They just appeared one day. Not by teleporting or anything ultra-scifi like that. Their ships, though, on bright anti-matter engines decelerating to match velocity with Earth. Its engines so bright, it outshone the Moon, then even the Sun for a day or two before going dark.
That was two months ago. The governments claim after sending all kinds of signals, nothing was detected coming back. Amateur radio operators confirmed it, so I guess that’s true. Who knows. What I do know is what happened at the 47th daily UN meeting on the subject. No one will ever forget that day.
“Today’s session will be the 4th attempted vote to send a craft to dock with the alien vessel. Our UN correspondent believes there is a good chance this might happen. Raul, can you explain”? the news anchor droned on, almost bored talking about boarding an alien spaceship. Everyone wanted to talk about the nothing happening, so they had to report on something.
“That’s right, we believe the hold outs-“ the screen cuts away from Raul and back to the studio suddenly, and the news anchor– Joey, was his name?– was looking excited. I sat a little closer to my laptop screen.
“We have reports- no, we have confirmed reports of something coming out of the alien spacecraft. Here is a live feed of what is descending to Earth now”. The screen cuts again, this time the connection doesn’t quite keep up and its briefly pixelated. I curse. Useless wifi. I can’t make out any details, but something is coming down. Kind of fast, I think. All stuff falls pretty fast, right? Finally, the video buffers enough and a clear image resolves. Its, disappointing in the blandness of the design.
No weird alien glyphs, eerie glowing lights, or even a saucer shape. Nope, it looked like…like the kind of shuttle you’d see on any TV show. Mostly gray. Some painted markings, basic wings for flight control. Sure, it wasn’t Human, but it looked like something a Human might imagine.
It landed on the street next to the UN building, basically blocking traffic. With cars all around its far more obvious the size of nothing a Human could make. Several buses in size. A door promptly opened and figures in what is unmistakably atmospheric suits walked out, with none of the awkward gait one might expect in such a suit.
“Uggghhh”, I groaned. We finally get to see aliens, and we can’t even see them. Their speed picked up as they moved into the building. A purposeful movement and direction. Did they know where they were going? The news anchor was nearly shouting with excitement what everyone could already see on their own screens, but I couldn’t hear him. I was completely fixated on the suited aliens.
After a few still moments of the alien craft, the camera view switches to inside the building, with the alien figures, clearly bipedal, moving towards the central chamber where the meeting was held. It was now clear to the leaders present in the building they were moving towards that chamber, and after having spent most of the craft’s descent panicking and running around with their staff, had just managed to get to their seats.
The tension in the room was like a rubber band pulled taut; a loose paper falling off a desk could cause the entire room to erupt with questions, demands, and probably even threats. The aliens made their way to the podium, where the chairman hurriedly made way to the side. The three aliens then turned towards the crowd, and spoke in perfect English. If through a speaker or their own voice was uncertain. The domes of their heads weren’t transparent enough to make out details beneath.
“Humanity, we have come to offer you admittance into the Galactic Accords of Federated Members. We do hope you understand our time spent in orbit was to gather intelligence and learn the -many- languages of your world. Of course, we also needed to understand how likely you are to accept the accords.”
“We believe Huamnity is a model species of peace. Your methods for peace are hardly seen elsewhere when we first make contact with fledgling civilizations. You should be honored to know that your civilization will have the right to appoint multiple ambassadors to be represented in the council, with three times as many votes in the matter of peace keeping.”
“This offer of accord should be considered quickly. The sooner we have you admitted the sooner we can begin technological transfer and economic trade. In light of all this, we believe two hours is sufficient time. We have produced copies of the accords for your consideration in 20 major languages.”
The aliens, unnamed and unidentified other than as emissaries, produced sheets of what looked like brownish paper and laid them out on the podium. After a minute of silence and nothing. The alien turned to the UN chair, who briefly went white, looked at the papers, then understood. He quickly took the papers, ran over to the first leader he found, and shoved a random one into her hands.
After a few more embarrassing minutes of trying to absorb what all just happened, a more organized distribution began and translators organized to read for staff as necessary.
Thirty minutes passed. It was obvious everyone had read the accords. The journalists tried to get copies of it but no one was letting it be seen. All were holding it with a death grip, ashen looks on their faces.
Forty-five minutes passed. All chatter stopped, not even whispering could be heard. Just what did the accords say?
After sixty minutes, one of the other aliens announced, “We don’t detect any discussion. Have you all come to an agreement?”
