Nick, an astronomy graduate student, dies in a laboratory fire in what is later shown to be murder. He had stumbled on alien signal coming from Europa as a series of on-off methane pulses that formed a digital signal. Because of his stormy relationship with his arrogant professor, Nick had not acknowledged that there were previous signals he’d recorded, but the geology professor Candrew Nor is able to get a copy of this early part of the message, although he can’t at first decode the pages of arcane numbers.
Candrew’s search for Nick’s murderer is complicated by the international importance of message, and by the arrival on campus of an English astronomer (who is later abducted), a visiting pastor Rhodes (from the HighRhode to Heaven), Nick’s wife (attacked in her house), and a graduate student from Indian (who has sophisticated monitoring equipment). Candrew himself is attacked at his office by an unknown foreigner. It takes detailed analysis of debris from the burnt lab to finally tie the murderer to the crime.