The alien invasion ships steamrolled over Tau Ceti. Earth’s direct connection with its very first and only colony was severed within the first seconds of the assault. Earth did not learn about the attack from the ground station, as the first impact had shattered the dome and killied all of its occupants at once.
The information came from the supply ship which had begun its third return to Earth shortly before the attack, and was therefore quite far away. From it it was learned that of the one hundred and forty-five ships of the foreign armada, five had remained near Tau Ceti while the other one hundred and forty were en route in hypervelocity toward the solar system. The supply ship also sent en estimate based on gravitational interferometry that the invasion fleet would take a little less than half a terrestrial year to reach the solar system, and then stopped transmitting.
The urgency of the threat enabled Earth people to assimilate this double shock: that there were at least two intelligent races in the Universe… and that the other one was coming at them with weapons at the ready. But they had five months to prepare to fight the alien invader, and they would defend their ground with their bare hands if need be.
They formed a joint High Command, and put General Coleman in charge. He was an old-timer loaded with medals, and by his own admission, he was going to, quote, “asskick those bastards back into their galaxy,” end of quote.
The largest states exchanged secret codes for their communication and weaponry in order to build a common system (this was made much easier by the fact that said secret codes were already widely disseminated).
The military space fleets built by the five largest nations in the hope of intimidating one another were combined to form the United Earth Fleet.
Twenty-four countries ceased to deny having nuclear weapon production facilities and handed over their atomic arsenal to the service of common protection (Monaco offered its entire military air fleet, four fighter jets on the brink of obsolescence).
Seven nations cancelled their support for the terrorist organizations they had been financing for years, and even managed to convince said organizations to participate in global defence (this changed almost nothing in the daily lives of the organization members; many of them did not even notice the change).
In countries where conscription existed, it was applied; in countries where it did not exist, voluntary service was called for, a call that was widely heeded.
Within five months, out of a population of eight billion people on Earth, about five and a half billion had become actively involved in the protection of their planet, and the massive apparatus which had been put in place included no less than four lines of defence spread from Earth to the orbit of Pluto.
So when, at the edge of the solar system, the enemy fleet dropped below the hypervelocity threshold and back into conventional space, Coleman ordered the Earth’s counterattack.
The United Earth Fleet was stationed between the orbits of Pluto and Neptune. Once the attacker was within range, all Earth vessels equipped with heavy ion cannons fired simultaneously. A total of 1,200 bursts — more than enough to reduce the Moon to dust — converged on the enemy; but five seconds before impact, the cloud of destructive ions turned back, rushing toward the Earth fleet. The defensive fields protected the ships from the blast, but the external damage was considerable; the flagship itself was left adrift, and the few remaining cruisers had to form a passive bulwark around it, although it proved useless as the foreign armada continued on its way without even turning to look at the half-wrecked ships.
But the Earth fleet, on its way to the front line, had dropped nearly 30,000 electric mines behind it, which activated automatically when they detected the arrival of the enemy ships. Protected by their anti-radar camouflage, their electronic brains waited patiently until the enemy had advanced into the field, and then all the mines released the monstrous electrical energy hidden in their entrails with remarkable effect: it was the most titanic artificial storm ever created, but the alien vessels continued on their way unruffled amidst the colossal lightnings, apparently unfazed by the tera-amperes which should have, even by induction alone, melted their armor in the blink of an eye.
The eleven orbital stations of Mars (which had been claimed to be purely civilian since their construction some twenty years earlier) then displayed their super-powerful lasers. When the massive attack failed, Coleman ordered a focused fire on the enemy flagship, so all lasers blasted their burning light onto it. After three minutes of uninterrupted stream, the lasers turned off one by one. The stations had drained all their power, and the enemy flagship did not show the slightest sign of trouble.
When the alien armada crossed the lunar orbit, a tide of more than eight hundred multiple-warhead missiles was released. They went straight through the one hundred and forty ships convoy without hitting a single one, and without a single one even changing course, except for the rearmost ship which, once all the missiles had passed, began a slow U-turn.
When the enemy ships came close to the earth’s atmosphere, they began to spit out clouds of small, obviously atmospheric fighters. The battle would thus take place not in space but in the air; no matter, Earth still had resources.
The magnificent radars of the AWACS III stratospheric aircrafts, which could determine the position of each enemy aircraft with an accuracy of less than three meters, were silenced as soon as the enemy fighters entered the atmosphere. Only the flight control devices remained functional, and only the exceptional training of the pilots allowed thet to safely return to the ground by sight.
