This is a story written a while ago, published as 7 drabbles on my Tumblr blog. I decided it needed a home here.
Every human, any intelligent enough animal, along with some robots, felt it. An intense sensation of fear, glimpses of visions where a gargantuan entity destroyed them and everything they loved and it wasn’t even aware of them. The fear filled all Earth minds – in dreams or in reveries or in lucid thoughts – for about five seconds, before disappearing. There were car crashes and frenzies and brains that just shut down completely from fright. Instantaneous – comparisons of the robots’ timestamps confirmed this – the thing had treated every intelligence on Earth as an ansible and communicated a feeling, perhaps to scare us.
The Committee of First Contact, CoF, was created, to pursue every way they could think of to contact these aliens and to prevent the fear’s reappearance. In machines, the feeling had often been erased from memory, or been too distorted to make sense. However, a super-intelligent surveillance satellite that had shut down in the middle of the attack seemed likely to have some information. Begrudgingly, the government in charge of it let them in. It bore fruit: they found it had two and a half seconds left of fear when they revived it, including a glimpse of a starry sky.
The picture’s every star was classified and a few were identified. Given their strength and their position, assuming a few things like where stars will be in a few hundred million years to the best of our knowledge, the Committee of First Contact found out two places in the galaxy where the fear could have come from: where this scene, no matter if it happened or was pure fabrication, could have taken place. There was no doubt about it, two fleets were assembled and humanity lined up to assist, to reach out to the stars and find the signal’s nexus.
Of the two fleets the Committee sent out, only one would get results. Only one would meet with them, and the brave people who entered the deep sleep didn’t know what group they were went they went down. They would spend an eternity dreaming– to keep their minds useful, keep them from going stale and dull and rotting – and then they would wake up either in empty space, or close to the only other intelligent life in the solar system. They said goodbye to their families if they had them, during the year of preparation, and then off they went.
One would think the fear would go away, but with the fleets gone, the only memory that didn’t fade was the big uncaring monster thing. The public, the people, grew more and more afraid of another ‘attack’. The Committee of First Contact was disbanded, replaced by the Band of Interstellar Warfare, which produced weapons and let minor ships fly out to attach them like legos to the sides of the fleets, giving them an entirely new silhouette and impression. The members of the Committee’s efforts to restore the image of the extraterrestrials were all in vain. Humanity was at war.
The fleet arrived, millions of years before they had planned, for the Band of Interstellar Warfare had attached superluminous drives as well to the hulls of their ships. The humans searched for a habitable planet and found but one, a desolate planet. They landed clumsily, their ships eight times heavier than planned for, and scared the snot out of the local intelligent life form, which broadcasted instant shockwaves of fright, their strongest defence mechanism, throughout the universe. Everyone on the ship struck was dead within seconds, but before they died they saw themselves through the inhabitants’ eyes: big and monstrous.
The fright travelled between the stars faster than the stars’ light, faster than instantaneous: travelling backwards in time. Four or five seconds was all that wasn’t destroyed by the radiation and the speeds, but four or five seconds was all it took. It targeted every one of them, everyone of the beings that had helped produce their terror, and it hit them too well, or not well enough. In the past, the aggravators rusted up for war and set out into space, mounting ridiculously large weapons on their vessels, arming themselves to the teeth. They were now on their way.