I always get nervous when the moons are full. Not that you can really see them that well—there are too many hyper towers and skyscrapers and the light pollution is horrific until they kill the lights in the Justice Tower Complex and it abates somewhat. So that was my first signal that it was going to be a bad shift. The second signal was when, on their way out of the door, Gelsanganaranix, whose species didn’t really have a name other than ‘blue’, said with a sneer, “I hope you have a quiet night.”
“Thanks, Gels,” I said. “I hope your mother turns purple.”
“Bite me, meat stick,” it replied. Purple was a highly offensive color in their culture. Then it left and I made some coffee and settle down for my shift. Central Dispatch at the Justice Tower Complex was usually a relatively simple assignment. Process new arrivals and send them down the right junctions to be reincarnated and either returned to their home worlds or released out into The Core to find their species enclaves to begin new lives. It was dull, work and nights were usually fairly steady, but never as insane as your average day cycle or even evening cycles. The night cycle was where it was at.
And for the first four hours, everything went just fine. I forget about Gels and his use of the ‘q’ word. I forgot about the moons being full. I processed a shipload of Tau Cetians that had gotten caught in a black hole. I handled a family of refugees from Vercingetorix IX. There was a steady stream of marine-based alien life from the moons of Calamar- it was mating season and they hadn’t quite figured out how to evolve past the pesky and annoying habit of dying once they reached their mating grounds and did the deed.
I was on my third cup of coffee when the trouble really began. An incoming alarm sounded, which isn’t all that unusual, but the rumbling that followed wasn’t at all usual. I brought up the main screen and checked. Somewhere in the western spiral arm of the galaxy… I zoomed down. Sol. Third planet. There was a civilization there, but a relatively primitive one, not yet connected to the rest of the Galactic Federation. Pre-Interstellar flight… and… oh no. A coronal mass ejection? That meant…
The Core’s system for handling incoming arrivals could take a lot. When the Untaxians and Orions had gone to war, we had been getting arrivals for days, in batches of hundreds and thousands at a time. But this… alarms began sounding as the system groaned under the strain. Another new, alarm- one that I had never heard of began to sound. I whirled around and ran over to the main control panel to see what it was. It was teal green and said WARNING: MASS EXTINCTION EVENT.
I ran back to my console and opened a channel. “All units, all units respond back to the Justice Tower Complex. We have a Mass Extinction Event underway.”
There was a long silence before I heard the first units respond. Then the supervisor appeared on the vid-link. “Stravanka, this better not be one of your-“ she paused as she saw the chaos behind me and heard the noise. “By all the moons,” she gasped.
“Not a joke ma’am,” I yelled. “I need help. Now.”
“We’re on the way,” she replied. Then the vid screen went blank. More alarms start going off and adding to the cacophony of noise. I ran over to the window and watched. The arrival port—whatever it was, no one has even really figured it out. It’s just where you show up for reincarnation was pulsing an odd and disturbing shade of puce that I had never seen before. Then, they began to arrive.
It was horrifying to watch, in a way. I mean, everyone comes to a soft landing, more or less. You don’t just go splat when you hit the arrival port. But it was a rain of beings. Sentient beings. Falling in a stream out of the arrival port. The counter on the wall was going crazy, running through numbers faster than I thought possible. Hundreds, then thousands, then millions, then billions and it kept going higher and higher and- I ran back to the main control panel and opened up all the assignment lanes and kicked them into high gear. Normally, we try and sort by species as best we can but now, with so many coming all at once, we couldn’t risk jamming the system. It was all hands on deck- and I hoped like hell that the system would be able to handle it.
The flashing lights out of my window let me know that my units had arrived to triage the scene as best they could, but I was concerned with making sure the system didn’t seize up or break. So far it was handling it- but-
The next few hours were a blur and before I knew it, the moons had set and the first hint of the sun was appearing in the northern sky. The sound of the door opening made me turn and I snapped to attention as the Chief walked in.
“Damn fine job tonight, Stravanka,” it said. “Damn fine job.”
“Thank you, Chief.”
“I didn’t even know that mass extinction events were still possible,” The Chief said. “How many did we end up with?”
“Little over seven billion,” I replied.
“Eesh,” The Chief replied.
“We’re having a hell of a time figuring out where to put them all, Chief,” I said. “It’s not like they’ve got a home to return to.”
“We’ve dispatched the fleet to assess the situation,” The Chief replied. “It might not be totally irretrievable. We can always terraform them a place.”
“True,” I replied.
The Chief shook their ganglia, a look of amazement on their face. “A mass extinction event, who would have thought it.”
“Maybe we make sure they can do interstellar travel before we send them somewhere?” I suggested.
“It’d be easier on the system that’s for sure.”
“I agree,” The Chief said. “Whatever the bigwigs figure out, we’ll make do. We’re The Core, after all. There’s always another mega habitat or four we can build.”
“Welcome to The Core,” I replied.
“Welcome to The Core,” The Chief repeated.