The new president stood in the oval office on January 20, 2053, and finished thanking his supporters, “The speeches are over my friends, we made it!” The group erupted into cheers and applause. The applause was the cue the servers had been waiting for. They entered and passed out twenty-five glasses of poisoned champagne.

A fast acting laxative entered the bodies of the guests and one by one, with polite excuses, they left the room. In minutes, the president was alone with his bodyguard. They looked at each other, then heard a knock at the door. The guard opened the door and let in a small old woman wearing the clothing of a server. She shuffled to the center of the room, spun in a circle while spreading her arms wide, and announced, “The day has come!”

The guard moved forward to grab her. His hands passed right through her body as if she wasn’t there.

“Who are you?” The president asked. His foot found the panic button on the floor, but he didn’t press down on it.

“Me? Oh, I’m nobody. I’m just the messenger.” She stopped spinning and faced the president. “Tonight you will be visited by three spirits!” She laughed.

The president started to press down on the button.

“No! Please! Not yet,” she said, “I was kidding. I’ve been here an awfully long time, waiting for you to arrive. I’m just a bit giddy.”

The guard moved to open the door but it wouldn’t budge.

“I’m sorry dear, you can’t leave yet,” she said. “Don’t worry, this won’t take long.”

The president pressed his foot down.

“Oh, I wish you hadn’t done that. You’ve ruined all my fun! I had so many great lines to say.” With dramatic flourishes she recited, “’Luke, I am your father,’ and, ‘Fly, you fools’ and, ‘Rule one: Cardio.’” She sighed. “Oh well. Here’s the condensed version.”

The old woman was replaced by a young man. He sat in an invisible chair; his eyes focused slightly above the president’s shoulder.

“Commander Hans Lindar, calling from the USSS Theodore Roosevelt. We were wrong about the source of the particles, sir. They aren’t coming from the asteroid, they’re coming from an alien ship that is flying behind it. We think the ship was pushing the asteroid but it’s changed direction and is now closing in on us fast.”

Lindar blinked, then swallowed. “Sir, it has not responded to our hails. I… We have no way to defend ourselves, but it may not be hostile. Either way, by the time you receive this, the outcome of our encounter will be decided.”

The commander looked away. “If this is the last message you receive, please tell our loved ones our thoughts are with them.” He refocused and continued, “Prepare yourselves. That ship is enormous; it’s bigger than the asteroid. I’ve never seen an alien spaceship before but that thing scares the crap out of me. Good luck. Lindar out.”

The old woman replaced Lindar. “You’ve got nine months,” she said, “make ’em count! Hasta la vista, baby!” With a wave, she disappeared.

The president picked up the phone. “Frank. Yeah, we’re fine here, false alarm, but I need to see Hans Lindar right away then get word to NASA that we’re delaying the launch of the USSS Theodore Roosevelt. It needs a few modifications.”