Commonwealth Historical Index #5789115-2070012-B
As always please account for translation incongruities.
Ado peered into the vast depths of space for nearly an hour before he caught the glimmer of an Orthodoxy expanding from its microscopic travel configuration into one roughly his size. It was supposed to be easier to talk to, more diplomatic but Ado found Orthodoxy no less threatening. The war was over; but the sight made Ado’s splines quiver.
The Orthodoxy, with its mysterious gaseous technology weaved into its doubly mysterious gaseous biology, could kill Ado a thousand times over before a repression field activated. But it was best not to think of such things. A treaty had been signed, even if the ink was still wet.
Ado blinked his double layer eyelids as he watched the fraction of a fraction of the Orthodoxy approach the station. It seeped into the station, through the airlock in a matter of seconds. It took a form vaguely similar to his own and glided toward him.
“Greetings,” Orthodoxy beamed.
“Greetings. I’m Ado.”
“You may call me Orthodoxy.” As if it could stand to be called anything else.
“Would you like a tour of the station?”
“We need not waste time on such pleasantries. I know the layout. Orthodoxy has already begun mining the worlds of note in this system. My presence here is to establish goodwill and trust that the primitive lifeforms in the inner planets will not be harmed.”
Ado tried to speak in the third person; it was best to deal with hivemind species that way. It made them comfortable.
“Commonwealth trusts Orthodoxy will not harm the life on the inner planets.”
“Ah, but you do not.”
Ado’s splines folded out from his body, in surprise.
“I understand the limits of a permanently individual mind,” The Orthodoxy continued. “Luckily, I don’t need your trust to accomplish my goal and return to Orthodoxy. We all must make accommodations to keep the peace. Mine is to become an individual during the transition, and yours is to trust me.”
“Well, yes.” Ado found the gesture much less comforting on the receiving end. He dropped his attempt. “My crew and I have been here for dozens of cycles; we’ve become attached to the local lifeforms.”
“You will be allowed to maintain a scientific presence as stipulated in the annexation treaty.”
“Yes, but we are concerned with-”
“Orthodoxy understands the Commonwealth’s concern with preventing ‘cultural pollution’ of an immature species, but the mining interests of Orthodoxy take precedence. If Earth chooses to become troublesome, they will be dealt with in our fashion.”
Ado knew what that meant. He’d heard of it before. A specialized Orthodoxy form would penetrate the crust, expand under a continental shelf, and flip it over like a hungry hatchling scrambling for grubs. Then there wouldn’t be any locals to interfere.
“They have a history of self-colonization; their initial reaction may be rash and…”
“I’ll just inform them to stay out of the outer planets.”
“Well, that’s just it.” Ado admitted. “They don’t know we are here?”
Orthodoxy pulled back and shifted color slightly. Ado was sure he surprised it. He knew something about semi-liquid species, and a pang of longing for Vronn crept in.
“Do they know about interstellar life, the Commonwealth or Orthodoxy?”
Ado pulled himself away from his thoughts. “No. As far as the people of Earth are concerned, they are the only life in the universe.”
“Well,” The Orthodoxy took a moment. “My first order is to open a line of communications with their leader.”
“There are around two hundred governments right now.”
“On one planet!” The part of the Orthodoxy hivemind couldn’t hide its disgust. After a second to regain composure, “We’ll contact the most powerful.”
Ado felt a sociologist’s inborn need to show that things were never that simple. “Most powerful in what terms: Strongest military? Largest population? Land Mass? Economics? cultural influence?”
Orthodoxy shuddered in rippling disgust, “Just…pick, an assortment of leaders. I’ll bring them aboard, inform them that they can do as they wish with the inner planets, but the outer planets belong to Orthodoxy.”
“I will.” Ado said, his splines folding in but not sheathing. His deep seeded biology still saw Orthodoxy as an enemy, but he accepted this was one battle that couldn’t be won.
Ado headed to Vronn’s quarters. The door opened automatically. Inside was a mass of undulating purple liquid, flowing in and around a spherical being, and two other individuals.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt I’ll-”
“Come in, Ado.” Vronn said, “Hlin, Oli, and Terses don’t mind, and I’ve missed you.”
Ado stepped forward slightly and the liquid mass of Vronn extended around him; cradling his limbs, forming soft embraces around his splines, soothing his senses, sharing some awareness and caressing his few fleshy spots.
“I needed this,” Ado sighed.
