The dark-haired woman behind the desk had been reading and rereading the same two pages of the report on her desk for twenty minutes. Her eyes were wide with disbelief. One hundred years wasted! She contemplated the irony of the timing.

Today the whole planet was celebrating the first interstellar travel ship to leave Earth to visit other solar systems one hundred years ago today. It’s new quantum drive system unproven beyond their own system was later surpassed several times over. But, the excitement of that first ship leaving to look for intelligent life in the Milky Way galaxy had driven the planet’s inhabitants to a frenzy of UFO sightings and reports of contact. New religions based on the theory that there were intelligent beings “somewhere out there” began to spring up overnight pinning the citizen’s hopes on an unknown race of beings that could ‘rescue them and help them reach other galaxies’.

And now Hau Ling, the President of Earth Federation, was going to have to inform the inhabitants of Earth that the last inhabitable planet had been explored and there is no other intelligent life in this galaxy. “We are all alone,” she murmured to herself. “How do you tell 60 trillion people their dreams have been shattered? They will be devastated!”

She rose and walked to the windows as dawn approached. She liked watching the sun rise above the horizon and the variety of color that washed the sky with a broad brush. One hundred years ago the colors were more vivid, she remembered. The pale colors now were caused by the graying of the atmosphere with pollutants of the lives of 60,430,900,000 people.

A combination of anti-aging vaccines and disease eradication had brought humanity to overflowing despite the lowered birthrate in most of the Earth Confederation’s Nation States. War had been eradicated along with the diseases that would have thinned Earth’s population and minor squabbles were controlled in small arenas that kept civilian lives safe.

Hau Ling turned at the sound of her aide entering the room. General Ramaine Intua was the epitome of diplomacy even at this early hour. Only his eyes betrayed the puzzlement of being summoned at this early hour. Hauling waved him to a chair by the desk as she seated herself. “General Intua, I want to discuss the report you sent to me last night and the implications to this planet’s citizens.”