Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Two figures stand on the observation deck of the patrol ship ‘Camelot’. The taller of the two points at an object silhouetted against the planet.
“That has got to be the ugliest spaceship I’ve ever seen.”
“It’s not a spaceship,” replies the shorter of the two, tail flicking in irritation.
“One end is blunt, the other end is sharp, and it’s got fins that slope backwards toward the blunt end. What is it, then? Orbital art?”
“It’s a sunbomb.”
“A planetary defence antique powerful enough to appear as a star in the sky, eh? Impressive.”
“No, it’s for use on a sun.”
“I’ve seen a starburster. That would fit inside one of the drive tubes.”
“Not designed to explode. Designed to age.”
“Do what?”
“The writings upon it speak of many interference effects – including several we’re not familiar with – along with a schedule of causes that we have yet to fully understand. There is also a time manipulation component of baffling complexity.”
“You said it was a bomb.”
“‘Sunbomb’ is easier to grasp than ‘alien chronosolar accelerator’.”
“They wrote instructions on the outside?”
“In big characters.”
“Think of it as a huge signal flare.”
“Signalling what?”
“To attract their attention.”
“They call themselves Barsiliumonalf – it’s as close as we can get with any language on Earth. An ancient star-faring race, arrogant and powerful. Some of their phrasing indicates they regard everything as theirs if they want it: stars, planets, beings, it makes no difference.”
“Why make this?”
“Laziness. They got bored of looking for intelligent races, so they scattered a few of these about. Any race smart enough to figure out how to set one off, and mad enough to do so, might be worth talking to.”
“Could we set it off?”
“Detailed translation is going to take a while, but I’m confident we could be in a position to do it within a decade.”
“While you do that, our superiors will decide which sun we can lose. Better get started on creating better defences.”
“Defences? They left star-warping time-distortion devices lying about like litter. How can you possibly hope to defend against the technology they have now?”
“Oh, I’m not preparing for the inevitable and brief shooting war. I’m talking about places to hide in, and observe from.”
The shorter one swings to face the taller: “What?”
“No matter what we recommend, many factions will be sure we’re exaggerating and will go looking for a fight. Which, as you pointed out, is almost certain to go very badly for anyone opposed to the Barsi-whatchamacallits. I’m going to make sure the sensible are protected until the stupid have been swatted.”
“Better still, let’s forget about this device.”
“Too late. It’s been found. Eventually, someone’s going to use it. All we can do is prepare. Which includes making sure nobody drags it off for use on a sun orbited by anywhere nice.”
“You have a low opinion of the tendencies of your fellow humans, monkeyboy.”
“Like draconians don’t like igniting stuff for fun, scaly?”