I looked up from my desk, where I was busy deciding the counter-measures for the Winglions, a race from a neighbouring galaxy. It was my personal assistant, Pashon.
“What is it, Pashon?”
“We’ve received a deep space electromagnetic transmission from another planet!”
I straightened up. “Where’s it from?”
“Here, 25,000 light years away from us,” Pashon pointed at another solar system on the other side of the galaxy map displayed on the wall. “The signal originates from one of the planets in this solar system.”
“Has the signal been decoded yet?”
“Our cryptographers are busy on it.”
“Okay,” I said. “Report back when the message has been deciphered. Oh, and send some hyperfast probes to that solar system straight away.”
“Yes sir.” Pashon scurried out of the room. I sighed and continued working on the Winglion counter-measures.
Pashon came to see me about the signal five days later.
“Sir!” he said. “We’ve decoded the message.”
“What is it about?”
“These people who sent out the signal encoded – in a rather primitive fashion – the basic details about their civilisation and race. For example – ” he conjured up the decoded alien message on the wall, “Apparently they are genetically composed of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus. We know they can count in at least base 2, and are shaped like this.” He pointed at a simplified pixelated figure with five protrusions; one stump at the top, a longer one extending from each side, and two parallel ones coming out from the bottom.
“I assume those are legs, those at the sides are arms, and that on top would most likely be the head,” I deduced. “They probably have digits at the ends of their limbs, but the primitiveness of their transmission technology limits the detail in which they can describe themselves.
“They also have knowledge of their solar system, judging from this diagram here, in which the number of pixels correlates with the size of their planets, and this large clump represents their star. Placing this third pixel off the axis of the other pixels presumably indicates that this planet is the origin of the signal.”
“You are very clever, Sir. Our probes confirm what you say. The signal originated from the third planet from their sun.”
“Thanks, I try.” I leaned back in my chair. “Do the probes confirm my other deductions?”
“Most of them. However, we presumed this clump of pixels -” he gestured at some pixels at the right side of the alien figure, “- seems to indicate their population number. But scans for lifeforms on the planet seem to show a magnitude much larger than this diagram indicates.”
“You may have forgotten to exclude other lifeforms as well,” I replied. “Local non-sentient flora and fauna.”
Pashon bowed. “I apologise. I forgot about that.”
“An easy mistake to make. Just run those scans again, with revised parameters. Another thing.” I paused. “This signal was sent by a conventional electromagnetic wave. It took 25,000 years to get here. Who knows how big the population would be by now? Or whether it has diminished?”
“Sir,” Pashon said, “Your logic is sound. Our probes indicate -” now he changed the picture on the wall to images taken by the probes, “- that they’ve advanced since then. They’ve colonised two adjacent planets, but they still haven’t figured out how to manipulate faster-than-light fourth-dimensional physics, so their space travel is woefully limited to their solar system, and in the years that have passed their fastest form of transmission is still with electromagnetic waves.”
“But once they do,” I said, “What would that mean for us? We would be easily discoverable to them.”
“I fear,” Pashon said, “They may come with hostility and aggression. They seem to be a very destructive race. The radiation counter registers higher than the norm for inhabited planets; nuclear weaponry has probably been used on parts of their planet before. The probes also indicate that ballistics are detonated frequently, if not for peaceful uses such as mining, then perhaps even for war, or terroristic activities from radical factions.”
“And yet, their civilisation thrives after so many years,” I mused. “They must be very resilient. Your fears are founded, Pashon. Perhaps we should institute pre-emptive measures to mitigate this potential threat to our planet. Something stealthy and inconspicuous to them, that would appear to be part of natural forces beyond their control.” I sat back and thought for a while.
“We could send some nova detonators into their sun,” I suggested. “Instigate some solar flares that would send more solar radiation to their planet and the nearby colonies. We’ll warm the planet up until it’s beyond inhabitable, and the people will presume their sun is exhibiting some anomalous behaviour, an act of God, not something another race from across the galaxy has done. They’d never know any better.”
Pashon nodded in approval. “Sounds like a plan, Sir. We’ll consult our scientists and run some simulations to determine the efficacy of such a plan. I’ll keep you updated.” He walked out of the office.
I switched off the wall display.
It isn’t an easy job, being the Defense Minister. My decisions could mean the continuation or annihilation of our nation in the future. But in the end, it’s very fulfilling, knowing that what you’ve done has preserved your nation against foreign threats.
I sighed, and went back to contemplating how to handle those pesky Winglions.
Read about the signal the aliens received, called the Arecibo message.
P.S. If you’re disappointed there were no vivid descriptions of all-out destruction, you can always read the news.