangs above the audience.
Late at night.
ALEX is examining radio telescope results. His eyes rarely leave the screen during the play.
Would you look at that. Come look at the monitor. Amazing. This wavelength is so regular, it could be man made. Or, you know what I mean. Alien made.
JANE rolls her chair over to see. They’re very close now.
It could be. It doesn’t look natural to me.
(puts a hand on JANE’s shoulder, startling her)
If it’s aliens, do you think they’re friend or foe?
It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? What if they already made that decision about us?
Right! Like Galaxy Quest, and if the first thing they ever saw that we beamed into space was Star Trek, then they think we’re great.
Or it could be like Contact, because, you know, the world’s first TV signal was film of Hitler at a parade.
And what’s this signal, you know? Is it their Star Trek, or their Hitler? What’s going to be the first thing we see from them?
(Super excited now)
God, what should I do? Should we… report it as a possible, you know, extraterrestrial signal?
Well… it’s always a risk, isn’t it? I’ve… we’ve all made decisions on an assumption that turned out to be wrong.
Sure, but you gotta take a risk, right? What if your theory is correct? What if someone else right now is seeing this, and they’re taking the risk and, we’re left in the dust?
Yeah, but once you’ve been wrong about a theory, really wrong, it’s hard to work from instinct the next time.
Then you just gotta…
(Cuts him off)
Do not say get back on that horse, please.
I had a theory once. All the evidence pointed at a result that I just knew had to be right. And I made a fool of myself. I really don’t want to do that again.
You know, my mom died a few years ago, and…
(Waves off JANE’s imminent “I’m sorry” comment)
No, it’s okay. But one of the things she said, when she was dying, that she really regretted? Was not seeing Halley’s Comet back in 1986. Everyone at her job was like, oh, have you seen the comet, every day, and she never went out at night to see it. She worked hard and came home tired and went to bed early and just…never went out at night and saw it. Something that only comes around every 76 years. So she’d never get another chance. And when I chose astronomy as my career, I guess that’s when she started thinking about that. And it stuck with her, till she died.
Yeah. I don’t want to miss my comet, you know?
No. No, me either.
Hey, you know, it comes back in 2061. 55 years, right? We’re young, we could live to see it.
Yeah, we could.
(JANE takes ALEX’s hand, and he finally looks away from the screen, surprised.)
Well, not together, I mean…
(She withdraws her hand, embarrassed.)
Or. Who knows, right?
Oh. Oh! Jane.
(ALEX takes her hand.)
You know… Sometimes you look at the stars so long, you can’t see what’s under your nose.