It wasn’t like General Tsung needed to refer to his radar in order to figure out that he was flying over the right city. It was just a formality. He knew this route from the many missions he’d flown into the heart of America during these last nine years of war. It was beyond the risen Pacific, past the angry, earthquake- aggravated coastline of what used to be California and Nevada, and over desolate Utah: Colorado Springs. He could see the city just ahead now, still dazzling in some places where they hadn’t yet bombed. It was here that he would drop the nuclear missile that would end the war.
And he wanted to look as charming and important as he could while he did it because this event, just like the rest of the bloody war, was being streamed live to the entire world. His children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren would bask in the glory of his contribution to their nation’s victory, so he made sure to tell the terrified cameraman to only take photos of his good side.
So he adjusted the radar screen dramatically as he read the coordinates to his co-pilot.
“Confirming: 38.7372 degrees north, 104.8808 degrees west. We have approached our target. Prepare to release the missile.”
The co-pilot, who had been sitting in silence for the latter half of the trip, quickly released the safety on the missile port and placed his hand over the lever that would drop the bomb. He looked to his General, waiting for him to give the nod.
Tsung’s eyes studied the mountains. The President, along with most of his line of command, took refuge in the base here. He would wait until the right moment, until they were just close enough, to ensure that the mushroom cloud rose directly from the center of the mountain. At this point, aesthetics were really the only thing to consider.
When they were right on top of it, the General slowly dipped his chin.
“Releasing missile.” And with a triumphant smile, the co-pilot pushed the lever forward.
For such a massive object, the bomb seemed to float effortlessly, peacefully, on the breeze. It seemed the rules of gravity didn’t apply to it. The bomb tumbled toward its destination with a foreboding whine.
Several of the aircraft behind Tsung’s captured the descent, sending footage to the few million people who had survived thus far. They watched anxiously as the bomb approached detonation. Some people counted, just to see how long it would take before it went off. One… two… three… it cleared the stratosphere- four…five… heading straight for the peak now- six…seven… and it vanished.
Then there was the gasp heard ’round the world, as it went down in the textbooks. The ones who didn’t make it to the television missed it, but if they had made it, they would’ve seen that a sparkling silver orb appeared and beamed the missile right out of the air. It happened in an instant. The orb, which looked like nothing more than a giant mass of mercury, pulsed toward the bomb and caught it with a red laser, then the missile disappeared.
People in their living rooms, and at crisis centers and pubs and shelters stared at each other in shock for a few brief moments. The excitement and fear were tangible. Within minutes of the miraculous appearance of the orb, something else began to broadcast over the TVs: a message. There was no image, only a wispy, but compassionate voice over grey static.
“Dear Young Ones, you have hated, bickered and warred for a very long time now. Can you not see more peaceful ways to disagree? Can you not imagine more industrious solutions to your problems? We have watched you interact with the world given to you, and you have brought us great joy… but you have also brought us great sorrow. You see, the current course of action will inescapably lead to your own annihilation.”
“Soon, the entire planet will be uninhabitable. We have intervened on this occasion out of love and necessity, but the course of the future is up to you. We dare not intervene again without your permission, but if you would like, Young Ones, we extend a helping hand. So we are calling out to the people of Earth- we are asking you, do you wish for us to help you change your course of action? Do you wish for us to guide you toward a peaceful path of life in abundance? Think about this question. Search your heart deeply, and send up your answers. We will hear them.”
Then there was a buzzing that grew louder and louder in the streets. The visitors inspired a hope that Earth hadn’t felt in many years. People gathered in their schools, government buildings, neighborhoods and places of worship to talk. They debated the authenticity of the offer, and what it meant for them. Three days later, everyone had cast their votes, and the Ancient Ones landed.
They would hold a summit.