I discovered what was on the datastick while eating peanut butter.
I hadn't thought about it for years - university kept me so very busy.
One day, I'd been so tuckered out from the week I didn't have time to order up more groceries. So there I was, eating peanu tbutter while finishing a design for some old fashioned watch, when something odd happened. My Wrist Assistant lit up and went berserk. I couldn't get it to shut up; I put it on silent, but it continued to bleep at me, so I shoved it under a pile of dirty clothes but the beeping only got maddeningly louder.
If only to make it stop, I searched on the device for what was causing that noise. Still with a spoonful of peanut butter hanging out of my mouth, I tapped away on the screen, searching every crevice of storage on the device, turning up nothing.
Then I came across the folder where the datastick had downloaded itself to and I found out what was causing all the trouble. At first, I didn't realize this was the folder - it was only a series of random letters, numbers and other symbols that meant absolutely nothing to me. Opening the folder, there was just a program titled "openme.exe" - I ran it and it showed me the same arcane pictomorphs I saw years ago.
My heart leapt straight into my throat. This was hugely important and I had completely forgotten about it; I felt like a dumbass. The one thing that was different about this layout was the fact there was now a blaring red circle in the corner that kept time with the incessant beeping. Not knowing what else to do, I pressed it. On my Wrist Assistant, the face of a Tyrik popped up.
Through the uncanny valley of a universal translator, the Tyrik said, "We have made the preparations and are ready to land in the designated zone."
The sinking feeling I was having began to open wide into a full-blown sinkhole. Was I supposed to have done something? I still couldn't decipher the main screen, but now there were little yellow dots trailing their way across it.
I immediately started rolling video capture and sent the stream to Umbra. If anyone I knew would know about something Tyrik related, it would have to be her. "wht is tihs?" I typed out hurriedly.
A few agonizing seconds later, Umbra made a response.
Now, by this point I hadn't seen her since I began attending university; we'd even somehow managed to miss each other on holiday visits back to the home. We'd been drifting apart sometime before that because of the ShineSheet company, but since she was constantly offworld and I was engaged in endless tasks and projects, there was no time to reconnect.
Her response - "Ithleth did make it to you! I wish you told me!!!!!! Where did you chose to designate!"
The happy tone of her response only made my mood darker. The Tyrik from all those years ago... she sent that to me? What in the twelve colonies of Neptune had she gotten me into?
A race war, as it would turn out.
It was later explained to me that I was supposed to set a designation somewhere remote on planet Earth for the Tyrik. They were escaping their homeworlds from the inexplicable plague and wanted to live in peace without fear of persecution. Instead, because I hadn't set such a location, the Tyrik appeared in their stealth ships very close to my school in New York.
All the stupid humans immediately jumped to the conclusion that this was an invasion.
The military didn't even attempt to reason - the Tyrik stealth ships were some of the most dangerous we'd ever encountered and so were instantaneously fired upon by the military's own spacecrafts. The Tyrik were forced to defend themselves, but it was a feeble and quickly quashed effort. The ones that had come to earth were of a peaceloving nature and so were ignorant of how to properly utilize the more destructive functions their ships had to offer.
There were no survivors. The media storm that ensued was like a volcano if volcanos released clouds of nukes instead of smoke.
The Tyrik worlds, shockingly, got royally pissed off; even though the population did not know about this peaceful group of settlers - they were some fringe group in the greater society -nonetheless, they were not happy about having had some of their own slaughtered for less than adequate reasons. And so war was declared; violence was inevitable.
At around the same time the war was getting it's start, the same plague that had been decimating it's way through the Tyrik population was doing the same to humans. It seemed restricted only to humans - no other species on our world were developing such symptoms, just like how they Tyrik were the only ones to suffer so on their worlds.
Two weakened populations fought it out, but it became a stalemate very fast.
Of my family to get sick of the plague, only myself and my Uncle Hebert remained unaffected. Most everyone else got horribly sick and died equally horrible deaths. Poor Umbra didn't get infected; the depression she'd developed once the war started got the better of her and she took her own life.
Not only that, but we were desperately poor again. First of all, a wartime+plague economy meant pretty much no one was interested in luxury goods, so ShineSheet sales were already plummeting, but also there was now a massive prejudice against Tyrik-looking goods which led to many decrying that ShineSheet may have been to blame for the plague in the first place. Utterly ridiculous to me, but we lost several family members to rioting.
I had been out of the public eye for years and so managed to lay entirely low, as was my Uncle who refused to get himself involved in the first place.
These were the dark times; for everyone, but certainly my family. I had never truly known what the plague looked like, but I became well acquainted with the way it operated on the human body by the end of year one.
First, there was the reddening of the eyes. It made people look like they stayed up three days in a row; bloodshot in a hard-to-look-at-without-feeling-squirmy kind of way. Then came the sweating, followed by headaches that kept people trapped in their homes. This was the most insidious part; they would be bedridden, but the next stage festered intense bursts of energy which made people want to be hyperactive. People went one of two ways - either they gave into the headache and the surplus energy drove them crazy in their beds until they finally snapped in an outburst so violent they would often die from extreme amounts of self-harm, or they gave into the energy and would drop dead from the asphyxiating strength of the headache.
I felt unbelievably helpless. But I also felt incredible guilt as I had been the one whose idea it had been to introduce ShineSheet in the first place. Just that one action set off the chain reaction that led that one small Tyrik to me one day, that led to the "invasion" that led to the plague that led to the war.
But peace came and the plague ended. Still not entirely sure how I managed to pull that one off.