A Galactic Ruse
Note: Image used is an AI production from Bing's image creator
"You're going to do what?!"
It was something of a pointless question to ask. Still, Ambassador Philip Reinwar was more hoping this was a moronic attempt at human varieties humour from the Esteemed Empire's Diplomatic Corps.
"We're building a new Slipway through the Empire. You and your fellows in the Milky Way agreed to assist. Why does this surprise you?" the placid translator's electronic voice came clear through the speakers in Reinwar's office, all emotion deliberately scrubbed in accordance with recent theories on Intergalactic diplomacy. A similar process was supposedly at work on Reinwar's own words before they were sent to the EEDC.
"It isn't the Slipway that surprises me; it's the fact that you want to destroy planets to do it! This is space! There are literal trillions of miles of nothing you can plan the route through, and you choose to draw a straight line and destroy any and all planets whose orbit you crossed? Are you mad? How could I possibly present this proposal to the Milky Way Assembly?" Reinwar had slipped into shouting almost immediately. He knew, as all the Milky Way did, that The Esteemed Empire had planet cracker weapons in their fleets. He'd even heard rumours that the Earth and Alpha Centauri militaries were only a year or two off from having functioning prototypes. But he, like all others, just assumed that was the proverbial nuclear option at a galactic scale. It had never occurred to him, or anyone else on this side of the vacuum between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, that they were a tool of infrastructure.
"But it is more efficient. Single jumps are vastly cheaper to fuel, and easier on engines and crew, not to mention the time spent in the jump. What are a few planets against galactic travel that doesn't take generations, and the option of face-to-face diplomacy?"
"It isn't about the resources involved. You're asking me to promote this plan that'll destroy a hundred different planets. Most of which are inhabited. Eight of them are home-planets. Cradle worlds that our civilizations began on. One of them is my species' home! Either this route is changed or it isn't happening!"
"You dare defy us?" Came the reply, and Reinwar held a moment, watching his secure line communicator. He knew there was no choice here, but he couldn't act alone. He needed the military at least aware of the hell that was soon to rain down on them all.
Too late had he realized that this was a trap.
The Esteemed Empire was intent on gaining access to the Milky Way.
They had tried a joint-commercial venture, 'To foster good relations and good business'. It had had a tepid reception, and now they had tried to entice with travel. The commonality of all space-faring species is, of course, a deep, abiding wanderlust and curiosity. But destroying planets, including several resource-rich forge-worlds, had seemed odd. But now, the intent shined clear as day.
His communicator beeped. The military was ready to react and told him as only they could. With three words flashed across the screen. A millennia-old joke.