his is a story I just submitted in a short fiction contest. Rules: 750 words, about space and funny. It didn’t make the cut. So let’s share it here. Enjoy!
When the Imperial BattleScout Last Argument broke from null space over the third planet of an unassuming (and unsurveyed) system, every sensor station klaxoned dire warnings. The captain of the hulking survey ship nearly tripped over his ceremonial scimitar as he dashed from station to station and leaned over shoulder after shoulder, his buggy eyes reflecting their lurid displays.
The indications of a sprawling civilization were there. Huge space stations, lifeless yet electronically active, gushed communications. Colossal atmospheric craft swept the skies. And planted in firm order across the sprawling green parks, constructs the size of cities, countless thousands of them, carpeting the planet.
“I would suggest a full flank retreat,” the XO advised.
You’d like that, the captain thought, nervously tugging his mustachio-liked fore mandibles. And then you’d go chittering to the review board. But if withdraw was called for yet accounted for, an act of bravado would sweeten the pheromone.
“I’m beaming down. Alone. First contact. Directly into one of those city structures.”
The Landing Officer half turned from his console. “But which…?”
“Pick one,” the captain suggested with a composure that masked his trembling chitin.
Shortly afterwards, at the lowest level of one of the city-sized megaliths, a shimmering teleportation column broke the night-side gloom, depositing the desperately plucky captain within a vast vaulted enclosure. He took a moment to straighten his medallion rack while goggle-eyeing the awe-inspiring architecture. There was, to the captain’s shock, a city within a city, a vast alien settlement grouped around the base of a momentous living growth festooned with blinking obstruction warning lights. Beneath its enfolding fronds, curious windowless structures were sited in garish disarray, their randomness speaking volumes on the inhabitants’ lack of sensible zoning laws. Yet, like all civil societies, a glimmering high-speed public transport blurred past, obviously conveying citizenry from one endeavor to another.
The captain stood in the stygian wilderness before this glimmering metropolis clustered reverently around the towering sequoia, all beneath an artificial vault of the titanic outer shell, and fully realized the danger. A civilization that could build on such a scale could likely squash the Last Argument without blinking. He owed it to his ship, his personnel, and his own puckering abdomen-segment to break for deep space as soon as possible. If not sooner.
But thoughts of the XO, of the gamesmanship of rank and the contests of promotion, kept him from an immediate beam-out. He had to make contact. He had to.
Thus, with a bony mouth wet with fear, he advanced into the glimmering mecca. His fear was exacerbated when he was nearly run down as he crossed the gleaming rails of the mass transit, the coaches rattling past. Curiously, it had not stopped at the station structure where, the captain realized with a start, inhabitants waited with stoic indifference.
Blusterously hitching up his scimitar, he advanced (with some distaste – humanoids? Ugh) towards the waiting passengers. With ambassorial grace, he announced a desire to be taken, immediately, to their leader.
His multi-lator buzzed in the silence, hungry for verbal grist for its computerized mill. But the humanoid was seemingly frightened speechless, its fear beyond babbling, bodily locked in awe and terror of the captain’s obvious magnificence. “There, there,” he cooed. “Whenever you are ready.”
But the creature did not speak. Another transport shook the station as it passed. The captain placed a claw on his sword hilt. “Compose yourself. You stand at a moment of cultural greatness. Speak.”
But the impetuous creature remained stock-still. The captain, seeing with multifaceted eyes now clear, beheld the humanoid’s actions truly. It was not fear. It was haughtiness. Silent hubris.
Such rudeness. That the being would reject a diplomatic effort went beyond the pale.
Oh, they’d pay.
Wasting not another word, the captain triggered the recall beacon. Now back aboard the Last Argument, he gnashed his beakplates in fury. “Reject a claw offered in friendship, will they? I’ll show them.” And with that, he ordered a tactical fusion bomb rolled down to the teleportation room. They’d show these humanoids the price of diplomatic isolationism. He’d reduce their city to ashes…
Fire Inspector Ferguson hated to get called out of bed, especially on cold mornings, doubly so on Christmas. But there was nothing for it. Standing in the rubble of the Smith’s living room, looking over the charred presents, the half-melted toy train and the carbonized tree, he could only shake his head and, with a knowing sigh, checkbox “Faulty wiring”.
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