Invasion of the Nasties
Just three months ago, when I met up with Jenny, the huge, jagged ships were still parked 22,000 miles above the major land masses.
As chance would have it, I bumped into her in what was, for that moment in time, a highly appropriate setting: A Sci-Fi convention. I let her jump a couple of places in the queue we were standing in, waiting to get DVDs signed. Spirits in the place were high, and the few guys she bumped past were happy to let a couple of old friends get together for a hug and an excited, break-neck paced chat.
I was very pleased to hear that she had finally split up with that jerk Peter – not just because he was a jerk, but because it meant I was in with a chance, again.
OK, so that makes it sound like it’s me who’s the jerk, but I can’t help it. She grabs me by the heart, every time I see her. Always has.
But I never managed to get past the snuggling-up-to-watch-movies stage with Jenny, no matter how desperately I sometimes wanted to. It wasn’t her fault; it was me: I was afraid to take the step, or something. I always managed to find things to say that killed the mood. That only happened to me with Jenny; I managed to be a normal guy, when I was with other women.
The ships had only been there a couple of days, back then, and speculation about what they were doing came from every side.
Everyone was an expert, and everyone had an opinion. Everyone who didn’t share my opinion was totally wrong, of course – but if I were perfect, I wouldn’t be human.
“I don’t trust them at all,” said Jenny. “I don’t believe for a minute that they’re here for peaceful reasons.”
A murmur of assent rippled through the queue.
“That’s just daft,” I replied. “Clarke went into that, years ago: Any race that is advanced enough for interstellar travel must also have a high-order, peaceful society. It doesn’t make sense that they could develop the technology without also developing a culture that is advanced enough to allow them to control it.”
Another murmur wended its way forward and backward, up and down the queue.
“Yeah, and they’d probably have a non-interference policy, like on Star Trek,” a guy a couple of places in front added.
That got a louder murmur. I made a mental note to refer to TV shows.
“Then why are they just sitting there?” demanded Jenny. “Doesn’t that strike you as at all suspect? Why haven’t they said anything?”
“Maybe they’re learning our languages,” another guy said. “That’s a lot of work.”
“There are lots of languages,” said another.
“Yeah, how can they even tell them apart?” his buddy added.
“Exactly,” I said. “It’s only in the movies and on TV that you get universal translators, that can instantly translate any new language. Give ‘em time; they’ll talk to us.”
“It’s complacent thinking like that that leads to concentration camps,” Jenny said, with quite a bitter edge to her voice.
“Why should they need concentration camps?” I contested. “If they wanted to rule the world, they could just come down here and say so. No-one, and no country, would be in a position to refuse them. There’s no way we could fight a race that has that kind of technology; they’d mop the floor with us.”
“I dunno. If you’ve read Footfall—” someone else sparked up.
“… Oh, sure.” I didn’t need to hear the end of that statement. “But that’s just fiction. The reality is that they could sit up there, safe as houses, and throw anything at us; wipe out any resistance without even breaking a sweat. Ask Saddam about air supremacy and mothers of all battles. If they said they wanted to be in charge, we’d have no choice except to just wish them good luck.”
“Yeah, he’s right,” someone with some sense said. “Even if they weren’t peaceful, they’d have no good reason to start a war. It’d be like us waging war on cats.”
“I thought we were at war with cats!” said another. “And they’re winning!”
“You got that right! Mine does whatever the Hell he likes!”
“What was that movie with Nastassja Kinski, where she turned into a cat?”
“Cat People. It was a remake, sort of, of a black-and-white movie…”
… And the subject was officially changed.
A hug and a wave, and a promise that we’d get together soon, and Jenny was gone from my life, again.
The attack started at 23:38 on 25th July, and was over less than a second later.
Short-wave radio hams spread the news that the ships had used railguns, which shot small lumps of something-or-other through the atmosphere so fast that they turned into high-energy plasma so devastating that a peanut-sized piece could, at those speeds, destroy an entire building.
After the “split second war”, every standing army in the entire world had been wiped out, along with every seat of government, and all of our communication and transport infrastructure.
We weren’t just crippled; we were completely and utterly helpless. They could do with us whatever they willed.
Within a day, they had physically invaded dozens of cities, world wide, with ground troops. It was guessed that each ship had taken a single city, but we no longer had the global organisation or infrastructure to know for sure.
But they did not want the cities per se. They did not want land. They did not want slaves. They did not want power.
They wanted to kill.
Once the people who had lived in “their” cities were all dead or fled, they started raiding nearby towns, snaring fifty-or-so people at a time, and taking them into the occupied areas.
The few who escaped told how they had been released in the centre of town, and told to run.
It was hands. That’s what they wanted. They wanted your hands. Trophies. If you were still alive when they caught you, they would simply slice your hands off, and leave you to bleed to death – with no hands to staunch the blood flow.
There was nothing we could do to stop them. They knew what they were doing, and had miraculous technology to back them up. We had nothing but our brains and our fists.
That was not enough.
I never saw Jenny again. I doubt I ever will.
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