The room was large. It had to be to accommodate the assorted VIPs, presidents, prime ministers, religious leaders, captains of industry, and their handlers. The walls were a light coloured wood, and the floor a commercial burgundy carpet with a geometric, and slightly annoying pattern. The room had been pressed into service on short notice. Actually everything about this meeting had to be put together in a rush. It was that critically important.
A low stage was at one end of the room with a podium and a microphone. A set of double doors at the back of the stage lead to the catacombs of the conference centre. Three steps on the front allowed access to and from the rest of the room. It was up these steps that Ubuntu Suluwaisi, Secretary General of the United Nations climbed. He was tired. It had been a very stressful few days. But he had been able to impress upon all those in attendance the importance of this meeting. If he hadn’t, then the fate of humanity would have been sealed. Reaching the podium he waited for the chatter and noise to die down. After waiting a few seconds however, he tapped the microphone on the podium to gain everyone’s attention. In short order the hubbub from the seated group died away.
“Thank you.” he said. “Let us begin. You all know the general reason we are here. A few days ago a ship appeared in orbit around the Earth. They demanded a meeting with us, as the representatives of humanity. After some hurried negotiations we were able to arrange for this conference.”
“I still think it’s a bad idea,” came a gravely voice from the back of the room. “One nuke and they take all of us out. I mean if you’d only let me use my missile strike force we could take out that…”
“Please General,” said Secretary Suluwaisi. “We’ve already explained why that would not work. This conference is the only way we can hope to fend off the disaster we are facing.” The general in the back slumped back in his chair, a sour expression on his face. “But now with no farther delay I would like to present Kletchat !Kaloci’ the representative of the Galactic Union. He will explain the situation.”
A figure then came in through the double doors. It was clearly NOT human. Its body, and as gender is an Earth concept we can only call the representative it, was roughly cylindrical, around three meters long, with twelve pairs of appendages down each side. each appendage ended in two fingers. At the moment it was using eight of these appendages to walk and the remaining four as arms. The uppermost part of the creature, what for the sake of argument the delegates though of as a head, contained five green eyes with elongated, cat-like, pupils, and several stiff bristles around what passed for a mouth. It was dressed in a loose fitting tailored uniform of green fabric. Its skin was a pink shade with blue highlights and if anyone had been able to get close enough, quite soft. the fluidity of its motions suggested that it had no bones.
The Kletchat approached the podium and looked at the gathering while the Secretary stepped back against the wall. His people had evolved on a small planet slightly larger than the earth. By nature they were a rational and peaceful people. Once they became a spacefaring civilization the encountered other intelligent species and always tried to deal fairly with them. They were one of the founding members of the Galactic Union, and now formed the core of the diplomatic and negotiation branches.
“I bid you greetings from the Galactic Union”. It spoke in perfect English so there was now a low murmur in the room as translators informed the few that did not understand what it said. The proceedings were being live streamed around the globe. All work had stopped as people gathered around television or computer screens at home, or bars, or offices, to see this event that would literally decide the future of humanity.
Kletchat !Kaloci’ continued. “I am here to speak to you today at the request of Secretary Suluwaisi. I am here, bluntly, to give humanity one last chance. You see the Galactic Union has been aware of you for some time. We have become alarmed as you approached the level of a spacefaring civilization. We in the Galactic Union have determined that you will pose a threat to the galactic order. I was sent here to see if you could be redeemed and if not to sterilize the planet.”
“What do you mean by sterilize?,” asked a voice from the crowd.
“Simply if you cannot show why you are not a threat to the civilizations throughout the galaxy we will have to exterminate humanity and give this planet to a species that will be better galactic citizens.”
A frightened chatter went through the seated dignitaries. The Secretary stepped back up to the podium. “Please, please, we must have order. This is a simple misunderstanding. Once we have shown Kletchat !Kaloci’ that the impression they have about humanity is wrong I’m sure this order will be rescinded. Then we can proceed with the work of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with the Galactic Union. This can all be cleared up.”
A man in the front row rose to his feet. He was tall, slim, and spoke with a slight southwestern accent. “Excuse me there. I’m Richard Green, President of the United States. Just what is it that we are supposed to have done? And for that matter how could we be a threat to your Galactic Union. I mean, we haven’t even been able to get back to our own moon, let alone a nearby planet. And other stars and the rest of the galaxy? I mean that’s hundreds of years off before we figure out how to do that, if ever. How could the Galactic Union possibly think we, the inhabitants trapped on a small blue planet in the middle of nowhere are a threat?”
The Secretary turned to Kletchat !Kaloci’, “He makes a good point. How could the Galactic Union be worried about us?”
“Well,” began Kletchat !Kaloci’, “first you underestimate your own cleverness. You are on the verge of several breakthroughs that will give you access to light speed travel in the next decade. Second, it isn’t a threat in the sense of you having a particular weapon. Physically you, as you reminded the General, are no match for us. Its more your attitude. You have a callousness, a cruel streak that lets you do unspeakable things and still sleep at night. It is this attitude that is so alarming. Couple that with your ability to learn, and adapt, we could see you becoming a terrible power using the technology we have in short order. Seeing what you do to yourselves, we fear what you may do to other species and other worlds if you ever got loose in the galaxy”
“What do you mean?” Asked the President.
