Last Updated on May 1, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1295
In 2015, after his analysis in Cleveland is completed, Emilio Sandoz returns to La Perla slum in Puerto Rico. Emilio invites George and Anne to join him in San Juan so that Anne can take over the clinic and George can contribute his engineering skills. The Edwardses agree and move to San Juan in 2016.
Emilio, Anne, and George all settle into their various work. George volunteers to be a docent at the Arecibo Radio Telescope, where he meets Jimmy Quinn.
One night, Emilio asks Anne to come to the clinic. She finds him there, badly beaten, explaining that the injuries had resulted from a visit with his brother. While treating Emilio, Anne has feelings of attraction toward him.
After putting Emilio to bed in their spare room, Anne and George eat dinner together. The next morning, Anne contemplates her feelings for Emilio, deciding that he needs a son/mother relationship. Emilio wakes later and walks back to his own apartment.
In May 2019, Jimmy Quinn’s proposal to Arecibo management is approved. Sofia Mendes agrees to the project but negotiates an arrangement that if she succeeds, the remaining debt to her broker will be paid; if she fails, she will not be paid, and her broker will be able to extend her contract.
Sofia grew up in Istanbul and, orphaned at age thirteen, turned to prostitution. At the age of fifteen, she was hired by Jean-Claude Jaubert. Jaubert explained that he found promising children and youth, allowing investors to finance their education and care in exchange for a percentage of their earnings for a contracted period of time. Sofia agreed but added a clause which would allow her to buy Jaubert out, if she was able, before the twenty years of the contract were complete.
After arriving at Arecibo, Sofia meets George and Jimmy. Jimmy is immediately infatuated with Sofia, but Sofia is focused on her work.
About a month later, George, Anne, and Sofia enjoy dinner together. Anne notices George’s attraction to Sofia.
In Naples, John Candotti and Edward Behr wake in the morning and cannot find Emilio. They finally find him on the beach, tense and upset. Emilio is practicing using his hand braces to pick up stones and throw them into the water. Despite the fact that his hands are bruised and bleeding, Emilio continues the painful exercise for hours.
Unknown to the three men on the beach, Vincenzo Giuliani is in Naples as well, watching them from a balcony. He had written the note to Emilio, purposely leading Emilio to think that it was Voelker. Giuliani reveals his presence to the three men as they approach.
Giuliani and Emilio meet in Giuliani’s office. Giuliani reminds Emilio that, in the long history of the Jesuits, other men have had the same experiences as he has. He instructs Emilio to begin caring properly for his body and to stop taking responsibility “that lies elsewhere.”
In August 2019, George and Anne invite Emilio, Jimmy, and Sofia for dinner. The day before the dinner, Jimmy explains to Sofia “the portion of his job involving the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” As he describes how he differentiates the various transmissions received, Sofia realizes that she “had begun to like him very much” but reminds herself that there is no place in her life for such attraction.
Jimmy finds an interesting signal but moves on from it to explain other aspects of his job.
At the Edwardses’ dinner, Emilio and Sofia meet for the first time since their analysis together in Cleveland. After Jimmy plays a...
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love song on the piano, Emilio and Sofia sing together. Jimmy watches in envy and quickly excuses himself afterward. Anne follows Jimmy outside to comfort him.
Heartbroken, Jimmy can’t sleep, so he returns to the transmission log. Several hours later, he calls Anne in disbelief.
Jimmy calls Anne in the middle of the night, telling her that he has confirmed an extraterrestrial transmission. Anne, George, Emilio, and Sofia meet Jimmy in his cubicle at Arecibo early in the morning, where they listen to the transmission together; they speculate about the society sending it and the solar system it originates from, Alpha Centauri.
Sofia realizes that an AI system could have never caught the transmission as Jimmy did, resigning herself to an extended contract with her broker. Emilio suggests that they go to the planet using an asteroid. George, Jimmy, and Sofia discuss the logistics of such a mission.
Emilio asks Sofia if, given a choice, she would work with the Jesuits, hoping that his superiors would buy out her contract. Sofia agrees.
Anne thinks the idea of the mission is ridiculous, but Emilio is serious, believing God wants them to go.
Other Arecibo employees, including manager Masao Yanoguchi, arrive in the morning for work. Quickly, news of Jimmy Quinn’s discovery is shared and confirmed. Emilio contacts D.W. Yarbrough, New Orleans Provincial; D.W. contacts Tomas da Silva, Father General of the Society of Jesus at the time. Global interest and media attention are turned toward Jimmy’s discovery.
Anne and George argue about the idea of a mission over their dinner that evening.
Masao Yanoguchi meets with Jimmy, who apologizes for telling the Edwardses, Sofia, and Emilio about his discovery before contacting Yanoguchi. Jimmy is promoted.
Emilio has trouble sleeping and reviews his entry into the Society of Jesus. At fifteen, D.W. helped get him out of Puerto Rico and into a Jesuit high school. Though this was initially a shock, he slowly became attracted to the Jesuit way of life and began to thrive in his studies. At seventeen, he entered the novitiate. Emilio accepts the vows of celibacy and is patient with his own doubts; he wonders if the transmission at Arecibo is a sign from God.
When he finally does sleep, Emilio has a dream of being in a dark place and a door opening up, allowing light in.
Anne and Emilio discuss their belief in God and argue about the mission. Emilio asks Anne if she will host an old friend of his, D.W. Yarbrough.
Jimmy fields media questions about the transmissions. The lack of subsequent transmissions has caused skeptics to doubt his discovery.
While the media turns its attention elsewhere, the Society of Jesus continues to prepare a mission. Tomas da Silva, Father General at the time, argues with his skeptical secretary about the importance of the transmission. A second transmission is detected, confirming that the discovery was not a hoax.
Anne treats patients after a tragic bus accident, including a female tourist who has suffered head trauma. This experience leads Anne to change her mind; she agrees to join the mission.
Jaubert, Sofia’s contractor, is contacted by an anonymous individual who negotiates to buy out Sofia’s contract.
A third transmission from Alpha Centauri is detected. After a farewell party for her at Arecibo, Sofia returns to her apartment, dejected over the fact that her contract to Jaubert appears to be continuing. She receives a message from Jaubert: her contract has been terminated, and she is a free agent.
Emilio introduces Anne and George to D.W. Yarbrough. Although the Edwardses are initially surprised by his physical appearance, the group of four enjoy a dinner together. D.W. announces that he will also be on the mission.
Sofia contacts a former client, Ian Sekizawa, to obtain an asteroid for the mission.
In Jerusalem, Sofia participates in a mikveh, or ritual cleansing, contemplating her own spiritual roots and Catholicism. She contacts Emilio to tell him that she will commit to the mission. She meets D.W., who agrees to have her join the crew.
The Society of Jesus discreetly accumulates money to fund the mission.