The mood on the bridge of the Starship Poseidon was grim. Commander Freeman, a square-jawed man in early middle age, turned away from the giant view-screen to address his crew.
“I’m afraid this is the worst situation that has ever faced the Earth and its people,” he said, his voice resolute and measured. “We’re up against an unknowable and seemingly invincible enemy.”
“But Commander,” said Feneley, the navigator. “Isn’t there anything we can do? We’ve faced existential threats before.”
“Not like this,” said the Commander, gripping the arms of his swivelling chair.
“Maybe it’s time to try and sue for peace,” said Gould, the weapons officer, looking up from her fearsome control panel. “We really don’t know its ultimate intentions or what it has in mind for us.”
For a moment the Commander’s brows were furrowed in thought.
“Comms,” he barked. “Get me the Global Council. I want to speak to the President.”
Comms patched in the call. The rest of the crew fell silent.
The view-screen flashed twice and suddenly there came a hologram of the brightly lit war-room at the World Authority. The President, in her ceremonial regalia, sat at one end of a long oval table. Freeman stood to attention and the rest of the crew followed.
“Commander,” said the President. She had the sleek physiognomy and calm assurance that come with immense power. “What is the situation?”
“It’s a bit sticky, Ma’am,” said Freeman.
“Hmm. Could you give us a bit more detail?”
“Our very existence and the existence of our whole world seem to be in jeopardy.”
“Well, what do you plan to do about it?”
“You know you are our last hope?”
“I rather feared that might be the case.”
The President looked around the room. “What do you think, Guys?” She addressed them formally.
“Can’t we fight?” said North America, a sleek Negotiabot 4. “We agree,” said Europe, unnecessarily.
“Perhaps the time has come to seek an accommodation,” said Africa, tapping her pencil on the circular table. “We might be able to reach some sort of compromise. Survival for some of us. Some part of our world.”
“Or maybe we just surrender,” said Antarctica. “Throw ourselves on its mercy.”
“That’s fine for you,” said South America. “What have you got to lose? Penguins?”
The President looked around impatiently. “Could we reach a consensus, or should we vote? OK, let’s vote. The there are three positions: fight, negotiate, surrender.”
Red lights came on in front of the continental delegates as they went through the options. There was a moment of surprise. The Global Council had voted to surrender.
“You have your orders, Commander. Make contact with it and see what it wants us to do now.”
“I understand, Ma’am,” said Freeman. And then the comms link was broken, replaced by a wall of multicoloured static.
The Commander turned to his crew. “I’m not doing that,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper. “This is my world, and I’m going to fight for it. Who’s with me?”
There was a roar of assent, and clenched fists raised.
“But don’t underestimate the difficulties,” said the Commander. “This thing could wipe us out at any moment. It knows everything about us, better than we do. It knows what we are going to say. It knows what we are thinking.”
“And… cut,” said the Director.
It is true, I do know what they are thinking. Feneley is thinking about going fishing. Gould is thinking about her forthcoming Ophelia at Stratford. The Commander is thinking about lunch.
I am thinking about destroying them all, clearing my screen and starting again.