Who do you send to meet the alien when the alien doesn’t want to meet?
After all, Theseus damn well was.
She’d taken us a good fifteen AUs towards our destination before something scared her off course. Then she’d skidded north like a startled cat and started climbing: a wild high three-gee burn off the ecliptic, thirteen hundred tonnes of momentum bucking against Newton’s First. She’d emptied her Penn tanks, bled dry her substrate mass, squandered a hundred forty days’ of fuel in hours. Then a long cold coast through the abyss, years of stingy accounting, the thrust of every antiproton weighed against the drag of sieving it from the void. Teleportation isn’t magic: the Icarus stream couldn’t send us the actual antimatter it made, only the quantum specs. Theseus had to filterfeed the raw material from space, one ion at a time. For long dark years she’d made do on pure inertia, hording every swallowed atom. Then a flip; ionizing lasers strafing the space ahead; a ramscoop thrown wide in a hard brake. The weight of a trillion trilli