One would think that the discovery of an intelligent and fairly advanced alien species is a good day’s work, even if the species in question is hostile, a somewhat unpleasant fact best chalked up to the overall imperfection of the universe. But as it so happened, another otherworldly civilization was also keenly interested in the tiny blue planet called Earth by its inhabitants. And unlike the insectoids, they arrived en masse, warping into focus high above the planet in formations numbering thousands of obviously heavily armed military spacecraft. Their appearance took a little while to notice since these alien destroyers were invisible to any satellite without an extremely powerful optical sensor, but by the time the fleet of some 100,000 ships comfortably settled into orbit, Earth’s generals were on high alert as the first snapshots from space started to appear on their screens.
Jet black, impossibly sleek and wide with aggressive curves and lines, and enveloped in an eerie, undulating, red aurora, these craft looked like flying alien super-cars from Hell. Glowing in the rear of each ship were complex arrays of red patches forming concentric circular patterns in the immense engine block. Stamped on top of each destroyer was a red seal with a large tribal representation of a flame surrounded by sharp, angular runes. As big as a skyscraper each, they were an impressive and ominous sight. Without so much as a hint of radio or laser communication between them, seemingly paying no attention to the inhabitants of the planet below, they held their position and very attentively looked out into space.
In their conference room, the Councilors stared at the images of the alien fleet in a holographic cube suspended in the middle of the table. They looked at the menacing destroyers with a primal curiosity in silence, not sure what to make of these craft, much less why they were in orbit in the first place.
“What the hell is that?!” finally let out Councilor Hertz.
“I have no clue…” stated Councilor Jensen, the go to man when it came to space travel.
“Ah crap…” grimaced Grey. “Can we have another alien species for a holy friggin’ trinity?!”
The other councilors looked at him with astonishment. They now knew that it took two advanced, space faring alien races to appear in Earth’s orbit in one day to finally make Grey emote.
Grey coughed nervously and adjusted his glasses. “So they’re just orbiting the planet and staring out into nothing?”
“They’re not even orbiting,” replied Jensen. “They’re just sitting around in one spot in geostationary orbit above the equator and waiting for something.”
“For what would they be waiting?” asked Councilwoman Gerard.
In the next few minutes, she had her answer.
From space, the Earth was a cloudy blue ball with hyper-cities nearly a thousand miles across shining muted rainbows of light and revealing their complicated, spiraling structures. At first glance they looked like tiny galaxies reflected on the planet’s surface.
In front of this picturesque view, the bizarre destroyers stood on guard. Suddenly, their enemies appeared; a vast fleet of insectoid ships headed straight for Earth. Menacing green craft, small pods and spiny, insect-like shapes zoomed towards the planet at breakneck speed as if ignoring the newcomers in orbit. The destroyers stood still, but their red auroras surged ominously. They were charging, redirecting more energy to whatever weapons lay hidden inside them.
Taking the veiled hint, the insectoids’ ships veered off into an orbit a thousand miles away from the destroyer fleet. Their flagships and the core of their fleet moved upward, forming a protective cocoon of smaller fighters and gunships around themselves. The army of alien insects was reshuffling itself, getting ready to engage a new and very different enemy than the one they anticipated. They had no idea whose property these menacing military craft in Earth’s orbit were, but they were in the way, and thus, fair game.
The alien bugs’ gunships flashed their laser panels and guns, sending out tiny pods like the ones which landed on Earth that morning. The entire armada buzzed and shone its guns. There was no reaction from the opposing fleet. The destroyers didn’t seem to share the insectoids’ flair for showing off their guns. Finally, a flagship deep within the formation took a shot at the destroyers.
A powerful blue laser beam flashed into existence between the flagship and its target like a lightning bolt. A red, transparent bubble appeared around the destroyer and faded an instant later. The weapon’s charge never reached the warship’s hull. It was absorbed and dissipated throughout the shield.
In the conference room on Earth, the councilors’ jaws dropped in their laps with a heavy thud and assumed a very comfortable position there. Caught up in the anticipation of a stunning light show about to unfold in orbit, the humans didn’t even worry about why the aliens were fighting each other.
