By Rene Steen

War is the only pass-time that mankind consistently excels at.

As the Great Prophet once said, ' Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity '

All electronic media displayed the message simultaneously across the globe. First the regular programs vanished in a storm of static then the grim tribunal tuned in, loud and clear. On television the forty were represented as mysterious hooded figures, their features hidden in shadow. Only T'ggah Ahnx, High Councilor for the M'mrgh Empire, was spotlighted as he spoke but even he was swathed in cloaks and veils. On the non-visual media his precise voice made the announcement in a liquid monotone which had people shuddering at the image of slimy things that it conjured in their minds.

Presidents and Kings, Dictators and councilors all over Earth watched and listened as an alien being on their TV made the dire threat. It spoke in the native language appropriate to the human listener, regardless of that person's nationality. The being's vernacular was mechanical, without the nuances of meaning that native speakers of the language manipulated unconsciously in every day speech.

"On this day we of the M'mrgh Empire reveal ourselves to the sentient beings of Tqaa'Dn, which you call Earth. Our Empire is comprised of the forty systems that make up the sector you call Orion. Suffice to say we have observed your planet for a lengthy period of time. Your war-like ways have long given us grave concern, but now has come a time where our concern has become alarm. It is with regret that we take the action we are about to undergo, but you can no longer be allowed to threaten the Galaxy. A device has been deposited on each of your poles, timed to activate within three standard Earth days. After activation your species will no longer threaten the existence of other species in the Galaxy. Please accept our deepest sympathy and regrets for this course of action, but your natures leave us no choice. Reflect in the time left to you until activation; reflect how you could benefit the system instead of blight it. Signal out."

With that the transmissions ceased. All Earth communication snapped back to normal while the populations of all continents sat agape at the enormousness of the sentence that had been passed upon the Earth by beings that, to date, had been unknown to Earth men.

American satellites transmitted images of a huge pyramid located precisely upon the North Pole. An Australian P3 Orion, an airforce recognizance plane, photographed its twin squatting upon the South Pole. Neither structure had been there prior to the broadcast, nor had any planetary surveillance means recorded their placement. Both Australian and American governments sent scientists to the respective locations to examine the artifacts.

Professor Ian Steele of Melbourne University arrived at Mawson Base, Antarctica by Airforce transport. A party of ten SAS soldiers, dressed in cold climate cams and armed to the teeth, met him and quietly whisked him away by motorized sleds that sped undaunted into a 140 mile per hour blizzard. Everything was white, swirling and confused while the ears were numbed by a high pitched roaring whistle that drowned all other sound. Hours of bucking, weaving motion, deafening sound and total visual confusion passed before the small convoy halted in the middle of the storm. Several more hours were spent waiting until the storm abated enough that the men and equipment could venture outside with some chance of surviving the harsh environment. Ian Steele stepped out of the vehicle, sinking immediately up to his knees into powdery snow. Cold grabbed him, hugging him through his thermal clothing raising immediate goose bumps and making him shiver. The temperature was 36 degrees below zero Celsius.

"This way, Sir, and please stick close to Corporal Reynolds."

Steele glanced to his right where Captain Broadfield stood only centimeters away shouting into his ear. The man looked like an Eskimo in his bulky clothing and anorak, his face covered with snow goggles and a scarf. Another soldier fell in on his left side, a rifle slung over one shoulder. Obviously Corporal Reynolds, he thought. Soon they had all donned snowshoes and were trekking through the white wilderness.

After about ten minutes the party stopped and Professor Steele had his first look at the giant structure. Here, at the base of the pyramid, the air was still. The racing storm could be heard as a whistling echo some distance to the rear, but here was only calm. Also the temperature had risen by a huge amount and Steele actually was beginning to feel uncomfortably warm within the layers of thermal clothing that he wore. He checked his thermometer and saw it had crept up to one degree below zero, a climb of 35 degrees Celsius. Before him the stone monolith soared away at an angle until it met in a point several hundreds of feet up. Its color was vivid against the blank landscape, a lime green with a sheen of mauve highlights that rippled and swirled as one moved around the structure sort of like the rainbow sheen you get when you spill light oil onto water.

