Sun Kings


Strange extraterrestrials offer humanity an extreme means of escaping a devastating gamma ray pulse capable of destroying all life on Earth.

The giant robotic structure could not be accommodated within the halls of the United Nations building. Nor did it want to be.

The robotic body was twenty-five feet tall, squat and low to the ground, a massive cylinder surrounded in materials making it repel the forces of gravity, holding it above the Earth.

A mighty container for the being held within, there were no holes for entry or exit, nor would any human dare to. The container, made with rock harvested from the lunar surface was altered into a polarized material, capable of blocking radiation.

The creature within still shone with a soft white light. Without the protective shielding, nothing living on the surface of the Earth could withstand its presence. It’s ability to control that polarization made it possible to be in its presence without fear.

The setting was an outdoor courtyard with an oversized tent, made of netting to block the direct and unpleasant radiations of a sun on a world with a weakening ozone layer.

The meeting was held out of doors since the entity held within its containment field complained of claustrophobia inside of buildings away from the light of the sun. The seating arrangements which would accommodate eight hundred people, as comfortable as could be found were arranged with tables, place cards, microphones, and servers who would be waiting upon these envoys of the world’s nations.

Security personnel who did not even bother to hide their presence or their countries of origin swamped the site sweeping for bugs, bombs, and anything that might be a threat to their country’s representatives. Though many of these countries expected to be represented by their countries finest, a few nations feared to send their leader to the event expecting some form of treachery from the alien guest or guests of honor.

But none of these men were as important as the photo of a Black man at the podium today. While the many men here could say they had the responsibility of a nation, Dr., and professor of xenobiology from MIT, Winston Harrison represented a planet to an alien species. He was the scientist responsible for deciphering the alien transmission. How he ended up in the containment field with the alien intelligences representing the Earth was still unknown.

The aliens spent a few days on the moon and then came to Earth on the White House lawn in their containment fields. Dr. Harrison explained what they wanted and set a date and location for this gathering. The containment cylinders floated away without mussing the White House lawn. By the time the F-22’s were overhead the aliens were long gone.

The representatives slowly filed in, looking for their seats. The seating arrangements could not be seen from outside the tent and it would act as ballistic mesh, preventing bullets or bombs, with a series of concrete bunkers around the tent preventing a car-bomb from being driven up.
Not that any of these precautions were necessary, so assured the Professor and his alien hosts who had been dubbed in the media, the Sun Kings. The aliens didn’t seem to mind, so the name stuck. They assured us they came in peace.

As the UN representatives milled toward their seats, their hushed tones and fearful glances toward the unmoving structure revealed their discomfiture. It was only when the US president and the Russian president arrived did the room quiet down.

Both men wearing dark power suits were flanked by aides who they whispered to frantically before the monstrosity moved and indicated it was ready to speak. There were attempts to bring microphones to the object before it responded very quietly, that it didn’t need them. The techs shrugged and ran away.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.” The voice boomed across the audience and a sound man in the back waved indicating something quieter was in order. “Three months ago, I was chosen as an envoy to a group of extraterrestrials who entered our solar system and requested asylum and respite in our sun.”

The guests looked around trying to discover the source of the voice. “I am within the container you see before you. I am riding in tandem with one of the Sun Kings.”

“These aliens who appeared to be forms of radiant coherent gas clouds came to our attention while they were moved at superluminal speeds through our star system. One of their members broke away and came to Earth sending a stream of prime numbers until we were able to detect and translate the signal.

“The aliens were remarkably intelligent and could learn most of our languages in under a day. Once we were able to communicate we offered them the opportunity to come to Earth and meet with them, discussing the terms of their asylum and path through our solar system. They were stopping here in order to use our sun as a temporary respite, hoping to refuel and recharge within. The second reason for their visit was far more germane to our survival.

“They were moving through our star system in order to warn organic sentient life of an impending gamma ray burst which is due to pass through our solar system in under five years. For those of you unfamiliar with gamma ray bursts, suffice it to say, they are a threat to anything along the path of their radiation stream. The burst which we are to expect has taken place some eight thousand light years from Earth. Two small unstable binary stars now orbit each other at a percentage of the speed of light. Both are small but massive and theoretically, could generate a gamma ray burst of the type described.”

Hands go up in the audience but the robot continues. “According to the Sun Kings, this has already happened, but the light and radiation from that event had not reached us yet. Since you do not appear to be patient people I will take your questions now, with the understanding you may not like the answers you receive.”

“Cody Nadier, DNN Colorado. Professor, can we still call you that?”

