Capital City: Qui
Assembly Hall: A stadium-sized room with a glass ceiling and a smooth stone floor, with multi-colored floras growing up the walls.
*Luxonian: Light beings from the planet Lux who send Guardians out to observe alien cultures in order to protect their interests in the region.
*Cresta: A techno-organic race from the planet Crestar with long, soft bodies, tentacles, and large, watery eyes. They speak in a synthesized voice, and their large brain sack lays hidden behind a spiral shell. They wear breathing helms when not on their own water-based planet.
*Ingot: A cyborg race that wears bulky techno-organic armor and breather helms built directly into their bodies, from the planet Ingilium.
A tall, white-clad figure emanating a silver glow sweeps before an assembly of various inter-planetary beings. He perches on a floating dais and rises through the air to the center of the room. His sharp, clear voice rings across the hall.
“Good day, fellow Supreme Judges, Minor Judges, Guardians, Civilians, and Off-Worlders. As the designated spokesperson for our Luxonian Coalition of Supreme Judges, I would like to introduce myself—in case there is anyone here who might not know of me—”
The assembly breaks into an assortment of chuckles. One Cresta actually snorts water over the top of his breather helm.
“My name is Sterling, and I’ve made enough off-world trips to understand the plight of an Exo who hasn’t had a chance to catch up on the latest ‘who’s who’ in the planetary system. You have my sympathies.”
More chuckles. A kindly Cresta attempts to reassemble the snorting Cresta’s damaged breathing helm.
An Ingot shushes them with a hiss.
“As you know, we are assembled here today to discuss ‘The Human Question.’ We have been watching humanity’s activities for millenniums; in fact, Luxonians have led the way in new observation techniques through our Guardian Program. As humanity faces possible extinction, it is important that we decide our role in their future.”
The Crestas in the assembly nod agreeably while the Ingots maintain stoic neutrality.
“The question before us is this: Is humanity worth the risk? At this point, they do not play any significant role in universal events. They have never taken part in any inter-planetary wars or treaties since they are unable to perceive their larger universal society. So, why save them?
“If you have an opinion, I would be glad to hear it. I will be available during the post-conference gathering for conversation and discussion. Please, feel free to partake of the viands provided and make yourselves comfortable. Debate the issue, consider it from all angles, and I will be at your service if you have any questions or thoughts on the subject.
Judge Sterling lowers himself to the ground floor and steps off the dais. He smiles and waves as he enters the mingling throng.
Bureaucrats! As if I cared what they think. Still… one must maintain one’s position in the larger arena. As long as they think I give a—
Sterling whips around to face a hunch-shouldered Cresta dressed in a cumbersome mechanical exoskeleton.
“Yes, how can I help you…?”
“Taugron, from the planet Crestar. I’m a scientist—”
I have to smile, but I hold back the sarcasm. “Aren’t you all?”
“Well, yes, rather. But I fear we miss the bigger picture when we only take the scientific angle.”
A Cresta rebel? How…unique! I might find this little fellow useful…. “Please explain; I’m fascinated by your position.”
“Ah, well, I must admit…I hardly ever get this far in a conversation. Most of my compatriots swim away at this point. But, I know you’re busy, so I’ll just say this: why can’t we learn from humanity so that we can better utilize their strengths?”
“That’s been the point all along.”
“Yes, of course, but we, I mean most races, tend to look at humans as a sort of field to harvest. Couldn’t we view them as possible allies—”
“Their obvious inferiority makes that unlikely.”
“Not if we interbred—”
My colors just dimmed, perceptibly. I’m feeling ill. If it wouldn’t be impolite to scorch this dwarfish Cresta into charcoal, without staining the floor, of course, I’d be glad to…
Taugron shuffles his three-toed boots and wraps his tentacles behind his back. “I’m sorry. I see I’ve offended you.”
Cresta sludge... “Not at all. But I am being called. Please, excuse me.”
Ah, here’s my old friend and ally. What’s her name again?
A six-foot Ingot female dressed in bright red, techno-organic armor sidles forward.
“Sterling! Lang. You remember me. From Universal Reports.”
“Ah, yes, of course. My favorite Ingot this side of the Oskilth Zone. How are you? Keeping everyone confused, are we?”
“Lies and more lies. You know my by-line.”
I would love this gorgeous cheat if she weren’t such a bulky cyborg. “How can I help you, dear?”
“I want to shed some light on this human issue-thing.”
“I’m waiting with bated breath.” Oh, why did I say that…she’s clumping into my light space.
“Humans are nothing. Let ‘em die—naturally—of course. It won’t take long. The Crestas would love to see it done a little quicker, but we’re not going to get involved. What matters is—that planet of theirs. It’s ripe for harvest. When the playing field is more level, remember your friends, all right?”
“Why should Lux have any say in the matter?”
“Don’t play the fool with me. I travel everywhere and see everything. I know Luxonian interests. Humans aren’t the only ones facing extinction.”
Ugly Troll. Where did she— “I must say; you have an interesting assessment of the situation. I will keep it in mind.”
“Do that. And don’t forget my name—Lang.”
“You’ll be uppermost in my thoughts. Excuse me, I see a Guardian I must speak with….”
Uppermost in my nightmares, more likely. “Cerulean! Stop. I’ll speak with you.”
Cerulean, dressed in his usual human style with jeans and a collared shirt, turns from the assembly and focuses his sky-blue gaze on his superior.
“Next time you return to Newearth, I’ll arrange a formal visit. We can discuss your position…”
“You don’t look particularly happy.”
“Happiness has nothing to do with it.”
“What’s wrong then?”
“It’s just the way you discussed matters here, sir.”
“Why? I have done everything according to protocol. I assembled all the leading citizens of relevant planetary systems. They are the ones who will be most affected by humanity’s fate. Have I left someone out?”
“Yes, I’m afraid you have.”
“Their opinion hardly matters.”
“I disagree. In fact, their fate might mean the world to us.”
“Why is that?”
“Because it will likely be tied to ours.”
“You will be returning to Newearth soon?”
“Good. Remember where your first loyalty lies. Good-bye, Cerulean.”
I shouldn’t be so surprised. Ask a stupid question… Get stupid answers.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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