Guiding Hand. Short Story.

Jacob took a sip of his coffee and grimaced. He always hated the stuff, the most he could do now was tolerate it, but it helped focus him for the day ahead. “How are things down there?”
“They seem to be normal, well, normal enough. Another war broke out yesterday, but it was a fairly short one, insignificant countries. Well, they were insignificant. Blew each other up.”
“One. Won’t affect the rest of the world too badly.”
“Ok. That’s a bit of a pity, but what can you do. Are tensions still high?”
“Yeah, everyone’s on edge down there.”
“Ok, perfect. Maybe we won’t have to step in at all then.”
“How often does that work?”
Jacob sighed, “I think maybe three or four in all our time doing this.”
“Out of how many?”
“…I’ve lost count.”
“Shut up.”
Annie grinned at him, “it’s best that we do it anyway. Less painful than fire and radiation, besides it makes it easier for them to catch up again.”
“That is true.” He looked down at his coffee, “So do you think there’s no hope for them at this point?”
“There’s always hope. Look at X92-15, they sprung back and look at them now. I thought for sure they’d be gone.”
“True. Just, sometimes I wonder if we’re doing the right thing.”
“Of course we are. Look, it’s better for us to take care of them now when they’re small rather than waiting for them to launch an armada at all of us and you know that’s what will happen. It’s happened thousands of times before. Sure each time we won, but what if we hadn’t? It’s us or them unfortunately. Besides, there’s upsides, like the good planets, the ones full of life that isn’t violent and just smart enough to get themselves into trouble.”
“I guess.”
Annie turned back to the computer, “They’ve just launched a satellite.”
“Anything we need to worry about?”
“No, they won’t be able to spot us.”
“How are they going on space travel?”
“Not well. They didn’t have a space race, they’re both just kind of limping along.”
“Well, that could be a good sign. They’ll focus their aggression on each other, get it out of their system then focus on getting into the wider universe.”
“I don’t think they’ll get that far. Hostility and tension are high. They’ll destroy themselves before they unite to destroy anything else.”
“So it might be worth our while to do it now? A pre-emptive strike.”
“You know that’s against regulations.”
“I know, but still, sometimes I wonder. If we could stop them killing themselves they might get passed whatever it is that’s causing them to act like this.”
“That’d take a long time and it would be wrong of us to interfere when they are not any kind of a threat to us. We should just observe for now, besides if we did use any biological outbreak they’d all just blame each other.”
Jacob nodded, she was right after all, it would be wrong of them to interfere. Still, they all knew where this was heading by now. He had done thousands of these missions and only a few were spared. Of course those few became valuable and well liked members of the core nations, but still. It all seemed a little morally iffy to him. He could never get past the conundrum of killing one to save thousands. Sure in the long run it’s better, but does he really have the right to make that call? He took another sip of his coffee. It didn’t matter if it was his right or not, it was his job and he would damn well do it to the best of his abilities.

“How are they doing today?”
“Pretty good actually. They’ve signed some peace treaties.”
“How long do you think they’ll hold?”
“Pretty long so far. They’re fair, no one is getting the short end of the stick here. Unless one betrays the others this might stick for a bit. I think those two countries destroying each other made everyone nervous.”
“Ok, great, hopefully they’ve turned it around.”
Annie nodded, “At least they have a chance now, right?”
“yeah. Yeah they do.”

Jacob ran through the checklist in his head, they had a few more boxes ticked off than he liked, but hey, maybe they’d managed to dig themselves out of the hole they’d created.

“Bad news. There’s a famine.”
“Yeah, everyone else is pretty much ignoring them. We’ve some token food donations and pledges to help, but nothing more than that. Reading their internal reports everyone is pretty much waiting to let the problem take care of itself.”
Jacob shook his head, “No other country is trying to help?”
“One or two are making legitimate efforts, but they’re small, unlikely to make a difference and most likely they’ll be annexed in the next few hours to days.”
“Ok, well, we’ll just see how this play outs.”
Annie looked at her screen, “Another war has broken out. Seems to be only a skirmish but each side is ready to escalate if they…and we have missiles launched all across the planet. This seems to be a wash.”
“damn. I thought for sure they’d make it off the damn rock first.”
Annie shrugged, “they’ll take care of themselves quickly enough. I recommend we watch to be sure, then if necessary we can apply clean up measures.”
“do it. And write up the report for me, I want it by tomorrow.”
“No problem.”
“Oh and don’t forget to scan the local area before we leave, some local wildlife might have popped up while everything was in the bubble.”
“Of course.”

Jacob had really been hoping they’d be able to pull it together. He needed a win. It was demoralising watching planets destroy themselves, or attempt to destroy the ship. Sure each visit only took a few week or months to a year at most, but when each one ended in countless deaths. He shook his head. He didn’t kill anyone this time, they did it to themselves. Once they managed to repopulate they’d check back in. He had no doubt that someone else would get the posting, he’d most likely never see this planet again. They’d leave the time distortion field on when they left, help speed things up a little.



About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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