The sleek destroyers unlocked their terrifying weapons. Laser panels able to generate several petawatts per shot, enough to create antimatter on a subatomic scale, emerged from the top, bottom and sides on raised sections of their smooth hulls. Particle cannons with short barrels and missile silos slid open, red bolts of energy flashing between them. The front of each destroyer split to reveal a deep, grooved barrel that surged with an intense red corona, obviously their most powerful cannon.
The seals on their tops, marked between the raised laser panels tilted a front-facing circular section to reveal something very similar to a missile launcher. They fired a swarm of spider-like robots that spun through space with spheres in between their eight thin, sharp legs. On each dark sphere was a red, glowing rune. Positioning themselves between the insectoid and destroyer fleets, the robotic spiders froze, waiting for further orders.
In this bizarre ritual of pre-battle posturing, whoever or whatever operated the destroyers invited the alien bugs to try and do their best. The insects duly obliged. A squadron of their ships shot towards the destroyers, weapons at the ready. The spiders holding on to the black spheres began to spin wildly, launching their cargo into the midst of the insectoids’ formation.
The spheres’ red runes began glowing brighter and brighter until the entire devices turned into red, blinding balls of light. As they detonated, they sent out transparent, spherical shockwaves that instantly turned the ships around them into dust. An intense, surging corona of X-rays and gamma rays, glowing as it collided with the interplanetary medium, expanded like a delicate shroud blown by a fierce wind, immolating the insectoids’ craft and its occupants with monstrous doses of radiation. The ghost ships were suddenly stretched into bizarre, oblong shapes as the maelstroms of light suddenly imploded into nothingness, leaving bubbles of empty space crackling with electricity.
Back on Earth, the generals watching the battle on holographic screens in their top secret war rooms stared at the blasts with disbelief and envy, estimating the power output of these spheres.
“I want one of those,” dreamily sighed a general.
“I want a dozen…” seconded his colleague.
“I want all of them,” declared a third general, looking at the final power output calculations on his screen.
These powerful spheres, known as IGFs to their creators, just dispatched nearly a quarter of the enemy fleet with a single volley. As the remaining enemy ships approached, the destroyers opened fire. Their main cannons sliced right through the bugs’ cruisers, their lasers shredded the pods, their missiles took out ships trying to outflank them and the crevices on their sides fired small swarms of sleek fighters which isolated flagships, picking away at them like starving piranhas. The insectoids were being pushed into a lower orbit around the Earth’s equator which forced them to move slower as they came closer to the planet’s gravity well, giving the sleek destroyers above the equivalent of a higher ground from which to attack.
The destroyers moved quickly, isolating the insectoid fleet into small pockets in which their ships couldn’t receive backup, couldn’t communicate with the rest of their fleet and couldn’t scatter to avoid being hit by a cannon blast from a destroyer or being reduced to scrap metal by the agile little fighters zooming overhead. By this time, the insectoid pods were all gone. The core of the fleet now lay exposed.
The most fearsome enemy craft were rounded up and given a nasty surprise. Not all IGF launching spiders sent their payloads with the first volley. Ten of them lay dormant after the initial volley ended and detecting the massive ships around them, reactivated, setting off their bombs. With one swift move, the core of the bugs’ fleet was driven right into the thermonuclear furnaces of IGF blasts.
After thirty minutes of combat, the destroyers relented, letting some of the alien pods flee the battlefield and shredding the few stubborn bugs oblivious to the fact that the battle has been lost as the spiders that originally deployed the IGFs carefully deorbited the debris from the destroyed ships. Slowly, the destroyers assumed positions around the Earth’s equator. Several warships launched small probes shaped like backwards satellite dishes with long antennae towards the outer solar system.
In the conference room, the councilors looked at their screens in disbelief at what they saw. It was so quiet that a pin drop would’ve sounded like thunder. Finally, Grey broke the silence.
“What just happened?” he asked.
