by Erik Buchanan
Captain Terrence Hanover sat as stiff and straight as zero gravity would allow. The chair was too low to be comfortable, and his knees banged against the even lower table, which was the perfect height for Gazicpatictic, the furry, six-armed being in whose ship Captain Hanover was now sitting.
Captain Hanover looked down his blade-sharp nose and demanded, “Why have you not spoken to us?”
Fifty years ago the great alien spaceships arrived. All Earth watched as the ships flew toward the inner solar system, used the sun’s gravity to slow their momentum, and flew out to orbits around Mars and Venus.
There was no contact with Earth at all.
Scientists beamed messages in every communication medium from radio to lasers, without success. It wasn’t until the first human satellite reached Mars that the aliens paid any notice whatsoever.
All Earth watched with held breath as the first visuals of the giant spaceships were beamed back. The entire planet gasped as a small ship was launched directly at the satellite. And then everyone stared, confused, as signs saying “Go Away” in the languages of the six spacefaring nations were posted directly in front of the satellite’s cameras.
Earth spent next forty years developing new spaceflight technology. Humankind colonized the moon and built massive particle accelerators to breed fuel for anti-matter engines. The first human space-based factory constructed the ship that Terrence Hanover had captained to Mars. It was called The Punitive Expedition, and it was armed to the teeth with cannons, missiles and, buried deep in its belly, a dozen nuclear weapons. It reached Mars in a record 18 days.
And less than a minute after braking, an alien ship twenty times its size of swallowed The Punitive Expedition whole.
“It is very simple,” said Gazicpatictic, speaking perfect English. “We don’t want to talk to you. Any of you. Every.”
“I see,” said Hanover. “Your species is xenophobic.”
“You have a taboo against dealing with less developed species?”
“Because you’re jerks.”
Hanover thought he sounded very calm when he said, “I beg your pardon?”
“Jerks. Nitwits. Cretins.”
“We are most certainly not!”
“You are a violent, sex-crazed, tribal, immature species that nobody likes.”
“Nobody?” Captain Hanover pounced on the word. “Does this mean there are more spacefaring species out there?”
“Dozens. And we’ve all been monitoring your communications, your entertainment, and your development. And we’ve all decided that until your species shows some maturity, we’re not going to have anything to do with you.”
“We’re not as bad as…”
“Captain, my people, the Quintorin, were given colony rights to this solar system under the sole condition that we block all Earth signals any any spacecraft from leaving the system until you’ve improved. Substantially.””
Captain Hanover rose to his feet and looked down on the Quintoinian. “I believe you are wrong. I believe that humanity is a noble species, and is more than capable of becoming an upstanding, proud and successful member of galactic civilization!”
Gazicpatictic shook his head. “In the civilized galaxy, we have an expression: “Every movement is judged by its idiots.” Political, religious, philosophical, doesn’t matter. Every movement is judged by the behaviours of its weakest, stupidest, most underdeveloped members.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Your species, Captain, is how the rest of us judge evolution.”
Captain Hanover’s mouth fell open.
“Now you go back to your planet and you think about what you are,” said Gazicpatictic. “And don’t come out until you’ve evolved. Considerably.”
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