Author: Alastair Millar

They came because we were killing ourselves; our conflicts had become pervasive, global, and more intensive, but paled in comparison to our war with the planet itself.

Their ships moved smoothly into the Lagrange points, and calming broadcasts on every frequency and in a score of major languages preceded Their first physical contact. A pilotless shuttle brought a robotic Ambassador down to Earth.

“Your cultures are already dying,” it said. “Soon there will be nothing left but twisted remains buried in the dirt. Let us help you.”

Long discussions and introductions followed. It allowed itself to be examined, and proved to be made of an unmetal impenetrable to physical means or remote sensing. Its alien provenance seemed assured.

Then it announced that They could help us. It taught a group of our greatest scientists the principles necessary to make Cubes, quantum tools that produced no waste but energy, so that we could save our planet from ecological catastrophe.

And when we had learned this great art, our tech men turned them into weapons that made those of the Nuclear Age look like firecrackers.

“Why have you done this?” it asked Earth’s representatives.

“We must protect ourselves,” we said. “We don’t know what lies behind your altruism. Some say we are just calves being fattened for the slaughter.” Of course, that was only half the truth; the entrenched interests in the military industrial complex had needed a way to remain relevant, and paid off enough politicians to see their immediate futures secured. But it kept everyone happy… except, apparently, our visitors.

“You really don’t have anything we can’t find elsewhere with far less trouble, you know,” it said. “You have no reason not to trust us.”

“But we don’t understand why you’re here.”

“Because it’s the right thing to do, of course. Intelligent life exists across the galaxy, but it’s spread too thinly at this temporal nexus to justify destroying any of it. This is something you need to learn.”

“You just agreed that we’re intelligent. You think we wouldn’t have invented Cubes for ourselves eventually?”

“How much more of your planet would have been burned up before then?”

“Oh come on, quantum energy generation was obvious.”

“After we gave it to you, perhaps. And then you used it to make equipment for war! Honestly, some of our people are doubting that you really are an intelligent species.”

“So some of you ARE looking for an excuse to to wipe us out!”

“Now you’re being paranoid.”

“So you say! You won’t show us your true forms, or even tell us where you come from!”

“Are you surprised? You’d probably attack us!”

“Yeah right. Who’s paranoid now?”

“Perhaps we are; but your deceit has shown that the precautions urged by the most conservative among us, including my own manufacture, were justified. Within five of your rotations we shall complete our observations and depart.”

“So you’re abandoning us?”

“We’ll be back. We have left you they key to survival; whether you use it, and whether you can mature enough to be worth talking to again, we shall see.”

And true to its word, within a week They were gone. Now we have a common purpose as a world: to prepare for Their return. For surely, They have weapons beyond the Cubes, and we must be ready. Or so most choose to believe; those of us in favour of altering our habitual path are still a minority. No matter how extraordinary the proof of alien life, some things, it seems, never change.

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