“Well, a fleet of aliens just warped into high orbit, vaporized an entire swarm of insects from outer space who tried to invade Earth during the morning rush hour, and is now just sitting in orbit around the equator. Where have you been today?” growled Hertz.
“So what’s next?” sighed Newman, the Councilor in charge of social affairs.
In the IT vault of the Council building, the massive holographic screens showing sophisticated data charts and detailed progress reports from all of the machines and humans that maintained the city, began going down one by one. In place of the reports, a black screen with bizarre alien runes covered the entire wall. Every technician, supervisor and network administrator present gasped and muttered curses while trying to reboot the affected networks.
To the great relief of the IT personnel, the city was still up and running, but the building’s swarm of supercomputers was being hacked and packets of data were being transmitted into key servers. This was a secure building with top secret files in its system. If the alien hackers were successful, they could shut down the Earth’s capital city and get their currently unidentified appendages on the biggest repository of classified information on the planet. The network administrator shut down the alien screen and brought up a representation of the server system to trace the progress of the alien data.
It was looking for the secure servers used by the Council.
He fiercely pounded on his keyboard and touch screen, changing the passwords needed to access the servers and network drives. However, the alien computer virus, seen as a red river of binary hieroglyphs on the technician’s screen, was jumping from server to server, adding drivers, dynamic libraries and data objects.
The network admin’s complex 3D chart moved, rotated and zoomed to show the servers the alien data attacked until finally, the virus stopped, unable to connect to one of the secure networks.
The admin hit a key with a smirk.
“Aha… gotcha!” he gloated.
To his dismay, a few seconds later the alien virus suddenly broke through the barrier. Someone on the other side was able to figure out the new codes he just randomly generated.
“No, no, no… No… No… oh no,” he chanted as he tried to disconnect the power to some of the network gateways.
He entered a new command script and ran it. A floating hologram confirmed that the power to the hub between the core and the contaminated servers was now off and it seemed that the alien data had nowhere to go. But just a few seconds later, the hub was back on and the data continued its march through the servers to find the core computers. It had only four more control points to pass.
“All right, let’s see how you like that!” the network admin said, shutting off the next set of routers while switching the city’s main systems to an auxiliary network designed to handle vital tasks in the event of a cyber-attack just like this.
The alien doing the hacking didn’t seem to find it a big problem. Using a new connection, the virus accessed the core servers. In the IT vault, the bewildered admin could only sit back and watch. But as the data downloaded itself into the main supercomputer, nothing was disrupted. There was only a recording of new image and data files being added to the hard drive.
The admin’s face darkened in disappointment. Not once has he been unable to stop a hack into the central supercomputer and yet, here he was defeated in a matter of minutes by someone or something. Just as he was wondering what to do next, the big holographic screen with his wiring chart switched to static. The static cleared for just a moment to reveal a fuzzy, yet easily distinguishable close-up of a face.
The face was that of a very cute young girl, but this girl was clearly not human. Her face resembled a stylized mask of dark silver, which made her look somewhat like a drawing come to life. On her cheeks were small, black, jagged marks that ran from her temple to where her cheek bones presumably were. Her big eyes, made of complex glowing patches, shone blue. When she smiled, she playfully stuck out her red, almost human-like tongue, taunting the admins and technicians in the IT vault. She winked, and just as quickly as she appeared, her image vanished.
After the network admin in charge recovered, he e-mailed an alert to the main conference room. He hadn’t the faintest clue how to explain what just happened, but according to the protocol, he had to figure out a way to do it.
Meanwhile, in the conference room, the councilors were in the middle of brainstorming about a possible way to contact the aliens in orbit when their holographic screens began turning black.
A second later, a red alien symbol appeared on each screen and compound circles began to construct themselves around the symbols section by section. These compound circles were progress indicators and constantly changing lines of code underneath them showed components being downloaded from a database, unpacking themselves, and executing. However, it was impossible to tell what exactly was being loaded because everything on the screens was encoded in a bizarre, red, alien script. Finally, all the screens flickered and exploded with images of other solar systems, spaceships, and a zoo worth of alien creatures. Each of the images was only displayed one per screen per second, creating an impressive visual barrage.
