1. The Apostle
And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was.
And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
2. The Wise Man
The star, always the young come to me asking of the star. It appears in none of your charts, you find no trace of its path through the other celestial bodies you observe, and so you doubt.
But you forget that the star foretold the birth of the King of the Jews. You forget that the charts revealed that a sign would burn in the heavens. Where is this rogue now, eh? Where was it before we saw its light?
When we knew that we should be able to mark it, we set out for the West, even though we’d seen no trace of it in our midnight observations. Faith, eh? The wise trust their wisdom.
And then we did mark it, but thought that we had miscalculated and come too late. For this was a star at the end of its life, a dying ember already falling to the sea.
But as night followed night and day followed day — for in the end, it burned so bright as to be seen even in full sunlight — the old became new. All the phases — we saw them, the three of us. It burned dark and red and cold lie the aged stars, yes, but then yellow and hotter like one of middling age.
By the time we’d finished our interview with that odious little Roman puppet, Herod, we had calculated that we were only a few days from witnessing a birth unlike any other in all the history of the world.
The night we left the little village, it burned more brightly than the sun and the moon and all the stars together. Then, having been born, it was gone. Gone back to the womb of the sky.
How is such a thing possible? What did it portend? The wise trust their wisdom, yes. But they know as well when their wisdom holds no answers.
3. The Alien
Paramount Hivemaster, this one survives only to bring you its report. Were it not for the graveness of its tidings, this one would have given itself to the void so that you would have been spared the displeasure of casting the least of your eyes on its wretchedness.
In your wisdom, you have declared that any encounter with superior technologies be reported directly to you. This one’s mission to establish a feeding station in the outer arm has failed, despite the strictest observation of the protocols, because of just such an encounter.
The herds on the target planning are cunning. There was no evidence that they possessed even the slightest capacity to impede upon your glorious destiny of ruling every sun. From orbit, we saw only the most primitive indications of intelligent life.
After some few of us escaped the destruction of the first battle lander, we returned to the main vessel where this one immediately demanded an explanation of the Predictor Drones. Their feeble answers failed to satisfy. For their impudence, this one of course devoured them, along with their mates and young.
It is the least of this one’s inadequacies that no other explanation than that of the Predictor Drones has arisen to explain this one’s abject and most dishonorable failure. The herds of the target planet, Exalted One, possess the ability to travel through time.
Through means unknowable to this one’s paltry intellect, they have stationed their defending ships in the future. The very presence of these ships in close proximity to a battle lander was enough to wilt that great ship’s power glands. In seeking to avoid the just punishment of this one’s mandibles, the last Predictor Drone declared that the emissions from the time craft caused the lander to grow rapidly younger, until its flesh was unable to sustain the weapons and habitation pods. Moments after our escape, the Predictor said, the lander exploded backward through time.
Glorious Hivemaster, the outer arm must be avoided at all cost. There are many other systems to shuck and devour. This one implores you to turn your immortal predations elsewhere.
This one’s fondest hope is that the ignominy of its defeat has not caused a putrescence of the flesh that would render it unpalatable to you.
4. The Time Traveler
No, no, you guys don’t know what you’re talking about. First century CE isn’t on the verboten list because of any “unusually high risk of biological contaminants.” What the hell kind of reason is that? Do those polysuits work or don’t they? Carl there’s been to 13th century Prague twice and didn’t get any flack from the brass about the plague.
Hey! Carl! Bring me another beer while you’re up!
No, I know why it’s off limits because Shoji and I were there. For about five minutes anyway. Local minutes. Thanks, Carl.
And here’s the deal. We weren’t alone. I don’t know what the odds are of this happening in preindustrial airspace, but they’re long, I can tell you that. See, we came out of the Flux right under another ship. Not one of ours, either, from any era.
We’d programmed it so we’d arrive at night, coming in over the Dead Sea — no insertions over populated areas, right? Just like the book says. We were fairly high up, because we were heading east and the Judean Mountains are pretty much right there on the shore, and well, Carl can tell us all about slamming a time ship into terra firma, can’t you, Carl?
We used to call Carl “Captain Crater.”
Anyway, at first I thought we’d miskeyed something and inserted in the mountains after all, because as soon as the Flux shields withdrew we started getting proximity alarms and off the scale mass readings and all kinds of scary shit. I was out in the bubble, set to take over with atmospheric piloting routines and Shoji is yelling “Dump altitude! Dump altitude!”
I thought he was crazy, right? Because remember, I was figuring we were in the mountains. But I looked down and there was the water, maybe ten thousand meters below, just like we’d planned it. And there was our shadow.
Yes, Carl, it was night, but I could still see our shadow because there was one hellaciously bright light source right above us and a little bit behind. This was all happening very fast, so at first I noticed it but not really noticed it, know what I mean? Kind of like how you can not notice the Tunguska Forest, right, Carl?
So, I dumped altitude like Shoji said, and pulled the nose around to get a better look. God, it was huge. And weird.
Alien? That’s what Shoji thinks. I don’t really know. It was…ornate. That’s the word, I guess. It looked decorated, all carved up and monstrous, like a flying cathedral.
And you know how cathedrals were always burning down? This one was doing even more than that. There were huge gouts of silver fire boiling out of some kind of ducts on one side of the thing, looked like they were trying to vent some kind of internal explosion, maybe.
I don’t think it did them any good, though, the way it was vibrating and twisting. Shoji swore he saw the whole thing shrink down to nothing at the last second on the screens. I didn’t see that, because the bubble opaqued as soon as Shoji keyed the emergency recall sequence.
Yeah, Shoji toes the line, that’s for sure. That was as “untoward” an untoward circumstance as I can imagine, so I guess he was right to default to the regs. Still, I would have liked to have seen what happened.
I mean, think about it. Some kind of alien ship with God only knows what kind of bizarre propulsion system interacting with the temporal flotsam we were dragging out of the Flux in our wake — that’s what Shoji thinks caused the break up, see. Two sets of very different technological variables ramming right into one another over the Dead Sea over two thousand years ago.
Like I said, what are the odds?
5. The Mother
A miracle. It was a miracle.