Alien Invasion

By Max Plissken


1) WHAT DOES IT MEAN?  Until recently, the only known extraterrestrial source from which we might have realistically expected lifeforms in any way similar to our own was the nearby planet Mars. But given the red planet’s apparently lifeless condition at present, modern science seemed to suggest we were alone in this corner of the universe. In recent years, the facts and potentialities have dramatically changed. In the span of just four months during 2009, the Kepler space telescope discovered over 1100 potential planets, 54 of them in their stars’ habitable zones – the region around a given star where liquid water could exist. From these 54, five are near the size of Earth. If four months worth of data collection – from the observations of a single telescope – reveal not just planets, but potential sources of life, and even potentially terran worlds, then one can only imagine how habitable this galaxy really is. Mars may be a dead world, but we are very likely not alone. Will this prove to be a dream come true… or something else?  Some may suggest that we are safe from alien attack simply because of the distances between habitable star systems.  Keep in mind there was a time when people thought it scientifically impossible to overcome the problems posed to space travel by planetary gravity and the vacuum of space.  Both of these issues have long since been resolved, and there is no reason to think the same situation will not/does not hold true for FTL (faster than light) travel in alien technologies.

The alien invasion scenario involves hostile extraterrestrial forces attempting to overthrow humanity  (NB: For the purposes of these pages, scenarios involving “Rogue Artificial Intelligence”[1] or “Unprecedented Terrestrial Hostiles”[2] have been placed in the category of alien invasion. The source of these hostile forces may be different, but otherwise the scenarios are quite similar).  The precise alien agendas vary considerably, but all involve the goal of removing humanity from its position as the dominant intelligent lifeform on Earth.  More precise alien goals include: enslavement of mankind; harvesting natural resources of Earth (including humans); alien colonisation of the planet; complete annihilation of the Earth.  Creatures which are technologically advanced enough to achieve interstellar travel will also be capable of producing some very impressive military hardware.  If fortune smiles upon us, the alien weapons of war will not be so advanced that the Earth stands no chance, but the early stages of an alien invasion will be bloody and unforgiving, without any doubt.

2) WHAT ARE THE THREATS?  The primary method of alien invasion has always been the sudden and overwhelming use of lethal force. A worldwide Blitzkrieg. The force applied can manifest in technological[3] and/or biological[4] attacks, utilsing war machines and/or alien creatures.  Technologically-based invasions mostly begin in major cities around the globe. This can be for a combination of several reasons. If the aliens’ goal is the extermination of mankind, then commencing with major population centres is the first logical step. If their goal is more akin to enslavement, then Earth’s major cities provide them with the vast majority of the planetary sociopolitical influence and communications networks, both of which are required for global domination. Occasionally, aliens will display more patience in their plans of conquest.  But do not be lulled into confusing a mutual alliance which benefits both races[5], with a prolonged, deliberate disintegration of humanity.[6]

Just as in human warfare, alien attack strategies are largely dictated by their level of technology and available resources.  Some aliens utilise a “super weapon” in the initial phase of their invasion.  This can come in many forms: atomic missiles; powerful ship-borne energy beams; biological weapons; or weapons thus far unfathomable by human science.  If you can obtain a list of those cities which have been attacked or destroyed by the opening alien assault, it may provide you with clues about the invaders’ motives.  If they appear to have targeted the largest centres of population on the planet, then their goal may well be the destruction, or at least severe diminution, of the human race.  If, on the other hand, their strikes seem to have occurred in the major military countries on Earth, then the aliens may be primarily interested in domination rather than genocide.

If the aliens do not deploy a super weapon, or if you manage to avoid its effects, you may then find yourself facing the ground or air forces of the alien military.  It is unlikely that they will deploy naval forces at this time, based on the greater convenience and effieciency of aerial forces.  Taking prisoners in Earth warfare is the prerogative of ground troops, but for all we are aware, alien military technology allows the detaining of humans from ground and/or air vehicles.  In any case, one of the last things on your agenda will be to see the inside of the alien mothership.  Therefore, while speed is of paramount importance during evacuation from an alien attack, consider stealth an asset as well.