“Yes, Mr. Nadier. What is your question?”

“Why should an event that is eight thousand light-years away be of any concern to us, professor. I understand that the speed of light means we won’t be aware of it for another eight thousand years.”

The polarized surface of the robot created a representation of the professor’s face. “Mr. Nadier, what you said would be true, that we would have eight thousand years to worry about this event if the two stars collapsed together, today. What the Sun Kings inform us is the event has already happened seven thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine, point five years ago.”

The carapace of the robot began to glow and a three-dimensional display was able to be seen over the entire courtyard. It showed the perspective of the Sun Kings who were both in the path and outside of it. Tens of thousands of dots move into harm’s way, attempting to rescue species very different from themselves.

“To our human telescopes we would still see them as they were back then because light may be the fastest known phenomenon in the universe, the Sun Kings are able to move faster and communicate far faster than the speed of light. From their perspective, this collapses has already occurred. They have been on a mission of mercy to talk with intelligent species along the radiation path in an effort to save them if they wanted assistance.”

“Benji Crocker, Reuters News Service. Do we have any information to confirm what they have told you thus far? Is it possible they are not telling the truth?”

“While we cannot directly confirm what has been said, we can see features of instability built into that system. Using a projection, we are able to determine with ninety percent accuracy, that in the next two to four years, give or take, something will happen to that binary star that we will be able to see. Our initial estimates say it will be the brightest supernova since the Crab Nebula was formed in 1054 AD.”

The President rose and spoke before even being recognized. “What assurances do we have these aliens are not seeking to take over the Earth?”

“The fact they could have simply taken up residence in the sun and not bothered to tell us anything at all. Once they refueled they would be on their faster-than-light merry way, leaving us none the wiser.”

The president’s assistant whispered in his ear and he continued. “What do they suppose will be the result of this event? Why should we even care about an event so incredibly far away? My team of scientific advisers says it is unlikely to be a threat at that distance.”

“No disrespect to your scientific advisers but when an alien species with the capacity to alter matter at the atomic level, move at faster than light speeds through a universe where as far as we know, the speed of light is the speed limit, can learn every language spoken on Earth in a day and move my living body into mental communion with one of their greatest scientific minds, I am going to err on the side of the species with the most advanced technology in the room.”

The President of Russia stood up before the US President could even get his thoughts together and asked, “Do these beings offer us any solution to our problem or are they just space canaries telling us we are going to die soon? What will happen to the Earth when this gamma ray pulse sweeps over the planet?”

The Professor answered trying to explain this as clearly as he could. “The exact effects vary from planet to planet. But what the Sun Kings are certain of, is our ozone layer already weak and depleted will likely be obliterated within the hour of the radiation sweeping the planet. Any life on the side of the planet where the radiation strikes may receive strong doses of gamma ray radiation capable of killing everything exposed. But that is a short-term problem. The true threat is the long-term loss of the ozone layer. Without it, plants and animals all over the globe will receive lethal doses of radiation from our sun. Plants die. Animals without food will die soon after. Food crops will perish and soon after starvation will sweep the planet. This is certain to be an extinction level event for Humanity.”

The room exploded into chaos. The professor tried to regain control of the room but shouting, arguing and fighting began to break out.

The crystalline structure of the cylinder began to change and soon blazing white light filled the tent, so bright it was impossible to ignore.

“Please be silent.” This voice was omnipresent, filling every corner of the space in a way the professor’s hadn’t. “We understand you are distressed. We have noted your technological level and realize you will be insufficiently prepared even in the five solar years before the event. We are partially to blame and beg your forgiveness. We had not considered there would be organic, intelligent life in this corner of the galaxy. Most of the life we have seen thus far has been inorganically-based and immune to the radiation of the gamma-ray pulse. If your scientists are correct, life on your world will be impossible to sustain. We come bearing a solution but we will only offer it to those willing to participate. Will you hear our offer?”

Everyone returned to their seat hoping the offer being presented would be better than the news they had received thus far.

The more human voice of the Professor returned. “I am being asked to explain the idea because I was, in theory, a proof-of-concept. You see, I was dying. I had an inoperable brain tumor and had only a few more months to live. The Sun Kings offered me the chance to ascend into a form of pure consciousness and become part of their collective of minds.”

The murmurs began but stayed below the threshold of the Professor’s voice. “They are prepared to take the entire human race into their collective mind. It would take just under five years to convert us all, but once they were refueled, we could continue on, trying to warn or save as many organic species as we could.”

