On the matter of war.
"War, Robert? You never mentioned that before...
"I know sir, but it holds great importance for them, and is practiced widely -- it would be improper for us not to know of it
"Quite right, Robert, quite right. We must learn of all their customs and traditions, hence we should give offense
"Sir, if I may ...
"I'm all ears, Robert, please go on.
"Well, Sir, war as it is called, seems to be a ceremonial contest joined by members of different geographic and social groups. We have not been able to ascertain as of yet whether there is a limit on the number of contestants that can join, for many variations have been spotted. When outside contestants cannot be found, some social and geographic groups practice a form of war known as civil war, where the group is divided within itself to form the different teams.
"Intriguing, Robert, but what are the rules?
"I'm afraid that they are not laid down very well, Sir, for once again many variations do exist. A few rules do stand out, however. For instance, it is a widely practiced custom for at least one of the groups to inform the other, or others, of the commencement of the competition, and the groups to meet and discuss past competitions after their completion. Other than that, the rules are very few and far between, with most made up along the way in an effort towards the goal; which, by the way, is simple: to win the war; achieved by killing the most people, taking over the most land, or forcing your opponents into surrender.
"Yes, Sir, the termination of one's life by another; sometimes used synonymously with murder -- however you should know that it is proper etiquette to refer to ones who die in battle as being killed and those who are killed willfully, at other times, as being murdered.
"I'll try to keep that in mind, is there anything else?
"Well, yes sir, you see their are some beings on the planet who are opposed the war contests, arguing that they are inhuman and cruel. They are against the killing that takes place.
"I see, but as these 'war contests' as you have said are widely practiced, surely they are a minority, and the majority of humans approve of killing.
"Not exactly Sir, you see nearly all humans are against killing and it is thought of as a sin in many of their religions, as I had previously mentioned in my report, and is outlawed in every country and town. Killing is considered a capital offense -- even wounding another human is cause for punishment.
"You are confusing me, Robert, your report is giving me conflicting information...
"No Sir, please allow me to explain ... the information is not conflicting, but rather complementary. You see, normally killing is banned, forbidden and punished -- with the only exception being at the time of the war contests. It is then that killing is looked upon with great honor and those who indulge in it successfully are praised by their comrades.
"Apparently, Sir. However it is based on their tradition and culture, and I ...
"I know, I know, we must honor their culture. But surely not everyone takes part in these war contests, what happens to those who do not?
"You're right, Sir, some groups do oppose fighting in the war, or lack the power to do so ... Unfortunately, Sir, these groups are looked upon as being weak, and unworthy of life. Usually they are destined either to live as slaves to ones who do fight in the war contests, or die out completely. You see Sir, to be considered an equal among the humans, one must take part.
"I see... Robert, fill me in on all the details -- we must make preparations. I want everything to be perfect, we mustn't offend our newly found friends in any way.
"As you wish, Sir.
The United Nations were about to commence their latest round of peace talks, and a rallying group of protesters were on the Six 'o Clock News, complaining about the military, war, and the likes. Woodstock III, that summer, had been a bigger failure than the previous one, and many nations in the world were currently busy preparing for a joyous occasion; Christmas.
It was December 24, and the streets of the majors cities of Europe and America were full of happy people, celebrating Christmas with carols and lights, and trees and turkey. The Christmas spirit was everywhere. Some of the Muslim countries, and those that believed in other religions, also adorned lights, and in them too were many joyous people, celebrating the coming of the new year. There was a global feeling of love, joy, and happiness in the air. Everyone, except those who were still at war at those places where a temporary cease-fire had not been signed, was happy. And even those who still felt the cold hand of war upon them had enlightened hope in its eventual depart. It was a beautiful day.
"Sir, we are nearing..."
The words rang loud upon the atmosphere, and Americans and Europeans, and Turks and Arabs, and Chinese and Malays, and Australians and Greenlanders, and Jews and Gentiles, and Christians and Muslims, and Buddhists and Maoists and every other person looked up. The words were heard everywhere, in every crevice and crack, in every forest and plain, in every home and burrow, in every mosque and temple and church. The words echoed across the sky, in a tone that was warm and sincere.
Even at that instant there were mixed emotions everywhere. Fear, bewilderment, concern, wonder, and endless combinations of these and others. Some were stopped dead in their tracks, others ran, some even gestured for acceptance by the higher power that had spoken to them.
The sky was filled with a soft white light, the whole world lit up as if it were day, for in reality it was the middle of the night in the North, and day in the South. But now, with the glow of the heavenly light that shone above, it was day in the North and day in the South -- if in nothing else, the world was in unity at that.
"Merry Christmas, and a happy new year
Like those before them, the words were heard on all corners. And nearly everywhere people breathed relief. No one could believe it. It had happened. Mankind's lifelong dream of meeting intelligent life had happened, and apparently it was friendly. Millions of people everywhere felt the knots in their stomach that cried out the arrival of a new era. Some felt that we were, in a way, being rescued; taken to higher ground. Others were still worried, and nearly everyone was still unsure, and the militaries of the world were all at alarm. One thing was for sure, nothing would be the same again, everything would change, our lifestyle, science, technology, maybe even religion -- everything.
"We will now commence the war contest
"Sir, apparently the beam was too powerful --
"Too powerful ... what do you mean, it was set on a predetermined minimal charge
"I know Sir, but apparently our scientists miscalculated the charge setting, a decimal place error that sent ten times the ideal charge. I don't know how it could've happened, but instead of killing the majority, I'm afraid that everyone...