Drifting alone in deep space, it came across a little dead machine. It was inactive. A quick scan showed that it had been designed to study the planets that now lay years and years behind it. It was undoubtedly of extraterrestrial origin. Glyphs and pictorial marks were emblazoned across one side of the probe, and if it could have comprehended the alien scratchings it would have read Voyager 2.
It decided to follow the probe’s trajectory in reverse, back to its point of origin. It would be a breakthrough for it. It was always on the lookout for new civilisations to nurture under its guidance.
The probe’s path led it through a dense field of ice and rock, past two dwarf planets orbiting each other in a frozen tandem. Then four gas giants, bulging under their own weight. After that, another ring of smashed and splintered rock; aborted planets, cosmic miscarriages. Then another rocky planet, blanketed in a thin red dust.
The next planet it came to was the probe’s point of origin. A giant sphere of blue and green, covered in seas of dihydrogen monoxide, the land lush with primitive vegetation.
The planet’s orbit was littered with junk, mostly metallic objects similar to the probe it had encountered. None of them were active, and most had disintegrated following chance collisions with other bits of junk. It was a mess.
Further down, on the planet’s surface, it found the remnants of a civilisation. Ancient cities stood guard in silence, glass-granite towers staring out onto great scorched plains that still steamed in the sunlight. A little red icon flashed up on its display; trace amounts of radiation had been detected. Nothing to worry about. But worth noting.
It circled the planet and found nothing of value. Analysis of the various ruins scattered across the planet’s surface showed that there had been a prosperous civilisation here once. It had fought amongst itself with projectile weaponry and burned complex hydrocarbons to power its great machines and left nothing behind. Nothing of value.
It came to a halt when it saw a flash of movement across the ground, three thousand feet below. It swooped down and came across a small bipedal creature, trembling and gazing up at it. It was about one and a half metres tall and stood on two legs; its sensory equipment was gathered in a crude cluster on a bony outcrop that protruded upwards from the main body of the creature. It was naked and filthy.
More of the creatures had come and were gathered around in groups, staring at it. A scan indicated that they were experiencing a complex mix of terror and wonder. Further analysis informed it of their primal language, their tribalistic culture - and their ancestry. Their history, passed down from creature to creature. It found something suitable.
It came towards them.
I am the Lord your God, it began, and you will have no other Gods before me.