The alien ships appeared over every major city on Earth at the same time. No scientist saw them approach. No telescope wielding kid asked his mother what the strange light in the sky was. They just appeared as if by magic.
At each world capital a tall biped, so thin that it appeared almost to be a stick figure, carried a baton shaped machine to present to the leader of that country.
In several countries the local dictator, cult leader, or generalissimo had attempted to murder the emissary only to find that their guns and knives could not touch the alien. Each emissary was protected by some kind of force field. When they were attacked, beams of light lanced out from their ship, disintegrating everyone with a weapon. The baton was delivered to the survivors.
After much trepidation and checks for booby traps the batons were activated and a message from the stars was heard.
The Human race was deemed a risk to the galactic peace. We were informed that we were the most xenophobic, greed motivated, and hostile species in the galaxy and that our racial sickness could not be permitted to spread beyond our world. We would be permitted one year to record the knowledge and traditions of our cultures on the batons provided which would be collected to preserve a record of our race after our planet was destroyed.
The emissaries withdrew to their ships which remained in position above hundreds of our cities, a glimmering reminder of our inescapable fate.
Half a dozen wars erupted, thousands of ethnic and religious cleansings ensued; riots, rape, and arson spread across the globe like a tidal wave. Perhaps the aliens were right and we didn’t deserve to exist.
The more sane members of our species sent messages pleading for mercy to the aliens who either ignored or never received them. Pragmatists did as instructed and frantically recorded the images, sounds, and words of our myriad cultures for a posterity that would not be human.
True to their word, in one year the emissaries returned to collect the batons. As the final alien reached to take the baton from the tearful human it paused.
“What is that thing?” The alien asked in a voice like a harp.
The man stared at it in confusion.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
“That small creature,” the alien said and pointed to a young child behind the presenter.
All eyes turned toward the red haired girl who stood with tears in her eyes, clutching a small rabbit to her narrow chest.
“That is a human child.”
“No, the small creature the human holds?”
“Rab. Bit.” The alien pronounced the word a piece at a time as if savoring the name.
“Are there many of these rabbits on your world?”
“Why yes. It is a mammal. This one is a young specimen, a pet. Humans keep animals as pets on this world.”
“It is beautiful,” the alien said. Its eyes were wide and its normal rigid expression was lit with wonder. “So soft and delicate in appearance. Are all of your pets such as this?”
The human presenter had an idea.
“Show cute animal babies,” he said to the baton.
A holographic image appeared above the baton. Puppies, bunnies, kittens, seals and dozens of other animals deemed cute by the human race appeared in rapid succession. At each successive image the aliens face grew even more beatific.
“On 70,417 civilized world there is nothing like this. The mammalian life forms of every planet known are either harsh and cruel or brutish. I have never seen such beauty in a mammal before.”
“Well we have them in droves here. It’s a shame you’re about to wipe them all out,” the man said.
The alien looked at the human and blinked several times. It looked at the continuing cavalcade of cute animal images and then back at the human. The alien raised its bony wrist to its mouth and spoke rapidly in its own language. It then turned and returned to its craft without the baton.
And that is how the Earth survived and became the greatest purveyor of cute cuddly baby animal images in the galaxy.