It is fairly futile to speculate on the precise nature of the aliens’ military equipment.  Their technological evolution may have been nearly parallel to ours or it may have been completely divergent.  We will not know until we are standing face to gills.  But there are two vital questions about alien weaponry which you should attempt to solve when the time comes, if circumstances permit.  Firstly: how lethal are the alien weapons?  For instance, are they like terran bullets, which can kill instantly, slowly, or not at all?  Or are they like Tasers, which usually do not kill, but are capable of doing so? Or do they disintegrate matter at the atomic level?  Secondly: what is their area of effect?  For instance, can a fleeing group expect to be hit one at a time or all at once with a wide-dispersion disruptor envelope?  Answers to both these questions will affect your movements and strategies regarding the invaders.

3) WHAT ARE SOME DEFENSES AND PRECAUTIONS?  The first step during an alien invasion is not to panic. If, one morning, you find yourself casually retrieving the newspaper, only to look up at a mile-wide Vl’Huurg[7] battlecruiser, you MUST remain calm. The wars of the 20th century have clearly illustrated that cool heads save lives whereas civil strife and mass riots are slaughterhouses. Be aware that unfortunately, many people will almost certainly react poorly to a confirmed alien arrival.  We have historical evidence of this collective pessimistic mentality in the 1938 adaptation and radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ story of Martian invaders: The War of the Worlds.  The panic elicited by this broadcast was felt by millions throughout the United States.  Many simply became hysterical, believing that Earth was at war with Mars.  Others packed up their cars and abandoned their homes.  An optimistic approach would posit that after 70 years humanity has evolved sufficiently to not make the same mistake, nor to react so negatively to an actual alien presence.  This would be an extremely optimistic approach.  In fact we have some evidence to the contrary in the advertising campaign for the film “2012”, released in 2009. The campaign did not mention any connection to the film or other fictional media and urged readers and viewers to prepare for the end of the world, and subsequently caused large numbers of panicked calls to scientists for confirmation or denial of the impending doom. When our new interstellar guests make contact, you will have to decide: to remain at home and see what our first certified contact with extraterrestrials ultimately reveals; or to assume the worst and leave your home, taking only people dear to you and items useful to you.  In an alien invasion scenario, of course, it is only a matter of time before the extraterrestrials’ hostile intent is made clear.

In today’s high population density cities, resultant traffic jams will make travelling by car or truck an unviable option within a few hours – possibly much sooner.  Using a bicycle or motorcycle will increase your potential speed, but – assuming you have only one such vehicle – it will also limit your cargo and the number of those who can accompany you. Most bicycles will not hold more than the rider himself, and most motorcycles carry no more than one extra passenger. The limitation on cargo is less relevant, partly because you should not be carrying too much whether on foot or vehicle, but mostly since your priority in the initial hours of an alien invasion is to reach a safe and secure location.

Do not burden yourself or those accompanying you with frivolous items such as jewelry or other valuables, no matter their sentimental value.  Certainly do not bother with money.  Not only will large sums of cash be useless in a post-apocalyptic barter economy, but in the short term it will make you a target for thieves and muggers.  If and when you decide to evacuate, take only as much as you can gather from your house within ten minutes. Any longer and you are not merely delaying your progress and becoming bogged down in the fleeing masses, but you also risk over-thinking and over-packing, ending up with luggage which proves dangerously heavy in the ensuing flight.  Priority items are: food and water (bear in mind that bags containing these items can become very heavy, very quickly); warm clothing (even if it is warm where you live, realise that you might not return until after cold weather sets in); portable radio (radio is preferable to television since it can monitor more frequencies and is more portable); flashlight; backup batteries; matches or cigarette lighter; medication (for those whose health depends on it, not to have a good time); extra spectacles (you do not want to be caught blind in the midst of an alien assault).  Secondary items (items which are less common in the average household and should be packed only if you have sufficient carrying power) include: electric lamp; portable shelter (tents etc); binoculars; first aid kit; pocket knife (ideally of the Swiss Army variety).  To carry much more you will need to be an experienced camper or be using a large vehicle which, as mentioned, is inadvisable.  Also keep in mind when packing that you will not be dragging luggage slowly down an airport aisle, but instead may well be sprinting in a life or death situation.  When packing, useful is good, but useful and lightweight is much better.

