Hi everyone, I hope you’re all keeping well and healthy in the current climate. Today, I’m sharing a short story, with you – most of which I wrote in one of those ‘write for an hour without stopping’ exercises. I hope you enjoy it!
Science officer Sil stood in the Commander’s office and stared down at the blue world that turned slowly below them. Now and then, another domed cloud of flame, smoke and dust would rise high into the atmosphere creating a spectacular display. It was a shame such a beautiful sight came at such a cost.
“They think we’ve been here all this time simply to steal their DNA so we can create hybrids of our two species,” he said.
“Well, surprisingly, they are partially correct,” said the Commander. He sat at his triangular desk in the centre of the sparsely furnished triangular room, his spindly arms folded across his narrow rib cage. “On the whole, human beings are not especially intelligent. Just look at the way they treat one another – or their world for that matter.”
“Sir,” said Sil, “the Galactic Axis must deem them to be at least somewhat intelligent, or else why would we be here?”
“To be truthful, Sil, I argued against our getting involved with this species. The humans only just made the grade in terms of being worthy of investigation.” The Commander met Sil’s large black eyes when he turned to face him. “The rules regarding admittance into the Galactic Axis are stringent for a reason – or at least, they used to be. I fear they have been allowed to become rather lax as of late.”
“But Sir, this time around, the humans have demonstrated an aptitude for creative problem-solving. Given time-“
“That is just the point, Sil, they have had time – they have had hundreds of millions of years.” The Commander sighed deeply. “Do you know how many other species have been given this many chances to prove themselves?”
Sil stared at him blankly.
“None. The humans – for whatever reason – have been allowed to evolve three times over. I cannot imagine what the Axis sees in them.”
“Perhaps someone has seen what I can see,” Sil reasoned.
“All I know for certain”‘ said the Commander, “is that the Axis has been very interested in human physiology and that they would have liked them to join us. But, alas, it is not to be. The whole point of the Axis is to ensure a peaceful galaxy by encouraging the survival of only those species able to outgrow their aggressive tendencies in relatively short order. Such a feat indicates a high level of intelligence. But that is something that the humans just do not seem to possess.”
“Can’t we make an exception?” Sil was somewhat interested in the humans himself – and if he was honest, it was those ‘aggressive tendencies’ that intrigued him most of all. He had seen savage species before, but never to this degree.
The Commander shook his head. “Sil, you are too young. You were not here to witness the way of things before – and thank the stars you were not. I am still wakened each night by terrors of the mind. No matter how hard I try, I cannot stop myself from conjuring the awful memories of that time. I still see our old aggressors – their bone-ridged faces contorted into angry snarls, the lust for blood evident even in the eyes of their young.”
“But, it’s not like that anymore, Sir.”
“No, and that is because the Galactic Axis came into being to make sure it would never be like that again. We have seen what happens when aggression is allowed to exist untempered, and the humans you are so fond of seem to be unwilling – or perhaps even incapable of evolving beyond their base urges and instincts.”
Sil turned back to the window in time to see another orange cloud burst over a large area of land.
A lot of the planet still looked habitable from what he could see, but if the humans kept on at their current rate of bombardment, then it wouldn’t be long before there would be nobody left to inhabit it. He knew that this last explosion alone would have killed thousands – perhaps even hundreds of thousands. He hadn’t ever seen anything like it. Here before him was an entire species bent on destroying itself – wiping itself out of existence- simply because they couldn’t figure out a way to coexist on their own world.
“Maybe we could teach them,” Sil said, “before it’s too late. We could gather all of their world leaders aboard the ship and teach them to be better. We can show them there’s a better way.”
“You know that is against the rules, Sil. We can not interfere with another species’ progress – or lack thereof.”
“But if we do nothing, they’ll annihilate themselves.”
“Yes, as they have twice before. I am afraid they will not be allowed to try again.”
“Sil, enough!” The Commander held up a three-digited hand and stood up. The soft blue glow of the ship’s lighting reflected off his silver jumpsuit as he moved across the room towards Sil. “Even if we had time to do something – even if we were allowed – what is it that you propose we do?” He put a hand on Sil’s small bony shoulder. “Do you suggest that we just plop ourselves down somewhere on the planet and announce that, although we have been abducting them and subjecting them to tests and tissue sampling before wiping their memories time and again for millenia, we actually come in peace? They would kill us before we even knew what was happening. You’ve seen how they are. Look at what they do to their own.” He gestured with his hand at the explosions below.
Sil couldn’t say anything. He knew the Commander was right. He lowered his head as they watched.
“We have accomplished what we set out to do all those aeons ago. We have watched and waited for any sign of promise from the humans – not just once, but three times. We have tried, and that is what matters. Besides, it is much too late now.”
“How long will it take this time?” asked Sil.
It had taken only decades for the humans to die out on Caspessa Prime. That’s when Sil had begun to advocate for them. He had come to admire their tenacity. He had never encountered a species with such strength of will – though he had not been prepared for the cannibalistic nature of the first evolution of humans.
The second attempt had ended in ecological disaster, and the humans had struggled on for centuries, attempting to undo the damage that they themselves had caused, but to no avail. Slowly, their world had turned against them; it’s own atmosphere poisoning them.
“This time should be relatively quick,” the Commander told him “several days for the majority – several months for the rest.”
