We were not ready for interstellar war. We were not ready for the horrors it brought. Most of all we were not ready to know, truly know, that we were destined to either be alone, or to be extinct. We were not ready. The universe does not care.
When the first signal came we were delighted. Back then I was a child, we were all children. Mankind was still an infant, suckling on mother earth’s breast. An innocent bystander, unnoticed, unharmed by the invisible but constant violence around it. The signal was picked up by one of the many hopeful projects that ran across the world in search of extraterrestrial life. That ill advised quest mankind had put itself on to find out if he was alone out there, or if there were others. Mankind, for all it’s violence and rage it inflicted upon itself, reached out a hopeful hand. What were we hoping to find? A father, a mother? God? Someone to help us grow and mature? Someone to guide us? For all our intelligence, we were so naive. We found them! We exclaimed it all over the news, the papers. The internet was full of it. People who’d never even considered anyone but themselves were suddenly talking about them. How my eyes sparkled when I thought about them. That faint signal, the one some famous youtuber at the time foolishly had dubbed the ‘god-ray.’ We’d found them, found them at last. We never considered that they had found us instead.
Our hope, our joy, and thankfully, our fear saved us during that first unprovoked, unexpected attack. Man had united, industry had been reverted to ‘out there’. A golden age for space travel. Technologies that had only been dreamed of until then quickly became available due to the enormous amount of recourses being sent their way. We had space ships, we conquered our own solar system within two decades. What saved us was not our fear of what was out there. It was our fear of ourselves. Our mistrust. We talked of peace and unity, but, as was our way, we prepared for war. Prepared as we were, we were not ready.
The engines burned hot like stars, and at first we failed to recognize them for anything else but stars. Then we noticed there were too many of them. And then we noticed they were moving, and they were moving fast. light has a limited speed at which it can travel. So it did just that. By the time we could see them they were already closer than they appeared. They were traveling faster, the light merely catching up with them. For the second time in less than thirty years, mankind cheered. We were not alone. And soon, we would know what it felt like to have a brother or a sister. Hand in hand we would go out and find more like us, and never be alone again. We were not ready.
The first wave came in fast and hard. By then we had stations on the outer perimeters of sol space and a working fleet of battleships. Yes, battleships. We still did not trust ourselves. All our stations lost contact within the first hour, then the reports started coming in. These were not visitors. These were exterminators. The fact that no contact could be made with these ships, explained away by hopeful scientists by their speeds and the limits of radio wave transmission and all that bullshit. They did not want to talk to us, they didn’t need to, they knew all they needed to know. We were here, and now, they were too. We were not ready, but we fought back. We won. By god we bled life by the hundreds of thousands, but we won.
The second wave was worse. Nobody could explain why they did what they did. The ‘god ray’ got renamed to ‘the evil eye’. People were sad, depressed, angry. We already didn’t trust ourselves. And now, we’d learned not to trust others. We were not ready, but we were getting there. And getting there fast. Five years after the first attack they came again. We knew they were coming, they knew we knew. Mankind had set it’s mind to war once again, but this time it would not aim the gun at itself. This time there was another, and he was holding a gun too. A bigger one. I was no longer a kid, that sparkle when I thought of them replaced with a blazing hatred. Why were they doing this? Why? The universe doesn’t care. We did. Many died. But we won. Despite ourselves, we won.
We didn’t hear from them again, not directly. We learned, we discovered, and where we had to, we stole. They schooled us in science. We hated them for it. Their corpses, their ships, their weapons. Treasure-troves. We were ready, but they did not come back. Not them. Others did.