The aliens arrived minutes before the end. Their toroid ships ‘whumpfed’ from the void. Every radio and television on Earth carried the lithium-calm voices of their universal translators.
“People of Earth, we have come. It is your time to be uplifted.
“If your government is unified and singular, it should designate representatives to begin an exchange of trust and mutual understanding. If your states are still fragmented, each may send its own representative, if they so choose. The people in between – the exiles and the stateless – are not to be forgotten. They may make their own choice.
“We carry the accumulated research of a thousand civilisations. We will banish scarcity. You will not die of disease and old age. Those who tire of their mortality may transcend their flesh and explore the universe, or join one of the great hiveminds. You shall not want. Each of you shall be allowed to live your best life.
“We will not interfere without your consent. We are patient. We await your reply.”
They received none.
Our leaders were busy. Tracking ten thousand missiles across the globe, ten thousand interlacing fingers to crush the world.
They’d launched before the ships had arrived. Before there was a way out. No one was sure who’d fired first. It didn’t really matter.
The world ended.
The world ended, and the aliens waited as our cities boiled and the sky turned to ash and we died in fire. They did nothing – there could be no action without consent.
We survivors inherited a broken Earth, swaddled in an ash cloud. But we, the exiles and the stateless, clung to their promise.
We jury-rigged radios. We built vast, toppling radio towers from radioactive steel beams pulled from the ruined cities. Babel-towers, reaching for the ash sky – for ascension – stretching to the heavens to get one word out.
Please. Come for us. We need you now more than ever.
We heard nothing.
It will be a generation before the ash cloud settles enough for our radios to pierce the sky.
“They’re gone,” say the hopeless. “We’re on our own.” And they trudge through the ash fall to try to coax crops from contaminated ground.
But we know they’re still up there. They were patient, they said. The exiles and the stateless will not be forgotten. We raise our children to look up to the heavens and look for their salvation. One day we’ll beg, and something will answer.