In low Earth orbit, a satellite drifted over the white swirling clouds of the planet below. As it connected to the computer in charge of issuing course corrections for its morning update, its proximity alert went off. Something was going to make a very close pass and do it very quickly. The satellite’s sensors sprang to life just as two small, neon green pods covered in blue fractal design screamed by at 10,000 miles per hour, following the curvature of the Earth. Searching its database, the machine didn’t find a match to the shape it saw. After analyzing their trajectory, it became very clear that the pods didn’t come from Earth. They didn’t even use an identifiable propulsion system.
A computer in the control center of a military base lit up and technicians surveying space that morning jumped into action. An unknown object from outer space just flew by one of their primary communication satellites. Defensive arrays immediately locked on to the alien pods and sent updates to the technicians’ computers.
“Pods coming in too slow to maintain LEO…”
“Pods definitely aerobraking…”
“Atmospheric entry… confirmed. They’re heading for touchdown.”
“Looks like their target is the industrial sector but it’s too early to say where they’ll impact…”
“Scan indicates that pods are hollow with occupants inside!”
“No, second scan confirms we have little green men…”
Commanders rushed to scramble an encounter team to the predicted landing site as the pods shot through the sky, electromagnetic shields around their hulls glowing while dissipating the heat generated by air compression during atmospheric entry. While a squad of heavily armed specialists from SWAT and whatever other rapid response teams they could rouse at such a short notice were being dispatched to the scene, the pods started spiraling around a landing site in lazy curves, burning off excess speed and preparing for touchdown. The alien craft landed to the sound of heavy weaponry powering up and turrets locking in on their faintly glowing engines.
The aliens sat in their pods for just a few minutes as they shut down. Then, one of the pods softly slid open. The soldiers and police gently tapped the triggers, making sure the safety was off. Laser and projectile turrets mounted on several warehouses to be used in an air attack now set their sights on the open pod which stayed silent, blowing out wisps of white smoke. Suddenly, a blurry figure of a ten foot tall creature jumped out and landed in front of its craft. It looked a praying mantis that survived a nuclear war, with four bug eyes, three antennae, and massive, shearing blades on its skinny arms and legs. The four legs with huge claws that could clearly deliver a lot of damage flexed as the alien adjusted to Earth’s gravity.
It was armed with a powerful, claw-like blade that came out of a cybernetic implant on its arm and its body had a dark green tint with splotches of aquamarine fractal designs. The creature aimed its blade at the military personnel and the armed rovers surrounding it. With a high-pitched screech, it jumped at one of the soldiers and was instantly thrown back by a round from one of the anti-aircraft guns. As the smoke cleared, there was a collective double take. The alien stood up unscathed, protected by an electromagnetic shield that lit up as a blue, transparent bubble.
The insectoid cocked its head and deployed something that looked like an arm-mounted gun the barrel of which glowed with a brighter and brighter blue as a high-pitched whine came from its power core. Before the alien had a chance to shoot, the officers of the encounter team gave the order to fire at will. Hit by tens of thousands of rounds in a split second, the giant bug’s shields failed and its body was torn to shreds. As the other pod began to stir, the warehouse mounted guns let loose with a barrage of large caliber rounds, shattering it into thousands of pieces. After making sure both aliens were dead and the shards of their craft posed no threat, the encounter team sent an all clear signal to their commanders.
The date was May 13, 3507. The local time was 08:47. Earth made first contact with a space faring alien species and the results left much to be desired.
An hour later, an emergency meeting of the Council was called. Aliens made contact and they didn’t exactly come in peace. What happens next and were there more pods to follow? Civilians didn’t know anything yet. The craft streaking across the sky were assumed to be meteors. The planet’s rulers, who knew differently, were panicking, and so they gathered in a large conference room with a panoramic view of a massive hyper-city to discuss the situation.
They weren’t a clandestine cabal of self-appointed overlords, but rather a council of elected officials established in the late 2600s to oversee global commerce, space exploration, healthcare, and social programs while enforcing international laws. Over time, nations began integrating into one under the banner of global trade and cooperation. Of course, this was not an easy task and for hundreds of years afterwards, separatists and nationalists started small wars in hopes of tearing this new one world government apart. Across the globe, separatist groups still carried out bombings while shouting their opposition to the new order on pirate radio stations and the internet.
A new one world government wasn’t the only change made in 1,500 years. In the 2200s, life extending treatments allowed many of those who lived in wealthy nations, or simply had plenty of money, to live to the ripe old age of 312. It almost goes without saying that there was a rather big conflict about it and by the 2700s, the vast majority of the world’s population had died out thanks to war, starvation, and disease. One might think that a near total annihilation of the world’s less fortunate was a downright barbaric example of the vast disparity between the world’s haves and the have-nots, but that wasn’t quite so. After inflation kicked in, the world was back right where it started. The lowest earners of wealthy countries became the new poor and the world’s wealthiest people weren’t quite so wealthy anymore. Thanks to the laws of mathematics, the world returned to where it started before the mass attrition began.