The holographic projector in the conference table came alive and began showing rapidly changing holograms of other planets, from small planetoids, to terrestrial worlds, to gas giants. There were complete datasets for each system and detailed diagrams of alien ships, strange machines, and bizarre buildings that looked as if they were growing straight out of the ground, rather than constructed by a space faring civilization.
Finally, the holographic cube in the center of the conference table came to a stop on 3D images of the insectoid aliens which were just driven back from Earth, and their warships, with extremely detailed anatomical and engineering cross-sections and charts. All of the surrounding screens froze on the last images they displayed with the exception of two screens; one that slowly scrolled through a long list of names and another that displayed an alien rune under which a line of undecipherable code kept displaying new messages faster than the eye could focus on the flowing runes.
“Now what?” cried Councilor Hertz.
In reply, the black screen displaying a red rune and lines of alien code flickered and brought a face into focus, a face that the councilors weren’t prepared to see.
It was the same creature that looked back at the human astronaut from the waters in the darkest chamber of the Martian netherworld. The only change to this entity were two red, translucent earrings in his left ear. His eyes and the jagged marks on his cheeks shone with an almost supernatural glow. He was no longer just a reflection.
The Councilors sat in stunned silence, trying to figure out how this alien could have such a humanoid appearance. Everything they studied told them that extraterrestrials should be unrecognizable, weird life forms like those insectoids, not boyish looking humanoids. They had no idea what to say, their bodies recoiling from the piercing gaze of the creature’s inhumanly large, glowing, red eyes.
“Take me to your leader?” asked the creature in a pleasant baritone. It spoke perfect English with a very light accent that was impossible to place, a mark left by an otherworldly language.
“That would be us,” replied Grey unsurely as if trying to remind himself and the Councilors that they were in fact the leaders of Earth and the alien creature was talking to the right people.
Grey introduced himself and the rest of the Council as the creature politely nodded and smiled, careful not to show its teeth.
“My name is Ace,” he said. “I’m the commander of the fleet in orbit around your planet. We’re here to help.”
“Oh behalf of the International Council and the people of Earth, I’d like to thank you for coming to our planet’s aid,” responded Grey.
“Please don’t thank me yet,” said Ace. “This was just the first wave. More of these creatures are on their way to Earth. What you saw was a scouting party designed to test your defenses. Since we met them, the Rexx’s commanders will throw their entire fleet at us and bring in reinforcements.”
“And without your help, we’d be facing an all-out global invasion right now.”
Ace half-shrugged in reply.
“Now you call these aliens the Rexx? What are they?” asked Grey.
“We’ve sent you most of the information we have on them. The Rexx is just a codename based on the astronomical coordinates of their territory. They don’t call themselves anything like that, if they call themselves anything at all.”
“Why are they here?” asked Councilor Jensen.
“They were sent to exterminate the human species.”
“Sent? By who?” asked Grey.
“Somebody wants humans exterminated?” jumped Hertz. “Why?”
“Well, there seems to be a misunderstanding of cosmic proportions at play here,” sighed Ace. “You see, the alien species that controls the Rexx feel that humans pose a threat to them.”
Grey’s face froze with a alarm.
“Who are you Ace?” he asked.
“Have you ever heard of Mars Expedition 37?” Ace raised his brow with a teasing smirk.
“The mission that disappeared in the early 2100s? It’s a storied part of space age folklore and we still hear all kinds of conspiracy theories and wild guesses about why those astronauts went missing over the years. How do you know about it?”
“Because you’re looking at the mission scientist.”
A hush fell over the conference room.
“But that would make you…” started Councilor Silvis, “over 1,400 years old.”
“Yes. Yes, it would,” agreed Ace.
“How could that even be possible? The longest recorded human lifespan is 332.”
“I’ll have to fill you in on quite a bit. From what the crews of the Terra Firma Project have been telling me, you never call anymore…” Ace smiled ominously, bearing the pair of fangs which now functioned as his canines.