The president raised his hand to speak. “Our choices are: die, starving and cold on a rock that will, as my advisers warn me, eventually return to life a few million years from now, or become part of an alien civilization we know nothing about, to leave the Earth and never return to a corporeal existence. Stop me if I said something incorrect.”

“No, Mr. President, you summed it up quite nicely.” The Professor’s voice had dropped to a barely audible whisper.

“I can’t speak for anyone else, the President continued, but I will live and die as a human being. Humans are resourceful. With five years, who knows what we might accomplish? You have already made your choice, professor, the rest of us still have one to make. Can I speak to the Sun King?”
“Certainly,” the great booming voice returned.

“Can you selectively take Humans who want to go with you? Or is it an all or nothing proposition?”

“We can take any one or all of you as you see fit. It is not being forced upon you. Only those who wish to accompany us need do so. We will designate areas where your people can choose to go to be converted. Those of you who do not, may stay with your planet and accept whatever fate befalls you.”

“What if I decide to tell my people not to accompany you? What if I tell them you can’t be trusted, we know nothing about you or what your true motivations may be?”

The Sun King was silent for quite some time before answering,”That is your prerogative. However, we will still offer the same service to any who wish it. We will offer this until twelve hours before the pulse sweeps your world.

Then we will enter the Luminal Space and leave your world behind. You can tell your people whatever you like. We will still offer the service to anyone wishing to leave. Please do not make this decision. Your people deserve to make a choice independent of any social conflicts your perspective may place upon them. Millions may perish that did not need to.”

The meeting ended soon after. World leaders returned to their countries. Some revealed the truth. Others colored it. Some lied outright. The Sun Kings said nothing. They retreated to the sun to recharge their powers with some returning to Earth taking up geosynchronous stations high above the planet barely visible from the ground. Humanity busied itself with the mission of preparing for the end of life as they knew it.

This was the most productive the human race had ever been. Wars dwindled as resources were rerouted into research and development. Vast construction projects took place boring into the surface of the planet’s mountain ranges creating underground caverns and cities. Once the construction began, the Sun Kings dropped digging machines capable of using their powerful energies as boring beams into the mountainsides facilitating the building of these underground cities.

It was clear even with all of these amazing efforts, it would only house approximately thirty percent of the human population. No world leader would relent and tell their people they should go. With less than a year remaining, the Sun Kings returned to Earth and took over every form of media on the planet. Their message was simple.

“Your leaders have done everything possible to save and protect your species and your way of life. That life has come to an end. We can now accurately predict the arrival of the gamma ray pulse down to the second. Though your leaders have done what they think is best for you, we offer you a final alternative. If you desire to live beyond the gamma ray energies arrivals on your world, you have the option to give up your human form and live on as beings of luminous energy within us. You would still be individuals, with your own distinctive characteristics.

But you would also be part of a greater whole, a part of our civilization. We will not force you to do so. You must choose. We will place one thousand and twenty-four of these cylinders on your planet. If you wish to leave with us, travel to one in the coming year and a half. Each cylinder will have a clock capable of telling you how long you have before we leave. No matter where you live on the planet, we will leave you with the choice of escape no more than ten days travel from anyone. If you choose to stay, we understand and wish you well. Be mindful of the time, we shall leave promptly twelve hours before the arrival of the pulse. We will not delay one second beyond that time.”

With their message sent, modern media spun the story as little more than hype until the cylinders arrived all over the planet. They could not be moved once they landed. They could not be damaged or even scratched in any way. All a person had to do was walk up to a cylinder and say “I am ready.” There was a flash of light and a still body was all that remained. If families preferred to take a body away, they were able to, if a person came alone, nothing was left to clean up.

A quiet exodus began. Entire cities cleared out over the remaining year, with fewer and fewer flashes taking place until everyone who wanted to leave was almost gone. The Professor had taken to manipulating his own much smaller cylinder into cities trying to convince the last holdouts to leave the planet. He had the Sun Kings create a more sophisticated cylinder for him, something that could be transformed into a human-like appearance. With this, he traveled to MIT to see his wife who refused to leave.

He found her working in her lab, researching new seed strains which were much more radiation-tolerant. His new body was clearly not Human but articulated enough to move as a human might. His footfalls were unable to be silenced but he wanted her to know he was coming. He had made several attempts already to convince her.

“Hello, Dr. Harrison.” He had spent many months working on the voice modulation, hoping to sound more human than before.

“I told you not to come back.” She appeared to be packing up the last of her samples. “I am heading for the Cheyenne Mountain facility tonight.” Two young soldiers were helping her with the last of her equipment. She waved them off and they wheeled the rest of her gear to the makeshift helipad on the campus.

