‘To understand your enemies you must first forgive.’
Simple words for philosophers who were never forced to travel that path. Forgive? It took a long time to forgive the Vendel.
Gregorian Date: January 30, 2135
“Excerpt from the New Terra Victory Speech”…
‘The Vendel destroyed my world. They made me a slave. My hostility burrowed deep, nourished by sorrow and hatred. Vengeance drove me day and night pushing me relentlessly toward my goal.
I hated them. I loved them.
Mostly, I walked the line in-between.
The Vendel broke me, but in putting the pieces together again I became stronger, more resilient—wiser I believe. I learned to forgive and how to love, but navigating that path toward understanding was not an easy one.
A hundred years have passed, yet I remember the day of their arrival as if I were standing there now. The sun heats my skin and sweat beads my brow. I lick my upper lip and taste the salty tang of a hard day’s walk. My feet throb with a sweet ache, pulsing in time to the bubbling chatter permeating the sunny day.
The day was Sunday, January 30th, 2035, and I was ridiculously happy.’
Sunday, January 30, 2035
Elise Comwell could barely believe the number of miles she walked over the span of the last three days, or the fact she kept her activities secret from an overprotective grandfather. One more mile to go and the three-Day, sixty-mile Walk-for-the-Cure charity event against breast cancer would be over.
An eagerness to finish echoed in those around her the closer they approached the finish line. Tired and sore, she was so ready to be done. Giddiness welled up at the prospect of completing the challenge of a sixty-mile marathon walk. Her entire body rebelled and wanted to quit. The only thing pulling her forward was the infectious chatter spreading through the crowd, bouncing from one person to the next, amplifying as it extended across those gathered. That energy gave her that little extra push.
No one complained of sore feet, stiff legs, or aching backs. Even she kept quiet and pressed on despite the pain. For her sister, Marybeth, a recent victim of the disease, Elise marched. A few blisters and sore muscles meant nothing compared to what her sister had endured, and despite the deep-seated ache in her heart, or the pain of her body, this was a good day.
Something precious resulted from this ordeal, something unexpected. Something she hadn’t had in a long time.
Alice Kidwell ambled beside her, just as tired and sore, but equally determined to finish. Alice was a six-foot tall, girl-next-door blonde with piercing blue eyes, a generous smile, and sporting a spray of freckles over the bridge of her nose. She met Alice at the water stop on mile seven, day one, and they hadn’t left each other’s side since, striking up an instant friendship.
Initially, they traded stories about Alice’s mother’s and Elise’s sister’s battles with breast cancer, cementing a deep bond over the shared tragedy. But, eventually, they shared more. Tears turned to laughter and by mile fifty-nine, they knew each other’s life histories. Well, most of it. Elise kept out the part of her family’s wealth and social connections, but all the rest was mostly true.
Alice used her height to peer over the crowd. “Where are your nieces? I thought they were going walk with us the last mile?”
“Tom thought it was too far for little Crista.”
Elise’s brother-in-law struggled to manage three little girls in the wake of her sister’s death. A pang filled her heart and she blinked back an upwelling of tears thinking of the three girls growing up motherless.
Alice placed a hand on Elise’s shoulder. “It gets better.”
A lump formed in her throat. With a nod, she swallowed hard. “I hope so.”
The cellphone of a walker behind them sounded. Another rang in front, adding its unique ringtone to the air. Two phones buzzed on either side of them, and the warbling tones sprouted like weeds, drowning out conversation as people exchanged odd looks. A symphony of hundreds of ringing tones rolled through the crowd creating a cacophony of sound and bringing everyone to a halt.
A hush spread as people quieted their phones to listen. Conversations popped and fizzled, bringing an expanding wave of silence to engulf the crowd. Then, expressions of fear and pressured whispers rushed in to fill the oppressive silence.
Alice pulled her cellphone out, she tapped the screen then pointed with a shaky finger to the sky after she read the text.
“Spaceships,” she said as all color drained from her face and wobbled.
Spaceships? Elise reached out a hand to steady Alice. “What?”
Alice’s mouth worked soundlessly as she struggled to swallow. Several of those around her stared at their phones, their faces turning green, including Alice.
“Let’s listen to the news.” Alice had to have misunderstood.
Elise’s gaze darted over the crowd, uncertain if her conclusion was true. Tears streamed down some of those faces. Others shook like Alice. A few sobbed. Some glanced skyward, eyes alight with anticipation. For the first time in three days, she wished she hadn’t left her cellphone at home. Her grandfather was going to be very upset when he couldn’t get a hold of her.
She turned her face skyward, her eyes searching the heavens. Alice’s screen showed five ring-shaped ships, their size impossible to determine. She expected to see one materialize overhead, only blue sky and puffy clouds extended horizon to horizon. No sign of aliens.
Alice poked her shoulder. “Director Comwell’s going to speak.”
The news anchor stared into the screen, her face a mask devoid of emotion. “Breaking news: Global-Corp Space Agency has confirmed a fleet of ships appeared between Earth and the Moon.” The clipped voice of a broadcaster continued. “We’ll break for an announcement from Global Corps CEO, Charles Comwell.”
The face of the most influential man alive filled the display. Elise’s grandfather greeted the world with his charismatic smile. Twinkling eyes gazed out of the screen while he spoke soft and slow, his calm words entrancing a world.
“Citizens of Earth. For that is really what we all are. We have been headed toward one unified global identity for decades. We are Citizens of Earth. And…” He leaned forward, “we have visitors.” Comwell winked, pausing with theatrical effect to let the full impact of his words sink in.
We have visitors. Such a simple phrase. Maybe it was that wink, but that was the way with her grandfather. He could soothe a riot with a smile and a few well-placed words. Only his wink was too practiced, his smile too smooth. She knew him better than anyone on the planet and she trembled with the knowledge he was concerned.
Alice breathed out a sigh and patted Elise’s arm with reassurance. “It’s going to be okay.” Her cheeks regained some of their color.
As a testament to his charisma, people around her began to whisper, to nod, to reassure one another. They began to walk—not to the finish line—everyone had given up on the Walk-for-the-Cure. There were bigger issues to deal with as people headed home to discuss this life changing news.
She understood their urgency. She needed to get home too, and find her grandfather. Hopefully, her fears were misplaced, but an urgency to prepare for the worst tugged at her.
One thought remained at the forefront of her mind, when alien cultures collided, the more primitive rarely survived.