Prompt: Humanity has received its first alien communication. It’s a fine for littering in our solar system.
“Can you say that again?” The head of the National Aeronautics and Space asked, turning on speaker phone on the device. It was the first time they ever had direct contact with an alien species before, and this was not what he anticipated. The other dozen or so higher ups of NASA learned forward in their chairs around the large, mahogany conference table.
“We are the Natural Preservation Organization of the Solar System, NPOSS, and we have discovered that Earth, the planet you currently reside on, has been littering. This comes with a hefty fine, and if you choose not to pay said fine, your planet will be held accountable.”
The head of NASA wiped his sweaty brow and glanced around at the other scientists. He shrugged, shaking his head, then turned back to the phone. “So, are you an alien species or…?”
“Alien to you, yes, but not alien to others. Please do not attempt to guide this conversation elsewhere. Are you willing to pay the fine or will your planet be held accountable for its actions? Littering is a serious offense and it is not taken lightly by NPOSS.”
The other scientists looked at each other, shrugging, mumbling “I don’t know,” but all eventually faced the head of NASA.
“How much is the fine?” he asked.
“Zero point five quzecs.”
“We don’t have those here, how much is that in USD?”
“Give me a moment…
“Zero point five quzecs is five novemdecillions in USD.”
“Say again?” he asked, wondering where the alien pulled that word out from.
“Five novemdecillions. Five followed by sixty zeros. This is a fair charge for the amount of littering your planet has done to the Solar System, usually we charge more but your planet is quite small compared to the others, and the intelligence of your species hardly reaches the average standards of the universe.”
The head of NASA muted the phone, turning to the room. “Five novemdecillions! Five novemdecillions! How the hell would we even obtain that much money? Our country isn’t even in that much debt, and the richest person alive only has four billion at most!”
“How do we know this isn’t a prank?” One scientist asked. Another followed, “Yeah, this sounds like a joke.”
Nodding, he thought. Yes, yes, a joke. Why would our first contact from an alien life form be about a fine? A littering fine, nonetheless. This is too crazy to be real. Wouldn’t they want to know more about us? Wouldn’t they be susceptible to us, want to share their wealth of knowledge? He pressed the mute button again.
“How do we know this is not a prank?”
“Prank? What is a prank?”
“A prank is a joke, usually done in a funny manner.”
“Oh, you speak of humor. No, this is not, what you call, a prank or a joke. This is a serious matter.”
“Okay, so… What if we can’t pay the fine?”
“You cannot pay the fine, even when it’s such a low amount?”
He swallowed the saliva building in his mouth, and wiped his forehead again. “No, we can’t.”
“Unfortunately, if you are unable to pay the fine billed to you, then your planet and any species living upon it are now under the ownership of the NPOSS until the fine is paid in full. Two members of the NPOSS will shortly arrive on your planet with instructions on how your species will perform moving forward. Also, please be aware that the amount of the fine doubles for every millennium that passes.
“That is all.”
The line died before the head of NASA could reply. The silence in the room felt palpable as each scientist looked at one another, some getting up from their chairs and looking through the windows outside, others getting out their cell phones to contact other NASA members who weren’t at the meeting.
A sudden burst of violet light filled the room as if lightning had struck right by the building, then it dissipated soon thereafter. Standing in the center of the flat field beyond the building were two thin figures, possessing long limbs and elongated heads. One looked around the area, while the other took out a transparent tablet and poked it with one of its many fingers, then peered upwards. Titanic obsidian bars appeared in the sky, jutting downwards like thick slabs of lead, and plummeted into the earth, each one sending earthquake-like vibrations in every direction. The blue sky ebbed into a dark maroon, and the clouds slowly faded from white to purple.
God, the head of NASA thought, who would have thought littering to be such a catastrophic mistake?
Read my previous prompt, “A Death Date.”
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