Cautiously the Professor removed his left glove, exposing his hand to the elements. Ten minutes earlier, and a hundred yards back, this action would have resulted in almost immediate frostbite but now all he felt was bracing coldness against his skin. He reached out the hand and lay it on the surface of the pyramid. There was a faint thrumming vibration and warmth emanated from the structure. The surface felt smooth, soft and warm as a woman's skin, neither composed of stone nor of metal. Some kind of plastic perhaps? He removed an electric angle grinder from his pack and thumbed the switch. The battery powered tool screamed into life. Professor Steele lowered the spinning garnet encrusted wheel to the structure. The hard cutting wheel touched the pyramid causing the tool to howl and kick before breaking from Steele's grip and flying off into the snow. He stared at the spot where the blade had kissed the structure and saw it was totally unmarked. That was when he noticed the depression, a few feet to one side, within which alien glyphs glowed. Although he could not read the figures he got the distinct impression that they were rolling backwards.

"I think it is time to call military explosive experts to look at this thing." He told Captain Broadfield who had been watching his efforts with some amusement.

Halfway around the Earth another scientist, Harry Auldfield, studied the pyramid on the roof of the world. He had surveyed it and, through trigonometry, had fixed the height at four hundred and seventy one feet. Its footprint measured two hundred and fifty feet by two hundred and fifty feet. Harry was also stumped at the nature of the structure, noting it was neither stone nor steel. Although he did not use the same method as his Australian counterpart, his efforts at obtaining a sample also came to naught. Harry marveled at the sensation as he, too, touched the structure to find it warm and sensually smooth. He found a design that seemed buried about 5 millimeters below the surface. It looked like a swirling representation of a butterfly; two figures 8 entwined roughly the size of a human hand with the top loops fatter than the bottom loops. Pulsing light made this figure alternately bright and dark green.

Harry placed his hand over the design out of curiosity and there was an immediate hum as something moved on the surface of the structure. Directly above the design a depression had appeared about 30 centimeters wide and 15 centimeters high. Glyphs of alien design showed within the 'window' and they flickered as if rolling backwards…

Geneva is the traditional meeting place when Earth's nations wish to discuss events of world importance. Outside Mother Nature poured her tears from a mourning sky while inside the conference hall sat representatives from all the nations on Earth. Currently Professors Auldfield and Steele held the attention of the audience as they took turns in describing the nature of the structures. The president of the UN cleared his throat as the two men finished.

"I see, professors. And what do you make of the glyphs you describe?" He queried.

Professor Aulfield shuffled papers and glanced at his Australian colleague who was staring intently at his own data.

"I believe it is a counter, sir. My friend here…" He indicated Steele with a nod of his head, "…sent footage of the glyphs on video to a mathematician at Melbourne University. He says that, although the numerical system used is based on a dodecadecimal system, the mathematics indicates that the counter is counting down."

"Counting down? Counting down to what? What are we dealing with, Professor."

"I believe it is…that is, they are, some kind of bomb."

There was a buzz throughout the hall as hundreds of languages struggled to convey the alarm from human to human in a confused din that would have made the Tower of Babel's effort sound like Esperanto.

After quite a few minutes of calling for silence, order was restored and the UN President hawked his throat again.

"Can these bombs be disarmed?"

A small, wiry man in his early fifties, dressed in Australian army uniform stood up stiffly to attention. He wore the crown of a Major on his lapels and a chest full of campaign ribbons from Vietnam on his shirt. His shoulder tabs depicted the insignia of an Australian Army sapper.

"Major Hardwood, Sir. Permission to speak, Sir."

The President waved his hand at the soldier, his face flickering in a small smile at the little man's enthusiasm.

"The floor is yours, Major." He said.

