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Hero (standard:science fiction, 1754 words)
Author: CorwinAdded: Jul 22 2003Views/Reads: 1568/1007Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
He was the greatest hero the world had ever known...except that no one would ever realise it.

I remember when they first contacted me. I didn't really believe them.
In fact, I thought that I was either drunk or crazy, that I had gotten 
some bad mushrooms or something, and this was a really, REALLY bad 
dream. It took some convincing, but when I finally accepted that they 
were for real, then it truly became a nightmare. 

I was camping in a wilderness park near my home. I did that a lot
because...well, I had always been a loner, a really private person. 
Looking back on that now I see the massive irony in their choice. 
Someone who didn't like being around people being chosen to save the 
entire human race. Probably a good thing I didn't look at it that way 
then, I might have said to hell with it and told them to find another 
patsy. Actually, when they finally convinced me that they were for 
real, I did tell them to find someone else, but then they explained 
that my particular brain pattern was unique. They said that perhaps two 
percent of the human race had a compatible pattern, but mine had been 
the first they had detected in a sufficiently isolated location to 
attempt contact. If they had tried anyone in the presense of others, 
chances are the authorities would have been alerted, and then there 
would have been months of investigation and debate resulting, possibly, 
in a decision to try to handle the situation with the military forces 
of the world. They explained that armys were useless against the threat 
that approached us and, in any case, There just wasn't enough time to 
debate options. So I said, "ok, tell me what is going on and I will 
decide whether I can help you or not." One of them looked me in the eye 
and, without saying a word, began to fill my mind with the horrible 

They were a race from another galaxy. They were called the Taren, and
they had just developed inter galactic travel. Three were chosen to 
make the first test flight actually leaving their own galaxy and 
returning. The trip would take approimately three weeks and for the 
second and all but the last few days of the third week, they would be 
out of contact with their home planet. They set out with much fanfare 
and hope, believing that upon their return, they would have opened a 
new chapter in their planets history and they would come back to a 
hero's welcome, their place in that history assured for them and their 
descendants forever. 

The trip was, for the most part, magnificently uneventful. They saw
sights no one had ever seen, gathered data in hours that would have 
taken decades to gain by distant observation. After reaching their 
agreed upon turn around point, they began the journey back. As they re 
entered their own galaxy, they began to broadcast their triumph towards 
the home world. Hours passed, and they recieved no response. Thinking 
that perhaps they had encountered some communications problem or 
perhaps an atmospheric interference, they continued towards their world 
still flush with victory. 

After reaching their world still without receiving a responce to their
hails, they entered a parking orbit and began a sensor sweep of the 
planet. They discovered they had returned to a dead world. There was no 
destruction or devastation as if there had been a war or an invasion. 
To the contrary, everything was in its place, automatic systems 
functioning as they should, even traffic control systems smoothly 
routing automated vehicles along their way, no outward sign of a 
problem. Except for one thing. All the inhabitants of the planet were 

Without a mark on them, and in the midst of whatever task they were
engaged in at the time, they had simply fallen dead. After the initial 
shock wore off, the travelers began to try to understand what happened 
and why. The what came fairly quickley, as one of the travelers was a 
physician. He did some tests and discovered that the minds of the 
inhabitants were gone. Not the brain, but the intelligence that resided 
there. Somehow, in an instant, every living creature, every man, woman 
and child had had every bit of their brain function removed. This 
included the autonomic functions such as respiration. The people's 
hearts and lungs and nervous systems had simply switched off and they 
had ceased to live. 

They now knew what had happened, but not why or how. The second taveler,
a scientist, began to do sensor readings on the planet and detected a 
faint energy signature that permeated the entire world. It was nothing 
he had ever seen, but it was agreed that this was the means by which 

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