Tuesday, September 19, 2023

“Worlds at War” • by Guy Stewart

“No one would have believed in the early years of their Twenty-first Century, that Fourth World was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences equal to and yet as mortal as our own. As we busied ourselves about our various secret concerns, we were scrutinized and studied, and with infinite complacency we went about our little affairs, serene in the assurance of our empire over strange matter. No one had given a thought to Third World as a source of danger, for intelligent life could not arise twice in one star system. But, across the gulf of space, intellects unexpected and curious, regarded Fourth World with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in their Twenty-first Century, the dawn of our great disillusionment arrived.”

—From WORLDS AT WAR, by Anthony Philip Wells


Low-honored Subserver looked up from their aether display to find Their Honor the Prime Leader glowering at them. “Did you send this email?” asked the Prime Leader.

“It was meant as a joke, your Honor,” replied Subserver.

“It’s not funny.”

Subserver nodded to their aether display. Conjured by their neurocomputers, the return messages responding to their humorous email with appreciation were numerous. “Many we work with have taken it as the joke it was.”

“It is not humorous!” the Prime Leader blasted on EM frequencies from infrared to gamma, and sonic frequencies from infra to hypersonic.

Instinctively furling its perception organs, Subserver winced, then offered, “I deeply regret my attempt to add levity to the current crisis.”

Their Honor was momentarily mollified, but blurted in a broad range of frequencies a moment later, “They laugh because they are unaware of the depth of this crisis!”

Subserver unfurled the perception organs it had temporarily incapacitated at the physical and mental assault by Their Honor, then replied, “I believe they do understand the ramifications of the crisis. They can think of no other response but laughter.”

Their Honor swelled until it dominated the workspace, brandishing a heavy, hardened bone club over Subserver. They declared, “Tell me then: what is humorous about Third Planet’s direct observation of our world?”

Subserver reduced its size until it could easily be crushed by Their Honor’s club. Both were aware of the fully unfurled perception organs of every intelligence currently on duty. Subserver stated, “This world has been ours for thirty-two million, five-hundred thousand revolutions, but has never been our Home. We have first and always been refugees, abandoned by the Alliance Fleet that annihilated the People of Second World…”

“The primitive technological civilization of Third World has sought to explore this world. Their efforts have failed repeatedly and comically,” interrupted Prime Leader.

“My point exactly, Your Honor,” declared Subserver. The club descended, but stopped short of entirely squashing Subserver.

Their Honor communicated emphatically, “Within the past ten years, Third World’s primitive technological civilization has landed seven vehicles. Two continue to move about! Another eight are in orbit! Then, with virtually no warning, a lander and another mover have arrived all within thirty rotations! It’s an invasion!”

Subserver unfurled its perception organs after the onslaught. “This was the purpose of my message, Your Honor. It is far too late to stop the orbiting craft, their landers or rovers, and remain invisible to them.” Subserver paused then continued with substantially reduced energy. Perception organs strained to receive as they said, “I have been exploring the electromagnetic media produced by Third World. The email I shared was a parody of an ancient piece of their speculative literature.”

The Prime Leader’s club lifted fractionally. It finally signaled, “I believe I digested this literature some time ago.”

Subserver responded, “The email I sent out is a parody of a bit of a story of imaginary beings living on this planet launching a resource acquisition mission to Third World. The two worlds were not at technological parity and the intelligences from this world nearly conquered that one.”

Prime Leader absorbed the club and inquired, “Third World intelligences thought that beings from here had studied them and launched an invasion?”

“Yes, Prime Leader! Can you not see…”

The Prime Leader unfurled all of its perception and manipulation organs to full size, spread and activated the Fourth World Defense Grid, initiated launch sequences, and set off General Quarters for the entire station. The floor of the deep valley that had been their home for millennia shook. Cliffsides gave way as seismic waves created by gravitic impellers sent landmarks on the surface to vibrating until most collapsed.

“Prime Leader?” Subserver questioned emphatically. Other staff from everywhere in the station arrived sporadically in various states of agitation, taking their Alert Stations. All signaled fright. “Your Honor?” They half-turned their perception organs on Subserver, who spoke quickly, “Prime Leader, what are you doing?”

“It should be obvious, Subserver! The People of Second World evacuated to Third World and have begun their invasion of our world! We must defend ourselves!”

Thousands of long-dormant weapons trained their targeting devices on every Third World invasion device and activated their propulsion units, engaging thirty-two million-year-old drive units and ordnance. They detonated simultaneously. Subserver sat back just as the entire valley vanished.

“For so it had come about, as indeed we might have foreseen. We ‘Martians’  were irrevocably doomed.

“By the toll of trillions—individual, species, genus, family, order, class, phyla, and kingdom, Humans had bought back their birthright of Third World through patient toil and mutation both natural and managed. It was Theirs against all comers. It would still be theirs were ‘the Martians’ ten times as mighty as they were.

“For neither do men live nor die in vain, but by their wisdom to piece together the Mystery on Mars that was the Crater of the Mariner.”

—From WORLDS AT WAR, by Anthony Philip Wells


Guy Stewart
is a husband supporting his wife who is a multi-year breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor who maintains a writing blog by the name of POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS (https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/) where he showcases his opinion and offers his writing up for comment. He has 72 stories, articles, reviews, and one musical script to his credit, and writes an occasional column for Stupefying Stories online. In his spare time, he herds cats and a rescued dog, helps keep a house, and loves to bike, walk, and camp.