Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Last Sunrise

Kevin Corso watched the sun rise, drank his tea, and contemplated the end of a world.

The time was the morning of November 11th, 2103, an otherwise unremarkable date except for the fact that it would be the last day of Earth. The location was the United Nations headquarters in New Geneva. It was a large, cavernous room, and Kevin stood before the large floor to ceiling windows that looked east out over the glowing, bustling city. Even at this early hour, before the sun has risen, the city was already awake. The morning commuters were already zipping along the multi-tiered roads that intertwined between the towering buildings.
Kevin brought his cup to his lips, sipping the sweet tea as the sun dragged itself, hand over hand, over the horizon. There, just to the right of the rising sun, was another tiny speck of light. It might have been a star, though all the stars had faded by now. That tiny mote of light was why the Council session had been called, why there were two hundred or more representatives standing behind him, waiting for his decision.

"Chairman, sir, shall we give the order?"

The last order he would ever give. Slowly, every movement precise and measured, he turned to the congregation, who regarded him with an almost religious deference. He scanned the room, meeting each pair of eyes in turn before asking, "You are sure there is nothing we can do?"

The question was not directed to anyone in particular, but among the crowd one man cleared his throat, "Sir. The Neph's technology is far too advanced. We have run the calculations over and over, but the result is always the same. All life on Earth is wiped out. There is no outcome in which we can survive."

The Neph were an alien race that they had first encountered a few years ago. Without a way to communicate, first contact had been a terrible, bloody ordeal with both sides suffering heavy casualties. They had tried to work it out diplomatically since then. They had failed.

"And the colonies?"

Another speaker amongst the crowd, "Communication was cut off a month ago, but all sources indicate they were most likely wiped out in preemptive strikes."

Weeks of reviewing reports and calculations told him everything else he needed to know. They did not have the time or resources to prevent the sequence of events that the race known as the Neph had set into motion. Earth had literally hours left.

The last course of action they had prepared was a contingency plan. In the event that the Neph launched an aggressive assault against the human forces, they had a weapon they could launch that would, in return, wipe out the Neph forces. Without a home world, they were confined to massive starships capable of housing and supporting generations of their kind. It wouldn't take much to ensure they were utterly destroyed. They had hoped it would suffice as a deterrent, to discourage the Neph from attacking. Clearly, alien politics worked differently than those on Earth.

As leader of the human nations, Kevin Corso had been closely involved with the first meetings they had with the Neph. Once they had figured out a way to communicate, they put a stop to the conflicts that had arisen during their initial contact. They had tried to find a peaceful resolution to the conflicts each side faced. Unfortunately, both sides needed the same resources - land, water, a new home - and these resources were scarce throughout the galaxy. Neither side could agree to the same terms, each side unwilling to compromise the safety of their people for the aliens sitting across from them.

Encountering the Neph had changed the size of the playground. Every nation on Earth went from playing a global game to a galactic one. They had rallied beneath the banner of the UN, forgetting many of their political disputes to face the challenges this new game board would present.

Yet during these encounters, Kevin had become acquainted with a new of the Neph. They were a brutish, reptilian race, with thick scaled skin and wide, flat faces. Their facial structure limited their expressive capacity, so lacking the subtle body language that humans could communicate in their faces, the Neph had adopted a complex form of verbal communication. It included deep layers of tone and inflection through pitch and tempo when they spoke. The result, to Kevin's ears, was that the Neph sang when they spoke. Despite their unattractive appearance - by Earth standards - Kevin maintained that Neph speech was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. Their culture was rich and vast, stretching back centuries with much better documentation and records than humans had ever mustered up.

That was why their attack had been such a shock. There was nothing in their meetings to indicate they were planning this kind of strike. It would seem that during their initial contacts, the Neph had seen the destruction left behind by the human forces. Not just in battle but on Earth, the Neph had seen the humans destroying their home planet, ruining the Earth until it barely sustained life. The humans were desperate to establish colonies and seek new planets because they had exhausted the resources of one of the universe's most perfect planets. They had decided they could not risk further conflict with Earth, that the humans were simply too dangerous to keep around. Like the extinct wolves in old stories, the farmers would hunt the predators that killed their livestock, no matter how beautiful the wolves may have been.

No matter how atrocious their decision, how impossible to imagine that the Neph could decide so simply to wipe them out, how could they justify a retaliation of the same kind? Earth's fate was decided, with no hope of changing it. How could humanity's last act in this world be to snuff out another civilization, in effect proving the Neph's concerns were right? Thousands of years of evolution had led to this moment; would the last act of the greatest race Earth has ever known to be one of spite? To declare that if the humans didn't live, no one did?

The representatives were becoming uncomfortable. Kevin's assistant, a quiet young man named Austin, asked again, "Sir? Shall we give the order?"

How dare he end their song?

"...No. No more bloodshed.. No more."

The crowd immediately erupted into arguments, shouts and demands being flung back and forth, unheeded by the Chairman, who had turned back to the window. Even at the morn of their extinction, a big enough group of humans in one room will still find a way to argue.

Austin stepped up beside Kevin, looking out through the window, as if hoping to see something that only Kevin could, "Sir.. What do we do, then?"

"I, for one, am going to drink my tea, and watch my last sunrise. You have a few hours left on this Earth, son. Spend them wisely."


[Author's Corner]

I really don't like how this turned out, it really doesn't have the same feel as when I first came up with it in my head. The idea is the same but the emotional response I got out of it was not what I had hoped. This is a rough first draft - at best - so it would need some serious revision, but somehow writing it out fell a bit flat. I'm not sure if its just because I'm too close to it, I spent too long trying to write it that now it doesn't have any magic for me. Or maybe it just wasn't that compelling of an idea to begin with. I'm not sure.. but at least I'm writing again. So, you know.. go me, I guess.