“I know, dealing with an Orthodoxy can be taxing; we’re glad you took this duty on yourself.” This wasn’t a pleasantry; through the bond, Ado could feel Vronn and the others’ distant voices uttering tingly reassurances.
“Mmmm, But it’s my duty, I’m the leader.”
“Leaders can delegate.”
“I know I just…”
“I know. We all know. In a way, we’ve all come to regard the people of Earth as children: petulant, arrogant, and foolish children. But there comes a moment when all children must leave the safety of home.”
Ado had never thought about children; it wasn’t necessary for his people, Xaron. He was shocked when he learned how other species cared for and raised their young. That other species in the Commonwealth didn’t just detect pheromones, imbibe spores, and leave the zygotes. Rosscath, Venontier, Hremm, and even the Ka-Fa-lah formed bonds and families: social units. It had been the beginning of Ado’s interests in sociology.
Now that he’d found a family, Ado’s interest was more than academic. It was not just a parent-child relationship with the planet but also a romantic bond with some of his colleagues. He’d gone from nothing to everything, and now he was losing some of it. He’d lost Earth, in name only, but he’d lost something and it hurt. It hurt so much, the uncertainty.
A ripple of Oli’s pleasure tore through his body, and a wave of calm washed over him. His feet lifted from the ground into the embrace of Vronn just as he embraced the others.
Ado’s home world, back where he was a young professional looking to cement his legacy, seemed so lonely after living on the station. Legacy: that word had special meaning to the Xaron. With no families, the Xaron only remembered a few beyond death, and society could only remember so many heroes.
Many Xaron became comfortable with life’s brief happiness and death’s permanent obscurity, but Ado wanted more. He wanted to be remembered. He wanted to leave his world and discover distant people and bring their knowledge and experience to his own; he had been ready to have a bright career. However, he was never the best or the cleverest. He was ordinary. Pain racked him as he began watching this developing world. He’d found something better: this one strange little world hobbling through its adolescence and this one family of researchers. While legacy was significant, these lives he loved were more important.
As Ado slipped gracefully into blissful semi-consciousness, no more thoughts came; only feelings and fantastic dreams in Vronn’s embrace. Until Hlin woke him up, urgently, “There is a problem with Orthodoxy.”
Ado’s claws clicked against the gravity plating as he ran down the halls. Running was always primitively pleasurable, ancient neuro-mechanisms of the hunt, rewarding him with analgesic chemicals, but he wasn’t running toward any prey. He burst into the observation lab and found Orthodoxy floating above the collapsed bodies of six humans.
“Oh, no.” Ado gasped.
Orthodoxy wrinkled in confusion, “I asked for a biologist.”
“What did you do?”
“They aren’t adjusting to the atmosphere.”
“Did you change the atmospheric composition?”
“No, yours is nearly the same.”
“Humans are sensitive. They have specific atmospheric and gravitational needs and almost no technologies to aid atmosphere transition. They can’t even live everywhere on the surface of their own planet.”
“That’s odd. Repair them.”
Ado took out a scanner and found out the world leaders of Earth lay dead at his clawed feet. “They can’t be repaired, they’re dead.”
“Oh, we’ll need new ones. I’ll adjust the atmosphere this time.”
“No. They’re probably panicking down there.”
The dead leaders all came from nations with fission weapons, immature weapons that served no purpose but to tempt apocalypse. When he’d first arrived, he nearly watched the world die when a malfunction of one superpower’s radar triggered an urgent and deadly response. One military official in that chain of disaster did his duty by not doing his job. He canceled the counterstrike and saved the world. Hopefully, after this disaster, there were humans like that in power. Ado realized this time was six times worse. “They all probably think the others are responsible.”
“Okay?” Orthodoxy didn’t follow. An exchange between two individuals was very complicated to the collective mind, so explaining the various alliances and prejudices of a dozen nations was probably a bit beyond it.
“They’re probably going to kill all the life on their world.” Ado ran to the nearest interface.
“Well, that is their decision.”
Nearly a dozen nuclear weapons had been fired. Ado could probably fix this. He readied the firing stations and the observation drones and began an auto-firing sequence. Ado didn’t have time to wait for hidden windows of opportunity. The humans would see their weapons vaporized and figure out someone was watching over them. This would be their first contact.
Orthodoxy approached. “You are interfering, isn’t that against your code?”?
“You made the first contact.” Ado said gesturing to the bodies on the floor.
Ado was startled for a moment. The peoples of Earth were amazing diverse in appearance and lifestyle, but each of the dead leaders were similar: the same sex, gender, color, and economic class. But there was no time for analysis.