Nothing. No one said anything. Five minutes passed. The lead alien spoke, with the first affectation in their voice, a quizzical tone missing from the previous one, “Are there questions on the accords?”
Off camera someone blurted, “We are supposed to maintain 1000Kg of antimatter on our planet’s surface with a remote detonator that anyone in your, your…anyone can just detonate at any time?”
“Yes, it seems the translation has been received correctly.”
Another voice shouted, “How is that peace!?” almost angry.
Another quizzical tone, “If two species disagree, destroying one another is trivial. Knowing that could be done at any time ensures both parties must resolve their issues. We though Humanity understood this virtue deeply. Even coming up with such a succinct and poetic name for this peace keeping strategy: Mutually Assured Destruction”
My jaw couldn’t fall any further. I was reeling away from my screen, nearly pushing my laptop off the table. “What the fuck, who are these aliens!? How is this peace?”
The chamber erupted into a roar of shouts and questions. Some of the people in the chamber looked as if they were going to start marching up to the podium. Then everyone froze and all voices quickly died down. One of the aliens started shuffling. It was now apparent just how still they had been the whole time. The movement seemed almost threatening.
The third alien spoke, “Humanity has tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that can wipe out humanity, with hardly any real oversight on their usage. These weapons prevent the major powers of your world from outright conflict. Instead, economic prosperity is bred and this UN. We understand it isn’t perfect, but its such a huge step up from what any other species at your technical and social advancement level usually achieves. We usually have to threaten most species with total annihilation. We have to spend forever” the alien really did sound annoyed at this point, “explaining how the advanced species of the galaxy can wipe each other out trivially. Do you know how easy it is to accelerate a 100Kg mass to 99.99999% the speed of light? That’s enough to totally destroy any planet. In 300 years of development, we estimate, your planet will have the scientific and industrial output to produce those kinds of weapons. In a hundred years, you could make those weapons look like children’s toys.”
“We couldn’t have peace. We had to obliterate everyone else that refused peace. Then, when we finally found someone that wanted it, they didn’t believe we wanted it, and we couldn’t blame them. Look how many we destroyed! After a century of stalemate and moving ever more weapons of galactic destruction around, we realized we had achieved peace of a kind. What you call MAD? It is the only strategy for peace that works.”
Another leader stood up, this time defiant, “You must know we have committed to nuclear disarmament. We don’t want these weapons. MAD is terrible to live under. Its -“
The lead alien in a rushed voice cut in, “No, that, we analyzed as a misdirection, a further advancement of MAD that tells the opponent you have more effective weapons and don’t need the old ones. It was a way of ensuring both sides have equal destructive power without giving away what that power is. Very clever, we may introduce this into future council meetings.”
“No, that’s not what peace is like for Humanity. I don’t know if we can-“
Another leader slammed his fist down on the table, “We accept these terms. US, Russia, China, France, Britain, India, and other nuclear states, we agree?”
Silence, then nods.
“And I assume all other countries agree?”
“What kind of line of questioning is this?” Shouted the leader from Chile, “What do you mean ‘All other countries’? You mean the ones without nuclear weapons? What, are we not even worth considering?”
“Either you are voting with us, or you aren’t with us. Because either way, you aren’t keeping the peace anymore.”
“We refuse” shouts another leader. “If MAD is all that keeps peace, we don’t want it. And we certainly don’t want to enforce it on the galaxy.”
“And just what, do you think you can do about it?” coldly asks one of the nuclear states. “You aren’t part of MAD, thus there isn’t peace between you and us, as this very conflict shows. You are already risking all of humanity on some dumb principle. A principle, that has kept peace for us. Why should we keep you around?”
“You would destroy us just because we don’t have weapons?”
“That’s what the aliens will do to us! You read the accords! That’s why they are giving us our own remote detonators, and our own bomb on our own planet.”
I shut my laptop screen. I couldn’t take it anymore. The existential dread. The horror of what our world leaders were contemplating so casually. What the aliens took for granted. It was so obvious to them, so clear, so essential. Yet, who would willingly embrace such twisted worldview? There had to be a better way. There had to.
I am sure they’ll make the right decision. Maybe the aliens are testing us. Maybe we are supposed to reject MAD. Or maybe we just get destroyed if we don’t accept it. How could we even know what is the right choice. How do we know they are even telling the truth, that they could do this.
My head swam. What universe do we live in where this is the only possibility. Could there not have been another way?