The self-propelled air-to-air missiles of the French Hurricane 3000 and the American Shadows flew straight towards their targets, and did not deviate even an inch as they moved nonchalantly away from their flight axis. The projectiles went on until their fuel ran out; a few of them fell into inhabited areas, but fortunately none exploded.
Then the enemy ships landed, and the aliens — humanoids much larger and heavier than Earth people, and who appeared to be made of stone rather than flesh — disembarked and were greeted by a hail of bullets which did not even bounce; they just crashed against their uniforms and fell in smoking piles around them.
After twelve hours of what could hardly be called a fight considering how ineffective the Earth soldiers’ attacks were, the ground counter-attack ceased essentially because it had exhausted all its resources.
The aliens had landed everywhere; when the Earth soldiers, on their own initiative, surrendered their weapons, their victors simply placed sentries around the piles of guns and sparse ammunition, and sent the soldiers back without further ado.
As for the Joint High Command, led by General Coleman, it was brought to the flagship just as the hundred-and-fortieth alien vessel landed one hundred meters away, carrying, stowed on its flanks, all the nuclear missiles which had been sent earlier against the enemy fleet.
The Earth generals were taken to the Commander-in-Chief of the alien fleet, who addressed Coleman in more than proper English, except perhaps for a rocky accent that must have been due to his anatomy. They expected him to demand a formal surrender, but he didn’t even mention the problem. He looked worried.
“My scouts just came back,” he said. “I’m sorry. We did not know. The information was not available to us, and we would not have done this had we known. I shall give orders to make up for our mistake. »
The generals looked at each other in amazement. Coleman was stunned.
“You have my word that we sincerely regret having attacked you in this state,” continued the commander of the invasion fleet. “It is against all the laws of war, and we are well aware of it. We hope you will not hold grudge against us. »
“In this state?” Repeated Coleman, mechanically.
“I know,” protested the alien, “I should have understood from the weakness of your response… It was really a very subtle way of warning us, only we Seirangs are not as perceptive as you thought. But look,” he said, pointing to the ship loaded with the useless Earth nuclear missiles, “as a show of good faith, we brought back those of your weapons that are still usable. »
The generals were aghast. Then, as Coleman remained mute and motionless, the English general raised a shy hand.
“Excuse me, but… We don’t understand you at all. What exactly are you talking about? »
The alien lowered his head in sadness.
“That is very noble of you! ” exclaimed the Seirang commander-in-chief. “For it is a despicable occupant, who has plundered your world, defiled your land with his filth and poured poisons into your lakes, and I admire you for still having enough compassion to feign ignorance! “He sighed, “But in spite of everything, the fault is ours; I should have probed your world more. We Seirangs know that we are but barbarians, but we have honor, and if our punishment must be to make amends, I will do it for all of us. “He stood up with his hand flat on his chest and said, “Let it be known that the Seirangs have shamelessly attacked, despite the warnings of its inhabitants, the planet Earth, already afflicted by a long and despicable occupation. For the price of our mistake, we pledge to help the Ter- ”
“WHAT?”. Coleman had suddenly erupted out in anger. “I will have you arrogant alien know that no one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever told us what to do, and no one ever will! We are a sovereign people – get the hell off my back! He’s fucking with us! Let go of me! Let go of me! We’re gonna send him home with a k- ”
It took all of his fellows generals to subdue Coleman, while the English officer apologized profusely, attributing the incident to tiredness from the battle… Yet the alien was evidently barely listening; his eyes were set on Coleman.
“You mean,” he slowly articulated, “that you are the ones who put your home planet in this state?”
As the Seirang fleet switched into hypervelocity, its bitter commander read the notice he himself had sent to the Grand Galactic Catalogue for insertion five months earlier.
Solar System. Nine planets. One asteroid belt. Signs of intelligent life.
He grunted they typed on his console. After a few seconds, he received acknowledgement from the Catalogue, and the new entry appeared on the screen.
Solar system. EIGHT planets. TWO asteroid belts. NO life forms.
This text was written by Albert Aribaud <email@example.com> and published in 1997 in issue 35 of the fanzine Chimères whose editor, Josiane Kiefer, kindly gave permission to put it online. This text is published under Creative Commons by-nc-nd license (attribution, no commercial use, mo modification). For any use incompatiblewith this license, please contact the author. The attribution constraint implies keeping the present paragraph just above or just below the text title, or just below the text. This text can be put into any format as long as said format contains no digital rights management restrictions.