by David C. Hoke
We have finally met the enemy, and believe it or not, it is not us.
Science had evolved to the point that deep space exploration was achievable and sustainable until it became standard practice. Advancements in interplanetary travel speeds cut trip times from years to days and months. The creation of artificial gravity, the ability to provide food, water, warmth, and fresh air to entire stations filled with people, had made the colonization of complete systems a reality.
A new outer space Manifest Destiny had taken humanity to new worlds, but those advancements finally collided with another species capable of all we were capable of—and more.
That fateful day was forever burned into the consciousness of every man, woman, and child on Earth. The audio recordings of the distress call haunted the memories of billions of souls. People changed the subject when it came up. Some committed suicide or fell into abuse or cultish behavior because of it. Some radicalized into extreme religious or political beliefs. Some ignored it and cast it all off to God's will.
The videos were seldom played by the major networks anymore. You had to search hard to find the graphic images that appeared in the aftermath. Video and photos of the spacecraft's hull floating lifeless in space with the dead drifting in suspended time in the same rooms they died were leaked to the press and were seen by all. But no one wanted to remember that anymore.
Even that famous distress call was barely played in public any longer.
The static of the audio was memorized by people—the pops of it, the squawk of the radio. The um's and ah's and the sound of the engineer's voice on the radio was seared into people's conscience.
"...uh...this is mayday...mayday, mayday...this is the US3 Charlemagne... US3 Charlemagne to the Houston...uh...to Houston...," recording starts. The voice couldn't hide its shock yet maintained a monotone calm. Then a long, long pause of nothing followed by a pop.
"Houston command...we have encountered an alien vessel...it is alien, there is no doubt it is not an Earth-based craft...it just fired some kind of beam at us...laser beam...a blue light beam that crossed over our bow...we think it was a warning shot, but we have no way...to confirm that, we have no way to confirm that obviously..." the voice continued.
"But I am pretty sure they want us to stop our progress. We were just about to radio in our contact, but they fired almost as quickly as we saw them...we are relaying..." Then a few words were said that were debatable as to the translation. "We are...debating whether to stand our ground or to retreat... we aren't sure...what would be more provoking...to...provoking to...the, uh, I guess...alien craft... it's a large ship, quite larger than the Charlemagne...I would say larger than any craft I have seen...this is very apparently first contact or at least first contact in this fashion..."
Houston and the Charlemagne continued discussing the technical elements of their ship, course, and position. The fact that no vessel could be sent to their aid in time to be of any immediate help was made clear.
Then it happened.
Shouting and alarms were heard in the background. The speaker's mouth must have been pressed into the mic creating a distortion. "Mayday, mayday, Houston...they look to be charging their cannons for a second shot...we believe they are preparing a second shot...we are full speed in retreat but...oh god... Houston...oh no...shit...tell my kids I...oh god...we—"
And the line went dead.
In the immediate aftermath, astronomers worldwide worked together day and night in every hemisphere and on every continent to find where that alien vessel might have originated. After four days, the German astronomer Lukas Rubary successfully traced the alien vessel back to its planet of origin. He was obliged to name the planet and chose his last name for reasons only he could explain.
"This planet is now the common enemy of the human race. I want no other word, surname, Christian name, creature, or idea to bear the burden of disdain that will come with being associated with this villainous place of evil. It is my responsibility to name what I discovered, and my name will take the responsibility so that no other name or word will come to be so resented or hated," Lukas told a shocked crowd of fellow astronomers.
The Rubary killed eight thousand souls that day—unprovoked—without even attempting to contact them and for no apparent reason but to kill them.
The world gathered and unanimously agreed to consolidate all space exploration, colonization, and defense into one global entity.
Unidom was born.
Unidom was to be led by a "Governor" the UN Security Council appointed. It was a lifetime appointment, but the Council could remove them if they saw fit. This position was the single most powerful position in the world. Though the post had no authority over any sovereign government, the Governor's influence weighed heavily on Earth-based politics.
Within Unidom, the Department of Intelligence (DOI) and numerous other agencies and departments were formed. Comparable to the concepts of the CIA, KGB, or Mi6, the DOI reported directly to the Governor and had no boundaries on its scope of operations. The DOI could be active on Earth or in space. The threats to the Unidom mission were everywhere, and the DOI was the first line of defense against them.
The many colonies on space stations and Mars had grown to be populated by millions of people. Mars itself was now home to several million citizens and fully functioning cities that resembled life on Earth: living districts, downtown districts, shopping, tourism, soccer, you name it.
While they had grown in numbers, so had their desires for autonomy. Revolts and rebellions were frequent. Skirmishes and political bombings were commonplace but mostly disorganized.
Over the decades, Unidom had come to be hated in the same measure it was revered. Their reputation for crushing these rebellions with an iron fist had damaged their influence and respectability.
The DOI's position in stopping these rebellions, assassinating these revolutionary figures, or arresting whole cells of resistors was well known.
News footage of their bloody "justice" had made their reputation one of dread or revile. Video and photos of bloody opposition leaders dead on sidewalks or in cars at the hand of DOI agents had circulated the net to provide proof of accused overreach.
Where does individual freedom end, and where does protection against the threat of the Rubary begin? No one seemed to be able to answer this question.
But while space exploration had increased, so had the exploration of other sciences. Minor skirmishes against the Rubary had supplied humanity with samples of their biology and technologies. The understanding of genetics had exploded.
Everything had accelerated. Humanity was moving faster than it ever had before. The growing pains of that were felt everywhere. In space, in genetics, culturally, and politically. Everything was racing to an end that no one could see.
The universe was under tremendous pressure, and no one knew when it was all going to blow.