An alien invasion begins on a planet. The aliens are humans. The photo “Hubble Witnesses an Asteroid Mysteriously Disintegrating” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Omer approached the captain’s desk, observing the thickly carpeted floor and the wide, spacious interior of the office. Captain Rammstein, an old, grizzled bear of a man, was furiously signing some documents. Documents that probably authorized the invasion and assigned proper blame to lower-ranking individuals if things went pear-shaped. Behind the captain, a window displayed a planet. Omer could see several continents, mostly thick with lush, green forests, although areas near the arctic and antarctic zone appeared bare. Oceans covered the majority of the surface. He thought of Earth. Smoothing his dark hair back, he stopped in front of the desk and stood at attention.
“You may have a seat, Lieutenant.” The captain continued to sign the papers without looking up. The younger man could not help but notice the bulge around the captain’s mid-section. He thought he smelled alcohol. Omer decided not to comment. A chair rose up from the floor behind him, humming like an angry insect. He saluted and sat down. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the older man finished and locked his blue-steel eyes into Omer’s own. “So, you had some concerns you wanted to bring up?”
Omer fought the urge to sink into the chair. He cleared his throat. “Sir, I know this is just our third operation this month, but I think we ought to consider our strategy. Reports indicate that we won’t need the Orbital Bombardment Assets. We can make this clean.”
The captain did not answer. For a moment, the blue eyes regarded the lieutenant. Then they looked away towards the ceiling. Captain Rammstein sighed, closed his eyes, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Omer avoided staring and focused his attention on the planet. After a moment, he felt the captain’s gaze upon him again.
“Son, how old are you?” His voice seemed a low growl.
“Twenty-two, sir,” Omer answered.
“That’s remarkable. Second-to-command of a captain at such a young age. With such a promising career ahead of you. You should know better. You don’t change SOP right before an operation.”
Omer swallowed. “I know. It just seems that what we’ve been doing is a little… excessive.”
The captain’s eyes narrowed. Omer thought his heart would leap out of his chest. Suddenly, Rammstein laughed, his voice echoing around the office. “The fact that we’re dropping rocks on a defenseless planet, then slaughtering the remaining indigenies? You’re goddamn right it’s excessive!”
Startled, Omer jerked slightly back. His hands fell to his lap and he clasped them together. He continued watching the captain bellow. “Sir, I-“
“Son, I like you, but that was really stupid.” The captain wiped his eyes. He gestured his arms to the planet behind him. “You think this is supposed to be clean? Pure absurdity!”
“Well, it’s just… it’s just the Lizardmen… I mean… the Intantwomie… the reports show they’re pretty advanced. They’ve already invented space flight. They’ve got cities on every continent, even on the ones near the north and south poles. Their government is almost unified. I know… I think we don’t need to be so destructive,” Omer stammered.
“You think the politicians care that some scaly fuck can fly into the atmosphere with a glorified model rocket?” The captain’s voice was higher now. “You think they care about every species that can build more than one hovel together? No, it’s always about our destiny amongst the stars. To take our place as masters of the universe by looting all the valuables. Besides, we don’t have time. There’s five more operations to go before the end of the month.”
Omer could now definitely smell the alcohol on the captain’s breath. “Sir, I didn’t mean-“
“I know what you meant, but the OBAs justify our pay. What do you think we should do? Broadcast a general surrender order? Takes too long. Hell we haven’t even fully translated their language, for all the good that will do. Make a deal? Out of the question. Send the troops in everywhere? Too messy, and we don’t have enough. It’s too late now, son. You should have brought this up when your parents were voting to line their own pockets.”
The captain breathed hard and then grew quiet. Omer could not think of an answer. He turned his gaze behind the captain’s head again, unable to meet those steel eyes. He heard the ticking of the captain’s grandfather clock nearby, some ancient relic from Earth. A moment passed. Finally, in what felt like an act of mercy, the lights flashed red and alarms began blaring.
Captain Rammstein stood up. He gestured towards the younger man. “Come, it’s starting.”
“Captain on deck!” the deck officer announced. They strode in from a rear door to a vast cavern of light, screens, and chattering command staff. The main screen displayed patterns of flight trajectories, system objects, and status updates. The officer saluted the captain, who returned it. Omer followed closely behind.
The captain stood on a dais and surveyed the entirety of the bridge. Omer noticed a rapid change of demeanor in the man. The eyes grew more focused, his back and limbs ramrod straight. He appeared to be a much different person than he was just moments before. Omer took his place by the captain’s side. “Status report?” Rammstein asked.
“We’ve entered engagement range. Ready for your orders, sir,” replied the tactical officer.
A large window appeared on the main screen. A blue icon flashed in the middle, indicating the position of their warship. Green icons surrounded them, representing the tug-towed asteroids that accompanied them. “They’re in position,” came Tactical’s reply.
“Good.” The captain lowered his hat, partially obscuring his eyes. “Show me the target.”
Another window appeared on the screen, external cameras showing a close-up of the green jungled planet they were approaching. Omer could not see any activity occurring on the surface.
“Any response from the indigenies?” asked Rammstein.
“I’m picking up increased radio chatter,” replied the communications officer. “They definitely know we’re here. Should I contact them, sir?”
“That won’t be necessary.” The captain glanced at each member of the crew. He took a breath. “All right, let’s do it. Commence the operation.”
The tug ships detached from the dozen or so asteroids round them. Engines embedded in the city-sized rocks began their warm-up cycles. The asteroid icons on the main screen turned brighter green, indicating that they were hot.
“Target bases Alpha through Kappa and any other significant military assets. Max acceleration,” the captain ordered.
“Acknowledged, sir,” replied the weapons officer.
The asteroid engines roared to full power and the rocks started their twenty thousand kilometer journey towards the planet.
“Estimated impact in five minutes,” said Weapons.
Captain Rammstein was about to reply when his wrist communicator started beeping. He sighed and checked its display. After a moment, he turned towards Omer. “Shit, it’s Command. Probably grousing about some minor protocol deviation,” he whispered. He gazed back towards the bridge. “An urgent matter has come to my attention,” he announced. “Lieutenant Dagran now has command.” He turned back towards Omer. “Remember we have a schedule to follow.”
“Yes, sir.” Omer saluted. The captain returned the salute and walked through the exit to his quarters. Omer watched the asteroid icons approach the planet.
“Two minutes until impact.”
“Keep on monitoring. Make sure nothing happens,” Omer replied.
All eyes focused on the planet visual. At first, nothing could be seen. The wait seemed interminable. Eventually, at one second until impact, a point of light zoomed past the camera, almost too fast for the naked eye to catch. It hit a spot on the northern continent. A giant fireball emerged from that spot, hundreds of kilometers in diameter and expanding. In seconds, half the continent was engulfed in fire. The rest of the OBAs hit their own targets.
“Sir!” The voice of Comms caught his attention. “We’re getting a message on general channels from the planet. Rough translation suggests that it’s a surrender. Response?”
Omer didn’t answer, staring at the dust and fire storms consuming the once green planet. He bit the edge of his thumb, lost in thought.
Omer stopped biting and let his arm relax to his side. He breathed deeply through his nose. The ticking of the captain’s grandfather clock echoed in his ears. “Arm the warheads. Terminate all resistance,” he said.