Good evening once again, and welcome to another of my weekly short stories. This one takes a step away from zombies (for a bit anyway) and returns to an alien invasion type storyline, albeit with a slight twist in its tail. If zombies and alien invasions aren’t your thing, I’ll be moving onto some other genres over the coming weeks.
“So they’re heading this way. What are we supposed to do about it?”
The Secretary of Defence took a drag on his cigarette, contravening a dozen laws preventing smoking indoors, and spoke in a clear, deep tone.
“Mr President, there is absolutely nothing we can do.”
The President slumped back into his chair and rubbed his greying temples. “No, there’s one thing we can do. We can go public.”
The alien fleet had been detected approximately 20 light years away from Earth and were on a direct course for the pale blue dot. At first, when NASA first identified the object, they had assumed it was an unusually large asteroid. But, as the object had drawn closer, maintaining a steady speed and trajectory through the vast emptiness between two solar systems, they soon realised it was a vessel of alien origin. After a few more months of close observation, additional smaller ships could be seen alongside the main vessel.
No signals had been received from the fleet, apparently no attempt at communication. This had led to much consternation and worry at the higher levels of most of the world’s governments. If they came in peace, surely they would have made some effort to communicate their intentions? Those who suggested that they may not have the capability to communicate on the same level as humanity were quickly dismissed as most turned their thoughts to a more military type of response.
The public were as yet unaware that humanity was not alone in the universe. Instead they went about their daily business as usual, some mildly concerned by the reports in the news about increased global tension and disagreements amongst world leaders. The majority were more interested in when the football was going to be back on the television, or deciding what to have for dinner that evening.
The President of the United States of America made his live broadcast approximately 27 days before the alien fleet was due to enter the solar system. It was calculated that it would take them less than a week to travel from Pluto to Earth orbit, based on their current speed and course. He advised the public to be cautious, to not panic in the face of the unknown. At first order was maintained, much to everyone’s surprise.
As the all important day drew nearer, millions began to suffer from severe migraines and short tempers. Doctors were uncertain about its origins. Street violence increased in volume a hundredfold in the space of a week. Very soon it was no longer safe to go out onto the streets unless absolutely necessary. Riots became commonplace as people across the world succumbed to their violent thoughts. Naturally, conspiracy theorists assumed this was the work of the aliens, designed to soften up the planet before appearing at the last for their coup de grace. Nothing could be proven. No signals were detected by those Earthbound scientists who had not yet given in to the rage.
Within a fortnight international relations broke down. After the Americans refused to share data with the Russian Federation the former Communist country started posturing. It was only a matter of time, with lines drawn in the sand and previously controlled angers now unchecked, before the nuclear bombs started falling. Much of the Northern hemisphere was wiped out in the space of a few days, the Southern hemisphere following suit in retaliatory action shortly thereafter. The survivors continued their fight against one another until there was almost nothing left but scraps.
The alien fleet arrived in Earth orbit precisely 27 days and 1 hour after the President’s speech. They had been sending signals to the planet for what passed for weeks on Earth. They had received no response. The scientists on board responsible for their message beam had suggested the lifeforms in this system may not be capable of communicating in such a manner. The command group responsible for this expedition had agreed and decided to continue their efforts. They had no other way of confirming their peaceful intentions apart from a face to face meeting. By sending out regular messages of peace, it would be clear to the planet’s inhabitants that the visitors meant them no harm.
On arriving in orbit, the alien fleet switched off the energy beam transmitting the message and scanned the surface for life signs.
The planet below was a dead husk. Thick black cloud covered much of its surface, the oceans darkened from their previous vibrant blue to a murky green. If anything had lived here before – and the artificial satellites in orbit confirmed as much – that was no longer the case.
Perhaps their readings had been wrong? The small craft they had picked up, the one enclosing a small golden disc containing strange audio recordings, had left clear instructions as to which planet should be approached. And yet, there was nothing. It seemed that this was yet another dead end, the fleet arriving too late to introduce themselves.
There was nothing more to do here, clearly. The fleet commander checked the map for this section of the galaxy and ordered that a course be set for the next solar system. After so many false positives and dead planets behind them, the commander hoped that the next one would prove once and for all that there was still other life out there in the universe.