Reddit series: The Hearing

A series of short stories inspired by r/WritingPrompts

“As Earth is slowly roasting itself after catastrophically overheating past the point of no return, the remnants of humanity are saved by alien explorers. However, the ship is quarantined upon arrival at its homeworld. The alien leaders must decide what to do with these creatures.”

Captain Krilian sighed and the glass in front of her fogged up for a moment before receding. The large overlook let her stare at the source of her frustrated sighing in full view: her own ship – Garanatos. It rested now, in the Ring Service Dock around the second moon of her beloved home world Eries. Garanatos was large, her crew numbered in hundreds and up until now Krilian’s main mission was simple: find and establish contact with other space-faring civilizations. And that was exactly what she has done – up until now.

Krilian’s four eyes expanded as she looked at her own reflection in the thick glass. Years spent largely in space travel have been kind, but not kind enough: a third layer of bags under her eyes started to show in the deep moss green, scaly skin. Overbite that used to show her beautiful white fangs have drooped as well, leaving only tips. The neck going down into red uniform also showed wrinkles. Krilian sighed once again and turned away, slowly pacing around the lounge. It was silent, only her light footsteps echoed around the room. Until the door slid open.

“They’re ready for you, Captain” a young man in grey admin uniform saluted her by raising his right fist to the side. Krilian sighed one more time and nodded, not bothering to salute back – her fist was clenched but felt too heavy. Krilian followed the young man in brisk pace along grey corridors illuminated by lines of light on each side. There were many doors, very few people, all in uniforms of different colors. Yet everyone Krilian and her companion met looked at her intently and the seasoned captain suddenly felt naked and embarrassed despite her red hardened uniform and decades of service. The long corridors of Fleet Command suddenly became very cold and unfriendly.

The young admin stopped at the end of one such corridor and turned back at her. His expression was mute.

“Everyone is seated and ready for the hearing.” he explained in calm monotone. Krilian wondered if she was ever as calm at his age and beginning of her service… “Please step on the podium and remain standing until told otherwise.” Before Krilian could expect it, the young admin leaned forward and said in much lower voice “May the stars guide your way, Captain.” – the old fleet saying. Krilian looked up at the young man who could be fit to be her son and raised her fist:

“May the stars guide us all” she said back silently.

Krilian put her hand on the door, but instead of pushing it, the previously invisible panel showed up and scanned her palm and two retinas on either side. Only then both sides of the door moved and opened a passage to her towards a podium. Three small steps and she was in the center, no lights blinded her, but her gaze still went up and above rows of people in uniforms, mostly her age and above. It was hard to ignore that at her age, everyone looked younger.

“Captain Dreenos Krilian, Hearing Number 11-56-962 Regarding Unauthorized Intervention on Foreign Species Development.” A man of even darker moss scales read out loud from his panel, holding twonicle on his right pair of red eyes. “I, Overseer Priinos Bristian, declare this Hearing open. Opening statement hereby goes to Admiral Steinos Gristian.”

Krilian turned her head and faced her superior and mentor – Admiral Gristian. She felt shame in front of his slit eyes, but also proud that she has done exactly as the founder of Inter-species Communication program. She couldn’t tell if the feelings were mutual – no one ever knew what Admiral Gristian really thought.

“As of five cycles ago” the Admiral started “we have accepted into quarantine dock Garanatos – a ship tasked with establishing relations with new, previously undiscovered, space-faring species.” Admiral cleared his throat, loose skin around his trembling “The quarantine was necessary due to the presence of previously unknown species that calls itself human. From reports of Captain Krilian and other senior members of the crew, it appears that this civilization not only failed to achieve coherent space flight, but they also have doomed their home world to climate overheating.” the last sentence caused a mur-mur rippling across the amphitheater. Some heads nodded, while others were shaken and some stayed eerily still.
“According to the Declaration of Inter-Species Associations” the Admiral continued mercilessly “any contact with species below the development of our own should be limited and assessed before any action is taken.” he looked up from his panel and drilled Krilian with narrow red look “and yet, Captain Krilian as disobeyed the Declaration and allowed the humans aboard Garanatos and brought 100,000 of them to Eries. Other than obvious jeopardy to the lives of your crew due to unforeseen inter-species diseases or conflicts, what were you thinking, Captain?

Krilian was prepared for the last question, yet it still tore into her like a sharp dagger that was further twisted in her flesh by the cold undertone of the Admiral. Still trained by years of service, she breathed in and spoke:

“Admiral” she addressed her speaker “Humanity was on the brink of extinction. While they are not yet a space-fairing race, they have been very close to achieving it before their home world Terra has overheated.” she took a pause in deafening silence “I judged those that volunteered to leave the planet capable of facing the dangers of space travel and inter-species diplomacy. Not to mention the moral obligation to help a race to survive.”

