Author : Tino Didriksen
At the mid of the 21st century, we received the first signal, overriding the output of every speaker on and off the planet with a coherent but seemingly meaningless message. It wasn’t until the second and third signals blared forth with about a week between, that we figured out what it was: coordinates relative to the galactic center, less than two parsecs distant, but drifting ever so slowly away from us!
All diplomatic obstacles postponed or quickly smoothed over, as a year of worldwide dedicated research and engineering was mandated, in an effort to plan out the most ambitious space program ever devised. New and old long distance starship designs were perused, every outlandish propulsion gimmick re-examined, cryotech given a fresh look, and even worm holes got their hour in the spotlight.
From the fruits of humanity’s combined academic efforts, a grand spacecraft was commissioned. The pride of the planet, capable of getting its fifty occupants to their destination within a mere eleven years. We even figured out a limited form of faster than light communication, requiring the ship to drop off stationary relay buoys every half light year. The construction of it all took another half year, after which a great launch ceremony sent the voyage off into the unknown.
Then the long wait set in. The newsworthiness waned, the buried squabbles resurfaced, and the world mostly returned to its old self for a decade. Even the weekly confirmation of extrasolar life became more of a nuisance, and the mission updates were relegated to minor slots.
Finally, though, they were nearing their goal, and the world started caring again. Everyone back home was eagerly watching the feed as the ship came to a halt at the coordinates of the source, a few hours before the time it was calculated that a new ping would be sent out. Broad spectrum receivers were fanned out to ensure immediate triangulation of a precise location, all systems ready to begin bombarding the source with scans.
There! Global jubilation as the signal revealed a majestic alien craft, easily the size of a major metropolitan city. Our crew quickly began sending greetings and probes their way, in all languages and code. But then the echoes came in, and from them was gleaned the strip-mined husk of a once rich living planet and the burnt out remains of a star.
Immediately, radio silence was ordered, but it was too late. The alien vessel lit up slowly, turned lazily towards earth’s finest dinghy, then just sat there like a mute rock for several minutes, before casually accelerating to near light speed on a direct vector towards our little corner of the galaxy. We did not bother ordering pursuit.
As best we figured from the remains found out there, the aliens travel to inhabited systems, drain them for all resources and energy, before entering a hibernation state. They set up an automatic beacon to lure young races to them, and then wake up and follow the trail home.
We’ve since lost contact with the deep space mission, as the aliens destroy or disable each relay they pass, probably as a taunt to show they don’t care if we know when they’ll be here. And why should they? It’s not as if we can hope to put a dent in something capable of eating the sun. So yeah, we’re doomed. We’ve got half a year until they arrive, and we are preparing as best we can, but nobody really believes in it. We were too curious, too naive, and they got us good. Hook, line, and …