By the early 3100s, the world’s population (just over one billion at that point in time) gathered in vast, sprawling hyper-cities. With populations in excess of 100 million, the hyper-cities became major economic hubs which allowed global commerce to thrive under the watchful eye of the International Council, tasked with preventing and stopping major conflicts that could disrupt trade. That included terrorist bombings, business quarrels, trade and currency wars, and apparently, alien invasions.
Councilor Howard Grey, a distinguished gentleman with salt and pepper hair and the look of a natural father figure, rushed into the lobby of the skyscraper occupied by the Council and its staff. Like all leaders of his day, he was born into a family of wealthy and powerful politicians groomed for leadership roles and destined to occupy a public office. Having spent nearly two centuries in the world of politics and built vast networks of informants, it was very difficult to catch him out of some crucial loop and hence, he often became the de facto boss of the Council during a crisis.
Having received the first reports, Grey hurried to the meeting. On his arrival, he was bombarded with concerned military officials who were waiting to speak to the Council. He told them to stay put, keep watching for more alien pods and to make themselves available on a moment’s notice when the Council had a question. Having given the officers something to do, Grey now tended to his own business as he stepped in an elevator and ascended to the top floor of the skyscraper where the Council held its meetings.
He ran the reports in his mind, trying to see if he could walk into the chamber with some sort of insight. Alas he didn’t know anything that the other Councilors weren’t made aware of and this lack of information was a bit irritating to him. He was used to coming up with solutions to major problems thanks to tips from his network of experts and informants. Today, they were of no use.
The elevator stopped and Grey proceeded to the conference room where his fellow councilors were gathering. The Council numbered nine officials in charge of everything humans needed to maintain a stable society. They presided over every face of human existence on planet Earth, each Councilor responsible for a specific field such as energy or defense. A third of the members were up for reelection every two years and as a member of the Council for almost half a century, Grey has seen many of his so-called colleagues come and go with the people’s changing attitudes.
His colleagues were three very formal men and five stern women responsible for countless cartoons depicting the Council as a bunch of uptight, decrepit bureaucrats, and many of them were going to be replaced during upcoming elections for a far less conservative group even though they weren’t actually all that conservative or liberal in their ideology. They just liked to keep the status quo so they could avoid doing actual work since after all, work was the dirtiest word in politics. Because the elections were only a year away, two of them were in the middle of their lame duck phase, knowing in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t keep their jobs.
Grey had to watch them to make sure that these lame ducks wouldn’t use this crisis for a power grab. Never underestimate a politician in dire need of another term in office was an axiom that he picked up during his first job in politics as a teenage canvasser for his uncle’s Council campaign, and that tidbit of wisdom has served him well during his long career.
The Councilors were seated around a large, dark, metallic desk, all of them facing a cube-shaped holographic monitor located in the middle of the table. Grey slid the door shut and joined them in his usual seat at the head of the table as Senior Councilor. He placed a thin, flexible plastic screen that displayed data gathered by space observatories and from the morning incident in front of him and leaned back in his chair as the other councilors acknowledged him with informal hellos and polite nods.
“So apparently, we’re crawling with aliens…” he laughed.
“Unfortunately it’s no joke…” grimly replied Councilor Royd.
“Question is, do we tell the public about an alien landing? And If we do, what do we tell them?” wondered Councilor Andersen. “ET with a basket of space goodies is one thing, but alien bugs trying to kill our encounter team… I don’t know about that…”
“With all due respect,” weighed in Grey. “The alien gets out of a pod to find a hundred some barrels staring at it. How should it react? Is it because it doesn’t understand how we do things or is it because it’s really hostile?”
“There was nothing friendly about it,” said Councilor Hertz, the councilor in charge of defense. “If the aliens made a mistake, would the alien in the other pod get ready to attack? It feels like they were testing our defenses with kamikaze scouts.”
“So what’s the damage?” asked Grey.
“No alien viruses or bacteria as far as we know,” said Councilor Silvis, the councilor who oversaw scientific research and medicine. “We can’t find anything out of the ordinary. Maybe we’re not looking hard enough or for the right things, but so far the soldiers seem to be perfectly healthy.”
“Hmm… thank God for small favors,” muttered Grey. “So ladies and germs, what do we do from here? The question on my mind goes something like this. Do we shoot them down if they come again and if we do, with what?”
The council debated for hours on how to protect the planet from the alien menace, talking with military officials, astrobiologists, and astronomers. No one knew whether another wave was coming, if this visit was a scouting mission, or if this was a precursor of something far more sinister. But the popular consensus was that the pods were far too small to get to Earth all by themselves. They had to be part of something much bigger, something with enough mass and energy to travel between stars. Considering that such a powerful hypothetical something had been made by humans before, they were clearly dealing with a fairly advanced and determined species. Whoever the aliens were, they spent too much time and energy to get to Earth without something big in mind.