Braking Day is the common name for July 14th, when the Aash'n first arrived in Earth's orbit, but is also an umbrella term applied to the events from when the first Aash'n transmission was intercepted, a month before, through to first contact with the Aash'n.
At 02:35 around the world unidentified radio signals were detected from the direction of Orion. Astronomers were electrified by the strange message, and communications between observatories and universities on both sides of the Iron Curtain began to buzz. Khrushchev and Kennedy were soon informed, and both were immediately cautious that the message was caused by the other. Military alerts were heightened, but no active overtures of aggression occurred.
As dawn approached for the West the first images begin to appear and were disseminated throughout scientific communities. A cluster of large objects was confirmed, at a distance that put it roughly in the orbit of Jupiter, twenty degrees off the ecliptic plane. The cluster of objects was also traveling faster than anything mankind had yet built, and though decelerating, would reach Earth within a tiny three weeks. It was agreed that the news should be kept from the press for the time being, until an accurate analysis of the anomaly could be made. Though telescopes on both sides of the Atlantic were now useless those in Australia and Siberia started to gaze up at the cluster and begin to make detailed observations.
It was established that each object was around twenty km in length and built from a carbon-reinforced metal structure unknown to science. At 21:00 a new message was sent. It was composed of a stream of high-frequency pulses grouped into clusters never more than eleven, interspersed with five second-long low-frequency murmurs. The message was cryptic and despite rapid communication between various scientific institutions its message was not solved by the time the evening newspapers carrying the first leaked news of the anomaly began to hit stands across Europe. Appeals were made by scientific institutions to the governments of the East and West to allow them to communicate and unify their mental power; despite each side wanting to hoard any potential gains from the anomaly for their own nations, the governments agreed. With night falling millions of minds set to unscrambling the information. Around 23:30 GMT several groups realised that the message is actually the first 50 digits of pi expressed in base-12; no one group has yet to be established as the 'first'.
The White House-Kremlin hotline was picked up dozens of times overnight. Scientists around the world were strongly requesting that responses to the message be made, generally agreeing that the message should be similar to that of the anomaly - the first fifty digits of pi - but expressed in base-10, the decimal system. Some concerns were raised, but as it had just been proved that spacefaring intelligence existed it was almost universally agreed that the aliens must be contacted. Kennedy concurred and Khrushchev soon followed suit, but both went into a heightened state of alert. DEFCON 4 was reached - much to the concern of troops in Europe, afraid that the Third World War was about to unravel without any knowledge why.
The message was sent, in unison, from dozens of transmitters across the globe, estimated to arrive at around 06:35 GMT given the five hour-long delay for radio waves to reach Jupiter. Meanwhile astronomers waited anxiously - and journalists, radio enthusiasts, and amateur astronomers grew suspicious. The government had managed to keep the news almost entirely under wraps, but rumours were growing. It was only a matter of time before the news emerged in the free Western press, and a story of such magnitude would rapidly reach the Soviet Union even with careful censorship.
After a tense wait the next alien message was picked up at 09:00. It had been more than a full day since their first broadcast and anticipation in the global astronomical community was boundless. Once again the message involved varying high- and low-frequency blasts, but instead of a binary system it involved six different tones. The message was much more simple, despite again straying into base-12: it was a series of basic addition sums, with a low frequency 'off', a high-frequency 'on', a pair of medium-high-frequency tones for 'plus' and 'equals' and a pair of medium-low-frequency tones for 'true' and 'false'. After one hundred sums delivered over an hour a single one was left unanswered: 20+20. As the numbers were above twelve and therefore the sum would be subject to distortion from base-12 some consternation was raised as to whether to answer in decimal or duodecimal, but eventually it was decided to answer in both along with a bracket of incorrect answers on either side.
By the time the message was dispatched at 13:21 GMT on June 20th there was no doubt that mankind had discovered extraterrestrial intelligence. There remained, however, much doubt over the risk of further contact, but it was decided to go ahead. Kennedy invited Khrushchev to create, along with him, a televised message to be broadcast to the approaching intelligence. Linguists around the world suddenly released decades of theory and research in the creation of the rudiments of a visual language to create a basic lingua franca with the alien intelligence. By midnight, following a further two messages involving subtraction and multiplication received from the aliens, the cooperation of thousands of linguists had resulted in a basic syntax to accompany the messages dispatched by the Premier and the President. The two speeches and over three hours of visual dictionaries were dispatched beginning at 00:01 GMT, June 21st.
