As the fingers hovered over the buttons that could obliterate the entire surface of the planet, they knew this was never going to be a win-win situation. It was not even going to be a win situation. This was in that quadrant of the prisoner's dilemma chart that the eyes subconsciously avoided. This was where no one wanted to be. And yet, those bastards seemed to have done it. No one really understood the politics of the past century, and how it had come to this, but right then, over five hundred nuclear warheads were screaming through the skies, their targets set. Five hundred was the upper limit of the number of projectiles the grid of satellites called SafeNet could keep track of. There were probably more. The worst thing was that they were from independents, the warheads were not accounted for. The markets had been a little too free.
And here he was. A short, bald man, with a name nobody knew. His fingers over a button. A small, black button. He could engage them. Try to. They were prepared for a dozen at a time. Not more than five hundred. It was like someone had emptied an entire stockpile. Where had they gotten all of it from?
Procedure dictated that he call a command center that was always on stand by. A passcode had to be given, then the order placed. He could deploy as many warheads as he wanted. They had about a hundred on standby, and eighteen hundred more around different locations of the globe, under their command. The nuclear arms race had been going on in secret for well over a century.
This scenario had been debated for decades, and it always came down to one of two choices. Either accept your own destruction, or destroy the enemy as well. You died either way, but something survived. Life on the planet was left to continue. The seas did not boil. The skies did not fall.
Faced with the decision, and under threat of annihilation, something from beyond all that was human called out to him. It was not pity. It was not some primitive sense of self-preservation of the human race. There was no room for hate or revenge. The world was ending, and he still felt hope for man. They would not be a race that failed. They would not be a race of idiots, who always made the wrong choice. A strange sort of desire, sprang up in him, as if the planet was calling out to him, to be the bigger man.
He pressed the button. Made the call. "Disengage all the warheads. Abandon your posts. We will not retaliate, and that is an order."
A long silence.
"Sir... I am not sure what this means... we got the order, about an hour ago, to engage with all the firepower we have"
So that's how the bastards did it. Those god damned terrorists. They are using our own weapons against us. Poetic justice.
The disciples of this sage were together in his school. An oasis of calm in a desert of chaos. They studied, and learnt till the very end. The mystic had been educating them about the "tree of life", a concept universal to all cultures. He pointed to the mushroom cloud blossoming behind him. "Behold the tree while your eyes can still see" he said.
For a time, in the mostly empty space on the outer arm of the galaxy, a small and little known solar system sprouted what looked like a second star.
Thirty thousand years passed. The anomaly was noted half way around the galaxy. The phenomenon, was indeed very strange. Spectral lines showed elements that could simply not have been formed naturally. A bunch of probes were sent out, to see how this aberration of nature occurred. It would be a long time before the answers came, but these were creatures that were eternal, slow, and patient.
The probes sent back a report. The planet was lush, green, brimming with life. The planet was carpeted by a forest of vegetation. There were more than a trillion species of organisms living together, which was a number unprecedented anywhere in the known universe. Additionally, there were not one, but ecosystems based on three kinds of chemistry on the same planet. Carbon, Silicon, and the very unlikely Plummbum - Lifeforms of Lead that were unique to that small planet in the outer rim. In between the continents were what looked like swamps, but were actually freshwater oceans that stretched between the continents, and the surface of the waters as well as the deeps were infested with life. There were lighter-than air life forms that forever lived in the clouds above the planet, gas bags with spinal cords. For a planet so advanced, there was no sentient life anywhere.
The AI closed the report back home there, but there was one other thing that it did not put down, but something that it processed for a long time.
No unnatural structures, but in many places - in fact, all over the landmass of the planet - the natural vegetation had grown in as if they were following some long dead network of what definitely looked like artificial structures... as if living fossils were formed around an extinct civilization.
It was a slow and patient meeting. They were a race that never got excited. There was little that could excite immortals. The universe had that little magic.
"Something wonderful happened here, eighty thousand years ago. All of a sudden, life burst out onto this planet. We may have witnessed a genesis event. We should investigate more closely."
"Yes we should. I move the committee for a vote, that we physically inspect this planet, by outfitting an expedition."
One by one, the tentacles went up in the air.