Prologue

“Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States . . .” The Speaker of the House
turned to his right while making the formal introduction.

Piotr Wojciech Kowalski, fifty-fifth president of the United States of America, received a
standing ovation as he strode confidently across the dais. He shuffled his papers, and
prepared to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on
Capitol Hill.

The president entered into a long speech, outlining his administration’s policies on domestic
and foreign affairs, emphasising the successes and ignoring the failures.

He was ready to wrap up when his Chief of Staff, James Donahue, entered from the rear of
the dais and whispered into the president’s ear.

The president smiled and cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have a special
announcement. This House is the first to hear this news. I have just been informed that
NASA has today launched KEO 3.”

A buzz of excitement echoed around the auditorium. Everyone knew about the two previous
time capsules. Nevertheless, the president gave a brief overview. The first president of
Polish descent did not have a reputation for succinctness.

“As you probably know, KEO 1 was launched in 2017, and is due to return to the Earth fifty
thousand years from now. It carries messages from the people of Earth, and contains
samples of various minerals from our planet, a drop of blood encased in a diamond, and
human DNA. When it eventually returns, it is intended to inform humans of the future of the
life we led here in the early twenty first century. KEO 2 was launched in 2036. It is much
more sophisticated. It includes a detailed history of the Earth and its human population, with
messages from world leaders of the time, and recordings of sounds and images portraying
the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

“KEO 3 is a different proposition altogether. It has a sophisticated system of computers. If
any human, or other alien being of even rudimentary intelligence, should come across KEO
3, the computers will give them precise instructions on how to access the information the pod
contains. They will be led step by step through the process, firstly by teaching them the
English language, and then how to apply that knowledge to follow further instructions,
gradually being educated and informed of every known fact that we in the late twenty-first
century Earth are aware of  everything. Nothing will be left out. If the human civilisation as
we know it should be eliminated, then someone or something else will be able to rediscover
the roots of our civilisation, and even replicate it.

“Members of Congress, this is a historic day for our nation and for the whole wor . . .”

The president’s last words were drowned out by another thunderous standing ovation.