Waiting anxiously for the 09:00 broadcast and with news on the verge of breaking out the stress in the scientific community was tangible. Campuses had practically initiated self-imposed quarantines. Police and military units had been put on guard around observatories to prevent the news escaping. When the next message arrived several telecommunication companies suffered brief overloads as hotlines between campuses we inundated with activity. As well as a long lesson on division the global community also received a further message. It quickly became clear that the message this time was more than mathematically-precise, differently frequencied pulses. It was soon realised that it was the audio of the messages dispatched - but there was no visual message to accompany it. Scientists were perplexed. Surely a race capable of traveling across space in vessels faster than anything mankind had constructed and with materials of uncanny chemical composition could broadcast a simple video message? A further message was dispatched, with additional vocabulary and video accompaniment - yet the 21:00 broadcast is again devoid of visual information. A global conference is called, to held the following week, at Green Bank, the site of the first SETI meeting two years prior.
ne 22nd-July 13th=== Questions went unresolved. All that was agreed from the conference was the necessity of sending humans to make physical contact. Astronauts specified for other space programs were hastily pressed into training for launches as soon as possible; a joint USA-USSR mission is confirmed to launch two days after the alien vessels were expected to rendevouz in Low Earth Orbit, from separate launches in Vostok and Mercury spacecraft. Finally deciding to go public with the situation the announcement by both governments to the world threw it into shock. Reactions ranged from pacifism to violence. Anticipation grew towards 'braking day' when the vessels would enter orbit. Meanwhile astronomers still received, studied and dispatched regular bulletins with the aliens, from whom all the non-mathematical information that can be reliably extracted is their species name: the Aash'n.
July 14th: Braking Day
Finally, Braking Day arrived on July 14th. The Aash'n sweep past the moon and, with huge retro-rockets blasting continent-length plumes of plasma, slid down into a stable orbit over the equator. In the most complex space operation to date three astronauts and two cosmonauts prepared for a pivotal moment in history. Launching from sites across the US and USSR between 02:00 and 04:00 GMT they proceeded towards the largest of the seventeen Aash'nite vessels, and despite handling difficulties with their primitive craft managed to enter a large port in the vessel by 11:16 GMT. Their vessels were secured by large cranes and they leave their capsules, heading for an airlock. Their communications were cut off; panicking news anchors feared the Aash'n are everything B-Movies envisioned.
But three hours later the astronauts and cosmonauts reemerged. They brought unexpected news.
The Aash'n numbered over half a billion. They were one convoy of refugees from when their homeworld was consumed by a nuclear war and had spent several thousand subjective years travelling through deep-space at relativistic speeds, and millions objectively. In that time their knowledge of their own technology had deteriorated just as the technology itself did; their seventeen vessels are the remnants of a fleet of hundreds which fell to critical malfunctions and the belligerency of the handful of inhabitable worlds they had discovered on their search. The vast majority of their population had almost no understanding of technology, and the handful that did had only empirical data on how it works. But they had one problem greater than any other:
The Aash'nite starships were now useless. They are barely spaceworthy, and in the final braking move they exhausted the fuel needed to progress any further. If they chose to travel any further than Earth they will not have the capability to stop and settle down again and would most certainly perish in deep space. Unless the Aash'n were allowed to use Earth as a pitstop as they repair their ships - a task that will take decades - they would go extinct.
Kennedy and Khrushchev immediately contacted each other. They were looking at the greatest humanitarian issue of all time. An emergency meeting of the UN was called to settle the matter, and despite earnest desire to cooperate from most of the globe there was bitter disagreement over how to help and where to house the Aash'n whilst their vessels were rebuilt. After a two-month debate it was eventually decided that the Aash'n, used to higher temperatures, would be granted asylum on the African continent, primarily along the Mediterranean and Atlantic shores where they could best access the resources that the richer world can give them. It remains a heavily disputed decision.