What was I supposed to think after talking to a hologram of my long dead ancestor? Ok, assuming there are two Unkari tribes: one of them likes us, and another – not so much. One attempted to establish diplomacy with us, another abducted humans for centuries like lab rats. The worse of it all – the ‘good guys’ were about to take a nap – one long 329 year long nap. Within a year and a change, humans will be facing the Katu Day, which just as well could be called the Doom’s Day.
The more I thought about all of it, I found myself able to understand the motives of the Katu tribe. It’s logical: up and coming race of short-lived, ambitious and destructive creatures is not a perfect choice of a neighbor. Aliens must serve their own interest, just like humans do. To me, the suspicious part was Enkri’s alleged affinity with humans. Could I believe in science fiction loving benevolent, nearly immortal by our standards, beings? What’s so special about us? That part made no sense; and what made no sense, naturally bothered me.
After chatting with Ottis Coli, I was directed to the transporter, and we left the reservation. The transporter walls were transparent, giving me the areal view of the natural Unkari habitat. The red star of Lenaury was in a position of late evening, and if I did not know that a day here lasts 658 years, I could think that the darkness is about to envelope this side of the planet.
Lenauri was a frozen world, beautiful and definitely alien. Green oceans were filled with liquified exotic gasses. Green-blue mountains were made of chemically unusual ice, that under extreme low temperature and pressure became so hard, that functionally it had properties of a rock or even a metal. Glowing cities were tucked in the valleys, peering through thick clouds rapidly shifting above the surface.
“She, are you a hologram too?” I asked my liaison, designated to facilitate my execution.
“No, not at all. Only Ottis Coli is the hologram. The rest of us are flesh and blood descendants of the humans, brought here by the Katu dynasty.”
“Wait, Ottis claimed that entire Istanbul is a holographic projection…”
“I see. What he meant, was that the entire architectural structure of everything you saw was a hologram. The living beings there are real. They are provided real nutrition. But there is no actual matter involved in building anything inside. I believe this is the compromise Enkri had to agree to with the Katu in order to prevent security breaches.”
“Clever, good military thinking. If there is no actual materials in there, no weapon could be manufactured.”
After having an eye-opening experience at the human reservation on Lenauri, the Unkari leadership decided that I gained sufficient knowledge to fully embrace my guilt over my crimes and face my death sentence.
Ironically, I ‘died’ so many times in those strange ‘loops’ while being captured, that my brain was more occupied with the new reality of existential human threat, rather than my own death. Being stuck 89.000 light years away from the nearest human outpost, I had no way of warning us about the Katu awakening.
“I still have too many questions. You can’t execute me yet.” I plead.
“One can never have too many questions. However, what you know is enough. Now you know that you personally, and the leadership of humanity, invaded a nation that meant you no harm. This much of understanding is sufficient.”
“Wait a minute. Maybe Enkri did not mean ill, but what about Katu? They treated us like research animals, abducted us, brought your ancestors here against their will!”
“By the same token of logic, you are personally guilty for what your ancestors did to the native populations on Earth. They also had no regard for the rights of weaker races, and used them as they saw fit. Didn’t humans move on leaving those matters to the history?”
“Don’t tell me about the weaker races! My home country Liberia was found by the freed slaves who left the land of their former masters! I know well what it means to have a shadow of oppression in my generations. Don’t you see, this also makes us alike. You may think you are free now, but you owe it to your ancestors, who were enslaved and brought here, to remember their history and not belittle what they have gone through just because you personally live in a refurbished, cozier version of their prison!”
I realized that I was leaning forward and clenching fists to the white knuckles behind my back, as my hands were restrained. After exhaling and giving myself a second to chill, I proceeded more calmly.
“Look, you don’t even have a decent name. They might as well give you a number, or a bar code. She, what kind of name is that. This is a designation of your gender, but not of who you are.”
“Hm… I haven’t thought of it that way. Actually we do have a numerical designation as well. But don’t you? You have an ID of the Earth Nations citizen, you have a military rank, various designations for property rights…”
“All true. But I also have a personal name. Reinsford. This name is given to me by my mother before she died giving birth. She suffered and died for my right to bare this name. Mazula is my second name. It relates me to my ancestors. This is my root, from which I draw strength. It makes me remember my family and everything they have been through. I must remember, otherwise I’d be adrift in this huge and lonely universe. What makes you remember?”
