The Warning Sign: Dr. Maxwell’s Notes on First Contact

An essay by Dr. Arlen Maxwell, as provided by S. R. Algernon
Art by Luke Spooner

[These journal entries were found on the desk of Dr. Arlen Maxwell, who was last seen in a state of partial undress in the woods around the University. He has been sighted washing himself vigorously in a nearby stream and muttering something about Hoskins. His current whereabouts are unknown.]

Entry 1: March 30, 2042

The Star-Weavers have contacted us! For decades, they have ignored our transmissions, even as they scattered their interstellar beacons across the solar system. This morning, everything changed. A Star-Weaver was here, on our little campus, and not just for a recon flyby, but to see us face-to-face. What follows below is for posterity. Dr. Elaine Hoskins and I were the only ones in the lab when the Star-Weavers arrived, and I have read enough of Hoskins’s manuscripts to know that if there is to be a competent firsthand account, I must do it myself.

The quad was empty when their craft touched down. Even campus police were nowhere to be found. In fact, if the campus had not been so quiet that day, we never would have heard their cloaked ship crush a bike rack as it landed on the quad or noticed the divots that it left in the grass.

“Hoskins,” I said, “They must have finally heard our welcome message. All that work decoding the beacon’s standard greeting has finally paid off.” I looked around my lab desk for my tablet and realized that I had left it at home. “Get the welcome message and meet me downstairs.”

“I lent my copy to Barry Qin,” said Hoskins, “for the conference.”

“Damn,” I said, “We’ll have to improvise.”

The Warning Sign: Dr. Maxwell's Notes on First Contact

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013 collection.

Dr. Arlen Maxwell taught xeno-semiotics and introductory xeno-communication at a university that, until recently, was known mainly for its picturesque campus and lush, spacious quads. Human Resources has no forwarding address on file for Dr. Maxwell, but the rumor around the department is that he has left for greener pastures.

S. R. Algernon studied fiction writing and biology, among other things, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His writing interests include sociological science fiction, Japanese science fiction, alternate histories and puzzle stories like Asimov used to write. He currently resides in Singapore.

Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at

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