A few decades into the future, a mission is planned by several international organizations with some funding from a couple of space industry giants. Effectively, this is a proof-of-concept mission demonstrating that the technology to support extended interstellar missions is ready for application. After 50 years of space travel sped up by a gravity engine–the Alcubierre drive–the ISC Robert Innes successfully arrives at the nearest stellar neighbor to the solar system, Proxima Centauri, with plans to sample planets in its orbit. Another objective of this mission is to find the source of a strange radio signal broadcasting from the area.
Upon arriving, the crew finds some surprising things: first, that telemetry is malfunctioning, making telemetry a round-the-clock operation; second, that the signal has no definite source, and seems to be coming from everywhere around them all at once; third, that there is a field of debris orbiting very close to the star. Upon investigating the debris field, they find that they not just shipwrecks but indeed human shipwrecks–two unconscious bodies in spacesuits are recovered from the wreckage, brought onboard, and stabilized. The signal, most definitely interfering with telemetry, proves too elusive to find; however, a major breakthrough occurs when the communications officer, Barry Whitacre, notices that the brainwave patterns of the two comatose astronauts rescued from the wreckage exactly match the signal he’s been staring at for hours on end. The captain Alex Beaumont decides to have the medical officer, Dr. al-Qatari, remove the drugs inducing coma and wake the survivors up for questioning.