She broke the eye contact. An awkward silence filled the space between us.
“You make me feel uncomfortable. I used to have the answers.”
“What about now?”
“I don’t wish to discuss this any more.” She cut it off, and I did not insist. Whatever raw nerve I uncovered, it was up to her to deal with it.
The trial consisted of Unkari panel of seven. Dressed in green robes, they sat in a semi-circle and folded their tentacles above their heads. I suspected, that was the Unkari version of folding arms while waiting for something. She and I sat in front of the panel in a booth of transparent material that maintained human habitable conditions. After observing the panel for a while, I noticed another character, sitting separately from the panel. That Unkari was dressed in a shade of brown, with kind of a scull cap adorned with an octagonal purple crystal in front. The character struggled to sit upright as if fighting off extreme drowsiness.
“This guy could use a cup of coffee…” I pointed at the brown robe guy. She fired off a condemning glance.
“This is the Katu ambassador.”
“I thought they are all asleep.” Somehow seeing an openly hostile alien at my trial did not look promising.
“Dynasties always have representatives to the other tribe. They are sent to the other side after their birth, and raised by the opposite tribe to assume the role of an ambassador when they come of age. This is the only way to beat the Unkari metabolism and remain awake, when the rest of your dynasty is in stasis.”
“Well, it doesn’t look like he is doing a good job staying awake.”
“Staying awake for a Katu during Enkri day is a terrible burden, and it requires additional chemical substances. If you were however to point it out at a public event to another Unkari, you would be considered a classless idiot.”
“Duly noted, madam. Not that I am going to be invited to an Unkari reception any time soon. But what if they grow up and decide not to serve as ambassadors?”
“They can’t do that. First, it is an act of treason of their dynasty. Being an ambassador is an honor. This kind of honor gives the whole ambassador’s keen great privileges and status. But even if they stopped being ambassadors, they could not go back to the Katu society.
“In other words, he cannot go back, and cannot stay among Enkri after resigning a diplomatic rank.”
“Exactly. And where would he go in the universe anyway? Without being watched over by his species while he sleeps for 329 years, his life is always in danger.”
“Tough break in life for this guy… Speaking of bad luck, when is my trial going to start? Not that I am in a hurry, just curious.”
“We are waiting for your fellow soldier. She is on a way from Istanbul.”
“Oh, so she went to Istanbul as well?”
“Yes, she have. She will be here any minute. You both are required to give a speech of remorse over your crimes. Collect your thoughts, you must do a good job.”
“Would it help my case?”
“Oh. In that case…”
I was interrupted as the guards brought Ebony in and walked her in the depressurizing chamber attached to our booth. Once the atmosphere in the chamber was replaced with the human-compatible one, the doors slid open, and she walked in, removing the headgear.
“Ebony…” I fought the urge to hug her.
“I know, I am happy to see you too, Mazula. But now is not the time. I suppose you have met Ottis as well.”
“I have. It was quite the trip.”
“What a charming reunion.” She snarked sizing Ebony from head to toe.
“What’s her problem?” Ebony nodded in the liaison’s direction.
“You are the one with problems here.” Said She with cold contempt in her voice. “Mazula’s offense is grave, but you are in more trouble. You are the one who personally executed the Unkari warrior. So make peace with your life now, while you are still breathing.”
“Hey, ladies, behave yourselves!” The small glass booth was not a place for a cat fight. Or was it? I waved off the thoughts of Ebony beating the crap out of our red-head host as if she was an old synthetic fur coat, but could not hide the smile brought with those thoughts.
“Mazula! You dirty dog!” Giggling, Ebony lightly punched me in the side with her elbow. Apparently our NVC connection grew stronger, and she received a mental image in my head.
“That is enough!” She was perplexed as to what cheered us so much. “Prisoner, where is your liaison?”
“I am here!” The voice came from nowhere, no, more like from Ebony’s pocket.
Ebony retrieved a small green crystal from her army pant pocket and placed on the desk in front of us. From the crystal, a heap of light ushered out, arranging into a hologram of Ottis Coli.
“I was requested to represent Ensign Ebony River at her trial. At your service. Shall we begin?”
[to be continued]
Copyright (2016) Ellie Maloney