Ado watched as none of the weapons hit their targets. Then, before Ado could welcome relief, the people of Earth launched more.
“Ugh,” Ado growled.
“They seem intent on destroying themselves. Why don’t we just leave them to it?” Orthodoxy beamed.
Ado ignored it and continued firing at the nuclear weapons. After a while, the missile launches stopped. The humans had finally connected the vanished world leaders and vaporized-from-space weapons. Ado was a little frustrated that it took the humans this long to realize that they were not alone. Now he had to convince Earth that the Commonwealth meant no harm.
“Well,” Orthodoxy beamed, “Now what?”
Ado called a conference with the Orthodoxy, Vronn, Hlin, Oli, Kurnnnen, and a few others. They’d all been briefed on the dead world leaders and the averted apocalypse. Their downtrodden mood was appropriate.
Hlin was especially displeased, pulling her pseudopods close and rubbing them every now and then. Ado could feel that Vronn wanted to comfort her, but Hlin’s sense of decorum held him off. After all, Vronn was her lover too. There was a spike of jealousy in Ado that subsided.
When they first started together, Ado had that horrible sense of angry ownership over another being. It was bothersome but Hlin and Vronn helped Ado through it. Ado and Hlin even learned how to care for each other in Vronn’s absence, although he was the favorite of both.
“I think a simple message would not work,” Vronn announced.
As the cultural sociologist; Vronn was fascinated with humans’ ideas of intergalactic peoples and their often-laughable fictions. Those fictions that revealed deep-seated fears and the assumption that all lifeforms must be as cruel and exploitative as them.
Vronn continued. “We must make a gesture in good faith to appease humans. We have made moves that could be seen as conquering: abducting leaders and destroying weapons.”
“That is not what happened,” Orthodoxy corrected.
“Yes. We all know that, but the people of Earth do not. So, in that gap of knowledge, fear and paranoia have already taken root. I believe one of us may have to address them directly in a show of vulnerability and trust.”
“That’s foolishness,” Hlin said. “They are barbaric and afraid. They will-“
“They have a history of mobilizing scientists to solve problems,” Vronn politely interrupted in a way he was only capable of. “They are clever and motivated. We’ve already seen signs that the largest militaries are already sharing their information about us and this is just hours after trying to kill each other. Who knows what they’ll be capable of in a few years?”
Orthodoxy beamed, “Do they pose a threat to the mining operation?”
Hlin answered. As the technological sociologist she was best equipped. “Not now. They’ve only been able to send rudimentary probes out that far.”
Vronn continued, “One of us needs to personally reassure the humans, probably via the UN, that this was an accident.”
“What is the UN?” Orthodoxy asked.
“A loose confederation of governments that don’t do much more than talk about problems,” Hlin said. “But it’s probably the fastest way to contact them.”
“Oh really,”Orthodoxy directed at Ado.
Ado could feel a glare from Orthodoxy. Maybe he should’ve suggested the General Secretary of the UN then only one human would’ve died, although it was unlikely the others would believe the UN.
Ado felt an old urge. He should be the one to announce the Commonwealth and Orthodoxy to the people of Earth. They would remember him as the one who saved their world and introduced them to the galaxy. They’d remember him.
“I’ll speak to them,”
“That’s not a good idea, Ado,” Vronn said politely.
“Well, to them, the humans, your appearance is, well…” Vronn paused, “…a prime example of a hostile alien.”
Ado’s splines drooped.
“You are a good and peaceful being. We all know this to be true. The problem merely lies in human aesthetics. You have large claws and no visible eyes. You’re very dark and oily, you have far more appendages than they do, you communicate rather loudly, and you are nearly three times their size.”
Ado was taken aback; his people were peaceful and diplomatic. One had to be when anybody on your home world could easily kill anybody else from birth. It was the un-clawed species you needed to worry about, they never had to learn how-not-to use them as babies.
Ado could convince the people of Earth that he was trustworthy. He had many limbs arranged like humans. The ones for movement were on the bottom and grasping ones near the top. He could be quiet and crouch, and perhaps coloring could be applied to –
Vronn caught his eyes, a sorrowful look that he knew would shoot down every flimsy argument he could muster. This wasn’t about him; this was about humans. Vronn was not just one of his lovers but also their lead cultural sociologist. He knew best; it was Ado’s ego, his own need for reputation interfering with the protection of the people of Earth.
Ado asked, “Who would the humans find most reassuring?”