“Karen, please reconsider. I have seen the energy-wave with my own eyes. The Sun Kings were right. We don’t have much time. We can still be together.”

She turned and walked over to the eight-foot tall man-shaped machine. “Eyes, huh? Do you still have eyes? Do you still have the capacity to see visible light the way I do? Leave me. My husband is dead.”
“I’m right here, baby. In a new body, but I have never left you.”

“How do I know you aren’t some alien trick. You know the government says the Sun Kings are killing people. None of them ever come back to see their loved ones. How do you explain that?” Karen stood in front of the roboform and looked up into its eyes.

“Most people take quite some time to adjust. It is hard to relearn all of your senses, how to think in your new energy state. Most of them will be months or even years before they are able to fully integrate with the Community.”
“How did you manage so quickly?”

“You always said I was a fucking genius, remember? It’s what you hated about me when I was your student. Your young and impressionable student. You remember the time…”

“Don’t do that. You will never be able to do that with me again. You aren’t my husband, anymore. You’re this, this, thing.” Karen began to weep uncontrollably. “You promised me you would never leave me.” She began to strike the robotic body, flailing wildly against it. Its structure softened becoming softer, like a clay.

Winston took his wife in his malleable arms and held her. “I never would have left you. I would have died on schedule without them. They saved me. Let me save you. Tonight is the last night. By dawn, they will be gone.”

“Will they ever come back to Earth?” Karen began to regain her composure. She wiped her face on her lab coat and took it off, putting some space between her and the now kneeling robot.

“They said it would take them some time because there were several other Organics they knew about and wanted to warn along the way. They told me we could be back in as little as thirty years.”

“My husband died five years ago. I know you think you are Winston but you aren’t. Winston was a body, not a machine-created consciousness. He was flesh, given human frailties by God and you are not him. Please see yourself out.”

“I could make you come with me. Transfer your consciousness even without your permission.”

“I suspected as much. Winston would never do that.”

“You are saying, if I loved you as Winston might, I would leave you to die here on Earth, starving and cold on a planet barely able to support life in thirty-six hours, right? You know what, you’re right, I am not Winston. Winston might have been a genius but he was a human genius with all the failings and frailties a man could have.

“How could he have known an alien race would come to Earth and say ‘Sorry, your lease is up’ and transform his dying body into an immortal god-like one. How could he have known he would one day race a beam of light and win, see radiation and all the hidden mysteries of the Universe? He couldn’t. You are right, your Winston Harrison is dead. But I love you, and if I told you this was the right thing for us, once upon a time you would have believed it and never questioned it.

“Why would you do that now? We still have time. We can get you to the local cylinder in Boston and you can still join us. Join me. Until death do us part. I didn’t die, Karen.”

She looked at the machine, its inorganic lines and nearly featureless face. She listened to the words, the sound, the cadence and the rhythm of its voice and she knew what she had to do. She turned and ran from the building.
Winston did not follow.

No need to walk, he floated down out of a window and down to the ground. He watched the last of the crews and helicopters going up. They were racing daylight. Most would get to their bunker cities in the Appalachians just under the wire. The pilots knew this and flew as fast as they could. The emptied streets spoke in the same voices as a cemetery might, of longing, of hopes long dashed against the shores of time. Winston rose into the sky and began his final flight to the cylinder.

In the street below him, he spotted a single person running and waving. He thought it might have been a person left behind. He had sufficient speed to get whoever it was to the bunker city before they closed the door. A last gesture of humanity before leaving, he mused.

Swooping toward the ground, he recognized the hair and suit. It was Dr. Karen Harrison. “Did you miss your ride, Doctor?”

“No, sir. I was hoping you might be able to give me a lift to see my husband.”

“I think that can be arranged. Hold on tight, we will have to be moving quite fast to beat the deadline.”

Karen smiled and held tightly onto the robotic body. “My husband was known for breaking barriers all the time.”

“Yes, he was. But there was never any place I wanted to be that you weren’t. I could’ve worked at Oxford.”

Karen chuckled, “Do these Sun Kings have an energy equivalent of coffee?”
“Nope, but once you’ve drunk from a star, coffee just doesn’t hold up.”

“Then make sure we get a cup of sunshine, to go.”

“I think I can arrange that. I know someone, who knows someone.”

The last cylinder left the Earth, twelve hours before August 15, 2034 PST. The doctors Harrison dipped through the corona of the Sun on their way out of the solar system, never looking back.

Sun Kings © Thaddeus Howze 2014, All Rights Reserved

written-for-30 (3) copy


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