“Your moral obligation is to the Fleet and to people of Eries!” a sharp voice flew through the podium and made many heads turn. Krilian swallowed, running her thin tongue through her teeth – it was the Eries Ambassador to the Fleet “You brought thousands of people to our doorstep, people we know nothing about, people that can be disease-ridden, savage or otherwise unfit to be communicated with.” a much younger man stood up, not in uniform, but in beautiful yellow robe that fit well with his four golden eyes. His face made Krilian rage before he would even open his mouth. “And how should we get to know these creatures without us speaking a common language even?”

“We have already developed a vocabulary to translate a common language they all speak to our words.” Krilian explained with a little bit of victory in her mind, but keeping cool exterior “Their leaders have been very cooperative and the fact that not a single crew member of mine has gotten sick proves that there are no immediate diseases we should worry about.”

“And what about the fact that they have burned their world?” The Ambassador leaned in and an agreeing whisper rippled through the crowd – that’s what everyone wanted to hear about “In your report it says that the planet they’re from would have become uninhabitable within their star’s cycle. It also states the reason for this was the runaway greenhouse gas effect – something the Declaration clearly states disqualifies species from being contacted until they are mature enough to deal with it. So why have you contacted them?

“It wasn’t us that contacted them” Krilian started the real meat of her story and was glad the Ambassador finally asked this question “It was their space station, orbiting the planet, that picked up on our hidden radio waves and found us behind their natural satellite. We were observing the planet and seeing what esteemed Ambassador was indicating – lack of care for the planet, slowed attempts to space travel and no knowledge of any other species in the galaxy.” she took a small break before continuing “yet, when they have initiated the contact with us, we had no choice but to respond with First Contact protocol.” Krilian looked straight at the Admiral’s steely eyes “I firmly believe that I have adhered to the values of Declaration and First Contact, as well as our moral standing as a species.”

“Our moral standing as species is first and foremost to ensure security of our own species.” The Ambassador spoke before the Admiral could respond “We can hardly do that with savages at our doorstep.” He waved his hand with multiple heavy bracelets “What do you propose we do with these humans? Let them live on Eries?” He asked mockingly, causing a subdued laughter in the amphitheater, but Krilian didn’t blink.

“That is precisely what I am suggesting.” She said it so firmly that the entire room fell silent “I propose to populate the 5th region of Eries by allows humanity to settle these. Admiral, Ambassador” she addressed them directly this time “our species is getting old and our precious home world must have stewards for the future. We cannot hope to repopulate Eries when so many are moving off world. Yet, we can take this young race, teach them about the mistakes they made and prepare them for a better future. A future of cooperation and stewardship of our planet.”

Silence lasted long. Many looks were exchanged. Cameras filming couldn’t decide what to focus on, so they all were on Krilian. She felt heat inside her build. She was unsure of the future, yet the lives on board Garanatos she felt could not be abandoned. Perhaps she would not be totally capable of explaining this to the Fleet’s therapist or even herself, but her gut feeling was stronger than ever. She learned over many years of flying ships to trust her gut feeling.

“Do you realise what you are suggesting?” The Ambassador hissed “the mere thought of another species on our precious home is a blasphemy! You should be court-marshalled for speaking of it!”

“Luckily it is not up to you, Ambassador” the Admiral spoke firmly and looked down at his subordinate. Heavy feeling in his chest weighed even more now. He then looked back at the subtle camera transmitting this poor excuse of a hearing to the public down on the planet. He sighed without an attempt to hide it.

“The decision whether to allow another species inhabit Eries will rest with the public. I believe we have heard enough about this query for now. Is there anything you’d like to add, Captain Krilian?”

Krilian nodded and looked around the amphitheater for the first time. Everyone’s eyes were fixated on her and the sudden pressure of even more of them watching back home send heat waves down her body. She cleared her throat and spoke with slightly shaky voice:

“I would just like to add that humanity as a species, while young and rash, is extremely flexible. Back on Earth, they were already developing genetically to withstand the new climate. They are capable of great changes over short periods of time and with the right guidance, they can change their minds just as fast too. I would like to encourage my people to give them a chance, present hope and welcome them, if not as brothers, at least as pupils. Thank you.”

Another wave of mur-mur rippled through the crowd. People were bending toward each other, speaking in hushed whispers. The Ambassador looked angry, the Admiral – tired. He sighed.

“That will be all for now. You will await for the outcome of this Hearing confined to your quarters.” He paused for but a moment “May the stars guide your way, Captain.”

“May the stars guide us all.”

The captain left, this time the armed escort. Yet she felt her deed was done. The future of humanity became just a little bit clearer.

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