“While the Orthodoxy would be the most naturally reassuring form, I doubt that would go well.”
“We’d be fair,” Orthodoxy responded.
“You need to be more than fair.” Hlin said, “They are inexperienced. They may do something foolish and require more forgiveness than they deserve.”
“Ugh.” Orthodoxy sunk. Ado knew what that meant, that it would be easier to just flip over the continents.
Vronn spoke, “I have an alternative.”
With great effort, Vronn pulled his liquid form into a small shape. Bisymmetrical, two straight limbs on the bottom, two shorter limbs on the sides with the humans’ grabby bits on the ends. He formed sensory organs on a hairy node on the top and opened wide hopeful eyes.
“What’s that?” Orthodoxy beamed.
“A human,” Ado said.
“Oh. They look much different standing.”
Proper first contact would happen like this:
Vronn would appear in the air and floating down on a beam of light and landing softly in the center of the general assembly chamber. He would explain, in English, that they came in peace. The disappearance and death of the world leaders was all a horrible mistake. He would then outline the treaty between the Commonwealth, who had been watching over them for hundreds of years, and Orthodoxy, who would be colonizing and mining the planets they called Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. All parties wished to live in peaceful coexistence and establish diplomatic relations.
What actually happened was much worse:
Diplomats panicked. Vronn tried to deliver the message as military officials stormed in firing bullets. Vronn lost his form he still attempted to provide the message. The humans used all kinds of impromptu lasers and EM weapons until one worked.
In mid-speech, while explaining the Commonwealth treaty, Vronn lost cohesion. A near lifeless puddle was all that remained. Vronn became a stain on the carpet that the humans began to study. Hlin took back as much as he could. They could send Vronn back to his home world. There were growth therapies that could help the remains relearn to be Vronn, but they’d never be precisely the same person.
Those rash fools had taken most of the person he loved. Ado wished all the warheads he’d destroyed would rematerialize. He wanted Orthodoxy to flip over all the continents of Earth. He wanted every human dead. He stood over the viewing portal watching Earth, a place he’d loved and now hated, his splines, sharp and eager.
Hlin joined him looking down at their now peaceful little world. “Is this how your people mourn?”
“We don’t mourn. We never really get that close.”
“No practice then.” Hlin said. “I’m supposed to be silent for the next few weeks, but there is an exception for when my voice is needed to save lives.”
“The humans were rash, that is their nature. It’s part of the charm Vronn saw in them,” Hlin reassured him.
“Vronn wouldn’t say the same now.”
“Really?” Hlin asked, widening her sphere curiously.
“No.” Ado admitted. “He could’ve killed them or ran away or stopped…but he didn’t. He kept going. Because he wanted the best for them now that they are part of …the universe.”
Hlin sighed, “I hope someday, they’ll join the Commonwealth and understand what we are trying to do here. Maybe one day they’ll be mature enough.”
“I do too.” Ado confessed. He knew that the way a species first contact went would determine whether they isolated themselves or joined the interstellar community. Despite Vronn’s loss of cohesion, he still wanted the best for them. He wanted them to participate, to bring their history and perspective. To learn about the other species as they had been learning about them. To show them themselves through our eyes and show us ourselves through theirs
So, Ado wanted to finish the mission. This had to go well. But he had no idea how to make good first contact out of this.
Hlin said, “Did you know the most common human narrative involving interstellar life is that of a repelled invasion. It’s understandable with the human’s history of global self-colonization. Those who were colonized fear it’s a return and those who colonized fear reciprocity. We can play into that fear to smooth relations over for a bit.”
“Pretend Orthodoxy are trying to colonize Earth?”, Ado supposed.
“No. The first generation must see the Orthodoxy as allies. They will be sharing a star after all.”
“So, the Commonwealth must appear to be thwarted colonizers?”
“Yes,” Hlin said deflating.
“But the Commonwealth’s reputation must be preserved.”
“I see no other way. We must sacrifice the Commonwealth’s reputation for Earth’s relationship with Orthodoxy.”
“They’ll be alone in the universe; Orthodoxy doesn’t want to connect. Earth will close in on itself seeing only enemies of the Commonwealth and disinterest from Orthodoxy.”
“Yes, but they’ll be safe.”
There had to be some other way to preserve both the Commonwealth and Orthodoxy’s good standing with the humans. There had to be something else they could–
Suddenly, Ado knew whose reputation had to be sacrificed. “Perhaps the world leaders were killed by a local Commonwealth leader who’d gone mad with power? One whose appearance humans would find…disturbing. A prime example of a hostile alien.
