Author: Charles Ta

“We’re sorry,” the alien said in a thousand echoing voices, “but your species has been deemed ineligible for membership into the Galactic Confederation.” It stared at me, the Ambassador of Humankind, with eyes that glowed like its bioluminescent trilateral body in the gurgling darkness of its mothership.

I shifted nervously in my seat on the other side of our floating metallic conference table.

“I don’t follow,” I broached. “It was my understanding that, after we’d made first contact, we’d be welcomed into the wider galactic community.”

“That was the case,” the colonial cnidarian replied, “until the Raithians received new information about your species’ past that forced us to… reevaluate our initial assessments.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We mean,” the Raithian responded, “that your species has demonstrated to the galaxy its inability to coexist with itself and the cosmos peacefully. You annihilated your home solar system a century ago, and your colonies would have triggered an intergalactic war without our intervention. In simple terms, flesh-thing, humanity is unworthy of integration. Despite its technological advancements, it has remained primitive. Belligerent. Foolish. Ungovernable. That is why we brought you here: to discuss the Confederation’s intentions with your accursed breed, for the sake of all life.”

I stood up from my seat, anger rising within me. “If you’re planning what I think you are, humanity will defend itself to the bitter end.” I retorted, glaring at the astral siphonophore before me with contempt. “You have no right to come to our systems and destroy us simply because your Confederation deems it necessary. We humans are far from perfect, and yes, we have committed terrible atrocities in the past. But we have also aided your kind, learned from our mistakes, and strived to curb our violent tendencies as much as possible. Let me remind you that our last war was with your sworn enemies, the Undari Empire, and that since then, we’ve dismantled many of our most destructive weapons in accordance with the Confederation’s existing non-proliferation treaties. What more, then, do you want from us?”

The transparent spacefarer remained silent as it listened intently.

“If you’re going to eliminate us,” I argued, “at least give us one last chance to prove ourselves. To redeem ourselves. It’d be a shame to exterminate one out of the six spacefaring species you’ve discovered after eight billion years of searching. Life this advanced is scarce, I’ve been told, and has almost no chance of arising elsewhere. Plus, the Vorroh absolutely love our music, and they’re deaf, only able to feel vibrations through their frills.”

I held my breath as the phantom star jelly pondered on my defense, electricity coursing through the zooids that formed its dozen tentacles. Eventually, it too rose from its seat, looming tall as it hovered towards me.

“Very well, hominid,” the creature of many minds conceded, its ghostly voices now low and uncanny. “Though we remain committed to the Confederation, you’ve persuaded us to… challenge its ruling, or even delay its enforcement. Perhaps we were wrong about you.”

“Thank you,” I said, secretly relieved as I smiled, then respectfully bowed down to the alien delegate–or rather, delegates merged as one being–facing me. As I turned to leave the mothership, however, I froze upon hearing the Raithian’s haunting last words.

“You have fifty years until we return,” it warned. “Don’t disappoint us again.”