A short story in response to a Reddit writing prompt.
The writing prompt:
[WP] Among Alien species humans are famous for prefering pacifism but being the most dangerous species when they are forced to fight.
A dark room, hazy with the smoke that made the Brill comfortable. Shorter than humans and with four arms instead of two, they were otherwise similar to humans: bilateral symmetry, two legs, two eyes, a mouth. Instead of a nose two slits extended alongside the neck; formerly gills but adapted to breathing air.
One side of the room is elevated and topped with a long podium, behind which seven Brill are seated. In the center a Brill is seated, behind his own table. If it weren’t for the strange decor it could be a congressional hearing room, and in fact it was, of a sort: members of the ruling caste were asking questions of the surviving Grand Master of the Brill invasion fleet.
The First was seated center of the podium. He was the only one permitted to ask questions; the others were there to observe.
“What went wrong?”
The Grand Master squirmed, a slow motion imitation of a fish caught in a bear’s mouth.
“We underestimated them. As pacifists we believed the Humans would make an easy catch.”
“When we first heard of the Humans we started standard infiltration to eventually annex their resources. But we were misled by what we discovered.”
Quietly two satellites finish a trajectory that brings them into orbit about the Earth. Sent along a parabolic path that took them by the sun and around the moon, the trajectory was designed to allow them to take orbit without detection by the residents below. Extending antennas they start picking up what radio frequencies they could find, sophisticated computers learning what is being transmitted and translating the information into a format the Brill could understand. Most chatter was automated; timestamps, transactional information. Some was positional data for floating boats on the oceans of this water world, or transmission between the planet and small mining ships in the asteroid belt, around Mars or on the various moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
There appeared to be a lot of entertainment as well, in a variety of different spoken languages. But there appeared to be no central database or informational source detected, no mechanism to query databases below. One of the satellites launched a small probe towards the oceans of the planet where a data transmission line was detected; hopefully it would tap into the computer networks of this world and gather more information.
But everything these two satellites detected indicated what other races had reported: that this was a single species, wealthy in resources, with a single world government. All the programming received confirmed that they were a peaceful race, prizing pacifism. They had multiple religions but all which spread the same message of peace. They were a capitalist species, but capitalism seemed to be in its final stages of evolution for a world such as this: goods have become so cheap due to wealth and automation there was little left to buy beyond land and influence. And unlike most other species, most of the residents of this world engaged in pacifistic rituals every 7 days, engaging in group meditation and prayer.
The conclusion of the Grand Master and his advisors: the world was ripe for capture. The residents of this world were surprisingly peaceful, having only one world government. They were surprisingly wealthy due to the natural resources of an astroid belt comprised of a failed planet which they were just beginning to exploit. They appeared to have no military caste beyond peace keepers, and little crime for those peace keepers to fight. There was no need in this case to wait for the surface probe to return the results of the history of this planet.
The invasion force popped into existence on the far side of the Sun: thousands of points of light turned into thousands of ships of various sizes, with the largest, the Brill command post, in the center. The UN SOHO 3 platform saw them wink into existence, but never reported its findings: a single shot from a coherent laser cannon guaranteed that.
The standard invasion process devised by the Grand Master of the Fleet was simple: first, destroy any ship yards farthest from the target, then press inwards: a standard plan successfully used on several other worlds annexed by the Brill. They expected little resistance, and in fact they encountered none as they approached the Europa shipyards.
They did receive a series of transmissions from the shipyards in orbit around Europa and from a base on the surface of that moon of Jupiter, which they ignored. A squadron of ships was dispatched, and met no resistance as they destroyed the orbital platforms and the space elevator, a small thin structure which tied the surface buildings to the platforms in orbit.
The Europa asteroid mining repair base was destroyed.
What happened next was entirely expected: the two orbital satellites around the Earth reported an increase in traffic, chatter which was repeated via a tight transmission laser to the central command ship. All was going very well, the Grand Master thought.
Meanwhile the lone surface probe sent to tap into the computer networks of this world finally gained access, and started trying to learn the protocols used by the Humans on their home world, then downloading and analyzing any history stored in any connected databases.
And it transmitted upwards a dire warning, one which was lost in the flux of transmissions to the Brill command center.
The First stopped the Grand Master’s story.
“Why was the warning from your ground probe ignored?”
The Grand Master looked directly into the eyes of the First, an aggressive gesture he almost instantly regretted: “When our technicians finally found the warning in the millions of teraquads of data we received from our orbital satellites, it was already too late.”
Tens of thousands of astroid miner ships suddenly stopped their work, using high powered coherent lasers to tear apart and pulverize asteroids, and started heading towards their repair base at Europa. Peaceful observatory telescopes in orbit around the Earth, previously trained on various stars and receiving various scientific observations around the universe, now trained themselves on Europa and started tracking the thousands of incoming alien ships. The far more developed orbital construction yards in orbit around the Moon and around Mars, where thousands of peace-keeping enforcement ships and two UN fleets of military ships were stationed, mobilized and started a sunward fall to quickly pick up speed and meet the incoming alien invasion force.