“OK, lets start with war.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve done away with war?”
“No, no, nothing like that.” replied Kletchat !Kaloci’. Those closest to him might have been forgiven if they caught a hint of a chuckle in his voice. That was of course impossible. “Occasionally there are conflicts. We have a military to defend ourself. Galactic Union members even have even come to blows on occasion.”
The Kletchat paused to gather his thoughts. ”It’s the way you wage war. You don’t only fight army on army. You attack civilians. You use monstrous weapons but also you use starvation, and disease, and rape, as weapons. You don’t differentiate between combatant and non combatant. There is a sadism, I believe that is your word for it, to how you wage war. A joy in killing and cruelty that is unlike anything we have ever seen. Even the most warlike of our members, the Ashlich,” the word was half a hiss and half a gargle that was not reproducible by a human mouth,” have limits to how they wage war. They understand the difference between combatants and non combatants. Between belligerents, and innocents. You, on the other hand will gladly obliterate whole buildings to get one person, wipe whole towns off the map because it might have some of the “enemy” within, and you don’t worry about how many may die needlessly. Some of you will even kill non combatants just to make a point. You make up words for it. Collateral Damage, or Acceptable Losses, or even just a simple The Enemy, to cover the innocents killed just because they were in the wrong place. When you’re on the defence, you will use these same innocents as shields. Hiding behind the old and women and children to try to stave off your enemies strikes. Letting them absorb the bullets and bombs and then jumping up to return fire and in the process hitting any survivors in the back. Even the Ashlich have the decency to keep their battles outside of populated areas. To wage war only on others who want to wage war. Why you even press children into fighting before they are capable of comprehending what is happening. I’m sorry but this is something we cannot allow out to infect the galaxy at large.”
“Now hold on a minute there.” A distinguished older gentleman with a thick upper class British accent and a beard rose to his feet.
“And you are?” asked Kletchat !Kaloci’.
“Oh, pardon me, of course. I am Percival Blackham, Prime Minister of The UK. I want to say that your information must be rather out of date. I am old enough to remember the last great war and after that we came to understand the limits we must impose. We have rules now about how war is to be conducted, and we are constantly updating them. Banning particular weapons, declaring this or that action to be a War Crime, that sort of thing. And we have and do prosecute people for violating the rules of war. For committing things we even call Crimes Against Humanity.”
“Is this true? Asked Kletchat !Kaloci’, surprised.
Shouts of “Yes” and “Of course” arose in multiple languages from the hall.
“Then why,” continued Kletchat !Kaloci’, ” do I keep hearing about atrocities? Innocents killed? Extermination camps and attacks on hospitals, and churches, and schools, suicide bombings, terrorism and the like?”
“Well, um, you see that…” the Prime Minster stumbled for words.
The Japanese delegate jumped up behind him “It is because not everyone follows the law. Forgive me Mr. Prime Minister for cutting in, but as the representative of Japan, we understand as few do how war should and should not be fought.”
“Oh, no thats perfectly all right.” Said the Prime Minister.
“But then,” continued Kletchat !Kaloci’, “if you now have these rules of war, how do you explain why these things go on? Just this morning we intercepted a number of your news broadcasts. They were full of actions that must clearly violate your rules of war? Surely if you have rules they are to be followed.”
The room was silent for a bit. Finally a voice came from the back, it was deep and booming. A large man in a traditional Nigerian a colourful headscarf and a flowing white agbada stood up. He was an imposing figure.
“It is that there is a small number that won’t follow the rules.”
“Oh, I see.” said The Kletchat “It’s not all of you. Just a small group. Them not you.”
“Yes most people want to live in peace. Most people would rather talk than kill. Most people do not want to see their loved ones go off to war. But I know from my own country there is a small group that wants to seize power, to loot, to destroy, and they do not care who they kill. They are the bad guys. It is against them that we fight.”
“Oh, I see,” Kletchat !Kaloci’ appeared to be a bit surprised by this. “So even if there is no reason for war there is this small group that wants to try to use violence for their own gain?”
The assembly agreed en mass.
“And it is this small part of your population that gets all the coverage on the news,” asked Kletchat !Kaloci’?
“Exactly,” affirmed the British Prime Minister, “they get all the coverage BECAUSE what they do is so far outside of the normal standards of acceptable behaviour.”
“That does make sense.” Said Kletchat !Kaloci’. ” I will accept that explanation. But what about torture? Nowhere in all of explored space have we encountered a species that will deliberately inflict pain and suffering on their fellow creatures. Studying your history and even the events of today, you seem to be fiendishly clever in devising ways to inflict pain and suffering, even agonizing fear on people. Sometimes directly, other times on the victims loved ones to cause them mental anguish. Sometimes it’s done to extract information. But just as often art appears to be just for the pleasure of hurting someone who is at your mercy. That is utterly beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour for any sentient species.”