"I have examined the object near Mawson Base, Sir. There is no apparent egress into the structure and no tools we have tried seem to damage it, Sir. In my expert opinion, and in the opinion of other bomb disposal experts, it is believed this device is impregnable, Sir."

"Have you tried destroying it, Major?"

"No Sir! It is feared that detonation of any device capable of destroying the structure would also detonate it, Sir."

"Is there a chance that blowing it up will destroy the structure or render it inoperable without it detonating?"

"That is highly unlikely, Sir. Anything powerful enough to penetrate the structure would also cause it to explode."

"And just when do you think this bomb is going to detonate?"

The Major looked at Professor Steele. Ian Steele's eyes rose slowly from the data he was reading, met the sapper's gaze, and then sought that of the President.

"My colleague in mathematics calculates that detonation will take place at 1200 hours GMT this coming Friday. We have about fifty hours left."

"And the devastation the weapons will cause?"

"From the context of the broadcast and calculating the weapon's size in comparison with our own nuclear weapons I would say these two bombs are designed to perform a 100 per cent kill."

Something in human nature ensures that, when under dire threat or when faced with a hopeless situation, humans perform at their peek efficiency. Within hours of the Geneva meeting a total worldwide truce was agreed to as humanity allied itself to the common cause. Top secret projects were declassified as the super powers examined each other's progress into technology that most of the world only dreamt of as science fiction. Now it was a race against time and several leaders gathered in Washington to finalize the response of humanity to this unprovoked affront.

The President of the United States of America sat among a clutch of civilian leaders and military heavy weights from all the major nations of the world. Former enemies sat shoulder to shoulder as they awaited a briefing from the most powerful man in the world.

The President spoke to the Russian premier in subdued tones, his voice laced with respect.

"Mr Premier, I understand that the Russian research programs have been working on FTL drives. Our operatives suggest that you have come a long way in that technology."

"Da, Mr President. That is so. It was to be extreme top secret with the intention of launching a deep space probe within the next six months." He shrugged apologetically and smiled. "We wish to beat the Americans to the stars. You understand."

"Quite so, Mr. Premier. The United States of America also have made substantial progress in FTL technology. We were monitoring your 'Project Pravda' and intended to launch twenty-four hours before your mission, thus beating you in spite of your secrecy. Ours is called 'Project Enterprise' after the fictitious spacecraft from the Star Trek series."

The Premier nodded his head, his heavy eyelids hooded and a thin smile on his chubby face.

"It seems the old ways are not entirely forgotten, tovarich. We knew you had 'Project Enterprise' up and running and had already planned a surprise launch from a secret site in the Ukraine while your spies watched 'Project Pravda' approach its bogus launch date."

This time the American president chuckled. He threw back his head and laughed cheerily for a minute or so before composing himself and answering the Russian.

"Pravda. Does that not mean 'truth' in Russian?" He inquired.

"Da" Agreed the Premier as he fitted a slim Russian cigarette between his lips. "It is a good Russian joke to call a lie the truth, no?"

The Japanese Premier noisily cleared his throat. He spoke in cultured tones; his English perfect thanks to an Oxford education.

"It is indeed interesting and entertaining to listen to the one-up-man-ship practiced by your two nations, but what has all this got to do with the problem?"

The President bowed his head to the Japanese Premier. "My apologies Mr Premier. We were discussing FTL drives. Both our nations have built these although in small numbers and in total secrecy."

"Would it be too much to ask, what is FTL."

"It stands for Faster Than Light. Both Russia and America have manufactured these drives and tested them under strictly hush-hush conditions. They work."

"What do you propose to do with them?" The question came from the German Chancellor who had been studying the tip of a monstrous cigar; a present from Fidel Castro himself seated immediately to his right.

"We strike back." Came the reply.

A buzz began in the room as all present contemplated the idea of striking a blow against their aggressors, even if it were posthumously.

