As the interstellar probe sped in Earth’s direction, the world’s pre-eminent minds convened in Zurich to discuss the oncoming apocalypse.
Just days earlier, American scientists had observed a peculiar radio pattern coming from deep space. The Chinese were quick to corroborate the report.
Each group received an identical message, delivered in a strange dialect that sounded native to all who heard it.
The warning was stark: “We come from an advanced civilization across the stars. We have deemed your race’s scientific advancement an unacceptable risk to our own dominion. We send this message in a gesture of courtesy. But do not be mistaken: We mean to eliminate your planet, and will do so in mere moments. There is nothing you can do.”
The world’s statesmen, first befuddled, slowly grew more and more panicked. Before long, observers across the globe, both official and not, were confirming sights of a speeding ship of unknown origin closing in. Unnervingly, surveyor after surveyor came back with the same report: this object, as it careened in our direction, held a velocity exceeding that of light itself.
It was impossible, but it was so.
The delegations to Zurich, serious and frantic, squabbled amongst themselves. The frenetic dialogues fostered a low-key eeriness to the proceedings. No one knew what to do; our race, once assuming itself the wisest of all, was ill prepared for intergalactic conflict. Idea after idea was proposed, each to be shut down by the simple facts of the matter. Not only was there nothing to be done, but nothing could be done.
As the object came closer, it only seemed to pick up speed. Now it would be upon the world in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.
Then, all of a sudden, just as those tracking the object’s flight were bracing for death, the radar showed it speeding past our planet. Could it be true? Had we really been saved?
It seemed so. And no one understood why.
Yet parsecs away, another civilization, infinitely more advanced than our own, was in a similar panic. The speeding ship bypassed our worthless home to hone-in on its sole intended target. This world’s leaders knew the nature, if not the identity, of their attacker; for millennia they had constructed defenses, wary of what lay beyond the stars.
Still, they died all the same. The intergalactic war raged for years more and across many other planets and galaxies, including ours. But even in our own backyard, the human race was less than a bystander to the unfolding genocide. Our species, held to such high esteem in our self-made evolutionary hierarchy, registered as neither friend nor enemy.
To them, we weren’t even pests. Our collective civilization was a mere grain of sand on the beaches of eternity. ■