The visitors approached the blue planet with great anticipation. They had traveled across the galaxy visiting many worlds. They had colonized a few but the blue planet was special to them. They had never seen a planet so lush and beautiful, so unique. They would have gladly taken up residence had the world not already been occupied upon their first visit. The blue planet became a recurring visit instead.
The planet had orbited its sun some two hundred times since their last visit. They approached with great curiosity as to the evolution of the inhabitants. The natives had begun to spread out by their last visit, touching virtually all corners of the planet. The visitors were curious to see how civilization had advanced, how they made use of the precious jewel they inhabited.
The visitors activated their sensor array as they entered the yellow sun’s gravity well. Radio waves immediately bombarded the ship. It quickly became clear great technological leaps had been made since their last visit. The sounds held no meaning for the visitors but the presence of the broadcasts provided the ship with an abundance of excitement.
As the visitors continued their journey sunward they considered the possibilities of what they might find. Worlds this lush and rich were rare. In all their travels this was the only such planet inhabited with native intelligence. The growth in technology suggested the inhabitants had discovered the abundance of raw materials the blue planet held for them. Perhaps they had finally learned to share in that wealth and work together to better each other.
The blue planet began to fill their view screen as the visitors approached orbit. The din of audio and video transmissions filled the ship. The visitors were awed by the sheer number they recorded. As they entered orbit they began to see why. Artificial satellites formed a metallic sphere above the outer edges of the planet. As the visitors scanned the satellites it became clear most were used for communication. Several appeared to be exploratory in nature, fixing mirrors and telescopes at the system’s star, the planets and even into deep space. Most though appeared to be inactive, nothing more than flotsam orbiting a once pristine sky.
The visitors settled into orbit and fixed their gaze upon the planet. Their eagerness and excitement quickly turned to dismay. What had been a pristine, verdant landscape, marked only by the occasional city, was now scarred by overpopulation and misuse. Large sections of once lavish forests were laid waste by the sprawl of development. In other areas the ground had been torn away in crude attempts to access buried resources. City centers grew horizontally and vertically, a sign the population had grown too large, too fast.
A scan of the atmosphere revealed further damage. The air above the massive city centers was choked with noxious fumes. Sky that had once been unblemished was now rendered impure. A delicate balance had been tipped towards poisonous by the overuse of crude and inelegant fossil fuels.
While the advances in technology were fascinating, the sacrifices made to achieve them were shocking. A bountiful planet such as this should not be wasted so thoroughly. It became clear the planet’s inhabitants continued to live fractured lives, separated from each other. How could the inhabitants not see the wealth they squandered? How could they ignore the possibilities just beyond their fingertips?
The visitors listened to the broadcasts, watched the video transmissions. Though the languages were unfamiliar, the tone was clear. This was a planet in turmoil. It became apparent the technological advancements were driven by the types of war most worlds eschewed. Where most civilizations learned to abhor violence and embrace collaboration, this world seemed to thrive on death. Great machines of brutality dominated the visuals emanating from the planet. The world was at war and the scale of death was astonishing.
The visitors watched on in horror for several days. On the seventh they witnessed the end.
They watched as pointed cylinders were thrown into the sky, trailing long white plumes behind tails of fire. Hundreds of them erupted from one of the great continents, the first sign of the end to come. Within moments the remaining continents belched forth their responses. The instruments of death soared past the cloud layer and into orbit, tracing elegant arcs through the polluted sky. The visitors watched on in horror as the weapons returned from the edge of space towards the planet surface.
Clouds began to grow upwards from the scarred terrain. Thousands of them littered the planetscape. The clouds climbed higher and higher as they multiplied, forming an image of the fungal forests of the visitor’s home world. The grace and elegance of the scene belied the inconceivable death and destruction it produced.
The broadcasts ceased as the world went dark. The lights winked out as the fires raged. A once promising civilization lay in ruins, destroyed by its own hubris.
The visitors pointed their ship towards the stars and moved on, leaving the once blue planet behind, in flames.