They were grad students from the little-known Arizona Institute of Technology and they were working on a secret project in the desert. After spending years studying signals from a series of programmatically connected radio-telescopes, they discovered the alien signal. When they plotted the points, it became clear that they were looking at blueprints for a device, an advanced giant 3D printer.
The team leader, “Burger” (that’s how they referred to him since his undergrad days because of his diet) called the blueprints “the IKEA manual.” A series of pictures showed idiot-simple step-by-step instructions on how to build the thing. Assembly required a hex wrench. Even an earthling could do it.
Burger’s team didn’t have much money so they crowd sourced it. In the promotion, they described what they were building but left out the part about its alien origin.
The desert was hot and they lived in tents, worked hard and drank gallons of Gatorade. Some parts didn’t quite fit and others were missing, so they made new ones and altered others.
Finally, it was complete. The machine was the size of one of those tiny houses. There were plenty of electronics and moving parts inside but the exterior was a plain black box.
Marisa would switch on the unit. She did so and it hummed. A dozen sweaty grad students waited in silence. Time passed and minds wandered. Some looked at the blue sky, the saguaros or the distant clay mountains.
The hum stopped. Burger stepped forward. All eyes turned as the portal opened and the creature slowly floated out.