“It’s just doesn’t seem right,” said Sil. “All those people down there. All that suffering. If only we could-“
‘Sil!’ The Commander was frustrated. ‘I know you have grown attached to them, but you must let it go now.”
“Please, Commander, don’t you see? You say they’re too aggressive – that the Axis will only accept peaceful and benevolent races – yet we’re no better than they are. In fact, I’d say we’re worse.”
“Oh?” the Commander said, “and how do you suppose we are ‘worse’ than a species who would maim and kill creatures smaller than themselves only so they can wear their skins and eat their flesh? Even at our most brutal stage of evolution, we were never as bad as the humans.”
“We’re worse because we’re effectively wiping out an entire species.”
“No. We are not actively participating in their demise – we are simply allowing nature to take its course.”
“What’s the difference?” Sil could feel anger bubbling towards the surface, but he forced it back down. He knew better than to show such strong emotion in the presence of a superior.
“You are still young, Sil, and this is only your first mission. It can be difficult, spending millions of years watching over a species, hoping they thrive and flourish – hoping they survive beyond their primal stage and that one day they will be allowed to join the Galactic Axis.” He paused to look at the young scientist. “I do remember how it feels. I suppose I was like you on my first mission.” He patted Sil on the arm and returned to his desk.
“Look at it this way,” the Commander went on, “we could – conceivably – intervene and save the humans from extinction, but if we did that, then there is no telling what effect that may have on the future of the Galactic Axis. What if they never evolved into a peaceful society? They could end up destroying everything the Axis stands for.”
“We could save just a few and hide them from the Axis,” said Sil, “if only so we’d know some of them would live on.”
The Commander’s face softened slightly. “I’m sorry, Sil, it is simply not possible. Besides, in a way, the humans will survive. All of the DNA we have ever collected from them going back to their first appearance on Caspssa Prime will be banked into our library. Trillions of individual genetic profiles recorded forever. Immortalised.”
“And what about their world?” Sil asked, “what about Sol-3?”
“I should think it will be allowed a period of healing. It will need it, after the damage those bombs will cause to its ecosystem.”
“And then what?”
“Well,” said the Commander, “presumably it will be repopulated with another species. That is what usually happens. That is what happened with Caspessa Prime, and it is what will happen with Sol-2 if it’s atmosphere ever recovers.”
“I suppose,” Sil began, “that the humans have survived longer than they would have done if we hadn’t rebooted their evolutionary process twice.”
“Indeed they have, but unfortunately, the galaxy simply was not ready for them – as is sometimes the case.”
“It’s a shame.”
“You will become accustomed to this kind of work, Sil, even if it takes you another millennium or so. Before long, you will be joining in with the rest of the crew in taking bets on whether or not a species will survive – or indeed how they might meet their end if they do not.”
“The crew take bets?” Sil wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
“Oh, indeed,” the Commander replied, “at the very start of a mission. In fact, Second Officer Zik bet on nuclear war this time around and therefore she has won the round. Medic Gly bet on climate change when the humans were occupying Sol-2, and I myself wagered that they would hunt themselves to extinction on Caspessa Prime.”
“Yes, I too feel the pressures of the mission, and like the rest of the crew, I like to have a little fun. These missions are hard Sil, this one unusually so. Normally, if a species is deemed to be too aggressive and violent for the Axis, then we stay around until they have brought themselves to extinction – which the violent kind always do – and then we move off to the next mission. These humans have been hard work, indeed, but you will find the next mission easier.”
Sil wasn’t sure how anyone could ever find the prospect of watching an entire race of people die out easy – though that was the trouble with a species with such longevity as his own: eventually, one could become accustomed to anything. He supposed that this was probably the case with the Commander. He had more than likely seen many a race go extinct in his time.
Taking one last lingering look at Sol-3, Sil silently promised himself that he would remember every last detail of humanity’s struggle for as long as he lived, then he turned strode towards the Commander’s desk.
“Where will our next assignment be?” he asked.
The Commander tapped his long slender fingers at the surface display on his desk and a split-second later, an image of a large planet covered in what appeared to be hazy, purple clouds blinked into existence.
“This,” said the Commander, “is Zapho-8 – home to the Zaphin. We received word a few thousand years ago that they were just entering their cognitive phase. We should arrive in time to catch the beginning of their intellectual evolution.”
“Well, their planet is certainly beautiful,” said Sil as he watched the image of the hazy world spinning on its Axis. “Let’s hope they do better than the humans at overcoming their savagery.”
“I’m sure they will,” the Commander said with a slight curving of his thin, grey lips. “The humans – although not entirely an oddity – we’re certainly a rare case.”
The Commander nodded back and closed down the display on his desk. “Dismissed, Sil.”
As Sil left, the Commander moved to the window again. The explosions on the planet had died away now. Most of the humans would be dead. He couldn’t help but empathise with Sil’s sadness. The humans had been a dream to study. In the billions of years since the Axis formed, its members had studied many kinds of organism, though none quite so unique as the humans.
For, although he thought them to lack intelligence, they did have their surprising quirks. He had not, for instance, been able to work out why they only possessed two kidneys as opposed to the three which was common among every other species they had encountered thus far. And what was the idea behind all those fingers?
He supposed it was just one of life’s mysteries to which he would never discover an answer.
As always, thank you for reading my words, it really does mean a lot!
Until next time,
© 2020 GLT