“OK, there you go again,” said the President of the United States. “Most of us, I dare say almost all of us, have rejected and renounced torture. We don’t do it and we try to hunt down and put those that do on trial.”
“I do not understand,” said Kletchat !Kaloci’. “If these acts are so rare, then why are they so prevalent in your news reports?”
“It is because they are so out of bounds.” said the delegate from India. “They become news because they are so unacceptable. If these were common actions, they would not be on the news. It is that way for most of the reprehensible things on your list. We talk about them because we want them to be stopped. We want the tiny part of humanity that commits these atrocities to stop.”
“I see. So that is the case with rape, and genocide, and poison gas and biological weapons, and so fourth?, asked The Kletchat?
The assembly gave a noisy assent.
“YES. there’s a group of people who do those things,” added the Brazilian Ambassador, “but most of us have rejected those as unacceptable and inhumane.”
Kletchat !Kaloci’ Thought about it for a minute. Then he spoke. “Well what about a simple standard of living? You have people working for vast wealthy companies, yet live in squalor and poverty. At one point you even had chattel slavery, something unheard of anywhere else in the galaxy.”
“I vil answer dat,” an Industrialist with the German delegation rose to speak. “I am Dieter Pferzhung, President und CEO of HartzheimFlug gmbh. Yes there ist some companies like dat. Some companies vil only see der vorkers as an expense and will treat them accordingly. But most of us have learned that ve can only be as gut und as profitable as our employees are happy. Ve depend on des people to make our products. They cannot do a gut job if day aren’t happy. Most of us understand dis. There’s just a few dat try to gain a competitive advantage at de expense of der verkers.” The other businessman around him broke out in applause.
“I see,” said Kletchat !Kaloci’. “So you are telling me that all of the issues the Galactic Union has been worried about, are caused by a small minority who won’t follow the rules.”
“Yes that’s exactly what we’re saying,” said Secretary Suluwaisi. “We have worked very hard to Make the Earth into a peaceful place. A fair place. A place where all have the chance to be happy. But there always seems to be a group that lets greed and lust for power rule their choices. We have been working for centuries to get them to realize that following the rules is in their own interest.”
“And that the Galactic Union has nothing to worry about from most of you people.”
“Precisely.” said the American President.
“Well then I think the answer is clear.” said Kletchat !Kaloci’ “I am going to recommend to the Galactic Union that we not exterminate humanity.”
There was thunderous applause from the assembled dignitaries.
“In addition, I think that we can help you with your problem. If you will point out who is doing these terrible things. Who is waging war on innocents, and torturing, and enslaving and so on, we will exterminate them for you. Then the rest of you can join the Galactic Union.”
The assembly was caught off guard. “I, I, I beg your pardon?” said the Secretary General.
“The antisocial group that causes all of your problems. The one tribe that violates the laws you are trying to impose on yourselves. The caste that lets greed rule and doesn’t care about innocent lives. Who are they? If you will just point them out, we will clear up the infection for you.
Th assembly sat in stunned silence. They had not expected this. A low buzz of conversation rippled through the crowd. Then from the back came an angry voice “It’s the Jews. They are the ones.” The person was shushed down by the crowd. Then there was a reply from across the room, “No, its you Jihadis.” The room started to fill with shouts.
“It’s the Christians.”
“No it’s the capitalists are who is oppressing us.”
“It’s the communists who are at fault.”
“There are no communists you idiot, it’s you fascists.”
“It’s the homosexuals that are sewing discord an immorality.”
“We just want to be left alone. It’s you bigots that are causing it.”
“It’s the Chinese.”
“It’s the blacks.”
“Its all those old white men”.
The shouting became a din so loud that nothing was even intelligible any more. Fights began to break out as this or that delegate took offence at something someone had said. Total pandemonium filled the hall as the Secretary General shouted into the microphone in a vein attempt to restore order.
Next to him Kletchat !Kaloci’ stood silently. “Now I understand.” he thought to himself. He calmly raised his second left arm and touched three buttons on the number pad on his second right arm. The shouting instantly stopped as all of the delegates collapsed to the floor, dead. Outside the streets quickly became silent. All over the world, other than a few cars that were still moving, and some automated machines that would finish their programs and then stop to wait for instructions, it was quiet. The animals, whales and birds, cows and polar bears, flies and ants and all the rest continued as they were. All the people though, were lying where they fell, quite dead.
Kletchat !Kaloci’ touched another button on the keypad. A holographic image appeared in front of him. “I have good news Delgit Hachhhttt. The reports were right. The humans that had occupied this world were in fact not redeemable. Oh they tried to put on a good face, but in the end they could not hide their true nature. So, you can take possession of the Earth immediately. You are of course welcome to change the name if you wish. I am afraid that you do have some cleanup to do, but once that’s taken care of this planet is a very nice place. I’m sure you and your people will be very happy here.
Later that day the first of an armada of bright white soft sided spaceships of spun high strength fibre, landed on the Earth. The four foot tall spider-like occupants poured out and took possession of this new land. Their new home. A home that had room enough for all of them, regardless of what they believed, or what god they worshipped or whom they loved. A home they would cherish,
in the twilight zone.