Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

It was the year 254,051. It was odd, actually, that nobody seemed to care anymore why they started counting form zero 254,051 years ago, or why a “year” was 365 “days” long, or why each day had ten “hours,” or why each hour had 100 “minutes.” Presumably, it had something to do with the periods of revolution and rotation of the original homeworld of humanity, but nobody could remember where that was. It was generally suspected that it was in the spiral arms somewhere, in what was referred to as the “Sirius Sector,” because that’s where archeologists find the oldest artifacts. But dozens of other sectors made similar claims. Unfortunately, no habitable planet could be found that revolved around its luminary in exactly 365 days. This suggested that the original homeworld may have been destroyed, either by war, or because their sun went nova. Ultimately, in the large scheme of things, it really didn’t matter. Mankind had expanded to fill all corners of the Milky Way. Where they actually originated, didn’t matter.

What did matter to scientists, however, was why there were no non-human civilizations in the galaxy. Over 90 billion stars had been explored, containing over 10 billion habitable planets, of which about half harbored at least single cell organisms. Eleven percent of those contained indigenous plant life. Eight percent of those worlds developed animal life. But none on the worlds containing animals ever developed a detectable civilization. To be sure, some of the animal species were able to communicate using a language, but these were always hominids, with DNA very similar to humans. It was concluded that they were humans that had become isolated and had de-evolved over the millennium. Apparently, homo optime-sapiens were the only intelligent species in the galaxy, and perhaps the universe. However, with the recent invention of the Hyperwarp Drive, we had a chance to find out.

The Hyperwarp Drive made intergalactic travel possible. Instead of requiring 250 years to reach Andromeda, it could be done in two. So, when the SS Initiative left space dock and streaked toward Andromeda, its five year mission was to…well, to see if anybody was out there with a respectable IQ.

One year into the mission, just short of the half way point, the Initiative shuddered violently and dropped out of hyperwarp. Half of the inertial dampers instantly overloaded in their effort to keep the crew from becoming wall ornaments. On the bridge, the main viewer displayed a mammoth alien vessel, at least a thousand times larger than the Initiative. “They’re hailing us,” announced the communications officer.

“On speakers,” replied the captain.

“We’ve been monitoring your galaxy since you humans began to spread. Your species was permitted to infest the galaxy you call the Milky Way. However, you may not travel beyond one million light years from your central black hole. Access beyond that is prohibited. Therefore, you are to turn your ship around, or be destroyed.”

“Sounds like they mean business,” noted the first officer.

“I don’t care,” replied the captain. “I need to meet these aliens. Maybe I can reason with them. Prepare a shuttle.” A few minutes later, the captain left the shuttle bay and headed toward the alien spaceship. Half way there, the shuttle simply exploded. No one saw a weapon fired.

“Ensign, turn the ship around, and plot a course for Alpha-base,” ordered the first officer.

“At least we learned something,” injected the science officer. “There are other intelligent species out here.”

“Well, that was our mission, after all,” stated the first officer. “So, I guess we’re done here. Engage.”


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