The year 2020 had been a wild roller coaster of a year; world wide nuclear war had just barely been averted as political and religious violence came to a head in a land that had seen millennia of conflict.
The synergy of constant political upheaval, religious conflict and ethnic violence had finally been given access to the planets most destructive weapons technology. The horrific outcome had very nearly been preordained.
Nuclear warheads had been detonated over six targets. Two other warheads did not reach a target. Most of them exploded over high tech cities in the Middle East, one had exploded accidentally while it was being loaded into an airplane and one detonating in a remote corner of China after being launched by North Korea. A mistake certainly, but China had not been amused.
China, despite the insane ranting of the North Korean government, had invaded and took over North Korea in just a few days with very little fighting. The North Korean military had folded almost immediately, the military leaders of the DPRK had long grown weary of the frequent purges, executions, wide spread hunger and despotism of Kim Jong-un. The military, using the crisis as an opportunity, had surrendered almost without resistance. Now, much to the world’s surprise, the Chinese were negotiating a unification of the Koreas under the banner of South Korea.
Many unlikely things had happened this year. After the dust had more or less settled in the Middle East, people began to understand the destruction that had been wrought, even in that limited war was unacceptable. The countries involved had centuries of conflict and hate to motivate them. But, the horrors of modern cities obliterated, billions of dollars of high tech engineering marvels, millions of lives swept away like feathers in a hurricane was heady motivation. Enough motivation to force a change in thinking from the inherently violent, often inhuman conquest in the name of religion and politics mind set toward a state that was at least tolerant of each other if not all out cooperation.
Israel was the country that lost part of a city and an airbase to the accidental detonation of a nuke as it was being loaded on an aircraft, supposed to be impossible but this year was full of impossible events that didn’t seen to know they were impossible. As a couple of destroyed mega cities, built by oil money, were being mourned and clean up was being planned something truly improbable if not outright impossible had occurred.
On December 19th as many people were trying to calm back down and live a bare two kilometers from the international space station, an alien space craft seemed to simply pop into existence. No one on board the space station had actually seen it appear. An automated camera system had been looking almost directly at the spot where the alien craft had suddenly materialized. A two kilometer long space craft that looked amazingly like a famous science fiction space craft, in the video the space craft had appeared but what looked like an after image had receded into the distance. Two people on the ground had been looking at the space station with small telescopes noticed this as well. In the coming months why this after image had appeared to recede into the distance was a popular point of discussion among both scientists and laymen alike.
Sadly this was one of the few things that could be discussed about the alien craft. It hung in low earth orbit for several weeks as humanity tried desperately to communicate with the aliens.
The spacecraft, now called Star Ship by nearly everyone, could be seen with the naked eye and after seven weeks odd little metallic balls started to appear around the planet. The initial metallic spheres were about a meter in diameter. These large globes were seen disgorging smaller balls about the size of golf balls. These smaller spheres gave birth to even smaller BB sized specks. Floating through the air these metallic balls showed up nearly everywhere on the planet as days rolled by. Giving one more oddity to be debated fruitlessly.
In the North Pacific an American Navel Task Force was on routine maneuvers when an object appeared on the radar approaching fast. Before planes could be scrambled or any measures taken the elongated diamond shaped craft was hovering, then landing on the deck of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.
The military had been given orders not to interfere with any of the strange spheres for fear of provoking some sort of destructive response. This craft was obviously not one of the spheres but the aircraft’s speed was such that no response was in actuality possible The craft sat on the deck as people scrambled to do something, anything. No one in fact, had time to do much as the craft off loaded a large metallic box and subsequently rose and speed away into the air over the empty ocean.
Waves of patterns and colors passed over the strange looking bodies of the aliens. Waving their antenna which were amazingly like moth antenna and clicking popping several pairs of forelimbs together with a release of pheromones completed the communication they were sharing while they watched a holographic representation of the vicinity of the box as it was passed into the innards of the Aircraft Carrier:
“Ghastly diminutive creatures don’t you think?”
“Yes” answered his companion with a similar display of colors, patterns, clicking noises and chemicals. “Yes they are pitiful looking creatures, so simple, yet primitive in a peculiar manner notwithstanding in sentient life forms!”
“Agreed” replied his fellow, “Do you want to bet on how long it takes for them to figure out what the box does?”
“Despite their appearance they do seem to have a propensity for solving puzzles, I’d say it won’t take more than a few of their planetary orbits”
“I am not so sure, the rules of contact do state they must figure out how to communicate with us with no help. Giving them a communications terminal is stretching the letter of the law well past what should be its’ breaking point!”
His partner hesitated, patterns of colors flowed over his lower half and his communication limbs clacked in a nervous manner. “Face it if we are going to make a profit off annexing this planet into the Empire we need to stretch the rules as far as possible!” He topped off his reply with a powerful burst of chemicals that made his friend draw back slightly.
“Look at the image! They are taking the Cbox into their moving colony; make sure we are recording this! This will be our first look into one of their nests!”
“Not nests! The data we have mined from their communications net indicates they do not nest in groups like most social beings do, they are individuals, not a collective!”
His partner hesitated as his mind collected the right scents to form an answer. “The data does suggest they are not a collective mind. But I resolve to wait for conformation of that idea before I make any assumptions. It’s difficult to see how such a simple being could be intelligent and social with out some collective thought processes.”
“I agree it would be a rare thing but the beings we subjugated in grid 1086 x 232 x 16,108 were equivalent. And they were individuals and not much more advanced biologically than these… humans…”
The second alien hesitated as his mutualistic symbiotes crawled over his body slowing down from their normal near blurring motions as they sensed his discomfort in the discussion. The small creatures consisted of several different species of arthropod appearing animals that assist in the bodily functions of the aliens. Transferring waste and food in and out of the body through special orifices, clearing the tracheal tubes, even moving food from one part of the digestive system to another. As the symbiotes calmed down and resumed their tasks the other aliens symbiotes relaxed from their defensive posture, in an argument the symbiotes of the two creatures fight each other and the damage, if any, done depends on the severity of the disagreement. Generally only a few of the little animals would harm each other but in extreme cases the damage could be extensive…
Both aliens assumed a more relaxed stance as the question was mulled over finally resulting in agreement. “ These humans may indeed be unique but all intelligences are unique in some manner, these are just a bit more so than most”
With a quick succession of pops and ticks followed by a spray of pheromones the discussion was resumed:
“We stand to gain a considerable amount of wealth from these humans if we can exploit them before anyone else happens upon our operation. The exotic foodstuffs alone will be worth several more resuscitations for our entire group. The biology on this planet is amazingly compatible, fully 10% of the empire can make use of them as a food source and if we are able to use them as workers, the profits make me giddy, the Empire will have to grant us full ownership of these simple beings!”
His partner hesitated, “we will have to cull them ruthlessly, I can’t see how more than 5% of the current population will be necessary for operating the farms and processing factories, we will need much more land than we need workers…”
“How soon until you can write up a proposal to the Throne? We have to get out ahead of this to avoid and competition! So far every animal we have tested will be desirable as food for one or more of the races of the Empire!”
“I have almost completed a formal prospectus, two maybe three standard turns should be enough time to complete my estimates.”
Turning back to the hologram being displayed in the middle of the room they both watched as the sailors on the Aircraft carrier moved the Cbox into an open area as the people stared almost dumbfounded at the apparatus.
“How much time do we have?”
“About 1000 of their planets orbit will be plenty and as short lived as they are none of them will realize what is happening until they are in too deep to stop it!”
“What about their weapons, they do have nuclear weapons you know!”
Yes but by the time they realize they need them we will have eliminated the threat!”