Humankind has never controlled its own destiny. No race, no nation, has truly guided its own course. Would any species, left to its own, render its own environment uninhabitable? Of course not. We are being manipulated. Our actions are guided by alien beings who are using us as a mechanism of terraforming - or, more precisely, xenoforming. They let us think we work for our own goals and reasons, and if we start to catch on, well... a plague here, an unnecessary war there, and our civilization collapses - taking the threat with it.James Lawson settled back at his desk and heaved a sigh of relief. It was done. The world was warned.
The Black Death. China's bloody Warring States period. The burning of the Library at Alexandria. These "resets" slow the process, but they keep our overlords where they want to be: in control of an unsuspecting populace.
But today, new technologies allow us to share information as never before. We can make this data available to anyone who cares to look. These systems are a direct outgrowth of the technologies that our masters gave us so that we could transform the world for them, and today we will use their own advances to defeat them. Take the data gathered here. Copy it. Mirror this site. Translate it. Spread the message around the world. When enough people know the truth, their control will be broken.
He hadn't started out as a conspiracy theorist. He'd come into this as a skeptic - just another reporter trying to earn a living. He'd been interviewing the lunatic fringe as a hobby for years, knowing that the crazier the people seemed on camera, the better they did in the ratings. Then he'd met the old man, a retired college professor with degrees in a half-dozen disparate subjects and a working knowledge of two dozen others.
It hadn't been like his other interviews. For one thing, the old man had sought him out. When Lawson had asked him just what message he wanted to share with the world, the old man had just shaken his head. "I'm not interested in the world, yet," he'd said. "I'm interested in you." He'd reached into a battered old briefcase, and produced an inch-thick folder of photocopies: academic articles, news clippings, scientific studies, and God alone knew what else. And he'd handed the whole thing over to Lawson. "I want you to look through this, and tell me that I'm crazy." Then, looking directly into Lawson's eyes, the old man had said: "You have no idea what a relief that would be for me."
What followed was two years of relentless investigation: checking figures, verifying stories, questioning experts, and examining sources. Several of the people he consulted became interested themselves, and began their own explorations. By the time they were done, they were a cabal of eight - and their conclusion was unanimous.
The old man wasn't crazy. Humanity was being manipulated, corralled into a course that would end in its own destruction.
They waited, gathering data, comparing it, trying to poke holes in it. It was so unbelievable, so completely insane, so wildly far out in tinfoil hat territory, that they knew their case would have to be absolutely airtight if they were going to convince anybody. And that was part of the problem: they didn't just need to convince some people, they needed to convince everbody, everywhere, all at once.
Finally, though, they had it. And Lawson, as the first investigator, had been chosen to share it with the world - to be the public face of the warning. Of the other seven, some would lend their reputations to boost his credibility; others would scatter, going into hiding so they could continue to spread the word if something went wrong.
Lawson rose from his chair and went into the kitchen. He felt safe enough here at home; with the information out on the Internet, anything that happened to him would only serve to confirm his theories. The overlords doubtless knew this; he expected them to try to discredit him, rather than attack him directly.
He pulled a beer from the fridge, and drank half of it. Done. At last it was done. And maybe, just maybe, they'd given humanity a chance.
A stroboscopic flickering at the window caught his eye. He turned, frowning slightly, and took another sip of his beer. It seemed like camera flashes, but this was too soon: even if every news network on the planet had leapt on his story, they couldn't have gotten reporters out to his place this quickly. And they wouldn't be using flashes to photograph his home, not in the middle of the afternoon.
Still frowning, he pulled back the blinds.
What had seemed like subdued flickering within the kitchen was a sequence of bright flashes outside the window. Lawson stared, puzzled. The window was on the north side of the house, so these would be north-northeast... the right general direction for Santa Fe. What the hell was going on?
The light show stopped before he could really try to analyze it. Heat lightning? Some sort of explosion?
James Lawson felt his stomach drop as realization set in. As if to confirm the horror he conceived, a new series of flashes started up: due north, and even brighter. Albuquerque, he thought. Sweet Jesus, we just lost Albuquerque. He had no doubt that Santa Fe was already gone. The overlords had seen his message. And they hadn't been stymied in the least. If everyone in the world knew about them, then everyone in the world had to die. For those cold, inhuman intelligences, the solution was simple. By sharing their information, the cabal of eight had doomed the human race... and maybe all of Earth. Maybe the overlords would leave someone alive, small enclaves of humans in remote locations, to start their process again. Or maybe they'd concluded that Earth was lost to them, and turned their energies to making sure that humanity couldn't have it either.
Lawson never found out which it was. He barely had time to notice the all-consuming light, before his house flattened itself and his tissues ionized.
Tip o' the virtual hat to Popehat for providing me with the story idea.