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Into the Black

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9. Into the Black Mar 19, 2008, 07:59 Mr. Tact
I've never read Childhood's End, I'll have to grab a copy. I did read the Rama series, and the first two Space Odyssey books (need to read the last two some time). But, my favorite Clarke work was a short story, the name of which currently escapes me. I read it in one of those Sci-fi short stories collections you see frequently in the book store.

Anyway, the story starts on an alien ship. It becomes quickly clear that they are some sort of "rescue crew" and they are dispatched to a distant solar system to try to save what they can of a sentient race which has only recently been discovered and unfortunately the sun there is about to go nova. They race to the solar system, ruining at least some of their engines in their haste, to arrive at Earth. They explore the world but can't find anyone there. It appears to be an abandoned planet.

However, they do see recording equipment all around. And they figure out all the information is being beamed out into space via satellite dish. But they can't understand why, the dishes are pointed at a relatively empty part of space. So, they limp along the path indicated by the dishes, on their ruined engines. Aiming their telescopes along the path to see if there's anything there. After some time when they are about to give up, they see something... as they get closer they release it is a huge ship. Actually, more like many thousands of ships linked together, being driven by nuclear fusion. They are startled. How could any race be crazy enough to attempt to transverse interstellar space with nuclear fusion drives. It would take centuries. They talk about what an interesting races this is going to be, how driven they must be. Someone jests, "We better be careful, we only outnumber them 100 billion to one." Everyone laughed.

Several years later, no one thought it was funny.
Truth is brutal. Prepare for pain.
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