Hlin paused. “I see. But that is a lot to ask, for one to surrender their reputation, their name. “
“It is, but I am willing to give it.”
Hlin reached out and touched Ado, offering the reassuring touch of a friend.
The second appearance in front of the UN was much smoother. Hlin and Orthodoxy, stood together holding Ado in chains. It was primitive bit of theatricality, but it worked.
Hlin told of the capture, imprisonment, and trial of the galactic despot, Ado the Conqueror who would go back to face Commonwealth justice. Hlin then explained the benevolent Commonwealth and mysterious Orthodoxy: the two major powers in this arm of the galaxy. Orthodoxy explained the mining and colonization of the outer planets.
The diplomats of Earth cheered. They’d been saved from invasion and only had to trade useless gas balls for safety and access to the universe.
Orthodoxy left immediately to rejoin Orthodoxy harvesting Jupiter. It was eager to lose it’s pesky individuality in a sea of a vast calm hivemind. The Commonwealth and the humans made official first contact. They gathered around her and asked all kinds of questions about the universe beyond Earth. It made Ado proud; he saved something he loved, and it cost their love for him.
Some humans wanted to kill Ado for assassinating their leaders, starting a nuclear war, and nearly conquering Earth. Hlin said Ado should face Commonwealth justice since he’d done so from a Commonwealth station. Ado’s name would be hated for several human generations. Still, it was necessary to tell small children lies to help them grow up, or at least that’s what Vronn once told him about children.
From the station, Earth never quite looked the same. Ado, Hlin and the others in Vronn’s romantic circle stayed on the station, but Ado kept his distance. He missed the intimacy and companionship of the others, though they would never be as close as Vronn. Ado knew he’d love again when he was ready.
Ado looked at little baby Earth, making its first steps into the galactic community. Perhaps one day, when humanity was much older and ready to hear about the complexities of history, he’d be able to sit down and finally talk with them. He’d listen to their arrogant certainties about the future and their place in it. Ado would smile along and encourage and advise where he could, but they’d make their own path. Ado would revel in the joy of helping watch over those first few steps.
Initially Composed in synaptic scan by Hiln-Montelly-Bloyt
Translated into Earth/English by Dr. Martina Hartmann
Gestural Translation by J. Felder Rosthskally
Cultural Translation by Jerome 7. Alder
Commonwealth Historical Index #5789115-2070012-B
As always please account for translation incongruities.
Adam Lee Weatherford: I was born in Indiana, moved around the state a bit. I spent too much time in college and married my best friend. I collected a pair of bachelor’s degrees (Technical Writing and Films Studies) and won a few small Screenwriting and Filmmaking awards. I’m currently working as a substitute teacher, barista, writer, and full-time cliché. I’m working on a webcomic with my partner called Sawbones Street. I’m also tinkering a novel and a dozen or so shorts. Hit me up @sidewalkravings and www.adamleeweatherford.wordpress.com
Adam Lee Weatherford
Author of “An Account of the Defeat of Earth’s Conqueror”
1) What inspired you to write this story?
I’ve always been fascinated with aliens but usually disappointed in their depiction. I want gonzo biology, untested social orders, civilizations we’ve never seen but with an understandable emotional perspective.
I’m also hopeful the modern horribleness of humanity as merely growing pains. When I smashed these two ideas together the result was this story.
2) What do you hope readers take from this story?
While I have intentions for the story, I’d much rather hear yours. I believe that as you read you co-create the story. I’ll tell you my meaning if you tell me yours. @sidewalkravings
3) To give other writers hope, would you mind sharing with us how many edits and/or submissions this story has been through?
I started seriously submitting in August of last year and after ninety-six attempts this is my first publication. This particular piece has gone through nearly a dozen edits. Characters have been added, deleted, tweaked, renamed, re-gendered, killed and resurrected. I got some great notes from the editors, from my partner and made a few final changes myself.
4) Recommend something to us! This could be a book, a short story, a video game, a project you’ve heard about, something you’re working on, etc. Anything that has you excited and that you want people to know about.
My partner (@gaywrathart) are excited about a spoopy webcomic we’re launching called Sawbones Street. Here’s our summary: So, apocalypse was a bust, but everybody moved on. The cozy apartment building on Sawbones Street is like any other building in town. Angels, Demons, Humans, Monsters, Undead, and Accountants living side by side and try to get through the day. But everybody has one thing in common; rent is due on the 1st.
Should be launching soon.