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The Thousand Century War: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

September 29, 2019 | By | Reply More

I don’t know how many times that I’ve watched the footage. Digital preservation ensured it survived the centuries. An alien object was spotted heading into the Solar System and a space mission diverted to rendezvous with it. The discovery that it was a weapon of war than of peace shook everyone. Whoever the aliens were, they didn’t even care that their weapon was boarded or could be stopped. A fission reactor would wipe all the inner planets. There was no choice but to try to defuse it. We had nothing to lose by trying it. The space crew ensured filming was done just in case it unleashed some self-defence mechanism against them. Having access to all the files, the crew had been instructed that if all else failed, to detonate it there. We might lose the outer planets but we might have a better chance of survival. The odds were put from a million to one against to half a million. Not good but it gave the Earth hope and they thanked themselves that they had restarted their space program.

With the primitive equipment they had back then, the crew got lucky. They stopped the countdown and had enough time to deactivate the proximity mechanism. That didn’t mean they wanted to take any chances. It was manoeuvred beyond Uranus to be studied there. We would have preferred it to be even further away but we needed to study it. Alien technology. We hadn’t even had worked out how fission was viable back then.

In fact, the discoveries we made back then revolutionised our technology. We even tracked down the trajectory of where the missile had came from. Local star groups. We built and sent our own version of the missile back. A couple centuries delivery with a radio signal sent ahead in what we discovered was their own language offering not to detonate it if they would speak to us than war. There was a message included with the missile and hoped they had enough sense to disarm and discover it.

All that did was another missile two hundred years down the line. Don’t treat the term ‘missile’s as something small. It was certainly a lot bigger than our own spaceships. Another challenge to disarm it and carrying the same payload. It took longer this time but we also tied on another rocket. If they failed to deactivate it there was a hope that there was sufficient time to blast it away. There was a lot more philosophising this time. Should we blast it away and let it detonate it? The aliens would see the blast and maybe stop harassing us. There wasn’t enough time, never enough time. Maybe another time? After studying their technology, the pacifists of that time period decided to return the same deactivated missile as a message. We mean you no harm back. Of course, we included several language translation technologies in the hope that they would learn our languages. After all, one of them might be a fit.

Well, that didn’t work. Two hundred years later, another missile. Our defence net was beyond the Kuiper Belt this time. The plan of two centuries ago was carried out this time. We triggered an ignition and nearly damn lost the ninth planet as well as a slice of the Belt and our defence system. These aliens were serious. The payload was more than their first missile. We could only hope that the view of the blast would convince them we were dead. Certainly they wouldn’t want to cross a radioactive area of space.

A bit more philosophising went on after that. Some had thought that these aliens were only testing how smart we were and weren’t really trying to destroy us. They expected us to succeed and learn from their technology. The detonation and blast area made that questionable. They really didn’t like us. Pure xenomorphs. At least we made the right decision. So we thought.

The next missile arrived 150 years later. It was early. Either they had figured out a way to accelerate their missiles or it was the vanguard of an advancing starship. There was no way to know whether they had sensors on board to see if it was tampered with. We were supposed to be dead after all. We should play dead and see what happened. Would it detonate by proximity or just continue past us, maybe seeking some other sentient species. That created its own conflict. Should we let another species go through what we’ve been through for the past five hundred and fifty years? Then one of the under-committee suggested we nudge it with asteroids into the sun’s gravity field and let it detonate there. The sun wouldn’t even tremor from the blast. Our ancestors should have thought of that a couple generations ago. Even earlier and not even bothered to examine the missile. It might well have sailed past us and into the dark blue yonder.

As they watched the missile detonate, someone popped the question the aliens were still coming our way. We had no idea how big their starship was, well not until they were within range. What then? Do we play dead? We could never leave Earth fast enough or hide underground fast enough to leave a dead planet. Who knew what there aliens would do with a vacant planet? They could colonise or destroy it. Then where would we be?

The next missile arrived a century later. We were on a short countdown with no idea. It was already being called the thousand year war. It was only eight hundred and fifty years but we humans had a tradition for misnumbering wars. The hundred day war being one of the most obscure for trivia fans because it lasted longer than that. The name stuck because we expected five missiles at two hundred years intervals but we got that number wrong as well. We were just going to end it all earlier than we guessed.

More philosophising and debates. If the aliens arrived in the Solar System, that was it, game over. We couldn’t even do a conjuring trick and make it look like we were somewhere else.

The only real choice was to go out to them and bluff them. We were good at bluffing. Convince them that we were all that was left of humanity and let them know the Earth was a radioactive mess. A suicide mission, yes, but we also stood a chance of setting off their latest missile which we grabbed along the way. We also had a twist for our own insurance.

If you haven’t realised by now, I’m a member of the crew, idling my time on our final approach to the alien fleet. We thought there might be only one mothership, not a small armada. This might change our plan but only to a degree as we let them dry dock our spaceship. They clearly didn’t want to come out in spacesuits.

It took us fifty years to reach them, most of the time in suspended animation. The same amount of time it would have taken their next missile to reach the Earth. We were more interested in seeing our enemy. Were they like us or vile monsters? As we walked out onto their deck, a couple of them approached us equipped with scanning devices. Aliens with long necks. If they weren’t so dangerous we’d have called them rubbernecks. They didn’t even address us. Judging by the clicks, it looked like they had their own version of a Geiger counter. We weren’t giving them the numbers they were expecting. Looking up at something that just have been their starship bridge, the even more angry must have pressed the button for detonation of the last missile they’d sent to Earth.

We automatically cut off the communication with our avatars. The ship we had left on-board had the last missile they had sent our way. We had taken a couple years out of our voyage to board and remove its fission reactor. By their own detonation, they would destroy themselves. Death by their own hands as the nuclear reaction chain-reacted. Shame that they wouldn’t be able to share that knowledge or appreciate the irony of their own destruction. But then, we had bluffed with a loaded deck.

If they were only testing us, then they wouldn’t have pressed the button, just marvelling at our deception. There must be a galaxy of species with their own agendas out there. We could only hope that the next encounter would be more peaceful but we would be wary of the next extra-terrestrial heading our way. Who knew what they would be carrying.

end

© GF Willmetts 2019

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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