In the beginning was the wormhole. It bloomed like a strange flower at the edge of the the solar system, dwarfing Pluto in its size and majesty. It was beautiful; theory become real. The eyes of Earth turned upon it, and the space telescope Walton was redirected to examine it more closely. Within days, images were being sent back to Earth.
What Walton revealed was a kind of blister in space, a lenslike swelling in the fabric of the universe. As one scientist remarked, to the discomfort of her peers, it looked almost as if humanity were being examined in turn. The stars behind it were distorted, and slightly off-kilter, an effect explained by the huge amount of negative energy necessary to keep the wormhole open. An intense light at its rim dimmed to a dark center like an unblinking pupil, and so the newspapers began to refer to it as “the Eye in Space.”
Once the initial thrill of its discovery had worn off, disturbing questions were raised. Why had it not been seen before? Was it a natural phenomenon, or something more sinister?
The early years of the twenty-first century had yet to offer any proof that mankind was not alone in the universe. Shortly after the discovery of the wormhole, mankind received conclusive evidence that the universe was more crowded than it had ever imagined.
A fleet emerged from the Eye, a great armada of silver ships, graceful and elegant, moving unstoppably toward the small blue planet in the distance at speeds beyond human comprehension.
And the people of Earth watched them come: steadily, silently. Efforts were made to contact the craft, but there was no reply. . . .
Panic spread. There was talk of the end of the world, of imminent destruction. Riots crippled the great cities, and mass suicides occurred among the more extreme religious cults, convinced that their souls would be magicked up to the approaching starships.
But wherever it was that their souls ended up, it was not on those ships.
The fleet stopped somewhere near Mars, and Earth braced itself for attack. Some people fled to bunkers, others sought shelter in underground stations and subway systems, or retreated into caves. They waited for explosions and devastation, but none came. Instead, Earth’s technological systems began to collapse: electricity, gas, water, communications, all were hit simultaneously, sabotaged by their own computers, but in a deliberate and targeted way. National defense systems shut down, but hospitals did not, and warplanes fell from the sky while commercial jets landed safely. All control had been seized by an outside force, but one that appeared careful to avoid more fatalities than were necessary. Still, fatalities there were.
Now, Earth’s generals warned, the real assault would come, but there was no further attack. The silver ships sat silently above, while below, society fell apart. There was looting and murder. Mass exoduses from the cities began. Cattle and livestock were stolen and slaughtered for food, so farmers began to shoot trespassers. Men turned against men, and so great was their fury that, at times, they forgot the fact of the aliens’ existence in the face of their own inhumanity. After a mere three days, armies were firing on their own citizens. All that mattered was survival.
Then, on the fourth day, power was restored selectively to the hearts of nine capital cities across the world: Washington, London, Beijing, New Delhi, Abuja, Moscow, Brasilia, Canberra, and Berlin. A single word was sent to every computer in every government office.