If the worst case scenario is made manifest, and the newly arrived aliens become openly hostile toward your city, or toward the planet Earth as a whole, you must get far outside the city limits as quickly as possible. Since you will not have access to the alien battle plan or their weapons schematics, you must assume that nearby population centres are equally at risk from enemy attack, and are therefore not suitable locations to find safety.  Isolated areas or small communities represent the best destination for an evacuation.  And whatever you do, DON’T think that you’re in a movie!  If you’re in a combat zone, DON’T think of a snappy line to throw at the aliens – get yourself and your friends/family the hell out of the line of fire!  DON’T start thinking of ways you can single-handedly topple the alien emperor – start thinking of ways to survive the hours, days and months ahead.  There are millions of uniformed individuals worldwide who are paid to engage in open warfare.  Your responsibility is to assist in the short and long-term survival of all the human beings you are with or may encounter.  A heavy responsibility, certainly, but the world is being invaded from space – this is not a time for lethargy or irresponsible behaviour.

The aliens cannot be everywhere at once. This will be your first advantage over the invaders.  Community thinking comes after the apocalypse, but during an escape from alien invaders it is highly inadvisable to remain in large groups.  Groups of larger than 4 or 5 make obvious and easy targets for marauding alien soldiers and pilots.  Furthermore, the larger your group is, the more difficult it is to find cover. A convenient bush just won’t cut it if you have 30 people trying to duck underneath.  Travelling alone does make it easier to stay out of the alien target reticle and find cover when necessary.  However, moving without at least one companion has definite disadvantages aswell.  First and foremost, the issue of mutual protection.  The invaders will possess superior technology and their footsoldiers will be formidable adversaries, but an old-fashioned thumping from three or four humans has the potential to overcome a sizeable foe.  With luck, such self-defensive encounters will also bestow upon you some alien technology which you might find useful.  Be very careful in using any such technology that falls into your hands.  There will not be a “push here to demonstrate” label on alien firearms, and on the rare occasions that there is, it will not be written in any terrestrial language.  Unless you have seen exactly how the device was used by the previous owner, you should study it carefully before use – and do so in total isolation!  You cannot be certain of the destructive radius of the device if you happen to accidentally activate the grenade-launcher or self-destruct.  Remember: the enemy is not from Earth, therefore, though this fact may offend our self-importance, they will not use English, Russian, Chinese, Swahili, Inuit or any other language originating on this planet.  Human technology has steadily progressed in its translation abilities, but a universal translator in every home still seems a long way off.  Understanding the aliens will be a long and laborious process, probably involving interraction with captured invaders.  This brings us to the issue of treatment of alien prisoners.

Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention defines prisoners of war as being “Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict…” The word “members” is of key importance.  It demonstrates that by our own humanitarian law, the people of Earth consider participation in a conflict to be the only prerequisite to the entitlement of full humanitarian treatment.  Just as the concepts of race, religion and gender do not affect entitlement, neither do the issues of species or planet of origin.  This may be a difficult fact to accept during a full-blown alien invasion, especially if the prisoner in front of you has blue skin and/or tentacles.  Nonetheless, it is your duty, both as a participant in hostilities and as a human being, to treat any alien prisoners with the respect and dignity which humanitarian law demands – and which you would demand of your captors.

[1] The Terminator, James Cameron (1984); The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers (1999)

[2] Planet of the Apes, Pierre Boulle (1963); Reign of Fire, Rob Bowman (2002)

[3] War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (1898); Independence Day, Roland Emmerich (1996)

[4] Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham (1951)

[5] The Centauri (Babylon 5), the first alien race encountered by humans, who offer jumpgate technology and hyperspace travel

[6] The Ashen (Stargate SG-1), who spend many years ostensibly as benefactors of their new allies, while gradually sterilising their population and reducing their civilisation to ruin. Or the Visitors (V), who infiltrate world governments and organisations and gradually assert total control.

[7] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1978)

Note: As of December 6th 2011, there are 10 Earth-sized planets in their stars’ habitable zone, not 5, which have been discovered by the Kepler space telescope. The most recently discovered of these is the first Earth-sized planet to be discovered which is ALSO orbiting a star very similar to our own.