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How I Saved the Galaxy (on a Limited Budget)

Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and computer programmer. He has visited more than 80 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea. His stories have been published in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Fireside and he has been shortlisted for Australia's Aurealis Award. Visit him at aidandoyle.net, or on Twitter @aidan_doyle.
This all happened so many years ago that I can finally tell someone the true story of how I stopped an alien invasion. For reasons I won't go into, I was assigned to an outpost in a part of the galaxy frequented only by mining robots. Sometimes you're just in the wrong place at the right time.
Well, all right, if you must know, I didn't make a lot of friends in my previous posting. All I'll say is that if you're ever assigned to a battleship called Invincible 3, asking what happened to the first two Invincibles probably won't endear you to your commanding officer.
And so I found myself on a dead planet with only an AI for company. As far as AIs go, Shin wasn't too bad. It didn't like being stuck on a base with such limited bandwidth either. Most AIs have a real thing about wanting to install the latest security upgrades and our station didn't have the budget for all of the upgrades, so Shin resorted to unofficial patches.
One morning Shin woke me earlier than scheduled. "An alien attack fleet is heading towards us, Hideyoshi. They've ignored my warnings."
I was still half asleep. "Shouldn't there be sirens going off?"
"It's just you and me here, Hideyoshi."
I didn't need to be reminded.
"I've informed you of the urgency of the situation," Shin said. "A siren is not required."
I wasn't going to argue the point. I scrambled out of bed and Shin projected a display for me. I almost had a heart attack.
The alien fleet was huge. What the hell was I going to do? Our base was ostensibly designed to protect nearby mining projects, but I'd always figured any raiders could attack the mining operations without disturbing us.
"They ignored my warning about the spear of god," Shin said.
If you're old enough to remember President Kimura, then you probably recall the footage of him standing on top of a spear of god, or BFM, as they were popularly known. "These missiles are so big they'll destroy all trace of our enemies," Kimura proclaimed.
He made a big deal about promising to install a BFM at every company base, but I had my doubts about the wisdom of a defense policy that relied on a single missile.
"The enemy is oncoming," Shin said. "Please confirm spear of god launch."
"What are you talking about? You know that won't work."
Although our base was equipped with a BFM, due to budget restrictions, the launch tubes hadn't been upgraded. The BFM was too big to fire. If you're wondering how this kind of situation could ever arise, then obviously you haven't had much to do with military contracting firms.
"Please confirm spear of god launch," Shin repeated.
"I'm not going to get out and push. The missile won't fire."
"For security reasons you weren't informed that the launch tubes were upgraded. Please confirm spear of god launch."
I'd checked the launch tubes two days earlier as part of my regular inspection. "Is this a drill?"
"This is not a drill."
"What the hell, fire away."
"Confirmed." A small red dot appeared on the display and streaked towards the alien fleet. The dot was so small and the fleet so vast. At best it was just going to annoy them.
If the missile failed to stop the invaders, company policy directed me to crash my shuttle into their flagship. There was no way I was going kamikaze for my corporate overlords. Ain't no divine wind in space.
The dot reached the fleet. The dot and the entire fleet vanished from the display. "What happened?"
"Alien fleet has been destroyed. Please confirm end of hostilities."
"What? The BFM can't have destroyed the entire fleet."
"The missile destroyed all trace of our enemies," Shin said.
It took me a moment to work out what was going on. (I'm not a morning person). A base that had survived an alien invasion would be viewed as more important. That meant an increased budget. That meant more bandwidth.
The company wouldn't believe that an AI would fake an alien invasion, but who knew what all of those unauthorized upgrades had done to Shin's programming?
"End of hostilities confirmed," I replied.
There was an investigation of course, but the president had promised the missile would leave no trace of our enemies. The company man they sent wasn't fooled, but he knew that if he made a fuss about it, then it would come out that they hadn't given us enough money to upgrade the launch tubes, and no one wants that kind of attention. Everyone loves reading about a hero. So that's what they called me--the man who saved the galaxy from invasion. Shin got his upgrades and I got to do PR for the company.
And that's the completely true story of how I saved the galaxy, on a limited budget. It's your turn to buy the next round.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 10th, 2015


This started from a writing challenge with the prompt: "What's wrong with the world?" Rather than complaining I wanted my protagonist to do something about it. What could be more effective than saving the galaxy?

Lots of clickbait list articles (10 Underwater Vampire Novels That Will Change Your Life!) had been turning up in my Facebook feed and so I considered writing the story as a checklist--How to Save the Galaxy on a Limited Budget. The list made it difficult to work in the surprise I wanted, so I ended up using a more traditional narrative form.

- Aidan Doyle

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