Author : Brian Armitage

Iskerreth stood before the assembly, manacled. The humans looked on, waiting. Listening. All was imminently silent. The Korrosk soldier straightened his back, his muscles shifting under his scales, his head quills flat against his scalp. He pressed his elbows together in a show of humility, and spoke.

“I have fought against and killed your brothers. I deserve death, and am… dumbfounded that I am here, alive. Even to speak before you, humans of authority.”

His bright orange eyes with their horizontal slit pupils scanned the Solar Congress, his audience. The gills on Iskerreth’s neck, bright purple when they opened, fluttered with anxiety.

“A slave is sold, and goes to his death. Korrosk are bred for numbers, not for strength. Our lives have little meaning, and our deaths none. We have fought and died without honor for… too many generations. The Veleura command, and the Korrosk obey.

“So many that we have fought are slaves, as we are.” The alien stopped suddenly. His tail came to rest, and his gills stilled. His head bowed low. “We were not prepared for Earth.” It was a moment before he spoke again.

“Our masters gave us your communications. We listened to you as we fought. As I… shot down your fighters, I heard one of your commanders.” With a deep breath, Ishkerreth raised his head. “For a moment, he sounded like our masters, saying, ‘Do you want them to die for nothing? Fight on!’ But when he spoke again, I was shaken. He said…” The warrior’s shoulders began to shake.

“He said, ‘they volunteered for this.’”

The Korrosk soldier shuddered, tilted back his head, and roared, a deep vibrato from the depth of his chest. Only barely audible was the gasp from the crowd. He clutched his head in his hands.

“They chose the fight! They chose! A choice the Korrosk have never been given. And we never shall, unless…”

Iskerreth’s quills rattled against his scaled head. The Korrosk lifted his eyes to his audience, and dropped to his knees. His gills again began to flutter.

“We beg you. We beg you… give us the choice. Only allow us the chance to choose, and we will serve you. Never have we chosen our fight. Never have we died with honor. Allow us… the choice. If you do… I offer you the oath. The oath we are made to swear to our masters.”

He raised a clenched fist to the very center of his chest, above his heart. His entire body shook. Then, Ishkerreth opened his mouth and bellowed the oath, with zeal:

“We will trade the years of our lives for a moment of yours! We will trade a sea of our blood for a drop of yours! We fight at your pleasure! We die at your wish! Send us, and we will go! For…” For a moment, he choked. His breath heaved once, and he shouted ever louder, “For the honor of the fallen!”

And he fell quiet, head bowed. Silence. The warrior sobbed once, and was still. He slowly regained his feet and lifted his head.

“If any of you would stoop low and stand alongside us, I-”

The entire audience rose to its feet. 80,000 humans and Korrosk stood, just as the Solar Congress had stood together those hundred years ago. The great hologram of Ishkerreth in the center of the stadium looked around on all sides, awestruck.

From his private booth, Moshkerreth raised a clenched fist to his heart. His wife squeezed his hand, her pink skin soft against his scaled fingers.

“Happy Allegiance Day, Mr. President,” she said.


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