The plan was simple, yet huge. The clock had been ticking during the negotiations and there were now only forty two hours to detonation. Secret laboratories in America and in the Ukraine were in busy production mode, scientists and technicians buzzing about like bees.

Forty old ICBMs had been re-commissioned and were being fitted with the motors that would take them through the light barrier and hurl them against distant targets many light years away. Each would carry in their nose the most dangerous device known to man. Their original nuclear warheads had been replaced with ultra secret ones that had been dug up from deep underground somewhere in the American desert.

Even the Russians, as used as they were to American surprises and ingenuity, blanched at these weapons. They were Doomsday Bombs. Originally the warheads had been manufactured at the height of the cold war during the 1960's; nuclear fission multi-megaton warheads wrapped in a special cobalt casing - special since the cobalt had been atomically altered to sustain a self-perpetuating reaction. Initially the inventors had theorized that they would produce a larger yield than the 'atom bombs' of the day, thus expanding their effective 'kill' range. It was only after seventy-three of the devices were built that a much more frightening theory emerged. Apparently the self-perpetuating reaction did not confine itself to fissionable material. Upon exploding, the reaction would feed upon any matter within its sphere of influence, which in turn would feed upon any matter with its influence, and so on until all the available matter had been consumed. The possibility of vaporizing a planet with one bomb was so frightening that the project was abandoned and the warheads buried in deep subterranean vaults, since they could not be safely dismantled or disposed of.

Technicians from all over the world gathered at the sites as new-wave targeting computers were hurriedly installed and tested while navigational equipment straight off the designing board was assembled and fitted even as mathematicians labored to program the complicated flight plans. Years of human and technological development were being crammed into the last few hours of human existence with one thought in mind: Vengeance. These birds were to be ready for launching at Zero Hour Alpha, one hour before zero on the pyramid clocks, and they had been programmed to hit the enemy's suns. The resulting self-perpetuating reaction would turn the target sun into a super nova and it, in turn, would vaporize all the planets within its system.

Two Zero Hours were approaching for the human race: Zero Hour Alpha, the launching time of the retaliatory missiles and Zero Hour Beta, an hour later when the pyramids exploded obliterating the earth. Fully fuelled and armed, snug within their silos sat forty pencils ready to write mankind's obituary on the stars. When they hit their targets forty novas would proclaim, throughout the heavens in blazing glory, 'Don't fuck with the human race'.

Unfortunately the human race would not be there to see the extent of their final destructive act. The two pyramids would explode as 'Zero Hour Beta' arrived after which the earth and mankind would be dust drifting on the solar wind. It would take three months for the FTL engines to deliver their payload upon the aggressors, a final defiant blow; a spit in the enemy's eye as mankind faded into history.

Zero Hour Alpha arrived. Forty tongues of flame rose from mouths of concrete set deep into mother earth. Silver arrows streaked through the atmosphere, into space and winked out as the FTL engines cut in, propelling them through the light barrier. Tracking stations around the globe reported that 'Operation Armageddon' was underway. Now the human race held its collective breaths, as a weird silence seemed to settle all around the planet. Many with religious beliefs silently made their way to their place of worship where they could make peace with their deity. Others of a more material nature cavorted in a last fling of wine, women and song. As Zero Hour Beta approached the majority of mankind trembled.

Zero Hour Beta saw the end of mankind, as we know it. Many dignitaries cowered in fallout shelters while the people they represented hid in cellars and concrete piping, subway tunnels, caves and sewers hoping vainly that these structures might spare them from the blast. Any intellect would have known that the makers of the bombs would have anticipated these precautions.

At both ends of the planets the pyramids began to glow. Brighter, greener, emitting light that rivaled that of the midday sun. Suddenly a whirl of rainbow color replaced the luminance and a stream of that iridescent light shot upwards painting the underside of the cloud. A nacre-like glow spread out from the point of contact as more and more dancing, colored light shot up from the structure. Swiftly it raced around the skyline, a pearl-like glow spreading under the canopy of the sky in an even smudge - north to south and south to north. The colors met above the equator and the sky trilled with riotous hues building and swirling towards a crescendo.