None of these had been detected by the orbiting satellites, who had dined on a diet of entertainment, local news, and movies whose stories centered around romantic love and physical comedy and the occasional televised religious prayer service.
They had been discovered by the surface probe, but far too late.
The battle that followed was one of the bloodiest ever experienced by the Brill. Tens of thousands of civilian mining ships brought their mining drills–more powerful than many military weapons–to bare, coordinating amongst themselves with a ferocity unknown through the local sector of the galaxy. They made short work of the forward battle cruisers of the Brill, much to the shock of the Grand Master, who was used to fighting species with strict military castes and whose civilian populations never fought.
They were then caught by surprised when this supposedly pacifistic world deployed not one or two, but fourteen complete fleets centered around half-mile long command ships which seemed to double as small ship carriers: a strategy the Brill had never seen before, preferring to keep command and control strictly separate from the fighting ships. And while these ships were much smaller than the mile-wide Brill command ship, they were far more heavily fortified and proved themselves quite agile.
The final straw seemed to come when one of the Human command ships were destroyed: a disabled Brill cruiser collided with the Humans ship, destroying both. But the Humans surprised the Brill by quickly redeploying the support ships, easily merging them into another fleet with a degree of coordination almost impossible by Brill standards: the strict hierarchy of Brill military tradition would have prevented it.
Worse, rather than demoralizing the Humans, the destruction seemed to make them even more aggressive.
Unknown to the Brill, two nuclear weapons were heavily shielded behind a lead apron and placed into a passive orbital path around the Sun. Quickly equipped with some improvised steering jets, they were then passively kicked off into an intersecting path which would eventually come within a few thousand miles of the largest ship of the invading alien force. The steering jets would do the last bit of navigation.
The Brill continued to press forward, despite losing a third of their fleet. Projections indicated heavy losses, but the Grand Master seemed convinced that he could reach the home world of these Humans and eventually pacify them with ground troops. Suddenly, however, the Grand Master found himself engaged in something new: a race to the center with twelve remaining fleets about a quarter the size of his own. His hope was that by taking the home world of these Humans he could entrench himself and fight a defensive fight. The thought he’d have to win a similar fight first never crossed his mind.
Tens of thousands of civilians of the most famously pacifistic species the Brill had yet to encounter, slaughtering his troops as casually as one steps on ants. It just didn’t make any sense.
As he looked outwards towards the central star of the Human’s solar system, he spotted two flairs go off. A radiological alarm sounded on the bridge–a sound he hadn’t heard except in training. The humans had nuclear weapons.
The humans had nuclear weapons?
These pacifists had nuclear weapons?
The Grand Master just stood there, gasping, as one of his body guards tackled him and shoved him into an escape pod.
From the escape pod he watched as two balls of light erupted, larger than his ship, reducing his command post to scrap metal and sparks.
The First glared more intently at the Grand Master, a pose made more intimidating by the height of his podium. One of the other six flanking the First seemed caught up in the information on the display in front of him, and quietly dismissed himself from the hearing.
“So what did you learn of these Humans from your ground probe?”
The Grand Master sat very still for a minute, then reported:
“These Humans are a singular species without caste. Both genders share similar cultural and philosophical attributes: a desire for peace born not out of a natural predilection for peace as was previously reported, but out of a necessity from generations of wars. Unlike any other species we’ve encountered where a world government evolved from growing tribal unity, these Humans seemed to fight each other for the most unlikely of reasons, and histories showed they seemed to greatly enjoy these battles.
“We found histories of nation-states fighting each other, and sometimes–shockingly!–fighting themselves. In one war in a nation state called ‘America’, they fought a civil war–that’s a war within a nation-state–four hundred years ago which claimed the lives of one out of every 20 adult male. Even our worst wars would generally stop with losses of around 1 in 100–but they now tell stories of the glory of those battles!
“We found another war which they called ‘World War Two’–they had four of these so-called ‘World Wars’ though several prior to the first also qualified as World Wars–where that same nation-state of America was drawn into a war they didn’t want to fight.
“A master of one of the military forces for another nation-state called Japan apparently said of them that you cannot invade because behind every blade of grass would be a weapon.”
“We seriously erred in our intelligence gathering and should have waited for the histories to be uploaded. But we had no reason to believe this spiritual and pacifistic race would become so violent. We thought we were dealing with a herd, not a race of warriors.”
During this speech the commotion continued; several of the Brill flanking the First had left the podium, panic on their faces. They were violating decorum. They didn’t care.
The First simply asked in response: “So what do we do now.”
The Grand Master gave out a guttural noise of indecision. “In the four years it took my emergency escape pod to make its way back here, we believe the Humans have discovered the secret of interstellar travel from the wreckage of our ships. And we believe that, because the Humans are a singular, non-caste species, if the entire species cooperated on a response fleet, they had enough time to construct a fleet larger than any we have ever encountered before.
The Grand Master looked down, knowing his answer would mean his execution. “We have no choice but to surrender when they arrive.”
High above the Brill home world, nearly a million lights started to glitter, each turning into space ships of various sizes.