Author: Irene Montaner

Their planet was insignificant. A pint-sized rock orbiting a small star in the middle of its life cycle. It was geologically diverse and had a rich atmosphere that had allowed life to thrive both on water and land masses.

Their technology was insignificant. They had visited their only moon a handful of times and sent countless probes and satellites into space to drift endlessly in the darkness. Space garbage, really.

Their species was insignificant. Highly evolved apes who walked on their two back legs and communicated with each other orally. Also, they had a nasty tendency to fight each other for petty affairs.

Every other animal species was unable to stop us, being thus insignificant for our research purposes.

Then, why bother to conquer such an irrelevant world?

Well, they had salty water aplenty. Enormous repositories of salty water – oceans, as they called them – covered around 75% of the surface of their planet. And those waters were rich in algae, plankton, minerals and all-important electrolytes, which we needed to optimise our cognitive functions.

After our home planet fell into the dying star of our stellar system we went into hibernation and wandered the universe, waiting for our spaceships’ AI systems to find other habitable worlds. Those AI systems did all the work for us: research, suitability checks, route-planning and finally waking us up once we were in the vicinity of a new home. And that’s what they did when we were finally approaching Earth.

We had never encountered resistance before but assumed it would be an easy war. Their technological level was no match for ours and after a couple of humiliating defeats they would surely surrender and grant us sovereign rights over their planet. But they called a parley instead. And considering that we had disparate interests, as oceans were not essential for their survival according to our research, we agreed.

Our universal translating bots were ready in thirty-six hours. That’s all the time the bots needed to decode the language of their choice: simple English, a very primitive language with an easy grammar and a limited lexicon. We met in neutral territory, a desert where there was ample space for our ships to land and where no one lived within a radius of hundred and fifty kilometres. Even if they looked at us suspiciously, they greeted us cordially. They invited us in and asked us to sit down. And they talked.

They talked and talked and talked.

And talked and talked and talked.

And by the time their talking was over my brain was fried. Literally fried. Not even all the electrolytes in one of their ocean could have revived it, so I dropped dead on their desert.

Confused and scared, our spaceships flew away and never returned.