Then a silent flash went around the globe bathing the ground in a soft, cool glow. Simultaneously the two pyramids disintegrated into clouds of sparkling motes as fine as grain dust, spreading quickly throughout the lower atmosphere and dissipating around the world.

Those that saw it, the bold and the ignorant, those not underground during this event, later stated it was the most beautiful and spectacular sight they had ever seen. Soon after it began to rain colors.

Minute motes drifted down. Rainbow colors of red, yellow, green and blue swirled amongst the gold and silver. It got in everywhere making people sneeze as if they had sniffed pollen. Deep underground in their radiation-proof bunkers politicians and military leaders watched in terror as the colored dust penetrated their walls and swirled about inside the sealed environments. No person on earth, regardless of where they hid or stayed, regardless of whether they wore environmental suits or gas masks were exempt. Everyone breathed the dust and sneezed for eight days until the phenomena dissipated and the earth was clean again.

That was when the change occurred. A tickle on the brain some described it as. Subtle shifting in the thought process explained others. Whatever it was, suddenly no one could remember aggression or anger. Military personnel blinked stupidly at the weapons they had been so carefully trained to use. Fighter pilots puzzled over airplanes that appeared to have no useful function. In the cities of America the dumpsters and trashcans were filled to overflowing with weapons and ammunition as people discarded those obviously useless trinkets. Deep in the bowels of defense installations, world wide, programmers deleted nonsense targeting programs and puzzled over their meaning. Crews abandoned war ships and submarines while sappers deliberated over the function of shells and bombs. True peace had come to earth in the form of two 'Peace Bombs' that some alien beings had detonated to stamp out human aggression and violence. War and the art of war were forgotten forever by the human race.

Upon the planet Swrr'h the High Councilor T'ggah Ahnx met with the head of the Trokathian Science Guild one cycle (in their time scale) after the two had watched the 'Peace Bombs' release the special neuroplasmic dust into Earth's atmosphere.

"T'ggah Ahnx, well met. We are puzzled by the ripple in the continuum some parsecs towards Ggarr Maada. None of the forty planets have light-speed vehicles in that sector, yet our instruments interpret the ripples as light speed emissions. It appears to originate from the sector where Tqaa'Dn is located, yet our information is that the humans do not have light speed capabilities."

"That is so, Jaaswaa. We learnt that a light speed drive was immanent, being developed by scientists on the northern continent but they were still several cycles from completing it. That was why we ordered the 'Peace Bombs' as we could not allow their aggressiveness to disrupt this federation's peaceful existence. Eventually they would have taught our people war."

He sighed as he contemplated the despicable act that they, the council, had been forced to carry out. It was deeply against the nature of the Swrr'hian people to interfere with the progress of another species, yet it was the only thing they could have done to ensure the survival of the forty planets.

"If the humans do not have light speed capabilities, what are those?" Asked Jaaswaa, pointing three tentacles towards the large screen. The High Councilor looked at the screen that displayed the sector near Ggarr Maada. Forty silver needles winked into existence as they dropped below light speed. Each of the slim vehicles selected an individual target and locked on. Conventional motors kicked into life and they sped towards their destiny.

"They have managed to complete the faster-than-light drive early. I wonder what they have sent us in these vehicles?" The High Councilor mused.

"Do you think they might be 'Peace Bombs?' Asked Jaaswaa.

"I think we shall soon find out." Replied the High Councilor as he watched one of the needles making a beeline for his planet's primary.


© René Steen 1997

About the Author in his own words: "I am 44 years old, male and live in Port Lincoln, South Australia where I work as a police sergeant. Writing has been a hobby of mine for about ten years, although I have written stories earlier than that. To date I have not sold to a publisher. I am married with two children, a boy 22 yrs and a girl 19 yrs."

You can e-mail Rene at:

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